Monday, February 13, 2012

Sweets for your Sweetie!

Happy Valentine's Day!  Well, I am out of town for work and not able to be with my sweetie on Valentines Day, so I made some treats for him and our kids this weekend before I left.

Sugar cookies have been a favorite in our family for years.  My dad's favorite cookie was a cream cheese sugar cookie.  They were so moist, had less sugar than traditional sugar cookies, and a mild flavor that required no frosting (although if you asked my daughter, sugar cookies should always be covered in frosting!).  I would make these cookies every Halloween, Christmas and Valentines when my kids were growing up.  I finally got around to modifying the recipe to be gluten free this past year.

When I went to the grocery this weekend, staring up at me were delicious little blueberries.  Immediately, my brain went to one of my past favorite items, blueberry bagels with cream cheese...funny how things that you haven't had in years suddenly pop into your brain and become an obsession.  I have not developed a bagel recipe yet, nor did I have time this weekend for that kind of kitchen adventure, so why not introduce blueberries to our favorite holiday cookie?

If you do not have allergies, just use all purpose flour in place of the g-free flour in the recipe.  Hope you enjoy these cookies as much as our family has over the years!

Blueberry Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2-3 cups g-free flour blend
3/4 cup blueberries (optional or other stir-in of your choice)
white chocolate for drizzle (optional)

In a stand mixer bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla and almond extracts at medium-high speed until well mixed and creamy, about 1 minute.  Add egg and sugar, mixing well.  Add baking powder and 2 cups of flour, mixing well.  Add additional flour while mixing (up to 1 more cup) until a soft dough is formed (it will be sticky but can be formed into a ball with floured fingers).  Stir in blueberries.

Place dough in a gallon size ziploc bag.  Press dough into a 1 inch thick round inside bag.  Press air out of bag and seal.  Place dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Turn dough out onto parchment paper dusted with flour.  Dust top of dough with flour and roll out to 1/4 thick.  Use cookie cutters of your choice to shape cookies.  Place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 F for 9-11 minutes or until lightly brown at edges.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to cooling rack with spatula.  Cool cookies completely.

Melt white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring frequently.  Pour melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle or a ziploc bag (seal bag and cut corner off to drizzle on cookies).  Drizzle chocolate on cookies.  Place cookies in the refrigerator until chocolate firms (about 20-30 minutes).  Place cookies in airtight bag or container for storage.  Makes 2-3 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shrimp...Need I say more?

Well, my husband and I had some much needed time away and a break from technology last week.  We spent 7 glorious days doing pretty much nothing but eating shrimp, walking on the beach and talking in South Padre Island, Texas.  It was fabulous!

We stayed in a little studio condo right on the beach, with a two-burner cooktop, a microwave and a mini-fridge.  Given when we eat out, I usually have about two choices on the menu (lettuce or lettuce with unseasoned protein on it), we generally do most of our own cooking, even on vacation, and eat a select few meals at restaurants that can accommodate my gluten allergy.  There is something to be said for having a much more limited kitchen than I am used to- simplicity yields creativity...and you know, we ate some tasty things!

Mid-week, we found a local fish market and bought a pound of fresh Texas Gulf Shrimp (jumbo's).  I had simple ingredients at the condo and let the shrimp be the star of the dish.  Hope you enjoy the recipe- simple, delicious and nutritious!

Gulf Shrimp with White Wine Cream Sauce
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup (give or take) dry white wine, such as a Chardonnay
1Tbsp butter (or dairy free alternative)
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream (full-fat coconut milk for dairy-free)
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste

Clean, peel and devein shrimp. Season raw shrimp with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in saute pan or skillet over medium heat.  Cook shrimp in butter until color changes to bright pink.  Flip shrimp and cook other side.  It should only take about 5-7 minutes to cook your shrimp.  Don't over cook them unless you like rubber.

Add white wine to pan and turn heat up until wine starts to boil.  Turn heat down to low-medium and continue to simmer until slightly reduced and thickened- about 5 minutes.  Add italian seasoning and cream.  Stir and continue to cook until sauce thickens just slightly- about 2 minutes.

Serve over steamed rice with a vegetable of your choice.

Shrimp Boats, South Padre Island, Texas, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Healthy New Year #2- Curry

Curry is usually one of those things that people either love or hate. Curry can range from very mild to very strong, so if you have had curry that you were not very fond of in the past, I would encourage you to give it another try.

Curry has a number of health benefits.  Turmeric, the primary spice in curry dishes is shown to decrease joint swelling, pain and inflammation.  In addition, curry has been shown to aid in digestion, increase fat burning (spicy foods require more calories to digest) and in general is a healthy balance of vegetables and low fat protein.

Another real benefit of most curry dishes is that they lend themselves very well to both gluten free and dairy free lifestyles. Add some jasmine rice and you have a lovely dinner for those with or without food allergies.

For about 2 years, I received a cooking magazine, Cuisine At Home. It is quite inexpensive and provided me with a lot of meal ideas, especially for weeknights when work schedules do not allow for meals requiring lengthy prep and cooking times. This Coconut Curry Chicken recipe was an adaptation of one of their recipes and is not only a favorite in our house, but also has received rave reviews from friends. Enjoy!

Coconut Curry Chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
3 medium potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cans coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (gluten free)
1 Tbsp. sugar
4-6 Tbsp. gluten free curry paste (red or green)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut chicken into one inch cubes and cook in 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven. Add onions and garlic, cooking until onions are slightly softened. Add bell peppers and cook for about 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender. Serve over jasmine rice. Makes 4-6 servings.