Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Moving Along

I have moved!

GFCF Mama now has a new name and a new home. Visit me over at flamencomom.wordpress.com. I still haven't finished unpacking, so please be patient while I tidy up the joint. Thanks!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

God bless him, Flamenco Dad spared me from the icky task of carving the pumpkins this year. Last year, he carved the pumkins with the kids. FD was SO good at it that I saw an opportunity to delegate: "Hey honey, why don't we make YOU the official pumpkin decorator? You're so great at it, and the kids really love when you did it last year?" Having sufficiently appealed to his ego, he agreed. Hooray!

What a job he did! The jack o'lanterns turned out wonderful. Well, except for the fact that they are already rotting. They are now sitting in my back yard, scaring the squirrels and birds away. Tomorrow we'll cut up the pumkins and feed them to the critters living in the trees behind my house.

Bob's GF Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I admit it: I've been very lazy in the kitchen these days. I'm on the lookout for shortcuts, tricks, and ways to get good results in the kitchen with not-too-much effort. I picked up a package of Bob's Red Mill GF Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix, and thought I'd give it a shot. This is a yeast bread, so those of you that are avoiding yeast will want to steer clear of this one. I was pleasantly surprised by the texture of the bread as it came out of the oven. . . it looked liked cinnamon raisin bread should look. I did not use the recommended 9X5 loaf pan (have I mentioned that I burned something in my loaf pan a while back? Long story, I'll get to it another day), so I opted for an 8X8 pan instead.


Here are my two main gripes about how this bread turned out. First of all, it is just not sweet enough. I don't like when bread like this is overly sweet, but this was in serious need of some sweetness. This bread was crying out for some jelly, if for no other reason than to add some much needed sugar. Also, the bread has a pretty noticeable saltiness to it. I'm not sure what is causing it. My guess is it have something to do with the yeast, but I could be wrong about that. I will give credit where it's due: the texture is quite good, and I was glad the bread didn't have an overwhelming garbanzo bean taste like some other bread mixes I've tried. I have a hard time with breads that use liberal amounts of garbanzo or fava bean flours. To me they give baked goods an odd aftertaste. Fortunately, the folks at Bob's left that out, opting for a different flour mix.

So would I buy this again? Maybe. The kids liked it, though even they asked me to pass the jelly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Back In Town


We're back from our vacation, and what a wonderful vacation it was. Once I get around to uploading the photos, I'll be sure to share a few pictures. We had a blast, and I'm sorry the trip had to end...but alas, it's time to get back to the real world.
Oh yeah, and there should be some cooking going on on this blog, right? Today I picked up a package of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread Mix (wow, that was a mouthful) to try out. The kids will be home from school soon, and I can't think of a better thing to come home to than the smell of fresh baked goodness.
This weekend we're hitting the pumpkin patch and the costume shop. Halloween is just a week away, and this slacker has yet to look for costumes for Ayden and Zoe. Party City here we come!
I'm thinking of making this picture my new profile picture. Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

With These Kids, I'll Never Run Out of Blog-able Material

My son wins the prize for the funniest line of the week. This week the school fundraiser began...and Lord help me they are selling cookie dough. I say "Lord help me" because they are difficult to resist; I want to eat them even though I can't. Zoe can't go anywhere near them, which means Flamenco Dad, Ayden, and my mother-in-law are going to be getting their cookie on.

Anyway, I digress...

Since Ayden is new to the school thing, naturally he is also new to the school fundraiser thing. He hops into the car and announces that the school is having a cookie-dough fundraiser. The class that sells the most gets an ice cream party. He TOTALLY wants the free ice cream. And he tells me that he's going to miss out the ice cream party because he can't sell cookie dough, 'cause he doesn't even know how to MAKE cookie dough!

Had I been drinking a beverage at the time, it would have shot clear out my nose.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Looking Forward to a Vacation

Well, it's almost that time of year again...the Flamenco Family is headed on another road trip! I know, I know, I've been gone from this blog for so long...everyone probably thought I was taking a permanent vacay from this thing. But no! I'm still here, I've just been a slacker.

This weekend we're renting a cabin in Ellijay, Georgia, which is about an hour away from Atlanta. As luck would have it, the Georgia Apple Festival is this weekend, so we'll be there at just the right time. Our cabin has internet access (how rustic!); I'm planning to post at least once while away. Our itinerary includes visits to attractions like Amicalola Falls State Park, the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Appalachian Trail (we hope), so I'm looking forward to some picturesque views and many photo opportunities.

The familia is in some serious need to time out of town. Flamenco Dad and I have been working hard, and the kiddies--especially Miss Zoe--have been putting in lots of time on school work. Ayden is loving kindergarten, and he already has a group of buddies to call his own. We are also bringing my mother-in-law along. She doesn't get to travel much, so we thought it would be nice to take her with us.

We're all really excited about the upcoming trip. I'll try to post here at least once before we hit the road.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday 9: Would You Take Them Back?

1. Think of all your exes. Would you take any of them back? No way, the man I married is pretty darn spectacular!

2. What was the first car you drove? What happened to it? It belonged to an old boyfriend I had in high school. He thought he'd teach me how to drive. Two driving lessons later, I dumped him...he was the meanest driving instructer EVER!

3. What’s the longest amount of time you have driven a car non-stop? Five hours, from Miami to Tampa on a road trip.

4. Have you ever been stood up on a date? If yes, when? Not that I can recall.

5. What TV network do you watch the most? Bravo, by a mile. I'm hooked on Project Runway, Top Chef, and Shear Genius.

6. Pick out a song you like that has special meaning to you. Share with us what song is it, and what’s the meaning to you. "Kiss from a Rose" from Seal. It's not that I particularly love the song, but it was the hot song the summer I met my husband so it brings back memories.

7. Who was your first celebrity crush on? Johnny Depp. Is it weird that I still have a crush on him?

8. What is your favorite romantic comedy movie? Moonstruck. Some of the best movie lines ever.

9. It has been said, "First Loves Are Never Over." Is this true for you? No.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Where's The Platform?

When I finally became eligible to vote, I rushed out to my local Supervisor of Elections and promptly filled out my voter registration form; I was excited to finally be able to take part in the process. I grew up in a home where my parents didn't vote, and I always thought it was unfortunate that my parents didn't take it seriously. My grandpa, a Korean War vet, never missed an election; and I'm glad that his enthusiasm for exercising the right to vote has rubbed off on me. Flamenco Dad and I take our politics seriously; and we've explained to our kids the importance of voting. Zoe was surprised when I told her that women got the right to vote just 88 years ago.

In the interest of keeping my sanity, I have declared a moratorium on watching all this nonsense going on in the news (television, radio, and internet) with respect to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and their respective running mates. I keep looking for information on platforms; I want to know what these people believe in, what these candidates suggest is best for our country...and all I'm getting is "Vote for me, because the other guy is...(insert nasty comment here)." I don't want to vote against someone. I want to vote for someone, because I feel they can best represent me. So far, I'm not hearing issues, I'm hearing insults. I don't believe either party is doing an effective job in relaying its vision for our country; and this has left me disappointed, angry and offended.

To make matters worse, the news and entertainment media have now gotten in on the action. Competing news and entertainment markets (I'm grouping them together because the line seems to be blurring between what is news and what is "entertainment") have gotten to the point where it has become something akin to mud wrestling matches or wet t-shirt contests. It's almost a race to see who can be the most outrageous and garner the most attention by printing or broadcasting the most sensational stories. Sorry, I don't mean to offend mud-wrestlers or wet t-shirt contest participants.

But come on: is this what news is supposed to be about? I want my newspeople to just. read. the. news. You remember the news, right? Where stories are researched, confirmed, and fact-checked, and then broadcast to the public without the anchors interjecting their own personal slant?

And when did the entertainment media decide that they should get in on this? Internets, if I'm watching an entertainment program or reading a magazine, I just want to know who wore what, what the hot trends are in fashion, which movies suck and which movies deserve my eight bucks (plus the price of a Cherry Coke).

So I'm going to conduct some research of my own. No more of this baloney I keep watching on television or reading online. I want to know what these candidates believe, and how they plan to lead the country. Wish me luck. I have a feeling this is going to be an uphill battle.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Laptop Leftovers

Remember this post I wrote a while back about the Zoe's lunchbox? Well, I love the darn thing so much I bought one for Ayden and one for myself. Of course we each have a different color (to prevent the inevitable fights over which lunchbox belongs to which person); and since red is my favorite color, I purchased this lovely lunchbox in black with red inserts. Oh, and the carrying case? Red and black...too cute!

I'm trying to adhere to gluten and casein free as much as possible. It's not too difficult, since I already prepare all Zoe's food; the only time I find myself in a pinch is when I don't plan ahead. So I'm now being more diligent about doing just that.

Today I had some leftover Pineapple Fried Rice (I went out for Thai food after class last night), salad greens with dressing, some spicy peanuts, and some fresh blueberries. It was delicious, satisfying, and since everything was in moderate portions I felt like I was doing my body good. I'm planning to use this more often; especially on days when I'll be in class till late in the evening. Getting my learnin' on makes me hungry; and after sitting in class for six hours I'm usually ready to chew on my textbooks. That could get expensive.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I Just Don't Get It

Not sure why, but my post-tropical storm Fay post appears out-of-sequence with my other posts. Blogger is messin' with me again. Go figure.

Discuss. Anybody know why this may have happened?

Monday, August 18, 2008

No Way, Fay!

Fay, you are definitely harshing my mellow. Today my kids started school--Ayden started kindergarten--and already they have a weather day off tomorrow. Why? Because Fay is coming. Crap.

Electricity and internet connectivity permitting, I'll be posting live on here tomorrow intermittently during the storm. And who knows? Maybe I'll have some helpful hints to share for keeping your kids--and yourselves--sane during those times when you just have to hunker down, stay safe, and wait out some nasty weather.

I guess now would be a good time for me to get the board games and reading material ready. For anyone in Fay's path: stay safe, keep listening to the weather reports, and if you are asked to evacuate..do so.

photo: The Weather Channel, http://www.weather.com/.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It Was Supposed to Rain...

The tropical storm was a non-event here, literally. It was a bit cloudy, but we got nary a drop of rain.

The end.

Just kidding! We spent the weather day at home with the kiddies, who were anxious to get back to class. Zoe and Ayden had a great first day of school. They both love their new teachers, and have already made new friends.

In other news, I finally got that much-needed haircut. And I gotta say...it's mighty cute. I'll try to post a new photo today.

There may also be some actual cooking happening here at Casa Flamenco today. More to follow...

See You In September--I Mean, August


Hello, Internets! I have returned from my self-imposed exile, and I've got lots to share. Man, the summer just flew by here at Casa de Flamenco. I wrapped up summer school at the end of last week, and Ayden finished the week before that. My little guy absolutely LOVED pre-K, and is looking forward to starting kindergarten on Monday, and...


And I cannot believe I just typed that. It seems like I just gave birth to the little bugger last week, and now I'm getting ready to send him off to school. I think I'm gonna need a martini.


This summer was particularly challenging for me because I am now a full-time college girl. It was no easy feat, but I made it through the semester with my sanity (relatively) intact. The best part of all is that I kicked hairy a** this semester, with 2 A's and 1 A+. Can I get a "hell yeah"? I've signed up for 4 classes this fall. Wish me luck.


Miss Zoe is starting 5th grade next week, in a mainstream classroom. We're so proud of her--and we're on the edge of our seats wondering how she'll do in her new classroom setting. Tomorrow we're going to meet her new teacher and give Zoe a tour of the new classroom...best to get the lay of the land before Monday. And in other (read: embarrassing for my daughter) news, I had to take Zoe--gulp--bra shopping recently. I haven't recovered from that one yet. Could someone please explain to me why it's so hard to find a non-trampy-looking bra for my pre-teen daughter? I mean, it's not like we were shopping at Victoria's Secret or Frederick's of Hollywood. Since when does a child need a push-up bra? Hello?


Oh, and you know I couldn't leave out Flamenco Dad. In addition to busting his butt all summer teaching and playing weddings, he was asked to be a part of a book about guitar technique. FD was given the task of demonstrating some chords in photos to appear in the book. So he got to be a model for a day! The picture above is not going to be in the book, but it's an awfully cute picture, so I thought I'd share it. There's more to cover, but I'm exhausted. I'll save the rest for another day.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Be Back Soon

Hello, internets! I've been a naughty blogger...few posts, no visiting other blogs...what gives? Well, next week is my last week of summer school; so I'll soon have plenty of time after that to share lots of gfcf goodness and family fun. I promise!!

I had a bad run of it with wheat and dairy recently; this was partly due to laziness, and partly due to the fact that I've been so busy that I haven't been very well organized in the kitchen and have dined on-the-go more than I care to even think about. Yuck. Folks, it hasn't been pretty. But I'm determined to get back on the bandwagon. Fear not: Zoe has adhered steadfastly to eating gfcf. I guess I took what precious little time I had to hook Zoe up, but I neglected to do the same for myself. Chalk that one up to a lesson learned.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that I do well on my finals!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Unexpected Treats

I am not a gardener; in fact, I'm one of those rare breeds you hear about that can actually kill plastic plants. So it's little wonder that I don't even try to plant or grow things in my yard. But a while back something appeared to be blooming in my yard...and miraculously, I managed to not kill it.

We had some landscapers come in and do some put in some new grass and trim a few of our trees. One of the gentlemen knocked on our door and said, "I don't know if you know this, but you got a pineapple growing in the yard."


A pineapple you say?


So we checked it out, and sure enough it was an actual pineapple. As if the fact that it was growing so nicely wasn't surprising enough (no one was taking care of it), none of us recall ever even planting this thing. What the....?


Flamenco Dad and I talked it over, and we came to the only reasonable sounding conclusion. You see, my father-in-law LOVES to garden. When he lived in this house he was constantly planting and mowing and trimming...you get the idea. Well, he hasn't lived here in years, but he's become what I have called "The Phantom Gardener," secretly planting things in our garden and my brother-in-law's garden. Over at the BIL's place, he planted some avocado a few years back. Anyway, we concluded that he was the one who planted the pineapple around the same time he planted the avocados.


Three days ago we cut the pineapple from its home and brought it inside. We marvelled at it for a day or so--this was a full grown, live pineapple that actually came from our own yard--then we cut into it and ate it. It was one of the sweeteswt, juiciest pineapples I've ever tasted. Initially I contemplated using it to make some pineapple bread or smoothies, but this baby was great on its own, no baking, blending or grilling required.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Come Check It Out

5 Minutes for Special Needs

I have a new, second home on the internet. 5 Minutes for Special Needs is a site for families with special needs children. Yours truly was asked to be a contributor for this site, so I'll be posting there on Mondays and Thursdays. In addition to myself, there are several other moms and dads from all over the internet who are sharing their own stories and experiences on the site. Come on over and show us some love!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dear Institution of Higher Learning,

You are kicking my butt. Being a full-time college student, while managing a household with a hubby and two kids is no walk in the park. My roots are growing in, and I have no time to get them done. I can't remember the last time I had a mani and a pedi. I've had a Netflix movie here in my house for close to a month that I haven't watched yet. The good news it that my children and hubby are fed, bathed, have freshly-washed laundry, and still get some time with yours truly. By the end of the day I am totally beat...I pretty much collapse onto my bed at night, and don't even move till my alarm rings at six.

But you wanna know something? Even though I'm tired and my brain hurts, going through this process is so incredibly rewarding that it's hard to put it into words. I feel challenged, I feel motivated, I feel excited. I look forward to learning more and more. And even though I've got about eleventy million pages to read by Thursday, I'm really loving it.

That all may change come finals week.

Respectfully,

M

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mother-Daughter Time



Weep with me, internets: my son started pre-kindergarten this week. I do realize that this should be a time for celebration, and believe me when I say that it is. But the part of me that misses having my little buddy home with me all day is a bit sad. I know, I know...suck it up, right? Ayden is in school from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in preparation for kindergarten, which starts in August. My little boy's growing up right before my eyes. When we dropped him off on Monday, he made a beeline straight for the toys in his classroom. I said good-bye to him and his reply was something along the lines of, "yeah, Mom, whatever, bye already!"


Zoe and I will be spending lots of mother-daughter time together over the summer. Since her brother's in school and her dad's teaching a few days a week, we get lots of girl time. I took her on a walking tour of the university, which she loved. Zoe really loved when I took her to the campus bookstore and upstairs to Starbucks, where she got to sit in the cafe with her juice like a big gal while her mom had some chai tea. This Friday we will (weather permitting) head out to the beach.

Today, however, we baked cookies. And oh, were they good. I used Bob's Red Mill Mix to prep these cookies ( a good go-to mix), but for me the best part was that I got to break out the Silpat. I'm not a Francophile, but but I gotta say this is one of my favorite French imports. No greasing of the baking pan required, and no burnt cookies...ever. I bought this about three years ago at my neighborhood kitchenware emporium (read: my second home), and it is one of my favorite kitchen items. Did I mention that the cookies NEVER burn on this thing?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Field Trip Friday

Just because I'm busy getting ready for my final exam, that doesn't mean that I can't take my kids out and show them a good time. I don't know if the fact that I took the children on a field trip today means that I'm a cool mom or if I'm just perfecting the art of skipping out on studying. Either way, we had a blast.

Zoe, Ayden and I headed over to the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. Flamenco Dad teaches in the area on Fridays, so I used that as an opportunity to expose the kids to some artwork. I dropped dad off at work, and we were on our way. The kids enjoyed the museum, though after 2+ hours, my son was ready to bust out of there. We all enjoyed the interactive gallery the museum has set up. It's got lots of artwork and drawing materials so kids can draw and take their masterpieces home with them. Also, I got a chance to school my kids on some of the artwork; they have a very respectable collection of Greek and Roman art and Zoe in particular had lots of questions about the sculptures, paintings, and decorative pieces. We also saw two beautiful Monets, a Cezanne, a Renoir, and a very interesting collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts. I forgot to mention that they have a large number of pieces of South Asian art: plenty of Buddhas, Shivas, and the like.

After the museum trip we picked Flamenco Dad up at work and had Thai lunch at one of our favorite restaurants on the beach. I've written about this particular restaurant before (and of my profound love for Thai food), so needless to say we had a great lunch. Afterwards we drove up to this awesome candy shop called "The Candy Kitchen." It's a local landmark, which has been in business since 1950. They make their own ice creams, taffies, and fudge, and they carry lots of nostalgia candies (wax lips and Necco wafers anyone?). As one might suspect there weren't too many GFCF treats there, but we found something for everyone. The inside of the shop is covered wall-to-wall with different candy packaging, and the ceiling has all sorts of writing, done in black permanent marker. I didn't take a picture of the inside of the shop (I didn't want to freak out the salespeople or any customers), but I couldn't resist going around back to get a shot of this:


People, this is the bathroom. I have to go on record here and say that I did not follow Flamenco Dad into the men's room. This is one bathroom to be used by all, and it opens up into the parking lot so the whole world gets to see this crazy looking room. I actually had him stand there to take the picture, because I didn't want to have a picture of a toilet on my pretty pink blog. I figured the sink would be enough to demonstrate that this is, in fact, the WC. The kids then wanted to take turns having their pictures taken standing in the doorway of the bathroom, but I decided against it--especially when I noticed a man in the parking lot staring at me, wondering what the hell I was doing taking pictures of a bathroom.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cupcakes and a Movie

I really need to give a shout-out to the folks over at Cherrybrook Kitchen. A while back I tested their Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix, and was very pleased with the results. This time, I tried their Gluten Free Dreams Chocolate Cake Mix, and it was heavenly. The product is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, peanut free, tree nut free...and FABULOUS! All I added was some oil, water, and vanilla; poured the mix into these cute little Barbie cupcake cups, bake at 350 for about 18 minutes, and presto! Baked yummy goodness. I topped these little gems with a homemade icing--which had some cocoa added to it because, you know, I love having a little chocolate with my chocolate! The texture of these cakes is perfect; not unlike a certain boxed cake mix that I used to buy in the supermarket a long time ago. Mmm...

The heat is oppressive around here lately, so I've been keeping the kids entertained with indoor activities. After dinner we turn the kids loose outside (by then the hottest time of the day has long since passed). After the cupcakes were out of the oven, I popped in a movie: Flicka. Ayden was not too enthused about it--I guess it's because it wasn't animated--but I thought it was very good. Since the kids have been around horses at their grandma's, and because there's a strong young female character in the movie, I thought Zoe might enjoy it; and she did. And because I'm a bit of a sap, I shed more than a tear or two by the end of the movie. If I don't get back to my homework soon, I'll be shedding a few more tears come exam day next week!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Is It Over Already?


So today is Zoe's last day of school. I've been so busy with schoolwork that I really didn't see this coming, and I'm feeling a bit under-prepared. I try to have at least a vague game plan for what we're going to do for the next 2 1/2 months...and that hasn't happened yet. This is especially important for Zoe: she's so used to having a schedule that going through summer without at least a few things planned out is a recipe for disaster! Although I must say that I got a few things taken care of: I foraged through the kid's rooms (more specifically their closets) and I found a veritable treasure trove of crafting kits and art supplies that we're going to make use of this summer. Most of these items were either gifts from family and friends over Christmas or stuff I picked up from craft stores while rummaging through the sale bins. Either way, I've got the antidote for boredom this sumer!


Yesterday I looked into a kids' yoga class for Zoe and Ayden. Turns out there is a yoga studio directly in front of the studio where I take flamenco lessons. How convenient, right? Zoe is really into yoga these days, so I thought that might be something fun for the kids to do every so often. Ayden will be in preschool for part of the summer, so he'll be pretty busy for about 6 weeks during vacation this year.


Aside from that I will certainly have to make time for cooking with the kids. Zoe is particularly interested in learning to cook, so this might be a good time to get her started with a few simple things. She's already a pro at salad, and she's itching to try to make other things.


The kids are hoping to spend some time at the beach. Flamenco Dad teaches on Fridays at a school near the gulf, so that might work out. What about you, internets? Any plans this summer?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

So Long My Friend

This week we said goodbye to my friend and classmate, Barbara. This photo was taken at one of several events where Barbara (left), Flamenco Dad (seated), myself, and Bobbie (right) had the pleasure of performing together. Barbara and Bobbie are twins, and have spent their entire lives as companions, support systems, and friends--even when separated by entire continents.

Barbara and Bobbie were born almost seventy-five years ago in the city I now call home. For many years, both worked for the government as secretaries for various military officials. Their jobs took them all over the world: Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Carribean. Barbara even worked under an assistant to the US Secretary of State (can't tell you which one: she never told me). But one of the things people--myself included--found most fascinating about Barbara was her five years traveling as a performing with the Ringling Brothers Circus. She even joked that even though she worked under some big muckety-mucks in government, "Everybody wanted to hear about me riding elephants." Barbara also performed as a trapeze artist; when I heard that one, I couldn't believe my ears.

I really enjoyed spending time with Barbara and Bobbie. Outside of class and rehearsals I got to hear stories about their upbringing, their lives abroad, and all the history they witnessed. It was truly a blessing to get to know them both. Barbara passed away this week, and I'm truly going to miss her. I feel for her family, who is missing a dear loved one. And I feel for her sister most of all, who is now missing her other half. I read in the paper today that Barbara's headstone reads "Ward Twins" under her name, and has a heart that is broken in half. How fitting.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ice Cream Sandwiches


Today Zoe and I decided that we'd make a treat to usher in the unofficial start of summer. Since I'm not in much of a mood to bake today (more on that in tomorrow's post), we grabbed some dairy-free ice cream and some gfcf cookies and made some ice cream sandwiches. My daughter was in a bit of a hurry to eat hers, so rather than force her to watch longingly while I photograph her dessert, I just let her eat it. I figured I could snap a few candid shots while she had dessert and get her thoughts on the dessert. She loved it; in fact, she sat in complete silence and proceeded to slowly and deliberately devour the entire thing. I asked her more than once while she was eating what she thought of it; and she just kept right on eating. Once she was done, she told me that she liked it. And she also told me to stop taking pictures while she's trying to eat. Sorry, Zoe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How Do You Do Lunch?


I am often asked how Zoe does lunch at school. It goes without saying that, given her dietary restrictions, Zoe can't just walk up to the lunch lady and grab a tray of what everyone else is having. We've been bagging school lunches for six years now; and as the daily routine of packing lunches developed I started to think more about waste-free (or reduced-waste) lunches. Think about it: all those years of zip-top bags and other assorted packaging really adds up.

And then I found out about Laptop Lunches. They are inspired by the Japanese Bento lunchboxes commonly used in Asia (and gaining in popularity here in the US). The company was founded in California by two moms who were looking for ways to help parents provide low-waste, nutritious lunches to their kids. Great idea, right?

There are lots of things I like about this product. First of all, everything is in its own compartment. Like many kids, Zoe HATES when different foods that don't belong together mingle with each other on a plate. Since everything is stored separately, that is not an issue. Second, organizing food this way goes a long way in teaching my kids about nutrition. When Zoe sits down to lunch every day she looks at a well-balanced meal with proper servings of fruit, vegetables, protein, etc. As someone who came from a home where good nutrition wasn't promoted, I want to reinforce the concepts of healthy eating. Next, this product goes a long way in reducing the amount of trash we generate each day. Again I go back to all those zip-top bags and single-serving products (like juice containers) that we used to use. The lunch system comes home with Zoe every day, I wash it, and we're good to go the next day. Finally, how cute is this thing? The photo above is from the company's website, but Zoe's is an adorable pink one that has a carrying case in...you guessed it, PINK!

I'm buying one for myself to take lunch with me to school; Zoe refuses to share hers with me, even over the summer. I'll be in school full time starting in August, so I need my own anyway. Of course I can't do pink, but perhaps periwinkle blue, or multi-color.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beta-Carotene with Dessert

I bought a gigantic bag of organic carrots at Publix last week, and have been working my way through that bag via as many culinary applications as I can. I've been cutting up some carrots daily and leaving them on my kitchen counter as a great snack food for us and the kiddies, I've served them with a delicious white bean and garlic spread, soup, stir-fry...you name it, I'm trying it. Ayden mentioned that he was afraid he'd turn orange after eating all these carrots--apparently there was an episode of The Magic Schoolbus where one of the kids turns an interesting shade of orange after eating too many carrots. Go figure!

I decided to resurrect a carrot cake recipe that I used to make (in the pre-gfcf days), and began tweaking it so that it's Zoe (and Mom) friendly.
The results? Well, I'm of two minds about this one. The plusses: the cake came out very moist, definitely a good thing. The mixture of flour I used (sorghum, rice, arrowroot, and corn) gave the cake a nice texture, which I appreciate. The minuses: I don't know if it's because I've cut out almost all the sugar in my diet, but the cake was WAY too sweet for me this time. I'm going to bake it again with half the sugar and see if that makes a difference. Also, the cake is heavier than I remember (again, this may have to do with my dietary changes). As I mentioned, I am going to reformulate the recipe to hopefully address these issues.

In the meantime, here's a photo of Attempt #1. Pardon the photo: the lighting was just not good at the time I took the picture. Oh, and I almost forgot the frosting...yeah, that was also too sweet for me. I guess I should be excited about the fact that I may have finally turned a corner on my sweet tooth, but a tasty piece of cake with a cup of tea would have really hit the spot today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Date Night

I assisted my sweetie at a wedding this Saturday. Flamenco Dad was hired to play for the ceremony and coctail hour at this particular affair, and I was to help with moving equipment from the ceremony area to the cocktail hour area. I also got to help with cueing him on music changes during the course of the ceremony. It was lots of fun, and the venue was gorgeous! It was at a beautiful historic hotel in town, a lovely century-old building with a definite Spanish influence. The ceremony was very nice--thanks in no small part to the musical accompaniment; but also because it's always so heartwarming to see a young, in-love couple about to embark on a lifelong journey. I heart weddings! Ah, romance...

Anyway, after our wedding business was done FD and I went out for dinner. We made arrangements with my mother-in-law to watch the kiddies, and we went out for tapas. Going out for tapas is so much fun! In the first place, what's not to love about sangria? Also, since you order small plates of different bites of food, it's a great social meal. Everyone picks out a few things they'd like to try, and the table just digs in. Now, doing a meal like this gfcf requires some careful planning; but it's not impossible. One of the great things about Mediterranean cooking is that the foods that are the focus of this style off this cooking are gfcf-friendly; lots of fresh produce, lean proteins, some grains. The best advice I can give is to scour the menu ultra carefully and ask lots of questions to your waiter. The restaurant where we ate this time is one we've visited before, so we instantly gravitated towards certain items.

One of my favorite things to order for tapas is artichokes; roasted, marinated in olive oil, with a mix of herbs. Also, tortilla is very tasty--I occasionally make this at home. Basically it's an omelet made with onions and potatoes that are very thinly sliced. On our latest trip to the tapas restaurant we shared some braised lamb shank that was served with a tomato sauce that had some vegetables and fava beans. Oh, and I almost forgot about paella. This place also serves several varieties of paella; some are vegetarian, some are not, some are even made with black rice (the kind with squid ink--okay, I'm not a fan of black rice, but my husband loves it). I did take a few bites of the dessert my husband ordered, but I diverted my eyes and focused on the berries that served as colorful garnish on the plate. It was a sweet finish to a sweet evening.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Plate of Crumbs Doesn't Make A Pretty Picture

I live in a home of eaters. I'm not gonna lie...we enjoy getting our grub on around here. The kids are growing quickly, and with that rapid growth come some pretty big appetites. Why do I bring this up? Because I baked a lovely loaf of gluten free bread, of which I desperately wanted to take some photographs, which my children quickly tore into. I think that before I take anything out of the oven (or in this case, the bread machine) that I need to have my camera at the ready in my kitchen. This loaf of bread? Did not stand a chance with my wee ones.

I picked up a package of Namaste Bread Mix. It's free of gluten, casein, potato, soy, and lots of other stuff. Now if you're egg-free and yeast-free, this bread is not for you; since I'm yeast-free, I had to pass on it. But I must say the bread smelled divine. I was pleased to see that it had a nice crust on the outside and a tender--and according to Zoe, chewy--inside. I put all the ingredients in my bread maker and pressed go. I find that with gfcf breads, I get better results if I set the machine to the whole wheat/dark settings. If using a bread machine, check your manufacturer's instructions. The bread mix has instructions for both oven and machine, so I may try it in my oven next time and see how it turns out. The kids loved it. Zoe has had it with PB and J as well as ham and soy cheese, and she thought it was awesome. Even Flamenco Dad and Ayden got in on the action; they ate it toasted with some Earth Balance spread, and I got thumbs up from both my guys. Next time I'll get a photo of the actual bread; all I've got right now is a sad looking plate of bread crumbs.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Many Thanks

Thanks to everyone who sent good vibes my way during the hell that was the end of the semester. I truly appreciate it. I made it through the semester unscathed--and I'm going to toot my own horn for a minute and share the fact that I had a 4.0 semester. Woo Hoo!

This week I have a bit of a break while I prepare for summer school. Since I've now moved on to the university ( as opposed to the community college where I had been studying) I have a big 'ole pile of new red tape and a whole new bunch of administrative types to deal with. I'm nearly done, thank goodness. I do have to attend an orientation this Friday, finish up with registration, and fork over lots of money. I never like that last part; but learnin' costs money, and I've got to fork over the duckies if I want to get my learnin' on. I'm taking three courses this summer (provided I can finally register for them, of course): Classical Mythology, Early American Literature, and Religions of South Asia. Now that I've finally seen the last of math and science, I get to finally take courses that I find interesting. Good times.

During these last few days of peace, I decided to do some house cleaning. That end table with the one-inch thick layer of dust was finally dusted. I also gathered up some baking supplies to work on a few loaves of zucchini bread, some cookies, and some muffins--gotta leave the family well stocked. Once things get underway this summer, I may be a bit pressed for time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Freak-Out

Three words: Two. Exams. Today.

I've busted out my full arsenal of anxiety-busting help to get me through finals week. I've been drinking chamomile tea like it's going out of style, my Bach's Rescue Remedy is on standby, and my lavendar-chamomile oil aromatherapy blend is at the ready. So far, so good; by Thursday (when exams are over and all my assignments are in) I should be feeling even better. Exhausted, but relieved.

I came up for air this weekend long enough to bake a batch of cookies for the little ones, lest they stage a revolt and boot their mother for lack of tasty goodness coming from the kitchen. I tried a mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen. It was a sugar cookie mix that Flamenco Dad and the kids thought was very good. To the mix you add butter or margarine depending on your preference, vanilla, and milk (cow, rice, or soy). Roll the cookies into into 2-inch balls, place on a cookie sheet, and bake till the cookies are a golden brown. I had some Purity Farms Ghee in my refrigerator so I used that instead of my usual Earth Balance; the result was a delightfully buttery cookie. I will say that I will use a bit less ghee next time--the cookies were almost too buttery in flavor. I guess I didn't take into account ghee's intense, buttery flavor.Also, even though it doesn't say so on the package, I recommend letting the dough chill in the refrigerator for a while before baking.

Okay...back to work!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Five

I know what you're thinking: okay lady, enough with the numerically-titled posts already! My little boy turned five over the weekend. You'd be right if you figured that I'm not over it yet. I don't know when it happened, but suddenly my son became a big kid. And while I'm loving watching him grow and really come into his own there is a large part of me that longingly recalls when he would willingly cuddle up with his mommy and lay his head on my chest and pat me on the shoulder with his tiny hand. Ah, memories.

We had some family over to mark the occasion. The family celebrated with much fun and a variety of treats--some (like the cake in the photo) were not gfcf; but we had plenty of food and sweets that were gfcf, so Zoe and I were able to partake as well. I ate some sugary sweets (which I paid for the next day), but all in all it was a wonderful day...although Mama here got more than a little misty-eyed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Seis

I was tagged by Lynn to come up with a list of six words to describe me. This was not an easy task; my over-analyzing nearly got the best of me on this one. Here goes:

1. loving
2. friendly
3. imaginative
4. silly
5. sensitive
6. loyal

I don't know who tag for this one, so I invite everyone and anyone to take the challenge. Go for it!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Avocado and Tomato Salad

This week the supermarket had avocadoes on sale, so I jumped at the chance to make some avocado salad. Not that I needed much convincing, especially once I saw the yummy Ugly Ripe tomatoes that sat nearby just waiting for me to scoop them up. I cut up two ripe avocadoes, sliced up a tomato, chopped 1/4 of an onion and a handful of cilantro. I put everything in a bowl, squeezed the juice of one lime over it, added a few tablespoons of olive oil and added fresh cracked sea salt and pepper. Heaven on a plate!

Had I been alone I might have eaten the entire thing myself, but I practiced some self-restraint. Besides, I remembered that avocadoes--while great for you--have quite a bit of fat. I had just enough to satisfy; the creaminess of the avocado, the juiciness of the tomato, the brightness of the cilantro, and the acidity of the lime juice make this really fantastic. Best of all, no stove required.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Shout-Outs

This week Zoe is home on spring break, which means we had a lot of time together to play and cook. Yippee! I made Karina's delicious, made-my-toes-curl, Breakfast Cookies. Words cannot describe how good these are. My kids love them, I love them, even people in our family who aren't gfcf love them. Do yourself a favor: try these cookies. Don't be too surprised if they don't last long in your cookie jar.

My good friend Lynn (of Free to Eat) has a new blog home, Some Foods Are Not My Friends. She's got a recipe this week for GFCF Chex Mix. I remember eating Chex Party Mix at every party my family went to as a kid. Oh, the pangs of nostalgia. Did you know that there is now a Gluten Free Rice Chex? Joy!

I did an interview with Special Needs Parent, a site that covers a lot of information for families with special needs kids. Preciouschild also features a blogger every Tuesday, and yours truly was on deck this week. You can have a look-see at the interview here.

A local reporter who was working on a piece about the head of the local celiac association and gluten-free eating contacted me last week to ask a few questions about our gfcf life. The article can be found here. Mary includes links to a number to great gluten free and celiac resources.

Oh, and in case you missed it Flamenco Dad helped my post a video of part of our show on the blog. Thank you, FD! The video is not the greatest, especially since we had to set it up towards the back of the auditorium. It was great fun working with a pro like my hubby. I'm just an amateur; I do flamenco for fun. But music is his passion; I learn so much from doing these shows with him. Can you tell I'm sweet on this guy?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How I Spent My Friday

So after a REALLY long week of paper writing, exam taking, and tons of busy work I had the pleasure of performing at a show with Flamenco Dad and two of my classmates from flamenco class. The performance was for a group of (primarily retired) music teachers and musicians. The director of our local chamber orchestra was there, as well as a few other people who support our local art scene.

Bobbie and Barbara--my classmates--and I performed a few routines together; I had one solo number; FD and I did one number together, then Dad played several solos. The audience was wonderful! They were very supportive and really enthusiastic. After the peformance, many of the audience members told us how happy they were to have us there. It was great fun, and it felt wonderful to hear that we gave them a good show.

We recorded the performance, and I will upload a clip of Flamenco Dad and me doing our routine. That is, if I can get it to work. Otherwise, I'll just place the YouTube link for it here. I may have to wait for FD to get home to do it, as I'm somewhat behind the curve on uploading videos.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Black Bean Lime Salsa

I'm really loving Clean Eating Magazine. Especially since the recent issue features an article with gluten-free recipes and a list of some gf products to check out. Yippee!

I found this recipe for a black bean and lime salsa that just begs to be served either with some tortillas or with some rice. I love the bright flavor that cilantro and lime give to dishes; plus this recipe has the added bonus of flaxseed oil.

Black Bean Lime Salsa
serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup black beans (cooked or sprouted)
1 tomato, diced
1 lime, cut into small pieces
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped or torn fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. dried cayenne pepper
1/2 tbsp. hemp oil
1/2 tbsp. flaxseed oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a small bown. If allowed to sit for a few hours, the ingredients will infuse each other with flavor.

Note: if you'd rather not have bits of lime floating around in your salsa, you can just juice it. Also, if you can't find hemp oil, you can leave it out; substitue your favorite--I've been using grapeseed oil lately.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Where's the Dog Whisperer When You Need Him?

I took my little guy out for a walk this afternoon, and had an encounter with an animal who could use some help from Cesar Millan (aka the Dog Whisperer). Ayden and I were minding our own business when a large, aggressive dog came barreling out to the street and tried to pounce! On! My! Son! I'm not quite sure who the owner of the dog is, but the fact is the dog escaped from its home (or was let out, I don't know) and proceeded to menace us for quite a long while.

My son was petrified. I held on to Ayden for fear that he might try to run and get chased down by Cujo. The poor kid was crying, thinking the dog was going to hurt us. I got into Mama Bear mode and was not about to let the dog near Ayden...I've seen gator wrestling and frankly thought I might have to wrestle this dog. Have I mentioned yet that this dog was GINORMOUS? Okay, maybe he wasn't that big, but he was quite large with a muscular build reminiscent of a boxer or pit bull. Yikes. Regardless of the dog's size, it seemed like I was going to have to kick it's ass. Fortunately we were eventually able to get away from the dog.

The dog was wearing a collar with a tag: needless to say I wasn't about to try to get so close that I could read it. But this would be a great time to let pet owners know that it is vitally important that you keep your beloved pet in a secure location. There are many children in my neighborhood (and many folks who walk for pleasure and/or fitness), and I fear that their safety could be compromised by a dog that behaves aggressively and is on the loose. The dog is in danger as well, make no mistake about it: it could be struck by an oncoming vehicle or stolen. I had dogs both big and small, cats, you name it growing up, so I know a thing or two about having a pet and the tremendous amount of responsibility that goes along with it. Loving your pet means taking care of it properly and being responsible for it.

Sermon over!

*Note: I realize this post has nothing to do with gfcf food, but it has everything to do with staying healthy and safe. I promise there will be cooking later.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It Was a Good Friday

Happy Easter! Oh, and for some fun with Peeps, check this out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Start All Over Again

It's no secret that I've got a beef with quinoa. I've tried it a few times with less-than-stellar results. Recently another blogger, the fabulous Attila the Mom (I love that screen name), wrote to ask me if I had a quinoa recipe to share; she recently started making quinoa and has been quite happy with it. I was ready to tell ATM about my past kitchen experiences with this ingredient, but I figure if she's enjoying it I shouldn't poo-poo on her parade. Then I got to thinking that maybe I should give it one more shot, the old college try. Maybe I'll be presently surprised this time.

As luck would have it, I found the following recipe in the spring issue of Clean Eating Magazine. While I haven't made it yet, I thought I'd share it with my buddy ATM and other quinoa lovers out there. I might give it one last shot this weekend--I've got all the ingredients. But this is the last chance. I mean it. Really.

Quinoa Porridge
Clean Eating Spring 2008

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch coarse sea salt
1/2 cup low-fat milk or unsweetened soy milk
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup blueberries or sliced strawberries
1/8 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Agave syrup (optional)

Add quinoa, water, cinnamon and salt to a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of water has been absorbed. Add milk and simmer uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Stir in apple, berries and nuts. cover and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Porridge will thicken during this time. If desired, drizzle with agave syrup before serving.

Serves 2

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Meatless Meals

I'm finding that I am becoming more and more interested in meatless meals. Please do not misunderstand me: I loves me some steak. And fried chicken? Fuggedaboutit! I think I may have been switched at birth with one of Colonel Sanders' grandchildren.

Anyway, I am a big fan of beans and rice as a meal. The amino acids found in beans coupled with the amino acids in rice make a perfect protein; making it a great choice for a vegetarian dish. To me, black beans and rice is a meal sent straight from heaven.

Lentils continue to be a favorite, primarily because they don't require the soaking time that beans like black beans or great Northerns require. Simmering lentils for about a half hour or so usually is plenty of cooking time. I found the following recipe in a magazine put out my my local supermarket chain. There are many recipes available, and the ones I've tried thusfar are delicious. I made a few minor modifications to the recipe to make it gfcf, but I left much of the recipe intact. Served with brown rice, this meal really sings.

Curried Lentils and Spinach
adapted from a recipe from Publix GreenWise Market Magazine

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped red, green and/or yellow sweet peppers
1/2 coarsely chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1/2 tsp. curry powder (add more if you like it spicier)
1 Tbs. olive oil
14 oz. reduced sodium vegetable broth (check ingredients: some brands contain gluten)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 5-oz. package baby spinach

In a large pan, heat the oil and cook the peppers, onion, garlic and curry powder for about 1 minute.
Stir in the broth, lentils, water, salt, and black pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender and much of the liquid is absorbed.
Transfer to a large bowl. Add spinach and stir just until spinach begins to wilt. Serve.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

He Did What?

We took a drive to my mother's over the weekend, where the kids got to spend some time playing with all the animals. My mom and stepfather have quite the little menagerie going--horses, lambs, goats...I think chickens and pigs will be coming soon as well.

Some of the goats are itty bitty, and my kids thought it would be fun to try to catch one and ride it. Well, goats are also quick on their feet, so they ran; my kids ran after them. What no one bothered to realize is that the goats and kids were running in a rather small circle in the pen that houses these animals. Eventually the chasee became the chaser; and when Ayden turned around, Tex the Goat promptly got up on his back legs and knocked my son right down to the ground! Ayden wasn't hurt (thank God), though when he realized what had happened he started to cry a bit. Here's a photo of the sad little guy, post-smackdown.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pancake Supper



Pancake?


Who wants a pancake,

Sweet and piping hot?

Good little Grace looks up and says,

"I'll take the one on top."

Who else wants a pancake,

Fresh off the griddle?

Terrible Theresa smiles and says,

"I'll take the one in the middle."

--by Shel Silverstein


Ever been to a pancake supper? I know lots of churches have them; members of the congregation get together for fellowship and pancakes in a relaxed atmosphere. The formality of Sunday services gives way to friends and neighbors getting to know each other.


Having food allergies/intolerances prohibits some people from participating in events like those. I know we avoid things like our church's pancake dinners and fish fry nights for that very reason. But that doesn't mean we can't do breakfast for dinner sometimes! I used my go-to banana pancake recipe, omitting the chopped nuts, and replacing them with Enjoy Life allergen-free chocolate chips. These fluffy, delicious pancakes were served alongside some bacon I purchased from a local butcher and, of course, real maple syrup. Mmm, pancakes.



Zoe and her Great-Grandma

These two are the best of buddies. A sixty-eight year age difference and slight language barrier can't keep these two apart.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Anxiety Bites

I am a pretty mellow girl by all accounts. I try to keep my life and home as peaceful as it possibly can be; my house is my happy place...as it should be. I grew up in a home that was anything but my happy place, so when Flamenco Dad and I settled down, keeping things loving, harmonious and low-key, peppered with kid fun and sprinkled with Flamenco fuego, was--and continues to be--a priority.

Outside influences have their way of affecting me in ways I don't like. They are counter-productive, and it irks me that I haven't quite figure out how to just let that stuff go. My family (the family I was born into), whom I love and would never replace for anything in the world, has a special brand of drama that I am powerless to fix--and yet I agonize over it. Decisions regarding school and my feelings of guilt for not always being there for the ones I love; concerns about getting my tests results back*; making sure my assignments are getting done on time; making sure the laundry is done...you get the idea.

So you can imagine what was going through my mind when last week I started experiencing chest pains that I was sure were signaling a heart attack. The first thought in my head was not "Oh crap, I think I'm having a heart attack," but "Shit, I'm gonna die right here in my kitchen and my kids aren't going to have a mother!" We left the kids with my mother-in-law while FD took me to the emergency room. Six hours, a litany of tests, and a hospital bill the size of a small country's budget later, I was told that I was having classic signs of a panic attack. The ER doctor monitored me for several hours, gave me something to chill me out (along with a script for more of the same), and sent me home.

With that ER scare behind me, I realized I've got some work to do as far as learning that I don't have to be "on" all the time. I am harder on myself than I should be. Things aren't always perfect, and they don't need to be. Laundry can pile up; assignments can be late; I have to accept that I don't always have all the answers. But it will make for a happier wife, mother, ME.

*The test results that my doctor ordered came back--and aside from a whacked-out thyroid and the fact that I am officially allergic to wheat--my bloodwork came back great. My cholesterol and glucose levels were perfect; my blood pressure is normal, and I've lost 11 pounds since starting the candida diet back on January 2nd.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Petenera


I received an email from a gentleman by the name of Michael Brown, a filmmaker and the co-producer of a movie called Petenera--A Flamenco Drama in Music and Dance. Given my screen name and my love of all things flamenco, Michael thought I might be interested in looking at his website. The site features multiple trailers and other info about this project. I was not familiar with the story of Petenera, so I gave the website a look. I was particularly fascinated by one of the clips featuring the Elena Marlowe, the Artistic Director and Choreographer of the film. She discusses who Petenera was, and talks about how the story of this tragic figure evolved over time. Like in oral tradition--where stories have morphed over time as generations of storytellers have shared them, so has folk dancing told stories that have slowly evolved over the ages. I'm looking forward to adding this movie to my film library. You can view the site and trailers here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Visit With Annie

I haven't been blogging much lately, but with good reason. School is totally sucking the free time out of me. I managed to carve out a few hours this week to spend with the family and take care of my mountain of laundry, but that's been pretty much it. I had a project to do and I've got a major exam later this week. On Valentine's Day, no less! Flamenco Dad and I have to postpone our Valentine's Day date, but it will happen...just not this week; especially since all the hot restaurants are booked through the weekend.

In other news, I met a fellow blogger...live and in person! On Friday I met up with the lovely Annie of Blooming Marvelous fame. She and I first "met" online two years ago through a discussion board for stay-at-home moms. Turns out that we live less than 30 miles from each other. In fact, Annie lives in the city where my husband works. So, last Friday I rode with my hubby to work and left him at the college while Annie and I went for a leisurely walk along the lake next to hubby's job. Zoe had the day off from school so she, Ayden, Annie, Baby J (Annie's son) and I had a great time chatting, walking, feeding the ducks, and getting chased by some hungry--and rather fluffy--geese. Miss E (Annie's daughter) was at school and unfortunately missed the fun; but I'm looking forward to meeting her sometime soon.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rock That Vote

Martha Stewart Living Online is having a competition called the Big Idea; MSLO staff members submitted ideas for new projects for the media and home giant. Alexis, the Deputy Home Editor, submitted a proposal to publish a special magazine devoted to food allergies and sensitivities. Ms. Martha has decided to let the public vote for the winning project, so get to gettin' and vote! Voting is open until February 7th, and you can vote as often as once a day. You can look at the finalists and vote here.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Table for One

I wake up at 6 a.m. every day. Not by choice, but because I've got to get my family fed and Zoe and her dad out the door to board the schoolbus and deal with rush hour traffic. With lots going on that early I find that I don't normally sit down to a decent breakfast until around 8. This morning I decided to skip the brown rice cereal and I sat down to this: an egg, crispy breakfast potatoes with onions and bell peppers, and oranges wedges--and I should add that the oranges come from the tree in my back yard. Talk about eating locally! I capped it off with some chai tea; yup, I'm still keeping coffee to a minimum around here. The little guy went off to play with his trains in his room while I enjoyed a nice, quiet second start to my day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

She Did It!

Congratulations to Zoe on her graduation from speech and occupational therapy. When she first started therapy Zoe was unable to speak, made little to no eye contact, and had significant delays in her fine and gross motor skills. Eight years later my girl can talk up a storm, rides her bike, performs with a song and dance group, takes piano lessons, and is more present than she ever has been. Sure there are challenges; Zoe has her difficult days--but they are far outweighed by the good, great, and just plain wonderful ones.

This is her first post-therapy week, and Zoe's concerned about the fact that something that has been part of her routine for eight years is no longer there. She even asked for new goals, since the ones set by Miss Amy and Miss Lisa (her therapists) have already been met. That's our girl for you. To commemorate the beginning of a new chapter in her life we threw a party for her this weekend, and what's a party without cake?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How's It Going?

The new semester is in full swing here at the hacienda, which means yours truly, Flamenco Dad, and los bebes are getting adjusted to our new routines. FD is teaching two new classes this semester, so he is working hard to make sure all his work is prepped and ready. I'm back in class; one of my classes is taught online so I can still be in my jammies whilst I get my edumacation on. Sweet!

My candida diet is going pretty well, though I did cave to temptation and have coffee WITH SUGAR. Also I've been putting pomegranates on some of my salads. I hadn't realized just how sensitive I was to sugar until I ate some after going many days without it. I felt bloated, very tired...and later quite jittery. What's up with that? I've been much more conscientious about steering away from the sugar and am feeling better. Bonus: I've lost four pounds since I started making these changes! I've also made an effort to get more adequate sleep. I've been feeling much more refreshed and alert during the day. Though I must add that FD also just got me one of those yummy Tempur Pedic pillows, so may have something to do with it as well.

I haven't done much in the way of experimenting in the kitchen lately, which has to do with my dietary changes. Meals have been relatively simple fare here: a lean protein (usually chicken), rice (either brown or white), and tons of veggies. To be honest, that's pretty much how dinners were around here even before we went yeast free; though looking at how I was eating before, I know that I was going too heavy on the protein and starch and too light on the veggies. Sally over at Aprovechar has written some great posts about this topic, and on making healthy food choices in general. And she is gluten free!

Once I get into the groove of the whole yeast-free thing, I plan to do some more baking. Zoe and I went to the supermarket the other day, where my daughter made a beeline for the zucchini and asked if I could by some to make zucchini bread. It's in my kitchen right now waiting to be used. I told Miss Z that she'll be feasting on zucchini loaf by this time tomorrow. I'm going to try using brown rice syrup to sweeten it; I'll get back to you with a full report.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Candi Girl

Before the new year began, I scheduled an appointment with a new doctor. A holistic doctor, to be more specific. As one of the many millions of folks out there that has to shop for their own medical care, I got pretty tired of going to doctors who wanted to just treat symptoms and not look at the big picture when it comes to healthcare. Besides, it was beginning to look like my previous doctor was trying to set a land-speed record for getting patients out of the examining rooms. The new doctor's office actually devotes and entire hour--yes you read that correctly--for the initial visit, with follow-ups varying between 30 and 45 minutes in duration depending on your needs.

My first visit was this past Wednesday. I have been grappling with a variety of symptoms that the new doctor feels can be tied to one root cause: a thyroid that is out of whack. I'd grown to suspect that this might be the problem, but not once has any other physician even said, "Hey maybe we should have this checked out." Dr. Erika listened to all my concerns, asked lots of questions to get a clear picture of my medical history and lifestyle, and I left feeling like we were on track to getting me to better health.

The doctor also determined that I have a problem with candida. So I have been placed on a yeast elimination diet. When she laid out the diet for me I said, "I can do this!" This is easier said than done, because in addition to removing the foods that list yeast in the ingredients it also means NO SUGAR. And NO COFFEEEEEE!!! To be honest, I had already reduced my daily coffee consumption; but to eliminate it altogether is tough. Especially when your husband, coffee elitist supreme, roasts and grinds coffee beans right here in the house. Oh, and please don't even get me started on the fruit thing--NO FRUIT for at least the first two weeks! I love fruit; in fact, I've got platter of delicious fruit sitting on my dining table that is now off limits. I can add fruit back in to my diet slowly, but some fruits may have to remain off limits for the forseeable future. The good news is that I have seriously upped my consumption of veggies, which is definitely a good thing. Ever see those commercials that talk about how we need at least 25 grams of fiber a day, and you see that lady loading up her grocery cart with broccoli and stuff? Yeah, I'm a veggie eating machine now.

I'm already seeing results--I'm feeling less bloated, I'm less fatigued, and I weight 1.5 pounds less than I did last week. I won't lie--I'm suffering from some serious coffee and sugar withdrawals; but I have hope that I'll be better soon.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Product Review: Shabtai Gourmet



Several weeks ago, I received an email from Andrew Itzkowitz, Director of Sales for Shabtai Gourmet. Shabtai Gourmet produces gluten-free, lactose-free, casein-free, and soy-free cakes, cookies, and other treats. Their products are also certified Kosher for Passover. When Andrew offered me a chance to sample some of their products, I happily accepted. After all, I'm always looking for new gfcf products to try; and although the company is based in New York they do ship products out-of-state, both via mail order and to Publix (which is the grocery chain located all over the Sunshine State).

I was not expecting the MASSIVE box of baked goods that arrived at my home; I must say it was arrived just in the nick of time--I was about to start baking copious amounts of gfcf goodies to keep us stocked up for Zoe through the New Year (Did I mention we went to several parties between Christmas and New Year's Day?)! When I opened the packaged and explained to Miss Zoe that everything in the box was gfcf, and therefore all Zoe-friendly, she squealed with delight; and then proceeded to immediately tear into the goodies. Hooray!


We received the following items: Ring Tings, a vanilla creme-filled cake similar to the Ring Dings and Ho Hos of my youth; Rasberry Roll, a spongy jelly roll cake with raspberry and coconuts; Chocolate Brownies; Chocolate Chip Cookies; Lady Fingers, crisp and delicate with a lemony flavor, and Pread Crumbs, an all-purpose breading.

The results?

With the exception of the Raspberry Roll, Zoe thoroughly enjoyed everything we received--Miss Z is not a fan of coconut (but lucky for her father and me, we love it--so you know what I had first). I thought the Raspberry Roll was very tasty, though my husband and mother-in-law both contend that it was rather sweet. Okay, so I like the sweet stuff; can you blame me? I was particularly impressed by how moist the cake was. And, like I said earlier, I love coconut. And the combination of raspberry and coconut is magical to me.

The Lady Fingers were the next to go. Zoe made quick work of them. Some of the cookies did break in shipping, but the cookie crumbles were used as topping for other desserts. Andrew mentioned that the cookies could be used as sandwich cookies as well; frankly Zoe ate them before I could even try that. They were a hit!

The Ring Tings were Zoe's favorite. The waxy outer coating on the cakes and the creme-filling were especially appealing to her. When you're a kid and you see your friends eating foods like Ho-Hos, it's gotta be tough to not be able to try it. I could tell Zoe was thrilled to have a chance to eat something that looked like a treat her friends eat all the time. It wasn't exactly like the stuff I remember eating as a kid, but it came pretty close. Besides, I actually had a similar commercial cake (brand name witheld so I don't get a nasty-gram) recently, and they don't taste like what I used to eat as a kid.


Next we had the Chocolate Brownies. These appeared to be not as moist as I would have liked, but that may have been due to the trip from New York to Florida. I did warm these in the microwave for a few seconds (outside of the aluminum tray it came in, lest I torch my house), and that seemed to help them. And who doesn't like a warm brownie? Zoe and her brother liked these very much. Flamenco Dad also thought the brownies were yummy.

The Chocolate Chip Cookies were the last thing to go, and I think there are a few reasons for that. First, the cookies had nuts and cinnamon, neither of which are very popular with my children. Second, the cookies sustained some breakage in transit, which made the kids (visual creatures that they are) less receptive to them. Third, they were somewhat crisp for our taste. I prefer my cookies kind of chewy, and so do Zoe and Ayden. The flavor was rather good. I don't ordinarily put cinnamon in my cookies due to Zoe's disdain for cinnamon, but I think the cinnamon added a nice touch. I may have to sneak some cinnamon into my next batch of cookies.

I have used the Pread Crumbs, but I do have some left. A few nights ago I used the breading to make zucchini stix for a side dish. And guess what? The kids ate the zucchini and LIKED it; whatever works for getting my kids to eat more veggies is good enough for me. I might try to use some of the leftover crumbs to work on a tempura batter, but I've gotta do a little tinkering with that one for a bit.

Our overall experience with these products was a very positive one--even our gluten-eating family members enjoyed them. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am more of a from-scratch type of baker; but these were very well received by my kids, which makes these products a good go-to for a convenient baked treat.

Shabtai Gourmet recently launched their website, http://www.shabtai-gourmet.com/ and also sells some of their products on Amazon. You can visit their website for more information.