Monthly Archives: January 2013

GF Muffins That’ll Fool You!

…as in, they don’t taste gluten free. This is important for the Debater, who won’t eat anything that doesn’t taste real. As in, how things used to taste before she went GF.

Anyhow, it’s been something of a challenge to come up with food that she’ll eat, but through research, trial and error, and a process of refining, we’re getting there.

One of the things that works for us is this muffin recipe from I like it because it’s quick and easy, lends itself to making up ahead of time as a muffin mix, and is almost endlessly adaptable.

Here is one of our adaptations, which has become a family favorite:

Gluten-Free Lemon Blueberry Muffins

1-1/2 cups gluten free flour mix (I make my own; see below)
¼ cup flax seed meal (I grind my own in the Blendtec from seeds, but you can also buy it)
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (I use an aluminum-free brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in coconut oil until it resembles coarse meal. I do this in a Kitchenaid mixer with the whisk attachment. Sometimes if I’m feeling efficient, I’ll make up several batches one at a time (I don’t feel confident enough in my GF baking to double/triple/quadruple/multiply the recipe), putting each one in a zip-top plastic bag, which I then label and put in the freezer. The last batch, I go ahead and make into muffins.

Add 1 cup lemon juice (fresh-squeezed is best) and 2 eggs. Stir until mixed and then beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Toss 1 cup blueberries with a little flour, and stir in by hand. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. (I use silicone muffin cups, so I don’t have to do anything to prepare them. I suppose you can generously grease a muffin tin, or use paper liners, something I haven’t done in two years, since I bought the reusable silicone liners.) This recipe makes about 12 large muffins.

The girls like it if I sprinkle the tops of the muffins with raw sugar crystals before baking.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If your oven is anything like mine, that means you’ll end up baking the muffins for 35 to 40 minutes before they’re done.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

Currently, my homemade gluten free flour mix consists of:
1 part brown rice flour
1 part white rice flour
1 part starch (usually two starches combined, like 1/2 tapioca and 1/2 arrowroot or cornstarch)

What’s your favorite muffin flavor?

Timelines! (newest post in a series)

Just wanted to let you know that the latest in my series on using timelines is up at the Homeschool Mosaics website. Want to know how other home educators put up their timelines? Check it out!

Update: All-of-a-Kind Family resource

Awhile back, I published a link to a resource that you could use while reading books from the All-of-a-Kind Family series. This book series is set in New York city in the early 1900s, and paints a picture of Jewish family life and customs at the turn of the century, through the end of World War I.

From the resource website:

This readers guide to Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series was created in celebration of the author’s 100th birthday in 2004. It includes historical context, background information about the author and the people upon whom the characters are based, extension activities, and read-alike suggestions.

Here is the updated link to the All-of-a-Kind Family Companion.

Very glad it’s Friday

Still fighting whatever bug is trying to get hold of me. This morning I doused my oatmeal with a dollop of honey and fair amount of cinnamon. I read somewhere on Facebook that cinnamon/honey in a 1-to-4 ratio is a great remedy to knock out a cold.

Eldest is giving me vitamin C every hour, and I’ve also had kefir and kombucha (not together) already this morning. If remedies can do the trick, I’m pretty remedied-up. (Except for elderberry. I need to remember the elderberry syrup that’s in the fridge.)

What’s your favorite way to avoid the bugs?

Day something-or-other of the plague

The Computer Guy mentioned something this morning about it being Day Four of the Plague, which got me thinking. Let’s see, the Debater fell ill Sunday (Saturday night, rather, at the ballot party following the speech and debate tournament awards ceremony — instead of being the life of the party and wanting to stay until closing time, she and her sister both wilted and asked to leave an hour before the party was planned to end). Technically, it is Day Four for her. She started to perk up a bit last night. There’s hope.

The Chef was a little off from Saturday night onward, grumpier than usual, until being laid low yesterday. Her symptoms are a little different. Same miserable fever as her older sister; but rather than a sore, swollen throat, she has a rebellious stomach. At her request, homemade chicken soup is now simmering on the stove, and glad I am to oblige, after the struggle yesterday to get anything at all down. For her, this works out to Day Two (if you don’t count the “off” days when she was evidently fighting the bug).

The Computer Guy has actually been sick for more than a week. I think this might be Day Ten for him.

As for Eldest and myself, we are fighting it. Every once in awhile I get really tired, or feel a lump in my throat as if a sore throat is trying to take hold, and I down another dose of vitamin C or elderberry. The elderberry syrup is getting low in the jar; it’s almost time to brew another batch. Eldest and I are also drinking fair amounts of homemade kombucha (got the continuous brew system set up and it’s working well) and kefir in hopes that the probiotics will help. Something’s working. I start feeling under the weather, sit down for a bit and take my C (usually crystal form, dissolved in kefir; seems to work faster that way — the C in pill form seems to take a day or more to kick in), and without noticing a change, somehow I’m feeling better a little while later. I do hope my body will kick this thing completely, whether it’s the dreaded flu, or some anonymous virus. I can’t afford to be sick.

Who can?

New Review Team!

 You may have seen other people announcing the new review team being launched by the people behind the Homeschool Mosaics website. On the other hand, this may be the first you’ve heard of it.

 In any event, I wanted to let you know that I’ve joined the Mosaics review team. There are more than 100 of us who will be receiving products and posting reviews of how they work for us and our families. These won’t be just homeschool curriculum, but household and personal products as well!


Here’s a link to the Mosaic Reviews website. If you’re interested in joining the team, click here for more information!

Easy stovetop vanilla pudding (GF!)

The Debater is sick on the couch with a swollen, sore throat and fever. This is the kid who has trouble keeping weight on, much less gaining it. One thing I can usually get her to eat, when sick, is custard, but the custard that I baked yesterday just didn’t come out smooth — you know that skin that can form on baked custard? Seemed a little rough for a tender throat.

I went looking for stirred custard recipes online this morning, and came up with this one:

The commenters seemed to agree that this was easy and delicious, and I liked the fact that it didn’t require a double boiler, and the recipe author’s tip that if you add the sugar after you take the pudding off the heat, it won’t stick to the pan.

So here’s my adaptation:

Gluten Free Stovetop Pudding

4 eggs*
3 cups milk**
3 TBS cornstarch***
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together eggs, milk, and cornstarch in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Continue whisking over medium-low heat until it thickens. Remove from heat, stir in sugar and vanilla.

The texture is thin, at first, rather like custard sauce (brings up memories of Anne of Green Gables and the poor mouse that died a romantic death), but thickens on standing. Very smooth and creamy, easy on a sore throat. I believe this might be similar to the “blancmange” that Jo brought to a sick Laurie in Little Women.

You could whisk in cocoa powder or melted chocolate, to make chocolate pudding, I suppose, but I thought vanilla might be a little easier for an invalid.

* I doubled the eggs to add more protein. The original recipe called for 2 eggs.

** I used a can of Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream, plus about a cup of water, to make up three cups. The kid needs calories. If she weren’t for the most part dairy free, I might have used heavy cream instead of coconut cream.

*** I used cornstarch, as it’s not something that we have trouble with. I assume you could substitute arrowroot or tapioca starch

We’re back!

…back from a grueling, exhilarating, five-day adventure also known as a Speech and Debate Tournament.

It is the best of days, it is the worst of days. (Wait, did someone already say that?)

A load of laundry is started, breakfast is on the stove, with the makings of more good food in the works. The Giant Schnoz, fully convinced that No One Else Will Do when it comes to taking her outside, feeding her, etc., is growling-and-wagging hopefully at my elbow. (Growling-and-wagging is a time-tested Giant Schnauzer technique. The growling is meant to show seriousness, with wagging thrown in to show it’s not that kind of seriousness, but a more cheerful — though urgent — kind.)

(Pause to feed aforementioned dog)

And now, fed, she has taken the top off the treat jar, and so it must be time to give her the daily pill that resides in a bottle in the treat container. She likes her pills. She really does. That’s why they’re usually sealed up tight with the rest of the treats. Someone left the lid loose, and so I must go and see to the administration of the pill, and then make sure the treats are sealed in a manner that is safe from opportunistic Schnauzers. Be back in a minute.

(Pause to dose dog and secure future doses, along with various and sundry dog treats.)

Um. Where was I?

Speech and debate note: “Um” is a filler word, a distraction, undesirable in the extreme, along with “ah” and the misuse of “like” and oft-repeated phrases which become distractions when they dominate a speech, such as “Now…” and “Moving on” or “Moving along to my next point” or “All in all,” or even “extremely” or “very.”

 We drove nearly four hours to get there, which makes a three-day event into a four-day (and if you’re sane and drive back the day after the tournament ends, a five-day) event. The trip was well worth it.

 Imagine a venue packed with suited students, trailing file boxes on wheels, filling the place with energy and excitement.

Speech and debate note: Debaters, as a rule, wear suits, looking like young professionals — a convention of teen lawyers, perhaps, or youthful business people at a high powered conference. Speech participants who are not debaters, while not wearing suits, are conservatively dressed. They look good. They look sharp. Partners often wear matching outfits that complement each other — shirts of the same hue, for example, or identical ties, or even more creative combinations like the young man whose tie matched his partner’s shirt, while his partner’s tie matched his shirt. Subtle, but not without impact.

 The gym is the student lounge, in a manner of speaking, a staging area where competitions are announced and posted, where meals are served, a place to hang out in between events, to talk, laugh, practice, even engage in goofiness. (I heard about, but did not see, a mock debate that was described to me as the epitome of silliness.)

Another largish room is devoted to the judges and staff lounge, set up with tables and chairs and a steadily stocked refreshment table. This is where judges can work on their ballots, before (filling in competitors’ names, reading over the rules for the event) and after an event.

Speech and debate note: There are two kinds of judges in an NCFCA tournament: Parent judges and community judges. Parent judges are just what they sound like, parents of competitors who fill in where needed — because an awful lot of judges are needed. Dozens. Hundreds? I wouldn’t be surprised. Community judges are recruited from the surrounding area and are essential to the tournament. The whole point is communication. The students have been working for months to polish their skills, and if they can get their point across to a community judge, essentially someone who comes in off the street (though there may be Toastmasters in the mix, as well as lawyers, pastors,  salespeople, and others who speak for a living, there are also mechanics, and waitresses, and dental assistants, and cashiers, and stay-at-home moms, and people from all walks of life), then they have succeeded. So next time someone whose kid is in a speech and/or debate club asks you to be a judge at an event, please do!

 The remainder of rooms are smaller, from classrooms down to offices, even closets, anywhere you can squeeze a judge, a timer, and one or two speakers at a time. Ideally, you’ll have a table for the judge and timer, and if it’s a debate round, two tables, chairs and a lectern at the front of the room, plus a few chairs for spectators. In one of our daughter’s debates, everyone (four debaters, a judge, a timer, and a watching parent) sat around one table. Not ideal, but they made it work).

Speech and debate note: There are two types of debate in the NCFCA. One is called Lincoln-Douglas Debate and involves one-on-one debate, two students debating a moral issue that changes each year (This year, the resolution is that a government has a moral obligation to assist other nations in need). The other is called Team Policy Debate where two teams of two partners each debate a policy issue. (This year, the resolution is that the United Nations should be significantly reformed or abolished.)

 Speeches include a variety of events, taken from literature or written by the students, dramatic or humorous, informative and/or entertaining, prepared and memorized ahead of time, or made up on the spur of the moment, depending on the requirements of the particular event.

 Over the three days, students perform their speeches or debate their resolutions, judges watch and fill out ballots, ranking the competitors. Some competitors are eliminated, some move on, through semi-final and final rounds, culminating in the final event, the awards ceremony where the winners in each category are announced.

Speech and debate note: …well, not quite the final event. After the awards ceremony came the “ballot party” where many of the competitors went to a nearby Dairy Queen to read the judges’ feedback, compare notes, celebrate or commiserate, exchange autographs, eat and talk and generally have a good time to cap off the tournament. It’s a way of prolonging the time with friends old and new, a little longer, before everyone gets in their cars and scatters to the far corners of three states.

(See the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association website for more information about the organization behind the tournament.)

This tournament was a lot like others we’ve attended, popping with energy, inspiring and exhausting. An added complication was the stomach bug that started going around on the second day, and caused some competitors to miss the last day (or even interrupted events, in two cases I heard about). Quick action on the part of the organizers probably kept the bug from derailing the tournament. Competitors were urged to wash their hands frequently, and the usual competitor-judge handshakes were suspended.

What was amazing to me was that this tournament was sponsored by a club that was just formed a few months ago. It was beautifully organized, well run, and I can’t say enough about the sponsors and those who came to help make it all happen.

Speech and debate note: Besides the competitors, parents, and judges, there are an awful lot of behind-the-scenes people who make it all possible. Hats off to these, too many to name, and many of whom I either never saw, or only saw in passing as they were hurrying from one task to another.

And now we’re home, having spent a fair chunk of yesterday traveling home and then unpacking and settling down. Today is a day to do laundry, to regroup for a new week, to begin to catch up on everything that was set aside during the days we were preparing to go and the days we were away.

Oh, and a time to tend to a needy Schnoz who really, really missed us (she said so, in no uncertain terms), and to tend to a sick kid, who, tournament over, has succumbed to a nasty respiratory bug. You know how you can fight something off when you’re in the middle of an important endeavor, and the adrenaline and excitement keep you going, only to crash in the end?

Yeah, that’s about the size of it.

However, even with the exhaustion and illness that has her down today, she’d do it all over again. (And will, most likely. There are three more qualifying tournaments in the season, followed by Regionals. Nationals? Still a dream away. But more on all that, later.)