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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Story: Part Three

If you missed the beginning of Our Story, you can find it here.

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I was 26 weeks pregnant and Dan and I were getting on a flight to meet with a Fetal Surgeon and his team.  I usually love flying and staying in hotels, but this was not a trip to look forward to.

The next morning, we were greeted by a wonderful nurse, who helped us walk through our full day of tests.  At the end of the day, we met with the Fetal Surgeon, Neonatologist, Pediatric Cardiologist, Radiologist and several more team members in a conference room where they presented to us the results of what was happening to our little girls.  They explained that TTTS is categorized into stages 1, 2, 3A, 3B, 3C and 4.  The fourth stage was the demise of either baby.  Our girls were in stage 3A.   The option was to do Fetal Laser Surgery to basically disconnect the blood vessels in the placenta that were connected to each other, thus stopping the TTTS.   However, because I was 26 weeks along, they would not be able to perform the surgery if we waited any longer.  If we proceeded, there was only a 50/50 chance that both girls would survive.  The laid it all on the table then told us the decision was ours to make.  So there we were faced with the hardest decision of our lives and we had to decide then and there.

After asking a few more questions, to make sure we understood everything the best we could, we decided to not do the surgery.  We would continue the pregnancy with close monitoring including ultrasounds each day, echocardiograms weekly and aggressive amnio reductions as needed and leaving our girl’s future in our loving, powerful God’s hands.  We hoped for being able to make it another 2 to 4 weeks before delivery.  

We flew home from Cincinnati, celebrated Thanksgiving, still on bedrest, then I was admitted to the hospital on bedrest to keep a really close eye on our babies.  I was surprised at just how difficult it was to be hospitalized, on bedrest.  I got so sad being away from my family.  I felt like I wasn't able to a a Mom to my little boy and missed him so much, plus it was Christmas time.  Thankfully, after a couple of weeks, my doctor decided I could go home.  My Dad came back to town and was willing to drive me to my appointments every day while I promised to stay on strict bedrest.  It did my heart such good to be home again.

As a little girl Psalm 23 seemed so mysterious, I suppose I read it quite literally as a child.  I was studying this verse and finally deeply understood the meaning.  Here we were walking through our own valley of the shadow of death. 

"The Lord is my sheperd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

At 31 4/7 weeks, the cardiologist recommended our babies be delivered.  The recipient’s heart wall was continuing to thicken.  Delivery day was scheduled for 32 weeks.  We were excited, grateful to have gotten so far along, and nervous to meet our little girls, not knowing what would lay ahead of them in the Neonatal ICU (NICU).

Here is a portion of an email my husband sent out.  Dan wrote, "At 8:30 we said hello to Anna Hope and at 8:31 we said hello to Josephina (Josie) Faith. Anna weighs 4lbs 5oz and Josie weighs 3lbs. Melanie is doing well. Today I asked our Dr.  now that we are all done with the TTTS situation, what was He thinking when he saw us at 20 weeks. He responded almost immediately, I thought you'd lose one of them, if not both.  At the c-section the Dr. brought me over and showed me the placenta. She could see that Anna had maybe 75% of the placenta and Josie had 25%. She said that Josie didn't have enough of the placenta to support herself and if they didn't have TTTS Josie would have died. So what we have thought was the problem ended up being the life saver. "For the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone. The flowers are springing up and the time of singing birds has come.”  -Song of Songs 2:11-12

With that news, we were in awe at the Sovereignty of God!

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”  -Psalms 139:13-17

We thought the hard times were behind us, except life in the NICU doesn’t always work that way.  They were preemies and still had tough days ahead...

So thankful!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Caramel Fudge Brownies

I hear from so many family and friends how much they love The Pioneer Woman.  Over Christmas break, my kids and I watched our first episode of The Pioneer Woman.  Ree Drummond was charming and sweet with a fun little kick.  I can see why so many people love her show.  She made me hungry and ready to cook at 9:30 am, even if I did just eat breakfast.  She makes everything look so simple and delicious.  On the episode we watched, Ree was making Knock You Naked Brownies.  Ever since that episode, I've been wanting to try making them.

Near my home is a great little cafe called Bread and Chocolate. They make amazing brownies, the best I've ever had.  The Pioneer Woman's brownies look like my favorite's at Bread and Chocolate.  I wondered if I could pull off a gluten free, egg free, and nut free version.

Unfortunately, brownies have a history of not turning out in my kitchen.  Taking out the gluten and the eggs has ended up in some let's just say "interesting" brownies.  The only recipe I have had success with up til this point is the Zucchini Brownies.  I'll say that again, "up til this point."  These turned out so good.  I was so excited for my family to get home and try these.  They all loved them!  They are rich and soft, almost fudge or truffle like.  The caramel stays soft and the chocolate chips inside are an extra treat.  A little piece is all you need.  They create quite the party in your mouth!

I am so excited to have been invited to bring a gluten free dessert to serve at an Art House North event next week.  The Art House North serves delicious coffee from Dogwood Coffee at their events and these brownies would go so well a nice cup of coffee.  I do have a couple other recipes to try out this week before deciding which one to bring, maybe you can help me decide?! 

When you make these brownies, serve them with a cold glass of milk or a hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee.  They are a real treat!  I might even make these for Valentine's Day and use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut them out.

Thanks to The Pioneer Woman for inspiring me to try a new brownie recipe!

Caramel Fudge Brownies

1 package Gluten Free Brownie mix (I used Trader Joes mix)
1/3 c evaporated milk
1/2 c butter, melted

60 whole caramels, unwrapped (I like Kraft caramels)
1/2 c evaporated milk
1 T Natalie's Gluten Free Flour Mix (or your favorite gluten free flour mix)

1/2 c Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks (or your favorite chocolate chips)

1/4 c powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 10 x 6 ( or 8 x 8)  baking pan.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the brownie mix, evaporated milk and melted butter.  Stir well.  Divide batter (it will be more like dough consistency) in half and press half the batter into the baking pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.
3.  While the brownies are in the oven, melt caramels with 1/2 c evaporated milk, then stir in gluten free flour mix.  Pour the melted caramels over the layer of baked brownies.  Sprinkle with chocolate chunks.  On a clean work surface, press remaining batter into the shape of the pan, just slightly smaller.  Carefully transfer the batter on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.
4.  Bake for an additional 35-40 minutes.  Allow the brownies to cool completely.  Sift powdered sugar over the brownies and cut to serve.

Shared on Slightly Indgulgent Tuesdays, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Allergy Friendly Fridays and Gluten Free Fridays

Featured on Allergy-Friendly Friday with Cybele Pascal

Friday, January 11, 2013

Unexpected sources of allergens

Checking ingredient labels are a regular part of grocery shopping with food allergies.  I never thought of checking my spices though until I noticed that some spices may be cross-contaminated.  If you have allergies, don't ever let your guard down.  Read labels on everything, food, spices, meats, make-up and soaps.   

Have you come across unexpected sources of allergens?  Please share with the rest of us, we can help each other out. 

Have a good and safe weekend friends!

Shared on Allergy Free Wednesdays.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Baked Spaghetti

Leftover spaghetti noodles and sauce sitting in my fridge got me thinking, I wonder if I can try to re-create Tucci Benucci's Baked Spaghetti at home?  Traditional recipes call for eggs but were they really necessary?  So I gave it a try.  It was AMAZING!  My whole family was really excited about the results!  My son, Noah, cleared his plate and I told him I don't remember him EVER eating everything on his plate.  Even with pizza, he always leaves the crust.  The kids were told when their plates were empty they could have a little of the leftover Tres Leche Cake.  Noah informed us that Tres Leche Cake was worth it!  This is a recipe I will make over and over again, planning spaghetti one night (making enough for leftovers) and then this a couple nights later for a really easy delicious meal.

* Notice the little corner with no sauce for our sauceless girl, her corner tasted like Mac n Cheese.

1 package (16 oz) GF spaghetti noodles, cooked (we love the Trader Joe's Corn Spaghetti)
2 c Spaghetti Sauce
1/2 stick butter
16 oz low fat cottage cheese
1 c grated Parmesan Reggiano Cheese (or regular parmesan would work too)
8 oz Mozzarella Cheese shredded

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 pan (I used butter).
2.  Place 1/2 stick butter in large pot, melt then toss with cooked noodles.  Add cottage cheese and parmesan, toss gently to combine.
3.  Spread 1/2 of spaghetti noodles in 9 x 13 pan.  Pour 1/2 of sauce over noodles.  Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.  Repeat layers of noodles, sauce and top with mozzarella.
4.  Cover with tinfoil and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove tinfoil and bake another 10 minutes or until the top is bubbly and light brown.
5.  Enjoy!

Shared on Allergy Free Wednesdays, Gluten Free Fridays and Allergy Friendly Fridays.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Allergy Friendly Birthday Party

Happy Monday Friends!  It's time to get back into our daily routines as the holidays (and birthdays, in our home) are wrapping up.  The kids are back in school despite their prayers for a snow day.

Do you ever wonder how to plan birthday parties with food allergies?  I know I do.  Today, I'd like to share with you what we did for this year's birthday party.  I hope this post inspires your own creativity.  I'd also LOVE it if you would leave COMMENTS on some birthday ideas you have had.  Please include a link if you have blogged about it.

This year my girls asked for a party at home where they could go sledding with their friends.  I was thrilled with their simple request of spending time playing with their friends.  They are taking ballet this year and performed in The Nutcracker Ballet as the little mice.  They love ballet.  Since they wanted to play in the snow for their birthday, it seemed perfectly fitting to incorporate ballet and snow by planning a Nutcracker Winter Wonderland birthday party.

Welcome To The Land Of Sweets!

Our Menu:
Peppermint White Chocolate Kettle Corn
White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Rice Krispie Bar Pops
Pink Hot Cocoa (recipe)

Pastel colored Smarties Candy Canes hung from the lights for the girls to take home.

  The girls each made a beautiful snowflake ballerina to bring home.

White Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Bar Pops & White Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
 Pink Hot Cocoa Mix in each goodie bag for the girls to bring home.

Jam jars allow the girls to see more of the pink.  I used white heart stickers to write their names on.

Kraft's Jumbo Heart Shaped Marshmallows provided the perfect opportunity for a floating birthday candle.

 Snow much fun!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Anna and Josie's 7th Birthday

It's hard to believe how fast seven years can fly.  Seven years ago, we were blessed with our sweet little girls. (For more on Our Story click here)  Anna is full of joy, courage and creativity.  Josie is caring, helpful and full of sweetness.  Before we had kids, I use to wish that if we ever had little girls, that they would be best friends and be sweet to each other.  I'm so thankful that they love each other dearly and really are best friends. 

I know the photo below is a little blurry, but I just had to post it.  Look at how Anna is trying to blow out her candle while trying to watch Josie blow out hers.   A Pinterest photo inspired me to make these little Birthday PanCakes for their breakfast.  I used "Babycakes Cover's The Classics" (by Erin McKenna) waffle recipe for pancakes.  I realize that might sound funny, to use the waffle recipe but I have to say, that was one of my favorite whoopsie daisies in the kitchen.  I was a little distracted making waffles once and ended up pouring the waffles into pancakes instead.  If you don't have her cookbooks yet, you should really order them.  They are gluten-free and vegan.  Erin McKenna inspires me.  

Back to the pancakes...I made several small pancakes to stack.  Then, I stirred up a little frosting with some powdered sugar, a little milk, a little vanilla and a couple drops of natural red food coloring.  My girls loved their little "cakes."

Are you one that likes a little pie with your whipped cream?  Or maybe a little cake with your whipped cream?  If so, you are in good company here.  Our girl's birthday cake is frosted with homemade whipped cream.  This Tres Leche Cake gets a lot of Mmmm's (AKA Yummm!!)  The two little hearts with inititals on top, are the new jumbo heart shaped marshmallows out for Valentine's Day.

A few more birthday photos...

Singing Happy Birthday to each other.

Anna and Josie were so excited to give each other their presents.  They asked if they give them to each other before opening their other presents.