Friday, October 30, 2015

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies with a Surprise!

Since the weather has turned into its typical November style - drippy, gray and dreary... naturally I'm drawn into the kitchen to see what I can do to warm up the house and our tummies!  

I bought some gluten-free flour sometime back because I thought I would like to try the gluten-free diet that seems so popular these days.  Unfortunately, I never got around to using the gluten-free flour because it was summer time, and I wasn't apt to spend much time trying new recipes in the kitchen.  So, the gluten-free flour has sat in my pantry... until today! 

One of the recipes on the back of the flour sack was for chocolate chip cookies... and I thought why not?

They came together quite quickly, and before you could say "diet"... it was too late.  They were already cooling on the counter...

... and a few disappeared rather quickly.  Don't ask me how many, cause I have a short memory like that you know!  {smile}

I used a very special ingredient in these cookies... and your first clue *might* be the red cooking wine bottle...

Yes, I used what was inside the red cooking wine bottle... but it was not red cooking wine! Surprise!  It was my own homemade vanilla!  YUM!  Absolutely marvelously easy to make your own vanilla extract!  It takes about six months, and the waiting part may just be the hardest part of the whole experience!  To make your own is quite simple, simply buy a bottle of vodka ...

.... and a few vanilla bean pods... (I used about three vanilla bean pods per cup of vodka)...

Slice the beans in half with a sharp knife...

... and put into clean quart-sized jars, or you could use one large jar if you have it... and then pour in the vodka to cover...

and this is the hardest part - just wait! It is best if the alcohol and vanilla sit for at least a month or two, but longer is even better.  I waited six months, and then strained the vanilla pods out of the alcohol, and poured into a large clean bottle (which happened to be a red cooking wine bottle).

If you have not ever tried to make your own vanilla extract, it is a very easy project that makes a LOT of vanilla!  And the fresh vanilla extract is incredible!  I will never buy vanilla extract again!

And then, while I was on my "gluten-free" kick in the kitchen, I made some of these Grab-n-Go pockets.  Ooh, they are so yummy!  I used my own almond flour in them (which is the leftovers of making almond milk, a post on that here), and a bit of tapioca starch, water and spices, and they can be filled with just about anything - our personal favorite is turkey and cheddar cheese. You can see my post on making these yummy delights here.

I've been making these yummy delights for a while now, trying different flours and combinations, and I've found that the basic ingredient that can't be messed with is the tapioca starch (flour), but you can substitute other flours, for a less "nutty" taste. However, my absolute favorite is following the exact recipe for these Grab-N-Go delights from Hayley's book found here on Amazon.

It may just be the best $3.00 investment you could make today!

Along with a cup of hot tea...

... a wonderful plate of chocolate chip cookies...

... of which their deliciousness could never be known the little secret of gluten-free flour (my kids are still none the wiser... shh!)

I enjoyed a lovely afternoon snack.. satisfied with my gluten-free fun in the kitchen!  

How do you like to spend a dreary drippy gray fall afternoon?

Edited to add: 

Here is the recipe for the Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

(I used Namaste Gluten Free Organic Perfect Flour Blend for these cookies.)

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies 

2-1/2 cups Perfect Flour Blend (or any gluten free blend flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips (the recipe calls for gluten free chips, but I used the ones I had)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla in large bowl until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using).  Drop by small rounded teaspoon unto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on pan for 2 minutes, and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Grand Central Station, Outside My Window...

There seems to be a common place of activity lately, and it's right outside my window.

I've nicknamed it Central Station.

And this big guy thinks He's the boss of it all. He makes it his duty to be sure the station is kept clean and in tip-top shape!

Because when Mr. Bluejay comes calling... the chickens think it is their personal call to the feed station central for clean-up duty.

Mr. Bluejay doesn't like to share with the chickadees.  He needs to learn some manners. The chickadees have learned to be quick.

Mr. Bluejay may or may not realize it... but every time he lands on our birdfeeder, and he takes a bite, the chickens gobble up the seeds he drops.

I don't know if he has realized it or not - this "welfare" system he is supporting...

He takes the best, and the rest is dropped, for the chickens to scratch and fight over.

He's a cute little fellow.  But he doesn't realize that the cost of keeping the bird feeder full has gone up since his arrival.

He knows I'm talking about him.

I'm getting the look ... shame on me for interrupting his shameless greed!

Oh my!  Look who has showed up for the party!

At least 40-50 turkeys were in my front yard.  The noise from their cackling drew me outside.  It sounded like a mild roar from inside.

I couldn't believe how many of them were congregated in my yard.

I never sent out any invitations... but maybe Mr. Bluejay did?

She looks like she could use an extra meal or two!

I was within just 5 feet or so of them with my camera, and they didn't seem worried in the least.

A close up of one of the turkeys...

And their pretty feathers - each of them have unique tail feathers, which are beautiful to see.

And there they go.  Pecking away, enjoying the remnants left behind by Mr. Bluejay, and not worried about me in the least.  Or... about the party that they just crashed.

UH OH!!!  The chickens heard through the grapevine that the turkeys got invited to their party... and they were NOT happy!

HMPHTT! Said Mr. Rudy, and with a loud cockadoddle-do... he let them know serious business was at hand.  This is HIS Central Food Station, not theirs!

Surprisingly... Ms. Rita took it upon herself to ward off the partying turkeys.  These brave chickens chased off the partygoing turkeys.  It is quite a sight to see, watching these fierce little chickens chasing off the big turkeys!

And peace returned to Grand Central Station.

Amen... says Mr. Bluejay  :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Glory of the Lord in a Misty Fall Morning

We have been having a lot of foggy crisp mornings lately, where the fog just hovers and layers over the trees, and shrouds the view of the mountains with layers of light and mist.

I took quite a few pictures, and instead of posting them one by one, thought I would try creating a collage of some of the pictures.  The mountains here never cease to offer up amazing light, cloud and sky contrasts.

The cooler mornings have had fog hanging around a little longer in the mornings, creating lovely patterns of light and mist.

I turned down a new road (to me) on my drive that morning.

  It is always exciting to come upon a new view of exquisite beauty! 

As I drove back down to the river, tucked in its turns and bends were incredible colors, mixed with the foggy mist.

Bright fall colors jutting out into the foggy mist... "Who covereth thyself with light as with a garment"

This white bird flew overhead as I was enjoying the foggy mist.  Is it a seagull? I don't know.  Its wings looked much bigger than a sea gull.  I wondered if it was a snow goose, but I couldn't see its feet clearly to see if they were webbed.  Beautiful in the moment though! "The fowls of heaven have their habitation to sing among the branches."

A weed standing tall amidst the beautiful fall colors abounding nearby. 

Wisps of light dancing in the air reflecting mirrored images on the water. "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth"....

Gently the sun was peeking through the mist enhancing the brilliant colors abounding ... "Oh Lord how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches."

These fall colors won't last long... and my joy was great to experience them once again this morning....  "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters"

An empty bird nest surrounded by amazing colors of fall.

Splashes of red rose hips in stark contrast to the misty water they hung their heads over.

The glassy water reflecting colors in misty hues, as this lonely boat dock ... waits... "My meditation of Him shall be sweet"

Layers of mist hovering over the distant mountains.... "Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment"

A flock of geese fly in, breaking the silence with their loud calls.

Gently the mist is moving slowly, ever upward and beyond. "He toucheth the hills and they smoke"....

Brilliant colors of the marsh beckon me to stop, and just soak up the quiet powerful beauty and worship my dear Lord, the Creator of this moment that filled my heart with its beauty and sweet joy.

As my heart sang in praise to the Creator of this loveliness, and I put my camera down to just rest in the setting of perfect peace, the beautiful passage of scripture in Psalms 104 rose up in my heart as it seemed the very hand of God was resting on my heart.  As I thrilled in the beauty of His creation, the glory of the Lord was upon me!

The glory of the Lord shall endure forever: 
the Lord shall rejoice in his works.  
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: 
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.  
I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: 
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.  
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the Lord.....

Bless thou the Lord, O my soul!  Praise ye the Lord! 
Psalms 104:31-35