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Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free

Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free

Ricki Heller’s delightful publication, Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free, is a recipe book of gourmet treats that just happens to be nutritious, allergy-adaptable food. ABC News featured article in their Lifestyle section was titled Gluten-Free Desserts You Have to Taste to Believe and the recipes from this book that are shared in the article will make you a believer!

Ricki means every word when she says; ‘I have taken great care to ensure that every recipe you make from this book will taste just as good as a traditional dessert — and some, even better! Yet not one of them contains gluten, eggs, dairy, or refined sugars, and all have a lower glycemic index than “regular” desserts.’

Scanning the recipes I chose this Grain-Free Autumn Fruit Crumble for the great fruit combination plus I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand – it was fate! The apple-cranberry-pear juices bubbled up through the cinnamon spiced crumble topping and I thought ‘a small bowl for dessert tonight and a larger one for breakfast tomorrow’. Who hasn’t had (or wanted) dessert for breakfast?

Breakfast or Dessert - How About Both!

Breakfast or Dessert – How About Both!

Ricki Heller is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who understands the effects that food choices can have on health and we reap the benefits of her knowledge in this, her latest book. All of the pantry staples have been carefully, thoughtfully chosen and described in detail as to the pros and cons of why they were chosen. Her All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix is described in the book but was shared long ago on her blog. If you cannot find the recommended millet flour locally you can order it on Amazon when you purchase the book – it is quite reasonable as gluten-free flours go.

The focus of these recipes is on eliminating the dreaded ‘sugar/carb craving’ by using real nutrient-dense foods, low-glycemic sugars, and further reducing the glycemic load by tweaking the sweetness with a bit of stevia. The introduction is packed with tips and techniques to ensure that each recipe performs for you. There is additional information regarding agreeable substitutions to adapt the recipes for you or your family members’ allergies.

This book is too good not-to-share and since I have family members who are gluten-free (ahh, genetics) I have ordered several more of these books.

Gretchen @gfedge

Note: If you missed out on Ricki’s first book, Sweet Freedom, it is now available on her website as an eBook. Those recipes are not gluten-free but the All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix can be substituted in equal measure for the original flours.

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A Compact Food Scale for Easier and More Accurate Measuring

When using a food scale for ratio baking suddenly became popular I thought it was a great idea. What really appealed to me was the ‘tare’ function. The scale is reset to zero and you weigh the next ingredient into the same bowl without using measuring cups. No measuring cups to wash – YES!

My Compact Kitchen Scale

My Compact Kitchen Scale

I bought my modestly priced kitchen scale from Amazon. I love their honest, sometimes snarky, reviews-by-customers. If there is a problem with the product you will be sure to hear about it. I especially like it when there are lots of reviews. Then I read the best and worst and most-recent before deciding to consider it as an option. If there are only a few reviews I tend to skip that product because the 5-star are likely to be employees or family and the 1-star are likely to be a competitor.

I have used this EatSmart Precision Pro – Multifunction Digital Kitchen Scale w/ Extra Large LCD and 11 Lb. Capacity for over two years and am entirely happy with its quality and durability. I love this scale for the functionality plus the compact size that tucks neatly against the wall behind my recipe box.

Storage Is Easy

Storage Is Easy

The following is Amazon’s product description:

The EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale is a versatile multifunction home appliance. Designed to be highly accurate and aesthetically pleasing, the Precision Pro is manufactured to the highest quality specifications. Weigh items up to 11 lbs quickly and accurately, with results displayed in four different units: grams / ounces / pounds / kilograms.

For cooks – Weigh food items directly on the scale platform or utilize the scale’s tare (zero) function, which eliminates the weight of a plate or bowl and makes cleanup a snap. The high resolution screen provides easy viewing angles on any kitchen counter and the five rubber feet eliminate sliding. Additionally the three minute auto-turnoff feature ensures that you will never again lose your measurement in the middle of your recipe prep!

For Weight Loss Goals / Disease Management – The Precision Pro is ultra accurate, precise to .05 ounce / 1 gram increments and perfect for calorie or carbohydrate counting. The scale now includes a FREE EatSmart Calorie Factors book for easy calorie counting (simply multiply the grams of food by the calorie factor in the book)! Stop guessing about portion sizes and start living a healthier lifestyle today.

Gretchen @gfedge

 

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Chocolate Almond Coconut Milk

Chocolate milk, it’s not just for kids. My milk mustache is definitely not white even though my hair is mostly white at this age. An alternative milk is definitely appreciated for those with lactose-intolerance and/or gluten-intolerance complicated by cross-reactive dairy issues.

After experimenting off and on during the  winter months I settled on making this blend a quart at a time. A glassful tastes yummy shaken and served right out of the fridge during the summer heat. It is also wonderful served hot in a mug instead of coffee or tea on a cold morning.

Re-purposed Glass Jars

Re-purposed Glass Jars

You don’t need a fancy bottle. I save and re-purpose glass bottles from the store that previously contained juices or gluten-free pasta sauces (yes, I know, I should make my own sauce but sometimes the jar makes a good meal possible when time is short).

These ingredients were all sourced at my local HEB grocery store. I keep Hershey’s original cocoa on hand, various non-nutritive sweeteners as they appear on the market, a good quality of vanilla, the HEB store brand of almond milk, and various brands of coconut milk as long as they do not contain preservatives.

Sweeteners differ considerably in perceived level of sweetness and it varies greatly by individual even within a family. I have a feeling that the quantity of nectresse™ that I used here will be too much for many. Start with the lower amount (or even less if you are a super-taster). You can always add more to reach the right level for your taste preference.

Adding the Ingredients

Adding the Ingredients


Chocolate Almond Coconut Milk – gfedge

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2-1 tablespoon nectresse™* (or your prefered sweetener)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup coconut milk, full-fat

3 cups almond milk

You will need a clean one quart glass bottle or mason jar with a screw-on cap that seals well. It will be used for shaking the ingredients together, initially to mix and then again just before serving.

Add the warm water and the cocoa powder to the jar. Shake and swirl to completely dissolve the cocoa powder before adding the other ingredients. Screw on the cap and shake to be sure the cocoa is completely dissolved. This should prevent it from clumping.

Add your sweetener of choice, the vanilla, and both of milks. Screw on the cap and shake well. Place in the refrigerator to chill. Shake again just before serving.

The full-fat coconut milk adds a healthy fat, tastes really good, and it helps to keep the ingredients evenly mixed!

Shaken, Not Stirred!

Shaken, Not Stirred!

Makes 1 quart.

Note*: nectresse™ is made by the company that brought us SPLENDA® brand sucralose, hardly a good recommendation but I was curious. The closest I can come to a calorie count for nectresse™ in measuring for baked goods is the evasive 1/4 teaspoon = zero calories and it is a ‘free food’ for diabetics at four ‘servings’. The most positive thing I can say about this product is that the label does not list any ingredients that I would not use if the ingredients were labeled ‘organic’ or ‘nonGMO’, which they are not.

Gretchen @gfedge

This post is linked to:
Wellness Weekend April 25-29, 2013
http://dietdessertndogs.com/2013/04/25/wellness-weekend-april-25-29-2013
Ricki Heller’s Blog – Diet, Dessert, and Dogs

 

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Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism by Maria Emmerich

I just finished reading the Kindle version of Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism and it is beautifully written (meaning the words were not too big for me) and packed with information on very recent research. It was so impressive that I immediately sent copies to my sister Amanda and my sister-in-law Pat.

Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism

Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism

The official book description reads:
In this latest June 2012 edition I am honored to have the forward written by Dr. William Davis, Author of the New York Times Best seller “Wheat Belly”! Dr. Davis is a leader in his field and he discusses the relevance of the material covered in this book and its importance to modern nutrition theory. Most of the book is updated with the latest nutritional science. Maria is constantly researching the latest science and this edition updates all the latest information to help you get your metabolism back on track. In this book you will learn the tools to lead a healthy lifestyle that you can sustain for the rest of your life. It is based on the food science of how our bodies react to different ingredients. Using these guidelines you can lose weight or maintain a healthy weight while staying full and satisfied. This book covers the science behind nutrition and how our bodies use different elements of our food to function. The last chapter supplies recipes, pantry items, and healthy substitutes to help you use these scientific properties and make healthy meals that not only feed your body what it really needs, but keep you full longer. Some of the topics covered are: – Nutrient Timing – Typical Diet Downfalls – Tired, Toxic Liver – How to Optimize Your Hormones – Menstrual Cycle Timing – Supplements to enhance Weight Loss – Putting it all together: Alternative Flours, Alternative Sweeteners and Pantry List!

A Batch of Maria's Toasted Sub Sandwich and Panini

A Batch of Maria’s Toasted Sub Sandwich and Panini

Then there is Maria’s Nutritious and Delicious Journal – with recipes! I just made a batch of her Toasted Sub Sandwich and Panini. Mine are puffy and look more like hamburger buns but let me say that they are fabulous buns. They rose way more than I expected so next time I will start them a little flatter. They browned beautifully, have a nice chewy-crispy crust, sliced easily when still slightly warm, and there were no gummy insides! It is real bread! Only those living gluten-free know what it means to have anything like real bread, never mind great real bread! Plus, they are low carb, about 3.3 each when made into 5 buns. You can also make a larger loaf or perhaps smaller buns for appetizers. I made this batch with coconut flour. There are alternate instructions for using almond flour.

LowCarb, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Bread

LowCarb, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Bread

Happy baking AND low-carbing!

Gretchen @gfedge

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Gluten-Free at Paisano’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico

I may still be in shock over our recent stellar, gluten-free experience at Paisano’s Italian Restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After spending years picking croutons off of salads, ordering burgers without buns, dodging toast and biscuits, eating the icing off of cakes, spooning the fruit fillings from pies, and scraping the toppings off of pizza I was hardened to the realities of dealing with my baked-goods averse digestive system.

It has been more than three years since I realized the problem was gluten and began the much more complicated business of avoiding gluten wherever it might be hidden. I have developed such low expectations over the years that I use my well-honed adaptive skills to find the least likely-to-contain-gluten item on the menu.

Now that restaurants are advertising ‘gluten-free’ it is even more complicated. They think they know about gluten but have no idea how complex it can be. One server brought a package of noodles in question from the kitchen for me to check the label; it was written in Chinese but only one ingredient, so not a problem. Another wanted to help; his sister was dealing with the same issues. Lunch was tasty and appeared safe but oh my, not really, the fallout was miserable. You still have to defend your health while trying to appreciate the effort.

We arrived at our motel in Albuquerque in the Old Town neighborhood that we planned to explore the next morning. Don was checking the phone book for nearby restaurants when he spotted the ad for Paisano’s. I was skeptical. So he booted up the computer, logged on to the internet, and downloaded the PDF file of their menu. It was not like any menu I have ever seen before. Almost everything could be served gluten-free! So we drove across town to try it out.

Our server was Carl, a tall cheerful man with the entire menu and all variations memorized and ready to discuss in as much detail as you wished. He took care of each diner with efficiency and seemed to know what you might need just the moment after you thought of it.

Don's Gluten-free Lasagna

Don’s Gluten-free Lasagna

Don had the gluten-free lasagna. About three years ago when my GF journey began he refused to consider ever eating gluten-free – like it was punishment. Now he ORDERED it.

My Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Cap

My Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Cap

I had this savory, stuffed Portabella mushroom cap (saving room for dessert).

The Last Two Bites of Molten Chocolate Dessert

The Last Two Bites of Molten Chocolate Dessert

We ordered the Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Gelato and waited patiently for the kitchen to make it. It was the most wonderful dessert I have ever had served to me – that is the only way to describe it. We savored it slowly, talking about the meal, and how we might re-create it at home. When we left I felt like I had been to the Disneyland of restaurants where all your dreams come true.

Really sappy, yeah, I know. But after a lifetime of stomach aches and disappointment it was like a dream. Don commented that he thought ‘it should always be like this’; maybe one day it will.

On our first grocery shopping trip back at home we bought a box of Tinkyada gluten–free lasagna noodles. Don is quite pleased with our gluten-free Shrimp Alfredo adaptation and now it looks like Lasagna is back on our home menu.

Gretchen @gfedge

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Traveling Gluten-Free to New Mexico

I’ve been getting better at traveling. This trip was the first one I can remember, ever, without even an upset stomach. Don and I were surprised and gratified that several new strategies seemed to help me remain healthy.

Strategy #1: Stay consistently hydrated throughout the day

Every morning at home I drink about 20 ounces of sweetened café latte made with half coffee, half unsweetened almond milk, vanilla, and sweetener – usually stevia and/or Truvia. We started with 2 quarts of septic-packed Almond Breeze and purchased another along the way so I had my usual morning starter every day.

Breakfasts were at the hotel buffets. There was fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon that I felt was free from gluten and safe to eat. While at breakfast I used my smaller insulated bottle, 14 ounces, to make up a hot café con leche with dark roast coffee from the buffet, Nectresse, a new sweetener that I am really liking, and Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk. Coconut and coconut milk contain compounds that are anti-Candida, soothing and generally healing for the digestive system. I sipped on this mid-morning as we traveled.

My third beverage was based on Ricki’s Almost Instant ‘Kombucha’  (her party recipe is way down that page) that was the inspiration for one of my beverages on this trip. I used two tea bags of different flavors to make double strength tea for two days of beverages. The concentrated tea traveled in our little portable refrigerator that daughter Rita gave me for my birthday one year. To make my daily beverage I poured half of the brewed tea into an insulated bottle, added liquid lemon flavored stevia, apple cider vinegar (quite a bit more than Ricki used), ice, and plain water. It is delightful with carbonated water but drinking bubbly beverages in the car gets burpy, at least for me ;-) . This was my afternoon beverage and the 24 ounces lasted the rest of the day.

Brewing My Faux Kombucha

Brewing My Faux Kombucha

Strategy #2: The usual search for gluten-free food at restaurants (not new)

This proved to be our most successful trip for finding gluten-free restaurants. Two of the restaurants we found were phenomenal – Don’s comment on these two was ‘this should be the norm’. Paisano’s Italian Restaurant in Albuquerque was the first one that we experienced. Joe’s Dining in Santa Fe was the second one. Our experience at both restaurants filled me with hope for the future of dining on gluten-free, simply prepared, fresh food.

Strategy #3: Find a cabin or extended-stay motel with kitchen facilities

In the middle of our trip we spent three days at TownPlace Suites in Farmington, NM. There was a compact kitchen in the suite and we prepared simple dinners after shopping at local grocery stores. Leftovers went into salads for my lunches and Don had lunch meat to make sandwiches. We packed our ‘picnics’ in the cooler and took them on our daytime tours of local attractions. This worked so well that we followed the same pattern on the journey home. While traveling we ate dinner at restaurants but my leftovers (I always have leftovers) became part of lunch the following day. This was a brand new strategy for us and it worked so well – preparing our own simple meals that we will be using this again.

Strategy #4: Use the workout amenities!

We kept up with our workout schedule, for real, not just saying ‘we will’ and then ‘oh, we are too tired’. After a brief rest in our room waiting for breakfast to settle we headed to the fitness center for 30 minutes each day – no excuses and it was done. Then we changed clothes and headed out for the day, whether it was a sightseeing or travel day.

Our Excursions:
In Albuquerque we chose a motel near the historic and charming Albuquerque Old Town. I worked on a project once that sent me and three  clients for training in Albuquerque. In our sparse spare time we became fascinated with driving over to Old Town for lunch and browsing a few more shops each time we went. It has changed but somehow remains the same delightful collection of old buildings, courtyards, fountains, and shops. I scored my ‘souvenir yarn’ in a shop at the end of a little courtyard.

During our stay in Farmington we toured Aztec Ruins National Monument which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site representing part of Chaco Culture. There are only 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the United States. You have to see it and walk it to get a feel for the lives of these people. It was one of the most rewarding stops on our trip.

Great Kiva at Aztec Ruins UNESCO Site

Durango, CO – This is just 34 miles North of Farmington and we spent one day just hanging out in the town and wandering through all of the various shops. We have visited the area twice previously. The first time we were on a motorcycle trip and camped at the local KOA campground. Another time we rented a cabin at Vallecito Lake which is nearby and drove into Durango for groceries and shopping. We seem drawn to small hand-crafted animal figures and this time found a charming owl and a box turtle carved in deer horn.

Hand Carved Animal Figurines

Hand Carved Animal Figurines

Lubbock, TX was our last stop on the trip home.  We picked up a brochure about Lubbock from the motel lobby in Santa Fe. That was where we read about Apple Country Orchards in Idalou, TX just outside of Lubbock. Arriving late afternoon we went there first after checking store hours. We were too road weary to pick apples but we bought a gallon of frozen apple cider plus a bag of Pink Lady apples. I have already defrosted the cider and boiled it down to syrup for use in I-don’t-know-which-recipes; it just sounded too good not to try. I’m currently considering apple cobbler for those apples.

Home again, home again, yeah, it RAINED while we were gone – three inches in the rain gauge! Then unpacking, laundry, mail, email, grocery shopping, etc. all of the usual stuff backed up a week. But we are so glad to be home.

Aside from the cider syrup the only thing I have cooked from scratch was the fascinating Soy-Free Tofu described at TRIUMPH OF THE LENTIL. I made the mistake of tasting the batter before cooking it – umm, raw bean :-{. Recklessly I added two tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning and one teaspoon of garlic powder to the basic recipe. It is all spread out on a covered pan in the refrigerator waiting to be cut up and ???? We’ll see. All that I know right now is that I am going to fry some of it to see what that is about.

I did throw together a pantry-based dinner for the two of us (leftovers for the next night as well). A package of Tinkyada shells, a jar of Classico Alfredo Sauce, a pound of frozen green peas, a package of frozen shrimp, and a sprinkle of that Old Bay Seasoning all simmered together in a skillet. We’ve had this before but without the peas, those were Don’s idea. I have to say it was a good idea and we will use it again.

The kitchen counter is stacked up with recipes to modify and notes on how I want to change them. I hope to get started soon but tomorrow is my volunteer afternoon in The Caring Place Food Pantry so I will not be wearing myself out in the morning.

Gretchen @gfedge

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Terra Mediterranean Grill – Fort Worth, Texas

This week I made an overnight trip to Fort Worth to catch up on family events. There was an afternoon visit with younger brother Jon’s family especially to congratulate niece Katherine on graduating high school and her plans to enter college in the fall. Donna, Katherine, Laura, and Samantha were there for lunch but Jon was not able to join us.

There is a crazy amount of highway construction going on in Fort Worth. Fortunately Don had programmed our GPS and the maps with the exit closings were available for navigation otherwise I may not have found their house.

Younger daughter Teresa, @TravelingRD, is already deep into her first class for her Public Health PhD program. She arrived home from school and we had a very pleasant mother/daughter catching up visit.

The next day we had a wonderful, relaxing lunch at Terra Mediterranean Grill , one of the new restaurants in the Fort Worth Cultural District. It is described as a restaurant that provides fresh and healthy Mediterranean, Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. I can definitely vouch for that after a pass through their noon buffet. Everything on the menu is fresh and appealing. A very large percent is gluten-free and or vegan. In fact except for the breads, tabouli, and kibbie everything is gluten-free. That is part of what made it relaxing for me aside from the pleasant, open environment, and of course Teresa’s company :-).

Teresa as Fort Worth Nutrition Examiner

Teresa as Fort Worth Nutrition Examiner

I really did consider the MyPlate recommendations while selecting from the buffet – although it is hard to tell after I piled sample after sample on top of each another. Does anyone ever go through a buffet without this happening on TheirPlate?

Closeup of My Buffet Selections

Closeup of My Buffet Selections

As best I could tell everything on the lunch buffet is taken from the dinner menu although presented in sample portions. Isn’t that a great idea for an ethnic restaurant? You can find new dishes that you love and come back for dinner and order a whole meal based on your new favorites?
This is what I sampled:
Greek Salad
Grape Leaves (vegetarian)
Vegetarian Moussaka
Lamb Moussaka
Roasted Cauliflower
Sautéed Spinach
Saffron Chicken
Falafel
Roasted Vegetables

My new love is roasted cauliflower! And I had to Google Lebanese Falafel because this was so different from the falafel of previous restaurants and the ones I make at home. There are more ingredients, different seasonings, and a coarser texture. It oddly reminded me of hushpuppies.

Terra Mediterranean Grill @TerraMedGrill
West 7th/Cultural District
2973 Crockett Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
HOURS:
M-F from 11AM-2:30PM (Buffet Only)
M-F from 5PM-10PM (Seated Dinner – No Buffet)
Sat from 11AM-11PM (Seated Dinner – No Buffet)
Sun from 12PM-8PM (Seated Dinner – No Buffet)

Exciting for Rita, Teresa, and me:
Coming soon to Austin! (Hopefully before BlogHer 2013)

Here is a video from NBC Dallas/Fort Worth showing what it is like to experience the Fort Worth location. The whole Cultural District reminds me of The Domain in Austin with retail, restaurants, and museums, mixed with condo and apartment options.

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Karen Morgan at Anthropologie Book Signing

Last year Annette Pearson joined the Friday afternoon volunteers in The Caring Place food pantry. There are five of us now and we have really come together as a team. We have moved into a beautiful, totally new facility, navigated upgrades to a paperless system, and have come to enjoy and look forward to our once-a–week shift together.

Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free

Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free

When Annette invited me as her guest to this book signing my thoughts were a in a jumble. I really wanted to go. But drive? Into Austin? Not my favorite thing to do.

Then I thought ‘hang out with Annette, retail therapy, gluten-free food, and Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free signed by the author, Karen Morgan, with treats from the book’ – I can be brave, I can do this!

Annette is gluten-intolerant and greatly misses the ‘luxury’ of prepared food. We agree that the past two years have seen major improvements in availability of restaurant and grocery store options. One thing Annette misses most, and this resonates because my #1 Son Jorge also misses it, is Pop-Tarts! Karen has a recipe for gluten-free Raspberry Pop-Tart with Cardamom-Lemon Buttercream on her Blackbird Bakery blog.

Thinking about logistics; Annette and I could spend more time together if we met up and drove into town together. So we made arrangements to meet in front of the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Round Rock and she would join me for the drive in. It was a great plan until it starting unraveling and then it became a comedy of errors. It seems that we each have tendencies to misjudge exits or just completely miss them and go miles out of our way to reach an intended destination.

Annette went first and missed the La Fontera exit, ended up on I45 and eventually MoPac (AKA Loop 1) and halfway into Austin. A brief cell phone call later we decided just to go with it and I headed that direction – only I ended up so far out on I45 that it was past the Mopac exit. So I floundered around for about 25 minutes completely forgetting about the car’s GPS or the maps on my iPhone until I finally arrived at The Shops at Arbor Walk DSW shoe store where we had planned to start our shopping expedition.

After DSW shopping we headed to Red Brick Pizza (where they have a gluten-free menu) so we could recuperate from our initial misadventure. Well-fed, rested, and refreshed we moved on and shopped until it was time to head over to The Domain and the new Anthropologie store where Karen’s book signing was scheduled .

Can you guess that one of the treats that were being served was Raspberry Pop-Tart with Cardamom-Lemon Buttercream? I thought Annette might come unglued over such an unexpected coincidence. We both had at least two of them – a good thing we were forewarned and had saved calories for a few sweet treats!

And this was more than a book signing with treats – Karen had set up a cooking demonstration to show us how to make her Maraschino-Marzipan Kisses (also being served)! The third picture down on Karen’s Blackbird Bakery blog about this event shows the back of my head (grey hair) and Annette (blond) as we watched Karen scooping cookie dough and enrobing maraschino cherries to create her Maraschino-Marzipan Kisses on (page 58 of the recipe book, Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free) .

Gretchen @gfedge

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Harley Farm and Goat Dairy

Rita and I made good use of our three days together. The first day we covered many subjects while I reveled in the companionship of my Grand-kitty, Greyson, who has his own easy-to-reach ‘window on the world’ in Rita’s room.

Greyson's Window on the World

Greyson's Window on the World

The second day we shopped for curtains, visited the amazing Berkeley Bowl , baked, and installed the curtains in Jorge’s room. On Saturday Rita had a wonderful round of activities planned. First we visited the San Mateo Farmers’ Market where I purchased a small container of the freshest, most delicious cherries ever. They were totally gone by day’s end. Later that evening I was moving to a hotel where Don and I would be based for several days of sightseeing on our own so more produce would not have been practical.

Our next stop was at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy where Rita had taken care to make a tour reservation. It is difficult to put into words the impression of a place that is like stepping into the classic children’s book, Heidi. The original 1910 farmstead buildings have been restored and are in use today. Some adjustments have been made to accommodate goats rather than the cows from former times.

The Herb and Edible Flower Garden

The Herb and Edible Flower Garden

Our tour was about two hours starting in the flower and herb garden where we learned about the early days of the goat venture beginning with just six goats that gradually became the herd of 200 that we visited in the pasture. All of the female goats, known as the ‘milk-maids’, are kept on the farm. The males are sold to ‘rent-a-goat’  types of businesses that provide mowing services for steep inclines and other difficult areas.

Rita Befriended in the Pasture

Rita Befriended in the Pasture

The goats are very friendly and seem to revel in the attention from visitors. Everyone soon has their very own ‘pasture goat guide’ that wants to be petted along the way (sometimes several vying for attention). We also learned about the varieties of nutritional plants in the pasture as well as the nutritional composition of the feed that varies with the season and changing needs of the animals. There are chicken coops on sleds that are rotated in the pastures so as to provide additional natural fertilizer to keep the pasture healthy.

One of the Impressive Guardian Llamas

One of the Impressive Guardian Llamas

The guard llamas are BIG. And they are serious. No one messes with the llamas. They are well equipped and know exactly how to protect their herd from threats. If threatened by predators they herd the goats into a corner and face off with the intruder. Their spit is vile and their kick is vicious aside from their impressive size.

Washing Up After Goat Petting

Washing Up After Goat Petting

After visiting the ‘milk-maids’ in their pasture we had the opportunity to wash up and visit the milking shed. The goats know when it is milking time and line up early morning and late afternoon to be milked. They decide among themselves who is their BFF and want to stand next to during milking – humans do not interfere with this social ritual. Indeed, they respect it. If a goat needs antibiotics they are taken out of the milk production rotation until well after the antibiotic clears their system. They remain in the lineup but are not attached to the milking machine. Instead they are hand-milked and the milk given to the cats, dogs, and/or chickens on the farm.

A Day's Production - 200 Pounds

A Day's Production - 200 Pounds

The goats produce an average of a gallon of milk a day and that becomes a pound of cheese. So each day about 200 pounds of cheese is processed under the watchful eye of specialists who are trained and licensed in each of the cheese production steps.

Decorating and Molding Fresh Cheese

Decorating and Molding Fresh Cheese

A hands on cheese decorating and molding session using edible flowers and leaves produced a generous round of cheese that became our after-the-tour treat in the restored Victorian hayloft where elegant five-course meals are served in the evenings.

At the Hayloft Banquet Table

At the Hayloft Banquet Table

The table that seats 20 is formed from a single slab of wood, hand-made by a local craftsman who also makes the tall picturesque chairs. The chairs take him two months each to complete. They are made of very hard wood using no nails. You can see the wooden pegs that fasten the slats to the back. All of the remainder of the chair is very firmly jointed – there is no wobble at all.

Two BFF's Have an Afternoon Nap

Two BFF's Have an Afternoon Nap

While the background scenery with the animals and restored buildings is rustic and pastoral the cheese production operation is optimally controlled every step of the way.

A Pastoral Image with Hi-Tech Standards

A Pastoral Image with Hi-Tech Standards

Almost unnoticeable is the computer tracking and control unit in the cheese making room. It hangs on the wall just above the pasteurization unit and tracks the time and temperature of the cheese as it goes through the pasteurization and curdling steps into the cheesecloth bags where they hang and drain over stainless steel sinks.

Rita and I stopped for dinner on our way back to San Francisco before I met up with Don. I wasn’t very hungry after indulging in the cheese samples and having purchased some before the tour that I had with the cherries as my lunch.

Viewing the life of a goat on this type of farmstead; pastured, nourished, respected, and well-treated was an uplifting experience. It would be wonderful if our entire food chain was this clean and green.

Gretchen @gfedge

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Hodgson Mill Mixes

Last month has been crazy in ways that I never previously experienced. Rita is on a family mission and will be residing in California for the foreseeable future. We are hoping for a year but it could be longer.

I traveled back and forth to California a couple of times before Rita’s departure and being in transit did not have any blog-worthy recipes to contribute, not that I didn’t have ideas.

The cooking that I did has either been recipes already posted here at The Gluten Free Edge or a new pancake recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry fame on behalf of #1 Son, Jorge, who has been advised by his doctor to eat gluten-free like Rita and me! Elana’s pancake recipe satisfied his taste memory of the pancake recipe that I created for him, Rita, and Teresa when they were children.

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

A few baking mixes filled in for my other cooking needs. The Hodgson Mill Apple Cinnamon Muffins prepared by our Georgetown neighbor Dona started my interest in this brand of mixes. The muffins were light and flavorful and wonderful for brunch with fruit and a cup of tea. Dona kindly sent some home with me and Don gave them his approval also.

Hodgson Mill Brownies

Hodgson Mill Brownies

Then I found the Hodgson Mill Brownie Mix at our local grocery and appreciated that there was no soy flour in this mix unlike another brand that I evaluated. I have baked a couple of batches of these brownies now with excellent results. For our Easter dessert we had brownies with ice cream and homemade fudge topping (I wish I had taken that picture). Granddaughter Megan took the rest of the brownies back to the dorm to share with friends.

Saint Francis in the Morning Rain

Saint Francis in the Morning Rain

As reported in national news there have been thunderstorms bringing much-needed rain to Texas as well as the tornadoes in the Northern parts of the state. I snapped a picture of my back porch after it rained while I was baking a batch of these brownies. The air smelled so sweet and clean afterwards and all of the plants were happy and extra-green.

There is a box of the Hodgson Mill Yellow Cake Mix in the pantry that is next up for evaluation. I expect the same more-than-satisfactory results.

Usually I prefer recipes from scratch for control of the nutrition values. But we all have those moments when time is short or we do not have access to our own kitchen; at such times a mix is the perfect solution. I also recommend them to folks do not speak ‘gluten-free’ and need to prepare a gluten-free treat for an event be it for children or adults.

Gretchen @gfedge

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