It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The weather is perfect. There were honey crisp apples in our farm share. Everyone was representing their school of choice at the farmer’s market today.

T hasn’t decided who he likes yet. And we just keep having M repeat “Go Green” and “Go Blue”. I’m so glad fall is here.

Foodie Friday

I guess I have a commitment problem since I can’t decide on one “theme” for Fridays. But the nice thing about having a blog is that you make the rules. And, today, it is Foodie Friday.

I am often asked by people for gluten-free recommendations. Gluten-free is a necessary diet for people who have celiac disease or who are gluten-intolerant. To be honest, I’m not really sure which category I fall into but the treatment is the same. It is not a trend (like “low-carb” eating) or a choice (such as being a vegetarian/vegan).

When people ask me what they should make for their gluten-free guest, I often tell them to keep it simple. Meat, fish, veggies, fruits, potatoes and rice are all gluten-free by nature. It is what gets added to these items that makes the off-limits sometimes. People always feel bad for me when they find out I can’t eat bread or accidentally forget and offer me a bagel. Don’t feel bad. I feel so much better than I did in my “gluten-eating” days. Plus, there are lots of options now for people like me.

I have two places that I like to shop for gluten-free items: Trader Joe’s & Sugar Kisses.

Trader Joe’s is kind enough to put this symbol on their gluten-free items. You can access a whole list of items on their website. I am rarely disappointed in the items I buy at Trader Joe’s and they have great prices. Staples that I tend to buy there are hummus, cheese, yogurt, sweet potato chips (yum), frozen veggies and potatoes, and meat (they have a few pre-marinated items that are great). Their gluten-free pasta is by far my favorite of all that I have tried. Overall, it is just nice that they make it so easy.

Sugar Kisses is owned by Brian & Lisa. Yes, I know their first names. And they probably know me as the “scone & coffee lady” because that is what I get there twice a week. Usually, I get a blueberry scone but lately they have had my favorite option, cherry & almond, available. Other favorites include pecan bars, double chocolate chunk cookies, cupcakes, and the focaccia bread. The majority of the items are gluten-free. They try to use local ingredients when available and they also have vegan, nut-free and dairy-free items. They are walking distance from my office so I walk there, you know, to burn off the calories from the scone.

I also like Whole Food’s Frozen Gluten-Free Pizza Crust (although, I kind of hate shopping there) and Mary’s Gone Crackers (however, Trader Joe’s is not offering a comparable cracker).

Eating out is a bit tricky but there are a few restaurants with gluten-free menus:

  • Outback Steakhouse
  • Pei Wei & PF Changs
  • Noodles & Company
  • Buddy’s Pizza
  • Maggiano’s

Gluten-Free Girl (well-known in the foodie-blogosphere) has a great page on her site of her recommendations.

I love food and my diet does not interfere too much with missing out on great flavors. It has also made me more aware when cooking for people (or taking meal to those who are sick or just had a baby) in making sure to ask if they have an allergy or dietary need. I always hate telling people, “Sorry, I can’t eat that” so it is really fantastic when there is an option for me.

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. The kiddos are headed out for their first overnight visit today. It is a little strange but we are going to take advantage of the free time and hang out with our friends, Rob & Elizabeth tonight. Actually, Elizabeth and I are headed to Café Muse for brunch as well. Whenever I see a free morning on the calendar I think, “Who can I get to go to Café Muse with me?” The food is so good and it is the ultimate girl-time treat. It is also always a bonus when I get to go with someone who hasn’t been before. I’ve already checked out the specials for this week.

2. I’ve had a mental list of names I like for a long time (I’m not the only one who does this, right?). I’ve often joked that we are lucky that our kids come with names because D and I rarely agree.  If it were up to me, we would probably have a group of little hippies (Story, Sunny, Love, Mercy, River, etc.)  I just find it really interesting what people decide to name their kids and why. I’ve been enjoying a new blog: You Can’t Call It “It”. The author posts on different name categories, meanings and even offers name consultation.

3. D is reading Brothers, We are Not Professionals by John Piper. He has been reading me some fantastic quotes from the book, this one in particular was striking (he is speaking to pastors but I think it something we all need to hear):

The issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus-issue. When you get the conviction and the courage to say something about it to your people, tell them you are not becoming a social-gospeler but a lover of the blood-bought blessings of the cross of Christ…

It doesn’t matter whether your church is in Mississippi or Minnesota, your people are tinged by racism-to put it softly. Time passes swiftly, memories are long, and we have not come very far in the heart.

Piper gives some examples of horrific post-1960s acts of racism. Then says…

These events are the blood-red tip of a deep, partially subconscious iceberg in American culture. It affects all of us. But few in the majority culture feel it or admit it. That is the privilege of being the majority. Your color and your ways are assumed. Whiteness is not an issue for us, we say, so why should blackness be an issue? We are näive at best.

4. I ditched the book I picked up at the library last week for one my boss lent me that seemed more appealing. I’m Down is a memoir of a white girl growing up in an all black community. It has been a fascinating read so far and, often, really funny as well.

5. I’m also reading Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years. I really love some of the benefits of this method of parenting including giving your child choices and teaching them empathy at an early age. I’m looking forward to discussing this with a group of ladies from church who are also reading along.

6. D and the kids hung out with his mom yesterday and she sent them home with these cute dolls. Grandmas are the best!

7. I’ve been envious of all my friends with cable lately but only because Mad Men: Season 4 starts this week. It will likely not be available until the fall on DVD so I’m going to have avoid all the spoilers until then. D sent me this review of the fourth season and it sound likes Betty only gets crazier.

*Hosted at Conversion Diary

7 Quick Takes Friday

Writing a well thought out, coherent blog post is not very feasible lately. So, here are seven quick takes…

1. If you are friends with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, you know that we have had some success this week using Supernanny’s Bedtime Method. You can read all about it at the link, but here is how we are doing it at our house.

  • We have a routine that involves the following: diaper change, lotion, pajamas, teeth brushing, reading two books (Bear Snores On & The Rhyme Bible Storybook), prayers, cuddles
  • Up until this week we have been staying in M’s room until she falls asleep. But sneaking out when she fell asleep was stressful and took a LONG time. We are sticking around for less than five minutes now.
  • When we leave, we give her a kiss and say goodnight. She starts crying.
  • She gets up and stands at the door. We go back in, tell her it is time to go to sleep, give her a hug, and lay her back down.
  • If she gets up again, we go in, firmly tell her it is time to go to sleep, quick hug and lay her back down.
  • Every time she gets up after that, we go in a lay her down without talking to her or making eye contact. This goes on until she stays in bed.

It has worked at bedtime wonderfully. The first night we went in 20 times, the second 2, a few nights only once and tonight 11 times. It work at nap time yesterday but not today at all. But because she didn’t nap, bedtime was an hour earlier. We are pretty happy with the progress even if we still have some tough times.

2. Speaking of sleeping, T sleeps like a champ. After his late evening feeding (10 pm – 11 pm), he is sleeping until around 5:30 am. When he wakes, he needs to be soothed but does not necessarily need to eat and we can usually get him to sleep another hour or so. Last night, he slept until 6:40 am. I think that is pretty good for an eight week old.

3. Thanks for all the suggestions on our last post. It is so nice to get some advice from those who have been there. Keep it coming!

4. Shout-0ut to my friend, Carrie, who lent me Gilmore Girls: Season One. I’ve been watching it while I feed T (which can take a while). I know lots of people who love this show and so far, I like it. Also, I’m enjoying re-living the early 2000s through the music, clothes and references in the show.

5. I’m sure you have heard about the child who was sent back to Russia by his American adoptive family. The whole story is so sad. I have so many questions for the family who sent him back and for the agency who did that adoption.  What is even more frustrating is all the reports coming out now on orphans from Eastern Europe having attachment disorders and/or fetal alcohol syndrome. Of course families need to be made aware of these risks and how to deal with them but I don’t feel like the media is helping out the orphans of Russian at all by emphasizing these possible challenges. The thing is that adoption is about the kids not the parents. For pro-life, Christians, especially, we must understand that despite a child’s challenges, they still deserve love and have a much better chance in life with a family than in an institution.  I am not saying this to be judgmental as I certainly do not know what it is like to raise a child who physically threatens you or your family.  But if we really think everyone deserves a chance at life, that has to extend past our views of what happens in the womb. Those are just my thoughts; I know it is an incredibly complicated issue.

6. Now to go totally off topic and be random, a friend made us dinner a few weeks ago and one of the sides was roasted carrots with pistachios. I ate them all. Seriously, I mean, I did not share them (I tried to give them to M but she is not a carrot fan). I’ve been googling “carrots and pistachios” and have found several recipes that I cannot wait to try.

7. I went to Trader Joe’s with T last Saturday and was overwhelmed by the attention he attracted. I can’t blame people because he is, in fact, the cutest baby on the planet, but it was a little shocking for my introverted-self. The cashier even offered to carry out my groceries for me.

We are really hoping to podcast soon. Really, I’m not just saying that. D is wrapping up his semester and it is at the top of our “to do list” next week. Thanks for all the prayers!

*Hosted at Conversion Diary

Food, Lately

I do just love to cook. Especially anything with vegetables because I love chopping. I could do it all day long. Is that weird?

I’m back to meal planning. I got out of habit a while back but it really is a great way to save yourself from searching the kitchen at 5:00 pm and it generally saves me a few bucks too.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to try out this recipe from Tasty Kitchen (the Pioneer Woman’s cooking community) mostly because I had a pork roast in my freezer that needed to be used.  I purchased it impulsively at Meijer when it was on sale.  Also, I’ve used my crock pot like four times since we received it as a wedding gift over three years ago and I was long overdue on learning how to use it.

I had to adapt the recipe a bit based on what I was working with.  Here is my version:

Southern Pulled Pork

  • 1 pound boneless pork roast (mine was pre-seasoned w/salt & pepper from Meijer)
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (I had to cut back on the original amount due to someone in our house with a sensitive palette)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (I think I actually used a shallot that was leftover from something else, but an onion is probably a better option)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • (the original recipe calls for Liquid Smoke but I didn’t have any)

1. Cut the pork roast into four large chunks. Season with Cajun seasoning (and salt & pepper if your roast isn’t pre-seasoned). Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to crock pot.

2. Add the onion and garlic to the frying pan and cook until tender. Add a little bit of the broth to the pan and scrape the browned pork bits from the pan. Pour the mix into the crock pot along with the rest of the broth.

3. Cook on low for 10 hours. Pork should fall apart when pierced with a fork (The internal temperature of pork should be 160 – 170 degrees). Shred with forks and return to crock pot to keep warm.

It took me about ten minutes to prep this before leaving for work one morning and then it just cooked all day. You could serve this on a bun with coleslaw but it is good on its own. D ate a ton of it. I think it would serve 3-4 adults.

Last Wednesday, on my afternoon off, I decided to take on this soup from Simply Recipes. Again, I adapted it a bit but it appealed to me because of all the vegetables that needed chopping. I ate the soup for lunch several times last week and took it to the camp we spent the weekend at with our youth group as a gluten-free alternative to the camp food. While I was eating it at lunch on Saturday, I was informed by the kids that it looked “disgusting.” I thought it was pretty tasty.

I feel like I should be honest and tell you that one meal last week was almost exclusively cooked in the microwave and on one night, after he got home late from class, I made D Kraft Mac & Cheese. Not every night allows the time for new recipes.

A Long Weekend in Pictures

My contribution to both families’ Thanksgiving celebrations was cranberry sauce. Can you get much prettier than a pot full of cranberries? I don’t think so.

I begged my mom not to cut the turkey before I got to their house. Not sure how I got the honor of carving this year.

A little Friday fun at Three Cedars Farm.

A tree of plum, silver and gold for 2009.

My favorite ornament this year – wish I had whole tree full of these cute little pears.

In between all the pictures was meals shared with both sides of the family, lots of fun with Ellie & Shay, making it through The Blind Side without too many tears, time with friends, listening to Christmas music and a lot of wearing of comfy pants.

Reunion

On Saturday night, I had a “mini-reunion” with five other girls who we graduated with from high school. I wanted to make something seasonal and special so I picked this recipe out from the Food Network Magazine: Turkey Roulade with Swiss Chard. About a hour before my guests arrive, I realized I was in way over my head but it was too late to turn back. I tried to remember to take pictures but never ended up with one of the final product.

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It all started off so easy. Chopping up vegetables and mixing together seasonings – simple. But when it came to the actual turkey, I realized I really did not know what I was doing.  In the end, I ended up with two dishes.  One prepared the way the recipe called for and one “improvised.”  There were moments of panic but it ended up tasting pretty good so that is all that really matters. Plus, my guests were all kind enough to bring delicious side dishes.

It was so fun to get together and catch up on each other lives. Although, we realized, through the magic of Facebook (and blogs), we had a pretty good idea of what was happening with each other.

High school was not a very enjoyable time in my life but I am thankful for these relationships that have lasted. We are all pretty different and our lives have changed a lot in the last nine years but it was encouraging to see the way God has directed all our paths. I am looking forward to seeing them all again (but hopefully it won’t take another nine years).

7 Quick Takes Friday

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1. Egress Done! I’m so glad it is done and thankful for all our friends who joined us in our excitement. Thanks for all your kind messages. You know you have good friends when they can get excited for you over a window.

egresswindowcomplete

A little clean-up to do but fully functional for our home study!

2. Our final home study is scheduled for next Thursday. Moving right along.

3. This Saturday, five friends from high school are coming over for a mini-reunion. Here we are senior year:

n2346205_49050478_2335We’ve changed a little bit since then, however, I still need a tan.

4. I spent Thursday afternoon shopping for ingredients for the meal I am making on Saturday night. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I casually decided to make this recipe. It is probably the most challenging dish I have ever attempted. I’ll be taking pictures and posting them as long as it is not a total disaster.

5. I’ve been keeping up with the Compassion bloggers all week who were in El Salvador. My absolute favorite post was this one by Molly Piper. I would love to meet our Compassion kiddo someday.

6. We spent last weekend celebrating my mom’s birthday and we are off tonight to celebrate Dan’s mom’s tonight. We have both been incredibly blessed with wonderful mothers. I’m am thankful for all the wisdom they will be able to share with us in coming months 🙂

7. We hope you like the new blog! We needed to make the switch but it was taking me some time to make up my mind about WordPress. I think I like it, especially the bigger pictures.

Sweet Treats

My mom (Laura) always had special treats for us growing up.  I enjoyed a couple over the weekend and thought I would share them with you.

Laura’s Apple Cider

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves

Directions: Heat on the stove and enjoy.

My mom always had this cider ready when we got back from trick-or-treating on Halloween.  It makes your house smell amazing.

Laura’s “Orange Cream Cooler”

  • Orange juice
  • Vanilla ice cream

Directions: Mix together in blender.

*Note: Dan loves strawberries and we’ve taken to adding 5-6 frozen strawberries to this drink. 

My mom was too cheap frugal to buy these at Olga’s so we made them at home.  I have to say – I like it a lot better than Olga’s version.

Chickpeas and Spinach

I have totally fallen in love with this recipe. I sort of adapted it from two versions that I saw online (this one and this one). And, best of all, it is pretty healthy!

Ingredients:
Olive oil (or whatever oil you want to use)
Cumin
Red pepper flakes
Fresh garlic
Chickpeas/garbanzo beans
Salt
Pepper
Fresh spinach
Lemon juice
Eggs

 

1. In a pan, sauté over medium heat 1-2 cloves of garlic with ½ – 1 teaspoon cumin and ¼ – ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. This should only take a couple of minutes. Make sure they do not burn.

2. Turn heat up slightly and add in a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans and heat them through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat and add a generous amount of fresh spinach (like a whole bag). You can probably turn the heat off after a minute or two and the spinach should wilt down. Squeeze the juice of one small lemon over top.

3. Serve with fried egg on top.

This meal certainly has a kick to it so if you do not like spice I would go easy on the red pepper flakes. I am pretty sure you could sub black beans if you are not a fan of chickpeas. I actually really do not like cold, whole chickpeas so I was a little skeptical but they are delicious warm.