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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Gluten Free Petit Fours

Dairy Free Gluten Free

Chocolate and Cream Cheese


making chocolate gluten free petit fours

My first experience with Petit Fours was when I started dating my husband in high school and went to his house around Christmas to be offered one of these adorable little cakes from Swiss Colony, a Christmas tradition in his home.  They were so yummy it was hard to not want to eat the whole box, especially with how much more crazy my sweet tooth was back then.  7-8 years later, our toddler daughter was there, in her Little but poofy Christmas dress, eating the little cakes with such delight. I didn't know if there was anything cuter than that petit little girl eating petit little cakes. But, by the the time she was 4 we had gone gluten free and sadly no more petit fours for us.  Tradition was ruined!  Petit Fours did remain a Christmas tradition for my husband however as his parents still send him a box every Christmas (he's not gluten free). Last year I was determined to make some, as my daughter fondly remembers from when she was 3 how good they were.  I researched how to make petit fours and then attempted to make gluten free petit fours. I made a gluten free chocolate cake and dairy free coconut cream for the filling and dairy free chocolate ganache for the coating.  It was a lot of work, it was a big mess and they were as big as a hostess cupcake and tasted more like a hostess cupcake, so while it was not a complete fail as we still ate them, they were a total mess and not presentable...they were not petit fours.

This week when my husband came home from the office, he had a gold box in his hand and quickly said "don't get mad, my parents sent them to my office but don't worry they aren't that good." What he says to make our daughter feel better when she can't have something he has.  Suddenly I thought of a new way to try making gluten free petit fours and it was very quick and easy, easier than regular petit fours.  I thought of the gluten free ice cream sandwiches we made last summer using Nicole Hunn's recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  A thin, chocolate wafer/cake that is easy to make and no slicing cake into crumbly thin layers and freezing required!  (Typical part of making petit fours)

What you need:

Ice Cream Sandwich Chocolate Wafer recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring (HERE)
Can of pillsbury Cream Cheese Frosting (I read the label and it was dairy free-normally I would make homemade frosting to avoid the extra "ingredients" but I was tired and promised my daughter we would have girl time and make these.)
Ghiridelli Chocolate Semi-Sweet Chips (or other dairy free chocolate chips)
Dairy free milk (almond, coconut or cashew)

dairy free cream cheese frosting
(SHHHH!!!....I cheated and bought frosting when I realized it was dairy free!)


Preheat oven to 325

Make the sandwich cookie dough as directed (here)

Separate chocolate dough into 2 balls.

Place one half on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, top with another piece of parchment paper and roll out into a rectangularish shape just a little over a 1/4 inch thick.  Remove top parchment paper and if you like, trim the edges to make them straight and add the extra dough to the other ball of dough.

Repeat with the other half on another baking sheet.

Score the rolled out dough into roughly 1 inch wide strips.  (My strips were about 1 x 7 inches just depends I how you rolled it out)

Bake in preheated oven according the the sandwich cookie instructions, or until until it lightly springs back. (I ended up doubling the baking time since it was a larger mass since i wasn't cutting out cookie circles *about 14 minutes for me).

Remove from oven and allow cake to cool.

Assemble the cakes!

chocolate petit fours

Using a knife, spread some cream cheese frosting over one long strip of your chocolate cake.

Carefully pick up another strip of cake and lay in on top and then spread that layer with cream cheese frosting and then add one more strip on top of the cream cheese. You now have 3 layers of cake with 2 layers of filling.

Repeat with remaining strips until you can't make any more. If you have excess scraps of cake, just leave those out in a dish for munching.

My fun little helper...she's very involved as she plans to open her own gluten free bakery.

Now that you have some long layered strips of cake and frosting, take a sharp knife and carefully cut them into 1 inch sections creating 1 inch squares.

This looks like a mess but it was all contained within this cookie sheet and the chocolate ganache and sprinkles that fell below were also later picked at and enjoyed ;)

Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, place a cookie rack over top and then arrange your gluten free petit fours on the cookie rack.

In a double boiler* add a bag of dairy free chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of dairy free milk.  Stir until melted.  You want the chocolate icing to be somewhat running so it's easy to spread over your cakes so if it doesn't drizzle off your spoon, add some more milk until you get the right consistency.

Using a spoon or small spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the top of your petit fours, letting it drip down the side.  As it drips down the sides, using a spoon or spatula, carefully spread the chocolate icing over the sides, adding more frosting as needed and letting the excess drip down onto the baking sheet below the petit fours.  They won't all be perfect but as long as you get the tops covered well and most of the sides, that's good enough.  Then top with some sprinkles for added color and decoration and allow chocolate icing to set and then enjoy your easy gluten free dairy free petit fours!  These were much less labor intensive than making sugar cookies!!!! 

As you can see here, this was more of a challenge to make gluten free dairy free petit fours as easy as possible, and have some fun mommy daughter time, not looking for perfection. We had some that we thought looked perfect although most were not, but they all taste the same and they taste VERY yummy!

frosting for petit fours

petit cakes

*to make a double boiler, add an inch or two of water to a small pot, then place a glass Pyrex bowl over top of the pot and boil the water. Place the chocolate and milk in the glass bowl and store as it melts, this produces a smooth ganache.

*usually I like to make everything from scratch, even if it's not "healthy" it's still healthier than using anything from a package with the extra preservatives and ingredients however, as this was an experiment and I wanted it to be as easy as possible, especially if they didn't turn out, I thought a shortcut now and then ain't the worst thing in the world...besides, stress can kill you too! lol!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gluten Free Black Bottom Banana Bars

Adapted from Taste of Home

1/2 c Earth Balance Butter
1 c organic cane sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 ripe bananas mashed
1 3/4 c gluten free flour baking blend such as King Arthur
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (Hershey dark cocoa powder-even better)

Preheat oven to 350
Line a 9x13 with parchment paper or lightly grease.

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in stand mixer.
Add bananas one at a time, mixer will mash them up for you as they mix in.
In separate bow mix gf flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and then add to banana mixture. Stir til just combined.

Separate half on batter into a medium size bow and add 1/4 cocoa powder and stir til combined.  

Spread the chocolate batter over bottom of pan with a spatula.

Spoon the original banana mixture over top and then use a spatula to spread over the chocolate layer.

Sprinkle top with a few chocolate chips if desired.

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top and toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites

Peanut Butter Protein Packed Cold or Frozen Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites or could be called Healthy Frozen Cookie Dough Bites...My family just calls them Cold Granola Balls...whatever you want to call all started during a hot Texas summer in Dallas in an apartment with very inefficient AC.  We lived on homemade granola bars but that one hot summer day I started to make my granola bars as usual and then before I could finish, just couldn't bring myself to turn on the oven.  I thought of the days I would sneak those Spunkmier cookie dough balls from my moms freezer (I think they were a fundraiser and you got a gallon size bucket with scoops of cookie dough you kept in the freezer and had cookies ready to bake at anytime.)  I used my cookie scoop and plopped the granola the bar dough onto a parchment lined cake pan and put it in the husband and I were HOOKED!  Now I form them into smaller balls by hand so they are easier for the kids to manage and keep them in the fridge or freezer.  I love freezing them and then throwing in a ziplock bag or small container when we go on hikes because they are full of protein and keep everyone going.

These are so awesome to have year round but especially great in the summertime when we crave something cold yet filling to keep us going.  These make a great protein packed breakfast on the go instead of a bowl of hot oatmeal or when you're in a hurry. Throw them in a picnic cooler and bring to the pool or lake for a great snack to keep energized and feeling satisfied instead of snacking on chips and popsicles.

After 8 years since my first time making homemade granola bars and playing around with it, here is my Cold Granola Ball Recipe.

1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/3 c coconut oil
1/2 c honey
1 Tbsp vanilla (or at least 2 tsp min)
3 cups oats (I use bobs red mill gluten free quick oats or gluten free rolled oats I get through Amazon)
1 cup crushed crispy cereal (such as Rice Chex or Honey Nut Cheerios or GF Crispie Cereal)
1 cup Chocolate Chips (we are dairy free and use Enjoy Life, Kirkland Semi-Sweet or the gold bag by Ghiridelli)

Optional Add Ins
You can add 1/2-1 cup of any other add ins like
1/2 c flax seed
1 c puffed millet
1 c puffed brown rice
1/2-1 c dried fruit like craisins 
1/2-1 c nuts (u would recommend they be finely chopped though if you have barge pieces of things it will be harder to shaped into balls and hold together)

Line a 9x13 inch cake pan with parchment paper or a large plastic food storage container.  If you don't line it and freeze these they can freeze to the container and be hard to remove.

Mix first 5 ingredients together til smooth.

Add in oats, crispy cereal and chocolate chips (and any optional add in if desired) and mix thoroughly.

Scoop out spoonfuls into your hand and form into balls. 

Place into prepared container, cover with plastic wrap, tin foil or container lid and then refrigerate or freeze.  These are yummy to eat frozen or just cold.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

CTC Math Review


I would love to tell you about what we have been doing for math for the past 6 months.  I had not been able to settle on any particular curriculum, even the most highly recommended Charlotte Mason style math curriculum's, while I knew they were good, just didn't seem right for us.  So we started doing a lot more living math which I wrote about here and were really enjoying doing math this way.  However, I was becoming more and more drained, not because from doing living math, but my health was just not keeping up and then I started really dropping the ball. I didn't know for some time, but I was very anemic and very low on vit D and just felt like I was dying.  

I didn't have the energy to plan and prepare the fun, engaging living math fun that we were finding so rewarding. I wanted to keep doing living math activities, but I felt like I needed something more stable and structured than what I was doing, yet still gentle and not stress inducing. So I went back to searching my top choices.  One that I kept coming back to was CTC Math. My husband and I were hesitant about doing an online math program, especially after doing math in such a hands-on way AND being very Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Nature Inspired in our homeschool, we just weren't sure about doing math on the computer or ipad.  

The kids and I were traveling to visit family for 2.5 weeks, so I decided to do the free trial as our math while we were away and now here I am writing a ha;f a year later.  My son (K) was so excited by the certificates, he really thrived on the structure of the program and was motivated to plow through it. He thought is was fun and just took off and is almost a full grade level ahead now. He would ask me if he could do more math. I'm so happy that he is just starting out on something that he has taken to so well, hopefully we'll just avoid any math drama all together with him at this rate.

With my daughter (3rd grade) we had started out with basic math workbooks from the store in Kindergarten and done fun math sheets and activities from 1+1+1=1 and other fun pinterest stuff.  It was going well. Then first grade we started doing MFW and we did the math that came with that and that's when things started to get wasn't just wasn't good either.  We did everything by the book, but it wasn't working, nothing would was like starting over every day.  And part of that is how my daughter learns and the reason we went away from "curriculum" and more into relaxed eclectic, or what I coined Classical Masonori Waldunschoolers. (that's Classical Conversations, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf and Unschooling all blended up into a super yummy and healthy smoothie!) 
Anyways, then by second grade we started Singapore as recommeded by MFW and she liked the pictures and how there weren't too many questions per page so she wasn't visually overwhelmed, but I was floundering in trying to teach it because I'm not mathy...I'm a math phobe!  I'm still haunted be a reoccurring nightmare that I skipped my last college math class the last semester and remembered right before finals and am freaking out knowing there is NO way I can pass the final or make up for the all I missed.  I hate that dream!
Meanwhile I had began looking at other options more obsessively (at least that's probably how my husband would describe it when he turns on the computer and there's 30 tabs open in just 1 of the browsers and I'm reading and researching too much).  We were getting through the Singapore book, but when skills came back up, it was clear she wasn't getting it, it wasn't sticking.  AND with any math I did with her, she was always immediately overwhelmed when we started a new topic or idea and would shut down before even giving it a chance and I'd be trying to convince her how simple it was if she would just listen for a second.  
I really wanted to like Math U See or RightStart, those are such good programs but every time I looked at them, I just knew  it wasn't for us, she would shut down as soon as she see's that page of problems just as much as I felt overwhelmed when looking at all the stuff that came with Rigthstar.  Anything that looked like a textbook just was a very hard part of our day.  So that is how we just decided to embrace hands-on learning and dove into Living Math.  

But once we gave CTC Math a try, I was amazed.  My daughter would watch the short video lesson that is like an animated and narrated power point presentation and would just be engaged, nodding her head like "Oh OK that makes sense" and then as soon as the lesson was finished and Pat Murray says "alright we've completed our lesson and good luck with your questions." She would just go right in and confidently be ready to do her math, even if it was something totally new...something that would have her sliding out of her chair and onto the floor in a ball of misery, excuses and overwhelm in the past.  

Some key things that really make CTC Work for us are:
  • Only one question is displayed at a time
  • There is a progress bar at the top that moves each time they submit their answer so they get that immediate reward of seeing how much closer they are to being finished with questions.
  • Their score is kept showing their current percentage on that lesson as well as how many out of the total number of questions they have completed.
  • Being able to type in or select the answer takes away the added stress for those with Dyslexia or other similar issues as they can just focus on the math and not worry if they wrote 25 when they mean 52 or hand fatigue for those who grip too hard, then write wrong and can't erase their answers since they press the pencil SO HARD.
  • The lessons are concise and to the point but do a great job explaining and demonstrating the concept. (Charlotte Mason would approve)
  • You can select how many practice questions you want your child to do and what you require for a passing grade when you set up your students account. You could set it for only having to do 10 practice questions but require 90-100% accuracy or you could set it up however you want.  
  • There are diagnostic tests for each topic and you can select short (20 questions) Standard (30 questions) or comprehensive (40 questions)
  • Parent can assign tasks with deadlines if desired
  • Parent can edit the students account so if they want to delete a lesson and redo it to get a better score and award, you can.
  • Kids love checking their awards section and keeping track of how many platinum, gold and silver awards they have earned.
  • They enjoy the speed skills.
  • My daughter likes that after she completes a lesson, it shows how long it took her to complete the lesson, but that it doesn't show a timer while she's doing the lesson because any sort of timer is stressful and distracting for her.
  • mobility - we travel quite a bit and this is easy to access from anywhere without having to pack anything
  • Built in manipulatives that kids can move around on screen with either a mouse if using computer or with their finger if using an ipad to work out their problems and find the answer.
  • No teacher frustration...I sit with my kids as support but if they don't get it (which has only happened on rare occasion thus far) they can simply re-watch the video lesson and try again.  
  • Affordable! Having a family subscription with multiple kids with access to all grade levels is an incredible deal.  The subscription for the whole family (with the home school discount) costs the same as other curriculum, but just purchasing one grade level.  And you can easily move your kids up or down based on where they need to be without having to buy more curriculum/materials.  
  • This program is great for a variety of learning styles as it is Visual, Audio and Kinestetic.
  • Kids like the new feature of being able to customize the color scheme of their account.  My son has Red and Orange and my daughter Teal and Blue. Sometimes it's the little things, like having their own user name and password, their own color scheme, records and awards...they like it.
  • This program has been like a burden lifted for me as I feel very confident in how my kids are doing in math now and I can still add in living math activities to our day, but I don't HAVE to always be prepared.  
  • I have a two year old...I don't have time and patience for whining and tantrums and dawdling over math!  I haven't had any of those issues since we started CTC Math AND my daughter is retaining what she has learned.  

I think if Charlotte Mason were around today she would approve.

A couple Cons:

  • I wish it was easier to go back and change one question that as wrong so they don't have to have a lower award or redo the whole set of questions because of a simple mistake like bumping the submit button or a typo when they knew the right answer. Although it's taught them to really DOUBLE check before they click submit.  
  • The Times Tables Game and Speed Skills didn't work on the ipad but they just fixed that so that's been great!
  • They have great built in manipulatives but every once in a while you may want to actually take out a scrap paper and pencil for your child to work the question out on. It's not a big con but sometimes you are used to the manipulatives and then you'll get a question without any and my daughter will stare blankly. this isn;t really that much of a negative but more of an FYI.  Also one some of the money questions, I brought out some of our fake money for her to use because on some of those there were not built in manipulatives...however, I was happy to be able to bring in some other manipulatives that she could use so not a big deal.
  • I would love if they made an app for the ipad instead of doing it within the Safari browser.  Sometimes it can be a little glitchy on the ipad sometimes. It definitely works smoother on the computer.
Those are the only Cons I could think of and I was really trying to be honest and thorough but there are really no HUGE complaints I have.  I think this program is totally awesome and I envision us sticking with this all the way through.  And...I'm honestly getting more confident at math from watching his lessons with my kids! I struggled to do mental math...but I am getting much better now and I don't think I've had my college math class nightmare in a while now! :0

And I will say, we are not total unschoolers, but I think many unschoolers would enjoy having this as a math program as I know many people resonate with the ideology but then wonder..."what about math?" I think CTC Math could blend well with any full on homeschool style out there...except maybe not full on Waldorf because you can't watercolor paint on your computer screen! :)

Pea Gravel Courtyard Patio Makeover


It was a weedy mud pit that just always looked like a mess, and the small concrete patio that was by the doors was pretty stained and not looking too attractive either.  I love the look and sound of pea gravel underfoot AND it's a lot cheaper, easier, faster and more forgiving for a DIY patio than most other options.  I do love flagstone and beautiful hardscaping, but I LOVE the charm of the pea gravel so it was an easy route to go.  The pavers that line the pea gravel patio were reused from the messy, weedy ugly path that was going through this area.  There were lining the path and it was filled with large jagged white rock.

After 2 truckloads of deco pea gravel was dumped on our driveway...


Less than 24 hours later, Tyler and I had laid out landscape cover and he wheelbarrow-ed down all 2.5 tons of gravel himself!  Still need to do some things down there, it's pretty bare but we love the look down there so much better!

Friday, April 1, 2016


Sometimes a winter freeze comes along and it may feel cold, lonely and isolating...but the cold period is needed before the spring bulb can bloom and bring forth a fresh, new season.

"Live with a constant awareness of the ever changing world and your ever shifting self."-Mencius 

Sometimes we go through transitions and we may not know why, relationships, connections, attitudes, purpose, health, passions, jobs, whatever it may be.  You may have been going just fine in one direction and suddenly you don't know what direction you're going but you know it's not the direction you thought you were...things start changing and shifting for whatever reason. it can feel like a cold isolating heaviness when we don't understand what is going on behind the scenes, but if we trust and be patient, God works all things for our good, and suddenly, the ground begins to warm, we push up through the heaviness and we enter into a new season as beautiful spring flowers. The Spring Flowers are there to rise up, give hope and look around as honored guests and see what the master gardener is doing all around them as the rest of spring follows suite.

If you feel lost, in transition, discontent, unsettled or anxious ...start to warm the cold ground around you through trust and gratitude and then look up, push up, rise up and BLOOM!!!

Look up - acknowledge and praise your Lord
Push up - seek and ask with faith, confidence and quiet patience
Rise up - let go of your cares and trust with all your heart and know He is sovereign 
BLOOM- realize you are HIS beloved, that He IS working (no matter the outcome) and you are starting to see and realize it a little more each day as each petal begins to open as his plan unfolds to your view and then rejoice and praise in His work and sing for the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies, from the love which from our birth over and around us lies, Lord of all to thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise as you Whitness from the ground first hand the Lillies of the fields and the birds of the valleys being anxious for nothing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 week 15

We are alacking on timeline....(just keeping it real!)

1400s-Henry the Navigator established colonial rule in Africa leading to slave trade between the Portuguese and the Ashanti...

Reviewed and memorized song using the CC app and making up actions.  Continued reading The a Royal Diaries: Nzingha Warrioir Queen of Matamba.  It isn't about Henry the navigator but is about the villages working together to fight off the Portuguese in Angola, Africa set in the 1500s. (Bonus on this book both my daughter and son are enjoying hearing about the way the clans and villages are because they are relating it to Clash of Clans which they sometimes play...)

Each continents highest mountain 
We reviewed this video with actions on YouTube.

Then we practiced using skittles on a map.  They just needed to put the right mountain on the right continent.

Middle East

We rented a short video about Isresl from the library that I found to go along with this section.

And of course visited our MAPS book to explore that region.

English grammar
More helping verbs...we honestly don't get a lot out of this or do much with it...we just cover it and move on

Noun endings (1st Declension) 
Same thing...don't go too much into it we just learn it and move on and hopefully if they take Latin or when the learn other foreign languages later on this will help some things click. So for now just settin' the lil' pegs in place and keeping it low key!

Fine Arts
This weeks artist was Angelico, however we did not ever get a chance to get an Angelico inspired art project done like I had planned. (This isn't what we were going to do but it's a good idea you can do with kids for Angelico I showed them some pictures of Angelico paintings in an art book but that's as far as we got.  We did a lot of other drawing and some YouTube watercolor painting tutorials to practice for our nature journaling this week...CC is not the only thing we do and sometimes we do more with CC and sometimes we do less with it to make time for other projects or activities we are focused on.

Vase of Tulips by B age 5

Loose Watercolor Tulips by J age 8