Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cha-Cha Changes...

It happens ever so often that things change pretty dramitically... in our case historically, it has usually been for the worst. Thankfully yesterday we started on our latest change which is hopefully just the first in a string of great changes for our future. Yesterday we closed on our new home, something we have been working towards and waiting on for a considerable amount of time.

We have been prepping for this change in a number of ways for a very long time. Of course to help kiddo cope with changes, we are extremely open with all things that may happen, will happen in the future or happen soon. If we can we start discussing the changing event as soon as we have an inkling it is going to happen, that way there is plently of time for kiddo to get more comfortable with the idea of it. And so it happened with the house hunting and purchase. We have been looking for a home for close to a year now, so the discussions of a new living situation and location have been floating through our apartment for a while just in normal converstation. This is the easiest possible way to do things with kiddo, he has a long lead way to think about things and what he does or does not like about it. It also gives us plenty of time to adjust in ways to help him moving forward. The worst possible thing I can do in changes like this is to spring it on him... I can just expect to get the atomic meltdowns with regularity.

With the discussions about moving, the only real conflict we have run into with regards to kiddo and Lil Sis' feelings about the move have been about changing schools agian and leaving friends. The leaving of friends is always more of a concern for Lil Sis as she is a social butterfly. But this time around, Kiddo also had his reservations because he finally made a friend. 

It has been hard for Kiddo to build relationships with peers, something not uncommon for many Aspies. So this past year when he developed a friendship with a boy in his class, it would be a grave understatement to say that I was overjoyed... I literally cried about it when he called the boy his friend. His mom and I worked to maintain the friendship over the summer, but now that school is just around the corner, he will now be starting school in a new county, away from his friend. 

When talking about the move, Kiddo did ask me about what school he would be going to. We talked about how we would now be back into a house and we had to make some changes for that like going to a new school. I promised him that we would not be moving again for a good long time and I would do whatever I needed to do to try to help him in his new setting. He wasn't happy about it, but with the knowledge that his friend's mom and I will continue to get them together on weekends, he seems a little more content about things. 

Both kiddos are excited about decorating thier new rooms, as are we. So like many times when things are changing alot for us, I have the great David Bowie playing regularly in my head as we look forward to face the strain with our changes. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Yes! Gluten-free Yellow Cake!

Summertime in our home is usually pretty busy, like most homes we morph into summer routines that are a modification of our normal daily schedule which we discussed on this post earlier in the summer. Kids out of school and visits to friends, family, visits from McLeod's kids and visitation schedules make the summer something of a challenge to work through. Throw into that buying a new home and all the insanity that goes into just getting to closing and you have yourself one heck of a summer. Thankfully, we are closing on the home this week and then get to start the next steps,moving, fixing up and unpacking. The moving. I hate moving, its probably one of the things that would be awaiting me in the netherworld should I end up at the wrong gate at the conclusion of my life. I can just see it: stacks of moving boxes and piles of stuff- clothing, kitchen wares, kids stuff, all waiting for me to pack and move to another location to unpack. Then I would immediately need to repack and move the stuff to another location and unpack and so on. Yes, that would definitely be my version of hell. In any case, this should be our last move for a long time, so I am foolishly optimistic about it all.

A midst all the craziness of packing and other scheduled routines, we have Lil Sis' birthday to arrange and celebrate. Our current home is packed to the nines with boxes and not exactly suitable to partying so as requested by the birthday girl, her party would be held at a local pottery painting shop. Originally she had wanted to have an animal themed party and was hoping to do something at a zoo or something along those lines. Alas, we live about an hour and a half from any zoo and all the traveling petting zoo's prices were insanely astronomical. Aside of the price though, we currently live in an apartment and as you might guess, they don't exactly welcome zoo animals with open arms here. So we rested on the backup plan for pottery and decided on a jungle theme for the affair. 

The week before her birthday a friend, who still exults me as a professional baker (which I was at one point but am no longer), needed a cake for her co-worker's birthday. She needed it to be a combination of coconut and lemon. So I decided that I would try to tackle a cake flavor which has yet been unattainable to me gluten-free. In my professional baker days, I used a modification of this recipe by Cooks Illustrated. Of course it calls for lots of butter, cream and gluten-full flour. For my friend's cake I decided I would try the recipe our with my gluten-free substitution. With slight changes to the recipe size and ratio of liquids to solids,  the resulting cake was amazing (after the second bake, the first bake was a little dry so I had to modify the liquids a bit more). 

So when my birthday girl asked for a two tier cake, if you read this post you might remember my kiddos bar is set pretty high for birthday cakes, I told her a two tier chocolate cake may not appeal to everyone. So she settled on having the top tier chocolate and the bottom tier yellow cake with a triple berry filling. 

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am incredibly modest when it comes to my cake making. I am my worst critic, so at the end of the baking and decorating all I can see are the things I wish I had done better. However at Lil Sis' party after cutting the cake and serving it, I actually decided to have a piece of cake. I took a small slice of yellow cake and a small slice of the chocolate cake. Folks, I hate saying it, but this birthday cake was amazing. Not one person at the party knew that they were gluten-free cakes and I didn't mention it. McLeod sometimes likes to do a big reveal like we are tricking people into eating gluten-free, but I told him that my goal was for there not to be a taste difference at all. I want the cake to taste like a regular cake and if they think its great without knowing then I have done my job. Everyone raved about how delicious the cake was so I think I achieved just that. 

Of course my next step will be trying to make this tasty cake not only gluten-free but dairy free as well and possibly trying a number of different flour blends, so keep posted!

Gluten-free Yellow Cake (not dairy free) 

2 C unrefined granulated sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C Plain yogurt, room temperature

Triple Berry Filling

1/2 C Fresh Raspberries, washed
1/2 C Fresh Blueberries, washed
1/2 C Fresh Strawberries, washed and de-stemmed
1/3 C water
1/2 C unrefined sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two round 8-inch pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour blend, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, eggs and yolk, vanilla and yogurt. Blend a medium speed until combined about 1 minute.

4. Slowly add dry ingredients one cup at time, blending until combined after each addition. Repeat until all dry ingredients are added. Blend on medium-high speed for 1 minute.

5. Divide batter evenly into the two pans and place in oven to bake for about 25 minutes.

6. While cake bakes, prepare filling by combining all ingredients in a small sauce pan. 

7. Bring berry combination to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. 

8. Allow berry mixture to simmer until the liquid has reduced and the mixture resembles a compote, about 30 minutes

9. Remove filling from the pan and refrigerate until completely cooled.  When cake springs back to touch in the center, the cake is ready to come out. Cool on rack. 

10. When cake is cooled, level cake by cutting the dome off the top of each cake. With your choice of icing, make a barrier around the edge of the bottom cake. Place the filling in the center of the bottom of the cake filling until you get it level to the piped barrier. Place the top of the cake over the bottom and press down slightly to seal the barrier. Ice with your choice of icing like this dairy free vanilla