Thursday, May 31, 2012

More gluten-free baking

I've left out some important gluten-free baking staples up to this point. Mostly that's because I found recipes that I like and I use them. Since I didn't make them up myself I didn't bother to post them, but it occurs to me that having everything in one place will be useful for me, if not for anyone else. Plus I have another of my recipes to post!

First up is gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and soy free bread. I found this recipe about 9 months ago and I've been really pleased with it. When fresh it is delicious for eating plain, with butter, or with olive oil. I've even brought it to departmental parties, not told anyone it was gluten free, and had it eagerly devoured with many a compliment. It does go stale rather quickly, but makes nice toast on the second day.

Next is pizza crust. I tinkered with the recipe just a little bit, because this one, from Gluten-Free Goddess, uses egg whites, which Zion and I can't tolerate. She does note that you can use egg replacer, and I've made this recipe with both Ener-g egg replacer and flax seeds and water, and in the end I've found it's better if I just increase the water and oil slightly. I've also omitted the rice vinegar, as it didn't seem to make any difference. But it really makes a delicious crust, so delicious that gluten-eating friends have said that they prefer it to wheat crust. Admittedly only a few of them, but still. We can't all have good taste AND a sense of humor, right?

And finally, one of my recipes! This one is for pancakes. I tried a number of gluten-free pancake recipes when we first went gluten-free, and none of them were particularly good. My kids ate them, because they are pancake fiends and not particularly discerning, but I felt sure I could do better. Or rather: I felt sure that I could instruct Robert on how to do better, since he does most of the pancake making these days. And I did!

Gluten-free, vegan pancakes

2 cups GF flour (I use a blend of brown rice, potato and tapioca for this)
1-3 T of sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Mix all that together.

Combine 2 cups of liquid (could be all water, all milk of any kind, or a mix. I usually do about half water and half rice milk)
3 T grapeseed oil
1 T vinegar or lemon juice

Mix that with the dry ingredients. If it seems too thick, add more water. If it's too thin you could add more flour I guess, or just call it crepes.

I like cooking the pancakes in grapeseed oil too. Nom. If I turn a burner on to medium under my huge cast iron skillet right before I start mixing ingredients it's usually ready to go when the batter is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Robert and I were just standing in the kitchen chatting about his aikido class tonight. He said that he and our friend Abi, who we know from the fabulous parent-run cooperative nursery school our kids all attended, had been talking about the school, and homeschooling, and kids before class. Robert told Abi that one of the things he loved most about NSN was that we'd met a lot of cool people that he really liked, and that this was a rarity since he doesn't like most people.

"And Abi was all surprised!", he reported, "and said, 'Really? You don't like most people? But you seem so outgoing and gregarious!'"

I snorted with laughter, then immediately felt a bit badly about doing so, and said, "Um, sorry honey". But I kept giggling. Robert has many outstanding qualities, but this was the first time I'd ever heard those two adjectives applied to him!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer cocktail list

As I said in my last post, I'm feeling inspired to try some old school, WWI-WWII era cocktails. The fact that it has been in the 90s in New York this week has certainly contributed to this desire! Obviously any warm cocktails are right out, though I'm sure I'll be eager to test them out come winter.

So here is my current list of drinks I want to mix in the coming month (happily, many of them feature gin):

1. French 75. This is apparently the only Prohibition era cocktail invented in the US to have hit the big time, whatever that means in booze-land. It's gin, lemon juice and simple syrup topped off with champagne. Squee!

2. Sidecar. Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice served in a sugar-rimmed glass.

3. Colony Cocktail. Gin, grapefruit juice, and maraschino. The recipe I'm looking at calls for two teaspoons of maraschino- does that mean the liquid from the cherries? Hmmm.

4. Mary Pickford. Rum, pineapple juice and grenadine with a maraschino cherry.

That ought to keep me busy for a few weeks. Shopping list: grenadine, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, lemons, champagne, cognac, and rum. We're having friends over on Monday night; I think I might plan the meal around one of these drinks! Either the Colony Cocktail or the French 75, I think. Now I need some 1920's era food ideas... ceasar salad, ambrosia, chicken ala king...but that last isn't really appropriate for the weather we're having. Maybe we'll just grill some meat to go along and call it a day!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Deodorant, Toothpaste, and Cocktails

About a month ago I decided that it was time to un-lazy and start making/using more natural products in my mouth and under my arms. Generally speaking I like to drag my entire family along with me when I make such changes, but the kids don't use deodorant (yet), and Robert has been very, um, resistant to natural deodorants, as he hasn't had the best experience with them actually working. So I switched the whole family's tooth product over, and my deodorant.

For teeth I decided to go with tooth powder, since glycerin is so sticky and coat-y. That shit can't be good for your teeth, it just can't. I bought some tooth powder from Etsy first, to see how we liked it before I bought a bunch of ingredients, and we liked it! The brushing experience is different, as you'd expect, but we all agreed that our teeth felt much cleaner, and stayed cleaner longer. Win! So I bought stuff and started making our own. So far I'm making a clove one for Liel and a peppermint one for Zion. I use both (clove at night, peppermint in the morning). Robert is still finishing up the original Etsy batch, which contains activated charcoal (mine doesn't) and which Robert seems to prefer. I might look into getting some activated charcoal so he can be happy. Since I wasn't kidding about dragging the whole family along with me I sent some of each kind to Kenny and Jenny to try out a few days ago. I'm also thinking of bringing some to my tattoo artist (along with homemade marshmallows) when I see him in a few days. Hey nothing says, "You're a rockstar and I appreciate your work" like homemade candy and tooth powder, right?

Sadly, the deodorant has not been the unmitigated success that the tooth powder is. I've used natural deodorants before (and I'm not talking about Tom's of Maine kind of "natural", but stuff made with ingredients you can buy at the grocery store), with mixed results. My brother has long been a fan of Weleda's spray deodorant, but I never felt it lasted long enough. Deodorants with baking soda work fabulously, but give me a horrible, itchy rash, which is so not worth it. So this time I tried a recipe I found on Crunchy Betty for a deodorant containing clay. The good news: it doesn't give me a rash! The bad news: the first time I wore it to work it did not deodorize as well as one might like. Thankfully my students don't get too close to me, so they were none the wiser. I upped the amount of EOs I was using and that improved things, but I still found that it wore off about half way through the day. So a few days ago I tried this recipe that first coats the underarms with a coconut oil/EO mixture and THEN dusts with baking soda and cornstarch. I'm only on day 3 of using it, but they've been pretty hot days here in NY, and so far so good! No rash, and no horrifying moment when you realized that the smell is actually *you*. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally, my dear friend Rachel, who is a crazy talented chef (she catered our wedding! Surely one of the highlights of her career), posted an article on cognac today. To be honest, cognac hadn't ever really crossed my mind, but after reading a little bit about the history of the sidecar cocktail I've decided that I must try one. In fact, I've decided that I want to devote a little time this summer to making and drinking WWI-WWII era cocktails. For science, you understand. So if you'd like to contribute to my research, please tell me about some of your favorite old-school cocktails!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things I learned and did at JFS yesterday- Liel

Male bees stay outside the bee hive . I  got to pet chickens. I like the chicken I call turkey neck. I found food for goats.

Things I learned and did at JFS yesterday- by Zion

Goats can strip and eat twigs and leaves  of trees in ten minutes.A chicken might never lay a egg if scared.I   was hiking and found two places for goats to eat.If bees  do not have a hive they huddle together to keep the queen warm.

Another rainy Tuesday

On Tuesdays this spring the kids go to the homeschool session at Jewish Farm School. JFS is completely awesome and the homeschool sessions are fantastic! Which is a good thing because it has rained during every. single. session. this spring.

Yesterday there was very little rain, and the kids spent most of their time outdoors learning about the animals JFS raises: chickens, bees, and goats. Yesterday was also Rosh Chodesh Sivan (the first day of the month of Sivan), so they had a Rosh Chodesh parade, located the missing Sivan moon stone and placed it in the correct spot in the calendar garden. They also got to plant sunflowers. I'm going to ask them to each type about what they did in their own words, but in the meantime here are some pictures.

Liel in her parade costume, feeling pleased by the hole she's dug for her sunflower seedling (they planted the seeds that turned into the seedlings weeks ago).

Zion, digging a hole and wearing a fine feathery, um, thing.

Zion gently putting dirt around his baby sunflower.

The Sivan stone and month marker in the calendar garden.

Liel with the stones :)

In other news, I really want to try lacto-fermenting pickles. I'm looking around for the best type of jar for this, so if you have a suggestion (or better yet a large glass jar with a lid you aren't using), let me know!

Monday, May 21, 2012

On your marks...

We're not leaving for Bangalore until late November or early December, but we've already started preparing. We have to! First off was massive amounts of research about tropical diseases and vaccines. The CDC has a recommendation for all of India, but all of India isn't the same climate and therefore doesn't have the same disease risks. Furthermore, there are differences between urban and rural areas, and some diseases are largely seasonal, associated with the monsoons which we won't be around for. Then there are some CDC recommended vaccines (Japanese encephalitis, I'm looking at you!) that aren't available for children. I guess that makes that decision easier at least!

To complicate matters somewhat, all of the recommended vaccines for India are also recommended for China. This complicates things because I traveled in China 12 years ago, and got some vaccinations before I left- but hell if I can remember which ones! And Robert wasn't sure if he'd had a booster for polio  or if he'd had Hep B at all. On Friday he called his old high school to ask if they could send him the immunization records from when he enrolled. They were very nice and said they'd have to search the microfilm (!) but they'd look for him. As a precaution he also faxed an immunization record request to his university. I did the same, faxing a request for my immunization record to my university that had given me whatever travel shots I'd had for China. Robert got his records from his university that same day, and today his high school records arrived in the mail. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for mine. Sigh!

Anyway, Robert went in and got a bunch of jabs from the doctor today, and a course of the oral typhoid vaccine. Even though the doctor is on our insurance plan they asked him to pay for everything upfront. Apparently insurance companies don't much like covering vaccines for adults. Which, frankly, is ridiculous. Pound of prevention, ounce of cure, all that jazz. I hope our insurance coughs up.

In other news, tomorrow is Jewish Farm School day, and it looks to be rainy. Again! It has rained every single homeschool session up there this spring. Hopefully it won't rain much, the kids are supposed to get to meet the new animals on the farm. Which will be super cool even if it does rain, but better if it doesn't, you know?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seeds and seedlings

I'm trying to get back into this whole "posts with pictures, regularly" thing. It's not easy for someone with my natural inclination towards laziness, but I figure I need to get back in the habit before we head to India, so here goes! After abusing our soil for a few years and seeing increasingly pathetic plants and harvests we decided that this year we'd try a new strategy: enrich the crap out of the soil. For fun I thought I'd get back to my food growing roots and start my plants from seeds, too. So I re-upped my Hudson Valley Seed Library membership, bought a ton of organic fertilizers and soil boosters, and planted a bunch of seeds in bio-degradable pots two weeks ago.

 A couple of comments: 1. Those pots do NOT biodegrade. I mean, maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I've bought seedlings in them plenty of times, and been assured that I can just pop the whole thing into the ground where the pot will magically dissolve over time, and allow my precious planst to avoid the trauma of transplanting. What could be more delightful? But 4 months later, at the end of our growing season, there's the damn pot, still in the ground, and totally intact! And my poor plant, root bound, and hella sad. So while I used these pots to start my seeds (better than plastic!) I had no intention of actually planting them. And 2. If you live in the Hudson Valley or surrounding region and grow plants (for food or decoration) you should totally check out the Hudson Valley Seed Library. They're producing seeds locally and sustainably, preserving heirloom varietals, and offer all kinds of gardening advice.

 Back to my original point: pictures! Here are a few seedlings and many apparently empty pots basking in the sun on a broken down plastic child's chair we bought at Ikea years ago. I know, my flair for creating beauty from trash has probably taken your breath away. If it didn't, just bask in the glow of those cucumber and tomato seedlings!
Some of the seedlings grew faster though, so this morning Liel and I transplanted some peas, beans, and one zucchini plant into the actual garden. Liel spoke soothingly to the plants the entire time ("Don't worry little plants! You're OK. You'll be alright, you're going into the garden now! Don't worry..."), which was rather charming (and as both my parents and Robert were quick to point out, probably good for the plants, too). So here's the zucchini plant, over by the raspberry canes, which Robert valiantly cut back this morning to allow this planting. I figured the zucchini had the best chance of standing up to the aggressive raspberry plants. Hopefully it will be joined by one of it's friends (on the deck, unpictured) soon.
And here are the peas!
And one two of the bean plants. They're provider bush beans. Let's hope they live up to their name!
More soon. Pinky swear.