Saturday, October 26, 2013

I spy...

With a traveling husband and three out of four kids involved in numerous church activities, it's been difficult lately to keep all of my family members all in one place. So when one of our local homeschool groups offered us the opportunity to participate in a Family Scavenger Hunt, I realized it would be best to complete it in shifts so everyone in the family had a chance to be involved.

Last weekend, Mark was away in Europe, and a scavenger hunt adventure afforded us the perfect way to make the time without him pass more quickly. Our adventures took us to Hubbard Park and Castle Craig.

So, yeah, we've been here before (and, coincidentally, on another weekend during which Mark was absent), but the beauty of fall gave us a different experience this time.

It was a beautiful view and a lovely drive up and down the hill upon which Castle Craig sits.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a bit of time on the playground at Hubbard Park.

Oh, and there was a potty stop too.

If you know me, you know I have portopottiphobia and will hold it 'til I burst rather than stepping foot in one of these; however, my son doesn't seem to have a problem with it. I caught the horrid things in black and white; it seems to give them a more sophisticated air, don't you think?

* * * * * * * * * *

This week was a busy one of running one kid here and picking another kid up there. But Mark was home. So, though we were down one kid by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, we decided to continue the Family Scavenger Hunt.

First, we drove through a small town called Collinsville. A couple of weeks after we moved to the Arctic, I called Mark and told him that I had just driven through the prettiest, most charming little town. You can see why:

Next, we stopped by one of my favorite farms, Tulmeadow Farms. They offer veggies, grass-fed meats, and Amish popcorn. They also have delicious ice cream. But in light of our recent sugar-free lifestyle change, we skipped the ice cream today, and I picked up some popcorn. We're going through the
popcorn quickly!

Today Tulmeadow not only had popcorn, but also quite an assortment of pumpkins.

The next stop on our adventure was Stratton Brook Park.

Stratton Brook is one our favorite places. During the summer, we visit weekly with homeschool friends to enjoy the beach and the lake (which is more of a pond) and to play frisbee.

I've mentioned this before...I love all of the farms in Connecticut! Our last stop was another farm. Flamig Farm is a popular place with its petting zoo and farm store.

We did not enjoy the petting zoo today; however, we did meet some adorable, fuzzy little chicks.

And we appreciated some of the other charm as well:

And then it was back to home sweet home where we've added some charm of our own:

We went a little overboard on Halloween decorations this year...since we're going light on the sweets, we over-compensated by letting the kids go crazy on our front porch. Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Just Desserts

Although it seems like a few YEARS have passed, it has only been a week since Audrey and I went sugar and gluten-free. I decided we needed a little "sugar"-free treat today. I chose a tasty fall recipe from Sugar-Free Mom: Low-Carb Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse. Here is the original recipe:

8 oz. Neufchatel cream cheese
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
2-4 full droppers vanilla liquid Stevia

I followed the recipe. Sort of.

Here is what I did:

*1 c. of homemade cream cheese - It is so easy to make cream cheese! Place about 2 cups homemade yogurt in a bowl with cheesecloth or a tightly woven dishtowel suspended above it. (You can use clips or place the cloth inside a wire strainer that hangs over a bowl.) Let yogurt drain for 1 1/2-2 days. Voila! Cream cheese!

*1 c. homemade pumpkin puree. This is fairly simple as well. First, purchase sugar pumpkins at your local grocery store, farm, or pumpkin patch. The sugar pumpkins are the small ones - not the minis your kids like to paint and not the ones you carve, but the in between ones. A sugar pumpkin will have more meat than your typical jack-o-lantern. Preheat oven to 350. Cut stems off of pumpkins and cut in half so that you have two symmetrical halves. Clean out the guts, saving the seeds to roast. Place both halves cut side down in a baking pan. Roast in oven for 60-90 minutes. Allow to cool enough to handle but don't forget about it and let it sit until it's completely cold. Scoop out all of the wonderful pumpkin "meat". Run quickly through a food processor to smooth it all. I usually make a bunch and freeze it. If I was really ambitious, I would can it. Since I'm more in survival mode at this point than ambition mode, freezer it is.

--Using a hand mixer, thoroughly blend cream cheese and pumpkin together.

*1 c. coconut cream "whipped" cream. This is the first time I tried this. Not sure I did it right, but it turned out OK. Take a can of organic, full fat coconut milk. Place in the fridge overnight. (I have read a couple of different methods; some say to open the lid first, others don't mention it. I left the lid on, and the milk did not solidify, so perhaps you should leave the lid off.) In the morning, the milk should be separated with the coconut water on the bottom of the can and a thick, waxy layer of solid milk on the top. It is a little less than a cup, but that's OK. Take out only the thickened part of the coconut milk. Save the coconut water on the bottom for a smoothie. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream. It doesn't whip into peaks like regular heavy cream (at least mine didn't), but it did thicken a bit.

*2 t. vanilla

*3-4 T. powdered sugar. I actually have vanilla Stevia drops, but I have not mastered the Great Art of Stevia Using yet, and the one thing I tried with Stevia tasted terrible, so I'm just going to let it sit lonely in my cupboard for awhile longer. Audrey is allowed to have erythritol/xylitol. I have some Swerve, which is the texture of finely granulated sugar. To make my own powdered sugar, I placed 3/4 c. Swerve in my Nutribullet along with 1/2 T. arrowroot powder (you can use cornstarch) and blended it. It is my understanding you can do this with any granulated type of sugar. Because my Nutribullet has a smaller container than a blender, I only used 3/4 cup of Swerve. If you use a blender, you would probably need to use 1 1/2 c. sugar and 1 T. arrowroot powder or cornstarch.

--Add vanilla and powdered sugar to coconut cream and blend with handmixer.

--Now add coconut cream to pumpkin mixture and lightly blend.

--Chill and serve!

Though I won't win any contests with this photo and certainly won't be hired as a food photographer, here it is:

And, yes, I realize that doesn't really look all that much like pumpkin. My pumpkin for some reason was very light colored. Still tastes like pumpkin, just not very orange.

And, yes, those are chocolate chips on top. MINI ones (that's a mini bowl next to a mini pumpkin...just to offer some perspective). 11 of them. Count them. I know. I may have upset the whole thing with the .001 grams of sugar. I don't know.


I asked Audrey if she gave it a thumbs-up.

She did not.

She gave it TWO thumbs-up!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Karabin Farms (or Fall Comes to the Arctic)

I love fall up here in the Artic. This year, though, fall has kinda been lost on me; I've been holed up in the kitchen so that I haven't noticed the beautiful changing colors of the New England leaves or the cool crispness of the evenings. Today's outing, however, opened my eyes.

It was a gorgeous day, a perfect day for going on a pumpkin hunt. I found this treasure of a farm by doing a simple online search for pumpkin patches in the area. It's not much of a secret, though, because we definitely didn't have the place to ourselves. Still a great time, though!

We spent a little time selecting just the right pumpkins.

Some pumpkins didn't quite make the cut:

We went on a hayride, and while we were waiting in line, we were entertained by a man on his fiddle and a woman on a triangle.

And I thought all the rednecks were down south. Just kidding; the entertainment added a lot to the ambience.

Yep, it was a great day. 

I'm happy it's fall again...even if that means winter isn't so far behind. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Tale of Two Loaves

As much as the Interwebs have been my saving grace both in researching Audrey's medical conditions and in finding recipes, I am convinced that some people randomly throw together some ingredients and then post them along with false photos. Then they sit back, hands behind their heads, staring at the computer screen. And they laugh a maniacal laugh - mwahahahahahah - as they imagine the money spent on their faux recipe, the time wasted, the huge stack of dishes. Of this I am convinced.

One of Audrey's favorite lunchtime meals is sandwiches. I have successfully made a pretty tasty gluten-free loaf; however, it contains sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and yeast...all ingredients she shouldn't have. So imagine my delight when I found an ebook with a recipe for sandwich bread. And according to the recipe, my resulting sandwich bread would look like this:

Looks like normal bread, right? And not just normal but delicious, right? The ingredients - eggs, butter, salt, coconut flour...well, it occurred to me that for those ingredients to make bread, it would probably take a miracle. Or perhaps some act of science I am yet unaware of since I haven't been baking this way for longer than three days. But I thought maybe the eggs would make it puff up. Or maybe there is some type of natural leavening property to coconut flour. 

I decided to give it a try. 

Now tell me, does this look like the photo above?

I'm no Rachel Ray, but COME ON! I'm not so incompetent in the kitchen that I would screw it up this badly. Honestly, when it came out of the oven, I thought, No biggie. This may not work for a sandwich, but we can enjoy this as a snack this afternoon. Um, no. It is the driest "bread" I've ever had in my life. It went in the trash. Yep, 6 eggs, expensive grass-fed butter, and equally expensive coconut the. trash. 

I was still determined to feed my little girl sandwiches for lunch, so I did what I should  have done in the first place: I googled "whole new mom sandwich bread". Whole New Mom is my go-to gal for most things, including homemade skincare products and now Candida-friendly recipes.

Through my search, I found the following recipe: 

Grain-free Sandwich Bread
1 c. cashew butter (or almond butter)
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 - 2 T. honey
2 1/2 t. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. almond milk
1/4 c. coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1. Preheat oven to 300. Place a small dish of water on the bottom rack. Prepare a greased 8.5x4.5 bread pan.
2. In a mixer, beat the nut butter and egg yolks.
3. Add honey, vinegar, and milk to butter and egg mixture and mix.
4. Combine coconut flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
5. With a hand mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form.
6. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix thoroughly.
7. Add egg whites to mixture and mix until combined but be careful not to overmix.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes. Do not open oven until 40 minutes have passed. 9. Loaf is done when toothpick inserted in the middle is clean.
10. Allow to cool 20 minutes before removing from pan. Then allow to cool an hour before cutting.

(Original author: Danielle Walker from Against All Grain)

And...drumroll...this bread turned out much more like bread. Different but bread.

The main difference in this bread from "normal" sandwich bread is the texture. The texture is more like a quick bread (think banana bread). However, I think if we had had more time on our side and let it sit like she recommends, it would have been more like sandwich bread. Also, next time I will completely omit the honey because, for one, my baby doesn't need honey, and for another, the sweetness added to the texture to be reminiscent of a quick bread.

A couple of notes:
**Nut Butter - the recipe called for cashew butter. Peanuts are a no-no on a Candida diet. Something about peanuts molding easily. Or something. Anyway, I knew I had some cashews in the pantry that I could make into cashew butter myself. But they had clearly been neglected for awhile, and ew! I think I know what moldy nuts are now. Not like the green mold you see on bread, but they were a little bit furry. Yuck! I already had some almond butter in the fridge and had to make a bit more to equal a cup.

Making your own nut butter is so easy! You just put the nuts in your food processor and let it go until the nuts turn to butter. Almonds take awhile longer than peanuts...usually about 15 or 20 minutes. And you may need to turn your food processor off mid-process because the food processor tends to get really hot, and you don't want it to burn out!

**Coconut Flour - coconut flour and almond flour both are very expensive! So far, I have been spending a small fortune buying Bob's Red Mill brand at the grocery store; however, Honeyville Grains carries both items in bulk and for a much more reasonable price. PLUS they only charge $4.49 for shipping! I have ordered wheat from them many times. I think they are currently out of stock on the coconut flour, but hopefully they will get more soon.

Anyway, Audrey and I both enjoyed our sandwiches on our Second Attempt Bread...

...and we enjoyed the bread - topped with some unsweetened cinnamon butter - again for a snack in the afternoon!