"Lo, Children Are An Heritage of the LORD: and the Fruit of the Womb is His Reward" - Psalm 127:3

Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Book Reading Stats for March

Okay, for those of you familiar with my obsessive book reading goals, here are the stats for March...

Again, I had to return a couple before the month was up, so two of them are turned backwards just to represent the height of the stack.  (Oh, and just a disclaimer here since I noticed it looks kind of bad in the picture - ha - The Dirty Life is about farming ;)

Books Read - 8
Pages Read - 2,400
Total Inches - 8.5

This month I read (in this order):
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Brain Power Story Hour by Nancy Polette
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristen Kimball
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
How to Bake Allergen Free by Colette Martin
Friendship Bread by Darien Gee
Paleo for Beginners by John Chatham

For Comparison sake...
Books Read - 7
Pages Read - 1,942
Total Inches - 7.5

Books Read - 8
Pages Read - 1,966
Total Inches - 11

So that brings my grand total for the year to:

Books Read - 23
Pages Read - 6,308
Total Inches - 27

Weekend Get-away

 It has been such a nice weekend!  Yesterday my husband decided we ought to get out of town.  Well, the decision to go was made last weekend.  He wanted to ski Jackson Hole one more time before the season was over (which of course the nine year old was thrilled to hear.)  He wanted me to come along too.  Not to ski, but to be able to shop and have meals together, which I thought sounded wonderful.  Since I opened the daycare to 24/7 care, I've had kids without a break.  It was definitely time for a break.

On the way up, I started working on a new scarf.  I had been eyeing this pattern on Pinterest for a long time - it's called a crocodile stitch because it looks like scales.  I made it this far just on the drive up (about an hour worth of crocheting - which will go faster now that I know the stitch well.  It's much easier than I expected.  I had thought about taking the younger boys to the library while we waited for our skiers to be finished, and when I checked out the Teton County Library online, I found that they had a meeting for people to come and crochet at the library.  I intended to join them (the meeting was conveniently located in the children's area) but it was such a nice day and the boys had been so good while I shopped, that we went to the park instead.

 Our day started with dropping off my husband and nine year old at Teton Village.

You can see the ski runs on the mountain as we drive up.  It's pretty interesting geography - completely flat land, with these mountains just going straight up all of the sudden.  No foothills.

 Then the youngest two boys and I headed into Jackson Hole and did some shopping.

 We met the guys back at the resort for lunch at a place with a German theme - the Alpenhof bistro.  It is connected to their resort.

Being allergic to nearly everything under the sun, I wasn't sure that we'd be able to find anything on the menu for the one year old, but they had fresh fruit bowls left over from their breakfast menu.  And WOW.  It was huge and incredibly good.  The baby was in food heaven.  He ate every single bit of it. (You can't see the, but there are grapes at the bottom of the bowl too.)  I had some of his rice cereal along, so he had that too.  And the best part was that it only cost $3.50.
 My husband and I decided to each order something different, then split them.  The sandwich in the front is schnitzel, and the one at the back is battered walleye.  Both were very good, though apparently this restaurant doesn't believe in salting their food.  Once I put salt on it, they were both amazing.  In the end though, I decided that my tastes have changed, and I would have preferred to get the Caesar salad with chicken.  I almost did, but how do you go to an authentic ethnic food place and not order something cultural?  If we ever go there again though, I'm definitely having the salad.

(In case you're worried about my diet, I'm still on it, but I get one day a week when I can have anything I want, so I planned for this to be it.  That didn't pan out so well, as I no longer seem to be able to handle carbs.  They made me sick. Literally.  Good lesson though.  Next week, instead of gorging myself on junk food, I'll splurge and have a sweet potato with my steak, or maybe some garlic bread, and ONE little something sweet.)
 After lunch, the little boys and I hit the whole foods grocery store to pick up supplies for the youngest.  Odd things like guar gum, and other things I never would have known existed before our rude introduction to the world of food allergies.  Good news is I ought to be all set to bake anything in the cookbooks now.

(Okay, so this is gross, but I had to show you.  When you go to a park around here, you've got to watch for droppings.  These were either moose or elk.  And he wasn't playing with them when I started to snap the picture.  And yes, I did get to him before he got to them.)

 The boys were very into the slides at this park - especially the one they could go down side-by-side.

I bought the four year old a snack of "cheese curds" at Dairy Queen (remember I could have anything I wanted to eat that day, and I wanted a turtle bowl sundae - which I knew right away was way too rich.  Should have opted for the rootbeer float.  All day long, I kept thinking, "How in the world did I not notice how bad/rich/icky all this food was when that's what I normally ate?"  I kept buying things I thought I was dying to have, then taking a bite or two and setting it aside - which I guess in the end was a really good thing.  Still though, it ended up being too much.)

 It was a real task to keep up with these two at the park.  There is no fence and traffic does go by all the time.  It's not a super-busy street, but busy enough that you can't let your guard down.  I had hoped to crochet or read, but mostly I just ran and chased, and helped up the slide :)  which wasn't a bad thing either.

 Mostly this little guy was interested in throwing leaves and wood chips.

During our shopping adventures yesterday, I found two very large beef roasts on sale (manager's special type sales), and I immediately thought of the recipe I had seen on Pinterest for making your own deli meat.  So tonight I baked them both and we had some for dinner, and will use the rest for sandwich meat.  We ate less than a quarter of one roast, if that gives you any idea how big these were.

The recipe is very simple - oil the roast, then rub on salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, and put into a 500 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 300 and cook another 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes, then slice.  I only sliced up one roast tonight.  I wanted to see if it slices any easier when it's cold.  I suspect it will.  It would be very handy to have a meat slicer, and I'll probably get one when I can, as this is definitely going to be something we'll want to make over and over.  I'm anxious to see if it stays moist.

 I've been working on putting together individual portions for the one year old and freezing them so he can have a good variety of food.  I've been adding to it with most meals we make - just making a bit more and taking his portion out ahead of everything.

 The pumpkin here was left over from making pumpkin pancakes last week in the daycare, and the bananas were the over-ripe banded variety you can get super cheap.  I used what I needed to make his  banana oatmeal cookies one day, then portioned out the rest for future cookie days.  That reminds me I need to set one of those packets out tonight so he'll be able to have more cookies for breakfast tomorrow.

 I've got a gallon bag that I keep the snack size bags in to keep them from going all over the place in the freezer.  It is completely full at the moment - and that doesn't include the containers I have in the fridge with things I plan for him to eat in the next day or two.  I bought a set of containers with green lids (as opposed to our normal set which is red) so I can see at a glance that those things are okay for him - green light items, so to speak.  Only his own safe foods go in those containers.

 So I'll leave you with a couple shots of the four year old, who likes his cowboy boots so well, that he thinks he has to wear them with his footed sleeper too.

Yee haw!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Allergen Free Pumpkin Pancakes and Roasted Pork

I've been doing a lot of reading lately about allergen free cooking and baking, and finally decided to dive in.  No better way to learn than on the fly, right? I checked my recipe books for a pancake recipe, but the only one I found had xanthan gum in it - which my one year old can't have because it's too close in form to corn syrup, and he's allergic to corn.  A substitute for that is guar gum, but I haven't had a chance to buy that yet, so I was stuck.  (And by the way, if you're looking to learn about this subject, this is the book you need - tons of information on what exactly each different ingredient does - how it interacts with the others, and the best uses for each thing).

But thanks to the book above, I know what each ingredient does and was able to wing it and come out with a decent recipe.  Now, I didn't measure anything, which is a big no-no in allergy free cooking as things seem to be pretty precise.  But here's what I came up with.  The measurements here are total guesswork.  But they're close...
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. sweet sorghum flour
2 T. flaxseed meal
2 T. tapioca starch
small handful of quick oats
1 or 2 T. cinnamon sugar

So the process is really technical - ha.  I glopped a couple spoons full of pumpkin into the bottom of my bowl, sprinkled in all the dry ingredients, and added enough water to come to the same consistency that the pumpkin puree started out as.  This is not a pour-able pancake batter.  I spooned it onto a hot cast iron skillet and flipped when it looked ready.  They take longer than normal pancakes, so don't get too eager to flip them or they'll be doughy.  I tasted one, and it was pretty good.  The texture was right, and they held together well (which is a problem with cooking with all these odd flours).  They're so versatile too.  Next time I might substitute applesauce for the pumpkin, use maple syrup in place of the cinnamon sugar, add blueberries, raisins, or apple chunks.  We'll see.

I came across a great pork roast recipe too (ala Pinterest).  It calls for a pork picnic shoulder or ham - something with the skin still on it.  It bakes all day for at least 8 hours - until the meat is very tender - at 250 degrees.  Then it comes out of the oven, and rests tented with foil until you're close to time to eat.  Crank the heat in the oven to 500 degrees, remove the foil from the roast, and put it back in the oven for 5 minute intervals, rotating it so all the skin crisps up.  It bubbles up beautifully.  When this is done, remove it from the oven, tent with foil again and let it sit at least 15 minutes.  YUM.  Best pork roast I've ever made, and it's with the cheaper meat.  I have made this twice now, and each time we have the meal hot, then at least 2-3 more meals throughout the week using the same meat.  Very economical, and the meat stays moist the whole time.

I don't think I ever posted about the postcard our four year old sent is sister in college.  I didn't want to ruin the surprise for her, and then I forgot I had the pictures.  He sent this back in February.

He drew all the lines and I asked him what everything was.  I taped a post-it note over the place where her address went so that he wouldn't color there. Good thing.

I think it's hysterical that he identified two of the pictures as Dad, but one as his dad, and one as his brother's dad - lol.  The bottom one, above the signature he told me was a buffalo.  Duh.  See the faded out picture of the buffalo in the background.  He must have thought I was a real dunce for not knowing that was a buffalo - ha.

Home Improvements

The newly remodeled daycare space is starting to take shape.  I got my Dr. Seuss quote vinyl the other day and put it up immediately.  I love it, but what a nightmare to work with that stuff.  

I used this quote in the reading area.  Right now, I have my comfy recliner (aka, my snuggle and read to the kids area), and the bookshelf that displays the fronts of the books to the kids.  Eventually I'd like to make some pillows and cushions covered in fun fabrics for the corner of this area.  Maybe even a bean bag.  But that's down the road a ways.

Okay, so this is a really lousy picture, but I'm to tired to get up and take a good one.  Everything looks cockeyed in this picture.  But you get the idea - this is a quote a put up by the changing station.

These two quotes are my two favorite Dr. Seuss quotes of all time.
 Tonight when my husband came home from work, the one year old was in a snuggling mood, so Daddy laid down on the floor with him.  For awhile I thought they might fall asleep there, but the baby was having none of that.

 My youngest boys have been very cuddly lately.

There's nothing this Mama likes more than being buried in snuggles ;)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learning to Cook Allergen Free

My nine year old sure did enjoy the Fiddler on the Roof play we went to last week.  It's all he's talked about.  He keeps breaking out in song, and he is drawing the scenes ... very accurately, I might add.

My goal lately has been to try to find more recipes my one year old can have.  (For those of you visiting for the first time, he is at the moment allergic to eggs, dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, corn, coconut and sesame.  At least those are the things we are aware of.  

So basically the only milk substitute he can have is rice milk.  I found a recipe awhile back that allows me to make it from scratch (which I blogged about awhile back).  This time when I went to make it, I used brown sugar to sweeten it a little (trust me, it needs a little something).  It's darker than usual, but he really seems to like it a lot.

I also saw on a blog (Knights and Maidens Gathering - there's a link on my sidebar) an idea for a carrot salad.  Basically, it's shredded carrots, raisins and pineapple.  Super simple and the boys love it.

 Kind of a funny story here.  After making the trip to the grocery store, where I bought a 5 pound bag of carrots, I was busy putting all the groceries away.  I wanted to make some of this salad up for lunch for the boys, so I pulled a few carrots out and set them on the counter while I put everything away.  When I started up the food processor, the boys came running to see what I was doing.  When they saw the carrots going into the food processor, they generously *ahem* offered me the ones the little sneak thieves had stolen off the counter.  They wanted me to grind them in too.  Um.. no thanks.

 I'm working on getting a few things in the freezer for him so we always have safe options, and he can have more variety.  Last week when I made mashed potatoes, I made an extra large batch so I could freeze some for him.  I mashed them with chicken stock rather than butter and milk, and everyone liked them well enough.  My husband always adds butter or gravy to his anyway, so I don't think he even noticed a difference.

I made up a batch of oatmeal banana cookies (just smashed bananas plus a handful of oatmeal, a few raisins, and a touch of cinnamon) and the carrot salad on Saturday.  There would have been enough salad to last several days, if the rest of the guys hadn't decided it would make a good side with dinner.  No problem.  It whips up pretty fast.

 Looks pretty tasty (I'm not allowed to eat any of these ingredients on the diet, so I'll have to take their word for it).

The other thing I managed to get done this weekend was to run to the local health food store.  They have a lot more than I thought they would.  Anyway, it turns out that cooking gluten free or allergen free sure takes a lot of different ingredients.  There isn't one single flour that seems to work as a substitute for wheat.  The cookbooks always have flour blends.  So I made a list of the different ones that show up in several recipes I want to try, so I can hopefully have ingredients on hand to make whatever I want to try.

I ended up with quinoa flour, sweet sorghum flour, flaxseed meal, millet flour, tapioca flour, garbanzo bean flour, garbanzo and fava bean flour blend, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, potato starch, brown rice flour, and lard.  I was especially excited about the tapioca starch.  Looks like it substitutes for corn starch, so maybe I can use it to make gravy - opening up the whole world of casseroles.  Woohoo ;)

It wasn't cheap.   These bags are $5 - $15 a piece.  My biggest expense/pound I think was the xanthan gum - which was about $11 for half a pound!  Holy cow.  And that was from Walmart a couple weeks ago.  If I had bought it here in town it would have been $17.  Good thing the recipes don't seem to call for much of it at once.  The hardest thing to find was dairy free soy free shortening.  The best I could do was to buy lard - which I'm hoping is okay, since it doesn't have an ingredient list.  I believe it's just pig fat, but we'll see if it bothers him.  It was hard to find.  The local store didn't have it in their baking aisle.  I finally accidentally found it at the bottom of the row with the tortillas.  Yeah.  Right where I would have put it... NOT.  Now, wish me luck...

Note - reading in my Learn to Bake Allergen Free book last night, I found out that Millet flour is probably not good to use because there is a close connection to corn, and people with corn allergies ought to avoid millet too.  Oh well. Live and learn.  I've definitely got a lot to learn!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Silly Sayings, and Easy Tricks to Clean the Kitchen

 Our four year old is a crack up.  He's always coming up with some crazy statement.  The other day, he saw one of the daycare kids' pacifier and called it a "baby snack."  Tonight he and the one year old were taking a bath, and he got out first.  Then the one year old climbed out while the four year old was running around wrapped in a towel.  The four year old wrapped his towel around him, then started wiping him off.  It was sweet and helpful.  Then he told me he had wiped his brother off "so now he won't leak."

Speaking of the baby...
We had a late night last night after watching Fiddler.  I didn't get in the shower after midnight, and by the time I was dressed and had my hair partially dried and was ready to head to bed, the baby was crying - around 1 am.  I got him a bottle, handed it to him in the dark, hoping he would drink it and go back to sleep.  No dice.  So I went in and got him and when I had him in the light, this is what I found.  He was itching like crazy and had scratched to the point of bleeding a lot.  I changed him, gave him some benadryl, and rocked him to sleep.  Then he spent the rest of the night in a playpen in our room.

Thankfully he was much better this morning.  He's still blotchy, but not itching as bad.  I hope we can get him to leave that scab alone.

 He was in a good mood those, being silly and playing hard :)

 Since we painted the kitchen, I've been more inspired to try to keep everything cleaned.  I learned a few tricks that make everything a lot simpler.  For instance, did you know a straight edge razor is a wonderful too clean a flat top stove?  What a wonderful thing.  I'm pretty sure someone should have told me about this years ago!  It would have saved me tons of time and a lot of money.  So there you go.

Another thing I figured out - quite by accident - which is truly one of those things you say "duh" to - is that the first step in dinner prep should be to fill the sink with soapy water.  I find I try to avoid using things like the food processor because I dread having to clean them.  Today I just happened to be washing dishes when I used the food processor and I was able to quickly rinse everything and set it on a towel to dry.  Super fast cleanup.

Okay, so I know those are probably two tips that everyone on earth already knew, but they were new to me, so I'm celebrating them ;)