Monday, April 29

Gardening and Spring Fever

How is your garden doing so far?  I know it's early, but I've planted a few things, and they are coming up!  I planted nine potato plants (I think), and I'm seeing some sprouts, and my radishes are thriving.  I planted lettuce this past weekend, and transplanted the broccoli plants I purchased at the local greenhouse.  And the strangest thing has happened with my one lonely tomato plant: somehow, four more have sprouted in the same pot!  I have no idea how it happened, but maybe I'll have more than one tomato after all!  Time will tell.  I am calling it a tomato miracle.  I'll take whatever I can get!
Fresh garden beds.  I'm using stones to separate the spaces in the garden beds (just for my reference).  Top to bottom: four broccoli, three rows of radishes, and a freshly planted lettuce bed.  Potatoes on the right.
The miracle tomato pot.  Five plants.  How...??

Potato plants just beginning to poke through the dirt.
The lone asparagus!
I think we have a pair of nesting cardinals somewhere in our property.  I've seen this guy out and about a lot lately, and the female is usually somewhere nearby.  I have yet to locate the nest, although I'm really not looking for it.  I will leave it be.  But it's such a treat to see the bright red contrasted against the lush green grass when I catch him poking around the yard.  Check him out!
"Hmmm, which blade of grass will be tasty?"
"This one looks delicious!"

Well, as of right now, the doctor doesn't think that I am gluten intolerant.  Removing gluten from my diet didn't make much difference in the symptoms, and the celiac blood test came back normal.  They still have no idea what may be going on, though.  I'm slowly adding wheat-based products back to my diet.  I can't say that I've noticed any difference my overall health by avoiding gluten-based products, and I don't believe that it's a good idea for a body's health to cut out an entire food group from the diet, but I am going to try and cut back a bit.  Hopefully I'll find out some more answers when I go back to the doctor this week: they did an abdominal ultrasound on Friday, and I'll get the results.  I don't anticipate them finding any issues in the results, though.  Time will tell.

Thursday, April 18

Annie's Gluten Free Bunnies

Annie's Gluten-Free Bunnies
These little bunnies are just delicious!  A great substitute for regular animal crackers, Annie's GF Bunnies are a combination of chocolate and vanilla flavored cookies in a pretty blue box.  They are nicely crispy without being hard on teeth.  The vanilla have a perfectly sweet vanilla flavor without being overwhelming, and the chocolate flavor is just the right balance to counteract the vanilla.  Plus, they use all-natural ingredients, so win-win!  They will run you around $4.50 for a 6.75 oz. box.  My score: 5 out of 5--a little pricey, but well worth the money, whether you need to eat gluten-free or not.  I would buy these again even if I don't have to live gluten-free!
Eye-catching blue box.
I took this picture, then noticed that someone had posed my Pen Man in the background.  He's calling to me!
Pen Man came closer to see what the fuss was all about in the bag.
The opened bag.  Pen Man was satisfied and went back to his spot on the counter.
One vanilla and one cocoa bunny.  These are great!

Tuesday, April 16

Nasty-I Mean Namaste-Gluten-Free Pizza Crust-Fail

Namaste Gluten-Free Pizza Crust

I purchased this in the gluten-free section at our local grocery store.  I had originally grabbed a box of King Arthur GF bread and pizza mix, but that mix was only going to make one pizza, and the Namaste brand said it made two 14" pizza crusts, and for less money.  Score!  I tossed that one into the cart and left King Arthur on the shelf in its place.  Well, I wish I'd opted for the King Arthur brand, because this was not good.  Not good at all.  Strike one.

I got the mix out of the pantry for dinner.  I also had a bag of Pamela's pizza crust in my pantry, but I was starting dinner late, and Pamela's required a few hours of rise time, whereas the Namaste was mix and bake, with no rise time.  Great!  Strike two.

I read the instructions on the bag.  Mix 1 1/2 C water and 1 tsp of oil into the mix with an electric mixer for three minutes.  I wondered about the mix when the instructions said, "mix will look like cake batter".  Cake batter pizza crust??  Strike three.  I should have stopped here.  I kept going anyway.  I was hungry.

The instructions said to spread the mix onto a greased pan, making sure that the batter was at least 14" wide and no thicker than 1/4".  So I did that.  Then, bake it at 450 degrees for 20 minutes on the lowest rack in the oven.  So I did that.  While it was baking, I began working on getting the toppings together, and then I looked into the oven to see what was happening with the crust.

It was starting to bubble up in various places.  Not just small dough bubbles--there was a huuuge bubble on one corner.  How do you put toppings on a huge bubble?
View through the oven door.  Super bubbles!

When baking time was over, I pulled it out of the oven.  It was a sickly pale, with no browning whatsoever.  The instructions said that to achieve a crispier crust, flip it over on the pan before adding toppings.  With a bit of muscle, I was able to flip it over, but it stuck to the pan and made a big hole on one side of the crust.  Oh well...added the toppings anyway.  Then I stuck it back in the oven.
Pizza crust as it looked right out of the oven
Pizza crust after flipping
After another 15 minutes to let the toppings heat up and cheese melt, it was time to eat.  It didn't look bad, and smelled okay, but it tasted pretty bad.  It was gummy in the middle, but the edges were super-crispy, like a cracker.  It was bland, despite the fact that there were Italian spices in the mix.  We ate some out of duty, and then couldn't handle it anymore.  My husband even threw a Stouffer's French bread pizza in the oven, since he was still hungry.  I wasn't really hungry after I threw mine away.  Pizza night was a sad affair with this mix.  My score: 0.5 out of 5 stars.  Half a star because it was easy prep, but that's the only good point I can come up with.  You get what you pay for, I guess!

Sunday, April 14

Incredible Delicious Breakfast Casserole!

I found a recipe on Pinterest that sounded really good, and thought it would be a great recipe to try on a day that I don't work, due to the fact that it's a bit time-consuming.  The original recipe was from Martha Stewart, and I am just not a fan of hers, but she has a lot of good ideas.  I liked this recipe because it has no gluten in it and still sounded delicious!  I made some minor adaptations to the recipe, and it turned out great.  So, for your tastebud pleasure, I give you my adapted recipe!

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream (don't buy this until you're ready to make the casserole!)
  • 2-3 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (or you can use about two cups of frozen hash browns)
  • Approx. 1/2 lb. smoked ham, cubed
  • Half of a 10 oz. package of fresh baby spinach, chopped, washed and squeezed dry in paper towels 
  • 1/2 C shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, plus some for the top
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Butter, for the pan
  • Parchment paper

This recipe serves 6-8 people.

What You Do:
Generously butter a 9" round cake pan (make sure your cake pan is at least 3" deep).  Cut out parchment paper to fit in the bottom, and place it inside of the buttered pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and whipping cream (by the way, I bought my whipping cream last week when I went grocery shopping.  When I opened my cartons, the cream had congealed and gone bad already, so that's why I said not to get the cream until you're ready to make the casserole, or you'll have to go to the store mid-recipe to buy new cream, like me).  Add your salt and pepper.  Add your potatoes, ham, spinach and cheese and mix well, making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Pour into your buttered pan and sprinkle a little extra cheese on top.

Cover the pan and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Remove the foil and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until the top browns and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
Allow the casserole to cool for 15 minutes.  Grab a large plate and place it on top of the pan, and invert the pan to remove the casserole from the cake pan.  If the parchment sticks to the casserole, peel it off now.  Take another plate and place it on top of the inverted casserole, and flip again.  Voila!  It's right-side up, and ready to slice and serve.  Tastes great with a glass of chocolate milk, and better as leftovers again in the morning with a glass of orange juice.  So yummy!

Saturday, April 13

Gluten-Free & Egg Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Howdy!  I just wanted to share a sweet treat that I enjoy, adapted to a gluten-free and egg-free diet.  No girl should ever have to go without cookie dough on movie night!

3 TBSP of your favorite peanut butter
1 TBSP white sugar
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 C tapioca flour (more or less)
2-3 TBSP semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix everything in a small bowl, grab a big glass of ice water, and pop in your favorite movie.  I prefer period movies with my cookie dough, but a good comedy works, too!

Friday, April 12

Gluten-Free Baked Chicken Nuggets, Fries and Asparagus

I felt like making some chicken nuggets the other night.  I also felt like having French fries.  French fries at a restaurant are a big no-no to someone who isn't supposed to eat gluten, and I've been wanting fries for a while now.  Top that off with the fact that we are now entering into asparagus season (despite the fact that mine is still a no-show), and the hubs looooves asparagus, and voila!  You have yourself an easy weeknight dinner.  Here's the recipe--this is a recipe for two.  Adjust accordingly to make enough for your family!

What you need for the chicken:

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into chunks
1/2 C gluten-free Panko breadcrumbs
1/4-1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP gluten-free seasoning salt (or to taste)
1 TBSP salt (or to taste)
1 TBSP pepper (or to taste)
1 TBSP oregano (or to taste)
1 TBSP thyme (or to taste)
1 TBSP parsley (or to taste)
2 TBSP garlic powder (or to taste)
4 TBSP butter, melted

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.  Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings in a bowl large enough to allow you to dip the chicken and coat it.  Dip each piece of chicken into the butter, coating both sides, then dip into the breadcrumb mixture, turning to coat each piece.  Place on the baking sheet.  Repeat until all pieces are coated, arranging in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.  You can bake the French fries at the same time as the chicken, but allow extra time for the fries to bake if their regular baking temperature is higher than 400 degrees.

What you need for the French fries:
Bag of Ore-Ida (they are gluten-free!) French fries--ha!  You thought it would be more complicated!

What you need for the asparagus:
1 bunch of asparagus, with ends trimmed
Seasoning salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 TBSP butter

Melt the butter in a 10" skillet.  Break asparagus in pieces, breaking off the thick ends, and rinse.  Add to the skillet, then sprinkle seasoning salt and pepper until seasoned to taste.  Saute until desired tenderness is reached, about 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat.  

Enjoy your gluten-free, healthy dinner!  Yes, fries are healthy.  I promise.

Wednesday, April 10

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

One of my first forays into gluten-free baking was a simple one, admittedly.  I have had little appetite lately, but one thing I have been craving is sweet things.  Odd.  I found this recipe on Pinterest, and my mom had also found this recipe online at an area hospital's Celiac website.  Since gluten-free flours are so expensive, I opted for a recipe that was sweet, peanut-buttery, and just what I was craving, sans flour!

Peanut Butter Gluten-Free Cookies
Yep, tastes as good as it looks!

  • 1 C peanut butter, smooth or crunchy (I prefer smooth)
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/2 C miniature chocolate chips (Nestle and Hershey both claim that their chocolate chips are gluten-free), plus more for topping

Mix the first four ingredients together well.  Add the chocolate chips and mix.  The dough will be thick!  Using spoons or a cookie scoop, take about a walnut-sized chunk of dough and roll it into a ball with your hands.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet or a sheet lined with parchment, about 2" apart, and flatten the middle of the ball with your hand or the back of the spoon.  Sprinkle additional chocolate chips on top of the flattened dough.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Be careful not to overbake, or they will become dry and crumbly.  I got 21 cookies from this recipe.  These are a great fix for any sweet tooth, gluten-free or gluten-y!

Tuesday, April 9

Gluten-Free Shopping...Some Pleasant Surprises

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.--1 Cor. 10:13

Having to cut wheat flour and gluten completely out of my diet has been eye-opening, and not in a good way.  As a breadaholic, I always knew that I ate a lot of wheat-based food.  I did not realize that wheat flour is in everything from canned soups to marinades, though, and not being able to use these things has greatly limited my cooking and baking options for meals.  If you think I'm crazy, read the ingredients of everything you use in a day.  Unless you are a hard-core homesteader, chances are you will be as surprised as me.  This has caused me to do a lot of investigating.  There are many gluten-free options for breads, cookies, baking mixes, and so on; the question is, are they any good?  I'm going to rate the items that I've tried so far that meet my expectations for taste and quality.  And just so you know, I am a fairly picky eater, so in this whole new (possibly permanent) gluten-free lifestyle, I want as little adjustment and adaptation as possible right now.  I don't handle change well anymore.

Snyder's of Hanover Gluten-Free Mini Pretzels:

These are really good!  I was pleasantly surprised with these.  While they are a bit harder/crunchier than their gluteny counterparts, their taste and texture remain the same as their regular pretzels.  I melted a couple of tablespoons of semi-sweet chocolate chips and dipped the pretzels while I ate them.  Very delicious snack!  I paid $2.99 for an 8 ounce bag at my grocery store...but they were on sale.  Regular price was $3.29.  One of the cheaper gluten-free snacks that I've come across so far.  5 out of 5.

Gluten-Free Rice Krispies:
These are good, like eating regular Rice Krispies.  I will say that the texture is slightly different, but not in a bad way.  They do seem to soak up more milk than regular Rice Krispies.  Pricewise, they are in line with other cereals of the same size, at $2.99 in my local store.  5 out of 5.

Udi's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Surprisingly good for a pre-packaged, wheat-and-soy-free cookie.  They are soft and chewy, which I like, and have a nice, sweet flavor.  They do have a slightly gritty texture that lingers after you've eaten the cookie, but it's not bad, and you quickly get used to it.  They are higher in calories than regular cookies (two cookies have 210 calories), but it's not unusual for products made with substitute flours to have higher calorie contents, because the makers are trying to mimic their flour-based counterparts with more ingredients and fat content.  The price is a bit high, too--I paid $3.99 for a container of 10 cookies.  But I needed them.  Seriously.  Overall, a 3 out of 5, due to the price, aftertexture and calorie count.

Gluten-Free Bisquick:
I put a box of zipper bags on end to give you an idea of how small this box is.

I used this to make some drop biscuits for dinner one night.  I cut the recipe down to 1/3 the size due to the fact that a 16 oz. box cost over $4.00, and I didn't need 10 biscuits for just me (my husband has never been a fan of regular Bisquick biscuits, so I knew he wouldn't be interested in these).  I used butter in place of the shortening called for in the recipe, because I only have Crisco, and they can't guarantee that their shortening is gluten-free.  Sigh.  Anyway, the biscuits baked up fairly well, but had a slightly sweet, cornbread texture.  Honestly, I got it for making pancakes, which I haven't done yet, but I think that the mix will be better suited for breakfast baked goods.  Overall, a 2.5 out of 5, because the flavor of the biscuits was nothing like I remembered from my youth, and the price was exorbitantly high for what I got.

So far, this has been a hit-and-miss adventure.

My stash:
I keep all of my new gluten-free groceries in a separate place in our spare room.  I have an all-purpose baking mix that I'm honestly not crazy about, a box of tapioca starch, a box of potato starch, a box of bread crumbs, a container of xantham gum, and a bag of gluten-free instant oats.  I've had some of the oats, and was able to make a bowl of oatmeal that was very similar in taste to the maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal that I've eaten for all of my life.  The texture of the oats is the same as in the regular instant oatmeal in packets.  It was pretty good, but the oatmeal sat pretty heavily in my stomach, and  I haven't had any since.  Most mornings are just my gluten-free Rice Krispies.

P.S.  My stash after my mom came to visit:
I love my mom.  I told her about the problems I'd been having, and that the doctors suspect a gluten intolerance.  When I was talking to her about it, she mentioned that she and my stepfather were planning to come and visit us, and I told her that we would cook for them while they were here, since I was a bit leery about going to restaurants.  She asked (as she always does) if she could bring anything, but since I was on a special diet, I said no, and don't worry about bringing anything.  She never listens.  A few things in this picture were items I picked up at the grocery store, but she brought a big bag of gluten-free groceries for me and now this is what I have:
Boom.  I think I now have enough stock to open my own health food store.  Thanks, mom! :)

I have a lot more items now to try and review.  I'm not impressed so far with Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Mix; I thought it had a strange taste and gritty texture.  I will give it another go, though, because maybe it just wasn't right for the recipe I used it for.  Honestly, there is no perfect substitute for flour that I've found yet, but I'm still new at this.  I'm hoping that this is temporary, anyway...but in the event that it's not, has anyone out there found a good gluten-free flour substitute?  Something that just makes you say, "wow!"?  I'd love to know.  Leave a comment! 

Friday, April 5

Time to Wake Up!

Time to wake up the garden, that is!  Hubby and I spent a beautiful Saturday last weekend out working on the yard, including prepping the garden beds for the growing season.  I don't think that the official growing season will begin for another few weeks here in northwest Ohio, but I purchased a pound of seed potatoes and cut them up to cure anyway.  They can go in the bed in a week or so.  It might still be chilly outside, but the beds are ready to be planted when it does warm up!
I recently read that adding crushed egg shells to the hole when you plant your tomatoes is a good thing, adding calcium to the soil and preventing root problems in the tomato plant.  I've been collecting dried out egg shells for the past few weeks.  I'll keep collecting them until I plant my tomatoes.

My seed potatoes.

My gardening veggies for this year.  The radishes can probably go in soon.

The perils of working outside in the muddy yard and garden.

Here are the garden beds, with new manure, growing soil and fertilizer mixed in.  They are ready to go!  I'm hoping for some rain to saturate the dirt and activate the nutrients, but so far, we've had a pretty dry spring as far as rainfall is concerned.  Snow, however, is a different story.  Happy gardening season!

Wednesday, April 3

Gluten-Free Pizza

Pizza--One thing I will miss so much with having to ditch gluten is going to be the delicious, chewy-crusted pizzas from our favorite pizzeria here in town.  I'm on a quest to find a recipe for a pizza crust that will be close in taste and texture to what I can't have.  While I know that it will never be exactly the same, I'd love to find something that I can enjoy.  If you have any recipes that you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment at the end of this post!

Gluten-Free Pizza!
1 Pizza Crust Recipe (click on the link--this one is from Taste of Home)
1 jar (16 oz.) Meijer Organics pizza sauce (or homemade sauce, but I don't have a recipe for that)
2 C part-skim Mozzarella shredded cheese
Olive oil of your choice, for brushing on the pizza pan and pizza crust (I use special Great Lakes Olive Oil, Organic Garlic--so good!)
Italian or Pizza Seasonings
2 TBSP Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare the crust according to the directions.  Note: I added extra seasoning to my crust, and would add garlic powder next time I make it.

Spray or oil a large pizza pan or baking sheet.  Spread a small amount of rice flour onto the pan, then pat the crust out to the size and shape you want.  Fold over the edges to create a ridge along the edge of the crust.  Cover with towel and let rest for 10 minutes, then pop it in the oven for another ten minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven.  Brush about a tablespoon of olive oil over the crust and edges, then sprinkle with about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese.  Spread your sauce evenly over the crust, then your cheese (and other toppings, if you have them--we didn't).  Sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese over top of the cheese, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and crust is brown.  Serve hot, and refrigerate leftovers.

Rating: Hubby liked it paired with the pizza toppings, but not by itself.  I would kind of agree with him, although I didn't mind eating the crust--maybe I was just thinking, 'it's better than nothing'.  It was a decent crust for having no wheat flour.  It's more crunchy than chewy, and sadly, I like chewy.  I would give it a 3 out of 5 right now, since I haven't tried any other crusts yet :).