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

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)

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


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)

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)

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

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year! 2015's One Giant Goal and How I'll Get There

Open a gluten free Bakery- that's my one giant goal.

I can't afford and don't have the experience I'd want to open a bakery storefront (yet). So I'm going to bake out of a certified kitchen. It will be wholesale and I'd like to sell at a Farmer's Market. It also means that I may be able to do mail-order and local deliveries (think CSA with neighborhood pick-up spots). And how cool if I'm able to sell at local shops, cafes and yoga studios! I found a food incubator in D.C. that looks really promising, I've simplified the recipes I'll bake but have a bunch on the back burner in case it makes sense to expand, and I'm more clear on the necessary steps to make it a legal and licensed business. I've also got something in the works to re-brand my blog and the soon-to-be business with a new name and a new design. Something that speaks more to being bold and happy.

My time line is to start in July and to get there I'm going to:
SIMPLIFY (buy less, use what I have, know where stuff is, get rid of stuff that makes it harder)
CONNECT (with businesses and people that are cool and inspiring, local and online)
ACCEPT CHAOS (hello- new baby, paying for daycare, working full-time, getting back in shape, researching and starting a new business)
and also,
SAVE AS MUCH MONEY as I possibly can (for so many reasons)

This will all take work and I'm sure I will hit bumps in the road, get totally stressed out and have melt-downs here and there. But ultimately each of these steps and goals are doable and are not that hard. There is a lot that I don't know about running a bakery business, working out of a certified kitchen or selling wholesale. But if I let that stop me then this will never happen. And I have to make it happen.

I'll leave you with this:
"If you love something and you're good at it, then you must do it."
(Thank you The Bletchley Circle, one of my many Netflix binges during maternity leave)

And these:
What Do You Want With Your Life?
Clarity, Part 1
Clarity, Part 2
Who I Am and Who I Want to Become
What Scares Me
My Dream Bakery

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Almond Flower's Top Ten Recipes of 2014

Oh man, I'm excited for 2015. Like, ants in my pants let's get this year started.
We have our awesome little man, I'm purging a lot of my things and simplifying, I'm painting just for fun, I got an awesome pair of chords on sale at Anthro, and I'm working on plans to start my gluten free bakery business. Bring on the chaos.

Looking back on my top ten recipes from this year, I felt happy and proud.
These are all yummy, some are comforting, some are decadent, and most are simple. I love that. My reason for starting all of this was to make grain free, natural sugars baked goods that I wasn't finding anywhere else. And amazingly I'm still making them with lots of new ideas stuffed in my back pockets. If I can bake things that other people enjoy and that make them happy, then I really am so fulfilled and happy. 

I hope you enjoy looking over these recipes and trying a few. And I hope you get excited for the new year, do the things that you need and love to feel your best, and jump into the chaos.

The Almond Flower's Top Ten Recipes of 2014

Some of my Apple Recipes for ya'

Chocolate Trail Mix Cookies

Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars (On a Chocolate Crust and A Vegan Option)

Nina Cake (Grain Free Yellow Cake with Classic Fudge Frosting)

Dairy Free Cinnamon Swirl Muffins (made with coconut oil and blanched almond flour)

Cardamom Bundt Cake with Lime Coconut Butter

Peaches & "Brown Sugar" Cream Pie

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sweetened with Honey and Stevia)

Grain Free Carrot Cake with Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

Grain Free Zucchini Bread

Monday, December 22, 2014

Two Months (& Happy Winter!)

This sweet, calm, cuddly, adorable chunker is two months old.

Sad because my maternity leave is ending in a month.

Amazing because he's sleeping longer through the night now and he is so much better at breastfeeding!

He smiles and coos, almost laughs- I can hear it starting to form in his little sounds.

He's got big old hands and chunky little thighs.

It's the best thing when he catches our eyes and smiles at us, and he's started to recognize Clover when she comes close to lick him up.

I'm really looking forward to all of the winter hikes we'll do. We're taking him out a lot and hoping that he'll appreciate the cool weather and fresh air.

As for me, I'm feeling stronger and and trying to enjoy all of the quiet time. I want to savor my daytime feedings with him since he'll be at daycare soon, and hold him more since he'll only get bigger.

I'm also trying to enjoy this time to be creative. I've gotten a lot of new ideas that feel so exciting and that bring me back to what I feel is truly myself. I want to hold onto them and jump in while I have the time.

Winter always sneaks up on me and the Holidays are always a blur. We're getting away to Virginia Beach for Christmas and then taking a little trip to Charlottesville. We'll eat at diners, take little hikes and drive home along the Skyline Drive. It's amazing how much we need to get away and how good we feel even after just a few days. And I especially need the renewal that comes with being outside, walking amongst the trees and cold air, and not hearing the din of cars and planes.

At a time that is often gray, wet and cold I'm trying to embrace the quiet and use the time to listen to myself, and do the things that I love. So I hope you have a happy holiday, and happy winter!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grain Free Holiday Cakes Inspiration

We're heading to a Holiday Party today and I'm bringing a version of my Cardamom Cake as a sheet cake topped with caramelized pears. Sounds so good right?! I love bringing my baked goods to parties. They're something I know I can eat, they're an indulgent dessert but without the total sugar crash, and they tend to be crowd pleasers that people are surprised to learn are gluten free. So when planning what to bring to the party I went through a whole string of ideas of what to make and I ended up with a long list of delicious cake options, too many to try just for one day. Do you go classic chocolate and sweet vanilla? Or the more traditional holiday route with spices and citrus? Or do you combine chocolate and spice, chocolate and citrus, and do you use buttercream frosting or go without? Really important questions at 9pm last night guys.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Grain Free Holiday Meal Menu

Every month or so a group of us get together for dinner. It's a small group of women who've been brought together and just happen to really get along. We're a mix of work friends, friends from College, couple friends and friends of friends and we comfort each other, confide in each other, crack each other up and inspire each other. I think everyone looks forward to the dinners as much as I do. It's the kind of group that every gal needs in her adult life and to accommodate the different food needs of ladies in the group our meals end up being gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free and often times Paleo or grain free. There's always kale and in the Fall and Winter there's always sweet potato or butternut squash. So I thought I'd put together a little meal menu of things we might eat!