Dinner with Friends: Our First Dinner Guests and a “Really Good Gluten-Free” Meal!

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           I meant to post this weeks ago, but it’s been busy!  On January 29 we had our first dinner guests in the new place!  It was our friends Russ, Laura, and their son, Zander.  Laura and I met over ten years ago when we were both working at a paint-your-own-ceramics store.  We lost contact for a while and then my husband found her on Facebook a few years ago and surprised me while on bed rest with baby number two.  (There is a very amusing but somewhat indelicate story from bed rest with baby number three that proves how good of a friend Laura really is, but I’ll share it another time.)

            We were on the road to Palm Desert to pick up a couch that my in-laws were giving us when Laura and I were discussing, via text message, plans for the evening.  My husband, Chris, and I went back and forth over what to make and his advice was to “keep it easy.”  I thought and thought and came up with one of our personal favorites.  It is very easy and “really good” so it made the cut!

            If I am going to the effort to spend the money on it, prepare and cook, it is almost always gluten-free.  I don’t cook two meals.  It’s ridiculous.  So, fair warning:  you come to my house you’re getting something gluten-free whether you want to or not!  I make my husband his own cookies and I have wheat bread in the house, but when we make something like pasta or stuffing, etc. it’s gluten-free.  And lasagna!  My husband is part Italian so I have to have a good lasagna recipe in my repertoire and THIS is it!  I had tried a recipe or two before coming across this one and they were ok, but this one lives up to its name and I think it’s even better than “really good!”

            It came from the website, celiac.com.  Their newsletter is really interesting and if you like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter you may have seen me share articles from them.  Warning, some of them get kind of technical and are almost medical journal-like, but overall most are easy enough to understand and I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve gotten some really great recipes from them.  Shortly after I first found them several years ago we were coming upon St. Patrick’s Day; we usually love traditional Irish fare on that day, like stew or Corned Beef and Cabbage – either with Irish Soda Bread and I couldn’t find a gluten-free recipe and was feeling a little deprived.  One of my first e-mails from them had a full Irish-themed gluten-free menu – and it all turned out great!

            The website for the lasagna recipe is:  http://www.celiac.com/articles/23107/1/Really-Good-Gluten-free-Lasagna/Page1.html.  I changed it a bit.  This time around I used all ground beef because someone doesn’t eat sausage.  Another secret?  I use a Mediterranean Kefir cheese in place of the ricotta.  The brand I use is called, “Karoun.”  The first time I used it in a lasagna (several lasagnas ago!) I simply couldn’t find ricotta at the cheese at the market I was at.  I came across that and decided to take a chance and OH MY!  It works and is really good!  It adds a nice tang and makes it so creamy!  There’s even more tang in this one with the addition of the sour cream.

            If you have not guessed already, this is NOT dairy-free!  I saved up my dairy allotment all day for this, and it was so worth it!  I’ve actually been thinking of trying to make one because every time I make this, Blessing wants some so bad!  And that makes this mama feel bad!  He loves pasta so I usually cook a little pasta on the side for him, reserve some sauce, but I felt AWFUL! when I forgot to do that this time.  Poor baby had to sit and watch the rest of us eat yummy lasagna and he was stuck with leftover meatloaf!  Of course, the night before he hadn’t been able to get enough of my meatloaf, but could you blame him the next night?  I made it up to him in dessert, I hope! 

            On to the rest of the menu!  While I put the finishing touches on the lasagna, Laura made a beautiful salad and now I wish I had taken a picture of it – or at least turn the bowl around before hubby took the picture!  The lasagna is so rich and filling I personally think that and a salad is all you need.  I had put out some hummus and crackers before dinner, and then we sat down to feast!  I was so glad my friends liked my dish!  And the guys both had seconds!  I put a lot of love into the food I cook so that made me feel so good!

            We finished our meal with some homemade gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream.  It was not a low-calorie meal, but hey, it was a special occasion!  They were our FIRST dinner guests in our new place!  That’s a big deal.  Plus, I couldn’t remember the last time I had bought ice cream.  (Our new fave is the Baron’s store brand; that night was French Vanilla.  It is REALLY good!)  I’ll share the cookie recipe below, taken from the back of a bag of “Enjoy Life” brand chocolate chips.

            We’re settling into our new place well.  Or trying to!  We are desperate for rain in Southern California and were so excited a couple of weeks ago to get some…until we discovered rain in our garage!  One corner flooded, soaking several boxes!  It was awful and luckily nothing irreplaceable was ruined beyond repair.  I had to get a wedding photo reframed (luckily the frame and mat took damage but the photos were ok) and a few books were beyond saving.  An antique frame was damaged, but an awesome framer at Hobby Lobby helped me fix it up as best we could and all is well.  It could have been SO much worse and we thank God it wasn’t.  The only stuff left in the garage to unpack is stuff like books, pictures, scrapbooks – things we haven’t needed so have waited to unpack!  That set us back and we’re still trying to reorganize out there, but we got some sturdy utility shelving set up out there this week and it is slowly but surely coming together.

            I hope your Valentine’s Day was special.  Hubby worked on and off all day but Blessing and I had a fun day together and met up with him and the in-laws at Starbucks in the afternoon.  Tomorrow night we are taking a family date out for dinner and tonight I am making Split Pea Soup to purée with the new immersion blender my two boys got me!  Enough of my ramblings and onto the goodies!

 

‘Enjoy Life’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

2/3 cup Palm shortening (why Palm shortening and not Crisco?  Crisco is made from hydrogenated oils which are not good for you.  Palm is non-hydrogenated.  Easy math in my book!)

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (recipe called for grapeseed or safflower, but they aren’t as heat stable and I just personally prefer coconut oil)

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup water

2-1/4 cups gluten-free baking mix (I like Arrowhead Mills)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1-10 oz. bag ‘Enjoy Life’ semi-sweet chocolate mini chips (I like this brand because they are one of the few soy-free brands out there and also dairy-free.)

 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cream shortening, oil, and sugars in a mixing bowl.
  3. Add vanilla and water.  Mix until just      combined.
  4. Combine gluten-free baking mix, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth.
  5. Add in mini chips.  Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheet and slightly press down each cookie to flatten.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on baking sheet for 15-20 minutes and serve.

 

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

 

            These are SO good and I have another bag in the pantry, so after writing the recipe I really want to make a batch!  Enjoy!

 

Emily

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