Friday Favorites [7.19.13]

Welcome to another edition of Friday Favorites at The Lambent Life. Hosted by yours truly, the crazy mother of two crazy children who are mastering the arts of nitpicking and tattle-telling as the summer chugs along. Ah, don’t let my complaints fool you. It’s fun. It’s not like I naive to life with a house full of females – my parents had four daughters, after all. Raising these two girls has become more enjoyable than it is soul crushing, so I’ll call our current situation a win.

Here are some of my most recent favorites, in no particular order:

Silver and Blue Threaded Necklace

What? You don't take selfies in your 4-year-old's bed room?

What? You don’t take selfies in your 4-year-old’s bed room?

I love, love World Market. I stopped in last week after a Pure Barre class to find something new to hang in our front room but was easily distracted by their jewelry selection. I’ve recently found some really gorgeous and affordable pieces that come from all over the world. I can’t stomach spending loads of cash on bold pieces of clothing so I like to dress up simple outfits with beautiful jewelry. Aside from this necklace, I’m liking these, this and this, too.

Double Spice Chai Tea

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I haven’t been digging coffee much, lately. And no, I’m definitely not pregnant. There’s enough crazy up in here. Anyway. I’ve upped my vitamin D and B12 intake but Momma is still dragging in the afternoon. So I was stoked to find Stash Double Spice Chai Tea on clearance at Target for less than $2. Add a dash of sugar and half and half… mmm. I may never go back to drinking coffee.

Back to School

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Em goes back to school in less than a month – whoa. Every weekend between now and then are filled with vacations, birthday parties and lots of time at the beach. So I’ve been trying to get a head start on back to school shopping and it’s really sinking in that my little girl is heading to real school for a full day with teachers and kids I don’t know. In uniforms! Impossibly small uniforms. And her very own nap mat that I’m certain will not be long enough for my long-legged girl. I’m also realizing that entering a school system is an entirely different world than the one I currently reside and they speak another language filled with learning philosophies and specific notebook standards. It’s full of PTO, board meetings, supply lists, bell times and doctor’s excuses. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a bit overwhelmed and intimidated. But I’m confidant that this school is where God has Em for the time being. So, there’s that.

Homemade Popsicles

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In case you forgot, it’s miserably hot and humid in these parts. Paired with my newest form of bribery – nay, parenting excellence – we’re eating a lot of frozen treats in the Lambent Household. I found some cheap popsicle molds at Target and threw together some melon, peach, full-fat coconut milk and fresh honey from Urbanna Farm in our well-loved magic bullet. Easy peasy. Dairy-free, clean-eating right here.

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That’s it, folks. I’m insisting Josh take us out to dinner since he flaked out on lunch today and is leaving work late today. I mean, what is he doing that’s more interesting and important than listening to my incessant whining? Seriously.

Lastly, my dear friend Jessica from My Front Porch is having a giveaway over at Willamette Valley Wonder Woman for a free set of homemade recipe cards – it ends soon so check it out!

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Negative.

The past five or six days have been crazy. And by crazy I mean no sleep, lots of running errands, shuttling children, birthdays, helping friends and lots and lots and lots of cleaning. So really just normal responsibilities motherhood but on steroids and with a husband who was out of town.

What was worse than actually having to accomplish everything on my list was that my mind has been clouded and my shoulders burdened worrying over two appointments that are happening this week.

Blair had her yearly appointment with the allergist this morning. I knew they were going to do another skin test to confirm the presence and severity of her dairy allergy and to make sure no new allergies have developed.

Has your child ever had a skin test? Basically, they mark up your child’s back and then add specific allergens to each spot along with a control to ensure the body reacts to the histamine. The nurse uses a small needle to prick each area and then you wait 20 minutes for a reaction. In a waiting room. With a child. Who is more than likely having mini-allergic reactions on his or her back that itches and burns. After 20 minutes, they come in and check the size and severity of each reaction.

I love our allergist. Instead of doing a full panel, he suggested she only be retested for dairy  and added a cinnamon test since she’s had a few reactions after coming in contact.

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Do you see that picture on the bottom right? That’s her back during the test. Notice that “M” written on her back? That’s for milk. Do you see a hive next to it? No?

That’s right.

The allergy test for milk came back negative.

Negative!

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This is huge. Based on the severity of her reactions and past tests, we were not confident she would outgrow this allergy.

And the cinnamon? Negative, too. Apparently cinnamon is a very common skin irritant but doesn’t – for most people – pose any serious danger.

Negative.

I was shocked because she’s in the middle of an eczema flare which is typically always caused by the accidental ingestion of dairy or loads of gluten. Or another allergy yet to be determined. But now I guess we’re just raising a lass with very sensitive skin. It’s possible that her skin is and will always be affected by dairy and gluten but I will gladly handle a food sensitivity versus an allergy any freaking day of the week.

This is just the first step towards what is hopefully the end of my journey parenting an allergic child. The allergist wants a blood test to confirm the skin test’s findings. In two weeks we’ll head to the allergist’s office for a four-hour food challenge. Over two hours, she’ll ingest increasing amounts of milk under the nurse’s supervision. Then she will be monitored for the next two hours to make sure no reactions occur. I’m not looking forward to it and figuring out what to do with Em for that time but… I am not complaining.

To celebrate, Blair and I went to our favorite hang out to load up on Easter basket goodies.

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I really hated to be that mom who uses the double shopping cart with only one child but the girl wanted it and she just got a negative skin test, darn it.

And fairy baby needed somewhere to ride.

I managed to get the fixings for two pretty awesome Easter baskets that will not include a single piece of candy. Squeee!

Today’s a good day. Who knew something negative could be so wonderful?

Just Dance.

Spring has finally arrived. Mother nature is so kind.

You can’t help but lift your face to the sun and smile.

And dance.

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And close your eyes and feeeeeeeel the music.SONY DSCAnd steal a few hugs.

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And maybe a kiss.

SONY DSCWe met up with this lovely momma at The Forsyth Farmer’s Market and ventured downtown to City Market and Ellis Square for some fun in the sun. We had lunch at Your Pie and I was pleasantly surprised to find out they offer a gluten-free pizza dough which also happens to be dairy-free. For patrons with a food allergy, gluten-free pizzas are baked in a separate oven. We tried soy cheese and although B wasn’t a fan, she enjoyed the crust and toppings. After some pretty crappy experiences dining out with a food allergy, our experience at Your Pie was refreshing.

Oh, and the kids pies come with a serving of gelato or a dairy-free sorbet. Win, win, win!

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Do you like the eczema patch on her right cheek? Oh the joys of sensitive skin and change of seasons. Happens every time.

How was your weekend? Is has spring arrived where you live?

I’m doing some housekeeping around ye ole blog and updating the look and feel of the site. You like? My eyes were crossing after staring at chevrons for so long.

Gluten-Free Goodies.

When I found out last October that B’s diet needed to be gluten-free, I was devastated. I know that seems like a dramatic reaction but after being dairy-free for the year prior, removing another food group seemed overwhelming. We were eating a pretty solid vegetarian diet and wheat was kind of a big part of that. Eating out became a nightmare. Playdates were a guaranteed avenue to throw down tantrums.

You see, I love to cook and bake for my family. It’s my favorite way to demonstrate love. And I’m concerned about the fifty unpronounceable ingredients in pretty much every packaged goody. I can imagine no better way to spend my afternoons than mixing and blending and measuring away the minutes to create something delicious, filling and healthy for the girls. But our definition of “healthy” had to change to accommodate poor B’s gut and allergies. And in the process, I had to accommodate, too.

I learned to cook and bake without dairy. I found substitutes for milk, cream, butter and yogurt that often made recipes tastier and healthier. But learning to cook without gluten has been harder. Many of our staples are rely heavily on wheat and life was sad without the loaves and loaves of homemade, crunchy, crusty breads. I went through a sort of mourning period for gluten. Not just for the delicious foods I made but for the joy this baking brought to me. How will they see I love them if I can’t bake? Again, I know that sounds dramatic but all mothers can acknowledge that feelings often aren’t rational.

It has gotten easier. Seeing the incredible improvements to B’s skin and health is a boost. I didn’t notice any difference in how I felt until we were GF for about 8 weeks and I ate a brownie – big mistake. Hello belly aches, cramps and bloating. No fun. So, gluten-free isn’t so bad for all of us.

I’m trying to learn the lay of the land in this new adventure of gluten-free baking. I’ve had a lot of failed attempts over the past few weeks but also a few successes. I have a lot to learn but I hope to have some tasty lessons to share with you over the coming months. So here are a few of my “yay!” moments of success in gluten-free baking.

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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It’s a rare occurrence that bananas last long enough in this house to get overly ripe. I bought two large bunches with the intent of making banana chips but time got away from me. I love a good banana bread – it’s healthy enough for a quick breakfast and sweet enough to satiate a craving.

I adapted it from a Taste of Home recipe by substituting the canola oil with coconut oil, omitted the walnuts and sprinkled with Enjoy Life chocolate chips (dairy-, nut-, soy-, gluten-free). This banana bread was awesome. I haven’t graduated past pre-mixed, all-purpose, gluten-free flour to making my own just yet but I hope to have a mixture down in time to make cupcakes for B’s second birthday at the end of March (eep!).

It makes two loaves and kept really well in the refrigerator. The texture was fantastic and really moist. It was a huge hit with the girls and E requests it in her preschool snack every day. Once I plan well enough ahead to stock up on bananas, I will definitely be making it again.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

do not mind my burnt edges. learning curve.

do not mind my burnt edges. learning curve.

My mom and sisters started following the Paleo diet a few months ago and when I was flipping through their cookbooks, this recipe caught my eye. This recipe is so good, I ordered my own copy of the cookbook to try her other concoctions. I’m a big fan of a lemon/blueberry combination and since it’s Paleo, it’s automatically dairy-, soy- and gluten-free. The coconut flour is very light and they despite the six eggs, they don’t taste eggy in the slightest bit.

J and I first made them on Christmas Eve and they were a huge success. I’ve made it probably four or five times since then and even tried a lime/blackberry combination (good but not as good as the original). This is my new go-to breakfast meal for the girls. Each batch makes 12 decently-sized muffins and the girls can eat these one-handed since they’re usually wielding pirate swords in the other. I recommend using foil muffin liners because they have a tendency to stick to paper.

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Any gluten-free baking tips? What are your favorite gluten-free – and dairy-free! – baked goods?

How we eat vegetables. (Fall CSA: week 4)

I’ve had this post simmering for the past few days but, goodness, Momma can’t get a moment to post  Lu has made herself quite comfortable in her new home and as a result, I spend the majority of my day separating the two girls from each other, the younger girl from the dog, and saving the dog from the older girl. My life is a living version of the fox, goose and grain riddle.

Life has been hectic and sometimes that means things like health and nutrition fall to the way side. But one of the many, many great things about having a CSA share is the abundance of fresh produce in the kitchen. That means I have no excuse but to make meals laden with vegetables and I also get a chance to be creative.

Fall CSA Week 4: sweet potatoes, eggplants, radishes, bell pepper, tons of banana peppers, patty pan squash and loads of romaine.

And I’ve been creative, let me tell you. We’ve been getting more or less the same items each week and while they are delicious and of great quality, I’ve had to find new and interesting ways to keep dinner fun.

Last night, at my friend Amie’s suggestion, I tried my hand at ratatouille. Or, as I like to call it, “throw every orphaned vegetable in a pot and simmer.” We aren’t big eggplant fans in this house and ratatouille is the best and healthiest way I’ve found to serve it. I don’t really know what makes a ratatouille just that, but here is what I used:

  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 banana peppers
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 patty pan squash
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • fresh basil

I chopped all that needed chopped and sautéed everything (except for the tomatoes) in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil for about 20 minutes. I added the tomatoes and 6 or 7 chopped/ripped basil leaves. Cover and simmer, simmer, simmer. I served it over basmati rice for the gluten-intolerant amongst us (and is apparently lower in arsenic, J noted).

Heaven on B’s little spoon.

I’ve had a few people ask what we’re eating now that we’re gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and light on meat. We’ve been eating a lot of autumn-inspired salads (thanks to our CSA romaine) so I’ll do a post on those soon. Hearty soups have been handy but it’s been hard giving up the homemade crusty breads. We use a lot of vegetable “filler” in our meat items to spread out the meal. When you’re dropping $8 on a pound of beef, you have to find ways to stretch it! For instance, we did tacos with gluten-free shells and added four carrots, a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes to the meat mixture and had enough to eat for days. So, eating with these dietary restrictions doesn’t have to be at odds with our lifestyle as selective omnivores.

How do you make a meal stretch? 

I like roasting or smoking a whole chicken on a Sunday and having enough leftovers for several other quick meals.

The stick and berry diet.

In my super-vague and semi-cryptic post last week, I told you that we’re rethinking some stuff with B’s health after a visit with a new pediatrician. In the grand scheme of health concerns, it isn’t a big deal. She doesn’t have cancer. She doesn’t have any life-altering autoimmune disorders. She just has a really wacked out immune system and a gut that has been put through the ringer. We’ve had some time to process, research and figure out a new course of action.

When B was a wee babe, she started getting reoccurring ear infections at four months old. This coincided with what we thought was silent reflux and intense, horrible reactions after each set of vaccinations. Needless to say, this poor girl and momma were incredibly stressed over the never-ending antibiotics and sleepless nights. Finally, at 8 months or so, we determined she had a milk allergy and life adjusted accordingly. After a few months completely dairy-free, her eczema cleared and ear infections cleared. But something was still off. It no longer seemed like dairy was the main culprit. In fact, in August we thought it had cleared itself (most kids grow out of dairy allergies by age 2). Our pediatrician didn’t seem overly concerned about our concerns and continued to push us to do things outside of our comfort zone. We so decided to switch to a different doctor who practices a bit differently than most mainstream doctors.

Which brings us to last week’s visit.

Because of the rounds and rounds of antibiotics B needed for her ear infections, her gut has more or less been wiped clear of any good bacteria that is needed for healthy digestion, immune support and even neurological health (crazy, right?). I have been giving her probiotics faithfully but they haven’t been enough to repair all the damage that was done. So now the pediatrician has her on loads of vitamins and supplements along with a heavy-duty probiotic.

But the kicker is that he wants her entirely dairy- (of course), soy-, and gluten-free.

Remember how we don’t really eat a lot of meat?

Yeah. We eat a lot of whole grains.

My kid is going to be hungry.

I suppose she can still eat sticks and berries. Wait, are sticks gluten-free? With my luck, probably not. Maybe she can have some dirt.

My reaction over the past week has been entirely selfish. I don’t want to have to spend $11 for three cups of almond flour. I don’t want to have to eat more meat. I don’t want to be that mom that has a laundry list of dietary restrictions and rules to read off any time I leave my kid for 15 minutes. I don’t want to have to deal with this.

I had reached a point where I was really comfortable and happy with our dietary choices. I really enjoyed spending the afternoon baking delicious, healthy and gluten-laden goodies for my family.

So, we’re reevaluating. B’s diet is getting an overhaul. I’m adjusting my attitude.

It’s going to be fine.

It seems like the new doctor is confident this will be a short-term problem and things will eventually return to normal. Whatever that is.

So, tell me dear readers, what are your favorite gluten-, soy- and dairy-free vegetarian meals?

We’re eating a lot of beans, rice and starchy veggies like squash and potatoes.

Sweet Potato Saturdays.

We’re falling into a nice routine with our autumn Saturday mornings that I could certainly get used to. The temperatures have been lovely and everyone seems to have calmed from the frenzy of summertime. For the second Saturday in a row, the girls have both slept in which has been a pleasant surprise each morning.

We picked up our CSA share and let the girls play for a bit while we chatted with other members and swapped recipe ideas. Our share this week is more or less identical to last week’s with the addition of some turnip greens and less the cucumber. Adding another eight pounds of sweet potatoes has necessitated some culinary creativity by yours truly.

After a short nap by the little one (this is day two without her pacifier and she’s still a bit shell-shocked, I think), J asked me if it would be alright if he took the girls outside to play while he did yard work.  I laughed in his face.  Would it be alright? Uh, yes. Please, proceed if you must. Somehow I’ll handle a few hours of silence with a kitchen full of goods practically begging to be prepared.

Commence cooking!

I love coming home and sorting through our CSA veggies. I feel like I’m a contestant on Iron Chef and I just discovered this week’s secret ingredients.

With a fresh bag of arugula, I found this recipe as inspiration for tonight’s dinner. The biggest, and I think best, change I made to the recipe was adding roasted sweet potatoes. I tossed them in 2 tablespoons coconut oil and added in thyme, sea salt and black pepper then roasted them on a foil-lined sheet at 350° for 20 minutes. Their creamy and savory flavor balanced the peppery taste of the arugula.

Butternut Squash Soup.

If fashion can have “hot” colors for the season, I find it to be perfectly logical that a kitchen can have “it” vegetables for a season. I’m making a bold statement and declaring butternut squash to be the hottest vegetable for autumn.

Wow, that sounds incredibly lame.

And yet it’s so true. When wracking my brain for tasty and seasonal meal ideas, I keep going back to this flavorful, colorful and versatile fall squash. It’s made its appearance on our table on several occasions this year and it’s only mid-September. We are such fans, our fall garden even has it’s own row of butternut squash.

Far and away my favorite butternut squash dinner is butternut squash soup with apples and carrots served with a hunk of crusty, soft-centered bread. I’ve been experimenting with the basic 5 minute artisan bread recipe with moderate success. The loaves taste great but aren’t looking very pretty.

Back to the recipe at hand.

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Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Carrots

– 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs), peeled, seeded and chopped
– 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
– 1 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
– 1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
– 2 TBSP oil (EVOO or coconut)
– 1/2 tsp garlic powder OR 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/2 tsp salt
–  5 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
– 1/2 tsp nutmeg
– 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (optional)

In a stockpot, saute the squash, carrots and onion in the oil until onion becomes translucent. Add salt, garlic and apple. Saute another 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boil, cover. Cook until vegetables are soft, approximately 20 minutes. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches (an immersion blender can also be used). Return to the pot, stir in nutmeg and cayenne (if desired). Keep warm until ready to serve. Garnish with additional nutmeg.

I’ve made this recipe both using the cayenne and omitting. I tend to get a bit spice-happy with the cayenne so taste it as you add because it has some kick. With or without, it’s delicious.

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Oh goodness, granola!

I don’t have much time to write today because my house is a disaster and E is starting soccer tonight (!) so I need to stop being a procrastinator and get crap done.

BUT.

I had to take a minute and share a fantastic granola recipe. I love the combination of oats, nuts, maple syrup and some good ole healthy fats. For the convenience of life with two small children, I typically like granola bars but this loose granola is really good and versatile. With the perfect combination of salty and sweet, it fills me up and I’m not left hankering for something else. I like to serve it over a cup of Fage greek yogurt for a post-run lunch that’s full of protein, fat and fiber.

The bowl looks huge next to my mouse and keyboard. I’m not that gluttonous, I swear.

I made a few slight adaptions to a recipe from my sweet friend Amie (who really should start a blog to share all her amazing homemaking skills), who adapted it from a Food Network recipe. So, no kitchen mavens here, just folks with particular tastes.

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A reason to celebrate.

We confirmed sweet little B had a severe milk allergy last December. She sensitized to the milk protein when she was 4 months old although we didn’t know exactly the culprit at the time. We thought maybe it was a wheat allergy, followed by a false-positive to peanuts and finally, just before Christmas, confirmed with her allergist that it was “just” a milk allergy. Best Christmas gift, ever.

At her check up in earlier this summer, we knew her milk allergy was still hanging on strong. We had accidentally gave her some bread that contained a significant amount of butter and milk and oh my, did she react. Hives, eczema flares and such an upset belly.

But would you believe it if I told you that when we traveled a few weeks ago, this girl ate real, cow’s milk cheese and yogurt without a speck of trouble? I couldn’t. But she did.

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