These last few weeks

It’s been a crazy week and few days and I’m sorry I haven’t written.  I have some blog posts ready to go but these last few weeks have been something else… I love cats and most recently (April 2016) adopted … Continue reading

Overwhelmed

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  The last couple of months have been crazy.  I went into sales in June and I’ve been concentrating on building my book of business and have been running on all cylinders.  I’ve spent quite a few days out of town as well.  Things are going well but it’s a crazy, crazy time.

I also moved to 2nd Vice President in Lions last month which means new responsibilities and learning more there.

It’s a lot of change at one time and while I embrace change, this week things have caught up to me.

You see, there have been a lot of changes in my personal life and my friend’s lives.  I have done a little “housekeeping” when it came to friends and have decided to weed out those that have wronged me or that use me.  It’s felt good to surround myself with positive people.

While I’ve been overwhelmed with what’s going on in my life, the worst thing is when I can’t help my friends.  I know that when things are crazy in my life I have a good cry and the weight is lifted.  But when I see my friends hurting, it overwhelms me in a different way.  There aren’t enough words or hugs or cards that can make things better.  Only time.  But all I want to do is fix things, make them right again and make sure everyone is happy.

The reality is that not all times are happy.  In fact, Ecclesiastes 3 says:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

We take the good with the bad, we laugh and cry…and in these times of being overwhelmed I pray.

Getting Glutened

For those of you who aren’t Celiac, gluten intolerant or have a wheat allergy, you are probably saying “what is glutened”?

It’s a term that means that we were, essentially, poisoned.  We accidently ingested something with gluten and have exited the building.  If you are anything like me, it leaves you curled up in a ball with pain like someone has taken your intestines and just yanked on them.  A lot.  Hard.  You can’t stand up straight and it’s PAINFUL.

I hadn’t been glutened, at least to this degree, for a long time but it happened on New Year’s Eve.  Yup, way to bring in the new year.  Glutened.  Anyway, before I went to the party where I was to spend the rest of the evening, I stopped to have a beer with two of my friends:  Don and Craig.

Now, I hang out with those two guys a lot.  We talk politics, sports and anything else.  So, when I walked in, Craig orders himself a Bud Light and me an Angry Orchard.  Gotta love friends who know what you drink!  The server brings the beer and typically I take a sniff because Angry Orchard has a sweet smell to it.  This was the one time I didn’t do that.  I was deep in conversation or distracted  or something but all I know is that I took a sip.  ONE sip.  It wasn’t Angry Orchard.  It was Bud Light.

Two thoughts ran through my head:  1.  Oh crap.  2.  How did I used to drink this stuff?

I put the beer down, said “This is NOT Angry Orchard”.  Craig got a hold of the server, told her that it wasn’t the drink I ordered and she brought me my correct drink.  Don recognized that it was an issue and I was grateful for an opportunity to tell him what happens when I’m glutened.  I should have spoken to the server and/or manager but it was so busy and…I missed an opportunity.  An opportunity to educate, to help someone realize that it wasn’t just a simple mistake.

I got sick.  It was more gradual than it had been in the past.  Usually it takes about 15 minutes to an hour and then, BAM!, you won’t see me for a while.  This time it took a few hours, I kept getting more and more bloated and ended up going home late that night.  I slept all night but the next day I just sat on the couch.  I was tired, lethargic and didn’t want to do anything.

I guess the moral of the story is that when things like this happen, when I KNOW that a mistake has been made, to educate.  To use the opportunity.

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2015: Year in Review

Last  year was a wild and crazy ride.   What a year! I started a new job with a new company…kind of.  As my office was absorbed by another company, I learned a new role with my promotion.  This meant that … Continue reading

Recipe: Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake

When it comes to holidays, we don’t do much tradition for meals.  Yes, for Thanksgiving we have turkey and stuffing but then it kind of varies.  For Christmas we don’t do ham or turkey (or rarely do turkey), we do things like shrimp scampi or steak or something like that.  For Christmas Eve this year we ordered in pizza from Chicago’s Pizza in, where else, Chicago.  I can’t even tell you how excited I am about that!

So when it comes to dessert, I usually take it on.  I LOVE baking and for a holiday is no different.  I want to do something that is unusual, last year for Thanksgiving I did tiramisu.  This year I found a recipe that will remain close to my heart:  Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake.  Anytime you have whiskey in the title, you have my attention.  The only issue was that this wasn’t a gluten free recipe and, if you have tried converting recipes in the past, sometimes you have luck and sometimes you just throw it away.  This one turned out SO good!  I have to share and, maybe for Christmas, this will be your dessert.  Also, I found this recipe at www.loveandoil.com, I want to give credit where it’s due!

Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake with Whiskey Caramel Sauce

Yield: 12 servings

Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

For Cake:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups gluten free flour
  • 3/4 cup dark or dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup decent quality Tennessee whiskey or bourbon (I used Pendleton)

For Caramel:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (I ended up using light cream, that’s what I get for shopping the night before Thanksgiving)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Generously butter a standard (12-cup) bundt pan. Dust with 1 tablespoon each flour and cocoa powder, and tap and turn until pan is completely coated. Dump out excess.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until dry ingredients are almost incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add warm water and whiskey and mix until just combined and no dry ingredients remain (do not overmix). Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the deepest part of the pan comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then gently invert onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
  4. To prepare caramel, place sugar and cream of tartar in a medium, high-sided saucepan set over medium-high heat. Pour water around edges. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 2 minutes (the steam buildup will help dissolve any stray sugar crystals on the sides). Remove cover and continue to boil, without stirring, until sugar caramelizes to a light amber color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully, as it can go from golden brown to burnt in no time if left unattended.
  5. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in cream and butter (mixture bubbles a lot, this is normal), then return to low heat and whisk until completely smooth. It may seem like it is seizing, but keep whisking and most of the hard caramel chunks should dissolve.  I had a few left and strained them out. Remove from heat and let cool for about 2 minutes, then stir in whiskey. Transfer to a heat-proof container and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour, or until thickened yet still pourable.
  6. Pour about half of the caramel over the top of cake, letting it drip down the edges and pool at the base. Slice and serve and drizzle with additional caramel as desired. Cake will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake
For a gluten free cake, this kept SO well.  I’m talking that it was still moist after four days, which is unusual.  This is a recipe I WILL make again…and why not?  It’s amazing!

Don’t forget that you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more information on what’s going on in the gluten free world and my life!

Connections

When I meet someone else who has Celiac Disease, I feel an instant connection.  I instantly feel less alone and feel free to talk about my life with my autoimmune disease.

It’s similar when I meet someone else with an autoimmune disease of any type.  You can talk about struggles and get to know what other people struggle with, help educate others about their disease and spread the word for awareness.

One such person is the daughter of my best friend, Shawna.  Her name is Courtney and Courtney has cystic fibrosis or CF.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system…But in people with cystic fibrosis, a defective gene causes the secretions to become thick and sticky. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.”  In short, this disease makes it hard to breathe, breathing is necessary for life so this is a disease that can be life threatening, if not handled correctly.

Ever since I’ve known Courtney, she has tackled this disease head on.  She’s always had a smile on her face and had been an advocate for those that have CF and has been vocal about what the disease is and is always educating people.  Yes, she’s been in the hospital a few times in the past year and a half for “tune ups”, to get her lung function back where it needs to be.  She plays guitar and sings and doesn’t let this disease stop her from doing things she loves.

Courtney turns 16 tomorrow.  This is key because there are several people with CF that don’t make it into their 20’s.  Even less into their 30’s and, well, you get the picture.  Yes, treatments and, now, experimental drugs are helping life expectancy but with CF, the simplest things can trigger shortness of breath.  As a teenager, Courtney loves going to haunted houses.  This year I went with her and Shawna and the fog machines started affecting her ability to breathe.  Things that I wouldn’t think about if it wasn’t for Courtney.  And, as an advocate, she isn’t afraid to stand up for herself in cases like the haunted house or to make sure that a restaurant doesn’t allow smoking, and many other instances that I wouldn’t think about.

Speaking of experimental drugs, Courtney was one of the fortunate ones to be able to take this drug that is meant to keep her lung function where it’s at, giving her a longer life with the lungs she has and, hopefully, to not have to have a lung transplant for a long time or ever.

Why am I writing about another disease?  Because Courtney and I not only have autoimmune diseases (and both agree that they suck) but we also share a birthmonth.  Poor Shawna, having to deal with both of us and our birthday talk all December.

Two things as I end:  1)  The more we understand about other autoimmune diseases (Shawna and Courtney, please forgive me if I got info wrong!), the more we can help others and they can help us educate and advocate for Celiac Disease.  2)  I want to wish Courtney a very happy Sweet 16th birthday!  Here’s to many more, dear!

 

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I took a trip to Seattle…

Yes, the great Northwest.  If Chicago is for foodies, then the state of Washington is for those of you who like your food and adult beverages.  My brother is a graphic designer and owns his own business, Fresh Bread Design.  He works almost exclusively with distilleries and breweries in the area north of Seattle as well as some in Seattle.  So I had the inside track on what was amazing to sip on while in Washington.  And it was a fun time!

I love flying into Sea-Tac on a clear day, the views are amazing!  I arrived at a good time in the morning and my dad and brother, Scott, picked me up just in time for lunch.  Since we had plans on going to Ghostfish Brewing Company when they opened at 3pm, we had time to kill.  Scott found a little fish and chips place that had a dedicated fryer for gluten free foods.  I loved the fact that he did research ahead of time, read reviews and planned this for us.  It meant so much!

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The fish and chips place that we went to was called Emerald City Fish and Chips.  It may not be the biggest place to eat but it packed a punch!  It turns out that they only batter their items in a Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free batter so the only things that aren’t gluten-free are their sandwiches.  It was awesome getting a great meal and knowing it was totally safe!

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We then headed downtown-ish Seattle.  We parked close to Ghostfish Brewing but Scott wanted to take us to Letterpress Distilling.  It was a gorgeous, sunny fall day so we walked there.  Letterpress is right around the corner from SafeCo Field, home of the Mariners and they currently make vodka and Limoncello.  Their vodka is super smooth with a hint of vanilla at the end, very enjoyable.  The Limoncello was smooth as well and lemon-y but not overpowering.  More like a lemon drop without too much sweetness.  We also got a tour of the facility which was really cool!

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Ghostfish was a place I was DYING to go to.  They brew only gluten-free beers and it was awesome to get to go to a brewery and drink a beer!  Since I’d never been there, I had a flight and my brother and dad shared a flight with other flavors.  I’d never had a saison before and fell in love with the light flavor with a hint of flowers.  Just a beautiful blend!  The other flavor, much to my surprise, that I loved, was the stout.  I’d never been too much of a stout fan, it’s usually got too much of a coffee flavor for me, but this one is less coffee and more chocolate.  Wow!  Talk about a beer you can sip and savor!  Needless to say, we took some beer home with us.

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A couple of days later we ventured to Anacortes.  If you have never been there, go visit.  It’s a beautiful sea town with a marina and fresh sea air.

IMG_4746 IMG_4745 IMG_4747We ate breakfast at the Calico Cupboard.  They have many gluten-free items including thick, fluffy pancakes for breakfast and carrot cake (my favorite!) and cookies to take home.  I didn’t get a picture of the carrot cake the next day but it made for a great breakfast!  IMG_4744On the way home, we stopped at a store and picked up a bottle of Ground Breaker Dark Ale.  This was also a great beer with a full flavor.  Not as deep as a stout, obviously, but had a great finish to it.  IMG_4791

That Saturday was our “Tour day”.  Scott took mom, dad and I out to see a couple more of his clients.  Our first stop was Temple Distilling.  Temple, for the time being, makes gin.  Disclaimer:  I’m not a gin drinker.  I always think that someone put Lysol in my drink.  Not Temple’s London Dry gin.  Super smooth, no bite, it might make me a gin drinker.  Put it into a gin and tonic and…wow.  So good.  You have to try it to believe it, really.  They also just released a Navy Gin which is a bit more potent.  (I’m also a photographer and the next day Scott and I did some publicity photos for Temple, they turned out so good!  Sorry, a little self promotion).

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After Temple we headed to Elemental Hard Cider.  Elemental does all gluten-free hard ciders and MANY flavors.  They also have lunch which is all gluten-free sandwiches. Whoa…lunch and cider and it’s all gluten-free?  I’m in heaven!  I decided to go with the classic grilled cheese and it was amazing.  But the ciders…oh, the ciders!  From a classic dry apple to cherry to spiced apple to spiced pumpkin to acai…these are just a few flavors.  And they just introduced a root beer, not for the kiddos to try!  All of them are so good but the acai was bottled and I took one home with me.  The root beer was to be bottled a few days after I left so I may have some mailed to me.  It really was hard to pick a fav but I loved the spiced apple or the spiced pumpkin.  Two distinct flavors and perfect for fall!

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It was an amazing trip and I had a great time visiting family too, it wasn’t all about the beverages.  My family is super important to me and I got to surprise my 4 1/2-year-old niece and my 2-year-old nephew.  Spending time chasing them around was so precious to me.  Seeing my brother and sister-in-law and having time to hear about their future was amazing as well.  It’s so hard being so far away…but the memories of this time helps get through to the next time.

Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!!

Always a critic

Lately there have been a lot of articles written that are anti gluten free or anti any “free”:  dairy free, etc.  People saying that it’s all in our heads and that the incidences of these conditions aren’t real.

A New York Times author, I won’t say his name because he doesn’t deserve the recognition, just wrote an article on how a restaurant overseas blatantly said on its menu that it doesn’t have anything gluten free and then the writer went on his “everyone is faking it” rant.

First, I’m glad that the owner put that on his menu.  It makes it easier for me to not go to that restaurant.  I don’t waste my time or waste the owner/manager/server’s time by asking questions.

Second, it’s his prerogative to not serve anything gluten free.  It’s what he wants to do and I will NEVER piss and moan because someone makes that their choice.  I know it’s gotta be a pain to stock foods that you aren’t sure if you will ever use and to try to keep cross contamination to a minimum.

Third, if you don’t get it, don’t talk about it.  This writer has never eaten something and then been cramping for days on end, lived in the bathroom, couldn’t think clearly, etc. because the smallest particle of gluten affected him.  He thinks it’s all in my head and, this is evil, but I wish people who write about things like this could live in my shoes for a month.

I bet he wouldn’t be poking fun.

So until you get it, don’t write about it.  Knowledge is power, don’t be a jerk because you don’t get it.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Cupcakes

I admitted in an earlier blog that I’m not a big pumpkin fan but I am up to try new things.  A few weeks ago I saw a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes (by Gluten Free Mama) and, since I’m a sucker for baking, thought I’d try them out!  Fall means baking in my world so break out the mixer!

Pumpkin Cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter                                                                                                                                                                          1/2 cup brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                1/2 cup sugar                                                                                                                                                                            1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)                                                                                                                                2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                                                                                               2 eggs                                                                                                                                                                                        1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I use Jules)                                                                                                                                   1 tsp. xanthan gum (if your flour doesn’t have it mixed in)                                                                                                          1 tsp. baking powder                                                                                                                                                               1/2 tsp. baking soda                                                                                                                                                                  1 tsp. cinnamon                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 tsp. ginger                                                                                                                                                                        1/2  tsp. nutmeg                                                                                                                                                                         1 cup chocolate chips or walnuts, if desired (I used chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl mix together the flour, xanthan gum (if needed), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  In a mixing bowl cream butter with brown sugar, sugar and vanilla until creamy.  Add pumpkin and mix well.  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add egg one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  With mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in flour mixture until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds until well combined.  If desired, add in chocolate chips, walnuts or other desired filling.

Using a two inch scoop, fill cupcake liners with batter.  Bake for 26-28 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when touched.  Place on cooling sheet and cool completely.  Frost with frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup shortening                                                                                                                                                                    4 oz cream cheese                                                                                                                                                                      1/2 tsp. vanilla                                                                                                                                                                           1 1/2 cups powdered sugar                                                                                                                                                     1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream the shortening and cream cheese until soft.  Add vanilla, mix well.  Add cinnamon and slowly add powdered sugar.  Mix on high speed until smooth.  If needed add 1-2 tsp. milk to achieve desired texture.

These cupcakes smelled and tasted amazing.  They were very moist, flavorful and the chocolate chips added that “sweet treat” feel.  The cinnamon cream cheese frosting finished the cupcakes off perfectly.  I had my best friend, Shawna, taste them.  Shawna LOVES pumpkin and has a “30 days of pumpkin” challenge where she eats something with pumpkin every day for 30 days.  I call her the “Pumpkin Queen”.  She thought they were delish and gave them her stamp of approval!  My co workers also loved them and they stayed moist for a few days, which is unlike most gluten free baked goods.  My parents also gave their stamp of approval…three groups approved!

The other thing I loved about this recipe is that it is so easy to whip together.  If you need something quick, this is the recipe!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

As always, don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for recipes like this or on Twitter!

The Great Cheerio Debate

Earlier this year Cheerios came out saying that they would start making their products gluten free and the whole gluten free community was excited…until they came out.  We found out that their testing methods weren’t the best, that batches were tested together, etc.  If you want to read all about it check out my Facebook page or to go the Gluten Free Watchdog‘s website.  They are on it.

This evening I saw that Fox News had reported on it and had posted it on their Facebook page.  I wanted to know what people were saying about it but wish I hadn’t.  I started reading comments and was first angry, then hurt.  People are on there making fun of people with “made up” gluten allergies, saying it’s a fad that everyone is now jumping on, etc., etc.  “Give me the extra gluten” and more comments like that.  Even making fun of a little girl that has a service dog that detects gluten and keeps her safe (yes, it’s a real thing and I think it’s cool).

I think the thing that irritates me the most are the people who have NO idea what it is like to live in my shoes and others with Celiac Disease as well as gluten intolerance and wheat allergies.  Celiac isn’t funny.  Celiac almost cost my dad his life.  Celiac disease made me super sick for years and I should have just eaten my meals in the bathroom.  That is the honest truth.  It pisses me off that people make fun of something that they no NOTHING about.

Maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up but this is my life and this is something that is important to me.  I work hard to bring awareness to this disease and then a bunch of idiots comment on Facebook and I feel like I’ve been set back and all of my work is for nothing.

All this over a box of cereal.

This is what I want to say to all of them: