donut fun

This fall I realized that my poor deprived child was three and a half years old and had never had a donut. This egregious oversight never would have happened if I could eat gluten (or if I could easily get gluten-free dairy-free donuts at any bakery), so we’ve started making mini donuts at home.

Our first attempt was my all-time-favorite, apple cider donuts! We used this recipe and gobbled them all up within about 24 hours.

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Our next donut-making adventure was chocolate dipped plain cake donuts (kid’s choice). The festive sprinkles were also the kiddo’s choice, and she enjoyed doing all of the dipping and sprinkling.

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The donuts were delightfully crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The plain cake donut recipe and the chocolate dipping sauce recipe are both in Babycakes Covers the Classics (one of my go-to cookbooks). We made a half recipe of the chocolate dipping sauce and still had a bit left over, so I made hot chocolate by mixing the sauce with hot almond milk. So much chocolatey goodness!

prudential center skywalk

One last post from our December overnight trip to Boston: behold the views from the Skywalk Observatory on the 50th floor of the Prudential Center.

This was a surprisingly great place to bring a three-year-old. She loved being in a building that was “as high as an airplane,” and there was ample space for her to run laps around the perimeter of the observatory without bothering other folks (much).  The personal audio tour device was an unforeseen bonus, as she loved pretending it was a phone and taking photos with it.

boston sunrise

I lived in Boston for six years and never saw the sunrise (thanks to being a college student and twenty-something, and never living higher than the fifth floor). I stayed there for one night with my three-year-old daughter, and there it was!

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[view from the 17th floor of the Sheraton Boston north tower]

new england aquarium

When I was a college student in Boston and needed a distraction from stressful academic stuff, I often went to the Museum of Fine Arts or the New England Aquarium (both of these awesome places were free with my Northeastern student ID). Now, more than ten years later, we visited Boston for the first time with our little one, and had to hit up the New England Aquarium.

Many things I loved haven’t changed in all these years. Myrtle the sea turtle, now 95 years old, is still swimming laps in the big tank. The little blue penguins are still being adorable alongside the big tank. I was pleased to see that there are now sea lions outside, but I sure missed the sea otters that I used to watch playing out there. [Does anyone know why the otters aren’t there anymore? Google has failed me on that question.]

I couldn’t believe how crowded the aquarium was, but I guess that’s what you get on a cold rainy day during the school vacation week between Christmas and New Year’s. The jellyfish area was probably the quietest part of the building, so at least I was able to get a couple of nice shots of the photogenic jellies!

eric carle museum of picture book art

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, MA, is a fantastic museum for little kids. It’s spacious, bright, and modern, and has all sorts of things for little kids to enjoy.  First of all, there is a great art gallery with picture book art by Eric Carle (author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and illustrator of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) and other well-known picture book illustrations. I really enjoyed this area, but it is probably the only part of the museum that is more appreciated by adults than little kids. Budding bookworms will love the library, and finding books scattered around the museum (even inside the very hungry caterpillar himself, on a cozy little bench).

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There is also an art studio with suggested projects for kids to work on, and a small movie theater that shows short (~15 minute) movies based on picture book stories. My three-year-old’s favorite part of our visit was the scavenger hunt for footprints from the various Brown Bear animals, which also encouraged us to explore the museum fully (and she got a temporary tattoo as a prize when we found everything!). I would definitely recommend visiting this museum if you’re looking for a special activity for little kids on a winter afternoon. With all of the things to see and do, you can easily spend two to three hours here.

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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!