Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Pumpkin Pancakes

I have been dairy free for the last six months. Believe or not the hardest thing for me to give up was the half & half creamer I put in my hot tea every single morning. I tried different dairy free milks (almond, soy & coconut) but they just were not thick enough to really make my hot tea taste even remotely normal. Then I found So Delicious brand Coconut Milk CREAMER! Ohhh...I was so excited. It was just what I needed to start my day out hot tea with CREAM and sugar! 

About two weeks ago, I saw this at my local Whole Foods:

Be still my heart! PUMPKIN SPICE COCONUT MILK! It is a LIMITED EDITION flavor so you must go out ASAP and find it at a local grocery store. Here is my version of the recipe for pumpkin pancakes using So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk. The original recipe is printed on the back of the carton of the Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk carton. I chose to make my pancakes gluten free as well.

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Pumpkin Pancakes

1 & 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend
3 tablespoons sugar 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup So Delicious Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used Canola Oil)
Extra vegetable oil for pan
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

**Note** I omitted the ginger and nutmeg that is in the original recipe because the Pumpkin Spice Milk has spices already in it. If you would like a super pumpkin spice tasting pancake you may add 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg when you are mixing the dry ingredients.


Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium size bowl and set aside. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until just combined (do not over mix). If adding nuts, fold them into the batter and set aside.

Lightly oil a large skillet with the vegetable (or canola) oil and preheat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup increments of batter onto to skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes or until edges are lightly brown and firm. Flip and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Top with your favorite syrup...I used real maple.

I could fit three pancakes at a time in my skillet. I used a gluten free flour blend instead of all-purpose
flour. When cooking and baking with gluten free flour, you typically need to cook/bake things longer. I cut the middle of one of the pancakes to make sure it was done before taking off the stove. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Newbie Recipe Writer Seeks Your Advice!

Super short and sweet blog post tonight. I am knee deep in scrap pieces of paper. I am trying to gather them together for a cookbook. I never thought in a million years that I would be creating recipes much less trying to publish them. Prepping, cooking and baking are one thing but putting that new recipe into written form is another animal all together. I know there are different ways to format and write really good recipes and I am asking you for help.

Can you share with me what you think makes a great recipe? Do you like when the author gives you a "shopping list" first then lists ingredients in order of use and finally the preparation of ingredients? Do I really need the "shopping list" or does the reader get the "shopping list" from the list of ingredients? Do you like extra information about the recipe...where the idea came from? How important is a photo? Having a color photo for each recipe is very expensive so how do I pick which recipes get pictures (I am working on both sweet & savory recipes that are gluten free, dairy free and egg free).

I would really appreciate your comments and if you have a website that you think I should visit or you have a favorite cookbook, please let me know that too.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgiving and The Spiral Ham of Death (a GLUTEN FREE adventure)!

 Photo Credit:'s the most wonderful time of the year. Yeah right...not really if you have food allergies. Everyone else around me can't wait for the holidays because they get to eat their asses off without a care in the world. No cross contamination to worry about and no hidden gluten ingredients to fear. This year for me the holidays mean that I either make an entire Thanksgiving/Christmas meal for myself or I politely eat my gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nightshade free pretzels while everyone else stuffs their faces full of all of my favorite foods that would put me in bed for days if I consumed even a bite.

I haven't decided which route I'm going to take (cook or starve) this year but I wanted to share with you something that ALMOST happened to me last Thanksgiving. I did not know at that time that I shouldn't have been eating dairy or eggs, so I was most concerned (obsessed) with gluten. I had already talked with my MIL about the Thanksgiving menu and made sure that I would have at least a couple things to eat. I was looking forward to turkey, ham, mash taters, sweet taters and corn puddin'. I knew I couldn't have the green bean casserole (made with cream of mushroom soup that contains gluten) and obviously the dinner rolls. I brought with me my own homemade GF gravy and my GF crackers to enjoy my SIL's famous Buffalo Chicken Dip.

It was Thanksgiving day and we were all in the kitchen loading our plates up with the goodies. I noticed that the ham looked different than in had in years past but I didn't put to much thought into it. We all sat down to eat and say the blessing. As I was about to put a bite of ham in my mouth when my MIL commented that this year she decided to buy and bake a spiral ham. I looked down at the piece of ham on my fork and I noticed the brown coating on the outside. I asked her about it and she said "It came with a packet of seasoning and I just added water to make a paste to spread over the ham. Don't's just brown sugar". No...she didn't just say "Don't worry" 'cause I am about to freak out. I wanted to throw down my fork and run screaming through the house "Danger...Danger...ALERT...ALERT". But what I really did was politely excuse myself back to the kitchen and throw everything off my plate away. I got a new plate and started over again...without the ham.

Just like in gravy mixes, gluten can hide in seasoning packets too. After eating and BEFORE everyone cleaned off their plates into the garbage, I rummaged and found the seasoning packet ingredients. It did indeed contain GLUTEN! It is so important that you think about every single thing that you put into your body BEFORE you consume it when you have food allergies. It is imperative when you eat out either at a restaurant or at someones house that you are able to find out everything about the meal. If you are to uncomfortable to ask, then you better a) bring your own food b) not eat anything you can't verify the ingredients. This might mean upsetting your MIL or getting funky looks from a waiter but this is about your health and you must be your own advocate. Trust me when I say NO ONE else will care as much about a seasoning packet that is just "brown sugar" than you. At the time, I had been eating gluten free for over eleven years and I still almost got "glutened" because I let my guard down.

I was almost killed (or at least my stomach) by a spiral ham, don't let this happen. Don't let "The Spiral Ham of Death" get you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Note to Self: Never Attempt A Photo of Buttercream Frosting In Direct Sunlight!

I am in the process of creating gluten free & vegan recipes for my blog and upcoming cookbook. I decided to finally take the time to actually learn how to use my very expensive and hardly used Nikon camera. I called a friend who is a professional and asked if he would give me a few pointers. 

Above is my first picture after my first photography lesson. I bartered chocolate ganache (which is a fancy word for fudge) brownies for the hour and a half "how to take pictures of food for a blog" class. The cupcake (gluten free & vegan pumpkin pie) and frosting (also gluten free & vegan butter cream cheese) tasted fantastic but the photo is a hot mess. I mean literally a hot mess...the room where I was trying to take the photo was to warm for the butter cream frosting. As you can see the frosting is screaming "I'm melting" as it is sliding off the cupcake.

This is my second try after I got smart and put the frosting back in the fridge. I let the frosting get a little firmer before I tried icing the cupcake. Taking good pictures of food is so much harder than I thought. Now I know why there is such a job as a "professional food stylist" that assists the photographer. I am learning how to do both jobs along with preparing all of the food loving every minute of it. all I need is a "taste tester" of my recipes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Rutabaga Fries Suck!

***Disclaimer*** I took this picture but I did NOT write the sign. I don't think Miss June or her lovely husband Mr. Jimmy (owners of this little veggie stand) have a dictionary close by...bless their hearts! It is rutabagas not rutabages

I saw this strange lookin' vegetable at a little road side stand and I thought to myself, WTF is a rutabaga? I bought one for a buck and brought this three pounder home. I did what anyone else would do when trying to figure out how in hell to cook this monster...GOOGLE it. Up came a recipe for Rutabaga Oven diggity! I read through all of the reviews and they got me excited! Here are a few:

*These are so good! Taste like a cross between a potato, sweet potato, and a carrot. 
*These were really really tasty and smelled wonderful cooking.
*I love rutabaga fries. I coat mine with smoked paprika and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I was super jazzed to find a replacement for regular french fries because I am supposed to stay away from nightshades (potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant). I followed the directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Combine rutabaga spears with oil, minced rosemary, garlic, and salt. Toss until evenly coated. Lay rutabaga spears onto a baking sheet, leaving space between for even crisping. Bake until rutabaga fries are cooked through and crisped on the outside, about 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes...I DON'T THINK SO! I ended up having to bake these suckers for over an hour. I also had to keep increasing the heat. I even had my oven on broil trying to attempt to crisp up these "fries". They NEVER got crisp and they ended up tasting like a spear of raw cabbage...NOT A CROSS BETWEEN A POTATO, SWEET POTATO AND A CARROT! Do not...I repeat...DO NOT make rutabaga fries in the oven. They might work fried in oil but I am guessing the taste will still be the same. They leave a bitter funky aftertaste in your mouth. 

I am looking for another recipe for that does not have the words "oven" or "fries" in the title. I want to give this vegetable another chance so let me know if you have a recipe that I can try. I have heard that rutabagas are good in soups and mashed up like potatoes but I am having my doubts. Will your recipe change my mind? I sure hope so.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

BEWARE of the Steaming Wands of Cross Contamination at STARBUCKS!!!

I used to start each day off right by poisoning myself. I put half & half in my hot tea (along with a shit ton of sugar) every single morning for the last twenty years. That was until this past June when I found out that I can't consume dairy. It seems that even trace amounts of it make me ill. I also cannot consume gluten, egg, shellfish or nightshades...I know right...major bummer.  By the grace of Whole Foods and the So Delicious company, I have found a coconut creamer that makes my mornin' tea taste almost the way it used to when I was sucking down the toxic half & half.

Enter into the mix...Starbucks. I usually only order sweetened ice tea but I received a half off coupon for an espresso beveridge. Hot Damn! I would never pay $5.00 for a tall caramel macchiato but for $2.50, let me just throw caution to the wind and go for it. Back in the day (this means before June 2013) when I would walk on the wild side and order a hot chocolate from SB, it would be with regular milk. I had yet to experiment with any other non-dairy product at SB. So when I went to my local SBux's with my coupon, I ordered a SOY caramel macchiato. I was giddy with excitement when the barista handed over my steaming hot cup of caramel heaven. I sucked that bad boy down and went about my merry way. My merry way turned into a mad dash to the bathroom where my intestines got insanely upset with me (this is my polite way of saying I had a blow out). I spent quite a bit of time promising the Food Allergy God's that if I found out what made me so sick, I would never ingest it again and warn others about this devil food/drink.

That freakin' discounted Starbucks drink was the only thing that I had consumed that I did not make at home. I was 20 days into a 30 day challenge of not eating ANYTHING away from home. My food allergies are severe and if I get sick from eating something I am not supposed to, I am sick for days (feels like I have the flu & stomach virus at the same time). I just couldn't believe a shot of espresso and soy milk could have done this damage. I even watched the girl pour the soy milk from the container. Please don't post comments saying "if you have such severe allergies, you shouldn't be eating or drinking anything outside you home". I get it...I knew better...but that GD coupon had me all "ohhh...I could get a soy's not dairy so I SHOULD be fine". Sometimes, I really want to just be normal and enjoy a coffee drink like the rest of our sleep deprived society.

When I was finished with the three days of confinement between my bed and the bathroom, I went on a mission to find out what in that drink had made me so ill. I called Starbucks directly and asked if  their brand of soy milk contained gluten because I know that some soy milks contain barley malt. The customer service agent said that Starbucks could not guarantee that any of their products were 100 % GF but the soy milk did not APPEAR to have any gluten ingredients.

So, I don't think it was something in the drink but what about how it was prepared? I started stalking different Starbucks around my part of town (one in a Target, one in a Harris Teeter and one corporate). More specifically I have been watching the baristas like a hawk (a very beautiful majestic stealthy hawk) and how they make the coffee drinks...especially the steamed ones. Guess what I found out? Sometimes the baristas DO NOT clean the steaming wands in between drinks. They go from a regular (dairy) caramel macchiato straight to a soy caramel machhiato using the exact same wand. It seems my tall soy caramel macchiato most likely was cross contaminated with regular (dairy) milk.

Another thing I learned is that the Starbucks staff can accidentally (or they are just to busy to clean them properly) mix up the pumps for the different syrups. The rumor on the street is that some syrups contain gluten so just be aware of that if you have severe food allergies. You might not want to take a chance on ANY Starbucks drinks except for maybe a cup of coffee with NOTHING in it.

It totally blows my mind how many other people with food allergies might have gotten sick from cross contamination at a Starbucks. I promised the Food Allergy God's that I would warn others about the devil drink that caused me so much agony but it turns out that it was not the drink but the steaming wand that brought me down. Remember this food allergy "buyer beware" tidbit the next time you feel the need for a caffeine fix.

Monday, November 4, 2013

When GLUTEN FREE is not enough. Do you follow a GF diet and still feel sick?

When I was told that I most likely had Celiac Disease and needed to cut out gluten from my diet (13 years ago), I did it COLD TURKEY. I never looked back and I didn't do any research on what else I could have done (testing, supplements etc.) to help me heal. This was a HUGE MISTAKE and if I could do it over again, I would do several thinks differently.

One thing that I didn't do that I regret is not getting an endoscopy and colonoscopy FIRST before I started cutting out the gluten . An endoscopy is when a tube is put down your throat and into the small intestine and tissue samples are taken. The samples can show loss of the villi and other characteristics of Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity. A colonoscopy would have shown any inflammation. It is so important that you get some sort of baseline testing so that you can, a.) see what, if any damage has been done and what steps you can take to heal the damage, b.) in the future see if all of the steps that you took made a difference.
Within weeks of going gluten free I did feel better. I was so sick before I cut gluten out that ANY improvement seemed to be a miracle. And even though I was feeling better, I still was having the same symptoms days, weeks, months and even years later. I was suffering from bloating and fullness after I ate. I was still burping and had major gas constantly. I would have bouts of crazy diarrhea and then full blown constipation. The stomach cramps would send me to the bathroom for hours and the migraines would debilitate me for days. Why was I still feeling this way? It's because I had my GLUTEN FREE BLINDERS on! I was so obsessed with eating gluten free that I failed to recognized that maybe I had other major food allergies or possibly another medical problem. I had already cut out SO MUCH from my diet. I really think I was in denial about how extreme my food allergies really were and that I might be suffering from something else all together. It was just such a major time suck already trying to find things that I could eat, the thought of cutting out anything else was just too overwhelming.

I have suffered many more years of needless agony and caused major damage to my gut because I didn't do an elimination diet of ALL the major allergens FIRST! So, the SECOND thing I would have done differently is make sure to take the food challenge where I would have eliminated the major food allergens (read here for list) out of my diet to find out what else I was allergic too
As it turns out, I found out this past June that I cannot eat dairy or eggs. I finally took the gluten free blinders off and did the full food elimination diet after an abnormal test result (read about that here). I do have other medical complications (an autoimmune type condition) that hinders my overall health and digestion BUT some of the other symptoms have improved greatly (burping, gas, bloating and constipation). It took almost twenty years to get some answers and a diagnosis.

The THIRD mistake that I made was not doing further research into what medical tests were available as well as holistic options. I really thought that cutting out the gluten was enough. Even though I was able to function, my condition still prohibited me from living a normal life. It took thirteen years for me to finally have medical tests done to narrow down my health issues and start taking supplements to heal my body. Now granted, there was very little information available when I first started the gluten free diet but so much has changed since then. There is a plethora of great information out there. There are books, blogs, websites and support groups that deal with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance, food allergies, testing for food allergies, supplements and SO MUCH MORE.

I really have no excuse for why I didn't take the time to research my own health except that I let life get in the way. I tried to band-aid my issues with eating strictly gluten free and it was not enough.
Do not make the same mistakes I did. Make sure before you start a food elimination diet you have diagnostics tests done. Commit to cutting out all of the major food allergens during you elimination diet and be your own health advocate. Read everything you can get your hands on about your health condition (whatever it may be). Be open to alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage and supplements (just to name a few). Most importantly, if you don't feel good and haven't for a long time, do not stick your head in the sand (like I did). Take charge of your health and do the work towards feeling better.