A Recovered Bread Fail

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Yesterday I told you I’ve been trying to find the “Best” gluten free, grain free, bread. I’m working on my own creations as well as trying other blogger’s recipes.

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Have you visited the gluten free, dairy free, paleo blog, The Spunky Coconut?

Almond milk, eggs, cinnamon, & pure almond extract.

Almond milk, eggs, cinnamon, & pure almond extract.

Kelly’s recipes are gorgeous and exciting, the blog itself is beautiful, but the best part is that her recipes are creative and fun. Something you don’t experience very often when leading an allergen free life.

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I tried her Coconut Milk Bread recipe a few days ago, but didn’t follow it exactly… Remember yesterday when I discussed how frustrated people get when they say they followed a recipe “exactly” and didn’t get the same results as the person sharing the recipe?

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Exactly means exactly. I knew full well that because I wasn’t following it exactly, I more than likely wouldn’t get the same results she did. And I was right.

Here’s what the Spunky Coconut’s Bread looked like:

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And below is what mine looked like.

I didn’t have the psyllium husk powder her recipe called for. After a little research on how to substitute, I used ground flax instead. The result was something that didn’t look anything liker her bread. Go figure…ha! But, that’s how we learn, right? Ground flax is not a good substitute for psyllium husk powder.

Now we know.

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She also uses a special 5 Cup glass bread pan to get the shape and rise. You can find the link for ordering within her recipe link above.

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However, all was not lost.

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This slightly adjusted bread recipe didn’t turn out how I had hoped, but it made for some excellent French toast.

Fry in dairy free butter and a bit of coconut oil until golden.

Fry in dairy free butter and a bit of coconut oil until golden.

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Multi Grain Gluten Free Bread

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Today is my Blogversary. Three years ago today I started Gluten Free Zen.

What better way to celebrate than with an excellent gluten-free bread?

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Gluten free has come a long way since I kicked it out of my diet several years ago. Remember what gluten-free bread was like? Ugh. That weird slippery feel when it went down your throat…lack of taste, crumbly texture…forget making a sandwich with it unless it was toasted, and even then it wouldn’t stay together.

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Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on store bought gluten-free bread these days. They even design bread machines with gluten-free features now! In fact, a few months ago, we bought one. How wonderful it is to have the house smell like freshly baked bread again.

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You can go here to read several different bread machine reviews.

I love this particular bread machine because it has a gluten-free setting. I don’t have to guess or do a lot of work or thinking to figure out how to use it. Which is after all, the purpose of having a bread machine right? I read all kinds of reviews on other machines where you have to start it on one cycle, move to another, yadda..yadda..yadda. No thank you.

In the Breadman, I add all the liquids, add the dry ingredients, shut the lid, and push the gluten-free cycle. After it’s mixed for a few minutes I help it along with a little stir, possibly add a couple more Tablespoons of water if I think it’s looking too dry, smooth out the top, and leave it alone for three hours. Maybe 15 minutes of my time, if even that, from start to finish. Easy!

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The payoff is well worth the tiny amount of time it takes to throw everything together. I believe I paid around $175.00 for it on Amazon. Worth every penny. And quite inexpensive if you compare it to how many loaves of gluten-free bread you buy at the grocery store every year.

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We typically go through about 1 loaf of gluten-free bread a week. That’s 48 loaves of bread a year (at least), and if they’re store bought, that adds up to almost $240.00 a year. And it’s not EVEN GOOD has very little nutrition, and good luck finding organic.

An initial investment in a good bread machine, organic healthy flours, grains, etc. will seem a little pricey, but it’s well worth it in the long run both financially and for your health.

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Multi Grain Gluten Free Bread

1 1/4 Cups of Sorghum Flour

1 Cup of Amaranth Flour

1/4 Cup of Quinoa Flour

1/2 Cup of Ground Flaxseed

1/4 Cup of Whole Grain Amaranth

1/2 Cup of Tapioca Starch

1 Tablespoon of Xanthan Gum

1 1/2 teaspoons of Bread Machine Yeast or Instant Yeast

1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt

1 1/2 Cups of Warm Water (maybe a couple Tablespoons more)

1/4 Cup of Pure Maple Syrup

2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil

1 teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

4 Eggs

Add all liquid ingredients to your bread machine. In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients and add to the liquid ingredients. Turn bread machine on gluten free setting. Allow it to stir for about 10 minutes, then open the lid and scrape the sides down with a spatula. At this point, I sometimes add a couple more Tablespoons of water if I think it is looking a little too dry. Close the lid and wait for the mixing cycle to finish. Smooth the top with a spatula (sometimes it forms a dome), close the lid and don’t open it again until it’s finished. 

Immune Boosting Breakfast

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Do you pay much attention to your immune system?

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by “foreign” invaders.

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Many of us probably don’t give our inner workings much thought until we become ill.

I take a pro-biotic, vitamin D, multi vitamins, adrenal support, and fish oil every day. I typically get outside and get fresh air and exercise myself and the dogs at least 5 days a week. I eat organic fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains. I’m dairy free and gluten-free. And even though I post a lot of sugary items on my blog, I myself don’t eat much sugar on a regular basis.  But sometimes, even when we feel we are doing all the right things when it comes to our health, something invades our bodies and down goes the immune system.

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The last time we chatted I think I told you I was suffering from dreaded Vertigo. Well, I went from having the flu, to vertigo, to having to be put on blood pressure medication, to a cold sore on my leg about the size of the palm of my hand, to a list of other symptoms, and now my doctor is trying to figure out just what in the heck is going on. Right now we’re traveling down the Lyme Disease road. I’ve tested positive on one of the tests and now the next step is to test again and see what happens. I’d say it’s kind of a double edged sword, all of this testing. On one hand, there’s NO WAY anyone would want Lyme Disease and on the other hand, you hope something in some test will come out positive so you can put a name to it, get treatment, and get back to feeling like yourself again.

This was my Immune Boosting  Breakfast this morning.

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Put a bit of organic olive oil in a small saute pan and heat. Add chopped spinach and stir until it wilts. Add one clove of chopped garlic, leftover wild caught salmon, and leftover organic brown rice. Gently toss around until everything is heated through and season with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and dill.

Are you like me when you get sick?

I wage an ALL OUT war.

I research everything I can think of. Natural and mainstream medicine, ideas, and theories. I read blogs, I look for people who are talking about the same symptoms online, I look at all ways possible to get healthy again. Might sound a tad extreme, but educating yourself is never a bad thing. I like to feel good and healthy…doesn’t everyone? You’ve heard me say many times in past posts that you need to be pro-active with your health. Educating yourself and going to your doctor or Naturopath with ideas, concerns, and questions will only help you in the long run. Luckily, I have been able to find a practice that has an amazing nurse practitioner who so far is open to getting to the bottom of what is going on and exploring other options. I try to set aside my fears of appearing like a “difficult patient” when going in with ideas and questions. After all, what doctor has the time or resources to research every symptom, feeling, and question you have?  I remind myself that I pay big dollars for their time and help so I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about taking an active role in getting better. Most doctors welcome pro-active patients. They can’t help you if you aren’t willing to help yourself. So, the war is on. We’ll get to the bottom of all of this eventually. Until then, I’m just taking it one day at a time.

If I feel good I do stuff, if I don’t, well then I don’t do too much stuff. Ha, sounds simple, but that’s my reality right now. I’ve been reading sweet little Christmas stories during my down time. I LOVE the Christmas season. When there are “things” going on in life, it’s fun and relaxing to read joyful, Christmas stories. These are fun and will really get you in the Christmas spirit.

A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer

Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

The Cat Who Came For Christmas by Cleveland Amory

A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr

Angels At The Table by Debbie Macomber

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If you’d like a list of foods that help to strengthen the immune system you can go here:

Foods To Strengthen The Immune System

8 Foods To Build A Strong Immune System

20 Health Benefits of Brown Rice

Cinnamon Blueberry Belgian Waffles

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I love waffles.

More specifically, I love waffles with my butter.

The only problem I have with waffles, is the waffle iron itself.

We used to have a relatively expensive waffle iron (about $100) that I absolutely hated. It cooked the waffles just fine, but if I didn’t spray it with non-stick spray the waffles were difficult to remove. The problem with the spray or any oil you put on a waffle iron is that it builds up and it’s very difficult to remove completely if you can’t take the plates out and wash them.

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So the last time we had waffles, I was at my limit with trying to clean it out with a skewer and a wet paper towel. Out to the garbage the waffle iron went because I was quite certain even Goodwill wouldn’t want it, and I began a search for a waffle iron that had removable, washable, plates.

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It’s not as easy as one might think to locate a waffle iron with removable plates.

I searched online and in stores for several weeks. Then finally, while I was wandering around Target one day, I ran across this:

The Breakfast Master

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It’s perfect. 

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And even better, it was only $39.99! Evidently you can do all kinds of things with it, but I have only used it for waffles. The cooking plates pop right out for easy cleaning…problem solved. The only thing I can think of that might be a negative is its size for larger families. It only cooks one waffle at a time. But heck, at that price, you could buy a couple and your pocket-book will still be happy.

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Cinnamon Blueberry Belgian Waffles

**1 3/4 Cups Artisan Flour Blend

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

2 Eggs, separated (whites whipped to stiff peak)

1 3/4 Cups Almond Milk

1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Butter, melted

1 1/2 Cups Frozen Blueberries

**I substitute the cornstarch with arrowroot flour, make sure you read the substitution directions

Preheat Waffle Iron.  Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Add the egg yolks, almond milk, and vanilla and stir until combined.  Add the melted butter, stir to combine. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, carefully fold the whites into the batter.  Fold in frozen blueberries.

Cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions. I cook mine until there is no longer steam coming from the waffle iron. I like them lightly crispy on the outside.

Top with dairy free butter, pure maple syrup, and blueberries.

This little neighbor joined me for breakfast this morning.

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Wild Blueberry Banana Buckwheat Muffins

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IMG_0215[1]Well, it appears as if my camera issues are beyond my expertise. Really irritating. I’ve cleaned it, oiled it, and fiddled with all of the doo dads…and it still won’t take pictures. I’ve fixed it twice in the past, but I guess the inevitable has finally happened. I will have to pay someone a ridiculous amount of money to take my camera for a ridiculous period of time to get it back into shape. So until my camera is returned to me, I will have to live (and so will you) with pictures from my iPhone.

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Now that we’ve all come to grips with that…

I’ll give  you yet another reason why I love New Hampshire. It is full of quaint beautiful towns, as you’ve seen in my previous posts. And with quaint beautiful towns, come really interesting local and neighboring state goodies. The shops are full of locally made crafts, jewelry, homemade jams and jellies, maple syrup, goat’s milk caramel, local milk, eggs, cheese, and cream, furniture, hand-made soaps, lotions, candles, pottery, quilts, scarves…I could go on and on. I love that I can support my local community as well as the neighboring New England states when I shop. New England takes pride in its communities. You can see that by how beautifully the towns are maintained and decorated, by the genuine kindness of the people that inhabit them, and by the support that is given to local craftsmen, jewelers, and other crafting gurus.

While my mom and son were here visiting and we were out exploring, they wanted to check out a cheese shop in Brattleboro, Vermont. Something I don’t get all that excited about, because of course, if I ate the amount of cheese they consumed while perusing the cheese shop, I wouldn’t want to get out of bed for at least the following three days. But, as with most of the quaint shops in New England, there were plenty of other goodies for me to see.

This little 7 ounce jar of Wild Maine Blueberries (touted The Caviar of Maine), has added its delectable flavor to our  pancakes and the muffins I made this morning. It went a long way. It’s just beautiful, little blueberries in white grape juice. Nothing freaky added and no artificial sweeteners. Yum!

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I’m on a buckwheat and coconut oil kick. Have you done your research on both? The benefits of coconut oil are particularly amazing to me. If you haven’t already watched this video on the benefits of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s disease, please do so. It will leave you in awe. Truly amazing.

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According to organicfacts.net, coconut oil has all kinds of benefits. “The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.” Crazy, huh? And so simple to add to your diet.

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Did you know that buckwheat is a fruit seed? It’s related to rhubarb and sorrel. That of course, makes it gluten-free and a fantastic substitute if you and certain grains don’t get along. Not only can you bake with it, but you can eat it as a porridge as well. Something I wasn’t aware of until I researched the benefits.

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(buckwheat seed photo courtesy of smallbites.andybellatti.com)

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But there are also some other very interesting benefits of buckwheat. It’s high in manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc. It also contains all 8 essential amino acids. It’s high in fiber and studies have shown that it slows down the rate of glucose absorption making it a healthy choice for people with diabetes and blood sugar issues. It has been shown to have significant cardiovascular benefits for post menopausal women, it helps prevent gall stones, breast cancer, and when you combine the whole “grain” benefits of buckwheat and fish oil, it’s been shown to be highly protective against childhood asthma.

When everyone decided that carbs and fats were bad for us and mass quantities of protein or even just living off of vegetables and raw foods were good, we didn’t take into consideration the benefits of certain grains and seeds and fats that would be missing from our diets. Carbs and many fats are not bad for you, in fact, according to the information above, they can be very beneficial.

Combine the benefits of buckwheat, coconut oil, a little protein, the benefits of banana (vitamin A, iron, phosphorous, potassium, high fiber), the benefits of blueberries (high in fiber, the highest in any fruit in antioxidants, and 1/4 of your daily need of vitamin C), and you have a pretty tasty and pretty healthy muffin. You could probably even replace the brown sugar with a grated apple or applesauce.

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Wild Blueberry Banana Buckwheat Muffins

Preheat convection oven to 350°

3 organic free range eggs

2 overripe organic bananas

3 Tablespoons wild blueberries

1 Cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 Cup organic coconut oil, melted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon organic cinnamon

1 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1/2 Cup buckwheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly mash the bananas ( I like mine chunky) in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, sugar, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and blueberries.

In another bowl add the flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Whisk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold with a spatula carefully until fully combined.

Fill muffin papers almost to the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes & Cherished Memories

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Throughout the time that Brandon attended grade school and middle school I volunteered. I volunteered a lot. I worked in kitchens, in classrooms, in the office, copied papers, corrected papers, made classroom snacks, did recess duty, went on field trips, and was involved in many, many, auctions.

We had heard about an “out of the box” public middle school when Brandon was leaving his private grade school. They have a somewhat open concept based on relationships and do hands on, project based learning. They also have a “city” in the basement of the school. The students are taught how to create resumes, how to interview appropriately, and each student interviews each semester for jobs as police officers, judges, attorneys, small business owners, IT people, cafe managers, waitresses, maintenance, etc… They even have an aquaculture business that raises fish and grows hydroponic vegetables. A real greenhouse where they grow flowers and vegetables for sale in the spring. A full running cafe during lunch that the students take care of, and they all earn city money that they can spend in the marketplace on Friday afternoons. The marketplace is where enterprising young minds bring their small business ideas and sell crafts, food, and fun activities. They can also receive tickets for inappropriate behavior…that explains the need for a judge and attorneys.

Fresh Crab Salad

It was at that school that I had the opportunity to do a type of volunteering that I had never done. Brandon was in the 6th grade and I was asked to teach an 8th grade Leadership class. By myself. It was terrifying and awesome. It was an eye opener. It was heart wrenching and unbelievably stressful at times. But most of all, it was a huge blessing and I learned so much about young people and life.

Crab Salad & Rustic Crackers

My first class was so nerve-wracking I couldn’t believe how terrified I was to have an entire room full of teenagers staring at me. What am I doing? I had to keep telling myself, “You are an adult for crying out loud, in a room full of children, get it together!” Ha! Hard to believe when more than three-quarters of them were bigger than me. They were just waiting for me to prove that I was just like a lot of other adults in their lives, there to babysit and not participate in their lives and not care what they had to say.

We had a lot of discussions. Sometimes there were days I had things planned but I could tell they just wanted to talk about “life” and relax, so that’s what we did. I loved listening to their perspectives on life! I used my relationship with Brandon as an example, a lot. Brandon didn’t care for that much… But what else did I have to draw from? I tried to convey to them that their parents loved them insanely and that’s why parents do what they “do”, all the time understanding that they would never “get it” until they had children of their own. I tried to talk to them in a down to earth and very honest way. Up front…another thing I learned about young people. They want you to be up front with as little of “adult talk and tone” as possible, and totally honest. Even if they don’t agree with what you are telling them. They also like to hear about some of your life mistakes, how you got through it, and what you did differently the next time you were challenged with the same situation.

I was supposed to be teaching them, but really they taught me. They taught me about the power of being present for someone. How just being aware of how a younger person felt, even if I knew they would get over it or that it was a silly emotional day for them, just listening and being there for them made a huge difference. All of their unique little personalities blessed my life tremendously. Some of them were well-rounded and relaxed and some of them had very hard lives and were rough around the edges. Others were very tough to get along with and I had to work hard to get through their thick shell and see past their smart aleck natures. A couple refused to ever let go and have fun and enjoy the class for what it was. Those were always the complicated ones that had issues that we couldn’t resolve with just creating a “community” within a classroom. Those kids were hard to let go of. I wanted to take them home and give them real attention and cook them real food, and show them what a loving family feels like. I learned a lot about letting go.

Some of them were so smart is was shocking. Some of them were very wise for their age and yet still so vulnerable to all of the peer pressure that comes with being a teen. I gained an enormous amount of respect for teenagers and an unsettling understanding of the stress and pressure they are under not only at school but also in their private lives.

I am happy to report that seven years later, many of them still keep in touch with me! They are 20-23 years old now…so hard to believe. They are in college and working and a few are even married. One who was particularly hard to get along with, but has since kept in pretty close contact with me, has been through an enormous tragedy and has managed to keep his head on straight when most of us would have crumbled. They are getting to the age now where they have had to experience the “real” world of serious consequences, pain and hurt, sick parents, and bad relationships. They are strong…so strong, just like I knew they would be after listening to them talk about their lives in the classroom.

I’m so proud of them. Proud of them and thankful that they allowed me a small glimpse into their lives and that they trusted me and they shared with me and chatted with me and were just so incredibly loving and forgiving of me because seriously…I started from scratch and picked activities for us to do together with no experience in teaching anything ever.

They disproved a lot of the hubbub about teenagers and their “typical” attitudes. They grasped onto each activity I planned and stepped out of their comfort zones many times and did it all with honesty, which isn’t easy to do in a room full of your teenage peers. Some of it was hard too. Soul searching stuff and things they had to do within the school…”pay it forward” kind of things toward people they would normally ignore. They were thrilled at how good it felt to get out of their own groups and get to know or do something nice for someone they would normally not associate with.

I loved going to a class every day filled with teenagers! Can you imagine? I could not wait to get there to hear what they were going to say next. Teenagers are supposed to be difficult, ill-mannered, little creeps who are hard to get along with and even harder to understand. Self absorbed, eye rolling irritants, snotty…you know all of the labels.  I’m sure they have their moments, but I was proven absolutely wrong on more occasions that I can count. I had to hold back tears of joy numerous times because I was so shocked by some of their responses to our projects. I was absolutely floored at the depth of their feelings and thoughts.

The crab for my lunch today comes from two of those students. Every year their family heads to the Pacific coast to go crabbing. They have the funnest family I have ever metThey are all extremely close and loving and live for fun.

Crab Stuffed Artichokes

4 Organic Baby Artichokes, steamed and cooled middle leaves removed

About 1 Heaping Cup of Fresh Crab Meat

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Red Bell Pepper, diced

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Red Onion, sliced

1 Organic Avocado, diced

About 2 1/2 teaspoons Organic Dried Dill

About 5-6 Tablespoons Olive Oil Mayonnaise

Juice of 1 Lemon

Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste

Mix all ingredients together (except the artichokes of course!). Chill and spoon into the middle of the baby artichokes.

Here’s a silly picture of me, my husband, and Brandon, at one of the girl’s 21st birthday parties in the “photo booth” area.

Stephanie’s 21st birthday…time flies.

Stephanie is outgoing and sweet and comfortable in her own skin. I love that about her. At her party  one of her friends was talking about getting eyelash extensions because she doesn’t like the length of hers. Stephanie looked at her, shrugged her shoulders in an “oh well” kind of way, giggled, and said, “I like my eyelashes!” I could have jumped up and hugged her. I’m happy she likes who she is.

So Sunday, Stephanie’s sister, Morgan, surprised me with a text asking if I would like some crab. Are you kidding? Of course!

This is Morgan, picking out the best crabs!

Not only does she share beautiful fresh crabs from the Pacific with me, she’s also an excellent house sitter, cat feeder, and plant waterer. Morgan is solid. She’s well thought out, organized, extremely thoughtful, and has an impressive shoe collection.  She’s also shy and quiet and I’m thankful that doesn’t stop her from coming over and chatting with me every now and then.

What an incredible blessing it is to have people in your life who think of you. All of this learning, life experience, friendship, and wonderful memories…

just from a little volunteer job.

Fried Chicken Livers & Smashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy

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A meal like this is just where all of those bacon drippings you’ve been hoarding come in handy. You do that too, right?

This is how I keep my bacon drippings in the fridge. It lasts a very, very, long time and then you always have it handy for those special occasions when you’re making something extra delicious.

You MUST have a splatter lid when frying the chicken livers. Number one, because it makes clean up of your stove much easier, and number two and most importantly, because you do not want exploding chicken liver all over your kitchen ceiling. You need a splatter guard, which is a mesh screen, because if you cover the liver with a lid, it won’t crisp.

When you flip the livers, hold the screen in front of you and your face. Hot bacon grease and exploding chicken liver is painful.

Fried Chicken Livers

1 Container of Chicken Livers, organic if possible, rinsed

Organic Almond Milk

1 Organic Egg

Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Organic Garlic Powder

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Bacon Grease/Drippings (from all natural bacon)

First, let’s remind ourselves that this is a special meal. An indulgence meal…I only make it about once a year. So we won’t be counting calories or worrying about our hips and thighs. We will simply enjoy the comfort and memories of childhood that these types of meals bring with them.

Melt a generous amount of bacon grease in a large skillet. I used about two heaping serving spoons full.

In a medium dish or dinner plate, add about 1 cup or so of the flour and generously season with the garlic powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper. Remember, it’s just a dredge so the majority of the coating stays on the plate. You want what ends up stuck to the liver to be flavorful!

Pour about 1/2 cup almond milk into a cereal sized bowl and whisk in the egg.

Once the bacon grease is heated on medium to medium high, dip each chicken liver into the milk and egg mixture and then into the flour mixture. Coat well, shake off, and lay carefully into the bacon grease.

Cover with the splatter shield. Allow to brown thoroughly before flipping. I would say about 6-7 minutes on each side or more, depending on the heat in your pan.

Smashed Potatoes with Pan Gravy

Both the smashed potatoes (basically the lazy cousin of the mashed potato) and the pan gravy are a no brainer. I’ll just give you the ingredients that I used. You can go here for pan gravy instructions if you’ve never made it. It’s SO easy!

Organic Yukon Gold Potatoes, skin on

Almond Milk

Dairy Free Butter

Kosher Salt

For the pan gravy:

Leave drippings in the pan

Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Dairy Free Butter

Organic Chicken Broth

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Pepper

Go With Your Gut

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Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com

Double Fail – Back To The Drawing Board

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Well, I told you I would post the good, bad, and the ugly, over the next few weeks while I experiment with different bread recipes. I have found that gluten-free baking is much easier than gluten-free bread baking. Two totally different worlds. Most of us with gluten allergies are already aware that gluten-free bread takes a lot of trial and error. And I think pretty much all of us are still searching for that gluten-free bread that reminds us most about the bread we used to eat in taste, texture, and size.

But don’t worry, I’m not going to give up. I have tons and tons of ideas, torn out recipes, cook books, and I’m not afraid to fail numerous times before I come up with something we can all like.

This is a recipe that I was trying to adapt from Cooking Light. It’s one of their dinner roll recipes that has a gazillion steps.

Attempt #1. – The first attempt was pretty bad. Colorless, didn’t rise, and was crumbly and dense in texture. I used a mixture of brown rice flour, white rice flour, potato starch, and Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour. They went into and came out of the oven looking exactly the same.

Attempt #2. – It all seems like it’s going well until the dough kinda starts to feel like that salt dough our parents made for us to play with when we were little.

But, I press on, rising, kneading, doing exactly as the recipe asks of me. Unlike the first attempt in which I was in a hurry and distracted. This time I’m using a combination of white rice flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and potato starch (basically the same combo I use for the awesome cinnamon roll recipe I have posted in the past).

The well kneaded dough ball looks promising. However, I can’t get past that gnawing feeling in my stomach that it feels like play dough. This was my favorite part because it reminded me of when I used to make homemade bread and rolls from scratch before becoming gluten-free. The kitchen smelled yeasty and wonderful. But still, the play dough thing has me worried.

Fingers crossed that it will get a good rise.

Hmmm…feels spongy and I suppose it raised a little bit…

Maybe if I make them into cute little shapes and bathe them in olive oil, herbs, and vegan parmesan, they’ll like me better and rise like they’re supposed to?

It’s not looking very promising…

Despite trying to win them over with cute shapes and high quality olive oil, they simply didn’t want to cooperate. This is the finished product. Even worse than Attempt #1. I think there were too many steps and too much contact with the dough. A “typical” gluten-free bread recipe is pretty straight forward. Put all of the ingredients together, beat on medium-high in a heavy-duty mixer, shape as best as you can, let them rest and rise maybe 30-40 minutes, and bake. Pretty straight forward and without a lot of the hoopla of regular bread making. The problem though, is that most gluten-free breads start out like a batter that you spread in a pan or french bread tube. It’s not typically the type of dough you can shape. That was another red flag throughout this recipe.

Back to the drawing board.

Double Chocolate Chunk Rum Balls

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What’s better than a booze laden rum ball? A double chocolate chunk booze laden rum ball, that’s what.

Chocolate Rum Balls

(These need to snuggle up together in the refrigerator and rest for at least 5 days before serving.)

1 1/2 Cups Pecans, finely chopped

2 1/4 Cups Finely Crushed (I used my food processor) Gluten Free/ Dairy Free Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Pamela’s) About 2 Boxes

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup

1/2 Cup Dark Rum (I used Meyer’s Dark Rum)

Extra Powdered Sugar

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until fully combined.

Pour powdered sugar onto a dinner plate. Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls and place on plate of powdered sugar.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on the bottom of a medium-sized plastic or glass container. Roll rum balls around in the powdered sugar on the plate to cover and place in the prepared container.

Continue to do this with the remaining dough, layering parchment paper between each layer. Cover the container so it is airtight, and store in the refrigerator. Allow them to rest for at least 5 days before serving.