Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ T-Bone Texas & Chicken Sicily (and bats!)

Hanging out at Common Grounds coffee shop.

 There’s a recipe at the end of this post, I promise.  A good one, too, if you happen to like olives and all-things-Mediterranean. It’s just that I also wanted to post photos from our trip to Texas last weekend, since I haven’t found the time to write all week.  We definitely hit the ground running once we returned on Monday evening, and now I’ve got a really nasty cold and cough, probably due in part to lack of sleep, nutrition, and a really long to-do list.  Woe is me.

Sitting in my new chairs with my feet propped up on the matching ottoman, drinking tea that my sweet friend Karla dropped off (which is a sure cure for this yuckiness!), and catching up on email and blogging is my form of rest today. Well, at least for a few hours.  Next up will be a trip to the grocery store for Cross Country team snacks and weekend food.

Kory and Sean enjoy their fajitas, queso, and MORE at Chuy’s.
It was great to be in Texas!  We got to hang out with Kory at his dorm and favorite coffee shop, as well as take him and a friend out for fajitas.  Actually, it was my dad who took us all out for Mexican, as he was in town seeing some of his customers.  Worked out perfectly, and then we treated to FroYo after dinner, where Kory seemed to know everyone in the place.  Even his English professor was there!
Then, since Kory didn’t have class on Friday due to Fall Break, we were able to take him to the Austin area for the weekend.  We had coffee at Mozart’s on Lake Austin, dinner at Whole Foods downtown, and then did something that NONE of us Texans and Austinites had ever done…

…watch the 1.5 million Mexican Free-Talied bats fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. We opted for the riverboat cruise which was only $10 ~ bring your own food and drink ~ and eventually ended up directly under the bridge for a really spectacular view!  Interestingly, these are all female bats who give birth (they can actually decide WHEN to give birth. How convenient!) in June or July, nursing their pups until October when they head south again. The males hang out in local trees and caves, etc.  Pretty amazing sight, and one of Austin’s main, among many, tourist attractions
A little bit of a tour before the bat viewing.  Great views and stories about the Austin skyline!

Saturday was a day of football and outlet mall shopping.  The men were pretty glued to the big UT vs. OU game ~ especially since Texas pulled off a win, and then there was the nail-biter Baylor game.  They finally got the win as well.  My dad cooked the poor college boy a T-bone on the grill to celebrate!

My sister, Melinda, and I went to the outlet mall, which is dangerously close to my dad’s house, in search of earrings and a necklace to wear to my high school reunion. She was (and usually is) my fashion consultant for the weekend.  I had brought a few options to wear, but then took a cruise through her closet finding even MORE options.  Funny thing is, the one dress in her closet  I was most interested in, is the one she ended up suggesting after seeing my dismal options from home.  Melinda to the fashion rescue again!  Thanks, sis.

Dorian, Tamara, LeeAnn, Me, and Kerry ~ who came from California!
The reunion was not as well attended as I had hoped, but definitely included some of my most favorite and dear friends.  It was also really LOUD, as it was held in a dance hall, and we didn’t have a separate room for our event.  We were all yelling at each other all night.  My ears and throat were killing me the next day!  Still, I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with a few folks in person, and not via Facebook! And I learned once again that Facebook is not always a reliable source of what is really going on in a person’s life. (Sort of a no-brainer, I guess.) Some had married and divorced recently, and I had no idea.  The stories were heartbreaking, but I was so glad to know how to pray better for those who have been through such difficult things.
Dear friends Wes and Delisa.  Wes was our newspaper editor and I was the assistant.
He was one friend I knew was a believer, and we connected over Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith music.
We also connected over late nights at the press using exact knives and light boards ~
no computers back them ~ and skipping school to take in a UT baseball game.
Official sports news business, of course.

And now for the totally unrelated recipe of the week…

If I could travel anywhere in the world at this very moment, it would involve a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea, stopping in Greece, Turkey, and Sicily, etc. Partly due to its rich history and biblical geography, and partly due to its FOOD. (I realize that that may be too many miles to cover in one cruise, but still…)
Though my family is not big on olives, I still decided to give this Sicilian-style chicken dish a try.  I had seen something similar in Eating Well, and modified the ingredients, based mostly on what I had in my pantry.

Chicken Sicily

2 medium tomatoes (or 4 plum tomatoes)
1 reg. bag baby spinach
1/3 cup halved green olives
1/3 cup halved kalamata olives
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 purple onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts ( I cut mine in halves or thirds)
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add chicken, browning on each side 3-5 minutes.  Cover and cook on medium-low for another 15 minutes.  Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.

Add 2 more Tbsp olive oil to the skillet and sauté onion first. After a few minutes, add garlic and olives.  Add tomatoes and spinach last, cooking until just wilted.

Serve chicken breasts with a heaping spoonful of the olive/spinach/tomato mixture on top.

I think the non-paleo side dish was rice (for the kids) and we all ate butternut squash along with this dish, too. The olives were a bit bold for the kids, and when I asked Robert if he liked the topping, his reply was, “I’m no longer eating for enjoyment, but rather for nutrition.”  While not exactly a compliment, I’m happy he’ll at least eat things he knows are beneficial. Ha!

So, there you have it ~ from Texas T-Bones and fajitas, bat flights and old friends, to eating olives and chicken together against the wishes of my crew.  Pretty sure I won’t be winning blogger of the year or gaining any readership over these non-specific posts. Oh well.  It satisfies the archivist in me, and keeps me connected to the few of you who love me and care about the minutia of my life.  Thanks, friends!

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Exporting Apple Butter

The wonderful thing was that it was a gorgeous day in Massachusetts for apple picking, which is a New England tradition I don’t think we’ve ever missed in our 14 years here ~ warm, sunny, and perfect for seeing the changing colors in the trees.  The sad things were that we were dong it without Kory for the first time, and it had to be tightly squeezed in between many other obligations that day.  Why is life always so hectic?

We found a new orchard to try this year and much closer to our house.  I discovered it while making numerous trips back and forth to Hampshire College for a big cross country meet that our Amherst team was hosting for runners all over the region the weekend before.

There were still multitudes of apples by the time we got there, and lots of folks showed up to pick on that beautiful day.  Funny…even hordes of college students try and make time for apple picking, and sometimes those from out of town or state have never taken part in this quintessential New England activity.  It’s fun to see them so giddy over apples.  Fun to see my own teens enjoy this activity we’ve been doing since they were so small, too…

On our way home, we made time for a quick trip to our favorite ice cream spot complete with gluten free cones ~ Flayvors, which is also a local dairy farm. Picked up a pumpkin while we were there ~ time to change the summer wreaths to fall ones and decorate the front porch.  Decorating is another one of those things which gets squeezed in, if done at all, but I really enjoy it.
The Krumrey Apple Family

Back at home the activities began full force, and the apples sat in the mudroom for two or three days before I could even think about them.  Well, several were eaten straight out of the bag, but we had picked a whole bushel, so the rest of them needed to be dealt with.  We did make applesauce to go with our dinner that evening, and then I did a bit of research on how to make a non-sugar apple butter.

Apple sauce and apple butter are really so easy to make.  I opted for a slow cooker version of apple butter, and my crock pot has basically been on all week cooking batch after batch of apple butter.
You start by washing, slicing, and coring 10-14 apples depending on their size.  Don’t peel them; just slice out the seeds and core.
Add apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to the apple slices and cider and stir.
After a few hours it will look like apple sauce, but it still needs to cook more!
It should cook for 12-16 hours and be stirred occasionally.  At the end of the cooking process, it should be fairly thick.  At this point, I added more of each of the spices and about a tablespoon of honey or agave and some vanilla.  After this cooked a few minutes, I blended the apple mixture thoroughly in my VitaMix, and returned it to the crock pot uncovered while I prepared the jars for canning.
I didn’t take pictures of the canning process, but you need sterilized jars, lids, and rings, and a large pot with a rack in the bottom.  The pot needs to be deep enough to allow for an inch or more of water above the jar lids once they are place in the pot.  Pour hot apple butter into hot jars, seal and place in a pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Next, remove the jars with tongs and place on a cup towel to cool.  You will hear each lid “pop” indicating that the airtight seal has happened.
All of this apple-butter-making was done around church, sleep, meals, homeschool, Classical Conversations, exercise, many coffee and dinner appointments, chauffeuring teenagers various places, Bible studies, and preparing for a trip to Texas for my 25th high school reunion.  If it happens to cook for 18 hours instead of 12, it’s really not that big of a deal, and probably results in a thicker, sweeter butter anyway!  I had to let mine keep cooking several times due to busy-ness.
Kayla and I made a quick trip to Michael’s for some labels and ribbon while we were out running errands after Classical Conversations on Tuesday ~ after dropping Cooper off for his cross country meet, and before returning to try and see him cross the finish line.  We didn’t make it in time.
We had dinner with a new church planting intern couple that night, and I loved being able to take them a jar of apple butter.  Even though both grew up in Massachusetts, neither had ever tasted apple butter. (But I heard they liked it!)
I also loved carefully wrapping up a jar to bring to my dad here in Texas. (That’s where I’m writing from today!) He will appreciate having something homemade and exported from New England, and he loves using various jams and jellies on toast in the morning.  We’re heading to his house later today and to my reunion later this weekend.
But we also saw him last night.  He happened to be calling on customers in the Waco area, and was able to meet up with us for a Mexican food dinner at none other than Chuy’s.  Robert and I arrived in Waco around 3pm just in time for Kory to be finished with class for the day.  We enjoyed sitting in the dorm living room and meeting each person who came through the doors ~ all incredibly nice, polite young men.  After that, we walked a couple of blocks to a favorite coffee shop and enjoyed our drinks on the back porch and patio area.  It was warm and sunny, so don’t be fooled by Kory’s sweatshirt.  He claims it was “cool” that morning, but this is Texas, and so it didn’t stay that way for long!

We are looking forward to more time with him today in Austin, as the school has the day off for Fall Break, and then watching him play baseball back here in Waco on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday night, Robert and I will be at my reunion catching up with some dear old friends of mine from high school.  Can’t wait!

Here’s the apple butter recipe which works just as well with store bought apples, but the New England orchard version is one you should definitely put on your bucket list!

No-Sugar Apple Butter

10-14 apples, sliced and cored, but NOT peeled.
3 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1 tsp nutmeg (divided)
1/2 tsp cloves (divided)
1 cup apple cider (juice will work, too)
1 Tbsp honey/agave
1 tsp vanilla

Cook apples, cider, and half of spices in a slow cooker on low for 12-16 hours, stirring occasionally. Blend mixture at the end of cooking process and return to slow cooker for another 30 minutes or so adding the second half of the spices, honey/agave, and vanilla. You can blend the mixture again at this point for an extra smooth butter. You can also play with the amounts of spices here. I like more cinnamon and less clove, but adding more or less will not hurt anything!

Then, simply fill 3-4 small jars ~ half pint sized or larger, and store them in the refrigerator, or you can “can” them for longer, non-refreigerated storage.  I’ve described the “canning” process above, but there are many other resources out there for specific canning instructions, which you do have to take some care with!

Ok ~ off to shower after our morning run and breakfast in a cute local cafe ~ and on to spend some more time with our Baylor Boy in one of our favorite places ~ Austin, TX!  Have a great Columbus Day Weekend!

The Socially Awkward Homeschool Graduate

It was Saturday night that we were sitting at our kitchen table, chatting, and listening to the Baylor vs. West Virginia game online. The teen s’mores & pizza party was over and cleaned up from the night before, a baby registry for my friend Christie  had been accomplished earlier in the day, and I was working on a grocery list and my Francis Schaeffer worldview homework simultaneously.  Robert had already put in a full day at the NewComers Class at church and then polished and preached the Sunday sermon in his basement office.  It’s always very fiery in the basement, and I could hear most of it from the kitchen where I worked.

Anyway, we have all of a sudden become radical Baylor Bear fans, resorting to listening to the games live or watching a simulated, play by play version on  Yes, we actually “watched” a couple of games this way, since we can’t get the games on TV. Who are we?  We didn’t even realize until after the fact that our own alma mater ~ The University of Texas ~ had played their game on Thursday.  Not that we would have watched, but still, it’s Baylor that’s on our mind all of the time, making us do crazy, out of the ordinary things to keep abreast of the world in which our firstborn now lives.

Baylor was just killing their poor opponents right off the bat ~ or right out of the huddle, I should say, and so I texted Kory.

“Whoa.  What a game!  Are you there?” I messaged.

I now know that that is a silly question.  Big 12 sports was definitely on the list of Baylor perks when he was considering a school.  He doesn’t miss a game. (And I now know what “Big 12 Sports” even means.  But I’m pretty sure the 12 really means 10, so I’m still a bit confused.)

He messaged back and said he was on the front row and that I should check out Baylor’s Instagram page.  I’m new to Instagram and iPhone, but I’m really enjoying the whole new i-world, so I clicked over to begin “following.”

This is what I discovered:

To be honest, I didn’t even recognize Kory right away.  But it was him all right.  Front and center, 50-yard line, screaming his lungs out ~ you know, my socially awkward homeschooler, ill-prepared for the life outside of our house, sheltered, and unable to function in the real world. 
Or maybe not.
Funny thing is, I STILL get the questions, “What about socialization?”, “Do your children have friends?”  Somewhat recently, I even had lunch with a woman who was quite defensive about her choice to put her children in public school when she learned that I homeschooled. “We don’t want to shelter our children from people of other religions or backgrounds or experiences.  We CHOSE NOT to homeschool, because we wanted our kids to learn to interact with people of all backgrounds and experiences, so that they will be prepared for those interactions in the real world,” she somewhat harshly scolded.
I’m sorry she feels that the public school system is the only place kids can learn how to accept and interact with people who are different from them. My kids have learned those things by being active members of a church, playing on sports teams, visiting nursing homes, helping out in homeless shelters, hosting all sorts of people from all over the world in our home, babysitting, attending summer camp, going on mission trips, and traveling in general.  In my opinion, the public school exposure to a diversity of people is limited in comparison. In fact, it is interesting to me that the church has been the main place my kids have learned about the harsh realities of people’s lives ~ their rebellion, their deep struggles, their sufferings, their weaknesses, their differing opinions, and also their great value and worth.
Now I know that some would argue that Baylor by no means offers a “real-world” experience, but I would beg to differ (after a bit of novice detective work on Instagram and Facebook…and a visit there, of course), and it makes this homeschool mama very proud that Kory has been able to navigate well the various situations he’s encountered ~ rooming with an international non-believer, discerning true faith among “Christian” friends, having great, encouraging, conversations with professors after class and during office hours, and shopping for groceries and computer software, too!
And I’m not taking credit for teaching him these things.  Yes, I depended on the Lord daily for wisdom in nurturing my kids and educating them and providing experiences from which they could learn and grow, but I can clearly see that it was and is the Lord who accomplishes the non-socially-awkwardness, and the positive, mature, eagerness instead.
And joy, too!  This kid is joyful and “all there” in all that he does ~ even if that means donning the gold jersey and leading out in the cheers for his new favorite team ~ and he was a DIE. HARD. LONGHORN. FAN. Y’ALL.  Cheering for the Bears took a bit of adjusting, but if you pay close attention at 48 seconds in the video below, you’ll see that he made the adjustment quite nicely:

On Sunday afternoon, we got another text message telling us to watch this “Behind-the Scenes” video on the Baylor Athletic FB page.  It wasn’t difficult to pick him out, and we laughed and laughed at his new “poster boy” status.

Now, he may be horrified that I’ve written this post.  Pretty sure he tries to keep the whole “homeschool” thing on the down-low, but even that is partially due to the silly stereotype he knows exists.  Pretty sure he tries to keep the whole “pastor’s kid” thing in the same category and for the same reason.

Really, it’s not about public school or homeschool or private school, though I have loved being able to “shelter” my kids from unnecessary and too-early exposure to sexual and other mature issues.  It’s more about nurture and love and faithfulness and obedience, and quality time, and dinner discussions… but mostly it’s about grace.  Growing in grace as a parent and growth by grace as a child.  And lots of prayers of desperation and crying out for that grace to be given in abundance on a daily basis.

Thanking the Grace-Giver today for a weekend of reassurance and joy!

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday ~ Mushroom Spores & Meatball Soup (Coffee Concerns, too.)

Before I tell you about our mushroom outing and observation, and about a meatball soup we tried this week, I just have to share a recent discovery about the connection between Celiac Disease and coffee.  I found a message in my Facebook inbox today from a friend who figured I already knew it, but thought she’d share the information just in case.  Well, I didn’t already know, and I found the article she sent very interesting…and quite sad for coffee lovers with Celiac Disease.  It turns out that coffee is a very common “cross-reactive compound” for those who have gluten sensitivities.  Dairy is the most common cross-reactive, but coffee produces the most severe reaction.  Here are the articles I read:
It’s interesting to me, because many times I’ve had an aversion to coffee due to a severe reaction I had after drinking it, but I love coffee!  I don’t drink it in the mornings; I drink tea. But I really, really enjoy having a cup in the afternoon, after a Sunday lunch, or a daily 3pm iced coffee when it’s warm outside. So NOT wanting it for days at a time means that my stomach just really does not feel up for this “treat.”  I often wondered why this was happening.  I thought maybe it was the combo of something I ate and the coffee, but now I wonder if this new science and understanding has uncovered the reason for problems I was encountering.
Hmmmm….but it has to do with processing the coffee, and for some reason, organic, whole bean coffee does not trigger as severe a response.
My grocery bill is already so crazy, I doubt I will be buying organic coffee anytime soon.
Is it a slime mold?  Is it some sort of flat shelf fungus?

 Well, enough about coffee, and on to mushrooms.  This week my Challenge II class got to go on another outdoor excursion to collect mushrooms. After a quick picnic lunch on Cushman Common, we hit the Robert Frost Trail and found all SORTS of interesting fungi!

Jesse is quite the kinesthetic learner.  Gross.

Jesse tricked me into touching this white-fungus-ricotta-cheese-like substance growing on different parts of this tree.  I screamed and jumped upon touching it lightly with my pinky finger. It was creamy and cold and disgusting, but he managed to pack some into his ziploc bag with. his. hands. (and fling it all over his pants), so that we could observe it under the microscope back in class.  Somehow it did not occur to him to use a stick or leaf as tools of collection.

Six of the nine mushroom hunters.

They love being outside.  It was hard to rein them in, as they kept traveling farther and farther into the woods and along the trail, but we had important pastries and drinks to purchase at the Cushman Market and Cafe before we headed back to class, so back toward the trail head we went.  First item on the cafe agenda: WASH. YOUR. HANDS.

Back in class, everyone got to create their own slide of spores from their personal collection of mushrooms.  It was difficult to decide which ones to choose, and a few made time to make two slides, but everyone eventually got their spores in focus, and they all looked a bit different.  Sketches were made, and lab procedures and supplies were noted. Now they are spending the week at home writing up a formal lab report on this “experiment” among a multitude of other assignments. Mushrooms and molds and fungi are nature’s important decomposers.  Together we marveled at God’s wise handiwork. He thought of everything, of course!
Pretty cute ~ and sharp ~ kiddos on a beautiful fall afternoon.

No, I did not bring home any mushrooms for the purpose of adding them to my Turkey Meatball Soup.  In fact, I even had trouble gearing myself up just to think about cooking dinner after dealing with fungi all day, but I pressed on to patting mini-meatballs together for a soup idea I came across in a magazine recently.  It wasn’t a paleo magazine or a dedicated gluten free one, but the recipe just naturally happened to be both.

The most tedious part is forming the meatballs, of course, but they cook fairly quickly.  I loved using fresh parsley as a tasty herb for these.
It’s a sort of a tomato soup stock that the mushrooms meatballs eventually go into.  Roasting tomatoes and onions together before pureeing them into the chicken broth made the house smell delicious!
And the finished product was enjoyed by all ~ along with GF corn muffins for the teenagers and paleo blueberry muffins for the grown-ups. Perfect fall dinner!
Here’s the recipe ~ enjoy!
Roasted Tomatoes and Turkey Meatball Soup
4-5 large tomatoes (or 6-8 Romas, etc.)
2 medium white or yellow onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs ground turkey
sea salt
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 cups chicken broth or 4 cups plus 4 cups water
Coarsely chop tomatoes and onions.  Toss lightly with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until tender and slightly browned/charred.  
Mix parsley, and salt and pepper to taste into the ground turkey.  Form mixture into mini meatballs and place on another baking sheet.  You will probably need two baking sheets for this.  Bake meatballs at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
Heat broth and add roasted tomatoes and onions to it. Puree in batches in a blender and return to soup pot.  Continue to heat pureed soup over medium heat and add meatballs to the soup base once they are cooked through.  Keep over medium heat for 10 more minutes, and then serve.
P.S.  This would be great with ground beef or bison, too.  You would probably want to switch to beef broth in that case, though!