Saturday, July 28, 2012

Gluten Free Cinnamon Swirl Bread...And a Big Belly

As far as gluten free all-purpose flours go, my favorite by far has been Jules Gluten Free flour.  I have used it in a lot of her recipes (she has a great cook book Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten Free Eating), but I have also had a lot of success using her flour in regular, non-gluten free recipes too.  I think it acts the most like wheat all-purpose flour of any that I've tried, and it also has a year-long shelf life, unlike a lot of the organic flours that go bad quickly.

The other day she blogged about a reader's recipe for cinnamon swirl bread so I decided to try it.  My lovely neighbor had been talking about some gluten free coffee cake she had on vacation so I was in the mood for something yummy, and I had all of the ingredients.  So at nap time, I got busy.

The batter was super thin so I was a little worried at this point.

You are supposed to pour in half the batter, then sprinkle the sugar
and cinnamon mixture, then pour on the other half of the batter.  Well, I poured a
little too much in initially, so my cinnamon mixture didn't get covered up very well.
I used a knife to do some swirly things and hoped for the best.

Look how pretty it turned out!  And can I say it tasted just as good as it looked.

And finally, one of the hazards of baking while pregnant.
You have a shelf for flour and things to land on your shirt.
I know, I was only 24 weeks pregnant when I took this.
I know, I have a while to go until October 29th. :-P

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Weekly Review Unraveled

As I mentioned in my post about the M.O.M. system, the weekly review is one of my favorite elements of the process. I recently went a week and a half without doing my review, and I felt like I was forgetting stuff all week. I think this is a great idea and something that anyone could implement and feel good about very quickly (even without doing the whole M.O.M. type of system). It's not as complicated as it sounds - here is what mine looks like:
Once a week, I do the following:

  1. I bring the following items to the couch: my bin of files and supplies, my planner, the drawer from the sofa table (the house "in box"), and the recycle bin. These are all within about a dozen feet of each other, so not a big deal. I take a minute to sweep the other places in the house where papers accumulate, including my wallet, the refrigerator, etc.

    The weekly review zone- laptop, planner, file box and recycling bin,
    and inbox of stuff to go through.  Snack optional. Especially this incredibly
    nutritious snack of kettle chips and a caffeine free Pepsi.  Mmmm.
  2. I "process" all of the papers. Coupons are cut and filed. Receipts are put in a folder so they are together when it's time to do finance stuff. Trash goes in the recycle bin. Things I need to do are entered into the correct list in my planner (if I need to do it this week, it goes in the Immediate Next Actions list. If not, it goes on one of the other ones.). If I need to keep a piece of paper it gets filed into the folder for the month in which it needs to be addressed (i.e., a wedding invitation for October goes in the October file; a bill due this month goes in this month's file, etc.). Some things will also be entered as events on my calendar (i.e., the wedding). Eventually the drawer is empty.

    *Important note: I don't actually take time to do any tasks unless it will take less than a couple minutes. This is key - you don't want to get bogged down in actually completing tasks. You just want to have a good list of what you need to do when you are done.
  3. I continue to "process" other inboxes, including my email, Facebook account, voicemail, etc. - anywhere that may have something that I need to do. This may be a difficult task if you haven't taken time to minimize the number of locations that you have coming at you. Figure out how you can create a "house inbox", even if it is literally a box on the kitchen counter.  
  4. I review the content of current month's folder to make sure that I'm not missing anything that needs to happen now.
  5. I update my Google calendar and print out two copies, one for my planner and one for the refrigerator. Lately I've also been printing out a weekly view too, just for readability sake, for the fridge.
In the end, I have the list of things that I need to do over the upcoming week and an accurate calendar. More importantly, I have a high confidence that all of the things I need to do have been uncovered. After you do this a couple times (the first time is obviously the worse, since you probably have crap sitting around everywhere), it doesn't take too long. I did this today in about 20 minutes, mostly because I didn't do it last week. I feel soooooo much better today now. Try it and see what you think.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Garage Sale Finds

I love garage sales.  I should really spend more time planning ahead for things I know I'm going to need and go to more of them.  Check out the stash I got recently:
  • 6 18-month sleepers, most of them Carters
  • 2 18-month Carters outfits
  • An Osh Kosh snow suit with a coat and the suspender/pants piece to go underneath
  • A Sony monitor like the one we already have for the new baby's room
  • A baggie of spoons to try with little miss (no, she still hasn't eaten a bite out of them yet, she just wants to play)
This was actually a neighborhood garage sale that my mom saw a sign for, but we got all of this from two houses.  And I paid...ready?  A grand total of $18.  Seriously?!?  I am so excited.

The loot...everything is in great shape.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In one of the emails from our CSA farmers, Lisa mentioned if we were tired of salads to use the lettuce for some Asian style lettuce wraps.  Matt and I both love those things when we've eaten them out, so I thought I would take a swing at it.  I was also thinking it may be a win with Addy since the chicken would have some sort of sweet sauce on it.

As it turned out it was also a great thing to make during Addy's nap since there was a lot of chopping and prepping.  First I chopped up the chicken and cooked it with a little oil, garlic, and chopped ginger.  Man I love the smell of fresh ginger.  It makes me want to clean the house with it.  Is that possible?  Hm, I'll have to look that up.

Then I chopped up some CSA green onions and beet greens, and a can of water chestnuts.  I know, beet greens - sneaky right?

Then I let it all hang out in the fridge until closer to dinner time.  When the time came, I threw some rice in the rice cooker and heated up the chicken and veggies with a pretty simple Asian sauce that Lisa included in her email:

¼ cup soy sauce

1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
2 TBS brown sugar
A few shakes of sesame seed oil

She also said to use freshly grated ginger root, but I left that out since I cooked the chicken in it.

The results were awesome!  Yummy, yummo.  The sauce is honestly one of the best homemade sauces I've had, and so great because you can make it gluten free very easily (just make sure you get GF soy sauce like La Choy which you can find in any grocery).  A lot of Asian bottled sauces have wheat in it, so this recipe was a great little find.

Addy even ate the chicken and loved it.  It was funny to watch her try to eat the rice and tiny chopped up veggies - she hates to eat little things and kept flinging them off her hands onto the floor.  We tried the spoon and bowl again but that just invokes playing.  But the chicken was a hit.

And as usual my pictures don't do it justice, but check out that pretty CSA lettuce!  Very attractive stuff.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cute Wallet from Sew to Speak Intro Class

The cute little store Sew to Speak is literally at the end of my street.  I have stopped in numerous times, window shopping, ooing and awing over all the cute, finished projects sitting around the room and fun bolts of fabric covering the walls.  I even asked for a book of projects for Christmas from there, but of course I haven't tried to make anything yet. 

So with baby #2 on the way, I decided it was time to put up or shut up with a sewing project, or I may not do it for a long time.  I still felt like my machine was a little bit foreign (every time I've had to thread my machine I have to pull out the manual), so I decided to take the intro to machine sewing class that they offer.  The project for the class was a little wallet with a snap closure, and even had interfacing involved, so it seemed like a lot of good elements would be covered.

Michelle taught my class and she was so great!  There were only four students in the class, which allowed her to give everyone the time that we needed individually.  She didn't seem annoyed with anyone's beginner questions, and she went over some helpful information (I now know what basting is and how to find the grain of fabric).  We threaded and rethreaded our own machines, wound a bobbin, and did some practice sewing before we even touched our project materials, which gave me more confidence when we got started on our wallets.

And seriously, look how cute it turned out!  I was impressed that I even finished something, let alone something that I will actually use and be proud to show people.  I bought the fabric, interfacing, and snap closure at the store, and got my thread at Joann's.

The only bad thing was that I didn't end up using my machine for the class.  Something is wrong with it that I'm hoping can be fixed, because it's only two years old and has been used a half dozen times or so on little projects.  Michelle messed around with some tension settings and suggest I take it back to where I bought it, also saying she hasn't seen many people have good luck with the lower end Singer machines. 

So I'm super bummed about that, but hopefully the Singer store I where I bought it will be good about taking a look at it.  I'm hopeful that it's something that can be easily fixed, and fast, because now I want to take on more projects!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pink Pancakes? WOW, Yeah, Pink Pancakes.

Continuing with the idea of trying to use my CSA goodies in more creative ways, I was super excited to find the recipe in Deceptively Delicious for Pink Pancakes.  In this one she uses beet puree, which is good as I'm finding it difficult to eat beets.  Well, I should say, I roasted them last time and I thought they were gross.  Maybe too much thyme.  Anyway.

So when she says pink, holly cow does she mean pink!  Here is the batter before I added the pancake mix and the apples.  Isn't it crazy that you should eat anything that color?  And that is the part that's making it somewhat nutritious?

And of course I had to go and jack up the recipe by making it gluten free.  I used gluten fee Bisquick, and it turned out pretty well.  I did end up adding extra water because the batter was super thick.  I'm not sure if that was because of the GFness or just how the recipe was supposed to turn out.  But I've never had good luck with thick pancake batter; the insides never seem to get done.

It looked even more crazy in the black, cast iron skillet.

So the results were mixed.  The pancake batter tasted great.  The vanilla was really nice and masked the flavor of the beets, which were hardly noticeable.  But again, I have the worst time with pancakes!   I just couldn't get them done in the middle.  Maybe I need a griddle?  I used both the cast iron and a non-stick just to get them done faster, and I had the same problem with both.  If you have some advice, please let me know.

So the conclusion on this one is that next time I will use the batter with my waffle maker and I think they will totally rock.  It has a little light that turns green when the waffle is done, which apparently is more my style.

Matt really liked them and thought that the beet flavor was pretty distant, although he said every once in a while he got a bigger taste of it (I think it was mental...).  Addy ate about a half a pancake before she gave up and wanted to move on to something else, so I am calling it a success.  I gave her this little one to try at the end of the meal and she actually bit into it.  Of course right after this picture she shoved it all in her mouth and promptly spit it out.  But I'm not counting that one, I'm only counting the first half she actually ate.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gluten Free Pesto Pizza - Bought and Homemade Reviews

If you are gluten free, you know that pizza can be a struggle. I have tried on and off for years now to try to make a decent homemade pizza crust, and at best have only been slightly successful. The dough is usually crazy sticky and difficult to deal with, and baking it correctly so it's not burnt on the edges but done on the inside has never seemed to be my forte.

And then there is the issue of toppings.  To me, homemade pizza just never tastes as good as something that comes from a real pizza place.  Homemade ones can be good in their own right, but it's just never the same.  Although, I also always think that any salad or grilled cheese sandwich that is made for me, by someone else, always tastes better, so maybe it's that whole phenomena going on.  At any rate, I digress...

A while back, we got some pizzas from Z Pizza up the street, across from the Graceland shopping center. They offer a gluten free crust, so I was excited to try it and support the new local spot.  I have to say that the pizza was fantastic.  We got pesto, kalamata olives, and garlic as toppings, which was a very fun combo.  The crust was thinner but had a nice crunchy/chewy thing going on.  Of course it was a little pricey, but it really was spectacular, so it was worth it.  After further research, they seem to also use all organic ingredients, which helped the price tag I'm sure, but also contributed to the extreme yumminess.

So after making my own homemade pesto sauce, I decided that I needed to try making some gluten free pizza crust at home again.  I was at Marc's, and they had a Bob's Red Mill gluten free pizza crust mix in their little health food/organic isle, so I decided to try it.  In my experience Bob's usually makes decent stuff, and I decided that trying a mix versus making my own from scratch may take some of the guess work out of the equation.

I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy the crusts were to make and how good they turned out.  I honestly think it was one of the best I've made yet.  The edges were a little crispy and the center was done.  It turned out to be a little thicker style crust than the Z's Pizza, but I think I could have done a better job at smoothing/thinning it out.  The mix also makes enough to make two large pizzas, so even though the bag may seem a little expensive, it is a better buy for the money.

Look, crispy crusts!  The little one was for Addy.
She just got spaghetti sauce, cheese, and tomatoes.
Oh, and those other things were roasted beets.  Yuck.

The end result with my pesto, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, and cut up grape tomatoes was really good!  I think next time I will use less pesto; when the pesto heated up, the oils really got flowing and there was a lot more on there than I realized.  But the flavors were great, and the crust held up well.

So my excitement for homemade pizza has been refreshed.  I'm still tempted to try making my own from scratch again, but we'll see - the fact that they sell Bob's at Marc's is pretty tempting, now that I know how easy it was and how well it turned out.

What do you think?  Makes me hungry again.