Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring in Sight? (Ha!)

 When I turned my beloved Susan Branch calendar to March, I took heart in a cute little poem at the bottom of the page.  I've been waiting all month to post it, because I told myself that the crocuses had to actually BE blooming when I did.  Here's what it says:

First a howling blizzard woke us
Then the rain came down to soak us
And now, before the eye can focus,
by Lilja Rogers

And so, while there was still a bit of this on the ground in my backyard today...

I also found this in my neighbor's front yard....
Yes, a crocus! I happened upon some young ladies as well, who were taking advantage of the 55 degree heat wave after their schoolwork was done.  They were joyfully trying to demonstrate the static electricity in their hair. I had just returned from dropping three of my charges off at the basketball courts, and one of them at baseball practice.  Driving around town, it was so clear that the whole town was hoping that this day was the beginning of  real spring weather.  There were joggers galore,  flip flops in abundance, and even I chose to go without socks with my Mary Janes today.
 Unfortunately, this sweet anticipation of warmth, green grass and leaves, and even backyard cookouts will be temporarily crushed come Friday. 
Here is what Weather Underground is saying:

chancesnow Snow. Additional moderate snow accumulation. Colder with highs in the mid 30s. North winds 15 to 20 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

 They are calling it the April Fool's Storm.  Oh, how I wish it were only a prank.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Michelle's Baked Oatmeal

Among the many highlights of our time in Pennsylvania was BREAKFAST!  (Lunch and dinner were equally amazing.) Michelle made this baked oatmeal dish on Friday morning, and there was even enough to eat it again on Saturday before we headed to Hershey.  What was funny, though, was that when she pulled it out of the oven and offered it to the kids, they all looked at me with faces full of fear and anxiety.  Even Robert gave me a concerned look.  The reason for the hesitation was because they know we buy special gluten free oats, because regular oats, while they are technically gluten free, are usually contaminated by being processed right alongside wheat.  I whispered to them that it would be all right, because I had talked to Michelle previously about our being semi-high maintenance houseguests, and our specific food issues.  We had even discussed oats, and Michelle had taken the time to buy the gluten free kind for this recipe.  Michelle caught on to our conversation and kindly reassured everyone that the oats were gluten free.  It was so thoughtful of her, and my whole family ~ even the non-oatmeal eaters ~ fell in love with this dish.  

Robert is out of town for a few days, so I had to go to the gym by myself this morning.  Before I left, I whipped up this batter, popped it in the oven, and set the timer so the kids would know when to take it out.  When I got home exactly half of a 9x13 pan of it was left.  They gobbled it up!  I can tell that this is going to become a weekly breakfast tradition at our house!

Michelle's Baked Oatmeal

3 cups GF oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted or softened
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tsp baking powder
1tsp salt
1-2 tsp cinnamon

Combine oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Whisk together eggs, milk, and melted/softened butter in a separate bowl.  Add liquid ingredients to dry ones, and stir until thoroughly combined.  Pour into a 9x13 greased baking dish, and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  

You can double the recipe and still use a 9x13.  This will give you taller squares when cut, and might require a bit more baking time.

This can be served in so many ways:

Just cut a square and pour some milk over the top and eat with a spoon.....

or add dried fruit, nuts or even chocolate chips to the batter...

or stack with dollops of plain or vanilla yogurt and top with berries, which is what I did when I got home from my workout!  YUM!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

4 States in 7 Hours = A Fun Weekend Getaway

 Even though we've lived in New England for nearly 12 years now, we still act like tourists much of the time.  One reason for this, I believe, is the 25+ years we spent living in a state that you could hardly even get out of in seven hours.  I just did a little research and found that from the tip of the Texas panhandle to the farthest southern city of Brownsville is 801 miles! (That's about 16 hours of drive time.)  We marvel at folks who have never been to, or have no desire to go to Boston because "It's so far away." (We're about 80 miles west of the capitol city.)

Well, we put on our tourist hats again last week and drove to southeastern Pennsylvania.  We drove through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania all in the course of 7 hours. We stayed with a sweet family who used to go to our church, but have since moved back to that area to be closer to their families.  They made the trip so special for us, and it more than satisfied my travel bug and my homeschool mama's heart.  (Talk about a field trip!)  Our first stop was to a fish hatchery just down the street from their house ~ thousands of trout at all different stages of development.  Kayla and little Lucy enjoyed picking up some of the dropped food, throwing it in the tanks, and watching hundreds of hungry mouths vie for the crumbs.
 Mike and Michelle met at Cornell in plant propagation class ~ which I think is so funny and cute ~ and they are the real deal.  Michelle can grow ANYTHING.  (She can also cook and can anything, too.) I couldn't help wanting to take pictures of all of her plants and projects.  Do you see the succulents and hanging baskets in every windowsill?  What about the perfectly straight branches of several different varieties of pussy willow?  And the flower starts?  Michelle has her own cut flower business called Roots.  She sells at the local farmer's market, to grocery stores, and will even give you a great bid for your upcoming wedding.  Mike also has his own business; a landscape design company called Earthworks.  They are a gifted pair to be sure.  Their little ones Jake and Lucy are a gifted pair as well ~ and totally adorable!  We enjoyed their hospitality so much. We even got to spend one of our evenings with Michelle's parents whom we stayed with several years ago when we visited Gettysburg.
 Next up on the field trip agenda was the Army Heritage and War College in Carlisle.  We spent an hour or more walking a trail on the large campus that takes you to various bunkers, tanks, outposts, and helicopters. The kids ALL enjoyed climbing in and out of barracks and bunkers, but they were totally worn out by the near 80 degree heat ~ red cheeked and all.  Robert and I are the only ones in our family who ever really lived in Texas.  The kids' home is Massachusetts, so they start to get faint when the mercury hits 75.
 Carlisle lies in what is sometimes referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch Country, so if you're lucky you might get to see an Amish buggy going down the road or a farmer tilling his field behind a horse and plow.  What you can't miss are the beautiful farms and silos that line the horizon.  Robert and I went for a run on Saturday morning, and Michelle provided us with a route in which we got to see some of the farms up close.  It was really beautiful. The photos of the dresses hanging out to dry are of a Mennonite family's home and farm. Michelle buys her eggs from them, but is so appalled by the $1.25 price per dozen that she just gives them $5 for 3 dozen and calls it even.
The primary reason for this trip was so that we could attend the public memorial service of Maj. Dick Winters.  Maj. Winters was a WWII vet and the main character in Steven Spielberg's Band of Brothers mini-series on the 101st Airborne Division "Easy Company."  Kory is a big fan of his, and even recently completed an art grant proposal for school based on this man.  This heroic figure passed away in January, and because of his recent fame brought about by the mini-series, Robert discovered that a public memorial was scheduled.  It was held in Hershey, PA in a downtown theater.  The tickets were free, but still had to be reserved, and it was a "sold out" event.  Only four tickets per family were allowed, but thankfully we received an extra one at the box office just prior to the start of the service. (Answered prayer!)  I expected quite a bit more fanfare than was provided, and it took me a while to realize that this service was just what it was advertised as ~ a public memorial service.  It was truly a regular memorial service. There were traditional hymns sung, scripture verses read, poems recited, and a few speakers who had been close friends of Maj. Winters.  It could have been straight out of my old Methodist church in Uvalde, TX, and I'm so thankful that Kory and the rest of our family got to be a part of it.

And you just can't go to Hershey without indulging in some chocolate.  Actually, you can't go to Hershey without SEEING chocolate all around you ~ even the street lamps were capped off with Kisses! (They alternated: wrapped Kiss, unwrapped Kiss.)  We toured The Museum of Chocolate (Milton Hershey was quite a special man ~ wonderful boss, generous community member), and then after the memorial service arrived at Chocolate World just in time for the last round of tours in which you learn how chocolate is made and is perfectly complete with free chocolate samples at the end.  After the tour, we hopped back in the van at about 5:30pm, stopped in Scranton, PA for dinner (Mexican, if you can believe...) and were all cozy in our Amherst, MA beds before midnight.

So thankful for the chance to do all of these things!  Love being a tourist in my own neck of the woods!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guess Where We've Been...

Chocolate, Sunshine, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, War Heroes, and Old Friends....
More details coming soon on our quick but refreshing getaway!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

(photo by Chronicles of the Kitchen blog)

Eating gluten free can be a challenge sometimes, but since I discovered my gluten intolerance, I don't think I've ever eaten better or healthier.  Having to look in new places and to new ingredients has opened up a food world to me that I truly enjoy.  Meals are more like art, and eating is more sacred.  

Pesto was something I had never even heard of until 10 years ago, and that was basil pesto.  I was hooked on the stuff  immediately.  Now I spend the summers picking basil and standing over my food processor to make pesto that will last all winter long. Well, just when I though my pesto experience was at its height, my friend Christie introduced me to a variation: sun dried tomato pesto.  It was in the North End of Boston at a quaint little Italian market.  We had taken a friend to the airport, but just couldn't seem to leave the city without at stop at this wonderful place.  We loaded up on cheeses, prosciutto, bread (for her), gluten free crackers (Yes, they carried them there!) for me, and some sun dried tomato pesto. We snacked on our purchases all the way home, and I fell in love with this delicious concoction.  Wow ~ so good!

Last week, craving pesto, sunshine, and vine ripe tomatoes, while watching the snow flurries come out of the gray sky (Boo!), I decided to pull out the tomatoes that I had dried and frozen last summer and try to replicate the pesto.  Well, it worked!  It was even a close match to the delicious pesto from Boston.  I had to put half the batch in a small mason jar and give it to Christie, so she could share in a little bit of North End and even a little summer sunshine!

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

2 cups sun dried tomatoes (drained if packed in oil)
1/2 cup Parmesan (or Parm~Romano blend)
1/2 cup fresh basil (or 2Tbsp basil pesto ~ I used my frozen pesto)
4 Tbsp pine nuts (or pecans or walnuts)
6 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil

Place first five ingredients in food processor or high powered blender and blend, adding oil as the processor goes. You may need to blend for longer than you expect, but continue until you have a thoroughly blended and pesto-like consistency.

Spread on pizzas, fresh bread, or toss with pasta ~ or just dig in immediately with some gluten free crackers!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rhetoric in the Rough

Plato:  Rhetoric is "the art of winning the soul by discourse."

Aristotle: Rhetoric is "the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available
                        means of persuasion.

Cicero:  "Rhetoric is one great art comprised of five lesser arts:  inventio, dispositio,
                        elocutio, memoria, and pronunciatio."  Rhetoric is "speech designed to

Quintillian:  "Rhetoric is the art of speaking well."

(Definitions taken from the Stanford Dept. of English site)
  I was proud of my Challenge II students today!  They've been preparing for their second debate for several weeks, and today was the big day.  Their first debate was on whether or not the National Endowment for the Arts should receive federal funding, and this second debate was on gun control. 
These students are now in what the classical model of education calls the Rhetoric Stage, which is the third and final stage of the Trivium.  Here's a definition of the rhetoric stage from the Classical Christian Homeschooling website:

The last stage is the rhetoric stage, which focuses on learning the science of communication and the art of expression. In the grammar stage children learned facts; in the dialectic stage children began to understand those facts, and in the rhetoric stage children learn to express what they now understand in the most compelling manner possible. This stage roughly coincides with high school. Cognitively speaking, this stage is where abstract thought reaches its zenith. In this stage, the unknown can be explored because the known is understood; the hypothetical can be introduced and grasped with the mind. The mental jump can be made from the natural to the spiritual, from the practical to the theoretical. Self-expression finally comes into its own in the language arts; “hard” sciences and advanced mathematics are more easily mastered; history can be applied to economics and political science; and Bible study can turn to apologetics.

I just love watching them grow in this ability to express themselves, and they improve each time.  Today they even had a nice audience of adults and kids in the Challenge A class, which are mostly 7th and 8th graders, and even a few younger ones.
Kory argued for the Negative side, which was in favor of MUCH gun control, i.e. only state militia and police officers should be allowed to own and use weapons.  This was not an easy side for him to argue for, (he IS from Texas, you know) but alas, it was his assignment.  He used the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the Columbine High School shootings as two of his persuading points.  He also cited the statistics on increasing deaths by firearms as support for his argument, and pointed out that when the First Amendment was written, its intention could not have included the automatic weapons we see used in brutal ways today.
 The affirmative team, consisting of Megan and Anna, argued for "licensed open carry" laws, and not a complete abolition of all gun control laws.  They, of course, cited several examples of home invasions in which a gun was used to save a life, or where a gun would have been useful.  Their compelling conclusion and rebuttal was that Americans should not be asked to sacrifice freedom for safety.

Kory was the technical winner, but the score was VERY close ~ almost a tie with the point difference being only five tenths of a point.  (Four adult judges and me, the tutor) They are quite competitive, too; begging me for final results immediately after the debate was over.  I just finished emailing them to let them know the outcome and how proud of them I am.

Our class time before the debate consisted of grammar and composition work, biology,(we've dissected an earthworm, crayfish, and frog this semester to date!) and western cultural history, in which we discussed the life of Beethoven and learned to identify specific works of Mozart, Haydn, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms via audio CD.  Have I mentioned how pleased I am with this curriculum and all that my kiddos are gaining from it?  Wonderful!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Growing Pains: Gratitude for the Whoa and Wow of the Cross

I hardly ever remember TV shows or movies. I enjoy them while watching, but I don't store them away like my husband and so many others I know.  My brain is too full of other important things like ~ What should I wear today? When are baseball tryouts? I have a son taking driver's Ed. soon!?!? Do I have enough dresses for the many weddings coming up? What's for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?  Movies and TV shows are an escape (a rare one) and then they escape me. I can't really quote any lines from any movies.

Except for Grease...
("You're a fake and a phony and I wish I'd never laid eyes on you!"  "Whoa....wonder if she carries silver bullets?").

Oh, and maybe Nemo.
("Just keep swimming", Elmo....Fabio...).

Well, and probably a few from The Sound of Music.

I also don't really analyze and remember every single spiritual parallel in order to use them in future Bible studies ~ of which Grease has very few, by the way. (Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed?  Bad company corrupts good character?)  So....I'm not sure why I remember this particular episode of "Growing Pains" from 1986, but I do.  I get tickled thinking of it to this very day.  The episode is called "Employee of the Month" (yes, I did the research this week AND may have watched it again for the first time since 1986), and it's the one where Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) convinces his parents to let him take a job at W.O.B. (World of Burgers), so that he can buy a car.

What gives me the giggles are the names of the sizes of fries and drinks that World of Burgers offers.  The drink sizes are "Large", "Extra Large", "Colossal", and "Whoa."  Mike gets some initial training on these names, but it takes him a while to remember them.  When a very precocious little girl comes in and orders a "Titanic" Burger, "Considerable" Fries, and a diet "Whoa,"  Mike begins filling her cup with soda, and she replies "That's a Colossal.  I asked for a Whoa."  The "Whoa" is about the size of a large movie theater popcorn bucket.  It's HUGE!  It cracks me up every time I think about it.

What do "Growing Pains" and soda sizes have to do with the cross?  Well, nothing really, except that I kept using the terms "Whoa" and "Wow" as I tried to explain the seriousness and weight of sin ~ and the wonder of Christ's death and resurrection to a child this week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

I know I've mentioned it before, but my kids will hardly consider it a muffin unless it contains chocolate chips.  This recipe comes from a friend in Stillwater, OK, I think.  I remember making them quite a bit in our last year of living there.  The recipe originally called for whole wheat flour, oats, and only a 1/2 cup of brown sugar, so I made them thinking they were such a healthy alternative to other muffins.  Recently, I discovered that I could  just substitute the regular oats for gluten free ones, and the whole wheat flour with my GF flour mix.  I've also added a bit of flax meal.  If you want a dairy free and egg free version, just mix up about 1 Tbsp of flax meal and 2-3 Tbsp warm water per egg and use almond or rice milk.  These are always a hit for breakfast, and I almost ALWAYS make a double batch of any muffin, and let the rest sit out on a plate on the counter all day.  They usually disappear before bedtime!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 cup GF flour
1 cup GF oatmeal
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk ( regular will work too, or sour regular with vinegar or lemon juice)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients: flour, oats, flax, soda, powder, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl whisk together oil, buttermilk, eggs.  Add liquid ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly.  Stir in vanilla and then fold in chocolate chips.  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Doubles easily!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Hens

Our lows can still be in the 10's and 20's overnight, but we've also had highs in the 40's and lots of rain lately.  In fact, the carpet in our basement is pulled up in one corner, and there is a fan and a dehumidifier running to try and dry things out down there  It wasn't anything too severe like some of our friends have had; nothing that a Shop Vac couldn't handle easily.
Our chickens are especially happy about this minor warm-up we've had.  As soon as there was a patch of grass near their coop, we began opening their door in case they were interested in venturing out.  I don't know if you can tell, but their coop yard collapsed because of the amount of snow we've had, rendering them literally "cooped up" since mid-January.  The first day we opened the door they were so excited that one of them sprinted with flapping wings and landed in the middle of our yard.  At that time there was still a lot of snow and only about a 2x3 patch of brown grass near their coop.  We giggled as we watched her try and figure out where she was and what all that white stuff around her was, and then eventually join back with the others in the small grass patch.  These gals provide quite a bit of entertainment, I must say!

Now that there are a few more patches of grass available, and even some cleared "trails" to more grass, they venture as far as the grass will take them.  This morning as I approached the coop after my early run with a friend, they could hear me coming and started clucking like crazy ~ they couldn't wait to be let out.

Looks like our rain will stop for a while this weekend, there will be sunshine, and the temps will be in the mid to upper 40's.  This will surely make for some happy humans, as well.  We are itching to be let out, too!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Deep Inside My Heart...Time Stands Still

I loved that Michael and Amy began the concert with the song "Stay for a While."

 Time carries on;
I guess it always will,
But deep inside my heart
Time stands still.

Stay for awhile.
Well, it's good to see your smile,
And I love your company.
Stay for awhile.
And remember the days gone by;
For a moment it can seem
Just the way it used to be.

I loved that they sang so many of the songs I "grew up" on...."El Shaddai," "Thy Word,"  "Angels Watching Over Me,"  "Alleluia,"  "Rocketown,"  "Emmanuel,"  "Secret Ambition,"  "Everywhere I Go,"  "Find a Way,"  "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" and more.
I loved that they both played their instruments so well, and that they did not down play their faith.  It was so refreshing to hear them give all glory to Christ on stage; to have Michael lead the whole audience in some of the familiar praise and worship songs of today. So awesome that the Church, the Bride, can gather like that ~ from all different churches and locations and spontaneously join together in songs of praise to our Bridegroom. (in Boston, MA no less)
I loved that for the encore they came out dressed in the fashions that went with their previous and familiar albums ~ the argyle for Michael; the animal print for Amy.  And what else for the encore songs but "Lead Me On" and "Friends" ?

So yes....for one wonderful evening it did seem just the way it used to be.

But there was more....

 Before the concert, Christie and I went to the North End (Boston's Little Italy) and had an amazing dinner.  It was Christie's birthday, so the evening called for a trip to one of her favorite places in the city.
And no evening in the North End is complete without a trip to Mike's Pastry!  Christie got her cannoli, (not the new lobstercream cannoli, though?!?) and I had gelato.  Then we hopped on the subway and made it to our seats just as Amy began to sing.  I reached down to turn off my phone, and saw that I had a text message from another Amy and Michael fan ~ my husband who was in Princeton, NJ at the time speaking at a church retreat there.  It read....

"Hope you have a great time with El Shaddai and don't wind up turning into a Fat Baby, but instead go Straight Ahead to the House of Love."

Ha Ha! Oh, such sweet memories.....and deep inside my heart, time stands still.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Lifetime's Not Too Long...

 I'm sure I will get some of the details wrong, but it was 30 years ago (can that really be?) that I met my dear Spanish teacher and friend Kelly.  And it was 27 years ago that she introduced me to the music of Amy Grant and her hyper opening act ~ Michael W. Smith.  (And yes, I think that is an actual brochure I picked up THAT night, pulled out of an old scrapbook of mine today.) She loaded up about 6 or 8 of us, and drove us from San Antonio to Austin, TX to Palmer Auditorium to see Amy's "Straight Ahead" concert.  (Anybody remember the stoplight on the cassette cover?  "Angels Watchin' Over Me" ?)  I had never heard their music, (or even knew there was such a thing as Christian music) but I still enjoyed the concert.  Seems like we were in the very last row, and I was mad at the guys who came along with us who kept their Walkmans (Walk"men" ?) going and headphones on.  (We didn't have "earbuds" then, did we?) How rude! ; )

I don't remember thinking about the concert much after that, but occasionally a part of a song about "Jehovah, I love you so" would pop into my head.  A few months later, I was visiting my hometown, Uvalde, TX, and was hanging out at a friend's house.  We were listening to music, and I was browsing through her records and tapes.  When I came across the "stoplight" album cover, I asked my friend Shannan if she liked Amy Grant.  I told her I had been to see that concert fairly recently.  She said that she didn't like her, that an older friend had given her the cassette tape, and that I was welcome to have it.  Well, I happily took it, discovered that the Jehovah song was indeed from that album, and proceeded to practically wear the thing out listening to it over and over again!  I was hooked, and I think it was also at this time that I became a confirmed religious geek by my MTV watching siblings. And I'm positive I was obnoxious about it at times, but they've forgiven me, and they eventually became Michael and Amy fans themselves.  In fact, I think Melissa now follows Michael on Twitter.  "Did you know he was having back problems?" she asked recently.  Ha!
 As you can see from the memorabilia, I don't think I missed a Michael or Amy concert for the next several years. Is the above concert with Kathy Troccoli the one where we got a drumstick from the band, and then tried to follow Michael to his hotel?  (Help me out here, KKW!) We even branched out to Twila Paris, Petra, and Stephen Curtis Chapman eventually.  The music helped me understand the faith that I had already chosen, but didn't have a lot of teaching on or role models in.  I couldn't get enough.  When they played "Friends are friends forever if the Lord's the Lord of them...." on the final night of cheerleading camp at SMU the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I called "Miss Riggs" from a payphone in my dorm to tell her, "THEY EVEN PLAYED A MICHAEL W. SMITH SONG HERE!"
 The above photo is from an Amy Grant & Phillip Bailey Concert at Southpark Meadows in Austin, TX.  (I must have been a freshman or sophomore here?!?  Melissa's to the right of me, so she obviously wasn't THAT opposed to the stuff!)  It rained, but somehow the concert went on.  It did make me sad today to see that I had written "Amy & Gary's Anniversary"  as one of the captions. It was their wedding anniversary that day, and they performed together, but as you may already know, they didn't have too many more anniversaries.  (Gary is the one in the turquoise shorts and yellow shirt whose head I cut off as I took this photo of my scrapbook album.)
Did the guys wear headphones at this concert nearly 3 years later?  I think they had them on hand, but opted for the music being performed live, and even possibly enjoyed themselves.  They played it cool, of course.

So then I married a youth minister and the concerts became all Audio Adrenaline, News Boys, and Point of Grace. I had to sit in the lobby of an Audio Adrenaline concert while pregnant with Kory.  He was bouncing all over my insides with the volume level, while our youth were banging their heads right next to the stage speakers! Robert and I also fell in love with the music of Wes King as well as Geoff Moore and the Distance.  My friend Sherri and I even cooked brisket and banana pudding for Geoff and band when we hosted them for a concert at our church.  They were kind enough to rave about our "home cooked meal."

And how could I forget one of my all time favorite Christian groups ~ Acapella.   Not only are they absolutely incredible, but my friend and fellow journalist from high school, Wes, is their bass singer.  I still can't bear to part with my old Acapella cassettes!

Why this trip down Christian concert memory lane?  Because TODAY it sort of comes full circle for me in that I'm picking up my friend Christie and heading to Boston to see none other than Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith in concert together!  (Christie saw Bon Jovi there on Tuesday night, so this will be quite the extreme...) And I'm wondering if I am among the privileged few who saw them in that first "Straight Ahead" tour together AND in this "2 Friends" tour.

For that I have a dear friend and Spanish teacher to thank.

Friends are friends forever is the Lord's the Lord of them.  And a friend will not say never, 'cause the welcome will not end....
A lifetime's not too long to live as friends.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gluten Free Friday ~ Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars always remind me of middle and high school.  Miss Riggs (a.k.a. Kelly now that she's married!), my Spanish teacher turned dear friend, always seemed to have them on hand for feeding hungry teenagers at school.  (Speaking of Miss Riggs....stay tuned for another post involving her tomorrow!)  She was also famous for her Caramel Brownies which involved the unwrapping about 40 of those little individual cellophane wrapped caramel candies, but it was SO worth it!

When we discovered our gluten intolerance, there were many things we just stopped eating altogether, and lemon bars were one of those things.  It's not that they're difficult to make gluten free, but there just seemed to be so many changes and alterations already, and lemon bars were definitely not a priority.  Shameful, I know!

Well, fast forward almost 7 years to this past December when I visited my friend Karla for tea in her 1700's farmhouse.  She planned to make me apple crisp, but didn't have gluten free oats.  Determined to make some sort of dessert we could both enjoy, she found a GF lemon bar recipe online, and they were baking in the oven when I arrived.  I had forgotten just how delicious lemon bars are!

(Kayla just saw me typing this post and promptly decided we needed to have lemon bars with our pizza and movie tonight.  Now she's busy in the kitchen! )

Here's the recipe; probably the exact one Karla used that day. 

Gluten Free Lemon Bars

1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter

Mix together rice flour, cornstarch, and powdered sugar.  Cut in butter and work thoroughly through the dry ingredients with fingertips until it resembles a coarse cornmeal. Press into an 8x8 baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp rice flour
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp lemon peel

powdered sugar for dusting

Beat eggs together.  (Whenever I type up instructions for recipes, I think of Amelia Bedelia, and how she might interpret them.  I can just see her holding and then smashing together two white eggs with their shells intact...temporarily.) Add sugar, rice flour, cornstarch, lemon juice, and lemon peel, and beat until thoroughly combined.  Pour over cooled crust and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  Put a small portion of powdered sugar in a strainer/sieve and lightly dust the top of the bars once they have cooled a bit.