Friday, July 24, 2015

Gluten-Free in Clifton Forge and Covington, VA


Our little vacation this summer was a stay in a cabin at Douthat State Park. My family has been going here every summer since my sister was born, and my mom stayed with her family when she was a kid! You take Douthat State Park Rd directly off of 64, meander down a two-lane road that becomes enclosed with tall trees and then you're there. They have a lake with a beach for swimming, boat rentals, restaurant and store, campgrounds, new horse campgrounds, log cabins and tons of trails. The cabins have normal amenities like AC, microwave and kitchen cookware; there are indoor and outdoor fireplaces as well as grills. No TV, thank goodness and trails you can get to right from your cabin. Some of the cabins have a view of the lake and surrounding mountains, and other cabins are nestled further back into the woods and feel very secluded.

I love going there and I was so excited to stay with our little family, with my parents in a separate cabin just up the road. It was cool weather our first days there and our small hikes with the baby and Clover were really easy and enjoyable. Most mornings and afternoons I had James in the carrier and took little walks up and down the gravel path, or across the road to the top of the lake trail. He loves being outside and is totally calm, just listening to everything. The yard right around our cabin was covered in moss and walking barefoot with my baby, looking at mushrooms and butterflies made me feel like I was where I needed to be.

With a baby, a dog, and a gluten-free mama, our trip definitely took a ton of planning, including food preparations. James is eating solids now so I brought some foods for him, I made sure to have enough gluten-free snacks for us like gf pretzels with peanut butter and jelly or cheese and gf crackers. For lunches we ate cold ham and cheese sandwiches or grilled cheese on gf bread, and for dinner I pre-made a big batch of crock-pot beef with steamed carrots, and we brought rice. I didn't want to have to cook or drive into town to Kroger every night (the main grocery store in Clifton Forge), and I wasn't sure what Kroger or the local restaurants would have that was gluten-free friendly. Well not to worry! There was plenty.

Gluten-Free in Clifton Forge, VA

Kroger had tons of gluten-free products! crackers, pasta, cookies, granola bars, etc.

Vic's Family Restaurant- I ate the burger platter (already on the menu without the bun) with cole slaw, baked potato and steamed spinach. They were very friendly and helpful when I was asking then super specific questions about their ingredients.

Jack Mason's Tavern- This place is awesome! Tons of beer, wine and cider and very knowledgeable about gluten-free options. I ate the chicken wings (which naturally come fried and not breaded), a side salad and the smoked sausage with house-made sweet sauerkraut which was enjoyed by all of us, including little James. We came here our last night in town and I would have visited more often if I had known how great it was.

The Club Car- A cute little deli that serves coffee drinks, desserts, soup, sandwiches and salads. They knew about gluten-free, had gluten-free bread for sandwiches AND even had a gluten-free bread pudding dessert on stand-by in the freezer! I was totally shocked. My mom and I ended up sharing the salad with cashews, chicken and broccoli which was super tasty. Another place I would have visited more often if we had gone sooner in the week.


Gluten-Free in Covington, VA 

We only came here one day during the week to eat lunch. There is a wal-mart and a kmart for shopping needs and a few more restaurants. With the kind of luck I had in Clifton Forge I would hope that a few of the Covington restaurants would be gluten-free friendly too.

The Main Street Shoppe- Run by an Italian family, this place gets very busy and is full of charm. My parents have gone here often over the years and I can't recommend this cute little cafe enough. Chris are a rueben on home-made bread which he loved and I had a stuffed tomato with chicken salad. We shared a giant bowl of clam chowder (thickened only with potato so it was safe for me to eat) which was the best soup of our lives.



Pictures of Douthat State Park, downtown Clifton Forge and Covington











Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Little June Update


I cut my hair and I should have done it sooner. I used to me more impulsive and listen to my gut the first time- it led me in a lot of good directions and I'm trying to do it more.

In another life I would have been a midwife or Doula and right now Carriage House Birth and Domino Kirke are giving me tons of inspiration and new-mama support. I kind of strayed away from tuning into my womanly, feminine, mama bear spirit and I'm getting back to that now that I have James, and I love it.

It's the end of June and school is out- another year in the books and as usual I just need some time to chill the f-out.

I had hoped to get a lot more done on starting the bakery but the past two months have been stressful, busy and really really hot so things have paused. But I have the summer off so I'm going to use that time and connect with business owners, build in some creative time during the daytime and check off all of the business logistics I need to do.

A baby James update is coming soon! He's so big, chunky and cute cute cute.

I hope to fill the next two months with evening breezes, good books, sweaty baby naps, watermelon, popsicles, night-time campfires, painting just for me, adventures with my doggie, visiting cute shops, dips in the ocean and lots of baking and business making.

Happy Summer!


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Classic Grain-Free Blueberry Muffin (with a Dairy-Free Option)







How have you been?

It's the beginning of June and it's hot, the bugs are out, James is 7 1/2 months old! and school's almost out. We're looking ahead at our summer and planning a beach trip, a week-long cabin stay, hopefully a trip to Brooklyn with the baby and even though my birthday is at the end of this month, I've been celebrating it myself now for a few weeks! Because why not, aaaaaand I need it. 

Lately I've been feeling really good about a few things. I have been happily surprised at how pumping at work, going to work instead of staying home, doing household and baby chores and cooking more at home have been easier than I thought and how I'm actually enjoying them. I prepared myself to have a really hard year after I went back to work, but I've surprised myself with how well I'm adjusting to doing the things that need to get done (most of the time- we haven't washed our sheets in at least a month) and how much I actually enjoy doing these things as a Mom. It's pretty cool. 

I love creating recipes because there's always one little thing you can change and the whole concoction can end up tasting different and evoking different memories and emotions. But I've found that I usually end up coming back to the simple, basic recipes as my favorites. Blueberry muffins are really good with a little cinnamon and nutmeg, and I especially love them with a crumble topping. But the classic recipe with a little sweetness, a soft muffin and a hint of lemon and vanilla is so fresh, simple and delicious that it does the trick for me. 

Classic Grain-Free Blueberry Muffin (with a Dairy-Free option)
makes 10-12

2 eggs room temperature
1/4-1/2 C honey (depending on your sweetness preference)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 C butter or coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 C blanched almond flour
2 T coconut flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C water (if the batter is a little thick)
1 C blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with paper liners
Whisk the eggs, honey, vanilla, lemon juice, and cooled melted butter or coconut oil
In a separate bowl mix the blanched almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda until combined
Then mix with the wet ingredients until smooth
Add the 1/4 C water if the batter seems a little thick
Then mix in the blueberries
Use an ice cream scoop that is not quite full to fill the 12 muffin cups, or use a fuller scoop to fill 10 cups
Bake around 25 minutes until the edges are browned
Remove from the oven and let cool


Saturday, May 16, 2015

SIMPLIFY.

I've seen this book everywhere and the basic principles, that your items should "spark joy" and that you should thank other items for their service and then sell or donate them, really work with me.

The feeling is very liberating. Things I thought I would keep forever end up being donated. When we were getting the nursery ready for James, I went through a serious nesting phase.  Because his nursery shares our office/studio space it meant that I needed to get rid of the majority of my art supplies. We needed the space, but I also needed the room to feel right and look good. Cozy, comforting, useful but not every little nook filled with stuff. Inspiring.

At first I was very emotional about letting my art supplies go, because that meant I was accepting that I wouldn't be working on art as much as I would be doing other new things, like raising a baby. It was hard. But after a little while I realized that I haven't worked on those art projects in months, if not years. So I had been keeping these items around, always considering them, but never doing them. It was a constant consideration and it weighed me down. Now I've simplified down to my sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, a small set of paints and paper, and a handful of pretty colored pencils. All things that I can easily move to another room and which feel light and do actually "spark joy" when I look at them or think of them. Now I know they're there when I need them but they don't weigh me down with too many options or pressure.

So going through every area in the house from our hall closet to our basement storage is like that. I start, I have emotions, I get rid of stuff, I take another look and get rid of even more stuff. Maybe I give a little too much away and I'm sad about it, but then I realize that's fine too.

On a deeper level, taking an honest look at the stuff I have and the way I spend my time means taking an honest look at my life, how it's actually going, and if it's what I want.

So to simplify our stuff is helping me keep the focus on my goal of opening a gluten free bakery. The time I do have is spent towards a few choice things now: taking care of James, eating healthy, exercising and being outside, and working on all of the details to make this bakery happen. A little blogging on the weekends if time permits, and a very little amount of painting here and there.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dairy-Free, Grain-Free, Nut-Free Double Chocolate Cupcakes (with a Chocolate Coconut Butter Frosting)





I'm sorry I've been away from the blog for so long. It has been so hard to fit in a lot of the lovely things I used to do. My old life is gone...it's time for me to surrender to my new life...and also, I need a lap top! (Because currently my computer shares the nursery space).

I stayed home today so that I could take James to his six month check up and so I could be with him all day in case he got cranky. He ended up taking a 2 1/2 hour nap when we got home so I proceeded to have the best afternoon which went like this:

I sat on the porch while my doggie laid out in the sun and I started reading a new book which is already good

A mid-day storm rolled in and Clover (my doggie) and I sat inside with the front door wide open and enjoyed it

I baked a batch of DELICIOUS Double Chocolate Cookies. A recipe I've been wanting to try for way too long, and who knows when I'll get it photographed or posted. Here's what I did: I started with my Cocoa Dunker Cookies and substituted four kinds of chocolate chips for the previously healthy ingredients, then scooped them using a mini ice cream scoop and rolled them into smooth balls that I pressed slightly flat, then baked on parchment for 15-18 minutes.

Then I ate those cookies with my afternoon tea while reading a couple favorite blogs and typing this post!

Dairy-Free, Grain-Free, Nut-Free Double Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 12

Chocolate Cake Using Coconut Flour
(adapted from Chocolate Donuts by Detoxinista and Chocolate Cupcakes by Elana's Pantry)

1/4 C coconut flour
1/4 C cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C coconut oil (or butter if you don't need these dairy free)
3 eggs
1/2 C honey

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with paper liners
Mix the cooled melted coconut oil, eggs and honey
In a separate bowl whisk the coconut flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda until blended
Mix the dry with the wet until thoroughly combined
Scoop into 12 paper liners
Bake for 18-22 minutes until dry looking on top but not burned
Remove from the oven and let cool

Chocolate Coconut Butter Frosting
(adapted from The Spunky Coconut's Mini Boulder Cream Doughnuts)

1/4 C coconut butter
1 tsp coconut oil
1 T cocoa
1 T honey
1 tsp vanilla
10 drops stevia

Mix all together
Heat over medium low heat on the stove top stirring constantly, or for 10 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between
Place into a piping bag with a star tip, or DIY it by using a big ziploc with the corner cut off
Smoosh all of the frosting down to the bottom of the bag, shaking gently to remove air bubbles
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting
One batch of frosting will just cover 12 cupcakes

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ten Things

I have a lot less free time since James was born. Obviously. Everyone says that happens with a baby and it's totally, weirdly true how my time has been sucked into the void. It helps that spring is here and there is more daylight in the evening, and it especially helps that we put James to bed by 6 pm. (I know that seems really early but it totally works. When we put him to bed later he is up more often during the night, and I think he really wants it. He starts getting fussy by 5:45 and is rubbing his eyes the minute his little head hits the crib).

It's so so nice to have that evening time but by 8:30 I'm exhausted and Chris and I are usually in bed by 9:30. So there's really not a ton of available time, not to mention time where I feel rested and have a desire to work on things.

I used to get up a little early and work on the computer or sit at our office window and write about all of my ideas. And I would use some time in the evening to do the same thing. But our little nursery/office second bedroom houses my art supplies, work table, camera and computer (along with James' mini nursery) and when he's in there sleeping, I can't work on anything. Which leaves the weekends- but those get filled so quickly with to-do lists, visits and fun things. And I am not yet at the point where I will trade an hour of good sleep to get up early and read my favorite blogs. No way.

So I started writing down just ten things when I have a few minutes and it's helped me, a lot. It's faster than a full blog post and helps me get more things down on paper than a typical rambling journal entry. It allows me to write down my stresses and concerns, but also my inspirations, random little thoughts and positive things as well. Tonight I'm sitting on the couch with the doors and windows open listening to the birds. Chris and Clover (my husband and doggie) are out on a long walk so that I can have some cherished alone/work time. And I'm borrowing his lap top.

Ten Things

1. Buy a lap top

2. This quote,

"Be vulnerable.
Let yourself be deeply seen,
love with your whole heart,
practice gratitude and joy…be able to say ‘I am thankful to feel this vulnerable because it means I am alive’,
and believe ‘I am enough.’
You are worthy of love & belonging.
"

Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability (via A Well Travelled Woman and tblaberge)

I practice a lot of gratitude. I've always been good at taking the time to slow down and notice what's around me, and to be thankful for the little and good things. But I think something I've been missing in the past few years is practicing joy. Allowing myself to totally be in the moment and be really happy, and not hold back that Joy because of fear, stress or empathy for people who are less fortunate. 


3. I'm in the last quarter of the school year and my intention is to say No as little as possible to the kiddos. They know the deal with art, they have plenty of ideas, my job is to provide the framework of a lesson, materials and some tips and then let them explore and create. Who cares if they make a portrait of Michael Jackson for the billionth time or their rocket blasters aren't collaged or they take the entire hour to cut out a heart and draw a princess on it.


4. This post on Capricous Yogi,
"I made the conscious decision to go from thinking “this is going to happen” to “this is happening.”"
 So I started thinking that way about opening a bakery. "I will open a gf bakery" to "I am opening a gf bakery". And poof, it feels more real, something to take ownership of and stay committed to. 
 
5. What is my spirit animal? How do you know?
 6. Money is tight but I really want to get my hair colored, get another hair cut and get a mani-pedi. And a massage, and a facial. I'm in serious need of a spa-day makeover. 
7. I envision what my bakery will look like ALL THE TIME and I feel it in my bones that it should and will happen.
8. Yet I often still think of other lives that I want to lead. Like owning a farm with chickens and goats and dying my own fabric then sewing it into dresses and bags (Basically the life of Jenna Rose).
9. Having a baby makes me a lot more afraid of him getting sick, hurt or dying. I try not to give those thoughts and fears too much energy, but I think they are here to stay, just lying dormant. 
9.  aand James woke up.  

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grain Free Pecan Bars Made with Honey and Palm Sugar (An Updated Version)








Happy spring, happy full moon, happy time of energy and change. I need it, I want it, I'm ready for it. I want to be smothered in opportunities and choice and have freak-outs because the things that I want and see for myself are at my finger tips! 

Having James has been tough at times and of course has been an adjustment in big and small ways, but it also just feels right. I have less time and much less gets done, but I love that I'm a mom now and I love being his Mom. I love changing his diaper, kissing his neck, holding him sideways, sitting on the front steps in the new spring sun, listening to the birdies. Really I like that I'm here to just take care of him and help him to be healthy and to grow. There are so many unknowns and it's kind of insane that we're parents now, it's easy for me to sort of take a back seat and just hop on for the ride. But I realized that I shouldn't let any of that hold me back from diving in, loving this whole thing and letting myself be obsessed with him. 

I'm excited to finally post this recipe. These pecan bars began long long ago with this post, inspired by Elana's Pantry's recipe (which I can't seem to find anymore, or maybe they're just in her book). And since then I've made them a bunch, probably more than any other recipe. I made them as a pie with vanilla added to the crust and melted chocolate spread on top. And then I put it all on a chocolate-drizzled chocolate pie! I realized though, that I prefer the pecan pieces smaller, because they blend in better with the caramel. And I like a little extra caramel, so I doubled it from the previous attempts. And lastly, they work really well baked in a 13x9 brownie pan (my pans are metal and not deep—as opposed to using a 13x9 glass baking dish which I think would still work, but I haven't used it). So here we go with that looks like my 4th and dare say final attempt. They're really good. Really, really good. 

Grain Free Pecan Bars Made with Honey and Palm Sugar
makes 15

Crust
4 C blanched almond flour
1/2 C melted butter
1/2 C honey
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (or any other chocolate that you like)

Topping
1 bag pecan pieces (8 oz bag or about 1 1/2 C, I use Trader Joe's toasted and salted but you can use raw as well)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C melted butter
1/2 C honey
2 T coconut palm sugar
1 T vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 13x9 brownie pan with a full sheet of parchment paper so that there is extra on the sides (I use this to pull the entire sheet of bars out of the tray after cooling and before slicing)

Make the crust by mixing together the melted butter, honey and salt
Mix in the blanched almond flour and place onto the parchment paper, smoothing our as evenly as possible
Bake around 18-20 minutes until lightly golden brown

Remove from the oven and top with the 1/2 C of chocolate chips, return to the oven and melt for just a minute or two
Then remove from the oven and smooth the melty chips with an offset spatula, knife or spatula

Let all of that cool for a while and make the topping by placing all of the topping ingredients together in a pan on the stove top
Now be super careful! Cook the topping over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbling evenly
Cook another minute or two so that the honey and butter has time to caramelize, and then spoon or pour the mixture on top of the chocolate-covered crust
Let cool, and make sure the pan is cooled, then chill in the fridge for a few hours or over night until the caramel and the crust has set
Run a knife around the edges and use the extra parchment to carefully lift the whole thing out of the pan
Peel down the edges of the parchment paper and then use a big knife to slice the bars in three rows and five columns


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Four Months






James screeches, hoots, has this fluttery thing he does with his voice and squeaks. He'll follow us around the room with his eyes and smile so big when we come near him. And I finally caught him smiling at Clover as she came over to lick him! 

He still has the prettiest blue eyes, his hair is growing and he has a little old man bald spot on the back of his head.

His bottom teeth came in a few weeks ago which is early, but the same thing happened to my husband as a baby so I was prepared. He was fussy, woke up a lot at night and pooped a bunch more but overall it wasn't that bad.

He's just starting to arch his back when he's on the floor, I think in preparation for rolling over and he holds his back very straight when he sits in your arms. I get so excited wondering what he'll look like when he starts to crawl and what his voice will sound like when he says his first words! 

His hands are always in his mouth, sucking and chewing, or he's holding his own hands which is so cute to me! My favorite thing to do is hold him and nuzzle kisses into his neck folds which usually elicit some awesome laughs.

I've read from other moms that one of the hardest things about having a baby is the monotony. And I'm going through that a little bit right now because he goes to bed right when I get home from work and then I can't leave the house until Chris comes home. But by then I'm usually exhausted. The flip side of that is Chris and I have time with each other in the evening because James sleeps so early (6 pm) and I remind myself to enjoy these times because it won't always be this way.

The other day after work I popped him in the stroller while he was still sleeping from the car ride home and picked up frozen meals for dinner and lunch from Mom's. It was one of our first spring days, I decided to treat myself to an easy dinner, and that small activity for myself was really nice. He didn't wake up, we got home just a few minutes later than normal and everything was still fine but I felt a lot better.

I'm trying to add some healthier foods and habits back into my days. Things I used to do that I know work and make me look and feel better, but that for a variety of reasons (and let's be honest, excuses) I don't do consistently. You know, hot lemon water, probiotics, more veggies, chia pudding, consistent exercise, less cookies. I'd like to work on it for the next two weeks before we go on our spring break trip to Cali + Austin and then my next timeline is the end of April for our friends' wedding (Yay!) 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chocolate Chai Layer Cake (Grain Free & Dairy Free Cake with a Vegan Frosting)


I was introduced to Dirty Chais by my brother-in-law, who is a chef in D.C. It's a shot of espresso in the chai tea latte, which makes it not only sweet, spiced, and creamy but also rich and earthy. So so good. I've been meaning to try out more cake recipes and I really want to explore frosting recipes that don't use butter and powdered sugar (even though I love love love buttercream frosting). This frosting uses powdered palm sugar. As far as I know you can't buy it, so to make it blend the 1/2 C of palm sugar in a coffee/spice grinder until very fine. I don't have a coffee/spice grinder so I used my mini food processor which only ground about half of the palm sugar really fine, so the frosting ended up with some texture (It was okay in a pinch but I'm planning on buying a coffee/spice grinder).

To make this recipe I started with my Cardamom Bundt Cake and substituted the butter with coconut oil to make it dairy free. To create more of a Chai spice I looked at AllRecipes Chai Tea Mix recipe. The dirty chai flavor combo was inspired by these Dirty Chai Mini Bundt Cakes by BubbleGirlBakes on D*S and then I was really excited to try this vegan frosting from DollyandOatmeal!

I like this cake but my husband didn't love it. He thought the chocolate and the chai flavors didn't match, or that there needed to be more chocolate. Maybe a vegan ganache filling would help? He also thought the coffee flavor was really mild and could be left out entirely or enhanced. We both agree that the cake is really good with the spices and the amount of moisture while still holding its shape. I used strong decaf black tea in place of water, but you could omit, use coffee or something like milk or yogurt instead. I really like the vegan frosting with powdered palm sugar and I'd like to try it again as a caramel or vanilla version. The frosting only makes what you see in the photo, so if you'd like enough to cover the sides of the cake then double the frosting recipe.


Dairy-Free Chai Layer Cake
serves 12

1/2 C cooled melted coconut oil
1/2 C strong decaf black tea (or strong decaf coffee for more of a dirty chai flavor in the cake)
3/4 C honey
1/2 C coconut palm sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 C blanched almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom


Vegan Chocolate Coffee Frosting

1 C palm shortening
1/4 C cocoa powder
1/2 C powdered palm sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 T strong decaf coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 and line two cake pans with parchment circles, then grease them with coconut oil
Make the cake batter by mixing the cooled melted coconut oil, strong decaf black tea or coffee, honey, coconut palm sugar, eggs and vanilla
In a separate bowl mix or sift the rest of the dry ingredients together
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and blended
Pour into the two prepared cake pans and bake 25-35 minutes until the cake layers are browned, not jiggly and the edges pull away from the pans
Place on a rack to cool completely

While the cake cools make the frosting by placing all of the ingredients in a bowl and use a hand mixer to blend until smooth and creamy, scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend again until thoroughly mixed

To assemble the cake use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake and gently shake up and down. Repeat until you feel confident that the cake is completely loosened!
Have a cardboard cake circle, flat plate or cake stand ready and place on top of the cake then swiftly turn over so that the cake falls into place, remove and discard the parchment circle
Then repeat with the second cake circle onto a separate flat surface
Spread half of the frosting onto the first cake circle and spread out to the edge
Top with the second cake circle and spread on the remaining frosting


Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts on New Motherhood and some Great Mom Sites



I've been thinking of posting about motherhood and I'm still not sure what I want to say. It's a huge topic, I don't necessarily want to take this blog in that direction and honestly I'm still just grappling with the whole idea.

Here's what I do know. That I have always wanted to be a mom, be pregnant, birth a baby and breastfeed and I feel so lucky that I have gotten to do all those things. Although none of them were as lovely or magical as I thought and hoped they would be and right now that makes me a little sad, but I'm giving myself time to work through that.

I think a lot of things with being a parent will feel better once I'm through them and looking back. That's proven true so far with having a newborn and making it through those first weeks. My husband and I both felt a little distant with James when he was brand new (and that makes me a little sad, embarrassed and guilty for feeling that way) but it's true so I'm putting it out there. Now that James is a little more predictable, breastfeeds like a champ, has filled out to feel more like a sweet baby and smiles and coos at us, our bond with him only gets better and stronger.

The best things so far are feeling like James has always been with us, when he breastfeeds and lays his little hand on my boob, holding him and leaning my head against his, and learning his signs and being able to give him what he needs.

My biggest issues right now are feeling frustrated with my body and my overall look, being away from James all day while I'm at work and he's at daycare, and dealing with money since we have to pay for daycare, will need a new car soon and I want to start renting a kitchen space. And looking back I wish that I had gotten a Doula. Knowing my personality and knowing now what my experience was like, I didn't quite get what I needed. I wanted more of a loving, supportive and spiritual journey through pregnancy and birth.

A few things that help me to stay positive and feel loved and supported is talking to my friends, having new mom friends who have babies around the same age, and reading blogs and sites that are supportive, healthy and inspiring. I've found I'm not as much of a book person when it comes to pregnancy and baby information because I like the ease of searching a topic and finding links right away- as opposed to reading through whole sections of books. I also like reading people's personal experiences with a topic, and I like taking a peek into the reality of their lives, even though it's virtual.

So these sites below are ones that I really like and wanted to share:

The Mama Circle Blog

Rebecca Egbert/The Mother Love and this Interview on Rugged & Fancy

A Cup of Jo Beauty Uniforms

Secrets of Stylish Moms on Say Yes

MotherMag



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's Day Chocolate and Raspberry Mini Cakes with Blueberry Buttercream (Gluten-Free and Grain-Free)




Here's my lazy Valentine's Day post, the same recipe from last year.  
I'm typing this as I listen to my baby soothe himself to sleep with fake little cries while I'm home sick. And I'm thinking about how I've wanted this change in life and while motherhood has been an adjustment, I'm so happy to be in it right now. For us to have a baby who's sweet, healthy and really ours is amazing. I was so happy last night that I was sick enough to stay home today just so I could spend the whole day with James. Especially now that I'm back at work, being with him all day is the best. We cuddle and look out the window, I do anything to make him smile and giggle, I play Laura Veirs kids albums on Pandora and we stretch and dance. Not much gets done in the day, I have a few minutes here and there to do stuff while he naps, it's pretty slow and simple. But it's great and it makes me happy, and I'm so thankful for this new love.

Valentine's Day Chocolate and Raspberry Mini Cakes with Blueberry Buttercream (Gluten-Free and Grain-Free)
makes 3 mini cakes

Chocolate Cake
A day ahead, use my recipe for Perfect Chocolate Cake and bake in a parchment lined brownie pan so it cooks up a little thinner.
Bake for 15 minutes until the top is dry
Let cool, wrap the whole brownie pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (making ahead of time is not totally necessary, but it does keep the cake from crumbling too much)

Filling
1/2 jar All Fruit Raspberry Spread (I use Trader Joe's)

Blueberry Buttercream
Based on my Strawberry Buttercream recipe
1/2 C blueberries
1/4 C room temperature butter (very important)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp honey
3-4 C powdered sugar (from one 1 lb. bag- I use Trader Joe's Organic Powdered Sugar)
(pictured is a thinner buttercream, add more powdered sugar to make it thicker)

To make the Blueberry Buttercream,
You can prepare the frosting ahead of time (just thaw to room temperature the day you want to use it) 
First place the blueberries in the food processor and process 3 times until they are very small
Then slice the room temperature butter and place it in the processor with the vanilla, lemon juice and honey Process 3 times until everything is mixed- don't worry that it has separated into smaller pieces
Scrape down the sides with a spatula and process again
Pour in half of the powdered sugar, process and wipe down the sides
Repeat this two more times until the bag of sugar is empty and the frosting is well-mixed 
Carefully remove the blade from the processor and wipe off the frosting
Scoop the frosting into a piping bag or a large ziploc bag with the corner tip cut off (start small because a lot comes out and you can always make it larger)

Assembly
Remove the wrapped cake from the fridge and use a round biscuit cutter (I used these) to cut 9 circles from the cake layer
Transfer the base cake layers for your three cakes to little plates or a cake stand
Top each layer with a circle of frosting around the edge and then a dollop of fruit spread in the center
Top with another cake layer and repeat two more times to make three layer mini cakes
(I saved the extra cake pieces in a bowl and topped with some frosting and fruit spread- I call it Dump Cake but I really need to think of a better name for it...)



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (With Natural Sweeteners and no added Fats)



Well, I'm back at work after my lovely, wonderful maternity leave and, well, it's okay. I was just getting used to being at home with James all day and he was just starting to get on a real schedule. It's so nice to have the option to shower later in the day or take a little longer drinking my tea and watching the news. But at the same time it's nice to get out of the house and have more of a purpose for my day. And it certainly has made me cuddle him with all of my focus while I have him.

These cookies are nice and chewy, slightly hearty from the oatmeal and have a good sweetness level from the mixture of honey and palm sugar. I've been on an oats kick because I've wanted snacks that fill me up a little more and I've read that eating them helps with breast milk production. Oats are not "grain-free" which is what I usually focus on making so if you'd like a simple peanut butter cookie, I think you could leave the oats out and replace them all with blanched almond flour, but I'm not sure of the exact amounts you'd need.

To make this recipe I used a little of this Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Tasty Kitchen, combined with a little of my Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies recipe.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (With Natural Sweeteners and no added Fats)
makes 36 small cookies

1 C smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 C gluten free oats
1 1/2 C blanched almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C honey
1/2 C palm sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 and line two or three large baking sheets with parchment paper
Whisk together the smooth peanut butter, honey, palm sugar, eggs and vanilla
In a separate bowl mix together the gluten free oats, blanched almond flour, baking soda and salt
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until combined
Use a small ice cream scoop to place 12 scoops of dough on each baking sheet (I only have two baking sheets so I needed to bake one more round of a dozen cookies, or you could save the dough in the fridge for another time)
Then use a fork to flatten out each scoop of dough, dipping the fork in water between each cookie so it won't stick
Bake for around 12 minutes until the cookies are nice and golden brown
Remove from the oven to cool, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Three Months




Happy three months to our little James!

He's cooing, randomly shouting, spitting bubbles and I get a laugh out of him every so often.

He just keeps filling out and his little belly is too wide for a lot of his pants now!

We were starting to lose it again when James began waking up every two hours during the night after a nice hiatus of that. Then I did some research and found WeeBeeDreaming Blog  whose advice has been amazing and is really working. The idea that babies not only need but love sleep has really stuck with me. So instead of worrying more about getting enough food and play time, I've been focused on more sleep time and that's made for a much happier and calm baby (and parents!)

I start work, and he starts daycare, in a couple of days. Blah, I'm sure there will be a whole other post on that. But it's a necessity right now so it helps to know there's no other choice. I'm just planning on crying it out for the first couple of days and let's be honest, soothing my soul with ice cream.

Right now I feel so lucky and still slightly in denial that I'm a Mom. We made it to three months which feels like a huge accomplishment as well as no big deal. He's going to keep growing and changing so we just kind of have to jump on board and go along with it.

Here's what I'm excited for: our spring break trip to Cali and Austin, two months away! The end of the school year, another two months! And then starting the bakery business, indefinite! And I'm so curious about and excited to see James start to scoot and crawl, hear him laugh and babble and swim for the first time. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Drizzle Banana Muffins





We're trying to save more money around here, especially since little James will start daycare in February and it's basically the price of a renting a small apartment on top of the mortgage we already have. Food is a huge part of where I spend money and so I've been trying hard to buy less and be okay with not having a stocked pantry and fridge at all times (I like choices). I made these muffins, peanut butter oatmeal cookies (they'll be up soon!) and cornbread, all starting with remnants I had in the kitchen that I wanted to use up before buying anything new. Finding something I need to use up is one of my favorite ways to start a recipe. It often helps me to be creative when I have some constraints.

To make these muffins I started with two lone frozen over-ripe bananas found in the freezer (my favorite way to store banana bread-worthy bananas), the last of a bag of chocolate chips, and then was inspired to make a dairy-free chocolate drizzle since the muffins are dairy-free to begin with. I used my Classic Banana Bread recipe, reduced the amount of coconut oil and added chocolate chips and a chocolate drizzle on top.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Drizzle Banana Muffins
makes 12

2 over-ripe bananas
1/4 C melted coconut oil
1/4 C water (optional depending on how wet the batter is)
1/2 C honey
3 eggs
1 T vanilla
3 C blanched almond flour (add up to 1/2 C additional if the batter is very wet)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips for the batter (you could, of course, add more or use a different kind of chocolate)
1/4 C + 1 T coconut oil for the drizzle

Preheat the oven to 350
Line a muffin pan with paper liners
Whisk the ripe bananas, cooled melted coconut oil, honey, eggs and vanilla
Then mix in the blanched almond flour, salt and baking soda
Add the 1/4 C of water if the batter is too thick, add up to 1/2 C additional almond flour if the batter is too thin
Mix in the 1/2 C chocolate chips
Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin pan and bake around 25 minutes until the the muffins are tan around the edges
Remove from the oven and let cool then remove from the pan and place muffins on a cooling rack on top of waxed paper (or any surface you'd like in order to drizzle the chocolate)
Slowly melt the 1/4 chocolate chips + 1 T coconut oil at 30 second increments, stirring in between
Then use a spoon and drizzle over the muffins
The chocolate drizzle will solidify slightly at room temperature and will harden in the fridge
I like to store these in the fridge and then heat them up for 20 seconds so that the chocolate chips and drizzle get gooey again

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Amazing Chocolate Cakes & Pies (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo, Low-Carb, Natural Sugars)

I've been ordering boots with Christmas gift cards, planning out a uniform of clothes for when I go back to work (thankfully it's pretty casual and I can wear the same things at work as I do on the weekends), getting the guts up to chop off my hair (really not hard or brave in the big scheme of things), and craving, scheming and dreaming of chocolate cakes and pies. 

I can hear the little guy stirring now, and after he eats we're taking a little outing of Christmas returns and Pho; and then picking up eggs and dark chocolate so I can finally give myself the chocolate it's been begging for. I'm thinking some kind of chocolate layer cake with a ganache filling and a little buttercream topping. I want to slide my fork into that mess, cuddled on the couch with Clover as the winter sun sets through our back windows. Now that's one awesome Saturday night. 

Cashew-Cheesecake Bites by The Urban Poser

Chocolate Coffee Layer Cake by Dolly and Oatmeal 

Chocolate Buckwheat Cake by David Lebovitz

Chocolate Date Caramel Walnut Tart by Gourmande In The Kitchen

Chocolate Eclair Cake by All Day I Dream About Food


Chocolate Pudding Pie by Against All Grain

Chocolate Pie and Raw Graham Cracker Crust by The Spunky Coconut at NomNom Paleo