Friday, May 31, 2013

Gluten-Free Burgers at UNO

How exciting is this? UNO Chicago Grill, best-known for delicious pizzas both gluten AND gluten-free, now serves gluten-free burgers! So when we visited UNO in Boston the other day, my husband decided to forego the pizza and try out the burger.


And doesn't that red mashed potato side look good? I really wanted some of that, but I was too busy enjoying my full-of-gluten deep dish pepperoni pizza.

UNO actually has a lot of gluten-free options, and the gluten-free menu is included with the regular menu, so you don't have to ask for a special menu to be brought out to you. But if you're not at an UNO right now, check out their gluten-free menu online.

Note: you can't order the gluten-free stuff at UNO's two original Chicago locations.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Eating Gluten-Free at Fenway Park

My husband and I recently went to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game (blasphemy, I know), and I wanted to fill you in on the park's gluten-free fare. Right when we entered at Gate C, we found the "gluten-friendly pizza". It is not at its own food stand. It's just at the same stand as other pizza, ice cream, and Bavarian pretzels (which are somehow different from the regular pretzels, but I still can't figure out how).

It did take awhile for the pizza to be ready, but we figured that. They don't just have the gluten-free stuff ready and waiting. They make it as soon as someone orders it. It also took us a little longer because the gluten-free pizza accidentally touched the regular pizza, so they had to make a new one. Which we were totally fine with!! They could have just ignored that and served my husband a contaminated pizza, but they didn't. They told us about it and then made a new one.

And here is what the gluten-friendly pizza looks like:

Oh, and that's just one plate of it. You get a second plate of pizza, too. (My husband had already eaten that plate by the time I was able to snap a picture.)

The verdict on the pizza? It was good. Not the greatest, but it was still good. Apparently the gluten-free pizza at Madison Square Garden is SO GOOD. So, there you have it.

Have you tried any of the other gluten-free stuff at Fenway? Know of any good gluten-free restaurants in the area? We just ate at a nearby UNO after the game. (More on THAT later!!)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Freezing Buttermilk

If you're on Pinterest, you might have seen the pin going around for freezing buttermilk so that it doesn't go bad before you have a chance to use it, and then you always have it on hand when you need it. Well, I just tried going to the link in that pin to find out more, and Pinterest told me it was blocked as spam!! So, if you've also got that pinned, well, it's not going to work. BUT, just Google "freezing buttermilk", and you'll get tons of hits. Here's the one I went with from theKitchn.

The thing about buttermilk is I can never find it in any size less than a quart. But I don't need a whole quart. So I decided to freeze my leftover buttermilk. It was super easy to do.

I poured one tablespoon of buttermilk into the slots in an ice cube tray. I filled four ice cube trays!! That's a lot of buttermilk!

Once it's frozen in the trays, just pop those suckers out and place them in a freezer bag. It might be helpful to label the freezer bags so a) you can remember how much buttermilk each cube is and b) you can remember what the heck those white things are in your freezer.

The tip from theKitchn is that after you defrost your buttermilk cubes, you'll have to whisk it a bit because the whey and the solids will have separated. Maybe I'll write that on my freezer bags, too.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let's Cook!: My Recipe Binder

My latest project (one that was easier than trying to hang a curtain rod) was to compile all our favorite recipes from online, magazines, and our cookbooks into one big recipe binder. That way, everything we like to cook is in one spot, ensuring that we don't forget about good old standbys, such as the Chicken BLT with Buttermilk Dressing salad I made the other night. That is really SO GOOD.

After attending a little Pinterest Party at a friend's house the other weekend, I made some serious progress with my binder. I used all Studio Calico scrapbook stuff to decorate the cover and the interior dividers. I divided my recipe binder into categories: meat, poultry, pasta, fish, soups & stews, sides, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. I wanted to add party appetizers and beverages, but I ran out of Studio Calico paper!! I'll have to figure something out.

To keep the recipes from getting gross while I was cooking, I purchased regular page protectors for the recipes that were 8x11 size, and I purchased 4x6 photo sleeves for the recipes that were printed on 4x6-size cards. All of them fit nicely into my giant heavy duty three-inch binder. (I cannot BELIEVE how expensive binders are! Seriously, people?)

I also used an old technique from high school to protect my scrapbooked dividers from getting gross: package tape. My friends and I used to collage our notebooks, and we put package tape over it to keep everything together and protected. It works just as good today!

I still need to purchase more 4x6 photo sleeves from Staples, but all in good time. At least most of our tried-and-true recipes are now in one place, which cuts down on the amount of cookbooks we have and makes the cooking process so much easier.

Do you guys have tons of cookbooks or do you stock your recipes in one single place like this?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - May 27

We don't really have much of a meal plan this week. My husband has work stuff going on, so we'll be on our own for dinner most of the week. I stocked up on different meats at the grocery store because they were all on sale, so we're pretty much just going to wing it. I do know that we will be having eggs and Van's gluten-free frozen waffles for dinner one night. That should be good. We've never tried Van's gluten-free products before, so I hope they are good.

For one of the nights when it's just me eating, I'm planning on making quinoa with dried cranberries, goat cheese, and nuts. One of my Facebook friends made it the other day and took a picture of it. Man, it looked good!

Other than that, we've got plenty of gluten-free pasta, Premio Sweet Italian Sausage, Hillshire Farms Beef Smoked Sausage, and ground beef. So I'm foreseeing some tacos, sausage and rice, and sausage and pasta in our future. (That should last us into next week, too.)

What about you guys? What are you eating this week? Do you ever have weeks like this where everything is just too chaotic to actually set forth a meal plan?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Kindling Muse - Book Review

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The Kindling Muse is a debut novel from 18-year-old author Chelsey Guy. The book combines some of Guy's own life struggles with a story laced with Greek mythology. The main character is Adorabella Flamma, a high school student who lives with a foster care family and suffers multiple serious health conditions. After having a seizure while giving a presentation in class, a doctor gives Adorabella (who goes by "Addie") medicine called "ashes of life". Miraculously, all of Addie's ailments disappear. But what else does ashes of fire do?

Shortly after this experience, Addie is invited to attend the prestigious Greek Academy where she makes new friends, stands up to school bullies, and gets the lead in the school musical. Addie also begins to learn more about her mysterious past and her future.

The supernatural is a really popular theme in YA novels right now, and I think that The Kindling Muse has the potential to become a popular YA series. I say series because the way the book ends, it kind of leaves you hanging, wanting to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I just can't believe that Guy would leave it like that without having plans for a sequel.

I'm really impressed that Guy, at 18, was able to craft such an interesting story, write it, finish it, and take the initiative to publish it. That said, the book did need some polishing and editing. But Guy is young and this is only her first published novel. The potential is there, and as Guy continues to hone her craft, I'm sure her second novel will be even better than the first.

The Kindling Muse is published by Abbott Press, a division of Writer's Digest. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In With the Old, Out With the New

You may have noticed over the past two or three days that my blog has reverted back to its original state. For the most part.

I decided that there was just too much missing in the new design, and because Google hasn't allowed its bloggers to add HTML to the new design, I wasn't able to add in the things that I wanted.

So I've returned to my old design with a few changes, mainly to the sidebar.

I've got a search function on the sidebar. So if you're looking for something specific and the page tabs up top (book reviews, gluten-free, product reviews) are not what you're looking for, just search! Hopefully I've tagged my blog posts well enough to help you find what you need.

From the sidebar you can also follow me on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

You can also choose to share Cook Scrap Craft on Facebook and Twitter.

And then there's all the usual stuff: about me, GoodReads, BookSneeze, blog archive.

Thanks for bearing with me through the changes. I'm still trying to figure out how to make this blog look EXACTLY the way I want it, but I fear that I can only do so much with Blogger. Not sure where to go from here! Any suggestions?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Creating with Bo Bunny

Just a few new layouts to share with you using, you guessed it by the title, Bo Bunny products. I received several Bo Bunny papers and stickers/sticker letters in a care package sent to me (unexpectedly) from a fellow scrapper. When I saw the colors of the paper, I immediately knew that I had to put them to use on a fall layout. So that is what you see to the right: "Bonfire"

This layout is based on a sketch that I pinned to my Pinterest board. I loved the use of the three smaller photos on the bottom, and I really want to use different sized photos on my layouts more, especially when I have a bazillion photos and a bazillion 4x6s will not fit on one 12x12 page.

The orange may not scream Christmas to anyone, but that's what I used to scrap this second layout about a December day in the city with my husband. We went to see the tree in Bryant Park (less crowded, but also less impressive), the Stock Exchange decorated for the holidays down on Wall Street, and "Evita" on Broadway starring Ricky Martin (who did a not-so-great job in the opening number, but then picked it up for the rest of the show and the Evita understudy was fantastic!).

I still have some extra Bo Bunny supplies to use up, but I think I will make some cards out of them instead of layouts. I can always use more cards!

Are you guys Bo Bunny fans? Do you have a favorite collection from them? What other scrapbook brands do you like?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lunch Break in Boston @ Stephanie's on Newbury

New England Clam Chowder
I was in Boston the other day for work and got to eat lunch at a really delicious restaurant near Copley Square called Stephanie's on Newbury. Oh man was it yum yum yum! (And the area around the restaurant was also really nice! Great for shopping, walking around, and people watching.)

I wasn't there with my husband, so we weren't looking for anything gluten-free. I didn't notice any gluten-free notations on the menu, so I'm sorry, but this restaurant is probably not safe for those with Celiac Disease.

But for the rest of you who are like me and can eat whatever, I would highly recommend this restaurant! Because I was in Boston, I had to start with the New England Clam Chowder. It was delicious. Those three crackers on top? Like little pillows. So good!

mac & cheese
My co-worker said that someone recommended the mac & cheese to her, so we both got that. There is an option to add prosciutto or lobster to it, but we just went for the pasta, cheese, and bread crumbs on top. It was really delicious!

I had to take pictures of the food because I knew I wanted to share them with someone. And who better to share them with than my blog readers?

The restaurant is also very close to the green T line Copley Square station. Super convenient! And if you go now, you'll see the Boston Marathon memorial set up in Copley Square. I took several pictures, but I'll save those for another post.

Have you been to Boston before or do you live there? What are some of your favorite restaurants in the city?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Let's Take a Dip

I finally had the opportunity to make my favorite blue cheese, pecan, and cranberry cracker dip. OH YEAH! I was going to a Pinterest Party at a friend's house - you know, just the two of us being crafty together - and I wanted to bring along a little something. Normally my craft-time snack would be chocolate (and more chocolate) but I wanted to do something a little different, something slightly more healthy, or at least not full of sugar. So I made this Blue Cheese, Sweet Pecan and Cranberry Spread recipe for the dip and brought along Wheat Thins for dipping. SO GOOD!

The recipe calls for candied pecans, but my grocery store didn't sell candied pecans, and I wasn't about to spend my precious free time candying them myself. I don't even know what that would entail. I didn't look it up. Instead, I just used regular chopped pecans. And it was still good.

If you're making this gluten-free, remember to check the packages of your dried cranberries and pecans (and even your blue cheese!) to double check that they are gluten-free. Obviously, Wheat Thins are off the menu for you, but you can substitute your favorite gluten-free cracker. We are partial to the Schar brand of cracker.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Firecracker - Book Review

Astrid Krieger is witty, sarcastic, and has a penchant for getting herself into trouble. Her latest escapade: getting kicked out of private school for cheating on tests. (Oh, but she's done worse.) As punishment, her parents send her to public school! Gasp! Not a rich person in sight! While there, Astrid befriends a few outcasts and works on becoming a "good" person per instructions from her therapist. You can kind of get the gist of how the story goes and how it's going to end, but there were a few twists and turns that I didn't see coming to keep things fresh and entertaining.

Firecracker is written by a comedy writer, David Iserson, for TV shows such as New Girl and Saturday Night Live, and this guy totally nails it! The humor was funny to me as an adult, but not so adult that teens wouldn't get it. It was teen-friendly but also adult-friendly, especially because as an adult, I remember what high school was like and it was fun to root for the characters in this book.

I really hope that somebody makes this into a movie! I don't know who should play Astrid, but I'm picturing someone who looks like a slightly older version of Gordo from Lizzie McGuire as the Noah character.

The book is for ages 12 and up, and the characters in the book are seniors in high school. There is a little bit of cursing, but it's not over the top. I only mention it for parents who might be concerned about that. I think that 12-year-olds might be too young for the book. I'd recommend it for 14 and up.

Firecracker is published by Razorbill. It is available for purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - May 20

Here it is, you guys: what we're eating this week! We've got another busy week, but we're pretty much back on track eating together every night. So excited for a four-day weekend!! Do you guys have any plans? What are your meal plans for this week?

Sunday: Sausage and cheesy potatoes w/ corn on the cob

Monday: Grilled turkey club quesadillas with fries and carrots

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: Loaded Baked Potato Skins w/ side salad

Thursday: on our own

Friday: chicken BLT salad with buttermilk dressing

Saturday: tacos

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Scrapbook Flashback

I was home over Mother's Day weekend, and I brought back one of my old scrapbooks. It's so much fun to look back through the scrapbooks, not just because I enjoy looking at old pictures and remembering fun times, but because I love to see how my scrap style has changed over the years.

These layouts are from a scrapbook that I made during my senior year of college. I remember the paper from the below layout well. It was part of a value pack of scrapbook paper at Walmart. VALUE!

At this time, I was also strictly using these post-bound, non-protective sleeve (kind of expensive) albums from Westrim Crafts. So because there was a white base for each page, I didn't always use patterned paper or even solid cardstock as a background. Sometimes I literally just stuck pictures to the page. And as you can see from this page, I didn't even use a title. NO TITLE??? WHAT WAS I THINKING????

(And yes, that is me kissing a Batman Halloween candy bucket.)

How often do you look back through your old scrapbook albums? If you have a blog, post about some of your old layouts, complete with pictures, and link up to it in the comments here! I'd love to see ho your work has evolved, too!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mother's Day Card or Any Day Card

Sorry that I didn't share this with you before Mother's Day, but if I had done that, then it wouldn't have been a surprise for my mom!!

I made this card using American Crafts Dear Lizzy Neapolitan scraps. It was so easy to put together. I don't know why I don't use this template for other cards. I'd get A LOT of cards made this way!

Do you have any go-to card templates? Care to share??

Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate Chocolate Moons - Book Review

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In the future, people will be living on other planets, eating diet "food", and getting the facts wrong about today's history. That's the setting of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon. This fast-paced comic novel features lots of characters, lots of puns, and lots of delicious-sounding food. I think I liked that part of the book best! I mean doesn't this sound good: seven-layer cannoli cheesecake with espresso sorbet followed by dark chocolate truffles and candied fruits"?

And then there are Chocolate Moons, a sweet candy treat favored by one of the book's main characters Molly Marbles. Molly is an overweight woman who refuses to eat the diet "food" like her ex-boyfriend Drew does, which is how he got so thin. But Molly doesn't need Drew. She's got her two talented twin teenage daughters and her musically inclined husband Cortland. But Molly soon becomes amateur detective when someone, or some people, have poisoned some of the Chocolate Moons, causing whoever eats them to fall into a coma. What follows is a story of hijinks, puns, and lots of ill attempts at getting revenge.

I'm not sure I liked the way this book was organized. As I wrote above, there are a lot of characters and sometimes the story will change narrators or character focus several times within one chapter. The writing style kind of reminded me of a cross between Chuck Pahlaniuk and Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy. It's an interesting story but maybe a little too fast-paced for me with a need for a little more editing. I felt like there wasn't enough time for me to process what was happening and who the characters were, and it just jumped around too much.

But the food descriptions! Oh the food!

Chocolate Chocolate Moons is published by CreateSpace and is available for purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Five Summers - Book Review

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There's a new YA novel hitting bookstore shelves today, and it kind of reminds me of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants meets Now & Then. Written by Una LaMarche, the book introduces readers to four girls, each with their own stereotype: Jo, the sporty one; Maddie, the dramatic Southern girl; Emma, the book nerd; and Skylar, the slutty artist. (I'm sorry, but she is!) The main action of the book takes place at the girls' summer camp reunion. At 17, it's been three years since they "graduated" from summer camp and have been in one another's presence. Now they are eligible to attend the annual reunion, and they're hoping that things will be just like old times.

But they soon realize that they can't go back in time. As much as they want things to have stayed the same, they've changed, and they've got a lot to learn about each other over one weekend. Long-kept secrets threaten to tear apart the girls' friendship. It's actually pretty realistic, the things the girls fight over. Boys play a big role in the friction.

As the tension among the girls rises, readers are treated to flashbacks of the previous summers, starting with the fourth summer, then the third summer, then the second, and finishing with the very first time all four girls met. (The reunion is their fifth summer, hence the title of the book.)

I liked the way the book developed: going forward in the present and going backward in the past. And it was a pretty realistic book, including Emma's description of guys on the NYC subway: "The most eligible bachelor I've ever seen was an old guy clipping his nails." (p. 80) THAT TOTALLY HAPPENED TO ME ONCE ON THE SUBWAY!! But seriously, I really felt for the girls in this book and all the things they were going through in their friendship and their personal lives. Hopefully, readers of the target age range will, too.

What is the target age range? 12 and up. I'm not sure how they choose the age ranges for YA novels, but I thought 12 was a bit young. These girls are in high school, almost seniors. And while the flashbacks are of the girls at 13, 12, 11, and 10, I really don't think 12- and 13-year-olds should be reading this book. 15 and up seems more appropriate. There is sex talk (nothing too risque - mainly anything in detail is just making out, but there are references to people having sex) and underage drinking. Not much language. Still, things for parents to keep in mind before choosing this book for their kids.

Five Summers is available to purchase starting today. It is published by Razorbill, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Octopus Deception - Book Review

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A lot happens in the first few chapters of The Octopus Deception: an investigative journalist named Daniel is found dead in a hotel room, an Army Ranger is almost killed by an explosive device, the head of Citybank loses a lot of money, and it appears that the CIA is engaging in dubious activities.

And that's where Michael Asbury, religious historian and leading expert on codexes and Coptic texts, comes in. He is summoned by Simone, the dead journalist's sister, who thinks her brother was murdered. Daniel had uncovered information about secret money held by the U.S. and stolen during World War II, the same money that the CEO of Citybank has now lost due to a security breach by a former government employee. And without that money, the U.S. will sink into an economic depression as will the rest of the world.

There's a lot going on in this book, and it took me several chapters (and a re-read of the synopsis on the back of the book) to figure out what was going on, how the characters were connected, and who the main characters were. There were A LOT of characters, and they spend more time talking than actually doing anything. And it was very hard at times to decipher who was speaking. I also felt like the characters were not very well developed.

I think this book would have worked better as a screenplay turned into an action movie on a caliber somewhere between The Bourne Supremacy and one of the Fast & Furious movies. I think the premise of the book is good but the execution is not.

The Octopus Deception is published by TrineDay. It is available for purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Smothered Chicken

This was a "use up stuff we have in the fridge" meal. It just so happened that we had cream cheese, spinach, and mushrooms that needed to be used, and Smothered Chicken was the perfect recipe because it involved all three of those things!

Now, I did end up leaving out the mushrooms because, after being in our fridge for a week, they just didn't look so hot. But next time, I'll purchase them fresh for this.

We did however have the creamed spinach on top of our chicken breasts, and it was really good! My husband was very into the "interesting mixture" on top.

This was also really easy to make. I got it all ready while talking on the phone to my parents. The chicken bakes in the oven. You make the spinach and the mushrooms. Then put the spinach and the mushrooms and mozzarella cheese slices on top of the chicken and bake some more. Easy peasy!

We had ours with green beans (leftovers!) and it was delicious. Would definitely make this one again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - May 13

We're keeping it easy this week after several days of not eating together! Here's what's on tap:

Monday: Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese

Tuesday: on our own

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: sausage and rice

Friday: grilled cheese sandwiches

Saturday: Sloppy Joe's

What are you eating this week? Share in the comments!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Dad, the Fire Man

This is a favorite picture of my dad. We were at a bonfire last October, and he took charge of keeping the fire going. I snapped this picture of him in front of the fire partly to document the event but mainly to show that HIS FOOT IS IN THE FIRE PIT!! Instead of just standing on the outskirts of the fire pit and throwing extra logs on the fire, my dad STEPPED INSIDE THE FIRE PIT. LOL I'm glad he didn't catch on fire!

The inspiration for this layout is in my Scrapbook/Cards Pinterest board. I really liked how it used up smaller pieces of excess paper. The paper, including the yellow crepe, is from the Dear Lizzy Neapolitan collection from American Crafts. The sticker letters were just in my stash, and some of the stickers are from Crate Paper. I got a whole sheet of them for $1 at Big Lots.

Perhaps I should have waited to post this layout on Father's Day, especially considering that today is Mother's Day. But oh well. Happy Mother's Day!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

From the Dragon's Mouth - Book Review

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I absolutely loved this book! Journalist Ana Fuentes shows readers an inside look at China through the eyes of 10 of the country's citizens. From rich to poor, straight to gay, old to young, you're given an answer to the questions of "What is China?" and "What is it like to live there?"

Fuentes spent nearly four years living and working in China. These profiles are of people she met during that time. I liked how in the introduction Fuentes writes that, as a journalist, she told many stories about China, but not all of them were able to be told until now.

I found it interesting to read such differing accounts of life in China. Much of it is "old tradition" so that, even as the country continues to develop (and is on the "super power" path), it also holds itself back. For anyone who is interested in learning more about China or for anyone who just like well-written non-fiction, From the Dragon's Mouth is for you.

From the Dragon's Mouth is published by C.A. Press, a division of Penguin. The book is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spinach Bacon Quesadilla

Here's the verdict on this one: I apparently need to add more bacon. I definitely got enough cheese! I also need to make sure I have the right number of tortillas. That's always helpful.

But this was a very easy recipe to make. The original, which you can view at A Few Shortcuts, is super easy. Because I am very lazy, I made it CRAZY easy. So here it is, my adapted recipe for Spinach Bacon Quesadillas:

4 corn tortillas
2 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup spinach (I used frozen spinach.)
real bacon bits (whatever brand you want)

1. Mix together the cream cheese and cheddar cheese in a small bowl. Microwave on low in 10-second increments until the cheese mixture is smooth.

2. Follow the instructions on the package of the frozen spinach to heat, either in the microwave or on the stovetop.

3. Take a tortilla and spread half of it with the cream cheese spread. Layer spinach and a handful (or more) of bacon bits over the cheese spread. Sprinkle additional shredded cheese on top.

4. Fold the tortilla in half and place in a hot frying pan or on a hot griddle. (I used our George Foreman grill.) Cook each side about 10-15 seconds or until it starts to get crispy and slightly blackened. (Ours were too full of cheese to really get crispy. I'll amend that next time.)

The picture I took is a little close on the corn and not the tortilla. Sorry about that. But you still get the idea!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

5 Hearts, 4 Years

Today is our 4-year anniversary! So in honor of it, I made a scrapbook layout! I actually made this layout for a scrap challenge a few months ago. The challenge was to use five hearts on the layout. Well, I got my five hearts on here by using up some old Valentine's Day paper. The pictures are of my husband and I in one of our engagement photos from 2008 and then a more recent one from our vacation last year. Four years down and a whole bunch more to go! :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chicken Cordon Blue Panini

Man oh man, you guys. Was this ever an easy and delicious dinner? I was a little worried that my husband wouldn't like it because of the blue cheese, but after a few bites, he turned to me and said, "This is really good!" I couldn't agree more.

The recipe for Chicken Cordon Blue Paninis comes from Rachael Ray. I had cut the recipe out of her Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine YEARS ago but never got around to making it. So I was going through my recipes-to-make folder, pulled out this one, and here we are! It's categorized as a "kid" recipe, but adults, don't let that deter you. Sometimes "kid" food is the best food!

I used our new George Foreman grill (with removable and dishwasher-safe grill plates!!) to create these paninis. Worked great.

This was also easy to make gluten-free. Instead of a soft sandwich roll, I just used Udi's gluten-free sandwich bread for my husband. It turned out fine. Don't forget to check the labels on your chicken, ham, and ranch dressing for "gluten-free".

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Our Favorite Gluten-Free Products

This post has been a long time coming.

Here is a list of some of our favorite gluten-free foods. These are all items that replace gluten-containing foods, such as pasta and bread.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pancake Mix

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Rice Spaghetti, Penne, and Fusilli

Del Bole's No-Boil Gluten-Free Rice Lasagna

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Schar Gluten-Free Crackers

Schar Gluten-Free Ciabatta Rolls

Udi's Gluten-Free Bread, Hamburger Buns, and Hot Dog Buns

Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts

Against the Grain Four-Cheese Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

Pacific Gluten-Free Chicken Broth

Imagine Gluten-Free Tomato Soup

Amy's Gluten-Free Vegetable Soup (note: this product says "may contain wheat")

Snyder's Gluten-Free Pretzels

Some of our favorite "oh hey, it's already gluten-free!" foods:

Mission White Corn Tortillas

Ortega Hard Taco Shells (we make our own taco seasoning)

Ken's salad dressings

Prego pasta sauce

Lay's original and wavy potato chips




Rienzi beans

Cinnamon Chex (and most other Chex flavors, but cinnamon is my husband's favorite)

What are some of your favorite gluten-free foods? We're always looking for new stuff to try!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - May 6

I just realized that I keep changing what I'm calling this weekly feature. Is it Menu Plan Monday or Meal Plan Monday? I think I like Meal Plan Monday. What do you guys think?

And speaking of ... here it is, what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Smothered Chicken

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Rice Mac and Cheese

Wednesday: Chicken Sausage and Rigatoni

Thursday: on our own

Friday: on our own

Saturday: on our own

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Crazy Woman Creek - Book Review

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Okay, I REALLY liked this book! It's a self-published book written by Virginia Hull Welch and it just came out last month. Here's the scoop:

The story is set in Wyoming Territory in 1880. Lenora Rose's husband James walks out of their ranch house one night and never comes back. Lenora seeks the assistance of the local sheriff and deputy. Sheriff Moore thinks her husband drowned in a river, but Lenora is convinced that her husband is still alive. Deputy Davies, who thinks Lenora is pretty, wants to see the investigation through to help the poor almost-widow. But is Lenora telling the whole story about what happened the night her husband disappeared? And how convenient that the handsome Deputy Davies came along right before James Rose disappeared. Or could it be some of the drunk ranch hands that are always causing a ruckus in town? Who keeps sneaking around Lenora's ranch, scaring her and her dog? And is James really dead ... or still alive?

There are so many questions in this book, and I never wanted to put it down because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next. There's a mystery, there's a love story, and there's a great depiction of life in the "wild" west in the 1800s. If you like romance and historical fiction, then you'll like Crazy Woman Creek.

Side note: Apparently, there really IS a Crazy Woman Creek in Buffalo, Wyoming. Makes me want to read more about that!

Crazy Woman Creek is published by Virginia Hull Welch. It is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest opinion.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

So many books to review!

This is what my nightstand looks like right now! My husband asked me why I had all those books there, and I told him because they're books I'm going to read soon! Two of them are library books, one of them is a book I received through the BookSneeze book review program, and the rest are books that I'm going to be reviewing here on my blog!

I've been getting A LOT more books to review lately. So much so that I've considered starting a second blog to house all the book reviews. What do you guys think? Do you like having everything here on this blog, or should I branch out?

I'm planning on attending at least one day of Book Expo America next month, so I'm hoping to get EVEN MORE books to review! I just love to read!

Hopefully you guys enjoy reading my book reviews! Is there a genre that you like to read? Got any recommendations for me?

Friday, May 3, 2013

To Gluten-Free Cookbook or Not to Gluten-Free Cookbook

So you have to go gluten-free, huh? And you're probably freaking out because you don't know what to eat or cook. And you're looking in the cookbook aisle trying to find the best gluten-free cookbook. But do you really need it?

Having owned several gluten-free cookbooks, I gotta say: no. I don't think you really need them. And here are my reasons why:

1. Beware of INVOLVED recipes. Some of the gluten-free cookbooks out there have really yummy-looking pictures and will entice you with delicious-sounding recipe names, but when you look at the list of ingredients and read the directions, you'll realize that the recipes are NOT 30-minute meals. Just because you're gluten-free doesn't mean you automatically have to spend 2.5 hours in the kitchen making everything from scratch. Some people do it, and that is great for them. But I didn't have 2.5 hours to cook before my husband went on a gluten-free diet, and I certainly do not have 2.5 hours now!

2. You probably already have a lot of gluten-free recipes. And you don't even know it! We were totally clueless when we embarked on our gluten-free journey, which is why I went out and bought The Everything Gluten-Free Cookbook. At the time I thought it was really great. But three years later, I realize that my purchase was kind of silly. A lot of the recipes in the cookbook were recipes that we already had. Example: I already have a good carbonara sauce recipe that just happens to be gluten-free. I don't need the one from the gluten-free cookbook. So check the cookbooks you already own, check your favorite recipes, and make a list of the non-gluten-free recipes that you need to replace.

3. Then GO ONLINE. There are a lot of really great gluten-free recipe websites out there that you can access for FREE. Here are some of our favorites:

A Lazy Girl's Guide to Living Gluten-Free
A Year of Slow Cooking (while not billed as a specific gluten-free website, the blog's author is gluten-free and so the recipes are gluten-free)
A Few Shortcuts (recipes AND fun crafts and coupons)
Gluten Free Mom
I Breathe I'm Hungry

Some other websites that might be helpful:
Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (sort of an example of cooking that is too involved for me, but you might find some of the information helpful - and the pictures pretty)
Jennifer A. Janes (this post is about preparing allergy-friendly foods on a budget)

You will eventually get the hang of this gluten-free thing. Visiting a nutritionist for advice is really helpful. My husband had two sessions with a nutritionist. She set us on the right path and answered our questions, such as can I (a person who can still eat wheat) share the butter tub or peanut butter jar with my husband (who cannot eat wheat)? NO because of cross-contamination.

And once you start learning about what ingredients to stay away from because they contain gluten, you'll figure out what foods are okay to purchase. And once you figure out what foods are okay to purchase, you'll be able to look at just about any recipe and substitute the bad stuff for the good stuff. That's what I try to show on this blog. I take recipes from a variety of sources and adapt them to fit our dietary restrictions. Some of them need adapting, but you'd be surprised at how many are naturally gluten-free!

It takes time. You might make mistakes along the way. But eventually, eating gluten-free will not be a chore or a hassle. It will just be the way you eat. And hopefully, you'll start feeling better, too, which, for Celiacs, is really the best part of going gluten-free.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hakuna Frittata

Get it? Instead of "Hakuna Matata" I wrote "Hakuna Frittata"? Yeah.

Mushroom and Zucchini Frittata

We got our vegetables with dinner the other night thanks to the Mushroom and Zucchini Frittata recipe from the Faster! I'm Starving! cookbook. (Gotta love breakfast for dinner!) No surprise, this dinner took no time to make and was really easy to put together. As the name suggests, you put chopped up mushrooms and zucchini in this frittata. It also involves either grated Parmesan cheese (what we used) or crumbled feta cheese (which would probably be AWESOME). You'll also need olive oil to coat the pan, eight eggs, salt, and pepper. The recipe called for a chopped onion, but I just threw in some onion powder because I was too cheap and lazy to buy and cut an onion. I know my husband likes meat, so I also added some leftover breakfast sausage to ours.

Look at all those lovely fillings!
Because of copyright issues, I can't post the full recipe here, but if you've ever made frittatas before, then you'll know how easy they are. And you can really put just about anything in them. It's sort of like making an omelet, only you bake or broil the frittata. We cooked ours for five minutes on low heat on the stovetop until the bottom of the eggs set, and then we put the pan under the broiler for two minutes to finish setting the eggs and brown the top. (Make sure you're using an oven-safe pan. Also, after you take the pan out of the oven and put it back on the stovetop, try to remember that even though it is a pan, it just came from the oven and is HOT so you'll need to use oven mitts when handling it. Why do I have so much trouble with that?)

This serves four, so we ended up with leftovers. Reheated, this will make a nice quick weekday breakfast.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gettin' Stuff Done!

our doormat, purchased on sale @ Kohl's!

Time for another update! Here's how things are going on the project list front:

1. buy doormat for sliding glass door in living room
2. paint guest bedroom & buy a bed and mattress
3. remove another wall and a half of wallpaper in the craft room 
4. paint the trim on the wall in the living room/dining room
5. apply to be on an HGTV show
6. fix/redo the master bathroom shower stall
7. buy an electric drill to hang a curtain rod (buy) and curtains (buy)
8. attempt to make my own roman shades for dining room windows
9. buy 3M Command Strips for hanging picture frames in the bedroom
10. buy more white picture frames for the bedroom
11. buy color and black ink for the printer to print out pictures and finish some scrapbook pages
12. spend 15 minutes a day writing my novel  
13. move the side table from the basement to the reading room
14. make a book wreath for the reading room

2. Painting the guest bedroom is scheduled for July 4th weekend
3. I only have half a wall left to reach this goal!
6. We have estimates and are now just figuring out what to do: fiberglass composite or tile
7. The electric drill and drill bits have been purchased from Amazon! Just waiting to receive them!
9. Do you know how hard it is to find affordable white picture frames?