Saturday, July 19, 2014

To gluten or not to gluten...

...that IS the question.  Okay, so Shakespeare never wrote about gluten.  Until a few years ago, I wouldn't have imagined me writing about gluten.  I wasn't even sure what the heck gluten was until recently.  Now, I know a few things happened when people read the title.  Either they a. rolled their eyes and didn't click the link...or, b. they rolled their eyes and clicked the link.  SO, if you're still reading, congratulations, and try not to hurt yourself with the eye rolls...'kay?

We have friends with Celiac Disease.  That means they CANNOT have gluten or they will get very very sick.  I have friends with massive gluten intolerance, that have been made much better by skipping that in their diet.  One of our friends with Celiac had to be tested more than once before they found it.  So, for you eye rollers, it is a real thing, this gluten intolerance.  I actually mentioned at a party once that my dear husband brewed a gluten free beer for me while I was on this quest...and had two women shoot looks at each other, right in front of me.  Seriously ladies?  I also know friends with the disease are put out with those trying the "trend" of gluten free...making anyone who asks for that menu in restaurants the target of waitress-y eye rolls.  To all I say, enough.  What you do or don't eat is up to you and I applaud anyone who tries to be more healthy.  Just do it politely.  I overheard a very rude man at my favorite sushi place recently insisting his fish be raw for his raw food diet.  It took everything in me to not point out his rice was cooked...

I don't know what I have.  I'm not sure if I "need" to be gluten free, nor am I sure I'm capable (says the woman who had pizza and beer yesterday).  Other than after running 1/2 marathons, changing our diet, etc....wait. Readers of this blog or friends in real life have heard this song already.  To borrow a phrase from a friend, I'm sick of the "food baby" after I eat.  Recently, I was put on thyroid medicine.  It helped a bit, but I still seemed to struggle more than necessary at my age.  You only have to look at my husband and daughter to see that the family is healthy...but I still get  "Mama, you look like you have two chins!"  When I eat or drink gluten-y things, I end up very uncomfortable.  I will not go into details here, but it's unpleasant.  Is that a gluten problem?  An over-indulgence problem?  I don't know.  But I do know that the support of my husband and friends on this quest makes a big difference.  So while I work it out, let's all try to be a little nicer to each other.  Not just with food choices, but that would be nice too. 

It is amazing what you find gluten in, and not just the places you'd expect.  Soy sauce?  Shredded cheese?!  Again, I haven't cut it all out yet, but when you get down to it, it looks like our tendencies lately toward whole food seems to be saving me from myself.  Having a Vitamix for smoothies helps too, as does adventurous eaters in my house.  So, dear readers, look for more recipes coming this way that feature the "gluten free" tag.  For my vegan and dairy free friends, I may have some things for you too because as I continue this journey, I have found many go hand in hand.  However, my fish sticks and mac n cheese friends, do not despair!  We will have recognizable ingredients, no sacrificing taste, and maybe even some weeknight dinner options! I also promise to occasionally open a box of mac n cheese instead of making it fresh, and feed my daughter cereal for dinner from time to time.  It's a journey to health but I can only go so far til I need a break!

Until next time, remember what Julia Child said: "Everything in moderation.  Including moderation."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Adoption Update and... Griyo!

After six months of hard work, lots of papers, interviews, classes, education, check ups, evaluations, notaries, etc... that we couldn't have done without countless messages of support, love, and blessings (thank you all), we have COMPLETED OUR HOME STUDY!  It has taken all day for that to sink in.  Believe-you-me, it seemed surreal for a bit after I received the message that our home study had been approved and we were ready to move to the next step in our adoption journey.  Our home study was pretty routine, from what I could tell, right up until the end when a few new requirements popped up that caused a bit of scrambling, but in the end, it. is. FINI.  We now begin our dossier, after first applying to immigration for permission to bring a child into the USA.  The wait time for approval from immigration is about 7-9 weeks, enough time to gather the rest of the paperwork, etc. for the dossier. While both (all) of us are ready to jump on a plane and bring home the fourth member of our family, we know we still have some steps ahead of us...only now, we're that much closer.

To celebrate tonight, I made grillots or griyo.  This recipe always comes up when you research Haitian cooking.  The cookbook I used states "Griyo is one of the most important dishes served by Haitians.  This meat is served at every Haitian party without fail."  Well.  Tonight was definitely cause for a party...even if it was just our little party of three.  I have found many griyo recipes, some call for frying the meat after braising, some call for different ingredients than this one.  I suppose I have to do some more research to do to find out just how authentic this one is, but the A Taste of Haiti cookbook by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas and the Thomas Family seems to be pretty reliable. 

Thankfully, I had a little extra time this afternoon to grab the ingredients (one even came from our garden!) and get it made.  Dinner was on the table by 6:30, and it was amazing.  All of us loved it.  Evie actually cleaned her plate.  I'm not sure that's happened before.  I did not make the sos ti-malis, or any sauce for that matter, and frankly, we were fine with it.  Mark even had his trusty bottle of sriracha beside him and I'm pretty sure it was never opened.  Trust me folks, this one was an absolute winner.  Evie decided it should be her little sister's welcome home meal.  Mama agrees.

A few ingredients, featuring a sprig of thyme from our garden!


from A Taste of Haiti by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas

4 to 6 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 limes, cut in half
4 tablespoons pikliz juice (homemade Haitian condiment)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cloves
1 onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 thyme sprig
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced thin
2 shallots, sliced thin

Wash meat in cold water.  Clean meat with lime halves and rinse with water again.  (I cut it into 2-inch cubes after this then.  The recipe doesn't stipulate when to do it, but it felt easier when it was two big hunks of meat rather than littler pieces).  In a large [non-reactive] bowl, marinate meat with pikliz, salt, black pepper, cloves, onion, garlic, thyme, green bell pepper, and shallots.  Marinate at least 1 hour and up to overnight.  [I did one hour, that's all the time I had...definitely want to do this again with a full overnight of marinating].

Marinating.  I covered with cellophane for the hour.

Cook, covered, on medium heat for 40 minutes or until fork tender.  [I used my dutch oven stove top, then switched to glass baking pan for the oven in the next part]

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place meat in oven pan with juices and cover with aluminum foil.  Cook for one hour, covered, and another 30 minutes, uncovered, or until golden brown.  Serve with rice.

Fresh out of oven.  I so wish you could smell the wonderfulness filling my kitchen

Thumbs up from our official taste tester

Clean plate!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

40 life rules from my 40 years.

  1. Life is so much better when you live it honestly.
  2. Feeling good about yourself is key to overcoming worries of how others feel about you…
  3. How others feel about you truly is none of your business.
  4. Be fierce when you should…
  5. But be kind more often.
  6. Family is first. Always.
  7. But friends should not be last.
  8. Be passionate. Not dramatic.
  9. But dramatic is okay sometimes too.
  10. Faith is personal...your relationship with God is what you feel and love it to be.
  11. Share good faith. Keep shaming, hurtful, or judging versions of your faith to yourself.
  12. My personal faith belief is that of a child’s. Jesus loves us, ALL of us…in all our unique, beautiful, and weird, amazingness. God does the judging. We do the loving. The end.
  13. You get back what you give.
  14. Give as much as you are able, personal or material.
  15. Pick your battles wisely.
  16. Mistakes of the past may follow you, learn from them instead of being embarrassed by them.
  17. But make sure you apologize to those who you hurt.
  18. Forgive those who do not accept your apology, and move on.
  19. Rejoice at your friends’ accomplishments.
  20. Reject negativity.
  21. Celebrate you…
  22. And celebrate those around you.
  23. Remember the golden rule.
  24. Learn how to do conflict. Avoiding it only causes more.
  25. Volunteer.
  26. Be good at what you do…
  27. Admit what you can’t do and find help.
  28. Read. A lot.
  29. Share your successes and failures with others, maybe someone will learn something.
  30. Follow rules.
  31. Eat ice cream for dinner once in a while.
  32. Be open…
  33. …minded
  34. …to new experiences
  35. …to new people
  36. …to life
  37. Drink good beer.
  38. Eat good food.
  39. Surround yourself with good people.
  40. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ice Cream Makes Everything Better

Linking a food to happiness may sound like an odd title from a woman whose family has been striving for healthier eating.  Especially a typically non-healthy treat like ice cream.  However, thanks to a suggestion from friends, we are now the proud owners of a Cuisinart© Ice Cream maker and can control our ingredients!  Before I lose half of you, only once have we made a vegan, dairy free ice cream...the other two times were full fat, heavy cream, decadent yumminess.  Mind you, the vegan one was pretty darn tasty too.  Either way, I knew exactly what went into the mixture and it was as much organic and fair trade as I could pull off.  I also learned quickly to automatically lower the amount of sugar they suggest in recipes by almost half.  Every recipe was TOO TOO sweet.  At least for us.

Most of the time, stress is handled very well around here.  We talk things through as a family, we run, we pray, and we play.  Sometimes though, you just need a little pick me up...something fun and different.  Again, not advocating for stress eating, but darn it, sometimes a big bowl of sweet creamy ice cream does the trick.  One recent evening, Daddy was out for the night, Mama had had a long couple of days at work, and a thunderstorm moved in.  Both Mama and Evie were a little unhappy.  What to do?  Grab trusty Lamby and make some peanut butter ice cream!

I adapted the peanut butter cup ice cream recipe that came with the ice cream maker.  First, I did not have peanut butter cups to chop up to add in, so we put in chocolate chips.  Second, as mentioned above, they call for too much sugar (in my opinion), so I cut all but 1/4 cup out.  Other than that, I stayed pretty close...and let me tell you, it is now my absolute favorite ice cream.  Ever.  Add to that, the second night we had it, Mark topped it with his homemade granola...sheer heaven.  Smiles all around.  It was delicious.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Chips

1 cup peanut butter (we used Jiff Natural)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (they called for 2/3 cup)
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa chips

Mix peanut butter and sugar until smooth, I used my stand mixer.  Add milk, scrape around bowl to get the peanut butter and sugar mixture off the bottom of the bowl, and mix until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in heavy cream and vanilla.   Place in refrigerator for 1-2 hours or overnight.

Turn on ice cream maker, pour mixture into bowl, and mix until thickened, about 15 minutes.  When is starts to look like it is close the consistency you like, add in your chopped cocoa chips or peanut butter cups...or, nothing (my choice for the next time).

We enjoyed it right away and again the next night.  Just place in an airtight container in the freezer.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Curry and Coconut Oil Sweet Potatoes over Rice

If the first thing Mark says to me after a greeting and a kiss when he gets home is: "what are we doing for dinner tonight?"...I know the man is hungry.   Mind you, the "we" in what are we doing is a truthful "we".  He'll jump in and make dinner as often as I will, or we'll all do it together.  Sometimes though, Mama wants the kitchen to herself.  The night I made this our little one wanted to go and burn some energy outside, so sent them off and once again played my version of Food Network's Chopped in my kitchen.  Chopped because of "what the heck to I have to make a meal with?!" and "I need to get something on the table fast!" 

Evie asked for spicy chicken on her way out, which is what she calls our chicken curry meal.  I would have loved to accommodate her, but I had neither chicken, red curry paste, shiitakes, nor coconut milk (the canned fatty kind, not the beverage kind we put in smoothies) on hand.  Truth be told, very rarely anymore is meat of any kind here.  It's mostly beans, rice, and fish.  I'm sure with summer grilling steaks, burgers, and chicken will return, but it has been nice to eat a little more sustainably of late.  I really enjoyed the Sweet Potato Chili we made thanks to my friend Sarah's suggestion.  Because of this, I had purchased three sweet potatoes earlier in the week with the plan of baking them and having them with a salad for dinner.  My dinner salad meal that evening turned into smoked salmon and boiled baby yukons, so I still had those lovely sweet potatoes in the fridge.  Because Evie had asked for curry, I decided I'd make something up and cross my fingers that it turns out okay (we all remember the arugula debacle of '14).

I had also purchased coconut oil, in one of those "I keep seeing this pop up online and in Runner's World, I'm sure I'll use it for something" moments.  Guessing this was one of those moments, I grabbed it from the cupboard.  I diced the raw sweet potatoes, doused them with curry, and sautéed them in the coconut oil.  After about two minutes I realized I had completely forgotten the that went in a little late.  In the meantime, I made some jasmine rice.  Below is my recipe, it was a hit with the family, even though I over cooked or under fluid-ed the rice (it was a bit crunchy). I already have ideas for next time on how to improve this, mainly by adding in some of the things I was missing (fatty coconut milk especially). 

Curry Sweet Potatoes

Three Raw Sweet Potatoes, cut into small cubes
Curry Powder
Garlic, one or two cloves, minced
Kosher Salt
Coconut Oil, two tablespoons
Coconut Milk Beverage (I think regular coconut milk would have been better)

Jasmine Rice for serving
 For garnish: chopped cilantro, chives, lime wedges

Melt coconut oil over medium heat, add garlic, sauté for one minute.  Add diced sweet potatoes, cover with a healthy sprinkling of curry powder (I COVERED them in it) and a pinch of salt, mix to coat.  Sauté until sweet potato is soft and cooked through.  At that point, stir in about 1/4 cup coconut milk beverage and another pinch of salt.  Warm through, serve over (or, beside if you're my daughter) warm jasmine rice, and top with cilantro, chives, and lime juice.

Dinner was on the table in about 30 minutes, all were happy, and plans are in the works to try a variation of this again!  The curry ended up getting a bit too spicy for Evie (once again, regular coconut milk would have helped), so Daddy finished her plate and she enjoyed a yogurt.  However, I'm still pleased with this one!

Official Mama's Taste Tester

Got the stamp of approval!