Taking Time

There are times in life when we are forced to slow down.  This was one of those weeks.

Monday I woke up, didn’t feel great and took my temp:  102.  I called in sick to work, a friend recommended that I go to the doc and by the time I got to the doctor, my temp was over 103.  The flu.  Whee!

So I was down and out for three full days.  My temp would go down during the day and then I’d wake up with a temp, Wednesday was the worst with 104.  Thursday my temp was gone when I woke up, I was on the mend.

I went to work on Friday and lasted half a day.  My body is spent from fighting this thing.  It was such a nice afternoon on Friday that I got a chair outside in my backyard and sat in the sun, breathing in fresh air.  I just sat.  I listened.  I closed my eyes and soaked the sun in.  I was forced to take time. My body was forcing me to slow down, take a breather and remember that I’m not invincible and that taking it slow isn’t a bad thing.

You see, we are always in such a hurry, always scurrying from one place to another, one thing to another, filling every minute of our day.  Because if we aren’t filling it, what are we missing?  Did I forget something?  That’s always my fear.  And it shouldn’t be something feared, it should be something that makes us happy, to have time.

Time to stop, wash some windows, trim a shrub and then sit and watch the world go by.

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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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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!

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Tony

Somethings you just don’t expect to see on Facebook and one of those such things happened today.  i was taking a brain break at work and as I scrolled down my Facebook feed I found out that one of my friends had passed away overnight.  Apparently a heart attack.  It took me by such surprise.  Here was a gentleman who was just 10 years older than me and…just like that…gone.

Tony was someone who wasn’t easy to forget.  I will never forget the first time I met him.  I had just moved to Grand Junction and had someone who was interested in hiring me in their insurance office as I had insurance experience.  I walked into the office and was introduced to Tony.  Tony was African American but what set him apart in this little Colorado town was the fact that he was TALL, like almost seven feet tall.  I would later find out that he played professional basketball in Europe.  I didn’t get the job and it was a long time until we crossed paths again.

In fact, it was almost six years later and I accepted a position with an insurance agency in Fruita, a town just outside of Grand Junction.  Tony had become an insurance adjuster and was stationed out of the office I worked in.  Had it not been for him, and his sidekick Jarred, I would have been even more miserable than I was.  Those two made me laugh and I always told Tony that it took him a month to remember my name since he always would yell “hey, front desk lady!” if he needed to talk to me.  The first week I was there, he offered to get me breakfast but, with his North Carolina drawl, it lost a few letters and became “brefas”.  Oil became “ol”, kids became “keeds” and so on.  He couldn’t carry a tun but sang at the top of his lungs and the song “Marry Me” never sounded so bad.  Friday afternoons sometimes he would go get himself beer for a work happy hour and bring back a shot or two so I could have a cocktail under my boss’ nose (sorry, Troy!).

After I parted ways with the insurance company, we still got together for a cocktail now and then, to catch up and just have fun.  I actually saw him in September and had I known that it would be the last time I would have made an effort to make time to see him.

We never know if tomorrow won’t come for someone we care about.  Tony was an amazing person with the brightest smile in the room.  Tony, you will be miss dearly.  God bless you.

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.

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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

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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: 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

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.

Review: Feel Good Foods Egg Rolls

Heaven…I’m in Heaven…

Yes, that song is dancing through my head tonight.  You see, last week my parents went through Fort Collins and, finding that there was a Whole Foods there, asked them to stop by.  Why?  Because they carry Feel Good Foods brand and I was hoping that they would carry their egg rolls.

While Feel Good Foods is carried here in Grand Junction, they only have the Vegetable Dumplings at the locations where this brand is carried.  I’ve requested the egg rolls but…no luck yet.  I’m pretty persistent so it won’t be long but I wanted to try them anyway.

I held off for a week.  Between my schedule and wanting to pair the egg rolls with an actual meal, it took until tonight for me to try them.

They are much easier to make than the dumplings.  You can do the oven version (bake for 20-24 minutes) or nuke them in the microwave which makes me cringe.  Maybe they are ok that way but I feel like it’s disrespecting the egg roll.  Yup, the egg roll has a hierarchy.

I decided to make the egg rolls with a chicken and veggie stir fry which is one of my co to foods.  It’s easy and fast and healthy.  Until I pair the egg rolls with them.

I had the chicken and vegetable as well as the vegetable egg rolls.  I made the chicken and veggie ones.  The egg rolls were AMAZING.  Just like the real deal.  They were light and flavorful and turned a beautiful brown.  I savored every bite and wasn’t sad that I ate two of them.  I still have 2 1/2 boxes in my freezer and, sorry fellow Grand Junction GF peeps, I won’t be sharing.  I will be savoring them!

Feel Good Foods Chicken and Veggie Egg Rolls

Feel Good Foods Chicken and Veggie Egg Rolls

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