garden sweet muffins

I made the most naturally gorgeous muffins a few weeks ago! I promise I didn’t enhance the color on these photos at all. The color is all from veggies – beets, carrots, and pumpkin!

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This recipe is a gluten-free adaptation of my garden muffins recipe that was inspired by a surplus of CSA veggies. I’ve named this version “garden sweet muffins” because I was inspired to make them when we received several beets in our fall CSA share from Garden Sweet Farm, and because I made these muffins a little sweeter by adding chocolate chips. They are super yummy, and nutritious (for a muffin)!

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • chia seed gel: 3 teaspoons chia seeds + 9 tablespoons warm water (mix together and let sit ~ 5 minutes, until forms a goopy gel)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unpeeled and grated carrots
  • 1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup unpeeled and grated beets
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and cinnamon together. Add the oil, applesauce, chia seed gel, and vanilla, and mix well. Add veggies and chocolate chips. Stir until blended and transfer batter to muffin pan. Bake for ~20 minutes, until a fork comes out clean. Makes 16 muffins.

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what i’ve been reading in 2016

I thought it would be fun to try to capture the essence of each of the books I’ve read this year in as few words as possible.

  1. Extraordinary Means (fiction, by Robyn Schneider): medical ethics explored through young adult fiction in an alternate reality
  2. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (fiction, by Jan-Philipp Sendker): transporting epic love story
  3. Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (non-fiction, illustrated edition, by Michael Pollan): sensible eating with fun pictures
  4. The Beach House (fiction, by Mary Alice Monroe): mothers, daughters, turtles
  5. Made You Up (fiction, by Francesca Zappia): lovable mentally ill protagonist surviving  high school
  6. The Magicians (fiction, by Lev Grossman): Harry Potter meets Narnia, but more cynical and with some R-rated content
  7. A Man Called Ove (fiction, by Fredrik Backman): love and death, laughter and tears
  8. The Risk Pool (fiction, by Richard Russo): fathers, sons, small-town upstate New York
  9. Bewteen the World and Me (non-fiction, by Ta-Nehisi Coates): poetic description of life in a black body
  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (fiction, by Neil Gaiman): a spooky little fairy tale
  11. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (non-fiction, by Rebecca Skloot): the woman whose cervical cells revolutionized biomedical research, unfortunately without informed consent
  12. Best Boy (fiction, by Eli Gottlieb): dramatic times at an assisted living center, from the perspective of a homesick autistic man
  13. The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice (fiction, by Jennifer Paynter): the story of Mary, the Bennet sister that is left out of most of the action in Pride and Prejudice
  14. Americanah (fiction, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): an outspoken young Nigerian woman moves to the US (where she loves, blogs, and encounters racism), and years later, returns to Nigeria

Some books on deck for 2017 are Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik), The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak), Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (by Trevor Noah), All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (by Jennifer Senior), and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (by Fredrik Backman).

gingerbread cookies

Merry Christmas, from our ragtag bunch of misfits to yours!

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horsetooth reservoir

The gem of Fort Collins in November, shortly after sunset.

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pumpkin pie

I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with pumpkin pie over the years, but after making this recipe, we’re definitely on again.

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The recipe is for “crustless” pumpkin pie, but I used a store-bought gluten-free crust with it and it still worked out great. One important note about the recipe: you are supposed to chill the pie in the fridge for six hours to “set,” so plan your time accordingly!

asian quinoa salad

I made this Asian quinoa salad for a recent potluck dinner and it was really delicious.

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As usual, I deviated from the recipe a bit. I just used ingredients that i already had, so I left out the cabbage, green onion, and sesame seeds, and used a yellow bell pepper instead of red. I also skipped the red pepper flakes because I didn’t want the dish to be too spicy for all the kiddos.

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Several people commented that they really liked the salad, so I’ll add it to my go-to list for potluck parties!

an achievable toddler halloween party

The internet seems to be full of people hosting over-the-top Pinterest-perfect Halloween parties for their kiddos. I just don’t have that kind of time or motivation, but we hosted a lovely little party for a bunch of two-year-olds just the same. Here’s how it went down.

We scheduled the party for mid-morning since toddlers are generally least prone to melt-downs at that time of day. We also roll with a pretty healthy-eating group of families (and I didn’t want a house full of sugared up toddlers), so we kept the party food Halloween-appropriate yet simple and healthyish. I made pumpkin mini muffins, orange and black fruit (cantaloupe chunks and blackberries), and ghost toast!

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The ghost toast was just bread cut into ghost shapes with my trusty ghost-shaped cookie cutter, topped with cream cheese and flax seeds for the eyes and mouths.

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For drinks we had apple cider and water.

The kids weren’t old enough for complicated games and activities, so we spread out paper, Halloween stickers, crayons, and some Halloween pictures to color on a coffee table. At another table we set up a foam pumpkin decorating area.

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And perhaps the most fun activity was provided by Mother Nature – a sunny day and leaf piles to play in!

red mountain open space (again)

We went to Red Mountain Open Space again in early September. Since the summer was so dry, this time the water level of the stream was much lower, and we were able to easily cross the stream with dry feet and little kid in tow. We enjoyed hiking farther into the canyon before said little kid got tired.

vedauwoo

At the end of August we hiked and camped (and the little ones rode their bikes) at beautiful Vedauwoo, Wyoming.

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On the Turtle Rock trail, the kids enjoyed climbing and sliding on some large rocks, and we saw aspens, a beaver pond, and of course awesome rock formations. Vedauwoo is a very popular rock climbing spot, and though no one in our group was prepared for it, we enjoyed watching other folks climbing up the huge rocks.

Our campsite was huge, and it was nice to spend the night there and see the rocks change color as the sun went down. Those who were awake after dark (not me!) said the view of the stars was amazing. The next morning, we hiked the Box Canyon trail, which had some huge rocks that the kids enjoyed exploring.

It was a great little camping trip, and such an easy drive from Fort Collins. I’m sure we’ll return for hiking and camping in the future.

saratoga spa state park

We went for  a morning hike around Saratoga Spa State Park during our visit in early August. Our first stop was the Island Spouter.

Next we explored the Orenda Spring’s huge mineral bank, which has an amazing texture if you look closely.

Toward the end of our hike, we were able to hear a bit of the Philadelphia Orchestra practicing for their upcoming performance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), and strolled through a sports and exotic car show. What a varied experience in one lovely park!