Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Going Gluten Free....

Over the years I have had a myriad of unexplainable health issues. First it was my kidneys, then my pancreas, and then, the dealbreaker... my heart.  Of course through all these illnesses, I've had a million blood tests done, ultrasounds, X-Rays, MRI's, EKG's, and I wore a heart monitor for a couple months.  It's been so frustrating because no matter what the doctors have done, there has never been a clear answer.  Now let me be clear. I'm not blaming my doctors for anything.  I completely understand that I am a mystery. And if I were them, I wouldn't have a clue where to start either. I think at times, it's simply easier to just write out a prescription and hope that it helps. Well... my body has a problem with prescriptions and seems to, for whatever reason, reject them or react to them. The worst side effects and reaction were with my heart meds. Oh my word. Talk about feeling like crap. 
In an effort to put off getting a pacemaker at age 33, I was given a couple different medications as an attempt to regulate my out-of-this-world heartbeat. Well, the doses were tweaked several times over a 3 month period, and still nothing better. There were days I would walk down the stairs and not be able to find the energy or strength to walk back up the stairs for an hour or so.  It got old. A mere eighteen months prior to my heart issues, I was at my lowest weight since high school, I was exercising and running regularly and feeling amazing!  I can tell you that stress is part of the problem. No.doubt.in.my.mind.  But, there's an underlying problem. One that no one can seem to explain or figure out.  Pains that feel like my insides are coming out my toes, headaches, freezing body tremors, water retention, kidney pain, massive heartburn, lack of energy, and of course, a heart that races faster than Secretariat.

In an effort to figure it out once and for all, I decided to keep track of my food intake. I kept a food journal for only one week before noticing an obvious pattern. Every single time I ingested any sort of wheat product was when the symptoms would be stronger. My heartburn would bring me tears and I would have to use an electric heating pad to warm up after taking a pure hot water bath.  I'm no doctor, but I figured that it wouldn't hurt to cut wheat out of my diet for a few days and see if I were able to notice a difference.

Honestly... I have never even thought about what foods contain wheat.  I've always just cooked and baked and enjoyed it. Well, my my. How my life has changed. People, let me tell you now. Pretty much everything I enjoy eating contains wheat. Sad. Really sad. 

At this point I started to research more on a gluten free diet.  Now in the past I have researched and even made small attempts at a Paleo lifestyle.  It's too extreme for me.  If I don't have to go that far for health reasons, I won't.  Gluten free is a big enough challenge for me and I need to take this one step at a time.  Of course there is always conflicting information from person to person or better yet... website to website. But for the most part, this is what I've come to the conclusion that a person is allowed when on a gluten free diet.

*Vegetables.... lots of them. Not so much corn, carrots, and potatoes for their high starch content. Any root vegetables contain more starch.  So it's mainly the green stuff such as lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, celery, peppers, zucchini, etc. 
*Fruits... a couple servings a day. Especially if you're wanting to lose weight, keep your fruit intake to just a couple servings a day. Although they're packed with good stuff, they also contain more sugar. This is a touchy subject and it's hard for me to understand. But I'll listen. for now:)
*Meat.. the leaner the better, of course. Chicken, Lean beef, venison, etc. If you eat processed lunch meats, make sure they aren't sweetened, they are just roasted.
*Nuts... raw, the less salt the better. Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Cashews, Peanuts... Nut Butters. I can't survive without them.
*Dairy... unless you are lactose intolerant. (as little processing as possible...ex. plain greek yogurt, full fat cheese, etc)
I haven't consumed many dairy products besides cheese for years, as they just tend to give me a nasty bellyache.  I have become accustomed to drinking Almond/Coconut milk.  Of course, I use it on cereal on occasion and drink it in my chai tea, but that's about it.  I was raised on raw cows milk straight from the cow:) I've come to the conclusion, I need to invest in a milk cow. I wish I liked goats milk, as they're cheaper to feed.
*Oils... healthy oils. Coconut oils, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), Avocado Oil, Grapeseed Oil. I have read that vegetable and canola oils both are much more processed, so to avoid them if at all possible. I, for one, really like coconut oil.  I love that it has so many uses and that it is such a healthy oil. I do use EVOO to cook for my family, as they're not real into the coconut flavor.
*Avocados, olives, and other healthy oils are to be enjoyed in moderation.

When I look at it like this, it seems there is so much more that I can eat, but its certainly an adjustment.  It has been so well worth the challenge tho. I feel so much better for the most part.  As my mom says, you can't expect to feel better overnight as you've taken 34 years to pack all that crap in your body.  I am still learning and I'm reading  labels all the time. It is all about changing your lifestyle.  And after living nearly 35 years eating one way, it's a bit tough to just "switch over". Now, I think the theory that "healthy eating is more expensive" is pretty true. But, oh well.

I need to be clear on one thing.  My family still expects all 'normal' foods on the table. So, no worries, I'll still be sharing recipes that aren't gluten free. I'll continue baking and throwing a couple casseroles in the oven here and there.  I don't know that the convenience of canned condensed soups will ever be completely absent in my pantry.  However, I'm doing my best to not use them unless it's a time emergency.

I ask any of you that are regular Gluten Free Lifestylers, please offer any sort of advice or insight that you may have on this subject. I love to hear how others are coping and what helps them handle the switch....

I'm looking forward to sharing my continuing journey with you all..

Happy Cooking,


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gluten Free Pizza

I'm still new at this whole gluten free thing. ...I want REAL food.  Is that not normal?  For a girl like me that bakes like a mad woman. .. it feels like my world had been turned upside down.  But I'm trying. ... Hard... just to keep some normalcy in my life.  So today I tried my hand at pizza.  Luckily I like a thinner crust on a pizza anyway.  I thought it had good flavor and surprisingly. .. my kids ate it and loved it! !
*1 c brown rice flour
*1 c white rice flour
*1 c tapioca flour
*1/2 tsp xanthan gum
*1 tsp sea salt
*1/2 tsp baking powder
*1 1/4 cup warm water
*1 Tbsp yeast
*3 Tbsp sugar (I used coconut sugar)
*1 Tbsp olive oil
Let set for a few minutes. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to the well and mix with a silicone spatula. Once mixed well, pat out dough on a greased pizza pan. You could also use a cookie sheet. My pizza was 14". Pat out on the pan of your choice until its about 1/4" thick. Bake the crust in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out and add your favorite toppings... by the way... it's going to look all cracked. Its okay! :) after adding toppings, bake another 20 minutes. Eat and enjoy!! Loved this pizza!! Gluten free is finally getting easier!:)
♡ p.s. this is posted from my phone so please excuse the photo:)
Happy Cooking!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tea's Blacker than Midnight Cake


I had a request to make a cake last weekend. At first when I received the description in a text I nearly died... a WHAT??  I had no idea what she was talking about. I had never made anything of the sort and I was worried. (Don't worry. I explained to her that I was clueless as to what she was talking about. She still wanted me to make it... ) Her description went as follows: a dark midnight cake with chocolate cream filling, egg white frosting and a chocolate drizzle.  Now I need to explain, the reason she wanted this cake for her mom's birthday was because this was her mom's favorite cake that she baked herself every year.  Pressure much? First, I don't know what this cake is... Second... SHE DOES!
 So, I did what most people in my shoes would do. I googled it! BIG PROBLEM!  I found a bunch of different cakes, but none of them seemed to fit her description.  So.... I did what I had to do. I created my own version of this cake. And it turned out beautiful!  I made an extra one for my family just so we could see what all the hype is about.  They think that perhaps it's their new favorite cake.

First I made my yummy extra dark chocolate cake.  (This recipe works well for 2 10" pans or 3 9" pans)...

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups strong black coffee, cooled
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients in order given... Grease and flour ( I use my homemade pan release) either (3) 9" pans or (2) 10" pans.  You may have a little extra for cupcakes too, as my pans are all deep. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until center is set and outside of cake is pulling away from pan.  Cool for approximately 5-10 minutes. Run a knife around the outside and turn out onto cooling racks. Cool Completely...

Stabilized Chocolate Crème filling:
(You could use chocolate pudding in place of this cream for the filling)

1 envelope gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
combine these two ingredients in a saucepan and let stand for five minutes. Turn to low and dissolve, then remove from heat and cool. 
Whip until slightly thick:
3 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Add gelatin on low. Whip on HIGH to firm peaks. Add 1/8-1/4 cup cocoa and beat.

Egg White Frosting:

1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and cream of tartar.  Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly. In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it starts to bubble. Pour over chocolate in a glass bowl. Stir until all chocolate is melted and cream and chocolate are combined. Let cool slightly.

So... once the cakes are cooled, you're going to want to stack them, filling them with the chocolate cream. Frost with the egg white frosting. Now for the fun part... Make sure the chocolate is cooled. Pour it over the top of the cake and let it drizzle down the sides. If it's not drizzling too well and is set up, you can heat it up in 20 second intervals in the microwave just to make it a bit more workable.... Just do what works best for you.

Let set for a couple hours so chocolate sets up. Cut with a serrated knife. One of the BEST cakes ever!

I am so happy to be back!

Happy Cooking


Sunday, August 18, 2013

We interrupt the action in this kitchen for a ....fire.

As many of you may know, I spend a bunch of time in the kitchen! I've been making bunches of cakes, cookies and cupcakes. That keeps me away from my blog often. However. .. I had many plans to post a yummy recipe last week when. .. a wildfire started nearby in the mountains and made it our direction threatening our home and our friends' & neighbors' homes and livelihoods as well, as there are many cattle on the range being threatened. After being evacuated 3 times, getting bit by a mean spider on the BUMCHEEK and having a crazy week-long allergic reaction, being completely displaced, continuing to keep baking for people AND attending the week festivities at the local county fair...it's fair to say I'm completely beat!!! Luckily our home is still standing...jusy really stinky! And now I can offer two new flavors of cake to my menu..."smoked" & "fried".
Now my kids are starting school tomorrow and I'll once again be all alone (with my puppy kids, of course) for the day... and I'll be doing my best to make up for everything I wasn't able to get done last week.  Oh my....let the fun begin!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How to Bake a Cake

How to Bake A Cake....I know. It seems so simple right? Well it is! But there are so very many steps in baking correctly baking a cake. Of course, if you're just cutting it out of the pan and serving it, there are steps that maybe aren't so important.  But... PEOPLE!!.... If you're baking a cake to decorate, it is so important that you do things the right way. Now, let me be clear... I get that my way is not the ONLY right way. But what I do works for me so I stick with it. I would expect that if you need to change things up so they work better for you, you would do so. I have just come up with this little routine that works for me. So here it goes....

First... before I even begin to mix up my cake, I prepare my pans. So let's talk about pans... It's a quality thing for me when it comes to pans.  The nice heavy cake pans are WORTH their weight in GOLD! So, my suggestion is for you to go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby (or other awesome craft stores in your area that offer 40% off coupons) and use your 40% off coupon and get some nice pans. I like to buy the sets because there will be a time and place to use every single one of them. They also have all of those really fun character pans if that's what you would rather use. Anyhow... so what I'm telling you is that quality pans may cost a bit more, but they're highly worth it. Your finished product will be enough thanks for you, I promise!

So now... prepare your pans! I make my own pan release "cream". Believe me... I love Baker's Secret but with the quantity of cakes I'm baking, it gets extremely expensive. So I researched until I came up with an alternative. And it's simple!

Pan Release Cream

1/3 c flour
1/3 c oil
1/3 c Crisco

Mix it up. Make sure there aren't any lumps... Put in an airtight container. I put it in a pint size jar and seal it. Just keep it in a room temperature place. It should keep for up to 6 months. I wouldn't know as I use it quickly. Brush on your pans with a pastry brush. If you don't have one... use a paper towel, or your fingers!

Now mix up your cake.  With this little tutorial, we're not too worried about "stacking" cakes, so just mix up a cake. Whether you want to use a mix, a from scratch recipe... just mix 'er up! For these pictures, I'm just mixing up an Awesome Chocolate Cake and baking it in (2) 10" round baking pans and (2) 6" round baking pans. This is a cake I am making for someone's birthday. I like to use a heavier cake recipe when I plan on stacking cakes.  They just hold up better.

Before taking your cake out of the oven, check for doneness (is that a word?) with a toothpick. Simply stick a toothpick into the center of the cake.  If the toothpick comes out clean... then it's done.  You'll also notice that the cake will start pulling away from the edges of the pan.

After removing your cake from the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes or so on a cooling rack.  Then place the cooling rack over the pan and turn over, turning the cake out onto the cooling rack.

Let cool completely.  If you want to speed up the process, you can put it in the freezer for a couple hours. 

Baking a cake the correct way is as simple as that!  And see how beautifully the cakes come out of the pans?
Makes a girl like me really happy!  You almost don't even have to wash these babies! 

Next tutorial will be on how to properly fill, frost, and stack cakes!  Stay tuned!

Happy Baking!