Now for the cinnamon rolls

You know how you realize something is probably not good for you, but it looks so tasty, that you decide to go ahead and make it anyway? That’s where I was with these cinnamon rolls.

I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before. I haven’t eaten that many either, to be honest. Most of the bakeries near me bake up versions that are as big as your head. I tend to be a more modest eater of baked goods.

But I saw a photo on Pinterest and it just called to me. The recipe seemed pretty straightforward too. So there ya go…I had to do it.

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I got a bit discouraged at this point when I realized I now had to roll all of this dough up into a log. I was right to be wary, too, since the dimensions I’d been instructed to roll to made for some pretty thing dough. Dev walked by when I was in the midst of it and about to give up and said, “You’re doing great, Mama!” So I persisted and grabbed dough from the ends to cover all of the spots where the brown sugar was tumbling out.

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And that’s why my log looks a little, um, homely. I figured no one would really care about the appearance if they actually tasted good.

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And they did! Taste good, that is. Not just good. Really good. I had to make myself stop picking at them while they were cooling.

Of course, just because they’re gluten-free doesn’t mean they’re better for you. Uh-uh. These clocked in at more than 400 calories each. So I’ve been trolling around for some alternative recipes that might make me feel a bit less guilty. But I don’t really regret trying this out. Especially when Dev requested one for breakfast the next day.

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Kiss us, we’re Irish

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We are waiting, sort of patiently, for spring to arrive. I think this past winter (it’s officially spring, so I think I’m allowed to put it in the past, cold temps withstanding) will be one for the record books. Well, at least I hope it will. If I have that to look forward to for the next winter season, I’m seriously contemplating moving the entire family south. Forever!

OK…drama’s over.

St. Patty’s Day is a spring-oriented holiday, yes? Our neighbors had a gathering and I made these strange-looking mint cheesecake cups. They weren’t a big hit. Because if you saw these next to some perfectly decorated, decadent-looking brownies, you’d probably choose the brownies. But I promise…they taste pretty good. Mine didn’t look nearly as nice as the ones on the blog where I got the recipe. I believe some extra spinning in the food processor might be called for next time.

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Also, these are vegan cheesecake cups and made with only natural sugars. Unlike the cinnamon rolls I made yesterday (with photos to come), which came out to 440 calories per roll! So good, but so full of sugar. I’ve been a sugar fiend for my entire life and my attempt to reduce my intake is genuine, but not an easy feat. I know I feel better when I eat less of it, though, so the cinnamon rolls will be a rare treat.

I didn’t take the irish soda bread to the party. For two reasons. One, it’s gluten-free and I’m the only one who in that circle who needs to eat that way. The other reason is that it turned out so well that I kinda wanted to keep it to myself. So I did! (Well, I did share with my husband. The kid didn’t really care one way or the other. ) I found another recipe last week that I’m also going to try. This one has raisins. It sounds pretty temping too.

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Florida – one month later

Yep…an entire month has gone by since we returned from our trip.

I’ve been to Florida many times since I met Scott because some of his family lives there. And it’s always been a welcome change of scenery from the colder weather. This trip, though, was the first one where I felt sad leaving. Probably a combination of the dread of returning to the frigid weather, not wanting to let go of the relaxing feeling of a vacation and wanting to hold on to the joy of watching Dev explore a new place. (One that’s complete with amusement parks, alligators and an ocean.)

We flew direct to Sanford International Airport, which was awesome. Quick and easy flight. Quick and easy car rental. Not so quick and easy drive to Orlando (crazy Florida traffic!).

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Sanford – we were looking for alligators but it was pretty chilly when we arrived.

Dev was so, so excited about Universal. The parents weren’t really on that same wavelength, especially the daddy parent. However…it turned out to be way more fun than the adults had anticipated and spending a full day trekking around the park didn’t even phase us. You can see the smile on the kiddo in the photos. It was there for most of the trip!

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Dev wasn’t the only one excited about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

As much as I loved Hogwarts and the butter beer, I was LESS than thrilled with the Dragon Challenge coaster. Even with dramamine in my system, that ride kicked my butt. Of course it was the first one we went on that morning and I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to do anything else once I got off and swerved like a drunk for several minutes. Happily, the Hogwarts ride went smoothly and I handled the rest like a champ.

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My view waiting in line to get into Ollivander’s – the longest line of all.
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The kid is a huge Jurassic Park fan.
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I think the water rides ended up being his favorite.
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It was only 55 degrees, but the sunshine made getting drenched a non-event.
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It seemed like every ride had its own unique glasses you had to wear.
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This? So, so good. I had two. Yes, I did.

Over the weekend we did some visiting with family and friends. We got to catch up with sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews (and grandnieces and nephews) and various new in-laws. We traveled to New Smyrna Beach to meet up with a friend we’d both worked with in Chicago. She’s a huge nature enthusiast and brought along a mermaid’s purse for Dev. He was thrilled. He was also pretty geeked about chasing the seagulls on the beach. It was too chilly and windy to spend as much time on the sand as we would have liked, but he was happy as the proverbial clam while we were there.

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See? He loved it.
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Dev thought these birds looked like “those bald guys who have just hair on the sides of their head” – apologies to any of those guys who might be reading this.

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Meet-up with Patty! Photo by Dev.

After the beach we went to Blue Spring to see the manatees. In all the years I’ve been visiting Florida, I’ve never seen one. Imagine my giddy excitement when I saw the first one. I think Dev thought I was a little crazy. He was way more impressed by the alligator that was lounging on a log in the middle of the manatee party.

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There’s an alligator lurking amongst those manatees. Beware!

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 The last day we headed back to Universal to try the other side of the park. The one with The Simpsons recreation, including Duff Beer for Dad!

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 There was plenty of other fun to be had, including riding The Mummy three times and dining on a deck with plenty of sun and and a nice breeze in “San Francisco.”

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This one would have made me hurl. I’m pretty sure of that.

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There’s that smile again. I’m so happy that he was so happy!

More potatoes and a candle

Since my last potato post, we went on a vacation. But I’ll go against my instincts of posting in chronological order and share today’s meal first. Because it was super easy to make and super delicious.

Red potatoes + sweet potatoes = potato goat cheese gratin. The original recipe called for squash, but my two guys aren’t keen on that particular vegetable. So I improvised. I used a big 13 x 9 dish and we hardly had any leftovers. So a good choice, I’d say! I paired it with grilled chicken and fruit. And followed it with the chocolate goodness below Start scrollin’!

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Mousse!

I love mousse. Lots.

This one’s made with tofu. My only beef (food pun) is that it turned out crumbly. That may be operator/chef error. But the taste was delectably awesome. And with his birthday just a couple of days away, Dev decided to make this his first birthday treat by plopping in a Lego candle.

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Mr. Potato, I love you!

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I made a mistake the other day that was one of those awesome I’m-glad-I-made-that-mistake mistakes.

You’ve had them, right?

I wanted to make a pizza with potatoes on it. With goat cheese. Doesn’t that sound gooooood? So I was going to roast the potatoes and then bake up the pizza.

Didn’t work. The potatoes started to burn. Ack! Panic! So I grabbed the tray from the oven and tried to rescue the unburned ones. I popped one of the browned potato slices in my mouth and…

Oh.

My.

Goodness.

A potato chip that tasted FAR, FAR better than the potato chips you get in a bag. Why on earth had I never tried this before? Just a little bit of olive oil and some sea salt and I was smitten. Completely and utterly smitten.

Since we have a big ol’ bag of potatoes on the counter right now, tonight I decided to make potato chips on purpose. And, yes, it was the same deliciousness as before. One potato for Devin, one for me. Happy, happy, joy, joy!DSC_4758

Costco love = super-tasty donuts

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I love Costco.

Before we joined, a friend of mine used to go on and on and on about how much she loved Costco. And it drove me nuts.

“Shut up about Costco!” I wanted to yell. (But I didn’t. Because I love her and that might just have hurt her feelings.)

And now? I totally get it. Two summers ago I found a skort there for $9.99 that ended up being my season staple. Last year they brought back the same brand and style and I bought four more.

What else? Big containers of feta cheese, Amylu’s chicken sausage 4-pack (even though the gouda usually squirts out while eating dinner and nails a fellow family member in the eye), Baking Essentials gluten-free bread, G.H. Cretors Chicago-style mix in gigantic bags (which last about three days, tops, in our house), Starbucks Refreshers by the case and random stuff that pops up that you didn’t know you needed. And books. Reasonably priced books.

As I was perusing the book section just a couple of weeks ago, I came across Against All Grain, a book I’d heard about from the author’s website. (I have plenty of her recipes pinned on my GF boards.) It was just $19.97, which seemed a pretty decent price for a book that seemed to have a lot of tasty recipes within.

And as soon as I bought a couple of items that I was lacking, I mixed up these DONUTS. (She spells them doughnuts, but I’ve always been a fan of the shorter version.)

When I mentioned trying the recipe, Dev was thrilled of course. But I wasn’t sure if he’d like them. He’s a big glazed-donut fan, and these are more akin to cake donuts. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because he loved them. As you can see below. (The chocolate frosting probably didn’t hurt.)

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I had canned pumpkin coconut milk leftover from the recipe. I was determined not to let them go to waste. So I used the coconut milk in a peanut chicken recipe. And then I found a great use for the pumpkin. Another tasty treat – pumpkin chocolate chip oat bars!

These, too, were awesome. Which might lead you to believe that pumpkin is a fine ingredient to bake with. I’d certainly agree.

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The baking was from January, but these nachos I actually made today. (I can’t remember the last time I snapped a photo and blogged about it in the same day, much less the same week!)

These nachos are definitely a bit unorthodox. (And for some reason I only make nachos on Super Bowl Sunday. Must remedy that!) Yes, there are tortilla chips. And salsa (although I use pineapple salsa). And chicken. And cheese. The typical shredded Mexican cheeses and FETA. Because feta rocks, as I mentioned above in my Costco rundown. There is also spinach and one of my favorite ingredients – pineapple tidbits. (They perfectly complemented the salsa, of course.) So it ends up a sweet-salty taste treat.

You may notice that one half of this dish of nachos contains pepperoni. That was a special ingredient to please the 9-year-old. He was indeed pleased.
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Chocolate chip yumminess

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Amazon delivered my 5-lb. bag of almond flour today.

On the back of said bag of flour was a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Looking through the ingredients I was happy to note that I had everything I needed to make them. So why not, right?

So, so glad that I did. These were guuuuuud!

I ate four.

Really.

It was sad. But not sad, too, because I found another go-to recipe. One which also passed muster with the kiddo, who was a little confused by how soft they were, but otherwise pleased. (These are rather “oily” in consistency when you bake them and they have to set for a bit after you take them out of the oven in order to firm up. I brought Dev his when they were still warm and soft.)

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And then Nick started goofing around in the kitchen. So I had to include him in the post. DSC_4662

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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Holy butter, Batman!

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I kind of knew better. I pinned these cookies a while back, but I’ve been avoiding them. Why? Because there are 18 tablespoons of butter in the cookie and the frosting combined. Ay-yi-yi!

Before I had to give up gluten, my favorite recipe source was Cooking Light. I like to eat good food, but I prefer it to be the healthier version of that food when possible.

What I’ve found with many gluten-free recipes is that they retain the tasty nature of wheat by dosing the wheat-less version with plenty of sugar. Or butter, in this case. Whatever flour you use is going to taste darn good when paired with lots of chocolate chips or other tempting ingredients.

And that’s fine. There are many people who bake up delicious stuff that would never ever appear in Cooking Light. The food tastes great and everyone should indulge sometimes.

I guess, though, that I’m on the hunt for the gluten-free version of my favorite magazine. And I haven’t yet found it. I did discover some other GF bakers/chefs who have blogs and are focused more on creating more healthful options, but some of the ingredient lists on those are enormous – and intimidating.

I really don’t mean to demonize these cookies. They’re sugar cookies with icing. A typical holiday treat. And they’re darn good. I just think next time around I’m going to try to find a lighter version. Because it’s amazingly hard to resist eating the extra frosting when it tastes so yummy!

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Baking and bothersome cats

Let’s start with the cats, shall we?

It’s the holiday season. We have a new kitten. You can see where this is going right?

He’s only climbed into the tree once, thankfully. He knocks down just one ornament a day. Only two of them have broken so far. (Thank you, Crazy Glue.) He starts from the farthest point, runs super fast, and slides right into the base of the tree. So the gifts have been relocated. As has the tree skirt.

If only it were him, though. The 14-year-old really should know better. I moved the gifts to a bench in the corner and she keeps climbing all over them. And she and the other “adult” cat in our house have both started chewing – and swallowing – the decorative ribbon. Which is not meant to be chewed and swallowed. The stinkers.

Innocent? I think not.
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The senior citizen climbs right up.
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And then they tried to engage in a fight in the midst of the gifts.
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He’s been pretty good.
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And now to the baking…

For Thanksgiving we cooked up cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole, popovers and this pie, which I could have eaten by myself in a single sitting (so yummy!). I sadly have no photos of that pie. I don’t have many photos of that day because I was scrambling around so much that the camera was hardly touched. But it was good stuff!

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The banana bread below looks good, doesn’t it? Well, I didn’t love it. It called for coconut oil, which I’ve been baking with a lot since the gluten-free change. But it came out kind of greasy. So I’m sharing the nice-looking photo and I shall pretend that I made the best banana bread ever.
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These, on the other hand, did not fail. They, in fact, got the thumbs-up from my kiddo, who is slightly afraid of gluten-free baking. (Maybe because of things like the banana bread incident?) Truffle cookies with Kisses. Nom, nom, nom!DSC_4461 DSC_4458 DSC_4457