Monday, April 22, 2013

Menu Suggestions

I had a friend who often gave me a list of things in her refrigerator and pantry and asked, "What do I do with this?"  It wasn't that she didn't know how to cook, just that she had run out of ideas and wanted to use the food she had without doing a special run for something at the store.  I wanted to do something like that for this blog.  If people left comments listing at least 4-5 foods they had, we could have a great time coming up with recipes or ideas!  The thing is, it would have to be actual ingredients, not just ketchup, mustard, onions and flour.  Well, actually, you could make onion rings with that if you had some oil, but really, we are avoiding flour for the most part!

That wouldn't stop me from trying to make onion rings with garbanzo flour!  Those would probably be great!   So, if you're hanging around the site and think "menu suggestions" might be fun to do for a little while, let me know!  Do you think it would be fun?  Helpful?  Just plain silly to see some of the things people have left in their pantry at the end of a week?   I'll be the first to start.  This week, I'll do a post and let you know what I had in the fridge and what I decided to do with it.  OR. Maybe you have some great ideas of your own!?

As a side note, my own mother encouraged me to put in a camera in my house to record the day.  She said I'd make millions just streaming the cam to a website for people to crack up about.  I let the kids (with supervision) build a fire.  This is not the first time.  It's a little tiny campfire style surrounded by sand in my backyard (which is devoid of grass.)  That is entertainment for hours.  There have been other incidents such as, "Get out of my dryer and do not eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwich in there."  This was met with my friend's the other end of the phone continuing her discussion as though I had never said such a thing.  She wasn't phased by dryers with children and sandwiches.  I thought it was normal.  Apparently, most things with kids are not.

This week was filled with me finishing my paper for school.  I'm almost done with this class.  We took a trip to Busch Gardens and it was a welcome respite from sitting around the house doing schoolwork.  The pictures below are from there.

This week was also filled with a LOT of views from Germany!! Hi everyone!  I hope you're enjoying the blog, I'm going to do a post soon of all the flags from all the countries who have had hits on my site!  Keep watching and make sure I post the right flags!  That would almost be a trivia day!

So, look forward to seeing you next week.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Coming Up Roses

So, I found something on Pinterest.  Sigh.  Who doesn't find something on Pinterest?  I could take every day of my life and plan my outfit, meals, accessories, drinks and friends with Pinterest.  Problem is, who has all this money to do all these things?  Not I.  However, when I came across a pretty pink, rose petal adorned shake, I was smitten.  This went on the "trial" list right away.  It wasn't long before I got the opportunity.  Soon, there was milk, coconut ice cream and *gasp* rose water in my possession.

Before we get really REALLY excited, let's discuss one thing.  Rose water. Is. Delicious.  You can almost drink it right out of the bottle (and I have).   Rose EXTRACT is BITTER and is NOT drinkable and you will spit it everywhere in an attempt to taste it straight from the bottle.   I was able to purchase a bottle of Rose water from a seller on Amazon who imported it from France (still had the French label on it) and it was delicious.  Soft and fragrant whisking me away to the fields of south France while the winds of the Cote D'Azure carry all my worries away.  Although, when I think about it, I wonder if I could even remember any of the French I used to know and apply it to actually speaking with locals.  Hmmm.

Back to Pinterest.  This lovely concoction was calling to me and I fell for the bait.  A "Coconut Rose Shake" by Babble contributor Kathy Patalsky is the most refreshing, delicious and coconutty drink this side of an actual coconut shake.  Now, if you're having trouble remembering some of my coconut obsession, well, here's a link to help you out.  Her pictures are absolutely gorgeous and her recipe is 100% vegan.  Here's the link, go check it out.  (Mine has a vegan option too!)

Now, we all know, I cannot see a recipe and attack it without changing it in some way.  I'd love to be the simple, just have it how it is type person but that's not my style.  If you'd like to see what I changed... keep reading.  Also, if you'd like to see how it looks in a blender cup and not a beautiful ice cream glass, well you'll get that too!   Nothing like taking something absolutely gorgeous and turning it into regular kitchen work!  I strive for the best here!

It's NOT sugar free.  The ice cream has agave syrup in it.  If you need it sugar free, you can make your own ice cream from scratch to use in it.  That seems like a heck of a lot of work.  You CAN substitute a "low carb" version though such as Breyers sugar free, low carb vanilla and get pretty close to awesome with this.  Also, you  may notice I left out the pretty pink food coloring.  It's VERY nice to have it pink, but I didn't have any "natural" food coloring so wasn't going to use the chemical stuff I had left over from 10 years ago.

Rose Kissed Coconut Shake

1/2 cup  Coconut Bliss - Naked Coconut flavor (or your choice of sugar free vanilla)
1/2 cup whole milk or coconut milk -> (vegan option!)
2 tBsp  rose WATER (if you're using extract, you want about 4 drops)
1 tsp coconut extract/flavoring (optional but good if you're using vanilla ice cream)
3 tBsp of unsweetened shredded coconut
4 drops liquid stevia

I used a blender.  You don't have to.  In fact, if you just want to dump all this in a glass and stir, go for it.  However, I like a nice THICK shake.  Sometimes, I skimp on the milk a little and add a few more dollops of ice cream (you can try that if you want, it's delish).   If you're doing the glass thing, add all the liquid ingredients first, then add your ice cream and coconut and stir.  Otherwise, throw it all in the blender and hit go for about 20 sec.  Drink.  =D

How EASY was that!!!!!!

With all the snow still in the north, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "I'm not going to be sipping ice cream shakes anytime soon." BUT! You'll thank me in about 4 months when it's hot and I come here in July and say, "HEY EVERYONE! LET'S MAKE COCONUT ROSE SHAKES!"  Then it will rock!


P.S - My birthday was last week, and I made a cake.  Don't worry, it was absolutely terrible and most of it ended up in the trash.  It looks kinda pretty...
My mom saved the day however with a cake she sent - made out of flowers!! It's very pretty!  And doesn't need icing or gf flour! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ever Wonder....

How is it, that someone who does food blogging for a living (don't let that fool you, I'm making zero money from this, but I love it and I love cooking so, it's definitely living) and loves food and loves cooking goes to an exotic location with wonderful people, sights and food and takes NO pictures?   Oh sure, I definitely got the sunsets, the animals, a bug here and there where I could find them, but no food.  At all.

What is WRONG with me?  I can explain.  When I'm there and things are just laid back and I have no worries and no responsibilities and the world just turns, it's so easy to just walk away from my camera and enjoy everything.  This is how life is meant to be lived, not behind a camera.  But I'm an addict, and I need the camera to see things, I need to see them later.  It's such a joy to go back later and pull all those old memories up and remember the moment.  Food pictures unfortunately are not included in my addiction in that moment of the world just turning.  I don't know if it's just forgetfulness or a complete immersion into the moments which are usually very beautiful and consist of me struggling to understand a little Spanish!  I've come back and demonstrated my skills with a plantain!  That's progress!!!

So, today all I can tell you is, "I'll try harder!"  Maybe next time I can get some food photos, or at least come away with something akin to a kitchen photo? WAIT!  I have one of those!  Let me get permission to use it and I'll have it posted here, you can see, I actually DO work in a Costa Rican (authentic!) kitchen sometimes.  It's beautiful, fun and very tropical/laid back and welcoming.  Nothing better than a shared meal on a cool summer night with the Latin beat in the backdrop of the city sounds and cheerful faces around the dinner table.  Sadly, when I cook, I tend to bring Italian or American style to the table.  Having the Mrs. of the house cook usually yields a much better (and delicious) traditional dish.

The picture with a bus isn't a picture of food, but it is a picture of outside a place where I ate food.  That's close right?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Autism Awareness Month

April began autism awareness month.  I'm not going to list statistics, you can find them all over the place, but for most of us, we've either heard about or know someone with autism.  The person I know, is my son.  He was diagnosed when he was almost three years old.  It was a little frustrating at first to know, as a mom, that instinctually, I knew something was not right, yet everyone argued he was fine.   When I finally hit my limit (they say when you hit rock bottom, you can only go up from there) I took him to a pediatric neurologist who ran every test in the book on him.  She said she was very impressed by his motor skills.  I thought this was great.  She left the room a few minutes and came back, laying a stack of handouts next to me and the words are forever etched in my mind, "Don't panic, but..."  She went on to tell me my son had autism.  That there was help we could get and this wasn't the end of the world.   She said she'd never seen a child with this level of autism have such great motor skills.  I stared at the papers in my hands and wondered what this meant.  I had heard about autism, but I thought those kids were confined to beds and wheelchairs or couldn't talk correctly.   My son struggled with speech and only said a few words, but I didn't think that constituted autism.

I brought the paper work home and poured over it.  He had everything listed.  Some more mild than others, but he hit every checked box on the list.  I decided this wasn't good enough, I may be convinced but that didn't mean it was reality.  Perhaps this particular doctor just thought she saw something she didn't.  I got a second opinion.  We weren't there 10 minutes and the doctor said without a doubt: autism.  I got a third opinion.  This time from a psychologist.  Autism.

At this point, most parents are overwhelmed.  I suspect I must have felt overwhelmed but there's something that happened that shocks or offends most people:  I was relieved.  I was so overjoyed that it wasn't something I had done wrong, it wasn't my failure as a parent, it wasn't some brain tumor that was incurable in my child, or worse, he was normal, and I just couldn't handle parenting.  I think I could have dealt with those things and improved myself, but in that moment, as selfish and awful as it sounds, I was relieved.  Relieved that I wasn't imagining things, relieved that we could get help, relieved that he had hope for his future, relieved that we could work together and make life better.  I cannot express how low of a point we had gotten to.  I could not handle him.  He wouldn't talk, he wouldn't cooperate, he didn't listen, he didn't seem to hear...  He was obsessed with cars and trains and only smiled at them, never looking me in the face or addressing me, he wouldn't play with me, he would climb and pick locks and break open medications.  We spent three Christmas's in a row at the ER because of my distraction and his competence in cracking child safety locks.

I always call the psychologist an angel.  After a week of calling places, leaving messages and never getting  callbacks, or worse, a callback that said we could be seen in the office in 6 weeks (their earliest opening,) I called this little tiny number on the back of the reference sheet from the neurologist, which I hadn't noticed before and a man answered.   I asked for the doctor, and he said that was him.... I panicked a minute feeling a little embarrassed that the office had given me some poor doc's personal number and here I was bothering him at a bad moment perhaps.  I apologized and asked for the secretary's number so I could make an appointment, to which he replied, "I have no secretary or office staff, is there something I can do for you?"

From that day on, he came to my house, assessed our situation, my son, and our lives and put me on a winning train.  I got lucky.  So very, very lucky.  I have days that it seems all the worst luck in the world is pouring over me, but in that moment, perhaps, I should remember, finding this for my son used up every ounce of good luck I had.  And it was worth it.  My son, my family, we needed help and we received the best in the world.  The doctor would come to the house, observe our routine and my son's behavior and gave me all the tools to make things work for us.  My insurance gave me fits, they didn't want to pay, they didn't want to cover it and I scraped and saved and paid out of pocket.  I couldn't lose this doctor who had done such miracles with my child, with me, as a parent.  It was so worth it.

Four years after we started an intensive therapy regiment,  I stopped by a friend's house whom I hadn't seen in a while.  As we came in and started chatting, she stopped and pointed to my son who had said hi, and asked about her pets, and she said, "Is this even the same child?  I would never have recognized him by his behavior, he's a totally different person."   I cried.  I never thought he'd be seen as "normal."  I never thought people would see him as just another kid.  But it's happening, and still does.  Oh, sure he has all the autism quirks and some odd behaviors, he'll never be free of it.  However, he's been such a trooper in this life that handed him something he didn't ask for.  He's positive and intelligent and full of life.  He's my salvation and inspiration many days, knowing that he's' changed my whole life for the better and I was able to change other things that were no good for us, just by his existence.

This doesn't mean my other children don't have a special place in my heart.  They have their own unique qualities and talents.  Since today is autism awareness day, I wanted to tell this story.   It has somewhat of a happy ending, others do not.  He is not grown yet either, so I don't know what life has in store for us.  So far, it's been a wild ride, a great experience and a blessing beyond what I ever could have asked for in this life.

Many parents go gluten free for their autistic kids, some show improvement, others, like mine, did not.  We do gluten free for my allergy, but for my son, it's bland as usual.  I know some of the people who use my recipes are looking for more kid friendly versions and I try to keep that in mind.  However, most kids just want "normal" food.  There are lots of websites that use rice flours and such to recreate a more "normal" kid food, but I just can't do that.  I buy organic cereals and chicken nuggets and hope for the best.  I do not make my kids eat gluten free because I have to.  I certainly don't make them sugar free either, even that is difficult for me most days (who doesn't have a sweet tooth?!)

I do however have a shop, which sells teeshirts if you're interested. I don't make a ton of money off them, but I do own one and love it!  I created the design myself, on paint, and it's very cute and versatile.  Looks good on men and women.  Check it out if you're interested and come back soon for more recipes.  Since today's post is long, I'll probably do the recipe this weekend.  I have some great experiment successes!