The kitchen has been my friend lately

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I’m not quite sure how my psyche decides when it’s OK with things and when it’s not. There are some days when coming up with a meal just seems like so much effort. And others when it seems to flow perfectly.

These past few weeks my psyche has been good to me. I’ve come across recipes in magazines or on Pinterest and just gone and tackled them. (It helps if you go with options where you have all of the ingredients already on hand.)

The holiday baking was easy and fun. The holiday meals were too – can you say turkey chili and cornbread for Christmas dinner? And tasty sloppy joes for NYE? (Slow cooking counts as cooking as far as I’m concerned.)

The last two days put my resolve to the test, though. We’ve been snowed in. Polar Vortex. -30 below windchills. 9+ inches of the white stuff. No way in h-e-double toothpicks was I going to attempt a trip to the grocery store. And yet I managed to feed my family pretty well.

The first “trapped in our home” evening I mixed up the fixin’s for turkey burgers and Scott grilled them up. Yesterday I made honey garlic chicken, which Devin insisted tasted just like sloppy joes and then requested a bun to go with it, and pineapple rice. And today it was pizza.

Made with the same crust from a previous post.

This is my third time using this recipe. And with good reason. It’s super tasty – and easy! I wasn’t feeling rushed today so I went ahead and documented tonight’s pizza, beginning with the caramelized onions.

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A few minutes after I got the onions browning, the smoke detector went off. The one my husband installed IN THE KITCHEN. (This is an on-going argument in our home and I’ll leave it at that.) Since the smoke wasn’t going to dissipate quickly, I had to cut the process short so they didn’t do quite what I wanted them to do. But they worked.

I love the proofing part of baking. You don’t get that a whole lot with gluten-free breads. It’s nice to smell that yeasty smell. And watch it bubbling. DSC_4582

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The dough isn’t super sticky with this crust so I just use a bit of brown rice flour on my fingers to press it into the pan.DSC_4597

Here’s the split-personality pizza baking in the oven. Which side do you think belongs to the 9-year-old? (Although he does share with dad, who always nabs a piece of each.)DSC_4599

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With pretty much every holiday, I whip up a fruit salad. And this year we made sure to grab a pomegranate to join the cast. We’ve been gorging on the seeds since Christmas so I topped tonight’s pile o’ fruit with some more. They’re amazingly addictive!DSC_4609

My plate. Filled to the brim! I went with what we had available in the refrigerator, of course. The onions from above, mini bell peppers, spinach, kalamata olives, feta cheese and pine nuts.DSC_4613

Dev got bacon and pineapple – and was pretty geeked about it. He’s a huge bacon fan so these donuts are next up on my list. Hopefully this weekend!DSC_4612

So how was your holiday?

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Ours was pretty sweet. Hee.

No, really. It was quiet, relaxing and rather lovely. I come from an itty-bitty family (just me and my mom) and Scott’s family is spread all over the country. So our celebrations are pretty small and low-key.

I was a little more inclined to bake this year now that I’m more comfortable with the gluten-free flours and methods. Although some of these, such as the chocolaty delights you see below, are just naturally gluten-free – and naturally sinful.

These Faux-Rango Mints were AWESOME. I’ve had a few Frangos in my time (five years in Chicago) and this was an excellent reproduction. Devin crushed the candy canes and sprinkled them on top so I could dip them quickly before the chocolate hardened.

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Had to insert  a couple of pics of my kiddo, who helped with the baking, but was basically so wired about the holiday that it was hard to get him to sit still for long.

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The biggest surprise of the baking adventures were these cookies. Snowy Lemon Cookies. I made them for Dev because he’s crazy about lemons. I’m a chocolate girl and can’t really relate to the lemony love, but when I took a bite of one of these, I was smitten. So. Good. Make them. I command you.

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This was another lemony recipe that sounded up his alley, although I’m not tickled with how they turned out. I’ve probably eaten maybe one lemon square in my life so I’m not familiar with the texture, but these were kind of gloppy. You basically had to eat them with a fork. And once the kiddo grabbed his fork, he announced that they were delicious. Way too lemony for me, though. Potently lemon. Pucker-up lemon.

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That wasn’t the only Rice Krispies recipe we tackled. Dev’s plan for Santa (in whom he still seems to believe, even though just a couple of years ago he seemed to be doubting the whole shebang) was to serve up Rice Krispies trees. Decorated with neon-green icing and cinnamon candies. And because he imagined that Santa might be a bit famished after all that sleigh-driving, he left him three. Between these and the lemon cookies – oh, and let’s face it, the mints – I was riding a sugar high for a couple of days. In the spirit of the holiday, of course!

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Catching up with the Smiths

What have we been up to lately?

Well, fall came and went. Luckily, we did get a chance to enjoy it before the snow took over. And? It’s Thanksgiving this week. That came up crazy fast!

We hiked.IMG_4269 IMG_4270

We hung out with some dinosaurs.IMG_4282

We did not visit the planetarium because it was closed, but that didn’t stop us from having some fun with the props.IMG_4284

We humiliated the kitten by placing a tiny baseball cap on his head. Go, Whitecaps!IMG_4262

We snuggled really close to him, too. IMG_4302

We manned our scooping/cleaning/petting shifts at Crash’s.IMG_4324

We got sick. Ugh. First the kid, then the parents. Thank goodness for Netflix!IMG_4331

We met some nice owls. IMG_4356

Dad started teaching him guitar, which makes him happy.IMG_4366

Smashing pumpkins and making pizza

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Can you tell school has started?

It’s the time of year when I feel like I can almost hear my free time whirling down the drain.

I don’t mean that in an awful way, really. It’s just that it takes a while to get back into the school routine and learn how to better manage our family time. Tighter schedule. Homework. Cross country. Playdate requests with school buddies. It’s all good.

I just have to squeeze in some time here and there to use my camera, process my photos and write down some words.

First came Halloween. Our first year of rejecting the “cute” costumes. He was adamant about being a zombie. So there he is, stylin’ hair-do and all. It rained. I was grumpy about having to walk around in it, but it was actually wasn’t as cold as I’d feared and my rain jacket did a nice job of keeping me fairly dry. He had a blast and that’s all that counts.

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That weekend visited Blandford Nature Center. It’s closed on Sundays, but the trails are all open for exploring. And we weren’t the only ones who had that idea. (We ran into one of his buddies from class too). Today’s weather proves that we have to take those sunny fall days when we can get them. Because the white stuff has descended on Michigan and the landscape begins to change oh-so fast.

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That goat is either Fuji or Wonder. Dev first met the goats during his summer camp adventures at Blandford. Apparently the goats were named after apple varieties. I’d never heard of the wonder variety before. But now I know!

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Then it was time to clean up the Halloween paraphernalia. I raked leaves while he smashed pumpkins to smithereens. Can you imagine how happy he was about that?

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When I saw the name of this recipe (The Best Gluten-Free Pizza Crust), I was a tiny bit skeptical. People just shouldn’t throw around the phrase “the best” without having some serious cred to back it up.

I do believe this one could be in the running, that’s for sure. It was super easy to make and tasted better than the mixes I had come to rely on. Even pressing it into the pan wasn’t a hassle. There was nothing gooey about it. Just a little extra brown rice on my fingers and it was ready for the oven.

I humored the boy with the pepperoni variety. The last photo shows him demoing how I should cut it into thirds so everyone had a section.

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I went to a concert and took photos of my kid

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I would have taken photos of Natalie MacMaster if we’d been a little closer to the stage. But from our vantage point, she was kinda tiny. Her sound, however, was pretty massive.

At the intermission, Devin said, “Let’s climb the hill!” I hadn’t really looked at the hill before then. I was aware of the hill, sure. I’d seen people heading farther up it to find seats. And we were at a ski resort, for goodness sake. Why I never considered the hill is beyond me.

So without looking at the hill, I said, “Sure!” (Well, maybe not with an exclamation point. A period is probably more accurate.)

After seeing the hill, I had to chuckle. I didn’t doubt I could do it, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run up it like the child was doing already.

Getting to the top was worth it, though. It was a nice view on a summer evening. And he was pretty darn happy about the whole thing. He ran back down, of course. Me? I did not.

My one photo of Natalie is down at the bottom as we waited in line for an autograph.

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Feelin’ cubey

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There are times when I feel like I’m letting my kiddo down when it comes to the act of play.

It’s not that I’m not playful. It’s just that we have different interests or different energy levels depending on the timing.

Some of his favorite things to do:

  • Legos
  • Matchbox/Hot Wheels
  • Superheroes
  • Baseball cards (or Pokemon)
  • Nerf battles
  • Monopoly
  • Water balloons
  • “You be xxx and I’ll be yyy.” (Pretend play, essentially)
  • Using his magnifying glass to burn random objects
  • “Sit on me!” (He gets on the bed and I pile pillows on top of him and do as he commands)

There are many more, of course. He’s a kid. An energetic and enthusiastic kid.

And it’s not like this list is filled with horrible activities. (Well, I’m not a big fan of pretend play and I HATE Monopoly.) It’s just that, as I mentioned before, I’m not always filled with energy. How he can spend all day at camp, running around like crazy, and come home in the evening still charged with energy amazes me. I sit on my butt at work, do the dishes and feed the pets and I’m wiped out. Or I just want to cozy up in a chair with a book. My own book.

I had one of those tired moments when I got home this weekend. I spent a few days visiting my mom. Not exhausting at all, really. But I drove home, unpacked my stuff and just felt like doing nothing. And here comes my adorable child with a sheet of printed cardboard and a request: “Mom, can you cut out the pieces so I can build my CubeeCraft?”

Did I mention that all of the pieces had little tabs that had to be cut just so?

It seemed like an enormous task. My face fell slightly and he quickly said, “Nevermind.” Aw, now…really? I’d obviously disappointed him in the past with that same reaction for him to give up that easily. And the sight of his resigned little face gave me a burst of guilt-induced energy. And I grabbed the scissors. And now we have a square-headed stormtrooper.

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Well, at least the sun is shining

I’ve been trying very hard to be patient with spring this year. As soon as the calendar turned to March, I heard people grumbling that it was still snowing. Well, yeah…it’s Michigan. But it kept snowing and it’s also stayed cold. And now that it’s actually April, I, too, am officially cranky about the whole thing.

Spring is supposed to be about optimism. But when the highs are barely in the 30s, it’s a decidedly more pessimistic feeling.

Still, we’ve had some sunny days. And I see some 40s and 50s in this week’s forecast. So I leave you with some of the spring-ish photos that have been bright spots over the past couple of weeks.

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Dinosaur war

DSC_1562-2The other day I heard Devin outside my office door making typical “playing with toys” noises. I asked him what he was playing and he told me he was setting up a battle. Sounded good to me. And on I worked.

A half hour or so later, I came out of my office and stepped right into that battlefield.

It was epic.

Soliders lined up against beasts. (Some of those beasts being of the cuddly variety.) Each army heavily fortified. A helicopter on hand to spirit away casualties. I was impressed.

I suggested that he might want to capture some memories of the scene. And, conveniently, Grandma had just passed down her old digital camera to him. So he grabbed the camera and started to shoot. He got down on the floor for a close-up view and at one point he ran downstairs and returned with a step stool to get an aerial vantage point. None of which was suggested by amateur photographer Mom. He came up with those perspectives himself.

He may even have taken as long to photograph the scene as he did to set it up!

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Fish eggs and chocolate chip pie

That headline got your attention, didn’t it?

No, we aren’t of the ilk who can afford caviar. (And, um, yuck!) We are all about making our own fish eggs. Short-statured scientist in the house!

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And while he was mixing up his red-hued concoction, I was baking up a very yummy gluten-free treat. This is called something along the lines of Chickpea Chocolate Chip Pie. You read that right. A pie made from garbanzo beans. This should not alarm you. Not at all. Because there is still chocolate in it. Can’t you see those Nestle Tollhouse Morsels? Chocolate chips and plenty of fiber. All is right with the world!

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Assaulting you with chocolate (aw, c’mon, you know you love it!)

DSC_1438 The boy had a half day today, although they let them out after lunch. So there went my plans for a shared midday meal. However, quick thinking led me to another, even better option. Dessert at Marie Catrib’s! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?! Duh!

The last time we snagged snacks from Marie’s my husband said, “I snuck a bite of Devin’s dessert. I think I love Marie.” Her stuff, all of it, is that good. In fact, we stopped by around 1:30 and there was still a long line for lunch. We were thinking on our feet and opted to get our treats to go instead.

The first thing we did when we got home was break out the chocolate goodness! (Well, Devin did some odd thing involving wrapping up a book we’d just bought so he could pretend it was a gift. But after that, he was all forks!)

His was a double-chocolate concoction. It should also be noted that it was BIGGER than mine. Not that I’m the jealous type. (Well, yes I am.) Mine was a GF chocolate mint creation. I gobbled mine down and he saved half of his for later. We are now fully sated with chocolate, thank you very much.

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