Simple Gluten Free, Egg Free Brownie Cupcakes

Simple Gluten Free, Egg Free Brownie Cupcakes

I have been craving brownies for quite awhile.  I haven’t had a brownie in…. at least five years?  I honestly can’t remember, it might be longer.

I have looked up recipes for gluten-free brownies numerous times, but they usually contain eggs.  Searching for an uncomplicated gluten free, corn free, egg free brownie recipe can be a little frustrating.  Usually, my desire for brownies wears off as I dig through recipe after recipe with bizarre ingredients.

My goal for gluten free, egg free brownies was that they be simple, fast and contain ingredients I already had on hand (for more easy recipes click here).  I personally prefer a more solid brownie.  Cake like ones are good too, but I wanted something closer to a cookie, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Cat had also been wanting brownies, and even offered to make them.  I seized the opportunity and dived into a google search.  I looked for vegan recipes since they are more likely to have egg-free brownies.  I found a recipe that seemed to work for us and made a few modifications.  This time we stuck with regular sugar to see how the recipe turned out, but I think we’ll attempt using honey or maple syrup next time.

Although we are not vegan, this recipe can easily be converted to dairy free by using dairy-free substitutes for the butter.  Maybe coconut oil or olive oil?  Maybe I’ll give both a try to see what happens and get back to you!

The brownies turned out as good as I had hoped.  We decided to top them with homemade cream cheese frosting and shredded chocolate flakes.  This might be a new family favorite, we gobbled them all up in a few days!

Gluten Free Brownie Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup softened butter
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 2 large flax eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    • 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
  • Optional Add-Ins: 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds or chocolate chips
Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    1. Grease muffin pan with butter.
    1. Prepare flax eggs in a small bowl and let rest for 5 minutes.
    1. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and blend until smooth. Stir in the flax egg, vanilla, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and cocoa powder. Lastly, add the flour, then fold in any mix-ins – chocolate chips or pumpkin seeds.
    1. Scoop batter evenly into muffin tins until 3/4 full and bake on the middle rack for 22-26 minutes, or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides and they spring back slightly to the touch. Be careful not to overcook or they will get crumbly. Remove from oven and let rest in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a plate or cooling rack.
  1. Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for a couple days. Freeze for long-term storage.
Frosting
Ingredients
    • 8 oz cream cheese
    • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
Instructions
    1. Attach a whisk to your mixer.
    1. Add cream cheese to the mixing bowl.
    1. Blend cream cheese till smooth.
    1. Blend in maple syrup and cream.
    1. Whip on high till mixture is smooth, thick, and begins to separate.
    2. Pipe onto cupcakes.
  1. Shave chocolate over the top.




The Best Gluten-Free, Egg-Free Waffles Ever

The Best Gluten-Free, Egg-Free Waffles Ever

If you have celiac disease or you’re gluten intolerant, you might be on the hunt for the perfect waffle recipe.  I might be a bit biased, but these waffles are pretty awesome.  They’re light, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

I love waffles!  When we were driving from Minnesota to Florida a few years ago, we saw Waffle House restaurants in every town!  We started counting as we went along and there were so many that we eventually lost count and gave up.  It just goes to prove, however, that there are waffle lovers everywhere!

I have got to tell you, in the beginning, I failed miserably at recreating bread products.  My loaves of bread were soggy and dense and would turn hard as a rock.  Yuck.  Thankfully I’ve since worked out my bread issues.

I did, however, make a wonderful waffle!  Right from the beginning, this waffle recipe was easy and delicious.  My waffles turned out fluffy and melt in your mouth good.

Before I took the time to figure out my errors in bread making, I simply made gluten-free, egg-free waffles.  I would make a double or quadruple batch and freeze a bunch so I could grab them for snacks.  I used them for sandwiches, I used them for dessert.  I ate them with hummus.  I had no idea waffles could be so versatile!

Please don’t be overwhelmed to actually try bread, but if you are in a pinch for time or need an easy and quick bread, this gluten-free, egg-free waffle just might be the recipe for you.

Do you love to use waffles for everything?  What’s your favorite way to eat them?  Let me know in the comments!

Recipe

Dry Ingredients

3 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
6 TBSP flax
2 TBSP chia seeds (ground or whole)
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Wet Ingredients

1 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups coconut milk

Preparation

Add dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Blend thoroughly with a whisk.  Add wet ingredients and whip until well blended.  Preheat waffle iron.  Grease with butter or coconut oil.  Add 1 cup of the recipe to the waffle iron.  Cook on medium-high for 7 minutes.  Serve with favorite toppings!

Breakfast Topping Ideas

100% grass-fed butter or ghee
100% pure maple syrup
berries
jam
homemade whipped cream

Lunch Ideas

Grilled Cheese
Hummus
Portabella Burger
Grilled Veggies
Classic Sandwich
Avocado
With Soup

 




Making Your Own Dried Basil

Making Your Own Dried Basil

Making dried basil is so incredibly easy, I think my children could do it!  Plus, homemade is always so much cheaper than the store, after the initial purchase, it’s free!

I grew my own basil this year and it did really well!  I’ve tried to grow basil one other time when my neighbor gave me a gift of basil in a pot.  It died within a few months, sadly.  If you know anything from reading my blog, it’s that I don’t give up easily.

When Nate saw a potted basil plant at Walmart earlier this year, he suggested we give it another try.  I immediately jumped on the idea.  We brought our new plant home and it did exceptionally well! In fact, it became enormously bushy.  I have had to prune it back a few times.

I love having potted basil year round.  Pinching off a few leaves for snacking on with tomatoes and cheese is one of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh basil.  I also love to cook with it after it’s been dried.  It’s one of my main herbs that I use.

Here are the steps I use to make my own dehydrated basil.

  1. When your basil gets especially bushy, trim back the stems until it has a nice compact shape.
  2. Put the stems in a strainer and gently rinse them off.
  3. Shake the excess water off of the basil.
  4. Remove the leaves from the stems and place them in the dehydrator.  Use a fine mesh or fruit leather attachment for smaller leaves.
  5. Dehydrate until leaves are dry and crumbly.
  6. Put basil on a plate and crumble into small pieces.
  7. Put dried basil crumbles into a spice jar.
  8. Lable jar.

You can check out how I have dried basil in my videos!

Our 4 Year Old Caught The Most Fish!

Our 4 Year Old Caught The Most Fish!
Camping Day 4

The morning started out with a panic attack.  Looking back, I can’t remember what caused it.  Maybe it was sleeping on a small, uncomfortable air mattress for half the week.  Maybe it was having to walk a long way to the bathroom with a child who had to go to the bathroom, again.  Maybe it was camping food.  Maybe it was lack of creature comforts… and tea.  Maybe the kids were being crazy.  Maybe the Mister was being impatient.  Maybe I was just homesick.

Whatever it was that caused it, I could feel anxiety climbing up me like a bomb about to go off.  I was becoming irritable and panicky.  Rather than freak out and start screaming like a mad woman, I told my family I was taking a timeout.  I went into the tent and laid on the bed facing the window so I could watch the clouds roll by.  I breathed deeply and tried to calm my racing mind and the panic that was squeezing me tightly.

When I stop a panic attack before it gets out of hand, it’s easier to calm down.  I focus on my breathing.  I focus on telling myself it’s ok.  I try to minimize things that add to my panic, like noise and activity, and go somewhere quiet to regroup.  As I begin to calm, I can start to feel not so trapped and afraid.  I was at that point of mellowing out when my family began to peek in at me from the window.  They made me smile, and then a laugh chased away the rest of my storm clouds.  I was ready to get back to our day.

Nate had rented the boat bright and early that morning before anyone else had gotten up.  I packed up a few necessities like simple snacks, water, and wet wipes.  Nate prepared everything necessary for fishing.  We made sure everyone had one last potty break and drove to the boat area.

When we were packing up the boat, Nate realized he forgot the life jackets and had to go back to the rangers office to pick them up.  The kids and I opted to wait by the boat.  I thought they could burn off some energy playing before having to sit for a long period of time in the boat.

Once he was back, we put on our vests and set off.  The view out on the water was beautiful.  I wanted to explore the whole lake, but our motor was slow and battery operated.  We didn’t want to get stranded in a far corner and have to row back.  The forecast predicted rain, but it was partly sunny and beautiful.  The kids wanted to go swimming after fishing was over.  With how warm the water was, it sounded like a great idea.

Princess had been wanting to go fishing for many months.  While shopping for camping supplies she was always on the lookout for fishing lures.  We ended up using worms rather than lures.  I was the designated worm attacher, much to my dismay.  I felt guilty and sick spearing the little guys with each hook.

Princess caught the first fish.  She was thrilled.  She fell in love with her fish and insisted we be careful with it.  Nate attached it to a rope to save for dinner as I re-wormed her hook.   Shortly after, she caught her 2nd fish!  Then her third!

We noticed storm clouds heading our way in the distance, so we moved our boat closer to our campsite.  In our new spot, Princess caught more fish!  After she caught her seventh, Mr. Awesome caught one.  Then he got his second and Princess caught her 8th!  Nate caught a fish and Mr. Awesome caught his third.  We were constantly catching and releasing them!  Out of all of those fish, only 2 were big enough to eat.  We decided that Princess and I would eat those and the family would eat sandwiches.

While we were fishing, I told the kids a story about my childhood.  When I was very little, maybe 3 or 4, we went on a family vacation to Howard Lake.  My Grandparents were camping in a cabin nearby.  My Grandpa Ray wanted to go fishing and I begged to go with.  He relented but I think he was worried I would complain or perhaps scare away the fish if I were naughty.

I was so excited.  Grandpa gave me my own fishing pole to use.  We each had our own side of the boat.  I began to catch fish!  Grandpa was laughing and exclaiming his surprise.  After catching maybe 5 large fish he teased that perhaps I had the better side of the boat and switched with me.  I caught several more fish!  He said that maybe I had the better fishing pole and let me continue to fish.  If memory serves, I caught 11 large fish that day.  I was so happy I made Grandpa smile and be proud of me.

It started to sprinkle so we decided to head back.  We decided that we might try fishing more later in the day since the rental was for the entire day.  Nate dropped me off at the boat docks so I could drive the van back to the campsite, then he and the kids set out across the lake.

I met them at the docks and we all drove back to our campsite.  Since we had relied on fish being our dinner, we decided to get dinner in town for the non-allergy part of the family.  Our fish would be a nice corn free dinner for Princess and me.

As we drove to town, we saw a small black bear on a hill on the side of the road.  We pulled over to stop and watch for a little bit.  I was thrilled, but the rest of the family grew bored quickly.  Their growling tummies might have had something to do with it though.

In our haste to leave, I forgot to make sure everyone went to the bathroom.  After getting food at Zupp’s Market, Princess insisted she was going to pee her pants so we stopped at a gas station.  There, she found a baby loon stuffed animal.  Princess is a stuffed animal addict.  She must rescue every adorable stuffed animal she finds.  Some of the ones we say no to, she sobs for hours after because the poor things are sad and alone and no one will take care of them.  I find that letting her carry one or two of her babies everywhere seems to deter her from picking up anymore, but as this was an emergency bathroom break, at a gas station, I was unprepared.  So baby loon became the newest member of our family.

We made a trip to Dairy Queen since we felt bad that the kids weren’t able to go swimming.  Thankfully they were happy with the trade-off.  Princess and I could enjoy our homemade snack bars and gluten-free grilled cheese once we got back to the campsite.

While waiting for Nate to bring out the goodies, I admired the many flower gardens in the parking lot.  Someone had taken a lot of time and love to create such a delightful and colorful array of flowers.

Once we were back, we set to making dinner.  However, someone stole our fish!  They also connected and drained the battery on our boat.  The kids tried to catch us some while Nate prepared dinner, but they were only able to get little ones that we released.  After dinner, Nate went to get a new battery from the office.  Once he got back, he set off in the boat to the main dock.  I sat at the edge of the water under an umbrella with the kids for a little bit before heading back to the campsite.  I was going to drive around to pick him up and then we would drop off the vests and the battery together.

However, once I got to the van, it was locked, and I realized that Nate had the keys with him.  It was getting dark fast.  I ran down to get the children from the edge of the lake.  I brought them back to the campsite and got them settled in the tent.  I told them to stay together at all times and not to leave unless they had to go to the bathroom.  I grabbed my lantern and my umbrella and set off on the long walk around the lake.  Walking in the dark, in the woods alone, I was a little scared.  I had encountered a bear as a child up close and I didn’t want that to happen again.  I sang out loud as I walked along to alert any wildlife of my presence.  Once I arrived at a dock that was across the lake from the boat launch, I started calling out Nate’s name.  I didn’t see him or hear him.

It was pouring heavily.  I had three options:

  1. Walk around the lake toward the boat dock in hopes of finding Nate.
  2. Walk up towards the office in hopes that I might find him along the way.
  3. Head back to the children.

I felt like walking around the lake was a waste of time.  He didn’t hear me calling, so chances are, he had started to walk back to the office himself.  I could go back to the children, but at least I knew they were safe, dry and together in the tent with the other lantern.  Nate was out there, alone, in the dark and the cold, heavy rain.  I decided to head toward the office.  I walked up the trail, stopping at intersections to call out for Nate.

After walking up the long road to the ranger’s office for a way, I saw a man walking toward me.  I hoped that it was Nate, but his size was smaller and thinner than Nate’s tall, muscular shape.  I paused as he approached me.
“Excuse me, sir, Have you seen another man walking on this road recently?”
“No, I’m sorry.  I haven’t seen anyone.”

I thanked him and continued the walk to the office.  I could see it’s lights glowing in the distance.  Inside was a bright, warm, dry relief.  The ranger on duty had seen Nate about 20-30 minutes prior.  My heart sank.  Nate had probably taken the far road back to the campsite after walking up there with the motor.  It was the opposite side of the park that I had been on.  I thanked him and took a deep breath before heading back out into the dark.  I walked swiftly along the road, the temperature had dropped and the rain that was blown sideways by the wind had gotten my lower half wet.  I was tired and chilly, too cold to loudly sing away the bears.  I did so anyway, intermittently, in a voice quavering with shivers.

After a while, I noticed headlights approaching in the distance.  As they got closer, hope sprang to my lips in a smile.  It was our van.  Nate had come to rescue me.  I happily climbed into the warmth where the heat and seat warmers were already on.

It turns out that after Nate had been waiting a couple minutes, he got bored and put his hands in his pockets, realizing he still had the keys.  He groaned and started the long walk with the heavy boat motor.  Thankfully, he is strong from his manual labor at his job.  He had the same thoughts running through his head that I had, what if I should happen upon a bear?  He thought he might kick it in the face.  I laughed because Nate taking on a bear with a boat motor and kicking a bear seemed like a not so safe idea.  He is tall like Paul Bunyan though, so perhaps it would be enough to scare one away.  He had walked the far way home and found the kids.  After making sure they were ok, he set out looking for me in the van.  He stopped along the lake and intersections as I had for him, calling out my name.  We were always on opposite sides of the park.  So although I was trying to be the hero, I ended up needing a hero myself.  It was a silly situation all around.

Do you go fishing as a family?  Who usually catches the most fish?

Check out our video!

Continue on to Camping, Day 5!
http://cisforcomfort.com/went-2341-feet-underground/

Did you miss Day 3?  Read about it here!
http://cisforcomfort.com/checking-ely-minnesota/

We Locked Our Keys In The Van in the Middle of the Woods

We Locked Our Keys In The Van

Camping, Day 2

After a night of heavy rain drumming our tent, I woke to the sound of birds.  Thankfully, we were nice and dry inside!  I got out of bed before everyone else to capture some nature photography before breaking down the campsite.  Cat joined me and we had fun capturing the world, damp and dew drop covered from the night before.

After Nate got up, we decided to see if our next campsite was available.  We weren’t able to get all of the days at the same spot since everything was so booked.  Usually, the whole north is mostly booked by the time spring rolls around.  If we want to pick a good spot for an entire week next year, we might have to reserve our spot within the next few months.

Cat watched the little ones while we walked across the campgrounds to take a look.  As we walked past, we noticed the people there were already packing up!  Check out isn’t until 4, so we had time to pack up our stuff and get over there.  However, we wanted to get settled in early so we could relax the rest of our day.

We packed up all of our stuff, putting all of the wet things in the back.  I was going to walk over there with the kids since it was such a beautiful day, and the van was packed in almost every seat.  Just as we were about to walk off, Nate shut the door, with the keys in the ignition and the van running.  We locked our keys in the van.

Unfortunately, my purse was in the van.  As were my keys.  There was no way to get back in.  Nate set off to find the campsite hosts to see if they could assist us.  While we waited, I took the kids down to the lake to explore.  I decided to take them over to our campsite to occupy them and give them a new place to explore.  Then I walked all the way back to see how the van situation was going.

The campground hosts were there with Nate.  They recommended calling the local police to come out and open it for free.  Nate was worried we would run out of gas if we had to wait, so he called a local tow truck to do it instead.   We ended up chatting while we waited.  Our hosts were actually from a neighboring town to our hometown!  I didn’t want to leave the kids unattended for too long, so I set off to our new site again.  It turns out, it was $90.00 to unlock our door.  Ouch.  I think waiting for the police and buying a gas can might have been cheaper.  Ah well, hindsight.

Once we got everything set up, we decided to check out the local town and also pick up some water.  Ely wasn’t what I expected.  I think I romantasized it, as I had the other towns on the drive up.  It was a pretty typical small town.  There was the main strip that went right through the center.  The shops were all mostly Mom and Pop stores, but there were a few regulars near the outskirts, like Dairy Queen and Family Dollar.  It was quite scenic from the top of the hill.

We didn’t stay too long, as we wanted to get back.  The day had escaped us.  We decided it would be good to start dinner early so we could get to bed at a decent time.  The big girls and I played card games while Nate cooked chicken over the fire.   Princess and I had gluten free grilled cheese.   For dessert, we had the camping classic, smores.  Our second day of camping was a lot of fun!

Have you had any mishaps while camping?

Check out our video of our day!

Continue on to day 3 of our camping trip!
http://cisforcomfort.com/checking-ely-minnesota/

Did you miss day 1?  Read all about it here:

Bear Head Lake State Park

Bear Head Lake State Park

Camping, Day 1

Around 1 pm on Sunday, we drove up to Bear Head Lake State Park in our RV.  The van was packed to the brim, and we were set for a fun week of camping partly because we managed to get the best glamping tents for less.  Never having been to this part of Minnesota, I looked forward to a fun new adventure of exploring. The RV was in its best shape since it had just come from the mechanics and was just installed with the new rearview camera we found on this buying guide.

The final week before camping, I was dreading camping.  Going somewhere new is always scary for me.  Adding in anxiety, severe food allergy prep, packing for a family of six for a week and prepping a home for our absence is a recipe for panic attacks.  At one point, I said that I never wanted to go camping again. I visited www.campingconsole.com to make sure I had everything for enjoying a perfect outdoors.

Also, I was worried about my Grandpa.  I didn’t want to leave him.  My parents insisted I go.  I so rarely get a break and camping is something our family looks forward to every year.  Grandpa’s health has really improved and I’m hoping he might be well enough to take him off of hospice care!

Once on the road, a large weight was lifted.  All of the hard work was done.  This was our third time camping, so I had a bit of experience for what to expect in the setup department.  At this point, I was only mildly apprehensive about exploring someplace new.

The forecast predicted a 40% chance of rain for part of the day on Wednesday.  It started raining as we left our driveway and continued to do so on and off for most of the way up north.  Thankfully, it stopped shortly after we passed Cloquet.

I had this image in my mind of what I expected the area to look like.  Deep woods, occasional small towns filled with romantic charm, stretches of roads with nothing but thick trees.  I was right about the woods and thick trees and long stretches of nothing but wilderness, but I did not expect the size of the towns or the amount of normalcy.

The city of Virginia was about as large as my town.  Along the tops of their hills were many large wind mills for power.  They had all of the same amenities that we have.  If I had been dropped there and not been told where I was prior, I would have guessed I was in a town close to the cities.

As we neared Bear Head State Park, we encountered a large amount of road construction going on.  I’m assuming they are in the process of making a single two-lane, one each way road into two roads with two lanes.  We almost missed our turn because of this.

The stretch of road into the park was beautiful and peaceful.  Tall pines bordered the road with glimpses of lakes along each side.  The cabins and homes along the way had personal name signs and cute mailboxes.  The sign for Bear Head Lake was impressive, with gold lettering and an image of a bear head.

Our campsite was in a grove of tall white pine tree.  It had a nice big space for our tent.  Getting unpacked and setup was quick and efficient.  We were located right across from the bathrooms, which was nice for our little ones.

Nate and I took a short walk to the lake to check it out while Cat watched the kids.  Once we got back, we made our dinner of hamburgers for the three big kids and Nate and gluten-free grilled cheese for Princess and me.

One of my favorite things is to sit around a campfire with my family.  We enjoyed the silence of the woods and relaxing next to a toasty campfire in the cool night air.  I let one of the kids have the camera so they could take a picture of me.  After giving them a smile, they joked about making a silly angry face.  I tried my best, but it looks like I’m blinking.  🙂

That night, it stormed and rained heavily.  Thankfully we stayed dry and warm in our beds.  It was a great first day of camping.

Have you been to Bear Head State Park?  How well do you handle the stress of packing for camping?

Check out our video!

Continue on to day 2 of our camping trip!
http://cisforcomfort.com/locked-keys-van/

I Turned My Brown Thumb Into a Green Thumb

I Turned My Brown Thumb Into a Green Thumb

I have always joked about having a brown thumb instead of a green one.  I have good intentions with plants, but I usually kill most of them.  My problem was that I watered them too much.  For me, caring for a plant equaled watering it.  I literally loved them to death.

I did manage to keep hardy plants alive, to my great joy.  My brother got me a Philodendron as a gift when I was 13.  It’s the only plant that has survived this long.

My parents were great gardeners.  As a child, they had a huge garden in our yard.  I can remember working with them to weed, pick off pests, gather ripe plants and care for my own little garden plot. And occasionally, they had me get to lawn care and landscaping near me to make the garden more aesthetic-appealing. My favorites were the raspberries bordering 2 sides of the garage and the strawberries.

When I was given my own little corner plot, I planted Shasta daisies, echinacea, and zinnia among a few other flowers.  I loved flowers and the butterflies that they drew to our yard.  My Mother had flower gardens in raised planters that my Father built all over our property.

After my own children were born, I gave plants a renewed interest.  I tried a few easy house plants, a few palms, some morning glories outside during the warm months, hanging petunias or impatiens.  I tried peppers many times but they rarely produced peppers and if they did, were never large enough to eat.    I’ve overloved and killed many orchids over the years.

With the addition of extreme allergies to my life, I’ve had to learn to grow my own food.  Organic food from health food stores is usually incredibly expensive and is not always guaranteed to be corn free.  The safest option is home grown because I control all of the factors of what my food is exposed to.

When I first moved to this house, my Mom helped me plant a small outdoor garden.  The weeds overtook it to my great frustration.  Creeping Charlie choked out most of my plants.  I did get some tomatoes and small ears of corn (ironic, right? This was pre-corn allergy.). After that, I gave up planting in the ground.  Nate built me a planter around the mulberry tree in the backyard, which I grew flowers and hostas in, for an easy to maintain, decorative garden.

Inside, I grew potted plants.  I tried basil by the sink but I ended up overwatering it.  My next sink plant was rosemary, which, as it turns out, LOVES being overwatered.  In fact, if I don’t water it often, it starts to die.  I also grow potted plants on my porch and bring them inside over winter.  My theory was, if they die, that’s ok because they would have died if I had left them outside to die by frost.  If they live, I have another plant to enjoy.

This last year, my gardening skills have grown, as has the number of plants in and out.  I have several plants that live inside year round, Outside, on my porch, my number of potted plants has grown. After installing a critter fence, it was clear that the plants where staying healthier and growing faster. Those pesky critters can really make a dent in most plants. Those interested in the specific fence used, I found it here. I renewed my attempt for ground grown plants.  I planted several things around the porch outside and started a new side garden.  I’ve also planted raspberries and blueberries along the fence.

I am not an expert gardener.  I have, however, turned my brown thumb into a green one with persistence and determination.  I’ve never given up.  If my plants die, I try again.  I do more research. The best way I’ve learned is by experience and trial and error.

I recommend everyone give gardening a try.  It is so rewarding.  When I eat food from my own garden, I have a great pride and satisfaction that I have never gotten from bought food.

If you are afraid of killing plants, don’t let that deter you!  Keep trying!  Start with potted plants.  Try something easy to maintain, like impatiens, petunias, philodendrons, or palms like I did.  Otherwise, try checking out the end of the year plant sales that most greenhouses have.  You can usually get plants cheap or for free.  Use the mindset that if it dies, at least you tried.  Research what you can do differently next time.

Do you care for any plants?  What do you grow?  Have you also overcome a brown thumb or has gardening come naturally to you?

Check out my video for a tour of my garden!

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

When I was first learning how to be corn and wheat free, my sister in law made me some amazing gluten-free berry muffins.  She was kind enough to share her recipe with me.  I’ve modified it a bit since our allergies have evolved.  My whole family loves these and we try to always have some on hand.

Thankfully, they are freezer friendly, so we can make double or triple batches, freeze the majority and still have enough left to snack on for a few days.  I recommend freezing immediately what you can’t eat and whatever is left eat within one to two days.  After 48 hours they lose their flavor and fluffy texture.

The nice thing about this recipe is, you can add whatever fruit you have on hand.  We’ve tried many different combos over the years, but my favorite is one my SIL came up with, lemon zest and raspberry.  More recently we tried lime juice and blackberries.  Sometimes we’ll chop up apples or throw in fresh blueberries.  My SIL has also made a delicious peach mango.  If you’re craving chocolate, you could always add chocolate chips.  For those of you with corn allergies, just adding cocoa powder and a little extra maple syrup is a good alternative to chocolate chips.

I have always loved the top of the muffin.  Panera makes amazing pumpkin muffies, which are basically large muffin tops.  Since learning about all of my allergies, I’ve always been bummed I can’t drop by for a muffie.  I did discover a muffie pan at Target a few years ago and I’ve loved using it for my muffins.  I use that and regular muffin tins since I usually make triple or quadruple batches and I need all the pans I can get!  My next goal is to replicate the muffie in a gluten-free recipe!

I hope you enjoy these muffins as much as we do!  Let me know if you try and enjoy the recipe!

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Gluten Free Berry Muffins

Makes 12 regular sized muffins or 6 muffies

Ingredients
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup real maple syrup or 1 cup of sugar
  • 1TBSP granulated sugar**
  • 1 egg or egg substitute(I use chia seeds)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (omit if you don’t have homemade for corn free people)
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the berries)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum (I also use chia seeds instead)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 cups fresh berries
  • ½ cup buttermilk*** (or milk alternative, making buttermilk is optional)

** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

*** To make homemade buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill the cup with milk/milk alternative until it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for five minutes. Use only 1/2 cup of the prepared mixture for the recipe.

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Cream butter with lemon zest and the cup of the sugar/maple syrup until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, toss the berries with ¼ cup of flour.
  5. Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
  7. Fold in the berries.
  8. Grease muffin tins with butter. Fill 3/4 full with a spoon.
  9. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  10. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Bake up to 10 minutes more depending on climate) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

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Guilt-Free Cookie Balls

Guilt-Free Cookie Balls

I’m not sure that naming these “Cookie Balls” sums up how delicious and nutritious these little treats are.  Not only are they full of natural vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber, they taste like something one should feel guilty over.  Thankfully, unlike classic cookies, these will leave you feeling full and satisfied, without the guilt.

Nutritious, Guilt Free, Cookie Balls
Cookie Balls

I discovered that these work wonders for morning sickness.  I had heard that protein can help lessen morning sickness.  So with my last pregnancy, I made a large batch of these and snacked on them whenever I started feeling nauseous.  It worked marvelously!

Nutritious, Guilt Free, Cookie Balls
Cookie Balls

My kids love these.  When I make them, I have to hide some or they’ll gobble them all up.  I make sure to set some aside for my youngest and myself so that we have something allergy-friendly to snack on while the non-allergy big kids have their snacks.

Cookie Balls
Makes 20-24 Cookie Balls
35-40 Chopped Dates
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Almond Meal
1/4 Cup Chia Seeds
1 TBSP Coconut Oil
2 TBSP Organic Grass-fed Butter
1/2 Cup Coconut Flakes

Mix all Ingredients, except coconut flakes, until well blended.  Add coconut flakes and mix until blended.  With your hands, take about a tablespoon or two, depending on how big you want them. and roll the mixture into balls.  I like mine to be bite-sized for less mess.  The smaller, the better, for little mouths.  I find they store well for at least a week.  They might last longer, but they are so good that they usually get eaten up before a few days have passed!

Chocolate Pomengratate Pavlova

When the weather gets drier, I love to make meringue cookies.  I decided to try something new when I discovered Pavlovas.  Ohhh my goodness, just looking at one makes my mouth water!  Three layers of crispy meringue frosted with fluffy mounds of whipped cream, sprinkled with shaved chocolate and topped with a tangy fruit, this is one desert guaranteed to please.  The best part is, it is gluten free, corn free and if you use coconut milk for whipped cream, it can even be dairy free!

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When I made this, I thought for sure that we would gobble it up.  Although it is not overpoweringly sweet, it is rich and surprisingly filling!  The children and I agreed that we should share it with our neighbors.  We cut half the cake for them to enjoy, then had the rest for dessert.  😉

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Some desserts get stale or lose flavor as they sit out.  Surprisingly, this is a treat that only gets better with time.  As it sat, the crunchy crust of the meringue softened slightly to become chewy and melted in my mouth that much more.  Who knew?!

As a side note, if you want to save the yolks, you can make mayo too!

Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova
6-8 large egg whites(1 cup) at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 seeded pomegranate
parchment paper

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.In a large glass or metal mixing bowl, whip egg whites and cream of tartar till peaks form.
3.Slowly add 2 cups of sugar and cocoa till blended.
4.Line 2 cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place 3 small plates of about 8 inches on parchment paper and lightly trace with a pencil.  Remove plates.
5.Spoon the meringue onto the circles and slowly spread until a nice thick layer is formed.  Extra meringue can be spooned into mini cookies on 2nd cookie sheet.
6.Bake for 60-75 minutes.  Crack oven and let cool.
7.While waiting, blend heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar till fluffy.
8.Carefully remove one giant meringue cookie from parchment and place on platter.
9.Spoon 1/3 whipped cream onto first meringue cookie and spread evenly to edges.
10.Carefully remove second giant meringue cookie from parchment and place on top.
11.Spoon half remaining whipped cream on top of 2nd cookie.
12.Carefully remove last giant meringue cookie from parchment and place on top.
13.Spoon remaining whipped cream on top and spread evenly.
14.Sprinkle with cocoa powder.
15.Top with a generous helping of pomegranate.