Monday, April 15, 2013

Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

 

Gluten trials and the pie it made


Several months ago we put kiddo back on gluten-full foods to be able to run blood panels and do a
behavioral check list. We needed a solid 6-8 weeks, after 2 weeks I was ready to commit MYSELF.

Kiddo on the other hand was pleased as punch to be able to eat any old thing. Unfortunately it really made a years worth of effort getting him mentally in the right gluten-free frame of mind worthless.

Just about every facet of life was effected by the return of gluten. Medically, kiddo's reflux returned and was much worse than it had been in years. He was now waking in the night, sleep walking even. His appetite was decreased and sensory integration off the charts. In school his behavior and grades were steadily declining. At his annual appointment I was concerned about his wieght and behavior and the pedaitrician and I agreed it was time to move back to the arena of the Develpomental Pediatrician but we did head over to have all the blood panels ordered.

The following week kiddo had been sick and we were back in the pediatric office, he was down another 2 pounds. I emailed with his teacher at school to see his feelings about the grades and behavior declination and the diet change timeframe. He agreed, things really did change considerably when kiddo's diet changed. That was it, gluten was done.

Two weeks back on gluten and a weight check in with the pediatrician and kiddo is back up over a pound in weight. Behavior will take longer to see, but I am pretty sure that we will see the changes there soon as well.

The complaints came back too of course "mom you can't make everything I love gluten-free!"
Me: "Try me."
Kiddo: "Hmm... I have to think what I want more than anything in the world. Oh I know!!! Key Lime Pie! You can't make gluten-free Key Lime pie!"



Psh, kid.. give me something hard.

I knew I wanted to go with a graham cracker crust for this Key Lime pie, and wouldn't you know last week when the kiddos had been out of school I had gone to the ends of the Earth (ok... it was the ends of our county.. but honestly it was at least FIVE grocery stores!!!) to find some gluten-free graham style crackers for S'mores on our new fire pit. I did find one box... but then I nearly choked on my tongue and peed my pants simutaneously when I saw the $7.50 price tag. No thanks. I finally found Kinnikinnick's S'moreables and grabbed two boxes that day so I was sure I had enough left to make a pie crust.

Next was the limes. I happen to be a purist when it comes to Key Lime Pie. I really think Key Lime Pie needs to be made with... Key Limes, makes sense, no? What is that you say... you live no where near Key West? Neither do I. My best friend has this citrus tree and grew Key Limes for a while...
though I think possibly she may have killed that wee little Key Lime tree. Either way, I never profited a Key Lime from my Floridian friend. I do however buy them when I see them in the produce aisle and freeze the suckers. BUT and here is the but... squeezing the juice from those little guys is arduous work, take my advice here and supplement if you can with a little help! Believe me, its worth it in the end and you will have all the wonderful Key Lime tartness you want, with a little less effort.

Despite whether you do or do not use the bottled Key Lime juice, I do however reccomend that you have at least a handfull of Key Limes to be able to get some rind which adds an amazing depth to your pie! I use my trusty microplane to grate the Key Lime skin (JUST the very surface of it) into tiny bits that will go into the actually pie filling. Any extra that you have makes a wonderful garnish at the end as well.

Now, if you have been following the blog, you may have seen the last post here about my, err, incident. So, I highly recommend using a food processor to do your crust work, I actually bought one shortly after the... umm, ER visit.

The one thing that I have noticed after making a few of these graham cracker crusts is that some of them rise a bit and decrease the depth of the actual pie cavity. I am not sure about you, but I like a nice deep pie. (Somehow that sounds dirtier than I intended) So, to correct this problem, I have created a slight method that I call "pie shell nesting." When you pull the pre-baked crust out of the
Terrible pic, and not parchment, but just
to give you the idea
oven, if the crust looks a little shallower and want to correct it, first grab a square of parchment and press it into the cavity.Then grab a second 9" pie plate and press it firmly and EVENLY into the pie plate/crust that you just pulled from the oven. Allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes before removing the nested pie plate. When you removed it, twist it from side to side and it should slide free pretty easily. Then you have a nice deep pie shell to be able to pour your filling into!


Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

http://consumer.kinnikinnick.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/products.home/productcategoryid/12#
The GF star of the Key Lime Pie!
Crust:

20 Gluten-free Graham Crackers (Kinnikinnick S'moreables)
1/4 C Brown Sugar 
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

1 1/2 Tbs. Key Lime Lemon Rind, grated
3/4 C Key Lime juice
3 large egg yolks
1 3/4 C condensed milk


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, blend the crackers until they are finely ground. (Alternately you could use a ziploc bag to crush them, but please for the love of Pete stay away from sharp objects! :) )
3. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add sugar and butter and mix until everything is well blended and looks wet.
4. Evenly press the mixture into a 9" pie plate.
5. Bake the crust in the pre-heated oven for about 8 minutes. If your crust has risen a bit too much, use the "pie shell nesting" method to give yourself a deep crust cavity. (see picture above)

6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the lime rind, juice, yolks and milk.
7. Mix on medium-high speed for about a minute.
8. Pour the contents into the prepared pie plate.
9. Bake pie for 15-20 minutes, until the filling no longer moves.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

IEP Burnout


It sat there on the counter, ready, waiting. It's metal gleaming, the cord still tightly wound from the night before. I wanted so much to snatch it up and use it like any other morning. Yes... a smoothie. It's about 75 degrees this morning a smoothie would be wonderful. But it sits there, staring at me. It knows what it did and my finger throbs in confirmation of its crime. I divert my eyes, busy myself. It's an object after all, it has no control over me! I grab the bananas and some frozen fruits from the freezer, some chia seeds, honey, my protein powder and probiotics, yes an excellent start for the day. I look at the bounty that will be my smoothie on the counter and smile. But I can feel the glare of the machine behind me.

Somewhere in the wee traces of my mind I want to believe that it was a total manifestation of Stephen King's Maximum Over Drive and this Hand Mixer, my and MacLeod's previously adored Boom Stick (see here where eggs are no match for it) was possessed, but I know with the rest of my fully functional brain (mostly) that  that is not the case.

The truth is it's been a very rough few months in Special Needs world for us with therapy and school and with kiddo's IEP, which has seemed to take the latter part of eternity to work out this year, I think I am a little strung out. I spent last weekend pouring over 16 IEP's from Pre-school through 4th grade, numerous diagnostic studies, follow-up clinics, feeding clinics, report after report and study. I filed until my eyes burned. Then I cried till my eyes swelled shut. Looking at so many years of reports and studies you can see patterns and things that you don't see otherwise, things I wish I had seen. I have never been in denial about his need for help, never. But I have never seen the full picture either and looking at everything, I do. I think I have spent so much time in the daily grind pushing for services and pushing for services I haven't sat back and studied the results enough. The people who are providing the services have not paid enough attention to the results because otherwise the services would have been provided in a manner different than they have been. In many cases the recommendations in many of these reports have been clearly ignored. I feel  that I have failed to advocate strong enough for him.

So how does that get me back to that evil Hand Mixer? Well, yesterday kiddo was evaluating with a new occupational therapist. In addition to that it was his regularly scheduled OT and Speech Therapy day. SO getting home he had a good amount of homework. The rule of thumb, because we have BIG meltdown issues with homework, is that he is to complete a minimum of a solid 30 minutes of work. If I can get him to work 30 minutes and he does well, I try to reward him and ask him to go longer. If it is not going well I don't push. Last night it was bad. Meltdowns, throwing things, hitting himself, tears and talking about how he would rather be dead, etc. Grandma was here trying to help, but he was in a really bad place. I was desperately trying to throw something together for dinner as well, queue Hand Mixer. They were on the deck and I was in the kitchen. I was popping in and out trying to redirect him and puree meat with the Hand Mixer.  Now... before you say... "Mom, why were you pureeing meat with a Hand Mixer anyway"... I know, I know it was not a smart move already. Hindsight, folks, hindsight.

MacLeod walks in the door about 30 minutes from work early. Queue distraction number 3. (I love you hon' but my brain was a mile a minute) "What can I do... what can I do..." Me: "ummm...."
 
*ZZZZZRRRRMM... pop*
 (that is about the sound the mixer made as the blade caught my finger as I tried to move meat out from being stuck in the blade)

  *Shreik maybe heard by dogs and dolphins*....Oh my God, Oh my God....."

McLeod: "Come here, get it under water." (So calm! He was a Boy Scout, ya know.)

Grandma: "Holy *#$%, what did you do!? Towel, pressure, get it up!!!!" (not as calm.)

So I am not one of those wusses who flees to the ER often, but by the looks of the blood flow and such, I though perhaps it warranted a trip. We packed up the foods, thank goodness no blood got in my chicken and headed to the ER.

Evidently that nail will fall out, ew.
Three hours and that many stitches later and I was back home with my painful finger and remaining feelings of idiocy. Grandma stayed with the kiddos and they were tucked away when I got home. I was greeted in bed by a note from Lil Sis that said that she hoped my finger felt better. She has such a good heart.

I, of course do not blame anyone for my distraction and being dumb enough to get my finger caught in the blade of a moving mixer. Not kiddo or McLeod. I think the culmination of everything  has left me just not really that present or maybe trying to be everywhere all the time, and I can't. I feel like I need to slow down and speed up all at the same time to keep it all together.

The one thing I do know is that now, after seeing all I have seen in all kiddos IEP's and with his upcoming meeting, things will be better for him, that I will make certain.

So, in the end I did make my smoothie. I have to admit that when I first hit the button and the thing spun and whorled the first time after whipping around my finger last night, my stomach flipped a little. Damn you Stephen King.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Beginnings Part 2: We Party!

MacLeod, the kids and I had been living together for about six months in our home before he officially asked me to marry him. Because kiddo is on the spectrum it is something we have discussed in great length for a very long time, much like we discussed long before we all moved in together. For a long time after the divorce the kiddos had a really hard time accepting the fact that their father and I would not be getting back together again. So when we talked about the possibility that we may get married, we asked kiddo very gingerly what he thought. He was elated, his sister wanted to start planning the party. From then on it was a lot of fun getting their perspective on details for the wedding.

Lil sis went dress shopping with me and one of my bridesmaids and had the time of her life. Kiddo on the other hand hates shopping within an inch of his life. He had very specific input on what the cake should taste like and what shade of blue the photo booth actually should be. MacLeod's children, living in Tennessee with their mother, couldn't be a part of things, but did get to talk about some of our plans when they visited for the holidays.
 So to give a good understanding of the mechanics of the reception, sort of like how the script and all worked for the game in the ceremony, you have to know some of the background work that went into the reception. To begin with we had an amazing wedding coordinator, one of the only ways were able to juggle the mess really into place. But again, I am jumping ahead, let me start at the beginning.

So, about six months ago I contact a friend of mine from my old neighborhood up north who's husband is the lead singer of an awesome rock cover band called Say Something.  I asked if she thought they might play our wedding, but had a special request. I actually was trying to play two songs in the wedding myself. I knew it sounded like a total Bridezilla request, but was hoping they would entertain the thought. So we started chatting via email and eventually I got together with them for band practice. Thing was I was actually LEARNING to play the guitar at the same time. WHAAAA?! Yeah. Me? Crazy? Yes. So there it was, I was taking guitar lessons, voice lessons (to be on the safe side... who wants a singer's voice to crack at the wedding!?) and doing band practices all under the nose of my unsuspecting groom. Oh and then I was planning the rest of the wedding too.

If you remember from the previous post, when we first decided to get married we knew that the first thing that we wanted to have at our wedding was a photo booth and that that photo booth would be a TARDIS from Doctor Who. So MacLeod decided that he would construct the photo booth himself and had started to look at numerous tutorials online and created blue prints. He had plans on top of plans for this thing, it was impressive.

I was way over my head with the number of things that I was trying to do. No one would call me back for food for the wedding. I had a photographer but she repeatedly canceled our appointments so we really didn't have a photographer. The kids had what seemed to be five million things going on at school. My hair was standing on end.

To make matters worse MacLeod was slacking on actually starting the TARDIS.  I was freaking out. I mean I was about to get Matt Smith on the phone and see if he could pull some strings for me. When I mean things were getting to the wire, I mean that paint was going on that sucker on February 22...we were married on the 23rd people.
So the TARDIS wasn't exactly being built to MY timeline, I was doing a million and one things, I couldn't get a caterer to commit to food for the wedding to save my life. We did have a venue and alcohol, so we thought worst case scenario we all come together grab some chips and drink? That was it, I called in the big guns(Becca Bee Events of Fredericksburg, Va). I found a great wedding coordinator to work with who led me to some great people and the best possible thing she could have done was take the entire load of the day of planning off of my shoulders. I am not sure if she grasped the concept at the time of what that would entail given the complexity of our wedding, but she did an amazing job.

So with my coordinator in my corner I was breathing again and back to work. I had a caterer, a wonderful local BBQ company AND an ice cream sundae bar! We discussed at length the need to make the foods gluten-free and he did clear with me that he in fact used not one marinade that contained gluten. I would NOT spend the days after my wedding in bed.

One of my best friends had secured a wonderful bartender for us, so that was done and the band was set, live music with a DJ on the side! We had a projector to play slides of all our silly photos that we have taken over the last few years (we have some very, very silly photos) for the entertainment of our guests.


Because of the gluten issues, I didn't want to mess around with the cake, I ran a bakery for years and I know, I know... "make your own wedding cake?!" Yes, I did. Again, I didn't want to sit in bed for days after my wedding. So I decided to make my own wedding cake, plus, kiddo had some specifics about flavor, as did MacLeod. So there, I made the wedding cake. Judge if you will, it was delicious.
You may wonder..."what the heck is it?" Well friends, you have figured out by this point, we are nerds. So we decided that our friend G1(Generation 1) Devestator would be attacking our wedding cake. I made Devestator out for white chocolate over about a week and a half, a labor of... umm, love (you could call it that.) Notice the background for the cake is the original poster for Transformers animated movie (you know you just sang the title in your head... I know you did) released in 1986.

So there it was the day of the wedding. Much to my oober stressful dismay, the TARDIS was NOT complete and MacLeod was still working on it whence I arrived back home from running errands with my mom on Friday afternoon (when said TARDIS was supposed to be AT the reception location).  So, instead of simply delivering the wedding cake the morning of the wedding.... we were delivering the TARDIS, all its photo booth components AND the wedding cake. HOLY MOSES.

Then there was the issue of getting my guitar secretly to the reception site or with the wedding coordinator in time to give it to the band without MacLeod seeing.

I could have killed him.

Alas the TARDIS was indeed assembled and worked perfectly. Wow, did it ever work perfectly. There  was a sign inside the blue box to help guests know how to use the iPad's app which airprinted to the Welcome Table. We had put a bin inside with costume wears for all the guests to be able to use, including a Hannibal Lector mask... who knew people would use that one the most? Huh, lol. At the Welcome Table was the Guest Book, each guest was to leave one strip for the book (one per page) and sign the page as their entry. The finished product was absolutely perfect!


So while we were getting the photos done at the church after the reception, all the guests arrived at the reception and used the photo booth and got to snack on little boxes of popcorn (for the crazy movie theme) tour the A. Smith Bowman Distillery and enjoy the cocktail hour.

When we arrived everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time, which made us feel like we did really pull it off. The reception then went on and the "wedding stuff" went under way, speeches and dances. We went over the ceremony game and awarded the prizes to the guests, first second and third places. Then I was called up by the band to give my groom my "wedding gift." All the months of preparation and sneaking around and the time was up. I sang and played "Head Over Feet" by Alanis Morrisette first, a love song, something I thought maybe people might expect from me... though honestly I don't think anyone expected me to perform. Then we went into "Kiss Off" by the Violent Femmes, so much fun, I loved it. I think MacLeod was surprised, he certainly had no idea that I was going to be doing that for him. I told him that he trusts me entirely too much, well with all the "appointments" I had around town for the last few months.

The rest of the night I could finally breathed easy and we danced and enjoyed our family and friends. It was the happiest day that either of us have had in a long time.

 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring and New Beginnings Part 1: We Wed!

It's hard to believe it's been over a month already, I guess time flies in paradise? Eh... yeah, sure that's it. I think we just jumped right back into the day to day (not to mention an IEP month) hustle and bustle and then BAM... suddenly it's been a month!

Though our blog is about our lives living as parents in an Asperger's world and eating gluten-free, we would be remiss to not share something so momentous as our wedding, especially because it was something that we planned as a family. The kiddos were as much a part of all the silly plans as MacLeod and I were, so we want to share it with you. Believe me, it's something of a fun read... it certainly was something interesting to live through.  We are breaking it into two posts, because, well... the reception was TOO much fun to not tell about it too! Plus, I, Mom worked on a rocking wedding gift for MacLeod and he worked on well...something big too!
 

DISCLAIMER

I apologize in advance if I offend you by making fun of things that you have in fact had in your wedding... these are simply things that we do not like because we are odd people and fancy an unusual type of humor, ya see?
 
 
I always thought it was somewhat silly when people had those darn cocktail napkins that said "Today I Marry My Best Friend" or jam jars that were labeled "Spread the Love".... eh, gag. Oh I think the worst was probably a box of mints labeled "Mint to Be." Wow.
MacLeod and I definitely were out of the box thinkers when we started talking about our wedding plans and honestly it really had little to do with wedding and more to do with a big party. Sure we knew we had to do the ceremony stuff and some of the traditional things like favors, but we had some big ideas that we wanted to have come to fruition. For the most part I think we really pulled it all together even though close to the end we both were pretty sure it was all going to fall apart.
Mom's 6th grade yearbook signature to MacLeod
MacLeod and I first met when we were in middle school and lived in the same neighborhood throughout our childhoods. We were in the same First Communion class at our Catholic Church (now both converted Baptists) and attended the same high school. He met his wife in high school, I met my husband during my service in the United States Marine Corps and that's where things went awry. Everything happens for a reason they say, right? We talk a lot about what things would have been like had we actually started our relationship in high school and not fifteen years later. Would we have been the same people? Of course not. Who knows what it would have been or not been. But at the end of the day we both know that we definitely are supposed to and were always meant to be together. It just took a little longer for us to find each other... the scenic route, if you will.
The things that made us realize that it was always one another were the things we talked about in our all night conversations and even things we still discover about each other. My first car a classic 1969 Ford Fairlane 500, he owned a 1953 Ford F100. We loved the same music and ridiculous humor and best of all got each other's terrible references to obscure movies and shows.
We were dating for about six months when we started to plan our wedding. It took us (MacLeod!) a year to get engaged (ahem) and then the actually wedding planning began. The first thing that we knew that we wanted to have was a photo booth and we knew that we wanted our photo booth to be none other than the TARDIS of the famed Doctor Who. We felt this was extremely befitting because 1. we love Doctor Who, not just MacLeod and I, but the kiddos too (see Power of Three Crepes) 2. It is the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. How can that not be a good omen, am I right? Our marriage is bound to last the test of time (And Relative Dimensions in Space....eh?) For a while we just reveled in how awesome that would be.
One day we went to a bbq festival and came across a distillery in our area, they directed us to tours they were just starting. A few days later we toured the facility and met the kindest master distiller known to man, Truman Cox. He said "someday" they were planning on having weddings in the distillery and quoted us a price. I don't think he planned on entertaining us so soon, but that is when everything came together.
Everything came together, yes...well, it was chaos, and insanity. But that was the start. We had out venue for sure. Two months later, we called the distillery back and talked to Truman and he agreed to rent the space to us, ever so skeptically given the crazy theme of our wedding. See my friends we decided that our wedding was indeed a theme wedding after all. Because MacLeod and I had been through hell and back with our previous marriages, custody issues and continued problems. Before we did the fancy party, the standard walk down the aisle, the cute little "mint for each other" crap. So our theme was "It's All Been Done Before", and we would walk down the aisle to THAT track by The Barenaked Ladies.
But that is jumping ahead a bit. Let me back up.
So the theme was "It's All Been Done Before." Our guests had lots of warning that this was not a "normal" wedding. We sent out the Save the Date which told them first what to expect a bit and directed them to our Facebook page for additional details if they were Facebook savy. Then the invitation came. The invitation included the actual invitation which on its own was the invite to the event and reception. Then there was a second explanation of our unusual wedding plan which went like this;


Dear friends and loved ones,
 

As you also probably know, both of us have been through this all before so we decided that we were not going to ever do it all the same again. In doing so, our invitation to be a guest at our wedding requires a little explanation.
Our ceremony will be something of a game, when you arrive you will receive a sheet and a pencil with spaces to fill in your answers. During the ceremony there will be some obvious, some not so obvious reference to movies that we love. You may see a guest or member of the wedding party dressed like a person from a movie or you may hear lines spoken
directly from some amazing flicks. You have to keep your eyes peeled and ears perked as you try to find all the answers to fill your sheet. To help you do this we are including a list of movies you should really consider familiarizing yourself with before the wedding- and don’t be a schmuck, join in!

When you arrive to the reception, your sheets will be collected from your tables and scored up and winners will be chosen! Yes, there will be a 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize basket for our insane wedding game.
Is this a strange way to have a wedding? Yes! Will all of you agree with it or participate? Of course not! But “it’s all been done before…” so we are making this exactly the way we want it to be and we hope that you can have as much fun as we will.

  Then it included the movie list that they were to "study" to be familiar with for the insane wedding game. It definitely was an unconventional way to have a wedding, but we wanted to have a good time, and we did the stuffy church bells already.

So the idea was that our wedding ceremony was to be completely scripted sort of like a movie, MacLeod, myself, our pastor and some members of the audience or wedding guests had parts to play in this script to make the wedding work. The guests however did not actually know their parts until they arrived because otherwise they would not have been able to participate in the game. We wanted everyone to be able to play the game if they could. So the only people that could not play the game were those who attended the rehearsal.

I created the script, and our pastor was amazing and great to work with. He was hilarious and we talked a lot before the wedding and a lot of it was pretty fluid and easy to sort of ad lib. There were some parts that we talked about before that we wanted to include after the shenanigans. Of course, we wanted to have our ceremony in our church because we wanted to honor our faith and our God, therefore we wanted our pastor to talk about our Holy union and the seriousness about it as well.

The ceremony begun with the guests seating. While the parents were seating a video to the theme music of Star Wars played with a tale of woe of Princess Mom and MacLeod Skywalker and their battles to escape their evil captors to find one another and ultimately eternal happiness. It played in a Star Wars crawl... this set the nerd theme of the entire wedding.

When the Star Wars crawl played out the Barenaked Ladies "It's All Been Done Before" started up, the bridal party started their way to the altar. The final pair in Monty Python style, one with coconuts, ala Patsy and the other galloping "on horseback." Finally the little ladies with the flowers headed down and then it was time for me and the kiddo, timing was everything so we had to wait for the music to do it and then ...."As you run down the aisle... wooo hooo hooo!!!" And we ran down the aisle, me and my little man, and he gave me away, my dad took my hand and then the ceremony proceeded into the script.

The first prize part, which was my dad's part that he proudly took was from The Godfather, MacLeod had to bend down and kiss his big ringed finger, it was hilarious. Then my father handed me over to MacLeod and took his seat.

This is already a marathon of a blog post so I won't write the entire ceremony out, but it was a great deal of fun, even the few parts we forgot from the original script, weren't missed. I think all said and done my favorite part, aside of the best ever last line of a wedding ever and yes, I have to actually write for you my dear friends:

Pastor:  "Well.... I'm not great at farewells, so, uh, that'll do, pig" (Zombieland)
 
 Mom:"That's the worst goodbye [we've] ever heard and you stole it from a movie." (Zombieland)

MacLeod Kisses Mom

Mom and MacLeod Exit to: Nine Inch Nails, We're In This Together

Monday, March 4, 2013

Gluten-Free, Casein-free Girl Scout Cookies: Samoas!!!


So it's taken me a little bit to get this last cookie to you. Best for last? Yes.

I also had a wedding to finish planning and... well get married and all. More to come on that I promise! Then it will be back to business as usually, and I hope well much more than that. I have so much exciting things that will be popping up this year! But for right now, let me get back to the business of the Girl Scout Cookie, because we are still, in our house, in GSC high gear.
 

Since I already had my base cookie (remember the cookie used for the Tagalong here?) for the Samoa I didn't even need to think about that. But the topping, that was something to think about and I had been. A casein-free caramel-like topping. Back in my professional baking days I had a German chocolate cupcake that I used to topped with a vegan coconut pecan cream topping. So I got to thinking about it and thought that minus the pecans if I did it just right that it might work out nicely for the Samoas. So I got to experimenting with the sauce that I had used which is a base of brown sugar and coconut milk. Rather than boil it together I decided to cook the sugar first like you would cook caramel and that was the secret ticket because viola'! I made caramel sauce completely casein-free and it was absolutely amazing. MacLeod got home and I sampled some to him and he asked me where in the world I got casein-free caramel sauce because he knew I had been looking for some (I had this ice cream thing several weeks back and no safe toppings which made me angry) and I told him that I made it he was shocked!

(Since I have made this caramel sauce, I have been using it an SO many things... it's my new favorite thing!)

So then there is the final result of course which of course the kiddos need to try, the real critics. Well, they take the cookies in their lunch boxes to school and wave them in their classmates faces very obnoxiously and say "my moooom made these for me!" (I actually saw it one day, had I not had warm fuzzies about it I would have scolded them about it) So I think I have gotten the gold seal of approval from them. Additionally, I have shared them with others who are certified Girl Scout Cookie eaters and they say "omg, these are amazing," at least that is what it sounds like through the mouthful of cookies.

 

Gluten-Free, Casein-free Samoas


Shortbread Cookie:


1/2 C Spectrum Shortening

1 1/4 C Gluten-free Flour Blend

1/3 C sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

Coconut Caramel Topping:

2 C Organic Raw Coconut
1 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Coconut Milk
1/4 C rice milk
1 Tbs tapioca flour
2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:


10 Oz. Gluten-free, Casein-free chocolate

2 Tbs vegetable oil

 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.

3. In a stand mixer add shortening and sugar and blend on medium-high until creamy. Add extract and egg. 

4. 1/2 C at a time, add flour mixture to mixer and blend after addition until all the flour has been added. The dough will begin to lump together which is what you want to happen.

5. Turn the dough back into the medium sized bowl and press it together and work it with your hands a bit just to get a uniform ball.

6. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, even over night is fine.

7. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, place one on your work space. Cut the dough in half (its easiest to work with a portion of the dough at one time)and flatten the dough just slightly and press the second piece of parchment on top of it.

8. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4" thick. I actually put a ruler to it to measure this because I wanted to get a really nice thickness for the shortbread. A thin shortbread is too crisp. Try your hardest to keep a uniform thickness in the dough.
 

9. With a cutter (1.5" round) cut round circles (OR if you have a cutter with the center cut out )then cut out small circles out of the center of the circles (I used a pastry tip, the bottom opening)and place on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

10. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4" thick. I actually put a ruler to it to measure this because I wanted to get a really nice thickness for the shortbread. A thin shortbread is too crisp. Try your hardest to keep a uniform thickness in the dough.

11. Bake for 10-12 mins. at 350 degrees.

12. Allow cookies to cool. Once they are cool from the oven, place the cookies into the freezer.

13. While the cookies are cooling start the sauce. In a small bowl combine the Coconut milk, rice milk and tapioca flour.

14. in a small sauce pan over med-high heat add brown sugar. Heat the brown sugar until it actually melts and starts to bubble. It's a tricky place because you don't want to burn it, but want to slightly caramelize it. So let it just start to boil.

15. Once the bubbling starts, add the milk and tapioca mixture and reduce the heat immediately to a simmer. Continue to stir vigorously until the temperature comes down and the boiling stops.

16. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat. Add the coconut and sauté it until you just start to smell the coconut and see it slightly browned. Remove it quickly so it doesn't burn.  
 

17. Add vanilla and the coconut to the sauce and let it sit to cool.

18. Once the coconut topping has completely cooled removed frozen samoa bases from the freezer about 4 at a time.

19. Fill your icing bag, fit with a Ateco #806 tip or something comparable (in a pinch a Ziploc Freezer bag with a corner cut off can work) with the coconut filling.

20. Pipe the filling around the edge of the cookie one at a time. After each filling has been added, replace the cookie to the freezer to set.

21. In a bowl, melt your coating chocolate at 30 second intervals being careful not to burn the chocolate. Add the oil to make the mixture viscous.

22. Once all the cookies are frozen (this is really important or your topping is going to just fall into your glazing chocolate) pull out about four cookies at a time.

23. With a dipping device (they sell these do-dads in culinary stores... I just use a carving fork, as you can see) dip the cookie into the coating chocolate by simply placing it on top of the chocolate and lifting it out and letting it drip.

24. Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with all the cookies until they are all done.

25. With a smaller icing bag, or again, Ziploc bag with the corner cut, drizzle some of the remaining chocolate across the cookies.

26. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to set for about an hour.

27. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gluten-free and Casein-free Girl Scout Cookies: Tagalongs!

Holy Virginian Peanuts Batman!



Ok... maybe that sounded better in my head than it actually looks on paper, but man do I love myself some peanuts and wouldn't ya know if Virginia, my home state, is known for peanuts. MacLeod on the other hand, though he loves peanuts like no other is always wary because his nephew has a deathly peanut allergy. So we tend to keep peanuts close to the cuff, not something we actually keep in the pantry all too often. But when you talk Girl Scout Cookies, you got to talk about Tagalongs.

 

I knew going into it that with this cookie the challenge was going to be the "shortbread" or "butter" cookie part of it. Additionally I knew that it was going to be the base for my final cookie as well, the Samoa, so I had to get it right. My friends, there are literally hundreds of recipes for these "shortbread" cookies on the interwebs out there and I tried TWELVE of them. I kid you not, I tried TWELVE. What was that you ask? Did the first few turn out like rocks? Indeed they did. Were some of them not even edible? Nope they certainly were not. Oh yes, indeed the gluten-free flours are expensive all get out! UGH! But I was on a mission I needed to get these darn cookies right. To my surprise I did manage to come up with one batch of cookies that I have slotted into my cookie recipe bank as "Danish 'butter' Cookies"... you know those ones that come in those blue tins with the coarse sugar on them?? OH so GOOD! Yes, I made some that taste just like that, but not shortbread.

Anyway, thirteenth time's a charm and I  finally got my crumbly delicious shortbread cookie that I wanted. And they were ah-mazing, biting into them you would never be able to tell that these cookies were absent of any butter, its craziness! From there it was all about chilling, cutting and assembly.

 

Shortbread Cookie:


 
1/2 C Spectrum Shortening

1 1/4 C Gluten-free Flour Blend

1/3 C sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

 

Peanut Butter Filling:


2 C Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

3/4 C confectioners sugar (this is to thicken and sweeten, if you want to forgo the sweetener all together)

 

Glaze:


10 oz. Casein-free Chocolate chips

2 Tbs vegetable oil

 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.

3. In a stand mixer add shortening and sugar and blend on medium-high until creamy. Add extract and egg. 

4. 1/2 C at a time, add flour mixture to mixer and blend after addition until all the flour has been added. The dough will begin to lump together which is what you want to happen.

5. Turn the dough back into the medium sized bowl and press it together and work it with your hands a bit just to get a uniform ball. It may be a little sticky, that is fine when it is chilled it will come together.

6. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, even over night is fine.

7. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, place one on your work space. Cut the dough in quarters(its easiest to work with a portion of the dough at one time)and flatten the dough just slightly and press the second piece of parchment on top of it.

8. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4" thick. I actually put a ruler to it to measure this because I wanted to get a really nice thickness for the shortbread. A thin shortbread is too crisp. Try your hardest to keep a uniform thickness in the dough.

9. With a cutter (1.5" round) cut round circles and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

10. Bake for 10-12 mins. at 350 degrees. As soon as you pull the cookies out of the oven with a spoon or ladle (as I used) push a small indentation into the cookie to create a little more of a space for your peanut butter filling.

 
11. While the cookies are cooling, combine the peanut butter and sugar and blend vigorously, you can do it in a stand mixer, but by fork does just fine, just be sure to blend it well enough to get all the lumps out and get a smooth consistency. When you first add the sugar it will lump together but as you continue to break it back up and mix it will thin back out and become smooth again.

12. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (a Ateco 802 or similar) OR you can use a freezer bag with the corner cut off with an ok result as well. (the piping bag is just a little neater and cleaner, but improvisation works and makes for a budget friendly kitchen!) With bag filled, hold bag upright over cookies, and squeeze enough peanut butter to spread to the edge of the cookie. With on offset spatula or knife, spread the peanut butter to the edge of the cookie.  If you don't like how the shape of the peanut butter looks (because that is what the shape is going to look like after they are chocolate coated) you can reshape a little after they are refrigerated).

13. Repeat with each cookie and place completed sheet of peanut buttered cookies in freezer (the freezer, kids, is a must. When these peanut butter cookies get dipped in the hot chocolate they NEED to be cold, do not skip this step) for at least 30 minutes.

14. Towards the end of the chilling, melt your coating chocolate at 30 second intervals being careful not to burn the chocolate.

15. If you want to reshape any peanut butter mounts, do so now or forever hold your peace. I am a perfectionist and can't help but reshape them.
 

 
 Before the                  After the Chilling                      Chilling
                              
                       (and
                                              reshaping!)     
  
 
16. When the cookies have chilled, using a fork place the cookies in the chocolate and immerse them in the chocolate then with the top of the cookie facing up, scoop the fork under the cookie and gently tap the cookie's side at the edge of the bowl to let any extra chocolate drip off.

17. Place cookies onto a parchment lines cookie sheet to set. Once all the cookies are on the sheet, refrigerate to help set the chocolate.

18. (Again.. unnecessary step, but I do it for looks)If you want the looks to look nice, you can simply take a paring  knife to the edge to cut off any excess chocolate that puddle when you placed them after the chocolate dredge. But it's up to you, the taste great just the same!

19. Add a moderate amount of milk... or in my case a dairy-free substitute and enjoy!










 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gluten-Free and Casein-Free Girl Scout Cookies! : Thin Mints


In the far reaches of my mind I remember a very short period of time when I was a Brownie. Yes folks... I was a Brownie. I know, you think... why is that I shocker? Well my friends, your snarky host here these days is so incredibly anti-.... umm, well, everything. (slight overstatement... but let's just say I am not the model Girl Scout mom or PTA Volunteer of the month) I don't think that there was ever a time though however that I ever had the opportunity to manipulate adults in such a way that only a Girl Scouts can each year with mass amounts of cookies. I think my Brownie days lasted maybe 6 months at the most when our troop leader lost a girl or two at the camp out that my mom didn't allow me to attend and my career in the scouts came to an abrupt end. I moved on to sports. My kiddos however both love the scouts, so here we are.

So then we get to cookie sales. Well to backtrack a little, a few months ago kiddo had popcorn sales with the Boy Scouts. It was a HUGE deal for him because for him to go and do cold sales... well do I need to explain? HE HAS ASPERGERS! So we wrote up a script. We practiced said script. We worked on eye contact. We worked on body language. We worked on knocking on doors. We worked and worked and worked. Then we went out and started to do sales. He did so well and was so pleased with himself. I think I cried every time he got a sale, it was a little pathetic and the people buying the popcorn thought I was insane. I took pictures.... and they thought I was insane. It was such a huge moment for him and though we did have some times where he needed help, for the most part he did such an amazing job.

So the popcorn wasn't a gluten issue, we bought popcorn and ate it. But I knew when the time came for Lil sis to sell cookies we would be in trouble because Kiddo was going to ape about it. I made Lil Sis promise that she could eat Girl Scout cookies, but NOT at home. Then I had an idea, why not make some of my own and just have them ready to go so when those cookies were, as he says "taunting" him, I could pull out our own gluten and casein-free versions and say "POW, here you go!"

Before I embark on making any new thing in the kitchen, cake, cookie or whatever it may be- I start with some research online. I look to see what everyone else has done because honestly there is no sense in reinventing the wheel. So starting off by knowing what ratios of gluten-free flours to the eggs and fats have worked best for other bakers is a good way to start and its usually how I start. That being said, there just aren't that many bakers out there that are baking both gluten AND casein-free. So it's a little more challenging to find copycat recipes like Girl Scout cookies that are GFCF which is why I worked so incredibly hard at trying to perfect these.

Because the components of these cookies are rather intricate and the steps pretty long, I am not including them all on one post, which I had originally intended to. Rather, I am breaking them up into three posts, the first being Thin Mints, Second Tagalongs and the last Samoas. Thin Mints are pretty straight forward, but the Tagalongs and Samoas are going to be chock full of descriptions and lots and lots of pictures for your viewing pleasures. Again, I was writing up these recipes and while I had the intent of just posting the recipes and shooting them out to you, I realized that it wouldn't serve you to well if you couldn't actually technically make them. So I decided to make them AGAIN and take lots of pictures to be able to offer you a visual, something that I know would help me. I have been teasing my Facebook friends for weeks now with pictures of these cookies, and my greatest apologies that the recopies have been less than quick to release, but I assure you that I only want to offer you my best!

So without further adieu... Thin Mints....

Thin Mints were the first and by far the easiest, the fats took very easily and the dough was very easy to manipulate and change to substitute out butter for palm oil instead. I didn't use coconut oil, which is usually my first choice in baking because during the holidays I did get a number of people ask if I had coconut in my cookies, which is fine, but I don't want to have a coconutty flavor in the thin mint. I attempted the dough twice for the Thin Mint and felt pretty happy with it. I did adapt my recipe from Nicole Hunn at Gluten Free on a Shoe String, a great blogger and author in the gluten-free world.

 

 

Thin Mints




1/2 sugar

1/2 C casein-free semi-sweet chocolate chips (We use Enjoy Life)

1/2 tsp peppermint extract


1/2 C cocoa powder

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

 

Glaze:

10 oz. Casein-free Semi-sweet chocolate

3 Tbs. palm oil

1 tsp Peppermint Extract


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Blend together flour, cocoa powder and baking powder in a medium sized bowl.

3. In a stand mixer add shortening and sugar and blend on medium-high until creamy. Add extract.

4. 1/2 C at a time, add flour mixture to mixer and blend after addition until all the flour has been added. The dough will begin to lump together which is what you want to happen.

5. Turn the dough back into the medium sized bowl and press it together and work it with your hands a bit just to get a uniform ball.

6. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, even over night is fine.

7. Cut two pieces of parchment paper, place one on your work space. Cut the dough in half (its easiest to work with a portion of the dough at one time)and flatten the dough just slightly and press the second piece of parchment on top of it.

8. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thickness. No thicker though or you won't have the crispness you want for the "thin" part of the Thin Mints. Try your hardest to keep a uniform thickness in the dough.

9. With a cutter (1.5" round) cut round circles and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

10. Bake for 10-12 mins. at 300 degrees.

11. While cookies are cooling, melt chocolate in a bowl. When using the microwave just be sure to only melt at 30 second intervals and then blend. If you go longer the chocolate will burn. Start with 30 second, mix until the heat has come down and if there are still bits unmelted, heat another 30 seconds and blend again until the heat has come down again. Add the oil and extract to this the mixture to be able to dip the cookies.

12. When the cookies have chilled, using a fork place the cookies in the chocolate and immerse them in the chocolate then with the top of the cookie facing up, scoop the fork under the cookie and gently tap the cookie's side at the edge of the bowl to let any extra chocolate drip off.

13. Place cookies onto a parchment lines cookie sheet to set. Once all the cookies are on the sheet, refrigerate to help set the chocolate.

14. (a unnecessary step, but I do it for looks)If you want the looks to look nice, you can simply take a paring  knife to the edge to cut off any excess chocolate that puddle when you placed them after the chocolate dredge. But it's up to you, the taste great just the same!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Power of Three Crepes, Gluten-Free and Casein-Free

One Year is Almost Upon Us!


We are coming ever so close to our one year Bloggaversary! Wow, an entire year since we started this blog. I think for me it calls for a number of things.
  1. Facelift! Well not for me... but for the blog. I need to dive in an d give her a little attention that she so deperately needs. Its been a rough year for us and through all the changes in our home, we have been a bit neglectful. So its facelift time MofM!
  2. Well... we must more than anything else actually write more frequently! We have stores and stores of recipes that haven't made it to your hot little hands yet! (well hot... eyes?... screens?, whatever)
  3. Link to Facebook! We have so much good stuff going on over at our Facebook page and followers on our Facebook page who don't follow the blog and vice versa! Link time folks! We are gonna make that happen.
  4. FIX TIME! I have looked back on some of my recipes and thought, hmm.. Mom, what in the piggies name were you thinking when you posted that? I have a few that have grammar errors some that are just missing ingredients, not because I didn't use them when cooking, but I just didn't post it!! AH! So I need to run a fine tooth comb over the recipe box.
So coming back to the recipes, we have been cooking up a storm lately. The funny thing is that we have these tried and true recipes in our home kitchen that every time I make them I think that I have already posted them... then I look at the blog and realize that I haven't. I think that there may have been one teeny aspect that I may have not been happy with and wanted to try again or something along those lines. I am if nothing else, MacLeod can attest to this, my absolute worst critic. But if I don't think something is FATASTIC, I just won't let it leave my kitchen and certainly won't share the recipe.

One recipe I have been using for a long while now that I have altered here and there and come back to a lovely heart warming delicious and AH-mazing result is this crepe recipe. To me crepes always seemed like something extra special, like going out for a special brunch with mimosa kinda special. Years ago when MacLeod and I were first dating, pre-gluten-free days, we ran into this food cart in our local farmer's market, a crepe food cart! I was head over heels in love with them. From that day on I knew I needed to learn how to make crepes.

Then gluten went bye bye and so did crepes... or did they? I tried lots of recipes on the interwebs that claimed the fame of "super easy and delicous" and "3 ingredient" which were so blech. Really what you have to go back to are the mechanics of the crepe as it is done in the gluten-full way... only... gluten-FREE. I took the methods learned via The Gluten Free Girl, a gluten-free all-star and my previous crepe making expereince which served me well.
Because we are working towards a completely gluten-free AND casien-free kitchen, these crepes are made with no gluten and no dairy products at all and I got to tell you the resulting crepe is amazing. I don't think you miss the butter, but that is just my humble opinion. (While writing this entry I was amused to find that MacLeod was actually disappointed to discover that I "deceived" him with the absense of butter in the crepes) I recently have had a love affair with amaranth and millet for all thier amazing nuttiness and deliciousness they add not to mention nutritional greatness. So in this recipe I have added amarnth flour to the crepes and just love them. for a little extra about this wonderful flour....

Generally harvested from seeds, amaranth is an excellent source of protein, unlike many other grains. Like other grains it provides essential amino acids but the seeds of the Amaranthus species specifically can provide 30% more protein than rice, sorghum and rye making it a protein powerhouse in the grain department. Wiki  That, and of course it tastes wonderful in baking!

Power of Three Crepes (as kiddos called them... via Doctor Who, Season 7)

Gluten-free, Casein-Free Crepes


1 Cup Gluten-free flour blend
1/2 C amarnth flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 C water
 Cooking Spray

1. Combine flours and salt.
2. In a small beat the eggs lightly, then add to the flour blend and begin to combine.
3. Slowly start to add water to the flour mixture and blend. The mixture will be thin, which is what a crepe mixture needs to be.
4. With a mesh strainer, strain the mixture into another bowl to strain all the lumps out of the mix.
5. Let the crepe mix sit for 10-15 minutes while you finish preparing all the fillings that you want to use.
6. Heat your pan on medium-high heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
7. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter on the pan and swirl the batter over the pan to coat it thinly. (if you have trouble figuring out how to do this, there are a few tutorials on youtube that can help you out with a visual). Allow the crepe to cook for just a few minutes and with a spatual just lift the side slightly to check that its browned a bit.
8. You can either use your spatula to flip your crepe or you can use the handle of your pan to move your pan to flip your crepe over (if your really, really brave!... again, I recommend youtube for tutorials if you don't know already... because you can learn ANYTHING on youtube!)
9. Allow the other side to cook just another 30 second more or so and viola, crepe is done. Move to a plate and keep in a warm oven. Pile the crepes onto the plate in a warm oven while you complete them, until assembly.
10. To assembly, you can be creative about how you want to fill them. Below we have included some of our favorites!


Fillings:

Blueberry Filling:

1 C frozen wild blueberries (we use Wyman's Frozen Blueberries)
1/4 coconut palm sugar
1 Tbs  water
1 tsp tapioca flour

Simmer blueberries and sugar for approximately 25 minutes or until the berries are cooked down and the liquid is dark in color. The liquid should still be thin. Add tapica flour to water and mix to combine then add to simmering berries. Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat.

Strawberry Delights:

2 C Fresh Strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 banana, sliced
1/2 C full fat coconut milk (canned, refrigerated)
1/4 C confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C dark chocolate, dairy-free (we use Enjoy Life), melted

In a stand mixer, with a whisk attachment, whisk together chilled coconut milk, confectioners sugar and vanilla. If the mixture is too thin, add more sugar by the tablespoon to thicken to your desired consistency. Spoon about half the mixture into a bowl and add the melted chocolate and blend well.The remaining amount will be used to garnish and use as whipped cream.

Piggies in a Blanket:

Any combination of breakfast meats, diced
Non-dairy cheese

Toss the meats and cheese together in a bowl prior to crepe assembly.