Posted in Easter, Sweet Treats, Teacher Life

Is There Life After the Chocolate Bunny??

I’ve made it: Spring Break is approximately 15 hours away. I’m not sure who would win the title of “most excited/off the wall because Spring Break is imminent” between the students and the teachers…but I have a strong suspicion the scales are tipped in the teacher corner. A solid week of alarm-clock-free mornings, laidback sips of coffee while watching the Today Show, reading books for pleasure (though really that will actually be spent writing feedback and comments on countless unit plans for Notre Dame), and of course time to travel and catch up with old friends and family. In fact, I get to meet my new godson!! (Remember that exciting news I wasn’t quite ready to share a few weeks ago?) He is just about 3 weeks old and I’m heading to Virginia this weekend to meet him and to catch up with his mom who was my next-door classroom neighbor/1st grade teacher extraordinaire at my ACE school in DC. Add this to the list of good things I wish I could have promised my “5-Years-Ago Self” would come out of those days in DC 🙂

A friendship that formed in the humble halls of Holy Redeemer DC 🙂

And most of all, Spring Break means one of my favorite weeks of the year is upon us: Holy Week. I wish I could explain it but as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved Holy Week. I remember sitting in my bedroom as a 9-year-old poring over my 365-page “Bible Story A Day”book which I was determined to read in its entirety between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. While most kids seem to dread a string of nights in a row that entail lenghty Church services, I looked forward to the events of Holy Week with the same excitement most kids reserve solely for Christmas. Each Holy Thursday my family processed up the aisle with our contribution to the family bread tradition. I craned my neck to watch in awe as “regular” churchgoers like myself were called forward to have their feet washed (and the year I finally got to be one of those lucky 12…well you can imagine). I even loved the seemingly endless Eucharistic procession and adoration which followed Holy Thursday mass. Granted I think it was moreso because I played the violin and thus was entranced by the gorgeous string quartet which provided the music just that one night each year. I don’t think I yet understood what was even going on with that golden monstrance.

Good Friday was even better. We got to process through the streets of our small town with members of other churches for the Walking Stations of the Cross. Then we’d be back at church again that night for Lenten supper, one last traditional Stations of the year, and then my favorite activity: transforming the church sanctuary for Easter Sunday. Lily after lily after lily on an assembly line of helping hands. I loved it all. Yes, Triduum always was, and still remains, one of my favorite seasons of the liturgical year. In fact, I enthusiastically professed this fact during my first year in ACE as I scampered out the door with the Saint in a Bow Tie to attend mass at Georgetown…and it was at that moment when several members of our community (and their parents) decided I must be bound for the convent. Needless to say, most people don’t seem to share the enthusiasm I have for Holy Week and the various remembrances therein.

Of course, most people do share that same enthusiasm for Easter Sunday. Though I’d say this enthusiasm tends to be more fueled by visions of bunnies, baskets, and an endless supply of jelly beans than Christ’s triumph over the grave. Baby steps. There is one thing I always looked MOST forward to about Easter: my peanut butter egg. (I know, you thought it was going to be something church-related didn’t you?? See, I really was a typical kid too) It’s the one treat which never grew old, and even up until last year I loved. I even worked in the most amazing chocolate store (Gertrude Hawk Chocolates….I promise you if you haven’t had a Smidgen, you just haven’t lived!) for a total of 6 years during high school and college vacations which meant I had my fair share of delectable chocolate treats. No, nothing says Easter to me like a giant peanut butter egg on Easter Sunday followed by days and days of 50% off leftover eggs of the strawberry cream and caramel variety (there were never PB left on the shelves by Easter Sunday).

Until this year that is. It’s my first official dairy-free Easter. (Though considering last Easter was spent in Urgent Care, I’d say that was my first unofficial dairy-free one). To be honest I haven’t given much thought to the candy side of the holy day this year. One wistful encounter with the jelly bean aisle soon after Valentine’s Day has had me purposely steering clear of the Easter candy shelves for the past month. But then tonight I found myself at Target and it was unavoidable. It’s like Easter is cramming every nook and cranny of that place. As I sadly walked past Cadbury mini eggs and pastel PB M&Ms, I had one of those moments I’ve warned you allergy friends about: I started to feel those “Why is this my reality?” thoughts creeping into my mind; I gazed at the people piling bag after bag of candy into their carts wondering how is it that everyone else in the aisle can safely consume such treats without a trip to the couch or the ER; I felt sadness coming on. So what did I do? I marched myself to the baking aisle, grabbed a bag of Enjoy Life “Katie-safe” chocolate chips ($5.49 a bag, really Target??), and headed home to address this issue head-on. And I’m proud to say here is what ensued:

That’s right. Gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free PB eggs. They’re delicious AND what’s best? I can pronounce every ingredient in them…and none of them end with the words “dye #4”. Here are the beyond simple steps to make some delicious eggs (allergenic or non) for your own Easter baskets by next weekend! Also, if your kids do have allergies, here is a great link to find safe candy.

Katie-Safe PB Eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1.5 cups powdered sugar*
1/6 cup melted Earth Balance spread (I used coconut)
2 Tbsp. vanilla almond milk

1 cup Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips (dairy AND soy-free)
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance spread 
*NOTE: Conventional powdered sugar is NOT corn-free. Cornstarch is usually the anti-caking agent used. Unless you bought powdered sugar labeled as corn-free, you will need to make your own. Just substitute tapioca starch for the cornstarch!*

1. Combine the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and melted Earth Balance. Mix as well as you can before slowly adding the almond milk. The batter will become stiff.
2. Form the batter into small egg-shaped balls and set on wax paper.
3. Freeze the PB balls for an hour.
4. An hour later, melt the chocolate chips and Earth Balance in the microwave (I used 15 and 30-sec. intervals and it took 1 min. 45 sec.)
5. Dip the chilled PB balls into the melted chocolate and return to the wax paper to dry.
6. Cry tears of joy. It’s really that simple 🙂


Now I know I usually wrap up with some kind of witty comment or heartfelt reflection…but tonight you’ll have to excuse me. There is a PB egg calling my name from the kitchen.
Happy Almost Easter!! 

Posted in Teacher Life, Thanksgiving

Gobble, Gobble…

Yes, I’m aware: wrong national holiday. You may remember back before Thanksgiving I was working hard to reach the magic total at the grocery store to earn my free turkey. Well thanks to my overstuffed freezer and the bottomless stomachs of the Youth Group kids, I managed to reach the threshold and took home my free bird. It has been taking up residence in my freezer since late November and then in my “prepare for a power outage” purge last week, I took it out…and then realized it needed to defrost, so it would probably thaw out around the same time the sidewalk does. The best laid plans…

Today I woke up and realized I’d better cook it today or it would end up in the “Katie left it in the fridge too long and it spoiled” column on my budget spreadsheet. What a damper that would put on my free turkey campaign. Now I’ve never cooked a turkey, allergen-filled or not, so I was expecting this to be an adventure. I read a few recipes and decided to create a concoction of my own that combined several non-allergenic ingredients from various recipes. As I worked away writing trimester exams and my math curriculum map, the house started to smell like Thanksgiving.

                    
                               Gluten-free!

Katie-Safe Turkey
turkey! 
a few scoops of coconut spread
1 lemon
1 head of garlic
1 Tbsp. thyme
bunch of fresh cilantro
salt
pepper

  1. Take the turkey out of the package, remove gizzard bag, and clean out inside and outside turkey.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Melt a few scoops of coconut spread in the frying pan, add thyme, lemon zest and juice from half of the lemon and stir over heat for about 2 minutes.
  4. Salt and pepper the inside cavity of the turkey. Stuff with the other half of the lemon, a bunch of cilantro, a head of garlic (halved), and a dash of thyme.
  5. Pour the lemony “butter” mixture over the outside of the turkey. Add some salt and pepper to the outside too. (Use your discretion for how much!)
  6. Place inside a turkey roasting bag and place it in the preheated oven for 2.5 hours (or so depending on the size of your turkey!)
The finished product 🙂

So tonight, for Presidents’ Day dinner, I saw down to a plate of delicious turkey. Of course there was broccoli too to balance it out. Not quite the same as a Thanksgiving feast…but still had the same sentiment as I realized just how much I have to be thankful for this weekend. Unexpected blessings: an unforeseen 5-day “snow”-cation (which I should note is exactly the same length as actual Thanksgiving break), a night on retreat with some pretty inspiring students, time spent with an old co-worker and her amazing friends and family as we celebrated the impending birth of her first child, word of an upcoming visit from another dear friend, a piece of exciting news I’ll save for a later date, a rerun of the “How I Met Your Mother” proposal episode… Yes, I must say despite the endless piles of snow outside and the ice patches which make walking a treacherous task, life is pretty good. In fact, I’m even grateful for the arduous task of writing my trimester exams because though it seems like with snow days and holidays, I couldn’t possibly have taught anything to these children, when I sat down and tried to address all the skills covered in one test, I was surprised by just how much we’ve managed to cover.

This is what a teacher’s “day off” looks like…

Now as President’s Day comes to a close, I’m packing away my excess turkey. If you live in the Baltimore area and find yourself in need of turkey in any form, you know who to call. You will have to provide your own gravy though…that’s out of my realm of safety. In the meantime, I’ll be eating turkey lettuce wraps, turkey sandwiches, turkey salads, etc…and probably sleeping a lot more if the tryptophan rumors turn out to be true.

Happy Thankful Presidents’ Day…and Gobble, Gobble 🙂