Sunday, November 21, 2010

Menu Plan, Thanksgiving Edition

Last week's menu plan went pretty well. The only substitution was that instead of spaghetti with Italian sausage, I decided to make sausage and peppers instead. YUM!

Yesterday, we met some friends for dinner at Van's Vietnamese Restaurant on Central Ave, Albany. It was absolutely amazing. I completely loved the experience and will be back again soon. Afterwards, we went to a small birthday celebration at a friend's house, where they made an absolutely divine flourless chocolate cake from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook. YUM!

Now, given the fact that it's that time of year again, and we're hosting a combined Thanksgiving with our families for the second year in a row, I'm not bothering with a weekly menu plan this week. Mostly because, after cleaning the house to pass the white-glove test and taking Wednesday off to spend the day cooking, I foresee takout in our future; and hopefully leftovers after the big day!

Let's do something more fun and talk about what we'll be serving for Thanksgiving dinner.

Right now, we're expecting eight people: hubby and myself, our parents, my sister-in-law and hubby's uncle. I wanted to get my favorite low-cost pinot grigio, Ecco Domani, but unfortunately Empire Wine was out of it when I went there this weekend so I picked up Cavit pinot grigio to sip throughout the day. Most people usually stick with that for the turkey, but we have Blackstone pinot noir on hand as well for red-wine drinkers.

  • A hot crab dip, consisting of canned claw meat crab, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and scallions. Mixed together and baked at 350 until bubbly, topped with extra cheddar cheese and baked for another 10 minutes, and served with freshly baked and toasted whole-grain gluten free bread for toasting. (Sorghum and brown rice flour are perfect for this!)
  • To go along with the whole grain toast, I'll have a bowl of Trader Joe's olive tapenade to spread on slices. YUM!
  • Shrimp cocktail, a holiday staple.
  • An assorted cheese and cracker spread.

  • We've purchased a 25-lb. turkey, which we'll be roasting, and of course, making gravy from scratch.
  • Both "regular" and gluten free stuffing, to be prepared by my mother and mother-in-law, respectively.
  • Mashed potatoes
  • My mother's famous sweet potatoes, with liberal amounts of marshmallow and brown sugar
  • Creamed white onions (using sweet rice flour to thicken the sauce)
  • My mother-in-law's famous applesauce
  • Southern corn-bread, using the recipe from America's Test Kitchen (it only calls for corn meal, so it's naturally gluten free!)
  • Homemade cranberry sauce
  • Italian-style whole green beans, tossed in garlic and olive oil
  • Kernel corn tossed in butter
  • Peas
  • Non-gluten free pumpkin and pecan pies, purchased from FoCastle Farms
  • Gluten free apple pie, with a pie crust from Gluten Free Girl's wonderful site
  • Gluten free pumpkin pie, with a pie crust made up of crushed gluten free graham crackers
  • Pecan cloud cookies
  • And, of course, vanilla ice cream and Starbucks (decaf) coffee. Irish coffee optional. ;-)
Fortunately, the last piece of cardio equipment for our home gym will be delivered and set up for Black Friday post-food-comatose workouts. :)

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are your plans??

LiveGlutenFreely winner!

Comment #6, Cheryl, won the LiveGlutenFreely prize pack. Congratulations!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Menu Plan 11/13 to 11/19

This weekend was.... Bad. As in, junk-food-hangover, gained-a-zillion-pounds bad.

On Friday we went to the Schenectady Bomber's with a friend, and went nuts. Wings (delicious, in a dedicated fryer), tacos (hard shells are gluten free) and happy hour margaritas made the night incredibly entertaining, fun and calorie-dense. Then Saturday we went to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. We had salad, meals, and then had brownies and cupcakes back at our house for dessert... everything was very tasty, but I'm in a bit of a salt and fat coma at the moment.

While I like to make sure my pantry is stocked at this time of year, this week the main focus is getting everything out of the freezer in preparation for hosting Thanksgiving. This means, relatively little grocery shopping and eating mostly what comes out of our pantry and freezer. No worries, though, we'll stock up again after the holiday. :-)

So, here goes:

Saturday - We went to Outback Steakhouse.

Sunday - I promised my hubby baked macaroni and cheese. And since he's outside with a leaf blower as I type this blog entry, I should probably deliver, right? I'll make it with Bionaturae elbows. On the side I'll serve stewed tomatoes and steamed green beans. I'll partake in a teeny-tiny bit of pasta and mostly veggies.

Monday - Class night. Is it over yet? :-)

Tuesday - Frozen wild salmon with risotto and some sort of frozen veggies. Either broccoli or snap peas.

Wednesday - Spaghetti with hot Italian sausage and red sauce.

Thursday - Leftovers, quickly before running to the store and doing the bulk of our Thanksgiving shopping.

Friday - Boys' night (hubby's on his own), and Girls' night with the book club girls, yay!

LiveGlutenFreely Review and Giveaway

MyBlogSpark recently contacted me to gauge my interest in participating in a LiveGlutenFreely giveaway. LiveGlutenFreely is a (much lauded) initiative from General Mills/Betty Crocker to extend gluten free product information from their brands, and they sent me one of their product boxes with some stuff to try, all gluten free.

Well, I've written about some of the stuff in the box before: Gluten Free Bisquick, Yellow cake mix (and again here), Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks, and Chex. However, I have not yet had the pleasure to talk about Betty Crocker's gluten free brownie mix or frostings, so let's focus on that.

As timing and luck would have it, yesterday was my sister-in-law's birthday. The family went to Outback Steakhouse then came back to our house for dessert. I figured this was the perfect chance to try the gluten free brownie mix with chocolate frosting, and I also decided to make yellow cupcakes (I picked up funfetti icing, yay!) for my chocolate-hating hubby.

I was a little leery about making the brownie mix out-of-the-box since the mixes tend to be a bit gritty with no doctoring at all. So I picked up a package of chocolate fudge instant pudding (Jello brand) and added that and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the mix. This made the mix clumpy and not wet at all, so I added another egg and a bit of water to moisten the mix before baking it. I baked it in a nonstick 9x9 pan, and it took in the ballpark of 30 minutes at 325. I think I cooked it a little too long, because the edges were crunchy (or just the right amount of time, depending on how you look at it).

For the icing, I mixed chocolate icing with a bit of Nutella, and spread it over the top of the brownies with some sprinkles for color.

The consistency of the brownies was denser than I would have liked - a lot more like fudge than an actual brownie. I think that was mostly due to the pudding mix that I added. They tasted incredible though - chocolate on chocolate, decadent and very, very rich.

The real test came, however, when my sister in law brought some of the brownies and cupcakes over to her non-gluten free friend. He tried them, loved them and didn't know the difference (and wasn't told) they were gluten free.

So, here's the fun part. MyBlogSpark and LiveGlutenFreely are offering a LiveGlutenFreely pack, valued on their site at 24.99, to one of my readers. The LiveGlutenFreely pack includes the following:
  • Betty Crocker GF Brownie Mix
  • Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix
  • Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting
  • Honey Nut Chex cereal
  • Bisquick GF Baking Mix
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Snack variety pack
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar
  • Betty Crocker Potato Buds Mashed Potatoes
  • Betty Crocker Red Serving Spoon
  • Coupons and information about the Gluten Free diet.
How to enter:
  • One entry: Leave a comment on this blog answering the question: What food product would you like to see available, gluten free, from a major retailer? Please note: Please include a way to contact you - e-mail preferable, Twitter handle acceptable, if I have to do a lot of research to figure out who you are and how to get a hold of you, I'll pass the prize on to someone more accessible!
  • Bonus entry: Follow me on Facebook - if you already follow me, great! Post on the wall a link to your favorite gluten free recipe from for a 2nd entry.
  • Administrative stuff: The winner will be chosen randomly, comments that don't include a way to get a hold of you will be disqualified. Contest closes at 11/19/2010 11:59:59 PM EDT and winner will be announced over the weekend. Prize will be courtesy of MyBlogSpark and LiveGlutenFreely and sent through them.

Good luck!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pantry Staples

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!

I know it's not technically winter yet, but the Capital District has already seen its first dumping of approximately 1.3 inches of snow... this, to me, heralds the start of the winter season that will last until mid-to-late April, when I become reasonably confident that we are unlikely (read: it's not impossible) to get any more freak snowstorms.

I should take the time to mention that I absolutely detest winter. The holidays are nice, but I could so do without the snow, sleet, ice, cold, etc.

This time of year always, without a doubt, sends me scurrying to do two things:

1. Unpack all of my huge, bulky, turtleneck sweaters. I'll start wearing them as soon as the highs reach the 30s, and won't come out until Spring.

2. I get into pack-rat mode. I mentioned that I hate snow, right? Well, my feelings for driving in snow... make that look mild. I am as much a fan of driving my four-cylinder car in the snow as... well, as tea partiers are fans of health care reform. So once it gets to this point in the year, I start obsessively stocking my pantry for the inevitable weekend snow storm that will put a crimp in our style and make it hard to go to the grocery store.

And, OK, maybe I tend to over-do it once in a while.

Anyway, here is my list of pantry must-haves for the winter. These staples can be used to whip up healthy, flavorful meals. I'm not too concerned about power - one of our stoves has a gas range, and we have a gas-powered camping burner we could use if all else failed.

So, here goes - winter provisions to have on hand at all times:

  • Bell & Evans chicken nuggets and/or tenders. Great for an easy meal.
  • Starfish Cod. Another easy convenience meal.
  • Ore-Ida tater tots or french fries - to accompany one of the above.
  • Frozen veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, diced peppers, and corn.
  • Bacon. Easy enough to un-thaw.
  • 2 frozen wild salmon filets. Again, easy enough to un-thaw.
  • Frozen raw shrimp (I stock up when there's a good sale).
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cheese - Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and anything else we pick up.

  • Frank's Red Hot. Non-negotiable.
  • A full box each of brown and white instant rice
  • 2-4 cans of dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • Canned veggies: kernel corn, peas and carrots, sliced mushrooms
  • Canned fruit: mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, mixed fruit with cherries, unsweetened applesauce, pineapple, maraschino cherries
  • Progresso Soup. Especially Chicken with Rice or Chicken with Wild Rice.
  • Ginger Ale.
  • Jell-O.
  • Some sort of chocolate.
  • Gluten Free pasta (we buy cases of Bionaturae off Amazon). I always have spaghetti, fusilli, elbows, and penne on hand.
  • Pasta sauce. Traditional red, spicy red, alfredo, cheese, and vodka.
  • White cooking wine. I usually use something around the quality of Sutter Home Chardonnay. Not what I'd consider sippable, but passable enough to cook with
  • Salsa and tortilla chips.
  • Diced and stewed tomatoes.
Some emergency meals that can be made on a stovetop with these ingredients include:
  • Penne with alfredo sauce and broccoli, sprinkled with a tiny bit of shredded cheddar cheese and cayenne pepper.
  • Rice and beans - brown rice, kidney beans, salsa, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, garlic. Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Leftovers are great with corn tortillas or scooped up with chips.
  • Shrimp Fried Rice - brown rice, shrimp, peas and carrots, mushrooms, onion, and anything else that looks good. I'm a fan of adding water chestnuts, baby corn and bean sprouts when I have them on hand. This also works with leftover chicken or vegetarian.
  • Baked elbow macaroni and cheese served with stewed tomatoes and a veggie.
  • Buffalo shrimp - shrimp dredged in egg and some sort of flour mixture (my favorite right now is Bisquick, but I've used corn starch too), pan fried and tossed in Red Hot buffalo sauce.
What are your pantry staples and go-to meals?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Monday Menu Plan 11/6 - 11/12

Last week's menu plan went - well, a little off-kilter, but not too badly. The portabella stir fry I made was absolutely delicious (if a bit too much cabbage for our tastes) but it made a lot more than I had originally anticipated. So instead of pasta, we had portabella stir fry leftovers (and I even had some leftovers for office lunches!).

The Halloween plan of Captain-Morgan-spiked butterbeer and shrimp went very well, though I also weakened and made some absolutely yummy pan-fried mozzarella sticks breaded with Gillian's Italian bread crumbs. YUM! We also went through approximately half of our candy that night (yes, mostly to trick-or-treaters, LOL). I got fed up by Tuesday and made my husband bring the rest of the leftover candy into the office. :)

Finally, Friday, I weakened and ordered sushi takeout. (Hey, it's technically still fish). We tried ordering from for the first time - it was pretty awesome!

I also got a huge box of stuff from Live Gluten Freely that I plan to review and giveaway sometime soon, so stay tuned. :)

Now, it's time to start the planning process all over again. This week is actually a bit of a crazy week - though I suppose I could honestly say that about every week from Halloween through the New Year.

Unfortunately this means my "healthy eating" plan sometimes goes right out the window. This week my goal is "squeeze some veggies in there when I can and log some extra cardio hours."

So, since I didn't get a chance to post this on Saturday (woohoo, authentic Monday blog post!), here goes:

Saturday - We attended a house party with some wonderful friends. I was asked to make "chicken crack" AKA buffalo chicken dip, which I made for our housewarming party to rave reviews. It's so simple, too:

Buffalo "Chicken Crack" Dip
- 2 small/1 large can of white meat chicken
- 1 regular size bottle of Frank's Original Red Hot - Eyeball it, but in my experience you can't go wrong with the whole bottle.
- Ranch Dressing (GF) - Eyeball it. You're not going to go wrong.
- Shredded cheddar cheese to taste - I usually use an 8oz package and maybe some extra.
- 1 8 oz brick of cream cheese. I usually use reduced fat, but I suppose that's a little like ordering a Big Mac and Super Size fries with a diet soda.

Mix all ingredients together, setting some of the cheese aside. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Stir, add the remaining cheese, bake for an additional 10 minutes, and serve with Scoops and/or celery sticks.


I also made my gluten free pizza puffs, just cheese, no pepperoni.

Sunday - I made a roast chicken, with skillet roasted red potatoes (I still had a lot left over from last week when Price Chopper had a Buy One, Get One sale), and Italian green beans with extra garlic.

Monday - Class night. As usual, Hubby's eating leftovers or on his own. I could probably buy stock in Chiquita bananas and KIND bars by now.

Tuesday - Chicken leftovers.

Wednesday - Shrimp something. Either stir fry, or, if I'm feeling ambitious, creole.

Thursday - Leftovers.

Friday - TBD, depending what our plans are with friends.

There it is - let's see how well it goes this week. :)