Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Apple Cinnamon Cake with Maple and Walnut Glaze

As much as I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, I can no longer ignore the fact that fall is coming. The trees are starting to turn, the nights are cold, the Broncos are back every Sunday and pumpkins are showing up everywhere. Sigh…goodbye summer! Time to embrace the fall!

In the spirit of the season, and in an attempt to bring a sweet snack to choir that everyone could eat, I whipped up this cinnamon apple cake. I made the cake twice, tested the first attempt on my gracious coworkers and then make some tweaks to make it more to my own liking. This is a simple, moist cake with great spices and a moderate level of sweetness. I’ve added loads of apples so that every bite has a little bit of the tart crunch from an apple mixed with the moist, spicy undertones from the cake. This is a great recipe for a potluck or Sunday dinner in the fall, enjoy!

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Southwestern Chicken Soup

Well…it happened. The first of the back-to-school colds has made its appearance. Even though we’re not in school anymore, I’m still convinced that we somehow picked it up from some tiny person somewhere. And of course, this couldn’t be worse timing. We have a couple awesome trips coming up, some major deadlines at work and something going on almost every night. Cue the “I-have-to-feel-better-right-now” soup! I can’t call this a full-on chili and it’s not a true chicken tortilla soup, but it falls somewhere right in the middle. This soup uses fresh roasted hatch chilies from the farmer’s market and roasted tomatoes to create a gentle heat with some great, southwestern flavor. 

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South Pearl Street Farmers Market

Once upon a time I promised to share about the farmers markets in my area, so now that summer is almost over, I figured I had better get on it! One of the great markets in my neighborhood is the South Pearl Street market. Every Sunday from May 11 to November 2nd, from 9 am to 1 pm, the market is busy and buzzing! Where other markets are focused solely on food or merchandise or produce, the South Pearl market is a nice blend of all of these.

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Rosemary Flatbread with Goat Cheese, Crispy Prosciutto, Fresh Basil and Raspberry Jam

Last weekend we went to see “The 100 Foot Journey” and a major theme in the movie was that “food is memories”. I’ve been thinking about this idea quite a bit, and I completely agree.  Whether your idea of cooking a major meal is putting together a PB&J or whipping up a unique souffle that rises perfectly, everyone has at least one food that reminds them of a place, a time or a person. Raspberries are one of those foods for me. When I was little, our neighbor across the alley had a massive raspberry bush. Penny, our neighbor, made the mistake of inviting me in to try the berries ONCE, and that was it. I climbed the crab apple tree in our backyard, dropped over the fence and pilfered berries whenever I was reasonably sure she couldn’t see me. Of course she knew, but every once in a while she would remark to me about how hungry the birds must be because they kept stealing her berries.finished

Today, instead of stealing from Penny, I go foraging for raspberries every time I’m hiking or camping in the mountains. Wild raspberries are a bit like jelly beans, you never really know what flavor to expect until you bite into one; sometimes they’re intensely tart, sometimes they have giant seeds and sometimes they are perfectly ripe and sweet. Now, raspberries remind me of hiking in our gorgeous mountains and spending weekends with friends circled around the campfire. This flatbread highlights the sweet berry flavor that reminds me of stolen raspberries and mountains and contrasts that sweetness against salty, fresh flavors for a perfect treat.

 

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Prosciutto, Sage and Mozzarella Chicken Roulades and Some Introspection

Consider the roulade. Simply put, a roulade is meat rolled around a filling. On the surface it seems simple, boring even. But fill it with a delicious medley of flavors, cook it gently, give it time to rest and the flavors will explode in your mouth. You’ll taste the saltiness of the prosciutto, the creaminess of the cheese and the aromatic, fresh snap of the sage. This blog has been my roulade. I know, it’s a silly comparison, but bear with me.finished

Over the past year this blog has turned into so much more than what it seemed on the surface. I’ve learned so much about cooking, felt comfortable sharing my kitchen mishaps and successes and, most importantly, connected with people in a way I didn’t know was possible. I’ve found it so interesting to strike up a conversations with strangers about how they would bake this item, or what their grandmother used to make every Christmas. I’ve connected with old friends and family who I rarely get a chance to spend time with simply because they read my blog. I talk to farmers at the market about the blog and share stories of how they got into farming and how they love to prepare their vegetables. Who knew a cooking blog could bring people together like this? Certainly not me, but I am so glad that I decided one morning to sit down and write about some strawberry muffins…

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Scalloped Potatoes and a Call for Recipes!

I’ve always thought scalloped potatoes were one of life’s great comfort foods. Creamy and rich, a nice texture contrast between the crunch cheese on top and the soft and sweet potatoes within-everything I want in a potato dish. I’ve been waiting to make this dish for quite some time but my concern was that my potatoes would be uneven and hard and, especially with my Polish heritage, unsatisfactory potatoes would not do!

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All those potato concerns fell away once my new mandoline entered the scene. I am now firmly convinced that all foods should be cut with a mandoline, if simply because it’s so stinkin fun! I got mine for under $20 at Williams and Sonoma and it even comes with a grip for when the veggies get small so that you don’t slice up your hands. So here’s to new culinary adventures and delicious potatoes! If you have a great recipe that uses a mandoline, let me know and I’ll feature it on Messy Kitchen Happy Belly!

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Grilled Chicken Legs and Broccoli Cakes

I have a confession, grilling chicken scares me. I constantly worry about turning what could have been a lovely dinner into the nasty, hard, dry chicken we all know and hate. In the past, I’ve over-turned it (no grill marks), under-cooked it (who’s up for a round of Salmonella?) and just given up. I was on the path of snubbing grilled chicken completely until our little grill entered the scene. Now, the possibilities are endless! After about 3 hours at Home Depot comparing tiny grills, we finally decided on the Brinkmann portable grill. We were extremely skeptical at first; the grill is small, only provides 7,000 BTUs (for comparison, your average propane grill burns at 32,000 BTU) and has legs that closely resemble the walking carriage out of Beauty and the Beast.  The grill is really more of a smoker and flames up ridiculously whenever you put any sort of grease or oil on the hot plate that is located about 1/2″ from the grill grate (not the best design), BUT we have had amazing results.

 

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So far, we’ve had sweet and succulent grilled pineapple, perfectly charbroiled hamburgers filled with bacon, jalapenos and cheddar, juicy pork chops and, most recently, perfectly grilled chicken legs. My fears have been quelled. These marinated drumsticks turned out wonderfully with a great crust and juicy, smokey meat inside. Served with a couple of broccoli cakes, these drumsticks made for a tasty, and triumphant, summer dinner.

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Via Toscana and Paula Poundstone, Making Things Right in the World

I think the saying goes “man plans, and God laughs”; no statement has better described my family’s life for the last couple of months. Mom and I had a great trip to Mesa Verde all planned out for Mother’s Day weekend (Mom is an archaeology nut) and then, well…life happened. One little slip lead to Mom needing her kneecap completely rebuilt, surgery, physical therapy, the whole nine yards. Health is a gift-never forget that! On top of all that, we’ve lost several close family and friends recently. Each loss has been horribly unexpected (although I don’t think you’re ever ready) but has truly made us realize how blessed we are to have the friends and family that we do.

So since life went all topsy-turvy and we weren’t quite ready to go bussling around Mesa Verde, I got mom tickets to see Paula Poundstone at Chautauqua. If you have never seen Paula do standup, do yourself a favor and look her up immediately. By the end of the night my ribs (not just my abs) hurt from laughing so hard. The woman is a true comedic genius. These past couple months have been especially hard on Mom, and it was so wonderful to see her laughing so hard she was crying. Because life is short, and food is delicious, we decided to go to Via Toscana on the way to the theatre. What a great way to start the night!

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