Friday, December 17, 2010

Why I have been absent from the blogworld, and giving thanks

It's snowing outside, and I am freezing my teeth off with frozen blueberries. Go figure.

Life's been pretty crazy lately. Normally I love the holidays, and love baking during this festive time of year. I've been overwhelmed by all the fantastic recipes I've seen on everyone's blogs! I would love to share with you all the delicious treats I've been working on, but alas, I have yet to make anything worth sharing. Or really, anything at all.

For the last month and a half I've been dealing with some pretty severe pain. A few weeks ago, I finally decided to go see someone about it. I got in to see a sports medicine doctor. She took some x-rays, looked at things, put my body through the ringer, and sent me home with a bunch of prescriptions and a rigorous home therapy schedule.

I've spent the last 2 weeks in a heavily medicated fog of steroids, muscle relaxers and pain meds. Seriously, I've been a mess. I've hardly been eating, I think I may have made it through one of the last 15 days without crying, I've had daily headaches, and my stomach has been so upset. Not to mention the loopiness and nausea/dizziness I get from the pain meds. Such fun!

Finished up the 'roids 2 days ago, and had my follow up appointment yesterday. The drugs didn't fix the problem. They helped, reduced *some* of my pain, but it's still there, and still pretty constant.

So, tomorrow I get to have an MRI done. Yay! Lucky (extremely claustrophobic) me.

But, if it means answers, I'll suffer through it. Most likely I'm looking at lots of physical therapy, possible nerve block injections, and if all else fails, surgery. Hopefully not though. REALLY hopefully not :)

I finally got my Christmas shopping done last night, after 5 emotional hours at the mall (thanks to a painful visit to the doc, and mounting frustration at the looming deadline - it was the one time I was really glad to go shopping with my husband, who kept me going when I just wanted to go home and cry). Everything's been mailed off to the family, and I got our cards sent out today as well. Whew. Just gotta grab a couple more things for my hubby, and I'm set. Thank goodness.

Let's just say I haven't really gotten the Christmas spirit yet. I know, tis the season and all, and I've wanted to. I LOVE Christmas! But with this pain, as well as a busy month at work, and trying to keep the rest of my life together, I've been pretty beat.

I've been living off of almond flour waffles - based on this recipe, as well as this amazing and easy salad, and this delicious tomato soup. Not to mention, lots of Chex cereal in almond milk, as well as anything else I feel like I can stomach.

Like whatever is in the fridge. For example, tonight I had some toasted focaccia bread (w/ oil and garlic salt), a whole package of korean kim (seaweed), and some edamame with salt and lemon. Oh, and a handful of glutino chocolate covered pretzels. It's pretty much been fend for yourself around here. My poor hubby.

Anyway, now that I'm off the steroids, I'm hoping I will start to feel a little better (as far as side effects go). I really want to get in the kitchen and whip up something fabulous. But I have to dig through all the dirty dishes to find the counters first...

I must say, this whole ordeal has made me very thankful for my life. I didn't really do an official thanksgiving post, mostly because I didn't have anything overwhelming to share, other than this totally awesome cranberry sauce. But I will say now, I have a good life. My husband has been incredible over the last few weeks, so patient, caring, and loving. I'm so very thankful for the wonderful man that he is, and that he's put up with all the things I have thrown at him over the last 8 years.

I am also grateful for having a relatively healthy life so far. Nothing I can't control with my diet, a thyroid pill here and there, good food and exercise. I really appreciate a body that has been able to withstand so much, and let me do so much. Like climb to the top of the most beautiful mountain in Utah Valley!

I know, super dorky primal picture of me, but I was so excited to be on top of the world! That was one of the best days of this last year!

I'm thankful for a beautiful, warm home, enough food to eat, cars that get us safely where we need to go daily, a steady job where I am valued, the greatest cat ever, and wonderful friends and family around me. That includes all of you! I am so glad to be a part of this food blogging community, to be able to share with you my successes and learning experiences, and hear about all of yours!

I hope you all are doing well, and enjoying the holiday season! I will (hopefully) be back here soon, with something tasty to share!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Celebrate!! With the best dessert ever!

I've got many things to celebrate today! First of all, this is my 100th post! Wow! I remember starting this blog more than 4 years ago, and am amazed that I found so much to write about.

Even more exciting, when I logged on tonight, I discovered I had a new follower! I know 30+ people subscribing to my blog isn't an overwhelming milestone, but it makes me happy. I started writing here so that I could share my experience with others, hopefully making their lives easier. I hope I've been able to do that for all of you. I appreciate your comments and all of your awesome blogs as well! You know I'm more interested in reading than writing, though I do occasionally manage to find something worthwhile to share here. Thanks for sticking around as I've improved on my gluten/dairy-free cooking, blogging and photography skills!

The last thing I want to celebrate today really is the best dessert I think I've had since discovering all my food issues (if not the best dessert I've ever had in my life...). And let me be clear. I love my desserts. And I've made and eaten quite a few good ones. This one, however, takes the cake! Or rather, the cheesecake (I know, I know, groan-worthy. I'm sorry...I had to!)

Feast your eyes on this beauty:

Pumpkin cheesecake with a caramel dulce de leche topping. Yep, it's as good as it sounds. When I was debating what to make for my birthday at the beginning of the month, I just kept coming back to this gorgeous photo, and the recipe attached. I took a poll, and this one was the one everyone suggested. So glad I tried it, and so were my friends and family! Even my cheesecake snobs and cheesecake dislikers enjoyed it!

I know this is super late for the Thanksgiving feast. If you've already got something lined up for the big day, I would recommend making it in a couple days, once everyone's had a chance to digest. They will thank you for it.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche & Pecans
Gluten & Dairy Free

3/4 c crushed Cinnamon Chex (I used Rice Chex with a sprinkling of cinnamon)
1/2 c finely chopped/ground pecans
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c butter substitute, melted (I used Earth Balance spread)

3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c pureed pumpkin (Check out this great post on easy crockpot cooking of your pumpkin, or you can always use the stuff from a can)
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese substitute (Tofutti was a winner!)
1/4 c plus 2 tbsp white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp sour cream sub (Tofutti again. Original recipe called for whipped cream)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract (recipe calls for 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp lemon extract, which I didn't have)
Dulce de Leche (for topping)**
Whole pecans (for topping)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle into a 9-inch springform pan, pressing lightly until bottom of pan is covered.

Mix together 3/4 c white sugar, pumpkin, 3 egg yolks, spices and salt in a meidum bowl. Set aside.

Dump the cream cheese into a larger bowl. Beat w/ an electric mixer until light and fluffy (ish. Mine never got that fluffy). Slowly add 1/4 c plus 2 tbsp white sugar, and beat. Add egg, egg yolk, and sour cream; beat well again. Add the corn starch and vanilla. Beat once more until mixture becomes smooth.

Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and mix well. Pour into the springform pan. Place pan on a cookie sheet lined with foil in case you have any leakage.

Bake cheesecake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes. Don't overbake it. The center will firm up when chilled. Once it's done, turn the oven off, and crack open the door. Leave cheesecake in the cooling oven for 1 hour (this helps prevent the top from cracking).

Once cooled, remove from oven. Cover and refridgerate until ready to dig in. Remove the pan siding (I didn't risk taking the cake off the bottom of the springform pan, so not sure how that would work), and decorate cheesecake with dulce de leche and pecans. (Just FYI, the dulce de leche will stick to anything you try and cover the cheesecake with. You may want to keep the pan siding around to place around the cake if you're covering and refridgerating w/ the topping on).

Serve, and enjoy the praise you will be receiving from those you deem worthy to partake with you in this heavenly experience.

**Dulce de Leche done dairy free

I followed this recipe from, quartering the original measurements. It worked beautifully! This recipe takes about an hour to make (10 min for processing your own almond milk, and about 45 minutes of stirring to get the dulce de leche to the right consistancy). Read the comments below the recipe on allrecipes if you need help w/ making this.

Dairy Free Dulce de Leche

4 cups homemade almond milk (recipe here)
Approx. 1 tsp vanilla extract, or 1/4 vanilla bean
1 c plus 2 tbsp white sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda

In a large saucepan (yes, you do need to use a large one, b/c this stuff foams), bring the milk to a boil over medium-high heat (original recipe calls to strain at this point, but I found this an unncessary step, as there was nothing to strain in here).

Add vanilla, then stir in the sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Just before the mixture begins to boil, stir in the baking soda.

Turn heat down to medium. Continue to stir constantly for the next 40-50 minutes, until the midxture thickens (grab a good book and a stool so you can sit by the stovetop). I figured mine was done when it resembled a caramel sauce that you would use on ice cream. Not too runny, but not too thick. Takes a minute to come back together when you divide it by running a spoon through it.

Remove from heat, and pour into glass or other heat-proof dish to cool. Once it's cooled a bit on the counter, cover and stick in the fridge to chill before using. Don't use on the cheesecake until the dulce de leche is totally cold.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups (8 servings, supposedly, and just enough to top the cheesecake!).

P.S. Before you dunk that empty, caramely, sticky pan in some water to wash it out, put it back on the stove, add some almond milk, and warm it over med-low heat for a few minutes. Pour into your favorite coffee mug, and enjoy! Makes cleanup that much sweeter :D

P.P.S. This recipe is linked up to Linda @ The Gluten Free Homemaker's Gluten Free Wednesdays event! Check it out!

P.P.P.S. This recipe is also linked up to Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Diane @ The WHOLE Gang's Holiday Party, where she is giving away some great cookbooks, as well as Alex's The 12 Days of Bloggie-mas @ A Moderate Life.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Tart

This delicious GF/DF dessert is great year-round, but I especially liked it after our big Thanksgiving feast last year. When planning my menu, I couldn't decide between something chocolatey and something a little more savory. So when I stumbled across this recipe, I got excited! I love pecan pie! And adding chocolate just seems so right! Satisfies both cravings at once. It was the first pie dish to empty at the family get together. Can I say how proud that made me?

Last year I served it up with a can of fake whipped cream. It was good, and made for cute formations atop the pie, but one of the cans malfunctioned, and so I had to throw it away completely unused. There went $5 :( This year, I would recommend this as a less expensive, tastier dairy free whipped cream substitute. Or use the real stuff, if you want to...and no I don't mean the kind from the blue tub! Real whipping cream on Thanksgiving is definitely a worthy cheat in my book :D

I'll start with the pie crust:

Basic Pastry Crust for a Single Pie
Adapted from "1000 Gluten Free Recipes" by Carol Fenster

1/2 c sorghum flour blend*
1/4 + 1/8 c tapioca flour
1/4 c sweet rice flour
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp guar gum (I just used more xanthan)
1/4 tsp salt
1/16 tsp baking soda
1/4 c shortening or buttery spread (I used Spectrum vegetable shortening)
1/4 c milk (I used almond)
1/2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice

Place dry ingredients plus shortening in a food processor. Process until mixture is crumbly. Add milk and vinegar and process again until a ball forms (break up the dough and scrape down the sides with a spatula if it doesn't form a ball, then reprocess).

Remove dough from processor, and knead with wet hands until dough is smooth.

Shape into a disk, 1-inch thick, and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Note: From here, the recipe goes on to describe how to roll the dough out, transfer to a pie plate, and flute the edges. Lol. Those of you who know me know that I don't do that. I just warmed the dough up a bit in my hands, and spread it into a 9-inch non-stick pie pan, pressing with my fingers until it evenly covered the bottom and sides of the pan. Use wet hands if the dough is sticky. It worked great!

Crust is now ready to be filled and baked.

*Carol Fenster's Sorghum Flour Blend:
1 1/2 c sorghum flour (35%)
1 1/2 c potato starch/cornstarch (35%)
1 c tapioca starch (30%)

Add all ingredients to a tupperware. Cover tightly, and shake until blended.
These measurments make about 4 cups. You can also just approximate it, which is what I often do, using the percentages.

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Pecan Tart
Adapted from "1000 Gluten Free Recipes" by Carol Fenster

1 9-inch pie crust, prepared
1 egg, beaten to a foam (I think I skipped the egg wash)
1 c pecans, chopped
2/3 c chocolate chips (I used enjoy life as a DF option)
1/2 c light corn syrup (I can't remember what I subbed for the syrup, I think it was this recipe)
1/4 c packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
2 tbsp butter/sub, melted
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Arrange the racks in your oven so that one is in the middle, and one is at the bottom. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the edges of the crust with the egg wash. Arrange the pecans on the bottoms of the crust. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top, spreading evenly.

Make the filling by beating the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until blended and smooth.

Slowly pour the mixture into the crust. Place the whole pie pan on a baking sheet. I covered mine with foil for easy cleanup (but I don't think much splashed over).

Bake pie for 10 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Move to the middle rack and place a sheet of tinfoil on top of the pie. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is set.

Remove from oven and cool pie plate on a wire rack. Once it has cooled completely, refridgerate until ready to serve (at least an hour), so that the filling is firm enough to cut. Serve with whipped cream topping of choice.

Makes 8-12 servings.

What are YOU making for Thanksgiving? I want to hear all about your awesome meal plans!

P.S. I'm so excited to share with you all another amazing dessert recipe! Stay tuned for a very special post :)

P.P.S. This post is part of Linda @ The Gluten Free Homemaker's Gluten Free Wednesdays Carnival! Head over there for other scrumptious recipes!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving thoughts and a few tips/recipes

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching.

Two weeks and counting.

Anyone else feeling a bit nervous? I might be. Mostly because I haven't thought it through in my head, and formulated my plan.

The holidays make me sentimental. Sorry. You might have to put up with a bit of my reminiscing.

Holidays are not a big deal in our home, mostly b/c I'm the only one who gets excited about them. My husband could probably care less about Thanksgiving (except for the excess amount of dishes I seem to dirty), and my cat will just run and hide if people come over or I try and put a Santa hat on her. I'm sure once we have kids, this will change.

But I grew up in a holiday home. We all got really into the holidays. My mom is obsessed with Halloween. And Christmas! We had our Christmas tree up by Thanksgiving weekend, and it often stayed there until Valentine's Day.

Growing up, we didn't have any family in town, so we found our own to spend the holidays with. My "adopted" grandparents, Jane and Jonathan, always had a glorious feast ready when we came over for holiday well as the latest season of Star Trek on a VHS. I remember falling asleep at my dad's feet as the post-turkey coma overtook me, incorporating Captain Jean-Luc Picard's monologues into my dreams.

My grandma Jane really knew how to throw a party! There were usually 15-30 people at our holiday dinners, and she made sure there was enough food that everyone got leftovers :) Johnny would carve the meat, and my sister and I usually got saddled with the responsibility of setting the table, or keeping the cats away from the turkey. The only thing we didn't like about Thanksgiving dinner was the "weed" salad, which my mom made us eat. There were things like spinach, red lettuce, kale and DANDELIONS in it. So funny that I totally eat all those things now!

New to the allergy-free holiday zone? Check out this article, which features Karina from The Gluten Free Goddess. It has some great tips on how to host for people with food avoidances, as well as how to approach a host for a party you're going to.

Once you get a plan in place, braving the holidays isn't too daunting. Being prepared is the key. Always having more than enough food, so you don't go hungry while everyone around you is gorging. And overcoming your fears (like learning to make gravy! It's so easy! And I used to be terrified of it!!!).

Around here, I've got a pretty good routine down. We're usually invited to my husband's family shindig, hosted by an aunt or grandma. They all understand my dietary needs, however, since I have such a long list of things to avoid, I have learned it's easier for everyone involved if I just bring my own basics.

So, usually the day before Thanksgiving (or the frantic morning of), I'll make myself a turkey, some sides like stuffing, potatoes, rolls, and lots of gravy. I pack up a plate for myself, and will usually bring some fantastic-looking dessert to share with everyone.

When we get there, I'm given the lowdown on what's safe for me to eat, and will join everyone in munching on veggies, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, and such until dinner is ready. Then when everyone is gathering around the table, I just throw my plate in the microwave, and dig in! I've learned what I need to have at a family dinner to not feel left out, so I make sure and have extra meat and gravy, rolls, and something chocolatey :)

Check it out!! I've found a great potato-free alternative to the omnipresent spuds that accompany most holiday dinners. Mashed parsnips! I was a skeptic, I'll admit. I've tried undercooked parsnips, and the flavor is strong! But, if you actually cook them through, and add the right amount of butter, a little salt, and the perfect plate of meat, this side dish is a miracle to behold!

I don't really have a recipe, so I'll just wing it...

Potato-Free Mashed Parsnips

Boil some water in a pot. Once it's bubbling, add some peeled, chopped parsnips (I don't know how many make a serving, probably one good-sized parsnip per person). Cook until parsnips are very soft. Make sure you don't undercook, or you'll have a helluva time trying to "mash" them!
Once they're cooked, drain the water from the parsnips. Add some butter (or butter sub like earth balance), a splash or two of milk (or almond milk or other sub), and some salt. Using a hand mixer, beat the parsnips in a large bowl, until they resemble, well, mashed potatoes :) Top with a little cheese, additional buttery goodness, or gravy.

Apparently mashed veggies are all the rage. If you're not sensitive to crucifers, and can't find/don't want to try parsnips, you could also check out Elana's mashed cauliflower.

Here are a few of my recipes that have worked well for holiday feasting, or general winter enjoyment:

Bread cubes for stuffing

Pumpkin Soup

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup

Thanksgiving Meal Plan 2008, including links to a lemon cream coffeecake and rolls

And I have apparently not posted my stuffing recipe, but that's okay. It's really easy. I found this recipe, which is almost identical to the one I use. Just use the bread cube recipe above, and you're set!

One last thing: Check out the thanksgiving favorites post here by over at Gluten Free Easily, as well as giveaways of two awesome books!!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thanksgiving preview: Roast Turkey with Prosciutto Hazelnut Butter

Thanksgiving is coming up, so I should probably finally post my awesome turkey recipe from LAST year! I guess this is probably more of a post-view than a preview...But, it's so good that I plan on repeating it (I even went out and bought a thyme plant for my kitchen garden!). I figured if anyone else is looking for inspiration, I've definitely got something to share!

Last year for Thanksgiving, I made an amazing meal! I wasn't even jealous that I had to tote around my tupperware at the family dinner. I was that excited to eat my food! I got this recipe from my monthly email from glutenfreeda, a great resource for gluten free recipes! The article highlighted three different turkey preparation methods. Scroll down to the third one. That one's mine.

Isn't that a beautiful-looking bird?

I do have to admit, I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to non-boneless meat. I really have a hard time with all the skin and tendons and stuff. So, to still have the good stuff for making post-Thanksgiving soup, but not have to deal with gizzards and such, I opted for a turkey breast. This one was probably about 6-7 lbs, so I did cut the original recipe in half.

Roast Turkey with Prosciutto Hazelnut Butter

Serves 6

For the butter:

1 1/2 sticks butter (or sub - Earth Balance is great here), at room temp
3 tbsp finely chopped hazelnuts
3/4 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
4-5 oz chopped prosciutto
1 1/2 green onions, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for gravy, reserving the rest for the turkey.

For the turkey:

One 6-9 pound turkey (or turkey breast)
1/2 onion, halved
1 1/2 cloves garlic, halved
3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of tarragon
1/2 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
2 1/2 c chicken broth (GF!)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Move oven rack to the lowest position.

Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Trim excess fat. Slide your hand between the skin around the breast and legs to loosen. Spread the butter (minus the 1/4 c for the gravy) under the skin, and covering the outside of the bird as well. Sprinkle salt and pepper inside and out of the turkey. Place turkey on the rack of a roasting pan.

Place the onion, garlic, thyme, tarragon and peppercorns inside the bird's cavity. Tuck wings under the body and tie legs together.

Roast turkey for 1 hour uncovered. Add 1 c broth, and cover w/ a foil tent, continuing to roast for 1-2 more hours, or until the internal temp reaches 175. Baste the turkey with pan drippings occasionally.

Remove from oven and transfer to a platter (set aside the pan drippings for the gravy). Tent with foil to keep it warm. Let it set for about 30 minutes.

For the gravy*:

Reserved 1/4 c prosciutto hazelnut butter
3 shallots (I think I just used an extra onion)
1 bay leaf
1 c dry white wine
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Pan drippings from the turkey (recipe called for neck/heart/gizzards, but I opted out of that one), fat strained off if desired
5 c chicken broth
1/8 c GF flour (I think I used a sorghum flour mix)

Melt half of the reserved butter in a large pot over med-high heat. Add shallots and bay leaf. Saute about 20 minutes, or until browned. Add wine and herbs, and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid has reduced to a glaze. Add half of the pan drippings and broth. Return to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Pick out the herb sprigs and bay leaf. Add enough of the remaining pan drippings and chicken broth to make about 5 cups of gravy.

In a large pot, melt the remaining half of the butter over medium-high heat. Add flour, and whisk for about a minute. Slowly add the gravy, mixing constantly w/ whisk. Cook until the gravy thickens. Taste, and season with salt and pepper if desired.

*Note, I didn't half the gravy recipe, b/c I love gravy!! I only halved the butter, but you get enough flavor w/ the pan drippings mixed in.

**Gluten free flour blends work fine for this. I would also suggest a starch, like cornstarch, or tapioca. It makes the gravy a bit shiny, but it tastes the same, in my opinion. I usually use whatever starch I have on hand.

Next on the Turkey Day Preview agenda: Some tips for getting through the holiday meal unscathed, as well as the incredible chocolate pecan pie I made for dessert last year! Everyone loved it! All of my gluten-eating relatives! But hey, what's not to love about chocolate, right? Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Vegan Mexican Chocolate "Ice Cream"

Wow, when I got online 3 hours ago, I had every intention of actually posting some recipes tonight. Heh. Well, getting behind on my blogging also put me behind in my blog reading. I guess I find everyone else's blogs more interesting than my own :)

So, I've been really busy the last couple of months. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally busy. Much more so than I enjoy. I'm more of a laid-back personality, and running a hundred miles an hour is not my favorite thing to do, day in and day out. I've had work, lots of work stuff, training a new girl, taking on new responsibilities as our company grows and changes. I've also gone through a couple of weeks being sick, as well as having a sick cat. I've had family in town and get-together's. I've had an anniversary (SEVEN YEARS ALREADY???). I've had a birthday (NINETEEN AGAIN?? lol jk). I've also had weekly battles with the piles of clothes and dishes that seem never-ending. It's not been all bad, but still, more than I would choose to have on my plate at once.

And in the spare time I have had, I've snuck in my new favorite book series - The Dragonriders of Pern - as well as the occasional weekend WOW-obsessed indulgence with my husband. Yeah, we did spend approximately 15 hours last weekend gaming. Oops.

I have also spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen. I gotta. A girl has to keep herself and her man happily (and allergy-free) fed. I'm super excited to share my pumpkin-fest results, especially the amazing birthday cake I made myself, which I might have to say is the greatest thing I've ever made! Like, EVER. Get excited with me here. Just you wait...

I'm not quite so excited to talk about my quick bread failures. I've decided that I'm more of a muffin kinda gal. But I'll get there. I promise. All these things will be blogged about. Before Thanksgiving, I hope, as I'll have more turkey day recipes to post by then. Oh, and I need to post about my favorite turkey preparation method, seeing as I'm already planning it again for this year.

Right now, aside from this update to excuse my recent absence from the blogging scene, I'd like to share a recipe I made that totally rocked! Remember the super-delicious Mexican chocolate bark I made a couple years ago? Well this recipe reminds me of that. Only it's ice cream!

I've wanted to try this recipe by Elana over at Elana's Pantry for a long time now. Once I got all the pumpkin out of my system, I was ready for something chocolate-infused. This ice cream was it! Yes, I know, winter is rapidly approaching, but I may still be in denial of this (although I did finally resign myself to putting the top back on my Jeep). So of course I listened to the call of ice cream calling my name. There is such a great combination of sweet, chocolatey goodness, with just enough of a spicy bite to tickle the back of the throat.

I was really pleased with how this recipe turned out. However, I found the aftertaste a tad spicy for my current mood. I think I would either tone down the cayenne more, or add some sort of chocolate sauce on top. Or...Mexican chocolate bark!

View the original recipe here (with a fantastic photo by Elana!)

Vegan Mexican Chocolate "Ice Cream"

28 oz almond milk (3 1/2 c or so - I used homemade almond milk, but with half the water added)
1/4 c agave nectar
1 c dark chocolate (I used half a cup of dark chocolate from a bar, and filled the cup w/ enjoy life chocolate chips)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I halved Elana's suggestion of 1/4 tsp, and would go lower next time, probably half of this again)
1 tsp ground coffee or espresso
1 tbsp vanilla extract (I was a little generous with my tablespoon, but the flavor didn't overpower anything)

Heat the milk and agave to a boil in a medium pot.

Reduce heat and stir in the chocolate, mixing until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Cool mixture for 1 hour (I stuck mine in the fridge for the last half hour to ensure it was cool enough to add to the ice cream maker).

Add the remaining ingredients, and stir well.

Pour into your ice cream maker, and mix away. Follow the instructions for your machine. Mine took about a half hour to mix. The machine turned off, saying the motor was overheated, but the ice cream was still a little soft, so I stuck it in the freezer for a few more minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

P.S. Forgot to mention, this recipe is just one of many delicious dishes you'll find at Linda's Gluten Free Wednesdays! Head on over and join the party!

*UPDATE: This is a great ice cream to make a milkshake out of! Especially if you want to tone down the heat a bit. Just scoop some into a blender, add some almond milk/other milk sub, a little bit of cocoa and agave (to give it a bit more chocolate flavor), and blend until smooth. Genius!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Savory Veggie Quiche

This is an awesome recipe! I love the tang of tomatoes in every bite, and it's super healthy. I mostly followed the recipe in The Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam, but made a few adjustments to suit my tastes.

Like she says in the book, this dish is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Or all of the above, which is how I ate it when I first made it :D

Savory Veggie Quiche
GF/can be DF
(Adapted from The Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam)

Serves 6

2 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 c thinly sliced mushrooms*
1 c chopped spinach*
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp onion powder (original recipe calls for 1 med onion; if using, saute this first until soft, before adding mushrooms)
1/3 c sun-dried tomatoes in oil (or you can use 1/4 c dry packed)
3 large eggs, whisked
4 oz white cheese substitute (I've used fake mozzarella, as well as the real thing. Recipe calls for goat cheese)
1/2 tsp salt
1 savory pie crust, prebaked** (P.S. I have made this recipe before w/out the crust, and it's still as good. The crust does give a little extra texture though)
4-6 slices cooked bacon/turkey bacon, chopped*

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms for a few minutes, then add the spinach, garlic, onion powder and tomatoes. Saute for about 10 minutes (give or take; if using dry tomatoes, you probably want to cook a few extra minutes. The original recipe sautes for 15 min).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine eggs, cheese and salt in a large bowl. Add all the veggies, and stir. Pour mixture into pie crust. Sprinkle bacon on top.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Quiche should be browned a bit and cooked through. Let it cool on the counter for half an hour or until you can't stand it. Then serve it up!

*Notes: Elana's recipe uses 2 c broccoli and 1 c mushrooms, but I don't eat broccoli, so I upped the 'shrooms and added some spinach (I've used both fresh and frozen and both are good).

Also, the original recipe doesn't use any bacon, but when I made this the first time, I felt like it was missing something savory and meaty, so the next time I made it, I added some chopped bacon. Make sure you add it to the top of the dish, otherwise it gets lost in the multitude of flavors.

**Savory Pie Crust Recipe (also adapted from The Almond Flour Cookbook)

1 1/2 c blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp (or so) onion powder
1/4 c grapeseed oil
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, salt, soda and onion powder in a bowl. In the center of the mixture, whisk together the oil and water. Incorporate the wet and dry ingredients. Press dough into a 9-inch (ish) pie pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Crust is ready when golden brown. Remove from oven and cool before filling.

P.S. Forgot to mention, this recipe is just one of many delicious dishes you'll find at Linda's Gluten Free Wednesdays! Head on over and join the party!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Low FODMAPs Diet, Primal Thoughts, Etc.

Hi All,

So, I have been rather neglectful of my blog updating lately. This is what I've been up to.

I started on the Low FODMAPs diet this week, after a week where I was supposed to be tracking my baseline symptoms...but was actually REALLY sick (I think I somehow ingested some accidental gluten).

Here's some useful information on the diet:

Patsy Catsos' site. She wrote "IBS - Free At Last," which I ordered off amazon, and am using as a guide to my diet. Found the site to be a bit confusing to navigate through, but I appreciate the information she has given:

This is a great little summary of the diet/concept of eating low FODMAPs foods:

Anyway, look into it if you're interested. It caught my attention, since I react to some really random things, such as beans (not so surprising I guess), wheat, dairy, some fruits, get the gist. This makes a lot of sense.

So, other than making my meal plans, which I plan on posting eventually, I have been distracted by another way of eating.

I mean Primal.

I'm making my way through Mark Sisson's "Primal Blueprint," which is blowing my mind and getting me all sorts of excited! I'm also reading as much online stuff as I can, ie, blogs. Been frequenting Mark's blog, Mark's Daily Apple, and I just found The Primal Matriarch's awesome site over the weekend, which I've been immersed in.

So many great ideas, so many incredible recipes! What's a girl to do?

How about win a free book over here, to further distract herself? Lol. Just got my copy of "The Pirate Queen" today, and started reading it over dinner. This is why I am choosing to type excuses tonight, rather than type up my meal plan for the week.

Anyway, hope everyone else is having a great week!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Shrimp Grok-Amole - a primal feast!

So, in my quest to find the solution to my recently prevalent health concerns, ie, more gastro symptoms despite eating less problematic foods, I have been recommended by several people to look into the paleo/primal/hunter-gatherer diet. I've spent nearly all my free time the last two weekends absorbed at Mark's Daily Apple.

The paleo/primal way of eating is a fascinating concept to me. Basically, you're incorporating all the foods that your caveman ancestors ate. You're pretty much eating meat, veggies, fruit, roots and nuts. You're avoiding things like legumes, grains, dairy products and refined sugars (hmm, sound like Stephanie's problem food list to anyone else???)

I've tried a few basic recipes, and so far so good. I like the idea behind the diet, but I'm not positive that this is the cure-all to my problems. Right now I'm looking at getting on the lowFODMAP diet for awhile, which sounds like it may be more appropriate for my symptoms.

However, I did buy Mark's book on Amazon, as well as adding the cookbook to my wishlist, and am so excited to get reading! I will definitely be eating with a more paleo-conscious emphasis!

I was excited, if a bit apprehensive, about this dish. It incorporated many of my favorite foods, like avocado, tomatoes and shrimp, but it still seemed a bit foreign to me.

I loved it! I ate the first batch over the weekend last week, and am eagerly awaiting ripe avocados to make it again!

I ate chips with it the first night (so un-primal of me!), but decided I liked it better without them. Think of it like a great fresh seafood taco, just without the taco shell. It might even be good over some romaine lettuce. Taco salad!

Just FYI, I'm kind of OCD about having equal amounts of food in my bite-fuls, so I chopped everything to be uniform in size (like the shrimp, tomatoes and avocado). I like to enjoy all the flavors at the same time.

Grok-Amole Salad
Adapted from Mark's Daily Apple recipe here

1 lb cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped
3-4 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped
3-4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 green onions, finely chopped (I used a dash of onion powder and a teaspoon of chives. I think it subbed okay)
1 orange/yellow pepper, chopped (I used a green pepper)
3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
Olive oil
Fresh cilantro, chopped (I just used about a teaspoon)
Salt and pepper

The original recipe called for 1 seeded/finely chopped jalapeno, but I didn't have one. I liked it without.

Mix the shrimp and all the veggies in a large bowl. Drizzle the lime juice and oil over the top, then sprinkle with cilantro, salt and pepper. Mix it all up really well, and serve.

Makes 3-4 servings

*Note: This recipe has been linked over to Amy's Slightly Indulgent Tuesday's Anniversary Edition*

Superly Awesome Cashew Cream

(photo belongs to Amy over at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free)

Cashew cream. Think dairy free whipped cream. For real!! Never would have thought of it myself. But wow, am I glad I tried it! This stuff is food of the gods!

When in the final rounds of taste-testing, I thrust a spoonful in my husband's face, and said, "Eat. Now." Warily, he glanced at it, then looked up at me and asked the infamous question, "What's in it?"

I bit my lip. I sighed. I nudged the spoon closer to his mouth, and said, "Just try it!" I was greeted with more hesitation.

Finally, I relented. "Cashews and dates," I revealed. He scrunched up his nose, and took half a step back.

I was persistent. "Seriously," I said, a hint of pleading now in my voice, "Just take a taste. It's good. I promise"

He took the spoon from my hand, declaring, "I hate dates. And cashews. Just for the record." Embedded in his words was the underlying meaning, you owe me.

Just wait, I thought in response.

A moment, my breath held in my lungs. The spoon finds his mouth. He takes it out, and savors the flavor for a few seconds. Then....A second lick to the back of the utensil!


In his own words, "I would eat that any day."


There you have it, folks. Now you've got to try it for yourself.

I've eaten this atop dairy free pudding, freshly toasted GF bread, peanut butter cookies, almond flour biscuits, and dunked many strawberries (and maybe a few fingers) in it.

So, if you're looking for something to rock your world, a dessert topping that everyone will be wow-ed by, (just in time for the holidays even), this is it!

*the only change I made to mine was I only used 2 dates, rather than 3 (and I don't know if they were medjool...they were the sitting-at-the-bottom-of-my-pantry variety). It was sweet enough for me, and soooooooo delicious!

Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Egg Flower Soup

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! There's a restaurant in Beaverton, OR called Chang's Mongolian Grill, where our family ate growing up. We went there for all the special occasions - birthdays, graduation, new years, dates, etc., and all the times in between. We ate there so often in fact, that the owners and chefs knew our names! Every time Luke and I go to Oregon, we try and visit. They do a pretty good job of keeping things gluten free (as long as you go at the beginning of the lunch/dinner hour, since it is a buffet-style place).

We've been to many similar restaurants, and nothing else compares. Their combination of food/sauces is so unique, and so delicious! You start the meal out with hitting up the food bar, where you essentially grab all your "ingredients," then take it up to the grill for them to fry it up for you. You get back to your table, and are greeted by egg flower soup, sticky rice and crepes (don't know if these are GF, haven't asked...). Dessert is a fortune cookie atop chocolate ice cream (on the side for me, though). So good! So worth the trip to Oregon for ;) Just kidding Mom and Dad!

For the rest of the time, when we're Chang's-less, we have Egg Flower Soup.

I found this recipe in my trusty "Life Tastes Good Again" cookbook, but didn't try it until one night, when I was desperately hungry, and short on ingredients. Luckily I had everything for this soup. I started jumping up and down when I tasted it, because it was exactly as I remembered Chang's soup being! This is a great accompaniment to chicken fried rice, or stir-fry. It's also a great dinner when you're home late, and thinking, there's nothing to I was tonight :)

I've made some variations to the original recipe, and here it is in all it's simplicity and deliciousness!

Egg Flower Soup

2 tbsp starch (cornstarch/arrowroot works great)
dash of salt
2 1/2 c chicken broth (I use Swanson, have tried using homemade, and it's just not as good)
1/2 c water
1/2 - 1 cup carrots, finely minced or grated
1 egg, beaten

Combine the starch and salt in a medium pan. Stirring with a whisk, slowly add the liquids.

Add the carrots. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring very frequently.

Once it's boiling, decrease the heat to medium. I usually let it cook for about 10 minutes, to soften the carrots.

While gently stirring with a spoon, slowly drizzle the beaten egg into the soup. If you use a whisk, you break the egg up too much. If you pour the egg in too fast, you get big clumps of egg. Which aren't necessarily bad, if you like them. My sister and I used to have competitions to find the biggest egg lump in our soup!

Remove soup from heat and serve hot. Makes 3 full servings, or 5 appetizer servings. Reheats really well.

P.S. This post is linked over to Amy's Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays! Check out the other great recipes posted there!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Help me solve my health mystery!

I've been feeling frustrated lately with my gut. I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm fighting two wars:

1 - The battle of Stephanie-feeling-like-crap-all-the-time, and
2 - The battle of "what's for dinner"/"there's nothing good to eat"/"WTF can I eat in the next 30 minutes because I just got home from working a 10-hour day and DON'T feel like cooking!?!"

When I pay attention to the first, I am more careful about eating foods that are considered "safe" (mostly, considered to be IBS-safe). But often, that is more boring, less exciting, and let's be honest, I love to cook/bake/explore the world of food! Eating chicken and rice all the time sucks.

When I devote more energy to the second, I make things that I enjoy eating. I may cheat a bit on my "IBS diet" and have a bit of dairy, more fatty foods, etc. But I feel satisfied in that I'm not eating the same ol' boring food, and my palate is pleased. Problem is, my gut sometimes isn't.

My main symptoms tend to be serious gas, bloating, cramping, and constipation/diarrhea (and associated pain).
Other, possibly, maybe related symptoms are frequent headaches, joint pain-including severe TMD (hello, I'm 26!!! Some days I can't even get out of bed and function without ibuprofen and heat), very intense PMS, irritability (so says my husband lol)...and I'm sure there are more, I just can't think of anything else at the moment.
That may be another possible symptom - memory/brain issues. I've noticed recently that my memory isn't what it used to be (and, like I said, I'm not that old), and I'm really having problems with mixing my words/letters up when writing/typing. I never had problems with dyslexia before, but it's kind of worrying me...

Anyway, I'm not sure what to pinpoint as far as the cause of my symptoms goes, b/c it varies so much, and feels so random.

So what's the problem/problems?

Stress? Yes, I do have a lot of stress in my life, and I cause the majority of it. But is it the source?
Specific intolerances that I am missing?
Lectin intolerance?
IBS (and not following the diet more directly)?
It's all in my head (lol!!)?


I don't eat a lot of sugar, processed foods, or fat. I only eat out 2-3 times a month. I eat mostly lean meats, GF grains, fruits/veggies, nuts, etc. I drink a lot of water. I take an IBS-friendly fiber supplement before each meal, I drink herbal teas, and not a lot of caffeine or alcohol. I take a probiotic daily. I try and take vitamins a few times a week.

Anyone have any advice/suggestions/good resources on where to look/how to figure this out?

I'm thinking about changing up my diet, either by doing an elimination diet or trying the paleo diet. Any opinions on either of those?


Monday, August 09, 2010

What To Eat When Backpacking

Red Castle Mountain

So, last week, my husband, my father-in-law, and I spent 4 days backpacking in the High Uintas. See a full report on my trip, with lots of pictures HERE.

I wanted to share what I packed for my husband and myself, and what we learned from what we brought. There were definitely things we’ll be doing different next time around to save on weight and space.

What we ate:

For breakfasts, Luke ate 2 packets of oatmeal and a couple pieces of turkey bacon the first couple days. I had made some gluten free hot cereal, which I had frozen in Ziploc bags, and I heated that up each morning for breakfast for me. It was really good! I drank tea with breakfast, and Luke had some Hawaiian Punch.

Lunch was made to be more on-the-go, and it worked out really well. Luke had some peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat bread, which seemed good enough for him, eaten with some trail mix and jerky. For myself, the first day I brought some egg salad in a Ziploc bag, and ate that with half a gluten free bagel (made by Udi’s, which I found at our local Einstein Bro’s Bagels). The other days I ate tuna (in the individual pouches) with a bagel half. I also brought some individual mayo packets to mix into the tuna, which made it much more enjoyable (P.S. I stocked up on the mayo at recent trips to fast food restaurants with my husband. Lol).

Dinner consisted of tin foil dinners the first night. The rest of the nights, Luke ate a half packet of ramen, and some bean with bacon soup (which I’d divided and frozen). He loved it! My dinners were actually surprisingly good. I had a packet of Thai Kitchen soup (Bangkok Curry is my favorite), along with some freeze-dried turkey and veggies. I mixed it all together, and it made for a tasty and filling dinner! We also had more Hawaiian Punch with our dinners. We topped off the meal each night with a couple peanut butter cookies. So delicious!

Snacks we packed were trail mix, beef jerky, energy bars for me, oatmeal bars for Luke, dill sunflower seeds, and some Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks and Twigs (which is a snack similar to pretzels, only gluten free, and healthier. Luke calls it bird food, b/c it’s made from grains and seeds, and tastes like it, but I love it!).

What I recommend for future backpacking trips, knowing what I know now:
(this is mostly for myself, so I don’t forget when next summer rolls around, but hopefully it will benefit you, my readers, as well)

We probably had 10 lbs of food more than we needed! We way over-packed in general, but I think we could have cut back on our weight a bit by watching our food.

So, first on the list: Don’t bother with the perishables. Yeah, it was nice to have bacon with breakfast, and obviously I can’t do oatmeal on the gluten free diet (learned that the hard way last time we went backpacking, that even “safe” oatmeal does not agree with me at ALL). However, my cereal was heavy pre-made. I also wouldn’t want to spend 20 minutes cooking my breakfast each morning, so, I think in the future, what I will do is breakfast on energy bars, trail mix, jerky, and tea.

Luke says that he’d sacrifice good food, like the tin foil dinners, and bean with bacon soup, for a few pounds less in his pack. As unappealing as the freeze-dried meals are, he says he’ll make them work next time. Plus, there’s always ramen. Luke’s dad ate 2 packets of ramen for lunch each day, and a freeze-dried meal each night for dinner. Smart!

My dinners were actually the lightest food I brought. They worked great, tasted good, and I can’t complain. I was really frustrated before we left, because I had found some gluten free dehydrated meals that I really liked, but wasn’t able to get more shipped to me before we would be leaving. So, next time, plan ahead, and order that gluten free stuff way before you need it!

Plus, with perishable food comes a need for a way to store and keep cool. We packed in a couple pounds of dry ice, 2 frozen water bottles (which were nice for having ice-cold drinks, and kept the food cool for a couple days), and a small cooler, which was light by itself, but bulky. Way too much weight there!!!

I brought a couple different energy bars that I really liked:
Lara bars. I really love the peanut butter cookie flavor, but there are a few other flavors that are pretty good too. The cinnamon roll is okay, as are the apple and cherry pie flavors. I enjoyed the peanut butter and jelly flavor as well.
I discovered Organic Food Bar, which may be my new favorite treat! I’ve only tried the Belgium Chocolate Chip flavor, but I really like it. The bar part reminds me of your average energy bar, but nestled in every bite are bursts of creamy, chocolaty goodness! These were great to have up on the trail.
On their website, the price for a box of bars is about equal to the price I paid in the store (about $2.75), but add in shipping…and you’re up to about $3.40. However, I did look on Amazon, and it looks like they sell them for quite a bit less, which is great! Plus, they qualify for amazon prime, which means I get free shipping! So, total cost on amazon is $2.22. Much more affordable for an occasional energy bar!
Just a note: There are a couple of their bars which contain wheat grass and barley grass, but they claim that they are well below the US standard of gluten free. I would still recommend testing them out at home before you open one up on the trail. I will have to give their other bars a try sometime, and report on my findings here. But these I definitely recommend!!

We loved the Hawaiian Punch singles packets! They’re sugar free, but tasted delicious! They were great for accompanying meals, and we ran out too quickly. Pack lots of these, even if you only bring one empty water bottle for them. You’ll want something other than filtered, not-quite-cold spring water to drink. Would have loved some Gatorade as well, but I couldn’t find any individual packets at the store, and forgot to measure out how much would be needed for a water bottle. I’m sure that wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out though. To keep things gluten free, I gave Luke the cup from the mess kit, and drank out of the bottle myself, topping him off as needed.

The GF bagels were so awesome to have, and I would bring them next time. The only problem is, the week we got home, I headed to Einstein Bro’s to stock up again, and was told they have discontinued carrying them! Weak! I’m so sad. They were the best, most “real” tasting bagels I’ve had since going gluten free. Buying them on Udi’s website is probably not an option for me, unless I can find some people to go in with me on them. The price per bagel is the same online as it was to buy at Einstein. But the shipping fees are atrocious! I understand they have to be shipped quickly, and kept frozen to stay fresh, but come on! Twice as much as the cost of one bag of bagels!
I suppose if you buy a few at a time, the shipping fee doesn’t increase much. But I would need to invest in a deep freeze in order to store several bags of bagels, and I don’t have room for that in my current house :P Ah, well, such is life. They did make for very handy meals, and half a bagel was all I really needed at lunch.

Definitely loved the trail mix! We packed way too much of it (filled 2 quart-sized Ziploc bags, one for each of us). We probably only ate half of what we brought in 4 days, and that included sharing some with Luke’s dad. For future trips, I would recommend packing extra M&M’s in the mix. We had a mix of peanut and almond M&M’s, and those got eaten first (I know I don't usually tolerate dairy, but the M's don't seem to bother me in moderation. Score!).

Our trail mix ingredients:
Steph’s: peanut/almond M&M’s, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, raisins, dried apples, and dried apricots
Luke’s: peanut/almond M&M’s, pecans, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds

As far as jerky goes, we packed way too much of that too. Probably only ate a serving a day each. But it’s not too heavy, so packing a little extra wasn’t a bad thing. I’ve found a couple of brands that do well with the gluten free thing. Target’s generic brand (can’t think of it at the moment) is good, as well as Hi-Country, which I found at Wal-mart. I don’t know for sure that either is gluten free, but neither lists wheat on the ingredient list, and I have eaten both with no problems. I prefer the Hi-Country jerky, personally. It’s really good!
P.S. I just realized this, and don’t know if I’ve been oblivious all my life, but on most jerky packaging, it says to refrigerate after opening, and best when eaten within 5 days. Was this always the case? We always had jerky in our pantry growing up, and I never remember having to throw it in the fridge. Anyway, side note :) I just took a few servings worth of jerky in a Ziploc bag, and threw the rest in the freezer.

I also packed some Earth Balance butter substitute and a lemon for our fish (that we didn’t get to eat, since we didn’t catch any dinner-worthy fish). The butter was frozen, and in the future, I would probably only pack half a stick, rather than a full one. I also packed some seasoning mix for the fish, that actually worked pretty well with the dinners we ate. I mixed salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder in a prescription pill bottle. I’ve since made grilled chicken with this stuff, and it’s pretty good. I would probably bring all this stuff again, as long as we caught some real fish this time (which mostly I blame on us not having enough fishing gear).

We had no problem with fires, once we got the first one going, which was the only difficulty. We kept the ashes covered with rocks until the next time we needed them. I would still recommend bringing a small propane stove for boiling water, which was mostly what we needed for our meals.

So, in summary (because I tend to ramble on a bit in my posts):

Stephanie’s recommended food for backpacking:

Non-GF Food Suggestions:
Breakfast – Oatmeal
Lunch – PBH sandwiches
Dinner – Ramen/dehydrated meals
Snacks – Trail mix, jerky, seeds, oatmeal/energy bars, Hawaiian Punch or other individual drink packets

GF Food Suggestions:
Breakfast – Energy bars/ GF oatmeal
Lunch – Tuna packets w/ GF bread/bagel/crackers
Dinner – GF dehydrated meals/Thai Kitchen soup packets w/ dehydrated meat/veggies to add
Snacks – Trail mix, GF jerky, energy bars, Sticks and Twigs, Hawaiian Punch or other individual drink packets


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Camping, Gluten Free

I just got back from a family reunion down in Southern Utah. It was great! So beautiful and so fun to catch up with everyone. My favorite part, though? The food, of course!!!

My aunt and cousin have always had problems with wheat. Recently, my cousin has adopted the gluten free lifestyle, and she's helping her parents do it too. We've had many discussions over the last year or so about different aspects to the lifestyle.
Even more recently, one of my other cousins started having problems with her oldest son developing a horrible chicken-pox like rash. She has looked into exploring the food allergy possibility (she developed a gluten intolerance while she was pregnant with him), and wanted to try eating gluten free with her son while at the reunion.

So, there was a hefty order for gluten free goodies this year.

I brought the following items to share (which were enjoyed by all):
Vanilla almond flour cupcakes (with coconut and chocolate frostings, as well as strawberries)
Chocolate chip scones
Strawberry chocolate chip muffins (I still need to post my variations on this amazing recipe!)
Gluten free rolls (which I still feel like need some work before I post the recipe)
Decadent chocolate cookies (Ack! Another one I need to post!)

Some things I brought for myself:
Beef jerky (Target's store brand doesn't have any wheat in it, unlike most)
Lara bars (my fave flavor is the peanut butter cookie variety)
Mary's Gone Cracker's Sticks and Twigs snack
Glutino crackers (the ritz-like ones) w/ tuna packages
Some cashews and walnuts (softer on my braces than my favorite almonds)
Fresh fruit
Rice Works sweet chili rice chips

I enjoyed my aunt's amazing gluten/dairy free biscuits and gravy each morning (made with almond flour biscuits and almond milk gravy), as well as my new favorite food, of which I was sent home with a bagful: Gluten free bagels from Einstein Bagel Co!!! I enjoyed my first real bagel in 4 years!

Now that makes for one great weekend!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The stars were not aligned in my favor...

So, I think if I were into horoscopes, my fortune for last Friday would have told me to STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN!!!
I was very excited to be making two delicious recipes, and they both failed miserably!
So, I am going back to those recipes, and editing them. Just thought I'd let you all know.

First off, we have the Sloppy Dudes I have been raving about. So I made a full batch of this stuff on Friday, hoping to stock up for the weekend so I wouldn't have to cook. My rolls, by the way, turned out better, but they're still needing work, so I'll post them another day. I don't know if it was because I had made a smaller portion the first time or what, but the ratios were way off when I followed the recipe for a full batch.
Problem #1: When using a lime in this recipe, be sure and use a SMALL lime (or a quarter of a larger, lemon sized lime). Both my avocado mash and the meat filling were very strongly lime-y. Still good, but a bit overpowering.
Problem #2: I don't know what happened here, but a full cup of chicken stock was WAY too much for this recipe. I ended up draining about half a cup, after letting the whole thing simmer an extra 10 minutes to try and reduce the sauce. I think I may have an idea of what I did differently (added the correct number of tomatillos this time, as opposed to a couple less the first time I made it), but I don't see how the measurements are off. I recommend just pouring in half the amount of stock, and adding more if needed.

On to dessert. I'm headed to a family reunion this weekend, and we've got a few people eating gluten free, so I am in charge of bringing some safe goodies for everyone to enjoy. Well, the almond flour vanilla cupcakes I made were such a hit, I figured I'd bring them. I thought I'd make a batch and throw them in the freezer to save myself some last-minute work . Since we've got a lot of mouths to feed, I thought I'd change the recipe just a bit, by making mini-cupcakes. So I followed the recipe exactly the same, simply pouring the batter into a mini-cupcake pan, which I had covered with cooking spray. Apparently, that was the wrong thing to do. These puppies NEED to be baked in paper-lined cups. I couldn't get a single one out of the pan. And let me just say, I didn't go easy on the pan spray either. I was worried about the tops overflowing, and sticking to the pan. Well, I had the opposite problem. All the tops came off fine...just without the rest of the cupcake :P
So, for this recipe edit, I am stressing the need for lining the muffin cups with paper! Unless you want to enjoy your cupcakes in crumbs (which turned out to be pretty good with sliced strawberries and melted DF chocolate). Hubby enjoyed eating the tops for breakfast as well, so all was not lost.

This just goes to show you, even those of us who have been doing this whole cooking thing for awhile still get it wrong once in awhile :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sloppy Dudes (think turkey burger meets fresh mex tacos!)

I'm so excited to share this new recipe with you all! I made this for dinner tonight, and it was amazing! An inspired dish as well, as it combined all the things I was trying to get rid of before they went bad in my fridge!

I can't even describe this dish. It's a perfect blend of the most unexpected ingredients. The flavors work so well together.

Ok, so think sloppy joe, only think, california style. Fresher. Lighter. Throw some avocado and tomato in there. Add a hint of zesty cumin and a splash of lime.

Yeah, this is it. Don't question it. Just make it!

GF/DF Sloppy Dudes
(adapted from the recipe in "Just In Time" by Rachael Ray)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
16 tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed well
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 small lime
1 tbsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1/2 c chicken stock (more if needed)
2 ripe avocados
4 gluten free rolls*
2 tomatoes
tortilla chips, for serving
(recipe also calls for 1 jalapeno, but I didn't have one. I bet it would be great though!)

Finely chop/mince tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeno (if using).
Place a large skillet over medium-high, and add oil. Once it's hot, stir in the turkey and chopped veggies. Break up the turkey and mix everything together in the pan. Season with half the lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add half a cup of the chicken stock, and simmer for 5 more minutes. The liquid will have mostly evaporated by the end. Add more liquid if needed.
In the meantime, halve the avocados, remove pits, and scoop out of the skin. Mash avocados in a small bowl with remaining lime juice.
Split and toast or broil the rolls until lightly golden browned.
Slice the tomatoes, and set aside. You can also use additional red onion slices, if desired (raw onions don't do so well with my system).
To assemble, spread some of the avocado over the rolls. Scoop on the turkey filling. Top with a tomato slice. If possible, you can put the top of the roll back on. My rolls didn't split so easily, so I just did open-faced sandwiches. I actually ate them with a fork, as they were a bit sloppy (really the only true resemblance to sloppy joes).
Serve with tortilla chips.

Makes 4ish servings. I halved the recipe, and still think I have enough for 3 meals! Maybe I just need to go heavier on the toppings. My GF rolls aren't exactly ginormous.

*My roll recipe is still a work in progress. The rolls I've made taste good, but they don't really look amazing. Nor do they have that glutenous split-in-half thickness to them. I am planning on testing another batch this weekend, and will post the recipe soon!

I apologize. None of the pictures I took of the finished product turned out that great. So, I photographed all the elements to the meal. Don't they look yummy though?

P.S. If you have leftover avocado mash, it works great as a butter/mayo sub on toast/sandwiches. I make "poor man's butter" all the time by mashing an avocado, and mixing in some lime juice and salt. Soooo good!

P.P.S. This recipe is linked over to Linda's Gluten Free Wednesdays! Check out the other fabulous recipes there!

*Note: This recipe has been recently updated, thanks to a disastrous experience in the kitchen the other night :P

This recipe has also been linked to Diane's Friday Foodie Fix - Tomatillos.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gluten Free Anniversary! The journey so far.

June represents a milestone for me. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Sometimes it seems like it's been longer, and other times I think, holy cow, has it already been four years??

Reflecting on the last four years, I feel like I have grown so much in my life in general, as well as in my gluten-free adventure. And it's definitely been an adventure!

I've never really shared "my story" here, the reason being that I prefer to look toward the future rather than dwell on the past. I also feel like this is a somewhat frustrating story, and while the overall ending is VERY happy (gluten-free and feeling better! YAY!), it's not a completely finished story. There are still some mysteries in my health that need to be solved. But, I suppose that's life :)

However, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share it with the world. This is more than just a gluten-free story. It's the story of me discovering the joys of being healthy, and listening to what my body was telling me.

As far back as I can remember, I've always had a "sensitive stomach." I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia when I was 8 years old, and my mom made sure I ate enough complex carbs (LOTS of whole wheat bread), proteins, and limited my sugar intake. For the most part, I had no problem with this, other than the traumatic diagnostic visit to the pediatrician. I remember sobbing uncontrollably in the waiting room for an hour, while they were doing the test, which I think involved pumping me full of sugar to see how my body reacted. Anyway, as a teenager, I began to notice that my body reacted badly to stress. I was frequently gassy and bloated (and never made the connection to comfort foods, of which I overindulged when stressed). It was something I pretty much just suffered through.

I remember on my 18th birthday, my family took me to Outback Steakhouse for dinner. We got a big plate of the bloomin' onion (onion rings) as an appitizer, and I scarfed them! They were soooo good. But, boy did I pay for that later. I was so sick the rest of the night. I don't know if it was too much food and fun, too much grease, or gluten, but this was a pretty typical occurrence for me. Holidays usually meant extra time in the bathroom, emergency pepto bismol, and lots of cuddle time with my bean bag.

I headed off to college, scavenging for cafeteria food and vending machine junk between classes. I ate a lot of quesadillas, chicken pot pies, and breakfast bagels. Yum! But I was definitely not feeling my best.

I never had to worry about my weight growing up. I was always naturally pretty skinny, which I didn't truly appreciate until I got to college. I'm sure there were numerous things contributing to the changes my body went through. In college, I was dealing with some major emotional issues, depression, anxiety, and overall life stress. Plus, I was less active physically than I had ever been in my life (especially when I stopped going to class, and therefore was no longer trekking across campus daily). I got on antidepressants and birth control. And I started gaining weight. Not a lot, maybe 15 lbs. But, considering the last time my weight had fluctuated was my freshman year of high school, this was a big deal to me. However, everyone I talked with about it wrote it off as the "Freshman 15." Maybe that's all it was. But that wasn't the end of it.

I got married a year later. By then, my weight had increased another 5 lbs. My emotions were at an all-time low, and I was still feeling pretty crappy. A year and a half into my marriage, my husband told me he was worried about me. He said he was concerned about my health (ie, I was STILL gaining weight, very inactive, on 3 antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications, sleeping pills, etc), as well as the fact that more often than not, I was coming home from my part-time job completely drained, unable to do much because my body hurt too badly. The cramps were getting worse, and the gas was getting WAY worse :P

So I went to my doctor, with a couple of requests. Get me off of these meds, which I was worried were the cause of my weight problems, and help me feel better!! Doc put me on acid reflux medication. That didn't work. He told me to start taking Beano and Lactaid. That didn't work. He told me I had IBS, and to start following that diet (lots of whole grains, no red meat/fat/dairy). That REALLY didn't work.

I spent some time on an online IBS forum, discussing my situation with other people dealing with similar symptoms. It was then that I was first made aware of gluten intolerance. I did more research on the subject, and realized I might have found an answer. I went back to my doctor, and asked him to test me to for celiac.

The bloodwork came back positive, and he sent me to a GI to verify with a biopsy. The biopsy was also positive. The GI (who barely spoke English) told me I had "the sprue" and that I just needed to cut gluten out of my diet and I'd be fine. Easy enough, right? LOL! He also gave me the name of the nutritionist who worked for the hospital, and said she'd be able to help me. He also recommended I go get a bone scan done, to check my bone density. I set up appointments to see both of them a few days later, and in the meantime did all the reading I could on celiac disease.

The bone scan showed no real damage, just that I was on the verge of having bone problems. So I was told to load up on supplements and followup in the future.

I then went in to see the nutritionist, which was a total waste of my time. She handed me about 50 pages of printed paper, that had come from, and told me this would have all the answers to my questions. The questions I tried to ask her, she couldn't answer...and, by the way, was the FIRST place I went in my online researching the same day I was diagnosed! I was so mad. Especially b/c my insurance didn't cover the visit with her.

So I went home, feeling completely alone, depressed, but at the same time trying to stay positive. I finally had an answer! More frenzied online researching ensued, as I tried to wrap my mind around this new concept of eliminating gluten from my life. There were lots of failures, and a lot more moments of weakness, where I caved. I went through quite a phase at the beginning where, when I screwed up and accidentally ate gluten, I binged. My mentality was, well, if you're gonna be sick, might as well actually enjoy something...Yeah, that was BAD! Lol. I figured it out eventually. But it took way too long before I could give up my Wendy's JBCs and Kneader's paninis. I think I finally had a "last meal" ceremony, where I made one my favorite gluten-filled dishes, a pizza sandwich (pizza toppings, cheese, and sauce in a toasted sandwich).

I spent a lot of time on the GF forum on, finding recipes, asking questions and getting to know other people dealing with this. It is such a great resource, and helped me through the initial transition into the diet.

The first gluten free cookbook I bought was called Life Tastes Good Again. It was written by two women out here in Utah, and they do a monthly GF cooking class. They pretty much saved my life. I began talking a lot with Betsy, online and at the classes, and spent some time with her at her house. She really helped teach me how to cook gluten free.

After a few months, this started feeling doable to me. I was having more baking successes, and less binging. Life gluten free wasn't perfect. I still remember that autumn, the birds flocked to our backyard, where I would throw out rock-hard or completely ruined loaves of bread. Eating out was still very emotionally challenging for me. I got sick at least half the time we went out. And watching other people eat the things that I REALLY wanted to eat sucked, especially when I had to consume another stupid salad. But for the most part, I was feeling better.

About a year into the diet, I started feeling sick again. I went to the GI, who told me I was probably lactose intolerant, and to start taking Lactaid pills. I did, and that helped...sometimes. I went to my general doctor, who told me he wanted to do an allergy test. We did the skin prick test, which showed up somewhere in the middle for dairy. He said to keep trying the Lactaid, avoid large amounts of dairy, and if I was still having problems, that I was probably facing an actual allergy or intolerance to dairy. The only solution for this was to cut it out of my diet. I fought this one more than gluten. I finally felt like I knew what I was doing in the kitchen again, and now the game had changed...It took me at least a year before I committed to giving up dairy for good. This definitely helped the way I felt. I still cheat very occasionally, usually when going out. But I try to avoid making anything with dairy at home.

At the same time, my doctor tested me for candida and a couple of other possible causes. Nothing turned up positive.

Like I said, cutting dairy out of my diet helped. But I was still having problems. I did a lot of reading about elimination diets, other food intolerances, etc. I decided to try somewhat of a reverse elimination diet with some of my suspect foods (just ate really bland foods for a couple days, then added in one of the suspect foods to see how I reacted). That worked...but not the way I was expecting. I spent 3 days eating plain GF french bread, potatoes, rice and bananas. But I was still getting sick. Suspect #1: POTATOES! Definitely reacted to them. Also figured out that I had problems with coconut, popcorn, onions, beans, broccoli, and cabbage. So, cut all those things out. That was not too big of a deal, except for the potatoes, which I have always LOVED, and used a lot in meals, as they were easy, and a very versatile side dish. Coconut was another tough one, since I'd found it to be the best dairy substitute (coconut ice cream!!!!!).
Anyway, got rid of all that stuff, and felt a bit better.

Eventually though, I realized something was still bothering me. So, back to the GI, after a 4 week period where I kept a food/symptom journal. He barely glanced at it, and insisted again that I had IBS. He also wanted to do a biopsy, but we didn't have money for it, so I just went with the IBS diagnosis. He did however give me a prescription for Align, which is a probiotic specifically for people with IBS symptoms. The Align has really helped. I still take it, you can get it over the counter, and I notice a difference when I don't take it.

I was very frustrated at this point. I felt like the IBS diagnosis was a cop-out, and was resentful to be put back on a diet that hadn't worked before.

I committed myself to trying it though, and it really did help. I made two great discoveries along the way. Two items recommended to me by fellow IBS-sufferers: acacia fiber and fennel tea. Both of these things are manufactured by a woman who has revolutionized the IBS community. I mostly follow the diet, straying here and there, but as long as I use these two things, my symptoms are usually kept at bay. I take the fiber religiously, about 10 grams a day, before each meal. I also drink the tea anytime I know I'm going to eat something that may trigger an attack, or when I'm already feeling bloated/gassy. I also use a heated bean bag often when I am feeling sick. That seems to help alleviate the pain.

One other thing I've tried to stick to with the IBS diet is to avoid trigger foods, like red meat, and high fat foods. This definitely makes a difference!

As of today, I still feel like something is bothering me. I just haven't got a clue as to what it could be. I've tried tracking it, and it's inconsistent, so I'm lost. It's not a big enough of a bother to cause me to pursue it. To be honest, the pain I feel these days is nothing compared to the pain I felt when I would eat gluten or dairy.

I feel like I'm a lot healthier. I don't get sick as often, and when I do, it's not enough to contain me to my bed.

Going back to my weight problems. In the midst of all my food adventures, I was still gaining weight. For a girl whose weight hadn't fluctuated more than 10 lbs in 10 years, this was baffling. In about 2 years, I gained 50 lbs. I spent so much money on diet foods/drinks, personal trainers, etc. Finally, through some miracle, I solved the mystery. My GP retired, which I was okay with, since he was the one who had sent me on a goose chase to figure out my GI problems.

I found a new doctor, and eventually brought up the subject of my weight/low energy and possible medication correlations. He immediately ordered a bloodtest. He also asked me about my thyroid. I told him it had been "borderline low" for years, and my old GP told me that as long as it didn't drop I should be okay. New doc told me this was NOT okay, and gave me a prescription for Synthroid.

Within the first month, I started losing weight! And this was 2 months after I had stopped working out with a personal trainer! I was so excited. It took about 6 months, but by the end of 2008 I had gone from 155 lbs to 110 lbs (with very minimal exercising and simply following my GF/DF/IBS diet). Everyone tells me it's unfair. But, boy did it feel good to feel like myself again! In the last year and a half, I have lost 5 lbs, and only gained weight during a 2 month period where my pharmacy switched me to a generic brand. Getting back on the name brand fixed that though!

So, that's me over the last 4 years. Whew. I still get people who ask me how I do it. Give up so much. It really isn't a choice for me anymore. I wouldn't trade how I feel today for how I felt back then for anything! Even for pizza sandwiches! The hassle and inconvenience I experience is nothing compared to the pain I remember living with daily.

I am so thankful to all the resources that helped me get to where I am. Thanks to my family and my in-laws for putting up with my annoying requests at get-togethers and for being the taste testers for all my experiments (especially Ali and DJ!

Thanks to my sister, aunts and cousins, who are all now joining me in being gluten free (it makes me feel so good to be able to help you gals out, to share my successes and failures with you, and for you to help me feel like this matters to more than just me).

Most importantly, I am grateful for my husband, who has always stood by me, helped me, encouraged me, scolded me when necessary, and loved me, no matter how bad things got. Thanks babe, for indulging my more expensive grocery habits, for trying all my new recipes, and for helping me see how much better life is when I'm taking care of my body.

Thank you to all my readers, for sharing your recipes and experiences with the world, and for being interested in mine! I'm excited to keep moving forward, and see where life takes me!

Here's to many more glorious, gluten-free days!