Archive for the ‘Desserts’ Category

We Are So Excited! Part 1

My middle and youngest brothers

My middle and youngest brothers

There are so many things for our family to be excited about this spring and summer, that it is hard to keep them in order and write about them all.

I guess one of the most exciting events will be  this coming summer. My younger brother, Eric, is getting married to the sweetest gal I’ve ever met, his fiancee, Rachel. (Eric is picture on the right wearing the glasses and standing next to my baby brother, Roy.)  As if a wedding and the resulting family reunion that creates wasn’t exciting enough,  Eric and Rachel will tie the knot on Pioneer Pa and I’s  11th Wedding Anniversary.  It is sure to be a great time for all, including our kids, who will be getting to see their cousins for the first time in 7 years and getting to see their great-grandmothers, whom the older two barely remember and the youngest has never met.

The Original Modern Pioneer Ma... I learned from the best!

The Original Modern Pioneer Ma… I learned from the best!

Traveling to Missouri this summer for Eric and Rachel’s wedding will be our family vacation this year.  It will also be our 1st major homeschooling field trip.  We plan to visit, Independence Square & Courthouse (the gateway of the Oregon, Santa Fe and Mormon Trails), visit the Harry S. Truman Home, Library, the soda fountain where Harry Truman had his 1st job, Bess Truman’s Tea Room, Ft. Osage and the Lexington Civil War Battlefield.  If there is time, we might visit Jamesport, MO (home of the outlaw, Jesse James), a Natural History/Science Museum or a Zoo.

In other news, I’m so pleased and relieved to once again have my income taxes filed for another year.  If you’ve never had to file your farming income along with the regular income taxes for a job in town, this is quite the chores and every year I am thrilled and excited once it is crossed off my to-do list.

Other things I’m happy to have crossed off the to-do list this week: Finding Eggplant purple dress shirts for both Farmer Boys to wear at their uncle’s wedding and finding the perfect yellow & white Easter dress/dress for uncle’s wedding for our Littlest Pioneer Girl (oh and finding a matching pair of  dress shoes to go with it for $1 at the thrift store! Cha-ching!)

Other things of course have been added to the to-do list since though.  My mom and I were assigned to plan the rehearsal dinner/BBQ.  And I was specifically assigned the task of designing, baking and decorating the grooms cake because I am apparently the family guru of special foods needs AND the best cake decorator in the family.

The Adaptable Pumpkin Pie

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!

   The daily management of meals is complicated for families with multiple food allergens.  When the holidays arrive, the stresses of meal management multiply to seemingly a thousand-fold.  This year our holiday meal issues will include managing for the following foods issues: 2 people who are allergic to milk and bananas, 1 person who can’t eat foods with gluten, 1 person who’s allergic to soybeans and avocados, 1 person allergic to strawberries and 1 person who’s diabetic.  This traditional pair of Thanksgiving recipes is written toward persons with these food allergens and with substitution suggestions for the diabetic too.

A Little Schoolhouse On the Prairie Moment (aka An After-schooling Lesson):  Allow your children to help you with your holiday baking.  The youngest toddlers will have fun with a bowl and wooden spoon, older toddlers and preschoolers can help w/ cookie cutter decorations and stirring.  Older kids get an arithmetic lesson in measurements and fractions when they help measure and stir the ingredients together and can practice understanding temperature by setting the oven to preheat at the correct temperature.  Ask your teenagers/preteens to convert temps F to C and measurements to metric system for fun or research for the family the origins of various holiday foods to share this information with the family during the meal.

Traditional Pastry Crust

(A Gluten-Free/Soy-Free/Dairy-Free

adaptation of my grandmother’s pastry crust)

*This recipe makes a 2 crust pie or 2 one crust pie plus extra to be used for decoration

1 cup Spectrum Palm Shortening (or lard… grandma always used Crisco, plain or butter-flavored)

     *if using lard, chill it in the freezer for an hour or two prior to use.

 3 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour blend w/ xanthan gum already in it (I like Jules Gluten-Free Flour or Namaste Perfect Blend flour) or more as needed

    *amount of flour needed will vary due to natural moisture in the flour blend and the type of “shortening” used, lard is softer and will need more flour to make a good crust, however, it’ll also make a little bit larger batch.

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cider or rice wine vinegar

Ice water

   Place  flour, salt and shortening in a large mixing bowl.  Cut the flour mixture into the shortening with a fork or pastry blender if doing it by hand.  I prefer a more mechanical method for the sake of speed.  I place these ingredients in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and cut the shortening into the flour using the whisk attachment.

Add the vinegar and mix well (many of the gluten-free recipes I have come across in the last 2 years for baking have contained a small amount of vinegar with the explanation that it helped somehow activate the xanthan gum that is used as a binder to replace gluten???  Not sure if that’s right or not, as what I know about xanthan gum is that it activates in most liquids, but I liked that the tiny amount of vinegar gave the crust some pleasing  flavor, as it was otherwise a little blah to me after using butter flavored Crisco for many years.)  Add the ice water very slowly by the teaspoonful, mixing well between additions.  You will find this recipe needs less liquid than your typical wheat-flour based pie crust, especially if you use lard in place of shortening.

Once mixed, divide dough into 2 portions.  Form into 2 discs and wrap in parchment or wax paper and chill dough for several hours in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge.  Line the surface on which you are rolling out your dough with parchment or waxed paper.  Sprinkle the paper with tapioca flour or cornstarch.  Place your disc of dough in the center of the paper and sprinkle this with tapioca or cornstarch too.  Place another piece of parchment or waxed paper on top.  Using your rolling pin, roll out dough into a thin sheet.  Remove the top layer of paper and gently lay your pie plate on top of the dough upside-down.  Carefully and gently flip the plate and dough over together.  Press the dough down into the pie plate gently then cut away excess dough with a knife.  Crimp or flute the edge of the pie using your favorite method.  Shapes may be cut out of excess dough using cookie cutters to place on the pie after it is filled with it’s filling.  Try leaves, pumpkins, acorns etc for Thanksgiving or stars, mittens, trees, reindeer etc. for Christmas.

*For a 2 crust pie, repeat the dough rolling instructions for the 2nd crust after filling the pie with it’s filling, then crimp or flute and decorate.

** For a pie shell that is to be filled with a chilled filling, place the  crust in the pie plate, prick crust w/fork to prevent air bubbles, then cover with foil and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake at 350 F for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on your oven).  Cool and fill with chilled filling or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Gluten-Free/Casein-Free/Soy-Free

with low-sugar suggestions

Pie Filling:

1 (15 oz) can solid pack/pure pumpkin puree (or if you prefer, roast a pie or heirloom pumpkin in your oven, scoop out flesh and use this in place of canned pumpkin– directions to follow at the end of the post.)

1 cup sugar (or 1 cup Splenda/Sugar blend or 1 cup Stevia in the Raw, if using sugar substitutes, plan to keep this pie chilled in the fridge to prevent it from molding if making it ahead or if you have leftovers)

1 can (15 oz) coconut milk (unsweetened)

3 eggs

2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (to taste)

1 tsp.ground  allspice

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or mace

In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar (or substitute) and eggs with a whisk until well blended.  Add pumpkin puree and whisk until well blended. Pour in coconut milk and once again mix in very well with a whisk.  Stir in spices until thoroughly mixed.

Pour into your prepared pie crust.  Decorate top of your pie as desired, sprinkling top of decorative crust pieces with a little granulated sugar or colored sugar sprinkles for sparkle.  Bake at 350 F for approx. one hour (or maybe a little longer… you want to bake until the filling appears to have set up since this is a “custard” type pie) depending on your oven.  This crust does not brown quite as much as a wheat flour based crust, so personally, I’ve been able to skip the step of covering the edge of my crust with foil and baking at 2 different temperatures.

To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree:

    Choose pie pumpkins or small to medium sized heirloom pumpkins (the green Jaradale and the light orange and dark red-orange “Cinderella” pumpkins are among my favorites for this).  Depending on your timing, you can cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side down in a baking pan with a little water in it and bake for 30-60 minutes (depends on size of pumpkins) or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

OR

knock the stem off your pumpkin(s), wrap the whole pumpkin(s) fully in foil and heat your oven to 200 F, place wrapped pumpkin(s) on a cookie sheet(s) and place in the oven before going to bed, allow pumpkin(s) to slowly roast ovennight. Check to see they are tender first thing in the morning and remove from the oven to cool.  When cool enough to handle, cut in half and scoop out the seeds.

For both continue as follows…

Scoop out flesh with a large metal spoon and place into a large bowl or the bowl of your food processor (this may need to be done in several batches).  Mash puree by hand with a fork or potato masher or puree in a food processor.  Set aside the amount needed for your pie or other recipe.  Portion the rest out into 1 qt. freezer bags and freeze for later use.

This roasting, mashing and freezing process also works with other types of winter squash and is an excellent way to preserve the squash crop from your garden.  (Summer squashes can be grated raw and frozen for later use as well.)

Mystery Recipe Monday- July 9, 2012

Okay everybody, I know it’s been quite a while since we have done the Mystery Recipe Monday thing… but I really feel like we should get back into the habit once again.  All of you really seem to enjoy it when I post recipes, as we get lots of visitors and regulars who stop by to see what the “good lookin’  Modern Pioneers have got cookin’!”  Many of you will remember parts of that line from a Hank Williams Sr. song entitled “Hey, Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’!”

Today we have something really good lookin’ a-cookin’ in the Modern Pioneer Kitchen. (Oh, and it’s also really good tastin’ too!)  I (Modern Ma) am so delighted with my newly remodeled kitchen that I have been itching to get in there and really put this beautifully functional and just plain beautiful work-space to hard work. We finished this huge home improvement project (stay tuned for several upcoming DIY posts about remodeling a farmhouse kitchen on a budget), just in time… for a monumental heat wave… OF COURSE!  So the past couple weeks have been mostly salads and foods that can be cooked via microwave, such as turkey enchiladas made with ground turkey I had            pre- cooked and frozen for later use and Spanish rice made with leftover rice I had also frozen as an easy prepare staple for hot or busy evenings.  Due to the heat-wave, Pioneer Pa and I decided to put off having an anniversary cake until the weather cooled (our wedding anniversary being June 29th and being as this one is #10, I felt like I ought to do a special dessert.)

Having seen a variation of Red Velvet Cake done in blue by the Betty Crocker test kitchen , I decided try my hand at a beautifully decorated Gluten Free version of my own variation a Black Velvet Cake (okay I was actually aiming for a Royal Purple Velvet, Pa’s favorite color being purple… but alas I was completely out of both red and purple food coloring… trying to use up much of my old Wilton gel food coloring before the kiddos return home)… so I did it with black food coloring which I had a lot of (if you think red and yellow food coloring makes little boys hyper-active, try giving them black food coloring! Grab a putty knife and prepare to scrape those boys off your ceiling!).  Yes, Black Velvet Cake, sounds very “Elvis Presley”, but it should be very beautiful and dramatic (is anything quite so elegant as a black and white cake in the world of desserts?)… quite suitable for a 10th Wedding Anniversary.  Especially considering that we had a Christmas In June Wedding, which was also quite stunning and dramatic in it’s own right.

So, now for our Mystery Recipe Monday recipes.

Black Velvet Anniversary Cake

(A Special Gluten-Free Dessert for Special Occasions )

*WARNING– This cake is NOT FD&C DYE FREE and NOT DAIRY FREE

2 pkg. Betty Crocker Gluten-Free yellow cake mix

6 large eggs

2/3 cup. canola oil

1 TBSP Cocoa Powder, leveled

1 cup plain soy or almond milk

1 tsp. cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 of a large jar of Wilton Gel Food Coloring (Black)

Prepare cake mix, as per manufacturer’s directions, adding the cocoa powder into the cake mix before adding the wet ingredients. Substitute the soy/almond milk, vinegar and 1/2 cup water for the water called for on the box.  Mix in food coloring

Grease  four 8 inch or three 9 inch  round cake pans and divide the batter equally among the pans.  Space them equally in the oven on both racks and bake at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean.  Remove from oven and cool in the pans on a cooking rack until about room temp. If your cakes mound up in the center, you can level them once they are removed from the pans with a serrated bread knife.

Place bottom layer on a cardboard circle or a  cake plate/cake stand. Fill with cream cheese icing or another favorite filling (such as raspberry or blackberry jam, or both jam and cream cheese icing together would be lovely, 2 layers of filling).  Place next layer on top of  bottom layer, leveled-side down, and once again fill between layers with icing or favorite filling.  Repeat for 3rd and 4th layers.

To seal in crumbs, thinly frost cake w/ room temp. cream cheese icing, starting at the top center and working out toward the top edge and then down the sides with a large angled (off-set) metal spatula.  TIP: If you have a rotating cake stand or a lazy-susan from your spice cabinet, place your cake plate/round on it and use this to smoothly turn the cake as you frost it… this makes the job a little faster and easier and usually results in a more professional looking cake.

Once cake is crumb-coated, place in the fridge for about 2 hours to set the icing.  Remove from fridge and frost cake again so that cake does not show through the icing.  Return to fridge for about 2 hours to set again.  At this point,you can either serve it as is or decorate it with contrasting tinted icing using a piping bag and decorating tips for a special occasion such as a birthday anniversary or even small wedding or wedding shower. Once again, allow a couple hours in the fridge for icing to set, especially in the summertime, it will solidify the shortening/cheese mixture that is the basis of your icing and prevent all your hard work from sliding down the side of your cake.

Cream Cheese Decorator Icing

(Note: if you have a stand mixer, definitely use it for making decorating icing, as this type of icing is quite thick.)

8 oz pkg. cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup vegetable shortening

3 lbs powdered sugar (approx. as moisture levels in this product can vary, adjust as needed)

2 tsp. double-strength vanilla extract

1 to 2 tsp. rum flavoring

1 tsp. raspberry flavoring

2 to 3 TBSP Almond or Soy milk

Using an electric mixer (stand type if you have one), cream together the cream cheese and shortening.  Slowly add in sugar1/2 cup at a time, beating well between additions.  After adding 1/2 of the sugar, add in the flavoring extracts and 1 TBSP of milk.  Mix well.  Add more sugar, a little at a time, until most of it is in the icing.  Add another TBSP of milk then finish adding the sugar.  Adjust thickness of icing by adding more sugar or milk as needed for a spreading consistency to ice the cake with.  To make stiffer icing for piping decorative designs and borders onto cake, thicken with more powdered sugar.

To make black decorator’s icing (that doesn’t taste like ink), darken your icing with baking cocoa (powder)… this will also thicken consistency slightly, then begin adding black gel food coloring until desired color is reached mixing color in between additions (let stand 5 to 10 minutes when color is a shade lighter than you think you want, as they sometimes darken a little in a buttercream/cream cheese style icing with time.  You can always add more color, but you can’t take it away… you can add more “white” icing, but you may end up with far more than you need.)

You can find Wilton Cake Decorating supplies at many local discount or craft stores (such as Walmart, Ben Franklin Crafts or Hobby Lobby) or at http://www.wilton.com .

To decorate the cake above:

1. Using black icing in a disposable decorating bag fitted with a coupler and a #2 round tip to  pipe a pretty scroll design on the sides of the cake, which I repeated 5 times around the side of the cake. (I used a tool I’ve had for years called a pattern press to mark my scroll-work, this product is no longer available unless you get lucky finding one in a thrift shop, but you can find a design or clip-art you like, print it out and trace it onto waxed paper and then use the wax paper to position the design and mark the design onto the cake using a toothpick to prick the wax paper and leave marking on your cake icing.)

2. Using Tip #107 and white icing in another disposable decorating bag fitted with a coupler, pipe drop flowers onto the scrolling vines.

3. Using the black icing and #2 tip again, pipe dots into centers of flowers.

4. Using  a #10 tip and white icing pipe a line of white icing around the base of the cake at the plate.

5. Changing black icing bag to a #97 ruffle tip or a #104 rose tip, fat end up, pipe a ruffled border at the base of the cake on top of the line of white icing (this will help it flare out like a ruffle), wiggling up and down slightly as you pipe around the cake.

6. Changing black icing bag to a #10 round or a # 32 star tip, pipe a ball border or a shell border on the top edge of the cake.

* Refill our decorating bags with icing as needed as you go, leaving  enough room to twist the bag closed at the top so icing does not squish out the top and make a huge mess.

For more complete instructions on these decorating techniques, please check out the Wilton link above or consider purchasing a very basic starter kit from Wilton locally.

You might even be able to find cake decorating class locally that you can take (possibly with your spouse if he’s interested, or with one of your kids… most 7 or 8 year-olds are plenty old enough to learn cake decorating with parental supervision.)  My mother took the first two courses in a local Wilton Decorating class and taught me at the age of 5 while she was practicing at home.  As a teen, I self-studied the more advanced classes.

For Pioneering Families in this Modern Era,  the basics of cake decorating are a terrific skills to consider learning.  Not only is is a great, fun-filled family activity, it can also be a frugal, money-saving skill compared to the rapidly increasing costs of having a cake professionally decorated by a bakery… particularly when you are at a stage where weddings, anniversaries, baby showers etc. are frequently in order.

Re-engineering the Chocolate Chip Cookie Gluten Free

Well, it is the start of another busy day. Yesterday, I had to unexpectedly drive out to the kids’ school (60 miles round trip from home) to pick up Farmer Boy Charles, who wasn’t feeling well and who’s eye was all red and weepy. That brought me to an unexpected stop at the eye doctor, my boy has viral pinkeye (nothing doctor could do except ell him to wash hands frequently, not to rub it and keep hands to himself.) So, he’s at home until the problem passes.  Hope it doesn’t take as long as it did with my goats back in the fall of 2006, when they got exposed at State Fair to it (exhibitor in the neighboring stall had a doe down with it really bad and tried passing it off as allergies!  I was very upset, one of my favorite does, Vienna, went blind after rubbing up against that next-door stallmate.)

In the interest of a busy day and recipe days being our most popular days… we will literally keep this short and sweet.

Over the Christmas holidays, Charles requested Nestle’s Toll House Cookies after seeing frequent commercials on television for them.  Part of autism is a symptom called echolalia (affected people frequently parrot/repeat information they see or hear over and over ad nauseum to the point of driving everyone else completely batty.) When he was little he constantly repeated entire scripts of kiddie programs like Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Now that he’s getting older, Charles echolalia is evolving… he’s becoming very susceptible to advertising, particularly food advertising… which seems to peak during the winter holidays.

The constant bombardment by Nestle’s products resulted in this request for Toll House cookies. Not that I don’t frequently bake chocolate chip cookies anyway, but we had to go through this excercise to understand WHY these particular cookies were different or special by duplicating it Gluten Free

. (*Please note that  Nestle’s Toll House morsels are NOT dairy free, they contain milk fat and as a result a nominal amount of casein… I usually use Ghiradelli semi-swee choc. chips in baking or another dairy free brand … but in this instance I had some of the Nestle’s brand that I had bought to make fudge for hubby’s office and decided to administer enzymes to my son for casein digestion. )

I stuck very close to the original recipe with these cookies.

          Gluten Free Nestle’s Toll House Cookies

(An adaptation of a Famous Recipe for Gluten Intolerance)

Equipment:  large mixing bowl and electric mixer (or a heavy duty stand mixer like KitchenAid which is what I use and I usually double the batch size), wooden spoon, parchment paper, cookie sheets, cooling rack, a metal pancake flipper and a cookie scoop.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine (I use BestLife or Earth Balance)

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups of Gluten-Free All-purpose Flour (if using a blend with xanthan gum already added, omit xanthan gum later in recipe.  I like Jules’ Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour  www.julesglutenfree.com , but  also have used Namaste GF All Purpose flour to good result in this recipe too, if you are new to GF and not sure what brands to choose.  I do not recommend a garbanzo/fava bean based AP flour in this recipe as it will result in “beany flavored cookies”)

1 1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 pkg. Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels (other one of the dairy-free brands)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, if you have nut allergies either leave them out or use sunflower seeds or shredded coconut instead.)

Instructions:

Cream ” butter” and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time and mix well between additions.  Add vanilla extract and mix again.  Sift together dry ingredients, add slowly to butter mix mixing well between additions.   Add in chocolate chips and mix again and then add nuts and mix those in too if you are using them.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place cookie dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment using cookie scoop or by heaping spoonfulls. Bake 8-12 minutes depending on your preferred doneness and your oven until lightly golden (we like them soft and chewy here).  Allow to cool slightly (5 min or so) on sheets before removing to a cooling rack or platter.

Great warm or cold and served with a glass of milk substitute (almond, rice, soy etc.)

You can also make this dough in advance, form into logs and wrap in parchment or wax paper, place in a zip-top freezer bag for later use. just partially thaw a log of dough as needed  and slice off cookies and bake them as usual.  Great idea to have on hand for when the youngster forget to tell you it’s their turn for snack day at school or Sunday School until the last minute or for busy days when a sweet snack or dessert is wanted in a hurry.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen depending on size of cookies

Mystery Recipe Monday April 2, 2012

So, this week will be insanely busy. Thus I’ve asked a dear friend to do a series of guest posts on the topic of New Frontiers in Education.  My friend, Aimee Packard is a mother of 2 special needs sons who homeschools her children and also has them duel enrolled through her local school district for Sp.Ed. services only.  In her first post, aimee discusses the “WHY” of homeschooling and “WHY” it may be necessary for families to return to home educting their children in the near future.  Her 2nd post will cover the “How-To” of getting started with homeschooling.

As for my crazy week…

We have our Littlest Pioneer Girl, Anna’s baptism on Easter Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in DeSmet, SD.  This is the last Sunday for the St. Stephen’s Congregation in our church building.  I am heartbroken over this, I feel like I am the only person in the world who cares about the history of our parish and how it is deeply tied to the Pioneer History of the Dakota Territories.  We tried for several years to get the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society to purchase the church building and start necessary repairs, but with the economic downturn affecting tourism, the Society itself didn’t have the money to do it either.  It frustrates me that me and my family arrived several years too late in order to try reviving the parish with a Sunday School and youth programs to draw in new families.  And it angers me that most of the former parishioners (for whom it was their 2nd church, only to be attended on special occasions) ran off many would-be church goers and refused to donate moneys into the offering plate to provide for the church’s routine expenses (such as the electric bills) or assist with fundraising for repairing the roofs, floors, paint and to update the furnace and electrical systems or to supply some sort of toilet facility.  For over 50 years they neglected their church into such disrepair that now it is beyond all reasonable hope for the dwindled number of congregants (there are 7 of us now, not counting the retired supply priest) to maintain, let alone repair.

I insisted that IF the church were to be closed, we were going out with a BANG!  The biggest bang, would of course have been a wedding… but since nobody is of marriagable age that isn’t already married, the next best thing was a baptism… and that we CAN DO.  We want our little girl, Anna, baptised anyway and Easter is such a lovely time to do it.  We will be having a lovely “after-party” with cookies, cupcakes, maybe some sandwiches, juice, coffee and tea.  I bought a new camera Friday  to replace the one my boys broke, so be looking for lots of pictures next week.  I plan to take some of the original church building Charles Ingalls built with the help of neighbors, which later became the parish hall (although it’s not been used in years due to the disrepair).  Charles Ingalls was well known as a carpenter and builder, he often took construction jobs in order to make ends meet for his family.

Anyway, I am in the midst of sewing Anna’s Chrisening Gown and have a long week of sewing and cleaning ahead. Pioneer Pa and the 2 Farmer Boys will have matching vests for Easter (the boys got store-bought dress shirts, as they had a concert at school last week and Ma was on short notice about it to sew them shirts.)  Pa will have a new, handmade dress shirt in lavender (purple is his favorite color) and I will also be making myself a new dress.  My parents and perhaps my 2nd youngest brother will arrive Friday evening for the holiday weekend.  I am hoping the weather cooperates and we are able to BBQ this weekend and eat outdoors.

I also have more seeds to start for the garden this week, for plants that must be transplanted.  Our heirloom seed order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( www.rareseeds.com) arrived last week and I am so excited about that now that we are less than 8 weeks from last frost.

And now my friends… it is time for Mystery Recipe Monday.   I had a question from my friend Aimee about quick snacks tha are healthy-ish and Gluten Free…I answered Rice Krispie trears w/ dried fruit and another friend of hers said something about granola… I’ve been thinking on how to smash both ideas into one for a couple weeks and came up with….  Drum roll, please…..

This weeks’ Mystery Recipe is…..

Gluten Free Granola Treats

(a cross between Granola Bars & Rice Krispie Treats)

Equipment:  A large stockpot or dutch oven, a cookie sheet, 1 or 2 large oblong cake pans (depending on how thick you like your treats), rubber/silicone spatulas, cooking oil spray, measuring cupand spoons and a wooden spoon.

Ingredients:

3 (10.5 oz) pkgs. miniature marshmallows (always check label for wheat/gluten, some brands use modified food starch w/undisclosed source which is usually made from wheat, other brands will says cornstarch)

1 1/2 sticks of casein free margarine (BestLife and Earth Balance are good brands)

9 cups Gluten-Free Rice Krispies

1 tsp.  pure vanilla extract

4 cups toasted Gluten-Free Oats (to toast spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 350 F until the oats just begin to brown.. this helps take out the raw oat taste in a recipe where the oats are not really cooked)

3 cups dried fruit (I like a combination of dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries)

2 cups of shredded coconut

1 to 2 cups chopped nuts or sunflower seeds (or some of each)

Shortening for greasing pans and hands

disposable gloves

Instructions:

Place oats in oven to toast, keep a close eye on them, they can burn easily.  Coat your pot with shortening to prevent the marshmallow goo from sticking.  Put the margarine in thepan and begin melting before adding marshmallows.  Add the marshmallows and stir frequently to prevent them from burning.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir in cereal and then oatmeal until well coated.  Stir in dried friut, coconut and nuts.

Spray cake pans and spatulas with spray oil.  Scrape treat mixture out into pans.  Put on disposable gloves and grease your hands with shotening.  Press treat mix firmly into pans.  Allow to cool.

Cut treats into “granola bars”.  These can beindividually  wrapped in waxed paper or plastic wrap and placed into zip-top storage bags for later use. They make great on the go snacks, a quick handy dessert or wonderful additions to lunchboxes for school or work.

*Please note this is a rather large batch (you could cut the batch size into 1/3’s if you wanted), as the idea here was a make ahead snack or lunch box item that would be on-hand for grab and go use and as a more healthy option to many of the expensive ready-to-eat Gluten free snacks and bars that are available at the market.  So this batch represents about a weeks worth of bars (assuming 1 person/day) for a family of 4-6 people.

Variations:  You could substitute peanut butter, sunflower butter or other nut butter for 1/2 of the margarine.  You could also add chocolate chips to the recipe if you wanted to make them chocolate flavored.  Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice also make interesting additions (about 2 tsp. or so… i often do spices to taste and I LOVE CINNAMON!).  Other dried fruit opions: raisins, dried apple,chopped dates/figs, chopped dried tropical fruits.

The Littlest Pioneer Girl’s 1st Words

New Frontiers In Speech

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Today, our Littlest Pioneer Girl, Anna Elizabeth, uttered her first spoken words.  She is exactly 7 months old today, at exactly 6 months she got her first tooth (followed closely by the 2nd tooth less than a week after the first.)  The Littlest Pioneer Girl, seems to like being right on the mark with major milestones and making it easy on Modern Ma to remember the dates (‘cuz who has time for scrapbooking just now???  With a garden to plant, animals to care for, house to clean and 3 children and a husband to feed, Ma sure doesn’t!)

Anna’s first word was “Mama” plain as day this afternoon and often repeated and well practiced, especially whenever “Mama” left her sight.  Pioneer Pa was a teeny bit miffed, the boys 1st words were always “Dada” and he expected his daughter to follow suit.  Her second word, so close on the heels of the first, was a very good attempt at “love” and a budding effort at her third word a slightly shreiky “I”.  Then after Mama repeated them in correct gramatical order, Anna kept trying to repeat “I love Mama.”

I, Ma was of course thrilled, Henry was about 9 month before he tried “Mama” (I remember him saying “Dada”, “Dog” and Meow (at the time we had a cat and meow=cat) well before he said mama.)

Charles first word was “dada” as well, followed by “wawa” = water/swimming, dog, duck, peep-peep (chicks), fish and egg by a year old.  Then Charles began losing language rapidly between 18 and 24 months.  Charles had to be re-taught all over again to speak at about 4 years old and did not finally say “mommy” until he was 4 1/2 years old (a huge milestone.) Prior to 4 1/2 Charles always used and understood, but silent “hey you” to address me.

So having my only daughter’s first word be “Mama” is a huge reward for all those years I waited to hear her oldest brother say it.

Pureed Beets

(A Gluten Free & Casein Free Baby Food Recipe)

Indredients:

4 medium sized beets, washed and stems removed

Water (enough to barely cover beets in saucepan)

Equipment needed:

cutting board, disposable gloves (beets stain EVERYTHING), paring knife, chef’s knife, small to medium sized saucepan, Baby Bullet or other powerful blender, ice cube trays made of silicone (regular  ice cube trays will work but cubes may have to be slightly thawed to release them from the trays and I’ve had a few of the cheapo trays crack on me), 1 qt. zip-top freezer bags.

Instructions:

PUT ON GLOVES!  Wash beets and remove tops. Peel beets with paring knife (if you have chickens, other poultry or a hog, reserve peelings and tops for a treat for your livestock).  Using cutting board and chef’s knife, dice beets into 1/2 inch pieces or smaller (smaller pieces cook faster).  Place diced beets in pan, use just enough water to barely cover them.  Put pan on burner and bring to boil.  Cover with a lid, reduce heat to a simmer and allow beets to steam until very tender to a fork test.  Turn off heat and allow temp to drop until they can be handled comfortably, but are still warm.  Place 1/2 of the beets in the bowl of your blender or Baby Bullet, along with approx. half the water.  Secure lid and puree as per the appliance manufacturer’s instructions until of baby food consistancy, add a little cool water if neccessary to thin.  Pour into trays and place in freezer.  Repeat with other  1/2 of beets and cooking water.

To thaw for use:  Remove 1 or 2 cubes from freezer place in a small covered dish such as a recylced baby food jar or yogurt cup.  If to be eaten at next meal, allow to thaw at room temp for an hour or two.  If to be eaten in the next 2 days, thaw in the fridge.

Number of servings will depend on size of beets used and age of your baby.

Pureed Beets are also an awesome addition to vanilla or chocolate cakes, lending their rosy color, vitamins/minerals and a bit of fiber to your family’s diet (an idea I borrowed from one of my favorite cookbooks, Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, long before our family went gluten and dairy free.  Do check out a copy of her book from your local library or bookstore for more ideas on adding veggies and fruits to you kids’ diets, even if your family has special diet needs, many of the recipes can be adapted to your needs.  We draw inspiration from this book pretty often.)  Pureed beets in a vanilla or yellow GF cake mix and a little organic Chocolate Extract and frosted with coconut yogurt frosting makes AWESOME Red Velvet Cakes/cupckes. Red Velvet is Charles, favorite cake flavor, so we will be posting this before the end of the school term when his class celebrates the summer birthdays.  Stay on the look out for a from scratch GF/CF version of that.

Beets are one of Anna’s all-time favorite foods!

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