Moving on out…

My dear readers, this will be my last post on my much beloved blog, celiac kiddo (sniff!), but you can still find my gluten free recipes, and my musings on writing, kids, and life in general, on my new blog, Writing at the Table. If you’re following this blog, you won’t receive many more alerts, but you can follow me over there, if you’d like.

I hope you know how much I appreciate you reading my words here, and perhaps, over there, but either way, I’ll always be grateful to you for visiting this blog and making me feel like I wasn’t writing into a void. I’ve made such lovely and heartfelt connections and friends during my three+ years here. 

endingsI will miss this space, but part of life is knowing when to move on. When I first began this blog it was on instinct. Bunky was diagnosed with celiac in 2011 and it felt like my life was crumbling (faster than 1970s gluten free bread). It didn’t, of course, and that was in part from the support and comfort I received from you. Living gluten free will always be part of our lives, but it’s no longer my sole focus. Also, my dear girl is growing up (as is my little guy!) and I would like to respect her privacy more and not focus on her life with celiac.

A pic from our holiday photo shoot 2014

A pic from our holiday photo shoot 2014

 

My childhood dream, one that continues to follow and haunt me (in a good way), is to write. That’s what I’ve done here, and will continue to do on my new blog.

Feeding my dream and my family is my new tagline. I’m claiming my title as a writer more firmly now, but I’m still a mom, and my gluten free family needs to be fed. A lot.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful New Year. See you in 2015!

 

Recipe: DIY Starbucks Kale + Veggie Salad

*First of all, congratulations to Carolyn, winner of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird! Thank you to everyone who signed up for my newsletter. If you haven’t signed up yet, go now! I’m choosing winners at random from my entire email subscription list.

Next up to give away is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a clever and entertaining book filled anecdotes about his life interspersed with practical advice.

onwriting

I had it in my collection for years, but for some reason it took me almost a decade to pick it up. Big mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re in for a treat. 

The results of this random drawing will be posted here and on Writing at the Table on Tuesday, December 23rd.

Now for the post…

During the thirteen years I lived in Brooklyn, I never went to Starbucks. Why would I? I lived in the land of Quirky Cool Coffee Shops (that’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way, I’m not trying to be a snob), and besides, the closest Starbucks was too far of a walk.

But I love writing in cafes, and the closest one to me in Brooklyn was a little sliver of a cafe called Steeplechase, which had the most delicious cinnamon chip scones (alas, not gluten free). I used to go there once a week when my son had a sitter. 

When we moved to New Hope, I knew I’d have to find a place to write. Sure, I had a whole house instead of a tiny apartment, but the thing is, I like the background noise of coffee shops. Plus, I love coffee.

I tried seeking out a cute little independent shop, but seating was a problem. The local Starbucks, however, has some rather comfy armchairs. And did you know they now offer a blonde (light) roast? It’s pretty tasty and far less intense than their dark roasts. Just my personal preference because I know plenty of people who can’t get enough of their regular sludge, I mean coffee.

Anyway, I was also pleased to see that they added some healthy and hearty food options to their menu. Including this awesome salad, which to my knowledge is gluten free (though not labeled as such):

starbucks kale salad

(Yes, it’s sitting on my dashboard because I was too hungry to take it home for a proper photo shoot.)

So, after buying it several times, I decided to make it myself. It’s a bit labor intensive, but it makes a week’s worth of lunches (unless someone in your household steals half of them…)

DIY Kale, Brown Rice + Roasted Veggie Bowl

IMG_3999

For the recipe, head over to Writing at the Table

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Ah, Vitamix, you Christian Louboutin of blenders…

I heard the rumors. I read the blog posts. But I ignored them. I avoided recipes that required liquifying kale. Instead I worked my decade old Cuisinart into the ground and dreamt about making smoothies that didn’t have green bits floating inside of them. Then one day something arrived at my doorstep…

No, not Little Guy.

vitamixIt all started when I left my kids with their dad and mine to attend a day long writer’s conference at Rosemont College. While I spent the day luxuriating in writerly stuff, my family spent the afternoon in Target where they were wooed by a Vitamix demonstration. Frozen desserts, green smoothies, ice cream, hot soup. Apparently it was quite the exhibition because they couldn’t stop talking about it.

Then my dad came to visit a few days later with one in the back of his car. WOW. I was totally shocked, in no way expecting such a generous gift.

So, of course I made him a smoothie right away. A green one.

first smoothie

The best part was that Little Guy loved it. In fact, he insisted on drinking the rest of ours.

lg drinking

Life with the Vitamix has been pretty fab. Especially the clean up. Not even kidding. It’s so easy! You may remember me complaining about the torture of having to scrub out the Cuisinart crevices, which made me less likely to use it. The awesome thing about the Vitamix is that it cleans itself (sort of). You add warm water and a dash of soap, give it a crazy whirl, and bam, done. (Unless you make something very sticky or oily, but still, you get a head start with the self cleaning.)

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

Not a big deal to clean. Srsly.

What we’ve learned so far: As a Vitamix novice, it’s best to follow a recipe. At least until you get the hang of it. Now I’m able to play more, but in the beginning, every time we (as in my husband, a notorious rule breaker) tried to wing it, disaster ensued. It was too watery, too thick, weird texture (pear issues), or just plain gross (carrot + pear + cinnamon + ice = yuck).

Luckily, Vitamix gives you a huge binder filled with recipes, plus there’s a recipe finder on the website.

Two weeks in, we’re practically experts. Here is my debut recipe, which you absolutely do NOT need a Vitamix to make. Use your blender or Cuisinart. You may need to slightly thaw your fruit first since less powerful machines can’t pulverize frozen stuff without busting up. I know this from experience, unfortunately.

Final thought/warning: the Vitamix is crazy loud. Like, terrifyingly loud. The first time I put mine on the Smoothie cycle I literally thought it was going to launch itself into space. Luckily, it didn’t.

Tropical Blueberry Smoothie

Tropical blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 heaping cup yogurt (full fat will make a thicker shake, fyi)
  • 1 ripe banana (frozen or not)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pineapple

This recipe is kid approved. And super healthy. Bunky drank hers down in seconds. She was unfazed by the fact that there is NO added sugar. Not even a drop of honey. And that’s a pretty big deal considering she has a serious sweet tooth.

*If you have a high powered blender, you may need to add ice if most of your fruit is room temperature. Nothing less exciting than a lukewarm smoothie. But that could just be me.

If using a Vitamix, add liquids first, then soft fruit, and frozen stuff last. I put mine on Smoothie cycle. If you need to tweak it, feel free to add more fruit/yogurt/water/ice as needed and hit the cycle again.

Bird's eye view.

Then drink it up quick before your kid tries to steal the rest of yours.

bunky pink smoothie

Do you have any favorite Vitamix/blender smoothie recipes? If so, please share! I’m seriously addicted. Next up: homemade chocolate almond butter, YUM.

Gluten Free Product Review, Autumn Edition

fall in PA

Fall has become one of my favorite seasons. I used to be a real sucker for spring, and in a way I still am. But as much as I love flowering trees and the promise of summer, I feel a special kinship to the spicy warmth of autumn. I like the idea of hunkering down, cozying up, slowing down. Winter bums me out, but fall, with all its crackling fire smells, flame red leaves, and pumpkin recipes, is my kind of season.

So, in honor of fall (at least on this side of the hemisphere!) here is a round-up of my family’s favorite gluten free foods, which of course can be enjoyed any time of year.

First up, is this: (please pay special attention to the box on the bottom)

O M G - Pumpkin Spice Waffles are you kidding?!?

GF Pumpkin Spice Waffles OMG!

The other week my husband asked me to please buy some gluten free waffles that were NOT Van’s brand. No offense to Van’s, but we are a wee bit tired of their waffles. I blame it on my husband who introduced our kids to HOMEMADE waffle-maker waffles and frankly, Little Guy has never been the same since. Unfortunately, our waffle maker broke, and so we have been in a bit of of a waffle funk. Until now.

Nature’s Path Homestyle and Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Hello, beautiful

Hello, beautiful stack of pumpkin spice waffles. You smell like a pumpkin pie and taste as good.

Bring it on Nature’s Path! You rock! Pumpkin Spice Waffles, be still my heart, because you are THAT good. Try a couple with some almond butter smeared in between, and if you live in Pennsylvania, as I now do, use the local syrup. It’s mighty good.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

This was my lunch yesterday. Yum.

The Homestyle ones are good, too. Not that I would know since I am a pumpkin addict.

Next up, Little Guy’s breakfast of champions, Enjoy LIfe Cocoa Loco Bars

enjoy life chocolate barsIs it bad to admit that he eats one EVERY MORNING, and sometimes again after nap?! Because they are fortified and stuff. It’s not actually dessert even though it looks and smells and tastes like dessert. I swear. Little Guy calls them Chocky Bars. Those are the first words he says every morning. No joke.

As grateful as I am to these bars, my true heart belongs to Van’s (see? my loyalty hadn’t been marred by waffle fatigue). Because after three long years, I have FINALLY found a soft and (vaguely) healthy gluten free granola bar for BOTH of my kids. WHA?! No, srsly.

Introducing, Little Guy’s fave, Van’s Peanut Butter Chocolate bars:

vans pb barsI was buying another brand for a while, but they had big chunks of almonds in them and LG kept eating around them (i.e. spitting them out). Since we drive a lot here in PA, it’s not exactly easy for me to catch spit up almonds while zooming by corn fields.

But even more shocking is that I found a bar for Bunky! Even though the kid will not touch peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a ten foot pole (sigh), she loves these bars. Says the jelly tastes like chocolate. Go figure.

vans pbj bars

FYI one of the other flavors, Cranberry Almond, is also delicious. I only know this because I bought them by accident (and I may do so again).

Now, you know as much as I prefer (in a perfect universe where children amuse themselves for hours at a time and gluten free flours abound in my pantry) to bake from SCRATCH, I have a soft spot for box mixes, such as Betty Crocker and Cherrybrook Farm, I recently tried a new mix: Stonewall Kitchen Chocolate Brownie Mix

stonewall kitchen choco brownie mix gfAnd WOW, so good! It was a gift from our lovely real estate agent who gave us an ENTIRE gift basket filled with gluten free goodies when we closed on our new place. (I seriously almost cried it was so nice.)

Well, we didn’t waste much time trying it out.

My beautiful baking assistant.

My beautiful baking assistant.

stonewall kitchens brownie mixThe consensus is THUMB’S UP. All of them.

bunky eating brownies

LG eating brownies

Also in the gift basket were several other goodies new to us, such as these RAD and healthy Orchard Bars.

orchard bars

They are similar in style and texture to Lara Bars, but I have to say, I liked these more. I tried Cherry Almond Crunch – delish and hearty – as well as the very sweet and delightful Pineapple Coconut Macadamia, which was kind of like eating a Pina Colada. Awesome.

According to their website, they are GMO free, all natural, protein packed as well as gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and kosher. My kids didn’t have any (um, because I ate them all) but I suspect once Little Guy gets over his nut chunk issue, he will enjoy these, too.

Another grown up winner? 180 Snacks Pistachio Trail Mix

180 snacks pistachio trail mixThis is basically like candy for adults (or kids with superior taste) but healthy(ish). It tastes like fancy nut brittle. I love that it only has 4 ingredients: nuts, cane sugar, rice syrup, salt. 180 Snacks also carries other kinds of wholesome snacks like nutty fruity clusters and bars. I’d definitely give those a try based on my love of this sticky yum trail mix.

One of the other things in the gift basket was a (not so) secret obsession of mine:

Late July Mild Green Mojo Multigrain Snack Chips (OMG)

late july mild green mojo chipsHave you tried these yet? If not, I highly recommend doing so NOW. They have a wonderful slow burn spice factor that grows with each bite which adds to their addictive quality. I highly recommend. Just beware, you WILL eat the whole bag in one sitting if not careful. I did.

I have to say, after many years of buying groceries from bodegas and the occasional narrow cavernous grocery store, I’m reallly enjoying the Giant suburban grocery store. Not even kidding, it’s called Giant. They have a huge gluten free aisle, so I’m sure we’ll have more favorites soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what your current favorites are. Bring it on in comments. My pantry always has room for more (wow, that sounds all WRONG but you know what I mean).

 

 

Gluten Free Product Review Round-up

Earlier this month we spent our anniversary family-style at our country house upstate, and unlike the last trip (Easter weekend began with sun AND ended with snow!) this was summery without a spec of precipitation. It was filled with fun outdoor activities like lake swimming, sand castle building, marshmallow roasting, salamander catching (and releasing), and of course eating.

kids at lake

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

The eating part is surprisingly easy since the gluten free section at the local Peck’s grocery store is AWESOME! Seriously, it’s better than our grocery in Brooklyn. This makes our trips a lot easier knowing we can pick up a complete stash of Udi’s products, plus cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and more instead of packing our usual fridge/freezer/pantry arsenal.

I found a couple of new items that my family loved and I want to share here. I rarely do product reviews, but I should do more because there’s nothing worse than spending a zillion dollars on a dry meh GF cookie or a weird rubbery wrap.

scary face

Am I right?! (Gotta love Photo Booth.)

Have I mentioned how sad I am about gluten free bread lately? [sidebar alert] As much as I love Udi’s and am eternally grateful for their brand, I can’t handle how crumbly and hole-y the bread can be. It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad about giving it to my kids, especially Little Guy who is particularly sensitive to stale tasting bread. Maybe poor Bunky is used to it after all these years. Sigh.

Recently we tried Glutino White Bread, and it is SOFT, seriously insanely soft. You don’t even have to toast it! Less healthy than the whole grain Udi’s, sure, but you know, sometimes you need to be able to chew your sandwich without gagging.

Glutino_Bread_White_Sandwich-250x250

So, that was sort of an unofficial review, and now for the rest from our upstate stash…

Udi’s Gluten Free Flour Tortilla Wraps 

After years of eating quesadillas (practically a food group around here) on stiff yellow circles also known as store bought corn tortillas, I discovered these beauties.

The bread might not always be awesome, but these wraps totally are!

They are enormous and soft GF flour tortillas (they also sell smaller ones). Oh, Udi’s, I know I just bad talked your bread, but you nailed these. I used them for our regular shredded cheddar quesadillas, but also for a sweet breakfast tortilla (!) which tasted like a thick crepe, using our new favorite White Chocolate Peanut Butter and sliced banana. OMG! Unfortunately, I haven’t found these in Brooklyn yet (!) but the next time we go upstate, I’m stocking up.

Even a paper plate can't cheapen the experience.

Even a paper plate can’t cheapen the experience.

Next up…

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

maple grove farms gf mix

Speaking of breakfast, have you tried this mix? If not, you should give it a try because it’s awesome. Plus, there’s NO added sugar, which is not necessarily true for other mixes (Bisquick, I’m talking to you). It’s super easy to make either pancakes or waffles and both have been successful for us. I used to like making my own homemade pancakes, and still do on occasion, but it’s also nice to have the convenience of a mix, especially when your kids wake you up before dawn.

Now, no trip to the country would be complete without copious amounts of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A moment of props to HD – want to know how many ingredients are in their traditional vanilla? FIVE. Cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Nothing fake, no “natural flavor” scams, nothing. Just real food.

Normally we eat it in a bowl because GF cones are not always easy to come by… except upstate where they sell these awesome ones:

Joy Gluten Free Sugar Cones

Isn't my cone model adorable?!

Isn’t my cone model adorable?!

These GF sugar cones are really tasty! They also make gluten free cake cones, by the way. One day we’ll give those a try. In the meantime, the sugar cones are rad. We all really enjoyed eating them all filled up with drippy vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The only caveat is that they leak at the bottom, but you can use your finger as a stopper, ha, or better yet melt some chocolate down there. Oh, yeah.

bunky and cone

Eating outside makes ice cream taste even better, don’t you think?

Everything outside is better in the summer. Salamander catching included.

kids and salamander

Have you had any fantastic gluten free finds lately? If so, bring it on in comments. I can always use some new ideas. And let me know if you try any of my suggestions. We GFers have to stick together, you know?

 

Gluten Free Overnight Oats

You know you have no life when the first thing you say to people – as in, any person, your friends, babysitter, your dad’s girlfriend, strangers on the street: “Do you like oatmeal?” And when they stare at your sort of blankly and nod or shake their heads, you blurt out the entire recipe for overnight oats with an excitement that is not infectious.

At least I don’t show them a picture.

overnight oats w spoon

But this is my platform, ha, in which to spout my love and devotion to whatever I want, and right now that thing is OVERNIGHT OATS because seriously, they are that good.

Now, don’t judge this fab breakfast by my feeble photography. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to cook it. Seriously! This is especially convenient on school mornings when I’m rushing to make Bunky lunch and Little Guy breakfast, while chugging my coffee so my eyeballs don’t fall out of my head. All I have to do is take it out of the fridge and warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds (optional step), and then bam, breakfast is served.

Despite the rawness of this recipe, the oats are soft and chewy, not raw-tasting at all (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I used whole milk the first few times because that’s what we had and they were SUPER creamy and delightful. Then I tried them with a lower fat and the difference was obvious. Still good, though.

I was inspired by these fantastic recipes, my absolute favorite being the almond butter one, sans cocoa powder (I know, weird) and I’ve since made my own version. It’s a mouthful (no pun intended) but I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it, so…

Gluten Free Vanilla Maple Almond Butter Oats

*Adapted from My Whole Food Life’s, Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats (I use regular but you can use steel cut for more texture)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsps maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (I use 2% cow’s milk)*
  • 1 tsp flax meal (optional)

Isn't the lighting just lovely?

Isn’t the lighting just lovely?

Instructions:

1. Throw everything in a jar or thermos. Shake and put in fridge overnight.

2. Take out in morning and warm up if you want, and enjoy!

* add more milk or a splash of water for a slightly thinner oatmeal

A lovely pic taken alongside a dying bonsai tree.

Overnight oats beside an odd looking bonsai tree from Ikea.

This breakfast has really saved me because I haven’t been eating much of anything in the mornings, besides scraps from Bunky’s lunch. It’s sad because I used to love breakfast, and well, I still do, but I have no time or energy to make myself something healthy and filling. I used to be a hearty cereal girl, but I feel like the gluten free cereal options are super lame. Sure, there are organic circles and flakes, and a bunch of great mainstream sugary kinds (hello, Cinnamon Chex, which is like crack to my kids), but where is my hearty crunchy, granola-y, clustery cereal?! No where that I can find. Sigh. I don’t mind making regular oatmeal, but it takes time and messes up a pot.

But this overnight business? Genius! I don’t have to cook, it takes about 2 minutes at night which is key during crazy chaotic pre-bedtime lunacy, and it’s ready to go in the morning. It fills me up, it’s healthy, and YUM.

All I need is for these two to get a bit older and they can make it and serve it to me. Score.

kid waiter and chef

P.S. This is my 101st post! I didn’t do any fancy shenanigans for the 100th because, um, I forgot, but I’m pretty pleased with myself to have hit this milestone even though most bloggers seem to do it in one year (or less) rather than three, but whatev. I have two kids and half a brain. So, I consider this quite a feat.

Thank you to all my readers, new and old, sporadic and regular, for tuning in to my rantings, ravings, and recipes.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake

We’re on. It’s cake time.

Finally! The post you’ve been waiting for. The one I neglected in order to write this and this. Ah, relief. No more deep thoughts (for now).

So. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s going to get messy. And time consuming. And kind of pricey. Also, seriously unhealthy. It’s time for…

gf rainbow cake special

Your hands will get dirty, or, at the very least, dyed a vivid pink hue not found in nature. If my daughter could dye all of her food this color, she totally would:

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

The seed for a rainbow layer cake began over a year ago when I saw this gorgeous concoction on April Peveteaux’s fab site, Gluten Is My Bitch. I had NO idea such a thing existed, but apparently it was big on Pinterest back then. I was intrigued, but scared. Seemed like a LOT of work. So I stuck with a simple (ish) but decadent double chocolate cake for Bunky’s 5th birthday party. It was gluten, nut, egg free, and AWESOME.

fifth gluten free bday cake

But this year I was ready. A kick-ass rainbow cake seemed a perfect match for Bunky’s art-themed party and my rainbow loving girl.

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday (or any day) Cake

What You Need:

  • 3 boxes of gluten free cake mix (I used Cherrybrook Farms Yellow Cake mix) – plus whatever mix-ins it requires: oil, eggs, etc.
  • 2-3 circular cake pans, springform is easier but not totally necessary, I used 10-inch but could use 8-inch for a smaller circular cake
  • approximately 6 containers* of Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinz vanilla frosting, or homemade if you prefer, or for dairy free try this recipe
  • AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color – I bought the junior kit on amazon, but you can really use whatever dye you’d like, but the gel color is REALLY vivid. Also, this brand is gluten AND nut free (and kosher), woo hoo!
  • parchment paper or nonstick spray or butter to grease pans (I used spray with our springform pans, but if you’re using regular cake pans I would suggest lining them with parchment AND greasing to make sure you can get those skinny cakes out)
  • help in the form of childcare, partner support, and/or sous chefs, maybe some wine
  • patience of a saint doesn’t hurt

* When it comes to buying tubs of frosting, you can get a combo of the Whipped Vanilla kind, which is great to spread over the finished and assembled cake stack. But for in between each layer, we suggest using Regular Vanilla because the Whipped texture might be too airy and squishy to go between. You don’t want the layers to collapse together. My sous chef husband pointed this out and he was totally right. Thanks honey.

Getting It Done:

1. Prepare cake pans by spraying and/or lining them. If you’re not using springforms, line with parchment and grease. If using springform, nonstick spray or butter liberally.

2. Preheat oven and then prepare the THREE box mixes as directed. I started with only two Cherrybrook Farm mixes (why I followed the gluten Betty Crocker recipe and not April’s is beyond me) and divided them up into 6 bowls, weighed them with my kitchen scale (yes, I’m an anal dork), dyed the crap out of them, before realizing it wasn’t enough to cover the bottom of my 10-inch cake pans. So, I had to send my husband out for another box. Do yourself a favor and buy three boxes upfront unless you get secret pleasure out of making your partner run extra errands. No judgement here.

3. Divide into 6 bowls (or how many layers you want). Like I said above, I used a kitchen scale because you want each layer to be the same size, but you could also just use measuring cups.

bday cake prep

4. Here’s the fun part: adding color! A little squeeze of gel goes a long way, so be warned. Bunky and I both loved the hot pink. Little Guy went nuts over the blue and green.

My adorable little baking assistant.

Behold my adorable little baking assistant.

bday cake prep bunky

5. Start the cooking process. I had six cake pans, but we cooked two at a time (in 3 separate sessions) because our oven cooks unevenly on the different racks. If you can squeeze in three, go for it. But use your discretion. My sous chef, aka Husband, did the dirty work here. He spread the batter in the pans and was in charge of the cooking, cooling, and releasing.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or at least a helpful husband.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or a helpful husband.

We cooked ours for about 6-7 minutes (it’s a thin cake, remember) but our oven is like Hades hot, so again, you may want to check your cakes starting at 6 minutes but it could take a bit longer. Don’t overcook, though, because that takes away a bit of color.

And please make sure the cakes are FULLY cooled before releasing or (gently) prying them out. You don’t want to damage the goods.

bday cake cooling

Cooked cakes just chilling by the windowsill.

6. Now for assembly. Again, my sous chef was in charge here. He likes doing the detail work and I like when he does it. But the birthday girl was the cake designer, with very specific instructions as to the order of colors. She went against the whole ROY G BIV color scheme which I know made my (OCD) husband a bit nuts, but hey, it was her day.

bunky cake designer

Like I mentioned earlier, we used a combo of Whipped and Regular Vanilla frosting. Regular for between the layers, and Whipped for the outer layer (because it goes on smoother and faster).

Taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE tubs. Srsly.

This pic was taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE. Srsly.

7. Then top that sucker with whatever you want – we went for an easy and crowd pleasing route: sprinkles.

bday sprinkles

But you could try this gorgeous insanity that I contemplated for about twenty seconds:

makdoodle rainbow cake

But seriously, sprinkles are a sure thing. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Unless you want to.

Finished product, please excuse the candle indentations.

Finished product. Please ignore the candle indentations. Forgot to take a pic with them.

The cake was a HUGE success, and so was the very sweet art party. But let’s talk about the cake!

gluten free rainbow cake slice

Every kid devoured it. Even the one boy who told me ahead of time that he doesn’t like cake. I promised that I wouldn’t make him eat it. But when he saw it he gestured me over. “I’ll take a small piece,” he said. And then he ate the entire thing, crumbs included.

Cake anticipation!

Cake anticipation! Everyone is very excited.

My sweet 6 year old birthday girl. It was a wonderful party.

Our six year old birthday girl.

bunky eating cake

Little Guy inhaled his entire slice.

It was a great party.

Me and my girl. (And Little Guy’s legs.) It was a great party.

bunky artHappy Birthday to my dear girl, who loved decorating her butterfly wings surrounded by her friends. She is growing her own secret wings, and one day she will fly away from me, but not yet.

opening gifts

 

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Risi Bisi

Dinner is not my friend, to put it mildly.

angry mom spatula

Every day the question looms large in my mind, as in, what the hell am I going to feed these people? My family is picky, as I’ve mentioned dozens of times. Besides the whole gluten thing, we have veggie-phobes, meat neglecters, tofu snobs. There are VERY few things everyone will eat.

angry mom eat it

Sure, I could strong arm it and go all, one-meal-for-everyone-suckers, but I don’t. I do draw the line at not making more than two different meals on any given night… okay, that’s a lie. But I try not to, because that is just NUTS. Mostly my husband and I eat the same thing, Bunky eats another (or a slightly modified version), and Little Guy eats one bite of whatever I tossed on his highchair tray before throwing it on the floor.

Sidebar Alert! The whole toddler throwing food on the floor thing is getting really, really OLD. One of my hands has to hover next to his plate/bowl at all times, and if I move for just one second to say, take a bite of my own dinner, or get a drink of water, the food goes flying. It is NOT cool. He’s lucky he is so cute. Seriously.

little guy peanut butter man

Back to dinner angst…

Recently, I came across this cool idea about trying the ONE MEAL FITS ALL experiment and hyping it up like it’s a big exciting adventure, and if the picky people turn their noses, they are offered a few simple and healthy snacks (like, nuts, bananas, or cheese) that they can eat so they won’t starve to death (but the snacks remain the same so they are super boring and un-fun) but — I haven’t gotten the chutzpah (er, balls) to try that yet. It takes a resolve and strength that I simply do not have after seven years of broken sleep (not even kidding).

Thankfully I’ve discovered ONE SURE THING that every person in my picky family will eat and adore (am I jinxing myself or what?!) and that is Risi e Bisi, a delicious and creamy Italian rice and peas dish that you can totally modify to your family’s picky or less than picky tastes. For example, we cook up the pancetta on the side since my daughter doesn’t like it, and sometimes a few chicken breasts, too, for an extra protein boost. But it can absolutely be all veggie, which is how my kids eat it.

Mine is a rice cooker recipe, but don’t worry, for those of you who haven’t jumped on the rice cooker bandwagon yet (which I highly recommend you do!), I’ve included a link to a stovetop version, here. Just bear in mind, I’ve only made ours in the rice cooker.

Risi e Bisi

Lightly adapted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.

bowl risi bisi

*Machine should be a medium (6-cup) or large (10 cup) rice cooker, fuzzy logic or on/off, cycle: quick cook and/or regular or Porridge

*The above is rice cooker lingo, don’t be scared! Or be a little scared, I know I was when I started researching, but in the end I opted for a $60 on/off with a Porridge Soup option. But I pretty much just pour water and rice into it and turn it on. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup minced celery [or, 1/2 cup minced celery + 1/2 cup minced onion or shallots]
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons medium-grain risotto rice (Arborio)*
  • 3 cups chicken, meat, or vegetable stock
  • 1 + 1/2 cups frozen peas (if using fresh peas, see recipe for details)
  • 3-5 slices of pancetta, chopped (cooked separately and optional)

You can also cook a few boneless chicken breasts to toss in at the end for a heartier meal.

* This recipe feeds 3 comfortably, but if you want more generous servings, or to feed 4, use 1 and 1/2 cups of Arborio rice and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup more broth.

To Finish:

  • 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream OR milk
  • 1 can of 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • salt

Directions:

1. Set rice cooker for Quick Cook or regular cycle. Place olive oil and butter in rice cooker bowl. When the butter melts, add celery (and possibly, shallots). Cook, stirring a few times, until softened not browned, 2-3 minutes. Add wine and cook for a few minutes more. Add rice and stir to coat the grains with hot butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grains of rice are transparent except for a white spot on each. About 5 minutes. Add stock and stir to combine. [If you are using fresh peas, stir in now, otherwise wait.] Close cover and reset for Porridge cycle, or regular cycle and set timer for 20 minutes.

risi in progress

2. While the rice is cooking, you can cook the pancetta in a skillet until crispy.

Before...

Before shot of uncooked pancetta…

Food sidebar: My husband just came across this little gem at our local supermarket.

Pre-cut AND gluten free, score!

Pre-cut AND gluten free, score!

Chopped pancetta, be still my heart! It’s actually really HARD to cut into pancetta (I try not to think about why this is true, but, um, hello fatty meat?!) so this makes it loads easier. And I love easy.

Set aside to be sprinkled on top at the end. YUM!

pancetta crispies

And after! The crispy saltiness is awesome.

2. After 20 minutes, stir rice with plastic rice paddle or wooden spoon. Rice should be only a bit liquid and rice should be al dente, tender with just a bit of resistance. If needed, cook a few minutes longer.

3. When you are ready to serve, add frozen peas, stir to combine. Add the butter and close cover for 2-3 minutes to allow it to melt and the peas to heat through. Stir in cream or milk, cheese, and salt to taste. Top with crispy pancetta and cubed up chicken, if you’d like a protein boost. Serve immediately and enjoy!

risi up close

Do you have any tried and true meals that everyone enjoys? Any kid-friendly(ish) crowd pleasers? If so, please share! I could use another failsafe option.

 

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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GF Grilled Almond Butter + Banana Sandwich


ab sand 2 better

Seems so obvious in retrospect. Almond butter + banana sandwich = awesome, but add butter and a frying pan and you’ve got SUPER AWESOME.

But first, a mini sidebar:

Oh Udi’s, how we depend on love thee. But, after being toasted, which is necessary for edibility, you can taste – how can I say this nicely – a little stale? Yes. Stale, a bit stiff. Not always so awesome. Especially when you sit in a lunch box all morning. Poor sandwich. Poor Bunky who is dependent on said sandwiches.

Luckily, she adores grilled cheese, which taste perfectly lovely on Udi’s bread when grilled in copious amounts of butter. Yum. Little Guy loves them, too. But how many grilled cheeses can a kid eat? Well, a lot, fortunately. But I figured something else out. Something fantastic. I can’t even take credit for it. When my friend told me about it I smacked my head. OF COURSE. Grilled almond butter and banana = Genius!

Can you see the buttery goodness? It's no joke.

Can you see the buttery goodness? It’s no joke.

Ingredients:

  • GF bread, banana slices, almond butter (or whatever you want) + frying pan + butter

Directions:

1. You probably don’t need me to spell this out, but I will just in case. Slap a big pad of butter in your frying pan. Heat that sucker up on medium low (you really don’t want to burn the bread, ew).

2. Spread a generous amount of almond butter on a slice of gluten free bread. Cover with banana slices. Top with a second piece of bread. Place in the pan and fry it up. Then add more butter to brown the other side.

3. Slide it on a plate and DIG IN!

* Want an upgrade? Use NUTELLA instead, or a combo. Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously. It should probably be illegal.

And since posting gratuitous pictures of my kids is kind of my thing, here is a series I call, When Little Brother Attacks.

IMG_3432

IMG_3431

Fun times. Little Guy is so sweet and cuddly, but he’s also a mixed martial arts star in training. My dad has big plans for him.

As for my girl, she is an artist and a budding writer. She’s always loved art, but now that she’s learning to write, she’s making books. How perfect is that?!

spring flowers

Spring flowers, please hurry! We’re so over winter.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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Gluten Free Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce

Scroll down for a poorly lit photo of gnocchi, but first, here’s Little Guy looking pensive and adorable. He’s wearing more clothes than usual (believe it or not): a pair of Thomas the Train underwear and his Buzzy Bee costume. Most of this winter he’s been naked and peeing on the floor. Oh, I mean, potty training. The only thing worse than pee on the floor is… well, you get the idea.

Buzzy bee

We spent Bunky’s winter break upstate and I rediscovered my love for snow. It was the first time I had a chance to “play” with B outside. Most of this winter and last I’ve been (hiding) inside with Little Guy, and secretly relieved to do so, because I hate being cold. But in 40+ degree weather with PERFECT snow packing/sculpting conditions, it was awesome. We also busted out the sleds, and I might have had more fun than Bunky.

Too bad a snow avalanche from the roof decapitated our girl in the night. But we made more.

Too bad a snow avalanche from the roof decapitated our snow girl in the night. But we made more.

Now, moving along to food. I brought about ten bags of edible supplies upstate – including a package of gluten free gnocchi and made it with left over smashed up meatloaf muffins mixed with Rao’s marinara sauce. It was great, but so is this tomato cream sauce. Mmm, cream sauce. You really want to get in there with a fork, don’t you?


gf gnocchi yum

Okay maybe not, but wait until you try it. Creamy and rich, but not overpowering. Super easy to make, this tomato cream sauce is a dream.

I use Farbella gnocchi that my local grocer carries, but you can use any GF brand or make your own. I did once and it was surprisingly easy. But it IS labor intensive with all the squishing together the dough and freezing it and THEN boiling it, so if I can buy a bag, even an overpriced(ish) one, I will. Because that’s the kind of girl I am.

The best thing about gnocchi? Besides the delightful flavor? Boils in 2 minutes. Yup. Crazy. So when you’re making this meal, don’t get over excited like me and throw it in first, before you make the sauce, otherwise it will get all squished and stuck together while it waits. Might as well cook the sauce first, putting water on to boil midway through, and then boil the suckers when the sauce is done. Voila, dinner is served! (Side dish not included.)

Creamy Tomato Sauce 

Based loosely on this recipe. *Use for gnocchi or any pasta you’d like*

Note: These measurements can be adjusted to your particular tastes. For example, like garlic? Use more. Want to serve more than 2-3 folks? I suggest you double it. Enjoy the cream-aliciousness of heavy cream, or perhaps you don’t? Adjust accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 can of 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (OR, you can sub in a few tablespoons of whole milk)

Directions:

1. Heat a saucepan on medium and melt the butter, then add the minced garlic. Cook about one minute until fragrant.

2. Add the diced tomatoes, and possibly the tomato paste (totally not necessary, just bonus flavor). Stir and then simmer for about 10 minutes, more if you double the batch, until the sauce is slightly reduced and it smells gooood.

3. Remove from heat and CAREFULLY puree, using an immersion blender (if you happen to have one) or a food processor. It doesn’t have to be perfectly blended, just a texture you enjoy.

4. Then add the cream and simmer for about 5 minutes.

That’s it! You’re done. Slide the gnocchi into the sauce, stir, and enjoy. Top with grated parm, if you’d like. We sure do.

Oh yeah, you know you want some.

Oh yeah, you know you want some of this.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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