"Which of my all important nothings should I tell you first?" ~ Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baking gluten free for the first time

My brother-in-law got remarried last week to a truly sweet, wonderful woman and she'll be a real asset to my husband's side of our family. She and I bonded right away and I look forward to many more family get-togethers with her. But she's now providing us with a challenge we haven't previously dealt with; she has Celiac disease, which is essentially gluten intolerance. We've been really lucky that we have never had to worry about any food allergies or "intolerances" in the past, but now, going forward, we're going to have to be much more aware of what we cook and how it's prepared to make sure it's not contaminated with any wheat proteins.

So yesterday was their small family wedding reception and everyone was supposed to bring a dessert. I decided to make gluten-free brownies in her honor and to show that we are taking on the challenge. My cousin-in-law also decided to make something gluten-free, but I don't know that anyone else did - Yay for us! 

I did my homework. I looked up what chocolate I could use and what double-checked every label of my ingredients to make sure it was okay - except one thing. I put my first batch together and sprayed a mini-muffin pan so that I could make brownie bites. Then I filled each cavity about 3/4 full and baked them. Then I thought, "hmm, I didn't look at that cooking spray" and, sure enough, the label says it may contain wheat traces. Damn! I dumped the whole batch into the garbage. And, to be honest, I didn't care too much for some of the flavoring I added so I made a second batter and changed up the recipe a little bit.

I was going to add butterscotch morsels but then I read the label and realized that the butterscotch contains barley malt. So I just added milk & semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter. (I used unsweetened Baker's chocolate for the batter - which is safe - but the Baker's bittersweet chocolate is made with alkali processing and that ISN'T safe). I owe a lot of my homework to Labelwatch.com, by the way. This time instead of using cooking spray I used mini-cupcake liners. I also decided to dust the brownies with powdered sugar and discovered that SOME powdered sugars can have added wheat-based fillers so it's important to check the label of the powdered sugar you are using.

I took the brownies to the party and my new sister-in-law tried them and LOVED them. She raved about them and made sure to give some to her mom who is also gluten intolerant. Yay!

I now have gluten-free flour in my pantry for future baking endeavors, but I'm sure it's going to be tough to always double-check what I can and can't use in my dishes to allow her to eat the food we provide. It's a good challenge though! So many people are gluten-intolerant now that it's something we all need to be aware of when we entertain.

UPDATE: my new sis-in-law is now asking me for the recipe. I call that a success! 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jane Austen - a warning

Among the various things on my desk (iPod chargers, checkbooks, bills (and more bills), Jelly Bellies, and Kleenexes) is a book called Jane Austen's Little Advice Book (edited by Cathryn Michon and Pamela Norris). I'm warning you now because you WILL see Jane Austen quotes on a fairly regular basis. She is the inspiration for so many good things and the balm for all the bad things.


If you ever fear you are alone in your problems just know that you, decidedly, are not: 
"None of us expects to be in smooth water all our days."
Persuasion, Jane Austen
Speaking of Persuasion, (it is neck-in-neck with Pride & Prejudice for my favorite Jane Austen book), remind me to share my Persuasion-themed poem one of these days.

Eeek! Falling down on the job

For a beginning blogger I'm not doing a very good job, am I? I've been woefully neglectful! 


In my defense, it was Thanksgiving week and we had company for 7 days, I was off work for 5 days, and we made a very quick 16 hour roundtrip drive/relatives-visit in there as well. But my family just left 30 minutes ago and the turkey & pumpkin pie are almost all gone so I guess it's time to tune back in to reality. 


Before reality sets in, can I just muse on how absolutely wonderful it was to have my family with us this week? It was my mom & stepdad. My mom is wonderful. She's SUCH a mom, and grandma. It's her true calling. That and talking - her nickname is Chatty Cathy because she can talk up anybody. Truly, it's a gift. I am infinitely more reserved.


When my mom visits, or I visit her, she takes care of ME. Who else does that? My husband . . . sometimes, but he's busy. You know how it is. But my mom - she worries about me, asks me what she can do to help, and generally just pitches in to make my life a little better during our time together. I'm so lucky to have her! And she's such a good, supportive, loving grandma. She kisses, hugs, and spoils all of us. She & my stepdad are such gems and I'm one very lucky girl to have them. <3



So I'm writing today with some sadness, after saying goodbye to them, and some worry since we're having a snowstorm this morning and they had to leave in it. I hope they make it safely to their destination tonight; I'll be on pins and needles until I know they are safe.


But I'm also feeling loved, safe and secure today too. They provide us with so much - love, money, and just plain old always-here-for-you support. My family is full of problem-solvers and I love them for it! Generally when I call my mom to discuss an issue before I have even explained the problem she's saying, "well, could you do this? or what about this?" So we've spent the last week discussing, mulling, and agreeing on different things we can do to solve various problems and, really, that's a gift in itself, right? Just someone to HELP. To talk to and say, "what do you think?" *sigh* I love them.


I have to put a halt to this missive for now; domestic goddess duties are calling. I have to take my boys to a wedding reception tonight and I'm making something gluten-free to bring with me. I'm off to find a gluten-free brownie recipe! Then maybe I'll blog about that too. ;) I know I'm going to add cherries and coffee to it for sure. Stay tuned.


Oh, and happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cathy

I overslept this morning. It's true, it happens. My alarm didn't wake me up because I'm blessed with having a very curious 6 year old who likes to fiddle with things - like the volume knob on my clock radio. I prefer to think that he just knows when his mommy needs a little more sleep. 

But this morning, when I sleepily turned over and focused my eyes on the clock to see 7:54 am, I wasn't thinking, "Oh, an extra hour of sleep - bless him!" I was thinking, "ACK!! I have a meeting in an hour!!" Jumped up, turned the shower on and did all those first thing in the morning things. As I was lathering up in the shower I kept thinking, "Ack! I hate being rushed!" Then it hit me - I'm SO Cathy this morning!! Remember Cathy? Then the situation just turned comical and I laughed! What's the point of getting all irritated?

I showered, make-uped, and dressed in record time and at 8:35 walked into the kitchen. The hubby (bless him!) had jumped up when I did and gotten the kids up, dressed and they were breakfasting when I walked in. To my 6 year old bubba I said, "Did you turn the sound knob on mommy's radio?" 

Here's the best part, are you ready?

"I didn't do it!! I think it was a thief. He broke in and he did it." 

Yes, baby, it was a thief.

Oh the pressure

So do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian (Julia Roberts) and her roommate, Kit, are talking about how it's possible to have the fairytale? Kit insists it's possible and Viv says "Tell me one person it's worked out for", and Kit says, "What, you want me to name someone? You want like a name? Oh, god, the pressure . . . of a name. I got it! Cinderf&%#inrella!"

I have two points I want to make about that:

1. That's how I feel trying to "birth" this blog - oh the pressure . . . of the words. What should I say? I feel compelled to start it though I have no clear purpose or any particular knowledge to impart. The plan for this blog is yet unplanned. I hope it will be my outlet. When I have something to say I can say it here. One day it will have pictures and the next it will have a poem, or a rant. I thought I might have a clear purpose, a theme, but the more I thought about it the more I realized I'm just a bit too random to adhere to a theme. Everyday will be different - a topic du jour, so to speak.

2. I think a lot of what I write about will be my life and all the trials and tribulations therein. My life as a mom, a wife, and just how, exactly, to be super woman. (I'll let you know when I get that one figured out - should be happening any minute now). I think the most obvious theme if, in fact, there is a theme at all, is there is no one happy ending - there are LOTS of them - and we learn as we go. They aren't all about being rescued (though some are, and for those I'm grateful) but some happy endings are just about an increased awareness, or perception, of a situation that allows us to ascend to the next chapter in our lives. Growing up? Yes, maybe. Growing in knowledge and experience? Definitely.

So - if you are up for it, come along with me and let's figure out a few things, okay? 

Ciao!