Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Bunny Skills

I had to share - the Easter Bunny had a lot of fun hiding the eggs outside this year.  Such beautiful weather & fun was had by all!

 That bunny must be tall!

How sneaky are these?

And, sometimes, it's the most obvious that are missed...


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter...a little late...

We enjoyed a wonderful, beautiful Easter weekend with family.  The weather was amazing - first time we've hit 60 degrees this year!

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I had a lot of fun using natural (food-based) dyes for the Easter eggs this year, and got some really pretty ones.  Although the family mocked the brown, natural and "grey" ones, they were a hit for the egg hunt - very tricky to find!
To dye the eggs, I added the food or spice to the pot of water, a splash of vinegar and the eggs and brought them to a boil.  Lowered the temperature and simmered for about 15 minutes.  The dark brown ones were made using coffee grounds, pale natural colored ones were soaked in a puree of chiles, the orange speckled ones in paprika, the greyish ones were grape juice, yellow were turmeric and the pinkish ones were originally beets, but when that didn't give them much color I added some hibiscus flowers as well.

For dinner, we had a baked ham with a glaze of molasses, brown sugar and mustard; devilled eggs, peas, green salad with two types of vinaigrette (orange and pomegranate), mashed potatoes with fresh chives from the garden and rolls made from a Pamela's mix. Delicious!

Angel Pie for Dessert
Was looking for something to do with some strawberries I'd picked up, and thought about making a strawberry-rhubarb pie, but that seemed too heavy.  Scanned through some cookbooks and came across this recipe for Angel Pie from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. 
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 1/2 c. heavy cream*
1/3 c. confectioners' sugar*
8 whole strawberries

*Substituted the real whip cream for the recipe below.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Grease a pie pan.  Combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with an electric beater until soft peaks form.  Slowly add 1 cup of the granulated sugar and beat until shiny peaks form.  Spread the mixture over the bottom of the pie pan and build it up around the rim about 1 inch higher than the edge of the pan.  Bake for about 1 hour or until lightly brown and firm to the touch.  Turn off the heat and let cool in the oven with the door open.  While the crust is cooling, beat the egg yolks until they are thick and pale.  Slowly beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar.  Add the lemon juice.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens.  Cool.  Spread in the meringue until it holds soft peaks.  Spoon the cream* over the top and decorate with the strawberries.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Vegan Whipped Topping
from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal

2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 c. rice milk (*I used cashew milk)
1/2 c. dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening
1/2 c. caster sugar (very fine)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Whisk together the cornstarch and rice milk in a small heavy saucepan until smooth, being sure to whisk out any lumps.
Bring to just below a simmer (a scald) over medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until it thickens (this happens very quickly, in about 1 minute or less).  Remove from heat and stir vigorously until smooth.  Set aside to cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and caster sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, then add the vanilla.  Continue to beat while adding the cooled rice milk mixture, until fully incorporated, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.  Beat for 2 to 3 more minutes, or until light and fluffy, making sure you've whipped out any lumps.  Serve at room temperature (it solidifies when chilled).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Food for thought

I've been thinking about food a lot lately.  Rather, thinking about how lucky our family is that we have access to, and know how to prepare healthy food.
I few months ago, we finally got around to watching Supersize Me, about the ghastly effects of fast food on our nation's health.  J watched it again, at school, last month (actually needed a signed permission slip to watch it, uhg!).  It brought up some interesting conversations with the boys.  They were quite bewildered and shocked by how unhealthy the food was...and why anyone would eat it on a regular basis. 
Yesterday, in light of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution season 2 beginning, we've started watching season 1.  Again, very interesting.  The boys had a lot to say about it this morning.  They were thankful for the lunches they bring from home every day and thought it was crazy the types of foods that were regularly served on the show for school lunches.  They couldn't believe that the family portrayed on the show would eat as unhealthy as they did.  They were blown away when I told them that a large proportion on Americans do eat that way every day.  They could not imagine it.
Since our change in diet almost 3 years ago, I can count on one hand how many times we've eaten out.  I'm quite proud of how far we've come, because it wasn't always this way.  I grew up eating healthy, homegrown, home cooked meals.  It was a very rare treat to go out to a restaurant - something that was done for a birthday occasionally, or on trips.  My mom raised a huge garden, canned the surplus, baked everything from scratch.  We raised goats and chickens and ducks.  My dad hunted for our meat - venison, duck, geese.  We bought in bulk and rarely ate processed foods.  When I moved out and went to college and started my own life, things slowly started to change.  I worked in fast food restaurants, which meant a lot of free or cheap unhealthy food made up a lot of my meals.  My (now) husband did the same.  Our schedules were crazy busy, juggling multiple jobs apiece and school.  Then we got married and had children.  It just seemed that everything was always so busy and it was easier to just grab something quick from a restaurant.  Couldn't think of something to cook for dinner?  Well, let's grab burgers, or pizza, or fried chicken...
So, when my health declined so quickly and we subsequently found that we needed to drastically change the way we ate, it was a huge blow.  I spent months crying nearly every day out of the frustration I felt - we couldn't have the foods we knew and were easy.  There was a mental block for awhile there - I just couldn't think of anything we could eat anymore.  Thankfully, I had my background to fall back on.  Once I got my feet back under me, I was able to pick myself back up and do something about it.  I looked at it as a challenge, an experience, an adventure.  Sure  I couldn't have x, y, or z anymore BUT, could I make it myself and make it healthy for us?  By the time my boys joined me on this adventure of a diet, about 6 months after I'd started, I felt like I could do it.  We are so much healthier for it.  Not only did we cut out the foods that our bodies were reacting to, but in the process shed much of the processed garbage that has become so commonplace in today's society and on our plates.
Of course I miss the convenience sometimes, but I can honestly say there's not much I truly miss, food-wise.  I'm thankful every day that we are able to live a healthier and more mindful life, even if it was an illness that had to open our eyes to it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh my! Best pumpkin bars ever!

I love the Gluten Free Goddess blog and I frequently browse it. I stumbled across her recipe for Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bars  and I happened to have a few pumpkins left in storage that needed to be used up, so thought I'd try them.  They are DIVINE!  The brown sugar & spice frosting was a major hit here.  The boys and hubby all thought it tasted like maple.  I think it would be a great stand in for cream cheese frosting on a spice or carrot cake.  This recipe will definitely become a regular!