Tart

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My neighbor has a cherry tree.

But she doesn’t like cherries.

What does that mean? Neighborhood cherry picking! With the help of the kiddos, we bagged (or colander-ed) ourselves quite a lot of cherries. And as I stood there with the 8-plus cups of cherries, I had a moment of panic…what the heck am I going to do with all of these?

Cherry pie? Sure. That was tempting. But I decided to tap Pinterest to see if I could find anything else. And I did.

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These are actually Almond Oat Cranberry Bars, but cranberries are tart so wouldn’t it follow that tart cherries could be a good substitute? Why, yes. Yes, it does follow.

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What’s my theme?

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I was looking through my Instagram stream the other day and it’s apparent that I have three go-to subjects when it comes to photos.

1. Cats! Everywhere. (I love dogs. Yes, I do. But J doesn’t really appreciate the camera. So fewer of her.)DSC_9799

2. Foliage. It’s that time of year, of course. I love wandering around my garden snapping photos as things grow bigger, wider, taller. The lettuce you see below, for example, is already bursting from its container. (I always break the rules of how closely you’re supposed to plant stuff.)

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3. Food. I’ve always loved taking pics of my food.
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Both pizzas below were made with crust from The America’s Test Kitchen GF cookbook. Easy to make. Crispy on the outside. Soft on the inside.DSC_9828 DSC_9826

And this soda bread is sooooo good! I was in the baking mood yesterday, saw this on my Pinterest wall and was mixing it up minutes later. DSC_9858 DSC_9851

My kid used to be in my top three as well, but he’s getting older and I feel a bit more conscious of his privacy. (Psst…he’s on the right here, second row from the top.) The boy hates singing. As do I. He played along for the spring concert, though, lip-syncing along.

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I count drinks in the food category. This is a mango margarita from Donkey Taqueria. Yummo.IMG_8867

Meatloaf and (not) mashed potatoes

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Let’s start with the fact that any cooking project I embark upon is never a solo venture. There is always at least one furry friend about. If not all of them! Loki plopped himself in the midst of the action. Inconveniently.

But I had a bit of time to be in there, so he wasn’t in the way for all of it.

The potato recipe is not a new one. When the light is right in my kitchen, though, I’m inspired to photograph everything. I probably would have snapped a grilled cheese sandwich if I’d been so inclined to go that route.

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Meatloaf really doesn’t lend itself to photos the way colorful potatoes do. Turkey, eggs, breadcrumbs, dijon mustard. This is my go-to meatloaf recipe. Always moist and flavorful. But I never use parsley. Spinach all the way, baby!

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See? Not all that attractive. And I didn’t take after photos of either of these because I was scrambling a bit to get the table set and such, so the denouement of this post is raw meatloaf.

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Or maybe it’s the critters?

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We’ve dubbed these the Poop-tastic cupcakes

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Yes, yes, childish humor, I know. But Dev and I both agreed that our novice attempt at being creative with chocolate frosting slightly resembled dog poo.

You’ve seen, I’m sure, those lovely photos of cupcakes with the perfect, thick swirls of frosting crowning each? These are close, no?

The cupcakes themselves are paleo except for the chocolate chips I used. They’re from Against All Grain’s first cookbook. I took the batter for chocolate cake and simply went with cupcakes. The frosting is the same I used for the cake we made previously. I considered going with the buttercream in the AAG book, but it was more time-consuming than I felt prepared to tackle today. So not at all paleo.

I see merits in that approach to eating, but I’m not following it. Just borrowing some recipes from time to time, since deleting refined sugars from my diet is never a bad thing. And the non-gluten angle is just a natural benefit of their approach. There can be such a thing as too much almond and coconut flour, though.

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Let’s make a cake!

My kid has this thing about cakes. A couple of months ago he asked me to buy a yellow cake mix. “Let’s make a cake, Mom!” Yeah. Sure. OK. Fine.

It wasn’t bad.

But the baking fan in me struggled a bit with the fact that it came from a mix.

Still, it was fun. He loved it. And it was easy. Easy is good, right?

I was at Target recently, just browsing the grocery aisles, when I spied another vanilla cake mix. I smiled remembering the other cake we’d made. Then I shrugged, picked it up and put it in the cart.

And the very next day I decided to mix it up for him. (He assisted with the previous one but was hosting a friend for a video-game session this time around.) I just couldn’t remember which frosting recipe I’d used last time. (That part I can at least say I made myself!) So I searched Pinterest and came up with one that used ingredients I had on hand. This one.

And that was my mistake.

Why? Because that frosting is possibly the best I’ve ever had. It wasn’t super-sweet like some buttercreams. I could sit with a bowl of it and easily eat it all. Sadly. (Can you say sugar freak?) So in these photos you see a cake slathered with frosting. Because I went WAY out by making a double batch to ensure I had enough. And I was determined to enjoy it to the fullest! (The kiddo loved it too. He asked for leftover cake every night this week.) So I guess you could say I recommend you try that recipe.

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Is it possible to have too many cookies?

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Some people would say yes. I might have said yes at the end of the sessions. And yet it’s nice to have a lot of tasty gingerbread people cooling their heels in my freezer.

If you can believe this, I’ve never made gingerbread people before. So this wasn’t just an adventure in baking cookies that my gluten-free stomach can, uh, stomach, but also in baking a classic that I really didn’t have a good standard to measure against.

We had various thicknesses so some are soft and some are crispy. But they’re all good! And Dev rocks the icing piping. He was so eager to help me this year. I’m not sure how long the sous chef/baker thing will last, but I’m enjoying it for now.

We made snowy lemon cookies for the previous weekend, along with a GF version of the classic tollhouse variety (because Dev insisted he was going to bring his own cookies to the shindig). So between the three, we’ve spent our fair share of time in the kitchen together.

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A cat and some breadsticks

Cats. I love them. Sometimes, though, they can be incredibly frustrating (as any human or other animal can be, I’m sure). Such as this morning when I was walking around in the dark looking for my gym bag and stepped on Finn. He has far better eyesight in the dark than I do. Why wouldn’t he have moved when he saw me blundering his way?

Nick Furry has his own issues. He’s a total nut. He’s still a teenager, though. First thing in the morning he races around the house, jumping on furniture and into windowsills. He hits the dining room chairs so hard that they often slide across the floor. No one’s chasing him. But I think he thinks someone is.

He and I also have a skirmish, usually daily, regarding his desire to sit on the dining room table. Our cat Lucy used to do the same. I’d take her down, she’d get back up. I’d squirt her with a squirt gun, she’d stand there and take it with a look on her face that said, “Nice try!” Nick actually gets down when squirted, but he pops back up like a prairie dog as soon as I’m not looking.

And he, like her, often plays this game when I’m baking. There must be some cat sense that tells them that it’s more fun to be naughty when it requires me to wash my hands after every extrication.

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So, he was interrupting this particular project: rosemary breadsticks from Against All Grain. They are super easy to make, but you have to roll them out one by one, of course, and that’s when he would hop on the table. He’s too smart for his own good.

I want to make sure to mention that not only did Scott like these, Devin actually asked for seconds. That never happens! Especially if he has an inkling that they’re gluten-free. The recipe is in her book, which I highly recommend.DSC_7651
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The coffee ice cream that took a week to make

Yes, the headline is true. One week.

But that’s only if you’re me and you’ve only made ice cream once before, years ago. And you make a mistake that seems entirely silly later on.

Let’s start with why I decided to make this particular ice cream. It goes back to my favorite store-bought ice cream. Which sadly no longer exists. I was very sad for a very long time. And then I had to get over it.

(Why, you ask, didn’t I just switch to another Starbucks ice cream flavor? This one was low-fat, people! And it tasted so creamy and delicious. How could it be low in fat? How? The others were full-fat blowhards. I just couldn’t do it.)

Back to this ice cream. The one I was so excited to make.

It started out nicely. Egg yolks. Aren’t they kind of cool looking all together like that in the bowl?
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And then there’s this. (Obviously, this particular coffee ice cream isn’t low in fat. Ahem.)
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I scalded it as the recipe said.
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I mixed it in with the yolks and sugar and it got all frothy.
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Then I got interrupted by the cat. That wasn’t the problem, though.
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I returned the whole thing to the stove, as instructed, and stirred for 12-15 minutes. (Well, a little bit longer.)
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Then I added the coffee, cooled it down and put it in the ice cream maker. That’s when things went downhill. It churned and churned and churned and churned and…

You get the picture. It was still liquid. No creamy anything. *le sigh*
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To make myself feel better, I enjoyed a glass of wine with my friend Fiona.
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And then I had a cup of coffee. The Escapist. Yum. From The Sparrows.
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And then I watched Devin and Scott play carpetball.
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These things took my mind off of my coffee-ice-cream sorrows.

My sadness was truly lifted when my co-workers heard my tale and began to query me about what I’d done. The ice cream maker was spinning, right? You added salt, right? You used cream, right?

Yes, yes, yes.

And then I innocently said, “I used skim milk. Do you think that was a problem?”

Um, yeah. It was indeed.
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Oh, July…where have you gone!

Someone said just yesterday that it seems like it takes forever for July 4th to arrive, and once it does summer just speeds right by.

That may be true. It seems like we just celebrated Independence Day. Which happens to be my son’s favorite holiday. Even better than Christmas, he claims. And I did indeed take photos over that weekend. And afterward. I actually had a hot streak going with my camera for a bit there.

So with a bit of a delay, here are some photos of our July so far.

Starting with the Fourth, of course! I took lots and lots of photos, but most had my neighbors in them. I didn’t feel like getting all of those photo releases signed. Ha! So you get to see my son’s fireworks wagon – filled to the brim. He was giddy, even if it’s not apparent in these photos.

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The next day we went to Meijer Gardens (free passes from my company – woot!). It was bittersweet for me. The kiddo was hardly interested in the boats this year. The entire children’s garden elicited very little enthusiasm. I remember sitting several times for what seemed like hours as he pushed his little plastic boat around the “great lakes.” Sigh.

But he enjoyed our walk out to the farm garden and the trails.

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Then I made blueberry scones. Which I’m posting here specifically because my mom complained that I post sooo many food photos to my blog. The fact is, I don’t cook or bake enough so when I do…I have to take photos!

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And this was the prep for the faux cherry garcia frozen yogurt that I found and just HAD to make. Can you believe how adorable that cherry pitter is? And way less messy than the other one I had. I wasn’t thrilled with the yogurt, but I think I’ll try it again with a couple of change-ups. It was very close. We’ve also been using our ice cream maker for slushies. They’re Dev’s new obsession.

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Four Mondays in a row!

For some reason, I’m in a bit of a pattern here. Snap photos over the weekend. Post them on Monday.

I’ve actually become quite offline-focused over my weekends. So much so that people are a bit amazed that I didn’t see a Facebook post or respond to their email. I’m in front of a computer all through the week. I guess I see weekends as times to step away. I’m not against picking up my iPad and playing a game of Dots (so flipping addictive) or snapping photos for Instagram or even watching a Netflix movie on the computer. I just don’t feel the desire to engage the way I seem to during the week.

So not unplugged. Un-surfed? Eh. Something like that.

This weekend I caught up on some gardening tasks. It’s amazing how many weeds will grow if you’re not diligent for a few days. (Although try to grow something I *want* to be there and it takes forever!)

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And I finally tried a recipe I’d been dying to make for a few weeks now. Yes, it’s cornbread. And, yes, if you know me well enough, it’s gluten free. I’ve made a few versions. I’ve liked most of them. But this one has rocketed to the #1 spot on my list. I still haven’t mixed up Shauna’s all-purpose flour, which I’ve been meaning to since she made it seem so easy, but the King Arthur version worked just fine here. This is another one of those recipes where you really can’t tell that it’s gluten free. It’s just a really great cornbread recipe. You should try it!

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Mmmm…caramel macchiato

I have Festival photos to post, but I wanted to get these up first. Because my new favorite thing, I’ve decided just now, is making angel food cake. I’m guessing that’s because it tastes so darn good when it’s done. But I’m a bit enamored of the egg-white-whipping process as well. Geeky.

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This one I’d found on Pinterest a few weeks ago and it immediately called my name, “Lori? Lori! You need to make this recipe. You won’t regret it!”

Today turned out to be one where I actually had the time. After three straight days in downtown Grand Rapids, I had one free day to myself. (Well, I was supposed to be on a field trip with my son, but I had an asthma attack last week. Ah, that’s another story.) And today just happens to be my 13-year wedding anniversary – and the day after Scott’s birthday, which he spent crewing stages at the before-mentioned Festival. So I went all cake-baked-bean-lemon-chicken happy and made dinner.

Starting with dessert, of course.

What’s that interesting looking concoction above? Well, this angel food cake is titled Caramel Macchiato Angel Food Cake, so that would be the macchiato ingredient, I believe. It called for espresso power, which I’m clueless about, but Starbucks Via Italian Roast worked great in its place. Just in case you were wondering.

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One dozen eggs. I had to crack 14, though. A couple outwitted me.

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The first time I tried this, I was soooo nervous about whether it would turn out. Soft peaks. Stiff peaks. How was one to tell the difference? But you know what? It’s easy. The egg-crackin’ part is the most challenging part.

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For some reason I really like folding in the flour and such afterward. First, I folded in the espresso-y stuff, which was kind of a new element. Although I felt I had sufficiently folded it, later I found that there were still smatterings at the bottom of the bowl. They ended up kind of “ribboning” through the batter and it made a cool effect. So all was well.

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And ta-dah! Well, it’s not my most smashing photo of an angel food cake. Rushing does that. But you get the idea of the scrumptiousness.

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Especially after Dev blobs on some whipped cream and raspberries. The original recipe calls for caramel sauce, but we didn’t have any and this combo seemed to work out just as nicely.

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