Friday, November 23, 2012

What I learned from 22 days of gratitude

This month, I participated in the Mused 22 Days of Gratitude - November Creativity Challenge. The mission was for participants to take a picture every day for 22 days which depicted something we are grateful for in our lives, and post the pictures to a shared photo album on the event page. I'm really glad I decided to take on this challenge because it was a real learning experience for me.

I dutifully took a photo every day for 22 days. If you would like to see my photos, you can visit my Facebook album. Firstly, I learned that I was not nearly as grateful as I should have been, or perhaps I was simply not as aware as I should have been of the things that I have to be grateful for in my life. It was actually challenging for me at first to find things that I was grateful for. It felt like I should be picking something monumental, but as a few days passed, I realized that I could be grateful for any little thing that came to mind.

I also learned that it was not difficult to take a photo every day for the same sort of reason I noted above: I had a mindset that something had to be "important" to be worthy of taking a photo. This may have been related to the fact that I never really saw taking photos as a creative pursuit for myself. I did it to document events in my life only.

I took all my photos and did all my editing on my iPhone, so I also learned a lot about my phone's camera. Plus, since I wanted to get a bit creative with my photos, I downloaded some of the many apps that are out there. Some were duds, but some of the ones that I really like are FrameUrLife and the Adobe Photoshop App. I'm going to continue checking out apps and experimenting with them.

Anyway, I'm really glad that I did this. It helped me to be more creative every day, it helped me to realize that I have a lot to be grateful for in my life and I will definitely be watching to see what other challenges Mused comes up with.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Safe and yummy chocolate chip cookies

Huh, it's been awhile since I've posted here. One thing I've been busy with is learning how to cook well while avoiding a bunch of food intolerances. I never baked much before, but one thing I'm a sucker for is a great home baked chocolate chip cookie. After much experimentation with ingredients, I have a recipe that is gluten-free*, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and sugar-free. Sounds awful, eh? But these are really great cookies. The recipe is based on Chef Michael Smith's recipe and it's fantastic. I've included links to the ingredients I used where possible. This recipe made 24 small cookies.

1 cup gluten free baking flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour**
1/2 cup coconut sap sugar
1/4 t salt
2 T honey
1 egg (replacer)
2 T warm water
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Mix all ingredients except the chocolate chips thoroughly. 
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
  4. Drop mix by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  5. Bake for about 13 minutes, or when the edges of the cookies have slightly browned. 


*When I say sugar-free, I mean no granulated white cane sugar, and no "brown" sugar, which is really just white sugar died with molasses.

**I tried making these with just the gluten-free baking flour and they were too hard. The buckwheat flour seems to keep them chewier.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

OK. Any time I post a recipe now, you can assume it's wheat/egg/sugar free/cow's milk free, made with all organic ingredients, from sustainable and healthy packages. Because that's how I roll now. Whether I want to, or not.

After much experimentation with The Muffin Formula, I have perfected one recipe. Muffins are easy for breakfasts or snacks, and that's why I've missed them.

This makes a moist and spicy muffin that is just sweet enough.

Dry stuff:
1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 cup coconut sap sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg

Wet stuff:

3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup applesauce (to replace an egg)
1 cup pureed canned pumpkin

Pre-heat your oven to 400. Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cups. Mix the dry stuff together in a big bowl. Mix the wet stuff together in a separate bowl and then add it to the bowl with the dry stuff. Mix well and fill the muffin cups a little fuller than you normally would (because these don't rise as much as other muffins). Bake for 20 minutes, or until you can insert a fork in a muffin and have it come out clean.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The muffin formula

Here is a formula for creating muffin recipes with no wheat, no eggs, no cow's milk, no sugar. Sounds fantastic, right? Welcome to the challenging world of food allergies. I'm trying to learn to enjoy the potential of trying new things and improving my health. But, sometimes, I just want to have a muffin, or some other simple thing everyone gets to have. So, after much searching for a suitable recipe, I remembered a formula for making muffins from The Tightwad Gazette II book by Amy Dacyczyn; Villard Books, New York, 1995. I adapted her formula to make it suitable for someone with my allergies.  

To make muffins, combine dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two thirds full. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 15-25 minutes. 

The following ingredients are required: 

Use 2 to 2 1/2 cups of wheat-free flour. Or substitute oatmeal, cornmeal, buckwheat flour, rye flour, coconut flour, or flake cereal for 1 cup of the wheat free flour. Or substitute 1 cup leftover cooked oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, or cornmeal for 1/2 cup of the flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup. 

1 cup soy, almond, goat or rice milk. You can reduce this amount by substituting 1/2 water. 

Use 1/4 cup vegetable oil or 4 tbsp. melted dairy-free margarine. Or substitute crunchy or regular peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a "wet addition." I've heard you can eliminate fat by using applesauce as well. 

Obviously, no eggs! Instead I use 1 heaping tbsp. of soy flour and 1 tbsp. of water. I'm looking into other egg substitutes and will post in the future. 

Use between 2 tbsp. and 1/2 cup coconut sap, honey or pure maple syrup. If using honey or syrup, decrease milk to 3/4 cup.  I imagine stevia or xylitol could work here as well as dry sweeteners but experimentation would be required to get the amounts right since they are so much sweeter than sugar. 

Baking Powder: 
Use 2 tsp. If using whole or cooked grains or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 3 tsp. 

Use 1/2 tsp., or omit if you have a salt-restricted diet. 

The following ingredients are optional. Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1 1/2 cups total. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions, decrease the milk to 1/2 cup. I would also recommend lowering the sweetener to 1/4 cup if you are using sweet additions. 

Dry Additions: 
Nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, and so on. 

Moist Additions: 
Blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, and so on. 

Wet Additions: 
Pumpkin puree; applesauce; mashed, cooked sweet potato (now on my to try list!); mashed banana; mashed, cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk. 

Use spices that complement the additions, such as 1 tsp. cinnamon with 1/4 tsp nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 tsp. grated orange or lemon peel. 

Jellies and Jam: 
Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 tsp. jam or jelly and top with 2 more tbsp. batter. 

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the tins. 

Non-sweet Combinations: Use only 2 tbsp. sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 3 strips fried and crumbled bacon, 2 tbsp. grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese. Spices could include a tsp. of parsley and a pinch of marjoram. 

Once you learn the basic combinations, here is your recipe: 

2 to 2 1/2 cups grain 
1 cup "milk"
Up to 1/4 cup fat 
1 "egg" 
Up to 1/2 cup sweetener 
2 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 tsp. salt 
Up to 1 1/2 cups additions