Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ready for Thanksgiving?

We are!

Thanksgiving means a lot of planning for me, and this year, I'm bound and determined to get some of my favorites. Combine my uncertainty with the fact that my husband won't get to come with me for Thanksgiving at all, and we were inspired to have a practice session on Sunday.

I made a little bit of baked ham with maple glaze for the hubs, but I wasn't interested. What I wanted was the casseroles. I'm a huge nut for my grandmother's potato casserole. I call it hers, because she's been making it since I was a little girl. But it's really just the recipe on the bag of Ore-Ids Hash Browns. She switches the green onions out for a little bit of finely diced white onion, and trust me, this stuff is delicious.

I also really want to be able to eat my mom's broccoli casserole, straight from the pages of every Southern girl's favorite cookbook, Bell's Best (recipe below). For both of these recipes, most of the ingredients are totally fine for me. Sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, onions, broccoli, all gluten free of course. Two suspects, the Ore Ida hash browns and the Cheez Whiz, were also thankfully GF. Ore Ida actually has a list of all gluten free products on their website, here. Corn Flakes aren't gluten free, but I could just use some Glutino crackers as a topping instead.

I had one problem with both recipes. Cream soup. Check and can of Campbell's Cream soup and you'll find wheat flour listed as an ingredient, so I needed to find an alternative. I had looked for GF cream soups before, with no luck. But on my latest trip to Whole Foods, I did a happy dance, called my grandma excitedly, and told her we were in the clear. They had GF Cream of Mushroom Soup! I bought like 6 cans to take for our huge Thanksgiving. I thought we had found our solution.

Then Sunday, when I opened the first can for my potato casserole? Craaaaaaaaaaap. It wasn't condensed. It wasn't condensed! Which would make my casserole way too liquidy. Without thinking, I went ahead and dumped both cans in the bowl. Oops!

I had a soupy mess on my hands. Hmmmmmmmm. So I added a few tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken (which probably didn't really help, honestly). And I added tons of extra cheese to help bind it together. When it felt like almost the right texture, I dumped the whole thing in my largest casserole dish, topped it with crushed, buttered gluten free crackers, and popped it in the oven.


* 1 Bag Ore Ida Country Style Hash Browns
* 2 Can(s) Gluten Free Cream of Mushroom Soup (modified)
* 2 Cup(s) SOUR CREAM
* 1/2 Teaspoon(s) SALT
* 4 Cup(s) CHEDDAR CHEESE shredded (modified)
* 1/2 Cup(s) White ONIONS sliced (modified)
* 1/2 Teaspoon(s) BLACK PEPPER ground (modified)
* 1 box plain Glutino crackers, crushed (modified)
* 1/4 Cup(s) BUTTER melted


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 4 1/2 quart casserole dish with butter or spray (or don't, it's not super necessary. Side note: the original recipe calls for a 13x9. B.S. No way will it fit. You need a honking casserole for this sucker)

2. In a large bowl, whisk together soup, sour cream, salt and pepper. Stir in cheese, onion and Hash Browns until well mixed. Spoon evenly into baking dish.

3. In a large ziploc bowl, shake together crackers and butter. Sprinkle evenly on top of Hash Brown mixture.

4. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour (modified from original!), or until hot and bubbly. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Eat your heart out.

Next, I tackled the broccoli casserole. I was better prepared for the soup shocker, so I planned ahead a little. Instead of the two cans the recipe called for, I used only one. And instead of using the entire can, I spooned out the thicker globs and left the thin, watery stuff out.

Pre-cooking, the consistency of this casserole was much closer to how I thought it should be. But the lack of thickening agents from the soup just made it never come together. I cooked it. And cooked it. And cooked it. I kept the rest of our lunch warm while I baked it an extra 25 minutes. Then I let it bake while we ate our lunch. Then I let it bake a little longer. We finally took it out just shy of two hours, bubbly and brown on top but still jiggly as ever. It did set a little as it cooled, but it never got as thick as it needed to. It tasted just fine (not as good as my mom's of course, but nothing ever will), but it was more soupy than casserole-y.

But I've found a new solution for next Thursday, and I think it will work much better for casseroles! I'm going to use the condensed soup recipes from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. I think this texture will turn out much better.

Here's the Broccoli Casserole Recipe, p. 338 in Bell's Best.

1 large onion
1 stalk celery
1/2 c. mushrooms
1 jar Cheez Whiz (the big jar)
2 cans cream of mushroom soup (I used 3/4 of a can of non-condensed, didn't turn out so hot though. I'll make two batches of the recipe linked above next time)
1 c. cooked rice (we used brown, but either white or brown is fine)
1 box chopped broccoli, cooked.

Saute onion, celery, mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter. (Honestly, I skipped this. I just melted a little butter and mixed the onion, celery and mushrooms in it in a bowl. I don't think I've ever seen my mom do this either) Add soup, Cheez Whiz, rice, and drained broccoli. Place in a casserole dish and cook at 350 for 10-15 minutes (lies! Even following this recipe to the exact letter, it has never taken less than 45 minutes to get done. Cook it at whatever temperature you have other things going, until the top is brown and delicious looking, and the middle is barely jiggly)

Honestly, these recipes may not look like much. Cheez whiz? Hash browns topped with crackers? But they're home to me. I'll also be helping to make the turkeys (smoke, fried, and baked, thank you), ham, and vegetables. Plus I'm preparing the sweet potato casserole, from scratch, with a too good for words pecan topping. I'll also be making a little pan of gluten free stuffing, some GF rolls, and a GF pecan pie. So I won't be going hungry. But the two recipes here are the two that mean Thanksgiving for me. They bring back years of holiday meals and family gatherings. And I'm so happy that I'll get to eat them this year.

If you want a chance to win several fabulous prizes, including a new kitchen-aid mixer, you can make a gluten free dish and blog about it, and post a link on this post at Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. It's way easier than you think, I promise!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hi there

I have a bunch of random things kicking around to post, so here's a mish mash of things.

First, the fall cure update. When I started, I loved the concept of this year's cure. At 20 minutes a day, it's perfect for us working stiffs, right?

I didn't think about the fact that I wasn't going to be home over a quarter of the days of the cure! When I'm in a hotel Monday through Wednesday, cleaning, buying flowers, and other 20 minute tasks aren't happening. So they've been pushed and I'm behind.

But I'm doing pretty well considering. I'm only a couple of days behind. I still need to clean a room this week, clean out my medicine cabinet, and hang a piece of artwork. I stopped on the way home from work today (my first day in my own city this week!) and got some flowers.

I decided to go with another bunch of football mums. The first ones I got, three weeks ago, lasted until today. They were still okay, and probably would have lasted another week if I had been home to change the water earlier this week. At $4.99 from Whole Foods, they're a great deal.

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And dude, I'm sure you're tired of it, but hellooooooooo black fireplace. I love it so, so much. Best, decision ever.

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I love this color. It totally matches the sweater I wore today, actually!

I used the greenery from last week's flowers-white hydrangeas. They were gorgeous, but not super cheap. And they started wilting almost instantly. These would be great for an event, like a dinner party. But not to enjoy for a week. Excuse the iphone pic, please.


The greenery was still in pretty good shape. I even had enough left over to brighten up my fruit bowl area.

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One of my favorite days so far was one of the ones I dreaded most-the media fast. I spent an entire evening with no tv, no computer, no books, no radio. And I did it on a night when Brett was working, so I spent it completely alone. To keep it real, I was assisted by a traffic jam caused by an overturned 18 wheeler. So I got some extended radio time. I also stopped at the fabric store on the way home. But I got into the spirit of things starting at the fabric store. I left my iPhone in my purse, and made conversation with my fellow shoppers instead. It was a nice change of pace.

When I got home, I had dinner (at the table!) and just kind of stared around my living and dining room and thought about what I wanted to do. Some things will never happen (wood floors, ha!). Some things will happen really soon (curtains). And some things just hit me all of a sudden. It was really, really refreshing.

After dinner, I decided to hang a mirror that I've been meaning to hang since I painted the dining room. Like three months ago.

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I almost definitely should have waited until Brett was home to help, but I did it without breaking the mirror! And it's level! Then I took a long bath with a yummy smelling candle and went to bed on time for once. I felt great the next day, and I had a new list of things to tackle.

So what is it that just hit me in the face, and so suddenly became clear?

This thing.

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I hate it.

Like HATE it.

I kept quiet about it, because I thought Brett really wouldn't be happy with me saying I wanted to refinish it AGAIN. But I really, really hate it. So I secretly wished I could paint it again and started thinking about what I should back it with.

Then a few days later, a miracle happened! I was sweeping the dining room and Brett was wiping off the table, and he said, "I hate that china cabinet." I think he was so confused when I started grinning. He doesn't hate the cookie monster color with my passion, but he also doesn't like it. What he hates is the flowery paper backing. And I honestly can't blame him. It's just way, way, way too much. Way too much.

So we have to decide what color we want to paint it. We're considering mixing the half quart of blue that we have left with some black and making something closer to the blue-black we wanted in the first place. But I'm also considering just plain black, or, of course, gray. Charcoal this time? We're really not into white, but suggestions are welcome.

For the backing, I'm loving this from Paper Source.

But I am kind of in love with the whimsical idea of this utensil print.

And then there's the Marimekko Frekvennssi Wallpaper, and of course, my dream, Schumacher's Birds and Butterflies Wallcovering, but it's way too pricey for this project.

I'm really obsessing over the dining room lately. I think we've picked out a table, pending seeing the color in person to see if I think it will clash with our floors or not.

Sure, it's basic, nothing fancy. But the clean lines, the solid wood, and the natural finish has me thinking this could be our table four years to come.

But I am set on dining chairs. I've decided. I haven't let my husband in on this decision, but it's okay because I'm the decider, like George W. Bush. I'm wearing the Decision Pants right now.

Our eventual dining chairs are going to be Wishbone Chairs. And even if I'll feel bad, and wish I could find vintage ones, they're going to be knockoffs. The one pictured above is $960. For a single chair. Or $5800 for six. Okay? I can't afford it. InMod sells a knockoff for just $269. The top rail isn't one piece of bentwood. And you know what? That's not worth 700 bucks to me. Urban Home used to sell a version for just $79. SEVENTY NINE DOLLARS! But it seems it's no longer available. My plan is to buy one chair at a time until I have the number I need (8?). I know this is a pretty stupid plan. I know.

Now, I'll wrap things up and go to bed. I'm happy to be home and taking advantage of my own bed and my wonderful sheets (Target Home Organic Cotton. Get some). Hope everyone is having as wonderful a time as I am tonight!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Additions

We have a couple of little additions that are brightening up our place lately.

Fall has arrived here in Baton Rouge, and we actually turned our heat on yesterday! We turned it back off after a couple of hours, but still! I wanted to leave it off until December, but Brett was a wuss. It was 60 degrees in the house, so I can't blame him.

Still, it has me in a blanket kind of mood! I was stuck in traffic the other night after a huge wreck on the interstate, and I stopped at the fabric store to pass some time. When I saw that wool was on super sale, I decided I needed a little plaid wool blanket. I picked out a gray wool (of course), with a little brown/black plaid. And I got some red trim to edge it. This was a real bitch to work with, I'll be honest. The trim was really hard to keep in place at first, but I got the hang of it as I went along.

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I love the way it turned out! It's a great size and very warm, and makes me feel all New England-y or something. I've never been to New England though, unless NYC counts, so take that with a grain of salt.

We also have a new addition to the guest room. Last Saturday, I noticed an estate sale on my way out of the neighborhood, and I had a few minutes so I stopped in. There wasn't much that interested me, but I saw a little wooden side chair with a ripped upholstered seat, and wondered if I could get a deal. I got them down to $5, and ran down the street to get cash. I ended up paying in change, because we didn't have any small bills!

It had ugly black fake leather on the seat, with a few big rips in it. They included more of the same fabric with it, but I wasn't interested. I wanted the chair to look bright and cheery in our guest room.

Here it is, peeking our from behind the bed.

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I used leftover curtain fabric to give it a sweet makeover.

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I'm really doing my damnedest to convince Brett that we can let this chair function as an end table. A wall lamp and a vintage clock, and we'd be in business, right?

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Not bad for $5.