A Nursery Rhyme Baby Shower

I love throwing a party. Like, love it. I get giddy over flower arrangements. I squeal when I see the vision I have in my head for a theme come to life. My co-hosts typically think I’m nuts. I am – I embrace it.

So my latest soiree was a baby shower with a nursery rhyme theme. I hosted this shower with a few of my colleagues to honor our co-worker who’s expecting a baby girl this fall.

Here’s how the nursery rhyme party went down:

We had all the guests sign a Mother Goose nursery rhyme book as a keepsake for the mommy-to-be.

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We decorated with framed nursery rhyme prints (courtesy of a quick Google image search) with little knick-knacks that went along with each rhyme.

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I arranged small flower arrangements in a mix match of jars and set them at each nursery rhyme scene. nursery-rhyme-shower4nursery-rhyme-shower5nursery-rhyme-shower6

[oversight note – I forgot to set the clock to 1 :/]nursery-rhyme-shower7nursery-rhyme-shower8

For food, we catered to the pregnancy cravings and served mini cheeseburger skewers, BLT pasta salad, bacon wrapped dates, goat cheese dip, shrimp salad and fruit salad. Delicious.

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cheeseburger-skewers

And here are a couple of the recipes…

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Gluten Free BLT Pasta Salad
[disclaimer – there’s no L, but BT pasta salad just didn’t seem right]

1 lb gluten free pasta (I used corkscrew), cooked according to the package
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced (I used a little more)
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (I baked mine on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 30 mins)

1.) In a small bowl, mix mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and seasonings.
2.) In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, sauce, green onions, tomatoes and bacon.

Adapted from The Country Cook’s BLT Pasta Salad

fruit-salad

Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime and Mint

2 cartons fresh strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on the size of the berries)
1 pint fresh blue berries
1 lb red grapes, halved
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1.) In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice and mint.
2.) In a large bowl, add fruit and stir in sauce and coat the fruit well.

Adapted from Epicurious’s Fresh Fruit Salad

And because I’m a firm believer that if you don’t play a game, it wasn’t really a shower, we played a fun rendition of “Baby Mad Lib” to tell the birth story.

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Me and the beautiful mommy-to-be!

Thai Quinoa Salad

Thai Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. We dated a few years ago. I couldn’t commit. We parted ways.

Then I was introduced to the quinoa salad at Zoe’s Kitchen (ahh mazing!), and I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t ditch this little grain just yet. Perhaps I just needed to find some better recipes. Perhaps quinoa is really a keeper. Perhaps.

So I found this recipe scouring the depths of Pinterest. The sauce was reminiscent of one of my fav dishes (Simple Asian Peanut Noodles), and so I felt like it had some real potential. Y’all – this stuff is good.  As Blake described it to Brogan last night when he asked what was for dinner: “Pure deliciousness.” And it is. I hope you enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to the package and drained afterwards
3 cups of shredded (or sliced very thin) cabbage
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced green onion

Sauce:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water

1) Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients until peanut butter is fully incorporated with the sauce.
3) Pour sauce over salad and toss until well combined.

Adapted from Sweet Peas and ABC’s Rainbow Thai Farro Salad

Mushroom Stroganoff

We’ve been trying something new in the kitchen lately – adding some vegetarian dishes to the dinner rotation. And the craziest part of this menu modification is that it was my husband’s idea [gasp!]. The meat eater of all meat eaters actually suggested that we add some vegetarian meals to the line up (thank you Netflix and the documentary Cowspiracy).  While I love meat, I like to mix it up and so I saw this as an opportunity to try out some new recipes. Yay!

So let me introduce you to Mushroom Stroganoff. This dish is ahh-mazing. I’ve always been a stroganoff fan, but mine had always had beef. I thought it was the beef that contributed most of the flavor, but I was wrong. This dish is full of flavor and hearty as well. My kiddos loved it too – Brogan actually said it was one of his favorite dinners ever! I’ll take it! Hope you enjoy!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 ozs white mushrooms, sliced
8 ozs baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour (I used gluten free)
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you want to be 100% vegetarian, use soy sauce)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I used Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 lb pasta (would prob be best with egg noodles, but I used gluten free penne), boiled according to package

1.) In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onion and garlic until translucent (about 5 mins).
2.) Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and browned (about 8 mins). Stir in tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer, continually stirring.
3.) Add flour and stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan as you do. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze. Continue stirring and scrapping the bottom. Once wine is mostly evaporated, add vegetable broth, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4.) Remove sauce from heat and stir in sour cream. Stir in cooked pasta and serve!

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Adapted from the Cookie Writer’s Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegetarian)

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

This dish is so. stinking. good. I’ve been making it for almost a year and am ashamed that it’s taken me this long to write about it. When we learned early last year that my middle son’s allergies would be keeping dairy, egg and gluten off the menu, I started trying more Asian recipes because they were typically conducive to our restrictive diet. This one was by far the best. The base of this recipe is the noodles (without the chicken). I’ve made it in the past topped with roasted shrimp and grilled chicken, but it would also be awesome as a vegetarian meal too. Tonight was my first attempt at this style of chicken and I loved it. Side note: I’m picky about chicken. I like grilled, I like roasted, I like boiled and shred… but I don’t like to cut up raw chicken and cook it because it typically gets too chewy. So I’ve long been perplexed about how the chicken at Asian restaurants is so tender. So I plopped some random phrase into Pinterest about how to get unchewy chicken for Asian recipes and wouldn’t you know there’s a technique: you “velvet” chicken. It’s really a thing. Well I tried it and it worked as advertised – delicious tender chicken pieces that went perfect with these noodles. So here you have it, my current favorite dinner for the fam (which, by the way, they all LOVE!) – hope you enjoy!

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

1 lb gluten free spaghetti noodles, cooked according to instructions
1/3 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter – or more to taste (if you have creamy, just add chopped peanuts)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp sesame seeds

1) While the pasta water is heating, add all ingredients (except pasta) in a small bowl (I used a 2 cup measuring cup). Stir well until ingredients are fully incorporated.
2) Pour over hot pasta. Add chicken (or other protein such as shrimp) – see below. Stir well until pasta is completely coated with the sauce.

“Velvet” Chicken
1 1/3 lbs chicken breast, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp canola oil (divided)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp salt

1)  Whisk in 1 tbsp oil, cornstarch, vinegar, egg white and salt in a medium bowl. Add chicken and coat well. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
2) Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a sauté pan and heat on high to boil. Once rapidly boiling, place the chicken pieces one at a time. Once the pan returns to boil, boil the chicken for 1 more minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

This recipe makes enough for my family of 5 with a little leftover. We love edamame with this dish too!

Velvet chicken

Velvet Chicken

Soy Peanut Sauce

Soy Peanut Sauce

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking’s SIMPLE ASIAN SOY-PEANUT NOODLES and How to Velvet Chicken

 

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

When our family first started going gluten free, one of things I was most bummed to give up were pancakes. Sure, I’d come across gluten free pancakes at the store, but what I longed for were my homemade pancakes. At the time I hadn’t cracked the code to turn my normal recipes into gluten free ones without compromising the taste or consistency. Well my friends, thanks to King Arthur’s gluten free multi-purpose flour and some tips on their website, I did crack the code! Add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum and an extra egg and voila! Behold, I give you really delicious gluten free pancakes. You’re welcome. 😉

Pancakes on griddle

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour (King Arthur’s works great)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tbsp butter, melted (plus more for the griddle)

1.) Heat griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together GF flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, and 4 tablespoons butter; whisk to combine. Batter should have small to medium lumps. (The lumps are important – they will be very flat if you beat out all the lumps!)

2.) Grease the griddle with about 1/2 tbsp butter before each batch. Using 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour pancake batter, in pools about 1 inch away from one other. When pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

3.) Repeat with remaining batter, keeping finished pancakes on a heatproof plate in a 175 degree oven. Serve warm.

Xanthan Gum

Gluten free multi-purpose flour

Gluten Free Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Baking – ohh, how I have missed you. Ever since earlier this year when we learned my youngest son Beckett had food allergies (the most serious being gluten), I’ve put my baking on hold. Weekends used to mean homemade muffins and pancakes and biscuits, but trying these things without regular flour was more hassle than I felt like dealing with. It was unknown territory, and frankly with the baby, I didn’t have much time for experimenting. But a few weeks ago I wanted real pancakes and so I googled “how to substitute gluten free flour for regular flour” and was amazed by what I found – it’s actually pretty simple. Add xanthan gum and egg to almost any recipe and voila, you have gluten-free baked goods that don’t taste gluten-free. They rise and they have the same consistency. So with a new found excitement and hope about eating normal again, I’ll be baking – hallelujah, I’ll be baking! I’ll be testing out my old recipes and seeing how it goes. I’ll share my successes, and hope that if you are also gluten impaired that you’ll too be able to enjoy some of your old favorites again.

Gluten Free Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 very ripe bananas
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup gluten free all purpose flour
1/2 cup gluten free oats
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.) In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk and eggs until well combined (banana chunks are OK).
2.) In a small bowl, stir together flour, oats, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. Slowly stir into wet ingredients and fold in chocolate chips. Stir until just combined – do not over-stir.
3.) Pour batter into lined muffin tins (I use a scoop), and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 21 minutes.

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins1

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins2

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins3

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins4 Xanthan Gum   Gluten free multi-purpose flour

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins5

GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins6 GF Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins7

Balsamic Pot Roast

For years I’ve stuck by my tried and true pot roast recipe – it’s good. Real good. But a few months ago I went looking for something a little different where I could rely on my crock pot to do most the work. I came across this recipe on Pinterest, and it was instantly a crowd-pleaser. The meat is super tender, and the flavor is awesome. It’s very simple – mix up the sauce, pour it over the meat in the crock pot, turn it on and forget about it. If you like a gravy with your meat, you remove the drippings at the end and simmer it on the stove with some corn starch. Last night was probably my 6th time I’ve made this, and every time I go to my blog to find the recipe, only to be reminded that I haven’t blogged this recipe yet. Well darn it, I’m finally doing it – partly to share with others… and partly so that in a few weeks when I want to make this again and I don’t have to search through hundreds of my pins 🙂 Since one of my kiddos is on a gluten-free diet, I just subbed gluten free soy sauce for the regular variety, and my whole family can eat it. Hope you enjoy!

Balsamic Pot Roast

1 3-lb boneless chuck roast
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp gluten free soy sauce (regular OK too)
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp corn starch (for gravy)

1.) In a medium bowl, whisk together beef broth, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, honey, garlic and pepper.
2.) Place chuck roast in crock pot and pour sauce over top.
3.) Set crock pot to Low and cook for about 6 hours.

To make gravy:
Take 1 1/2 cups of the drippings from the roast and place in a small saucepan. Mix the 2 tbsp corn starch with a few tbsps of cold water in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Whisk into drippings, and heat over medium high-heat until it simmers and sauce begins to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste.

Balsamic pot roast sauce

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Balsamic Pot Roast

Balsamic pot roast gravy

Adapted from Add a Pinch’s Balsamic Roast Beef recipe