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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As we give thanks…

Today is Thanksgiving.  For some people it means a days of stuffing your face full of food or prepping for Black Friday (which has turned into Black Thanksgiving Day but I digress), but for me it means what I think it should mean:  a day with family and friends.  

You see, I’ve always thought “what if you take away the food, football, shopping, etc…what do you have?”  It’s the people around you!  As a Celiac, so much emphasis is put on food.  Don’t get me wrong, I love stuffing as much (or more) than the next person but if I couldn’t have it but was surrounded by people I love…Thanksgiving is perfect.  

I’m so incredibly thankful for so many people in my life.  My parents are amazing people who jump in to whatever adventure I start on.  My brother and sister in law support me from afar and my niece and nephew are amazing little wide eyed children.  I have a fantastic group of friends who make me laugh and have hearts of gold and a bestie who is always there for me.  What more could I need?  

This Thanksgiving, count your blessings.  I bet the list is longer than you think.  

Happy Thanksgiving!   

 

Going…

There’s so much fun in traveling.  I love going to a place and seeing what that place has to offer.  I just arrived home to Grand Junction from visiting my brother and sister in law, and their kiddos, north of Seattle. 

When you are flying people ask “where are you going?”  “What is your final destination?”  On the way to Seattle I love the question.  On the way home it’s a different story.  I love visiting my family up north.  I see them about every year to year and a half, depending on how my money flow is.  And going home gets harder as the kids get older.  My niece is 4 1/2 and my nephew 2.  My niece is starting to get that auntie comes…and leaves.  It’s starting to get harder as we play harder and I find out things like my niece loves running and photography, two passions of mine.

And I sit on the Tarmac in Salt Lake City watching videos she and I made and pictures we took and the tears roll down my cheek.  I’m sure I look a little crazy:  yoga pants, ball cap and tears but going home is the hardest right now.  

Miss these two munchkins, and their parents, a lot right now…and always…

  

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:

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