Monday, December 15, 2014

Family Vacation Recap & New Recipe!

Family vacation 2014 was a hands-down, fun-filled, success! Three generations (11 of us!) and 3 dogs had the time of our lives. We led the caravan which included 2 trucks and my Hyundai, from Chandler, AZ to Durango, CO.  Shi and Jared (and Bear) were a few hours behind (they left from CA), and Ariel's boyfriend joined us on Friday. We all arrived safe and sound, and ready for fun. The cabin was as wonderful as described on VRBO, and the caretaker was fabulous – and got upgraded to a godsend on Sunday – more to come on that. When we arrived, he had the cabin all lit up, and the firepit blazing. What a welcome!
We spent our time driving all over the place, a quick spin in Pagosa Springs, a few quick visits to Durango – but the bulk of our vacation was right there in the cabin. We played games, made s’mores and drank wine by the firepit, celebrated Bethany’s birthday, the kids hung out in the (outdoor) hot tub, and we all had a quite memorable snowball fight when the storm came in on Saturday – even the dogs! What a great time!
Saturday’s storm did keep us from our shopping/dining plans in Durango, but we more than made up for it! The snow was stunning, and we all got out and enjoyed it. Bear even did his own form of sledding! That's him to the right, he'd run up the hill then drop and roll & scoot back down - which only got more hilarious as the snow deepened! We ended the day watching Meet the Parents and then Fast and Loud (Gas Monkey Garage) while sipping hot cocoa and chai tea, then we began the (sad) process of packing up.
Sunday dawned with a beautiful winter sun over sparkling snow, and we all had some time out in it before enjoying breakfast (GF biscuits and gravy - see recipe below!), then finishing up and loading. We had concerns about the road back to the main highway – it was well maintained for sure, but dirt, and there was a lot of snow and ice on a lot of S-curves. 2 of our trucks (by this time we had 4 trucks plus my car) had 4x4, so we slowly led everyone out one vehicle at a time. That’s where things went – sideways.
There are moments in life that sparkle, moments that shine, and moments that simply freeze your heart and lungs. Though our vacation was filled with the first two, it was the last that brought home just how fragile life is.
My husband had already lead out 2 of the trucks, and was now guiding Joey’s truck up the road to where the others were waiting. Jared rode shotgun, while Shiloh waited back at the house with my parents and I. As they climbed up and around the first S-curve, Bill watched helplessly as Joey and Jared spun, then went over a cliff. From the house, we heard Ariel’s boyfriend shout (he was riding with Bill), but we couldn’t see anything and didn’t know what was wrong. My husband quickly parked in the middle of the road and ran back to where the boys went over.  
It was an Aspen. 

I’ve always loved those trees, but never before with the intensity I do now. An Aspen broke their descent and tipped them back up, keeping the truck from rolling. The truck finally settled 3” from a building, having missed a shed already. Neither of the boys were injured. Everyone who saw the aftermath agreed - that tree saved their lives. I have no words to describe my gratitude that they are safe and unharmed. With the help of Ben (the caretaker, aka godsend), it took 2 ½ hours to bring the truck back up to the road then out to the main.
Thankfully, that was the last excitement of our trip. We all got safely on the road, no one truly breathing easy until we cleared the “icy roads” of Colorado. While we could have done without the last event, it did remind us how very precious our moments together are.
Here are some pics from the trip (I'll have a ton more to share, soon), just click on them to view larger - and keep reading because I've included the recipe for GF biscuits and gravy below! ;-) 










And here's the "scene of the accident"...

In the distance, you can see a house with a steep hill behind it.

That's not touching. Absolutely no property damage - except for
the Aspen tree - and the truck bed.

The photo doesn't really show how far down that is,
or that it's STRAIGHT down. So, so grateful they weren't hurt!!
Now as we head toward Christmas, there are countless tasks to be completed, recipes to be shared, gifts to be wrapped, and work to be done – my heart is full, my spirit bright. My family is happy, healthy, and safe – and in just a couple more weeks, will once again be all gathered together under one roof. As I return to “normal”, and move out of vacation-mode, I wish you all the brilliant joy of the season – and safety to you and yours.

Gluten-Free Biscuits & Gravy
This is the photo from the original recipe.
I didn't snap one of my own, but remember
that GF biscuits won't get golden like the
ones above, so use my tip below to test
yours for doneness. You can find the link
to the original recipe below.

Perfect for chilly mornings, this breakfast is comforting, filling and flavorful! Great holiday treat! I doubled it to feed our big group :-)

Preparation Time: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour
Adapted by , December 14, 2014
Serves 6

1 lb (clean) breakfast sausage (like this),
2 cups milk (I used 2%),
1/2 cup GF all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur),
1/2 tsp sea-salt,
1 tsp black pepper, divided,
4.5 cups GF Baking Mix (I used King Arthur),
1 1/3 cup milk (I used 2%),
**optional: 1 Tbsp bacon grease - see note below,
2 whole eggs,
1/2 cup shredded cheddar,

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook sausage*, chopping into crumbles as it cooks. Drain grease, place meat in greased (I used olive oil cooking spray) 8x8 baking dish.
To the skillet, add milk, flour, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Heat over medium, and whisk constantly. Continue to whisk smooth until mixture begins to thicken. Pour over meat in dish.
In a large bowl, mix Baking Mix with 2 eggs, 1 1/3 cup milk, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar, and 1/2 tsp pepper, and mix well, adding more baking mix if needed.
Pull off chunks of dough and roughly form "biscuits", flattening them, then placing them over the sausage/gravy mix. Use bits of dough to fill in gaps.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes*.

*NOTE: GF biscuits won't brown the same way regular ones do, so carefully touch the tops of them to test for doneness. You want them to be firm and flaky.
**NOTE: I saved the bacon grease from the previous morning's breakfast (uncured bacon - I used Hormel's, scroll down page on link to view), and cooked the sausage in 1 Tbsp of the reserved grease. It added a ton of great flavor!

Recipe adapted from this.

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