Apple Crumble-Pie {vegan, gluten free, and soy free!}

These little pies are completely drool-worthy! They were consumed in quantity over the Thanksgiving weekend, and will definitely be making their way into our dessert rotation. They're quite tasty on their own, but they move to a whole other level when topped with freshly made caramel sauce.*

I like pie crust but I don't need a ton of it, and my hubby is the type to eat the filling and leave an empty shell on his plate. The little star-shaped crust on top was just enough for both of us. It mingles with the crumble topping just enough.

And the portion, when baked in cute little half-pint mason jars? Perfect! We all felt satisfied after a single serving, without the feeling that comes with having taken too much pie.

Ready to make some of your own? Let's do it!

You'll Need:
For the Filling
Apples {I used Pink Lady's, and cut up twelve apples for twelve jars}
1/2 C. Sugar
2 Tbsp. Cinnamon {or more--it can't hurt}
2 Tbsp. Corn Starch

For the Pie Crust
1 C. Gluten Free AP Flour Blend
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1 Tbsp. Sugar
1/4 C. Coconut Oil
1/4 C. Cold Water
2 tsp. Cider Vinegar

For the Crumble
2/3 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Earth Balance
1/2 C. Gluten Free AP Flour Blend
1/2 C. Gluten Free Rolled Oats
Sprinkle of Baking Powder

To Make:
For the Filling
Wash and peel your apples, and the slice into very thin slices, so they bake quickly. I estimated one medium-to-large apple per jar, and I was right! We had a few slices to spare, which my little guy consumed while he was "helping" me fill the jars.
Place the apples into a large mixing bowl, or use a large zip-top bag.
Mix the sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch in a small bowl, and then pour over the top of the apples.
Stir to coat the apples, or close your zip-top bag and give the apples a good shake to coat.
Pack the apples into clean, dry half-pint mason jars. I spread my jars in front of me and worked with several jars at a time, placing apples as they fit, sometimes breaking a slice in half to fill a gap. I wanted to pack the apples in snugly, so that the pies wouldn't shrink too much once they had been baked. It may seem tedious, but it really isn't.

For the Pie Crust
Combine flour, xanthan gum, and sugar in a small mixing bowl.
Heat coconut oil a bit so you have a liquid, then add it to the flour mixture and stir.
Add cold water and vinegar, and stir or knead to thoroughly mix.
If you dough seems gummy or soupy, add a bit more flour, working in small increments to avoid making the dough too dry. I added a couple of extra teaspoons of flour to my batch.
When you're satisfied with the consistency of your dough, sandwich it between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper, and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut the shape you'd like to place on the top of your pies.
Place a cut-out on each pie. {If the dough is hard to work with at this point, place it in the fridge for several minutes to cool. Cooler dough retains its shape more easily, and won't stick to your fingers.}

For the Crumble
Combine brown sugar, earth balance, flour, oats, and baking powder in a small bowl.
Mix thoroughly with your hands, or with a potato masher. You can also use a hand mixer, though I've never gotten mine out for the purpose.
Dig your hands in and pack little bits of the crumble topping around the cut-out pie crust so that you've completely covered the top of each pie.

Arrange the jars on a baking sheet to more easily get them in and out of the oven, and then bake at 350 degrees until the filling bubbles and the crusts have a nice, golden color. Roughly 15-20 minutes, perhaps longer.

*Homemade caramel sauce recipe coming soon!

Shared on... Allergy Free Wednesdays

Green Bean Bundles {gluten, dairy, and soy free}

These little bundles of happiness have been a part of my life for years and years. You see, we spent a year living in Tennessee. We experienced a lot of fascinating stuff while we were there, and we made friends with some pretty memorable people. Among those friends? Allison.

Why am I telling you this?? Because Allison first shared this recipe with us when we were invited to celebrate Thanksgiving in her cute little log cabin. I'm pretty sure we've made these at least once a year since. I'm also pretty sure I do things a bit differently than Allison did on that day, because, well, it was a long time ago.

If you even sort of like green beans or bacon, you need to try this recipe. It's life-altering. It will make you regret all of those mushy green bean casseroles you've served over the years.

Change the quantities based on the number of people you're serving, but whatever you do, don't underestimate. Make a lot! My measurements, below, were enough to fill a 9x13 baking dish with bundles.

You'll Need:
Green Beans {we use four cans of whole beans}
Bacon {I used two packages of the uncured variety}
1 C. Earth Balance Spread {use butter if you aren't dairy free}
2 C. Brown Sugar
1 oz. Amaretto {completely optional! I didn't use any this year}
Garlic Powder {just a hearty sprinkle, or more if you really love garlic}

To Make:
Soft-cook the bacon. I did this by lining baking sheets with parchment paper and baking the bacon for a few minutes at 350 degrees, while it preheated in preparation for our Thanksgiving turkey.
Drain the beans into a large collander and set aside.
After the bacon has cooled enough to work with, cut each strip in half so that you're left with two short strips of bacon.
To make a bundle, arrange several beans in your hand so they make a tidy little "stack," and then wrap the bacon around the center {as pictured above} of the beans. Secure with a toothpick, and place in your baking dish.
Continue wrapping beans in bacon until you've used up your supplies. Don't be afraid to squish the bundles in a bit, as they'll shrink some while they're in the oven. Making neat rows will also help you to fit more in. {I believe I wound up with 32 bundles in my 9x13 dish.}
Place the bacon-wrapped beans in the oven at 350 degrees for a while*, so the bacon continues to cook.
Make your sauce on the stove top. Add the Earth Balance, brown sugar, and garlic powder to a small sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat, until the brown sugar has dissolved completely. If the sauce comes to a boil, don't worry. That's just fine.
When the brown sugar is melted and thoroughly combined, remove the pan from the heat {that's an important one! never add alcohol to a pot that is being heated!} and add the amaretto. Give it a stir to mix.
Pull the beans out of the oven, pour the sauce over the top, and return to the oven.
Let the beans cook a bit longer {20 minutes or so, but a longer amount of time is just fine too*}, and then enjoy!

The beans and bacon, ready for their first round in the oven.

*I've found baking time to be REALLY unimportant with this recipe. I had between four and five baking dishes cycling through my oven at a time on Thanksgiving, as I usually do, and just stashed these in the oven and forgot about them--with the oven set at 325 degrees. I do this every year, and they're always perfect! So don't panic. Just put them in, and let 'em hang out.

Shared on... Allergy Free Wednesdays

Woodland-Inspired Christmas Stars

I absolutely love the way these star ornaments turned out. They're a bit whimsical, but still so nature-inspired, and their puffiness makes me smile. They're quite simple to put together, too!

Here are the supplies I used. The moss is from Hobby Lobby, the star is from Michael's, and the twine is from the hardware store.

The monarch butterfly isn't pictured, but is the type found in the floral department--with a wire pick at the back. I removed the wire pick and attached the butterfly with a dab of hot glue.

Begin by wrapping the edge of the paper star with twine. Attach the twine at one star point by gluing it to the side of the star, and then wrapping it up and over the edge. This will hide the tail of the twine and make sure it stays put.

Glue and wrap, glue and wrap, over and over until you've covered the entire edge.

Working with small chunks of moss, apply glue to the edges of the star as pictured above. Press the moss onto the glue, stretching it a bit if you need to cover the entire surface.

Repeat on the other side, so the ornament is finished all the way around. Apply extra moss to fill blank spaces until you're happy with the appearance.

Stop here, if you'd like. Adding the little butterfly is completely optional. 

Shaving Cream Letters {toddler activity, homeschool, creative play}

I can remember this activity from my own kindergarten days! It's simple, really. Grab a can of men's shaving cream next time you're at the grocery store. Nothing fancy, just the cheap stuff in the red and white striped can. Clear your table, roll up your sleeves, and squirt a nice, big pile of the cream onto the table.

If you use your hands to spread the cream around, you have a perfect place for letter and number practice, or for drawing silly faces and favorite shapes. "Erase" the letters or pictures with the swipe of your hand, and you've got a blank slate.

When we were done playing, I used a towel to scoop the cream off the table, and then wiped everything down with a wet cloth. The end result? A clean, sparkling table and some effortless letter practice!

Homeschool: The Letter E {crafts, preschool, toddler activities, elephant, eagle}

I'm running behind!! We've seen a whirlwind of overnight visitors lately, and while I've enjoyed every minute, I have neglected my blog just a bit.

So, without further delay, I bring you... the letter E!

E is for Elephants! {paper plate craft}

These elephants were quite the silly project! I was literally opening the cap on the gray paint when Camden said, "mama, I want PINK elephants!" So, we made pink elephants. We painted three paper plates, set them aside to dry, and then cut out legs, ears, and trunks. Twine with a knot tied in the end made tails, plus a couple of tiny twine bows for the "mommy elephant, and the baby elephant!" Finally, we added a googly eye for each of our friends. {The baby elephant was made by cutting the center circle from the third painted plate.}

E is for Elephant {hand print craft}

This might be my most favorite project to date. I just love that little hand print, and the elephant parts make it even more adorable! We applied paint to Camden's hand, made a print, let it dry, and then cut it out. He helped me paste it to the red paper, and then I went to work with a thin black marker. I added leg detail, trunk detail, an ear, an eye, and a tail. Camden wrote the word elephant at the top by tracing the letters I provided for him.

E is for Eagle {hand print craft}

How CUTE is this guy?? We followed this template to make our little eagle, and then used letter stamps to spell out "eagle" along the top.

Lemon Overload Cake {gluten free, dairy free, soy free}

When I asked for some ideas and inspiration the other day on Facebook, Jaime sent me a recipe for lemon cake. {Here is the original recipe.} It sounded delicious! But... the recipe didn't fit an allergy diet even a little. So I set out to remedy that problem, and came up with this little gem.

The cake was moist, and just tart enough. Two loaves were gobbled up quickly by our out-of-town guests over the weekend.

For the Cakes, You'll Need:
2 1/2 C. Gluten Free Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 C. Sugar
Zest of 2 Lemons
1/2 C. Earth Balance Spread
1 tsp. Vanilla
4 Eggs
1/2 C. Coconut Milk

For the Syrup, You'll Need:
1/3 C. Water
1/4 C. Sugar
2 Lemons, Juiced

To Make the Cake:
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In another bowl, thoroughly mix the lemon zest and sugar. Don't be afraid to dig your hands in to rub the zest around and really mix it in.
Add Earth Balance and beat thoroughly.
Add eggs and vanilla and beat thoroughly.
Add coconut milk and beat again.
Working in small batches, incorporate the flour mixture.
Pour into two greased loaf pans, and bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. When the cake is done, a toothpick inserted near the center will come out clean.

{Baking Note: My loaf pans are very thin. I kept the bottom of my cakes from browning too quickly by placing the filled pans on top of two stacked cookie sheets, then putting the whole thing in the oven.}

To Make the Syrup:
Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat until the sugar melts, and then bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and stir in the lemon juice.
Transfer to a bowl to cool.

To Finish the Cakes:
Let the cakes sit in the pans for several minutes, and then turn onto a wire rack to begin cooling.
While the cakes are still warm, and with something under your wire rack to catch crumbs and spills, begin poking the cakes with a skewer, or a thin, sharp knife. Poke holes all over the tops of both cakes.
Brush the syrup over both cakes, working slowly so that it is absorbed into the cakes rather than rolling over the sides.
Allow the cakes to finish cooling on the wire rack, and then serve.

Shared on... Allergy Free Wednesdays

Homeschool: The Letter D {crafts, preschool, toddler activities, dinosaur, dandelion, donkey, D is for...}

We've wrapped up another week! I won't lie--this week was a tough one, in some respects. My sweet boy is really exploring his boundaries lately, and I know I've said it before, but sometimes I really struggle with keeping my "mom hat" tucked away in favor of my "teacher hat." We're navigating the waters together, though, and I'm THRILLED to report that today {the beginning of a new week} went amazingly well, and we were able to accomplish so much together.

One day at a time, yes?

It is my goal to write about our best moments together, but also to let you in on our not-so-good moments too. My intention won't ever be to paint a false picture of reality, or to pretend that we don't come to occasional road blocks in between all of these fun, creative projects.

How about you? What do you struggle with while you're working with your child{ren}?

Moving along. The letter D!

D is for Dandelion

Without question, this is my favorite project yet! Do I need to explain why??

It was a simple craft that we were able to complete in a single sitting, but with several techniques and textures. The craft easily held Camden's attention, which is top priority for us.

I began by cutting a strip of grass from green paper, then glued it to the blue. I wanted to create a starting place, where the dandelions would be 'anchored,' for an easy start. I also snipped several q-tips in half before we began.

We bent two green pipe cleaners to have the appearance of a stem and a leaf, and then attached them with a glue gun. {I've said it before, but use your own judgment with a glue gun and your own child. I have been over the safety factors several times with my little guy, who is almost four.}

Next, we attached a cotton ball for the center of each dandelion, and then we worked our way around each cotton ball, adding q-tip pieces to create the dandelion look.

Finally, I lightly outlined the word 'dandelion' for him to trace. Writing without disturbing the dandelions for a bit tough for Camden, so you might also consider stamping the word, or writing it before beginning the project.

D is for Dinosaur: Letter Craft

This project was a good idea, in theory. I wanted to wind up with a 'cute' dinosaur, so I added the spikes to a dinosaur that has the appearance of a brachiosaurus, because of his longer neck. My son, who is obsessed with dinosaurs, was NOT impressed. He spent a great deal of time explaining to me that a brachisaurus doesn't have spikes--that, clearly, I was mistaken and had meant to create a stegosaurus. But the neck was too long for that, "you see, mom." Nevermind that, though. This is a cute use of the letter D for your preschooler.

Begin with a large letter D, cut from green paper. Supply your kiddo with glue, and the following pieces... neck/head, tail, spikes {optional, of course}, and legs. Add a mouth and eye.

Help your child write or stamp the word 'dinosaur' above their creation.

D is for Donkey: Paper Plate Craft

This was a big hit in our house! The steps were simple, and could be personalized in so many ways. Our steps went something like this... paint a plate and some white construction paper gray {if you've got gray paper, feel free to use it!}, then set aside to dry. Cut a circle from white paper, and draw on a smile and nostrils. Cut a bit of a mane from from black construction paper. Cut ears from gray painted paper. Attach the parts and pieces with glue, then add a pair of wiggly eyes.