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March 2 is a big day at our house.

The girls have been asking all day if they can call Grammy. We’ll FaceTime with her soon. Today is her 52nd 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Today would have been Dr. Seuss’ 109th birthday. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, this great American writer, poet, and cartoonist penned 46 children’s books under various pen names, most notably Dr. Seuss. His love of meter and rhyme (and social commentary) has made is books favorites of many children, ours included. Thanks to Grandma and Papa, we have quite the collection of books by Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg. The girls love them. They are still to young to read them on their own, but they know entire pages by heart. As they “read” along with me I hope that they will always enjoy reading. (Though I still groan every time a little girl brings me Fox in Sox.) As my husband tweeted earlier today, “Celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with my kids is not about honoring one man; it’s about teaching them the magic of reading.”

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

2 cups white beans (cooked and cooled or canned)
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine wet ingredients with beans and pulse in the food processor. Add dry ingredients and blend until combined. Portion into muffin tins. Bake at 325 for 22-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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Remember, “the more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Snow and cold weather always make me want to bake. With a solid layer of sleet on the ground and the snow piling high and drifting in the front yard, this morning seemed the perfect time to settle in and bake something tasty for breakfast.

These muffins are hearty and healthy. As the recipe is, it is egg-free. If you use non-dairy yogurt and milk you could easily make these tasty muffins vegan.

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low fat
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon flax meal
3 tablespoons water
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl and allow to soak about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl combine flax meal and water and allow to sit 3 minutes.
Combine flours, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk lightly to combine.
To the oat mixture, add brown sugar, mashed banana, and flax meal mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture and mix well. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini muffins) in a 400 degree oven.

I love being able to stay at home with the girls, but some days are trying. Elie is normally very easy-going and happy, but cutting two molars will put anyone in a bad mood.

Audra is always a little bit more challenging. She’s brilliant. She’s strong-willed. She’s spirited. And she’s two. Sometimes this combination leads to beautiful moments and amazing discoveries. Other times it leads to screaming and crying and poop on the walls.

Today we had a mix of both. On the one hand it’s better than having a whole day of destructo-toddler, but it can emotionally be very challenging for mommy. All morning Audra used the potty and shared with her little sister. She ate well at lunch. She said she was sleepy and ready for a nap. Then she smeared poop all over the nursery walls and carpets while I was getting Elie settled down for a nap.

On a day like today, let’s just be honest, Mommy NEEDS chocolate.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Cookies:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer, beat butter. Add sugar and cream together.
Add vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until creamy and smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (tapioca flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Whisk together to combine.
Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix. Dough will start out grainy, but will come together to form a dense cookie dough.
Roll the dough into teaspoon-sized balls and put on lined cookie sheet. Place a small piece of parchment paper on top of balls and press to 1/4 inch thick.
Bake cookies 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Filling:
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together all ingredients until a fluffy frosting forms.
Smear on top of one cookie and place a second cookie on top to form sandwich.

When my younger daughter was born (about 15 months ago) our
wonderful friends at church brought meals so that I wouldn’t have
to cook. With a toddler running around the house, a c-section
incision to tend, and a newborn to nurse I couldn’t have asked for
a better gift in all the world. People brought lentils and rice,
fruit, bread, pasta dishes, soups, quiche, and other delightful
meals.

Our pastor’s wife brought baked oatmeal. Randall doesn’t
like oatmeal, so I had a whole pan of baked oatmeal to myself,
until Audra found me out. Evey morning I would have a bowl of baked
oatmeal with warm milk. It was perfect and filling but I could eat
and prepare it quickly and get back to the babies demanding my
attention.

The cold weather (and promise of snow) got me thinking
about baked oatmeal again. As we waited for the now to fall, Audra
and I got out all the ingredients for baked oatmeal. I created our
assembly line and she poured and mixed to her little heart’s
content until we got to our ever-important B ingredient. Around
here, B is for blueberries. Audra carefully counted the blueberries
as she added them to the baking dish, then ate one, then fed one to
sister, then added one to the baking dish. As I’m sure you can
imagine, not as many made it into the oatmeal as I had intended.

We had a wonderful time mixing and counting and baking and eating this
simple baked oatmeal based on my pastor’s wife’s recipe. I hope you
enjoy it as much as we did.

Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries

1 egg beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave syrup
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (gluten free)
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 cup blueberries

Mix ingredients in a lightly greased 8-inch
square pan or 9-inch round pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and
turbinado sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

It seems that the organic bananas have been turning very quickly recently. I buy them when they’re still green and within a couple of days they are half brown, skipping the yellow stage entirely. Audra and Eleanor both love bananas, but they can’t eat them that quickly. Or rather, I won’t let them. When Audra was starting on solids I learned the hard way what too many bananas do to a baby.

Three over-ripe bananas have been sitting on the kitchen counter for several days. I have thought several times about making banana bread, but the recipe I have always used is wheat-based and full of loathsome gluten. On several occasions I have looked online for a gluten-free banana bread recipe, but my little girls seem to have been exceptionally demanding.

One of our friends is moving to Michigan next week and there is a going away party after church on Saturday. I found out yesterday that everyone is supposed to bring snack food. With renewed purpose and a deadline I set out to find a recipe.

Currently my favourite gluten-free cooking blog is “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.” Shauna has wonderful recipes and stories. She also has a little girl about Audra’s age. On her blog is a recipe for a chocolate banana bread. Her recipe calls for yogurt. Since I make my own yogurt it is difficult to resist the urge to cook with it.

I adapted this recipe to make an amazing egg-less banana bread with a nearly cake-like consistency. For vegan banana bread try using a non-dairy yogurt (soy, coconut, etc).

Nearly Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (egg-less)
  4 oz teff flour (about 1 cup)
  6.5 oz brown rice flour (about 1 cup)
  5.5 oz sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  6 tablespoons cocoa powder (high quality)
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  3 overly ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  1/2 cup applesauce
  1/3 cup light olive oil
  1/4 cup plain yogurt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease two small loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to break up clumps in the cocoa powder. Use a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mash bananas. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spatula. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

Portion batter into pans. Bake for about 45 minutes. When bread is done a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to finish cooling.

Serve warm or completely cooled. Enjoy!

Today I had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for a friend of mine.  She is expecting her second little one and is VERY ready to have her little girl out of her belly and into her arms.  I know she is tired and ready to no longer be pregnant, but she looked beautiful and radiant (and round).

It’s so much fun to host things at our new house.  I love having the chance to cook for lots of people in my wonderful, big kitchen.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just cook and bake and enjoy myself in the kitchen and the dishes would magically wash themselves.

When I was pregnant there were two sweet things that I always craved.  Chocolate and Lemons.  Really, when cooking for any large group of women can one really go wrong with chocolate?

I made brownies and lemon bars.  The brownies are based on a recipe I found about a month ago.  I’ve experimented with it a little bit and think that what I’ve come up with is a wonderfully rich brownie that strikes a good balance between the richness of a fudge brownie and the flavor of a cake brownie.  These brownies have a light flaky crust and a rich chewy center.  When making these brownies be sure to use a good natural or Dutch-processed cocoa.  My favorite is Green & Black’s.

Today was my first attempt at this particular lemon bar recipe.  I adjusted a few things from the recipe while I was cooking.  After making them I have adjusted the recipe a little bit to make them a wee bit more tart.  These lemon bars have a hearty, crunchy crust, a smooth, custardy middle, and a crispy, flaky top.  I was very pleased.

I hope you enjoy trying these recipes and making them your own.

Brownies
  10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  1 1/4 cups sugar
  3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  1/4 teaspoon salt
  1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  2 cold large eggs
  1/2 cup all-purpose flour

With a rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place a medium heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  In the bowl combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Stir occasionally until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Set the bowl aside to cool until the mixture is only warm.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Stir the mixture vigorously after each egg.  When the batter is well-blended and shiny add the flour.  Stir until completely combined.  Beat vigorously for AT LEAST 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes (until a toothpick poked in the center emerges slightly moist with batter).

Allow to cool in pan 10 minutes.  Lift the ends of the parchment and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow to completely cool before cutting.

Makes 24 Small Brownies

Lemon Bars
Crust:
  1/2 pound salted butter, room temperature
  1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1 cup whole wheat flour
  3/4 cup unbleached flour

Filling:
  7 large eggs, room temperature
  3 cups granulated sugar
  2 tablespoons lemon zest (4-6 lemons)
  1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1 cup unbleached flour
  Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment paper.

For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Add the flour and mix on low until just combined.  Allow to sit at least 15 minutes.  Dump the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball.  Flatten the dough and press into the 9 by 13 inch pan.  Crust should be 1/4 to 1/2 inches.  Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Return parchment and crust to pan.

For the filling, whisk together eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake 30 to 35 minutes.  When the filling is set remove from oven.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Dust with confectioners’ sugar and cut.

Makes 20 squares or 40 triangles.

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