Gluten Free Friday: Popsicle Time Again!

I wish I was reporting that I had made the Eggplant, Red Bell Pepper, and Pesto Lasagna out of Goat Cheese – the cookbook I checked out last week, but this week has been really FULL. I hope to blog about some of that FULLNESS soon, but for now I will just leave you with some popsicle recipes that I did manage to make this week. The weather has been kind of weird here. Some days have been hot. Some have been cold and dreary. Some have even been really stormy, and I have a gigantic tree branch laying across my backyard to attest to the 50+ mile an hour winds we had during a thunderstorm here two nights ago. My kids have made several bike trips to the grocery store in our neighborhood in the last couple of weeks to get popsicles. To them, 80 degrees = MUST HAVE POPSICLES, which I guess I can understand, since to me, 65 degrees = MUST HAVE ICED COFFEE. (I have really lowered my warmth standards for iced coffee over the past few years.) So, both iced coffee and popsicles have been in mass-production in my kitchen this week – Enjoy!

Tropical Pops
(Yellow pop to right)

1 cup frozen pineapple chunks (or fresh)
1 cup frozen mango chunks (or fresh)
2 bananas
1/2 – 1 cup plain yogurt
maple syrup or agave if needs extra sweetener

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. Pour in popsicle molds. Freeze until hardened. Wrap individual popsicles in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

Chunky Monkey Popsicle
(pictured in middle)
These are named and patterned after my sister’s favorite smoothie at
the Austin, TX Whole Foods!

2 bananas
1 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
maple syrup or agave to sweeten

Follow same blending procedure as above.

The Cherry Chocolate Chip Popsicle is pictured on the left, and I also made a batch of Honeydew Mint Kiwi Popsicles which is just this recipe with 2 kiwis added in.

Happy Summer!

Gluten Free Biscuits: Goat Milk Edition (and Kombucha Success!)

I love goat cheese. My introduction to goat cheese was about 10 years ago at our town’s weekly farmer’s market. It was a free sample from a local goat farm, and it was CHOCOLATE. Now, there’s a sure way to get folks hooked on a product, and it definitely worked on me. Not too long after that, I went to a holiday cooking/entertaining class at Whole Foods, and one of the many amazing dishes we made that evening (along with a glass of champagne!) was a roasted red pear and goat cheese salad. Oh my. It was just delicious. Since then, I think I’ve bought a “log” of goat cheese close to once a week. Partly because it has such a nice creamy taste, and partly because I was unable to tolerate cow’s milk very well while healing my gut from years of gluten-eating, and goat milk products didn’t seem to be as troublesome – or troublesome at all for that matter. And if you do any amount of research at all, you’ll find that the calcium and other vitamins found in milk are more accessible to the body through goat milk when compared to cow’s milk.

It’s just good stuff – for many reasons.

So imagine my delight this week in finding an entire cook book devoted to goat cheese! It is simply called Goat Cheese, by Maggie Foard. I was just browsing my local library’s non-fiction section and it practically jumped off the shelf at me! I pulled it down and opened it up at random. The first thing I saw on page 123 was a very enticing photo of something called “Peanut Butter Mudd Pie with Espresso Caramel Sauce.” Wow. Then on page 116 a tall sundae glass filled with “French Vanilla Gelato.” And last, but definitely not least, on page 99 “Butternut, Portabella, and Chicken Italian Sausage Lasagne.” That was more than enough to convince me to check it out.

On Wednesday, while sitting and waiting for Kayla to take her weekly piano lesson, I paged through the entire book, and decided that since there were SO many recipes I wanted to try, I would just start on the very first page with “Morning Biscuits with Chevre and Meyer Lemon Jelly.” In order to make the biscuits gluten free, I simply substituted the 2 cups of flour with 2 cups of my gluten free mix (rice, potato, & tapioca) and added about a 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum to the dry ingredients. Here’s the rest…

Morning Biscuits with Chevre and Meyer Lemon Jelly

2 cups gluten free flour mix
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain or vanilla goat milk yogurt (regular yogurt is fine, too)

1Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp maple syrup
4 oz chevre or fromage blanc

Combine dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl. Add yogurt until a soft ball of dough forms. Knead dough for one minute adding flour if too sticky. Divide the dough in half and pat each portion into circle that is about 1 inch thick. Cut each circle into four wedges, and place each wedge on a baking sheet. Combine butter and maple syrup and brush each biscuit top with this mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with chevre and Meyer Lemon jelly….

Meyer Lemon Jelly

2 cups freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (These are in season in winter here, so I used regular lemons)
2 cups sugar
1 envelope liquid fruit pectin, like Certo
4 8oz jam jars with new seals and caps

Combine lemon juice and sugar in saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil a full minute. Add pectin and return to a boil for another full minute. Pour mixture into the 4 jars, seal tightly, and then invert on counter top for exactly 5 minutes. After 5 minutes upside down, return the jars to an upright position, and let cool. As the jelly cools, you will hear little “pops” that will indicate the jars have sealed themselves airtight.

(I used powdered pectin and the jelly never set. It still tastes yummy, though, so we’ve just been “pouring” it over our biscuits and goat cheese. Not one complaint, just lots of raves – even from one child who claimed they’ve never liked goat cheese.)

This will probably be the second cookbook I’ve simply checked out from the library, only to own it myself a short while later….definitely a keeper!

Thank you, Maggie Foard, for your wonderfully creative, beautiful, and delicious cookbook!

And now for a short update on the kombucha….. : )

It was probably a good thing that I was away for 10 days for my dad’s surgery, because it meant I couldn’t keep incessantly checking the cabinet where the kombucha was supposedly fermenting. Well, when I got back it was ready! There was a new “scoby baby” floating on top of the tea and it smelled perfectly vinegar-y. I didn’t actually drink any until this week, and it was definitely “kombucha-tasting.” Kayla, who has had the store bought version tasted it, and siad, “Wow, Mom. That’s amazing. It tastes like……..kombucha!” So kombucha-tasting in fact, that it was not sweet at all anymore, and mixing it with a bit of fruit juice made it a much nicer experience. Otherwise, I think you could possibly get the same benefits from drinking apple cider vinegar! Maybe not the probiotics, but the anti-microbial properties of the acid for sure.

So here’s my glass from yesterday – iced kombucha with a bit of 100% cranberry grape juice – very refreshing on our 80+ degree day yesterday. The men in my family are not on board with this new drink yet, as the smell can be a deterrent. So remember… a word of advice to those trying it for the first time….sip before you smell….and then I can almost guarantee a happy gut and heart from the experience! 🙂

And The Surgeon Wore Boots

This was the scene last Monday afternoon as my siblings and uncle crowded into my dad’s room in ICU after his open-heart surgery. Not long after this photo was taken we got kicked out for breaking the “only two visitors allowed at a time” rule. We probably could have stayed, but it was getting kinda loud – pretty sure that was my Uncle John’s fault. I think we were all just relieved that my dad had come through his surgery just fine, and was now trying to get anyone he could to take that breathing tube out of his mouth!

I mentioned back in February that my dad has been a Sales Representative for Resistol Hats forever – or at least for the last 30+ years. This is often the scene at his house – cowboy hats and western shirts everywhere. His territory covers much of central and south Texas, which is a really good territory to have when you are selling cowboy hats!

So for someone who has been swimming in the fashion sea of “all things cowboy,” imagine my dad’s delight to learn that his surgeon is known not only for his stellar reputation and skill in the world of heart surgery, but he’s also known as “the surgeon who wears cowboy boots.” A nurse recently asked my dad, “Who will be doing your surgery?”

“Dr. Marvin Smith,” he replied.

“The one who wears the cowboy boots?” she asked.

“That’s the one,” he confirmed.

Well, Dr. Smith came by on Saturday morning to visit with my dad, and sign off on his getting to go home that day. He went over several things with us before asking if my dad had any more questions….

“Yes. I was wondering what kind of boots you wear?” was his final question to the heart surgeon.

Well, it turns out that these boots aren’t just your ordinary pair of go ranchin’ or go dancin’ cowboy boots. THESE boots are special edition TEXAS RANGER boots, available to any Texas Ranger or member of the Texas Rangers Association. And I’m not talking about the baseball team.

Think Chuck Norris.

At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I thought baseball. THEN I remembered the TV show and got a vision in my mind of Dr. Smith doing roundhouse kicks and putting bad guys behind bars when he’s not performing heart surgeries, so I asked…”What Texas Rangers are you talking about?”

He explained that he is a member of the Texas Rangers Association, which is a group that supports the Rangers in their work by raising money and awareness through the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco. (My dad and brother had both been to the museum, and attested to how fascinating it is.) He also explained that the Texas Rangers are a sort of The FBI of Texas. Up until this moment, I didn’t even realize they were a legitimate law enforcement entity! Well, I’m not sure if I can even call myself a native, multi-generational Texan after what I learned about this well-respected, skilled group.
(My dad did mention his embarrassment and shame over my ignorance after Dr. Smith left.)

Dr. Smith told us that the Texas Rangers might be called in when “the La Salle County Courthouse safe has been broken into, since it might be the sheriff’s nephew who stole the money.” : ) The Rangers are also the only non-federal government organization ever called in to do an investigation of a federal government issue and report to Congress on the matter. This was the case in the Waco/Branch Davidian ordeal in the early 90’s. That’s just how reputable this group is, and Dr. Smith is proud to be a supporting member. He demonstrated this pride, when I asked if I could take a picture of his boots for my dad. He said “Of course!” and crossed his legs and hiked up his pant leg so that I could get a proper shot.

Not only is Dr. Smith incredibly experienced and skilled at surgery (and hunting, too, I’m pretty sure), he is immensely humble and accommodating. He never forgets a face or situation, and when I called his office to see if he could get my dad in for a follow-up appointment a day early so that my dad could get checked off to drive before he lost his “daughter-drivers,” he made a special allowance to see him on Friday though he doesn’t typically see patients on Fridays. When his receptionist called me back she said, “Dr. Smith said he would see your dad Friday at 1:30pm IF he does not have jury duty.” (He had to report for this on Wednesday.)

Turns out, he did not get selected to a jury. (Are we surprised? He also wears a tie with Texas flags all over it.) And not only that, but when my sister arrived with my dad Friday afternoon, Dr. Smith still had one last heart procedure to perform. When he learned that my dad was waiting, he made a special trip back to the office to see him before his last procedure for the day.

All of the wonderful reviews we had heard about this man were only confirmed by our experience, and it was a true blessing – with Texas Ranger cowboy boots to boot! ; )

And here’s my dad showing off his battle scar and Dr. Smith’s handiwork. Would you believe that this smiling pose was just a couple of days after surgery?

To those of you who prayed, thank you so much! The Lord provided a smooth surgery, a rapid recovery, and a skilled and boot-wearing-kindred-spirit-of-a-surgeon for my dad!

And not only that, but confirmation that there really is no place like Texas, where not only do the heart surgeons not have egos as big as barns, they may actually have barns.

Gluten Free & Heart Healthy Friday: Southwest Quinoa Salad

Early Sunday morning, I left Massachusetts and headed to Texas in order to be with my dad for his open-heart surgery Monday morning. (All four of us siblings were able to be there!) He had his aortic valve replaced, and we have spent the week together in the hospital where he is recovering very well. We attended a “heart healthy diet” class together yesterday morning, and that got us talking about what he wants to eat next week when we get him home. (I will be with him for most of the week, and he keeps hinting about food!) He’s been mentioning things like baked chicken, homemade chicken soup, and salmon. The surgery was not a bypass surgery or due to any build-up of plaque, but rather a diseased or defective valve. He has low blood pressure and low cholesterol, but it’s never a bad idea to make healthy food choices.

He also made the decision to eat gluten free over a year ago even though he has not tested positive for Celiac disease. He figures that if his kids and grandkids have gluten sensitivities, then he must have the gene and the tendency toward intolerance as well. (I think that’s a pretty impressive sacrifice for a 71 year old Texan who enjoys his flour tortillas, bread ,and belgian waffles!) So, as we’ve been talking about meals, I’ve been thinking about getting him to try quinoa. And after studying a few different recipes, I think I’ve come up with one that will satisfy the Tex-Mex cravings, and still be heart and gut friendly!

Southwest Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa (rinsed well)
2 cups water

1 lg. (15 oz) can black beans (rinsed and drained)
10-12 grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 bunches green onions
1 avocado, chopped

Dressing:
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste (omit salt to be truly heart healthy!)

Rinse and cook quinoa in water for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Place cooked quinoa in colander/strainer and rinse with cold water. Place cooked and rinsed quinoa in a bowl and add black beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Combine cumin, chili powder, olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in blender. Pour over quinoa mixture and toss.

Planning to serve this as a side for grilled salmon or chicken breast!

13 Year Old Memory Master, Nacho Eater, Guitar Player

Last Sunday we added another teenager to our family – Cooper! And come July, we’ll have three in double digits when Kayla turns 10. Wow! Time is truly flying by. (Well, most days.)

This was also Cooper’s final week of Classical Conversations – the homeschool program we have been a part of this year. The Foundations program consists mostly of memorizing facts or the “grammar” of several subjects. (“Grammar” is the first stage of a classical model of education called The Trivium.) Cooper decided to work toward something called “Memory Master” which requires that the student have all 400-500 pieces of grammar memorized to perfection. (They can make only one mistake, or be prompted one time.) Well, on Tuesday he aced his “proof” with the director of the program. When she got through testing him, Debbie, our director said to him, “I’m really sorry, Cooper, but you are a MEMORY MASTER!” He won $50, a Classical conversation t-shirt, and a water bottle. I can not begin to tell you how proud we are of his hard work – and most of it completely self-studied and motivated!

Here is a list of what this memory work entails:

The 160 timeline cards that he is holding above. (From Creation to Constantine to Cold War)
All 44 U.S. Presidents
All 5 Latin declension endings
I John 4:7-21 (let us love…if you love…abide in love…God is love…Yikes!)
24 History sentences – For Example:

“During the Age of Imperialism, the British established rule over India in 1858 and Queen Victoria was declared the Empress of India in 1877. Assassinated in 1948, Mohandas Ghandi and his passive resistance movement helped win India’s independence.” (Yeah, 24 of those!)

42 Prepositions
23 Helping Verbs
12 Linking Verbs
120 Geographic Locations (Fertile Crescent…Kyoto Japan…All S. American Countries, etc)
119 Science Facts (types of clouds, types of rocks, invertebrate classifications, etc.)
Math facts: multiples of numbers through 15 x 15, cubes through 1000, squares through 225, 9 math formulas, and 3 math laws.

(All that and he made only ONE mistake. I believe it was a Latin mistake!?!)

Cooper has also been working on his “Quest” and will have an art/music/movie exhibit in a few weeks to show all of his hard work from the year of challenges, but we wanted to celebrate with him on his actual day as well. He woke up to breakfast and presents – actually just one present; the LONG-desired iPod touch! His brother has had one for 2 years, and it was the one present Cooper wanted. He cried when he opened it.
(And now we have one more piece of technology to monitor around here. sigh.)
And as far as his party requests: make-your-own-nacho-bar and ice cream cake. (I also threw in some root beer and cream soda – another very rare and special treat around here!) We had several friends and families over for the occasion, and Cooper is consequently the owner of an OBSCENE amount of iTunes credit! (thanks to Grandad and Aunt Melinda as well!)
He has worked very hard this year, and we are really proud of this kid. Math (above) is definitely his least favorite subject, but he’s making lots of progress. He’d much rather play his guitar, and looks forward to his lesson from Levin every other week.
And just like Memory Master, Coop is a master at playing music by ear. So is Levin, but Levin is also quite gifted in music theory, which makes him the perfect teacher for Coop! A couple of weeks ago after a lesson Coop said, “I just like to play guitar, but Levin likes to THINK about guitar.” Oh good. It’s a perfect match! He works with Coop’s natural ability while nudging him to improve by really learning the music and its theory.

Happy Birthday Coop!
Congrats on Memory Master – What an accomplishment!
We love your amazing mind, creativity, humor, and thoughtful spirit.
You are a really awesome teen!

Good For Your Gut Friday : Kombucha Take 2

You may remember that my first attempt at making Kombucha was a failure. Nothing happened. Maybe it was too cold? Maybe it was because I was trying to grow my own “mushroom”? Not quite sure. But last week I got to give it another go, because out of the blue two people – TWO different people I tell you, brought me a “mother”! I took it as a sign from the Lord that it was time to try this experiment again. : )

The “mother” or “mushroom” is really a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast – a “scoby.” And each time it is used it has a “baby” that you can pass along to your friends. (They make great Christmas and birthday gifts. hee hee.) And of course, getting one from a previous batch is much easier than trying to grow your own, especially if you’re a kombucha newbie.

So, above you can see the two lovely kombucha babies that were given to me, and below you can see them floating in the sweet tea – where they will soon become mothers to their own scoby babies, and then I will have to send them to you as a gift, or end up having as many kombucha babies around here as Kayla’s rabbits were producing baby bunnies before we could get them separate rooms!

So far the fermenting has been going on for one week, and already I can tell that something is happening. No baby yet, but I think we’re well on our way. I’ll update you later. Until then, here’s the very easy recipe and a couple of links to more kombucha info than your heart could desire (or believe was actually out there!):

Kombucha

1 gallon water (some say use distilled, but I don’t think it’s necessary as Jenna – one of the givers of a “mother” said. You just don’t want too much chlorine which will inhibit fermentation.)
4-8 tea bags (I used a mixture of black and green teas)
1 cup sugar

Sterilize a one gallon glass container. Boil water and steep tea for about 10 minutes)
Stir in sugar and let cool completely. (I think you can “kill” the “mother” if it’s too hot.)
Place the “mother” gently in the cooled tea.
Cover with cheesecloth, dishtowel, paper towel and secure with rubber band or string.
Put jar in a place where it will not be disturbed for 2-3 weeks.
It’s ready when it has a slight sweet/slight vinegar taste, and some effervescence.

How to Make Kombucha

Making Kombucha

Kombucha: Refreshing Summer Drink

Kombucha on You Tube

Kombucha is good-for-your-gut because of it’s healthy bacteria and anti-microbial properties!

Most of you probably think I have lost my mind, (especially if you are a Texas or Oklahoma reader), and you would be in the company of my husband and two boys. Kayla, on the other hand, loves it and will drink it when I buy it at Whole Foods. (And I have passed along some other OCD, I mean healthy habits in her as well.)

Try it – I think you’ll like it.
(But you might want to hold your nose as you take that first sip.)