Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pumpkin Bread Pudding



The weather was glorious this morning - fog covering the mountains and descending into the streets, a wet drizzle soaking into the ground and nourishing plants for the winter ahead. I'm wearing a sweater, and smelling the delicious candle lit in front of me. And enjoying pumpkin bread pudding for breakfast, with a cup of black coffee (no sweetener, thank you). Perfection. 

What could make this even better? The fact that this bread pudding was left over from last night's supper. Yes, I did say supper. Or dinner, your preference. It was one of those days yesterday, and I was dead-tired. Didn't want to fix anything for supper, but wanted comfort food at the same time. My experimental food often turns out best when I'm in these moods.

When it was the last thing I needed to be doing, I cleaned and cooked and pureed a couple of pie pumpkins on Sunday. I have more pumpkin than I need for a pie.


And another package of some gluten-free rolls that I was disappointed in recently because they were so stale.
(Ignore the lack of rotation here - I uploaded this one form the phone and can't figure out how to rotate it now)

Pumpkin bread pudding? It sounds good. Did I see a recipe for that recently? Oh yes, I pinned it. And so it was with inspiration from Martha Stewart's recipe combined with a bread pudding recipe from my beloved Cooking Down East that this one was born, giving us not-so-healthy-but-quite-comforting sustenance last night with a side of eggs.



And it is good.

I (finally) had another post planned for you this week, but felt I needed to share this one. Because it does good things for the mind, and if your mind is like mine these days, you might just want that extra comfort!


Pumpkin Bread Pudding

15 ounces pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup organic pure cane sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Few small dashes of ground ginger
Few small dashes of ground cloves
Couple of small dashes of ground nutmeg
Package of Schar classic white rolls, cubed into 1 to 1 1/2- inch pieces (let sit out to dry a couple of hours if they aren't already kind of dry) - or a gluten-free bread of similar consistency
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(Optional) Cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 2-quart baking dish.

Place bread in baking dish and set aside.

Mix together pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugars, salt, vanilla paste or extract, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg.

Pour over bread and gently stir until all is covered. Let sit for a few minutes.

Sprinkle pecans over the top, and shake cinnamon and sugar lightly over it all if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45-50 minutes.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Epic Whole Foods Bars


There's a new snack bar in Gluten-Free Town that can sustain you as an unbelievably healthy quick meal, and it lives up to some amazing claims. If you eat meat, listen up, because these bars are good.

EPIC Bars are: Paleo, gluten-free, low-glycemic, soy-free, dairy-free, nitrate-free AND have a one-year shelf life. On top of that, EPIC bars use meat from animals that are vegetarian-fed and grass-fed, antibiotic-free, hormone-free and humanely treated. They don't claim to be egg-free, but I don't see eggs on the ingredients of any of the bars.

According to EPIC's philosophy, these bars "are loaded with anti-inflammatory omega-3's, muscle-building conjugated linoleic acid, and antioxidant rich vitamins A and E." Touting a decent amount of iron, and between 11 and 14 grams of protein per bar, that's all pretty good stuff.

But the best part? These bars are really, really tasty.

It's been a long time since my husband has had a good gluten-free bar that is high in protein that he loved, so when he texted me a photo of the wrapper of a Bison Bacon-Cranberry Epic Bar someone at work had given him to sample, and expressed his love for it, I knew I'd better get on that. I contacted Taylor Collins, one of EPIC's founders, and he kindly sent samples of all three flavors as well as some information and a cute bison sticker. Needless to say, my husband was pretty thrilled.


I think my favorite flavor is the Beef Habanero Cherry, but the Turkey Almond Cranberry was a really close second. My husband's favorite is the Bison Bacon Cranberry, but he really did love all three flavors. I wish I could vouch for the bison flavor, but I'm not able to eat pork so wasn't able to try that flavor since it contains bacon. I have no doubts it's equally good. My oldest daughter loved all three flavors, and she said they were so good, she wanted one for dessert! The youngest has a more sensitive tongue when it comes to spices, so she said they were a little spicy for her.

The only thing that took a few bites to get used to was the texture, but it wasn't a huge hurdle. It's kind of a cross between a Larabar and softer jerky. Not quite what you are expecting, but it wasn't an issue for anyone in this family and once I was used to it, didn't mind it all.


Bottom line is, these bars are GOOD. Good for you, good tasting and a good "meal" to have on hand in your emergency supply kit, for trips or for your next outdoor adventure. My husband is bringing some on his desert biathlon coming up.

For more information on EPIC bars or to order or find a location near you that sells them, you can check out their site at: http://epicbar.com/


(Disclosure: EPIC provided these products for me to sample free of charge. The opinions on the bars are completely my own.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stuffed Summer Squash


This. Is. Amazing. (If you like summer squash.)

Once again, forgive the phone photos, but I had to share this yummy dish - made once as an experiment recently and a couple of times since - before I have a chance to make it again and take "real" photos.

This is the way I intended for the recipe to be made, and it was soooo good, but a little more work. The smaller dishes were the rest of the filling poured into the dishes after I'd filled the squash halves.



The second and third time I made this, I cut the squash into strips and put them flat in the pan and just poured the filling over them, rather than try to fill squash halves.

We were recently blessed with a bounty of squash from someone (our garden hasn't been so great, or big, this year) and I was wondering how in the world to fix SO MUCH before it went bad - and make an entire meal of it. Experiments abound in my mind, so this was one of them and we are all glad it was.


Stuffed Summer Squash
Total time, start to finish: Under 1 hour

1 large and 3 smaller (or the equivalent in volume) round summer squash (I think this is globe squash?) or the something similar (just make sure you've got the volume - summer squash is all good!)
Water
Butter
1 large white onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups prepared polenta (I used this gluten-free kind from Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup shredded mozzarella, plus more for sprinkling
3 large eggs
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Cayenne pepper, a dash or two

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash squash and grease large 13x9 baking dish. 

Slice off stems and ends of squash, then cut in half. Place squash cut side down onto baking dish and bake about 15 minutes, just until squash insides are getting softer.

Bring water for polenta to a boil and prepare polenta according to package directions, then set aside.

While squash is baking and polenta is cooking, melt a tablespoon or so of butter over low heat in a large pan. Add chopped onion and saute over medium-low heat.

Remove squash from oven and scrape squash with a spoon, leaving a little bit on the skin. (At this point you can either slice the squash skin into thick strips to place back in pan, skin side down, or leave the halves to fill in the pan.) 

Place the squash pieces that were scraped off into pan with onion and raise heat to medium-high, breaking up squash into smaller pieces as it cooks and softens for several minutes.

After squash is cooked down some more and softened, remove from heat. Add polenta and season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.

Add shredded mozzarella and stir to combine. Whisk eggs and slowly add to filling mixture, stirring quickly to prevent eggs from cooking too fast while incorporating throughout filling.

Pour filling into squash halves (in which case you will need a couple of greased ramekins to use up the rest of the filling), or over squash strips. Sprinkle a little more mozzarella over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees approximately 25-30 minutes or until filling is cooked throughout and squash halves or strips are completely softened.

I hope you enjoy! (And I hope this recipe is more clear than mud!)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gluten-Free Awareness Tour Hits Detroit Soon!

Are you near Detroit? If so, check it out! This is a great chance to learn more about the gluten-free lifestyle and sample some products! Click on the flyer below to zoom in and read the details about the Detroit event on September 7-8!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Parmesan Crisps

Photo provided by Kitchen Table Bakers
Sometimes you just want something simple to make up a meal, or need something a little different for a snack. The Parmesan Crisps by Kitchen Table Bakers will do just that.

Just Parmesan in the Aged Parmesan flavor. That's it. Cheese. They manage to take cheese and crisp it to a cracker. Other good, simple ingredients are added to flavors such as Jalapeño, Sesame, Rosemary, Flax Seed, Garlic, Italian Herb and the final flavor: "Everything."

Kitchen Table Bakers recently sent me samples of the Aged Parmesan and Jalapeño to see what I thought. I was pleasantly surprised at how truly crispy these "crackers" were. While the spicy Jalapeño flavor was my favorite out of the two, lovers of the bold taste of Parmesan won't be disappointed in the slightest with the true Parmesan taste both of these flavors provide. I have no doubt the other flavors are the same, and I personally look forward to trying the Rosemary and Garlic at some point.


They truly are crispy.
While they may be overwhelming if eaten in a large quantity alone, they are a perfect companion to a simple meal, like the one I made out of these yummy green squash one evening. (Recipe for that squash dish is promised for the future.) My daughters and husband agreed.


They also make a great snack when paired with other ingredients, such as a slice of tomato or some seafood. The best part other than the simple ingredients? Of course, they are gluten-free. 

Photo provided by Kitchen Table Bakers

(Disclosure: Kitchen Table Bakers provided these products for me to sample free of charge. The opinions on the crisps are completely my own.)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ashley's Chocolate Oat Crispy Treats



I've been putting this post off for a while. Making these treats and taking photos of them, and typing this post, kind of makes something so hard seem more final, like there's no turning back. And there isn't. But it was time for me to do it. Today I decided that my children would have these treats for going back to school on Monday.



Please forgive me and overlook any typos, because I'm likely to be a blubbering mess by the time I'm finished. I try hard to not include much of my personal life in this blog, keeping it mostly about food or tips on the gluten-free lifestyle. I have various reasons for this, but I know people want personal, and I often get more feedback when I do give glimpses of my life. I'm not so sure this will be one of those times, but telling you this is the only way I can give you this recipe. I'm going to tell you a very sad story.

If you've read this blog for a while, you've probably seen references to some difficult things I have faced as of late that I said I would write about eventually, particularly in my "And then comes morning" post.

On March 27, 2013 in the early evening, one of the most beautiful spirits to ever grace this world slipped from earth into heaven. Ashley was a beautiful woman, inside and out, a dedicated wife and mother who loved her husband and four young children fiercely, a loving daughter, granddaughter, niece and sister who blessed every person who came into contact with her, a friend who loved deeply. My friend. My closest girlfriend, my kindred spirit on earth. Gone suddenly after catching an illness that had been in her family, like all mothers do, and within less than a week of getting sick, she left us.

I don't make friends easily, at least not the way I did when I was younger. I have lots of friends. I have a lot of women in my life who I listen to as they talk, needing someone to listen. I am their friend, and I love them. But I don't often let my heart open to them. I don't pour my soul out to them. I live in an area that has a high turnover rate. It's a gorgeous part of the country and I'm often told I live in paradise. But it's remote. It's several thousand people in an area that is nearly three hours from the nearest Target. Seven hours from Whole Foods. People either love it, or can't wait to leave. Many who love it can't find work to sustain them and are forced to leave, or live here for a job that will transfer them in a few years. I have made lifelong friends here. Friends who have to leave. The last time I waved goodbye to one of my best friends a few years ago, I said never again. I couldn't keep opening my heart to people who leave me. Even so, I know I am blessed to have people I can call friends in my life when some don't.

I have several close friends and even a couple of best friends - one I've had since the age of 8. I do love her with all my heart. But only one very close friend still lives near me. I have a sister I love with all my heart and she's one of my best friends, too, but she lives across the country. With the exception of my husband, Ashley was the friend who was my closest in the entire world. She was my kindred spirit. We got pregnant at the same time with our second children, and talked for hours each day about everything. We gave birth days apart and were talking to each other on cell phones through labor. We are so much alike, she and I. We had so many things in common - plus when you go through a pregnancy with another woman you are close to, there is a bond that forms that is unlike any other. When you reach that bond, you are able to talk to one another about anything, without fear of what the other will think or say. Ashley had to move away one day, too. Her husband's career took them several states away, as we had known it eventually probably would. But we kept talking every day for years. And until the week before her death, it was usually at least once a week with texts in between.

I last talked to her about a week before her death. She texted me later and told me she was getting sick with the illness that her family had. On Friday we texted back and forth a little, and over the weekend she took a terrible turn in her sickness. On Monday I learned that she had been put in ICU. It was an up and down roller coaster from then on, with bad news and hopeful news. On Wednesday my youngest lost her first tooth in a manner that was fit for a comedy movie, and I naturally took a photo and started to type up the text to send to Ashley, then stopped myself because she was in a coma at that point. I sent it anyway, letting family know it was there and requesting that it be read to her. It was the last communication I had with her, as she passed on hours later. 

It was such an utter shock, so unbelievable and surreal. There were hundreds, and most likely thousands, of people in serious prayer for Ashley. I won't lie that the fact that God had other plans has been hard to swallow and trust.

Months later I continue to want to text her the latest thing, and still occasionally think I'll hear her voice when I hear my phone ring. When my husband was holding me one night after I'd broken down again, my youngest came in and heard me saying these things. "You can still talk to her, Mommy," she told me. "Yes, baby, I can," I said. "But I can't hear her talk back, and that makes Mommy sad." She smiled and said, "But yes you can, Mommy. You can hear her inside of you." And she's right. I can still hear her voice. I can imagine the answers she'd give me. But it's just really, really hard. I can talk to my husband about anything, of course, but there are just some things that husbands really don't want to know sometimes. Things that you can talk to your best girlfriends about.

And I really want to talk to her about our decision for me to home school our youngest, now starting second grade. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would attempt home schooling with my children. Ashley home schooled her four children (now ages 3-9 - they were ages 2-8 when she passed away). I know she would have so many things to tell me and would love that I was going to try home schooling the sweet girl she felt so close to during our pregnancies.

LIFE can be so unfair, so brutal. 

That a mother of four young children and a devoted wife could be ripped away from those she loves so much and who love her so much is just too much. That her parents and brother, grandparents and aunts and uncles and sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law and countless friends could lose her this way is just too much. It makes me really, really angry. And bitter. And it rocks me to my core and shatters my heart to millions of pieces that can't possibly be seamlessly mended ever again. It makes me scream "Why?" and question everything I've ever believed.

As I said in that post mentioned above, it's just too much. It's all too much.


And so I pray. I pray for those hurting and for those who have lost. I pray for our world and for love to reign. I pray for peace and for comfort, for all and for me. And when I don't feel like I can pray, when I feel too angry or bitter or "what's the point?" to pray, I take a big breath, and take one more step, and say, "I know you can hear me, anyway, God, and I know you'll be there waiting when I can start up again."


And yet, life can be so beautiful.


And then I look outside and see new life. I look at my husband and my children and I see love and joy, and eventually a smile or a laugh comes from me. I remember that there is no sadness or pain in heaven, and that those I've lost are there together, and have faith that one day I'll see them again. And that brings me joy, too, in the sadness of missing them.


That Ashley had lived and blessed so many was beautiful. That I have faith I will see her again is beautiful. That we somehow, someday, sometimes get to see glimpses of beauty in our world and sometimes are able to dwell in that beauty until it soaks into our souls is beautiful. That we are blessed with family who loves us and we love is beautiful. There is so much beauty. And so much pain. I'm still in a lot of pain, and grateful for the beauty and family that surrounds me every moment I breathe.


And this cycle starts all over again. Pray. Breathe. Take another step. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Pray. Breathe. Take another step ...


And it's this taking another step that brings me to this recipe. It's a recipe that Ashley and her children came up with several months ago. "They are sooo good! It's tastes a lot like a 100 Grand bar!" she told me excitedly. "You can use it on your blog if you want!" 



Ashley was probably this blog's biggest fan. With the exception of my family who gets to be guinea pigs and tell me first of their enthusiasm or suggestions for my recipes, Ashley was the most excited about my creations.

She texted me the recipe and we made it, agreeing it was a good snack. Somehow back in February I accidentally erased several months' worth of our correspondence. I kept meaning to ask her to send it again, but when we would talk I would always forget and I can't for the life of me figure out why I didn't just text her to ask for it again. And then she was gone, and I desperately wanted to put this recipe on the blog and no longer had it. 

I knew I needed to figure the recipe out, but I kept hoping by some miracle she would text it to me from heaven or those missing texts would just reappear. In an odd way, as long as I kept putting this off, it wasn't quite so final that I couldn't ask her for it again.



With some brainstorming between me and my family who remembered the treat, and a friend she had told about it but hadn't yet shared the recipe with, I think I got it back. I do remember her original called for 2 cups of oats and crispy rice, but when I made it the first time I thought I should cut back on the oats (gluten-free oats seem different to me for some reason). I also couldn't remember if it contained raisins, but my oldest said it did and her memory is generally better than mine so I added them. I'm pretty sure she had cinnamon and vanilla in the recipe, so I added them, as well, but I could be wrong. 

Regardless, I'm pretty sure Ashley would approve of this final version and I hope you do, too. I hope you make it with your children, and hold them a little tighter today and let you know you love them. Cherish the moments with them, and make some memories. And please say a prayer for Ashley's family whenever you make these.



And slowly, every day, there is light that comes out of the darkness. And there is morning after night. 



Ashley's Chocolate Oat Crispy Treats

Projected prep time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup almond butter (creamy, natural)
1/2 cup raw honey
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons organic extra-virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 cup certified gluten-free rolled oats
2 cups gluten-free crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup raisins

In a large saucepan, place almond butter, honey, chocolate chips and coconut oil and stir over low heat until melted together.

Stir in cinnamon and vanilla. 

Remove from heat.

Gently stir in oats, then crispy rice. 

Fold in raisins.

Line two baking sheets with wax paper and scoop out approximately 2 tablespoons of mixture, gently squeezing into a ball and then slightly flattening. Place on wax paper. 

Refrigerate until set. Store in airtight container, preferably in refrigerator.

Makes approximately 2 baker's dozen.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Ratio Rally Does Tea Bread!

Logo designed by Anile Prakash
Time for me to post another Gluten-Free Ratio Rally catch-up - eventually I'll catch up to where they are and maybe, hopefully, I'll be able to start baking in the challenges again!

The rally participants did tea bread for the challenge in May, and the ever-so-sweet Brooke from B and the boy! was the host for this challenge with her Scottish Tea Bread. Be sure to check out Brooke's yummy bread, as well as the recipes the other participants baked up for you.

If you aren't familiar with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, I have a rally page here where I link to all the challenges I participated in, as well as host posts to those I didn't.

Heather: Discovering the Extraordinary -- "Figgy" Tea Bread

Adina: Gluten Free Travellette -- Rhubarb Tea Bread

Morri: Meals with Morri -- Oatmeal Raisin Tea Bread


I hope you're all having a great summer!


Monday, July 8, 2013

Ibotta what?

A quick post for you, if you enjoy saving money as much as I do.

Have you heard of the smartphone app called Ibotta? You may have - you're likely not as behind the times as I am. I saw a friend posting on Facebook about some purchases she made a few weeks ago - organic purchases, at that - where she got rewarded through something called "Ibotta." After seeing a few of these posts, I was intrigued and asked her about it, and followed the links for more information.

My friend informed me that she was indeed earning money back on some of her purchases, and the bonus was it was all fairly simple - or she wouldn't be doing it, she said. You earn money on certain purchases and it's transferred to your PayPal account when you want it to be.

I figured it was worth a try - and earned $13.75 to my account in less than two weeks for just redeeming offers on five products I'd purchased. Of course, $10 of that was for redeeming enough offers in my first two weeks, but still. That's a few sno cones or some other little fun treat for the girls this summer.

Here's how it works: You have certain products, some of which you're likely already going to buy (Almond milk, anyone? Salad? Coconut water? Organic kids' snacks? Potato chips? Eggs? Olive oil? Lip balm?) ... Then you click on that product through the app, take a little poll or read a little fact or something else that takes seconds ... Then once you've purchased it at a participating store (Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, many grocery and pharmacy chains, dollar stores, etc.), you click redeem through the app, where it will take a photo of your receipt, then scan the bar code of the product you purchased. It takes just a few seconds (trust me, if it was complicated or time consuming I would NOT be doing it), and some products are worth a few dollars back, some are worth 50-75 cents or more.

Sound good?

I've decided after using it for a couple of weeks that it's worth it to me to continue using it, so I wanted to share with you for two reasons. The disclaimer is the one for my personal benefit: I earn a dollar for referrals. The other reason is I love a deal, and I've always loved sharing a deal, so I wanted to share this Ibotta thing with you in case you didn't already know about it. Here's the link if you want more information or to join (it's free!): http://ibotta.com/r/7rWXEA

Have a good week!


Monday, June 24, 2013

Gluten-Free Ratio Rally Does Shortbread Cookies!

Logo designed by Anile Prakash
I've been really, *really* MIA on the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally lately. And with so many things going on, I've also missed posting the challenges each month even when I'm not participating. I'm sorry.

So, I'm catching up now. (I'll continue to post updates on occasion until I'm all caught up - and hopefully participating again at some point!) This is the challenge from APRIL - and it's delicious. Who doesn't love shortbread cookies?

The host of the shortbread cookie challenge was Meaghan over at the Wicked Good Vegan. Check out her host post of gin and tonic cookies - as well as the other yummy recipes the other participants baked up for you!

If you aren't familiar with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, I have a rally page here where I link to all the challenges I participated in, as well as host posts to those I didn't.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Product Highlight - Gratify Pretzels (and free of many allergens!)



It's been a while since I've done product highlight here, but I thought these Gratify pretzel thins were worth it!

I picked these up at Walmart the other day because I'd never seen them before. They are free of gluten, milk, casein and eggs AND are non-GMO. I thought I better give them a try. I'm glad I did - they are pretty darn good. I won't tell you they are healthy, though ... the ingredients are mostly starchy. But if you're looking for an occasional snack of this type and free of several allergens, this certainly fits the tasty bill and I think it's okay to indulge on occasion. :)

This was the only flavor I saw there, but it looks like they also come in sesame, sour cream and onion and some other flavors.

Have you seen these yet? Have you tried them? Do you like them? I noticed they are a new arrival on amazon as well, so maybe we'll be seeing more of them in the stores at some point.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food Allergy Coaching


Are you familiar with Kim over at Cook It Allergy Free? She has an awesome blog, website and social media presence full of resources to help those with all sorts of food allergies. She even has an app! (It's neat, I've had it since she launched it.) And now Kim is offering food allergy coaching services and more to those who are in need of help navigating the overwhelming world of food allergies. Whether you personally have been diagnosed with them recently or in the past, or someone you care about has, Kim has a service that can help. I'm pleased to announce that Mama Me Gluten Free is supporting Kim's services and has joined up to refer them. (Full disclosure: This means I get commission on sales.)

If you are interested in more information, you can read the information below and click on the links, or the image above. There is a 20% off discount for the moment!

If you are living with food allergies or special diets, you know exactly what a journey it can be to navigate all of the ins and outs of knowing what is safe to eat, how to cook for the whole family so that everyone can enjoy a meal together, how to handle different social situations, and how to handle the stress of it all.
Living each day like this is definitely a journey. It's not a final destination. There are some great days and some not so great days.

It can be a struggle at times to deal with the challenges. There are times when you just feel plain overwhelmed.
Kim Maes, CNC, AADP, the Allergy Free Food Coach, has created a step-by-step system to confidence and control in managing your food allergies and special diets.
Her program is not just about giving you information. It is about working with you one-on-one and addressing all of your personal concerns and issues
Right now, Kim is offering 20 % OFF ANY Coaching Package... Just enter Code COACHING20 and get ready to Get Confident, Get In Control, And Stop Feeling Overwhelmed Now about your Food Allergies and Special Diets!
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cinnamon Pastry Iced Coffee


So you've no doubt noticed that things have been a little different around here lately. A dog video in the last post and iphone photos to be expected in the cocoa baked oatmeal in a mug post before that. Work is keeping me busy, my chronic fatigue syndrome is beating me up and I'm desperately missing my best friend and hurting for her precious family. 

Thanks for being patient.

And what a week we've had as a country. What a month we've had. What a time we've had the last few months ...

Lots of prayer going up for a lot of people in the country and in the world these days.

So, I've needed quick, simple and easy in my life lately and I'm assuming I'm not the only one. Another iphone photo for you - that doesn't even really show this iced coffee very well. I'm sorry. (By the way, the goldfish tumbler is my oldest daughter's. I always borrow her goldfish Tervis tumbler or my youngest's Hello Kitty Tervis tumbler for my iced coffee because they are the perfect size. Both were gifts from the grandparents from Bed, Bath & Beyond.)

A word on this iced coffee variety: We got a Keurig for Christmas, which made me very excited. But a little background, first. When I was a reporter, I had a serious coffee habit. Working 60-hour-plus weeks and deadlines until the middle of the night kind of does that to you. A big part of my paycheck went to the coffee shop, as I could only stomach the office coffee in the late hours. I got to where I was easily drinking 8-10 cups a day, and not just to keep me awake. I love coffee. My husband wasn't a coffee drinker at the same time I was.

When I got pregnant, I had to quit coffee cold turkey and it was hard. I had horrible withdrawal and was very sick. I swore I'd never get that way with coffee again, and for years wouldn't touch a drop. The last few years I've allowed myself a cup or two a month, and even though I wanted to immediately have another cup, I would fight the urge. After I gave up coffee, my husband started enjoying it. We had a Senseo maker (I don't think they even make those anymore?) at the time, and it was perfect for him being the only one drinking it. About the time I started feeling like I might be able to handle a cup every day without going overboard, the pods became too expensive and it was back to the drip machine. The only problem is he enjoys his coffee weaker than I like mine, so I decided to continue not drinking it rather than have a weak cup. The Keurig solved this, of course - and gave us lots of options.

One of the options when you order K-cups from Keurig.com (I have found it's worth it to register your maker and get the two free boxes, become a club member and get 10% off your order and in addition, wait to order when I can find additional coupon codes) is you can order small sample boxes. The Timothy's Cinnamon Pastry cups had good reviews, so I thought I'd give them a try in a sample box. 

(*Please note that I researched this flavor before trying it, to verify gluten-free status. I read this concerning gluten in K-cups on Keurig's site, and this on Green Mountain Coffee's site (Timothy's is in the Green Mountain family). I tried contacting Timothy's directly, but basically received the same answer from the Canadian branch. I also came across several others who can't have gluten who drink this flavor without trouble. So I felt it was okay to give it a try, and both my husband and myself have been able to drink it without problems.)

Is the flavor as good as the reviewers said? Bleh. (But you might not think so - the reviews from others are very good.) 

Here's the thing about me: I like my coffee black, no sugar, no creamer. The bolder, the stronger and darker, the better. The problem with this coffee flavor is it's one of those that tastes like it needs to be sweet with cream, and that's not my style for hot coffee. Iced coffee, however, I like sweet and creamy. I thought I'd give it a try, and it's actually pretty good. So, here's my solution if you have a Keurig brewer and want to make cinnamon pastry iced coffee:

1 cup ice
8 Tablespoons unflavored coconut milk (not canned, but the refrigerated kind)
4 teaspoons organic pure cane sugar (or sweeten to taste with natural sweetener of choice)

Place ice, coconut milk and sugar in 16 oz. tumbler or glass of choice and place in brewer.

Place k-cup in brewer and brew at 6 oz. size option.

Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Enjoy!

(And yes ... iced coffee is usually a very occasional second cup of coffee in a day, later in the morning or afternoon, and only if I really need a pick-me-up. I stop at two now, and I limit that to a few times a week. It's all about moderation!)

Friday, May 10, 2013

In Need of a Smile?


Are you in need of a smile as much as I am today? I hope this helps.

If you follow this blog, you know things have been tough lately. Added to that we had the unexpected death of one of our beloved chickens a couple of weeks ago and I had to tell my oldest after school today that her fish had died. We are an animal-loving family, and every pet death is hard. Considering my daughter loves marine life so much she wants to be a marine biologist, I struggled when I discovered Thunder had passed on to the golden water in the sky.

Before picking them up, I watched this video that a friend posted on Facebook. I knew right away it wasn't a coincidence, and sure enough it provided lots of smiles and laughter for our sad girls. 

I don't think I've ever shared anything like this here before, but maybe I need to give you all something to smile about more often? 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cocoa Baked Oatmeal in a Mug


A mug breakfast dessert, of sorts, for you this morning. Gluten-free, as always, and dairy-free. Forgive the phone photos.

I'm not feeling well this morning. Yesterday I started feeling the scratch in my throat and took every supplement, essential oil and natural remedy I had on hand (properly spaced apart, of course) to avert the illness I felt imminent. My husband came down with a mild cold last week and my youngest came down with a bad cold this week, so I'm hoping it's the first cold and not the latter that I'm fighting. Regardless, I don't feel great.

After I slept in for a while, I got up and everyone else had already eaten. So no big breakfast. They'd finished off a pan of oatmeal (certified gluten-free, of course - and FYI - not everyone who eat gluten-free can handle even GF oats so use caution and listen to your body if you're not used to eating them). I didn't feel like cooking or baking. I wanted something simple, single-serving and yummy. I really wanted baked oatmeal (goodness, speaking of photos! I shudder at my early ones!) or something of the sort but wasn't about to wait that long or give that much effort. Mug baked oatmeal?

You have seen a couple of mug cake recipes posted here, and I have even more I have yet to put up. Some of them include oatmeal in them, but I hadn't tried pure baked oatmeal in a mug-microwave combination yet. I did a quick search to see if anyone else had attempted it yet. Given the way I'm feeling, I didn't want to mess with too much experimenting.

I came across this instant fudge brownie baked oatmeal in a mug and at first decided to not use the cocoa, because I thought I wanted cinnamon. I changed my mind, though, and went all out. I modified the recipe to suit my needs and desires, as you can see below.

Was it good? It was exceptional. A word of warning, though - as you can see from the photos, it overflowed from my standard size mug. Because it was a different consistency than other mug cakes I've made, it actually dribbled down the sides of the mug rather than just puff up and then shrink back into it. The Nutella mug pictured next to it below with my coffee would have been a better size for this microwave-baked oatmeal.

In the state of mind and all going on in my life lately, I'm likely to be posting more phone photos for you just so I can get posts up. It's really a little ridiculous considering I use my good camera nearly every day and am editing photos nearly every day, to not be taking good photos of my food for you! To be honest, though, I've been going through a lot and my family has been fed grits and eggs, toast and eggs and pancakes for more meals in the last couple of months than I'd like to admit. Thankfully I have an awesome husband and children who must think I even make eggs and grits with a magic hand - or they are just being really super sweet, which is more likely the case.

Projected time start to finish: 6 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

1 large egg
1 Tablespoon coconut milk
4 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla
1/4 cup certified gluten-free rolled oats
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 small pinches kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
2 1/2 Tablespoons pure organic cane sugar

Grease inside of large microwaveable mug and add egg, coconut milk (or milk of your preference), applesauce and vanilla. Stir with fork until blended.

In a small bowl, combine oats, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and sugar. Mix into mug slowly until all is combined.

Microwave on high about 2 minutes and 15 seconds or until it's all "baked."

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

And then comes morning ...


We were all in shock yesterday as the events unfolded at the Boston Marathon. When bad things happen, we usually are shocked at first. Then we grieve. We hurt. We cry. We scream, "Why??" We pray. We help, and to quote the beloved Mr. Rogers, we "look for the helpers."

Since a few weeks prior to this, I've already been grieving and hurting and screaming about a loss that has rocked me to the very core and has broken my heart into millions of pieces that can't possibly be fully repaired. I'll write about that sometime, the sudden passing of my dear kindred spirit on earth.

So as I'm already on the verge of tears every second of every day, the news yesterday morning that a beautiful blogger named Kate of Chasing Rainbows said goodbye to her son that so many of us had been praying for - it seemed like more than anyone could bear. And then the explosions at the Boston Marathon brought yet another tragedy into more lives.

It's too much. It's all too much.

And so I pray. I pray for those hurting and for those who have lost. I pray for our world and for love to reign. I pray for peace and for comfort, for all and for me. And when I don't feel like I can pray, when I feel too angry or bitter or "what's the point?" to pray, I take a big breath, and take one more step, and say, "I know you can hear me, anyway, God, and I know you'll be there waiting when I can start up again."

And then I look outside and see new life. I look at my husband and my children and I see love and joy, and eventually a smile or a laugh comes from me. I remember that there is no sadness or pain in heaven, and that those I've lost are there together, and have faith that one day I'll see them again. And that brings me joy, too, in the sadness of missing them.

And I look for the helpers, and I look for ways to help. Whether that's donating money to charities providing aid, or directly to families, or being a shoulder for someone to cry on or cry with, or an ear to listen, or writing a note, or praying. Or doing more. Or all of the above. There is something I can do, no matter what my strength. Something you can do, no matter what your strength.

And this cycle starts all over again. Pray. Breathe. Take another step. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Pray. Breathe. Take another step ...

Cherish those you love, and let them know. Squeeze them tight and make some memories. 

And slowly, every day, there is light that comes out of the darkness. And there is morning after night. 


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