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.

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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. 🙂

Family favorite: Potato-salad, gluten-free

I know I’m one day behind promised publication of this dish, but I can assure you: it was worth the wait. 🙂

This potato salad is a classic around where we live and each and every family has a secret formula of ingredients and way of cooking – of course each claiming to be ‘THE’ real potato salad. So, here comes my ‘secret’ recipe. It is a mixure of the different kinds of potato salads eaten in hubby’s and my family, I just picked out the best parts and made my own.  It’s not exactly a quick one but it’s eventually easy in the end and both kids and adults love it.

For a feeding of 8 you’ll need:

– 2,5 kg potatoes, cooked THEN peeled and sliced or diced

– 2-3 onions, peeled and finely diced (or chopped in the food processor)

– 400 g gherkins, diced. IMPORTANT: Keep the brew!! You’ll need it for the dressing

– 400 g cooked ham (or something similar) – buy in a piece and then also dice like the gherkins

– 200 g mayonnaise – buy the ‘real’ mayo, not fat-reduced etc. take a look at the ingredients, real good mayo should contain not much more than eggs and oil, at least there is a number of labels without gluten

– some vegetable oil

– 1 tbl. spoon butter

– 1 tbl. spoon gluten-free all purpose flour

You can cook (and even peel) the potatoes a day in advance if it fits your schedule, if not start preparation with the potatoes because they need to cool down to be easily peeled and sliced.

Heat oil and diced onions in a small pot on medium heat until the onions become  glassy, then fill into a small bowl or plate. In the same pot now heat the butter until liquid, add the flour and stir well until combined. Fill roux up with the brew saved from the gherkins, stir constantly until thickened. Then turn off from the heat. This is the basis of the salad’s dressing. Now add all other ingredients: diced gherkins, diced ham, onions and mayonnaise. Season generously with salt and pepper as the potatoes will soak up a lot of salt. Stir well until it’s a consistent mass. Slice the potatoes into a big bowl or pot and add the dressing. Stir well but carefully in order not to break (or mash 😉 ) the potatoes. Cover and set aside for at least 5 hours in a cool place, best would be over night.

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Preparation will take about an hour or 1.5 hours, but it’s really worth it. You can have this salad all by itself or serve with chicken, steak or frankfurter. Voilà!

 

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.

Going on a holiday

Yes. You’ve read correctly. I am going on a holiday. Just hubby and me. We are taking a time-out just for the 2 of us leaving our monkeys in the caring and loving hands of our parents. Hmm.

It’s the first couple-getaway for us since our anniversary in 2011 – so it’s been quite a while. Since 2011 I have basically not spent a single night without at least one of my monkeys. Every parent knows what that means: 30 months of sleeping in stand-by. Permanent alert-mode. Hmm.

I’ve had 3 sick monkeys and one sick self around here during the last month and I feel really ready for this vacation now: I’m trying to put all my doubts and worries aside by the help of an overwhelming need for recreation, alone-time with hubby – and sleep. Long, undisturbed, restoring sleep. Hmm. Still. However much I need this vacation, those silly doubts and worries just won’t stay in that corner I’ve sent them to. They keep sneaking back into my mind and leave me feeling insecure. I have never ever before left them – my 3 monkeys all at once is it. Least of all I haven’t left them for 5 consecutive nights! so, here’s when the ‘what-ifs’ start to rumble.: What if one of them gets sick? Or all of them? Even worse! What if my parents get sick? What if they won’t sleep / eat / feel  well / behave? What if something happens to us? What if the plane mystically disappears from the radar? Just happened… What if I simply won’t be able to rest, relax, recreate, sleep, talk to hubby … enjoy myself after all? Hmm. I feel kind of trapped between those silly worries and the urgent need for some time away.

What keeps my mind busy and off those doubts nowadays is organizing the next week. It is not just me and hubby going away for 5 days. It’s not just throwing some dresses and stuff into a suitcase, checking us in online and off we are. NO. It is all about list-making, scheduling, plan-writing, explaining, preparing etc at the moment. Sometimes I stop and wonder how I actually manage considering my non-existing Master-degree in Logistics. 🙂

Tomorrow I’ll start packing up the clothes and 1 million more things which need removal over to my parents’ for the time of our absence.  I even went to a big Swedish furniture today (SATURDAY) in order to buy a safety guard for my parents’s staircase. It was an absolute nightmare as the store was already crowded before it even opened but now I feel a little more relaxed seeing that my little monkey probably won’t attempt to descend the stairs.

I know the next 3 days will fly by so I won’t have too much time to think and / or worry. And before I know I’ll be sitting on my seat in row 24 off to the lovely south and my 3 sweet monkeys will be nothing but fine – enjoying their time off from their overprotective, ever-worrying mom.

I’ll definitely let you know how it went.

Another coconut bread

You have probably noticed that I really love to bake breads albeit I haven’t totally succeeded since starting gluten-free. Also I really have a weak spot for sweet breads which can almost be a mixture between bread and cake. That’s why I tried yet another coconut bread – and yes, I also have a weak spot for coconut. 🙂

This one is a winner, though. I received my latest gluten-free baking “tool’ today – Xanthan Gum, and I just HAD to use it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– 100g grated coconut

– 1 tbsp. baking soda

– 100g raw or brown sugar

– 200g gluten-free all purpose or bread flour

– 2 tsp. xanthan gum

– 60ml vegetable oil

– 240 ml milk or water (if dairy-free)

– 2 eggs

First mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. I roasted the coconut first, in a pan on medium heat without any oil or other grease (3-4 mins, stir constantly). Then mix all wet ingredients in an extra bowl and add to the dry mix. Process on medium speed for 2 mins until the dough is smooth. Fill into a greased or lined loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven (175 degrees C) for 50-60 mins.

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This bread is really what it looks like – DIVINE. It is soft, juicy, sweet… If I weren’t so full already I’d probably have it all straight away.

Again I think it would be nice with some more things in it, like nuts (almonds…) or dried fruits like sultanas. Maybe next time I’ll use little less sugar.

Nevertheless this is an absolute recommendation. 🙂

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.