Ready, Set, GO!

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We are embarking on a new and exciting life adventure! Completely stepping out of our comfort zones, leaving our families, and moving almost 3,000 miles from where we live now. Several weeks ago my husband accepted a job on the east coast. If everything goes according to “the plan” we will be moving from Washington state and living in New Hampshire within a few months. My husband grew up in a military family and has lived in quite a few places over his lifetime. I lived briefly in Montana and Wyoming when I was younger, and have lived in Washington State for the majority of my life. We are so excited to see and do new things! Not that we won’t miss our “comfort zone”, I’m sure that will be hard. But the opportunity to move somewhere completely different from what we’re used to, meet new friends, enjoy the area…that’s exciting! Nerve wracking too, but that’s to be expected.

It’s 2,810 miles from our home in Washington to the area we are going to live in New Hampshire. Basically, we’re moving from one corner of the United States to another.

Our adventure kicked into high gear last Friday when we met with a Realtor. Up to now, this whole thing felt a little surreal. Today, we are in full motion. I’ve been sorting, deep cleaning, organizing and luckily there’s only a few little things we had to do to the house. The Realtor wanted me to dress it up by setting our table with flowers, wine glasses, and fancy settings. Evidently it’s called “staging”. Did you know you can hire professional Stagers? What a fun job that would be!  Smidge, you would be perfect for a job like that and you could make millions!

I removed all the family photos (insert sad face here), we replaced a strip of carpet that leads downstairs to our unfinished basement, moved some furniture around, and we need to turn every light in the house on when we know they are coming for a look-see.

Bare walls where about 50 family photos used to hang.

We also have to hide the dog crates and the cat accessories. Evidently a huge percentage of people who are looking for a new home think they are allergic to pets, but they aren’t. Those are the Realtor’s words, not mine. I’m kind of clean freak, so it won’t be too difficult to keep the house pet free…except for the pets! We have to collapse the pet crates and cram them under the bed every time they show the house. They’re huge. Wednesday it took me a half an hour to hide everything before the photographer arrived. You wouldn’t think something so simply constructed would be such a pain to maneuver! I can’t complain too much though. It’s a small price to pay if we want the house in tip-top shape and to appeal to all types of buyers.

Trust me, they look simple but it’s a huge task. I was sweating when I was done wrestling with them. Guess this will turn into my new workout if we’re lucky enough to get a lot of viewings over the next couple of months.

With my husband working, I’m pretty much on my own when it comes to figuring out how I’m going to get everyone out of the house for showings. Needless to say, I will have to be more organized than usual. I’ve come up with a cleaning plan every night before bed to make things less hectic if we have to scoot out of here early the next day. Who knew so much went into the whole process? I see a busy and crazy future ahead of me for a while…

Natural cleaning products have become my new best friend. Have you tried this brand? I love them, they smell so good! They all smell great but my personal favorite is the furniture spray. It’s smells just like the cherry and almond smell of Jergen’s lotion my grandma used to wear.

Seth, the Realtor, gave us lots of compliments on the house and its decor, said it would photograph very well and then told us that he just sold a house right down the street from us……..in EIGHT days. So he didn’t see any problem in getting it sold. Um, eight days? I looked at him and said, “Holy cow, I don’t know if I can do 8 days.”  We haven’t even found a house in New Hampshire. We know the basic “area” we’d like to live, but other than that, nada. Luckily Seth has “connections” and has set us up with a Realtor in New Hampshire. Soon the emails will begin rolling in and we can start weeding through properties. That’s when the fun and excitement begins!

If you know me, you know that I like a plan. I like a step by step plan on how life is going to go and how we’re going to deal with it… Ha! Funny, right? I might like things that way, but I cannot remember one time when it actually turned out like that. I’m learning to take a lot of deep breaths. And use a couple of drops of these every now and then. They’re homeopathic calming drops. Just enough to take the edge off of an overly exciting day. All natural goodness for your body.

I’ve also been snacking on these amazing vanilla meringues lately and squeezing in breaks to read and relax. The meringues come from Trader Joe’s and are to die for. If you haven’t tried them, you must! And go quickly, because I think they are a “featured” product which means they won’t always carry them. Be careful. They’re addictive.

When you commit to something this huge, you just have to roll with the punches. It will be crazy, but we’ll consider ourselves lucky if the house sells quickly in this market. And if it takes months to sell, then we’ll regroup and deal with that too!

We’ve lived in this house for 12 years, the longest we’ve ever lived in one home. Luckily, I’m not a hoarder and I’m very organized. However, even though I’m not a “stuff” keeper and like to have everything in its place, I was still able to come up with several bags of things for The Salvation Army. It’s funny what we keep around thinking that it will be used, only to have completely forgotten that we even kept it!  Everything is in its place so that when the movers come, things will be delivered to New Hampshire hopefully without the chaos of having to search through boxes for our bare necessities. That may be wishful thinking. We’ll see.

So for now, it’s still a bit of “hurry up and wait”. But that’s OK, because once the house sells, things will go very, very, fast. We’re going to try to squeeze in a nice camping trip with the in-laws next week and now that our weather is clearing up, we’ll plan for as many lazy Saturday evenings as we can in the backyard with delicious snacks and cocktails. I have to admit, we love our yard and we will miss it. We’ve tried very hard to make it a relaxing and beautiful area where we can “hang out”. Hopefully the next folks will enjoy it as much as we have!

Then, when the time comes, we’ll pack up our trailer and go on an adventure TO our adventure as we travel across the country to our new home. Google Maps tells me that it will take us 46 hours to drive there. But luckily, we will be taking our time and soaking in the country on our way and will meander, enjoying every bit of scenery on the way to our new home. I’ve never traveled past Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. There’s a lot of country I’m excited to see on the way to New Hampshire!

Did I tell you I’m planning on taking you with me? Stay tuned, I promise, it will be an exciting summer!

Happy Father’s Day!

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I haven’t had the pleasure of having a biological father in my life for many years. Pretty much forever. And you may think it’s shocking or even a bit weird to hear me say this, but I didn’t miss it at all.

Instead, I was blessed with a Grandpa who took over that role quite well. And even more amazing…he was my Grandma’s second husband. So he wasn’t my biological grandpa, either. She married him several years after her first husband made it home from a POW camp in World War II, and then was killed in a hit and run motorcycle accident leaving her with three young children.

But this story goes even one step further…her second husband, the man I call my Grandpa, was in the first group of soldiers to enter that POW camp and free my Grandma’s first husband, my mother’s father. Isn’t this world just so small and miraculous when you think about it? I am always in awe of how things come together in unexpected ways.

It’s comforting knowing now that there was a plan in action even when I’m sure my Grandma thought she had lost everything. Of course, at that time of devastation she had no idea that a few years down the road she would meet a truly honorable and amazing man with such character that he would lead her entire family and everyone would have a deep respect for him. He became a father to her children, then they had one of their own, and  then he also took over that role with me.  He was tremendously loving, supportive, did many “fatherly” things with me like being very patient while he taught me to ride my first bike. He was protective of me like any good father is, and there was never a doubt in my mind that he loved me truly and deeply. He was such a blessing in all of our lives and he fit the father and grandfather role perfectly.

I’m blessed to have such good memories of my childhood, almost all of which involved my Grandparents in some way or another.

My grand-Father filled a space in my heart that needed to be filled, and I will be thankful for that on Father’s Day and every day.

Chocolate Chunk & Dried Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

*Makes about 20 three-inch cookies

3/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

1 3/4 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

2 Cups Gluten Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 Egg

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1 Generous Pinch of Kosher Salt

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon Cloves

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

3/4 Cup Dried Cherries

3/4 Cup Dark Belgian Chocolate (Dairy Free), chopped coarsely

Cream the butter and sugars together in a mixer until light and fluffy. Add about half of the flower, the egg, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, cherries, and chocolate. Mix well.

Add the remaining flour and the oatmeal and mix until thoroughly combined.  

Drop by rounded Tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. (I use convection.) Or just until they are golden around the edges.

 

Rum Fudge with Macadamia Nuts & Coconut

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Have you ever had a week from H-E-Double Toothpicks and then you realize it’s only Thursday and you still have three more days left in the week?

A week like that calls for rum fudge.

 A week like that calls for rum fudge, wine with dinner, and probably mojitos and lemon drops in the yard over the weekend. Lots of them.

Vegan Coconut Fudge

2 Cans of Full Fat Coconut Milk

1 Cup Sugar

4 Cups 72% Belgian Chocolate (dairy free), chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons Instant Coffee Granules

Kosher Salt, a nice sized pinch

2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

6 Tablespoons Dark Rum

1 Cup Dry Roasted Macadamia Nuts, chopped

1/2 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut

*This recipe was adapted from Gluten Free On A Shoestring‘s chocolate & peanut butter fudge.

(The first time I made this recipe I followed GFOAS’s recipe exactly. It didn’t set up and was basically like a fudge sauce. Still delicious, but not fudge in the form of fudge. I experimented with it today and was able to tweak it to my liking. As you can see, I tweaked it a lot, but I’m still thankful that I was able to learn the basics from GFOAS!)

Line an 8 inch square baking pan with doubled crisscrossed waxed paper. Melt coconut oil and brush on generously. I only used one layer, I think it would have come out of the pan easier with two, or even with the bottom layer being parchment.

In a heavy sauce pan or dutch oven bring the coconut milk and sugar to a boil on medium-high. Continue to boil, stirring well about every 3 minutes until liquid is reduced by half, is slightly thickened, and begins to turn a light amber color. I didn’t keep my eye on the clock, but I would guess it was about 20-25 minutes.

This picture doesn’t show it, but it’s a bit darker than this, but not by much. Once it reaches this point, remove from the heat and add the instant coffee, salt, vanilla, and rum. Stir to combine until the coffee granules have dissolved. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted. Add the nuts and coconut and fold in.

Pour into lined pan. Smooth with spoon and allow to set up in the freezer for three hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to cut, allow to sit on counter for 15 minutes. Remove fudge from pan with the sides of the wax paper and/or parchment and slice, or slice it right in the pan.

Keep leftovers in fridge or freezer.

Going Green

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Sometimes I get really tired of breakfast. I’m not really a breakfast food person, although I won’t turn down pancakes or crepes. I prefer leftover dinner for breakfast, but even that has me feeling “blah” lately. A smoothie is a wonderful way boost your vegetable, fruit, and protein intake. They are easy to make, convenient, and a light and healthy way to consume high fiber and nutrients that most of us have a difficult time getting enough of in our diets.

This recipe is adapted from Women’s Health Magazine. Theirs didn’t have protein powder, or pineapple. They also had two apples and ginger where I had 1 apple and no ginger (I love ginger, husband doesn’t). They also juiced theirs. I don’t believe in juicing. Although it looks gorgeous, whereas mine resembled a bit of pea soup, you miss out on all of that amazing fiber if you juice instead of simply blending. If you can, use all organic ingredients.

Pea soup look aside, this smoothie is delicious and fresh tasting. Sure to give you a light and energetic start to your Friday!

Going Green Smoothie

*Makes two 16 ounce smoothies

1 Large Packed Handful of Baby Spinach Leaves

2 Medium Carrots, peel on

2 Stalks of Celery

1 Apple, cored, skin on

1/2 Cup Pineapple

Juice of 1/2 Large Lemon

2 Scoops Protein Powder, I use brown rice protein

About 8 oz. Spring Water

About 8 oz. Ice

Place all ingredients in a heavy-duty blender and blend until smooth. You can add more water for whatever consistency you desire.

Go With Your Gut

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Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com

Herb Cheese Logs

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Guess what? You can freeze goat cheese. Who knew?

I had no idea. According to the internet, soft cheeses freeze quite well, actually. This opens up all kinds of ideas for different types of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. This cheese is mild and delicious. Not overly “goaty” like a lot of aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Perfect on crackers, toasted baguette slices, on top of a baked potato, in your favorite salad, sprinkled over your favorite pasta dish…the options are endless. You can make it sweet with zest and agave nectar or savory with herbs and spices. I’ve used sweetened goat cheese with breakfast crepes and it was amazing. Get creative!

Goat’s Milk Cheese Logs

*Makes four 4-5 inch logs

1 Gallon Raw Goat or Sheep’s Milk

3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt + more for seasoning later

Juice of 10 Organic Lemons, about 1 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Chives, chopped

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Organic Thyme, chopped

About 2 teaspoons Chopped Garlic ( I used the organic garlic that comes in the jar)

Ground Pepper

I have a new obsession. Making my own goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese! Once you try it, you won’t believe how incredibly easy it is.

I’ve read that it’s important to use raw milk because pasteurized milk doesn’t clot the same way. If you’re able, I would suggest trying to find a local organic farm where you can buy the raw milk.  And then of course, use organic lemons and organic herbs. I buy organic and all natural whenever possible. It just makes sense to eat pure, clean, food as much as I can.

But as you probably already have experienced yourself…pure, locally grown food comes with a little sticker shock.

I paid $16.58 for 1 gallon of raw goat’s milk. One gallon of goat’s milk made into cheese gives you about 12 ounces of cheese. That’s about $1.38 per ounce. Expensive, but really no more than you pay in a grocery store. And the satisfaction of making it yourself and knowing exactly what is in it and where the ingredients come from…priceless!

So give it a try, you won’t be disappointed, I promise:

In a large dutch oven or stainless steel pot (do not use aluminum) add several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes to sanitize.  I carefully sloshed it up and around the sides. Drain, add the milk and salt, stir. Heat to 185-190 degrees stirring frequently. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scald on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, line a large strainer with the cheesecloth. I used all of the cheesecloth in the small package I purchased. Just fold it over and make sure it drapes over the sides. Place the strainer over a deep bowl.

When the milk reaches 185-190 ish degrees, remove from heat.

Slowly stir in the lemon juice. It starts to curdle right away.

Add a pinch of parsley, chives, and thyme, reserving the rest for after the cheese has drained. Allow to rest for 25 minutes in the pan.

After it has rested, pour slowly into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Do yourself a favor though…keep an eye on it and don’t go check your blog or your Facebook page while you’re waiting for it to drain. Because you’ll end up with this:

And more importantly this…

Carefully pull the sides of the cloth in and twist into a ball, carefully squeezing out some more of the liquid. Allow to rest and drain for another 25 minutes or so checking and draining the bowl every so often so that it is not sitting in its own liquid.

Remove the cheesecloth from the strainer and scrape the cheese off with a spoon into a bowl. Add the remaining herbs and garlic and stir to combine.

Taste and add a bit more kosher salt and a few grinds of good peppercorns.

On a clean working surface pull out a piece of plastic wrap and fold in half. Spoon goat cheese onto the middle of the plastic wrap in a small row.

Gently roll up one side of the plastic wrap and snuggle it over the log. Roll the log to the other end of the plastic wrap, twist the ends tight and tuck under.

Continue to do this with the remaining cheese or if you’re going to use it within a couple of days, you can also make it into one large log or any shape you like, really.

Once all of the cheese has been rolled, refrigerate for three hours. Remove from fridge, roll in one more layer of plastic wrap, cover in tin foil, enclose in a freezer bag and freeze up to one month.