Summerly days behind and a long weekend ahead of us

It has been pretty quiet on the blog – for no better reason than: a whiff of summer. The last couple of days have been so blissfully summery that we just HAD to spend each and every spare minute outside. Though we didn’t manage it down to the beach again we still had a great time and the kids simply loved it. They dug straight into the sandpit or the tree swing or joined me in planting some pots and eagerly watered them. Also getting dressed in the mornings was no longer trouble and fighting – it was quick and easy and done in no time seeing that we only had to take some shorts and shirts on and off we could go.
Today is the first day for the weather to cool off slightly – but that’s ok so we finally get things done inside the house and also here on the blog.
Despite the warmth and long outside hours I managed to try a number of new gluten-free dishes which I will hopefully type in rather sooner than later. I have tried some more Quinoa, a delicious office lunch containing beetroot, red beans and gerkins and a brilliantly moist buckwheat bread, just to mention a few.

For now there lies a long weekend ahead of us, which we will spend visiting dear old friends down in the southwest of the country. This means a pretty long drive in the car – 4 or 5 hours depending on the traffic – with the 3 monkeys in the backseat. I already started preparing some entertainment (a.k.a. taking some long forgotten CDs and books) and yummy provisions. I’ll try sushi rolls for the drive and the first day, which we will most likely spend at the Zoo when we get there. I know hubby, Miss Monkey and I myself just LOVE sushi and I want to leave the rolls pretty big instead of cutting them down into bits to make it more of a to-go-snack than fancy meal. I think of using tuna, avocado, capsicum und cucumber as filling and I hope it makes a good meal for a day on the road. Also, I’m curious to see if the smallest monkey will have it – though this one is a real food machine and normally gulps almost everything. The middle monkey won’t have it as far as I know. He has been a real food-moaner lately and I think this really sucks but so far I haven’t come up with something to do about it and I really don’t want to force food into him. Basically, though, I think he’s is just a lazy eater – too lazy to try out new tastes. Hmm, we’ll see how it goes when we’re away for those days. I will definitely keep you posted.

Mothers’ Day

All you Moms out there – have a happy day today!
Mine started at 5.16 a.m. sharp when the little monkey woke up and was no way going back to sleep again. Not exactly the kind of kickstart for the day I had in mind. It got better though. Shortly after the smallest was up also the two bigger monkeys were wide awake and without discussing agreed to keep an eye on their little brother and keep themselves company and busy so hubby and I could stay in bed for another hour of sleep.
When it was eventually time for me to get up, too, I got spoiled with loads of hand- and love-made presents from my kids:

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It kind of brought me back to those days when I myself was actually making presents for my Mom on Mothers’s Days, instead of just running down to the shops at the last minute to simply buy her something. I know my middle monkey spent a whole afternoon, say 3 to 4 hours, this last week to make my present! All by himself, behind closed doors. Miss Monkey was quicker and more self-dependent but the great card she gave me was all hand- and love-made, too.

Also, I am glad we decided to take our own Moms and also one of my Grandmas out to celebrate today. We drove out to the country with them, took them to a lovely, picturesque, refurbished castle where we had a remarkably delicious brunch all together. It was a glorious, happy morning and it also made my own Mothers’ Day really perfect.

I am especially happy and grateful today because very early this morning I had to learn of the death of a woman I know. I cannot even say we were close friends because we were not. I got to know her when living in Australia; she worked with my husband and we occasionally met. She died this morning after battling cancer. She and her family are beyond brave and positive and strong. They had to bear more than anybody can possibly bear and they never gave up. She was a Mom, too, and she died on Mothers’ Day morning leaving two small kids and a husband, a family, friends, people who knew her and who were happy to have her in their lives. I feel overly sad to know that she’s gone because she of all people would have deserved to win this battle. And I feel grateful and blessed to be here, happy and healthy, with my kids, husband, family and friends happy and healthy, too.

Katja, I know you are up there and keep an eye on your dear ones. I wish from now on, there will only be sunshine for you on every single day, because this is the least you deserve.

A classic for a reason: Asparagus

I am just enjoying the end of a wonderful weekend and putting in some blog work, finally typing and editing at least some of the new recipes.

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It’s been the first really warm weekend of the year and to make the most of it we spent it in the cottage with my in-laws seeing that hubby was off working saturday anyway so the kids and I weren’t all alone. It was warm as in “Take your jackets and sweaters off”-warm and we were able to go down to the beach on saturday spending almost 3 hours by the lovely and beloved sea. I still remember last year when the littlest monkey was all but excited about sandy beaches – a fact that was actually spoiling numerous beach days for the rest of us back then. But now? He LOVED it. Yippie! As soon as we got down to the beach and Miss Monkey had taken his shoes off he was beyond thrilled.

In the evening we had a nice barbecue – and I decided to collect some of my family’s BBQ-favourites to publish here on the blog. We are mostly going rather plain and simple, rather less than more and mostly things are naturally gluten-free anyway so I think it will make a good collection for you all.

To wind up this sunny, warm and perfect weekend we’ve had the first Asparagus of the season and here we also kept it plain and simple:

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I peeled it outside in the sun and even though I was actually postponing this unloved job several times today it was eventually done in no time. For the 5 of us – considering that the boys would each have only a very small share – I used:

– 2kg white Asparagus

– 1kg fresh (new) potatoes

. 200g butter

– 2 tbl. spoons breadcrumbs

– 4 egg yolks

I cooked the potatoes in the skin and peeled them after cooking. For the Asparagus I used a big pot of warm water, 2 teaspoons salt and sugar each, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a splash of lemon juice. Just insert the Asparagus and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling you have to be carefull not overcook the Asparagus as this goes really quick. I like it to be rather al’dente, so I’d say 5 minutes actual cooking time is sufficient.

As my family is devided into “Sauce lovers” and “Butter lovers” when it comes to Asparagus I usually make both: For the butter I heat a small pan and add the breadcrumbs (which were not gluten-free, but I’m on the sauce side anyway). Stir regularly so they get a nice “tan”. 🙂 Then add ca 75gr of butter into the hot pan and let it melt. The crumbs and the butter will combine and make a nice ‘dip’ for the veggies (can be used with any other veggies than Asparagus as well).

Finally it came down to Hollandaise Sauce which is way easier made than it’s reputation and basically done in 4 steps:

1. Add 4 egg yolks, a pinch of both sugar and salt and 4 tbl. spoons of water into a stainless steel pot or bowl and whisk until everything is well-blended.

2. Add 125gr of butter to another small pot and let it melt on low heat.

3.. Put the bowl/pot with the egg yolks above another pot with very hot (preferably not boiling) water (= bain marie) and whisk, whisk, whisk, whisk, whisk… It really is all about whisking!!! The warmth and the whisking will make the egg yolks thicker, just like a sauce.

4. When the egg yolks have become really creamy slowly add the liquid butter by pouring it into the mix and still whisk, whisk, whisk…

Now you only have to season the sauce with salt, pepper and lemon and you’re done with it. Note: Hollandaise Sauce is only lukewarm when you make it and you cannot heat it up again, so it should be last on your cooking agenda. Also, the sauce becomes firm once it totally cools down. I like to use it as a spread on roasted bread, it’s really nice.

Voilà! This is one of our favorite dishes in April and May as this is the best season for local Asparagus. I hope you enjoy!

Post-holiday – again

 

Hi all, I’ve been absent for a while as you probably noticed. We took a week off and went to Denmark for a family vacation with the monkeys and my brother plus his family. Let me tell you this was a totally different kind of holiday from what we’ve experienced just 3 weeks ago when taking a timeout in Italy! 🙂 But it was no less fun and enjoyable and first and foremost: it was spending quality family time together all the 5 of us, something we really needed to do. We captured playgrounds in the woods or at the beach, conquered numerous castles and watched the Royal Guards and Horses on duty. We had a lot of Danish ice cream and some nice BBQ-lunches in the sun. We got drenched on a walk as short as 150 meters and discovered the fun of Viking Chess Battles with the whole family.

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Due to those vacation and the following Easter weekend which we spent with hubby’s family at the cottage, I haven’t tried new or transformed old gluten-free dishes lately but I do have a number of delicious meals queuing which I will of course write about here shortly. So be prepared for gluten-free versions of traditional food such as Lasagna or pie and culinary experiments including Quinoa and Buckwheat and yet another new bread.

Experiences of the sad kind

This last week was difficult for us, especially for my big Miss Monkey. She had to make her first real Farewell-experience. The first one of her life and even if this farewell will probably – hopefully – not be one of the final kind it’s hurting just as much: Her best friend EVER is moving. She is not just moving district, city or state – she is moving continents. She will live in Singapore from September on, more than 10.000 kilometers away from here, from us, from my poor big Miss Monkey. The day the news were released my girl cried her heart out. I’ve never seen her so, so, SO sad before and I’ve hardly ever felt so powerless. Whatever I would say or do to comfort her, to point out the positives, the prospects, she just wouldn’t stop crying. She cried on and on for hours, always repeating the same worries: „Why?“ – „Why can’t we move with her?“ – „She’ll surely forget me as soon as she gets there.” – „She’ll surely have another BFE in no time and THEN she’ll forget me.“ Until she finally had no more tears let to cry.

I think, part of her worries are qualified, sadly:
Of course her friend will make new friends, thank God! What if she wouldn’t?
Of course it’ll take more than just thinking of each other to maintain this friendship.
Of course we cannot move with them. Regrettably. Thankfully.
All that didn’t matter on that particular day anyway as my girl was so overly sad that nothing could manage to help. She had to take her time to suffer and grieve. For the best friend she’d ever had in her life, the first and the best. The one who is closer to her than any other person her age. The one she shares her secrets and sorrows with. The one she envies most and loves the most at the same time. The one who’s still here but actually half-way gone already.

Maybe part of why I couldn’t quite comfort my Miss Monkey was that I was grieving, too. Not only have the girls become close since they started school 3 years ago, but so have us Moms. I myself will have to let go of a dear, close, reliable friend, too.
The other mom is the most generous, helpful, kind and giving person I’ve known in a very long time, and even thinking about not having her around anymore brings tears to my eyes. I will miss her badly and I know she’ll miss us, too. That makes it even worse.

I know this cannot keep up with the big issues of the world. But for my little girl this is major.

Still we cannot change what is set. But we can make the best of what’s left – 6 months to enjoy each others friendship and company. And we can exploit the chances offered by this loss. At least we can try.

Salad discovery of the week // Holiday reminder

We spent the last day of our Italy-getaway in Nice, as we departed from Nice Airport towards home. It is a lovely, lively, boutique city. I really liked it there though the differences to my beloved Italy were omnipresent even if it’s just a stone throw away. We found it for example very, very hard to settle for some lunch. The cafés and restaurants were pretty expensive, pretty crowded and – pretty French. I don’t know French.

Anyway when we finally decided for one restaurant I chose “Salad Nicoise” which I have never heard of before – bad gap in my education! 😉 It was delicious and as soon as we got home I started to research the web for this salad. I found thousands of hits and read a few dozens – eventually mixing all those variations into one recipe that fit me. I tried it out at the weekend when we had my brother over for dinner. Usually men are not very excited when it’s salad for dinner and hubby and my brother were – say, skeptical. But this salad is a real whopper and it even convinced the two of them.

Here’s what you’ll need to feed 3-4:

– 6-8 small young potatoes, cooked and cut in quarters

– 150g green beans, cooked and cut in halves

– 4 eggs, cooked and cut in quarters

– 250g ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

– 2 cans of tuna, drained

– 1/4 of an iceberg salad

– 1/2 red onion, sliced

– green or black olives

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In a flat bowl fill in the ingredients as follows: iceberg salad – tuna – tomatoes – potatoes – eggs – beans – onions – olives.

For the dressing, fill into a high jar:

– 4 tbl spoons olive oil

– 2 tbl spoons balsamico bianco

– 1 tbl spoon mustard

– 1 tbl spoon honey

– 1 tbl spoon mayonnaise

– some salt (not too much)

Use the puree-unit of your food processor to get a smooth, soft, well-blended dressing. Add some table spoons of water if you think it’s too thick (I did so) and taste to season with salt and pepper. Add to the salad and Voilà!

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I cooked the potatoes, eggs and beans in the morning already and kept them in the fridge. This way the salad is really very quick-assembled. It is really delicious and satiable. Enjoy!

Gluten-free Cheese Cake (New York Style)

As it was my middle monkey’s birthday last week and we usually have a family get-together on these occasions I was on the hunt for nice gluten-free cakes and sweeties to serve the family on an April-afternoon. When I came across this recipe a couple of weeks ago I thought on the spot it would be an easy transfer into gluten-free: it does not at all contain too much flour and the pastry of the cake (which contains the flour) is not supposed to be a fluffy and soft one but thin and more like a cookie.

This cake recipe is originally adapted from Donna Hay, I changed more than just the type of flour though so I consider it ‘mine’ now 😉

What you’ll need for the pastry:

– 150g gluten-free flour (again I used bake’n’cake-flour mix)

– 100g butter

– 50g sugar

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Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, until it becomes a crumble-dough. It’s best to use your fingers instead of a food processor. Cover a round normal baking pan with pan liner, preheat your oven to 175 degrees C. Fill the crumbles/dough into the pan and spread evenly until the pan is fully filled with dough.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, then set aside.

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For the cheese filling you’ll need:

– 500g ricotta cheese

– 300g cream cheese (I used fat reduced cream cheese and it worked well)

– 4 eggs

– 250g sugar

– rind of one big lemon (preferably organic)

– juice of one big lemon

– 1,5 tbl spoons cornflour

– 2 tbl spoons water

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Mix all ingredients except water and cornflour in a bowl, using your food processor. Mix water and cornflour in a small extra bowl until smooth then add to the cheese filling, stir thoroughly. Fill the mass into the baking pan on top of the pastry and bake for another 70 minutes.

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Actually one should then turn the oven off and leave the cake inside until cooled. As I had several other baking goods already queuing I had to take my cake out of the oven and let it cool outside. Maybe this is the reason why it seemed a little pale in the end, though taste, shape and stiffness were supreme. It was the real winner of the party and no-one actually noticed it was gluten-free. 🙂

Back home – holiday review

 

Puuh, I really cannot believe we’ve been back for 4 full days. But we have. We are so, so back. We returned home monday night to a nicely quiet house with 3 peacefully sleeping monkeys snuggled up in their beds, convinced and trusting that Mom and Dad would be back by the time they wake up the next morning. And within the blink of an eye holiday mode was off and we were back to business as usual. Looking back it feels as if these 5 alone-days are far longer away than just half a week. In the last 4 days back home I’ve been busy doing all the laundry that already piled up, packing away all the things we’ve just moved over to my parents’ „just in case“ and – first and foremost – preparing the middle monkey’s 6th birthday. (which was a hit, I can tell you!)

In the middle of my family, my life, of all these little bits and pieces, of all these everyday issues I felt strangely different to before the holiday: I felt – and still feel – relaxed. These 5 days in Italy were so much worth all the planning, organizing, preparing, worrying. It was just so exactly what we had needed and it did us beyond good. All my worries were put aside and they really did stay in their corner. I missed the kids occasionally and I was really looking forward to coming back home to the three of them. But it was definitely not like I was homesick or unable to sit back and relax.

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It was ‚La dolce vita‘ at its best: Sleeping in, eating, drinking, eating, walking in the hills and / or along the beautiful coastline of the Mediterranean Sea or taking a sunbath on the terrace. The weather was warm and sunny, and I got a really nice tan. 🙂 We had time to talk but didn’t spoil the mood with too heavy topics. We were just happy to be around each other – uninterrupted. During those days in Italy we felt an almost unknown feeling of freedom – simply because we were free: free from responsibilities, time pressure, duties, work, schedules. Nothing needed immediate fixing. No mediating, no consoling, no bitching, no looking after and no caring about – at least not actively. It felt really really good and it was the recharger we longed for.

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For me Italy also meant: gluten-free-free. Before we took off I decided to take it easy with gluten-free foods in order not to spoil the holiday and having all those delicious Italian dishes in mind already. No sooner said than done. I had white bread, pasta and dessert the first day. Grissini, pizza slices and again bread the second … and then: along came the point when my digestive tract said „Thanks. But, NO thanks.“ It was really astonishing. It took only very little to have all my old and long forgotten inner construction sites return. So I tried to avoid gluten whenever possible for the rest of the time, and honestly – I’m still struggling with the effects of those two easy days and I have put myself on a stricter-then-ever diet since our return. I can see improvement though. 🙂
Anyway, this little ‚thing‘ could not decrease the great benefit of this holiday, it was just a side effect to be noticed.
Consequently I will publish another great gluten-free recipe tomorrow. It is easy, but not quick. And it’s an all-time favorite in my family.

Gluten-free soda cake

Like I promised I gave another new cake a shot at the weekend by transforming a “normal” recipe into a gluten-free cake. The result was really great and the formulation was quite easy.

Note: You’ll need a measure cup with ‘ml’-display.

What else you’ll need to make a normal round or square (25-30cm) cake:

– 200ml sugar

– 350ml gluten-free all purpose or – preferably – cake’n’bake flour

– 1 tbsp. baking soda

– 2 tbsp. lemon juice

– 100ml lemonade or soda – basically any sparkling liquid

– 2 eggs

– 100ml vegetable oil

For the topping you need 250g whipped cream and 250g sour cream, strawberries

Mix all cake ingredients until the dough is becoming smooth. Grease the baking pan or cover with pan liner. Fill in the dough and bake about 20-25 minutes (175 degrees C).

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Let the cake cool and then cut it in half. Whisk whipped cream until stiff, add some sugar (2 tbsp.) and sour cream, mix carefully. Apply half of the cream on top of one cake half, then cover with the second half and spread the left over cream on top. Let it cool in the fridge for about 2 hours. In case you use fresh strawberries, slice them. I used frozen strawberries, so I pureed them to get some sort of sauce.

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Slice the cake and serve with strawberries or strawberry puree on top. Voilà!

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This cake was really delicious and no-one noticed it was gluten-free (actually, I was the only one on a diet when we had the cake). It is very juicy but not muddy. So, this is an absolute recommendation. To make things a little easier (especially when it comes to slicing and serving the cake), I guess it would be ok to leave the cake in one and just spread the cream on top, resulting in an one-layer cake then. The combination of cake, cream and strawberries is a winner one way or the other.

Also, I think the basic recipe makes a great substitute for our usual “kids-cake” which we have for birthdays, school parties etc. Just add some icing on top, some deco such as sprinkles, jelly beans or smarties… done is the perfect gluten-free kids cake.

The difficulty of taking it slow

The last 2 weeks were really tough around here: One after another monkey got sick, all with the same kind of throat infection – all likewise bad tempered, unbalanced and suffering. Each mother knows these spirits during a child‘s sickness usually come in waves – now imagine 3 monkeys, a new sick one every second day. I had all different moods and stages here on each single day. Yippie.

Here comes the first chance for me to just lean back, relax and: take it as it is, take it slow, take it easy. I failed. I just cannot do this, I am incapable of that. When I stay at home with sick kids it‘s not me thinking „Now let‘s have a nice and cosy time, shut the blinds, watch silly movies, eat what we‘re up to and just take our time to recover. I‘ll help you with that.“ Instead I let the kids watch silly movies an eat what they want while I try to get as many things done around the house as I possibly can – things which were way off the list yesterday but now that I‘m home anyway… Silly me! I don‘t know why it‘s so hard for me to just let go, take it slow. I ended up pretty stressed and annoyed by the situation and ached for the moment when the front door opened and hubby came home. Chance clearly missed.

BUT the second chance was waiting just around the corner. The kids were recovering and pretty much ready to return school and kindy when I myself suddenly buckled. I felt a mix of everything – sick in anyway. So I took thursday and friday off and tried to relax and recover. It started promising: hubby drove the kids to school so I could remain in my PJs and go straight back to bed for another 3-hour-sleep after the troops had left the field: Check. It was marvelous! And really relaxing indeed. Then, on thursday, I got up, showered and dressed. Quickly hang up the washing before shopping the groceries just to be back in time so I managed to walk to school to pick the boys up. Yeah. Not marvelous, not relaxing. In the afternoon I felt more sick than ever. Chance missed – again.

The final chance came the next morning, again I went straight back to bed for 3 more delightful hours. When I got up, I made myself a nice breakfast, talked to my best friends on the phone, read the paper in the sun room, had a chat with Miss Monkey who came back home from school early. I took things very slow, closed my eyes when something worth cleaning/tidying/washing/… came into focus, I walked slowly to pick the boys up and even slower back home with them. By the end of the day I indeed felt recovered, refreshed, good.

Well, that wasn‘t all too difficult, I thought. So why…? And: It was worth it seeing the effects. Still… We‘ll see how it goes the next time around.