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Archive for November, 2012

roasted asparagus

Need a quick side dish for dinner?  Roasting asparagus is super easy and is like eating asparagus fries.  We like ours to get pretty crisp.

Ingredients:

olive oilkosher salt
1-2 bunches of asparagus
metal pan
optional: parchment paper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F
  2. Rinse and dry your asparagus
  3. Line your metal pan with parchment paper for easy clean up, but you can skip this step if need be. Snap ends off of bottom of asparagus.  They should snap easily at their natural breaking point.  My 3 year old daughter loves to do this party with me.
  4. Lay out the snapped asparagus on the pan.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over them (1-2 TBSP) and then sprinkle with kosher salt.  About 1 tsp of salt per bunch of asparagus, but you can eye-ball this.  You don’t want it to be coated with salt, but you do need more than a pinch.
  6. Toss the asparagus on the pan with the salt and olive oil.  Make sure they’re coated, but you don’t want oil dripping off.
  7. Stick in the oven at 400*F and toss every 15-20 minutes until they are done to your liking.  If you want them crispy, I’d recommend 45 minutes or so.Voila!  Roasted Asparagus!

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My Little Family

I had been planning this day for many, many months. As my husband, a non-athlete, took up running almost 2 years ago, I never thought he would stick with it, and as it turns out, he just completed the Philly Marathon less than a week ago. I am so incredibly proud of him and honored to know him, that I had to come up with a way to support his dedication and honor his perseverance . . . A surprise 35th (gluten-free) birthday party with a running theme!
If there’s anything to know about me, it’s that I LOVE surprises, and I LOVE themes. So, with my dad’s help, it all began.
The theme: a 3.5 mile run for my husband’s 35th birthday. His last name starting with a K, the race was titled:

The BEN K 3.5 mile Run

1. We sent out Evites

Invitation

2. We began designing our race shirts. We first designed them with photoshop and then ironed on each one. I ordered iron-on transfers in bulk from amazon.com (18 for around $18) and the shirts from http://www.shirtsupplier.com (around $2/shirt). Since my husband is from Atlanta, I was able to create the old GA license tag with his birth county on the bottom,  the year he was born, and the year it is now on either side of the tag. All the “sponsors” were places that held importance in my husband’s life, whether it was the brand of shoe he wore (or had worn – my mistake!), his favorite breakfast place, or his alma matter.

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3. It was time to think about ordering the bibs from Athlete Race Number:

Of course Ben got the # 35 bib!

ben’s race number

(The bibs we got were a bit pricier, because my dad agreed to get those if we put him as a sponsor. We got 100 bibs for $45.52, but you can just order 100 plain numbers for $22.43)

4. We then drove around to map out the race course that started and ended at my parents’ house. We made maps of the course. We decided to have a 1.1 mile option as well for walkers and kids.

Benk 3.5 mile loop map

5. I ordered the 2 gluten-free cakes from Sally’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Atlanta, Ga. A 13″x9″ sheet cake came to $35. I also ordered a half-sized cake that came in the round. They iced the cake, but couldn’t decorate it. So, I called on my mother-in-law for her cake-decorating help! (By the way, the cakes are amazing!!! None of the guests knew the difference! And my MIL is amazing!!)

GF B-Day Cake from Sally’s GF Bakery

MIL Decorating Cake

6. Ordering the Food – ALWAYS LOOK FOR COUPON CODES!! I learned the hard way, that there are cheaper ways to do things. I decided to have bagels, veggies & dip, fruit, and water. Since I didn’t have enough time to chop the veggies myself due to the fact I was flying in for this, I called Publix (the grocery) who makes wonderful GF platters. (However, if I’d know, you could pick up platters in the grocery store that weren’t part of the catering for half the price. They didn’t look as nice though.) We got both GF bagels and gluten bagels, because they were cheaper and there was no need for everyone to eat GF.

Publix Fruit Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $36.99
Publix Veggie Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $29.99
Udi’s GF Bagels – 4 bagels for at least $6
Einstein’s Bagels (with 20% whole order coupon) – 13 dozen with 2 containers of spread for $14.50 (pre-coupon)


7. Making the Medals – I made witty race medals for everyone, but the birthday boy. Ben got a 1st place medal from TrophyPartner.com.
The other medals I made using an exacto knife and cardboard. Then I printed up labels with the race date info, slapped them on the back, punched holes with a hole puncher, threaded ribbon from the dollar store through it, and wrote on the front, i.e., from my architect friend I wrote “Fastest Leed Runner”
labeled benk medal

8. The Dollar Store Run – table clothes, platters, cups, napkins, cutlery, bubbles, candles, chalk

9. Creating the Silly Liability Running Waivers for all the many lawyers in the bunch, and whoever signed “agreed” that if they did not cross the finish line, they would pay for our daughter’s education (among other things). That was my dad’s cute idea.

brother-in-law (lawyer) carefully reading the liability waiver with dad

10. Chalking the Race Course – We chalked the whole race the morning of so people wouldn’t get lost.

Dad Chalking Start

11. The Surprise – Priceless!!

Surprised Husband

So, you want to know how I pulled it off? 

I told him that I was going to let him sleep late, and I’d take care of our daughter.  He had no problems with that.  We got up extra early, did everything we needed.  I had the guests arrive in the front to wait in the patio area.  Once they had all assembled, I woke Ben up and had him put on some clothes.  I told him I had made him breakfast and we were going to eat it on the patio outside.  So, this is his face when he made it outside .  .  .

12. The Start of the Race

At the Starting Line

13. The Award Ceremony – At the end of the race, each guest received their special medal and their t-shirt.

14. Ben K Trivia – Food and dessert were complemented by funny trivia all about my husband. We had door prizes to give out with my dad’s logo on them for the winners. One of the questions asked how tall Ben was. We measured him, and the winner got the tape measure!

It was truly an amazing morning! I found this the most fun, because it gave people a reason to be social and get to know one another (and all with-in budget).

Happy Birthday to the most Beautiful Man that I know!

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Christmas time is one of my mom’s favorite holidays, especially because of the lights.  We use to ride to different neighborhoods admiring all the holiday lights.  I, too, got that love from my mom!

So, tonight, with a clear, crisp sky, a half moon hanging above, and many of the people that I love: my mom, dad, husband, daughter, aunt and a few friends went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for their spectacular light show.  In particular, it is a very kid-friendly venue that had my daughter saying, “Come On” throughout the whole gardens.  She didn’t even want to get in her stroller it was so exciting!

We  packed a GF dinner for my daughter and were on our way by 4:45 pm to avoid bedtime conflict.  It was definitely dark by the time we left.

Here were mine and my daughter’s favorite highlights:

1.  A Bonding Moment with Froggy

Froggy on a Bench

2. The Chihuly Fountain (with the half moon hanging over our heads)

Chihuly Fountain

3. The Garden Railway featuring Coca-Cola Trains as well as a Tootsie Roll one

Holiday Garden Railway

4. Lights of Sculpture Dancing to Music

Dancing Lights

5. *S’mores Making – *Note: There is a fire pit where you can roast s’mores that you purchase there.  If you want to make s’mores, bring your own graham crackers (S’morables by Kinnikinnick), chocolate (Enjoy Life), and marshmallows (Kraft).  They provide you sticks, so you’ll have to pay a fee of sorts, but it’s totally worth it.

Fire Pit for S’Mores

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Traveling Trail Mix

If you’re about to travel for any of the upcoming holidays, this is an easy traveling snack to through together.

In any kind of container, mix a hand full of the following ingredients.  Feel free to tell me other foods you like in your trail mix!
– Nature’s Path GF Whole O’s
– Corn Chex
– Eden Organic or Ocean Spray Cranberries
– Raisins
– Happy Baby Green Puffs
– Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
– Snyder’s GF pretzels
– Optional: Nuts of any kind

Dried Cranberries, OrganicNewman's Own Organics Raisins

Enjoy Life Semi-sweet Chocolate Mini Chips
Snyder's Of Hanover Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks

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My daughter & Me at Thanksgiving Dinner

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year because it speaks to cool, crisp air, falling leaves, harvests, family gatherings, and lots of food.  This all sounds great!  Then the reality of the situation hits; my imagination runs wild and I see a playground for gluten: The slide is a big wet lasagna noodle, the swings seats are plump, cushy pumpkin muffins, the dirt is stuffing giving way under the shuffle of feet as animals, adults, and kids slurp and slide all over, smearing gluten from one play structure to the next.
Then the chilly fall air blows across my face and I’m back to reality – gobs of friends and family hovering over the food, fingers picking, serving spoons jumping from one platter to the next. . . This could end up as a regular old disaster, but I then I take hold of my imagination and decide to control the situation with ORDER.

To read more, click here . . .

This article can also be found on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s Celiac Central: Bits and Bites Page

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I was completely overdressed for my mid-morning hike in the woods. The day was unseasonably warm, but since I think in a past life I must have been a sun worshipper, it was the perfect day for me, with the low, fall-sun beaming on my face. I was surprised to find a few radiant leaves still clinging to the branches after both Hurricane Sandy (a.k.a. Frankenstorm) and Nor’easter Athena hit. The gurgling creek passed by next to me, as if carrying all my worries away.

During the fall season, the big dipper, known as the Great Bear begins to sink lower into the night sky. The Native Americans believed it to be an indication of the change in seasons, revealing that the bear was going into hibernation. So, too, are we. Fall and winter are filled with added darkness, a welcomed relief from the busier, more energetic summer days. Fall brings about a calmer air as the days get shorter, and we spend more time indoors hibernating. It is also a time when I am able to spend more time with myself in reflection. This heaven-sent weather and time spent with the trees helped remind me to pay attention to myself if only for a minute.

I reminded myself to really stay focused in the present, take deep breaths, and enjoy where I was. It’s easy for me to find the cell phone or some other means of distraction since I am a creature who loves people and socialization!

As I walked, the blue sky penetrating through the empty branches, I began thinking about my doctor’s appointment the day before. . .
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A bit of background . . . I have been working incredibly hard to regain my health after being sick for so many years before going gluten-free. It’s clear that the diet was the best decision for my body, but I had still been struggling to feel good every day. Often times from vitamin deficiencies I’d feel exhausted, I would run migraines, have stomach aches, or any number of other symptoms. My AMAZING doctor had me tested for other food intolerances through a stool sample. It came up that I have a super high intolerance to casein, (a protein in dairy), as well as minor intolerances to almonds, avocado, coconut, lemon, etc. I was fairly bummed out to learn this, since it meant removing more food from my diet, which I already found limiting. What it also told me is that I have a leaky gut, meaning that food literally leaks out due to past gut damage. The thought was that if I healed my gut, many of these problems would hopefully resolve themselves.

I revisited the doctor to tell her that I have never felt so alive in my whole life (or that I can remember). I had been doing everything in my power (and still am) to heal my gut as crazy as some things might sounds: I swallow whole cloves of raw garlic, eat manuka honey, drink Himalayan salt in my water, take probiotics and prebiotics, drink something called bitters to help stimulate digestion before I eat, and twice a day I make sure I eat fermented foods. This has truly helped me in every way. The migraines are gone, the stomach aches are resolving, and regardless of how little sleep I get, I still feel good. My mind is clear, and I’m just so happy. Being physically sick clearly affected my overall level of happiness.

In a nut shell, my doctor tells me that I’ve done an amazing job of helping my body to heal. She believes that once I have done such damage to my GI tract, she thinks I will always have to take probiotics and eat fermented foods. I guess it seems like a small price to pay, but the truth was that I was a bit disheartened by the news. For once in my life I wanted not to have to be so mindful.

As I walked though the woods, I allowed the wind to help me clear my head. I allowed myself to be sad, but it was hard to feel sad when I could see the beauty around me, and the strength that my body has been given.

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Every fall I have watched as the trees let go of their leaves, but I didn’t always notice. This day, I was noticing everything. Fall is a time for letting go of what we do not need in our lives, just as the trees let go of their leaves. I attempted to let go of that which I could not control; I tried to let go of my sadness and frustration behind my struggle to heal my body.

I also noticed the trees that had already shed their leaves, standing so naked and vulnerable, which is how I think I often feel when I let go of something I have held onto for so long. Without the leaves to hide behind, there are no pretenses with a tree. It is what it is. When I accept where I am in life, then I am being true to myself; I am truly me as the tree is the tree. The noble tree reminded me to accept and embrace who I am and what I have been through as part of being me. When I do that, I find that I really like me, and it makes me a happier person and a better friend.

The same way that different religions are mindful of the foods they eat – like Jews with Kosher foods and Islamics with Halal foods – being gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free has truly taught me mindful eating. I think very hard about where my food comes from, how I’m preparing it, and the energy it gives me. This would have never been my thought process before going gluten-free. I am truly grateful for this path in life, for the good health for which I have worked hard, and all my friends and family who have supported me through it all. For all the moments I forget how lucky I am, I guess this is the season to reflect, remember, and say thank you.

So, just in case you haven’t paid attention to the seasons, it’s not too late to start!

Thank You!

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Adapated from the Oxmoor House

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Athena Winter Squash Muffin with Molasses

So, here I was, home again with my daughter, and instead of Hurricane Sandy, it’s Nor’Easter Athena.  Snow was falling in huge flakes at the beginning of November!!  First I decided that these storms should be named after a man instead of a woman.  I did a little research on names and came up with Seth, because according to mythology, he was an ancient evil god of Chaos, storms, and the desert, who slew Osiris.  That sounded perfect!
Then, I heard sounds of my daughter who slept all of an hour, got up to go to the bathroom, and never went back to sleep.  Great!  I had a whole L-O-N-G afternoon to entertain her.  First we decided to do a holiday craft project for her grandparents, and then we needed a new storm project.  I looked in the fridge and noticed that I had all this hubbard squash in there, so what better thing to make than pumpkin/squash muffins.  When I started looking for recipes, I saw some that had added molasses.  And, since my latest obsession is with molasses, (see Frankenstorm Chocolate Chip and Molasses Brittle Cookies), this seemed perfect.  So, I aptly named the muffins after our storm Athena, a.k.a. Seth.
A Review:
These muffins were super moist, like bread, deep in color from the molasses, not too sweet, and incredibly satisfying.  If wanting a bit more flavor, then I’d recommend ratcheting up the amount of spices.  However, everyone in the house including storm visitors ate more than one!

Athena/Seth GF Winter Squash Molasses Muffins (DF, SF)

Servings:
1 dozen large or 40 mini-muffins
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened – I used Earth’s Balance
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar20121107-200828.jpg
1 large egg
2 cups (1 can) of cooked squash or canned squash/pumpkin
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 3/4 cups GF flour = 218.75 grams or 7.72 oz
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinammon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
*1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Preparation:
If needing to roast squash ahead of time, see blog post on Hubbard Soup for roasting instructions in #1 & 2 of instructions.
1.  Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy, but you can use a whisk if your butter is room temperature.
2.  Slowly add brown sugar, beating/stirring well.
3.  Add egg, beating/stirring well.
4.  Add squash and molasses, beating/stirring well.
5.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spice.  Whisk together to make sure they’re incorporated.
6.  Slowly add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture  (beating at medium-low just until blended).
7.  Stir in nuts.
8.  Spoon into greased muffin pans, filling three-fourths full.
9.  Bake at 375° for 20 minutes and remove.

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Fresh Out of the Oven

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