10.29.2014

A mother's daybook - October 29

Reading - Dr. Jeykl and Mr. Hyde with some AO ladies. We just finished up Frankenstein which was not my favorite but this one I'm liking. After that I would love to get a hold of a copy of The Deadliest Monster which uses both books as a way to compare worldviews. I'm kinda laughing that we are reading this in October because as far as I know, it wasn't done to be seasonal or halloween-y at all but I guess it does kinda fit.

Watching - Death Comes to Pemberly. Austen Characters + Murdery Mystery + PBS = was there any doubt?

Eating - All the sugar! Okay, not all the sugar. But I'm giving up on trying to be completely sugar free. It's just too hard and not worth stressing me out over. I only lasted about a month and honestly, I probably didn't even do as well as I did when I tried a similar experiment at the beginning of the year BUT I know that since then I've really cut down so my general level is pretty good. And I'm okay with that. Because when life gets stressful, a mom needs chocolate!

That said, I have been renewing my efforts to figure out stevia and that seems to be paying off. I don't like it as a 100% replacer in foods but used partially with a reduced amount of honey or maple syrup, most of the things I've tried have come out quite yummy.

Thinking - Of where I could possible have put the camera. It's MIA. Alas, the last place I remember having it was on a hike. A hike which ended badly. As in, one particular unnamed child misbehaved so badly I had to carry him/her to the car under duress. So the possibility that the camera got left behind as collateral is quite high. What is worse is not knowing for sure. Arg. We are making do with Craig's cell phone for now but that means I can't take any pictures of the kids during the day. And they have been really cute lately!

Planning and Preparing - For Christmas. Yikes, did November sneak up on me or what? I really hope to be done with most of my holiday planning by the beginning of December so we can just focus on the good Jesus-y stuff then. But my lists are well begun and you know what Mary Poppins says, "Well begun is half done" so it's not even quite November and I'm already half done! Look at me!
Okay, maybe that's going a bit too far. But I'm really having fun...

Making - the kids presents this year. We really only get them one small handmade gift. Last year was the stick ponies. This year I'm painting them wooden peg dolls. I think they'll love them but even if they don't, I'm having a blast making them. I've got 3 Pirates, half a royal family and one blond haired, blue eyes girl wearing a striped purple and pink dress. If I can ever find that silly camera, I'll show you. If I get these done, I might even try making them homemade pajamas.

Is it just me or are pajamas a feast or famine type of item in your house too? One day we have 20 pairs of pajamas overflowing our bin and the next time you look, you're down to a pair and a half and you're trying to convince your child that elephants and frogs get along so it really is okay if the top and bottom don't match (not to mention that NOBODY IS GOING TO SEE THEM!)

Then I made the mistake of looking for pajamas on Etsy and oh my goodness, are these not the cutest things? Lucy's just finished listening to Little House on the Prairie at quiet time (we had already read it together a few months ago) and I'm pretty sure she would think a Laura nightgown would be the best thing ever. And if I could get my act really together, she could where them on St. Lucia's day. Jonah doesn't really care one bit if I make his pajamas and truthfully, he'd rather not wear any but its getting cold and he has a teeny tiny waist and a teeny tiny bum and even over a diaper his pajama bottoms tend to fall off as the night goes on so custom fit ones would be good.

10.27.2014

The things they say

Me: Let me wipe your nose.
Jonah: No, pushes me away, I like my boogers.
Lucy: I don't like my boogers. That's why I'm always picking me nose. To get them out.

We're getting to that initial lying stage. The one where it is hard not to laugh because they are just so bad at it.

Me: I smell something. Jonah, did you poop in your undies?
Jonah: Noooo. Noona poop my undies.
Me: If someone pooped in your undies, I'm pretty sure it was you, not your sister.
Jonah: Uhm...

Jonah: I want Noona paper. 
Me: No, you can't have hers. You have your own.
Jonah: I want neeewww paper.
Me: No, your paper is just fine, you haven't even used it yet.
Jonah: Looks at me, rips paper in half.
Jonah: Uh-Oh, Jojo paper rip. Need new paper!

Lucy: Let's play I Spy
Jonah (holding his black socks): I spy something black - and my socks.
Me: Is it your socks?
Jonah: YES!

10.22.2014

Grain Free Pizza Crust Showdown

Pizza night used to be a regular occurrence around here. Craig's got a pretty good crust recipe so I'd just ask him to whip up a batch whenever we had a movie night. Of course, that isn't quite so easy these days. I did find a pretty good mix (local store brand) but the first time I saw it, it was on sale for $1. That must have been an intro price because now its $7. I could probably make something similar with a variety of gluten free flours but since I've been seeing all these grain-free/paleo/low-carb crust recipes on pint erst, I thought I'd try that first. But I wanted to try at least 2 to hedge my bets. Nobody wants to starve on pizza night! And luckily, we didn't.


Assemble and Baking Process:

The cauliflower based crust recipe was from The Lucky Penny Blog. I used the optional almond meal but I didn't cook the cauliflower in the microwave because I don't have a microwave. Several commenters also skipped that step so I thought it would be fine. Despite never having "riced" cauliflower before, this came together pretty easily. I think I should have cooked it a but more pre-toppings. I know, she tells you its important but my edges started burning before the top was golden. But it looked like a pizza coming out.

The almond meal recipe was from Eat Fat Lose Fat (the Holy Grail Version) using part cheddar and part mozzarella. I had to use the oven directions because, again, no microwave! This was a bit odd to put together. I think I should have worked longer incorporating my cheese into the other ingredients but it was awkward with a hot bowl. Next time I'll melt the cheese in one bowl and put it into another for mixing. And I think I needed more almond flour because hers looks like a crust while mine looked like melted cheese. And when it was time to flip, it stuck.I ended up having to scrap some off the silicon sheet (yes, it stuck to that!) and mush it together to reform a crust. And while my oven normal runs cool, I almost burnt this with several minutes remaining on my timer. But once I put it all back together and added toppings, nobody was the wiser.

Current Edge: Cauliflower. While I haven't crunched the numbers, I'm pretty sure the almond meal version is more expensive since it has more cheese and almond meal in it and made a small crust. It was also a slightly more frustrating process.

Looks: 

Hey, its pizza. Without grain! While I had a bit of trouble with the almond flour crust, once topped and baked, they were fine. My cheese wasn't fully melted but that was more because my kids were sitting at the table whining and Craig had to leave for a meeting in 20 minutes more than a result of either recipe. (Note to self: don't try 2 new recipes on a weeknight when your husband has to be somewhere at 6pm)

Cauliflower on the Left, Almond Meal on the Right

The Important Part/Taste Testing

So I was really hoping the cauliflower would win the taste test but nope, hands down favorite was The Holy Grain Almond Flour crust. All 4 of us gobbled it up and we would eat it again anytime. It had a really nice texture and flavor. I ate it with a fork and Jonah's was cut into small pieces but Lucy and Craig ate theirs with their hands like a regular old pizza.

Jonah and I liked the cauliflower one too although not as much. Craig ate a few bites but wanted to know what I had done to it before he finished up (he just doesn't trust me anymore) and Lucy refused to eat it after I told him -and therefore her - that it contained cauliflower. But keep in mind she's 4 and highly biased against cauliflower. I should have held out longer before spilling the cauliflower secret. Again, Jonah's was cut little so he could pick his up but I struggled and used a fork. It just didn't hold together but in hindsight since I used 1 tablespoon of almond meal and almost 3 cups of cauliflower I probably should have used another egg or at least an egg white.

Verdict: 

I actually think I need to try both again, or maybe try mixing them. Both recipes are unique, at least for me as I'm new to grain-free cooking. I'm a pretty good cook but this grain-free is a whole different world and it was really hard for me to judge if I was on the right track. If I tried either one again, I think I would get a much better result. If I had to pick only one recipe to keep, it would be the Holy Grail one, no doubt about it and I think with a bit more mixing on my part, I wouldn't have had the issues I did with it falling apart initially (it did fine once it was fully baked). But I am curious to try a combination. I wonder if using only 1.5-2 cups of cauliflower and upping the almond meal and cheese would help create a crust that had the flavor and crunch of the almond meal but the stability of the cauliflower. I guess we'll need another pizza night to find out!

10.20.2014

My top 3 Gluten-Free "Emergency" Meals

We rarely eat out and when we do, I like it to be deliberate and special. Deliberate does not equal desperate and calling Craig to pick up Chic-Fil-A because the day got away from me. And we are starving doesn't eq So I like to keep a few meals as spares. I don't often include them in my meal planning because I save them for when I need something easy.

They use ingredients I can easily keep stocked, normally have on hand or can have Craig pick up at the dollar store that he drives by on his way home from work. I like ground beef for these recipes because even if it isn't thawed, I can brown it by scrap off the outside of the frozen chunk as I go. Julia Child would probably not approve of that but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Unfortunately, a few of my favorites had to be abandoned when I gave up Gluten and beans (goodbye tuna melts and lentil casserole!) but others were fine or could be saved with a tweak or two. Here are my current go-to meals.



Breakfast for Dinner - German Pancake/Dutch Baby

We love breakfast for dinner around here but most fun breakfasts are not GF friendly, or they can be made that way but then I'm searching for a dozen different flours and suddenly my quick easy dinner ceases to be so. Eggs are obviously GF but since I eat eggs for breakfast 90% of the time, I need something a little different for dinner. German Pancakes are just different enough to work and the are fun. Who doesn't love puffy foods?
  • 1/4 cup butter (this can be reduced to a smearing of the pan or even some coconut oil for non-stick purposes if you're cupboard is low but its better with lots of butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (1/4 teaspoon if you are using salted butter and if you're gf you might be. Silly people putting gluten in butter, why?)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour (I make my own from coconut flakes I buy in bulk from Tropical Traditions)
  • 6 Tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk 
Preheat oven to 425. Put 1/4 cup butter in pan (9x13 or large dutch oven) inside to heat/melt while you make the batter.

Whisk coconut flour, arrowroot, and salt together. Add eggs and milk and whisk to combine. Take pan from oven, quickly add batter and replace. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked and puffy and edges are starting to turn golden brown.

It may fall when removed from the oven, that's okay. I like it served with lemon juice and some sort of sweetener (powdered sugar is the less healthy option, maple syrup if I'm being better) but the lemon is optional. You can add fruit to the center before you cook it but I prefer to serve it with fruit on the side. If I'm working with what I've got on hand, its often canned fruit or frozen fruit made into smoothies. And I once served it with cottage cheese so now my kids expect that but too. Kids are funny like that.

Cheesy-Beef-a-Roni

This is based on these recipes from heavenly homemakers but tweaked to be GF and cheaper/less meaty. I've also made a half batch using leftover taco meat.

2 Tablespoons Taco seasoning (I use homemade)
16 ounces brown rice pasta (Trader Joes and are brands we use and like)
6 cups of milk
2 cups of Cheddar cheese
1 lb ground beef

Get all your ingredients measured and ready. Heat milk and pasta over medium heat, stirring pretty much constantly until pasta is cooked. This will take about the time the package says to cook the pasta, plus maybe 2-3 minutes. In a separate pan, brown meat. Once brown, add taco seasoning - while still stirring the pasta/milk. If meat gets done before pasta, you can turn it off. Once pasta is done, turn off heat and add cheese to pasta and stir until cheese is melted. Then add meat/seasoning mixture and stir to combine. Add some veggies on the side and you've got a meal (we almost always have carrots on hand or I grab something out of the freezer).

Super Nachos

I'm don't even really have a recipe for this. It's basically taco salad but with a kid friendlier name. We also called them haystacks growing up because you start with a stack of tortilla chips, add taco meat and whatever you have on hand that might be somewhat taco-ish. Lettuce, tomato, cheese, salsa, sour cream, thawed frozen corn. Back when I ate beans, I'd keep canned black beans on hand so I could make this even if I didn't have meat available. I don't make a dressing for this (which is fine because it's not a taco SALAD, its super nachos ;-) and I find the sour cream and salsa are enough but you could if you wanted.

I'm not realizing these aren't very pantry-ish since they rely on fresh milk, cheese and eggs. I almost always have those on hand anyway but I'd love to add a few more to my rotation, especially ones that rely more on pantry items.

 So what are you're favorite pantry/emergency meals? 










photo credit: Mel // Left of Centre via photopin cc

10.13.2014

Opera Resources for Preschoolers: The Magic Flute

I picked opera as our music to work on this year and so far its been going really well. All of us are enraptured by it. The big shocker in that statement is how I'm able to include myself in that. I'm really trying to use these first few "gimme" years before school actually starts to focus on the things I feel weak on. I'm 99.9% positive that I'll never neglect math and science in our homeschooling times because those are my subjects and I love them way too much to let them fall through the cracks. But poetry? Classical music and composers? Picture study? Those are the things I don't feel confident about. So that's what we're starting. I can gain confidence when they are too little to see my fears. And so far it's working!




We started with The Magic Flute at the recommendation of a Classical Opera Teacher and fellow Charlotte Mason lover I was able to talk to at a recent CM conference. I came into this knowing absolutely nothing about the Magic Flute (or opera in general). But it hasn't let us down.

I'm not an expert, just a mom in a family who is known to start belting out "Pa-pa-pa!" at least once a day. I'm listing the resources we used in the order I introduced them because I think that was part of the key to our success. We started with a few songs, then the story then the longer musical versions.

You'll also notice that they tend to focus on Papageno and ignore Tamino and Pamina which might seem odd if you've only read the plot. But even my princess loving girl realizes that Papageno is the fun one. He's just such a kid-friendly character and his scenes tend to be low on the intensity level. Okay, disclaimers over - now on to the good stuff.



The Classical Child at the Opera album has a couple selections from The Magic Flute and it's available on Spotify which is a huge plus for me. Free is nice. I just started by playing those three
songs in with our other kid music. In a couple days, both kids were singing along because yes, they are just that catchy. 



For the full story, we read The Magic Flute: An Opera by Mozart. I know there are others (this one and it's in this collection which I hope to own someday) but I haven't read them. This one worked well with my young ones. Jonah could sit through it before he even turned 2 (but he really loves books so if you have a more wiggle worm listener, it might take you 2-3 sessions to finish). I think it would be great for an elementary student as well. The story is simplified but still makes sense, the pictures are colorful, fun and not too scary.



The Met's 2006 family version, a cut version sung in English (as are all the resources I've listed here) is my personal favorite of the bunch. We mostly watched with the Papageno scenes which I've shown below. And now when I turn on the computer, Jonah will often sit next to me and ask for Papageno.

 I can't say it is a very traditional production. The costumes and set design is very modern and at times, bizarre. One of the reasons I didn't like some of the other clips is the ladies of the night costumes, while not strictly immodest, have some interesting embellishments that I don't particular care for (as seen here). I'd really suggest you watch any of these beforehand as they do deal with the ideas of suicide and the, uhm, "making of baby chicks." I'm fine with how they are handling in this but you might not be.







There are more available on YouTube which you can easily find by searching and we've watched a couple but Nathan Gunn (the baritone who plays Papagano) really steals the show so the ones with him are the best. We've watched each of the ones above at least a dozen times each.

You can also watch the whole thing directly from the Met here for $3.99 for a month or for free if you sign up for a 7 day trial. We haven't yet but I'm thinking about renting it as a special treat for an upcoming family night.



The BBC video is one I wasn't sure if we would watch but then the kids got sick and we were all stuck in bed so it was this or another episode of Dinosaur Train. Truth be told, this one is a bit weird. The kids knew the story already and were still asking who or what the fat floating man was. On the plus side, you get to hear parts of a wider selection of songs and the kids did watch it. I wouldn't pay to watch it, but it's on YouTube so you don't have to.


The last resource is probably my kid's favorite. My mom gave me several of the Classic Kid series CDs that she used with my younger brother. We've tried listening to another (Mr. Bach Comes to Call) with Lucy and Jonah but they were having a hard time following the story. I didn't really expect them to take to Mozart's Magic Journey like they did but since I already had it, I had nothing to lose.

I'm not sure if it was because they already knew the story and some of the music before we tried this one or if its just an easier one to follow but this was a huge hit. As in, as soon as it ends, they ask for it again....and again.

I have a couple quibbles with it, mostly that the volume seems inconsistent and the Queen of the night songs seem faint. And I don't like there translations as well as the Met's version (The Met's = A cuddly wife or sweetheart is Papageno's wish vs MMJ = A girlfriend who will love me is what I wish I had) but that is me being picky. I like the way they brought in the extra character to help the kids follow along, explained the good guy/bad guy part well (something that can be confusing to little ones) and included short snippets of a number of songs even though its a fairly short version. Plus, as I said, the kids really really love it so if something ever happened to our CD, I would be purchasing a replacement right away.

That's about it. We didn't do any Magic Flute crafts or activities or themed snacks. Just listened, read and enjoyed. We really enjoyed it though. Up next - Hansel and Gretel!

Bonus for adults:

As I said, I've really gotten into this just as much as the kids. I want to watch the full Met show even if its still too long for them at this really young age. There is also the Kenneth Branagh version which I was curious about and recently found on YouTube. Reviews are mixed on his updating the setting but I might still check it out.