Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup

Every time we get just a bit of cool weather in California, I start wanting warm, comfort food and Cream of Mushroom Soup is usually at the top of the list. A side of cheesy garlic bread and a bowl of hot soup is perfect for a cool California evening . . . You know, when the temperature dips all the way down to, maybe, 65 degrees!

Easy Cream of Mushroom Soup
1½ pounds firm white mushrooms, cleaned
1 medium lemon
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Tablespoon minced shallots
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
Dash of chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Cups heavy cream
2 Cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of water
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, coarsely chop them. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan and lightly sauté the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, chili flakes, and bay leaf and sauté over moderate heat for 20 minutes, or until the liquid disappears. Add the salt, pepper, cream, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cornstarch to the soup and continue to simmer 10 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

These Are a Few of MY Favorite Things!

I like to browse after I finish my necessary shopping whether at the grocery store or any other store. I don’t buy everything I see, but when I find something that works for my hobbies, my health, or my comfort, I’m willing to indulge. So, thought I’d share a few of my current favorite things.

We are gluten-free at our house because of my husband’s intolerance to wheat products. It took us years to discover the problem so never going to change that aspect of our life. If any of you are gluten-free, I’m willing to bet one of the things you miss the most is any kind of bread product. Yes, you can bake a sort of, not really, reasonable facsimile but it is never quite as satisfying as the real deal. I was an avid bread baker until we had to change the family diet around. You CAN produce a reasonable bread-like outcome on a gluten-free diet but the texture of the dough and the process is different.

I was cruising the Internet a few weeks ago and discovered Authentic Foods – Steve’s Gluten-Free Bread Flour. It promised great things and I purchased some with not too much hope. Bingo! First loaf of bread was amazing with the right texture and a wonderful yeast rise. I currently have a 25-pound bag of the stuff in my former wheat flour storage container! Definitely, number one on my discoveries of late.

Here is an odd, new favorite – Hemp hearts! I saw this at Costco and was intrigued. It has a lot of vitamins including three grams of fiber per serving. Supposedly, it claimed to taste good, too. And, it does! It now gets sprinkled on salads, blended in smoothies, and even enjoyed by the spoonful. I gave one of my sons a bag for his apartment living and his three roommates enjoy it, too. Great for those between-meal hunger pains.

Dry weather and being a constant knitter, crocheter, seamstress is very hard on my hands. I am seldom without chapped hands and split fingers. Buy stock in Liquid Bandage as I keep two bottles in the house constantly. Discovered O’Keeffe’s Skin Repair 48-hour lotion. It stated it was guaranteed to relieve extremely dry and itchy skin. I was desperate. I used it at bedtime and the next morning there was noticeable improvement. Found it at Walmart.

In the realm of gluten-free again, two other flour blends are good additions to my baking/cooking efforts in the kitchen: BetterBatter and Pamela’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Artisan Flour (Dairy-free, too!) are now staples in my cupboard. BetterBatter has a multitude of recipes on their Internet site for inspiration. Pamela’s is cup for cup for using in formerly favorite regular recipes and especially nice for baking cookies. Again, you can find recipes on-line and try some of your own favorites from the gluten day. I usually buy my flour blends on-line as it is less expensive than health store prices.

My addiction to yarn and crocheting/knitting was satisfied recently. I love making projects with varicolored yarn but couldn’t find exactly the mix of colors that pleased me in the usual offerings. Several months ago, I was looking at the yarn aisle and there was something new! It was a yarn that was soft, came in a larger amount than others for a good price and . . . it was variegated in the most interesting color combinations. I liked the whimsical names of the various choices, too. I recently completed a blanket for one daughter in the color blend ‘Gnome’. It was a wild assortment of vivid almost neon colors with enough somber ones to create a nice result. I’m now working on a blanket for my older son’s birthday and it is called ‘Sphinx’ which is a manly (can we still use the word manly in this day and age?) combination of brown and blue tones. The really nice thing about this yarn is that each skein has a lot more yardage than other brands which makes the under $5.00 a skein actually a bit of a bargain. Right now, Walmart is the only store selling this yarn. It is called Mandala and produced by Lion Brand Yarns.

End of sharing time. Laundry calls and I still haven’t invented dinner for this evening! Would rather be crocheting but them’s the breaks!

Last-Minute Baking Suggestions

The clock is definitely ticking down to Christmas. It really seems to sneak up on a person the last week when you realize that you do NOT have another week to shop, you do NOT have another week to buy groceries, and you do NOT have some great Christmas cookies stocked away in the cupboards and freezer. There is also the concern for people who have to avoid gluten. It wasn’t stated in my marriage vows, but after thirty-plus years of marriage, I seem to have acquired a husband who is very sensitive to gluten.

Around Christmas time, Christmas cookies  would make life sad for my husband until I discovered ‘flour’ blends that can turn out rather great cookies and still be safe for him to eat.

My latest discovery is Pamela’s All Purpose Flour, Gluten-Free Artisan Blend, Non-Dairy. It doesn’t work well for yeast-raised goodies but some people think it makes better cookies than wheat flour. It is pretty much cup to cup for measurements so you can use some of your old favorites still. I found the best deal on Amazon.com.

BetterBatter is a standby in my cupboard for making quick biscuits, egg noodles, tortillas and such. Their computer site has a lot of recipes to cover just about any need you have for baking during the holiday and throughout the year. Sometimes, the best deal is on Amazon and other times directly from BetterBatter.

King Arthur’s Flour is almost the same as Pamela’s and BetterBatter but, probably best for cookies and cakes. They, too, offer recipes for the asking  and just surfing for a particular recipe on the internet with their name in the search will bring up a lot of recipes from individuals, too. Just make sure to read the ratings for hints to avoid disasters.

Before my husband had to omit gluten from his diet, my specialty was bread and most any yeast-raised recipe. Although I have managed to produce some reasonable outcomes, to date, nothing was exactly what I wanted. I just discovered Steve’s Gluten-Free Bread flour blend by Authentic Foods. The first baguette turned out amazingly well with a crust and a ‘bread interior’ that was springy and didn’t ‘melt’ down exposing it’s gluten-free origins. I purchased 25 pounds and bread baking is back in my schedule. It looks, acts, and tastes like the real deal.

Burnt Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Burnt Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookies

A favorite around our house is most any kind of oatmeal cookie. The only argument is whether to add raisins or not. This recipe always comes to mind when I notice the bananas aging rapidly on the kitchen counter.

1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed, dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup very ripe, mashed bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ cup mini-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray.

Cream together the butter, sugar, brown sugar, and eggs. Mixture should be well-combined. Add bananas, vanilla, orange zest, ground cinnamon oats, flour, and baking powder. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Scoop teaspoonfuls (a cookie scoop comes in handy about now!) onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cookies set a few minutes before removing to cooling rack. You will get 3-4 dozen cookies depending on the size.

California Cowboy Cookies

Did I ever mention that I love oatmeal cookies of most any kind? That might explain why I always seem to have another oatmeal cookie recipe to post.

California Cowboy Cookies

This is a fun cookie and is open to most any change you’d like to make to it. If you like to make it more spicy, cinnamon works here. You can use any flavor of chocolate chips you prefer. I like walnuts but if I have pecans on hand, you will find that change in my cookie.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup white baking chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Blend the dry ingredients together and set aside. Beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, extract, and zest. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Stir in baking chips and walnuts.

Form dough into 1/4 cup balls. Place on greased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Flatten to approximately 3-inch rounds. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden and browned around the edges. Cool on wire racks. Makes about 30 cookies, depending on size.

Gluten-free at your house, too? King Arthur’s Cup for Cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend works well here, too, as does BetterBatter Flour Blend.

 

Easy Side Dish

Ever have those days when dinner is coming together except for what kind of potato dish would be easy, taste great, and be quick to do? My favorite choice are ‘smashed’ potatoes.  The recipe is easy: Purchase small potatoes, either red or white is fine. Boil them in heavily salted water until JUST tender. Let them cool so you can handle them easily. Now, take a cup or small dish and press down to ‘smash’ them until they are still about a half inch thick but with lots of cracks.  Heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan and place the potatoes in, one deep, and fry until they are brown and golden. Turn them over, season with some salt and pepper and finish off the other side to the same  buttery brown. Serve.

As for seasoning, salt and pepper can be your basis but garlic or onion powder can add a nice flavor, too.

Cold Summer Treats and You Control the Sugar!

When my children were small, they used to love those plastic tubes of frozen juice treats. These days, they all more health-conscious so wouldn’t touch them anymore although they recall them fondly. Not only was the frozen treat fun to save on a hot afternoon, the fact that there was no stick made it easy to tackle and kept their hands cooled down, too. If only there was a way to make these the way we want them without the sugar, chemicals, and food coloring. You’ve guess it! If you check on Amazon.com, you can now find the plastic tubes being sold and most brands usually include a small funnel to get your fruit creation into the tube for freezing.

Imagine the scope for coming up with tasty but better for you treats. My daughter is talking about blending together fresh strawberries and some yogurt for her creation. Also, for a grown up barbecue, you could make up a favorite mixed drink and pass of some interesting flavors where the ice will last as long as the frozen treat. On a diet? Frozen iced tea or coffee? A lot of room for imagination here.

https://smile.amazon.com/HeiYi-Popsicle-Funnel-Zip-Top-Pouches/dp/B071CKGXG4/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1498843027&sr=1-1&keywords=Heiyi+100+pack+ice+popsicle+mold+bags+with+funnel