Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oven Out Of Commision

My cooking experiences and plans have taken yet another hit to my wallet and not in a good sense and atm I don't know for how much. Could be as little as 15 euro or as much as 300/400 euro. Only the week will tell me for sure.

Basically the other evening I was getting ready to put something in the oven which is now pre-heated for it (was going to make salmon cakes and zuchinni chips) and well it has this automatic 'spring' system to help close the door. I always found this quite stupid actually... I mean who in the right mind forgets to CLOSE their oven any how? So back to the point, I miss holding it open while putting in the chips and the door closes. Not hard, not forcefully or any thing of the like... just it's normal every day spring back motion and BOOM... the entire front door explodes into a million little glass pieces with exception of this big metal and plastic piece that use to be the handle.

Now the reason I say it could cost as little as 15 or as much as 300/400 is simply... either it's going to cost us 15 euro to talk to people that specialize in the laws of renting apartments to talk to them about if the landlord is responsible to repair/replace the oven or if we are... since it comes with the apartment and we were not liable for the damage done we figure it's the landlords job to repair it. Now if it is ours to have to repair then it'll either be repaired for 100euro or less... if it's higher then that we're not going to throw the money out the door and we'll just buy a new one but rest assured, we'll take it with us and leave them the one they wouldn't repair and they can deal with it when we move! My oven (gets overly possessive).

So my poor oven... stove top still works so at least I have that and tonight I'll be making a nice simple taco salad (will take photos!) and then for dessert we're planning on making bit sized apple fritters since we also have a freshly cleaned/oil replaced fryer :D So my cooking hasn't ended but my baking atm has... will have to do with what I have and see what things I can get into trouble with!

I hope in the end, it's the problem of the landlord to repair or replace the oven as if we have to, I won't be able to afford my pasta maker :( That is the only really truly bad thing about this happening... I WANT MY PASTA MAKER! LOL I have for quite a number of years so I hope this is just a case of him having to repair it. I rather be without an oven for a couple of months even then have to forfeit getting my birthday present!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recipe - Zucchini Bread

Time for another recipe. This time sweet meets savoury in this wonderfully high protein, nutrient rich and omega 3 fatty acid filled recipe for zuchinni bread. Zuchinni by itself contains so many nutritional values alone including but not limited to vitamins A, C & K, Manganese, Potassium and Folate. In my version of this recipe, I make the wonderful goodness of this veggie even better for you with the addition of an omega fatty acids filled blend of pine nuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts (or pecans) and even pumpkin seeds. Then add to that some yummy fruit additions like apple sauce and raisins for another healthy boost of vitamins & other good for you stuffs. Top it off by the fact that I've also lowered the fat content from a normal recipe which can call for an entire cup of oil to only a 1/3rd cup and you've got a power packed and good for you dessert, quick breakfast or lunch grab or even a healthy snack

This recipes calls for you to leave the skin on, without it you lose a lot of the nutritional value not to mention a lot of the colour and taste! So for heaven's sake, leave it on... you'll be thankful in the end that you did. Make this recipe with the darkest deepest green zucchinis you can find for the best vitamin boost you can get.

 ♥ 2 cups GF flour
 ♥ 1 cup granulated sugar
 ♥ 2 tsp GF baking powder
 ♥ 2 tsp ground cinnamon
 ♥ 2 cups shredded/grated fresh green zuchinni
 ♥ 1/3 cup vegetable oil
 ♥ 2 large eggs
 ♥ 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened smooth style apple sauce
 ♥ 2 tsp vanilla extract
 ♥ 1/4th cup unsalted, shelled pumpkin seeds
 ♥ 1/4th cup unsalted, shelled sunflower seeds
 ♥ 1/4th cup pine nuts

 ♥ 1/4th cup crushed/chopped walnuts or pecans
 ♥ 1/2 cup dark or golden raisins
** Note - You might need a splash of milk to thin out the batter if your flour soaks up liquid like mine.

If you have already shredded your zuchinni, put it in a find mesh strainer or wrap in cheese cloth and squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can. You want it as dry as possible or the liquid will make your bread/cake soggy and runny.

Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C). Lightly butter or spray a 13x9 inch cake pan. This recipe works well in a 13x9inch cake pan but also works well in 2 loaf/bread pans, you just need to adjust how long you bake it for... same temp but bake it longer if you use loaf pans as there will be more depth the width like there is in a cake pan. If you are unsure of long, simply add 10 minutes to the time mentioned at the end, remove a pan and pierce the middle with a knife of wooden toothpick. If it comes out clean, it's done. If it comes out with batter on it then keep adding another 10 minutes at a time. This part is not rocket science, if it's getting too dark on the top, cover with foil for remainder of baking time. I like to keep it simple though and do it in a cake pan myself.

In medium to large bowl, combine dry ingredients of GF flour, GF baking powder, sugar and cinnamon, set aside for a moment. In another medium bowl combine wet ingredients of oil, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla extract.

In a semi small bowl combine the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pecans or walnuts and raisins. You can skip this step all together if you are lucky enough to have a mixture such as I do but if you don't have this as an option, it's best to follow this step or you won't be able to get a good coverage of all nuts and seeds through out your batter in the end.

Combine wet mixture to dry mixture and whisk until just about smooth. Add the shredded zucchini and mix with a spoon. At this point decide if you need that splash of milk or not. You should have a pourable mixture after adding the nuts and seeds but can't mix in milk well after this addition so judge now if you'll need or want that bit of extra moister.

If you're ready, pour in the seed and nut mixture, combine well with your spoon and pour into your greased cake pan. Make sure to have a jar scraper style spatula at hand to get all of the wonderful batter from your bowl.

Bake in pre-heated oven for roughly 50 minutes but check after 40 minutes to ensure that the top doesn't over cook. If it's getting too dark and you've tested the centre with the toothpick/knife method, simply cover with foil for remaining time.

In the photos for my recipe this time, I was looking to simply use up the other half of my huge zuchinni, didn't have my nut & seed mixture and was looking for a dessert for dinner. So the photos also show a 1/2 cup of nib sugar (also called pearl sugar) sprinkled across the top before baking it.

Serve this fresh from the oven, keep it in the fridge for even up to a week. Serve it warm with a bit of butter melted on it or add some extra protein with a yummy layer of reduced fat cream cheese or see how your taste buds like a bit of apple butter or even a berry based jam. Dessert, snack, quick lunch... you can't beat it!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Meat Talk - Fresh Tuna

If you like fish, then there is no reason that you wouldn't just LUV tuna... FRESH tuna that is! Ok yes, I too use the ready-to-use/cooked canned version but they are so over dry, tasteless, colourless, bland and just over all nothing compared to the fresh stuff. If your going to make a pasta salad slathered with mayo or looking to make a quick and cheap tuna melt, then reach for the canned version but if you are looking to have a wonderful fried piece of fish or are taking the time to experiment with over all good quality foods then fresh tuna is the way to go.

I've personally have tried both the very deep red coloured tuna and then the very pink tuna. I find that there is a very big difference between the two. The deeper the colour the more tender and moist it seems to be. Although the pink coloured tuna is not bad and more so it's still 100x's better then the canned stuff, if you can get a very deep red coloured piece at not too bad of a price... GET IT!

I don't think I ever ate fresh tuna until I moved here to Belgium. It seems in the USA that canned tuna is what every kid grows up on from it being made into mayo based sandwich spreads to pasta salads to even tuna casserole... this is what I even grew up on. Even what I consider 'poor man's tuna casserole' which was simply a cheap store brand box of powdered cheese mac & cheese with a can (or 2) of tuna and some peas added to it. Man oh man, if I knew then what I knew NOW.... there would never be another tuna casserole in the house again. That is except of course for a very plush variation that I create with hmmm fresh home-made macaroni pasta (with my new pasta maker of course!) made into home-made mac and cheese with fresh cheddar or gruyere cheese in the sauce, some fresh broccoli, perhaps a bit of sour cream or cream cheese in the mixture to make it even more creamy and then baked right into the dish, still raw, fresh chunks of deep red tuna... just so that they will still be moist and full of flavour then the dish is done baking. Yes I'm already processing and preparing for a new tuna dish as I write this!

Back to the real thing. If you say to yourself 'I just don't like tuna' then also think to yourself 'have I ever eaten a piece of properly pre-pared fresh tuna or has it always been canned or poorly cooked?'. I'll make a bet that at least half or more of you have answered 'no' to the last question haven't you? I know I did when my husband asked me as we stood one day in front of a fresh fish shop looking at these dark red gems in the display case. He asked me 'what about some tuna'? I remember quickly responded that I had that so much when growing up that I just wanted something different. Mind you this is when I first moved here almost 10 years ago! I'm so glad he opened my mind to some foods because I think only he would know what I was truly missing if he had let me pass up the chance.

Tuna when pre-pared properly which should be medium to rare like you would a steak (still pink to red through the centre) just melts in your mouth. It's so flavourful and moist. It's so full of the most important fat to our bodies as well... the all vital Omega 3 fatty acids!

Here is just a very simple yet wonderful photo my husband took as I started to prepare our steaks one night. I try to make the seasoning process go smoother by spicing either the frying pan or a plate for one side of the meat and then while it rests on top of the first layer of seasoning, I then use fresh cleaned hands (so as to not always touch meat and then my spices... always nice, neat and clean since I use grinders a lot) I season the other side. This time I did it on a plate and hubby thought even just that was worth exploring more settings on the camera with.... so I let him... and he produced a wonderful piece of photography art. Just a suggestion though, season your meat outside the frying pan on this one because you really do want a very hot pan when you first place your fish in it and if you heat you pan with the seasoning and oil already in the pan, it'll simply burn before it even gets to the fish.

Now on to how to prepare a properly cooked piece of fresh tuna. First when you select tuna, it's all about how you like stuff. As said before, I prefer the deepest darkest piece I can find and I usually ask for a steak any where from 1/2 inch to a full inch thick. The thicker it is, the easier it is to get it cooked properly. Just like a beef steak, except fish cooks 10x's faster.

Pre-heat a frying pay to a medium high heat. Figure our your method for seasoning the piece of tuna (to each their own I say, for me I hate to get raw meat stuff on my shakers or grinders so I try to practice the 'wash you hands after touching raw meat and before touching any thing else' rule) but trust me on this, from a lady who hardly ever cooks with adding excess salt to any thing she cooks, baking items included, that tuna comes out best when lightly seasoned with a light dusting of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Pour a very small amount of olive oil into your pre-heated pan. You only need enough to ensure that the fish doesn't stick. For the best results, make sure you use a non-stick pan, if not using one simply apply a bit more olive oil. Also with almost anything you fry, ensure you fit your pan to the meat you are cooking. You shouldn't over crowd your pan but you also shouldn't have tons of space left over either as this just causes uneven cooking to happen.

Then place your steak (or steaks) in the pan. You should hear them sizzle the moment they start to touch the hot pan. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PAN UNATTENDED! This is a VITAL rule of cooking proper fresh tuna. The moment one turns their back, the fish will get over cooked. I've done this many many time as I'm use to having a couple of minutes to finish up say the side dish or the veggies. No, don't walk away, just stay there by the pan. Be ready with something to flip the tuna with because as soon as you see it change light grey about 1/3rd of the way up, your ready to turn it already. If you have a high enough heat, you will have already produced a nice light brown colouring on the side you just cooked. This is great!

Once flipped, rinse and repeat the action but instead of flipping again when the grey colours are just about touching each other, transfer to your serving plate. That's it, you just cooked the perfect piece of fresh tuna. Yes tuna should be eaten as good as still red in the middle! Tuna if bought fresh from a proper monger who sells sashimi quality fish is even eaten 100% raw. Just make sure you buy from a good quality monger... most will advertise if they sell sashimi quality or not, just keep your eyes peeled and if you don't find it written some where, simply ask!


Almost any thing goes well beside a tuna steak btw. It's a hearty piece of meat that will even stand up to the 'meat and potatoes' style dinner but just in the same is tender and divine enough to come down to earth with a few stalks of asparagus and some rice. The combos are numberless and that is not even to mention all the wonderful recipes you could make! I'll get to posting some over the course of this blog's life I'm sure but for now, go get a wonderful piece of fresh tuna and see if you can perfect your cooking technique of this wonderfully good for you fresh fish.

 (slightly over cooked but still yummy)

Soda - Organic Orange

I think I've said it before that this blog is not just going to be about recipes. This blog is meant to be of things that in general fit a gluten free life style. Yes there will be wonderful and tested recipes (lots of photos too) but there are also going to be general life talks, tips, products I've tried and liked a lot, stores I'd like to recommend even though I am located in Belgium and any thing else I believe fits and goes well into the whole 'Gluten Free Experience'.

Today I want to bring to you one of my favourite sodas. I've only recently found this one though. I don't normally drink much else but water and peppermint tea but once and a while I do like a nice cold iced tea or indeed a fizzy bottle of soda. The only problem I have with these though is that most of the time soda carries way too much sugar for me to enjoy even a small glass. I'm not diabetic or anything but I do seem to be carb sensitive. For example I can enjoy a nice bowl of rice based pasta while as a portion of the same in corn based pasta will give me a faster heart rate for a bit.

So lately when I crave something with a bit more flavour and wow to it, I've been turning to a glass of this orange soda. I found it at my local Bio Shop (will have a post on this store sometime in the future as it will be a recommend store!) and for the price compared to it's highly processed and highly sugared orange coca cola counter part, I'll take this any day. I pay about 1.30euro a bottle for this where as it's counter part I'd pay about 1 euro. For it being bio, organic and 30% less sugar without adding any thing artificial (duh, or it wouldn't be able to carry the bio label). If you can find this or another type of soda that you like that isn't loaded processed crap or high in sugar, come share it with us! I'd be glad to even have you as a guest editor if you can tell me a bit about the soda (or any other product you want to talk about) and why you think it should have a place here!

Go grab yourself a nice glass of low sugar but natural soda, go sit in the sun for a bit (remember your sun block!) and again enjoy the last days of summer with a smile on your face.

Cat Food - Gluten Free!

Did you know it's been researched that quite a number of beloved cats and dogs have food allergies? Even as much as being gluten intolerant themselves? It's true! So much so that now a days you are even finding gluten free, soy free, dairy free and what not pet foods.

I have 2 wonderful little kitties... ok not so little but still wonderful and always into things. Normally I buy them whiskers but I got this little sample bag of cat food in the post a little while back and gave it to them as a 'treat'. Needless to say that the 1 small bag (which still nearly filled their kitty dish) was gone within minutes. They always have hard food to munch on so it's not like they were starving or it was 'meal time' or something. They found it good, they liked it and found it indeed to be a treat.

With that I decided that I would get some more. I never took note of the information ON the package though except what the name was and what flavour. In this case chicken and yes my cats seem to very much have the same fondness for fish and poultry over beef, pork or even lamb that my husband and I share. Strange how our pets seem to match us so well when we have them isn't it?

So the next trip to the store and I bought a bag. When bringing it home and showing my husband he pointed out the top of the bag to me. Gluten Free he said out loud... I didn't hear it at first and he tapped me on the shoulder and ask if I did this purposely and I assured him I didn't and explain to him about the little sample package. He again then, now pointing to the top of the bag like an excited 10 year old 'I found it' excitement, and read gluten free! Ok now I understood what he said and indeed the top of the bag says gluten free but not only that but also soy free (they were marked together for some reason) and on top of it meant to help the digestive and urinary tract. Damn... ok for the cost, I can say this was well worth it at least for this family of humans and cats!

So here is another photo of the full bag. It's called Perfect Fit (sorry a rounded bag with the name sideways on the side doesn't make for a very good photo op). This one as mentioned is chicken (kip in nederlands) but I'm sure they must have more flavours.

Some signs to watch out for if you DOG might have food allergies
  • Itchy skin
  • Shaking of the head
  • Ear inflammation
  • Licking front paws
  • Rubbing face on carpet
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Flatulence
  • Sneezing
  • Asthma like symptoms
  • Anal itching
  • Behavioural changes
  • Seizures

Some signs to watch out for if you CAT might have food allergies
  • Non seasonal itching, especially on the front half of the body, head, face, ears & neck.
  • The ears may also be swollen & or infected
  • Hair loss (due to excessive scratching, grooming etc)
  • Vomiting & or diarrhoea

Remember though, these are just signs... only your vet for sure can tell for sure if it's a food allergy or another type of allergy (such as dust or even pollen). If you think your beloved pet might have an allergy of any kind and could use some help, contact your vet, make an appointment for allergy testing and get your pet the relief they need. You wouldn't want to live with something like this and not be able to tell someone something is bothering you, would you?? Your pet simply can't tell you verbally so be his or her eyes and ears when it comes to discomfort... you know your pet better then any one and will know when something isn't quite right.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fruit Talk - Green Grapes

Do you remember my post just yesterday where in my smoothie recipe I asked you to think hard on if you took the small things for granted? This is another of those small things I think is important. I LUV fruit and veggies. And I think (and believe) that the more colour to the selection you eat, the better you will feel. Not only do I think one will feel wonderful but they will have more energy and will even look better not only to themselves but to others also. I also believe in the thought that eating fruit and veggies never made any one fat. Just remember with that thought, it's what you put ON or WITH them that does. Sure it's quite tasty and nice to dip veggie sticks in dressing or an apple slice into caramel dip but that is where people steer wrong. It's not eating too much fruit or veggies, it's all about what you put on them. I promise that you will feel full on a couple cups of grapes, have only half the calories and none of the fat that you'll take in by grabbing that naughty snickers bar.

So lets talk about wholesome food... natural, wonderfully coloured, sweet, filling and simply all around good for you, GRAPES! I do have to admit I do let it show that I'm American when it comes to grapes (watermelons and olives too btw) by the way that I prefer them and has to be seedless. That usually isn't a problem out here in the grape department but it does come with a slightly higher price then the seeded one. I would rather take the smaller price difference then deal with spitting seeds out as I try to enjoy a nice cup of them though.

Green, purple, blue, globe... what ever kind or colour you prefer. Mine are personally green but I also like their purple counter part. I do also like the purple globe grapes but only when I'm in the mood to deal with the seeds and to be honest those are really the only ones I'll put up with for the seeds as they are usually so huge in size that 3 or 4 seeds are nothing to fight with as compared to a normal sized green grape.

Fruit in general is good for you. It's always going to be naturally gluten free and I think it's sadly left alone in the dark when people get into the mind set of 'what do I eat that doesn't have gluten or milk or lactose or ~ insert dietary requirement ~'. Even diabetics seems to get into this mind set. Yes it's still sugar but it's natural sugar and the kind your body needs... you just can't go eating 4 pieces at a time or in this case 2 cups or more. But remember this is a gluten free experience, not a low sugar or sugar free experience!

Grapes... go to your local grocery store or fruit stand and grab some! It's still season and more often then not even in the off seasons, you'll find them also and just as wonderful... just slightly more expensive. You can do soooo many things with them (will post some recipes later on) but for now, just go grab a wonderful bunch, chill them in your fridge for a couple of hours for a refreshing sweet and filling treat and just enjoy the ending days of summer the best as you can!

Let Us Talk 'Exotic' - Goose Berries

Another day, another fruit. Ok ok ok! Another month and another exotic fruit! Today I'd like to offer you a couple of cute little photos of something that are again quite common out here as compared to the USA. In the USA English, they are known as Goose Berries.

These little gems are not for the faint of heart though. They are quite bitter, especially if you buy certain types. But they are such a wonderful colour, shape and have this fuzzy little fur on them that I had to make a place for them in my blog. They are packed with nutrients (like most fruit obviously but more so since they are in the berry family) and again as most fruit, 100% naturally gluten free.

Enjoy the couple of photos and check out the WIKI LINK for some more in-depth information on these wonderful little globes of fruit. My husband is particularly fond of these.

New Photos & Info Updated

For those that are keeping a watch on my beautiful and colourful photos, I've updated the VEGGIE STEW recipe with a brand new set of photos. There use to only be 2 but they were old and didn't show very much. Removed those and replaced them with like 10 new ones including an finished product. Remember my blog is about tried and true recipes. Things I've made, cooked, baked, tried and thought were worthy of a place here on the blog from recipes to stores to even just something I found interesting that had to deal with the whole gluten free life style. That also means I will always have photos of stuff I've tried or made just to prove that it has been made and I am true to the word!

Thinking of that... the veggie stew was inspired this time around by the hand off of a totally massive zucchini that was quite literally the length of my arm and larger then baseball bat thick. This monster made 2 recipes, the stew and later on some Zucchinni Bread. This thing was laid out on a white sheet we have over one of our couches... I wish there was a better way to show the size of it but I think from the width alone you can tell how huge it actually was!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recipe - Strawberry, Orange & Banana Smoothie

We all really do seem to take the more simple things in life for granted when we are forced to live a way we wish we didn't have to, such as the case with having to live gluten free or milk free. I've noticed people even tend to do this for lifestyles they don't have to live but choose to live.

So today's post is geared toward breakfast for a change. I don't post much about breakfast because I get very few chances to cook a big breakfast that I can take photos of or even use a recipe for since my loving husband only has off on weekends and leaves work at 7ish in the morning, just not the best of times to whip up a big breakfast! But once and a while you'll find a breakfast post. I mean I do this so rarely that I even have a brand new waffle maker sitting here in it's box, never opened, never used... and if that isn't sad enough, it's been here for months now.

Are you one that takes the simple things in the life of being gluten free for granted? Do you not realize exactly how many natural foods are at your finger tips that are already naturally gluten free? I mean really think about it for a moment. Do you forget that eggs are a god send being packed full of easy to digest protein that has now even been researched as being even better for you then first thought? I know most of us must have an gluten free alternative to bread be it home-made or store bought... do you realize the endless combos you can do on toast such as peanut butter & banana, simple butter & jams, apple butter or go all out and make french toast! Want even more? Think about those eggs again but don't think fried or scrambled or 'ick, I've done eggs so many times and always the say way' but think frittata, think omelets, think scrambles with meat/cheese/veggies.... you can do countless things with eggs that are all natural and all 100% gluten free without ever having to worry about reading labels!

So that is what has brought me to my post today. How simple can you get then fresh/frozen fruit, yoghurt, juice and some thing natural perhaps for sweetening? The only thing special for smoothies that you must have is a blender that is able/features crushing ice. For me that means my wonderful 'bullet'. It comes not only with the smaller container to use with it that most Americans reading this go 'yea I know that thing' but it also comes with a 1 litre blender pot with lid. I've used it almost weekly in some form or fashion since I got it. If you have that, all you need are the ingredients! Oh and no tips this time!

 1/2 cup to 1 cup frozen strawberries (store bought work well but fresh work too just freeze them first)
 1 banana (any size you want, this isn't science)
 1/2 cup to 1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed works wonders but bottled is just as good)
 1/2 cup plain low-fat yoghurt (low fat Greek style works very well too)
 1 to 2 tsp honey or Agave syrup (very optional... it's for taste, if you want it sweeter add this, if it's sweet enough, leave it out all together)

This does have to have some direction to it as you need to make sure the stuff blends well so I'll give you my way/version. First place strawberries in ice crushing ability style blender, then banana, then pour in the orange juice. You need to use at least some orange juice as the liquid for this or it won't blend but I will say this, use as much or as little as you wish to change how thick or thin you want it. I like it kind of in between so I add about a cup worth. Then add the yoghurt. Usually with store bought strawberries, they tend to be a bit bitter so I also add the 2tsp honey to mine, add this right on top of the yoghurt but make sure it's the end product because otherwise it will stick to every thing except get blended into the smoothie.

Cover properly, pulse a few times and then blend for about a minute. Serve how ever you'd like, I prefer a pretty purple cup that I bought specially for my smoothies (insert pamper yourself thought) and enjoy! It's great for hot summer mornings as a good 'gotta run but need something' style breakfast but it also great as a snack or even a side to lunch.

Don't forget that smoothies can be made any style and with almost any mix of ingredients and as long as you stay away from the more odd things like wheat germ, you are almost promised a naturally gluten free treat. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wonderful Food Adventures Coming Up!

I'm getting actually excited about the fall/winter months arriving. With my new camera and the promise of this winter being a bit better then last... yea I just can't wait!

This November my wonderful husband and I will be celebrating our first 10years of marriage so of course I just HAVE to make something really special since we can't really go out to eat (and you know the camera won't be far behind)! But more so the end of the year also brings my birthday, his birthday, both my parent's birthdays, my mother-in-law's birthday, my parents anniversary and then top that all off add the normal holidays of Halloween, Christmas and of course New Years on that platter please! LOL Yea what a way to have winter go!

I tend to get what is known as the 'winter blues'. Well this year I intend to BEAT that and I mean right square in the nose and so hard it'll never show it's shady self again. How? Simple, I'm going to keep myself BUSY!

With all the holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and what not happening, I'm going be diving into so many new and interesting things cooking wise and photography wise that I'll just not have any time to think about short the days are and trust me, just as the summers go into 18hrs days, the winter go very much the other way where we have about 7hrs of daylight.

My wonderful husband has already promised me that for my birthday this year that I can finally go and buy myself a very expensive but pro style pasta maker just to start off my fall/winter adventures! There is a wonderful Italian import store, again located around the Korenmarkt area of Gent, that has this wonderful stainless steel manual pasta maker with so many attachments to it that I won't ever be able to figure out how to use them all! But I have to admit, there is something I use to love when I was eating wheat (we won't say when I was able to because most likely I was never able to eat it, my body was just tolerating it until it couldn't handle it any more and it let me know) was ravioli. Ooooo the wonderful days of finding this again have been slowly coming to an end to be quite honest, at least already made types. The closest I came from was crap of a pre-made processed piece of (*@%!&( I bought a couple of years ago. It was pure and utterly awful and the cost was NOT worth it! I can't wait to be able to make these again. Oh and he's also said it's also ok for me to buy a few bags of my flour mix (which runs over 4euro a bag mind you for I believe 500grams... I figure 4-5cups of flour per bag). Then of course there comes trying to make the perfect pasta recipe! Many many MANY attempts will have to be made I think!

Then of course comes the wonderful chance to use my new soup/stew pot that I've already been using this year strangely enough *boogle* and try my hand at home-made sauces for pasta such as I want to make a 4 cheese sauce (doubt this one will be in the big 5quart/litre soup pot though!) and bolognese sauce sauce made properly and to my style which means not adding damn preservatives or thickening agents to it and oh yea, including the wonderfulness of adding red wine and fresh spices to it and making it with lean ground turkey instead of beef! I told you, if I can at all get past the processed foods, I do so. This winter will be one of those winters where I'm going to experiment with all sorts of new stuff that I use to buy canned/pre-made/jarred and what not. That includes not only American style recipes but also England/UK and Belgian ones.

I'm even pondering taking my hand at making some simpler things like apple butter or even my own jams. That last one will take some pre-paring though as I will need to find jars for it but I think I might already know where to look at least. Since I recently got my husband into and my god liking lamb that I was even considering seeing if I can't make my own mint jam like I remember buying already made in the states. I know I know, mint 'sauce' is easier but I miss the chilled/jam style texture to it also... always loved that when I lived in the USA.

Then there is my next experiments... I want to make Christmas cookies this year... including sugar cookies. I have this wonderful set of cookie cutters that have never ever been touched because I got them just before I had to go gluten free. They are just begging and pleading to be used! But what is making sugar cookies if you can't decorate them?! I can't buy any of the store made decorations because either they are made with/from wheat products or made in the same factory or made by the same company. So I'm going to experiment with making my own sprinkles and coloured sugars. I have so much at the tip of my fingers that I just want to go wild with it all!

Now with the new camera, I also intend to go out when ever I can, sun or not. If there is another wonderfully light fluffy snow fall this winter, I'll be out catching it on photo. If there is a wonderful frost that covers the ground at 5am and I happen to be awake, I'll be out taking photos of it. If it's a bright sunny day and the world is at my finger tips, I'll be out taking photos of all I can. Not only will it get me out of the house but it'll keep me busy in those times that I don't want to be in the kitchen. But of course it'll be close at hand too for all the times I am in the kitchen as well.

Besides my plans to stay busy though I won't deny the fact that I know part of my winter problems are also chemical induced from my brain/body so I will also be taking on some light therapy and also some relaxation therapy stuff at the local hospital. But only when I feel that it'll become a problem. The less I have to rely on doctors for things that I know are in my brain so to speak, the better... I just want to try to do this as much on my own as possible this winter.

God where do I start? Any suggestions? Start in on the adventure of making home-made sprinkles and coloured sugars, attempting to see if I can perfect a gluten free sugar cookie recipe before Christmas, see if I can't get into other Christmas cookie recipes like sprites (thus need coloured sugar) or coloured glass cookies or wedding cookies. I made that last cookie *once* since I've been here and gluten free... needless to say my husband and I have now nic-named them 'poof cookies' because if you even looked at them wrong, they kind of well exploded LOL. They were so light, so fluffy and of course wedding cookies are covered in powdered sugar as well so once you got one into your mouth (if it got that far without poofing), you'd just had to press down with your tongue and they'd go 'poof'. But they were just wonderful and I now (thanks mom!) have a place that I can buy pecan nuts already shelled for not too bad of a price.

Reminds me, if you ever get to making them again and posting here, HOLD YOUR BREATH for the first bite! If you breathe in you'll choke yourself on the 'poof' that happens with the mix of flour and sugar or if you exhale, you're gonna 'poof' cookie and powdered sugar all over! It's a terrifyingly funny sight to say the least when it happens on an exhale! Trust me, I've watched hubby try this... I'm sure by accident the first couple of times but it still was funny every time I saw this puff of 'poof' explode from his lips (cruel aren't I??).

Ok enough babbling! Just letting you all know what kind of adventures are coming this way when the fall and winter months arrive! Oh yes! Don't forget that 'between' my adventuring times, I'll also be experimenting with more SOUPS! I have like 4 books just on soups... must dive into them and see what I can come up with from my big soup pot to just a single night/go with dinner style soups.

Editor's Additions September 7th, 2011
After doing some minor 'put is instead of if' style editing here I also wanted to add that I now also have another project going on in my head about attempting to make home-made fish sticks or patties. Not talking about these kind of crab/salmon style patties but more like you'd remember getting from Mcd's... something I can put on some guten-free white bread with tartar sauce and cheese like I remember loving when I worked there sooooo many years ago.

And for a celebration style dinner for getting my mother-in-law moved into her new 'apartment', hubby and I this weekend are going to dig out this wonder duck breast that I have sitting in the freezer (it's just waiting for a special occasion like this) and we're going to make a new recipe already... duck fajitas with perhaps a cranberry relish/sauce to go over it for the 'salsa' and of course don't forget the pieces of grilled peppers and onions! And yes, my camera will be close at hand for it all! I'm loving this already! Yes I also make my kind of variation of 'tortillas' so I'll post a recipe for this alone some where in the blog too.

Recipe - Home-made Peanut Butter Cups

It's time for another recipe and I think with the way the weather has been turning late last night into early this morning, that this recipe will bring home a nice fall weather feeling to most. I LUV peanut butter + chocolate in almost any form but most of all when it comes to peanut butter cups. Out here in Belgium, we simply do no have these. In fact, we don't have any thing at all peanut butter + chocolate *faint*. Same goes for having little to nothing in the way of mint + chocolate although this is slowly catching on. So what is a born and raised American gal suppose to do?? Well duh, make her own! It's really messy but the results are.... one simple word... DROOL!

I made these over a year ago now so I just have to get to making these again when I can get my hands on some more America style peanut butter but that also means I only have a few photos of it and no finished product photo. I know... shame on me. I'll come back and revisit this when I make them again with brand new photos though!

Sorry to again add so many tips, but recipes like this really need them! You'll thank me later!
Tip #1 - Have all of your ingredients and equipment ready. The last thing you want to do is have to grab for another spoon or such while trying to put hot melted chocolate into a muffin tin.

Tip #2 - Make sure you have more then enough working room. As you'll see from my photos below, these get MESSY! You can choose to use something better to get the chocolate into the muffin tin then a spoon like I did I suppose but then where is the fun in that?!

Tip #3 - These will and do work with the normal sized muffin tins but if you really want to make sure you have a stock of them, choose to make them in a mini muffin pan. They will make this recipe huge as I got almost 2 dozen normal sized muffin tin size cups out of this recipe.

Tip #4 - If you have access to using foil vs paper muffin liners, do so! The foil ones will come off these much easier then paper but just in the same if you are careful with it, the paper will come off well also. Just foil will make it easier, especially if you take on tip #3 about using mini muffin pans.

Tip #5 - Make sure you have room in your fridge to put these to 'chill out' for an hr or so. These will need to be refrigerated not only between making batches (yes batches!) but in the end you'll also need to store these in there some how too since the chocolate will become very very soft without it.

Tip #6 - When making these, use American style peanut butter. Using the very basic no sugar added peanut butter found mostly in the Belgian/Holland area is too greasy and has a completely different taste when making these. If you want the best and closest 'American Style' peanut butter cups, you need the added sugar kind of peanut butter.

Tip #7 - Feel free to choose what kind of peanut butter you use for the filling mixture since it's just a mix of peanut butter and sugar any ways but when you make the chocolate mixture you MUST use creamy peanut butter. The reasons for this are namely 2... first you will not have a smooth texture to the chocolate and most of the time with the amount of chocolate that is used, the nuts that were once making it 'chunky style' will just sink to the bottom and you'll end up with a bunch of wasted end chocolate because of all the excess nuts. Besides, the peanut butter in this part is meant for flavour not texture.

Tip #8 - When you get to melting the chocolate/peanut butter for the chocolate mixture, please do not use the microwave unless you have enough space to do all of this recipe in one go. Most of us do not have this option and will end up making this into 2 or more batches like we would cookies. Because of that factor, it's better to use a double boiler for this stage as it will allow you to keep the chocolate nicely melted while only having to stir it every once and a while. If you do this in the microwave, your chocolate will start to set while you wait for the next batch to be made and you'll have to microwave it again to melt it... doing this over and over will risk that you make the chocolate unstable or worse, that you burn it. Eventually too much microwaving of chocolate will just simply ruin it. You want a nice rich, creamy, glossy, and smooth melted mixture.

Peanut Butter Filling Mixture
 1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter (see tip #6)
 5 tsp butter, softened/room temperature
 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Mixture

  2 cups (12 oz) semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  1 cup (6oz) milk chocolate chips (pure milk chocolate candy bars will work too)
  1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (see tip #7
Prepare peanut butter filling mixture by simply whisking together the peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until lighter in colour and combined well. Set aside for now.

In a double boiler, place both kinds of chocolate and the creamy peanut butter and melt slowly. Please see tip #8 for information on why NOT to use a microwave for this part.

Now comes the messy but fun part. Grab your muffin tin (mini or regular sized), make sure you have them lined. Fill each spot about 1/2 way up and stop. Get that peanut butter filling mixture and place a nice spoonful right in the centre of that chocolate. What you are looking for is a nice yummy drop of peanut butter filling to land right in the centre so that you see a bit of chocolate sticking out the sides. Then cover with more chocolate mixture just until you have covered up that yummy peanut butter filling *licks off fingers*.

Stick the finished pan in the fridge for about 1 hour or until firm enough to remove them from the pan and then rinse and repeat with the remaining filling and chocolate mixture.

For something more fancy, before sticking in the fridge for their chill out period, try adding sprinkles or coloured sugar to the top. For some thing like a Christmas present, add green and red coloured sugar to the top for example. Make sure you do this though BEFORE putting them in the fridge for the first time or well yea... logic tells you that hard chocolate won't keep the sugar I would hope. Be careful and READ THE INGREDIENTS when buying sprinkles! A lot of them are made with/from wheat for some stupid reason! I'm looking into how to make my own and will certainly post about it later on (hopefully in time for Christmas cookie making!).

Store in the fridge when finished or the chocolate will get very soft and it'll be difficult to remove from the liners. Also a suggestion, separate each layer with a piece of wax paper if you stack them to store such as in a bowl. It'll keep them from sticking to each other.