Summer reading

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I always look forward to summer reading, the relaxed pace, the lounging about with a good book.  I always look forward to that, but that never happens.  Since I am a mother of three with one on the way, my summers are not that relaxing, and I don’t lounge around with my favorite book.  I read when the moment comes that I can.  I read at the park in between pushing kids on the swing, at the library while they are looking for books, at the occasional outing for myself and before bed, for about 5 mins before I fall asleep.

As much as I think I want to be the kind of person that reads one book at a time, I have come to accept that I am not.  I always have at least two books going at any given time, and usually more.  This summer I am reading books from four different genres.  This summer my genres are; parenting, adoption, cooking and fun reads.

Parenting books:

This summer I am revisiting a series of books that I read when Ewan was younger.  They are great books and I go to them when ever I feel that I need tip on how to handle behaviors or just want to feel normal about what my child is or is not doing.  The author is Louise Bates Ames and here are a few pics of what the books look like.

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These books start at the age of 1 year and go up the book “Your ten-fourteen year old”.  All of the books are layed out very similarly if not the same which is helpful for navigation.  They are older books but I find the information relevent and useful.

 

Adoption books:

I have a lot of books in this genres.  I always find them useful and insightful but I also find them overwhelming too.  They are packed with information and often times tough subject matter, which can be hard to slog through.  This summer I am tackling two books; “The Connected Child” by Karyn Purvis and “Brothers and Sisters in Adoption” by Arleta James.

 

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Cookbooks:

This is a fun genres and I love cooking so for me it is really fun.  Cookbooks are great reading because there is no story to follow and there is no pressure to understand or finish the book.  You can pick it up for 5 minutes or 45 minutes and it doesn’t affect your experience much.  Cookbooks are a great escape, a great motivation and a challenge to experience something new.  They can also provide freedom, especially in the case of a specialized diet or food allergies.

 

The cookbooks I am reading this summer have a lot to do with my gluten free/dairy free lifestyle but also the Vegan/Vegetarian lifestyle of which I have recently entered.  I will say that I am choosing to eat vegetarian because my body does not seem to handle meat protein very well and I feel 100 times better when I eliminate it from my diet.  Vegan cookbooks offer great recipes for even those who are not totally vegan but perhaps vegetarian and dairy free, like me.  Here’s what I am reading:  Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cook Book” and “Kitchen Express”.  Terry Walter’s “Clean Food”, “Learn to Bake Allergen-Free” by Colette Martin  and Kim Barnouin’s “Skinny Bitch, Ultimate Everyday Cookbook”.

 

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Fun Reads:

 

I have only one fun read lined up for the summer, I am hoping that will change but so far my fun read is getting little attention.  Here is it, Patrick Taylor’s “An Irish Country Doctor”.

 

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There you have it, my summer reads, at least that is the plan!

What’s on your summer reading schedule????

 

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Gluten-free/dairy-free pizza crust

For as long as I have been gluten-free I have seriously missed pizza.  I mean I really miss eating pizza and when I serve it to my family I am really jealous.  They are eating something wonderful and I am eating something much less wonderful.  Sad for me.  😦

I have tried many recipes for GF/DF pizza crust but have not been happy with most.  They are to puffy and sometimes kind of cakey, if that is even a word. Last week I made yet another recipe and I think this might be the one!!!  It is really simple which I love and it makes a crust that is so good that I made it again last night as bread and for the first time in years dipped bread in olive oil!!!

My "new crust" pizza!

Here is the recipe, it will also be in the What’s Cookin’ section of the blog.

What you need:

  • 1-1/2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
  • 2 tsp Xanthan Gum
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • Rosemary, basil, oregano to taste

What you do:

  • Combine yeast, sugar and water in large bowl and let stand for about 5 minutes.
  • Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  • Add the egg to the wet ingredients.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients together.
  • Mix with a blender for a minute, when the flour starts to move up the beaters you should add some more flour, just a little at a time.
  • Knead the dough like you would with regular bread and add flour until the dough is no longer sticky to the touch but is holding together well.
  • Press out dough onto a slightly oiled pizza pan.
  • Add your toppings and cook for 15-20 minutes at 425.
  • If you want to use it as bread cook it at 400 until is starts to brown on the top a little.

Enjoy your dipping bread/pizza!!

New routines for a new year

Routine is not a strong point for me, I have to work really hard to form new habits and to stick with them.  The funny thing about this is that I love being organized and being in a routine, the hard part for me is getting there.  I have known for sometime that the larger my family grows the more routine I need in my life- for myself and my children.  I have been planning new ways to organize my life for some time and now that we are in a new year it is time to start implementing my plans.

Some of the things below were started in 2009 but in a sort of testing phase.  The meal calendar is one thing that I am continually changing to meet our needs, I have been in the “testing”phase with this for a while.  Here are a few of the things that I am doing to form routine and get my life organized.

Family meetings:

Every Saturday morning while the kids watch cartoons Brian and I have a family meeting.  We talk about what is going on in the coming week and we also talk about what we need to do over the weekend.  We check our calendars against each others and make sure that we are both on the same page about how the week is planned out.  Saturday morning works really well for us because I am awake and ready to plan the next week.  When we were trying to do family meetings during the week in the evening it was not working at all.  I could not stay awake- whoops!

Meal planning:

Saturday mornings I sit down at my dining room table with a cup of tea and a stack of cookbooks and I plan out our meals for the week.  I usually have two meals that are no brainers, for example- tacos and pizza, two meals that are slow cooker meals and the rest are your standard preparation type meals.  Once I figure out what meals I want to make I write all of the ingredients I will need to buy for the meals on my meal calendar.  My meal calendar also doubles as my shopping list for the week, this is very handy.  When I shop this way I think that I spend less and what I get does not go to waste.  There is also something nice about looking at my meal calendar while I am shopping and knowing what each day looks like.

This is my meal calendar- if you click on the image you will see a larger version- feel free to print it if you like.

How I fill in my meal calendar:

For breakfast I just write in all the things that we use to make breakfast each week, I do plan breakfast but it is more basic than my planning for dinner.  Breakfast might say- juice, eggs, fruit.

For snack and lunch I do the same thing as breakfast.  I since I am using it as my grocery list I write down all the things we eat as snack or have for lunch and that is how I know what to get at the store, and what to make during the week.

Dinner is where my real planning takes place.  For each day I write the meal I am making at the top of the dinner section.  Under the meal I write everything I need to buy for the recipe, sometimes it is an entire recipe.  When I am done figuring out the meals for the week I can easily make changes to what day something is going to get made since I have the ingredients I need for everything on the calendar.

I know that this may seem like a crude way to do meals but so far it has done wonders for my evenings.  I love knowing what to expect and when I make slow cooker meals I do the prep work in the morning so my evening is free.

*If you have a better system or know of a better meal calendar please share what you know with us.*

Chore Calendar:

Once I am sure about what the weeks meals are going to be and when they are going to be cooked I write them on my cute calendar hanging in my kitchen.  I also write on my kitchen calendar what chores need to be done each day.

Monday- Bathroom, and Ewan helps me with collecting the garbage from all the garbage cans.

Tuesday- Dusting

Weds.- Laundry ( Brian does that):)

Thurs.- Wash floors

Friday- Vacuum

And everyday I sweep, on top of the other chores I am doing.

I started this in 2009 but was not very organized about it.  The problem was that I never wrote the stuff down, I just had it in my head- which did not work.

Personal Planner:

Last year I started using a planner in the form of an appointment book- I used to be a PDA user.  I found that writing things down stuck in my brain better than typing them out- and I like being able to look at a whole week or month at one time.  This is the planner I am using this year:

This planner has tear-out grocery lists and meal lists for each week and it has a lot of space for your to-do list each week as well.  The only down side I see to this planner so far is that you cannot look at a full month.  I like that feature in planners but I think that I will be able to manage without it at least for this year.  So far I really like my new planner- and it is pretty cute too:)

Hopefully these changes in my life will help things feel calmer and more organized.  If not you’ll know about it because I will be writing about the changes I make;)

Nifty links

Check out these websites- maybe get some ideas for your holiday gift giving.

Tastebook

Chole In Style

Jenny Lee Fowler- Etsy

Uncommon Goods

TisBest

Have any websites that you love?  Share them with us- we would love to broaden our knowledge of nifty links.

From Thanksgiving to Advent

This year as you know I hosted Thanksgiving at my place and we had a blast!  It was a small crowd of family and things were pretty low-key, just the way I like things to be:)  We laughed, and joked, cooked, ate, talked, relaxed and had a great time together.  Here are a few pictures from the day.

My turkey- this year it tasted as good as it looked:)

The recipe for this turkey can be found here in my recipe section.

My darling sister Meghan and I posing for a picture next to the turkey.

This picture was taken after a really hysterical moment in the kitchen- Meghan loves the biscuits that come out of the can so she brought them to make for dinner. The first can that she opened exploded all over the kitchen, and sort of sounded like a gunshot. I think that she will probably flinch now every time she opens a can of biscuits.

On to Advent which started last Sunday.  This year we are taking part in a movement called Advent Conspiracy so we are creating some new traditions for ourselves and our family.

For the first time we have created a homemade Advent wreath that we light before dinner each night.  We have also been singing the first verse of Oh come, oh come Emmanuel after we light the candle.  It is really beautiful to sing that song without instruments and is such a beautiful prayer.  It also reminds me of the way Jewish people sing prayers, singing this after lighting the candles feels like we are stepping back in time to when Jesus was born.  I feel like we are closer to celebrating Christmas the way it was originally celebrated when we take part in small traditions like this one.

This is our homemade advent wreath. It is really basic but since we are trying to make wiser decisions about what we spend out money on this Advent season I thought it best to use what we had around the house.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

A view from the top- I look forward to when we are lighting all of the candles!

We did not put up a traditional Christmas tree this year and that is mostly because we are afraid that Esuyawkal will pull it down or something like that.  The nice thing about not having a Christmas tree up is that the other Christmas things in the room get the attention, like our nativities.  I like the way not having a tree sort of shakes up our idea of Christmas- I like focusing on the holy family and Jesus’ birth and the story of that first Christmas.

One of our nativities, the small brown clay piece in the back between Mary and Joseph is a small crèche from Ethiopia.

This is a the small tree that we have up, we got it from Brian's Gram so we thought we would put it up. The nativity next to it is for the kids to play with and set up as they like. I bought that last year so they could have a more hands on experience with the nativity.

The other tradition that we are starting this year is this- We are each giving up one present and the money from that gift will be donated to Heifer International.  The kids will be able to pick out an animal to donate to a family in another part of the world, which we hope will help them to feel connected to the gift they are giving.  Perhaps next year we will each give up two gifts:)

If you have special Advent traditions I would love to hear them, I am always looking for new ways to help my family experience Advent:)

More Ethiopian recipes added:)

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I have added some more Ethiopian recipes to the What’s Cookin section of my blog, there are also other new recipes there as well.  You can also click on any recipe in the side bar under What’s Cookin and get to what you like that way as well.  Take a look and maybe you will find the perfect recipe for your next meal:)

A gluten and dairy free Thanksgiving

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This is going to be my second gluten-free Thanksgiving but I am anticipating that it will be better than my first.  Last year I think that I had just started to go off of gluten and I was not at the point in which I felt brave enough to cook all that much.

This year I am hosting my sister and her family as well as my in-laws for Thanksgiving which means that there will be 11 people who can eat anything and 1 person that cannot.  Gluten and dairy free cook + eat anything guests =  a unique Thanksgiving dinner.  I want my guests to have an enjoyable meal but I would also like to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor and the labor of others.

I have already decided that there are a few things that I will not change at least for my sister’s sake; the traditional family pumpkin pie and the corn casserole. Both will be  glutenous and dairylicious and will not touch my plate.  Sad for me:(

My goal is to find a good recipe for stuffing as I really miss stuffing and my Thanksgiving dinner would not be the same without it.  I would also like to find a pumpkin pie recipe, but I am working on that one in my head right now.  If I cannot come up with something then I will resort of a new recipe.  Here are some of the websites that I have come upon in my search for gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes, and below are a few of the recipes I intend to try.

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse: (Clean Eating Magazine Nov/Dec 09)

What you need:

  • 2- 15 oz cans of 100% pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1- 1lb pkg of silken tofu, well-drained
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek style yogurt or I am planning to use dairy free whipped topping.
  • 1 oz dark chocolate, cut into thin shards (about 1/4 cup)

What to do:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin and tofu.  Process until combine, about 30 seconds.  Add maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt.  Process until combined, about 30 more seconds.
  2. Transfer mousse to a resealable container, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Drain any water that has accumulated from the mousse.  Give it a quick stir and scoop a 1/2 of a cup of mousse into each of 10 small glasses or ramekins.  Top each serving with the yogurt or non-dairy whipped topping and 1 tsp of chocolate.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Gluten Free Turkey Stuffing ( Gluten Free Girl )

Shauna also has a great book called Gluten Free Girl.  If you are living a gluten-free life and have not visited this blog you really should, it is awesome!!

What you need:

  • 8 cups gluten-free bread (rice bread works best; 1 loaf of Ener G Rice Bread will yield 9 cups of cubed bread.)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium white or yellow onions
  • 1 bunch celery
  • 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts
  • 3/4 pound bacon
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) non-dairy margarine or butter (if restrictions permit)
  • 3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2-cup chicken broth, or 1 cube bouillon dissolved in 1/2-cup water (omit salt, if using bouillon)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Slice bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, or until dry and crispy. (If you have the time, you can achieve a similar effect by leaving the laden baking sheet to dry out overnight.) Set aside.
  3. Peel and mince garlic. Dice onion and celery. Drain water chestnuts and chop into small cubes. Slice bacon into 1-inch lengths.
  4. Melt margarine or butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, being careful not to allow it to boil. Add garlic, onion, celery, water chestnuts, and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add poultry seasoning and pepper. Stir to mix.
  6. Add bread cubes, stirring until well coated. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, to add crispness. Remove from heat, add broth or water and bouillon mixture, and toss until combined.
  7. Stuff the mixture into the body and neck of the turkey, or place in an oiled baking pan. If cooking outside the bird, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.
  8. Makes approximately 12 cups, enough to stuff a 12-15 pound turkey comfortably and leave over a small container’s worth of dressing to bake separately.”

This is not part of this recipe but If you can find sausage links that are gluten-free that can be added in place of the bacon.  I often make a sausage apple stuffing using breakfast links that are gluten-free and tart apples.  I don’t have a recipe for this but perhaps you can just wing it:)


Mashed potatoes (we always have these at our Thanksgiving table but instead of butter and milk I use chicken broth or unflavored rice milk, and Earth Balance vegan spread)

What you need:

  • Potatoes, as many as you would normally use for the number of people you are serving.
  • Chicken broth or rice milk unflavored.
  • Non dairy margarine or spread.

What to do:

Make your mashed potatoes the way you always used too just use the chicken broth or rice milk instead of the dairylicious stuff of your past.

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Sweet potato casserole (found here)

What you need:

  • 6 large cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup earth balance vegan spread
  • 1 egg
  • 4 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves for topping
  • 1/2 tsp salt

What you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mash the sweet potatoes in a large bowl.
  3. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the pecans.
  4. Spread the casserole into a 9 X 9 casserole dish. Sprinkle the pecans on top.
  5. Bake the casserole for 40-45 minutes or until set.

*This can be made a day ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator covered with saran wrap. Add 5-7 minutes to the cook time when ready to bake.*

This dish serves 8-10 people.

A few more sites that will help you fill in the other parts of your meal:

Gluten Free Mommy

Living Without

Gluten Free Goddess

Have a blast in your kitchen cooking food that you can feel good about!!