Category Archives: General

Gobsmacked: Lessons in Living a Gluten Free Life #1

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GF Pancakes

How long have you been gluten free?

What prevents you from digging in and baking/cooking like you used to?

See those pancakes?  I’m proud of my weekend pancakes.  My chickadees love pancakes on the days we get to wake up in a lazy fashion (READ: 6:30AM instead of 5:15AM).   I used to be so stuck.  I would fuss over a recipe or dig one out and carefully measure, etc.  And guess what?  They didn’t care if the pancakes were perfectly fluffy or “exactly” like the ones I made last week.  They just wanted pancakes.  (In particular, pancakes cooked in olive oil that have a bit of a crunchy outside are perfect for dipping.  Or so I am told.)

Well before I was diagnosed and right before I went off to college, I sat down one afternoon with my brand spanking new typewriter (Take that, technology!) and my mom’s boxes of recipes.  Her recipe cards were from friends, family, and collected over the years from magazine clippings.  Most of the things she cooked for dinner were not on any recipe card in any box.  They were in her head.  But alas, foolish teenager that I was, I did not realize how much I would want to know about our dinners.  Instead, I focused on getting the cookies, breads, rolls, appetizers, etc from my youth onto recipe cards of my own. 

Yes, I typed them onto recipe cards.  For some reason, I didn’t think my handwriting would “last”.  I’m certain that impression came from watching the cards from grandmothers and great-grandmothers having been scribed in pencil smear and fade a bit with time – and more importantly – use!  Oh, I spent the entire afternoon typing up recipes at the kitchen table onto those cards and sliding them into sleeves within my own recipe book!  I was a GROWN-UP for sure, now!

Upon my diagnosis more than a decade later, I shoved those family recipes aside.   Once, I even “weeded through them” and threw many into the recycle bin.  I was angry.  I thought I would never need those recipes again.  After all, my doctor had told me that my future meant not a single crumb of bread, cookie, cake nor pasta would pass my lips.

 

After my first forays into the gluten free market, I became convinced that he was right.  Now only would I never bake again, but if I did happen to find a gluten free version in the store of whatever baked good I wanted, it would be disgusting.  It would be hard as a rock and as dense as a skyscraper.  (I know these weights to be accurate because my Love and I schlepped a giant amount of gluten free rolls purchased on the internet in 2000 with us on our honeymoon to Rome.  Trust me.  Dense + heavy + disgusting = doctor was right.)

 

Flash forward to this weekend.  As the girls began stirring from their sleep (hello 6AM… oh how I wish you were 8AM….LOL), my Love so graciously (HA!) offered to have “Mommy make some pancakes”.  Both girls popped up and out of bed in a flash.  Ah yes, the weekend has arrived if pancakes are on the menu and they know it.

 

Getting pancakes together absolutely no longer means even cracking open a recipe book.  Honestly.  I simply mix together ingredients as I go.  I have more memories of my grandmother and great-grandmother recipes noting ingredients in quantities of smidges, pinches, etc.  I totally get that now.  Save for the fact that mine would be measured in scoops from the flour bin, shakes of the baking soda container (always a tad more that what I think looks “right” just to be sure),  pinches of salt, couple spoons of honey or sugar and milk to the right consistency.  Everything is adjustable.  Make one practice pancake.  Taste test.  Adjust (if needed) and go!  Turn on the oven to warm and make pancakes.

 

If you had told me in October of 2000 that one-day I would again be back in the kitchen just preparing food rather than worrying about recipes for every little thing, I would not have ever believed you.

 

I still focus when baking bread.  That is something that the balance of ingredients must be “ON” for – or you will have a disaster of a loaf of bread on your hands.

 

I still write up recipes for breads, muffins, cupcakes, etc –but it feels good to be back in the kitchen and not so worried like I was before I started blogging in 2005.  I guess the best part about blogging for me has been forcing me to learn the recipes and the consistency of the doughs and mixes so I know what I am doing again.

 

So….. How long have you been gluten free?  If you are feeling like you will never get your kitchen mojo back, don’t worry:  it will come.

 

Promise.

A long winter

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Out and About

Eastern WA

We ran away this weekend.   It was very long overdue.  Winter is hard here for us with the very limited light (although I easily admit that since it has been “very dry” in Western Washington terms, I’ve enjoyed it more).  This winter has been worse.  

In December a colleague of mine – my age, married with three kids (6th grade and 3rd) – was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just before Christmas Break.  It blew my mind.  As someone who is well-connected in our community through his coaching, teaching, university studies, growing up nearby, etc – the hundreds – and literally thousands of people who have come forward to offer support for he and his family is amazing.  There are little pieces we all contribute – mostly watching over the hundreds of students at school who have had – and are having – a very difficult time with this.  My friends at work – his coaching buddies for years through baseball and football – are complete wrecks.   

And then another colleague (my age) committed suicide on the last day of February.  

I have been speechless and riddled with anxiety, grief, tears, and funny memories of my very sassy friend who killed himself and well… speechless.  

He leaves behind two boys (one 6th grader, and the other in elementary school) who adored him.  He was an excellent father.  A hilarious, passionate colleague – and beyond that – a troubled soul who struggled his whole life with depression.

And then winter dragged on.  The rain came back.  The clocks all changed.  And the stress of the year began to eat at me.

Frequently, my little band of 3 and I find ourselves on day trips or weekend “adventures”.  In the winter, with work, these “adventures” can be as exciting as filling the freezer by stocking up at Costco.  Yes, we are that exciting.   This March, even the simple pleasures of watching a movie together could not ease the pains of loss.  We thought about traveling for a few days to get away to places we have enjoyed in the past… but you know what?

I just didn’t want to work that hard.

I didn’t want to have to research/look-up everything, call restaurants, plan our adventures by a map with not only gluten-free but kid-friendly options nearby.    I just didn’t.  I don’t mind that traveling may not only sometimes be a bit more costly (because swinging through the random coffee shop or sandwich shop will not always produce a gluten-free option at a low-cost).    That’s just the name of the game.

But this time around, I really just wanted to relax.  With my kids.  And no cell phones, televisions, pesky to-do lists, mail to sort, email to answer, etc  And I certainly didn’t want to spend my vacation time with my nose in my cell phone trying to find a gluten-free option for dinner as we strolled through our afternoon.  (Hey…it’s been known to happen when we just get in the car and go!)

 

God's Eyes

 

I remember this little mountain retreat place that I had been to 8 years ago.  It is a renovated mountain camp – much like one you may have been to as a kid – but with updated furnishings, towel warmers in the bathroom, trails between “cabins” (duplex cabin-esque units) and random Chihuly blown glass art sculptures.  Oh yes, and an outdoor bar with its own waterfall.  It definitely feels like someone who wanted to go “camping” but well… not really.  

DSC_0038

In other words, it sounded perfect.  We could unplug.  We could explore.  The kids could be outside.  And the weather was 68-72F during the day with sunshine and a 32F cold (perfect for sleeping) at night.  My kind of place. :D

The best part?  I didn’t have to even think about dinner nor brunch.  Once we made our reservations, I let them know that I had Celiac and would need a gluten-free meal option.

HA!  An option!  The restaurant (on site) was a gluten-free haven.  Oh – and the majority of the food served was locally grown.   It was great – for every meal (buffet style) we ate there, I could eat all entrée mains (except one each meal), they had fresh gluten-free bread options for the asking, gluten-free dessert options (gf chocolate cake, white chocolate creme brulee, etc), all gluten-free salad dressings, all gluten-free salad options separated from the non-gf items in the salad bar, etc.  Honestly.  There was too much food.  (Don’t worry, we survived that disappointment…LOL)

In fact, there was so much available to me that I couldn’t help but find myself mystified why the two entrees (two different meals) that I could NOT eat were NOT made gluten-free as well. It would have been so easy to do.  (For the record, it was a pork rack roast and the next day, a ham.)  I mean really.  Could they not use tamari?

AND FINALLY, my Love and I laughed.  

Seriously – how many times have we traveled together when the only safe option for me were some plain leafy greens or something less than joyful for a food-lover like me?  And here I was, in a buffet-style restaurant with so many gluten-free options that my brain focused on what I could NOT have?!

We began to discuss how often in life we condition ourselves to see that we are trained to see.  In work.  With kids.  With each other.  With my Celiac Disease.  Surrounded by the food that the servers/chefs could easily answer the gluten-free question for me and there I was, stuck on that stinking rack roast.  

And there I have been all March.  Stuck on the loss of my colleague and the impending loss of another.

Walk OnEveryday my little people and I sing loudly (and out of tune) together in the car.  They always request their favorites.  I rarely am one to quote song lyrics, but their latest song has caught my mind.  The song is called “Carry On” by the group FUN.  The lyrics (in part) say this:

…If you’re lost and alone
Or you’re sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on…

I’m sure I will have my damn-it, it’s not-gluten-free moments again.

I know I will continue to grieve the loss of my friends.

And I also know that the sun will shine, my kids will keep laughing, and we will all carry on.  There are many worse things in this world that having to avoid gluten.  I have never thought it was the end of my world.  I guess I just forgot to look up at the path ahead of me sometimes to see those little feet marching on.  So please forgive my latest absence.  I’ve been busy bringing my soul back from the depths of grief and setting my eyes on those little feet in the picture.

May your Spring be bringing you out of a dark winter with Love as well - 

~Kate

 

 

Gluten Free Grasshopper Cupcakes: Mint-Chocolate & Chocolate Chip

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Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes
Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

Gluten Free Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes

A couple months ago, a colleague brought me some small gluten free cupcakes from a local bakery.  They were “grasshopper” cupcakes, she told me.  I was curious.  She handed me the box and smiled.  Said because they were gluten free, she snapped them up as she “knew someone” who could enjoy them.  I’m the lucky someone, I told her.  I thanked her profusely for thinking of me and promised to give them a try at lunch time. (It was 7AM, after all, when she delivered them.)  The school day started with the rush of students, papers, lessons, activities, things to manage, etc and soon lunch arrived.

I opened the box of cupcakes.   There were FOUR of them.  Four?  Hot dog!

And then I looked more closely.  Egad…they were CHOCOLATE!  I know this sounds ridiculous, but I am really NOT a fan of chocolate cake.  I am fairly certain my aversion to chocolate cake and ice cream stems from a not-too-fun incident when I was 6.

We had just moved in to our new house on the East Coast when my family noticed a birthday party of little girls in the nearby cup-de-sac.  Since they were all my age, I was encouraged and “included”…. and petrified.  I didn’t know any of them – but my anxiety tends to display itself as super-social behavior.  I guess it fit the birthday party mode.  What didn’t fit was the superhuman consumption of chocolate cake (GIANT portions with major frosting) and chocolate ice cream (HUGE SCOOP).  I …. well…. ended the party ill.  And never socialized with the little girls in the nearby cul-de-sac again.  (Way to kick off a new school/new school year with a reputation, huh?)

Needless to say, I was bummed to see chocolate cupcakes.  Since I had told my colleague I would let her know what they were like, I forced myself to take a small bite of one.  And wow.  They were good cupcakes!  They were light, had an airy crumb and tasted nicely.  (They were a bit crumbly…but hello? Gluten free!)  I shared the other three cupcakes with 3 of my students who are also gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease.  (It’s amazing to me the number of kids who are gluten free now – we even have a “gluten free club” in the high school!).  They were a hit with everyone.

And I thought about going down to pick up more cupcakes from that bakery another day.  So about 2 weeks ago before Valentine’s Day, I brought the girls down there to pick up some cupcakes for Valentine’s dessert.  Everyday the flavors offered change (apparently) and I was bummed to discover that the gluten free cupcake “of the day” was not Grasshopper.  To boot, each standard (as in what you would make at home = smallish cupcake) cost $2.50 – or “$30/dozen)  (Ummmm..hello?).  Needless to say, I will not be a cupcake-purchasing Momma again for a while.

And the girls?  Well, one of them ate the frosting off their cupcake and the other took 3 bites of the cake before declaring she was “done”.  Next time I will buy one for them to split and save myself the wallet-busting heartache when I tossed the uneaten cupcakes into the trash.

But I still couldn’t get over the cupcake my colleague had given me.  So I set out to make one myself.

Recipe Testing

Recipe testing

I’m happy to report that I ditched the ratios, squashed the “dense cupcake” dilemma and discovered the best cupcake I’ve had in a VERY long time.  I have thoroughly tested this recipe (have made it at least 6 times in the last two weeks) and sent samples out and about in the world with a wide variety of testers: (1) gluten intolerant/celiac “used to the gluten free baked good” crowd, (2) my non-gluten free  but utterly wonderful colleagues who have tasted a dozen + recipes for me without complaint but great tips; (3) the toddler/youngster set in the house and with my friends; and this time – I dared request testers from my could-be-professional cake-baker buddies.  Really.  One of my colleagues could easily retire and bake cakes for big bucks for people.  (PS.  And she’s grossed out by gluten free stuff…ha!)

All of my testers have report HAPPY and DELICIOUS results.  I hope you will too.  Even the pro-baker-to-be has requested the recipe for when she may need a gluten free go-to cake. She said, and I quote “I would have NEVER known that this was a gluten free cake.  It was perfect.”   (Yes!)

A recipe tester

 

GFGrasshopperCupcakes

I hope you enjoy these cupcakes as much we have.  If you noticed, I’m trying to figure out the best recipe-print plugin for my new blog format.  Forgive me for playing around a bit until we figure it out. :D

Happy cupcake baking – I’m on to my next task:  converting this recipe for a lighter, airy non-chocolate version.  So far?  So good!

~Kate