Monday, September 28, 2009

Oops, I did it again! Oven Cured Tomatoes

I have a confession. Again. Oh yes, my peeps, we’ve been down this road before. Here goes ...

(Insert a deep breathe here) I made an entire oven tray’s worth of Oven Cured Tomatoes and I .... I ... ate them. Right. Off. The. Tray. I've done this before. Oh super, I'm a serial cured tomato stealer.

Why do I do this? Why? I’m a responsible person. I strive for good manners, healthy living, exercising good judgement, etc. So what is it about these blasted oven cured tomatoes that causes me to completely loose control.

Well, *sigh*, it’s simple. They are heavenly. Way, way, WAY better than store bought sun dried tomatoes. Someday, I vow, in my lifetime, I will make these and not devour them straight from the oven.

For those of you who have mastered your self control far better than I, let me assure you that these are super easy to make. One caution, though. They take hours to cure. Some folks like to put them in the oven before going to bed at night, but I’m not fly with the idea of having something cooking, albeit at a low temp, in the oven whilst I sleep. I just pop them in the oven first thing in the morning, and let them do their thing for about 7 hours.

Ideally, these should be made with roma tomatoes. Romas are a meaty variety, and dehydrate to a lovely, chewy, tangy texture. Today, I wanted to use up the last of my tomato garden bounty which was just regular ole toms.I sliced them up into medium thin wedges, slathered them with high quality extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled them with sea salt, onion powder, garlic salt, and black pepper. I don’t add herbs to mine so that I can use them in various recipes. Use them, that is, if they could ever make it to the storage jar.Spread the oiled up ruby gems on a rimmed baking sheet and pop them into a preheated 400 degree oven. Immediately, turn the oven down to 200 degrees and leave them alone for 6-8 hours. Today’s batch took 7 hours.

One side note, let’s say you want to make these but about half way through the curing process, your aunt mabel calls to remind you that you promised to bring her dinner tonight. No worries. Just pull these babies out of the oven, combine with some pasta and herbs, top with grated cheese and you're good to go.Here’s what they look like at the half way mark. Lovely. Come to mama. Even half way done, they would make an awesome, awesome roasted tomato sauce.

That said, if aunt mabel does not call, let them cure the full amount and you will have the most delectable, addictive cured tomatoes ever. EVER. Oh, and obviously, these are gluten free.Just look at this perfection. Here, here ... just try one. You’ll be hooked. Forever. I wonder if this was how it was for Adam with Eve in the Garden. Perhaps it wasn't an apple afterall ... perhaps it was a cured tomato. They are both red, you know. And lots of stuff gets lost in translation. *sigh* I'm in big trouble now.

On a different and less blasphemous note, here are some pics of my boy. He has no trouble refraining from eating the oven cured toms. In fact, he won’t touch them. He grew this big on meat and potatoes, baby. And corn. The boy loves his corn.

Anyway ... my young fella played in a soccer tournament this past weekend. It was a soccer extravaganza on Saturday and Sunday. Our weather was gorgeous both days; in fact, we are all a little sun kissed after being out and about at the games.Can you see the outline of magnificent Mt. Hood in the background? I just had to throw in this shot so you all could take in the spendor of mother nature's Mt. Hood and the adorableness of my mountain of a boy. It seems really strange to not see snow on the mountain. Every summer, there is less and less. However, the rainy season is supposed to return this week which means rain here in the valley and snow up at the mountain. With luck, this time next week, Mt. Hood will be covered with snow.Whew, it was hot that afternoon. Lordy, when did this kid grow up? Isn’t he my little fella that used to fall asleep on my shoulder? Those days are long gone, but fresh in my memory. This is game 2 on Saturday. A real nail biter, it ended in a tie. By the way, Saturday marked my 47th birthday! Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cookie Review: Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookie Mix

Do you cook everything from scratch? Everything? I actually consider myself to be somewhat of a “cooking from scratch” type of cook. There are times when I will, of course, take full advantage of short cuts, namely using canned goods like chicken stock and dried pasta, but for the most part -- say 93.86% -- I will cook from scratch.

Baking, however, is a different story. While I know how to whip up a cake from scratch, I happen to be quite satisfied with Ms. Betty Crocker or Mr. Duncan Hines. Cookies, though, have ALWAYS been made from scratch. Always. Always. Always.

Always, that is until the past year. As you are all aware by now, the littlest member of the gouda family follows a, say it with me, gluten free diet. Whipping up a scratch batch of chocolate chip cookies is a thing of the past for us. For those not familiar with non-wheat flours, you can’t substitute just any old gluten free flour for wheat flour. Even the gluten free all-purpose flour doesn’t perform the same as regular old flour.

This presents challenges, then, when making chocolate chip cookies. I like to send a homemade treat in with my girls’ lunches, and so we’ve been experimenting with different cookie mixes. Our favorite so far is Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookie Mix.This cookie mix runs around $5-6/bag and can be found at most grocery stores around here. It’s a complete mix needing only ½ cup of room temp butter, 1 egg, and 2 T of water. One bag makes 24 cookies, which works out great for a week’s worth of lunch treats.Look at the ingredients. While there is nothing overprocessed here, you will see something surprising. Do you see it? The main “flour” is garbanzo bean flour! Indeedlydo, this raw dough definitely has a “beany” and vanilla-y odor. Not bad, mind you, just not, shall we say, traditional. Thankfully, the baked product does NOT taste beany at all.

Cooking with “alternative” flours is very different from traditional wheat flour. Even after combining with the butter, egg, and water, the cookie mix remains very crumbly.See what I mean? To form the cookies, all you have to do is squeeze the dough together into a ball.Despite starting off crumbly, once in a ball shape, it holds together perfectly. It does spread out while baking, and doesn’t fall apart afterward.

In fact, the texture is quite good. Don’t they kind of look like oatmeal cookies? No oatmeal here, though.They spread and bake to a wonderful thickness. Not too thick, not too thin. Crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, these baked goodies have a nice balance of vanilla and butter flavor.The bottoms turn a lovely golden brown, too. While I could definitely taste chocolate, it would benefit from a few more chips in the mix.

The best thing – my daughter likes them. In fact the entire family likes them. I have to label these “FOR SCHOOL LUNCHES ONLY” because they disappear so quickly.

So, for those of you following a gluten free diet, or for those of you wanting to move away from processed wheat flour, I’d rank these cookies a 4 out of 5.

Our next g/f cookie mix to try is called Pamela’s. I’ve heard good things about her cake mix, so we’ll see how the cookie mix is. I'd love, truly and sincerely, to hear about any cookies that you make that do not contain traditional flour. Send them my way!What do you think? Would you eat this cookie? Come on over, I’ll pour the milk.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Butt Ugly 13 Bean Soup – It’s Yummy!

Yep, you read that title correctly. Based on the title alone, I bet you just want to dig in and eat this don't you? There’s no getting around the fact that this soup will not win any beauty contests. It will, however, sweep yummy bowl awards for terrific taste. It’s gluten free, too.

A few weeks ago, while visiting Bob’s Red Mill store, I was seduced ... yes SEDUCED by all the lovely bags of beans they offered for sale.This particular bag caught my eye. Have you ever bought a bag of multi-type beans before? When I saw this, I thought it might be a great $ saver because I wouldn’t have to purchase larger quantities of individual bean bags. All that was in the bag was legumes ... no spice packet, no dehydrated this or that, no additives of any kind. While I liked that it was simply legumes, my little voice urged me to proceed with caution. I ignored my little voice. Bad, Paula. Bad, bad, bad. What can I say, I’m weak.But how could I resist them? Just look at them! As you can see, they look terrific. They looked great in the bag, but even better on my tray. Despite purchasing them from a quality company, I still manually looked over the beans just in case a pebble or two snuck into the bag during processing. No rocks in this batch. After sorting, I rinsed them thoroughly, and let them sit soak in water overnight.See the difference in size after soaking? These can’t be eaten yet though. They still require cooking.

While I really loved the concept of having multiple beans in a one-stop-shop-bag, my excitement faded once the cooking process began. First of all, since these legume babies are all different shapes and sizes, they cook at different rates. DUH! I knew it, I knew it, but I didn’t pay attention to my little voice. Get’s me in trouble EVERY time.

What happened next is simply chemistry. The beans cooked at different rates. The lentils, for example, completely disintegrated by the time the kidney beans were done. But all was not lost, the flavor is wonderful. I mean really, really good. It just looks butt ugly.In fact, when I went to take the photos, I placed a rosemary sprig on top for garnish first. My daughter told me to give it up, there was nothing I could do to make the soup look better. Little stinker. Of course, she was shoveling soup in her mouth at the time, and then requested seconds, so I choose to overlook her critique. I’ll spare you her descriptive word interpretation of the color of this soup. Of course, if you care to guess her choice of vocabulary, I won’t stop you. Hint: It also begins with a ‘b’.13 Bean Soup

2 cups dried beans, picked over, rinsed, soaked overnight, then rinsed and drained (you’ll end up with a ton of beans – don’t be fooled, most of them melt away into the broth)
3 T olive oil
1 lb smoked sauced – diced
4 carrots - diced
1 onion – diced
2 garlic cloves – minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
2 T dried parsley
1 fresh sprig rosemary
2 large sage leaves
1 can chicken broth
8 cups water
½ teaspoon black pepper
hearty shake red pepper
seasoned salt

In a large stock pot, heat the oil over med high heat. Add the sausage and sauté until browned. Add the carrots and onions, stirring up any browned bits in the pan, and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, taking care not to burn it. Add the broth, water, thyme, ginger, parsley, rosemary, sage, black pepper, and red pepper. Cook for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until beans are tender. Season with seasoned salt and salt. Remove rosemary stem (the leaves will have come off) and the sage leaves. Serve hot. This is a hearty soup great for Fall weather (Of course, it's 96 here today. Hello? Why is Summer landing on the first day of Fall?)

Despite all the asthetic strikes against it, it really is absolutely delicious. Are there any foods you eat that look awful but taste great? Let’s hear about them!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beef Vegetable Soup and Pasta (It’s gluten free, too!)

Mmm ... soup. Now that the crisp morning air is kissing our noses, it’s time to transition to “warm me up” foods. In the Gouda household, that means soup time! Mmm, mmm, mmm. Soupy, soupy, soupy! I love the stuff and at the risk of sounding morbid, am pretty confident that Soup Maker could serve as my epitaph. I make a lot of soup. A lotta soup a lot.

For those of us navigating our way through the new world of eating gluten free, we find ourselves revamping tried and true recipes. Now you gluten eaters stay with me, cuz this is really good. Take today’s recipe, for example. Beef vegetable soup over pasta. In our gluten eating days, I would have floured the beef, browned it, etc. as part of the recipe.Now a days, I skip the flouring part and stick with direct, clean flavors. I’m really, really pleased with the end result. Even more so, so is my souper girl who can’t eat wheat. When I made this yesterday, I was after a beefy flavored soup that would be complimented with yet not usurped by vegetables. You’ll not see either peas or green beans in this version. While I LOVE those Kermit colored veggies in my soup, their flavors are more prominent than what I shooting for. I also used V8 juice instead of tomatoes because my littlest doesn’t really enjoy bits of tomato in her soup. Silly girl. I ended up topping my portion with a lovely roasted tomato relish I made a couple days ago. No photo, though, sorry. Next, my older kids were clamoring for pasta, specifically the rice pasta that we enjoy around here. So, I decided to combine the two. Voila ... successful flavor marriage.Let’s make some soup, shall we!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 lbs of beef, cubed (I made mine smallish, around ½ to ¾”)
1 onion, diced medium
4 long carrots, sliced ¼ in rounds
1 clove garlic minced
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
1 cans beef broth (I used Swanson’s)
2 cans chicken broth (I used Swanson’s)
2/3 cup V8 juice
1 additional can of beef broth
3 cups of diced potatoes (from my garden garbage-can-potatoes!)
1/2 cup corn
Seasoned salt
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
Cooked shaped pasta, buttered and splashed with a little olive oil – I used gluten free rice pasta - fusilli shapeHeat a large stock pot over medium high heat, and add the oil. Immediately add the beef cubes taking care not to crowd them. Season the beef with seasoned salt and pepper, and saute the beef for a few minutes making sure to brown on all sides. Add the onion, stir to scrape up any fond on the bottom, and sauté for about a minute. Add the carrot and sauté for another minute or two. Stir in the garlic, then the celery. You should be able to smell the garlic right away. Add the 1 can of beef broth, 2 cans of chicken broth, and V8 juice. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 2 hours. After 2 hours, add another can of broth and bring back to a boil. Add the potatoes, corn, and seasonings, and cook for another ½ hour.
Place cooked pasta in a large soup bowl. Spoon soup on top. Make yummy noises.

What foods are you making now that Fall is in the air?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keep It Organized - Egg Muffin Sandwiches

Care to gander a guess what I did the other day? Huh, huh? Anyone, anyone? All in the name of organization, I decided to sort out my backlog email messages, both the read and unread varieties. Of course, I was multitasking at the time (that’s your first foreshadowing clue) in the hopes of barreling through my to-do list. In my divided-attention haste, I ended up deleting the entire que of messages. Every. Message. The read ones. The un-read ones. From family. From school. With pictures. With due dates. UGH! The sad thing is that the computer even asked me to verify that I did, in fact, want to do such an idiotic procedure, and I blindly clicked yes. As soon my finger released off the key, I realized what I had done. Guess I get the village idiot award.To make matters worse, when I turned on the “main” computer that houses my actual email account, it wouldn’t work. My son ever so casually mentioned that he saw light wafts of smoke coming out of it. G.R.R.R.E.A.T. Do I live in a cartoon, now? Is Wiley Coyote going to pop up with his Acme kit?

On the bright side, I’m able to access my incoming messages, so I’ve not gone completely mad. I can even send messages, but I don’t have the addresses because my address book is in the computer doing its toaster imitation. Can you feel my pain? Hubbyman, being the computer genius that he is, said that he might be able to salvage the hard drive and retrieve my info, but won’t be able to get to it until this weekend. My cup of joy overfloweth.

Whenever I get hammered like this, it’s usually because I’m not following my own advice of how to tackle a to-do list. The law of attraction definitely plays prominent in my life. Anyway, if I slow down just a bit and use the organizational skills lurking in the deep recesses of my brain cells, all tends to go well. Time to think positive. Forge ahead. Look for the good. Yeah, I'm sappy that way.

Take, for example, planning breakfasts. My morning routine is greatly smoothed out by just a little forethought. I like to give my girls a hot breakfast before shipping them off to school. Being that I also prepare hot lunches for them to take as well, the stove and microwave are at full throttle at 6:30 am. Now, now ... don’t judge me. I’m well aware that my kids are capable of pulling together nourishment to feed their sleepy faces, but geez, I like cooking, like providing for them, my youngest has gluten issues, and I’m making breakfast anyway. Plus, the little most-of-the-time darlings always say, “thanks, mom” both before and after they eat. I know it sounds hokey, but my grandma and mom took such pride in feeding the family, that I feel like I’m honoring their memory by doing this, too. Plus, I prefer our mornings to be calm. Well, relatively calm anyway, and me at the kitchen wheel tends to be the path with least resistance.

Anyway, my oldest daughter discovered that she, too, likes eggs for breakfast. In the past, she's tended to be a sleepy eater. Therefore, I like to have her breakfast ready super quick. To help facilitate that, I tend to cook up a bunch of hash browns or sausage patties on Sunday, and then reheat them during the week. Eggs are made fresh. My gal usually prefers her food to not touch; however, lately she’s been trying nibbles of mingled food. An example of this is her beloved breakfast sandwich, my homemade version of a McMuffin.On Sunday, I fry up a pounds worth of sausage patties. I like to use ground Italian sausage, as it has such great flavor. Of course, regular breakfast style sausage is great too.Once they are cool, I place all of them in a Ziploc bag, and into the fridge they go. To reheat, simply remove a patty, sprinkle a little water on it (I just place it under the faucet for a millionth of a second), and then heat on high for 30 seconds. Done! Great sausage for breakfast in 30 seconds instead of 20 minutes.

To make my daughter’s favorite breakfast Sammie, start off by slicing some super thin slices of cheese (I also slice these up in batches, too). Over medium/low heat, fry up an egg (or scramble it) taking care to cook the yolk all the way through ... you don’t want to drip yoke on your school uniform. When the egg is almost done, split and toast an English muffin.

Assembly time!Place half of the toasted English muffin on a plate, cut side up.Top with yummy cheese, then savory sausage that you've reheated,Next comes the egg,and top with the other half of the muffin. Now here’s the tip for the day: squash the sandwich.Yep, just put your weight into it and press down. I put a papertowel on it first. Consider it your morning exercise routine. For you see, if you don’t squish it, the sandwich will, in fact, fall apart. However, once squished, all the ingredients adhere to themselves.How's this for keepin' it organized? This entire meal, with some prep work namely the sausage preparation, took under 5 minutes. Clean up is a snap! (envision me snapping my fingers.) Way better, cheaper, and more convenient than its drive through counterpart, these sandwiches are actually quite delish. You can use whatever cheese you like. I used co-jack here, but cheddar and munster have also graced our plates with much success. I like to put sliced tomato or roasted red peppers on mine, but there’s no way my girl will entertain that ... at least not yet.

Oh, and for you gluten free eaters, you can easily create this using those gluten free “cream biscuits” that Whole Foods sells (or make your biscuits using g/f mix). One word of caution, make sure that the sausage you buy is gluten free ... you’d be surprised at how many brands actually put wheat in their sausage. When in doubt, simply substitute a slice of baked ham, Canadian bacon, or bacon!

So ... how do you keep your weekday morning breakfast routine organized?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Garden Tuesday – 09/15/09 The Wind Down

Happy Garden Tuesday! Well, the bulk of sunny summer days are behind me now, and the garden is showing signs, uh make that "shouting out" signs, of winding down. There are a few stragglers though, and I’m happy as a clam for them. Happy as a clam? Where did that phrase come from? Did someone actually talk to said clams to determine their emotional status?Speaking of emotional status, I’m walking on air at the sight of these babies. The tomatoes just keep on coming and to my delight still have wonderful flavor. While I totally miss being able to go pick lettuce for my lunchtime sammie, I’m still able to grab a garden fresh tomato to adorn whatever is inbetween the bread slices. I’m going to make a roasted cherry tomato sauce today in an attempt to make a dent in this abundant cherry tomato harvest. Who knew that one cherry tomato plant would kick out so much fruit!While my basil and oregano are toast at this point, in fact I ripped them out this past weekend, some of the herbs like sage, rosemary, and parsley are growing like gang busters. What an expression ... gang busters. I don’t think I want to know the origins of that little phrase.Downey mildew or powdery mildew, I don’t know which is which as I'm not up to speed on various species of mildew, destroyed my fully loaded zucchini plants. I was not a happy girl.This didn’t float my boat.And now, drum roll please, the moment you’ve all been waiting for ... I harvested the garbage can potatoes. The verdict on this growing method? Lots of SMALL potatoes. The potatoes themselves look and taste great. As you can see, not one is tarnished in any way. Not one. No disease, no distress, no problems at all. I was a bit bummed at the diminutive size of these famine fighters, and my best guess is that although the plants kick out lots and lots of tots, the weight of the dirt in the deep cans prevents the taters from getting large. Despite not tamping the dirt down, you’d be surprised at how the dirt packs down tight in the cans. I didn’t count the potatoes, but I figure I got about 5 generous meals worth out of each can. The best part about this was getting the kids involved. So, if you want lots of little potatoes ... use the can. If you want fewer large ones, stick to the garden.All these tomato pictures are of three different bowls of the red harvest. I tell ya, I got these red orbs everywhere. What’s going on in your gardens? Are you winding down for Fall? I didn’t grow any pumpkins, but would love to hear if any of you have! Tune in next time for Fall garden transitioning time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Muffin Me Up! Almond Tres Leches Muffins

Don’t faint, now. I really do bake sometimes. I’m not a baker, per se. Unlike cooking, I’ve never really felt drawn to baking. Oh, I can do it; I just rarely do. Whenever I do don my baker’s hat, I’m usually pleased with the results. Take today’s muffin for example.

I recently stayed at a resort that offered a breakfast buffet. In addition to the homemade potatoes, scrambled eggs, made-to-order omelets, thick crisp bacon, glorious belgain waffles, etc., they also had a large baked goods table.

It was a tiered set up with various kinds of baked goodies. I passed by on the first morning, as I’m not only not a baker, I’m not much of a sweet eater either. The second morning, as I passed by the baked set up, I caught a glimpse of a lovely almondy-blonde looking muffin. I swear that thing all but sprouted arms and waved and uttered, “Psssst, lady, try me!”Since I’m a fan of Marjie’s blog, and she always has baked goodies including a recent post on almond pound cake, I thought maybe I should give this little baked gem a try. Well, well, well. Let me just say that I think I now know what all the fuss is about! The little muffin was delightful! Very moist, almost creamy if that’s possible, with a full almond flavor that I just love. It reminded me of a moist pudding pound cake, and I think my eyes might have rolled back in blissful maneuver a couple times while I devoured, I mean nibbled, on the pint sized creature.

After we got home, I decided to try to recreate the muffin masterpiece. But where to begin? I don’t know enough about baking to pinpoint its ingredients. All I knew was that it was almond flavored, very moist, and 100% good.I searched the internet, found this recipe, and got out my mixing bowl. Alas, it’s not the recipe of the muffin I had on vacation. On the bright side, though, it’s very good and easy to make. Plus, last night I was up late and had on Alton Brown’s Good Eats. His show was on successful muffin making techniques. Fate was on my side!

Without futher ado, and with complements to, here’s Almond Tres Leches Muffins.

½ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour (sorry, this is not gluten free)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (from a 14 oz can)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup milk
½ cup slivered almonds (I omitted as I didn't want almonds IN the muffin)
¼ cup sliced almonds to go on top (I used less)
¼ cup additional sweetened condensed milk

Serves 12

Preheat oven to 390F (yep that’s 390 – see note below). Grease 12 regular size muffin cups with shortening or line with paper cups. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Beat in almond extract and eggs. With wooden spoon, stir in flour, baking power, 1/3 cup condensed milk, whipping cream, milk, and ½ cup of the almonds just until combined (about 14 strokes – don’t over mix leave it lumpy).Divide batter evenly among muffin cups about ¾ full. Sprinkle ¼ cup sliced almonds evenly over batter. Put in oven, and turn up the heat to the full 400F degrees. Bake 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 10 minutes, and drizzle each with 1 tsp of the additional condensed milk. Serve warm. Make yummy noises.

NOTE: Alton Brown suggests preheating your oven just slightly below the desired temperature. Then, when you place the muffins in the oven, crank up the heat to the full desired temperature. His reasoning is that ovens cycle on and off, and if you put your muffins in during the off cycle, your muffins won’t rise properly. By turning up the temperature when you place the muffins in the oven, you guarantee that you are hitting the “on” cycle, and it takes very little time to heat up. Alton has spoken. All I know is that the muffins turned out beautifully. If your muffin method works for you, then I wouldn’t change anything. But if you’ve had problems with flat or spreading muffin tops, give this method a whirl.
These are really good. To be honest, I like the other ones that I had at the resort much better, but these come in a solid second place. They are easy to make, look gorgeous, and taste good. Mr. It’s All Gouda was pleased.Do you have a favorite muffin? What about muffin technique? Paper muffin cups or sans cups? Oh, and do you have any ideas what the name of the muffin I’m after is called? Remember ... it’s almondy, extremely moist like a pound cake, and blonde. I really can’t call the resort to inquire for the recipe because they had like millions of different kinds of muffins ... there’s no way I could decode it enough to figure it out. Man, I wish I really DID know the muffin man!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fearlessly Fourteen Birthday Twins

It completely blows my mind that I became a mother FOURTEEN years ago tonight! On September 7, 1995 at 8:21 pm and then again at 8:22 pm, my life forever changed for the better. Want to hear something twilight-zone-ish? Their original due date was MY birthday, but these two decided to fearlessly join the earth's population three weeks early.

Man, I love these kids. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with them, I was completely, hopelessly, and forever smitten. Even now, with their teenage bizarro-ness coupled with the fact that from a vertical standpoint, my daughter now sees eye to eye with me, and my son passed me in height inches and inches ago, they will forever and always be my babies!Check out how the boy towers over his twin ... uh that would be the one on the far right, not the one in the middle. That’s no optical illusion. Check out the size of his mitts compared to his littlest sister’s. Don't you just love how my oldest girls eyes form that lovely crescent-moon shape when she smiles? Her eyelashes are about a mile long!

Happy 14th Birthday! May this year bring you endless joy and wonderful memories! Love ya, Mom