Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coconut Layer Cake

Do you like coconut? I've learned that people are either a fan of it or they really just don't care for it much at all. I love it! My husband had a not-so-pretty episode with coconut as a child, so he's pretty much turned off by the tropical fruit.

And coconut is so popular now--- with coconut milk, coconut water, coconut cream, and let's not forget the powerful coconut oil! Man, I LOVE that stuff.

But let's talk about shredded coconut. You can buy it either sweetened or not. You can toast it and sprinkle it on ice cream..or garnish a cake with it. How about coconut shrimp? Yum!

But now it's time for cake!  As a child, I always requested an ice cream cake for my birthday. Those are just so fun and yummy and was like a two for one!  As I got older and my palate matured a bit, I began asking for my Mama's Coconut cake.  My birthday is in early April, so many years Easter falls on or around my birthday. Coconut cake is also a great dessert for Easter.
I made it this year for Thanksgiving. It is also perfect for Christmas. Bottom line---- coconut cake is wonderful all year long. But in moderation of course. I'm struggling with that.

You know what's even better? You can use a cake mix! Now of course for those of you that cringe at the thought of a boxed mix, a scratch cake would be awesome too. I've done it both ways. And I honestly do prefer the scratch cake myself. That's because it is better than a boxed gluten free cake mix. And really, the icing is what makes this cake. That's where all the coconut is.  This is also one of those cakes that gets better as the days go on.  Which is probably another reason a scratch gluten free cake worked better.

OK, ready? Here we go.

Coconut Layer Cake

1 pint sour cream (light is fine to use)
2 cups sugar (I know, I know..but I said light sour cream is OK)
3 packages frozen sweetened coconut. (See picture for what I use) 

I let the coconut thaw slightly, then...mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for 24 hours. 

Cake time

Next make your cake. You can wait and bake your cake the next day when the icing is ready. Whatever floats your boat. 

So.... Bake a yellow cake in two round cake pans. Cake mix or scratch...whichever you prefer. Let the cake cool completely! Once cooled, slice each layer in half with a serrated knife so that you'll have four layers of cake. 

Grab a cake plate. Place one layer down and slap some of that delicious coconut icing on top. Spread and repeat with the remaining layers. Once you get to the last layer, pour the rest of the icing on top and spread it around. You do not need to ice the sides. Because this icing is a little runny, it will run down the sides, icing itself. Store the cake in the refrigerator. That's it! Sooo good!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Here is a recipe I've been meaning to share with you.  Between homeschool, laundry, church, dishes, soap making, laundry, and feeding my family I somehow forgot to post this recipe. Did I mention laundry? 

I researched several soup recipes similar to this one. I wanted something that would suite the tastes of my family and be easy to prepare for those busy days. You that I could turn on and walk away from..for hours. Because well, laundry.  So, I make this in the slow cooker.  It is perfect for those crazy busy days. If we are gone all day to co-op or running errands or whatever, it is so wonderful to have supper done when we arrive home.  This also makes a great Sunday lunch. Wouldn't it be nice to come home from church and sit down with a warm bowl of soup? 

This recipe is similar to The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I tweaked it to make it fit for us.  I did, however, use her way of making the fried tortilla strips.  Those are sooo good. So check out her post for the tortilla strips.  

We like corn, so I use quite a bit.  A quart size bag is what I use for this soup. We "put up" corn here every summer. I put probably two and a half cups (maybe even three) in one quart size bag.  It is so nice to have a freezer full of corn all year. If you are using canned corn, start with one can and then decide if you'd like more. I also only used two boneless skinless chicken breasts. Those chicken breasts went a long way!

*Note: If you don't feel comfortable putting raw chicken into the pot with the other ingredients, roast or boil your chicken a little bit first. I don't mind using it raw...and we lived to tell about it. ;-)

All the soup ingredients are just thrown into the pot.

Look at how wonderful the chicken shreds.

Slice the tortillas into strips.

Just before serving, fry the strips.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 quart of chicken broth (I use homemade. If you are using purchased broth, I recommend the low sodium)
  • 1 or 2 cans of corn (Or frozen--2 cups or more depending on your preference)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
Fried Tortilla Strips

  • 3 or 4 small corn tortillas
  • oil for frying

Place all soup ingredients into slow cooker. Give it a stir.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the chicken is done and shreds. 

Just before serving, slice the tortillas into strips and fry in hot oil. This does not take long. Keep your eyes on them. They will burn quickly! Again, see The Pioneer Woman's post for more instructions on the fried strips. 

Top individual servings with tortilla strips and whatever other toppings you like. We like sharp cheddar and a little avocado. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

You know by now that I don't love the cooler temps that come with fall, but I do love the fall foods. Soups, stews, breads, etc... are just warm and comforting. My aunt gave me a few butternut squash from her garden and I knew just what I was going to do with them. I love to roast them with sweet potatoes and red skin potatoes, but I really enjoy butternut squash Soup.

I found a recipe in a magazine a year or so ago for butternut squash soup and I sort of followed it. There were ingredients in the recipe that I don't normally use or have on hand. I decided to create my own similar recipe and I love how it turned out.   There are apples and a potato hiding inside and I topped it off with bacon  pieces. You can never go wrong with bacon!  I served the soup with gluten free cheese garlic bread and a simple salad of greens, cucumber, strawberries,  and fresh from the mountains apples and pears.

These are three small squash that yielded exactly 4 full cups diced. I used half of this potato.

 I love the smell of onions cooking. Sadly, this was my last Vidalia.

4 full cups of peeled and diced butternut squash.

All the veggies, fruit, and spices added to the pot.

After the soup cooks for about 30 minutes, it is time to puree.  I LOVE my immersion blender.

Ready for the full recipe? You will enjoy it!

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cups butternut squash--peeled, seeded, and diced (I used 3 small squash, but you might find that one large one is sufficient.)
  • 2 medium apples-- a sweeter variety (I used an old fashioned Grimes Golden. Golden Delicious will work well, too.), peeled and diced
  • 1 medium russet potato--peeled and diced
  • 1 quart of chicken broth--homemade is best!
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Rosemary sprigs and bacon crumbles for garnishing
In a large pot, heat olive oil and cook onion until tender.  Add in the squash, apples, potato, chicken broth, apple juice, pepper, salt, and chopped rosemary.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes or until veggies are tender.  Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender until smooth and no lumps remain.  Serve warm and top with bacon crumbles and a sprig of fresh rosemary.  

*Note:  If you do not have an immersion blender, try an electric hand mixer.  This would blend wonderfully in a VitaMix.  Too bad I don't have one of those!

Perfect Fall meal!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Well, fall has arrived in southeastern Virginia.  That means all things pumpkin, sweet potato, apples, and hot apple cider.  I decided I would make some pumpkin bread last weekend after I had been challenged to participate in #BeTheGood.  Be the Good is all about random acts of kindness and showing love to others. We have new neighbors in the area so we decided to fix them up a gift basket of homemade goodies. For more information on this project, visit Cents of Style . 
The pumpkin bread turned out to be very delicious. My oldest daughter cannot get enough of it!  It is also very good toasted with pumpkin pie spice cream cheese spread on top.  Another plus is that it is easy to make and the house smells divine while it is baking.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 15oz can of pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cups gluten free flour 
  • 3 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice 
  • dash of ground cloves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour 2 regular size loaf pans or about 6 mini loaf pans.

Mix sugars and oil together in a stand mixer.  Add applesauce and mix well. Add eggs.  Mix well. Then add the pumpkin and water.  While that combines thoroughly, mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. 

Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in mixer.  Mix well.  Pour into the prepared pans 3/4 full.  Bake one hour or until golden brown and a tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pans for about 5 minutes then flip onto a cooling rack to cool completely. (If you can be that patient.)

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cream Cheese Spread

  • 4 oz Greek yogurt/cream cheese, softened (if you cannot find this, low fat cream cheese will work)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
With a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese until softened. Add the agave nectar and spice. Mix well.  Enjoy on toasted pumpkin bread. :)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sweet Potato Biscuits {Gluten Free}

I know many of you are ready for fall to arrive. I, on the other hand, am not. Summer is never long enough for me.  I'd love for it to be summer all year long. But that's just not gonna happen, now is it? I do love the seasonal foods though and this recipe can be considered a fall food. But, really, you can buy sweet potatoes at the grocery store year round, so anytime of year is good to make these biscuits.

 Have you ever had sweet potato biscuits? Maybe it is a southern thing. I don't know, but they sure are good.  This is an old recipe that has been around for a while. I just adapted it to be gluten free. Gluten free Bisquick comes in handy for recipes like this, and the original "wheat" recipe is even made with regular Bisquick..or any other baking mix.

Start with two medium-large sized sweet potatoes boiled and peeled.

With a potato masher, mash up those sweet taters.

Add in the gluten free Bisquick, along with brown sugar and water.

This is what the mixture will look like once combined.  It will be moister than regular biscuits.

Roll out that dough onto a (gluten free) floured surface.  Using your grandma's old biscuit cutter helps make yummy biscuits. :-)

All cut out and ready for the oven.

Slap some ham in that biscuit.

Save some for the next morning. Toast the biscuits and add bacon. YUM!

Sweet Potato Biscuits {Gluten Free}

2 medium-large sweet potatoes (or 1 lb)
3/4-1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups Gluten Free Bisquick (or any biscuit mix) (this will use almost an entire box of GF Bisquick)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil or microwave the sweet potatoes. Let them cool, then peel them.  In a large bowl, mash the potatoes.  Add brown sugar, biscuit mix, and water. Start with 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Give it a little taste..add more if you prefer a sweeter biscuit.  Combine the mixture thoroughly.  It will be a lot moister than regular biscuit dough.  Flour table or counter top.  Roll biscuit dough out to 1/2" thickness.  Cut with a biscuit (cookie) cutter. Place on a greased cookie sheet or an ungreased baking stone.  These will not rise much because it is such a wet dough.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Keep an eye on them so they don't overcook.  I let them cook until the bottoms just begin to brown.

Enjoy with butter or even homemade jam. And don't forget the bacon. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Versatile Bagel (Gluten Free)

Who doesn't love a soft and chewy bagel?  Or a warm toasted one slathered with butter?  It is hard to resist, isn't it?  What if you just realized you couldn't have that anymore because of Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance?  Hmmm.....that would make for a serious let down, huh? Well, that is where Udi's Gluten Free bagels come to the rescue!

Not only are Udi's gluten free bagels gluten free, they are also dairy, soy, and nut free as well. That is a blessing for so many people out there with food allergies.  And the best part is that Udi's offers a pretty tasty selection of bagels. There are plain, whole grain, cinnamon raisin, everything inside, and the mighty bagel.  With so many choices, it makes their bagels very versatile. 

The Everything Inside bagel is made with onion and garlic. This would be a great bagel toasted, buttered, or topped with cheese and served along side a big dish of spaghetti, gluten free of course.  The Mighty bagel is filled with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and other delicious ingredients. This is the ultimate breakfast bagel!

We love the whole grain bagels at our house.  Toasted in the morning (or even for an afternoon snack), slathered with Greek yogurt cream cheese and topped with homemade blueberry jam is a favorite.

Want something different for your cheeseburger?  Try a bagel!  While Udi's offers gluten free hamburger buns, I prefer to use a whole grain bagel.  It is just the right amount of bread for me.  Even for my burgers, I'll toast the bagel in a bit of butter so it is nice and crispy. YUM!  How is that for versatile?! 

Oh, and it doesn't hurt to "put an egg on it" ;-). 

So go out this week and grab some Udi's gluten free bagels and experiment for yourself. You won't be disappointed!

*I am not affiliated with Udi's gluten free. I just love their products.*

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fresh Blueberry Pie {Gluten Free}

My family and I picked 14 pints of blueberries the other day. That was a lot of berries! Muffins, pies, smoothies, and jam were spinning around in my head as we picked.  I made 15 jars of jam, froze several cups of berries, we ate on them, and then for the finale I made a fresh blueberry pie. My husband and I are the only ones that will eat the pie. We may or may not have eaten the entire pie in less than 24 hours.

I've tried a few different gluten free pie crusts. Some have been premade and some I made from scratch. Let me tell you.... Gluten free pie crusts are HARD to work with. I've had them crumble, fall completely apart, slide right out of my hands from too much fat. We all want a flakey, buttery crust, right?  And really....when eating a homemade pie, isn't it all about the crust anyway?   For this pie I tried a recipe from America's Test Kitchen.  If you don't have their gluten free cookbook then I recommend you get it as soon as you can.  (I am not affiliated with America's Test Kitchen in any way, but I do think highly of them) We have tried many recipes in the book and so far none have disappointed us.  While they do have a blueberry pie recipe in their cookbook, I only used their crust recipe. 

Fresh Blueberry Pie --- Gluten Free

One Double Crust pie crust recipe

4 full cups of fresh blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place oven rack on lowest position. Preheat oven to 375°.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and place on lowest rack. 

Fill a deep dish pie plate with one crust.

Pour blueberries into a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar and gently toss the berries with the sugar.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and lemon juice.  On medium heat, add the cornstarch mixture to berries and gently stir until combined and the sugar has begun to dissolve.  The berries shouldn't really lose their shape. Once heated through (2-3 minutes), pour filling into pie crust.  Top filling with second crust. You may want to make it a lattice top or keep it plain. Either way is OK. I do recommend, if you keep it plain, to cut a few tiny slices throughout the top of crust though. 
Brush pie crust with an egg white, if desired.

Place pie plate onto the foil lined cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes to one hour...until crust is golden and filling is bubbling.

The most difficult part is waiting for the pie to cool enough to slice. We didn't as you can tell in the following picture. That vanilla ice cream just couldn't wait any longer ;).
Happy Baking!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Unstuffed Peppers

Who  is enjoying their summer garden? Are you getting lots of yummy veggies? Our garden has done fairly well this summer. We have had so much squash and zucchini.  My girls are now fans of zucchini bread.  We have had several cucumbers, many radishes and banana peppers, some potatoes, and a few green peppers. If you are harvesting loads of green peppers, how do you like to eat them? I love stuffed peppers! The girls do not love to eat the actual pepper though. They like the "stuff". So...I came up with this recipe because they kept asking me to cook the "stuff". Now, I've seen a similar recipe and it is called Spanish rice. I wasn't sure what to call it because I did not go by a stuffed pepper recipe and it was a bit different from Spanish rice.  My husband called it good! (points!)  So I posted a picture on Instagram and threw out a couple ideas for a name... Unstuffed Peppers won. It is a fitting name and the girls loved it...a lot!

Unstuffed Peppers

1 1/2- 2 pounds ground beef
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 15oz. cans tomato sauce
Cooked rice (cook enough for 4 servings) 
(I don't use minute rice. I use the rice that cooks a little tastes better!)
Shredded cheddar cheese

  • Brown the ground beef, cook the onions with it in a large frying pan or cast iron pan.  Add the green pepper when the beef is almost done. ( l like my peppers a little crunchy) Continue cooking until beef is done and onions are tender.
  • Drain the beef mixture if needed
  • Return to pan and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and tomato sauce. Stir until combined over med-low heat. 
  • Add the cooked rice and stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • When done, top with the shredded cheese. You can add cheese to the mixture if you like it really cheesy!


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Creamy Honey Vanilla Fruit Dip

Who is not loving all the fresh summer fruit? I could eat fresh fruit every day.  This is a sweet, creamy, and delicious dip to go with all your fresh fruit.  It is pretty simple to whip up and you probably have most of the (few) ingredients on hand.

Just a few ingredients

This is good stuff! This is a Kroger brand. Not sure of any other brands

Here's what you do:

Gather your ingredients:

* 1 -8 oz block of cream cheese & Greek yogurt or a block of light cream cheese, softened well

* 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

* 1/4 cup light brown sugar

* 1 TBSP honey

* 1/2 tsp vanilla

* milk-- enough to reach desired consistency

OK.. With a hand mixer, whip softened cream cheese and yogurt together. Add in brown sugar and mix well. Mix in the honey and vanilla. Add enough milk to reach the desired consistency, starting with a tablespoon.  I use enough to make it like icing. Refrigerate until chilled well. Enjoy with your fresh fruit!

Looks yummy, huh?


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gluten Free Sausage and Cheese Muffins

This is such an easy and delicious breakfast recipe. Sometimes we get in ruts when it comes to breakfast.  You might be rushing around in the mornings trying to get to work or school and feel like you don't have time to cook. These muffins can be made the night before and popped into individual sandwich bags ready to grab on the way out the door. Or you could be like my family, and have kids that love a warm breakfast almost each morning. These are even easy enough that the children could make them!

* I make these gluten free, but for those that don't need to, regular Bisquick will work just fine.*

Gluten Free Sausage and Cheese Muffins

1 pound gluten free sausage , browned, crumbled, and drained
3/4 cup Gluten Free baking mix ( I use Gf Bisquick)
1 cup of milk
2 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend (I've also just used mozzarella here with good results)
Dash of cayenne (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°

Mix the baking mix, milk, and eggs together. Add the cheese and mix well. Add a dash of cayenne if you choose. Stir in the crumbled sausage. 

Spray a 6 cup muffin pan with non stick spray. Fill muffin pan with sausage and cheese mixture. Bake about 20 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

I usually have to double this recipe--- they are that good!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Birthday Sale

I have a birthday this week.  Tomorrow to be exact.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know I enjoy entertaining and a good old birthday party. If you don't follow me, let's just say I "overgramed" my daughter's 13th birthday.  But for my special day....well as I get older, I tend to think of it as "just another day".  Maybe I shouldn't. Or maybe I just want someone else to plan it. Either way, I'm thankful to be alive! 

So...for my birthday, I am offering y'all a sale.  I have discounted selected soaps and lotion bars in my etsy shop.  These are great prices people!  Enjoy browsing and I do hope you will find some you'd love to try. 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Homemade Deodorant

For years I used high dollar deodorant. I tried every kind out there it seemed. Clear gel, solids, clinical strength, I tried them. (The one kind I didn't try was men's though. I just didn't want to have that manly deodorant smell.). I noticed that the cost of the deodorant had nothing to do with it's effectiveness either.  Admittedly, I'm a sweat-er and I was in search of something strong and functional. So, a few years ago I went on a search for a diy deodorant. There had to be something out there that worked better than what I'd bought, right?
In my research, I learned how the aluminum in commercial deodorants is not safe for our skin and bodies. There are mixed views out there on this topic. Do the research and decide for yourself what is best for you to use. I prefer my homemade deodorant mostly because it WORKS! It has passed the test on 100°+ summer days. That is enough proof for me to keep using it.
The ingredients are not hard to find and many of you probably have these on hand anyway. I use Bob's Red Mill baking soda.

The recipe for homemade deodorant:
1/4 cup baking soda (shouldn't have aluminium)
1/4 cup Arrowroot powder
5-6 Tablespoons of coconut oil (can add more depending on the consistency you are looking for)
Several drops of essential oil of choice (tea tree and lavender are my favorite right now)

Combine baking soda and arrowroot powder

Slowly add in coconut oil. I stir in three tablespoons at a time.

After all the coconut oil has been combined, add your essential oils

The consistency should be like frosting.  Don't eat it. ;-)

Now store it in a pretty jar
 I apply my deodorant using my hands. This does not bother me at all, but I know it will gross some people out. You can buy clean deodorant containers or clean an old one out and just fill it with your handmade mixture. I have tried this and it did not work well for me. It may work for you, but I'm going to keep slathering it on with my hands.

Just a note** This deodorant can and will melt in warm temperatures. It is OK and does not ruin it. This is because of the coconut oil. If this should happen to you, put your container of deodorant in the fridge until solid again. You can leave it there , but it needs to soften a bit before using.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A little behind the scenes info....

A few years ago I decided I wanted/needed something creative to do with my time. I am a stay at home mama and wife, and while I absolutely love that, finding something just for me to do was important. I don't even remember what prompted me to research soap making, but I figured it was worth a shot to try my hand at it.
 The process I use is melt and pour. Many people will say that this method is not really "making soap" and while that may be true, because I don't actually add the lye to the mixture, I still consider myself a soap maker. Using the melt and pour method allows me to be creative with what I add to the bases such as oats, citrus peel, a variety of essential oils, or dried herbs. I also like to let this type of soap "cure" at least a week before using. This helps the bars get a bit harder.
 This past fall I began making hard lotion bars as well as lip balm. We (my husband and I) absolutely love the lotion bars. They are made with all natural ingredients, just four to be exact, and moisturize our skin wonderfully. The lip balms are also made with those same natural ingredients. It is so good to know what we are actually using on our skin and lips...and that the ingredients are harmless. All ingredients are labeled on my products as well. I hope you will visit my Etsy shop and try out some of my soap, lotion bars, and lip balm!

Mountain Man: a woodsy smelling soap for your man

 Sweet Orange & Honey soap:  made with honey, orange essential oil, and orange zest. Smells delicious!

 Lavender Oatmeal soap:  This has the relaxing scent of lavender essential oil, dried lavender buds, and gluten free oats
 Double Mint soap: Smells like the chewing gum! Contains spearmint essential oils and peppermint leaves
 Lavender Hard Lotion Bar
 Lip Balm in three flavors: Peppermint, Vanilla, and Spearmint
Vanilla Hard Lotion Bar

That was just a peek inside Simply Soap! I'd love for you to try some products and come back and share a review.