Nonalcoholic Yumminess

I recently discovered my new favorite refreshing beverage, and I thought I’d share it with you all.

I accidentally made a still life!

Here’s my disclaimer up front: I do not like sweet drinks. Sodas? Yuck. Cocktails that call for simple syrup? Eww. So this drink really hit the spot. If you are someone who loves sugary drinks, bless your soul, but this isn’t the drink for you. It’s not bitter or sour or anything, but it’s definitely not sweet.

If you’re not familiar with Angostura bitters, while it technically contains alcohol, it’s available in grocery stores (even in Utah). Like vanilla extract, you use it in quantities so small that the effect is essentially non-alcoholic.

An interesting tidbit: My maternal grandmother was once featured in her local small-town Ohio newspaper for her award-winning recipe for marinated short ribs, the marinade for which features Angostura bitters. Those marinated short ribs remain in my memory as a major comfort food from my youth, along with twice-baked potatoes and hamburger stroganoff (which my family also called “hamburg stroganoff.”)

Okay, you’re probably thirsty after reading all of that, so here’s the recipe for my yummy, nonalcoholic beverage:

Ingredients:

Ice cubes

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

A squeeze of lime juice (2/8 fresh lime, or a splash of bottled lime juice, unsweetened)

Carbonated water/seltzer to top up

Fill a tall-ish glass with ice (5-6 cubes). Add 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters. Squeeze 2- 1/8 sections of lime into the glass, rub the rim with a lime wedge, and drop the sections into the glass. Top up with carbonated water/seltzer. Enjoy and repeat as many times as you’d like!

Duck and Cover: Microwave Spaghetti Squash

So, my dinner exploded last night.

The squash in question is hiding in the back by the paper towels.

I was, as usual, microwaving a whole spaghetti squash. I followed the directions on the label that had been stuck on one of the squashes I bought last fall. I pricked the skin multiple times (like 27 times with the tip of a rather dull steak knife), then put it in the microwave on high. After five minutes, it didn’t seem soft enough, so in for another five minutes it went.

In the meantime, I’d finished making the spaghetti sauce and the whole wheat pasta for the kids. Their hands were washed and I was dishing out their food when the microwave beeped. My daughter sat at the table talking about something or other (by evening, I kind of start tuning her out. It’s always about the reproductive or migratory habits of various animals anyway), and my son was engaged in some kind of crashing-trucks-into-teddy-bears game in the other room.

The squash was hissing and kind of squealing when I took it out of the microwave.

“This is new,” I thought. I didn’t remember the squash being so vocal before.

It was too hot to grasp well with my bare hands, but the hot mitts were across the room where my son dropped them earlier in the afternoon after pretending to check the doneness of his cookies. (“No, cookies aren’t done yet,” he’d said as he’d slammed the dishwasher door shut.) I balanced the stem end against the palm of my left hand and began prodding the squash along its equator with the one sharp knife we own. The skin of the squash was resistant. I applied more pressure with the knife blade.

“HisssSSSSSS…THWUMP!” said the squash as it split open and spewed molten squash innards on my hands, face, sweater, and pants.

I squealed, dropped the knife on the counter, and frantically flung the hot squash bits that clung to my bare skin onto the floor. I willed myself to reattain a calm demeanor as I ran cold water over my hands at the sink.

Squash splattered on the ceiling.

The squash strings and seeds that weren’t blocked by my body had continued on their trajectory until stopped by the floor, the table and chairs across the room, or the ceiling.

“What happened, Mommy?” my daughter asked from across the room with interest but without concern. She had been at a safe distance from the flying squash.

“My squash exploded,” I answered as I decided that the pain in my hands was a good sign since that meant the burns were likely only first- or second-degree, at least according to the information I’d retained from the anti-burns Shriners video they showed to my school when I was in third grade. That video neglected to warn about the dangers of microwaving spaghetti squash, but I’m fairly sure it was made before microwaves were in widespread use so I guess the omission is forgivable.

Squash burn, twelve hours later.

“What?” my daughter asked.

“My squash exploded,” I repeated.

My husband arrived home as I was trying to clean up the floor.

“What happened?” he asked from the doorway of the kitchen.

“My squash exploded,” I said yet again.

“What?” he asked. I looked at him over the rims of my squash-covered glasses. “Your squash exploded?”

“Yes, honey. My squash exploded.”

I have since discovered that I’m not remotely alone in my exploding squash experience. A quick internet search revealed that it’s a somewhat common occurrence, at least among bloggers. In fact, Mindy at Too Many Jars in My Kitchen! wrote about her exploding squash just a few days ago. If only I had found her blog before I made dinner last night.

I think that in the future, I might start cutting the squash in half before microwaving it. Unless there’s an intruder in the house, in which case having an improvised explosive might prove useful. Provided, that is, the intruder is willing to wait 5 to 10 minutes until the squash is done in the microwave.

Why Are the World’s Best Cupcakes Languishing On My Table?

Last night, I made cupcakes.

The World’s Best Cupcakes.

 

Okay, well, among the World’s Best Cupcakes.

And no one’s eating them. All because my daughter came down with a stomach bug overnight. Then my son caught it. Now I’m listening to Elmo in the background (because on “sick” days I remove all screen-time regulations) and wondering when/if the bug is going to hit my husband and me.

I made them for our Girl Scout group. It’s a “group” rather than a “troop” because we’re homeschoolers and we like to do things unconventionally. All of our girls are registered as Juliettes (scouts unaffiliated with a troop). They range in age from first-year Daisies to second-year Juniors and meet twice a month to do chaotic but very fun activities led by not one or two Leaders, but by all of us. By consensus. By some kind of miracle.

Today, we—or rather, they—are meeting to celebrate the 100th Birthday of Girl Scouts in the United States (which is a little redundant since all of the rest of the world has “Girl Guides,” but I can’t expect everyone to be up on the history of scouting). The first Girl Scouts were inducted into the organization on March 12, 1912. Or at least that’s the official date. Apparently Daisy (Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts) wasn’t big on record-keeping. Some place the actual date on March 9, others on February 18. But the official birthdate of Girl Scouts is March 12th. (This is all from the new biography of Juliette Gordon Low, Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts by Stacy Cordery, by the way).

A side note (as if this entire post isn’t just a series of side notes), Juliette Gordon Low was a big proponent of teaching girls to play basketball and to shoot guns. Had they combined these two activities, they might not have had to put up canvas blankets to shield the girls from the view of adult males who made inappropriate comments about the basketball-playing females.

At any rate, today’s the day our group is celebrating the 100th Birthday of the Girl Scouts. And for that celebration, I made cupcakes. Vegan cupcakes. And, for the first time ever, I got vegan cupcakes that are also gluten-free to come out edible and cupcake-shaped. They’re a little denser than the non-gluten-free ones (more the texture of a corn muffin than a cupcake), but they taste incredible (even though I’m not officially eating sugar, I decided to taste one last night, just to make sure they were good enough to share with the girls this morning).

Gluten-free cupcakes, pre-frosting

But since the child who helped bake the cupcakes threw up a few hours later, the group opted for a cupcake-free celebration this morning. Not that I blame them. But now what do I do with these cupcakes?

My daughter says she’s not going to eat any even once her tummy feels better because she’s been getting tummy aches from sweet things lately (which is true. I don’t know why, but there certainly seems to be a correlation between sugar and tummyaches for her lately). My son wants to eat a cupcake right now, but it’s not been long enough since he got sick last to give him solid food. I just finished a load of sick-day laundry, and I’d rather not do another one quite so soon. I’m not eating sugar, my husband’s at work, and no one else wants these awesomely delicious but potentially contaminated cupcakes.

They look so stoic in their despair, don’t they?

If you would like to make these same delicious cupcakes in your own home, grab yourself a copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I recommend buying yourself a copy instead of always checking it out from the library because it might happen that you volunteer at the last minute to make vegan cupcakes and the book isn’t available at the library and then you have to ask your friend Jenny to send you the recipe because even with expedited shipping, the book won’t arrive fast enough to bake the cupcakes in time to languish on your table uneaten because your kids are sick. Your friend Jenny will pull through with flying colors, by the way, but you still might want to buy the book because you ought not to ask her to transcribe all of the recipes you will want to make from it.

These are the Golden Vanilla Cupcakes with Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting. To make the gluten-free ones, just sub out some type of gluten-free flour for the wheat flour (I used rice flour and garfava flour). No xanthan gum necessary! If you make these yourself, note that the batter for the GF ones is not so tasty, even though the cupcakes are super yum. So don’t worry when you lick the beaters; just put the cupcakes in the oven, confident that the baking process will bring out the yumminess.

Moskowitz has a recipe for a gluten-free cupcake in her book, but that one didn’t come out for me.

I consulted the owner of the vegan bakery I love in Salt Lake City (Cakewalk Baking Company), and she suggested I just sub out the flour in Moskowitz’s regular recipes and that’s what worked. Once everyone is well, I might just work my way through the book, making GF versions of every single one of the cupcakes in there. And then giving them away since I’m not eating sugar.

Beef Stoop (A Recipe for a Sort of Soup, Sort of Stew)

It’s not quite a stew and not exactly a soup…it’s Beef Stoop!

This is my very own throw-it-together recipe, named by my 2-year-old son (he came up with the name more than a month ago, and the recipe followed). I whipped this up this week and didn’t want to forget the recipe. Then I figured others might like it, so why not post it to the blog! Feel free to share and re-post liberally, but please do link back here and give me credit for the recipe. And if you make it, comment and let me know how you like it!

This will be technically “done” after an hour or so of simmering, but I do think it benefits from several hours of cooking.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 large onions, chopped

1-2 T coconut oil

6 small carrots (or 3 large)

4 stalks celery

6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 quart organic beef broth

1 quart organic low sodium chicken broth

1 T sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, washed and chopped (this is just what I happened to have going bad in my fridge; you could certainly sub out any number of other spices, like sage or maybe basil or oregano or thyme or marjoram, or leave this out entirely)

1 pound frozen organic green beans

1. In a 3-quart or larger pot (one with a cover), heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef and sere on all sides. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent.

2. Add carrots, celery, garlic, broth, salt, pepper, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 4 hours or so.

3. Add frozen green beans, return to a boil over medium heat, then simmer, covered, over low heat for an additional 1-2 hours.

I was very pleased with how this stoop turned out. The broth was rich and flavorful, the meat and vegetables tender. The whole family devoured it with gusto. And it’s relatively inexpensive! I might try it in the slow cooker next time.

Search my “recipe” category for many, many other of my favorite recipes (both mine and from other sources)!

Cookie Hangover

I have a cookie hangover, and I’m not even eating any of them.

The fudge is the toughest thing to resist. I really like fudge. But after a few weeks on my elimination diet, even just drinking spiced cider this weekend was too much for me (not even hard cider, just normal old apple juice with mulling spices steeped in it). So I know that I would regret it if I ate fudge, even if it is for the noble purpose of clearing space in my fridge.

But wait! I have pictures! These are of the cookies and whatnot I set out for the little get-together we had at our place with a couple of our neighbors this weekend.

The spread (not pictured: two types of dip and two kinds of crackers. And all of the beverages and the fruit salad one of the neighbors brought. And the mini bagel pizzas.)

The neighbors did not eat nearly enough cookies. But they loved the tapenade I made, which is always gratifying. And we made a nice dent in the fruit arrangement my mom sent me for my birthday (she kept apologizing for sending it late, but it actually worked out very well, arriving just hours before our neighbors were due to come over). It turns out my children are very enthusiastic about eating fruit on skewers. I put their lunch fruit on skewers today. They ate everything but the kiwi.

Some closeups of the goodies. We still have the gingerbread house (fairly stale by now, but the kids are still nibbling away at it). And keep in mind that each of these made way more than pictured here.

Great-grandma's crumb cookies (3 cookie sheet's worth). And five colors of homemade buttercream (not shown). Clever me, I let the kids frost their own cookies. I'll think twice about that plan next year.

 

Fudge (one 9x13 pan) and chocolate chip cookies (3 dozen)

 

Sugar and spice cookies (3 dozen) and snickerdoodles (4 dozen)

 

Cheesecake bars and raspberry chocolate crumb bars (one 9x13 pan each)

 

If you’re local and want some cookies, please let me know when I can drop some off. My husband took a bunch to work this morning for a potluck luncheon, but there were too many other desserts there and he brought back 2/3 of what he took in. He says he can’t eat any more cookies. I think he’s just not digging deep enough. He could eat more if he really tried.

So, last week’s focus was cookies. This week’s focus is sleep. Unfortunately, it’s easier to bake cookies when my kids are around than it is to sleep.

Pumpkin Yumminess (for the Grown-Ups and the Kids)

While the turkey was cooking, we made the Pilgrim’s Pumpkin 75 from Drink of the Week. That’s it above. It was a very yummy while-the-turkey’s-cooking beverage. Just make sure that you have a little snack before drinking it, or maybe make it your dessert drink. I mixed ours up in a lull in the cooking activities. I’d finished about half of mine when I remembered I’d not eaten in several hours. I’d like to point out here that these glasses aren’t all that big. They’re the closest I had to champagne flutes. They’re taster glasses from a double IPA festival my husband and I attended back before we had kids and before I found that gluten is not my friend. I think they hold about 4 ounces each. This is how they look on the front side, with green beans for size comparison:

When the kids found out we were making pumpkin drinks, they wanted one. Of course, I’m not going to give my children gin. But aside from the alcohol, the ingredients seemed pretty kid-friendly, so I mixed up a non-alcoholic version that I poured into two plastic cups. My daughter didn’t like hers at all and spit it out into the cup so no one else wanted to drink it. My son liked his until he found out his sister didn’t like hers. Then it got spilled on the carpet during the demolition of a giant tower of plastic blocks.

I actually quite like the NA version, and I can see mixing one of these up for myself when I’m looking for a tasty and refreshing pumpkiny beverage that won’t make me tipsy. And that the kids won’t want to share with me.

Non-Alcoholic Pumpkin Punch

(based on Pilgrim’s Pumpkin 75 from Drink of the Week)

Ingredients:

1 oz water

1 1/2 oz pureed cooked pumpkin

1/2 oz lemon juice

2 pinches pumpkin pie spice (or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves)

1/2 oz simple syrup (I used agave nectar)

Sparkling water for topping up

Shake all ingredients except the sparkling water with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a glass and top up with sparkling water.

Honey or Vinegar: Putting an Old Adage to the Test

While you might catch more flies with honey, it turns out you actually catch more fruit flies with vinegar.

Drosophila Specimens (no idea why the reflection of the camera looks like an owl/lion looking thing)

 

Most specifically, this is about two ounces of apple cider vinegar and about three drops of liquid dish soap in a plastic cup. Thanks to my in-laws for passing along the recipe when we most needed it.

The Apple-Crisp-and-Beach-Trip Anniversary (#12, of course)

Today is our 12th wedding anniversary.

I’ll wait for the applause to die down before continuing.

Yesterday we drove out to Gloucester to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary by spending the day at the beach. We had 80-degree temperatures and clear blue skies. We found a protected little cove with lots of sand and bordered by trees, so while my sun-loving family played in the water, I reclined in the shade and read. I walked in the water for a little while. Collected some sea glass, took some photos.

Afterwards, we had dinner at a Portuguese restaurant where we determined that my daughter loves lobster and that my son is convinced that it’s hilarious to even suggest he might eat it. “I doan eat wobter!” he’d giggle every time we offered him some. It was a good dinner, but I’ve yet to eat blow-your-mind seafood since we’ve been in New England. I’m still looking.

At the restaurant, I asked my husband if he had anything to say about our 12 years as a married couple.

“I think we’re keeping it real,” he said.

We got stuck in traffic on the way home for some undetermined reason probably explained by wave theory. We were tired of our music and entertained ourselves for a while with the erratic “seek” function on the car stereo. The highlight was King Harvest’s “Dancin’ in the Moonlight.”

Everybody here is outta sight, indeed.

Actually, I think my husband would say the highlight was “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe. The fact that we listened to both songs in their entirety happens to be our secret to wedded bliss. That and the fact that we both remembered all of the lyrics to “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

Today, we biked to church in the continued awesome weather. But before we left, I threw together a gluten-free, dairy-free apple crisp. Three out of four of our family members agreed that it rocked. The holdout was my daughter who’s decided that she doesn’t like apples.

With any luck, we’ll be able to finish out our anniversary with some spaghetti, an early bedtime for the kids, and a couple of episodes of “The Office.” If my husband doesn’t feel too weird about the fact that I dreamed about Jim Halpert last night. (It was totally G-rated, I promise. Well, PG.)

Happy Anniversary, Honey!

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Anniversary Apple Crisp

modified from the Pear Plum Crisp recipe from Cynthia Lair’s Feeding the Whole Familyand is similar to her recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. (Follow the link for a much more attractive picture of a crisp than I took.)

Ingredients:

1 c gluten-free rolled oats

1/2 c gluten-free flour blend of your choice (I eyeballed a mix of rice flour, arrowroot starch, and buckwheat flour)

1/2 t sea salt

1/2 c dairy-free margarine, melted and divided

7 T maple syrup, divided

1/3 c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

3 t cinnamon, divided

1/2 t nutmeg

2 t vanilla extract

5 to 7 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced (I used Cortlands. They worked great.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix oats, flour, salt, 1 t cinnamon, and nuts together in a bowl. Add 1/4 c of the margarine and 4 T of maple syrup and mix well. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 T maple syrup, 1/4 c melted margarine, 2 t cinnamon, the nutmeg, and the vanilla, and set aside.

Put apples in a lightly oiled 8×8 baking dish. Pour the liquid mixture over the fruit and stir gently to distribute as evenly as possible. Spoon the oat-nut mixture over the top of the fruit. Cover and bake about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes to make the topping crisp.

Potions Class

A couple of weeks ago, I made some homemade personal care items. Jury’s still out on how well they work for me. The cleanser/lotion is wonderful as a lotion but might be a little too cold-creamy for me as a cleanser. I love how it smells, though. Actually, I love the smell of all of the stuff I made. The “Fennel Soother”…mmm… Even the “Out Damn Spot” acne treatment is smelly in a good way.

My Smooth-as-Velvet Vanilla Toner will be ready Saturday when its 2-week steep is up. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

I got all of the recipes from Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles. I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything else I want to make before the book is due back at the library (this week. I’d better hurry!).

Chocolatey Figgy Smoothie

Last week at the grocery store, there were figs. They looked so good that I bought them and brought them home before I remembered that I don’t really like figs.

They sat in the fridge for days while I hoped that someone else in the family would open the door, say, “Ooo! Figs!” and scarf them down.

After nearly a week, I finally looked up figs online to get some serving suggestions. All of the articles about eating figs were predicated on the idea that figs are really awesome and yummy, which really didn’t help me out. I needed something in which to hide my figs and make them palatable to me, if not to the rest of my family. All of the articles also made it clear that figs last only a few days in the fridge, so I needed to act fast.

I remembered a yummy chocolate smoothie recipe I’d made years ago. I looked up the recipe in I Am Grateful by Terces Englehart and Orchid. It called for dates and nut milk, too, neither of which I had right then, so I decided to wing it, buoyed by the assurance that adding figs to a smoothie was not, in fact, unprecedented.

I threw a bunch of stuff in the blender, and when I tasted it, I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted quite yummy. And between the caffeine in the cocoa and the laxative properties of the figs, this smoothie really got me going. So to speak.

I put figs in my smoothie this morning, too, without chocolate and with greens. It was fine, but not awesome. If you really want it, I’ll share that one, too. For now, here’s the chocolatey one.

Chocolatey Figgy Smoothie

yields about 4 cups

Ingredients:

3 black mission figs, washed

3 strawberries, washed

1 banana, peeled

soy milk or other non-dairy milk (about one cup)

2 T raw cacao powder (or regular cocoa, for a stronger flavor)

1 t vanilla

1 rounded scoop lecithin granules (optional. I like using lecithin for the silky-smooth texture it gives my smoothies)

5 ice cubes

Place the figs and strawberries in the blender. Pour soy milk over them until it reaches the “1 cup” line on the blender pitcher. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 30-60 seconds until smooth.