Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gluten-Free Rolled Oats by Bob's Red Mill

Last summer we made the family decision to reduce our grocery spending by significant proportions. 

One week into The Project we realized that boxed breakfast cereal was out of the question if we wanted to meet our budget. 

Daily oatmeal became the standard for breakfast. Regular oatmeal is cheap as all get out. Certified gluten-free oats are quite a bit more expensive, yet still cheaper that boxed cereal and certainly more hearty. 

For my family, eating boxed cereal for breakfast is equivalent to eating air and calling it a meal. Without oatmeal in the morning, my three monkeys are starving and out of their minds. With oatmeal in the morning, the monkeys are satisfied and stable until 10 o'clock snack time. We need our oatmeal.

For Celiacs, certified gluten-free oats are a necessity, not a want. Regular oats throw my Celiac son into a tailspin.

The oat/gluten connection can be confusing. Allow me to break it down for you:

Oats in-and-of-themselves do not contain gluten. But since they are a major agricultural product they are typically handled in the same grain elevators and processing plants as wheat, barley and rye. Thus, oats are cross-contaminated with gluten on their way to your cupboard. 

Bob's Red Mill produces great certified gluten-free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats. My major grocery store carries them, as do all of the local natural grocers and Amazon.com. Find yourself some yummy certified gluten-free oats today and find yourself happy tomorrow morning!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fresh Squeezed Margaritas

There's nothing like starting summer off right with a batch of fresh squeezed Margaritas. Five easy ingredients = a super simple summer cocktail.

Here's my take on the basic Marg with the fresh ingredients we had on hand in Mexico. 

Fresh Squeezed Margaritas

3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (approximately 18 key limes)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (approximately 1 medium juice orange)
1/2 cup simple syrup (mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in saucepan, heat over medium-low to dissolve the sugar, don't boil, set aside to cool)
2 cups tequila
1/4 cup rum
1 cup water

The Preparation Method:
Get simple syrup started on the stovetop. Squeeze the limes. Squeeze the orange juice. 

Grab a glass pitcher. Combine 3/4 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup simple syrup, 2 cups tequila, 1/4 cup rum, and 1 cup water. Stir vigorously. Pour over ice into salt rimed glasses. You're all set to ring in the summer. Cheers!

For The Visual Learners Among Us:

Get a load of fresh key limes. Or regular limes. Either will do.


Place in garlic press.


One fresh orange. Slice. Squeeze.

Simple syrup. Equal parts water and sugar over the stove. Heat to dissolve the sugar. No need to boil.

Yummy tequila. Don't settle for the cheap stuff here. Use your favorite brand. You'll be glad you did.

All ingredients ready to go. Tequila. Lime juice. Orange juice. Rum. Simple syrup.

I'll say it again. Use your favorite tequila here. Don't settle. My favorite is 30-30 Blanco.

But we had an incredible tequila we bought in Mexico here called Cabo Wabo - Reposado. Yes, it's Sammy Hagar's tequila. Yes, it's pretty dang goooooood.

Mix it all together in a glass pitcher. Pour it on ice into a salt rimmed glass.

Ta-Da! You did it. Fresh squeezed Margaritas. Super easy. Super yummy. Feel the beach my friends. Feel the beach.

Jack Johnson - Better Together

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Note To Self: When Traveling To Mexico With Kids

Dear Judith, 

Please take careful notes next time your friends tell you all the ways you can be well-prepared for your trip to Mexico. 

Remember to pack your sunscreen in the checked luggage so it doesn't get confiscated in the security line at the airport. Sunscreen is a key player for a good time in Mexico. By the way, the sunscreen in Mexico is super expensive even for the—cheap, hard to rub-in, barely does a good job—stuff. You can't afford for your light skinned babies to get the burn, mama.

Don't forget to get grapefruit seed extract to help prevent a rumbly tummy. For it's possible you might miss precious moments like these due to ill feelings.

If you think your friends are joking when they insist you pack Pepto Bismol—they're not. And if you think you are immune to traveler's tummy because you so desperately believe it won't happen to you—you're not. Thank heavens there was some of that funny pink stuff in the pantry when you got there. Otherwise you would have missed out on your baby girl's birthday celebration.

And when you do forget the grapefruit seed extract, Pepto Bismol and try desperately to avoid getting even a drop of water in your mouth but the entire family still manages to fall victim to Montezuma's Revenge, don't forget to pack the diaper rash cream for the baby. You're gonna need it, mama.

Always remember, the number one rule to enjoying the sun and the surf: stay hydrated. Dehydration will put a real cramp in your style. Keep those babies drinking water all day and don't get so busy with everyone else that you forget to drink some for yourself.

And a final few tips for next time... 

Keep yourself focused when packing—no Modern Family, phone calls, or desk work in the middle of the task.

Don't start packing at 10pm the night before you leave for the airport at 5:30am. 

Forget about drinking margaritas until you get there. Channeling good times while packing doesn't always work out so well for you.

Your Friend,

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Awoke From A Dream

I awoke from a dream last night...

where bits and pieces of the memory were pulled together like an abstract collage.

It began with the three most precious men in my life standing at the sea shore, watching the waves roll over the sand. 

Somehow I was swept away to a rooftop in what appeared to be the jungle with the ocean shortly off in the distance.

And there were limes. So many limes. Fresh margaritas were beckoning. This dream was getting better by the minute.

I started squeezing the limes. In the kitchen. Where my head was in the trees.

When I turned around, I spotted this hammock perfectly positioned ten paces from the kitchen counter.

Aren't dreams amazing the way they provide everything you need without hesitation?

Not certain if it was the heat or the margarita, but some mysterious creature began playing a game of hide and seek in the tree above.

Oh, and surprise! The kids were with me in my dream. They were walking along a dirt road, headed toward the beach. Perfectly content. Amen. 

And that hard working graduate was there too. 

The mood was mellow.

The surroundings blissful.

And at the end of the day, we were all together.

Soaking up every last ounce of sunshine available to us.

Until the day was done.

I'm hoping for another dream like that tonight.

This was the song playing over and over again in the background.

Zac Brown Band - Knee Deep

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mexican Chorizo and Egg Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast tacos may very well be my favorite breakfast food of late. So much flavor wrapped up into one little easy-to-handle package. When the right ingredients are paired together, this is bliss on a platter.

Mexican Chorizo and Egg Breakfast Tacos

1 lb Mexican Chorizo (spicy pork sausage)
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
8 eggs
1 fresh avocado
salsa verde
10 corn tortillas
2 small limes
salt and pepper

The Preparation Method:
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Set aside.

Add chorizo to a large saucepan. Turn heat to medium-high, break up the chorizo into crumbles and saute until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms about 5 minutes into it. Keep stirring.

While the chorizo is cooking, get the eggs going in a separate saucepan. Scramble them to your liking, adding salt and pepper to your taste.

Meanwhile, have your kitchen assistant peel and slice the avocado into thin strips.

When both the chorizo and eggs are finished cooking, heat the corn tortillas in the pan with a little splash of oil.

Layer eggs, chorizo, avocado and salsa in the tortilla and serve with a twist of lime over the top.

Ahhh, early morning bliss.

Xavier Rudd - Come Let Go

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coleslaw Topper

Living without dairy is something I vowed I would never, ever, ever do. I know some of you reading this right now feel the same way. We've talked about it. I sense your apprehension.

But if you need to bid adieu because your nose is too stuffed up, your skin is too itchy, your head aches too often, or your phlegm is simply too much for your lover to handle any longer, you may at some point have considered giving up dairy.

I'll be honest with you—there is no true replacement for aged cheese, Greek yogurt, a tall glass of cold milk, or a pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food.

But that doesn't mean I can't try. I've found plenty of alternatives which add creamy richness to my meals that don't result in any of the nasty symptoms described above.

One of the gold medal winners in this family is my Coleslaw Topper. It is so quick and easy to prepare. Ten minutes or less to a ten times more enjoyable meal.

I use it to top-off my Crock-Pot BBQ Chicken PerfectionFive Fold Burrito, and Grilled Fish Tacos.

Try it alone or as a topper to your favorite taco or burrito style meal and welcome back the creaminess you crave. You might even find yourself early one morning serving up a dish with cold rice for breakfast. At least that's what I do. Is that weird?

Coleslaw Topper

1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 TBS rice vinegar
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar

The Preparation Method:
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, rice vinegar, celery seed, salt and sugar. Shred the cabbage into short and thin pieces. Dump cabbage into mayo concoction. Stir it around to coat the cabbage well. Refrigerate. Use within 24 hours.

I've had John Mellencamp in my head lately. I like him. I've always liked him. Is that weird?

John Mellencamp - Pop Singer

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Donuts by Kinnikinnick

Perfectly fitting for the morning after a big celebration.

Donuts and coffee.

In bed.

With my sweet love.

I have arrived.

Living in a gluten-free world, donuts have been a thing of the past. Virtually extinct in my mind.

Until I discovered these little babies. Deep fried sugar bombs covered in chocolate. Gluten-free and dairy-free.


Kinnikinnick is my go-to brand for all of my old-timey pre-packaged desert needs. They make delicious allergy-friendly sandwich cookies (better known as Oreos), graham crackers, animal crackers and the like.

When considering gluten-free baked goods, proper texture and flavor are all important factors in choosing a winner. Kinnikinnick Foods holds the gold medal in my book.

The cool thing about Kinnikinnick Foods is they produce their food in a dedicated gluten-free, wheat-free, peanut-free and tree nut-free facility. Certainly a bonus for folks who are concerned with cross-contamination.

Next time you want to get your sugar bomb ON, give Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped Donuts a whirl. I'm certain you'll fall back in love with that old Sunday morning tradition. 


My husband's single wish for a graduation present, the Mumford and Sons album. 

Mumford and Sons - Little Lion Man

Friday, May 13, 2011

0: Grateful

Well friends, it's officially over.

Finished. Finito. Terminou. Finis.

In the bag. Put to bed. All wrapped up.

My sweet (sick, exhausted, and braindead) husband completed his last final exam yesterday. And I tell you what—the minute he walked in the door that evening everything felt different. For me, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest. I can breath easier. The kids were high-fiving Daddy and squealing with delight. The adults stayed-up way too late clinking glasses with friends after dinner. Cheers to this. Cheers to that. Every other statement was an occasion to toast.

Early this morning, for the first time in years, I got back under the covers after breakfast. I curled up in the warmth of the comforter to bask in the glorious sensation running through my body. The sensation of complete relief is not one I get to experience very often. So I thought I'd take my time with it and not busy it away. And in that moment, I realized the overall theme running through my mind was one of gratitude.

Grateful for the opportunity to grow as a wife and mother. Grateful for the opportunity to support my husband in his ambitions and dreams. Grateful for all the people who have surrounded us and lifted us up over the past four years.

I Am Grateful ~

To the girlfriends who consistently received my late night—I've got two hours worth of kitchen to clean here, want to chat?—phone calls. I couldn't have done it without you.

To all the babysitting co-op mothers who traded childcare with me so I could attend a meeting, appointment or simply take a breath. I couldn't have done it without you.

To my mother who would fly out to stay with us periodically during final exams and business trips. We couldn't have done it without you.

To my girlfriends who graciously lent a listening ear to my endless bouts of griping. I couldn't have done it without you.

To the men who carried my hubby through the dizzying maze of balancing family life with work and school. He couldn't have done it without you.

To my oldest friend who never ceases to flow with timely wisdom and healthy perspective. I couldn't have done it without you.

To my dancing girls who helped me harness the vitality and energy to keep pressing through all the hard work and mundane times. I couldn't have done it without you.

To my doula angels who never hesitated to answer my crazy calls for help be it day or night. I couldn't have done it without you.

To my mother-in-law who taught me the power of YES. I couldn't have done it without you.

To the country music radio station that was a constant reminder to be present in each moment because it all goes by too fast. I couldn't have done it without you.

To my three precious children who gracefully endured my "mean mommy voice" enough to last ten lifetimes.

And to my dear husband who—despite how exhausted and overworked he was–always found space to support me and the children in our ambitions and dreams.

A toast—to ambitions and dreams fulfilled—now and in the future.

Love to you all,


Now let's celebrate!!!

Kool & The Gang - Celebration

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bourbon Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Butternut Squash

I love adding alcohol to my recipes. I love the sound as it pours out of the bottle into the pan—ga-gulp, ga-gulp, ga-gulp. I love the sound as it pours out of the bottle into my mouth—ga-gulp, ga-gulp, ga-gulp. Awww, I’m just joshin’ ya’ll. It actually sounds more like swish, swoosh, swish.

But seriously, alcohol does something special to meat marinades that cannot easily be replicated with other ingredients. It offers a lively twist. Packs a powerful punch. Add enough, and you might even feel a little tipsy when you’re all finished. Not sure if it’s the alcohol in the food, or the alcohol that rolled down my tongue during the preparation process, but either way, cooking with alcohol can be fun!

That aside, the main reason why I began creating my own marinades is because so many of the store bought ones have ingredients that don’t work for our family, mainly in the form of soy sauce and corn syrup. Creating your own marinade is cheap and easy—and really fun when alcohol is involved. Hello dancing in the kitchen :)

Enjoy this really simple Bourbon Grilled Chicken recipe. Place it over Caramelized Butternut Squash and you might find yourself in heaven by the time your plate is clean.

Bourbon Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Butternut Squash

Serves: 4
Total Prep Time: 30 minutes (plus 4-7 hours to marinate)
Level: Easy
Total Ingredients: 10

Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp crushed celery seed
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly cut

Caramelized Butternut Squash Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash
2 TBS canola oil
1/2 tsp garlic salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup light brown sugar

Marinade Instructions:
In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon, 1/8 cup rice vinegar, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp crushed celery seed and 10 turns fresh ground black pepper. Trim fat from the boneless skinless chicken breasts. If they are thick to start with, cut them in half widthwise so that the meat is no more than an inch thick. Mix the chicken into the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 - 7 hours. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor.

Caramelized Butternut Squash Instructions:
Peel skin off butternut squash with a swivel peeler. Cut in half lengthwise and gut the seeds out. Slice the squash lengthwise into long flat pieces no more than a 1/2 inch thick. Mix together 2 TBS canola oil, 1/2 tsp garlic salt and 10 turns freshly ground black pepper. Rub both sides of each slice with this mixture. Now rub in the brown sugar to both sides of each slice. Reserve some brown sugar for once the grilling gets going.

Grilling Instructions:
Turn the fire on. Wait for the grill to heat up. Reduce flame to medium-low. Place the butternut squash and marinated chicken on the cooking grid. Close the lid.

Grill the squash for approximately 15 minutes, turning once at 7 minutes. Place a little more brown sugar on top of each slice after it's been turned over. Squash is done when it is easily penetrable with a fork and flimsy when picked up. The sugar should be nicely caramelized on each side.

Grill the chicken for approximately 11 minutes, turning once at 6 minutes.

Serve each chicken breast over a slice of caramelized butternut squash. Serve it up with Bush's Grillin' Beans ~ Bourbon and Brown Sugar. Heaven!


Patsy Cline - Blue Moon of Kentucky

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Fast Food ~ Interstate Edition

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Corn-Free, Oh My!

What's a weary traveler to do when the options are few?

In our hometown, we've staked out all of the fast-food establishments that easily cater to our special dietary restrictions:

Chipotle for burrito bowls

Qdoba for more burrito bowls

Noodles & Co. for most any noodle bowl with the rice noodle substitution

Chick-Fil-A for chargilled chicken filet wrapped in lettuce, chicken garden salad, chicken fruit salad, waffle fries, egg, bacon and sausage breakfast

Subway for most of the cold-cut lunch meat salads

Good Times for fresh cut fries and lettuce wrapped burgers (Note: Wild Fries are not gluten-free)

On the interstate, eating for our allergies was a whole different story.

My recent 1,000 mile driving trip made me realize just how few fast food drive-thru restaurants provide quick gluten-free options. Seeing as there was one driver, three little kids, and one-thousand miles to cover in a 24 hour period, I needed to drive-thru.

Normally I don't drive-thru. But there are times when I must drive-thru.

There wasn't much stopping and exercising on the way out to Chicago. We couldn't waste an hour sitting down at a roadside cafe. Nor were there any of our other fast-food favorites from the above list.

So we became very friendly with our two drive-thru options:

Wendy's for a meat patty wrapped in lettuce with bacon, french fries, chicken grill filet, baked potato, chili, and salads.

I like Wendy's a lot because they have large leaves of lettuce which fit around the burger like a bun. This makes eating a bunless burger soooo much easier.

Burger King for more meat patties on a bed of shredded lettuce, more french fries, and apple fries. The tacos are an option too if corn is part of your program.

The good news about Burger King is that most of the restaurants have dedicated fryers for the fries. This way cross-contamination is reduced. Always double check with each establishment to be sure about dedicated fryers if cross-contamination is an issue for you.

With Wendy's and Burger King as our only drive-thru options on I-80, two days into the trip I was beginning to feel like I was turning into a french fry. Actually, my thighs are proof that the metamorphosis had begun.

Thank heavens I'm home now eating normal food. I've never looked so forward to slaving over a hot stove in my life.


Quintessential road trip music....

Grateful Dead - Truckin'

Monday, May 9, 2011

1: One Woman, Two Thousand Miles, Three Wild Monkeys

I have been absent from this here bloggy-blog for the better part of a week.

Take a wild guess at what I did over the weekend.

No, I was not enjoying five days of luxurious spa treatment in honor of Mother's Day.

No, I was not sleeping 'til noon after long nights of celebrating the coming of my husband's graduation.

And no, I was not spending countless hours gazing into the eyes of my one true love.

None of those things happened over the weekend.

I'll give you a few clues:

Farmhouse in Illinois

Acres upon acres of wide open spaces

The most interesting part for my eldest boy — a long line of military vehicles

Haven't figured it out yet? I'll give you a few more clues:

Silos in the distance somewhere in Nebraska

The Mighty Mississippi River

Sunset in Iowa

My single wish for the 32 hours I was trapped in the car with my three young kids
Ah yes, you got it! I drove to Chicago for the weekend for a funeral. 

One woman. Two thousand miles. Three kids. Four nights. Five days.

As you can see, we spent the majority of our trip in the car. It proved to be an enriching time for all.

And now we're home safely and headed into the final week of my husband's four-year grad school journey. Just like the past four years for our family, driving across the country on my own with three kids has shown me that we can do anything we put our minds to. Whew!

Somewhere around mile 1,673 I was very happy to hear this song. We rocked out.

Tesla - Signs
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