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:

Review: Chicago

Yes, Chicago:  The Windy City, Chi-town, the City of the Big Shoulders.  I returned from there Monday and, let me tell you, it was an amazing trip!

It was my first time to Chicago and it all came about because I started a bucket list a couple years ago.  Most of the items are travel and learning items but this year I decided it was time to cross some of these things off.  I am turning forty in a few short months and I wanted to at least cross a couple items off.  It’s always been my dream to go to Wrigley Field and to Soldier Field (I am a die hard Cubs and Bears fan) and since they are on my bucket list, it was going to happen.

I asked my dad to go with me at first and he was excited.  Then, a while later, I decided to ask my mom as well.  I love my parents and I want to make memories with them.  Mom was hesitant but chose to go and I’m glad she did.

Last Thursday we made the trek to Denver to board our plane for a short two hour flight to Chicago.  I was excited to say the least.  And then the Midwest weather got in the way and we circled Chicago for a while…then got diverted to Kansas City.  After waiting on the plane for almost three hours we finally got back into the air and landed in Chicago only to wait another two and a half hours to de-plane.  I wanted to kiss the ground in Chicago!

I am a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club and our first stop on Friday was to Lions Club International for a tour.  We went straight from there, via our trusty Uber driver, to Wrigley Field.  We had the fortune to take Michigan Avenue to the ballpark and got our first peak of Lake Michigan.

When we got to Wrigley, I was ecstatic!  I actually skipped once inside.  My dream was coming true!  I had written Wrigley Field ahead of time regarding gluten free eats and they had a diner that had buns for hamburgers and hot dogs, although this day they were out of hamburger buns.  Not to worry, I wanted a ballpark hotdog!  Since the fries are not in a dedicated fryer they were careful to give us kettle chips instead.  Pair that with a hard cider and I was in heaven!

In front of Wrigley Field

After the game we decided to walk a mile to Chicago’s Pizza.  I had read reviews of this place online and they were great.  Their gluten free pizza had high reviews so we decided to give them a try.  The atmosphere was cozy and warm and we were warmly greeted.  We told the server that we were gluten free and he proceeded to tell us about the gluten free offerings.  We decided to have cheesy garlic bread and then ordered a stuffed pizza.  They brought out a little appetizer breadsticks and then the fun began.  The cheesy garlic bread was crispy with a nice layer of cheese and a hint of garlic.  Dip it in the tomato sauce and it was amazing.  Then the pizza.  Let me tell you, if you EVER get to Chicago, you have to stop here.  The pizza was about four or five inches thick and the cheese strung out forever!  It was the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.  By the way, they will ship pizzas nationwide and it’s going to be my little treat from time to time!  Pictures don’t do the pizza justice but you can see the goodness!

Chicago's Pizza Breadsticks Chicago's Pizza Chicago's Pizza Cheese Garlic Bread Gluten Free Pizza First slice! Gooey, yummy pizza

The next day we decided to venture to the Navy Pier.  It’s a beautiful area with shops and restaurants as well as an amusement park.  They give boat tours and dinner/lunch tours as well.  We started the day at Harry Caray‘s and weren’t disappointed.  Dad had the burger with a gluten free bun and said it was amazing.  Mom and I had the fish tacos and they were the best I ever had.  The tilapia was seasoned just right, the sauce added a little kick and the salsas finished it off.  We wandered the pier, having a mid afternoon cocktail after our boat tour, and then settled on Bubba Gump‘s for dad’s birthday dinner.  The server was helpful and I decided on the shrimp and veggie skewers with jasmine rice and mom and dad had the Accidental Fish & Shrimp Broiled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Jasmine Rice.  My meal was so refreshing and done just right and mom and dad said that their meal was great as well.

Harry Carey's Burger Fish Tacos Navy Pier Shrimp and Veggie Skewers Accidental Fish and Shrimp

The last Chicago item on my bucket list was to see the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field.  While the Bears didn’t have the stadium food that Wrigley had, it still had a few options.  The brats were gluten free (no buns) as were the tortilla chips and the nacho cheese.  They also have popcorn and Redbridge Beer as well as hard ciders.  We had enough to eat and got to see the Bears get stomped but it was well worth going.  That night we ate in the hotel and they were so good about knowing what was gluten free and had it marked on the menu.  My chicken was done just perfect and the potato-bacon hash was amazing!

At the Bears GameChicken and Potato Bacon Hash

The plane ride home was without incident which I was thankful for!

I’ve read that if you are a foodie that Chicago is a place to visit and I wasn’t disappointed.  Their gluten free foods were delish and I do plan on going back.  In the meantime, I will have my pizza delivered from Chicago!

Review: Ace’s Pumpkin Cider

I have a confession:  I am not a big pumpkin eater.  My best friend, Shawna, loves this time of year because EVERYTHING is pumpkin.  EVERYTHING.  It’s crazy what they put pumpkin in.  I am American though so around Thanksgiving I do have a piece of pumpkin pie, because I probably should.

Anyway, I went to a liquor store to buy a bottle of wine and found myself in the hard cider section.  They really are next to each other so it wasn’t much of a stretch.  I was a little surprised at the variety of hard ciders available.  Many different types of apple hard cider, a berry cider, ciders with hops, and on and on.  The one that caught my eye was the pumpkin cider.

I’ve never tried Ace’s Premium Craft Ciders although I’ve heard it’s good.  The packaging was clearly marked “Gluten Free” and is also certified Gluten Free.  Since I had looked at a few hard ciders that weren’t marked, this made my day.  I decided to take a chance to buy the pumpkin hard cider.  I told Shawna that she would have to try it with me because, in my mind, if I didn’t like it I knew she probably would.

I finally had my chance to try it.  I was expecting a super pumpkin-y taste but was very pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.  It has a good cider base but you could taste the hint of pumpkin pie:  nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.  Not overwhelming at all, very refreshing.  It was also very smooth and I could see sitting outside on a fall day next to a fire and having one of these to welcome the fall chill in.

I have to say that I will be buying more of this this fall since it is a seasonal item.  Thank, Ace, it’s a winner!

Pumpkin Cider

Drink up!

A few weeks ago I got a text from my brother, who is a graphic designer primarily for breweries and distilleries.  He works with a company that has developed an amazing hard cider and I figured that they were up to another project.  His question to me was about how large to put “naturally gluten free” on the label and placement of that statement.  I told him that if someone is gluten free, they will look for that statement or the “GF” logo on any product.

That brings me to my most recent trip to the liquor store.  I was putting together a “at home date night” kit for a co worker of mine that got married over the weekend and was looking for a nice bottle of wine.  In the process, I wandered to the cider area of the store.  Now, this is a store that I don’t frequent often but it was handy so…I wanted to do some looking.  Their cider selection was CRAZY.  Pumpkin cider, blueberry cider and so many more.  Can you say heaven?  But I got to looking and some of the bottles weren’t labeled gluten free.  Really?  Cider should be, technically, gluten free.  I’m not one to take chances.  It surprised me that a graphic designer didn’t have the forethought to say “hey guys, is this cider gluten free and, if so, we need to label it”.  I don’t buy something that I can’t read the ingredient or doesn’t say plainly “gluten free”.  The funny thing is that two of the bottles I chose back to back weren’t labeled.  (I turned to the single bottles so I could try a couple new ones).  And too bad…they sounded delish!

I turned around and lo and behold, I saw this:

Tito's

Now, THAT’S the way to label a product!

I will never say that a product HAS to be labeled, that is up to the company.  But it makes it easier for those of us that are gluten free to know what is safe.  Plus, if you do have a product that is gluten free, I am more apt to buy it!

By the way, I’m not a huge pumpkin person but my friend Shawna is so when I saw this, I thought “Well, it’s fall and something different so I’ll try it”.  I will let you know what I think!

Ace Pumpkin Cider

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You’re Ruining Everything

Most of my friends really get why I’m gluten free.  They know that eating anything with gluten can make me sick and sick is not where I want to be.  They really don’t want me to be there either, I’m a hot mess when I ingest gluten.  I start cramping up and then my tummy hates me and I end up either in the bathroom for long periods of time (I will let your imagination go and it probably would be accurate) or curled up on my bed because the stomach cramps are so horrible.  Women, just take the “that time of the month” cramps and ramp it up.  Men, imagine getting kicked hard in the you know where…and I’m pretty sure you know the pain I go through.

I still have people in my life that, from statements made, think I’m overreacting.  The other day I posted a story about there being a lot of gluten free restaurants in Italy on my personal Facebook profile.  I had a friend say “you people are ruining everything”.  Ruining everything?  How?  By being excited that I can go out and eat?

I wasn’t sure if this person was joking or not, it’s hard to tell via social media sometimes, so I made light of it and said that I wasn’t looking for a constitutional amendment and it was each restaurants right to have a gluten free menu or not.

I guess I’m still puzzled as to why “us people” are ruining things.  Anyone that isn’t gluten free can still get beer and get it at a fraction of what I pay for beer.  Anyone that isn’t gluten free can go anywhere and eat whatever they please.  I guess I don’t get it.  I’ve never said that I am going to make every restaurant have a separate kitchen for gluten free because it’s my right.  (It isn’t, don’t take that wrong).  And, even if a restaurant doesn’t have anything I can eat, I will still go there with my friends because I’m a social person.

Yes, I do get excited when I read that Europe is very gluten friendly and that, someday, when I get to go there I will be able to eat and eat well.  Better bring my stretchy pants!  And I do get excited when a new item hits the shelves and I can have egg rolls again.

The thing is that people really don’t know what they miss…until they can’t have it anymore.

I would challenge my friends that thing that gluten free is easy to go one week gluten free.  Read the labels, eliminate all wheat, barley and rye from your diet and see how “easy” it is…I’m sure you’d be more than surprised.

Warrior Dash 2015

This past weekend was one of the weekends that I always look forward to every year. It’s the weekend of the Warrior Dash which is held up at Copper Mountain here in Colorado. It is a 5K race mixed with an obstacle course and on the side of the mountain that is pretty rugged terrain.
I love this weekend for multiple reasons. First, it’s a challenge. Every year the race route has been about the same but they change it up with the obstacles. It is still hard no matter what! The second reason I love this weekend, is that I get to spend it with some dear friends of mine. Three of us have done this race for the past four years and then we brought others on along the way. It is a time for us to hang out, to work hard on the race and then relax and enjoy the company.

They also have pretty good gluten free good there. We ate at the Incline, a bar and grille at the resort. When I told the server I was Celiac, he was very knowledgeable and told me what I could and couldn’t have.  He even provided info like the fact that the fries were fried in with breaded items and explained what sides I could have.  They had gluten free buns so I jumped in and got a burger.  We then went to the Storm King Lounge for sushi. They had one roll that was gluten free, quite a disappointment as I was sure they had more gluten free rolls last year.  They did have an appetizer and dessert that were gluten free. It was good but I’m used to more variety.

All in all, it was an amazing time and I can’t wait until next year!!

  
  

Reno Work Trip: Take 2!

A couple of weeks ago I headed back to Reno for a work trip.  It was an exciting trip as we were getting training on a system that I was already familiar with, and love, so I was looking forward to it.

After getting up at 3:30am to catch our flight and a few hours in the air, we arrived at the Peppermill Resort.  The Peppermill is a Vegas style casino and resort although we found out that it didn’t start that way.  The resort actually started as a coffee shop and restaurant and the rest has been built around it.  Very impressive.  They were kind and allowed us early check in as our meeting started at 11:30am.  This gave us a chance to freshen up and get to our meeting in time.  Our rooms were spacious with a great view of the city.

Peppermill Tower Room

Peppermill Tower Room

I had contacted the Peppermill in advance to talk to them about my gluten free needs.  I got a response from the head of the catering department explaining that they would cater to my needs.  I sent an email back thanking him and got another response saying that he had already talked to the person in charge of our group’s catering and that they would be watching out for me.  Holy smokes…I was impressed.

We arrived, changed and went to our lunch.  As promised, they were waiting for me and had food ready.  At our dinner that night, the same thing.  This time is was super amazing since I got both fish and chicken…everyone else got prime rib.  I do like prime rib but everyone said that mine looked better!  The next evening at dinner I had my choice of fish or chicken again and went with the Mahi Mahi.  It was cooked to perfection with jasmine rice and veggies.  Way better than the pizza everyone else had!  I would say that the Peppermill did amazing on the food for me!

Of course, we had to hit In N Out Burger.  I love the protein style burgers, the natural fries and the fact that everything is fresh.

In N Out Protein Style Burger

We also hit up PF Chang’s so I could get my Chinese fix.  We started out with lettuce wraps.  As they came out, I asked if they were gluten free, as I always do.  The server took one look at them, took them off of the table and returned them to the kitchen.  Soon she returned, apologized but said that she was also gluten free and knew how important it was to not serve the wrong food.  I was impressed with their attention to detail.  The egg drop soup was amazing (and it is always gluten free) and the GF Chang’s Spicy Chicken with brown rice.  All of it was amazing.  We also got the Chocolate Dome, a flourless cake.  It was an amazing experience.  A day later this article came out explaining a lawsuit against PF Chang’s.  It’s ridiculous and I feel that PF Chang’s does an amazing job with their gluten free, even a separate area for prepping foods.

GF Chang's Spicy Chicken and Brown Rice PF Chang's Egg Drop Soup

All in all, it was another successful trip to Reno!  Thanks for the gluten free hospitality!

Tired

I’ve been tired for about a month.  Exhausted tired.  The kind where you could fall asleep anywhere, anytime and if you just closed your eyes, you’d be out.  Going to bed at 8:30pm and you’ve fought to stay awake that long.

I can check WebMD and so much more to self diagnose (I’m every doctor’s nightmare, really) but I did the right thing and finally went to the doc.  We ran a CBC with an iron test, checked my thyroid and did a metabolic panel.  All came back normal.  Normal…sigh…

So then I go to things like “Are my meds gluten free?”  “Am I accidently getting glutened?”  “Is it the weather?”  And all kinds of other questions.

It has been a crazy year with the changes at work, taking on more with Lions, writing more and so much more.  I know for the last six months I haven’t been sleeping well because my neighbors weren’t the quietest people.  They are moved out so I’m sleeping better.

Or maybe this is my body’s way of saying “slow down, take it easy”.  I’ve been trying to listen, to go to bed even if it’s early, to step back from things if I have to.  To say “no”.  Our bodies tell us when it’s time to take a rest, to fix ourselves and to just take it easy.

I think it’s that time.

Starting the Journey

There’s a reason why Celiacs aren’t always in for a social event.  Think about it, every social event has food: employee lunches, dinner with friends, birthday parties, and picnics. They all have the same element: eating. When that goes away, what do you do? All of a sudden you are either the outcast and people don’t invite you out anymore, or the world revolves around you and your disease. Both of these give you attention that you don’t want or need at most times.  I mean, I live with Celiac Disease, and it’s one of my biggest platforms, but I don’t always want to talk about me, me, me.  (Que the Toby Keith song).

Here are some tips for those that are starting on their gluten free journey, to make social events much more positive:

  1. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to bring your own food. Don’t be afraid to speak up when someone says “let’s go to restaurant xyz” if you know you can’t eat there. I do this a lot and while it does attract attention, it’s fair that you get to eat too!  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your hostess what they are serving.  I did this for a birthday party I was going to last night, got the menu as well as the name of the BBQ sauce they were using, etc.  I was able to eat it all and if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have known!
  2. Be strong. Going gluten free isn’t easy, for sure not in the beginning. I would tell you it is, but you’d be disappointed. It gets easier. Shopping gets easier, eating out gets easier and, hopefully, your friends and family will become sensitive to your needs. You will need strength to not bend and eat that pizza that you used to love. It will pay off if you stand strong  because your body will thank you for it as it heals from the damage that gluten has caused.  Always remember that!
  3. Ask for help.  If you don’t know where to shop, what to shop for or what brands are better than the next, just ask.  Find a group online or a local gluten free group and ask people their opinions.  As people that are GF, we have plenty of them!  In Grand Junction, we have an online Facebook group called Gluten Free Grand Valley Gluten Free Grand Valley but have people from all over so if you need support, just join our group.  We love to help!  Don’t want to ask in a public forum?  Email me.  I’m more than happy to help someone via email.
  4. Take the attention. Hopefully that means that people care about you and want to do what’s best for you. If they ask what restaurant you want to go to it means they want to hang out with you and keep you safe. I know that’s why my friends ask and I’m so grateful for their care. If it’s negative attention, take it as an opportunity to educate them on why it’s so important. Sometimes people just don’t understand and when they are told, it changes their opinions.  And with people saying that GF is just a fad diet, it’s a great time to tell them that not all people use it that way.
  5. Wear it proud.  Yes, being a Celiac isn’t easy and isn’t always fun but we are different and have a lot to offer the communities we live in.  We can show people that having an autoimmune disease doesn’t mean that we can’t still LIVE.  I love it when I’m introduced to a little girl with Celiac and get to tell her all of the things I do even though I have this strange, food related disease with a funky name.  I wear the Celiac ribbon a lot and get asked what it’s for.  Educate the public!

Things get easier as you get rolling and as more people understand, your life will get easier as well.