Countdown to Christmas (and Cookies!)

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

The countdown to Christmas is officially on!  A lot to do, you know, like decorating my tree with new unbreakable ornaments, for the little ones.  Last year’s tree was thankfully assembled and decorated by my daughter-in-law and her mom.  I left the boxes in the middle of the den as my sweet husband’s health took that unforgettable turn.  He was admitted to the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Less than 3 weeks later, we would return home with the help of all our family, friends and hospice.  Countless prayers and tears.  Precious moments and memories were mixed with what none of us could be prepared for in the short time that followed.  So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I need a giant umbrella for the imposing “rain”.

It was extremely important to me to have, what turned out to be, our last family photo with him.  I refused to take the tree down and was so sad to have missed the opportunity for the photo by Christmas Day.  As I was finishing preparing the traditional New Years Day lunch the phone rang.  It was my daughter saying she had arranged for a friend to come and take the photo I longed for.  The family arrived shortly afterwards, with the photographer friend in tow.  The boys helped my husband into a chair in front of the tree, and then the race was on to take the group picture and one with each family, as sitting up was becoming more difficult for him. Our last family photo is featured in this blog.  I know for some this would seem ridiculous and unnecessary, but not having that photo would have been a sad regret for all of us.

Family Photo

Cookies! Yep cookies!  My sweet husband loved all kinds of cookies.  He was the best taste tester of the tempting smells that wafted from my oven.  So, this is a great time to share some cookie recipes.  I believe baking can be therapeutic, and your house will smell wonderful without those cookie scented candles!  Bake and enjoy the smiles you will bring to people of all ages, especially during Christmas. Take time to make time for others.  You won’t regret it.

May God bless you and your family as He has continued to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Cookie Recipes

Blondies

Cheese Straws

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies-Std.

Cran-Cherry Cheese Bars

Lemon Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

Outrageous Brownies

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

Spiced Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Wedding Cookies

Pie, oh My!

By Rhonda Woods

By the time you read this blog, it will have been nine months since my sweet husband was totally healed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  January 4 was the day everything in my life changed.  As I write this blog, I struggle every day to accept he is not coming back.  These are the days of “rain” as is the code for “I feel like I am falling apart”.  I have sorrowfully and shamefully questioned God, His plans and my decision to return to teaching so soon.   I guess this is a natural part of the grieving process. It is hard to see even a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, much less search for my purpose or happiness in my future.  My family, church family and friends are amazing support, but even they cannot fix the hole in my heart and the emptiness  I feel having lost my best friend soulmate of nearly 40 years.

Bent on my quest to update the house he built has, at times, taken its toll on my nerves and my OCD for cleaning any and all dust created.  My awesome contractor, Jonathan, who has become one of my sons, tolerates my constant cleaning.  The updating is beautiful and I know my sweet husband would be pleased with my decisions.  So, I ramble around this big house meant for a family of four or more with our two dogs, who look at me with questioning eyes as they miss him, too.

Anniversary Cruise and Desserts

So let me reflect on happier times when he enjoyed anything I cooked or baked!

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

The perfect husband to please with food, ladies, and you know that can be a challenge for both husbands and children.  He loved desserts, anything peanut butter, but sweets in general.  This time of the year, people are testing new recipes for church Homecomings and holiday gatherings.  With such an array of desserts to choose from on the bountiful tables, is just plain blasphemy in the south to put those little 6″ plates out when everyone one needs a full-sized one to “sample” a little bit of everything.   You know it is true, don’t deny it!  LOL.

Granny and her youngest great-granddaughter

My mother with her newest great grandchild named for my husband

So, I thought I would share a few pie recipes, especially the ones my sweet husband enjoyed the most; Peanut Butter Pie, Coconut Custard Pie (a prize winning one), No Milk Chocolate Pie (from a church cookbook a missionary contributed and my Mom’s favorite), Sweet Potato Pie (my adaption from a recipe in a cookbook my daughter gave me called “Sweetie Pies”), Pumpkin Cheese Pie and Lemon Cheese Pie (a favorite of my dear friend, Mrs. Betty).  I hope you will enjoy these recipes and will add them to your list of favorites, too.

 

May God bless you and your family, as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

RECIPES

Coconut Custard Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

No Milk Chocolate Pie

Sweet Potato Pies

Pumpkin Cheese Pie or Tarts

Lemon Cheese Pie or Tarts

Pie Crust

Graham Cracker Crust

 

 

Time for Fall Muffins!

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!  Whew….we made it through the “Hurdicane” as my granddaughter said! So blessed have been prepared and not have been in the path of destruction.  Please continue to pray for those who were.  🙏

20108503_10209856353749446_6815868200570077530_nSo, who is ready for some Fall recipes, not to mention some Fall weather!  When I think Fall, I think of quick comfort foods, such as muffins.  We prepare a variety of muffin recipes in class and my granddaughters love to making muffins in my kitchen.  Quick to mix and bake, as the name “Quick Breads” implies.

There are a variety of quick breads, including pancakes, biscuits, scones and muffins. The mixing method for making muffins is called the “muffin method” or “dump method” because all of the dry ingredients, including a chemical leavener (baking powder or baking soda-careful they cannot be used interchangeably as they will result in a failed recipe) are combined in a large bowl and the liquid ingredients are combined in a smaller bowl.  The liquid mixture is then “dumped” into the dry ingredients and mixed just until moistened.  Over mixing muffin batters causes “tunnels” or trapped air bubbles that try to work their way out during baking leaving tunnel-looking formations in the finished product.  This does not effect the taste.  For uniform sized muffins, a portion scoop is the tool of choice.  Remember, “looks the same, cooks/bakes the same”.  My granddaughters love to use portion scoops…of course with my help guiding the batter into the paper lined muffin/cupcake pans…oh, what fun we have!

OK, enough teaching!  Let’s get to some of my favorite muffin recipes.  I hope you will enjoy making these, and perhaps with your little ones, too. Zucchini, Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Crumb Topped Pumpkin Pecan, Apple Butter, and Lemon Poppy Seed muffins are the top pics for today’s blog.  *Note, the format for the recipes are in “Standardize Format”.  This is how recipes used in foodservice are written.

May God Bless you and your family, as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Recipes

Apple Butter Muffins

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Crumb Topped Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Crumb Topping

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Zucchini Muffins

 

Berry Good Muffins

By Mary Pat Baldauf

We’re in the throes of Spring, and there is so much to do in the Midlands right now. If one of the things you’re doing is picking strawberries at a local farm, you’ll want to check out this recipe for strawberry muffins from my friend April Blake. These muffins are incredible and the perfect way to share your strawberries!

Cottle

STRAWBERRY MINI MUFFINS (from The April Blake)

INGREDIENTS

Makes 48 mini muffins

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced or diced
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs beaten

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour muffin tins (two large tins, or one large and two mini, or four or five mini muffin tins).
  2. Slice strawberries, and place in mixing bowl. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, and set aside while preparing dough.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl and mix well. Pour oil and eggs into strawberries. Add strawberry mixture to flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Make sure all flour incorporates. Divide batter into pans.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini muffins (or 25-30 if you’re going for large muffins), or until knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn muffins out, and cool completely.

Quick and Easy Pizza Night

By Rachel Sircy

Well, truthfully, I wasn’t planning to write about this, but after I tried Mama Mary’s gluten free pizza crust, I thought I had better share my experience. My husband had been asking about home-made pizza recently – I make a pretty mean chicken pizza – but the thing is, I really don’t like to make gluten free pizza crusts. Somehow, the mixes always give you something weird. I really dislike the Bob’s Redmill pizza crust mix. It’s like dry, crusty bread. My favorite, as far as pizza crust mixes go, has always been Namaste, but even that wasn’t ever a normal pizza crust. It was white with greenish flecks of Italian seasoning in it. It was also the consistency of cake batter with the weirdly elastic properties of marshmallow cream. It was weird, but at least it was a kind of weirdness I could handle. Actually, I haven’t even made the Namaste pizza crust in so long, that I don’t know if the formula is even the same anymore.

So, when my husband asked for pizza, I really just wanted to hand him $5 and point him in the direction of the nearest Little Cesar’s, but then I remembered something. Walking down one of the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Cayce, I remembered seeing little personal-sized pre-packaged pizza crusts that were labeled “gluten free”. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as Bob’s Redmill, and their small size also solved another one of gluten free pizza’s big problems: leftovers.

My husband loves cold pizza – I’m not such a huge fan, even in my gluten-eating days, I disliked the way that the refrigerator turned all of that luscious, gooey cheese into something like cold leather – but cold, leftover gluten free pizza is pretty nearly inedible. Not only does the cheese turn to leather, but the something that happens to most gluten free pizza crusts that causes them to become so hard that – should you be desperate enough to try to eat a piece – you have to gnaw on the slice like a wild animal trying to peel the last bit of meat off of a carcass. And, in my opinion, reheating a gluten free slice of pizza doesn’t make matters much better. The microwave may melt the cheese, but it doesn’t do much for that awful crust. I have always hated making an entire huge pizza and pretty much having to throw out the leftovers. Yes, some of you may be thinking that you have a perfect (albeit really time-consuming) recipe for gluten free pizza crust that tastes good the next day, but here’s the thing: I’m lazy. Especially when it comes to baking. I kind of hate it. I used to love to bake before I discovered that I have celiac disease, but that love died in the first few months of going gluten free and I’ve never been able to revive it. If you want to see me at my absolute worst, ask me to make a gluten free pizza crust. Or worse yet, a gluten free pie crust. In the case of the pie crust, you might have to pick me up off of the kitchen floor because I will have fallen over, weeping.

Long story short, I decided to give these little pizza crusts a try. And it turns out that they’re pretty good. I mean, they’re not the best pizza crusts I’ve ever had, but I personally think they beat Bob’s Redmill by a mile. (Sorry to beat up on you, Bob. You’ve given us a lot of great products, but your pizza is the pits.) So, I am making a recommendation: if you, like me, are lazy and want a quick and easy pizza without leftovers, try these Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. I didn’t take a picture of the crusts in the package, because I wasn’t planning to write about them, but I took a picture of the back of the package:

Pic 1

And here’s the finished product:

Again, I found these pizza crusts in the gluten free section of the Neighborhood Market in Cayce. They’re not refrigerated, they right there on the shelf next to the gluten free snack bars and whatnot. I feel fairly certain, however, that almost any Walmart would carry them. Walmart is pretty good at having the same products in every store. Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Mason Jar Gift Idea

By Ashley Whisonant

With the holidays coming to a close I am always thinking of ways to save time, money, and my sanity! Between my husband, boys, coworkers, family, and friends, many gifts were given out this holiday season.

One of my year-round favorite gifts to give or receive are Mason jar mixes. I have come across cookies, breads, brownies, and even alcohol Mason jar gifts. One of my favorites is the recipe below. It is the perfect cookie for now, not too sweet and easy to make!

Check out this easy recipe:

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup 1 minute oats and 1/8 cup at the end

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup sugar

½ cup chocolate chips

1 large Mason jar

 

The Plan:

  1. Mix the flour, sea salt, and baking powder. Use a funnel to fill the bottom of the Mason jar
  2. Add the packed brown sugar, making sure to level it out
  3. Next, add the regular sugar
  4. Add the chocolate chips on top, continuing to level
  5. Add 1/8 cup more oats just to top off the jar
  6. Place the top and decorate with ribbon or baker’s twine

The baking directions also need to be included with the jar.

*Add one egg, ½ cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla to jar mix. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for around 8 mins.

mason

Three Easy and Giftable (and Gluten Free) Treats

By Rachel Sircy

For all you last minute people out there (like myself), I have three ridiculously easy recipes to share: Chocolate Fondue, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and two types of chocolate bark (so I guess I really have four recipes.) Provided you make sure that the ingredients that you’re using are gluten free, these treats are simple gluten free gifts or desserts that you can give go celiacs and non-celiacs alike. I promise that no one will know that these things are gluten free. I’ll give you hints in each of the recipes as to which ingredients you need to be careful with.

  1. Chocolate Fondue: One year for our anniversary, my sister-in-law brought my husband and I a plate of fresh strawberries and two small bowls of chocolate fondue. It was a simple, elegant gift and the best part was that it didn’t clutter up our house afterward. Rather than giving ornaments or little trinkets, try food. It’s great while it last and the best part is, it doesn’t last forever.

 

Ingredients:                1 Cup Heavy Cream

                                      12 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate (I prefer Ghiradelli chocolate baking bars or chocolate chips. They aren’t super expensive and the quality of chocolate is just better than most other common brands in my opinion. Plus, Ghiradelli dark and semisweet chocolate are made without gluten and in a clean factory. NOTE: the same is NOT TRUE about Ghiradelli white chocolate bars or baking chips. They are not celiac safe per the Ghiradelli website.)

                                      1 tsp. Vanilla

Method:       Heat Cream in pan (careful not to boil) until very hot. Add chocolate and vanilla and stir until melted.

For Dipping choices, you can use fresh fruit – strawberries and bananas work well. You could also use cookies (store bought or homemade, just as long as their gluten free) and marshmallows. Actually, you can pretty much dip anything in chocolate. I would eat my own hand if it were covered in a good chocolate.

  1. Peanut Butter Blossoms: Probably everyone has this recipe because these are the easiest cookies ever to make. But, I thought I’d share because sometimes I find that those really simple things that everyone knows how to do are the things that nobody writes down the recipe for and then people like me – who don’t know how to do them – get stuck. Everything in this recipe should be gluten free as long as you stick with pretty simple peanut butter (don’t go for the weird flavored stuff they have out now, though some might be GF) and DON’T let anyone use your PB! I always take a permanent marker and write GF all over my peanut butter jars when I get them home from the grocery store.

 Ingredients:               1 Cup Peanut Butter

                                      1 Cup Granulated Sugar

                                      1 Tsp Baking Powder

                                      1 Egg

Method:       Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Peanut Butter and Sugar together in a bowl. Beat in Baking Powder. Add egg and mix until well combined. Roll into balls (smaller is better) and roll in white sugar. Place on baking sheet and press with fork. Bake 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on baking sheet, then cool if you want plain cookies. If you want to make the PB Blossoms, however, transfer the cookies directly to a plate after they’ve rested on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. This will ensure that they cool more slowly, but won’t make them soggy or anything. Use your favorite type of Hershey’s kiss (read the label to make sure it’s GF, but I think most kinds of Hershey’s Kisses are) and press them into the still warm cookies. The Kisses will melt, but then they will re-solidify when cooled. Letting them melt initially, however, makes them softer and makes them stick better in the PB cookies.

 

  1. Peppermint Bark: This has been a staple for me for years. No matter how much you make it, people will never turn it down. And you can do slightly different things with it. Sometimes I make it with just white chocolate. Sometimes I drizzle dark chocolate over the white chocolate for some contrast and once I even made it with just dark chocolate, and it wasn’t half bad. I know that lots of people make Peppermint Bark, but like I said, people will never turn it down. And, in chocolate barks like this, the quality of ingredients can make all the difference. I’ve had really fantastic Peppermint Barks and some that were not so great. I ate them all, of course, but you remember the really, really good ones.

 Ingredients:                12 oz white chocolate (Alas, Ghiradelli is my favorite, but it’s not celiac-safe. According to what I’ve looked up on their website, Nestle Toll House white chocolate chips claim to be gluten free and that is generally what I use. It’s a slight sacrifice in quality, but it’s better to be safe than sorry)

                                      5 Candy Canes, Crushed (Bob’s candy canes are gluten free and their peppermint candy canes are pretty delicious)

                                      ½ Tsp Peppermint Extract (I used Pure Peppermint oil that I bought at Earthfare. It was kind of expensive, but it will last for a long time and it has a great, strong flavor.)

                                      4 oz Semi-Sweet or Bittersweet Chocolate  (Optional)

Method: Melt white chocolate in a large double boiler, when it is melted, add peppermint extract. Spread chocolate out over a cookie sheet covered in wax paper and sprinkle candy cane bits onto the chocolate. Let cool in refrigerator or freezer. When white chocolate is cooled, melt dark chocolate in a double boiler and spread over the cooled white chocolate, if desired. Cool and then break apart the bark into bite-sized pieces.

  1. Cookies ‘n Cream Bark: This is one that I kind of came up with myself because my favorite candy bar used to be Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar. This was something that I had to give up when I found out I had celiac disease. Necessity (or junk food cravings) is the mother of invention. So, I just put the two ingredients that I really loved together and it worked out wonderfully. Here’s a picture of the bark and the big chunks of cookie in the strata:

Ingredients:                 12 oz. White Chocolate Chips

                                      1 package Gluten Free Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (I always use Glutino Brand, but you could also use Kinninnick and I think Schar Brand and Walmart both have their own GF chocolate sandwich cookies)           

 Method: Crush cookies in a bag. Melt chocolate in double boiler, add the crushed cookie bits and spread out onto a cookie sheet line with wax paper. Chill in the fridge or the freezer.

 

Hopefully, these help with any last-minute GF guests that show up at your house or with anyone you need a small, last minute gift for. Merry Christmas!