Deflated

No Fight Back Friday today.  It’s been a hectic and stressful week at work, and I had a mini-bout of insomnia in the middle of it (just two nights of fewer hours of sleep than I’d like, thank goodness, but enough to make me drag a little); I just wasn’t inspired to rant about anything.

So I thought I’d tell you how I single-handedly prevented the launch of Podunk’s annual Balloon Festival this morning.  Why do we have an annual Balloon Festival?  Well, it sort of kicks off a week-long celebration thingy Podunk throws every year – I’m not sure why, because it’s not as if we have a notable sports Hall of Fame with yearly induction ceremonies or anything.

Ahem.

Anyhoo.  After a good night’s sleep (huzzah!), I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and decided I’d just head on into the office after showering and feeding the dog.  Maybe leave early, it being Friday and all.  I hopped in the car and got about halfway to work (a whole mile!!) when I realized – oh, heck!  The balloon launch!  So I turned around, ran into the house and grabbed my camera.  Five minutes later I was parked right next to the field where three (boring) balloons were already inflating.  I hopped out of the car, positioned myself for a good shot, pressed the shutter button and…nothing.

Because I’d forgotten to put a memory card in it.

Well, shit.  I walked back to my car and was about to get in, when a sweet young woman who was watching the proceedings with her husband and two small children invited me to join them if I needed to in order to get a nice picture.  I told her thanks, but I had to go home because I forgot my silly memory card.

“Well, Walmart is just around the corner, you know,” she said.  And, by golly, she was right.  I jumped in my car and zipped over to Wally World where, thank goodness, they had plenty of memory cards to fit my camera.  (It should be noted here that I completely forgot about my laptop, secure in the trunk of my car, which held one of my existing memory cards.)  Five minutes later, I was back in the same spot and after shouting a cheery, “Thanks so much!” to the kind young woman, positioned myself, turned on my camera and took this:

The three (boring) balloons were all suddenly deflating.

Sympathetic to the cries of disappointment coming from the small crowd out early enough to watch the preliminaries, the owner of the balloon in the photo said, “Sorry folks – there’s thunderstorms in the area.”  And indeed there were; after I packed my stuff up and drove towards the office of our CPA to pick up some papers that required my attention, it began to rain.

You do realize, of course, that had I decided this morning to simply go into the office and forget the balloon launch the weather would have cleared right up and it all would have gone exactly as planned, with over sixty balloons sailing into a flawless blue sky.

The official Festival kicks off this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and goes to 11:00 p.m., but the weather forecast isn’t promising.  Of course, I may just decide to go home and play Animal Crossing while I have a glass of wine.  We wouldn’t want to disappoint all those people.

 

Grain-Free Pancakes

This post is a marvelous lesson in “never say never.”  When I changed our diet, a little over a year ago, I said something really silly:  “…I’m not the type of person to be happy with a fake, low carb (or low fat) version of something.  If I’m going to eat a pancake, I want a REAL damn pancake…not some pale imitation…”

Yeah.  Famous last words.

Of course, this was before I realized that a lot of my problems stemmed from the consumption of gluten and casein.  The World’s Best Pancakes are just chock-full of both, sadly, which has booted them right out of the “can be enjoyed as a special treat once in a blue moon” category.  Beloved, who does nothing half-assed, says he doesn’t miss grain-based foods at all (I think his exact words were “I don’t miss them and I don’t want them!”) so until recently the rare cravings I have for something even faux have gone unfulfilled.  However, with him out of town for so long this summer, when the idea that “Hey – pancakes and bacon sounds really good for dinner” hit me, I went right ahead and made those very things.

Almond and coconut flours are saviors for many people who no longer consume wheat flour, either out of necessity or by choice, and I have both in my kitchen.  However, coconut flour is hard to work with; it has a LOT of fiber and absorbs a lot more liquid than wheat flour.  It also (naturally) lacks gluten, so most baked goods made with it require a lot of eggs to give it some of the texture and elasticity of wheat flour.  This causes foods made with coconut flour to have a very “eggy” flavor.  And, of course, it tastes like coconut.

Almond flour has its own set of challenges, but I find it a great deal easier to work with.  Most nut flours are rather coarse – because of their fairly high fat content, if you over-process them you end up with nut butter – which makes them hard to coax into a product that resembles a yeast-raised bread (it can be done with coconut flour, but like I said – eggy), but it is fine for quick breads such as muffins or, in this case, pancakes.  Of course, you’ll never be able to get quite the light and fluffy texture that comes with conventional pancakes, but you can make a reasonable substitute.  Pulsing the almond flour in the food processor, giving it a finer and fluffier consistency, helps, as does beating the egg whites.

As written, this recipe will make 5 large-ish pancakes and one is plenty per serving – these are quite filling.  You can, of course, make them smaller and have more pancakes per serving, if you wish.

Note:  A lot of people who bake frequently with almond flour dislike the Bob’s Red Mill brand, although I’m not quite sure why.  It is, however, the easiest to find – most grocery stores carry it, and it’s what I use.

Grain-Free Pancakes

Grain-Free Pancakes

serves 5

3 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lard or other cooking fat

Place the almond flour in the bowl of a food processor; pulse it several times until the flour is fine and fluffy.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and maple syrup. Stir in the almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the water until the mixture is the consistency of pancake batter (add a little more, a tablespoon at a time, if needed). Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water dances and sizzles on the surface before evaporating (if the water evaporates immediately, the pan is too hot; if it boils for a bit before disappearing, the pan is not hot enough). Add about half of the lard or cooking fat to the pan; spread it over the surface with a spatula to coat. Pour a scant ¼ cup of the batter onto the pan for each pancake and cook until the edges look dry and bubbles appear on the surface; carefully flip and cook for another minute, or until both sides are browned and the pancakes are cooked through.

Remove the pancakes to a warmed plate and cover. Add more fat to the pan, if necessary, and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with fresh fruit or warm maple syrup.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Peach Barbecue Sauce

Oh, look – another barbecue sauce recipe.  And every bit as tasty as the Maple Barbecue Sauce (which this was based on), although not quite as simple to make so it will be a seasonal treat around here.  But what a treat it is!  And a marvelous way to use up some of those locally grown peaches from the farmer’s market that might be in danger of becoming too ripe.  Not that I have any of those, you understand.

Ahem.

Don’t be intimidated by the need to peel the peaches; it’s really a snap.  Don’t leave them in the boiling water for any longer than 30 seconds – 20 will probably suffice.  You don’t want to cook them, just loosen the skins enough to pull them off of the fruit.  Nor do they have to be pretty, so if you’re stuck with cling peaches (ours, fortunately, are freestone) don’t worry about mangling them a bit in the process of removing the pit.  You’re just going to be throwing them into the food processor or blender.

The fresh peaches give this an outstanding flavor and enough sweetness that half a cup of honey is more than enough – if you want to cut it down to a third of a cup, it will still probably be plenty sweet.  And because, even ripe, peaches have a bit of tartness, I halved both the tamari and the apple cider vinegar from the maple sauce recipe.  So the next time you see a peach barbecue sauce “recipe” that calls for peach jam, commercial ketchup and a full cup of brown sugar, do what I do – shudder at the thought of how gawd-awfully sweet it must be, and make this one instead.

It really is excellent.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

Peach Barbecue Sauce

makes about 3 cups, or 24 servings

2 tablespoons lard or other cooking fat
3 large peaches
1/2 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup raw honey
2 tablespoons tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cut a small X at the base of each peach and drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into an ice water bath. Once the peaches are completely cooled, remove from the ice bath and peel. Slice away from the pit and place into a food processor or blender; pulse until mostly smooth with a few solid bits and set aside.

Melt the lard in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add the tomato sauce, honey, peach puree, and soy sauce; bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vinegar; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Posted in participation of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

The (Very) Young One Saves The Day

I wonder sometimes if kids aren’t hardwired for technology.

When I was a child, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there wasn’t anything in our house I could operate that my mother couldn’t, simply because technology – or at least, affordable, accessible technology – hadn’t changed much between the time she and I became adolescents respectively (I guess it didn’t hurt that there was only a 17-year age gap).  Oh, I had access to things as a kid that my mother did not – color television, touch-tone telephones and 8-track cassette players – but it wasn’t anything terribly complicated.  You pushed a button, pulled a knob or dialed a dial; the most complex technology in our home involved wrapping the tips of the rabbit-ear antenna on our television with aluminum foil and positioning them just right in order to get decent reception.

Today, I couldn’t tell you a fraction of what our BluRay DVD player does, or how to make it do it.  We have approximately 374 remote controls in our home – one for the ceiling fan in the living room alone (no, I am not joking).  When I bought my behemoth of a microwave, which will grill, brown and nuke food, it came with a set of instructions so complicated Oldest Son immediately dubbed it “HAL.”  We won’t even go into the myriad of attachments and features that accompany our Dyson vacuum (Beloved: “What does this button do?”  [Pushes button.] Jan:  “It dumps the dirt back on the floor, dear.”).

Absolutely none of this phases The Young One.  I’m lucky I can turn our 52-inch television on and off – The Young One can hook up three different gaming systems to it as well as a DVD player and make them all work.

Simultaneously.

Without reading any instructions.

Of course, this only applies to electronics (turn on the stove?  Operate the washing machine?  Not on your life), but the kid is some kind of savant (being the mother of a 16-year-old who can not seem to turn on the stove or operate the washing machine, I’ll kindly leave the word “idiot” out. For now).  He had mastered both video game joysticks and controllers before he was two, and was beating the pants off of his older – 12 years older – brother.  The kid couldn’t talk, but he could kick your ass at Mortal Kombat and Banjo Kazooie.  At three, he would get on our computer and resize and rearrange all of desktop icons to his liking as well as tweak the mouse and keyboard settings to optimize your DOOM playing experience.

This was all the more remarkable when you consider the fact the child barely spoke a word before his sixth birthday.  I had his hearing checked, had him tested for autism and took him to a speech therapist, all to no avail.  It’s not as if he wasn’t frustrated by his inability to communicate, because he was; he had horrid, terrible temper tantrums that gradually decreased in frequency and severity, but didn’t go away completely until he was in the first grade.  Nor was he unintelligent – I joke about the idiot savant thing, but the boy was, and still is, scary smart.

One day, when he was maybe 4? 5? Darling Daughter and I decided to rearrange our living room, which of course necessitated moving our television and VCR.  We unplugged all the wires, moved the devices, and plugged them all back in only to have a blank, blue screen stare back at us when we turned the damn things on.  So we unplugged and replugged and rearranged wires, several times, all to no avail – all we got was a blank, blue screen.  This went on for nearly half an hour and I was so frustrated I was near tears when my son, who had silently watched everything, calmly walked over and pushed a button on the VCR.  The television screen immediately sprang to life.

He looked at me and said the longest sentence he’d ever spoken, up to that point:

“I fix it, Mommy.”

For more Spins about kids and technology, visit Sprite’s Keeper.  And don’t worry about The Young One – these days, I can’t get him to SHUT. UP.