Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

I just realized that in one week, two things will happen: one – this blog will be celebrating it’s first birthday (I must think of something special to post) and two – I will begin my mad dash like I do every year to get my stuff done to enter in my hometown’s Fair. I have been entering various things in the Tri-County Fair for at least half my life. I’ve won countless (I say countless because seriously I’ve lost count) ribbons and awards for my items.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with my Celiac Disease that I began entering my baked goods. I was too scared to do so before. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Entering food items, like anything else, is nerve-racking, especially the first time when you don’t know what the judges look for. I try to enter different things every year, but usually enter the same old things because they are fast and easy. It’s hard to enter as many things as you want when you work 40 hours a week.

After last year’s Fair, I was asked by my (distant) cousin Susie to give the Fair an idea of what classes they could do for a Gluten-Free Division. At the time that I submitted my suggestions to Susie, nobody knew if the Fair would even go for it. I’ve had to enter my desserts with non-gluten-free items. One year I did win first place on my peanut butter cookies. Who knew the judges would like the gluten-free ones better than the normal, regular ones. This year, my mom opened the book and scanned the various divisions of the baked goods category and told me that it wasn’t there. A little while later, she was looking through it again knowing she had to have missed it and there it was, in between “For Men Only!” and “Baking with Honey”. For the first time in four years, I get to compete with either myself or with others who have possibly “mastered” gluten-free baking. For the first time I don’t feel quite so alone in this small town of mine.

So now comes the big question, as the entry forms are due no later than Saturday. What do I enter? I’ve done chocolate chip cookies, double chocolate biscotti, chocolate sprinkled cookies, peanut butter cookies, corn bread, banana bread, pumpkin cookies, peanut butter & jelly thumbprint cookies, and my 21 & Over cookies (my own original recipe; I’ll post it, no worries) between the regular divisions and the Cookie Contest. Last night I experimented and made Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing. My coworkers and I agree that these are a must enter. I’ll figure it out. I always do. In the mean time, look a recipe…

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 cups white rice flour

2/3 cup potato starch

1/3 cup tapioca starch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp allspice

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp guar gum

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in pan(s).

Sift together white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice and set aside. In a small bowl, mix milk and pumpkin together until smooth and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Slowly add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and milk/pumpkin mixture alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour in three parts. Add vanilla and guar gum and continue to beat until just mixed.

Fill cupcake tins about 3/4 full. Level batter by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of more level cupcakes. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and cover tops with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing or the icing of your choice.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, at room temperature

1 8-oz package cream cheese (I use Toffuti® Better than Cream Cheese for a non-dairy substitute)

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

about 2 tbsp cinnamon

In a mixer, cream butter for about 30 seconds. Add cream cheese and cream until well blended. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and cinnamon. Increase or decrease the amount of cinnamon depending on taste. Icing should be a little on the thicker side. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar until desired consistency.

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Lemon Deliciousness….

A great basic cake recipe is a lot like a good sugar cookie recipe. These are the recipes that always find themselves at the front of your recipe box and you can barely read them because you’ve used them one too many times – if there is such a thing – and everyone seems to love them. You take these simple, basic recipes, the ones that some people over look because they might not appear to be good or complicated, and you know that all you have to do is add a few extra ingredients, cocoa powder, coconut, or in this case, a little lemon zest, juice of a lemon and lemon extract if that isn’t already enough lemon for you.

I found this recipe in The Lady & Sons: Just Desserts by Paula Deen. I know I’ve mentioned I’m a HUGE fan of hers. Her laugh is infectious and I love her (it doesn’t hurt that I have a huge crush on her son Bobby too). The very first recipe in this book is her 1-2-3-4 Cake. It’s called this because it has 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs. Basic right? It does have a few other ingredients but these are the main ones. Here’s my Lemon Cake following her instructions but making it my own. You don’t even need frosting, although whipped topping and fresh berries make is a very refreshing dessert on those hot summer days.

Lemon Cake with Whipped Topping and Berries

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter

2 cups sugar

Zest of one medium lemon

4 eggs

3 cups sifted Gluten-Free Flour Mix

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp guar gum

3/4 cup milk (I use soy)

1/4 cup lemon juice (use more milk if you are a little short to equal 1 cup liquid)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon extract

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray your pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray.

 Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. A 13x9x2 pan usually takes about 35 – 40 minutes. Cool in pan(s) 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. From this point you can frost the cake(s) if you want with the icing of your choice or serve with whipped topping and fresh berries. 

Apple Tart with Almond Cream

Since Christmas this year we’ve been having weekly barbeques at my grandparents’ house for just about every weekend. What’s the reason for this you may ask? One, we all love to cook. Two, my grandfather’s health isn’t the best. He is 78-years-old and has Speech Aphasia, a language disorder that can be linked with Alzheimer’s. We are trying to spend as much time with his as possible. It’s been well over a year since he’s been able to call any of us by name. It’s one of the hardest things in life to watch someone you love and have looked up to your whole life, fade from you as quickly as he is. This is our second go-around with Alzheimer’s. My great-grandmother had it and she passed away five years ago.

A slice of my Apple Tart with Almond Cream

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided to attempt something other than a cake. I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, Irish Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles, and Fools by Margaret M. Johnson, and found myself staring at a full-page photo of a Pear Tart with Almond Cream. I’m not a huge fan of pears, I do like them I just wasn’t in the mood. But there was a variation listed for an Apple Tart. I had everything but the apples. Here is my gluten-free version (that still needs a little work but was still very good) of Margaret Johnson’s Apple Tart with Almond Cream made in a small pie tin because I don’t have a tart pan with a removable bottom.

Crust:

1 3/4 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix

1/2 tsp guar gum

1/2 cup margarine or butter, cut into small pieces (you want this to be cold so I keep a few sticks in the freezer)

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

3 to 5 tbsp ice water

 Filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup finely ground almonds (I used sliced and it gave it a nice crunch)

2 tsp Gluten Free Flour Mix

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/3 cup apricot preserves

1 tsp water 

Crust: Combine the flour, guar gum, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 8 to 10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 3 tbsp of the water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Add remaining water if necessary. Dust a work surface with flour. turn out the dough, form it into a ball, then wrap it in plastic wrap (I use a Zip Lock bag and squeeze as much air out as possible) and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the dough from the fridge 10 minutes before rolling. This allows the butter in the dough to soften and not crack too much while rolling.

Filling: Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the almonds, flour, vanilla, and almond extract.

My whole tart fresh out of the oven.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with non-stick spray. Roll out the dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared pan, fold excess dough in and press with your fingers to form thick sides. My dough still fell apart a little but I just pieced it together until all the side we about even.

Pour the filling into the crust. Starting in the center, arrange the apple slices in concentric circles over the filling. I filled in the empty spaces as much as possible. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is lightly browned and the apples are tender. Remove from the oven (I burnt my thumb pulling them out of the oven and now have a lovely scar to remind me of this recipe) and transfer to a wire rack.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the apricot preserves and water. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bubbling. Brush, or spoon, over the top of the apples while the tart is still hot. Cool the tart in the pan before releasing the side.

Quick & Easy Peach Spice Surprise

In this busy and hectic world we live in, it seems that more and more people choose the quick and easy recipes over the ones you slave away in the kitchen for hours. But even though I would prefer to spend time on a dish, there are times when I either don’t feel like it or just simply don’t have the time because of the various things I do in life. As is the case with a lot of people.

I have always loved peaches. There is something about biting into a sweet peach freshly picked off the tree on a warm, sunny day and having the juice run down you chin and neck. My great-great-aunt (my great-grandmother’s sister) had a few peach trees and when the peaches were ripe you could bet your life that the phone would be ringing a few minutes later. There was Aunt Margarete on the other line, “Come get these peaches!” Now one thing that you have to know is that Aunt Margarete was probably the epitome of an Italian woman. No matter how far away you lived from her, you better be at her doorstep in fifteen minutes or that phone would be ringing again and you would never hear the end of it when you finally made it. I loved that feisty woman with all my heart and I know she’s to blame for my love of the fruit. I miss you Aunt Margarete.

A few years before being diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I had a day where I was craving peach cobbler but didn’t have the necessary ingredients to make it. I looked around the cabinets to see what we had available to try to make something that resembled what my body wanted so badly. I found myself staring at canned peaches and a boxed spice cake mix. I wonder…

This is one of the easiest recipe I think you could ever make. It takes very few ingredients and so little time.

Peach Spice Surprise

You will need:

1 box cake mix (you could use spice cake, but I used Betty Crocker’s Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix)

The ingredients listed on the back of the box

If you are using a basic cake mix, feel free to add cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg to the dry mix. Add as much or as little as you prefer.

1 can sliced or diced peaches (I prefer in juice or light syrup), drained. I use harvest spice peaches if they are available to add a little more spice to the cake.

Directions:

Follow the instructions on the back of the cake mix box. Lightly grease the bottom of 13x9x2-inch pan. Spread out the peaches in an even layer on the bottom of the pan and cover with the cake mix. Bake according to the instructions on the back of the box, usually 30 – 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or until a toothpick enter near the center comes out clean.

The moisture from the peaches will keep the cake part moist. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream and/or fresh peaches. I usually just leave it plain and it tastes just fine. Enjoy.

A Celiac Attack

So I’ve been debating for a while now about what to write about next or what recipe to share, but there are days like this that I feel I should share with all of you. I stumbled across a challenge today. A gluten-free challenge being put on by the Gluten Intolerance Group challenging people who don’t live a gluten-free life to experience it for one weekend. This couldn’t have come at a better time.

Today was a day that I feel I should share since I have gotten at least one person to join this challenge. If you already live a gluten-free life and join this challenge, in a way it’s unfair. While yes you get to feel what it is like on a day-to-day basis for those of us unable to consume gluten, you don’t have to worry about the repercussions once the challenge is over. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a wonderful challenge and one that I hope a lot of people get on board with. I signed up even though it’s not a challenge for me but I get to share tips and tricks for this.

Lately I’ve felt very tired, bitchier than usual, unable to focus on the simplest things, etc. The worst is the dizzy spells. I had the first one the day before my birthday in February while we were at California Adventures and my mom and I were on Soaring Over California. My brother found out a few days ago that one of my favorite Mexican restaurants have fried flour tortillas in the same oil as the corn chips, even throwing a few chopped up flour tortillas in with the chips as they are served to the customers. I know that I’ve never eaten one of the flour chips myself, but what quite a few people don’t realize is that gluten can be transferred to other ingredients if cooked on a pan/grill that has not been properly cleaned and sanitized. It’s the same thing for any grease or oil for fried foods. What I have been experiencing the last few days makes sense. The majority of it hit today while I was at work. I was miserable but managed to make it through the entire day (I have a hard time asking to go home sick or call in. Long story. Don’t ask.) but I knew what I was feeling was what my mom and I have named a “Celiac Attack”. We call it that because most of the time the symptoms come out of nowhere and knock you on you ass. Mine has been a minor one but I know I’m going to hurt for a few more days and suffer the consequences of someone not knowing what they are serving to their customers.

I don’t blame the restaurant. It’s a challenge to eat out because you are completely unaware of how your food is being prepared. I will give it a while and go back to that restaurant because, quite frankly, I enjoy their food. I do love to cook but there are times when I need a break. Most of the people in my hometown know me and know that I have a lot of food allergies. I have to be picky. I have no choice. It’s either be picky and be safe than to “go with the flow” and spend hours to days in the bathroom with the worst stomach ache of your life. The abdominal pain that I usually get with a Celiac Attack makes me feel like I’m in the movie Alien that has a creature clawing its way out of the middle of my stomach.

I still have the slight aching of a migraine that’s attempting to reach the surface and really make me suffer (if you’ve ever had a migraine, you know what I’m talking about) and I still feel weak and dizzy. Thank God I’m sitting down while writing this. I’ve tried everything when I’ve gotten a gluten-induced migraine, from Tylenol to Vicodin, nothing works except a dark, silent room and sleep. I have, however, been forced to darken the screen on my laptop and lower the volume on my music.

Yes I have adapted to living a Gluten-free life, but days like these makes me really, really hate my disease. I don’t have any control over it and until scientists and researchers find a cure, I’m kind of screwed, dealing with the repercussions of living a life in a gluten-filled world. So I encourage you to take the challenge and if you really want to feel risky, don’t stop after the one weekend. Try a week, two weeks, a month… whatever you feel comfortable with. Then you would really get to understand what so many of us in this world go through every day of our lives. And who knows how many eyes this experience will open to the ever growing need we have to raise the awareness of Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance.

“The glass is not half empty, the glass in not half full, there is the perfect amount of liquid, the glass is just too damn big. We should be thankful for what we have been given and want for nothing more.” ~ Dustin Pari, TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International

Craving Chocolate?…

I love chocolate cake. Just had to get that out there first. I found a recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens: Celebrating the Promise Cookbook and decided to try it. I played around with it a few times until I came to this recipe I am about to share with you. There is a little warning that comes with this recipe: it is very, very rich. My mom described it as tasting almost like a brownie. You don’t need a big slice to fill you up. Enjoy.

3/4 cup butter or margarine

3 eggs

2 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix, sifted

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp guar gum

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla or Kahlua*

1 1/2 cups milk (I use soy milk)

Allow all ingredients to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Grease pan(s) and set aside. In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, guar gum and salt; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined. Scrape sides of the bowl; beat for 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla or Kahlua. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk to butter mixture (I begin and end with the flour), beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spread into prepared pan(s).

Bake times:

For two 8-inch pans or 13x9x2-inch pans: 35 – 40 minutes

For two 9-inch pans: 30 – 35 minutes

Cake(s) are done when a toothpick inserted near center(s) comes out clean. Cool in pan(s) on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks. Frost with desired frosting.

*Note: Kahlua is a coffee liquor and helps to enhance the flavor of the chocolate. You will not be able to taste the coffee flavor of the Kahlua and most of the alcohol will cook out.

Helping Tia Out with Her Recipe

My first attempt at Tia's Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins.

About a week ago, Tia posted a recipe for Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins: Take One on her blog at Christopher and Tia. I felt really bad for her when she discovered an allergy to eggs all of a sudden with her expecting her and Christopher’s third bundle of joy. I decided that when I do eventually get to open a gluten free bakery, I would like to offer vegan options, but then came the difficult part of taking out the egg in Tia’s recipe and still have it taste just as good and hold together. I called my mom to see if she had any suggestions and I looked through my many cookbooks while she searched the internet. We came up with replacing the egg with 1/4 cup of applesauce. Would it work though? There was only one way to find out and off I went. 

One thing to keep in mind (and I keep forgetting it when I bake) when trying any of my recipes, I do live at 4140 feet in elevation. I never remember to follow the high altitude (3500 – 6500 feet) instructions when making something from a mix. When they don’t turn out right I know why. Even though my first batch of Tia’s recipe turned out okay, I knew there was still more tweaking of the recipe to do. A few days later, I was not only craving blueberries, but a tripe berry blend (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) from Schwan’s so I got a bag and tweaked the recipe a little more when I got home. The berries ended up being a little too big for the small cupcake-sized tin. What? I didn’t have a muffin pan until yesterday. The only applesauce I have in my place is already sweetened so I knew to cut back on the sugar. 

Taking notes

Another tip – when converting a recipe to fit your dietary needs, print out a rough recipe on a blank sheet of paper and tape/pin it to your wall or cabinet door. This way it will not get in the way and it will be handy (keep a pen around as well) to take any notes about what you are doing. That way you won’t forget in the future. Keep taking notes until you’ve decided the recipe is as good as it’s gonna get (a.k.a. perfected). Here’s my version of Tia’s Gluten Free blueberry/Triple Berry Muffins (I just copied the recipe and added my changes) that I made tonight:

2 cups gluten free flour mix
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp guar gum
1/2 cup melted margarine (I use Nucoa) or Smart Balance
1/3 cup sugar (2/3 cup if using unsweetened applesauce)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 2/3 cup soy milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup frozen blueberries or triple berry blend

Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers (skip if using silicone). Mix melted margarine, sugar, applesauce, soy milk and vanilla in a bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and slowly add to the liquid mixture. The batter will seem kind of gummy, and that’s okay. Fold in the berries. Fill a 1/3 sized measuring cup with batter, and then pour into cupcake paper. That should fill the cupcake paper all the way full. Put muffin in the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick/knife inserted in the center of them comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

My Triple Berry Muffins

Tia I hope this helps. I think I’ll still tweak it a bit but I will keep you posted. The ones I baked tonight I kind of over-baked but they still turned out moist in the center. I hope everyone enjoys these.

The Great Banana Bread Experiment…

Can you tell which has the all frozen bananas?

I have always loved the smell of banana bread baking in the oven, filling the house with a sweet aroma. I found a quick bread recipe in an edition of Joy of Cooking that is older than me. My grandma, Ma for short, lent it to me shortly after moving into my first apartment. After using it for months, Ma finally gave me the cookbook, telling me that I have used it more in just months than in the almost three decades she’s owned the book. Without the gluten to help hold it together, I was concerned about it not turning out and becoming a crumbling mess. Surprisingly enough it didn’t. The bread was, however, dense… not that I mind because it makes great French toast (just add a little cinnamon to the eggs).

Farm Fresh Eggs... Beware of the chicken poop.

I then decided to enter it in the 2007 Tri County Fair (the fair held every Labor Day weekend in my hometown) and was pleasantly surprised to see a third place ribbon on it. I know third place isn’t the best, but I was happy with what I got. For me it wasn’t about winning the ribbons and a few bucks. Every year I enter because I want people to know that you can make gluten-free food where you actually can enjoy it. Yes it still has carbs and sugar and all that, but please don’t let that stop you from trying this recipe. A few months ago Suzi (she’s in charge of the food department for the fair and also my mom’s cousin) asked my mom what the easiest way to contact me was. Later (after a warning from my mom) I received an email from Suzi. She said that people had been coming up to her asking for a gluten free division for the fair. I was the first person she thought of (trust me, I was honored) and asked me to help her come up with the various classes they could have for the division. I do hope they have a gluten free division because every year I have to put my food up against the “normal” stuff and in a way I feel like I’m at a disadvantage in a way. Gluten is responsible for helping baked good to rise and be fluffy. I also think that if the Tri County Fair does introduce this division (I think I would be one a very few to enter) it may help to raise awareness of Celiac Disease and may even get a few people to ask their doctors about it and, hopefully, get tested. Sorry, I’m getting a little off topic.

The Great Banana Bread Experiment…

Gather all the ingredient by the recipe steps.

So the other day, I decided to make banana bread since I let a few bananas sit on the counter to get black. Usually I throw them in the freezer just after they start turning black. Knowing I already had a few in the freezer, I got curious to know if you can tell the difference between using frozen bananas versus ripened on the counter bananas. My initial guess was no. Banana bread is banana bread no matter how you ripened the bananas to the point where they look absolutely disgusting. I pulled four bananas from my freezer (I usually try to use them within a couple months of being in the freezer). I had to use one of the frozen bananas to make up the banana requirement for the recipe. Same recipe, both using farm fresh eggs (tip with using farm fresh eggs – add an extra egg because they are usually smaller than your typical store bought eggs… oh and wash off any chicken poop before using), all ingredients were brought to room temperature at the same time. I had everything laid out according to the steps of the recipe out of my trusty Joy of Cooking Cookbook and got to work. Here’s the recipe I used:

1 3/4 cups Gluten-Free Flour Mix

2 1/4 tsp double acting baking powder

1/2 tsp guar gum

Lemon Zest

1/2 tsp salt (I use Kosher)

1/3 cup shortening

2/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup lemon rind (a.k.a zest)

2 eggs (3 if using farm fresh eggs)

1 cup banana pulp

Have all ingredients at room temperature (I leave everything on the counter for minimum of 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

The batter.

Blend shortening until soft. Add sugar and lemon zest and beat until creamy. Beat in eggs and banana pulp. Add the sifted ingredients in about three parts to the sugar mixture. Beat the batter after each addition until smooth. If you want banana nut bread at this point just fold in 1/2 chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans are my favorites). I’ve also added raisins, currants, and cranberries. It’s gonna be your bread. Add what you like. Just keep in mind that the more stuff you add to it, the harder it’s going to hold together in the end.

Drop batter in a greased bread pan. Bake for about an hour or until done. Cool on a rack before slicing.

I usually add more baking powder to help the bread rise a little more but forgot this time around. I also used a larger loaf pan so they were flatter anyway. If you want a “normal” sized bread use about 3 tsp – 3 1/2 tsp. Xanthan gum can be used in place of the guar gum but is typically more expensive. Guar gum works for me and I usually keep it away from the baking powder until it get mixed in the batter (bad experience in the past, different story).

Keeping to two seperate.

So how did I manage to remember which was which. Simple I made myself a note and labeled them when I couldn’t bake them right away (what I had a meeting and news of a friend who was in the hospital – he died two days ago).

The results: The one with the all frozen bananas were softer in feel (not moister, but softer in density) and were sweeter. I’m not surprised with them being sweeter. So which did I like the best? The ones made from all frozen bananas, but the ones that were (mostly) ripened on the counter would be great for Banana Bread French Toast since they were a little denser.

Now I’ve just got to think of a new experiment because this was so much fun… Any ideas?

A Gluten-Free, Stress-Free Disneyland

"The Happiest Place on Earth"

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been to Disneyland. I may be 27-years-old but whenever we visit Disneyland, I still get excited like I’m five. Being forced to live a gluten-free life has caused some stress in my visits to “The Happiest Place on Earth” but finally about three years ago, that stress lessened a bit.

My family and I spent two days hopping between Disneyland and California Adventures in Anaheim, California. The first day my meals consisted of mostly salad without dressing and potato chips. You can only handle so much of that. When it came time for dinner, my family spread throughout Disneyland choosing whatever they felt like having, but I was stuck being limited in my options. Stress overwhelmed me and I found myself taking it out on my family, resulting in uncontrollable tears. We ended up walking two and a half city blocks in Anaheim to eat at a restaurant. I hated the feeling that I destroyed part of my family’s trip because of my Celiac disease. I knew I couldn’t handle another day on such an unhealthy diet.

One of the bands playing outside the Firehouse on Main Street USA

The next day my mom and I went in to City Hall just inside Disneyland (go inside the gates, head to your left and it’s right next to the Fire Station, in front of the Emporium). I think the one thing that has been the hardest in the seven years of being a Celiac is asking for help. I’m getting better but it’s still hard to admit to feeling helpless. We were greeted by a lady with a smile on her face. I looked at her and said. “I don’t know if you can help me, but I have food allergies.” She pulled out a three- to four-inch binder, pretty much slapped it down on the counter and said, “What allergies do you have?” keeping that same smile. I told her I had Celiac disease and was about to explain what it was when she told me not to worry, flipped to a section and handed me a sheet of paper. I found myself holding a list of places and foods that were gluten free throughout Disneyland AND California Adventures. She asked if I had any more and handed me another sheet for my lactose intolerance. They have since removed the list for lactose intolerance but you can still ask.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more special in my entire life. Finally I could enjoy one of my favorite places to be just as much as the rest of my family without the worry of getting sick. I never would have guessed that that special feeling was going to increase.

A picture of Walt Disney - "Imagineering the Future"

That night, when it came time for dinner, I decided (with the help of my lists) to get a chicken breast sandwich (yes you read correctly, sandwich) on a gluten free bun from Tomorrowland Terrace and spaghetti from Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port, both places located in Tomorrowland. It took them a while to track down the gluten free bun but when I did get my sandwich, it looked amazing and it was. Redd Rocket’s was the most surprising of my entire trip. I asked the cast member if I could get spaghetti with gluten free noodles, showing him that my list said I could. He wasn’t quite sure and went to ask. I was greeted minutes later by the Manager and Chef who both asked me about my allergies and what exactly I could and couldn’t have. The Manager, Jennifer (I‘m pretty sure that was her name), stayed with me while the Chef (I’m sorry I can’t remember his name) went to start my meal. He got called away but my meal was made by the Sous Chef. About half way through cooking the noodles, one of the cast members approached the Sous Chef but was told to ask someone else to answer his question. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He opened a fresh container of marinara sauce so there wouldn’t be any chance of contamination. I was amazed. The three of them wanted to make sure that I could enjoy a meal and not end up in First Aid (been there, different story). I will never forget the effort and attention put into my meal. That memory helps me to remember it’s okay to ask for help. It’s better to be a pest and ask for help than spend your trip sick because you ate something you shouldn’t have. All I can say is thank you but even that doesn’t feel like enough.

Spaghetti from Redd Rocket's Pizza Port

On my most recent trip on Monday, January 4th, 2010, while celebrating my brother’s 30th birthday, I got to relive my experience at Redd Rocket’s. The manager, Chris, made my meal in about 10 minutes (exactly how much time he said it would take). I didn’t even have to ask. One of the cast members recognized the sheet of paper in my hand and asked me if I needed something gluten-free (again I’m sorry, he turned and I couldn’t get his name). I said I did and he went to get the chef, but Chris beat her to it and helped me. Chris even informed me that he was pretty sure they removed the pesto from the Tomato Basil Sauce but I could ask in a future visit to see if it is dairy-free as well and they would read the list of ingredients.

Fruit Plate at the River Belle Terrace

For breakfast, we enjoy eating at the River Belle Terrace, located in between New Orleans Square and Frontierland, right next to the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean (oh yes, I know my way around Disneyland). I enjoy getting the fruit plate, piled with watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes, an orange slice, strawberries, pineapple and half of a kiwi (which I need to remember to ask for one without since I am highly allergic). If I’m really hungry, my family usually will let me have their potatoes as well, no gluten or butter used and they are really, really good.

It seems like every trip, I find more and more things I can enjoy without the worry. They are there to help you get the most out of your experience. If you are ever in doubt, ask. If the cast member doesn’t know they will find whoever does. Disneyland also allows you to bring in food now. I usually bring in some snack bars to get rid of any cravings I might have until meal time. There are more gluten-free options at Disneyland than at California Adventures but I think as the park grows, there might be some more options in the future. What? I’m optimistic.

I really do hope this helps anyone to not avoid Disneyland because of any allergies or dietary restrictions. I know I’ve said this time and time again (especially in this post) the best advise I can give you is to ASK. The cast members are more than willing to help. They want you to have the best experience you can possibly have. It’s called “The Happiest Place on Earth” for a reason so smile, laugh as often as you can, become a kid for the day, just have fun and enjoy the experience.

The River Belle Terrace

The River Belle Terrace Menu Board

Potatoes from the River Belle Terrace

Cafe Orleans has a Salmon Salad that is gluten-free

One of the Popcorn vendors in New Orleans Square, the popcorn is gluten-free

Double Chocolate Biscotti

I finally made biscotti for the first time in my life and was glad to know that my converted recipe turned out on the first try. The recipe is converted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook: Celebrating the Promise (ISBN 978-0-696-23511-5). Enjoy!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Yield: about 24 cookies
 
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour mix
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chip pieces
 
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with silicone mat.
Beat butter with an electric mixter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and xanthan gum. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in eggs until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour and chocolate pieces.
 
Divide dough in half and shape into two 9-inch-long loaves. Place loaves on prepared cookie sheet; flatten slightly until about 2 inches wide. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near ceters comes out clean. Cool on cookie sheet for one hour. (For easier slicing, wrap cooled loaves in plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.)

 Preheat oven to 325°F. Use a serrated knife to cut each loaf diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place each slice on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Turn cookies over and bake for another 7 to 9 minutes or until crisp and dry. Cool.

These are really good for dunking in coffee or hot cocoa… enjoy!