Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Muffins

I have been negligent in making my own food for Baby O lately (there have been a few other things occupying my mind and time…), so we have an overstock of sweet potatoes on hand from our organic CSA share from Plan B Organic Farms.  I came across a recipe for mini sweet potato muffins on Pinterest and thought, what a great way to use them up! 

The original recipe is from a site called Weelicious but I adapted it to make it gluten-free.  I used Red Mill’s gluten-free all purpose flour and I also substituted organic apple sauce for the canola oil.  The result? Delicious!  They aren’t as sweet as most cake-like muffins out there, but they are tasty and will make great snacks for Baby O and the big boys in my house too.  

Here’s the recipe!

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Muffins
Adapted from this recipe on
Makes 12 regular-size muffins

What You'll Need:
1 Cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Quick Cooking Oats
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
2 Large Eggs, whisked
1 Cup Sweet Potato Puree – see note below
1/2 Cup Milk
1/4 Apple Sauce (I bought sweetened by mistake, will use unsweetened next time)
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

What You'll Do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Place the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
3. In a separate bowl whisk the remaining ingredients.
4. Slowly combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients just until they are combined (be careful not to over mix the batter).
5. Place batter in each cup of greased or paper-lined muffin tins and bake for 22-26 minutes, depending on your oven.  Muffins are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

To make sweet potato puree, bake sweet potatoes (or yams) in a 400 degree oven for one hour, allow to cool, slice in half lengthwise and mash flesh with a fork until smooth – OR do what I did and puree them in the Baby Bullet! 


I feel like I’m choking.  Quite literally.  I have a lump in my throat and I feel like there’s a weight sitting on my chest. I can’t catch my breath sometimes and the tears pour from my eyes without warning.  

 I want to be alone and I want to be surrounded by friends and family. 

 I want to be hugged tight and then I want to curl up in a ball by myself and cry. 

I feel numb and like I have no feelings one minute and overwhelmed by so many feelings the next that I am dizzy.  

 An ashram in India alone sounds good and so does a family vacation filled with activity and laughter.  

I am riddled with guilt and regrets at times then peaceful that things are as they should be at others.   

I rejoice in the small things like the sound of O’s laugh and then sweat the small things such as  cooking dinner like it’s the most complicated thing in the world.  

 I have feelings of panic about losing others that I love and about leaving my children behind myself. 

This is grief, I guess. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Hardest Week of My Life

My Dad
Frederick David (Dave) Alger
Nov. 9, 1947 - Apr. 16, 2012

It's very surreal to me that my Dad is gone.  I saw him there in the hospital after he had already slipped away and I know logically that he has died, but I can't get my head around it.  I keep saying in my head, "Really? He's gone?".  It's weird.  That's the best way I can describe it.  It's just plain weird that your parent is gone and that you'll never see or speak to them again. 

So many things have gone through my head this past week - if only I had known the last time I saw him was going to be the last time... why didn't I invite him to come for Easter dinner?  Did he know how much I loved him?  I know I told him whenever I spoke to him and always said so in emails, but did he really, really, know as he slipped away that I loved him?  I can't live in the past, I know, but grief is a funny thing and it plays strange tricks with your mind. 

I've gone from being hysterical to numb to indifferent to everything in between this week.  You hear all the time, "nothing can prepare you for something like this" and it is SO true.  I had no idea how this would feel and although we all have to go through it, I don't wish it on anyone. 

My Dad suffered from health issues from the day he was born.  And for the past 28 years, since his first heart attack and triple bypass surgery at the young age of 36, he has been living on borrowed time.  My sister and I half expected 'that call' at any moment, but when 'that call' came, I was in disbelief and was not the least bit prepared to handle it. 

This isn't the post I want to write about him and when I'm not so emotionally exhausted I will write about Dad - his life, his laughter, and what he meant to me.  But for now, this post is meant to be therapeutic to me and my way to say thank you to so many people who I could not have gotten through this week without. 

My sister, Bev - my best friend, my confidante, my world. I could not have survived this week (or the rest of my life) without you by my side. 
My son, Brayden - my pillar of strength, my heart and soul in another person.  
My husband, Jason - my rock, the love of my life, my other best friend.

My Mom - you mean the world to me and your love and support give me strength to tackle another day. 
My brother-in-law-Luigi - thank you for everything - you know what I mean. 
My cousin, Maxine - thank you for your spiritual guidance, your love, support, and helping me put one foot in front of the other.  I am indebted to you for making this 'process' easier. 
My Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Bill - your love, support and hospitality meant the world to us this weekend.  
The entire Alger family - My Aunts Caroline, Jean and Martha and my Uncle Gerry, my cousins, and the "Half Dozen" Alger cousins and Auntie Wynne - thank you for being not only family to my Dad, but his friends.  Thank you for your love and support this week. 

My friends - Jenn for your shoulder when I really needed it, Jess and Troy for making the trip and for helping at the reception, and for each and every one of you who called or emailed and have offered your love, kindness and support - it truly has meant so much to me.  I have needed your love, thoughts and prayers this week.  Thank you. 

I am sure I have forgotten some or many, and if I have, I sincerely apologize.  My mind is cloudy and my heart is hurting. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Lunch!

I made a delicious lunch today, so thought I’d share!  I don’t usually go all out for lunch, but we were having my mother-in-law, Linda, and her lovely mate, Alois, for a visit, so I thought I’d prepare something yummy.

On the menu was Avocado Chicken Salad on bakery fresh bread and a Pear, Blue Cheese and Candied Pecan Salad with Pear Vinaigrette.

I’m having a bit of a love affair with avocados lately and the Avocado Chicken Salad is becoming my new favourite thing.  I borrowed the recipe from the blog Becoming Betty and it's so simple to prepare.  Quantities aren’t specified, but you’ll basically need some cooked chicken breast, the juice of one lime (give or take), fresh chopped cilantro, an avocado, S and P, green onion (optional - have made it with and without) and a dollop of mayo.  It’s really filling and is best served as an open-faced sandwich.  

Hubs picked up a fabulous fresh loaf of bread from De La Terre Bakery’s stall at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market to have with the chicken salad.  This bakery is amazing.  He also texted me while he was there asking if I’d like one of their date squares.  Um, yes please!  They are to DIE FOR.  So are their cookies.  And muffins.  And cinnamon sticky buns.  I could go on… And the best part is, they make lots of gluten-free products and everything is organic!  Score!

I have a confession to make.  I’m cheating on avocado with blue cheese.  My love affair with this smelly delight is going strong.  A little goes a long way and it sure makes a salad complete!  I also recently tried making candied pecans and now I’m loving those too.  So simple.  Just melt some sugar on the stove top, toss in the nuts, get them out *quickly* with a fork and put them on parchment.  Oh, and parchment and waxed paper are two VERY different things.  ‘Nuff said. 

We received some pears in our Plan B Organic Farms CSA share this week and in the newsletter that comes by email there was a recipe for Pear Vinaigrette.  It sounded like the perfect accompaniment to my salad, so I whipped some up in my Baby Bullet.  Oh my, I may have never tasted a better salad dressing!  And I digress, but that little blender is fantastic and I use it for a lot more than just baby food - thanks Dad!  I also got to use my fancy-shmancy new salad dressing mixer-pourer-storing thing that I got for my birthday – thanks Mom!  

Like I said, lunch isn’t usually such an elaborate affair in our house, but I had fun making it and it was great to share with my family!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Menu: Week of April 7 to 13

Easter Sunday!
As I mentioned in my post about Easter, I got all adventurous and made a cake to bring to my mother-in-law’s house for Easter dinner.  This was only my second ‘from scratch’ cake ever and I’m so happy to report that it turned out!  Check out the photos I posted on Facebook (you don’t have to be logged in or even have a profile to view the photos).  If you know me well, you know that I have very little patience and I do everything FAST.  The cake was no exception.  I don’t have a proper ‘cake caddy’ so the hubs suggested I ice the cake but decorate it when we got to his mom’s.  Oh yes, what a great idea!  Except, I couldn’t help myself and once it was iced I thought I’d just put some of the decorations on it and before you know it, the whole thing was decorated!  I felt like a guilty child when hubs got home and saw the cake fully decorated on the counter.  The next question, of course, was, “How are you going to get it all the way to my mom’s like that?” – it’s about a 45 minute to 1 hour drive from our house.  I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, I just wanted to see the finished product NOW.  As mentioned, I don’t have a proper ‘cake caddy’, so the cake sat on a plate, on a lazy Susan, on a bigger platter and then on my lap in the car.  There were a few treacherous moments on the journey and even Baby O looked concerned.  But, the cake made it, in tact and it was delicious!  Here are the recipes:  Carrot Bundt Cake (I skipped the walnuts due to a nut allergy in the fam) and Lemon Cream Cheese Icing.

Baby O looking a little worried about the cake!
I also brought the Mushroom Casserole to have as a side dish to our dinner that I have made before.  Again, it was really good.

Chicken Asparagus Penne and Salad
See this post

Coconut Lime Chicken over Basmati Rice with Steamed Green Beans
Oh yes, this was GOOD.  A fan of coconut, I am not, but I love to cook with coconut milk.  Will definitely make this again. Here is the recipe.

Lasagna Rolls with Steamed Broccoli
I made a batch of my own pasta sauce with ground chicken again this week to go in these lasagna rolls.  I don’t have a recipe, but this is basically what I do:

Cook 12 lasagna noodles
In a bowl mix together a container of Ricotta cheese, 1 egg, some shredded mozzarella, grated fresh parmesan and a sprinkle of garlic powder.
Spread the mixture on the noodles and then roll them up.
Place them in a baking dish and cover them with sauce.  Grate some more mozzarella on top.
Bake them for about 30 minutes at 350.  Yum!  Baby O loved these too! 

BBQ Chicken Tostadas with Avocado Corn Salsa and Steamed Asparagus
Another hit!!  I cooked the chicken in the crock pot with some BBQ sauce and about half a cup of water and it turned out so moist and juicy and was very easy to shred.  I skipped the 'ranch' part of this recipe.  The avocado corn salsa was delicious too.  The recipe says to sprinkle the tortillas with taco seasoning, but I just sprinkled a bit of cumin and chili powder on them instead.

BBQ Pork Chops, Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Salad
I heart simple BBQ dinners.  The chops were sprinkled with Montreal Chicken spice and for the sweet potatoes, I just sliced them into rounds and tossed them with olive oil and a bit of salt and hubs cooked them on the ‘Q in our BBQ basket.

Bon Appetit! 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Our Menu: Week of March 31 to April 6

Hong Kong Chicken Curry
Yum, Yum, Yum!!!  Easy and delicious if you like curry! Here’s the recipe.

Chicken Al Diavlo Penne with Salad 
I don’t usually make recipes that call for jarred or canned soups and sauces, but this sounded really good, so I decided to try it.  I used Classico Alfredo Sauce and pesto that I picked up at the Farmer’s Market.  It was really good!  Click HERE for the recipe.

Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos and Steamed Asparagus 
I’ve made these before and they are fantastic.  This time we ate them ‘flat’ with a knife and fork (i.e., we didn’t roll up the corn tortilla shells) and topped them with sliced avocado, salsa, sour cream, grated cheese, black olives and sliced jalapenos.  Delicious! 

Slow Cooker Cashew Chicken with Steamed Cauliflower and Broccoli 
Cashew chicken is my favourite Thai dish.  This recipe was good, but not quite what I was hoping for.  But then again, a Thai chef, I am not!.  I added some carrots to the crock pot too.  Here’s the recipe. 

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Feta with a Salad 
A repeat worth repeating.  See this post.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A Hop Down Easter Memory Lane!

I love Easter!  I have so many great memories of this holiday and I look forward to it every year.  Here are some reasons why.

Easter brings with it pretty pastel colours, spring blossoms, the promise of warmer days and of course, chocolate!  My mom always did a great job of making holidays special.  I loved the morning Easter Egg hunt and a basket of treats that almost always included new spring toys like a skipping rope and some bubbles.  Oh, the simplicity of childhood!  

I was also very fortunate to go to a wonderful public school in our small town that always had events like an Easter Bonnet Parade, Mother’s Day Teas and huge Christmas pageants.  I have wonderful memories of my mom coming to these events with me and I’m so grateful that she was able to be at home during those years.  Here we are on parade with the Easter bonnets I made for us in kindergarten

As I mentioned in this post about my Grandmother, she would make a special Easter cake that was frosted with pretty pale green icing and decorated with marshmallow bunnies that she cut by hand and painted faces on with a toothpick and food colouring.  She was so talented and loved holidays so much.  I don’t have a photo of her cake (I’m sure someone in the family must), but this is an idea of what the bunnies looked like:

I am going to attempt to make my own Easter cake this year to bring to our Easter dinner.  It will be a carrot bundt cake with lemon cream cheese icing and will be filled with candy like an Easter basket!  Well, that is my hope anyway!  I will post an update and photos of the cake after it is complete.  If I’m successful I may just make this a new Easter tradition.  Wish me luck!  Update:  My Easter cake was fabulous and I will make it again!  Click here to see an album of photos of the cake!

For the past several years, Easter has been spent at my wonderful in-law’s house and I always look forward to our family gathering.  My mother-in-law, Linda, has a wonderful Easter tradition.  Following our always delicious meal, she brings out blown out eggs, a supply of markers and pens and the basket of eggs that has been collected over the years.  It is like a trip down memory lane looking through the basket as there are eggs made by my hubs and his brother when they were children and some made by friends and family members that have come and gone over the years.  It is a great tradition and I look forward to the day when Baby O can add his egg to the basket!

O with Nana's basket of Easter eggs
 Baby O is too young this year to hunt for eggs or really understand the holiday, but I can hardly wait for the day that he does!  I loved hiding eggs for B and miss those days of his wonder and excitement that the Easter bunny had visited. 

Happy Easter to all!