In support of having a live Christmas tree

Cassel's Tree Farm where Ted IV is patiently waiting for us to come get him

Cassel’s Tree Farm where Ted IV is patiently waiting for us to come get him

Our family is lucky to be friends with a family who owns a Christmas tree farm.  The Cassel’s are super nice people and their daughter Sparky is like a second daughter to me since she was attached at the hip to my own daughter Skeetr for many years. We never were sure where one stopped and the other began.

This year we will be waiting to pick up our tree, TED IV, until Skeetr is home on leave from the Marines in California.  Sparky has been nice enough to tag a tree for us so when December 21st rolls around they will still have one for us to come get.

circa 1977 - Blue Spruce and cookies for Santa

circa 1977 – Blue Spruce and cookies for Santa

Growing up my family had a huge blue spruce tree every year.  Dad was an interior decorator and the blue color went best with our gold and silver balls and white lights.  My Mom was the unfortunate one who had to string those dozens of lights.  I am very thankful that TED is not a blue spruce since those spruce needles are razor sharp and I’m the one who has to put the lights on now.

TED in 2010

TED at home in 2010

So we’ll pick up TED and put him in our downstairs to enjoy over the holiday.  Then TED goes onto our back deck where we string him with popcorn and pinecone birdfeeders for the rest of the winter. After that TED gets to become branches and mulch for our growing spring garden.

I know some folks don’t think having a real tree is environmentally sound.  Well, I don’t really see how a plastic tree is environmentally sound either.  Our TEDs are raised on a local family owned farm which we support with our money.  He isn’t made in China or some other country with poorly paid workers and then shipped thousands of miles to a big box store where they put him on a shelf with all the other trees and wait for someone with a coupon to buy him.

We enjoy TED and take his picture and the cats love on him for a few weeks inside.  Then he becomes a home and feeder for birds for four months or so.  Then he becomes mulch and cover in our garden.  An artificial tree can’t do any of that.

And that space that TED used to take up on the tree farm is replanted with a new tree helping to preserve local business, enhance the environment for people and animals and to help give us oxygen and prevent soil erosion.

So, my sincere thanks to TED, TED II and TED III for being great trees.  And here’s to TED IV waiting patiently at Cassel’s Tree Farm for us to come get him.

Winter Veggies – 3 Bean Salad

In the wintertime we eat a diet that is quite a bit heavier than we do during other times of the year.  To break the routine of meat, potatoes and applesauce, I like to whip up some 3 Bean Salad.  I’m using canned beans, but you can use cooked fresh beans if you’ve got them.  It’s just a nice change of pace.

3 Bean Salad

  • 1 Can Green Beans
  • 1 Can Wax Beans
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2/3 C white vinegar
  • 1/3 C corn oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed

Drain and rinse beans and mix with onion.  In another bowl mix the rest of the ingredients together well.  Pour liquid dressing over beans and toss lightly.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours before eating.

Gluten Free Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Thanksgiving Spice Wall, designed by Alyn

Thanksgiving Spice Wall, designed by Alyn

In honor of Thanksgiving I’m putting up a recipe for one of my family’s pre-celiac diagnosis favorite desserts.  The good part is now that Mi-del is selling gluten free graham cracker crusts we can once again enjoy this fuss free dessert without messing with making a crust by hand.  But if you can’t find the graham cracker crust, just use gluten free graham crackers and follow this recipe. OR just spoon the filling into a dessert dish.  Yum.

Gluten Free Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 C smooth peanut butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 4 oz (half a tub) of Cool Whip, thawed
  • Gluten Free Graham Cracker Pie Crust

Blend peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl.  Gradually add in milk.  Fold in Cool Whip, blending well.  Spread into pie crust OR into dessert glasses if you are omitting the crust.

Freeze at least 4 hours and then let stand at room temperature for 10 min to cut.  Top with cool whip and chopped peanuts.  A drizzle of chocolate syrup is always nice too.

PS.  Yes I know Cool Whip is like the most horrible non-food food in the world, but occasionally we do splurge on things such as this.  You can try whipped cream instead but make sure your peanut butter is VERY soft.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the love of the Thrift

Thrift Store, Love the Thrift Store, It’s a Modern Stone-Age Lottery….

Woo-hoo!! Thrift Store Score!

Woo-hoo!! Thrift Store Score!

I am absolutely mad about thrift stores – as in I LOVE them!  The Salvation Army stores are my favorites, but any kind of thrift will cause me to pull over my car.

Last Friday our SAs were having a pre-Black Friday sale and everything was 50% off.  I picked up a few things for future craft projects but my favorite thing to come home with me was the mail sorter above.  I’ve been wanting one of these for AGES but the price tags on them made them out of my league.

So this one was a whopping $3.99 regularly, but I got it half off so for $2.00 this baby is mine!  I may be persuaded to give it away as a gift at Christmas as is since it is in perfect condition, but more likely I’ll be redoing it in a beach theme for my office.  I’m forever misplacing my bills and blog notes.

 

Grandpa Larry’s Gluten Free Apple Crisp Recipe

Time to call Larry, we're making crisp!

Time to call Larry, we’re making crisp!

I still had a few deer apples left from my last batch and needed to use them up.  I decided to make a batch of apple crisp instead of more applesauce.  This is a hit at our holiday gatherings, especially with Grandpa Larry who always asks for seconds so I’m naming it after him. It is definitely good with ice cream, but also good with milk.

Grandpa Larry’s Apple Crisp

  • 6-7 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or enough to fill your baking dish)
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 C oats (we use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 T Gluten Free flour (optional)
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional:  raisins, dried cranberries, currants plus orange juice, apple juice or brandy
  • Optional: walnuts, pecans

This is a throw together kind of recipe and my measurements are guesses. You can really modify this a lot to suit your needs.

  1. 30 minutes before beginning, soak dried fruit in juice/brandy if using.
  2. Preheat oven to 400F
  3. Put prepared apples into 9×9 non-metallic baking dish (or whatever size you are using)
  4. Add dried fruit and nuts if using.
  5. In separate bowl mix flour, oats, butter, spices, brown sugar and vanilla together with your hands or a pastry cutter until they resemble crumbs.  The flour really doesn’t do much here so if you don’t have any, don’t sweat it. Just don’t substitute corn starch. It doesn’t work here.
  6. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples.  (This amount will not cover the dish, we don’t like tons of topping but if you do, double it.)
  7. Bake at 400F for 30 min or until apples are soft to a fork and topping is brown.  This time can vary considerably depending on what type of apples you are using so start checking around the 25 min mark.  If it is browning too fast, drop the temperature a bit.
Get the milk!

Get the milk!

Variations to this are unlimited. I like to add plums to the apples or sweet cherries.  Fresh or dried.  Most days I just throw in what I have and it is always tasty.  I don’t put sugar or seasonings in with the apples but you could if you like more spice and sugar.  Dots of butter on the apples give a richer dish as well.

Homemade Lime-aid goes over well

Ugh, it is hot and humid here like it is in most of the US.  We’re trying to stay cool and hydrated.  I got a good deal on limes at the store and Sheridan asked if I could make lime-aid.  Well, I had never done it and didn’t find any recipes in my cookbooks and didn’t want to run to the computer so I just gave it a shot.  Here is the recipe:

Lime-Aid

  • 3 limes
  • 1 C sugar (more or less to taste)
  • cold water

Wash the limes well and remove any stickers. Cut the limes in half and juice into a large pitcher or other glass container (don’t use plastic, they are very acidic.)  I used a Pyrex 1 Qt measuring cup.  Add the sugar and mash the limes into the sugar with a wooden spoon or something like that.  Let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Put this mixtures into a 2 quart (1/2 gallon) container – preferably glass – and add water to fill.  Chill.

That’s it!   I’ve been told it is tasty and it is about gone now so I’ll have to make some more.  I want to try substituting honey for the sugar next time since we are trying to cut down on refined sugar.

I had a shock yesterday while strolling the garden.  The plants I though were cucumber plants are not, well, I don’t think they are.  One of the fruits is softball sized, round and looks surprisingly like a cantaloupe.  I have things things all OVER my garden so whatever they are, if they live until the fruits are ripe we’re going to have a lot of them.  I found ten while I was out there.  Still getting strawberries, peas (almost over), peppers and my first Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes.  Not many tomatoes made it past the deer this year.  <sigh>  Still thinking toward fall.  We may build some hoop houses this year.  We’ll see.

Stay cool!!!

Plan for next year, save your tomato and pepper seeds!

Never too early to plan for next year - save those seeds!

Boy was it hard to get motivated this morning.  I didn’t sleep well plus the weather is just oppressive and doesn’t make you want to leave the house.  Ugh!

As I was fixing dinner the other night I found myself doing something that I bet a lot of people don’t think about any more.  When I was cutting up a green pepper I saved the seeds instead of throwing them out.  I wrapped them in a paper towel to dry, taped it shut and labeled them with what they were and the date.  After a few days drying on top of the fridge they’ll go into my seed box for planting next year.

I do the same thing with tomatoes and sometimes stone fruits too – just to try my hand at growing them from seed.

“Way back when” (which in most places was pre-WWIII) people used to do the regularly as it was the best way to get seeds for your garden.  Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that the seed sold by Burpee for $2.99 a packet  is the same seed we get free inside our food.

It is true that if you are eating a hybrid crop (and if it came from the supermarket most likely it is a hybrid) the pepper you get next year may not be the same as the one you ate today, but it will be a pepper for sure and the seed will be free.

It is kind of fun to put all your pepper seeds (separating hot and not hot if you like) in the same container and then plant them without knowing exactly what you will get.

Tomatoes work the same way though for those the prep is a little messier.  For them I mix the tomato seeds/pulp in a baby food jar with some water.  I let it sit for a few days, shaking to mix the stuff up when it separates.  Eventually most of the seeds will drop to the bottom and you can get them out to dry on some paper towels and then pack them away.  Sometimes the stuff in the jar ferments and smells unsavory, the seed is still OK but it is best to not soak the seeds in a plastic container since you’ll never get the smell out.

Keep all your seeds in a cool place or in the fridge crisper drawer (I have way too many for that) and next year you’ll be set.

Other seeds you can be collecting for next year are:  columbine, sunflower, marigold, thyme, oregano, chives, catnip, basil, four o’clocks and lots more.

The Feline Pine Adventure

Ronnie is on the left, Hunter on the right

I think kitty litter is the worst part about having cats.  Ours do not go outside so there is no outdoor privy for them, they have boxes in the basement.  I don’t mind changing kitty litter, but I do mind seeing it on the cats’ paws.  Hunter is a Maine Coon and has a lot of hair between his paw pads so he often has clumpy litter stuck to them.

Enter my bright idea to try a more healthy, and environmentally friendly, kind of cat litter.

We tried Yesterdays News which is a nice option since it uses waste materials, but our cats did not like it at all and I didn’t either.  It didn’t keep the cat boxes from smelling like ammonia.  So it was a no-go.

Then I tried Feline Pine which, when compared to clumping litter, seems very expensive.  I loved the way it worked and the cats seemed OK with it.  It keeps the boxes smelling fresh which is great.  Problem was cleaning the boxes was tough since you scoop out the still usable pellets and leave the sawdust behind.  Not an easy task.

So I bought sifting cat pans.  They work wonderful.  With two pans and a sifter to each set you can alternate out bottom pans to make cleaning easier.  They were not cheap – we’re talking $30 or so for both of them and we could really use a third for upstairs.

Then I read online that you could use heating stove pellets instead of Feline Pine.  They are MUCH cheaper and made of wood so are basically the same thing.  Only they aren’t.  A friend has a pellet stove and had a few bags partially damaged by water so she let us have a bag to try.  The pellets are larger than Feline Pine and are made of hardwood not softwood.

They DO work and perhaps could be successfully used by certain people, but they didn’t control odors well and our cats rebelled by using the floor instead of the box.

So I had had enough and switched back to scoopable litter.  I bought an average priced brand and used the sifting boxes thinking they’d work really well and make cleaning easier.  NOT.  The litter clung to both sides of the sifting lid and ended up like cement.  I also found that I was spending way more money on clumping litter than I had been on Feline Pine.  A $13 container of clumping litter was used up in a week and we were back to stuff being stuck on the cats’ paws and dust everywhere.

I finished that container of litter and went back to Feline Pine.  It took an hour to pry the scooping cement off the litter boxes, but I got them clean and the cats and I are now happy to be back to the sweet smelling pine stuff.  I’m trying extra hard to keep their litter area vacuumed and so far they are pretty happy.

So ends the Feline Pine adventure – for now.  I’m sure someone will protest soon and I’ll need to find another solution.

Making a sandwich used to be so simple….

Marshmallow Kitchen Art by Sheridan

I used to take two pieces of bread, spread peanut butter on one half and marshmallow on the other and smoosh them together, voila!!!  Sandwich for Sheridan.

Well, a few years and a few diagnosis’ later now here is what it takes to make sandwiches for my kids:

  1. I get out six slices of bread.
  2. I open a jar of Crunchy Barney Butter (almond butter that spreads just like peanut butter) and get enough on the knife to make one sandwich and put it on one slice of bread (I can’t double dip because Scott likes Barney Butter and double dipping would contaminate the jar with gluten.)
  3. I open a jar of marshmallow (or nutella or jelly depending on the day) and get enough for three sandwiches (again, no double dipping) I put it all on one slice of bread and divide up between two other slices.
  4. I smoosh Sterling’s sandwich together and give it to him.  (Sterling is allergic to peanuts so his sandwich can’t come anywhere near it so he gets his before I even open the PB.)
  5. I can now get enough smooth peanut butter out of the jar to do one sandwich at a time.  (Scott doesn’t like smooth PB so it is OK to double dip)
  6. I put one sandwich together and give it to Sheridan.
  7. I put the other sandwich together, cut off the crusts and give it to Alyn.

NOTE: If Scott is eating a sandwich his has to be made first so the wheat bread doesn’t get near it BUT I have to make sure that no PB gets on the counter to touch Sterling’s sandwich.

<sigh>

It used to be so easy.

Gluten Free Rice Krispies have arrived!

They're here!

Yes, it is true.  All those celiac patients out there can now have rice krispie treats!  General Mills has developed a brown rice based Rice Krispie that is gluten-free.  This is one cereal we thought at the beginning that Scott would be able to have in its regular form, but not so, it had malt in it.  In fact most breakfast cereals have malt in them.

I haven’t found these at our stores yet but we will be trying them. Brown rice is better for you for sure, but I’m not convinced it will pass my taste test in the marshmallow squares.  We’ll see.

Here is the website for Gluten Free Rice Krispies – with recipes of course!