Monday, December 31, 2012

Gluten Free Rum Balls

I had a feeling that 2012 was going to be the year of big changes.  Little did I know that last year's goals of dating and traveling would turn into purchasing my very first home, instead, which in itself created a whole new set of challenges that have been fun yet more difficult than I'd ever thought I'd have to face so quickly.  In the end, it has been worth the new struggles of bills, cooking for less and missing the family.  And as much as I adore my family and can't stand being apart from them, this year I had to find my own independence, conquer my fear of loss and change, separate myself from trying to live the lives of others and do what was right for me.  It's been hard but also liberating and rewarding.  So, I apologize for the lack of posts these past few months, as I am still settling down from all the commotion and craze!

So, to celebrate another year of accomplishments and healthy change, I'm rewarding myself with my Grandma Jo's famous and potent Rum Ball Cookies (with a twist).  As soon as you open a can of these unbaked sweets, you immediately know what you're getting yourself into.  No, you will not get drunk off of these unless you eat the entire batch, which I don't recommend because it makes about 3-4 dozen, and you don't want to have to roll in bed in the middle of a fun party (like I did after eating just 10 in a couple hours)!  So, note to self, control yourself when eating these.  But you will get a big hint of that tingling rum which pairs perfectly with its pecan and chocolatey flavor.  A great way to get any holiday party or event started!

What you'll need: Makes 3-4 dozen

1 6 oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups finely crushed gluten free pecan flavored cookies (I use Mi-Del)
1 cup finely ground pecans
3 tbsp agave syrup (better than using wht corn syrup)
1/2 cup rum (I use Bacardi)
 1/2 cup sifted powered sugar (plus extra for rolling)
red sugar sprinkles for rolling

Melt the chocolate chips (double boiler method) by placing in a small glass bowl over a small pot of boiling water.  Don't let the bowl touch the water.  Stir occasionally until completely melted, remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combined the crushed cookies, pecans, agave, rum, powdered sugar and melted chocolate.  Mix well until evenly incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 1/2 hour.  Form into 1 inch balls then roll in powdered sugar or colored sugar sprinkles.  Place in air-tight container (to prevent from drying out) and let sit for at least 24 hours.  The longer they sit the stronger they taste!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remembering Grandma Kay

Today would have been Grandma Kay's 96th Birthday.  I miss her so much but know that she's celebrating somewhere in spirit with her loved ones, pain free and happy.  Christmas is going to be strange yet serene without her this year.  But we will keep her in our hearts as we fill our kitchens with her Pizzelles, Ambrosia Fruit Salad and Almond Roll.  During her last years, she mentioned often how much she missed being in her kitchen, the place that filled her with meaningful tradition, love, comfort and family.  And someday I wonder if I'll ever have to feel the same.  But until then, the least I can do for a special grandma is to keep her memory and favorite sweets alive in our favorite room of the home, our beloved kitchens. Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Home to Grown Into

It's been about two weeks since I've been in my new home and it's already starting to feel like my new normal.  I'm glad I took everyone's advice in taking my time making this my own.  In the beginning, I felt like if I rushed getting everything that I thought I needed (essentials plus a little extra) that the space would feel fuller, less lonely and more of a home.  But in the end, I realized that it's the unique individual items and ideas that are what make a space feel more like home, not how many things you have in it.  They have to give you joy and comfort.  And if I didn't feel that, then I knew they didn't belong.  It takes time to create a space you feel comfortable in and I've learned that.  For now, I only have the essentials, but that's okay because it's fun slowly growing into a home, having fun finding new things over time and turning it into something that reflects your own personality.  So here are a few things, so far, that have helped turn my home into something I love coming home to.  Only thing missing... is a cat or two.

West Elm zig zag rug and a favorite pair of oxfords.

Weekly fresh flowers in vintage juice glasses on the bathroom vanity.

Holiday owl and lights on a ficus tree.

A flea market night stand and "back to basics" Ikea alarm clock.

A Pendleton scarf dining room table runner.

What are your favorite house things/ideas you love coming home to?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gluten Free Turkey Meatballs

When people think of the winter holidays, ham and turkey usually come to mind.  But when I think of them, all I crave is hearty Italian food.  Growing up, my mom didn't have a typical all-American feast for Christmas, but instead gathered around a table full of Grandpa's lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, etc.  But as my mom grew up, moved out and became a more Americanized wife and mother, the Italian food slowly went away for Christmas and the ham and turkey came in its place.  But feeling closer than ever to my family and roots this year, I'm determined to bring back our Italian traditions this December and I've started with Meatballs.  Typically made of ground beef, white bread and breadcrumbs, I've decided to switch things up a bit (for health and allergy reasons) by using turkey, gluten free bread and gluten free breadcrumbs, instead.  The traditions are still there but the guilt is gone.  Plated on your choice of marinara or topped on your favorite pasta, these meatballs are the perfect comforting munch for this chilly time of year. 

What you'll need: serves about 4

1 slice gluten free bread (I used Udi's White GF bread) cut in 1/2 inch cubes
2 - 3 tbsp low fat milk
1lb ground white turkey
1/2 yellow onion (finely chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup gluten free Italian breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Olive Oil

In a small bowl, combine the milk and cubed bread and let the bread completely soak up the milk and break up (about 5 minutes).  Add a bit more if needed.  In a medium size bowl combine the turkey, onion, garlic, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, soaked bread, oregano, basil and pepper until all is incorporated.  But don't over mix!  You don't want tough meatballs.

Roll the meat into 1 1/2 inch size balls.  In a large fry pan, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Brown each side (for about 2 mins: total of 8 - 10 mins).  Finish cooking them in the oven for another 10 mins at 350 degrees.  Plate over a bed of marinara sauce and eat hot!  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Antique Piano Wall Art

When I learned that I could actually do this (purchase a home), one of the first things that popped into my head was that I would finally be able to take Madalene's Buffet Table (that has been sitting in my folks' garage for decades unused) and have her officially apart of my home!  Well, I was extremely bummed to find out that my dining room was too small to house her gorgeous antique and I know that she's with me in spirit but having one of her treasures made me feel like she was even closer.  But her table will just have to wait until I upgrade to a bigger home in the future.

Until then, I've adopted the family's old piano front board that was removed from our 100 year old upright piano when we traded it in for a shiny new one.  I learned how to play on this very instrument when I was eight and knew its sentiment would add a friendly reminder of my childhood home and fond memories.  And with the vintage/modern theme I'm creating throughout the home (appropriate for my old soul with modern taste), I knew this antique wall art would add the perfect balance for that.

My handy brother-in-law removed the old clunky hooks that were still attached when we took the board from the piano and quickly nailed in two triangle frame hang hooks (on each top end), tied sturdy wire around each one and hung/mounted it on the wall with toggle screws for a better hold. 

Follow Because of Madalene on Facebook!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My New Favorite Cooking Show

If you haven't tuned into the Cooking Channel's new show, My Grandmother's Ravioli, get up right now and DVR it (Wed nights)!  Very funny host, Mo Rocca, travels the states finding grandparents who don't mind sharing their delicious ethnic dishes that were passed down generation after generation.  It not only makes me laugh hysterically, but it completely transports me into their cozy homes as I get to learn their family recipe secrets.  It's a joy to witness the pleasure these folks still get when cooking and feeding their extended family...  not to mention watching Mo miraculously bring out their familiar stories and innocent humor.  After losing my last grandparent over a month ago, this show couldn't have had better timing.  I've been feeling sad and scared after the loss of Grandma Kay but this show has helped minimize those unwanted feelings and instead has encouraged me to reminisce about the times when I was in the kitchen watching my Gma Kay make Pizzelles, while asking her to tell me the same childhood memories she would spill out time and time again.  I cross my fingers that this show can continue for seasons on end, because like many grandparents, "This one's a gem".

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Witch's Cider Brew

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!  As sad as I am that one of my favorite holidays (Halloween) is over, I'll continue to celebrate into today's Day of the Dead by lighting a candle for my special Grandma Kay that passed away in September.

I'm not sure how yesterday's work festivities will ever be topped.  Not only did we have a costume parade with more participants than ever, but this year was the first for our company to throw together a fabulous Pumpkin Decorating Contest.  There were endless contenders and I'm happy to announce that my Witch Cauldron won under Honorable Mention.  I was the only one to do effects this year, so I hope my use of dry ice will set the bar for even wilder and crazy ideas for next year.

And while the effects of Apple Cider was brewing outside, the real spiced drink was warming in a slow cooker inside.  Despite our So Cal weather ups and downs, the morning ended up being overcast and cool, which was perfect timing for my hot cider.  The spices from the cinnamon and cloves warm you right up but the tang from the sliced oranges keep this sweet drink balanced with a slight refreshing kick.

What you'll need:  serves 15

1 gallon apple juice
1 orange (thickly sliced)
whole cloves
5 cinnamon sticks

In a slow cooker on high, pour in the apple juice and toss in the cinnamon sticks.  Poke the whole cloves around the rind of the sliced oranges and throw those in.  Let warm for about two hours until hot and all flavors have had enough time to meld together.

Some other fabulous pumpkin contenders!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Shots

After all the kids have passed out from their sugar high is the perfect time to celebrate Halloween "adult style" by popping a couple of these Pumpkin Pie Shots.  But then again, maybe you'd like to take one or two before the long night of trick or treating.  ;)  This festive shot will warm you right up from its creamy mixture of Bailey's Irish Cream, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spices.  And of course... the pie crust rim of crushed ginger snap cookies!  My new home and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year.  Mom will be ending the night with the real pumpkin pie, but I might just have to kick off the evening with a tray of these to get the family funnies rolling.

What you'll need: makes 4 - 6 shots

2 jiggers Bailey's Irish Cream
2 jiggers Vanilla Vodka
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/4 cup crushed ginger snap cookies (gluten free from Trader Joe's)
 1/4 cup coconut milk

To start, prep your shot glasses by dipping the rim in coconut milk and then crushed ginger snaps.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Set aside.  In a cocktail shaker filled with 3/4 of ice, pour in the Bailey's, Vodka and spoon on top the pumpkin puree mixture.  Close and shake for about 30 seconds or until all is evenly incorporated and lump free.  Pour the mixture into the shot glasses and bottoms up!

Monday, October 22, 2012

DIY Autumn Wreath

I'm so excited to share with you my first craft for the new home - An Autumn Wreath!  I think I may have ingested some glitter on this project, but the end result was rewarding, fun and festive.. and in a way symbolic in the sense that "I did it"!  Even though the home is still not quite liveable, the front door at least says, there's someone new in town and she plans to stay a while.  Is that bad that I'd rather work on crafts and buy new things for the new place than pack and finally fully move in?  I guess I haven't quite mustered up the guts to pack the things that have been building over the years in my childhood home.  And I think, maybe if I always have something back home, then I never really left and things will always be the same.  But that's not how life works and it's time for me to buckle down and do the dirty work as hard as it will be...

But on a lighter note, let me show you what a cinch this wreath is to make.  Mine screams Fall, but you can easily do this for the Winter Holidays, too, by just changing the color of the rafia.

What you'll need:

1 medium (12in) styrofoam wreath
2 or 3 spools (8ft) rafia (depending on the width of the rafia) get a third just in case
scotch tape
Christmas Picks (floral glitter stems, birds) 30% off at Michaels, this week!
glue gun
 floral wire
scissors/pliers (for cutting floral wire)

Step 1: Wrap the rafia around the wreath tightly, slightly overlapping to cover the green styrofoam as much as possible.  When you get to the end, just tape it down with a small piece of scotch tape.  You'll never see the tape once the floral pieces go over it. 

Step 2: Arrange your floral pieces before you start gluing to get an idea of the exact placement you want.

Step 3: With the glue gun, glue down each floral piece, layer upon layer.  To further stabilize them, cut 2 inch pieces of the floral wire and bend them in half.  Along the stems, push the floral wire all the way through the rafia and into the styrofoam.  The glue might not hold up over time, but the wires will.  The bird piece was attached to a long stick.  Cut the stick but leave 1 inch to allow room for pushing it into the styrofoam.  Use some glue at the base of the bird for reinforcement.

Step 4: Tie a piece of rafia at the top and hang on a nail or tac. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pumpkin Mousse

Everyone is talking about Pumpkin Lattes and Pumpkin Soup, but it is still 90 degrees down here in So Cal.  It's like having to watch all the pretty Fall sweaters that I purchased over two month ago just sit in the closet while I patiently wait for cold weather to roll around.  But when it comes to pumpkin, I can only be patient for so long.  So I've been spooning a chilled Pumpkin Mousse, instead.  It tastes just like pumpkin pie but without the crust.  This treat is smooth and creamy from the pumpkin puree and coconut milk but is also light and fluffy from the whipped heavy cream and vanilla pudding mix.  It's going to be hard going back to making pumpkin pie, because this took hardly any time to make and it is just as tasty.  Easy Thanksgiving, here I come.

What you'll need: serves 6, 15 min prep time

1 cup cold heavy cream
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon + extra for garnish
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 (3.4-ounce) box vanilla pudding mix
1 tbsp coconut rum
Pecans for garnish

Either using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, whisk the heavy cream until soft peaks (1 - 2 mins).  In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree and coconut milk.  Mix in the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Add the pudding mix and coconut rum, whisk until combined.  Fold in the whipped cream until thoroughly combined.  Cover bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to four hours.  Spoon into bowls, top with a pecan and dusted cinnamon and serve cold!

Recipe adapted from here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Housewarming Registry: Do or Don't

No food today, all.  The past couple of weeks have been nothing but house stuff as I try to fill an empty space with my own taste and flare.  It's going to be a long process due to an almost wiped out savings account but the goal is to grab the essentials and make it as livable as possible for the time being.  I've learned that trying to furnish an entire home as a single woman is hard to do!  No husband here to help pay for the bed, couch, dining table, fridge, washer and dryer.  But I am constantly reminded to take baby steps and luckily I have a very supportive family to help in this overwhelming but fun process.  Which takes me to the controversial question: 

Is a Housewarming Registry acceptable in today's society?

It's perfectly acceptable for a newly wed couple to have a registry, so why do we still see slight cringes when a housewarming registry is brought up?  We shower a bride and groom with presents, because we are celebrating their new journey of love and adulthood (usually).  But in today's society it is becoming more common to see people like me who are trying to find and establish their own life before building it with someone else.  Young women (and men) are becoming more independent and I believe THAT is also something to celebrate.  You obviously know which way I would go, but I want to hear your thoughts.  Yay or nay on housewarming registries?  Do you find them acceptable or tacky?

Here is a sneak peek of the living room and bedroom:

Ashley Furniture - Danielle Eggplant Sofa, World Market - Woodsland Lamp

Pier 1 - Red Rose Rug, World Market - Dove Grey Draper Upholstered Bed, Ikea - Alvine Kvist Duvet

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy 1 Year Anniversary, Because of Madalene!

I can't believe it has been a whole year since I created my little diary/recipe index.. that I thought would have petered out by month three.  There have been some changes along the way but good reflections on how much I've grown since last year.  I've recovered from a difficult break up with my first love (which catapulted the start of the blog in the first place), made a life changing diet toward gluten free (that has helped me feel miraculously better) and have purchased my first home (a new journey that I'd like to share with you in the upcoming months)! 

I had a good feeling about this blog adventure and never knew how much it would shine a light on new discovered passions such as food, writing, story telling, etc.  And I have all of you to thank, for continually supporting me with your kind comments and encouragement to "keep it up".  I plan on blogging a while longer by sharing more recipes, home projects and family history.  I'm excited to see where this can take me in the future whether it's a career change toward food or continues to be an enjoyable hobby that gets me through the week.  Thank you, Grandma Madalene, for watching down on me and reminding me that family and creativity will help you find your way.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fig and Brie Bruschetta

Congrats to Leah for winning the Food and Wine Magazine Giveaway.  Leah, contact me on my facebook page and I'll get back to you through there with details. 

Recently my mom was reminiscing about her childhood and how she, Madalene and the rest of the family would take a dried fig and stuff it with a walnut for a quick and easy snack.  This got me thinking about how I could reinterpret that fun memory into a small meal or dessert.  So I picked up some dried figs and plumped them up (by re-hydrating them in a pot of hot water for 30 mins) for a Fig and Brie Bruschetta.  I love finding new ways to enjoy Bruschetta without having to stick with the traditional tomato topping.  So with this dish, I went a sweeter route by pairing a creamy and buttery brie cheese with the sweet figs, a drizzle of honey and crunchy pecans.  Filling and loaded with lots of different textures and simple flavors, this easily became a rustic Italian treat that satisfied that fig craving I've been having all summer long.

What you'll need:  serves 4 - 6

Udi's Gluten Free white bread (cut in half)
drizzle olive oil
1 lb dried or fresh figs (cut in half) I used Calimyrna and Black figs
small wedge brie cheese (sliced 1/4 in. thick)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
drizzle honey

On a foil lined baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking oil, lay out the bread slices and drizzle with a light layer of olive oil. Toast them under the broiler until they are golden brown, about 3 mins.  Layer on the sliced brie cheese, halved figs and chopped pecans.  Bake (on the middle rack) in a 400 degree oven for about 20 mins or until the cheese has begun to melt.  Place on a plate and drizzle with honey.  Eat hot!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Food and Wine Magazine Giveaway

For all my foodie friends, I have a great Giveaway for you this week - a free subscription (14 monthly issues) to Food and Wine Magazine that is filled with recipes, wine, food travel guides and more!  And that's not all, it comes with an additional free Cooking Light Kid Approved Cookbook that will get your kids inspired and active in the kitchen.  Maybe it's because this summer was hotter than ever, but I'm excited to see my coffee table filled with food magazines this Fall.  Can't wait to get inspired and start cooking up some soup and stew!  Good luck, all.

In order to qualify:

1.  Follow my blog by pushing the "join this site" button.
2. "Like" Because of Madalene's Facebook page, here.
3. Tell me what dishes you are looking forward to this Fall.

Entry will end Tuesday night and I will announce the winner on Wednesday.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Potato Patata Skins

I had some leftover mozzarella cheese and spicy pepperoni from last week's Pizza Quesadillas.  So I thought I would use them again for another traditional appetizer turned Italian - Potato Patata Skins!  Now, don't get me wrong, I love bacon, but do you ever find it a bit of a chore to cook up?  It's messy whether it's in the pan or oven and it takes time to get it extra crispy... just the way I like it.  So I discovered this week that using pepperoni instead for a crispy topping (like potato skins or stuffed potatoes) is such a great alternative!  Not only is it faster to cook and just as crispy, but its flavor is more intense and its spice adds a nice kick to whatever you top it on.  If only Grandma Madalene knew...

What you'll need: serves 3 - 4

3 russet potatoes
canola oil
to taste kosher salt
1/2 stick pepperoni (remove skin, cut in 1/4 inch cubes)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
to taste black ground pepper
sour cream for dipping

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wash, scrub and pat dry the potato.  KEY:  To ensure a crispy skin, brush a thin layer the canola oil all over the skin of the potato and drizzle on kosher salt for extra flavor.  To avoid a potato explosion, with a fork poke a few holes throughout the potato.  Uncovered and on a foil lined baking sheet, place in the oven for about 45 mins or until tender. 

While those are baking, toss the cubed pepperoni into a small pan over medium heat.  Let them render and crisp up for about 5 mins.  Toss every couple of mins for even crispiness.  Drain on a paper towel and set aside. 

Once the potatoes are out of the oven, let cool for about 10 mins for easier handling.  Cut the potatoes in half by length.  Scoop out the middle of the potato flesh but leave about a 1/2 inch around the edges.  Cut each half in half again (by length) and again (by width) to create bite size triangular pieces.  Lay back down on the foil lined baking sheet.  Layer on the mozzarella cheese, pepperoni and black pepper.  Pop them under the broiler for about 5 mins or just until the cheese starts to turn golden brown.  Serve with sour cream and eat while they're hot!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mango Italian Soda

When I think of Italian Sodas, it immediately transports me into a 1950's rustic Italian Soda Shop!  Do those exist?  Well, they do in my dream world!  Instead of traditional flavors like raspberry or strawberry, I decided to add a modern spin to this bubbly and creamy drink by using fresh Mangos.  Its tang cuts some of the sweetness and its color creates a bright and fun swirling presentation.  A refreshing afternoon pick-me-up that the whole family can enjoy.

What you'll need: serves 4

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 ripe Mango (skin removed, cut in small cubes)
20 oz tonic water (or carbonated water) 5 oz per glass
1 cup half and half

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil, to make the simple syrup.  Once the sugar has dissolved (about 5 mins) remove from heat and let completely cool.  In a blender, puree the mango until completely smooth.  Add 1/2 cup of the cooled simple syrup and mix until well incorporated.  Any leftover syrup could be used later for an after dinner cocktail.  :)

Fill four tall glasses with ice, then divide the mango puree evenly into all four glasses over the ice.  Add the tonic water and stir well.  Top each glass with a 1/4 cup of half and half.  Stir slightly for a swirly effect.  Slip in a straw and slurp away.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pizza Quesadilla

By now, many of you know... if I wasn't Italian, I would be Mexican!  Not only does their culture adore their family like Italians, but their cuisine is absolutely addicting, comforting and mostly gluten free friendly.  Since the new diet, I've sadly steered away from Italian Restaurant outings, because many of them have not jumped on the GF trend here in Southern California.  So I was excited to learn that I could create a meal at home that satisfied my pizza cravings by combining corn tortillas with my favorite pizza toppings - mozzarella, spicy pepperoni, sauteed mushrooms and bell peppers.  With the perfect blend of classic Italian flavors and an earthy Mexican twist, I give you my version of a hearty GF Pizza Quesadilla!

What you'll need:  serves 4

Sauteed Mushrooms and Bell Peppers:
2 tbsp butter
1 red bell pepper (julienned)
1 green bell pepper (julienned)
1 small pkg button mushrooms (sliced)
1/2 cup white wine

Pizza Quesadilla:

Corn tortillas
1 stick spicy pepperoni (thinly sliced then halved for easier eating)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Your favorite marinara for dipping

In a large pan over medium heat, start melting the butter.  Add the bell peppers first and cook for about 5 mins (they take longer to cook than the mushrooms).  Then add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 mins until they both start to soften and slightly brown.  Pour in the wine, stir and cook for a remaining 5 mins.  Remove from heat.

 In a separate medium size pan over medium heat, build the quesadilla.  Put in the corn tortilla and layer on the toppings, starting with the mozzarella then the pepperoni and veggies and finishing it over with another layer of cheese.  Close the quesadilla with another corn tortilla.  Flip when the bottom tortilla is golden brown 3-5 mins.  Cook on the other side for another 3-5 mins.  Cut in half with kitchen sheers and serve with a side of marinara.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Chocolate Basil Ice Cream

It's not usual for me to want to eat my ice cream with herbs, but I was completely enthralled and inspired by a Chocolate Basil Sorbet I had the chance to enjoy at the end of an elegant dinner during the International Food Blog Conference in Portland.  I immediately knew that I had to try a version of this at home, especially since my family and I are obsessed with basil.  And we're starting to find out that it doesn't just taste good on pasta!  In this particular recipe, the basil is a surprising afterthought.  Because this dark chocolate ice cream is rich, the slight peppery aftertaste will make your guests go, "What is that...?".  This Italian herb instantly turns a plain ole chocolate ice cream into something more exciting and intriguing!  So, if you don't have an ice cream maker at home, it's not the end of the world (you can make it work).  But, if it weren't for mine, this hot and humid summer would have seemed much longer!

What you'll need: makes 1 quart

2 cups water
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup packed basil leaves (bruised)
1 cup super fine sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Kahlua
1 tsp lemon zest
Fresh basil for garnish

In a medium saucepan over low medium heat, combine water, half and half and bruised basil leaves. Bruising the leaves help relieve it's peppery juices.  Steep for 10-15 minutes or until the mixture just starts to bubble.  Don't allow it to boil.  Remove from heat, strain out the basil leaves and toss.

Return the saucepan to low heat and pour in the fine sugar (dissolves faster than regular granulated sugar), cocoa, and salt. Whisk until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add in the vanilla extract, Kahlua and lemon zest, combine.

Chill the mixture until cold (freezer works - about 1 hour, just don't forget about it!). Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacture's instructions. The ice cream will be soft!  Transfer into a freezer safe container and let harden for 4-6 hours.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a freezer safe container and freeze until completely harden, 6 + hours.  When frozen, scoop into a bowl and garnish with fresh basil.

Recipe Adapted from here.

Follow Because of Madalene on Facebook!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Another Taste of Portland

 Remember how I was raving about how great Portland, Oregon is about being gluten free friendly?  Well, not everyone has jumped on the GF bandwagon yet, but I have to give Voodoo Doughnut props for at least being vegan friendly.  It's fun and unique places like this that make me forget that I'm not supposed to be eating gluten, but I'm going to blame it on the Voodoo Doll Doughnut... he made me do it.

I never ever thought I would stand in line for 30 mins for a doughnut, (but again I'll blame the Voodoo) and it was completely worth the wait.  You almost need that amount of time just to figure out which doughnut out of dozens of flavors you're going to choose.  Do I want a cake doughnut or a raised yeast doughnut? Bacon or Chocolate?  Glaze or Tang Dust?  Cream or Jelly?  The options are endless and I bet you'll never be able to leave without ordering more than one!  My mom and I finally decided on three : Voodoo Doll, Mango Tango and McMinnville Cream.

 And to make the wait more fun, their brick walls are covered in glitter!  Very pretty and very distracting...

We took our pink box filled with doughnuts (saving for an afternoon snack) and headed over to Kells Irish Pub, where I had the tastiest Shepard's Pie filled with ground beef, peas and carrots and topped with crispy cheesy mashed potatoes!  Can't wait to try my own version soon.  My stomach got the better of me and I forgot to snap a shot.  I might also have been easily distracted by the money on the ceilings.  When we asked how it got up there, they claimed it was from "Irish Magic".

Portland was quite an adventure and the food was excellent.  Next stop, Chicago.

Because of Madalene is on Facebook.  Follow here!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gluten Free in Portland, Oregon

Well, I'm back from my trip to Portland, Oregon where I attended my first International Food Blogger Conference hosted by Foodista!  I have to give them a warm and heartfelt Thank You for putting on a fantastic weekend filled with helpful blogging tips, yummy food (Gluten Free/Vegan accommodations), endless networking and lots of laughs that I will take away with me to further the progress of my growing blog.  It was a close call, but I was able to get my personally designed business cards printed and shipped just in time for the conference welcoming.  I love how they turned out and can't wait to update the look of the blog soon with the reflection of this new design. 

After the conference closed, I stayed an extra two days to explore the city of Portland.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how Gluten Free friendly and accommodating they are compared to other cities.  And I have to say that the food highlight of this trip was a visit to the modern and chic Tula Gluten Free Bakery Cafe.  Not only do they offer deliciously moist and flaky baked goods such as breads, pastries and cakes but they also serve pizza, panini, soup, salad and drinks!  Lately, the GF pizzas I've tried here at home are cracker thin and I'm starving in an hour.  But Tula's pizza crust was pillow soft and filled with fresh toppings that kept me fueled for the rest of my long sightseeing day.

Because of Madalene is now on FB!  Follow here.

Tula's chic sitting area
Tula's Baked Goods
Tula Gluten Free Pizza: Fresh Mushrooms, Garlic and Basil

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frozen Cherry Soda Bites

One of my favorite summer pastimes was freezing apple juice in ice trays for a sweet little snack to cool me down in the scorching afternoon.  Would you do this as a kid, too?  Since then I've branched out and experimented with other flavors.  This week I tried Cherry Soda with a splash of half and half to cut the sweetness and add a bit of creaminess and for some added texture, chunks of cherry.  Instead of popsicles (which you can easily do with this recipe - fill mold 3/4 with soda and 1/4 half and half), I used a heart shaped ice tray mold that turned these frozen bites into a fun little presentation (that I'll have to keep in mind for Valentine's Day next year).  Sweet, creamy and will satisfy your soda craving without having to drink an entire can!

What you'll need:  makes 8 per ice tray

1 can cherry soda (I used Cherry Pepsi)
1/4 cup half and half (use more or less depending on the size of the mold)
6 fresh cherries (chopped into 1/4 in. pieces)

Open the can of soda and leave on the counter for a few hours so the bubbles fizzle out.  Soda expands in the freezer, unless flattened.  Fill each mold with the cherry soda about 3/4 the way up.  Toss in a few chunks of cherries per mold.  Put in the freezer for about an hour.  Take out and fill the rest of the molds to the top with half and half (for a more desired layer effect).  Put back in the freezer for about 2 - 3 hours, or until completely frozen.  Twist the mold and they should pop right out.  If having trouble, dip the bottom of the mold into a baking dish of warm water for a couple of seconds and try to pop them out again.  Serve on a chilled plate, get a fork and eat immediately!

Because of Madalene is now on Facebook!

Monday, August 20, 2012

BeBetsy Feature

I'd like to give a big thank you to BeBetsy for sharing my Watermelon Jicama Salad!  They were kind enough to find my site, reach out to me and display the recipe on their homepage.  I've since joined their wonderful network, where they encourage readers to share food and drinks with one another.  They also have helpful tips on family life, home decor and more.  Go check them out!