Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gluten Free Chocolate Sheet Cake



Today is my birthday.  I can't believe I am sitting here as a 46 year old woman.

I remember thinking as a teenager that 46 was old, and yet here I am.  I don't think of myself as old or ancient (my teenagers like that word).  Although I also never saw myself at this age having a baby--LOL  Maybe that is the secret to staying young--more kids.

46 years has taught me a few things.  They are:

1.  Don't give up.


2.  Love.

3.  Smile.

4.  Be yourself.

5.  Value others.

6.  Apologize often.

7.  Time does heal most things.

8.   Accept others for who they are.

9.   Do what you love for work.

10.  Laugh often.

This list is not complete by any means but I would say these ten items are what I focus on the most.  It has been a great ride and I look forward to the next 46 years.

But this post is about the cake that I made for my husbands 47th birthday last year.  He loves a good chocolate sheet cake and so I have ventured out and made a gluten free version.   I used a family recipe that I had on file.  I am pretty sure it is the same chocolate sheet cake that every grandma and great grandma has handwritten in some shoe box stored in the pantry.

It is by far our favorite cake that I make.




A good birthday is not complete until we have attacked his office with a ton of streamers, balloons and confetti.  Oh, the fun this brings the kids.

Oh, who am I kidding--I do it for me.  I love a good party filled with messy rooms.

 Don't believe me?  Ask my kids.

They are still finding confetti from every holiday we have had for the past three years.



Gluten Free Chocolate Sheet Cake

Cake:

1 cup fine white rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca flour (tapioca starch is the same thing)
1/3 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 cups of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of unsalted butter
4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
1 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

*To make the cake with regular flour, omit the first 4 ingredients and substitute with 2 cups of all purpose flour.




Icing:

1 3/4 sticks of butter
6 tablespoons milk
4 heaping tablespoons of cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb bag or box of powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)



1.  Preheat oven to 350. Spray pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine in a mixing bowl the three flours, xanthan gum, sugar and salt. Set aside.

3. In a medium size saucepan, over medium high heat, melt butter and cocoa. Stir together. Add 1 cup boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds. Turn off heat. 

4. In a medium bowl, add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Whisk together. 5. Add dry ingredients (step 2) to warm cocoa mixture (step 3). Blend well. Add buttermilk mixture (step 4). Stir to combine ingredients.

6. Pour into 9X13 sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. While cake is baking, make the icing:

1. Melt 1 3/4 sticks butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, stir to combine. Turn off heat.

2. Add milk and vanilla. Stir well.  

3. Add powdered sugar. Stir together. 

4. Pour over warm cake and smooth out.

Serve warm. Cover leftover cake with plastic wrap.
Written by Sherron Watson







Monday, April 7, 2014

Boneless Leg of Lamb




Lamb or ham?  That is the question at our house for Easter dinner.

I grew up eating lamb and ham for our Easter dinners until I was a teenager. The grown-ups always wanted the lamb but after a while my grandmother stopped making it because most of it would go to waste.  I kind of missed it because I really enjoyed the flavor of lamb.

I have been in a similar pattern with my own family.  They ask for it and then they don't eat it.  I would make both and watch as the lamb would go untouched but for a few slices on my plate.  When asked the family always says lamb and ham.

I think they said that because it rhymed and it has been our traditional dinner for years.

This year we are more than likely going to stick with just ham--again. 

BUT--I love lamb and decided that I would make something for our dinner this past month that I liked and enjoyed.  I bought a small boneless leg of lamb and watched as every slice disappeared from the table.  Not on one occasion but two.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED? That was strange.  The kids loved it.  That was the first time.

The second time was last week while my sister was visiting. 

I was greeted with, "oh, I don't like lamb" right before dinner was to go into the oven.

I proceeded to make the sauce to coat the lamb with and explained that I doubt she had ever tasted lamb like this.   She was willing to give it another try and she was pleasantly surprised that the flavor of the lamb was mild and the coating of herbs and sauce tasted delicious.

I served it with mint jelly and we had two slices left.  

I can't prove this but I have a feeling that the "leg" or the bone was throwing my family off.  I wonder if having the bone in the lamb made the flavor profile too strong for their young palettes?  I believe by removing the bone it helped with the look and possibly the flavor too.   Let me know if you have any experience with this thought.

I am pleasantly surprised that I have been able to add a new meat to our menu.  I get kind of tired of beef and chicken to be honest.

ENJOY!




Boneless Leg of Lamb

5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lemon, juice only
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt, add more to taste
fresh ground pepper
3-4 pound boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied
Mint jelly--optional

**extra oven twine to retie lamb if you wish to unroll meat and add sauce to the inside and reroll.

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Prepare sauce by combining the first 7 ingredients in a bowl.

3.  I chose to cut and untie my roast.  I smeared the sauce all of the inside of the lamb and re-rolled the roast with new oven twine.  Place the roast in a baking dish and add the remaining sauce to the outside. See picture above.

4.  Roast in oven for 60-70 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer.  This will help you to get the exact doneness of your lamb.  We like ours to be pink on the inside, 135 degrees is preferred for us.

5.  Let roast rest for 15 minutes then slice the roast to 1/4 inch thickness and return to roasting pan.  All of the juices and marinade will cook together. The two together make a wonderful sauce that the slices will be coated in when you return the slices to the roasting dish.

6.  Serve with mint jelly.

Written by Sherron Watson









Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homemade Hummus




Hummus is something we always have in our refrigerator. My teenagers love it.

I have played around with a variety of flavor profiles but they always come back to the plain version. I think they enjoy the simple flavors of this tasty dip.

Carrots seem to be the dipping stick of choice in our home but certainly try your favorite veggie or cracker too.

Enjoy!



Homemade Hummus
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes

1 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup tahini paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 lemon, juice only
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup beef broth
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

1.  Using a high powered blender or food processor add beans, tahini paste, garlic, broth, lemon juice and all of the spices.

2.  Pulse or blend until thick and creamy.

3.  Slowly add olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.

4.  Season according to your flavor profile: more salt, more tahini, etc...

5.  Serve with pita chips or prepared vegetables.

As an added topping you can sprinkle toasted pine nuts, drizzle the top with olive oil, sprinkle with your favorite herb, etc... or just eat it plain with your favorite cracker or veggie.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, March 24, 2014

Enchilada Dip



My kids ask for enchiladas about once a week.  They love the combination of corn tortillas and cheese layered with lots of red sauce.

I have seen versions of this dip around and decided that it may be a bit easier than making a couple of trays of enchiladas--especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  On those two days I am usually running kids from 4:30 until 8:00.  I try to make meals in the morning so that those that are home can reheat and eat at their convenience.  I miss eating together but busy families do what we have to do to get everyone fed and out the door.

I was correct.  It was much faster to whip this up.  I served the dip with corn tortilla chips.

I found that I could portion up the leftovers in small containers. This made for a great snack after school.



Beef Enchilada Dip with Green Chilies and Black Beans

1 pound of ground beef
1/2 medium onion, diced small
2 gloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of enchilada sauce (I make my own sauce--follow link)
2 cups of cheese, grated  (I used jack and mozzarella--but you can use any cheese you love)
1 small can (4.5 oz) diced green chilies
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 bag of tortilla chips

toppings:

diced tomatoes (optional)
avocado chunks (optional)
green onion (optional)
black olives (optional)
sour cream (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large frying pan, cook meat and onions together until the meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic, cook another 3-5 minutes and remove from heat.  Drain any fat from the meat.

3.  Add black beans, chilies and 1 cup of cheese to meat mixture.  Combine well.  Transfer mixture to a baking dish.  I am using a round stone dish that makes the dip about 1 inch thick.

4.  Pour the enchilada sauce over the meat/cheese mixture.  The recipe says 2 cups but you can always use less if you prefer your dip not so runny.

5.  Top with remaining one cup of cheese  (add more if you want more)  I like lots of cheese so we usually add a bit more.  I also use what I have in the fridge.  This is a great way to use up small pieces of cheese.

6.  Heat in oven until cheese is melted.  In my oven this takes about 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve.

7.  While the cheese is melting, prepare your toppings.

Written by Sherron Watson











Friday, March 21, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Tears of Joy (Rosacea Diagnosis)

Finnley and I on a walk.  When ever my picture is taken my nose is bright red.  I always try to edit this in photoshop but it is hard to do with every picture.

Yesterday I sat in the office of Dr. Ellen, who is my dermatologist, and cried.

At first I was stunned with her diagnosis, followed by anger and then joy. This is when the tears slowly started to fall.  One by one I wiped them away a bit embarrassed.  I kept apologizing for being in such an emotional state.  She was kind and gentle and probably had no idea why I would react to being told I had rosacea.

Truly the tears that were falling were indeed tears of joy.

I have been on a journey the last four years that has left me confused, frustrated, searching for answers, crying, angry, and at times, even embarrassed to leave my house.  Embarrassed to take my daughter to her gymnastics class for fear of what others would think of my red face, blistering cheeks and my chin throbbing with little red veins.  My face literally hurting and swollen and there wasn't any amount of makeup that could cover up what I was experiencing on a bad day.

To give you a bit of back story--

In April of 2011 I became very ill.  I learned that I had a lump in my breast that needed to be addressed along with being told I had Celiac Disease.  The months leading up to April I spent researching and trying to find out what was wrong and why I was slowly going downhill with my health.   Of noted concern was the redness, swelling, veins and blotchiness on my face.  I was convinced at that time I was suffering from Rosacea and visited a dermatologist in Park City, UT.

This doctor spent less than 3 minutes in the room with me and said I was suffering from sun damage.

He left.  The end.

That was four years ago.

Isabella and I.  Another way I would try to cover up the red is by applying fun filters to the images.  It usually washes my face out enough that the red is not visible.

Now do you see why I was a bit angry yesterday?  For four years I have been under the impression that all of my symptoms with my face were directly related to the Celiac diagnosis of which I am starting to have my doubts about too.   The reason I am doubting this is because some of the same triggers for rosacea (food intolerances) are the same with celiac.  Over the last 3 months I have been doing my own evaluations at home with certain types of food.  I have been listening to my body and noting the reactions and non reactions.  This has included eating wheat.

My family knows immediately when I start to react to anything I eat--my face turns bright red.  I have set off a trigger that is causing my skin to become inflamed.  Triggers are associated with Rosacea.   The amazing thing is that there were times when I ate something with wheat and never reacted--nothing!  Yet, other times my face would sting and small nodules would erupt on my cheeks instantly.

When I was pregnant with Finnley I often found myself starving.  Salads just weren't cutting it and so I started eating a sandwich here, some homemade pasta once in a while, and occasionally a slice of pizza.

 I felt so guilty doing this.  I felt like a hypocrite.  How could I write a blog filled with gluten free recipes and eat wheat (gluten)?

Drake and I on my birthday last year.  The flash caught the red again on my nose and chin.  I wear makeup that covers the red most of the time but it is not a great protection from camera flash.

So I made a decision.

I would eat wheat on rare occasions, keep a record and go and get tested again.  Something was not adding up.  The doctor that did the original blood work called me the day after my test in April of 2011, told me his diagnosis and we never talked again.  Everything that I have learned along the way I have learned through blogs, books, and friends.   I did seek the counsel of a gastroenterologist.  At the time I was gluten free for four months and feeling really good.  He mentioned that in order for the endoscopy to be performed that I would need to start eating wheat again.  His recommendation was that I just stop eating wheat because if it was working for me then there was no need to do any further testing.

Was I naive?  Yes.  I was overwhelmed with the initial diagnosis.  I was seeking for any type of explanation as to why I was not feeling well.  I was willing to listen to his advice.  What I should have done was seek out a second opinion.  I should have asked more questions.


While pregnant with Finnley I had outbreaks with my face.  I could go a few weeks with perfectly clear skin and then wake up with a reaction.  Some reactions were mild but others were quite obvious. What was the most confusing was during most of this time I was gluten free but still having the reactions with my face.  I never had the bowel problems or stomach bloating that is common with a Celiac diagnosis.

I became determined to figure out what was going on, again.  I had to listen to that small voice that kept having doubts.

I don't mind living a gluten free lifestyle but if I don't have to follow such strict guidelines, then I don't want to.  That is the honest truth.  My kids have been patient with me and they eat what I make but it is not always met with glee.   In fact they miss their favorite foods.

Rye and I.   Again my red chin is very visible but I did manage to edit the rest of my complexion so that I was not bright red through my cheeks and nose.  I use a smoothing brush (like magazines use).
In order for me to be reevaluated for Celiac Disease I need to be eating wheat.  It must be in your system so that the blood test can detect the necessary levels.  I am not a doctor and don't want to get too technical here so I am talking in very simple terms.

What did I learn?  First, that I didn't react when I ate wheat, specifically sourdough bread.  Not all sourdough breads are created equal and so I had to find the brand that worked for me.  Even more specifically I have been using Organic Sprouted Wheat, Jovial Wheat (Italian company) and Spelt (an alternative to wheat). I have also been making everything at home from scratch.  I could eat a donut and not react.  A hamburger and not react.  A slice of pizza and REACT.

What was it about the pizza that caused a trigger?  Red sauce and bell peppers.  I am extremely intolerant of bell peppers and tomatoes.  Not the crust-but what I was adding to the pizza.

I made eggs and added ham, onion, mushrooms and bell pepper (I have done this for years) and reacted.  I immediately thought I was allergic to eggs--it was the bell peppers.

Same thing with bananas.  I react every time I eat a banana.   All three of these things are food triggers for rosacea.  Now what is interesting is that I was already shying away from these foods before I started focusing on these foods as possible problems in my diet.  I don't like red sauce on my pizza and would ask for a white sauce.  I decided to eat my scrambled eggs plain.  I quit snacking on bananas.

Thankfully this guy loves me no matter what color my nose and chin are.  He always finds the sweetest things to say when I am having some of my worst days with rosacea.

My affiliation with food is becoming rocky again.  I am frustrated. On the bright side, it is not all food related.  The triggers for rosacea have many faces.  For this reason, I will be paying more attention to my reactions.

Is the weather a factor?

Am I feeling stress and anxiety?

Did exercising cause a trigger?

Is the makeup I am using causing a reaction?

This journey has led me down many paths and here I am again, seeking and searching for answers.  I feel that I am getting closer to finding out what is going on and this diagnosis makes sense to me.  I started using the gel that Dr. Ellen has prescribed and I am noticing a huge difference already.  The pill that I take each day will keep it under control.

I have been using this sight to help answer the many questions that I have had about rosacea.  It is the National Society of Rosacea.

Do I have Celiac disease?  I don't know.  This is another honest answer.  My hope is that I can be retested in a few months and then make a decision about the future of the recipes on my blog.  I know that I will continue to post recipes that are gluten free naturally.  I believe there is a great benefit to limiting the amount of wheat in our diets and this will still be a focus for the blog but I may go back to posting a variety of recipes that represent both gluten free and regular dishes.

Please be patient with me as I try and figure a few things out.  I am sharing this because I know that I am not the only one who is feeling frustrated about their situation.  I don't believe I am the only one that has possibly been given the wrong diagnosis.  I know, from chatting with friends, that I am also not the only one frustrated at times with symptoms and reactions.

I went to the doctor yesterday for a mole.  I felt compelled to discuss the rest and I am so glad that I did.

By the way, the mole is fine.

Just a little mole-y!













Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Filet Mignon



  
Cooking together in the kitchen has always been a favorite past time for Cory and I. We have 26 years of marriage under our belts and have spent many hours fine tuning our skills with a knife, opening bottles of wine and reading recipes; all the while, laughing and sharing stories about our work week, kids and upcoming adventures.

Early in our dating and courting days (which were few-2 months to be exact), we decided that weekly date nights needed to be a priority in our relationship. We wanted a way to keep the love alive. Often our dates involved going out to eat, seeing a good movie, visiting the bookstore or enjoying coffee at our favorite local Café. As the years went by, and kids came along, it became a bit more challenging to have our weekly date nights but we managed. We hired baby sitters and swapped childcare with friends in a similar boat. It worked for us. The time that we have spent together each week has made a huge impact on our relationship.

This year we have set some new goals and one of them is that we want to eat more home-cooked meals. We don’t want to eat out as often as we have in the past for a variety of reasons. One reason being, with my food allergies, it has just become easier to dine in. We will still do our weekly date night but the dinner part will be enjoyed at home, feasting and cooking together.

Hands down our favorite meal is what I am sharing with you today. Steak and sautéed mushrooms have always been an easy dinner that the two of us can work on together in the kitchen.

A romantic dinner can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it. I think that there are times when a quiet romantic dinner is just as sweet as a more executed venture with more bells and whistles. I know, from personal experience, that my time with my sweetie is always appreciated, and vice versa, no matter what effort is put forth on either of our parts.

A dinner for two doesn’t just have to happen at home in the kitchen with a pretty table. Other ideas and suggestions would be a picnic, a BBQ at the beach, a wine tasting tour, going on a hike or spending time on the water. The list is endless of places that the two of you can spend time together eating, drinking and connecting through adventure and food.

Food in all of its many presentations, settings and preparations has always held a special place in my family.
  
         
I like my steak on the rare side--so that is what you see here.

Filet Mignon

2 Filet Mignon Steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder
Parsley Flakes (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a hot cast iron pan, heat oil on medium high heat.

3.  Brush olive oil on each side of steak and season with spices and parsley flakes.  Seasonings are not        measured so you can season to your liking.


4.  Sear each side of steak for 3 minutes.


5.  Turn oven off and put cast iron pan into the oven for 15-20 minutes.

6.  Steaks will be medium rare to medium depending on thickness.  To get exact temperature that is            desired, use a meat thermometer.

7.  Remove from oven and cover with a piece of foil and let rest for 8-10 minutes.



Friday, March 14, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Just Relax--I AM RELAXING!



As a couple that has gone through the experience of infertility we were often told, on numerous occasions, that our problem was a simple one--

we were over worked, over-stressed, filled with anxiety, trying too hard, I was too skinny

and

we desperately needed a vacation.

Okay, so maybe not one simple problem--it would appear we had a handful of issues.

Aside from the endometriosis, the doctors had no real reason why my body would not stay pregnant. To be more specific, why I could not carry a baby to term.  I had problems around the 8-10 week mark that usually ended up with miscarrying the baby.

I went through two laparoscopy surgeries to correct my endometriosis.  The doctors felt that the first one was a sure win and we would quickly get pregnant and have our first baby.  The second surgery came two years later for what was determined I had scaring that needed to be addressed. Again, more hopeful expectations of my impending expectancy.


I was instructed that a third time would put our "trying to have a baby" desire in jeopardy because my body would not fair well with a third surgery.

Not to get too personal, but we had a few other issues that we were addressing on top of the endometriosis.    Bless his heart, my husband had his own set of test that needed to happen and he never complained or missed an appointment.

I felt as if we were assembling a huge puzzle each week with our doctors visits.  We would arrive thinking we had our situation solved and for some reason we were always missing a piece here and there.

We were given hope and then the next week, our hope was dashed.  Infertility is a circus of emotions--laughing one minute and crying the next.

One thing was constant.  Our friends and family were always concerned for us and offered us support, shoulders to cry on and love.  There were times when it was difficult because a sibling would have a baby or announce they were expecting.  If we were present, I could feel the eyes move slowly to where we were standing.  I think everyone was not sure what to expect.  Would I fall apart?  That would come later when we went home not because I was sad or unhappy for them.  I was very happy for a new niece or nephew to come into our family.  I was sad for us.  That we were not the ones contributing to the expanding family unit.  It reminded us of what we thought we would never have.

I am sure it was awkward for them at times too.  Cory and I tried our best to not show any signs of sadness, only joy at their good news because it was great news!  We have the most amazing nieces and nephews.

Just relax was advice that we were given on all fronts--from friends and family.  Go on vacation would have been an awesome idea but we were spending all of our money on doctors and test.   Working was necessary to pay the bills.  The advice was good but not always practical for our situation.


Cory never wanted me to work because the plan was that we would start a family right away.  The idea of waiting to have a family never crossed our minds.  We both wanted kids our first year of marriage.

At first I felt fine staying at home but as the years went by I felt restless.  I had the choice to go back to school or go to work.   I needed something to keep my mind off of the "baby blues".  I was sad and blue.  I eventually went to work in a restaurant.

I thought, " this is a job that I knew well and it would allow me to quit --"if" the time should come".  I had a lot of fun working.  It helped to ease a bit of the anxiety and allowed me to transfer some of my immediate focus of starting a family to something fresh and new.

Looking back on our experience I now know that things worked out for us.  Duh!   Hind sight is a great teacher of faith.  I was often told to have more faith because it will happen.  How did they know?

 I was young back then, worried and full of doubt because of what we were experiencing at the time.  I do wish that we could have relaxed a bit more and enjoyed those youthful years of our marriage.  We should have traveled more but our tunnel vision of starting a family over came our lives.  I lost focus for a while.  It became a fierce battle of me against the unknown--and I so desperately wanted to win.


Adopting Rye was one of the greatest events in our life. We found out I was pregnant with Drake 14 months after the adoption.   We were so excited for Rye to have a sibling.  Cory and I both had siblings and we wanted Rye to have all of the experiences of being an older sister and having a best friend. 

The day that I announced I was pregnant with Drake was filled with great emotion by our friends and family.  We were so excited to add a new baby to our family.  The next day was rough.  I started having problems and my doctor told me that I would not carry this baby to full term.  Drake's heart beat was very faint.  Through the miracle of technology my doctor was able to do a vaginal ultra-sound and see a small baby barely moving.

My doctor was not convinced I would carry Drake to term.  He tried to prepare me for what would happen in the event my body would not carry the pregnancy.  I looked at the doctor and very boldly said, "Make the appointment because I will be back next week".

I immediately called family in tears.  Together we rallied and mustered up every person we could reach by phone to offer a prayer.  We were asking for a miracle.  We hoped that this pregnancy was meant to be--that our baby would remain nestled in my belly and that he would get stronger.



I went home and stayed in bed, rested and continued to do what I could to save our baby boy.

The following week, I went back and I got the okay that he was thriving and we were on our way to a healthy delivery.

Telling our friends that we were expecting was filled with tears and laughter.  Everyone was so excited for us.  In two years we had been blessed with two babies.

Cory and I snickered more than once when someone would say to us after we brought Drake home,

"see, you just needed to relax".

I am not sure how many people find having an active 1 year old running around your house relaxing--but okay.  We moved twice while I was pregnant and had a foreign exchange student living with us from Japan.  Cory worked 40+ hours at work and then attended school at night.  Relaxing was not high on my list of priorities given the life we were leading at that time.

We went with the flow and smiled.

We were too grateful to be snarky anymore about people's request for us to relax and loosen up.

I must have relaxed again 10 years later for Isabella; then again in 7 years for Finnley.

(insert a smile {because I am funny} LOL)

RELAX?

Some day I will relax on a beach with an umbrella drink;  but right now-- I am enjoying the liveliness of four busy kids, one working-from-home hubby, 3 cats, 5 fish and 4 newly hatched butterflies.


















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