Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Recap

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, and that Santa was good to you. Our family had a terrific Christmas; lots of parties, good food, and great company. On Christmas Eve we went to a get-together with Flamenco Dad's siblings and their respective spouses/significant others, our nieces, and my MIL. I showed up with the Amariette cookies, which were a big hit with the family. I also made some chocolate chip and sugar cookies, which the kids promptly gobbled up.

Getting the kids together with my MIL just to take this photo was a bit of work! Keep in mind that kids LOVE making silly faces whenever a camera is waved in front of them. And this motley bunch of kids is no exception. But we're pretty happy with the results (though Ayden, the only boy in the group, could not be cajoled into looking directly at the camera) --and grandma now has a recent picture of her with her grandbabies to display at home and at the office.

Christmas Day we went to the home of Flamenco Dad's aunt and uncle, where we and a bunch of our relatives got our party on. One thing I love about marrying into a big family is the parties! It's very reminiscent of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," only with Puerto Rican food and Salsa music blaring in the background. Dad and Zoe performed a few Christmas songs together; and I even got in on the performing this time, dancing some flamenco for the guests. We stayed up quite late and the kids were exhausted afterwards, but it was a wonderful end to a great Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cookie Party

My little friend in the photo looks like he's deep in thought, busy pondering which cookie to eat first. Even though less than 2 weeks ago I proclaimed that I was placing a moratorium on baking cookies for Christmas, the kitchen was calling me; thus I donned my apron and got busy. The cookies in the first photo are the lovely and oh-so-simple peanut butter cookies that Shauna Ahern (aka the Gluten-Free Girl) posted last year. You can have a gander at that recipe here.

Now these lovelies here are from a recipe shared by the uber-talented Dawn. I became acquainted with her through a forum for stay-at-home moms. Dawn is a FABULOUS cook; her authentic Italian recipes make me miss all the great Italian food I had the pleasure of eating growing up in Brooklyn. Her recipes are not all gfcf, but these cookies are. These delicious almond cookies have earned a place among my favorite Christmas cookies. Zoe took some to school to share with her teachers and classmates, and everyone loved them. Eager to share the recipe, I asked Dawn if I could post it here, and she happily obliged. Thank you!


Amariette Cookies
recipe courtesy of Dawn

7 egg whites
2 1/2 cups white sugar (Superfine sugar, or process regular sugar in your food processer till its really fine.)
2 pounds ground almonds
2 tablespoons almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Beat egg whites and sugar until fluffy. Add the ground almond and almond extract, mixing well. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, roll in sugar and put a piece of almond or candied cherry on top.
(I use the candied cherries) Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees F) until firm. Bottom should be light brown.


P.S. I know that most of the county is either buried in snow and/or slush, or is just plain freezin'. The greenery in the background of my photos may make you long for warmer climes. Please know I'm sending warm thoughts, and hopefully sunny skies, your way.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting Into the Spirit

We've been celebrating the successful completion of the semester, which means yours truly hasn't had too much time for cooking or blogging. I got straight A's, internets! This overachiever is glad school's over for now; I've got a few weeks off before the new term starts on January 7.

I baked a gfcf chocolate cake for the family to enjoy this weekend (thank you Bob's Red Mill for making my life easier). Though I'm not a huge fan of cake mixes in general--I am more of a do-it-yourself type--sometimes a little help from some gluten-free friends does the trick. The cake was simply decorated with a dusting of sugar. We got our chocolate fix and the kids got to help, which they love to do.

We attended a going away party for a buddy of ours who is moving to Seattle at the end of the month. Our friend Justin has played with Flamenco Dad in the past; and to celebrate the start of a new chapter in his life, everyone was invited over to jam. Zoe, who is nothing if not a ham (gee, I wonder where she got her love of performing?), gleefully offered to sing a tune for all the party guests. And since it's Christmastime, she picked a favorite.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In The Home Stretch

My last final is tomorrow, and I've done pretty much everything in my power to avoid studying for it. We bought and decorated our tree, wrote out the Christmas cards, visited the Buddhist temple for lunch again yesterday, and even put lights up in front of our house. Anybody who knows Flamenco Dad and me knows that we do as little outdoor decorating as we can get away with, so the fact that I went out and bought lights and helped put them up means that my study avoidance thing is in full swing. Now, it's time to get to business.

So no more foolin' around--next time I post here, I will have officially finished the semester. I mean it. Really. I promise.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's That Time of Year

Getting my kids to sit still long enough for a decent picture feels like an exercise in futility. I try to take a nice picture of them every year for our Christmas cards; sometimes, the results are great. Sometimes not so much. This is the one we're going with this year. Mind you, this picture isn't perfectly centered; but I'll crop it and it should work just fine. Thoughts?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is There Such a Thing as Autumn Rolls?

I wasn't going to let yesterday's somewhat disappointing experiment get me down. Today I made some fantastic (if I do say so myself) summer rolls. The rolls are filled with cooked shrimp, Thai basil, mint, shredded carrot, rice noodles, lettuce, and bean sprouts. I served them with a sweet chili sauce I picked up at the supermarket. The sauce is not too spicy, but it gives the dish just the right amount of saltiness, sweetness, and heat.

By the way, these are the wrappers used to make the rolls. They come in hard, transclucent sheets that are softened by dipping them in warm water. The rolls are done similar to burritos or wraps, so if you know how to roll a burrito you can make these in a snap.


The most important thing when it comes to making dishes like these is having your mise en place ready; all your prep should be done in advance and set up assembly-line style. I learned this the first time I made spring rolls, when I foolishly thought I could just wing it. Big mistake! Like yesterday, I learned from my earlier missteps and pressed on. And ooh, are these good! The Thai basil and mint lend a wonderful fragrance to this dish. Of course, if it's naturally gfcf then all the better.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Kitchen Snafu

I had a minor problem in the kitchen today while trying out a new recipe. Given the fact that I love Thai food--and that I just bought some ingredients specifically for Thai cooking--I thought I'd attempt a soup. One of my favorites is a Thai Chicken and Coconut soup; it's so fragrant and delicious. If you've never tried it, by all means do. Anyway, since I purchased some lemongrass, fingerhot chiles, limes, galangal (a root similar in appearance to ginger) and coconut milk I figured today would be a great day to give it a go. I found a recipe online that seemed to have all the right elements, I crossed my fingers, and got to cooking.

The good news is that my kitchen smells like lemongrass.

The bad news is that my kitchen smells like lemongrass. And only lemongrass. And now all I can smell is...lemongrass.

The soup tasted decent. Except that the combination of the lemongrass and lime was WAY too overpowering for that delicate a soup. So needless to say the recipe needs a bit of tweaking before it's deemed worthy to share with the internets. When I go back to the market at the Buddhist Temple, I'll be sure to ask some of the cooks there for some advice.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Could It Be?

Is tomorrow really the last day of the month? Did I do it? Did I actually manage to make it through the month, posting every day (even in spite of technical issues)? Well, tomorrow is the 30th, which means two things:

1. My finals begin next week. Good Lord, it's time for the freak-out to begin.
2. NaBloPoMo is coming to a close. Woo Hoo!

I kind of feel like Morgan Spurlock from the movie "Supersize Me" and the t.v. show "30 Days." I'm really proud of myself for being able to stick with blogging daily for that long. I know a month doesn't seem like a long time; but sometimes I feel I'm borderline flaky, so this is a real accomplishment. I'm going to commit to something else for the next month--though I will try to continue keeping a more regular blogging schedule (just maybe not every single day). I'll deliberate on it for another day, and then December 1st will be the kickoff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Got Me Again

I've been tagged by j. over at Austin's GFCF Diet Journal. I had to take a minute and look at the last 8 Random Things meme I completed back in September before I tackled this latest challenge. I'd be really embarrassed if I repeated the same things I listed the last time; though I must say, I'm not sure I'm that interesting that I can come up with eight more interesting things about myself. Please forgive if this list is not as good as the first.

1. While my husband is the musician in the house, I had quite the music education myself. I took several years of band, where I became a mediocre trombone (yes, you read that correctly), clarinet, and alto saxophone player. I am unable to play any of these instruments today, though I can still read music.

2. I smoked throughout my last two years of high school, during my first go-around at college, and for a couple of years after that. I smoked for about six years in total, and fortunately for me I quit the year before I met Flamenco Dad. He's not a fan of cigarette smoke.

3. I learned to drive at twenty-two (kind of late by some folks' standards). But before I got the hang of driving, I crashed an old boyfriend's car--oops. Hey, that stop sign and that tree jumped out in front of me; how could I not hit them?

4. I know lots of people think he's kind of grungy, but I think Johnny Depp is very sexy. Does that make me weird? Call me, Johnny!

5. I'm scared to death of mice (rats too). I'd elaborate, but I'm starting to hyperventilate.

6. As I mentioned in my previous meme, I never learned to ride a bike. But I can roller skate like nobody's business. And I'm talking the old school skates, not the rollerblades. Holla!

7. I did not enjoy any of the following movies: Crash, The English Patient, or The Thin Red Line. I know they're supposed to be these great, important movies; but I just don't see the appeal. In fact, the latter was so bad in my opinion I'm still wondering how I can get those three hours of my life back.

8. It's no secret that I love spicy foods. I put some variety of hot sauce (tobasco, sriracha, jalapenos) on just about everything I eat. I'm still trying to figure out how to successfully add heat to my desserts, but it's coming soon--I just know it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leftover Pumpkin?

If you're like me and are wondering what to do with leftover pumpkin puree (how many pumpkin pies can one person bake anyway?), these gfcf pumpkin chocolate cookies are a nice alternative. I got the recipe for these tasty treats here. Pumpkins are a great source of Vitamin A, so why not sneak them into your kids' favorite treats for a boost? My kids loved them...and so did Dad and I.

BTW, I got tagged for a meme, and I'll be sure to do that tomorrow. I'm still reeling from the results of Dancing with the Stars.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Images from the Buddhist Temple

This is a photo of the Buddhist Temple we visited yesterday, the Wat Mongkolratanaram of Florida. People from all over the Bay Area come here to enjoy the temple, the meditation garden, the gorgeous view of the river, and the food.
This statue greeted us as we approached the produce market on the temple grounds. We bought lots of wonderful, fragrant ingredients (which I'm already putting to good use).

Here's what I ate for lunch. I know the photo's not pretty, but I was pretty deeply engrossed in my lunch by the time it occurred to me that I should take a photo. It's a VERY spicy chicken with basil over jasmine rice. In the corner there is a fried sweet potato, which had been dipped in a (gfcf) batter that included sesame seeds. Had I known about that method of cooking sweet potatoes, I would have served THAT at Thanksgiving.


Here are some of the folks responsible for the wonderful food we sampled at the temple. Some of the best Thai food I've ever had was made by these kind people.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Taste of Thailand

I was hoping to upload some photos of our excursion today, but due to some funky stuff going on here I'll have to do that in the morning. Today we visited the local Buddhist temple, which has a wonderful Sunday market; there, some Thai folks who live in the area sell produce--lots of yummy traditional Thai ingredients to be found there--and make a wide variety of Thai dishes for the locals to try. The temple is located right off the river and has a lovely picnic area, so we had a fabulous Thai picnic lunch. All the proceeds from the sale of the food, produce, and other wares goes to the temple. We had a great time. One of the best parts was that just about everything there was gfcf--hooray!

When we got back, I baked some cookies: gfcf pumpkin chocolate chip cookies to be precise. More on that tomorrow. Hopefully those pictures came out fine.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Alert the Media!

I am going to an adult party (as in a grown-ups only party)--sans children! No Thomas and his friends, no Barbies, no Dora or Diego...I think the apocalypse may be upon us!

We're going to a wine-tasting/start of the holiday season shindig at the home of a friend of ours named Paul; Paul is a sound engineer who has helped Flamenco Dad on several projects. Paul's also a great photographer, who recently took FD's new headshots. So we're bringing some wine and the guitar (and yours truly will do a bit of dancing tonight). So tonight the kiddies will be left in the loving care of my dear,sainted mother-in-law (can you tell I'm grateful to her for babysitting) while my husband and I get our party on. Tootles!

Friday, November 23, 2007

So Tired

I was actually just asleep on the couch when my hubbly woke me to tell me to get to bed. It was at that moment that I realized that I had not yet posted today. So here I am, half asleep and typing away. Gosh, it's like I have a sickness or something. Must post every day. Must try to win a fabulous prize. Must get my behind in bed already.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful...

for my two kids, who absolutely rock the earth...

for my hubby, who totally rocks my world...

for my mom, brother, and the rest of my crazy familia. They always keep things interesting and entertaining...

for my friends, both near and far; thinking about all our adventures together makes me smile...

for all the wonderful people I have met online, through this blog and others. I'm amazed at the ability of the online community to bring people together...

for The Soup and Best Week Ever. Weekend television is so much better with you in it...

for turkey. Ahh, tryptophan and gravy...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Countdown to Turkey

I've just spent the last 8 hours in my kitchen prepping for the Thanksgiving dinner at Mom's. Today I prepared a pumkin cake and a chocolate pecan pie; as well as a sweet potato casserole and a homemade cornbread stuffing. We've got several items on tomorrow's menue that are gfcf, so I don't have to worry about what in heaven's name Zoe will be able to eat. Thank goodness! In the morning we're loading up the kids for the trip, and I hope to be feasting on some turkey by around 3. My mom is serving a ham as well as turkey, but let's face it: that ham is the understudy to the real star of the Thanksgiving meal, which is turkey.

The kids are excited to visit their grandmother, great-grandmother, uncle, and the assorted other relatives and friends that will be there. What my kids don't know yet is that my mom and her husband have already put up their Christmas tree: a 12-foot behemoth with a gazillion lights and a slew of adorable ornaments. I'll be sure to take many photos.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Moving On

Change isn't something that Zoe--or just about any other autistic child--takes to very easily. When she was in kindergarten, changing what she ate for lunch on a given day was met with a resistance not seen since the French Revolution. And you could forget about last minute schedule changes; oh, the wrath that would ensue! As Zoe's gotten older, her ability to transition has improved dramatically. She still puts up a fight sometimes, but in general she has a much easier time of it.

Today Zoe got some news that, while very exciting, threw her for a bit of a loop. Her occupational therapist told us that it may be time for Zoe to "graduate" from therapy. She's met all the goals the therapist had set for her, and she has improved in that area to the point where therapy may no longer be needed. I had a similar conversation with her speech therapist not long ago; so it appears that after the present evaluation period ends, Zoe may be done with private speech and O.T. after nearly 8 years. That's right folks; she has been in therapy for 8 of her 10 years. So you can see why Zoe might be a bit apprehensive about closing that chapter in her life.

Zoe loves the therapists, staff, and friends that she's met along the way; and I know that's the reason she doesn't want to leave. So part of what we'll be doing during her Thanksgiving break is talking about how we deal with moving on when things in our lives change. It's fascinating to see how she handles this; Zoe has reached a level of maturity that I guess I didn't really notice until now. That's the mama in me, always seeing my baby as, well...a baby. But today my baby came home from therapy, and sat at the desk and proceeded to write in her journal, no doubt about the changes in store for her now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Should Probably Blog Before I Take My Medicine

I'm getting some of my Thanksgiving prep done early this year. In fact, I've already purchased everything I need from the market--well, except that I realized after I got home that I'm out of eggs--and Wednesday I'll get cracking on the cooking. This year we're going to my mom's for Thanksgiving, something we haven't done in years! Usually Flamenco Dad has to work the day after Turkey Day, which made driving 5 hours to Grandma's (only to have to turn right around again) a pain. Now that she lives much closer to us it makes the trip easier.

So I've got a couple of side dishes in the making, as well as some desserts. I'm doing a sweet potato dish and some gfcf cornbread stuffing. I'm still working out the dessert thing, but I've got to make a decision by tomorrow. I was thinking something with pumpkin, but the hubby is requesting chocolate. Maybe I can put the two together into one showstopper of a dessert. I'm running out of time to decide, so I've got to get to it!

We've all got a cold here...again. We're tired, cranky, and smell of Vicks Vaporub (so not hot); and my house is like a tropical rain forest because of the humidifiers.

Tonight, after the kids were tucked in, I cozied up on my couch and watched Dancing with the Stars with the hubby. He makes watching the show even more entertaining (if that were even possible). He provides interesting commentary on the musical selections (we agree they are often campy, and occasionally border on ridiculous) and the costume choices. My husband thinks the Spice Girl is sexy, while I think her partner is hot stuff. Wonder what he thinks of Vaporub?

I've heard nothing else about the kangaroo/wallaby/chupacabra, or whatever it was wandering the streets a few nights ago. Maybe it was some random hairy guy roaming the area. Oh boy, I think I'm delirious from the Nyquil.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Un Buen Sabor!

Translated from Spanish, it means "a good flavor." Today my mother-in-law came to the rescue and made a delicious, stick-to-your-ribs stew which was satisfying with a capital "S". Oxtail stew is not something that what prepared in my parents' home when I was growing up. My earliest rememberance of it goes back to high school; my Jamaican friends' families ate it often, and it was a favorite. The first time I tried it I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was served with steamed white rice (and you can never go wrong there). But it was the oxtail with its cocktail of aromatic spices that put it over the top. I'm salivating just thinking about it.

My mother-in-law's version didn't have the same combination of spices that resemble the Jamaican version, but her version rocked just the same. The hearty stew combined beef oxtails and some root vegetables, gourds and spices commonly used in the Latin kitchen: yucca (there it is again), calabasa (a type of pumpkin), green plantains (I know, I wasn't sure how it fit in there either, but it did), garlic, onions, bay leaves, peppers. It was just what we needed on this cool, lazy Sunday. Gracias!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Her Mama Makes the Same Face...

when she's in a mood. Charming, no?

The Man's Not Gettin' Me Down

For reasons completely unbeknownst to me, I could not access my blogger account yesterday. Thus I was unable to post here in accordance with NaBloPoMo. However, I was not going to let the streak die! Oh heck-to-the-no! So I did post last night on my NaBloPoMo page. You can check it out here. Take that, internet gremlins!

In other news, today Zoe performed at a Christmas tree lighting. I know, they just start doing these earlier and earlier every year. She and her group did a wonderful job, dancing and singing to "Sleigh Ride" and "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree." I was a proud mama.

Oh yeah, and I haven't cooked a thing all day. What's up with that? Well, I have a great excuse, really. I've been out all day. Yours truly is pooped, so once I get the rascals to bed I'm going to kick back with an adult beverage and watch the boob tube.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why Is This News?

Back about six months ago, when my husband and I actually had time to sit and watch t.v. together, we'd sit and watch the news and wonder about some of the oddball stories that made the headlines. Our local news had such a story last night; what confounds us is that the story still has legs, and is now in its second day. What's the story, you ask?

"Kanga-Rumor Pursued"

Seems the local sheriff's office got a call about a kangaroo that was seen hopping around in traffic. So far, no one has been able to track it down, nor has anyone been able to confirm if there actually was a kangaroo in the area. There is speculation that the marsupial is someone's pet, though I'm not sure that our local Petco or Pet Supermarket is in the business of selling kangaroo chow. What do you feed a kangaroo, anyway?

Before I go any further, I should explain that I do not live in Australia, though there are two locations in the "larger" city nearest to me that may (or may not) have kangaroos. The nearest zoo is about 25 miles from where the caller claims the kangaroo was seen. Also Busch Gardens is at least 20 miles from where the kangaroo was allegedly spotted. Some folks who read the news headlines on the internet have been joking that the kangaroo escaped from the local Outback Steakhouse. I suppose that's possible. Gosh, I hope the legal people from Outback don't send me a nasty-gram for that comment. Oh well, I don't like their restaurant anyway.

Now our little town is blaming all the random events that have occurred in the last few days on the mysterious kangaroo. There was a bank robbery today? Blame it on the kangaroo. Traffic tie-up on the interstate? Must have been that darn kangaroo. The illusive marsupial has now achieved "celebrity" status here, joining the ranks of the Chupacabra and Sasquatch. All I know is if he's the one who knocked over my trash cans the other night, he's in a heap of trouble.

My husband has just informed me that the animal in question may have in fact been a wallaby. The plot thickens.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pea Soup for the Soul

I'm always glad to get back home from vacation, due in large part to the fact that I can get back in my kitchen. Today I put up a pot of split pea soup (remember my post about it here). And Flamenco Dad was nice enough to gift me an immersion blender for Mother's Day this year, so I put that boat motor to use!*

I know some people would consider a gift of kitchenware to be unromantic; some would say that a more appropriate gift would be flowers or candy. Don't get me wrong: I love flowers and candy. But to me, cool gadgets I can use to get my kitchen mojo going are gifts that just keep on giving. And did I mention that the immersion blender has a whisk attachment and a mini chopper attachment, and that it makes fantastic smoothies?

The soup was silky smooth and full of flavor. It made for a delicious dinner on what was a slightly cool evening. And now that I've gotten over my fear of The Exorcist the soup tastes even better.

*Note: when using an immersion blender to puree the soup, make sure if you're using any kind of meat (ham, ham hocks, etc.) that you remove them from the pot before using the boat motor. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Some More Photos

I thought I'd share just a few more photos of the trip. Above is Stone Mountain, and though the photo doesn't give a great detail of it, the face has a bas-relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. The sculpture took 55 years to complete.
Here we are on top of Stone Mountain. There's a skyride that takes passengers from the park up to the top of the mountain.
Here's Zoe catching a (plastic) fish at one of Fernbank's interactive centers. The museum has a variety of activities for children of different ages to try. They give the older kids a scavenger hunt activity at their Discovery Center.

Here's Flamenco Dad and the kids sittin' on top of the mountain. The kids swore they could see the entire world from up there.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Some Favorites from the Trip









We got in a little later than I anticipated, so I'm afraid my vacation roundup will have to wait. Until then, I decided to share a few of my favorite pics. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why Don't They Tell Us About That?

I've heard that a foolproof test of the strength of a relationship is to travel your significant other; if you can survive the trip, then you're golden. If not, well that's a subject for another day. Flamenco Dad and I have been getting along extremely well on this trip, so I suppose that puts us in the first category.

What they don't tell you is what to do when, three-plus days into your vacation, your kids start to drive you out of your skull! When you're at home and your kids start to rattle you, you can always send them off to play in another part of the house, put in a movie, or send them into the backyard to let off steam. On vacation though, it's twenty-four-seven in your face time. Mama needs a break!

I ADORE my children. Actually, I'm not sure there's a word strong enough to convey how I feel for my babies. But I'm really craving some me time--as in me by myself time. Guess it'll have to wait till we get home.

All complaints aside, we visited the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta today. We saw lots of great dinosaurs, sea creatures, and a pretty neat frog exhibit. We saw the IMAX film entitled "Sea Monsters," which was an interesting and well-done film. I enjoyed it even though my son was acting like a bit of a monster of the two-legged variety. The museum has many interactive exhibits that are great for inquiring minds and little hands. There was also a fascinating exhibit about different cultures and the various ways cultures use adornment to tell stories about their history. Pretty cool stuff.

Tomorrow we load up the Flamencomobile and head back to the hacienda. Once I've unpacked and gotten the mountain of laundry started, I'll work on getting some photos and video up here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stone Mountain Day

It's 10:20 p.m. here, and we just got back from spending the day at Stone Mountain Park. By spending the day I mean we got there around 10 a.m. and just walked in the door 10 minutes ago. We went up to the summit of the mountain via a skyride, which was a cool experience for all. Sorry I can't post the photos here yet, though I will when I get back. Internet service is sketchy here right now, such I wanted to get to the meat of my post and not spend too much time fussing with pics right now.

We did just about everything there was to do at Stone Mountain Park, with the exception of the antebellum plantation stuff. We rode the scenic railroad twice (Ayden's head nearly exploded over that one!), we saw the 4D Polar Express show, the Christmas Parade, the Laser light show, the Great Barn--man, I'm so tired I can't even remember all of it right now!

Tomorrow we're going to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Hooray, dinosaurs!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Life Aquatic

Our first day in the greater Atlanta area was full of activity, with lots of fun things to see and do. We spent our day at the Georgia Aquarium, which is now my number one pick for best aquarium I've ever seen. First of all, it's huge! Second, we got to see these lovelies in the photo. They were so beautiful to behold; so graceful, they just glided around their tank looking like they were in flight. And third, the aquarium has a humongous viewing area called the Ocean Voyager Theater, where you can sit and view what appears to be millions of watery creatures in an absolutely beautiful environment. The kids were enthralled by the entire aquarium experience; and Flamenco Dad and I were just in awe of it all.

As I had suspected, our GFCF choices have been a bit limited on this trip. Our hotel has a breakfast selection which has fruit juice as its only GFCF choice. Fortunately for me I brought the banana bread I made earlier in the week. The aquarium had some GFCF foods, mostly salads and fruits. We totally lucked out on the dinner front, though. We had dinner at a fantastic Thai restaurant in Tucker, L'Thai, which is just minutes from Stone Mountain. To top it off the restaurant offers organic and conventionally raised meat, for those who prefer organic. We had a terrific meal, and the staff was attentive and friendly. We feasted on delicious curries and steamed jasmine rice. The restaurant has a large fish tank with koi, and the owner was nice enough to let the kids feed the fish. Zoe and Ayden were thrilled. We are all exhausted, so it will be an early night for us this evening. The kids were out cold by about 8:00, and I'm off to bed now too.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Getting out of Dodge

Well, we're finally heading out of here--off to Georgia for our much needed break. We're driving back Monday afternoon. Until then, I'll be posting from on location in Stone Mountain. I've got my camera, laptop, and USB cables so I will try to post some pictures daily.

I meant to take a picture of the pair of western boots my mom gave me for my birthday, but of course the camera was already packed. But you can see them here. I got the denim blue ones. Zoe also got a pair of boots from her grandma, and they are too cute! Did I mention they're orange? We're both going to put our hot new boots to good use while we're away. More to follow tomorrow! Adios!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birthday Week: Part Three

So today we celebrated the last birthday in the trifecta of November birthdays: mine. I'm thirty-five today; and, to quote my mom, I don't look a day over thirty-four. Flamenco Dad had a looong day at work today, but he still managed to surprise me with some lovely chocolates and a book I've been meaning to read. The kiddies drew an adorable birthday picture for me which will go into my file containing all their artwork.

I made a simple dinner--hey, I wasn't about to get all creative in the kitchen today. So I made a simple roast chicken with herbs and some yuca. Those who are not familiar with it should give it a shot. It goes by many names: cassava, manioc, etc.--but it's wonderful. It's a traditional root vegetable served in Latino homes. Sorry, I don't have a photo of it, but I'll google it tomorrow and post one.

I'm off to bed. Tomorrow afternoon we hit the road.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Baking at Home and Fun with Bacteria

Whew, I'm exhausted! It's been a long week already, yet its only Tuesday. What's up with that?

Since we're going away this Thursday I wanted to make sure I had enough road-worthy, GFCF snacks to take with us in case we had limited food choices for Zoe. This morning I baked six mini-loaves of banana bread. This time I added buckwheat to the flour mixture, which gave a great texture and a more complex flavor. I decided to go the buckwheat route since my "regular" banana bread used to contain a mixture of white and wheat flour. I was very pleased with the results; the family loves it, and I've got a healthy snack or breakfast item to give Zoe in a pinch.

Tonight at school we worked on a lab involving food preservation and safety. So what do we do? We get to prepare petrie dishes with E. coli--great, two days before my trip and I have to get up close and personal with some nasty buggers. None of my lab partners wanted to touch the test tube with the bacteria sample, so yours truly had to be the one to do it. I think they figured since I'm the oldest person in the group (in the class, to be more specific) that I was somehow more expendable. Good times!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Annie Get Your Gun

After all the cakes, cookies, and assorted deliciousness of the birthday party I figured I would go with lighter fare today. So for lunch I made my favorite chicken salad. To some leftover roasted chicked (diced) I added celery, apples, onions, shredded carrots, and raisins; and I dressed it with a mayonnaise mixture that included a touch of salt and pepper, a dash of hot sauce, and a pinch of curry powder. Served with some rice crackers, it was very satisfying, and was a good use of some of the remaining party food.

Flamenco Dad and I went out on a mini-date this evening to...the gun range. Romantic, right? Ha ha ha. We had fun; and frankly, I'm not too shabby in the marksmanship department, which surprised me. Though I don't really think I'm cut out to be a regular at the firing range. Let's just say that it's a good thing everyone there has to wear ear protection; otherwise they would have heard the sounds of me humming the music from "Annie Get Your Gun." Man I loved that show! The drama club geek in me comes out every so often. Sorry. I digress.

This range/gun shop had what seemed like hundreds of stuffed animals (not referring to the teddy bear kind either) adorning the entrance and walls of the entire place. It took me a while to get over the strangeness of all the animals just hanging out there; I felt like they were looking at me, I kid you not. I saw a bear that appeared to be about 7 feet tall, a mountain lion (at least I think that's what it was), and all manner of antelope, deer, and who knows what else. Can you tell I don't know much about wildlike? Who am I, Jack Hanna or something? Tell the folks on Animal Planet they have nothing to fear; their jobs are secure.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Birthday Week: Part Two

Zoe, you turned ten yesterday. After getting over the shock of that statement, I pulled myself together, wiped the tears from my eyes, and proceeded to look for this: my favorite photo of you EVER. While you and I were alone in the car yesterday you mentioned how cool you thought it was that it was finally your double-digit birthday. Our exchange after that had me laughing and crying in the same breath.

Me: Sweetie, it seems like just yesterday I gave birth to you.

You: Well Mom, that's just silly. You know, I've been around a looong time. And soon I'm gonna be a teenager. How long before I become an adult?

Me: Too soon.

Today we feasted on GFCF cupcakes in your honor.

Pineapple Velvet Cake (recipe from Special Diets for Special Kids, with a minor modification from me)

2 1/2 cups GF flour mix

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. xanthan gum

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

4 eggs

1 cup canola oil

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 tsp. vinegar

1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Combine first 5 ingredients and put aside. With an electric mixer, blend eggs, oil, sugar and vinegar. Beat well so oil is completely emulsified, and mixture is light and lemony looking. On low speed add flour mixture and pineapple juice, alternating.

Pour into paper-lined muffin tins and bake at 350 about 15-20 minutes.

Frosting

1/2 cup CF margarine

1/2 cup solid white vegetable shortening.

1 lb. confectioner's sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 Tbs. milk substitute

2-3 Tbs. corn syrup

In a mixer, combine margarine, shortening, vanilla, and any other flavorings you'd like to use. Beat until smooth. Add sugar, a cup at a time, and beat until all the sugar has been added. Beat in milk and add corn syrup to reach spreading consistency. You can add food coloring to this to reach your color of choice. Pink is tops for Zoe.

Makes about 30 cupcakes.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Birthday Week: Part One

So yesterday was the hubby's birthday, and I would be remiss if I didn't give him a shout-out here on the blog. Poor guy's not feeling so well (plus he worked all day yesterday and is playing a gig tonight), but we're hoping he's up to partying Sunday. We're having the joint birthday celebration for him, Zoe, and myself tomorrow afternoon; which will be complete with traditional Puerto Rican fare, a chocolate raspberry cake for the man of honor, and GFCF cupcakes with yummy sweet frosting and jimmies (or sprinkles, whatever you want to call them) for those who don't want to be glutened or caseined. I will post the cupcake recipe tomorrow--I promise!

I know the photo doesn't scream birthday celebration, but it's the most recent one I have; and he looks pretty cute in it, I must say. Happy Birthday, love!

Friday, November 02, 2007

One More Halloween Photo

Does my husband have some kick-ass pumpkin carving skills or what? BTW, this is the first pumpkin he has EVER carved. After he was done Flamenco Dad looked at me and said, "Hey, if I knew it would be this much fun, I would have carved them every year."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trick or Treat

I took this photo as Supergirl and Thomas the Tank Engine hit the first house on their trick-or-treat route. Check out the look on my son's face--he knew he was about to score some candy, and was over the moon about it. The kids had a fantastic time, and are presently passed out after crashing hard from the candy buzz.

Yesterday was a great distraction from my research paper; I'm glad I decided to go along with Flamenco Dad and take the kids out to trick-or-treat. Oh yeah, and I am so totally DONE with my paper! Sweet Jebus, I put that baby to bed and turned it in to my professor this evening. I am so relieved. I've only got a few more tests, then finals, and the semester will be over. Hallelujah!

Nablopomo started today. I'm going to be a good girl and stick to my promise of thirty posts in thirty days. I've got some recipes I'm going to try out and post here during the month (now that I actually have time to cook). Lynn made some egg rolls on her blog the other day, and that inspired me to make some summer rolls. Fortunately I have rice flour wrappers on hand here, so I may get cracking on those this weekend. Oh, and the birthdays begin this weekend, so there will be much birthday merriment here at Casa de Flamenco. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

By the Time This Is Over...

I will have pulled every hair out of my head! Internets, I miss you; but I'm in the grips of research paper hell. Luckily, this paper is due on November 1st, which means I'll be able to devote my attention to the upcoming birthdays (Zoe, Flamenco Dad, and me--all in one week), NaBloPoMo, my gfcf kitchen, catching up on the blogs, online shopping, and all my shows that have been recorded for my viewing pleasure. Can't wait!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Call Me Crazy

It's back! And I'm going to attempt this yet again (maybe this time I will actually make it through the month). National Blog Posting Month starts November 1st, so there will be much bloggage here next month. I'm thinking ahead and making sure there will be no excuses for missing a post. Not even when I'm away in Georgia next month for our short little family getaway--the focus of those posts will be about our travels, and how we fare while travelling gfcf. So sign up and join me and all the other participants as we go for 30 posts in 30 days!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tall, Grande, or Venti?


I've mentioned on more than one occasion that Flamenco Dad is a complete coffee snob. As a result, he has spoiled me to the point that coffee from most retail establishments now takes like what I suspect sewer water would taste like.

Bless his heart, my hubby orders his coffee beans online and grinds them every time he makes coffee. Swoon! Have I mentioned that in the twelve years we've been together, I can count the number of times I've made coffee on one hand?

For years we've been ordering from this coffee purveyor in New York (we found them while strolling through Greenwich Village while we were out on a date). Recently we decided to give the folks at Boca Java a try, and have been very pleased with the results.

Never one to rest on his laurels, the man been searching for even more ways to get his coffee on with even fresher-tasting results. And so, this arrived via UPS yesterday. Oh, and so did these. So last night my husband came home from work and, not unlike a kid in the proverbial candy store, proceeded to roast his first batch of coffee. I think I heard him squeal in delight once or twice.

My entire house smells like a coffee house--not a bad thing, right? I told my mother-in-law that I'm going to have to set up some tables on the front lawn, slap on my apron, and go around taking orders a la Flo from Alice. In the meantime, I'll be in the kitchen baking scones, lemon squares and the like for the handsome, and somewhat obsessive, coffee elitist I married.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Can You Feel the Love?

I am pleased to announce that I am the recipient of some sweet blog love! Thank you!



My buddy Annie has awarded me these two blog awards. Annie and I became acquainted on an online forum for stay-at-home-moms. Annie isn't on that forum anymore, but I feel so blessed to have been able to stay in touch with her and form a friendship online with someone I've yet to meet (oh, how 21st century!). Ironically enough, Annie and I live within a modest driving distance of each other but still haven't met. Someday, when the stars align--and our kiddies cooperate--we're going to have to meet up for tea and girl-talk.



So, now it falls on me to share the love with some of the other bloggers who move me, make me laugh, and just brighten my day!

Lynn at Free to Eat. She is a food (and other life stuff) blogger like me. She's got a musical family, also like me. What I love about her blog is that Lynn's wonderful spirit really comes through in what she writes and creates in her kitchen. One day Lynn's family and mine are going to get together for a little flamenco and Navar jam session!

Carmen of Mom to the Screaming Masses and The Elff Diet. Carmen's got a gaggle of children, and is still sane enough to put together a coherent thought. Oh, and she's lost over seventy pounds and is sharing her wealth of knowledge with the entire world. Go girl!

Ali at Divine Domesticity. She's a fantastic cook. Her food is not gfcf, but her creations really motivate me to experiment in my own kitchen. She just gave birth to an adorable baby girl, and is revealing all the stuff about first time motherhood that nobody bothers to tell you about before your kid is born.


Kelly at Mocha Momma. She works as a dean at a high school (which should qualify her for sainthood or something). Kelly's got a razor-sharp wit, and I just love, love, love her blog.

Attila the Mom at Cheaper Than Therapy. ATM is hilarious, smart, and so REAL. Her posts are funny, touching, poignant, and sometimes snarky. I've adopted some of her Attila-isms in my daily vernacular (ex. Richard Cranium, Asshat of the Week, etc), which is a testament to how much I enjoy her writing.

Ooh, I feel all warm and fuzzy!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Zucchini Bread

I really like quickbreads, and there are several reasons for that:

1. They don't contain yeast (a bonus if you have some yeast sensitivity), which is great because you don't have to wait for bread dough to proof .
2. Quickbreads have wonderful, homey flavors and a moist, almost cake-like texture.
3. They're a fantastic way to sneak healthy ingredients into your kids' diet that they might otherwise not want to try.
4. Have I mentioned the cute little mini-loaf pans? No? I know, I know, it's a sickness how obsessed I am with kitchenware.

I baked some zucchini bread for the kids yesterday, which was a big hit with Zoe (not so much for Ayden, but at least he tried it). I used a recipe from Cooking Free by Carol Fenster. I've referred to the book frequently in this blog, and that's because it's just that good. For those who must avoid things like eggs and sugar in addition to gluten and casein, Carol includes some recipes which avoid these products as well.

I took photos of the zucchini bread, but am unable to upload it today. One of the kids (or both) broke the USB cable that connects my printer/card reader to my computer; don't ask, I nearly popped a blood vessel when I saw that the cable was broken. Again. Once I replace it I'll post the photo.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jenny

Today I'm off to the bookstore to pick up a copy of Jenny McCarthy's new book, Louder than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism. Jenny's been promoting her book on various talk shows, getting out the message that help is out there for families affected by ASD. Among other things, Jenny writes about her experiences with the GFCF Diet--and I'm always interested in hearing about other families' experiences with the diet.

I'm a bit behind in picking up this book--I meant to do it last week. So to say that I'm chomping at the bit to get this book in my hot little hands would be an understatement. Lately I've been up to my eyeballs in homework (I'm drowning in logic problems and chemical formulas over here!) and rehearsals. A chance to sit and read a book of my choosing will be such a treat. Flamenco Dad and I have 2 shows this week, and after that I'll be able to give Jenny's book my attention.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cookies Anyone?

Sorry that my posts have been sporadic as of late; this school business was tougher than I thought it would be. I'm enjoying myself and the classes are actually interesting; but I've been studying like a mad woman, yo.

I took a break from studying for tomorrow's science test and baked some cookies for Miss Z and her brother. The recipe for these cookies comes from Special Diets for Special Kids, which is a wonderful cookbook for GFCF, kid-friendly cooking. The cookies have a delightfully chewy texture reminiscent of oatmeal cookies. They include puffed rice cereal, which is what gives it that lovely mouth-feel. I used Enjoy LIfe Foods Chocolate Chips for a bit of chocolatey flavor.

My kids really dug these cookies--Ayden ate four of them! I know, I know, bad mommy right? But I only fed him two; he managed to sneakily get hold of two more cookies on his own. Zoe was thrilled to see that the recipe made a large batch, so she knew there would be plenty to take to school. How many does the recipe make? Well that depends on how large you make them. I spooned them onto the baking sheets in generous tablespoonsful, and the recipe yielded 36 cookies.

Rice Puffies (recipe by Lisa Lewis)

1 cup GF flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

1 egg

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup CF margarine

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups puffed rice cereal

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients. Cream margarine, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg. Stir in flour mixture, then cereal and chips. Spoon onto baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes or until light brown.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six

Please take a moment to remember all the souls lost on this day six years ago in New York, New York; Shanksville, Pennsylvania; and Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Fried

A while back I saw a fellow gluten-free blogger posted about gluten free onions rings. Sheri had seen a recipe on the Food Network site for onion rings that were batter-dipped using a batter made with rice flour. Sheri simply replaced the conventional beer with Redbridge and voila! Onion rings that even the most finnicky gluten eater could enjoy. Well, Flamenco Dad heard me rave about the notion of making these tasty treats; fast forward to a six pack of Redbridge that somehow ended up at my house...you know where this is going, right?

The original recipe comes from Food Network babe Tyler Florence. So, given that I'm kinda sweet on him, I was on board with trying this recipe here at Casa Flamenco. I don't fry too often, but this was definitely worth the effort--and certainly worth making again. I served it along with some roasted herb chicken (hey I wasn't going to fry the entire meal) and some organic sweet peas. Oh yeah, and I had a bottle of Redbridge with it. Yum!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Anniversary

When I married the handsome fellow in the picture, I became the luckiest girl in the world. Happy Anniversary to the guy who still gives me butterflies.

A Quick Treat

Zoe asked if I could bake something tasty and gluten and casein free for her to have as a snack. We were headed to a barbeque and we knew there would be a limited amount of food she could eat there. I was a bit pressed for time this morning, so I whipped up a quick batch of blueberry muffins. I used the recipe for Sue's Rice Muffins, which is on the package of Bob's Red Mill White Rice Flour. I had some organic blueberries in the freezer, which I thawed out and tossed with the muffin mixture. They were done and ready to eat in a flash! And, unlike the last time I made these, I didn't overbake them; so they had a wonderful, light texture and were quite moist and tasty. I love them because they're not ridiculously sweet, unlike some others. And blueberries are so delicious and good for you, they made a welcome addition to the final product. We've got some muffins left over, which was great news for Zoe--tomorrow she gets to take one in her lunchbox tomorrow.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Eight Random Things Meme

Y'all, I've been tagged! Another GFCF mom, GFCF Mommy, has tagged me to post an "8 Random Things About Me" meme. And it's just what I need to help me get the blog juices going.

The rules for this meme game are:
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.


So here are my eight random facts:
1. I am an absolute crazy-obsessed Wizard of Oz freak. I don't eat at McDonald's, but my niece who works there has brought me all the little Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz toys that came in the Happy Meals. She is now my favorite niece of all time. My husband says I have a disease--and yet (enabler that he is), he bought the the 100th anniversary annotated version of the book. Hello?

2. Even though I'm rather short (barely 5'4) I have BIG, wide canoe feet. When I was a kid, my dad teased me and said I had Fred Flinstone feet, LOL! My dad and I never saw eye to eye on things, but he was totally right about the feet.

3. Speaking of those feet, you'd think that since they're big I'd have more support beneath me to keep me steady. And you would be wrong, because I can be one clumsy girl. It's a wonder that I can stay on my feet in dance class, I can barely navigate my living room!

4. I have got not-so-secret crushes on Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, and several of the other Food Network dudes. I loves me a guy that knows his way around a kitchen. Except for Bobby Flay--that guy's a real "Richard Cranium"(hope you don't mind me borrowing that, Attila).

5. I have what I believe to be an extremely cool tattoo on my shoulder. It took me two years to muster up the nerve to let my grandma see it--but she thinks it's pretty snazzy too. I never told her that I had my belly button pierced as well; it might have been too much for her to handle. Besides, I had that removed a little over ten years ago, at my doctor's insistence--I was seven months pregnant at the time and my belly button looked like it was about to pop and tear at the site of the piercing.

6. When I was a teenager, I had the chance to go on a tour of Europe with my school--and my parents said no. Merde! I missed out on two weeks traveling through London, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. Trust me, I'm still mad about it. Mom, I hope you're reading this.

7. I am a beauty product junkie. Particularly when it comes to hair products. It must stem from the fact that I grew up in a beauty parlor. I love all manner of yummy smelling hair stuff. Some people say that the smell of cookies baking in the oven reminds them of their childhood. For me it's the smell of peroxide and hairspray.

8. I never learned to ride a bike. I grew up in the ghetto, and my parents refused to let me play outside to learn. And good luck learning to ride in an apartment. My husband bought me a bike (and a super-cute matching helmet) several years ago and I'm afraid to ride it. WTH?

Okay, so I know I'm supposed to tag 8 other people, but most of the other bloggers I know have already done this. If you haven't, then consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Why He May Never Want to See Another Doctor Ever Again

Ayden had an interesting couple of days last week. He had a surgical procedure last Friday (more on that in a minute). But, as if we weren't worked up enough about that, the little angel decided to take a flying leap off out couch, hitting his head on the coffee table in the process. The kid had blood dripping from his head, soaking his white t-shirt and leaving drops of blood all over the living room floor. He had a nasty gash on his head, which meant a trip to the ER for us.

I guess I should consider myself lucky in that, at four years old, this is the first time we've had to go to the ER with Ayden for something like this. Zoe was just under two years old when she somehow got a hold of a small bit of cotton and jammed it in her ear. Moments later she was bleeding from her ear because she was trying to dig it out. Ick, I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it.

So we get to the ER, where the doctor on duty determines that it's just a cut (no concussion or anything like that), so it's two staples on Ayden's scalp and away we go. He needs to keep the staples in for seven to ten days. Picture me trying to wash the kid's hair when all he can think about are the two staples protruding from his head. For the next seven to ten days, people. Again with the nausea.

Which brings us to Friday--two days after the couch jumping incident. Ayden had surgery to correct his "tongue-tie," which is at the point where--if not corrected--could eventually affect his speech (we were already starting to see signs of that). The surgery is known as a frenoplasty; given the fact that my son's tongue tie was rather pronounced, it was necessary for the doctor to put two stitches on the underside of my son's tongue after cutting it. Okay, seriously, I'm turning green over here.

Needless to say, once the little guy woke up from the anesthesia and the drugs started to wear off...he was not happy. Fear not, it was nothing some Tylenol and an unlimited supply of ice pops couldn't fix. He's feeling much better, but he still doesn't want to stick his tongue out. Well, at least the kid's got good manners.

Monday, August 27, 2007

School is In Session


Wondering where I've been for the past week? Well, the family has been getting back into the swing of the school year routine. It's back to school for Zoe and Flamenco Dad. This year it's a little different because not only is Ayden starting preschool, but yours truly is back in the classroom as well. I figured I can get back in the game now, and hopefully my fortieth birthday present to myself will be my masters degree.


I'm doing the preschool curriculum with the little guy here at home since the state's voluntary preschool program is next summer, with Ayden starting kindergarten next fall. My son and I have a good routine worked out already. We begin at 8 a.m., do some work, and around 9:30 is when he has some free time to play while his mom checks emails and blogs.

Zoe's school year began with much fanfare, as she is beginning to mainstream this year. We're all very excited for her. She is also looking into being a regular part of her school's morning broadcast, which would be a great opportunity for her to challenge herself in new ways.

Flamenco Dad has been busy writing syllabi for his students. He's teaching a new course this year(in addition to his regular course load), which required extra preparation (like going through the new textbook and preparing a syllabus and lecture material), but he's done and now the fun begins.

As for me, my first week back at school has been positive. Unfortunately for me, the courses I'm taking this semester have nothing at all to do with my major--which means I've got to work harder at making it interesting for me. And did I mention I'm taking math AND science? I'm an artsy gal, so these subjects in particular are quite difficult for me. I am committed to kicking butt on these classes, whether I'm a math and science girl or not. The first time I was a college student I was much younger, and more interested in my social life than my studies. I spent much time goofing off and going to many a campus party. Fast forward seventeen years (oh, good heavens!) and I find now that I'm considerably more focused on what matters. Thank goodness--I'm a bit too old to be hanging out with the sorority sisters.

Edited to add: Since I've gone back to school, my brother has now nicknamed me "Billy Madison"

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Just Wondering...

How is it that my two kids, who have been healthy all summer long, are NOW sick. Now--two days before school starts, the doctor's office is closed for the weekend, and my son has surgery scheduled for Friday. WTF?

Karina's Cookies

We are in heaven here at Casa de Flamenco, thanks to a recipe I found on Karina's blog. Karina is also know as the Gluten Free Goddess(http://www.glutenfreegoddess.com/) . She is an artist and creator of fantastic, gluten-free vegan recipes. Karina recently discovered that she had even more food allergies than she was aware of, so unfortunately this treat is now off limits to her (oh, the horror!). I'm going to have to try to concoct a recipe suitable for her dietary needs as a thank you for her recipes.

This recipe I found on her site is for Almost Nantucket Cookie Bars. I'm not going to post the recipe here, but here is the link: http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2006/11/pepperidge-farm-remember.html. Please forgive me, I haven't mastered the art of linking without having to put the entire url up. I've still got a ways to go there.

But anyway, this cookie is absolutely divine. And it really is incredibly close to those Pepperidge Farm goodies that haven't graced my home in many years. Zoe loved them (even if they do have coconut in them). And as Karina mentions in her blog, they are truly dunk worthy. I didn't even have time to photograph them; I was too busy woofing them down with my husband and kids. So thank you, thank you Karina--the entire Flamenco Family sends many besos!!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sofrito for Attila

I've mentioned the use of sofrito more than once in my blog. It's a seasoning blend used in most traditional Puerto Rican cooking; and many variations of it are seen in Latin American cuisine in general. A fellow blogger, Attila the Mom over at Cheaper than Therapy, asked me to post a recipe for it so that she could give it a try.

There are as many ways to make sofrito as there are cooks that prepare it. This recipe is one that my mother-in-law gave to me; the ingredients make a smaller batch, and it can be easily doubled or tripled to suit the cook's needs. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find in the produce section of your local market; things like cilantro, culantro, and aji dulce may be found at your local Latin American or Asian grocer.

Unlike some sofrito recipes, this one is not cooked in advance. When I use it, I heat oil in the pan I'm cooking in, add a few teaspoons of sofrito and cook for a few minutes, then add whatever other ingredients my recipe calls for. When used in meats, I use it raw--I simply season the uncooked meat with it, adding other seasonings like salt and pepper as needed.

Ingredients:

1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
1 bunch recao (culantro)
1 small bag aji dulce, about 4 oz.
1 tsp oregano, dried
pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In blender, place peppers, onions, aji dulces, and garlic; add oil and pulse. Add cilantro, culantro, oregano, and pepper and continue to pulse until pureed. Please note that depending on the size of the blender it may be necessary to do this in batches. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container up to two weeks. This freezes extremely well in airtight containers. You may want to store this in multiple smaller containers and keep one in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Again With the Spicy Food


Because the spicy meatballs were not enough, I had to kick it up a notch with this lovely concoction the very next day. I found some gluten-free Andouille sausage and decided to make a Cajun-inspired dish served over steamed white rice (gotta have a little something to balance out the heat, right?). I made this dish with dried kidney beans that I soaked and cooked the day of, but feel free to use canned beans. I would suggest you drain and rinse the canned beans though. The sausage lent much flavor to the dish, so really the only thing I added was some salt. Laissez les bon temps roulez! Let the good times roll!
Ingredients:
12 oz. GF Andouille sausage*
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs.olive oil
1 can small red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
salt to taste
Slice Andouille sausage in about 3/4-inch pieces. In a large pot add olive oil and place over medium-low heat. Add onion, pepper, celery, carrots, and garlic and allow to sweat for several minutes. Add sausage and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, and water or chicken broth. Bring pot to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for about 15 more minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve over steamed rice.
*Note: please make sure to check ingredients carefully when buying sausage. Many contain gluten and/or casein. When in doubt, as your butcher or the manufacturer.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Now That's a Spicy Meatball


Thursday nights mean flamenco class for yours truly, so I try to get an early start on dinner. As I write this, I've got some homemade meatballs cooking on the stove. The meatballs I made today are all beef; though on occasion I use a mix of ground beef and pork. I use gluten free bread crumbs, egg, dried herbs, and a sofrito.

Sofrito is a popular ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking--similar in appearance to pesto, it combines peppers, onions, garlic, culantro, cilantro, and this really small, sweet chile called aji dulce. These ingredients go into the food processor, and are added to lots of traditional dishes. I make it in large batches, and freeze it in plastic containers. Now I know what you're going to say: that doesn't sound like something that would go in traditional Italian meatballs. You would be correct. But they do go in my Nuyorican meatballs. I remember Giada de Laurentiis from the Food Network using a sofrito once too--though I don't think she put it in her meatballs.

Once the meatballs are done done I'll drop them into my marinara sauce and let 'em simmer for about 30 minutes. I'll serve them over gluten free pasta--today it's Bionaturae Elbow macaroni--they're made with potato, rice, and soy. I really like the texture and flavor of the pasta; to me, it is the most similar to semolina pastas than other gluten free varieties.

Sorry, no picture yet--but once dinner's ready I'll post one. Ciao!
*edited to add: Awww, yeah!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chugga-Chugga, Choo-Choo


Today we took the kiddies to see the Thomas and Friends Live! show. It was like Christmas in July for our kids and the eleventy million other cheering, happy kids that attended the performance. Ayden is obsessed with Thomas, so this was a real treat for him. Zoe, not to be left out, truly enjoyed the show too. She sang along with the characters (Ayden said he was too busy focusing on the show to sing along), and regularly checked on her brother to see if he was having fun. Even though she's not really Thomas' target audience--she's older than the average fan--she loved it. After the show we stopped to pick up a few souvenir items to take home. Ayden picked a Thomas-shaped light up wand. Zoe picked out a plate decorated with some of the characters. After we walked out of the theater, Zoe explained that even though she isn't a big fan of Thomas, she picked out a souvenir because she wanted to give it to her brother as a gift. Sweet beyond belief! It was such a lovely gesture of thoughtfulness--my girl did me proud.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cooking at Home


One of the best things about coming home after vacation--to me, at least--is that I can cook again. Frankly, eating in restaurants for every meal gets boring quickly; not to mention the fact that you really don't know exactly what's going into your meal if somebody else is making it. Yesterday, the Flamenco Family made the trek over to Wild Oats to shop for groceries. I noticed that they had these lovely Wild Alaskan scallops. I remembered seeing a show on the Food Network recently where a woman prepared some bacon wrapped scallops, and suddenly inspiration struck! I ordered up some scallops to go with my other goodies and headed back home. These scallops are very simply prepared: wrapped in bacon, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper. I cooked them in the broiler until the bacon was cooked and the scallops looked opaque. I served them on a bed of Bibb lettuce with some tomato slices and a spicy mayonnaise. It was an absolutely heavenly meal; and it was great to eat something made with my own hands after so many days away from home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We Are a Travelin' Family

We just got back from a short trip to southwest Florida. We visited Grandma and Great-Grandma, and we spent a few days exploring Naples and the surrounding areas. We visited the Naples Zoo and Carribean Gardens, where there were several opportunities to take silly photos such as the one above. Also, the zoo offered a short boat trip around a lake with small islands that are home to all the zoo's primates. We saw a snake and reptile show, which Ayden loved. When the zookeeper asked if we wanted to see some scary snakes, Ayden yelled "YEAH!" louder than any other kid or adult at the show. The kids got to see the lion feeding too, though Zoe was a bit put off by the fact that the lions eat raw meat.

We also paid a visit to a Lionel Train museum; my kids went nuts over this place! There was a humongous exhibit of trains complete with a Lionel city and all the accompanying buildings. Many of the buildings had sound or visual effects that could be activated with the push of a button. Once my kids realized they could make lots of the features work, they squealed with delight. The museum also offered a train ride around the outside of the museum building. It was a mini train operated by this adorable older fellow (honestly, he was about ninety--but he would probably knock me out if he heard me call him old!). Flamenco Dad and I joined the kids on the train ride, and we loved it just as much as they did.

In other news, Zoe was "glutened" on this trip--at least, we're pretty sure she was. She was okay on the drive home, although she was oddly quiet. She had a horrendous night went we arrived home, and unfortunately threw up in our car the next morning. Yesterday she was a total wreck with stomach problems, shakiness, and lots of uncontrollable stimming. Thank God she is much better today, though she is quite exhausted from the lack of sleep.