Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breaking the Menu Monotony: Banana Bread

On a very rare occasion recently, we had some bananas over-ripen on us.  Bananas don't usually last long in our house, but they did this week.

So, banana bread - obviously.

I remember my mom making banana bread regularly when we were kids. Oh, it was so good. I won't even pretend that the version I made this week even comes close to rivaling hers, because
1) I made it and
2) it's gluten free.
While gluten free foods are tasty, they just seem to lack something, let's face it.
(Probably the gluten.  Eh?)

But anyway, I wanted to make a banana bread that all four of us could enjoy together, so gluten free was the only option.  I used this recipe.

I had a couple of very handsome helpers.

Alrighty, so the recipe I used called for a store-bought GF flour blend.  Well, you know me.  No can do.  So here's the blend I used. 

3/4 c. brown rice flour (ground myself)
1/2 c. white rice flour (ground myself)
1/4 c. corn starch
1/4 c. potato starch
1 1/2 tbsp xanthan gum

- TOTAL of 1 3/4 c. GF flour blend - 

So my kitchen assistants poured in the flour.  We only spilled about 50 cents worth of xanthan gum.  Geesh, that stuff is expensive.

Once our GF flour blend was mxed up, we added:

1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda

Once all the dry ingredients were mixed well, we transferred the mixture to another bowl so we could mix the wet ingredients.

Take a fork and mash your bananas.
The recipe called for 1 banana, but I added 1 and 1/2.
In the future, I'll add 2 whole bananas.

I followed the recipe and creamed together the following:
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
2 eggs
the bananas

Turns out, the recipe calls for 2/3 c. sugar, but we spaced and only added half of that.  It works.  I think it would taste better to add the whole 2/3 cups, but if you're looking to lower the sugar content a bit, 1/3 will get you by just fine.

Also, in the future, I would first cream the sugar and butter together, then add in the eggs and bananas.  The way the recipe called to do it leaves the butter kind of chunky throughout.  Didn't ruin it by any means, just think I'd do it differently next time.

Once the wet ingredients were mixed thoroughly, I added about half the flour mixture, and once that was incorporated, I added the other half to create this sticky glob of dough.

If you've worked with GF dough much, you know that this is common.  I just scraped it off the whisk attachment, no worries.

That leg belongs to the KitchenAid switch operator and that hand belongs to the butter-adder.

My assistants and I scraped the dough into our loaf pan and it did this - another common thing when working with GF dough.  A sticky mound that doesn't spread.

Easiest way to get around this is to wet your fingers and smooth the dough out with wet fingers.  Works like a charm.  It leaves the top of the loaf wet and a little slimy, but that all disappears while it bakes.

350 degrees for 30 minutes equalled this beautiful brown loaf of banana bread - and a wonderful smelling house! shrivelled up as it cooled.  This happens to me constantly when baking GF.  Does anyone know the remedy to this, or is there one?

Regardless, it looked find once it was sliced.

And it tasted fine too!  Again, I'd add the full 2/3 cups of sugar next time, but this is a recipe I'll stick to in the future - yum!

Popped in the toaster, then buttered.  Divine.

Side note, I remember my father-in-law giving me a hard time because I toast and butter my banana bread.  Am I odd in doing this, or do others do this to?

If you eat gluten free, I recommend trying this recipe, and share your experience!

Next up on the blog - I finally found an awesome gluten-free pizza crust that tastes just like the real deal.  Stay tuned!

Banana Bread - love it or hate it?

What's the last thing you baked?

Really though - how to I stop my GF baked goods from shriveling up when they cool??

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cool Happenings at the Local Park

I currently work part-time, and I try to take the kiddos somewhere to do something fun on my 2 days off each week. On Thursday, I took them to our favorite park. Some really cool things happened that I feel compelled to share.

Since everyone seems to get so bent out of shape about every single opinion in existence, I'll preface by stating that everyone parents differently and I am sharing my own thoughts and opinions.  You don't have to agree with me.  I won't be hurt.

Anyway, helicopter parents.....ahh, helicopter parents.  That must be exhausting.  That's all I'll say about that.

I pushed each of my boys on the swings for about 10 minutes, and then sat on a bench to watch them play.  I wasn't on my cell phone, though it's no one's business if I would have been.  I was enjoying the late-summer breeze and watching my kids, along with a group of 8-10 year old boys, play while enjoying the sunshine on my legs.

The helicopter parents were abound.  Heck, there was even a helicopter grandpa there.  I was quite astonished at his energy level!  It even wore his grandson out, as he finally asked, "Can we not play the monster game anymore, grandpa? I want to climb on the ladder."  That made me chuckle.

While I was sitting on the bench observing, I felt the eyes of a couple heli-moms on me.  I'm sure they were aghast at my level of laziness and my utter disregard for what my boys were doing.  I was probably disgusting them with my self-centered presence at the park that morning.

But a few things happened Thursday morning at Vickie Powers Park.

Jameson - who has forever been quite un-graceful and hesitant to do anything daring - climbed up the steps of the jungle-gym, and proceeded to go right down the slide all by himself. Then, beaming with pride, he did it again.  After the small slide became super lame, he moved on to the bigger slides.

A few minutes later, he started hopping across the tires that are half-buried in the ground, whereas he wouldn't even get up on them the previous times we'd been to that park.

He also climbed up onto a ride-on horse toy, with no help from me, though he'd requested it - something else he's never done on his own before.

Hendrix saw another boy standing on top of one of those tubes designed to crawl through.  He asked me how to get up on top of it, and I answered that I wasn't sure, but I knew he could figure it out.  And you know what?

He did.

He got frustrated a few times, and he failed a few times.  But the other young boy ended up giving him a few pointers, and the next thing I knew, Hendrix was King of the Playground Jungle and he had figured it out without my help.

Again - everyone parents differently, but letting kids figure things out themselves really does them quite a bit of good.  And from the heli-grandpa paragraph above, sometimes I think they really do want adults to butt out and let them be kids. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kamp for Kids 2014

I know I'm not the only person begging the powers that be for a "Slow the crap down!!" button for life. Can I get an amen???

Last thing I knew, we were returning home from our family visit in Iowa, planning out the rest of our lazy summer.  Now, half of the trees surrounding us are yellow and orange, and we're headed to the pumpkin patch this weekend.

I have about 6 drafts saved for blog posts, but can't seem to find 5 seconds to work on them, and I'm looking into getting a second job, so time isn't going to be becoming any more abundant in the near future, but I'm working on it, guys.  I promise.  

This post is 3 weeks late, but alas, here it is.  We headed to our first ever weekend of Diabetes Camp at the beginning of September! We knew about camp last summer, but Jameson was only 2 at the time, and we were still feeling really "new" to South Dakota, so we chose not to attend.

Through the last year, though, I made a few D friends, and my good friend, Amy, reminded me about camp in early August, so we registered and spent the next month in anticipation.  It did NOT disappoint.  Really, it was awesome.

Friday evening, after a spaghetti dinner, the Black Hills Raptor Center put on a very cool program about birds of prey. The presenter was very articulate, and did a fantastic job of explaining about each bird in a way that everyone could understand, from the 3-year-olds like Jameson, all the way up to the adults. She spoke about how birds of prey all have 3 characteristics: huge eyes, sharp talons, and curved, sharp beaks for tearing apart flesh and carcases.  Sweet, right?

This is Icarus. She's grouchy, all the time. She tried a couple times to fly off the presenter's gloves.

Remember this little guy - you'll see him again in a second.

This is Little Red Riding Hoot.  She was molting at the time of the show, and had a big poof of feathers around her neck and everyone in the room wanted to grab her and put her in their pocket, and love her, and pet her, and.....  Yeah, she was adorable.

This is Phoenix.  I didn't get a photo of the action, from picking my jaw up off the ground, but we watched this guy demolish half of a rat.  I'm not even lying.

Told you you'd see this guy again!  His name is Hendrix.  Clearly, MY Hendrix thought it was so very cool to meet a bird of the same name, and when he spoke up during the program that he and the bird shared a name, the presenter insisted that they take a photo together once the program was over. :)

After the raptor presentation, we all went out behind the lodge for a big bonfire and s'mores!

Saturday morning was just gorgeous.  It had frosted a bit overnight, and everything was crisp and cool on the ranch grounds.

After breakfast on Saturday morning, there were several sessions for everyone there.  Matt and I were able to sit through 3 different sessions, knowing that Jameson was taken care of by other diabetics who understood the whole shebang.  Way cool.

A lot of the sessions were for parents of older diabetic children, but it was still good to be a part of them, giving us an idea of the issues we'll face in the future.  One of the sessions was on depression and the emotions of the disease.  One mother shared the story of her daughter's depression and talk of suicide.  She stated that she didn't realize it until she went to pick up her daughter from school one day, but that her daughter was considering suicide and had the weapon for the job right in her hand: her insulin pump.  My emotions got the best of me when I was listening to this story and I just cried.  I can't imagine. We also had a session about Diabetes support groups, and how to go about finding support when you need it, because God knows we all do.

We met several other D families, one of which had a 3 year old daughter, (she is 6 months older than Jameson) and another with a 5 year old son. I'm still trying to locate those families on facebook, but I hope to be able to get the kids together sometime soon!

I went out to check on the boys between sessions, and that's Jameson, on the far side of the parachute in the yellow shirt, bent over, having the time of his life. My heart still flutters when I think about watching him in that moment.

Lunch on Saturday was eaten with the Cosmopolitan Club of Rapid City. They are an organization that fights diabetes.  They represent a huge portion of the donations that are given to Diabetes Incorporated each year.

Jameson was showing his pump and meter to the Type 2 diabetic gentleman seated with us.  They were comparing their goods. The gentleman pictured, along with his wife and another couple were just cracking up at the character of my boy!

The Cosmo Club presented Diabetes, Incorporated with a $10,000 check after lunch that day!

Saturday afternoon was spent playing games, having races, and riding horses!  Or, *almost* riding horses, I should say.  We enjoyed petting the animals while they boys were waiting their turn to ride.  The horse that Hendrix is petting in the photo below was such a clown.  He sneezed all over Hendrix, everyone flipped out and busted up laughing, and the horse spent the next 5 minutes or so opening up his mouth like he was going to sneeze, then faked us all out with no sneeze at all.  It was so funny!

Ready to ride!  Maybe??

These boys looked forward to the horse riding all weekend, mounted the horse, stayed up on the horses for about 30 seconds, and then got off.  Silly kids.

After the almost-horseback riding, we meandered over to the paintball guns!  This was something else Hendrix had talked about for 3 weeks leading up to camp!

On Saturday evening after dinner, there was a dance. Please, if you do nothing else today, check out Jameson running around with all the teen and tween  girls dancing to some Taylor Swift.


Hendrix chose not to go to the dance, and wanted to watch Frozen instead.  Jameson and I joined him and Matt later to watch the movie.  After that, we all fell into bed out of exhaustion!

Sunday morning was a lot of relaxation.  We chatted with friends, the kids played, and then we had lunch and headed home.

It was such a fabulous weekend. We are so very blessed with family and friends who support us on all levels.  But it was so heart-warming to connect with other Type 1 families who truly get the 1 AM alarms, the sugar-stash in the cupboards, the placing cardboard sticks in our kids' pee, the fear that a common cold strikes in our hearts.....because they do it every single day, just like we do.

I laughed.  I cried.  We connected.  We formed new friendship bonds.  We had fun. We CANNOT WAIT to go back next year.  Thank you, Diabetes, Inc for a fantastic first year at Kamp for Kids!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Welcome to the arsenal, you beauty.

You guys.  Most awesome addition to my kitchen EVER happened last week.

So, I've been trying to save money by using rice flour in all of my gluten free recipes. I've been grinding my own rice using a coffee grinder that I received as a gift a couple years ago. It was working. But it was a painstaking process.  I'd grind, then sift, then grind, then sift, then.....well, you get it.  It took me 20 minutes or so to grind a cup of rice flour, and it was far from finely ground.  BUT it was working, so I went with it.

However, I've been eyeing a grain mill on Amazon for about 4 months now. I recently had the 1st anniversary of my 29th birthday, and with gift money, along with a couple of gift cards, I took the plunge!

Welcome to my kitchen, you beauty. 

Check out the evidence of this machine's awesomeness:

The pile of rice flour on the left is as find as I could get it with the coffee grinder.  The pile on the right is with 1 pass through the mill grinder - on the regular setting, not even the fine setting!

This 1 pound bag of rice flour was ground in approximately 5 minutes.

Can you understand why I'm so happy???

I think my new toy and I will be BFF's for a long time to come.

Now, since the very BEST time of year is quickly approaching, I better get to the store to stock up on rice for flour, as well as cans of pumpkin and snacks for football games!!!


Have a fab weekend, friends.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Black Hills Bucket List: Camping Custer

It's been over a month since my last post.  I'm a bad blogger, I'm sorry.
So I probably forgot to mention that we purchased THIS!

We had a pop-up camper back in Ohio, but sold it before we moved to South Dakota, due to not having anywhere to store it here.  We had been wanting to purchase another for a while, and finally just did it.  We took it out on our maiden voyage this past weekend!
We took a giant chance, googled campgrounds, and decided on Big Pine Campground in Custer. Our chance turned out pretty stinking awesome, I must say.  We've camped a handful of times, so I can't say we have all the camping/campground experience in the world, but I think we have enough to know that this campground is AWESOME.  It's not huge, it's not fancy, but our site was spacious, gorgeous, and so relaxing.


I always forget how darn cold it gets around here once the sun sets behind the hills!
There were two small playground areas for the kids, one of which (pictured) was right across the gravel road from our campsite, which worked out beautifully.  The kids could play while we were at the site and we could still see them perfectly the whole time.

Saturday morning started out nice and slow-paced with pancakes and sausage, and some coffee under the pine trees.  Perfection.
After breakfast, we went to nearby Jewel Cave National Monument and toured 2 of the 171.6 explored miles of this awesome underground wonder. The pictures aren't great, as light was clearly limited inside the cave.  At one point, we entered a room, and after we were warned/advised, the guide killed all the lights.  He told us that if we waved our hand in front of our faces and thought that we could see our hands moving, that our minds were playing tricks on us.  It was a really crazy experience!
After the cave, we headed back to the campground, took a short nap, then just relaxed at the site.  Our plan for the weekend was some serious R&R, and we definitely accomplished that!  The boys played at the playground and climbed on the rocks lining the permiter of our site.  We made sauteed chicken and veggies (red and green bell peppers with yellow squash) for dinner, along with some fresh cherries.  It was so delicious.  Camping doesn't have to equal hot dogs!
Camping wouldn't be complete without roasting a marshmallow or two over the fire, of course.



We purchased ice cream at the camp store, and that, paired with my Bellini wine drink and a campfire made for a perfect Saturday evening.

The picture doesn't do this beautiful sunset any justice.  It was breathtaking.

And of course, what fun activity would be complete without a little interruption from our good pal, Diabetes. 

Sacked out after a fun-filled day at the campground!

Sunday morning, we made scrambled eggs with bacon, then leisurely packed things up and were back in Rapid City by 10:15 am.  These pictures show the view driving back home.  These Black Hills really are spectacular.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would easily give Big Pine Campground a 9.  It was so relaxing, extremely clean, and the staff/owners were so friendly.  The next time we choose to camp in Custer, we'll definitely be staying here again!
This coming weekend, barring lots of rain, we are planning to camp at Sheridan Lake.  I can't wait!
Have a super week, everyone!