Friday, March 30, 2012

Beauty Over the Days

I feel like the last couple of weeks have been whirling around in a twister, which is why I thought the above photo was appropriate. This was taken from my front yard the other day, but don't worry - it's just a dust devil, not a tornado. We are still in a heavy drought so we've been seeing a lot of these devils lately. You certainly don't want to be in their path!

On my way to pick my girls up from school, I saw a different one that was more defined than any I'd seen in my lifetime. It was storming in the area, but hadn't hit in town yet. If the clouds had been just slightly different, I would have sworn it was a tornado instead of a dust devil. (I have seen, in person, a tornado form from the sky and come out of the clouds to touch ground.) This was the most twisty and defined dust devil I'd ever seen and it reached what must have been at least 200 feet into the sky - probably much more. I raced home after getting them, hoping to capture it but it fizzled as we got home. This one popped up in a different location several minutes later.

My daughters ran inside to hide, convinced the dust devil would hit us hard. (It didn't.)

I haven't done a good job the last two weeks of sharing the beauty I've been finding and capturing. It's been therapeutic for me, but I just haven't had the time or energy to get them shared with you each day like I'd been doing. I'm hoping this is my catch-up post and it will go back to being regular again. Here are more photos I've taken recently:

Little hands, purple flowers
Pyrrhuloxia eating insects (it never lets me get too close - this was from the window)


Just chillin

Triple view

Sunrise sky

Bee in redbud, cross process. (Love the bokeh on this!)


The bluebonnets are blooming!
Believe this is a great tailed grackle. It was the male - smaller female was following. They are so annoying when I'm napping, but I thought he was pretty impressive to look at in my neighbor's tree!

Buzzards in the sunset

I hope you have a beautiful weekend!

Why I'm sharing this:

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eagle Mama

Are you all having a good week? It's been a better week for me than last, most definitely. I'm still a little sluggish after it all, but I've been trying to take those photos all along. I hope to place several in one post later to play catch-up. (I also made an incredibly easy and quick eggplant dish last night that I look forward to sharing with you soon.)

Are you in need of some soothing entertainment from time to time in your day? I've been watching this beautiful mama eagle and her eggs the last few days with my family. My daughter's teacher shared the link with me and I must share it with you if you haven't discovered the Decorah eagles yet. The first baby broke through its egg yesterday after many hours of hard hatching work. The other two baby eagles will hopefully follow soon.

(The photo above is a screen shot I captured earlier today.) I hope you find beauty in your day today, and if you're in need of some inspiration, click on this link to watch beauty in nature in one of its finest moments:

Why I'm sharing this:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Constants in the Sea of Life

Have you ever been at the beach, enjoying your time in the water, and suddenly you're knocked down by one wave and have more crashing upon your head one after another? You try to get to the surface and just as you take a gasping breath, another wave pummels your head under water. Crash! It's a scary feeling.

Have you also ever been there and suddenly felt the pull of a rip current? You feel kind of helpless.

The shore is your constant in both cases - the first you just want to get back on it and the second you must get it in your sights and swim parallel to it until you're out of the current. You can't fight the current. You can't swim against it. You must lock your eyes on that constant and stay parallel to it.

That's been me this week. I've had one of those weeks where one life wave after another has come crashing upon my head, leaving me feeling weak enough to not pay attention and feel the pull of life's rip current. Not the best scenario for someone who's trying to recover from such a seemingly forever illness.

After I've taken care of the necessities in our lives each day (of course that includes food!), I haven't had much energy left.

The constants in my life have kept me afloat this week: My family, good friends, my dogs, the birds at our feeders. The mountains I see in my windows. God has placed these constants in my life and I am so grateful.

You see, even though I've been too fatigued to even edit or resize photos, I've still been trying to take photos of beauty surrounding me each day. I've also been writing in my grateful journal. (What's that, you say? A grateful journal - a small book I just last week started recording things I'm grateful for each day. The idea was inspired by Laureen over at Fox in the Kitchen. Thank you, Laureen!)

Being thankful for beauty around me and the constants in my life has really helped me stay on the surface this week. We live on the base of one mountain, so I see the top of it from one side of the house and the view above from the other side of the house. This is what they look like in the morning.

I love having these constants - there's some security in that. No matter how many things are swirling around me, I can look up and see some things standing strong, or going about life as normal. It's a reminder that "this too shall pass." Sometimes life sucks (or sucks the life from you!) but you move on. Things do get better, or you at least eventually learn to cope with the circumstances handed to you.

Chin up and enjoy the beauty surrounding you this weekend!

Why I'm sharing this:

Friday, March 16, 2012

First Monarch

In the midst of a day that could have been very ugly for me, I forced myself to get out and enjoy some beautiful times. Even if I have a bad day, I need to find beauty. We all do.

We spent some time this morning with a close family friend, laughing, talking and enjoying her always-beautiful yard no matter what time of year it is. We were sitting down to a snack when my oldest spotted a monarch flitting about a bush about 30 feet away. We all ran over there with our cameras and tried to capture its beauty on the gorgeous purple flowers. (I have more photos of this time to share with you later.)

This is the first monarch I've seen this spring. Today was the perfect day for me to see it.

Later, we were blessed with a short but beautiful rain shower complete with thunder that freaks the dogs out. We've been in a terrible drought for more than a year, and it was about a year ago that we became plagued with one wildfire after another. We still are in desperate need of rain - lots and lots of rain - so we welcome every drop that falls from the sky. What once was a dreary thing for me living in another part of the country is now a wondrous sight and sound.

I'll have a busy weekend filled with family time so I don't know if I'll get another post in over the weekend. I hope your weekend is filled with beauty!

Why I'm sharing this:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Surprise Chocolate Mint Mug Cake

You remember that mug cake I made the other day? Well, I can't seem to get them out of my mind. I've been making different flavors, and thought I'd better share this one with you before Saturday.

Mint-flavored chocolate cake with a hidden green creamy surprise inside - all in a lucky 7 minutes. (Had to add a couple of minutes in there to make the creamy goodness!) You'll want to try this any time of year, but it also serves as a nice green treat for St. Patrick's Day. (So does a salad and other veggie greens - be sure to get some of those in!)

If you are looking for other gluten-free St. Patrick's Day goodies, I do have an Irish "Spotted Dog" soda bread and these fantastic clover cookies from last year. I've had my eye on some of the other gluten-free soda breads in the food blog world, though, and they do look amazing. Some of them are even vegan, so I'll have to give them a try at some point!

I'm also thinking I may give Stephanie's dijon corned beef a try in the crockpot this year - she says it's not slimy and I believe her. You can't beat the ease of a crockpot meal!

Projected time, start to finish: 7 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

1 large egg
4 Tbsp. Pamela's baking mix (not bread flour blend)
3 1/2 Tbsp. pure organic cane sugar
3 Tbsp. milk
2 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil (tip: warm to above room temp to make it liquid)
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure mint extract (I used mint in this case, not peppermint, but peppermint would probably work fine)

Cream filling:
2 Tbsp. cream cheese
3 tsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. egg white (from egg in mug)
1 drop green food coloring

Grease inside of large microwaveable mug. Crack egg into mug first because you'll need 1 tsp. of the egg white for the cream filling.

In a separate small bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg white and green coloring until smooth. Set aside.

Add remaining cake ingredients to mug and mix with a fork until everything is incorporated very well.

Drop cream cheese mixture into middle of cake batter.

Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.


This morning the girls and I had some excitement about our birds - not one but TWO chipping sparrows were flitting about under the feeders and among the branches outside our dining room windows. We hadn't seen chipping sparrows (house sparrows are what usually visit us) since last year, and we don't see them very often when they are around. I guess spring brought them back for a while.

I hope you have found beauty in your day today.

Why I'm sharing this:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shells Today

My daughters spent some time outside today. It was a beautiful day and perfect for all sorts of pretend play. My oldest wanted to sweep the patio area off first, so my youngest occupied herself with placing their newest shells from the beach last summer into a deliberate line on top of our deep freezer. She was so intent on her method, I just had to capture some of it. Of course, I also loved the colors she chose (with help from big sister) to wear today.

I hope you are finding beauty in your days!

Why I'm sharing this:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bee in the Redbud Tree

We have redbud trees blooming all around us. The redbud tree we own is a strange tree - it has tiny pink buds slowly cropping out and one little bitty branch with green leaves starting up. The photo above was taken of one of our neighbor's redbud trees, which is blooming larger flowers so far and no green leaves. Most of the other neighborhood redbuds are doing what our neighbor's are doing ... leave it to my redbud tree to bloom to its own drum.

It's lovely to be surrounded with such pink beauty at the moment. When you walk outside, you can smell the sweetness of the blooms. So can the bees - they were covering this tree as I took photos.

I love winter. Fall and winter are my favorite times of year. But when such beauty crops out in the spring, how can you not love this time as well?

Find beauty in your week!

Why I'm sharing this:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Banana Mug Cake

Mug cake. The amazing desserts/snacks that you can mix in a mug, then "bake" in the same mug. All under 5 minutes, from start to ready. I'm in.

I recently saw Jessica's chocolate mug cake recipe on ATX Gluten-Free and had to try it (with a few very minor adjustments) after pinning it. It just kept calling my name. It was very, very good. Very. It was a quick fix for the girls as a special Friday after-school snack.

It wouldn't be wise to make mug cakes as often as I'm tempted to after trying that chocolate one, but I was intrigued and wondered what other flavors I could come up with? (I'll be playing around with them for a while.) My husband cares for chocolate the least of cake flavors, and he loves banana. I'm also on a bit of a warmed bananas kick these days. Why not? I played around with it and had success. Delicious, easy success. It was even fluffy.

While I felt one mug of cake was a little much for one person (I felt pretty full after eating one), my husband had no trouble eating his mug - and topped his with vanilla ice cream as well. He was a very happy man. I do suggest giving the mug several minutes to cool before diving in - the cake stays hot pretty much the whole time. Unless, of course, you top yours with ice cream.

Projected time, start to finish: 5 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

4 tbsp. Pamela's baking and pancake mix (not bread mix) (or other GF baking mix w/baking powder)
4 tbsp. (packed) pure dark brown cane sugar
1 large egg
3 Tbsp. milk of your choice
2 Tbsp. mashed banana
1 Tbsp. organic extra virgin coconut oil (warmed past room temp to get liquid state)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Grease inside of large microwaveable mug and mix all ingredients very well with a fork. Microwave 1 minute and 30 seconds. (It will look like it it is overflowing but if you use a large mug it shouldn't. It will shrink back once cooling.) Let cool several minutes.


My daughter also made another beautiful Bendaroosproject that I had to add to the photos because the colors went together so well. She made a lovely flower - and had no idea when making it that the colors were actually similar to a real banana flower.

I hope you are finding beauty in your day.

Why I'm sharing this:

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Trying to Hide

I hope you've had a beautiful weekend and will continue to find beauty in your surroundings this coming week!

Why I'm sharing this:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bendaroo Sundaes and Lazy Days

This week has been a little rough on me, physically. I was feeling better last week and I think I did too much. I thought I was taking it easy enough but I obviously wasn't. I paid for it this week with what felt like it must a somewhat of a relapse. It's very frustrating to be someone who has had adrenaline addictions and not used to slowing down and being forced to from a sickness you had as a teen.

I was talking with a family member the other day and she pointed out that I've probably never truly forced myself to really relax and take a break. I contracted mono (the nasty illness that remains dormant in your system for life once having it and decided to reactivate in my body about six months ago) right after my graduation from high school. I had one of the worst cases the doctors had seen and was super-sick for about two months. I took it easy and then moved 22 hours from home to attend college, where I promptly became an individual who studied hard academically, partied hard and became a workaholic to top it off. Perfectionism was also the name of the game.

Fast forward a few years to becoming a workaholic newspaper reporter in a high-stress job working a minimum of 60 hours a week. After I quit my job when I was pregnant with my oldest (due to pregnancy complications), I didn't even truly "do nothing" when I was on two months of strict bedrest due to preterm labor beginning at 28 weeks. I dutifully stayed on my left side those two months ... making phone calls and typing on my laptop while I freelanced some corporate projects. I didn't sleep when the baby slept unless I was ready to pass out from exhaustion.

Did my body ever truly recover from the first case of mono? It seems it's being forced to now. As you can imagine, it's hard for me to "do nothing." I get a burst of energy and feel I'm being lazy and must tackle the mounting pile of laundry, projects that are on the back burner, recipe ideas I've written down ... you get the idea.

Today, I enjoyed the tasty Bendaroossundae my oldest made for me. I enjoyed the beautiful colors my daughter chose to create it. I love the curve of the spoon she made. (We have a lot of Bendaroos projects around our house. She's been perfecting her Bendaroos art for a couple of years now.)

Today, I'm doing nothing. I'm typing this post and getting back in bed. I'm sleeping and watching some shows. Reading some books. (Then I'll make pizza for family movie night, but use frozen pizza crust.) Watch a movie with my family.

I have to learn how to still take it easy when I'm starting to feel better, so I don't overdo it and I can truly recover. I do think these posts about beauty in my day are helping, and I want to continue them.

My girls just started spring break. With the exception of some doctor appointments, we are doing nothing. Nothing. We are reading books, watching movies and lounging. Being lazy. They can play outside and I can take photos. We are sleeping in as late as we want to. We might try out some recipes, but I'm going to try to keep it relaxed.

And eat lots of Bendaroos sundaes.

Find beauty in your weekend, and savor it.

Why I'm sharing this:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Butterfly (2)

The dust and wind settled down overnight and let us see the mountains again. The wind blew in a cold front with freezing temperatures, so I'm remembering my walk through the neighborhood watching for signs of spring the other morning.

Here's another angle of the pretty little butterfly from the other day. I hope you have a beauty-filled weekend!

Why I'm sharing this:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Deer, Deer ...

I was pleased to see the deer back in our neighborhood yesterday. I didn't even give them a chance to come to our yard - I walked up the street to capture them before the light faded too much.

We've had such a bad drought that all the animals are suffering. The deer have always come into town off the mountains, drought or not, to sample the yards and water available to them in the evenings. Sometimes on hot days they lounge around in shady yards all day long. But I hadn't seen them in our neighborhood in a few months, until last night.

They watched me carefully, making sure I didn't get too close. No sudden movements on my part and they allowed me to get within about 20 feet of them. I've only been able to get closer a handful of times.

It's a horribly nasty day outside with no glimpse of the mountains hidden beneath the heavy dust in the air. The wind doesn't help one bit, so I won't be venturing out again today. I'm grateful for nights like last night and mornings like the other day when I can get out and take several shots of beauty surrounding me. On days like this, I can enjoy that beauty all over again.

I hope you find beauty in your day.

Why I'm sharing this:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slightly Sweet Crepes with Caramelized Bananas and Nutella Sauce

Until this past month, I would sometimes make pancakes a little thinner and spread Nutella and fresh bananas on them while hot. (Because bananas and Nutella were made for each other - especially when warmed.) Sometimes I'd roll them up, sometimes I wouldn't. I was trying to imitate a crepe.

Until this past month, my attempts at gluten-free crepes were usually tasty but a major pain that left me not wanting to mess with them anymore. I got most success out of bean flours, but it still wasn't simple. And they always tore when I tried to flip them. (Well, due to the pan I was using, they tore when I tried to flip them when I made gluten crepes, too, but they didn't tear as badly.)

But this past month, crepes were our Gluten-Free Ratio Rally challenge. I was prepared for it this month, and started a few weeks before deadline rather than a few days as in some months. I'm thrilled to say that the crepes I tried the first time around were so successful, I was able to try them a few more times and in different ways with equal success. I was even able to flip them by just lifting an edge up and turning the crepe over with my fingers.

Thicker crepe

These crepes are as close to perfect crepes as I think I've ever gotten, even when I was making crepes with gluten. They don't tear when you flip them, they hold up under rolling ingredients into them or even folding them, and they taste amazing. I was able to make them thicker and even as thin as paper - all without tearing. And the best part, of course, is they have no gluten.

Thinner crepe
Thinner crepe

Given all of the above, I'm very, very grateful that T.R. Crumbley of No One Likes Crumbley Cookies is hosting crepes as our challenge this month! (Thank you, T.R!) Be sure to visit T.R.'s host post (Brownie Crepes with Strawberry Wine Sauce - Oh.Yum.) which is also covering a variety of crepes and fillings he's come up with, along with all of the other crepes rally participants cooked up for you this month. Your mouth will be watering and you will be reaching for your mixing bowl. (See list at bottom of this post.)

Logo designed by Anile Prakash

Speaking of the rally, this month marks the one-year anniversary of the rally's first challenge and posts. Congratulations, rally participants! If you aren't familiar with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally and what it's all about, you can find more information at my rally page where I include a link to the very first host post by Shauna (Gluten-Free Girl) and as well as links to my monthly rally posts. Using a ratio and weight to make these recipes gives me an independence I'd never experienced in the kitchen before joining the rally. Weight and ratio can do the same for you.

For these crepes, I used Ruhlman'screpe ratio of 1:1:1/2 (1 part liquid: 1 part egg: 1/2 part flour). For example, using 2 ounces for the egg because a large egg is approximately 2 ounces, that would mean 2 ounces liquid: 2 ounces egg: 1 ounce flour. Then you adjust the amount you need by multiplying it.

Given my success with crepes and tearing them while flipping in past trials, I immediately ruled out using my stainless pans. I had success with them in the past only for the first few after getting oil really hot in them, and then the rest would tear. I didn't want to use my cast iron skillet because of the size and weight - I was afraid my arms would be tired in trying to thin out the batter properly.

For the first trial on this challenge, I used my electric frying pan (which is actually a square shape) because it's nonstick. It worked fairly well, but took longer because of the odd shape and trying to keep the batter in a round shape as I moved the pan. So, I ordered this awesome crepe panand seasoned it for the next use. It's had a few uses since then. If you have any desire to make crepes on occasion, or even omelets, and own mostly stainless cookware like myself, I highly recommend getting yourself one of these crepe pans. After seasoning it properly, it's superb. I opted for the smaller size, but it comes in two sizes. All I had to do after seasoning (with potato peels - that was a new one for me!) it was put a drop of oil on a paper towel and rub it onto the pan before starting and a few times throughout.

Now on to the recipe. As mentioned earlier, I have loved bananas and Nutella for a long time. While I've never been a fan of fresh bananas, I love bananas when warmed up and especially with chocolate. (I also love bananas in smoothies, bread, pudding, cake ... just not crazy about eating them fresh and plain.) I adore caramelized bananas - which is how I make them in these photos. To give credit where credit is due, I used Ruhlman's suggestion for caramelizing.

Projected prep time: 5 minutes; Rest time for batter: 45 minutes or longer; Cook time: 1-2 minutes per crepe
(Printable Recipe)

Crepes (makes about 12 in a 7-8 inch pan)
8 ounces milk (1 cup)
8 ounces egg (4 large eggs)
2 ounces (56 grams) millet flour
1 ounce (27 grams) tapioca starch
1/2 ounce (14 grams) teff flour
1/2 ounce (14 grams) brown rice flour
1 teaspoon ground chia seed (I use Salba brand)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon organic pure cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Caramelized bananas:
2 or more bananas, sliced vertically and then horizontally
Pure dark brown sugar

Nutella sauce:

For crepes, combine dry ingredients together. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk together very well until the batter is smooth without lumps and a fairly thin liquid (it will seem thick at first). Cover bowl and let batter rest at least 45 minutes. If you are letting it rest more than an hour or so, refrigerate it.

Lightly sweep a drop of oil over pan with paper towel. (Use more if you are using stainless.) Heat crepe pan, skillet or pan of choice over medium heat.

This batter will have a lot of the heavier ingredients settle at the bottom while resting, so very gently stir with a spoon to combine again. Continue to do this every few crepes. You may want to add a little more milk toward the end to thin the batter out, but it may not be necessary.

Pour a small amount of batter into pan and tilt and swirl pan gently to coat bottom of pan. Cook until set, about a minute, and gently flip over to the other side to cook just until done.

Set cooked crepe on wire rack to cool, or use immediately.

For bananas, melt a couple of tablespoons (use your judgment on how much butter and sugar based on how many bananas you are using) of butter in pan. Add bananas and a few spoonfuls of dark brown sugar, stirring until bananas are hot and butter/sugar mixture has formed a syrup-like consistency.

For Nutella sauce, in a small bowl combine a few spoonfuls of Nutella with a little milk. Stir until smooth, then continue to add a little milk at a time until it's reached a sauce consistency you are happy with. The Nutella may try to seize at first, but if you continue to stir, it will smooth out.

To fill crepes, spoon some of the bananas hot from the pan into each crepe and roll the crepe up. Top with Nutella sauce.


Because this post is being written ahead of the publish day, I'm sharing another photo of beauty with you from my walk around the neighborhood the other morning. Bees were buzzing all around this tree, and this little worker was very busy with this particular flower. I hope you are able to find beauty in your day today!

Why I'm sharing this:

**Again, many thanks to T.R. for hosting us this month. Be sure to check out his host post and all the other participants' posts. I can't wait to try out all these new crepes!

Adina ~ Gluten Free Travelette ~ Breakfast Crepes Three Ways
Caitlin ~ {Gluten-Free} Nom Nom Nom ~ Buckwheat Crepes
Caleigh ~ Gluten Free[k] ~ Banana Cinnamon Crepes
Claire ~ My Gluten Free Home ~ Victory Crepe Cake
Ginger  ~ Fresh Ginger ~ Sweet 'n Savory
gretchen ~ kumquat ~ nutella crepe cake
Heather ~ Discovering the Extraordinary ~ "Southwestern" Crepes
Karen ~ Cooking Gluten-Free! ~ Gluten Free Crepes Savory or Sweet
Mary Fran ~ FrannyCakes ~ Gluten-free Peanut Butter Crepe Cake
Mary Fran ~ FrannyCakes ~ Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Crêpes Sucrées
Morri  ~  Meals with Morri ~ Russian Blini for Two
Pete and Kelli ~ No Gluten, No Problem ~ Key Lime Crepes
Shauna ~ gluten-free girl ~ Gluten Free Buckwheat Crepes
T.R. ~ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies ~ Brownie Crepes with Strawberry Wine sauce
T.R. ~ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies ~ Basil Tomato and Feta Crepes
T.R. ~ No One Likes Crumbley Cookies ~ Fresh Fruit Crepe
Tara ~ A Baking Life ~ Breakfast Crepes with Eggs and Kale
Jonathan ~ The Canary Files ~ Vegan Crepes for Filipino Spring Rolls
Rachel ~ The Crispy Cook ~ Raspberries and Cream Crepes
~Mrs. R ~ Honey From Flinty Rocks ~ Crepes - Spinach & Dessert


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...