Sunday, March 31, 2013

Treasure Hunting - March

I thought it'd be fun to do a monthly post to highlight neat finds and improvements we've made to our abode. There's been quite a bit going on around here these last few weeks to make this place more homey.  To start, we got this temporary small area rug that was collecting dust in my folks' basement to use until we find a permanent (and bigger) one.  It definitely has helped make the living room feel more "finished" and like a real gathering area.

Next up is an atlas (for $15) we found at a second-hand furniture warehouse.  It's an original from 1942, and has maps of every country (except for those that did not exist at the time, such as Israel, or those that no longer exist, like the U.S.S.R.).  Pretty neat time capsule.

We have it sitting on our fireplace mantle for now.  I am somewhat hesitant to alter books, so I am going back-and-forth about doing a project of removing the countries of our heritage, Germany for Karl and Ireland for myself, and framing them to hang over our bed or something.  I'm leaning towards going for it.  Time will tell.

As you also saw in the atlas picture, we got these two ivy balls for the mantle as well ($7.99 ea).

Wind chimes! ($12)  I have always loved the hauntingly beautiful sound they make, and how you can gauge how much the wind is blowing by listening to them.  They lend some nice eye candy for our otherwise plain porch as we wait for warmer flower-weather to decorate it.

All of the walls in our kitchen have been blank, and this month we finally got some art!  First is this cafe canvas painting ($30).  It has inspired and has me running with 'cafe' theme ideas for the rest of the kitchen.  :-D  More to come with that, heh.

We got this metal coffee art ($10.60) from the same place as the atlas.

Yay for no more blank walls in the kitchen!

April Goals: I'd like to concentrate a bit on decorating the dining room, as it's as blank as the kitchen was, and get at least one piece of needed furniture.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2 Easy GF Dinners: Mahi-Mahi & Stuffed Portabella

I seem to be in a real "try new things" kick when it comes to food this month.  I suppose one wants to add something new every once in awhile to spice up one's diet, get the creative juices going, and make dinner seem less like a bland "chicken-something" night.  So far this month it's been the introduction of the peanut butter cookies, then the tangy lemon sorbet, and now these two dinners in the past two days.

These are both healthy+tasty.  Hope these give you something a bit different to try out and enjoy at the dinner table.  :)

Baked Mahi-Mahi 

You'll Need:

Main Course:
- Mahi-Mahi (obviously)
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- dill weed

- Tinkyada brown rice pasta
- olive oil
- salt
- parsley
- garlic optional

...and side veggie of your choice.  I've been wanting and eating lots of asparagus this past month.  Probably has something to do with my body naturally wanting it when it's in-season.  (anyone else get strawberry cravings in June and apples in September?)

To Start:
- set the oven to 350 degrees F
- start the noodles in a pot according to directions on package
- lay out the mahi-mahi in a glass baking dish.
- rub in the olive oil, salt & pepper and dill weed on each fish cutlet
- bake in oven for approx 25 minutes
- when pasta is finished, drain, then add olive oil, salt, and parsley (and garlic if prefer) to the noodles while still in the pan.  Turn heat back on high for 30 secs - 1 min (depends on if you use gas or electric) while mixing around the noodles, then remove from heat.
- serve each plate with pasta, then lay each serving of fish on top so the juices run into the pasta  :)

Stuffed Portabella 

You'll Need:

- portabella mushrooms (one for each person)
- chicken
- broccoli (or spinach)
- (1/4 cup for 2 servings) brown rice flour (bob's red mill)
- salt & pepper
- garlic
- olive oil
- (1/4 cup for 2 servings) chicken broth
- (1/2 cup for 2 servings) water

To Start:
- set oven to 350 degrees F
- cut and place the broccoli (or spinach) in a pot of water and steam them.
- prep the mushrooms by cleaning them, spooning out the insides, and removing their stems
- take the chicken, add a bit of olive oil to the skillet, and brown the outsides of the chicken on a high heat
- remove chicken from pan and allow to cool 
- while skillet for the chicken is still hot, add water, chicken broth, flour, and spices.  turn on med-high heat.  constantly stir while bringing liquid to a boil.  add more flour if it is not like a thick gravy, more liquid if too thick.
- shred chicken and broccoli (or spinach)
- place mushrooms in glass casserole dish  
- add chicken and broccoli/spinach on each mushroom
- pour the gravy over each mushroom (this will be the yummy factor that will bring everything together in flavor like cheese would)
- place dish in oven for approx 20-25 mins, or until a nice clear juice leaks out of the mushrooms and the chicken is cooked through.

Who says GF/DF can't be tasty?  ;)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Zesty Lemon Sorbet (GF/DF)

It's springtime!  ...right?  Right.  I'm not convinced either.  There was a snow squaw this morning as though winter wanted to spite spring.

To spite winter weather right back, I decided to make sorbet.

I first learned about "sorbet" a few years ago when we were on a Carnival cruise with my sister-in-law and her hubby (by the way, they were fantastic with catering towards celiacs+my multiple other food allergies, which really makes me love cruising all the more!).  They served it to me for dessert one night, and I admit I eyed it suspiciously, wondering if there was dairy in it.  With a strong accent, the waiter told me it was "sorbet" (pronounced 'sore-bet').  I wasn't sure if he meant "sherbert" and asked.  He kindly went on to explain it was made with only fruit, sugar, and water.  After he left, I tried it and was instantly in love. (and since then, have learned the difference between sorbet and sherbert!)

Like most recipes I've kept putting off trying because it seemed it'd be difficult, sorbet turned out to be very easy to make.

You'll Need:
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
- 2-3 tbsp lemon zest (fyi, I used a cheese grater, heh.  Here is a video that explains how to zest a lemon)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup carbonated water (or just more water if you haven't any, but the carbonated adds an extra zest)

*makes approx 2 servings

To Start:

- grate one of the lemons for zest.
- squeeze the juice from both lemons.
- in a skillet, stir together the water, sugar, and lemon zest and bring to a boil.
- once it starts boiling for about 30 seconds, bring it down to a simmer for 5 minutes while slowly stirring.
- take skillet off the heat and let the liquid cool down to room temperature.
- add the lemon juice.
- at this point, if you have an ice cream machine, follow according to its directions.  If not, put the liquid in an upright metal container (such as a thermos), or a big ziploc freezer bag.
- place container/bag into freezer for 4-6 hours or overnight.  If you're able to, give it a good shake, stir, or mash the contents every 2 hours to make the consistency even more light.

That's it!

Bonus: This is a great and tasty way to get a straight-up serving of fruit (and lots of vitamin C) into your diet.  If you want to make it even more kid-friendly (and sneak some fruit to a picky eater), make popsicles with this recipe!


* Thanks simplysugarandglutenfree, vegetarianmama, and wholeintentions for the feature!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Soft Peanut Butter Cookies (GF/DF & egg free)

I haven't done a recipe in awhile!  This one has been on my to-do list of recipe experiments, as I love peanut butter.  I'm talking about love as in I sit on the couch and eat it out of the jar like icecream.  Oh, and did I mention we don't get ours in jars, but tubs?  Say... a 9 lb tub of peanut butter?  ...yeah.

So late the other night I was having a craving for both peanut butter and something sweet, so I got the urge to tackle making good GF peanut butter cookies.  Awesome-ly enough, they came out surprisingly well!  Maybe even too well, as they've almost disappeared in the last 24 hours between the two of us...

They're quick to make, so armed with our tub of peanut butter, we'll have these babies to snack on quite often now!

You'll Need:

- 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter (we get our 9 lbs for approx $40, so don't go with amazon for it)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour (I use Bob's Red Mill) 
- 1/2 cup sorghum flour (again using Bob's Red Mill)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder

yields approx 2-dozen

To Start:
- heat oven to 400 F
- in bowl, combine peanut butter, olive oil, and sugar, smoothing the lumps.
- in large measuring cup, combine the sorghum, rice flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Slowly add flours/dry mixture to the bowl while stirring.
- add water and stir it in until well blended.
- drop bite-sized dough balls onto greased (olive oil) cookie pan.  
- flatten each ball slightly with two presses of a fork (lightly coat the fork with brown rice flour to keep fork from sticking to the dough).  
- bake for 15-20 mins, or until golden brown/set.  remove to wire racks to cool.  

You may want to make several dozen, as theses bite-sized treats don't last long!

Thanks to the following for the feature!:  vegetarianmamma, simplysugarandglutenfree, glutenfreehomemaker, and wholeintentions

Monday, March 4, 2013

Challenge: Furnish & Decorate A Home for $5,000

* (see the update on our budget status as of January 2014 here)

I've been wanting to share this tidbit of what's been going on here for a little while now!  A few weeks ago Karl and I had a "meeting of the minds" to go over a plan for making our house a home - a.k.a. furniture.  To begin truly doing that, we needed to implement a budget.

Let me back up a bit.  We'd always planned on having money saved and set aside for furniture once we bought a house.  During the time we lived in our basement apartment that came with furniture, we thought we'd be moving straight from it to our "forever home".  So, we saved up for our future furniture.

the basement apartment
Though we're super glad to now be renting a house versus a dank basement, we're obviously not yet homeowners.

Not wanting to stay in a state of limbo (we have no idea how long we'll be renters before becoming homeowners), we decided now is the time to use the money we set aside for furniture.  Plus, we'll of course still have the furniture when we do move into our own home.

I don't know where I got this idea, but for the last few years I've had the idea that I could furnish & decorate a home for $5,000; $10,000 seemed too much, and less than $5,000 seemed too little.  This may be naive, but $5,000 is what came to both of our minds to budget for furniture, so we're going to darn well try!  ;)

So, once that first hurdle of a named dollar amount was cleared, the next obstacle was to get into the nitty gritty details.

I've been keeping a list of what furniture we need for each room, so I took that and put it into an excel sheet.  Then with each item I tacked its own budget to it, until we had everything we wanted coming in at a total of $5,000.

We're pretty private people when it comes to finances and what we spend on big-item things, so I'm hesitant to share this....but I also feel like this is a journey and learning experience worth sharing.  Thus, I've got a peek at a part of the final excel spreadsheet for y'all here:

Having everything broken down like this really helps get a grip with what we can spend - a way we can gauge how we're doing.  I love having this tool.  I wouldn't be too surprised if the budgeted amounts next to each item will change as we go along.  ...Move the $50 from being under-budget for one item and move it to another where it was a bit over-budget, etc.  I'll try to keep showing an updated version of the spreadsheet as we collect items.

Here's the further breakdown of the decor budgets to keep track of spending:

Next question you may be wondering: how do we expect to find these items for those prices?
Our strategy will be 1) perusing thrift stores, ebay, craigslist, 2nd-hand furniture stores, yardsales, estate auctions, flea markets, etc.  2) negotiating prices.

Possible problems: 1) we may go over budget on some items  2) we may have to sacrifice not getting certain items at all and/or re-prioritize what we need along the way  3) finding these items for these prices will take time.

Can we do this?  I honestly don't know - we've never bought much furniture before (only our mattress and couch to-date - the rest was given or even gained from dumpster dives, lol), let alone bought for a whole home before.  We'll be taking you along for the ride though!  Cheers for a challenge!

Edit: See updates on our budgeting progress for the porch and living room, as well as this post touring our home Oct 2013 and the totals for each room thus far as of January 2014.

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