Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Diversion: La Iguana

This summer in The Little White Kitchen I've been doing my fair share of dancing but have been majorly slacking in the recipe creation department. There are a number of reasons for this, namely...

1. I have been out-of-town or preparing to be out-of-town for nearly half of the summer.

2. I have been sick with a relentless head cold (could I be developing allergies for the first time in my life?) for the other half of the summer.

3. I do not have air conditioning in my house and it is 87 degrees in the kitchen before I even begin thinking about cooking dinner.

4. I have three rowdy children home all day, every day, and barely have a moment to think straight let alone concoct a fancy meal plan.

So there you have it. It's been salad and pasta and BBQ and tacos for this family for the past nine weeks. Despite how much I love summer, there is a little part of me that is longing for the rhythm and routine that comes with the start of a new school year. And then there will surely be more scrumptious gluten and dairy-free recipes coming your way.

Until then, a diversion from the packing and unpacking, the heat and the utter chaos constantly unfolding on the premises. 

La Iguana and Other Creatures: A Poem

'Twas an early summer day nearish the Pacific,

When up in the tree came a sight most terrific.

Over the branches and through the leaves,

Up climbed a massive iguana we just couldn't believe.

Small glimpses of its body didn't reveal quite its size,

Until he maneuvered out into the open to catch some flies.

He hung around for hours—so majestic, so grand.

A six foot long iguana—King of the Land.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simple Joy

Please pardon the one-day delay in my Simple Joy this week. Normally I post one simple joy from my week on Monday mornings. But this week I'm posting on Tuesday morning, as you can clearly see.

I took a weekend trip to Boston for business and am just now getting an opportunity to reconnect with this here bloggy-blog.

Boston is a delightful city, one that I hope to return to many times over. One evening after a productive day of work I found such joy gazing out my hotel window at the setting sun over the cityscape.

I simply can't get enough of the architecture in big cities. In Boston, there was something historic and regal to see at nearly every turn. As I sat and watched the sun set with great pleasure behind many of these buildings, I imagined all of the people throughout recent history who have stood gazing out this same window. Watching this same sun set. Dreaming of tomorrow. I was having a moment. My business partner may have thought I was crazy, but I was having a moment.

I hope to see you again soon Boston. Until then, stay historic and regal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup by Health Valley

There are moments in every woman's life where a good can of chicken noodle soup is downright necessary. As a gluten-free family, we long ago bid goodbye to this modern convenience.

I like to make chicken noodle soup from scratch. It's better that way. But there are times when this mama needs it to come from a can.

Take this week for instance. It's the middle of the summer. A massive head cold hits. It lasts longer than any stay-at-home-mom can reasonably afford.

I need comfort in a can and I need it quick. Campbell's chicken noodle soup has always been one of my favorite go-to comfort foods when I'm under the weather. Comfort foods are crucial to my healing. Canned comfort foods are crucial to my mental well-being.

It has been years since I've indulged in this canned comfort food tradition with chicken noodle soup. Until this week, that is. I was so pleased to find Health Valley's Gluten Free Cafe line on the shelves at my supermarket. And to think, they offer a gluten and dairy free chicken noodle soup! I was thrilled. Well, as thrilled as a woman with a head full of soreness and congestion can possibly be.

And it was good! Very good! Hearty thick noodles, wholesome bites of chicken, and perfectly mushable carrots and celery. I was pleased. Very pleased. 

Thank you Health Valley for thinking of us gluten free mamas who need our canned comfort foods every once in a while!

This is not a paid advertisement. I like soup from a can every now and again. Who can blame me?

Please note that companies can change their ingredients at will. If working with a severe food allergy always double check the ingredient list before consuming this product. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nifty Rain Boots ~ Join in the Kickstarter Fun and Win a Pair

Have you heard of Kickstarter? I don't know what planet I've been living on, but I hadn't heard of this most fantastically awesome concept until today. Somebody dig me out from the dust on planet Mars, please.

Earlier this morning, I unassumingly opened an email from an artist friend of ours to find my heart skipping a beat and nearly jumping out of my chest.

Rain boots? Kickstarter? What's this?


Jessica Swift is a remarkable woman living in Atlanta, GA spreading her message of love and empowerment through color, patterns and positive messages. Her artwork graces the walls of my home in two spots. I never tire of the whimsical cityscape that sets the tone for my living room.

Jess and I met a long time ago when she and my hubby worked together at the art museum in town. She moved away years ago to continue her pursuit as a full-time artist. Her smile will never leave my heart. It's contagious.

Besides her contagious smile and darling laugh, she is a highly talented artist with a deeply soulful spirit. Here's what she has to say about the mission behind her work:
We are all powerful human beings who deserve to be happy. We are each profoundly unique, and possess the ability to make our wildest dreams come true. And I believe that color and art are essential parts of living into our dreams and in experiencing life in a deeply happy and fulfilling way!
And with that, she's spreading the love in the form of Patterned Rain Boots with Secret Messages.

Now comes the cool part.

As with any dreamer who wants to make something out of nothing, start-up costs are necessary to bring the vision forth. This is where Kickstarter comes in. Jessica is funding her project by accepting donations through the Kickstarter program. The thing that makes Kickstarter so genius is their "all or nothing funding" rule. A project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Read more about this brilliant concept for funding creativity and the arts here.

And now the really cool part.

Jessica is giving away a pair of her most amazing rain boots to one lucky contributor to her Kickstarter project as a celebration for reaching her funding goal. The project will carry on! There will be beautiful rain boots on the streets! In the puddles! In the mud! I need me a pair of this goodness. You know how I like to splash in the rain.

Any and all contributors, even those contributing $1, will be entered into a random drawing for a pair of boots! To qualify, all contributions must be made before Thursday, July 21 at 8am.

Click here if you are so inclined to contribute to this fabulous creative project and take your chances at being a winner!

Go ahead now. Get used to seeing yourself in some sexy colorful rain boots. You deserve it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Simple Joy

This photo was taken with my iPhone
It's not often I take the opportunity to lay still and gaze up at the clouds.

This week I made a point of it. Every day.

I laid out my blanket.

Flat on my back I lay to watch the clouds roll by.

I made sure to remain as still as possible.

As a busy mother, this practice was incredibly therapeutic.

I'm still asking myself why I haven't made a practice of cloud gazing sooner.

Slowing down. Breathing. True joy.

Another photo taken with my iPhone

Friday, July 15, 2011

Open Your Eyes to Creative Solutions

Garage Sale Rule of Engagement 

#2: Open Your Eyes to Creative Solutions

This summer I have a new found fervor for accomplishing small projects around the house. Could it be due to the fact that my dear husband has finally finished school and I feel a thousand tons lighter on my feet? Indeed, I do believe so. 

One such project that has been on my list for far too long is finding a workable solution to the mass insanity I call a jewelry box.

For years now, I have been looking for an alternative to my current arrangement for all my earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Truly, I do not have many of the aforementioned items, but what I do have has been crying out for help.

From the outside, this four-tiered jewelry holder looks nice enough. The inside, however, is a different story. 

I bought it at a garage sale and was delighted that my bodily adornments would finally have a home. Up until that fine summer day years ago the top of my dresser was scattered with heaps of tiny metal, leather, ceramic and plastic jewels. It was a practice left over from my teenage years. A practice that drove my mother crazy. Now that I'm a mother myself, it was a practice that was starting to drive me crazy too. I won't even get started on how my husband felt about this practice. All I can say is I'm surprised I even have any jewelry left.

It didn't take long before the dreaded table mess transformed into the dreaded Box of Mangle and Frustration.

Earrings would be tangled up with one another.

Necklaces intertwined in tight knots.

And if I'm being completely honest with you, I barely have time to take a daily shower, let alone time enough to sit around and patiently detangle intertwined ropes and hooks. If I'm planning on adorning myself with jewels, it's got to be fast or it ain't happenin'.

I had been dreaming of a simple wire rack to hang nicely on my bedroom wall hoping to bring a semblance of organization to this mass pile of ornaments. I realize they sell things made for this purpose at most major retail outlets, but since I typically do not purchase things like this at normal stores, I sat around waiting for the jewelry rack of my dreams to magically appear. I waited. And I waited. It didn't appear. I couldn't find a single jewelry rack for sale at the garage sales and thrift stores I was frequenting.

Which brings me to Garage Sale Rule of Engagement #2: Open Your Eyes to Creative Solutions

With no suitable jewelry rack in sight, I readjusted my perspective on what I was looking for. Immediately, almost magically, I set my sights on this shabby chic iron wall hanging. It is a candle holder for tealights. The sticker on the back says PartyLite. It is the perfect jewelry rack for my bedroom.

Who knew that all this time I would find exactly what I was looking for in a PartyLite wall hanging? I was certainly surprised. And I couldn't be happier!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ice Cube Pops

I realize this is no revolutionary recipe. Heck, it's not even a recipe. It's more of a sanity strategy if nothing else.

This Mama needs plenty of sanity strategies to make it through the day in one piece. Luckily, the other night when I was feeling overly tired and unwell I got myself into bed at 7:30 and fell fast sleep. In my stead, Dada had an evening of fun and adventure with the littles in the kitchen.

These orange juice ice cube pops were just one result of the troop's freewheelin' late night capers.

The concept is simple. Yet, somehow, I have never done this with my children in all my years in my role as mother. I suppose it takes Dada and his freewheelin' ways to come up with such an exciting plan for morning joy.

Pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray. Cover with plastic wrap so the toothpicks remain upright. Insert toothpicks. Wake up in the morning and dig in.

Enter the Sanity Strategy. 

Imagine if you will...

Mama is still in bed trying her darndest to sleep in, if there is such a thing with young children in the house. She hears the pitter patter of little feet in the kitchen. Dining room chairs are being pulled over the hardwood floor to the freezer making a highly undesirable noise at such an early hour. Little hands reach deep in to the back of the cooler box and grab the little blue tray of delight. They start in on the ice cube pops. Everything is quiet. For minutes. For tens of minutes. Pop after pop and the children are quiet. And delighted. Mama nuzzles her head under the covers for just a few minutes more. All is well with the world.


Gregory Alan Isakov - If I Go I'm Goin'

Monday, July 11, 2011

Simple Joy

It has been decades since the last time I found myself dancing in the rain. If my memory serves me right, I believe I was three feet tall and wearing Big Bird galoshes.

This week, however, I reacquainted myself with the glorious feeling of dancing my heart out in the middle of a wicked downpour.

I had the good fortune of attending an outdoor concert at the most majestic outdoor venue on the planet. Even with nine hours of unrelenting rain the place was packed. The rain never stopped. Yet no one went home. 10,000 sopping wet human souls enjoying music together—singing along to every song—it's what memories are made of.

So the next time you see clouds building up to unleash a mad fury of miniature water bombs over you, quick grab your galoshes, crank up the tunes and get out there.

Splash around in the street. Stomp in puddles. Feel each and every droplet bouncing off your skin, trickling down to the ground with the force of gravity. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango

With summertime in full swing there is nothing this woman craves more than Sticky Rice with Mango. It is the ultimate gluten-free dairy-free desert. 

I could eat it every day. I could eat it all day. 

Yes, I could eat sticky rice in a house. Yes, I could eat sticky rice with a mouse. I could eat it here and there. I could eat it anywhere. I would, I could eat it in the rain. I would, I could eat it in the dark or on a train or in a car or in a tree. It is so good, so good you see! 

Don't put it past me to make an entire batch and then stare dumb-foundedly at my family when they come to get theirs and find an empty bowl.

This is one of those recipes I knew I needed to learn to make at home after tempting my taste buds at the local Thai restaurant. It is slightly time intensive—but like any good thing—certainly worth the wait.

Thai Sticky Rice with Mango

Serves: 4
Cook Time: 40 minutes + 1 to 8 hours for soaking the rice

1 cup raw (glutinous) sticky rice
1 (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (shake can well), divided
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 TBS + 5 tsp white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon tapioca starch, dissolved in a trickle of water
1 TBS toasted white sesame seeds
2 ripe Manila mangos, perfectly ripe (yellow skinned and oblong, not the green and red South American varieties)

The Preparation Method:

The variety of rice you use in this recipe is imperative to its success. Using the wrong type of rice will not give you true Thai sticky rice. I found the right type of rice at the local Asian market. I could not seem to find it anywhere else. Glutinous sticky rice does not contain gluten, but rather carries the name for its glue-like nature when soaked and steamed. It can also be called sweet rice, waxy rice, obtain rice, biroin chal, mochi rice and pearl rice.

Begin the holy process of making your sticky rice by rinsing and soaking the grains. Rinse them until the water runs clear, or nearly clear. Then place in a small bowl with water covering the grains by an inch or two. Set aside for the next 1 to 8 hours. One hour of soaking will do, but eight hours gives the rice a much stickier quality when steamed.

While the rice grains soak, let us take a moment to remember the divine treat that awaits us when the creation process has come to completion.

After the designated soaking period, drain the water from the rice.

Now set up a rice steaming system on the stovetop. They sell sticky rice steamers at the Asian market. It would be nifty if you had one for this project. But if you don't, simply grab any other steaming mechanism at hand. Fill the bottom pot with two inches of water, turn heat to high and wait for it to start boiling.

Drape the holed steamer with a thin sheet of cheesecloth and add the soaked rice.

Cover with a lid. Keep over medium-high heat for 20 minutes.

While the rice is steaming, begin preparing the coconut milk sauces. There will be two distinct sauces.

First up, the topping sauce... Sauce #1.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour) in a trickle of water. Stir to combine until it is a smooth paste.

In a small saucepan mix together 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (remember to shake the can really well), 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 teaspoons white sugar and the liquified tapioca starch. It will look very thin and runny as seen here on the tip of my spatula.

On the stovetop, turn heat to low. Stir. Once thickened, this sauce will turn into a thick drizzle for the sticky rice and mango. Continue stirring until you see it start to thicken up. Do not allow it to boil or simmer. The heat should be kept very low to avoid simmering. You may need to turn the dial on the heat ever so slightly to encourage thickening. This process took me approximately 12 minutes over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and set aside once thickened sufficiently, as seen here on the tip of my spatula.

The next sauce we need to prepare is the sticky rice coconut sauce... Sauce #2.

I failed to take a picture, so please feel free to use your imagination here. While waiting for Sauce #1 to thicken begin Sauce #2.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 TBS + 2 teaspoons white sugar over medium heat. This sauce should not simmer or boil either. Heat just until all ingredients have dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

Once the rice is finished steaming, remove from heat and put rice in shallow bowl. Add only 50% of Sauce #2. Stir well to coat each grain in the milky goodness. Keep adding little pours of sauce until the grains are well drenched, but not swimming in pools. Do you know what I mean? The picture speaks louder than my words here. Now set the sticky rice aside covered by a kitchen towel. Wait 20 - 30 minutes while the rice absorbs the coconut milk and becomes even more sticky and luscious than it already is.

While the rice is gettin' on with its bad self, begin peeling the mangos. This is a picture of the oblong yellow mango that is perfect and right for Thai sticky rice with mango. Do not use the green and red mangos for this recipe. It just won't be right. The green and red varieties are a bit fibrous and will require you to chew them. The yellow mangos, on the other hand, will melt in your mouth with each bite. Like buttah. This is how it should be. Again, I say, only use the green and red variety of mango if you are in dire straits.

The act of peeling mango makes me feel like I'm on a tropical island near the sea. I like this feeling. A lot.

After the rice has sat for 20 - 30 minutes, it is ready to be served. The restaurants always serve their sticky rice in nice compact balls. Use an ice cream scooper, small bowl or Thermos lid (like I did). Pack the rice in nice and tight. Flip over on the serving plate.

Top with the freshly sliced mango.

Grab Sauce #1 and drizzle over the top. Sprinkle a few toasted white sesame seeds over the desert in all its divinity.

I found these already toasted sesame seeds at the local Asian market as well. Super convenient. Super tasty. The desert just isn't the same without them. Do yourself a favor and make the effort to get ahold of some of these bad boys.

And enjoy! Tell me you have not experienced heaven on Earth when you bite into this.

Note: The sticky rice and sauces can be prepared many hours in advance of serving. Just don't put the rice in the refrigerator. It will make the rice turn all hard and crunchy. And that's just not right. Simply leave covered on the counter until ready to serve.

Crunchy sticky rice is just not right. But Grace Potter is sooo right. Here's one smokin' hot video to jam to while you prep this desert. Grace Potter and Thai Sticky Rice—it's like ecstasy in a bowl right here folks.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals - Paris (Ooh La La)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Calling All Iced Chai Lovers

Calling all Iced Chai Lovers... It's time to get your drink ON.

But before we do that, it's time to play my favorite childhood game 'Name That Tune'... 

It's getting hot in here. So take off all your clothes.

(Yup, you guessed it. That's Nelly's famous hit Hot in Herre from 2002. Scroll down for the video. Press play now if you want the Hot in Herre soundtrack playing while you read the rest of this post.)

Removing all of one's clothing is certainly one approach for cooling off when the weather heats up. 

Another approach, and slightly more publicly acceptable in most circles, is to put your lips to an ice cold caffeinated beverage. 

Iced chai is incredibly addicting. It's cold. It's caffeinated. It's fiery. What else could you ask for in a morning mug?

With all of the fresh spices, it is a good-for-you health elixir full of antioxidant rich ingredients. And since you're making it at home, you can choose how much sugar you prefer, the amount of caffeine to include and what type of milk works best for you. 

And truly, the best part about homemade chai is the price. I began brewing my own chai at home to save money on fieldtrips to the coffee shop. When I finally calculated the actual cost of brewing my own chai at home I was shocked to discover that $1 would buy me a cup of this magic at home compared to $5 at the local coffeeshops.

Below is the step-by-step methodology for brewing my chai. The recipe I'm posting here is for my basic chai. From there I like to spice things up and play around a bit. Dance while I brew. Crank up the tunes. Pound some spices. Juice that ginger. 

The glory of making your own chai at home is that you get to do what you like. So take the recipe and make it your own. And then take a break, put your feet up, and enjoy the nectar of the early-rising gods.

Word to the wise—don't be making this recipe in your un-air-conditioned house at the height of the afternoon heat. Trust me on this one. If the house starts at 83 degrees at 3pm, just wait until the brew gets boiling. It will be 100 degrees in your kitchen by 3:23pm. And then you'll really be taking off all your clothes. I know from experience.

And now, the recipe. 

This recipe makes two quarts of chai concentrate (which stores in the refrigerator up to one week). When mixed 1:1 with your choice of milk—whole milk, soy milk or almond milk—the final number of servings is sixteen. 

Dance While You Cook's Masala Chai


cinnamon sticks, crushed into chips
3 TBS cardamom pods, crushed
2 TBS whole cloves
1 TBS fennel, crushed
   or 4 whole star anise
   or both
1 TBS whole black peppercorns
2 TBS chopped ginger, fresh or crystallized
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or less if spicy drinks aren't your thang
5 heaping TBS loose-leaf Assam black tea, caffeinated or decaf—whatever your preference
16 cups water
fresh nutmeg to taste

The Preparation Method:

Place the cinnamon chips, crushed cardamom, crushed fennel, cloves and black peppercorns in the base of a heavy stock pot. Dry roast them just until fragrant. To dry roast, simply turn the heat source to medium-high and stir the spices around until they release some of their magnificent aroma. Keep stirring so they do not burn. 

Once a little steam starts to rise from the roasted spices, pour in 8 cups of water.

Grab a hearty wooden spoon that will forevermore be your chai brewing spoon. Mark the water level with a knife. Cut a nice deep groove on the back of the spoon with a steak knife. This is important for later as you'll need to know when the mixture has reduced to half. 

Now pour in the remaining 8 cups of water. Turn heat to high.

Get ready to add the ginger. Use crystalized or fresh ginger here. Read about the difference on my post devoted to ginger here.

Chop the ginger and add it in. Stir to combine.

Bring to a rolling boil. Leave uncovered. Allow the brew to boil down to half. This usually takes about an hour for me.

Find a solid glass jar with a lid. This will be your storage container for the concentrate. Add the sugar to the bottom.

Check on the chai often to see if the water level has gotten to the marked level on your spoon. Once it does, remove the pot from the heat source.

Add the ground cayenne pepper. Stir well.

Have the tea leaves pre-measured and set aside.

Add all the tea at once.

Steep for five minutes allowing the tea leaves to expand, swell and unfurl.

Strain the tea and spices from the concentrate over a large bowl.

Now add the steaming hot concentrate to the sugar in the glass storage containers.

Reserve all small particles. This enables a happier drinking experience.

Stir well to combine the sugar and tea. Be sure all the sugar dissolves. Add the pressed ginger and ground nutmeg now if you like. Allow to breath for a few minutes before putting the lid on and placing it in the refrigerator. It is necessary for the chai to sit overnight in the refrigerator to allow the spices to meld. Don't fall to the temptation of drinking it right away.

Keep the concentrate refrigerated until you're ready to drink a cup. Mix one part concentrate with one part of your favorite milk or milk substitute. I must admit that almond milk is a divine pairing with this chai. Heat through for a fantastic deep-winter pick me up. Or pour over ice for a nice mid-summer refreshment.

Enjoy before the sun rises. Enjoy from across the breakfast table with your lover. Enjoy over laughter with a friend. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Now back to Nelly. If you choose to take the clothing removal route of cooling down on a hot summer's day, this video may provide you with some inspiration.

Please note, this is not for tender eyes. If you believe this may be you, I would suggest the iced chai method for cooling off instead.

Nelly - Hot in Herre

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