• the kitchen arts,  the mothering arts

    Brain food…


    Now that the school year has begun in proper earnest, I’m starting to realize that having three preteens and three elementary aged kids is a whole lot different (at least when it comes to stomachs) than having a passel of toddlers. Sure, toddlers eat all day long, but at the end of the day the total amount of what was actually eaten is quite small. But preteen boys, sweet honey child. They can eat. And eat. And eat.  Let’s have a moment of silence in honor of growing young men’s growling stomachs. And the way they can grow six inches in less than a month or two.  Hum.

    I lean heavily on the experience of mamas gone before, and here’s the magic number you’re looking for- protein + quick + handy. Muffins, protein bars, protein balls, no bake cookies. You want sweet but not overly sweet- just a touch. And certainly not much that could melt or otherwise muss up the hand that’s holding it, because teenage boys will suddenly notice dirt. Also a surprise from the formerly totally happy to live in a mud puddle set.  I take a page out of Elise’s book, though I most often am going through this same routine in the evening after everyone is tucked in.

    Here’s what I make on a weekly basis (or a daily basis, depending on growth spurts! HA):

    Some version of granola (We really like this Pumpkin Spice Granola in the Fall)

    No Bake Cookies (We make ours from GF oatmeal, and not quite so much sugar as is called for in most recipes)

    Elise’s Crackers


    Elise’s Peanut Butter Bites/Flax Balls


    What are your favorite go-to snacks?

  • the kitchen arts

    Daddy’s Mexican Casserole

    photo 5

    Our never ending quest to find gluten free recipes for our large family is, well, never ending. It’s a constant thing, no? And we’ve found quite often our favorite recipes haven’t come from a book but from Necessity, the mother of invention. Isn’t that the way of it? This one came about one night when we realized there was only a smattering of leftovers and no full meal in the pantry. James dived into the refrigerator and came up with this, and it’s fast become a favorite, made from other nights’ leftovers. (We now make sure to make a bit extra on the normal nights.) It has become our “pizza night”- when we’re too tired or too low on pantry or funds. Fast, easy, yummy.

    One of the amazing gifts God gave this summer: an eighth of a grass-fed beef share- some 25 lbs of free organic grass-fed super healthy ground beef from a local farm. We rarely buy beef because it has to be grass-fed (grain-fed has enough gluten to trigger) and it is so stinking expensive. It’s been a tremendous blessing!


    Daddy’s Mexican Casserole

    Serves 8.

    soft GF safe/corn tortillas (enough to cover a 9 x 13 pan twice)**

    8 oz  of your favorite salsa

    1 lg can refried beans (or 2 cups home made/pre-cooked)

    1 large bag of stirfry veggies (peppers and onions- sometimes this is called fajita mix)

    1 large bag frozen corn**

    2-3 cups leftover cooked rice

    leftover taco beef (seasoned) around 2-3 cups (1/2 to 2/3 lb.)

    2 cups shredded cheese

    Preheat your oven to 350 F. Layer the ingredients like lasagna, subbing the tortillas for the “noodles”. It’s fine (and especially helpful) if your soft taco shells are getting a bit dry. This is a great way to use them up. We cover the top layer of corn tortillas with just shredded cheese, making a nice crusty, nacho like top when cooked. Cook at 350 F for 30-35 minutes. Since all of the items have been pre-cooked or frozen, you’re basically looking to warm it up and melt the cheese. If you don’t have leftover taco meat or rice, you’ll need to cook that up separately and then layer it in to the casserole. When it’s done in the oven, we top with sour cream and diced green onions, if we have them, sometimes some torn up fresh spinach. The great thing about this? Choose your own fillings! We’d add black olives and etc if it was just us older people- the younger kids don’t like them. It stretches a bit of meat and a bit of tortillas really far.


    **Just a note, as we explore more of the auto-immune protocol diet, and from what we already know, we try to limit corn for Ellianna to only once or twice a month. There are some studies showing that corn is causing many of the same problems for Celiacs, and Elly’s dietician recommended this approach. We will often make her something “safer” if we’ve already had this a couple of times that month. We rarely cook separately for her, but it does happen sometimes. All of our main meals are gluten free to prevent cross-contamination. 

  • daybook,  the home arts,  the kitchen arts

    Keeper of the home…

    sgarden paperavalanche carrots blurryelly rainbowsalad abundancebowl redlentilsoup southernexposure rainbowtwo

    It’s not a surprise to me that after an intense period of upheaval there is an almost equally intense period where everything gets cleaned or scrubbed or cooked. It’s my way of making sense of the world, putting things to order. Some of it is practical of course- things tend to fall by the wayside and need to be put to rights. But mostly, it’s my way of nurturing both myself and my family back to a more even keel. I have been expanding my repertoire in the kitchen quite a bit this go round, inspired very much by Sarah Britton’s My New Roots cookbook and her blog. A dear friend of mine gifted me her Plant Based Nutrition class and it has gone miles towards making me more comfortable in my gluten free kitchen. The artist in me simply loves all the color and texture that is the hallmark of Sarah’s recipes- and the knowledge that they’ll all taste good. We haven’t found a one of hers we haven’t liked yet. I’ve also been ever so slowly editing our belongings over a period of six months, inspired mostly by Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s just something about the way she wrote it, her question- does this bring joy? that has helped me let go of many things that no longer need to be in our home or life. The last stand, of course, is all the paper and memories. As my efforts accelerated over the last few weeks, my little studio/office space became the landing spot for all the paper. I did that intentionally- I knew it would keep the fire under my bones to finish. I am so very close now- I’ve dealt with almost all the piles you see above and have only the medical paperwork and art supplies to finish. I’m sure I’ll be done by the middle of this week, and it feels wonderful to know I have crossed the finish line.

  • creative capers,  the home arts,  the kitchen arts

    Yarn Along…


    My washcloth stores had gotten rather low, so I’ve been knitting up some replacements. As my husband says, the knitted ones just work better. The machined washcloths are making their way into the rag bucket as the knitted ones come off my needles. It’s interesting- the knitted ones are far more durable and do not seem to wear out so quickly or get as stained. The pattern I am using is an old, old one. Our grandmas probably used the same one. After many fellow Yarn Along friends recommended that I might like Elizabeth Goudge, I finally found her at the library. I made the mistake of starting the first story while in the doctors’ office yesterday with one of my children- the time I had to read was much too short! That’s the first time I’ve bemoaned that we didn’t have to wait very long. Ha!

    Washcloth Pattern

    Cast on four stitches.

    On the next row, knit two stitches, yarn over, knit to the end of row.

    Continue each row until forty-four stitches are on the needle.

    In the next row, knit one, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit to the end of row.

    Continue until four stitches are left on the needle, cast off.

    Sharing with Ginny.

  • explore,  the home arts,  the kitchen arts

    Camp Messicrew…

     rivereggsncoffeegrapegrintoocool Camping with kids is no easy feat at first; camping with a large family makes it even more complex. If your family is interested in camping and you’ve never done it before, I strongly suggest a dry run in a back yard or at a camp ground near to your house (under an hour away, tops). You’ll need this practice run to iron out all the bumps, catch what you didn’t remember on your packing list, and get a good idea of just how long it takes to set up camp. Now, I’m going to be totally honest here. While we are seasoned enough campers, we rarely ever camp in what’s called a primitive camp site. At a primitive camp area there are no showers or bath houses, no running water, and no electricity. We probably could but at this stage in our life it would add such an extra layer of stress to the experience that it just isn’t worth it. We always stay in a state park area. We are lucky to have many beautiful, award-winning options in our state, and all of these parks have tent sites that have access to electricity and running water, with a bath house nearby. Especially now that we are travelling with kids with chronic medical needs, having those ‘comforts of home’ are very necessary. If that’s how you choose to camp, too, you’ll find the amount of things you actually need is greatly reduced.

    Our tent is actually not a tent- it’s a teepee that has an eighteen foot diameter at the bottom. It easily sleeps our entire family (even with mom and dad on an airbed) and could fit probably four or five more people if the need arises. It is much easier to set up than your typical modern tent with all the bendy poles. It is simply a matter of laying it out, extending the center pole, and tying it down. It goes up in about ten minutes, versus the half hour to forty-five minutes of your typical room tent. We’ve made people rather jealous as they’ve watched us pull in, set up camp, and get down to business while they are still wrestling with those cuss-making bendy pole tents. We get a lot of questions about it!

    Everyone has their own sleeping bag, and yes, mom and dad get an airbed that blows up via the van’s cigarette lighter. It is so worth it. I’m all for roughing it, but when parents need to be on top of their game for everyone to have a great time, an airbed is a must for good sleep. No uncomfortable no-sleep nights rolling over and over again on top of rocky soil.

    We carry a camp stove with us, plus the propane to run it. Three propane lanterns light the camp space. We usually bring our cast iron dutch oven and our cast iron skillet, plus a percolator for coffee. Don’t forget a large metal serving spoon and your kitchen knives (which we stick in a traveling block of foam). Depending on the trip we either take all paper products or use our camp dishes, which are metal enamelware. That is worth the investment- we’ve used ours for years and they are far more useful in many cases than paper products. Just remember that you have to wash them and bring a small bottle of dish washing soap.

    Pretty much every camp site we’ve ever been to has a six to eight foot wooden picnic table. I can’t imagine a place that wouldn’t have a table, but obviously if you’re headed someplace that doesn’t, you’d have to prepare for that with a small folding table or the like. (Remember that hot propane stoves and plastic tables don’t mix, so make it metal!) Because of that, we only travel with two adult folding chairs versus chairs for the whole family. I set the camp stove at one end of the picnic table, tuck the cooler underneath, and this becomes the kitchen area. The kids have plenty of room to sit and spread out along the benches, and then James and I usually pull our camp chairs up to the non-kitchen end of the picnic table and we dig in to our meals.

    Beyond on that, there’s not much else we take with us. We carry a toughneck tub that has lots of camping odds and ends (stuff to repair the tent, extra stakes, an extra tarp, paracord, and more). We use the lid of that for keeping dishes to be washed, and then walk down to the bath house to take care of that. Most bath houses have a sink outside just for this purpose.

    As food goes, we’ve found it is far preferable to think through the meals prior to the trip and meal plan- some meals are pre-cooked and then frozen. Sometimes we take the easy way out (obviously kind of rare now) if we know that there is a pizza place like Little Caesars near the State Park. The less food we have to take with us and keep cold, the better. There are certain places we stay that we know have a grocery store nearby, and we don’t get the things we need for meals until we get there. We only keep what we absolutely have to in the cooler and keep it heavily iced. Most camp stores have milk and eggs, in our experience, for example, so we rarely carry those with us. We might be paying a premium price to purchase them there, but we find it well worth the extra cents not to have mess with the keeping them properly cold in the cooler.

    When it comes to kids and camping, realize they absolutely are going to get dirty. If we are just camping and not traveling anywhere else, I only take one outfit and one set of long pajamas for each kid. The outfit and the pajamas get progressively dirtier, till the day we leave. I have them take a good bath the morning we leave, and then trundle them into a clean outfit that has stayed hidden in the van. (So really two outfits+pajamas.) Otherwise it’s just an exercise in maddness. I make sure the kids have their long pant pajamas and sweatshirts because the nights get cool. (Cool sunglasses not necessary, but awfully cute!)

    The whole point of camping is to get outside and spend some good, fun time with your family. Whatever makes that easier and more enjoyable? Go for it! Don’t get locked into the idea that camping has to be done just so. If it’s difficult and hard you won’t want to do it again. Find what works for your family, and you might find you get a bit addicted to it!