September 29, 2008


Delicious Carrot Cake

We had some family over the other evening for a birthday celebration, and my son wanted a carrot cake. I couldn't cut a nice piece and take pictures of it before hand, so the picture you see is a very thin piece which was all that was left after the cake was served. I'm not complaining. I'm glad everyone loved it, but it doesn't make for a great picture.

gluten-free carrot cake

I won't post the recipe because I followed it as is, but you can find it here. It seems the link to the flour mix is not working. I used Bette Hagman's basic gluten-free flour mix. If you don't have that on hand, use 2 cups rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch, and 1/3 cup tapioca starch. Or you could try whatever flour mix you use.

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September 27, 2008


Brazilian Bread Balls

This recipe is pretty well known, and I've seen slightly different versions of it. But it's worth posting for anyone who hasn't come across it because it is one of my family's favorites.

We have given these bread balls our own name based on a word one of my kids invented when he was two. We call them cheese pacos (pronounced like taco).

gluten-free bread balls

Cheese Paco Recipe

Heat the following ingredients in a small saucepan until white foam appears.
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/3 c. water
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. salt

Immediately add this to:

2 c. tapioca starch

Stir with a wooden/heavy spoon or spatula. Let rest about 15 minutes. (Sometimes I shorten this to 5 min.)

Mix in:

2 eggs
1 c. grated hard cheese (such a Parmesan, but I have also used cheddar)

You will have a sticky gooey mass.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until top begins to brown. I bake them about 20-25 min. on stoneware. You can vary the cooking length to make them crispier (more time) or softer (less time).

View Printable Recipe


September 26, 2008


Making Napkin Rings

Last week I wrote a post about making cloth napkins. I mentioned a tip I had picked up from another site about using different napkin rings for each member of the family. Used, but not too dirty napkins can then be saved and identified for later use by putting them in the napkin rings.

homemade clay napkin rings
This week my 12-year-old son and I made some clay napkin rings. My son made most of the ones shown including the pretty purple flower for me and the hammer and saw for his dad.

Here are a few tips for making clay napkin rings and working with clay in general.

1)Buy a single ceramic tile from a home improvement store. Look for one that has a smooth surface. Use this to work with the clay and roll it out. When the piece is ready for baking, leave it on the tile and put it in the oven.

2)Having special tools isn't necessary, but if you work with clay much it is very helpful. My son put tools on his birthday list last year. This picture shows a few that he uses often.
Sculpey clay and tools on a ceramic tile
3)To bake the napkin rings, I slipped them over the neck of a glass bottle. This helped them hold their shape and not get flat on the bottom.

4)We didn't do this, but putting a piece of wire inside the ring will add strength.

5)Be creative and have fun!

I hope this can count as a Frugal Friday post since it's about making something rather than buying it. For more frugal ideas go here.


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September 25, 2008


Help for Those New to the Gluten-Free Diet

You just found out you have celiac disease. It is overwhelming. You have a disease and you can’t eat wheat. You wonder, “What can I eat?” Food is near and dear to most of our hearts, but even if you’re not that fond of it, you still have to eat, so let’s talk about the gluten-free diet.

First, try to focus on what you can eat, rather than focusing on what you can’t eat. You can eat everything that does not contain wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats.

Fresh, unprocessed foods such as:

Fruits and vegetables (I won’t make a list, but that’s a lot of food!)
Fresh meat
Plain rice

As for processed foods, learn to read labels. Wheat has to be declared in the list of ingredients or in an allergy line below the ingredients. That means that almost everything that contains gluten will say so on the label. Rye is pretty obvious in things such as rye bread. Barley most often comes up in malt flavoring, such as in cereals.

There are many gluten-free choices in the following categories, just check the label for the brand your store carries.

Canned fruits and vegetables
Frozen fruits and vegetables
Tomato sauces such as spaghetti sauce
Other pasta sauces
Canned beans and refried beans
Canned meats such as tuna and salmon
Salad dressings
Chips (potato and corn based)
Juice and other drinks
Hot dogs
Other processed meat

A couple of specific gluten-free items that are useful to know about are:
Rice Chex
Dinty Moore Beef Stew

There are some great gluten-free pasta choices. Tinkyada and Pastariso are brands I particularly like. I can find Tinkyada in the health food isle of my local Giant grocery store. They also carry Enviro Kids cereals. Health food stores are a great resource and carry a selection of gluten-free pastas and cereals.

If you’re new to this, you’re probably wondering about oats. Pure oats are safe for most celiacs. According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, 5-6% of celiacs do not tolerate pure oats. Pure oats are those grown in such a way to avoid contamination with wheat. You can find oats labeled gluten-free at health food stores and on the Internet. Cream Hill Estates is a brand I have used. Oats found at a regular grocery store are likely to be heavily contaminated with wheat. That would also be true of processed foods containing oats, even if the other ingredients are gluten-free, unless pure oats have been used.

Are you new to the gluten-free diet? Leave a comment or send and email and let me know how it’s going for you.

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September 24, 2008


Organizing Your Earrings

First, I apologize for last week's faulty Works for Me Wednesday link. If you didn't find your way to it, and you're still interested in an easy, fun, dinner you can read it here.

earrings orgainzed on a belt
I like to sit and read magazines....while I'm waiting for kids at the orthodontist or dentist office. It's about the only time I read them, and there is usually enough selection that I can find something of interest. Recently I saw a magainze I wasn't familiar with--Ready Made. It had an idea for storing earrings that I decided to try.

Find a belt that has decorative holes in it. Hang the belt by the buckle and insert your earrings into the holes. I have the belt hanging on the wall next to my dresser. I can easily see my earring choices and quickly slip them off and on the belt.

The earrings in this picture were given to me as gifts from my husband. I told him what store sells the kind of earrings I like, then I showed him a pair I had and explained what I liked about them. He was then able to find a couple of racks with similar earrings and surprise me with something he chose. I think he did a great job.

For more great ideas visit Rocks in My Dryer's Works for Me Wednesday.



September 23, 2008


Plastic Containers & Their Storage

I recently cleaned out and bought new food storage containers. My old ones were cracking, and the whole lot had become a mixed up mess. I was thrilled to find these Rubbermaid containers at BJ's. I got a 54 piece set (that includes lids) for $20. The thing I really like is that one lid size will fit several sizes of containers. I also like the fact that the lids stack together nicely. Having different sized containers that stack together and lids that stack make storage simple and easy.

Rubbermaid food storage containers

I have my plasticware in a cabinet that has a pull out shelf on the bottom. In our old house, I bought a sliding container to put in the bottom of a cabinet so I could reach the things in the back. I found it to be well worth the money. It helped me keep things better organized and easier to find. When we remodeled the kitchen in this house, I made sure I had a cabinet with a sliding shelf built in.

After several weeks of use, my plastic ware is still orderly. It's so nice to find what I need without digging around and trying to find a lid that matches!

food storage containers organized in my kitchen cabinet

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes-Kitchen Tip Tuesday.


September 22, 2008


Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

gluten-free chocolate chip oat bars
Here's a recipe a tried this weekend. I adapted it from the recipe on the Nestle chocolate chip bag. I made bars, but you could certainly try them as cookies. I find that bars are quick and easy and I don't have to deal with the cookies spreading out too much.

These fall apart easily. I might try adding more xanthan gum, but I think a lot of it has to do with using non-instant oats. Definitely let them cool completely if you want to cut them up and take them somewhere. If not, plan on eating them with a fork. Either way, they are delicious!

1 3/4 c. gluten-free flour mix (I used 1 c. rice based mix; 3/4 c. sorghum based)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. gluten-free oats (Cram Hill Estates, Bob's Red Mill)
2 c. chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts, optional (I didn't use any this time)

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips (and nuts). Spread in a greased 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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September 20, 2008


Cherry Chocolate Cake

gluten-free cherry chocolate cake
This is a delicious and easy cake that my family loves. I have used Bette Hagman's and Carol Fenster's flour mixes in this, and they both turn out well. I'm sure other mixes would work well also. I found this recipe on the celiac listserve, posted by Shelly Thompson.

1 3/4 c. gluten-free flour mix
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
21 oz. cherry pie filling (check labels, I have used Comstock)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 c. boiling water (hold back 2 Tb.)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the eggs, pie filling, and extracts. Add the boiling water, mixing gently. Pour into a greased (sprayed) 9 x 13 inch pan or two 9 inch round pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing.

For every-day eating, I top it with powdered sugar. The almond extract adds a very nice touch to this cake, but I imagine it would be good without it. Make sure you do add vanilla, though. I tend to always use a little less water than called for in recipes. Maybe it has to do with where I live. You'll have to see what works best for you.

Enjoy! And let me know how you like it!

This recipe is linked to Friday Foodie Fix. Stop by to see more chocolate recipes.

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September 19, 2008


Making Cloth Napkins

After reading a number of posts on other blogs about using cloth napkins rather than paper ones, I decided to make the switch at our house.

homemade cloth napkins
I started by going to the thrift store to see what I could find. I came home with 8-10 napkins which we tried out as soon as I washed them. I soon learned two things: (1)the size was much bigger than we needed for everyday use, and (2) we were going to need a lot more napkins!

One way to help solve both of those problems was to cut the napkins into quarters, thereby reducing the size and increasing the quantity. I also went to the fabric store and bought two yards of flannel in two different patterns. I then made 12 napkins from each yard. Some of the napkins I bought from the thrift store were red, so I also bought a flannel pattern of the same color red which enabled me to use the same thread. I have also decided that red is a great color for napkins since we eat a lot of meals that have at least some tomato in them (Italian, Mexican, hamburgers with ketchup...). I chose the bee pattern because I thought it was cute, but not so cute it would cause my teenage boys to gag. :)

When I first started out sewing the thrift store napkins I was having trouble with the corners. Even though I clipped the fabric, the corners were still thick and one end of the hem would hang out. Then I noticed that the red napkins had different corners and quickly figured a way to do something similar. Here is what I came up with.
sewing cloth napkin corners step 1
First, cut a triangular piece off each corner.

sewing cloth napkin corners step 2

Then fold the cut corner over and press. I don't have exact measurements for this so you have to do it by trial and error, but I quickly figured out about how much to cut and how much to fold.

sewing cloth napkin corners step 3

I then ironed the first fold of the hem, and finally the second fold.

sewing cloth napkin corners step 4

When you iron the second fold, the corner should line up nicely. If you don't have enough room and the two sides are overlapping, redo that first fold where you brought the corner in. Make the fold a little deeper, but not much. If you find you have too much space, make that fold a little more shallow. This is the part you will get the hang of, or maybe you will figure out exact measurements!

You can buy paper napkins pretty cheaply, and it does cost money to make and wash the napkins, but I still think there is some savings in the long run. According to Melissa Breyer, it is definitely greener to use cloth napkins. Here is a post from Frugal Upstate about using cloth vs. paper. I like the idea of using a different napkin ring for each member of the family so that napkins can be saved and reused if they're not too dirty. One of my kids likes using clay. I think I'll have to talk him into making some napkin rings.

As for those dirty napkins, I recently bought a wicker hamper set that included a waste basked and a couple of fabric lined baskets. The waste basket now sits in a corner of the kitchen and we toss the dirty napkins into it. The lined baskets are used to hold the clean napkins.


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September 18, 2008


Gluten-Free Brownies Recipe

gluten-free browniesUpdate: I have changed this recipe slightly to produce a sturdier but still delicious brownie. See The Better Gluten-Free Brownie.

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and rice flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. A wooden spoon or sturdy silicone spatula works well for this.

Stir over low heat until melted:

¾ cup butter
½ cup cocoa (powder)

Remove from heat and add:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar

Add, beating with spoon:

4 eggs – one at a time
2 tsp. Vanilla

Combine in a separate bowl, then add to saucepan:

¾ cup Sorghum flour (or rice flour)
¼ cup sweet rice flour
1/3 cup corn starch (or tapioca)
½ tsp. Baking powder
¼ tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Xanthan gum
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pour into pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes.
Next time I'm going to try adding some chocolate chips!

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September 17, 2008


Yo-yo for Dinner

Some nights when the kids ask me what’s for dinner, the answer is yo-yo. Yo-yo is short for you're on your own. My kids love yo-yo nights. It’s fun for them to choose what they will eat. I usually have on hand some of the following to choose from: leftovers, frozen items they could heat in the microwave, eggs, fruit, and fresh veggies. Any other food is also up for grabs. They know there are general guidelines such as not having dessert for dinner. The kids often get creative with their food. They can fix something weird because only they are going to eat it. Sometimes one of them will fix something that looks so good everyone else wants it too.

Yo-yo is obviously easier if your kids are old enough to fix their own dinner, but you could always have older kids help the younger ones, or ask dad to take care of this one. My husband is the only one who isn’t thrilled with yo-yo. He is not a cook at all and would rather have me fix a meal for him. So usually I’ll fix enough of what I’m having for him to have also. Or one of the kids fixes something for him. Otherwise it’s a win-win situation. I get a night off and the kids have a great time.

Yo-yo is something you can do as often or as little as you like. You can save it for occasional treats, or do it on a weekly basis. But if you’re not doing yo-yo at all, I definitely recommend giving it a try.

For more great ideas visit Rocks in My Dryer's Works for Me Wednesday.


September 16, 2008


Meatloaf Tips & Tricks

I consider meatloaf to be one of my quick and easy meals. Here's how.
  1. I use only ground beef. I almost always have some in the freezer, laid out thin and flat in a zip lock freezer bag so that it thaws quickly.
  2. I keep a box of instant mashed potatoes on hand just for meatloaf. I use it in place of breadcrumbs.
  3. I mix the meatloaf in my KitchenAid mixer. Probably any heavy-duty mixer with a paddle would work just as well.
  4. I put the meatloaf in a 8" x 8" baking dish so it only needs to bake for 45 minutes. If you need it done even more quickly, put the meatloaf in a muffin tin and bake for 35 minutes. I used to do this often, and we called them meat muffins. I now stick to the square dish because clean up is easier.
  5. Many times I will make two batches and freeze one before it is cooked.
For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes-Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

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September 15, 2008


Listening to Dr. Fasano

Because I live in the Washington, DC area, which is not far from where Dr. Alessio Fasano works in Baltimore, I have had the privilege of hearing him speak several times. It is always worthwhile. Yesterday afternoon I heard him speak at a Baltimore support group meeting. I took notes thinking that I would summarize what he said, but now I’m finding that hard to do. I will instead give you links to a few places where you can find information for yourself.

Dr. Fasano is the director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. For general information about celiac disease check their FAQ page. The link is on the left side. Dr. Fasano talked about other aspects of the center that you can also access from those links such as their mission and accomplishments.

Also on the left, but above those links is a red box. Take a look under research. I’ve been aware of the zonulin research and actually took part in a trial in 2006, but if you’re not aware of it take a look. What I hadn’t heard about was the infant nutrition and risk of celiac disease research. So far they have found that introducing gluten at 12 months of age versus 6 months does at least delay the onset of celiac disease.

If you go to the Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation web site you will also find some useful information. This page contains a gluten free diet guide that you can download. If you click on the medical professionals link on the left side, you can access some of the slides that Dr. Fasano used as he spoke.

Finally take a look at the American Celiac Disease Alliance web site. They have interesting and useful information.


September 12, 2008


Make Your Own Foaming Hand Soap

We go through a lot of hand soap in this house. I'm glad. It means we're washing off dirt and germs. Sometimes my boys don't wash their hands as well as they should (I know this when I see dirt on the towel), but at least they are in the habit of washing.

Here's what I do to make hand washing easy and economical. I bought foaming hand soap for each bathroom and the laundry room. When it was gone, I refilled the bottles using 2 tablespoons of liquid dish soap and water, being sure to leave some room at the top of the bottle for inserting the pump. I then tilt it back and forth a few times to mix it up.

The soap lasts quite a while and we don't have trouble with it drying our skin any more than other soaps. I have learned to eyeball it and don't measure the soap anymore, but if you add too much soap, it can cause the pump to not work well. I have also used the larger bottles that have the foaming dish soap in them. They are not as attractive, though.

For more frugal tips visit Frugal Fridays

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Sorghum Bread Recipe

loaf of sliced gluten-free sorghum bread
I'm working on coming up with a bread recipe that I can make from scratch, that looks good, tastes good, is healthy, and stays soft. This comes pretty close. It is not a very tall loaf and wasn't very rounded on top. It's more of a hearty type bread. I saved a piece to in a baggie to keep on the counter overnight and found that it was still soft the next day.

Sorghum Bread

1 1/2 c. sorghum flour
1 c. tapioca starch
1/2 c. brown sweet rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. guar gum
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tb. sugar
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast

3 eggs (room temperature, lightly beaten)
1/4 c. oil
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar
3/4 - 1 c. milk (105 - 115 degrees)

I made this in the bread machine, but you could adapt it to make it by hand.

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Put the wet ingredients into the bread pan, then add the dry ingredients on top. Set your maching to the gluten-free setting.

a loaf of gluten-free sorghum bread
I customized my gluten-free setting to the following times.

  • Knead 15 min.
  • Rise 30 min.
  • Bake 55 min.

View Printable Recipe


September 11, 2008


Crustless Quiche Recipe

When it comes to quiche, one way to get around the gluten issue is to simply eliminate the crust. That's easy enough! Here is a simple recipe that you can use for any meal. My family likes it plain, but you could easily add some herbs to this.

Crustless Quiche

gluten-free crustless quiche
1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. milk
4 eggs
2 Tb. cornstarch
salt & pepper
3 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Brown the meat and cook the onion in a skillet. Drain any fat. Using a whisk, combine the mayonnaise, milk, eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pepper (to taste) in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, beef and onions. Pour into two greased pie plates. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

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September 10, 2008


Sorghum Flour Bundt Cake

gluten-free sorghum flour bundt cake
I tried out my new sorghum flour, and I'm happy to report I had great results. I made a bundt cake the other night that had wonderful texture. I adapted the recipe from Carol Fenster's Gluten-Free Quick & Easy.

Gluten-Free Bundt Cake Recipe

3/4 c. sorghum flour
3/4 c. potato starch
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. butter or oil
2 large eggs
1 Tb. lemon zest or lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk (I used kefir. You could also try milk with 1 tsp. vinegar)

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Beat the butter, add the eggs and lemon zest (I used extract) and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour batter into a sprayed or greased bundt pan. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack. I added a simple glaze of powdered sugar and milk.

I wasn't able to get a good picture of an individual slice. I wanted to show you the texture, but you'll have to take my word for it. It was very soft. The sorghum gave it a tan color which made my husband think it was a spice cake. It would work well for that too, if you added some spices and left out the lemon.

If you haven't already guessed, the cake was gone in no time!

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Trimming Dog Nails

Trimming the nails of our first dog, Shylo, used to be a huge ordeal, and therefore it didn't get done very often. I had heard of grinding their nails, but it wasn't until after Shylo had died and we got our collie, Ellie, that I actually gave it a try. I didn't try it sooner because the grinders seemed awfully expensive compared to clippers, I didn't know anyone who actually used one, and I couldn't find one in a local store where I would be able to easily return it if it didn't work out. Then I found a new vet who told me that she uses a Dremmel. Dremmel is the brand name for a tool that you can find at any home improvement store. I'm sure there are other brands also. The grinders made for dogs are basically the same thing with a limited capability. There are many attachments which can be bought for a Dremmel making it a useful tool for detail work.

When using it on the dogs' nails I use a coarse sandpaper attachment which simply files down the nail. The dog doesn't feel any pressure like it does with clippers. You are also much less likely to cut the quick. I never have, but I have heard that if you do, it is not as bad as it usually is with clippers. The motor of the Dremmel is a little noisy, but my dogs don't seem to mind. It does cause some vibration when you do theme trimming my dog's nails with a Dremmelir nails, but this feeling is not painful. As you can see in the picture, my Dremmel has an attachment which gives me a smaller tool to have to hold. It also distances the dog from the noise a bit. This attachment really isn't necessary. I'm not sure, but the grinders sold specifically for dogs might be a bit smaller than the Dremmel. An Internet search will bring up places where you can order them and probably helpful information.

I have used this method on three dogs. Ellie was started out on clippers. She really didn't like having her nails done, and being a 50 pound dog, it wasn't easy doing them. After I got the Dremmel, she very quickly learned that it was much better than clippers. Although she wasn't completely cooperative, it became an easier and doable task. Of the two dogs we have now, Esca has always been good about it. Sometimes he pulls his paw out of my hand, but he doesn't try to move away. He is the one in the picture. Emma is a a Dremmel with an extensiondifferent story. From the very beginning, she was completely terrified of me doing anything with her nails, even just holding her pay firmly caused her to flip out. It didn't matter whether I had the Dremmel or the clippers, or anything at all. I took it very slowly with her and would only do a little bit and work on it very frequently. My vet recommended using a Bach flower remedy and that seemed to help. At nine months old she now submits to having it done, though she would rather not.

I wish now that I had gotten a Dremmel to use on Shylo. I'm sure it would have made nail trimming much easier for both of us. If your dog does just fine with clippers, then there is probably no reason to change. If not, checking in to griding your dogs nails could make a big difference for both of you.

For more great ideas visit Rocks in My Dryer's Works for Me Wednesday.


September 9, 2008


Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I was also suffering from a corn allergy. Because of that allergy, I learned that vanilla extract has corn syrup in it (at least the ones I found in the store). That information led me to learn how to make my own vanilla extract. I never went back to store bought vanilla.

There are quite a few different recipes out there for making vanilla extract. For the quantity I am making, some recipes call for six vanilla beans, others call for three. I use four.

To get started you need a pint of vodka, brandy or rum. I have always used rum, but in searching again recently for recipes I have read that vodka is the best. You also need some vanilla beans. You might find some at a health food store, but you will likely find better prices online. I ordered through Amazon and bought a pack of 16 beans for $14.95 with free shipping.

If you've never seen a vanilla bean, the picture above shows several. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see that the one under the knife has been slit open. This is done to all the beans. They should be slit lengthwise, but not cut all the way through. And that is almost all there is to it. Slit four beans, put them in a pint of vodka, brandy or rum, and close the lid. Now you need to give it time and some shaking. For the first week, shake the bottle a few times a day. Gradually decrease shaking time over the next month. You will be able to see the extract turning darker. It should sit at least a couple of months before using it. Three months is probably better. I leave the beans in the jar until it is empty. You can top off the bottle with fresh liquor occasionally to keep it going, but I have not actually tried this. What I usually do is every time I start using a new bottle of vanilla, I start making another one. Sometimes I use two beans from the old bottle with two new beans. Like I said, I have read a variety of methods for making vanilla, so you can play around with it and decide what you like best.

The picture on the right shows the bottle I am currently using and a bottle I just started. I'm starting four bottles today. One is for me and the rest will be for Christmas gifts. I will probably look for some nice looking bottles to put the extract in before giving it as a gift. I will also probably divide the pints but keep at least one bean in each bottle to continue giving it flavor.

Making your own vanilla extract is certainly cheaper than buying any brand name extracts. I spent total of $10.75 per 16 ounces on the bottles I just made. I did see a store brand today that was pure extract that would cost less than making your own, but I don't know how the quality is. I do know that it was in a plastic bottle, and I prefer glass. Many people say that making your own gives you much better quality. Depending on how strong it is, you may be able to use less than the amount of vanilla called for in recipes. Personally, I have gotten in the habit of doing it, and I really like it, so I will continue to make my own.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes-Kitchen Tip Tuesday.

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September 8, 2008



Sometimes I like changes.


Almost every time I get my hair cut, I want something done a little differently. I keep it short, but there are lots of ways you can do short.


National Geographic has great pictures for your desktop wallpaper and screen saver. I bookmarked the page and change the wallpaper quite frequently.


I had fun experimenting with my blog this weekend. I learned a lot. Don't be surprised in the future if it looks different again. Sometimes I like changes. I also like comments. Let me know if you like or dislike any of my changes.

September 7, 2008


Milling Whole Grain Sorghum

After writing the post about milling your own gluten-free flour, I decided that I really should try buying and milling whole grain sorghum. I bought this sorghum from Twin Valley Mills. They only sell 30 pounds, but you can buy smaller quantities of flour. I paid about $15 for the sorghum and $25 for shipping! You couldn't get 30 pounds of sorghum flour for $40 though.

In the picture on the right you see two bowls of flour. The one on the left is Bob's Red Mill sorghum flour and the one on the right is the flour I milled. I couldn't tell any difference by looking at it. When I rubbed the flour between my fingers, mine was slightly courser. I did not have the mill set to the finest setting so I will adjust that next time. I let you know how it does with baking.

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September 5, 2008


Freecycle Fun

What is Freecycle?

"It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills."

Basically, you join a yahoo freecycle group in your area. When you have something to give away you post an OFFER message. People then email you directly to make arrangements for pick up. Most of the time the item/items are placed on a porch or somewhere similar so people can swing by and pick it up. When it's gone a TAKEN message is posted. Of course, you also get to view the offers. You can do this by individual emails, daily digests, or web only.

I first joined my local freecycle group because I had something to give away. I think is was a piece of furniture that couldn't be easily donated elsewhere. I have given more than I've gotten, but that's fine with me. I only look at offers on the web occasionally. A few times I have happened to look at the right time. Some of the things I have gotten include, pictures that are now hanging on my walls, an Ethan Allen swivel rocker that is stained but works fine in our family room with a blanket on it, a rice cooker, and a cast iron pot.

Everything is always free.

Go to to find a group near you. I bet you'll end up with some great stuff. If you're already part of a freecycle group, leave a comment and let us know what things you have gotten for free.

For more money saving ideas check out Frugal Fridays.


September 4, 2008


Chocolate Cake and Silicone Bakeware

I tried out the silicone bakeware that I recently bought, and I'm very pleased. I made a chocolate cake recipe that I know works well and put half the batter into the cake pan and half into cupcake holders. They both turned out well. I didn't spray the containers and afterward read that you should. A little bit stuck to the silicone, but the cake came out easily.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Recipea piece of gluten-free chocolate cake

2 c. gluten-free flour mix (I used Bette's)
2/3 c. cocoa powder
2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tb. cinnamon

1 2/3 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. almond extract
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. hot water (maybe slightly less)

Combine the first six ingredients in a medium sized bowl. In your mixer bowl combine sugar, eggs and extracts. Beat several minutes until light.

On low speed beat in the mayonnaise. Alternate adding the flour mix and water, starting and ending with the flour. Hold back about 2 Tb. of water. You might have to see what works best for you. I find that if I add the whole cup the cake ends up a little sad (but still tasty). This batter is thick and fluffy.

Spread into two round cake pans or one 9 x 13 inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

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Telling Your Story

If you are newly diagnosed with celiac disease, or maybe something else, I hope that you will read at least the first paragraph of my story. Before I wrote this, I was brought to tears many times while reading about celiac disease, or sitting in a support group meeting listening to information about it. I didn't cry because I was upset that I had the disease. I wasn't really sure why I was crying, but I do know that writing out my story was the solution. I didn't cry again, and I haven't actually shown this to anyone until now. You don't need to read my story, but it's likely that you do need to tell yours. Maybe writing it out will be enough for you, or maybe you need to find someone who will listen to all of it. I'd be happy to read your story if you would like to email it to me.

My Celiac Story (as written in 2001)

In her book Against the Grain, Jax Peters Lowell says, “You must tell your story, as I have told you mine, over and over again until you no longer need to tell it. Unfortunately, that may take a little longer than the time allotted to you by others.”

I know I still have a need to tell my story because I have been telling it in my dreams. Out of a desire to not bore people or sound self-absorbed, I don’t tell my story, or I abbreviate it. But in my dreams I tell all the details. It doesn’t matter who I’m telling it to, I’m just telling it to whoever happens to be in my dream. Today my hope is that writing out my story in detail will be more satisfying. I don’t care if anyone reads it, though I hope that some day my children might be interested in it.

September 30, 1999:

My dear mother in law died in the early morning hours of a cancer called soft tissue sarcoma. It was a difficult, ugly battle.

My cousin’s wife, died in the early morning hours of lung cancer. She left a husband and two daughters around the ages of 11 and 15. I was not close to her, but such an early death is always a sad thing.

Both deaths were expected, but that does not make them any less sad. What I did not expect was that they would die within hours of each other and that I would have to deal with the blow of the news back to back. I believe that the grief and emotional stress of that day was the trigger for my celiac disease.

October 1999 – June 2000:

Sometime in October I committed myself to more regular exercise and eating less sugar (in part because I was lacking energy). So, it didn’t surprise me too much when I quickly lost five pounds. My weight stayed the same until about January. Then during the next six months I gradually lost about another 4 pounds.

July 2000:

Early in the month we went to a church conference. It was held on a college campus and we ate in the cafeteria, which is always a challenge in self-control. There were way too many food choices. I was determined not to overeat, but still ate more than I usually would. Sometime in the week following that conference I distinctly remember getting on the scale and seeing that I had dropped another pound. Immediately I knew something was wrong. My weight had not been this low since I got married. I was 35 years old, had three kids, and although I had continued to exercise regularly, I was only exercising moderately. I realized that the weight loss I had been enjoying was a cause for concern. Soon after that I realized I was losing half a pound a week no matter what I ate or whether I exercised or not. I made an appointment with my doctor.

At this point I began giving thought to what else was going on with my body. I realized that in the past six months I had frequently been running a low fever. I was thirsty all the time and never left the house without taking water with me. I began searching for answers while waiting to see the doctor. I became convinced that I was diabetic. I had had trouble with blood sugar during one and probably two pregnancies. It would explain the weight loss and the thirst. My doctor agreed except that I had no sugar in my urine and it was dilute, not concentrated. He had two blood tests done--one the day I saw him and, and a second a few days later--a fasting blood test which is considered the standard for diagnosis. Both came out normal. He also had blood tests done to check thyroid function and a few other things. They all came out normal. I was relieved, but knew that something was still wrong. The doctor wanted to wait another month and see what happened. He said to keep exercising.

August 2000

I was not satisfied with my doctor’s response and had my primary care physician changed to an internist who was recommended by a friend. I couldn’t get an appointment until late in August. Several days before my appointment, I became very weak. It was hard for me to stand for very long. The day of my appointment my mind seemed very fuzzy and I didn’t feel I should drive. Steve took me to the doctor who listened, took notes, and agreed that something was wrong. He thought it was most likely a digestive problem such as colitis. This surprised me, because I had not noticed anything to make me think it was digestive. I was sure it had to do with the endocrine system. At that point I mentioned one symptom which I had so far overlooked. For some months I had been having trouble with constipation. A problem which I seldom had before.
The doctor said that colitis would involve unpleasant and invasive tests. He wanted to do less invasive tests first to rule out other possibilities. That day I had more blood work done, repeating what the first doctor had done plus more. A few days later I had chest, abdomen, and pelvic CT scans done. I then had a small bowel x-ray which caused me intense pain for hours afterwards as my digestive system tried to pass through it the stuff I had to drink.

The doctor was not available that week for a follow-up visit so I saw another doctor who was new to the practice and just out of medical school. He reviewed the results of all the tests which showed nothing of concern except slight anemia. I was still feeling very weak and was becoming desperate for answers. This young doctor angered me to the point of tears. He dismissed my symptoms and suggested it was due to depression. I requested the referral that the other doctor specifically wrote him directions to give me if nothing else showed up. He indicated that the referral was unnecessary since my symptoms were not that of colitis, but if I "wanted to have a tube stuck up my butt," he’d give it to me. I had to wait at least a couple of weeks to get that referral.

Around this time I told my parents what was going on. I had not wanted to cause them worry, but they were coming for a visit and would see how weak I was. When I spoke to my mom, she told me that her brother had celiac disease. I had never heard of it before and dismissed the idea quickly when the descriptions of the disease in my medical books did not sound like what I had.

September 2000

I continued to search for answers and using the Internet I looked into colitis and Crohn’s disease. My constipation simply did not fit. Everything I read and people I talked to indicated there would be diarrhea. Finally I returned to celiac disease (CD). What I found on the Internet was different than what my medical books said. In more than one place I came across the symptom diarrhea (most common) OR constipation. Many other symptoms fit and, learning that it was an inherited disease, I began to become convinced that I had CD.

It was early September when I began to eat a gluten-free diet. It wasn’t completely gluten-free because I had yet to learn about all the foods and additives that contain gluten, but the amount of gluten entering my body was certainly greatly reduced. This was just in time for our beach vacation the week of September 10. Some days I had to stay in and rest because of elevated temperature and being too weak to walk through the sand to the water’s edge. I was very grateful for our ocean front condo which enabled me to watch Steve and the boys from our bedroom. But other days I was able to join the family on the beach or in other activities. Within a week of eating gluten free, I was regaining some strength and stopped losing weight.

On September 21 I saw a gastroenterologist. He was compassionate and concerned. He did not think my symptoms indicated CD, but was more than willing to have a simple blood test done to check for gluten antibodies. After examining me he decided to wait for the results of the test. It came back positive. It was the first thing to give me an answer and confirmation of my strong suspicion. I talked to the doctor on the phone and he said that there was very little besides CD that would cause a positive result on that test. But he still felt that my symptoms, particularly the low fevers, did not go along with that diagnosis. He wanted to send me to a Dr. at John’s Hopkins. I requested to go ahead and have a small bowel biopsy done because I felt strongly that it was CD. When he learned that my insurance would not cover seeing the other doctor, he agreed. Because I had been gluten free for almost a month, he instructed me to return to a normal diet and the biopsy would be done in two weeks.

October 2000

I saw those two weeks as an opportunity to eat all the gluten filled foods that I loved most. I ate lunch with Steve at 3 Brothers and had my favorite spinach calzone. I ate Auntie Ann’s pretzels at the farmer’s market with my kids, and many other foods. The enjoyment was greatly lessened, though, by the increasing pain in my stomach. The last few days before my biopsy I had an almost constant burning, gnawing pain. I remember lying in bed trying to fall asleep just wanting the days to pass so I could stop eating gluten.

On October 18 I had a small bowel biopsy done at a local hospital. When the procedure was done, the doctor said he did see evidence of CD. He gave me pictures of the inside of my intestines and showed me where the duodenum and jejunum were abnormal. He fully expected that the biopsies, which had to go to a lab to be examined, would return a diagnosis of CD. The following week on the phone, he said to me, “You diagnosed yourself. I should return your money.” The biopsies indicated clearly that there was villous atrophy and I indeed had celiac disease.


September 3, 2008


Blog Help

I'm very new to blogging, and while I'm having a great time, I know I have lots of growing to do. I would like to know how I can improve my blog and how I can find people who would benefit from my blog (or help them find me). If you're a blogger, what do you do? Whether you are a blogger or not, what do you like and/or dislike about my blog? ANY input will be greatly appreciated. You can post your thoughts as a comment or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you!

Today rocks in my dryer - works for me wednesday is hosting a backwards edition. Click on the link to help others answer their questions.

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