Trifecta of Celebrations

First up, a very heartfelt thank you to all who commented and offered support on my last post about my other writing life. Hopefully by outing myself as a fiction writer on this blog, I will keep up with my goals and not slack off. Fingers crossed.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

November was a big month for us as we got to celebrate a trifecta of festivities: Little Guy’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah. Rather than torture you with three individual posts, I’m lumping it all together.

First up, my birthday boy. I can’t believe this guy is TWO.

IMG_3211

Yet, I totally can because he is talking up a storm and can’t stop running around and dive bombing family members (leading, unfortunately, with his head). He also loves taking off all his clothes – and the clothes of EVERY single one of Bunky’s dolls. It’s really cute until he pees on the couch.

Last year I made him pumpkin muffins because that seemed like a responsible and healthy thing to do for a one-year-old. But a lot changes in a year, let me tell you. The kid still loves pumpkin, but that gourd has nothing on chocolate.

little guy second birthday cake

Everyone LOVED this cake. Courtesy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Perfect Chocolate Cake. It really is perfect. Dense and rich and yet not overbearing at all. A sure thing for my chocoholic family. The fall foliage sprinkles were my favorite part.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house. Little Guy only had one hand free.

little guy birthday cake close up

How cute is this kid? He’s totally trying to share his cake with me.

Which leads me to these leaf shaped sugar cookies I made for Thanksgiving. A GF Shoestring blog recipe. I highly HIGHLY recommend. My kids couldn’t eat them fast enough. And neither could my husband. Um, or me.

cookies close up

I frosted some with royal icing (not pictured), but it was a mistake. I’ve since realized that royal icing is more about making pretty decorations with a piping bag (which I don’t have). However, while the iced cookies didn’t look as pretty as I had hoped, no one complained as they were too busy cramming cookies into their greedy little mouths.

There was also chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark, because why not.

chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark

I jazzed up last year’s fail proof peppermint pretzel bark recipe and added mini marshmallows toward the end after the chocolate was cool. YUM.

Ariel view anyone? (Sorry, can’t help myself, it’s just so pretty.)

Oh, the lighting at my dad's house is just perfect.

Now let’s talk about PIE. Last year I made a cheesecake for my husband, but this year he requested (um, begged) for an apple pie. His absolute hand’s down favorite dessert.

My husband is a pie man.

My husband is a pie man.

I obliged because that’s the kind of awesome wife I am. Not shockingly, I went with another tried and true GF Shoestring recipe. I love Nicole Hunn’s pie crust recipe and helpful video. It’s worth mentioning that it’s the ONLY pie crust I’ve ever made from scratch (gluten and GF), but still, why mess with a sure thing? Here is one perfect looking slice. Seconds later it was gone, I’m sure.

apple pie

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving (in my opinion) is eating (a lot of) pie for breakfast the next morning. Nothing tastes as good, and for me, that pie must be pumpkin. Absolutely. No exceptions.

pumpkin pieLast year I made the mistake of attempting a graham cracker crust on my pumpkin pie. VERY bad move. The crust basically burnt to a crisp during the hour plus baking. Don’t cry for me because I ate the ENTIRE interior anyhow with a spoon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.

So, I stuck with the same decadent yet simple recipe as last year, but opted to make a double batch of traditional pie crusts to use for both the apple and pumpkin pie. This year I ate the whole pie, basically by myself (since my husband and daughter don’t like pumpkin pie?!?) but this time with the crust. It was DREAMY. I got a little fat. But it was worth it.

Besides the desserts, the other best part of Thanksgiving this year was the ease of it. Everyone was so chill and happy. It was hilarious watching Little Guy try to keep up with his cousin (three months younger but way faster) as they ran circles in the house. Bunky had a blast playing with the “big cousins” who are all college graduates. There was an adorable (though ear drum shattering) jam session with an electric guitar, a broken violin, a piano, and a mechanical singing Santa.

There was very little talk or anxiety over FOOD. Our kids ate our stuff, the rest of us ate their GF offerings, and we all shared dessert. Couldn’t ask for better, really.

Next up, or rather, simultaneously up, Chanukah.

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

The first night or two was sweet. Candles, singing dreidel songs, opening presents. But then a few days in, things started to go south. My husband grumbled about it, muttering about how at least Christmas gets it all done in one day. At first I defended my holiday, insisting how great it was to get eight nights of festivities, until it wasn’t. The truth is, one gift a night can be kind of frustrating for a kid. At least on Christmas the meh gifts get pushed aside for the great ones, but on Chanukah some nights end up being only meh – which translates to horrendous amount of whining around my house.

All that said, the last second to last night picture is pretty sweet. Bunky loves her waitress costume.

last night of chanukahI am pretty relieved it’s over, though. Until next year.

Now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I leave you with an image that will hopefully be symbolic of the rest of the season: may we all kick up our feet in green high heel shoes and relax.

little guy heelsHope you all survived November and I wish you the best of luck during December’s shenanigans. If the going gets tough, just be glad you’re not trapped in a jar like this poor lady. (Totally random and unrelated aside, but I am strangely in love with this picture.)

princess in a jar

My family will be spending Christmas in our pajamas watching movies. The kids will get one gift each, IF they’re lucky. Greedy ungrateful little boogers.

Just kidding. Mostly.

 

I’m so happy to be part of Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday recipe link-up! Click the badge below for more great GF recipes.

gf friday badge

On the Cusp: One Last Summer Recipe

First, let me just update you about Bunky and kindergarten. If you’ve been following my insanity here, you know I’ve been kind of a mess leading up to the big day. Well, you’ll be happy to know all my worrying was a waste of time (as worrying pretty much always is). Day 1 went well, and though there have been some minor bumps and adjustments, things are pretty awesome. Fingers crossed it continues to be.

First day of school dress.

First day of school dress.

Fall is nearly upon us, at least here in New York. And so is apple picking season, yay!

apple picking 2013

The air is all crispy and so are the leaves. Little Guy is loving how they crunch under his feet. The look on his face when he saw the playground covered with fallen leaves was priceless. And don’t even get me started on what he thinks about pumpkins. I think I have another fall fan here.

little guy pumpkin

Fall is about pumpkins, apples, and let’s not forget about pie. Fall is savory stews and soups and maybe, just maybe, using my five year old crockpot for the first time. Fall is the time for hunkering down, cuddling up, and wearing thick socks inside (especially when you live above your apartment’s parking garage). Fall is about tucking in for winter.

But first, while we hover on the cusp of the seasons, let’s squeeze in one last summer recipe before the pumpkin recipes start rolling in. Let’s be honest, they already are rolling in, because pumpkin recipes rock, but so do ones with tomatoes. Am I right?

tomatoes

This recipe is an old standby for us, and was in our gluten days. The first time I made this GF it was a disaster. The rice pasta was slimy and disgusting. I remember shoveling it into my mouth with a forced smile. No one was fooled. I don’t think I made it again for a year. But that was way back when I didn’t know how to cook GF pasta. Or which kinds to buy. But I do now. We either use Bionaturae or Farabella penne, but pick your own fave.

I don’t have exact measurements because this is the kind of recipe you taste along the way. Some people may like more or less balsamic vinegar, for example, so start with less and add if necessary. The less liquid-y this meal is, the better.

You can also add a couple of cooked chicken breasts cubed, for some animal protein, which my husband likes, but I prefer it without. Your call.

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Pasta

fresh mozz pasta dinner

This was made with rigatoni out of necessity, but I think penne is better.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of GF pasta, we like penne
  • vine ripened tomatoes, 4-6 depending on the size – or whatever tomatoes you find at your local farmer’s market
  • 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, the tastiest you can find
  • fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta NOT according to the directions (ha) but the way you KNOW works. I often cook ours significantly less than the package says. When it doubt, test it after about 6-8 minutes. You don’t want it overcooked. Blecch. Drain water using a colander and run the pasta under cool water to stop it from cooking, and then add a glug or two of olive oil so it doesn’t stick inside the colander. Check out this link and this one for some advice on cooking GF pasta successfully. It is NOT necessarily intuitive.

2. Chop tomatoes into small-ish cubes. You may want to get ride of some if not most of the juicy seeds and innards so your final dish isn’t too soupy. Put into a large bowl.

fresh mozz tomato prep

3. Cube up fresh mozzarella. Try not to eat too much of it while doing so. Add to the bowl.

4. Make sure pasta is cooled (so as not to melt the cheese) and add to bowl as well.

fresh mozz pasta prep 2

5. Now it’s time to make the magic happen. Carefully add a glug or two of balsamic vinegar. Then the olive oil. Mix and taste. Add more of one or both if necessary. The balance of acid and oil is key and particular to your own palate. Trust yourself, here. You can’t go too wrong. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Finally, toss the chopped basil and mix gently.

Dinner is served. Easy and delicious. (As long as you’re not me two years ago gagging down squishy overcooked GF pasta. I shiver just thinking about it.)

Now, before we say farewell to summer, please enjoy my children as sand creatures.

My little mermaid.

My little mermaid.

And her mostly companion. (That’s from Eloise, if you don’t know.)

Mini merman.

My mini merman.

Oh, I will miss summer.

beach family

But here’s hoping fall will be pretty great, too.