Monday, June 30, 2014

Peach Jam

I bought a huge bucket of peaches over the weekend. After my husband questioned how I was possibly going to eat all of the peaches before they went bad, I came up with the idea of making some jam. Now, I've never made jam or jelly or marmalade before (what is the difference between the three anyhow?), but I figured Google would help me find my way and I wasn't disappointed.

I found this insanely easy peach jam recipe from In Jennie's Kitchen. Since we all know I like super easy, one pot cooking ideas, this THREE INGREDIENT peach jam recipe was totally for me.

Since I wasn't sure if the jam would come out edible or not, I made a smaller batch and also decreased the sugar so it would be "healthier" for my little bean.

I really think you should try it out for yourself. I made this jar of jam on Saturday afternoon. I let it sit overnight in the fridge to "rest" and this is how much is left (Monday evening).

I'm pretty sure the half empty jar speaks for itself.

Happy Jamming!

Peach Jam Recipe


5 peaches washed, peeled, pitted and cut up
1 cup of white sugar
Lemon juice (either from one lemon or from my favorite friend the lemon juice bottle)


Add the peaches, sugar and lemon juice to a deep stock pot. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over high heat. Use a spoon to skim the foam from the top. Apparently skimming the top keeps the jam from being cloudy. I'm not sure why it's bad to have cloudy jam, but Jennie said it's no good so I skimmed my jam.

After you skim the top, reduce the heat to a happy simmer...there should still be bubbles. Let it simmer and thicken. I used a potato masher to mash the peaches at this point so it would give me a finer jam. After simmering for maybe ten minutes, the jam should be a good consistency. It will still thicken once it cools.

I followed In Jennie's Kitchen's advice and skipped the hot water method and instead just turned the jars upside down after filling and tightening the lids. Apparently the hot jam creates enough heat to make an airtight seal on the container. Since this was easier than the water bath method, I obviously chose this method. No one has died or gotten sick from the jam so far!!

I let mine cool completely on the counter top and then popped it directly into the fridge so we could eat it in the morning.

My recipe made one 500 gram jar of peach jam.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pottery Pick-up

Our ceramic pieces were finally ready for pick up yesterday! I could not get there fast enough. Technically, they weren't ready until 2pm, but Alexa and I arrived just after they opened at noon, along with my friend from Novel Style. We were a little too excited! (We even picked new pieces to work on, but that's another blog entry.)

After scoping the scene and finding all of our gorgeous pieces, I stopped to take a breath and a few pictures.

This is my mug. I love how it turned out. I'm not very fancy when it comes to painting or art. I love being creative and doing all kinds of creative, artsy projects, but my skills are lacking. I do however, love the look of this mug. It's a great representation of me...simple, fun and beautiful.

This gorgeous cake plate was made by my friend over at The Charmed Cupcake. I can't wait to see what scrumptious treats she serves on it!

This is one of my absolute favorite pieces. This bowl was created by my friend Rachel. It was her first time painting pottery. I've offered to take it off her hands if she doesn't like how it turned out. I really hope she hates it so that I can buy it off of her!!!

 My friend Christine hand drew and then free hand painted this AMAZING outer space plate for her three year old son. I think that he is just going to LOVE it!

Unfortunately this picture came out blurry, but I couldn't resist posting it because I just love this piece. My friend over at Novel Style created this awesome ring holder using a type of confetti technique. The confetti technique gives the piece a textured feel. I need to make something using this technique, it just looks so cool! So many ideas, so little time!

Novel Style also created this masterpiece. A water color dessert plate and flower tea cup. How cute is the little worm!

Finally, the big shebang! Here is our entire group's finished products. Every single piece is unique, hand painted and designed and absolutely gorgeous.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pottery Class with the Ladies

Our lovely group!

On Saturday, I organized a girls night out at the ceramic studio, Made By You, in Linz. We had such a fantastic time!

There were ten of us gals and we ranged from super skilled artist to not skilled at all, but we all were able to create some really beautiful pieces. First, Dana, the owner, explained that we should pick our bisque. This is basically a piece of unfired ceramic. Once we chose which piece to do, she explained all of the different techniques and paints that we could use. There were dozens of different colors, paintbrushes, sponges, stamps, stencils, idea books and a variety of other tools at our disposal for creating our masterpiece.

My mug, before it was finished.

I chose to do a mug this time, since I made a dessert plate last time with my mom. The other ladies chose all different pieces - plates, mugs, bowls, tiles, tea bag holders. You name it, we painted it! Some of the gals even put together a set.

This set was created by my friend over at  Novelstyle Blog.

We had such a wonderful time and I am so thankful to everyone who joined in. It was great meeting other English speaking Expats from the community and as always, fun hanging out with my usual group of friends. I am so looking forward to doing the screen printing workshop at Made By You in July!

Here are some of the other wonderful pieces that were made!

 I can't wait to pick up the finished pieces on Thursday!!

How did you get creative today?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Week

Last Wednesday was my birthday. I turned the big 3-2. I love my birthday. I am a firm believer that on your birthday you should do whatever you want. You absolutely should NOT go to work. And you absolutely should eat your favorite foods! Even though I was still in the middle of the low histamine diet, I opted to take a day off and really enjoy my birthday.

For breakfast, I had toast on real bread, not yucky gluten free bread. (I know, it's really dorky to get excited about toast. I don't care.) For lunch, Alexa and I went and met a friend of mine for delicious cheeseburgers at the burger place in Linz. I was surprised by a few other friends, cupcakes and presents! Lunch was delicious and totally hit the spot. Then for dinner I made pasta with meat sauce. I think that pasta and a good sauce is one of the things that I have been missing the most on this diet. My day of food was delicious! It was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.

Alexa and Lemon were just exhausted after all those cupcakes!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gluten Free is not for me.

So it's been a full two weeks since I started this low histamine, gluten free diet to help (hopefully) eliminate my migraines. Day 7 was the first migraine free day. (AWESOME!) I haven't had a migraine since. (EVEN MORE AWESOME!) However, I've had two slight headaches. One was due to the drastic change in barometric pressure and the second was from my new glasses. New glasses always make my eyes tired and give me a bit of a headache.

(What do you think of my new glasses? They're PURPLE!)

Anyway, I am supposed to do this low histamine diet for a full four weeks, but I just don't think I can cut it. I am dying for flavor! I want pasta with sauce and meatballs. I want CHEESE!! I want to eat out! I have finally found two different kinds of gluten free bread that are not only tolerable, but actually taste pretty good, however, I would kill for a laugenstangerl (a pretzel bread). We'll see how much longer I realistically hold out.

I think it might be in my best interest to start slowly reintroducing foods back into my diet. I'll do it just like I introduced new foods to Alexa; one new food every three days as long as there is no reaction. That's my plan. Yeah, this is totally going to happen. See you later gluten free! Bring on the histamines!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Our Week in Pictures

Summer weather hit Linz last week! We spent almost every day at the lake, the pool or the playground. It was such a wonderful, although exhausting, week.

Alexa is obsessed with water, whether it be in a pool, sink, bathtub or laundry basket! My kid is definitely a little fish. I wish I had more pictures of her at the pool, but I was far too worried about her just diving in and so I left the camera in the bag.

She has also recently become obsessed with her baby doll. She puts it in her shopping cart to go shopping with, takes her on bike rides and is so loving with her. The doll fell out of her bicycle and Alexa immediately scooped her up, wrapped a kitchen towel (blanket) around her and gave her a kiss on the head. Then she proceeded to rock her and hum a song to her. She makes my heart melt.

The creepy mustache picture was our guess towards the gender of a friend's baby. The gender reveal is happening next week and I can't wait to find out if I am right! (I totally think I am by the way.)

Next week's weather also looks beautiful, although without the scorching heat. I can't wait. I love a beautiful day.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Low Histamine, Gluten Free Baked Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a Carrot Garlic Pesto Sauce

Ingredients for the Gnocchi:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup of rice flour
1 egg

Ingredients for the Sauce:
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
2 scallions, just the greens
1-2 teaspoons Rapeseed oil
6 large basil leaves
1/2 cup heavy cream
chili powder

For the gnocchi -
Boil the sweet potatoes until they are very tender. Immediately drain the water and return them to the pot. Mash thoroughly with a hand masher. No lumps! Transfer to a medium sized metal bowl and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 175C. Once the potatoes are cooled add the egg and mix well. Add the rice flour a 1/2 cup at a time and mix thoroughly. The dough will start to thicken up.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your dough into a zip bag. Cut 1/2 inch hole in one of the corners and use the bag to squeeze one inch pieces of dough onto the parchment paper. The gnocchi can be fairly close together on the baking sheet because they will not expand. Bake the gnocchi in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges start to turn slightly brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

For the sauce -
Boil the carrots until they are fork tender. Remove from the heat and drain well. Add carrots, garlic, scallions, basil leaves, oil and cream to a blender. Blend on high until the sauce is smooth.

When you're ready to eat, add the sauce to a frying pan over medium-high heat. Toss the gnocchi into the sauce and heat until hot. Be sure to continuously move the pan so that the sauce does not burn. Add the pepper and chili powder.


(I know that the picture is a little blurry, but I was too excited to gobble this dinner up to worry about whether or not the picture came out clear!)

P.S. This meal is Alexa approved!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Low Histamine, Gluten Free Lunch

The first few days of this low histamine diet were pretty scary. I was cranky because I thought I was hungry, but really, as long as I think up stuff ahead of time it's really not that bad. The second day of the diet I was starving at lunch time. Gluten free bread is not very good, so my breakfast had kind of sucked. I was ready for food with FLAVOR!

I sauteed half an onion, a carrot, a celery stick and some minced garlic in one heaping teaspoon of coconut oil. I really let the onion get good and clear before I moved on. Then I turned the heat up and I added one egg, quickly scrambling it with the spatula. After the egg was completely cooked I added two large handfuls of rice noodles and about 1/2 a cup of water. I put the top on the pan and waited 3-4 minutes. I garnished the top with some finely chopped scallions and voila, delicious lunch with FLAVOR!!

Do you know of any low histamine lunches?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy Father's Day!

Father's Day is June 8th this year in Austria. I had such an amazing idea of what to make with Alexa for her Papa, but since I wasn't paying attention to the calendar, I ran out of time. I might hold out on this idea for his birthday, Christmas, or Father's Day 2015. In a crunch, I trolled the internet looking for ideas.

Pinterest was not nearly as inspiring as it usually is. Most of the great ideas took too much time, needed too many supplies, or needed supplies that I just don't have access to. I kept thinking, then finally came up with the idea to take pictures of Alexa and Photoshop something into them. After sleeping on that idea, I decided it was kind of cheesy, but I could adapt my idea and a few ideas that I had found online.

I cut out some cardboard letters to spell "Papa" and then went to work trying to get a fidgety Alexa to participate in my photo shoot. The photo shoot did not go as smoothly as I had hoped. I was able to take six pictures before my toddler bailed. I was hoping for a miracle when I uploaded them onto the computer. What I got was the most perfect display of my child. I cannot wait to get it framed and see Michael's reaction on Sunday when he opens it!

What did you make with your kid's for Father's Day? Do you do something special to celebrate each year?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Migraines Suck!

Prior to getting pregnant and having Alexa, I suffered from chronic migraine. For years, my life was a living hell. I took more preventative medications than I care to remember (15 pills every day) and had a 3-tiered migraine attack plan. I took morphine based drugs regularly to manage the pain. I was not okay.

When I first moved to Austria, as an au pair, the family doctor I saw thought it was INSANE that I was on so many medications, but because I was only going to be in Austria for a year, he agreed to continue prescribing me the same medications. After the first six months, he convinced me to try and wean down on some of the medications. I agreed to give it a try. Getting hooked on all of those pills had been easy, coming off of them was a nightmare I never wish to relive again. After only six months in Austria, my migraines had substantially decreased. Coming off of the meds, as hard as it was, proved to be a good thing. I returned to the US a year later and my migraines came right back. It was clear that my migraines were not only triggered by foods I ate, beverages I drank, or the environment that I lived in. My activity level had increased in Austria. I was eating much healthier foods and I was exposed to a different variety of pollens. It was clearly better for me in Austria.

When I moved back to Austria in 2010, I was only on one migraine medication - Topamax - once a day to prevent the migraines. My neurologist and I discussed that I would have to be off of the medication for a full six months before I could even consider trying to get pregnant. The choice to come off of the medication was very scary for me. I had already weaned off of migraine meds once before and it had been terrifying. It took me two years to finally have the courage to try weaning off of them completely. This time wasn't as bad and I had the prospect of a baby to look forward to. Seven months later I was pregnant with Alexa. During my pregnancy I had three migraines. This is nothing compared to how often I would get them before. I think I maybe had one headache, not a migraine, after having Alexa while I was nursing. It was amazing!

On May 23, 2014, Alexa nursed for the last time. On May 24th, I woke up with a headache and have had a migraine ever since. The first three days were a consistent, blinding migraine. I had severe light and smell sensitivity. My ears were throbbing. I could hear my hair moving when I was sitting still. The nightmare had returned. On the fourth day, I took some Tonopan to stop the pain. It made me groggy, tired and didn't take away the pain. I didn't want to be like that. I couldn't be like that and still take care of Alexa. However, I can't have a migraine every day and take care of her either. I've taken Tonopan almost every day since the fourth day. On a lucky day, I will wake up with the headache, it will go away sometime before lunch and not come back until around dinner time. On a very lucky day it holds off until bed time. It always comes back though.

On June 1st I started a low histamine diet to try and figure out what I might be eating that could possibly be triggering my migraines. On June 3rd, I added an iron supplement to that diet. I still have a headache, but I am really, really hoping that it is going to go away soon. I do not want to be dependent on pills again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Pops

I was strolling through the grocery store the other day and saw a bag of large marshmallows on the end cap. Marshmallows are not that easy to find over here, so I immediately tried to think of a good reason to buy them. Then it occurred to me...marshmallows alone are the perfect snack! (Not really, but when you can't get something all of the time, the instant it's available you buy it, sane reason or not.)

When I got home I decided to try my hand at marshmallow pops. I think of them as cake pops for dummies. They were insanely easy to make. It took less than 10 minutes from start to finish. This would be a great cooking activity to do with kids.

Here's the recipe:

1 bag of large marshmallows
Popsicle sticks
1/2-3/4 cup of baking chocolate chopped or chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1-2 Tablespoons white chocolate chopped or white chocolate chips
Crushed nuts or sprinkles to decorate
Baking paper

In a small saucepan bring 1/2 pot of water to boil. Using a metal bowl as a double boiler, be sure that it fits well over the saucepan. Put your chocolate in the metal bowl, be sure no water gets in it. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Take the bowl off the saucepan and stir well. Stick one popsicle stick into every marshmallow. Dip the marshmallows into the melted chocolate. Dip into sprinkles or crushed nuts to decorate. On a baking paper lined cookie sheet, place your marshmallow to dry. It's best to put them in the fridge to dry completely. Enjoy!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Rocks, Stones and Pebbles

Alexa is very into collecting rocks, stones and pebbles every time we go outside. She can become completely and totally immersed in a playground with stones, not realizing that she sitting under the swing set playing with her stones while other kids swing above her, narrowly missing her head at every pass. It's amazing. It is one of the only activities where she can and will sit and totally concentrate for more than 30 seconds.

A few days ago, we took a walk outside when the rain had let up a little. We both needed some fresh air. Being cooped up in the apartment for more than a day will make anyone crazy. I didn't bring a stroller, or her bike. It was just the two of us strolling around the park in our neighborhood. We had time and nowhere to be, so I just let Alexa take the lead.

She strolled around the path for a few minutes, but then something caught her attention. It was a small pile of large rocks that someone had arranged on the grass. She immediately started collecting them. She would bring them to me one by one and then run back for the next rock. I kept strolling around, watching her and waiting to see what her next move would be. After a while, and two handfuls of rocks, I tried to wrangle her toward the playground. I thought this was a smart move, however, I forgot the playground base was all little pebbles.

By the end of our walk we had amassed a great collection of stones. I let her pick five out and we brought them home. When she woke up from her afternoon nap we had a great time painting the rocks. Maybe we'll start a rock garden, it'll certainly be easier to take care of than the herb garden.