Tres Leche Cake

Invite your friends over for this sponge cake, soaked in 3 milks, topped with homemade whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Natalie's Gluten Free Flour Mix

Make your own gluten free flour mixture at home. It is really simple to make and it's texture is smooth. You can substitute this equally for regular wheat flour.

Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread

Start your day with this easy and moist quick bread, topped with cinnamon sugar.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's Time For a Christmas Giveaway!

That's right friends, get excited! One lucky reader will receive a autographed copy of "The Family Book of Advent: 25 Stories & Activities to Celebrate the Meaning of Christmas" by Carol Garborg.  Carol is a parent educator, author and speaker.  You can visit her website by clicking here.  This would make a great gift or a great addition for your family.

You can enter your name in the giveaway up to 4 times by doing each of the following...

Entry #1.  Leave a comment at the end of the post telling us your family's favorite holiday tradition.

Entry #2.  "Like" Hope's Kitchen AND  "Like" FaithFamilyStyle on Facebook.  THEN, come back here and leave a comment below letting me know you "Like" both.

Entry #3.  Share this post on your Facebook pageTHEN, come back here and leave a comment below letting me know you "Shared" the giveaway news.

Entry #4.  "Follow" Hope's Kitchen's boards on Pinterest.  THEN, come back here and leave a comment below letting me know you "Follow" Hope's Kitchen on Pinterest.

Comments (entries) will be closed Saturday, December 1st at 8 pm CST.  The winner will be posted shortly after.  Please be sure to check back to see if you won, or you can Subscribe via Email to get posts delivered to your inbox.

Each year during the Christmas season, I find myself wishing I had a little devotional for our family.  Something intentional to draw us together and focus on the real meaning of Christmas.  My intentions are always high, to add my own activities or crafts in with a reading but I never seem to get around to it and my kids just keep on getting older, while I keep dreaming and not implementing.

Carol sent me her new book and I'm thrilled to share it with you.  She has done a great job of writing a meaningful message, a creative activity, a thought provoking question to ponder and a prayer for each day, from December 1st to Christmas Eve.  Some days there are a couple activity options.  You can pick one activity and save the other one for next year.  Or you could just pick the one you have the supplies for or will work best for your family.  One of my favorite things about "The Family Book of Advent" is that there is a supply list in the back of the book.  I was able to look over the list and see what items I don't have, in order to make myself a list of items I needed to purchase.  That made it so simple to get prepared for the whole month of activities, in just a few minutes.

The book has three recipes included and are allergy friendly.  One of the days suggests creating a new family tradition of making homemade hot cocoa together, then gathering around your Christmas tree to share memories of happy times, funny times, or maybe even sad times.  For example, "I remember when..." or "My favorite Christmas memory was when...".  Included is a recipe for homemade hot cocoa.  Yep, Martha Stewart like homemade hot cocoa.  This was a fun new idea to me!  I've always just bought the mix to add to hot water.  We are all out of the dry mix so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to make it from scratch which is probably much healthier anyways.  The recipe calls for marshmallow creme which contains eggs so we had to skip that ingredient.  Instead, I added a few regular sized marshmallows and stirred the cocoa until they melted.

Top with mini marshmallows or whipped cream, crushed candy canes or Enjoy Life's Mini Chocolate Chips (free of the Top 8 Food Allergens) or both.   If you have a dairy/milk allergy, you might want to try Thai Coconut Milk whipped into cream.  My sister Brenda's wonderful instructions are below.

To make Thai Coconut Milk (Dairy Free) Whipped Cream:
Place can in refrigerator until well chilled.  Being careful not to shake the can, remove it from the refrigerator.  It will solidify on top.  Take that part out of the can and whip it with a sweetener of your choice.

"The Family Book of Advent" can be purchased at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and

Disclosure:  I have been given one copy of "The Family Book of Advent".  All review opinions are my own.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Our Story: Part Two

These photos are of Baby A.  Baby B always hid from the camera.
Noah named our girls Peek and Boo.
(To read the first part of Our Story click here.)

With the diagnosis of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) at 20 weeks, I was put on bedrest.  My parents drove up from Kansas so my Mom could move in to help us.  My husband so graciously supported me in what I needed, including wanting my Mom by my side.  Thankfully, they have a great relationship.  Mom helped with so many things.  She took care of Noah (2 years old), did laundry, cooked, cleaned, grocery shopped, and even sent Dan off to work with breakfast and lunch (which I'm sure he thought was quite a treat since I don't do that). 

I wondered how on earth I was going to be able to handle laying on the couch all day every day (minus doctor appointments).  As a mom of a toddler boy, I was used to running around all day. Somehow just knowing that it was "my job" to keep my 20 week old girls safe helped me to stay down, even despite the aching bursitis in my hips.  The health and safety of our little girls was completely out of my control but this was the one thing I could do to help them.  Noah, who was always quite independent, quickly became a snuggler and wanted to do his activities near Mom.  It's amazing how little ones can sense when something is wrong.  We spent a lot of time together by the couch coloring, reading books, doing puzzles, listening to music and watching movies.

Our babies had their own amniotic sacs but shared one placenta.  Their blood vessels in the placenta were connected, transfusing fluids between the two babies, unequally.  Baby "A" was referred to as the recipient twin  because she had too much fluid in her sac, which caused pressure on her heart.  Baby "B" was referred to as the donor twin, she had very little fluid in her sac, thus had difficulty growing.  The earlier you develop TTTS in your pregnancy, the worse your chances of survival or healthy babies.  Getting diagnosed at 20 weeks is considered early and made their odds of survival slim.

After getting diagnosed, I hit the computer hard.  Researching as much as I could about TTTS.  I had heard of it before and seen babies diagnosed late in pregnancy, while I worked as an RN, in a Special Care Nursery.  The mama nurse in me was on a mission to understand TTTS the best I could.   Many family and friends brought meals over including my sweet co-workers who faithfully brought meals twice a week and would often stay to visit.  Their faithfulness, endurance and thoughtfulness showed me the love of my heavenly father in such a tangible way.  Noah was always eager to greet them at the door, with guitar in hand and sing them some of his favorite songs like, "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin or "Marvelous Light" by Charlie Hall.  I'll never forget him standing by the door, strumming his guitar that was as big as he was and singing such big words, with no reservations.

Appointments went from a couple times a week, to daily ultrasounds and then weekly echocardiograms with the pediatric cardiologist to monitor Baby A's heart.  With each appointment we went in for, we didn't know if our babies would still be alive.

At 26 weeks, we had our second amnio reduction done.  During an amnio reduction, the doctor goes into the amniotic sac with a long needle to remove the excess fluid.  Removing the fluid is an attempt to control the excess fluid in Baby A's sac which would hopefully help relieve some of the pressure on her heart.  Baby A was showing tricuspid regurgitation, a beginning sign of heart failure.  Baby B was showing some absent end diastolic flow, where the blood flow through her umbilical cord would basically stop coming to her.   Unfortunately, the fluid removal during the amnio reduction did not help enough.  Our doctor referred us, out of state, to one of four fetal surgeons in the US, to look into a surgical treatment option.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warmest wishes to each of you and your families as you give thanks today! 
Happy Thanksgiving!
With Love,
Melanie and family

Monday, November 19, 2012

S'mores Chex Mix

If you are looking for one of the fastest snacks to make, you came to the right place.  Chex cereal is often on sale for some great prices around the holidays.  I stocked up last week when I went to the store.  While I was emptying out my grocery bags, I thought hmmm...chocolate chex could make a yummy, sweet chex mix.  I had recently bought micro marshmallows (think the size inside cereals) and was looking for ways to try them.  Thus, S'mores Chex Mix was created last week and was a BIG hit when the kids came home from school. 

Chocolate Chex Cereal
Micro or Mini Marshmallows
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips

Simple.  Quick.  Fun.  Sweet.  Delicious.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gingerbread Cookies: Reader's Recipe Makeover #2

I love old cookie cutters!   This one was my Mom's that we used when I was a little girl.  What a cute little gingerbread man!

 An old friend recently sent me an email asking for help making one of her family's traditional holiday cookies gluten free.  The recipe came from an 1950's cookbook and the recipe is called Wagon Wheels.   They taste very similar to the Gingerbread Cookies I grew up with so for the sake of the recipe title, I will call them Gingerbread cookies.  My friend's Mom always doubled the recipe and made the cookies before Thanksgiving.  She cut half of them into turkeys for Thanksgiving and the other half she used Christmas cut outs.  Talk about one wise lady!  Baking cookies for Thanksgiving knowing that half of them will be ready for Christmas.  That is so smart and efficient!  So that is exactly what I did, half of them I made into little turkeys and the other half became little gingerbread men.  I'm going to freeze the gingerbread men and pull them back out for goodies in December.  And to decorate the little turkey's you could use little candy corns for tail feathers (if you are not allergic to egg) and a red hot for the turkey's eye.  Press them in gently when the cookies come out of the oven.

 The recipe was actually quite simple to convert.  Since the original recipe did not use egg, all I needed to do was substitute the flour.  You need to let the dough refrigerate for 4 hours or more, so plan accordingly.  I made my dough one evening and then rolled them out the next morning.

1/2 c shortening (I used the Spectrum brand)
1 c sugar
1 c molasses (I prefer the mild flavored molasses)
1/2 c water
4 c Natalie's Gluten Free Flour Mix (you will need to add xanthan gum if your mix doesn't already contain it)
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t ginger
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t allspice

sugar to sprinkle

1.  In a medium bowl, combine shortening and sugar.  Mix well.
2.  Stir in the molasses and water.  Set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.  Whisk together.  Then, add the sugar and molasses mixture.  Stir well.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 4 hours or more to chill the dough.
4.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  
5.  To keep the dough from sticking, I like to lay out a sheet of saran wrap or wax paper, sprinkle it with GF flour, place the dough shaped into a round disc on the flour, then top with sprinkled flour.  Then, cover with another sheet of saran wrap or wax paper to keep the dough from sticking to your rolling pin.  Roll out cookie dough, remove covering saran wrap or wax paper.  Cut out cookies with your favorite cookie cutters.  Transfer cookies to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle cookies with sugar.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Make about 4 dozen cookies.

Our Story

     Our food allergy story is a part of our family’s bigger story.   I want to share the whole story with you, so I will be writing this over a few posts.
     As each November rolls around, I find my thoughts drifting back to 2005, just seven years ago.  It seems perfectly fitting for me to share Our Story with you during the month of November.  With Thanksgiving around the corner, our hearts begin to reflect on all we are thankful for.  I am thankful for my family.  
     Seven years ago, we were expecting our second baby. Our son, Noah, had just turned two and he was going to get to become a big brother.  Would it be a boy or a girl?   What would his or her name be?  Would they have blond curly hair like Noah’s?  We were so excited to welcome this new little one into our family.
     When I went in for my 16 week appointment, my doctor asked if my dates could be off.  I told her there was no way, I was absolutely certain of our dates.  She asked me to come back later that week to get an ultrasound.  I had a suspicion of what she was thinking, and suggested "how about if I come back later today for the ultrasound?"  The idea of waiting and wondering for several days did not sound fun.  Thankfully, they scheduled me to come back in that afternoon.  I called my husband, Dan, and told him I needed to have an ultrasound to "check my dates.”  I tried to make it sound like it was no big deal so as not to alarm him.  I was really trying to convince myself that this wasn’t happening.  He caught me off guard when he said he was going to leave work and would be there in a little bit for the ultrasound.  Noah and I went back to the doctor’s that afternoon for the ultrasound.  After getting situated on the table, the ultrasound tech said, "There's the heart beating...and there's another one."  I was speechless.  Was this really happening?  Two babies?!  There was a knock on the door.  It was Dan.  I was in shock, so I asked the tech to tell him.  She showed him the heart beating and then the other one as well.  Dan’s jaw dropped. 
     During the next 4 weeks we shared the news with family and friends while I tried to process the news for myself.  The idea of twins had always scared me.  I didn’t think I could handle it.  Twins sounded overwhelming.  I am a person who enjoys quiet, peace, order, organization and control. You know the kind.  I like my towels all folded in the same direction, the dishwasher loaded a certain way, my closet organized by length of sleeve and color all on white hangers.  I knew my world was about to be turned upside down.  I was going to have to let go of striving for a neat, organized house.  Little did I know, just how much stretching God had in store for me.  A season of growing and trusting was on the horizon.  It took a LOT of soaking in.

     With our first pregnancy, we did not want to know if we were having a boy or a girl because I love surprises.  We decided to wait.  I thought of it like, not wanting to open a Christmas present until Christmas morning.  However, after finding out we were going to have twins, we decided that was enough of a surprise and now we wanted to know their gender.  So at my regular 20 week ultrasound appointment, we found out we were having 2 girls! My OB told me we needed to go to see a specialist, a perinatologist, because there were some concerns about their size discrepancies. 
     Off we went to meet with the perinatologist.  As he sat so seriously behind his desk, he told us our babies had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS), a rare syndrome that occurs in less than 0.1-0.9  in 1,000 births.  The prognosis was poor since it presented itself so early in the pregnancy.  The doctors were going to do their best but admitted that there is still so much to TTTS that they do not understand.  I was to go on bedrest from here on out and they would monitor the girls weekly.  The appointment was somber.  I went from feelings of shock, to begging God to save both of our little girls.
   If you would like to learn more about TTTS, click on the links below. or   

  Our Story will continue next week. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Easy Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce

Quick and easy peasy!  That's what this flavorful spaghetti sauce is.  Let your crockpot do the work.  The original recipe is from Taste of Home and I have adapted it to our family's needs and taste buds.

1 pound ground beef (or Gluten Free Italian Sausage)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cans (14.5 oz each) petite diced tomatoes (sometimes I blend these up first since my little ones don't like chunks of veggies)
3 cans (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 T packed brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 t dried basil
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t salt
1/2 t dried thyme

Trader Joes Corn Spaghetti noodles (or your favorite gluten free noodles)

1.  Brown beef and onion, drain fat.
2.  Combine all ingredients in a crockpot.  Stir.  Cover with lid and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4.
3.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve over cooked gluten free pasta.  My new favorite gluten free pasta is Trader Joes Corn Spaghetti noodles at just $1.39 per bag.  It is not starchy like rice pasta and is the closest to regular wheat pasta in taste and texture.

8 servings.

Recipe shared on Allergy Free Wednesdays and Gluten Free Fridays.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Bread

2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t cinnmon
3/4 t cloves
3/4 t allspice
1/2 t salt
1/2 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c applesauce
1/2 c coconut oil, melt before measuring
1 c tart apple, peeled and chopped (like Granny Smith)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease loaf pan (I used Kelapo's Coconut Oil Cooking Spray).
2.  In medium bowl, whisk together flour through salt.  Make a well in the center.  Set aside.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, applesauce and coconut oil.  Pour into flour ingredients.  Stir just until combined and gently stir in chopped apple.  
4.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 5 minutes then remove bread from pan and allow to finish cooling on wire rack.  


1 c powdered sugar
1 1/2 T milk (or rice milk)
1/2 t vanilla extract

Stir to combine, then drizzle over slightly cooled bread.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pumpkin Dip and my little pumpkins

Trick or Treating this year was so much fun and yet so sad too.  Some friends invited us over to Trick or Treat with them around their neighborhood.   The kids had a great time and got a LOT of candy.  When you have food allergies, Trick or Treating can be challenging.  Our kids always do a great big candy exchange after each holiday where they get candy.   They dump their piles on the floor and do lots of trading.  It has worked great because Noah gives away his candy with food coloring.   Then, Anna gives her peanut, egg and wheat candy away.  They do a great job looking out for each other.  Josie generously shares her candy with Noah and Anna, giving them what is safe for them.  I love watching them work together, sorting it all out.  

Last night, I was feeling a bit sad for Anna.  This year she has spacers in her mouth and the orthodontist says, "No sticky candy".  So no eggs, no wheat, no nuts, and now nothing sticky either.  When I looked through her big stash last night, I discovered she was only able to keep about 1/4 of what she got.  I wondered, does she think Trick or Treating is pointless?   Going door to door, getting candy that she can't even eat.   But my husband reminded me, she was the last one out Trick or Treating.  When Noah and Josie had had enough and came home, Anna wanted to go to a few more houses with Dad.  

Our orthodontist does a Candy Buy Back Program.  We brought candy in to her office today, and the kids got paid for the candy they didn't want.  Then the office sends the candy (with notes from the kids)  to our soldiers.  Talk about a win win!  I told them what a blessing this was for our family, especially with food allergies.  You might want to check around your neighborhood and see if a dental office or doctor office is doing a similar program.

I need to share this tasty little treat with you...Pumpkin Dip!  The original recipe is from Cooking Light but I have changed the quantities.  This goes great with apple slices or I bet it would be good with graham crackers too.  

8 oz 1/3 less fat Cream Cheese (1 block)
2/3 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c canned pumpkin
2 1/2 t maple syrup
1/2 t ground cinnamon

Mix together well with mixer at medium speed.  Cover and chill before serving.  Mmmm...delicious fall treat!