Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars

It has been two weeks since I have gone nearly caffeine free. I used to drink at least 4 cups of coffee each morning with some days drinking the entire pot and if I didn’t drink any I would have a migraine by late afternoon. I have switched to 1/2 decaf, 1/2 regular and only drink maybe 1 cup now. I most likely could completely eliminate the coffee at this point, but I like the morning ritual of taking the time to wake up with a fresh cup before I start my day. I have tried tea but it just isn’t the same. I will switch to 100% decaf in the next week or so once I finish the container of the 1/2 & 1/2. The most noticeable change (besides not having headaches) has been how hungry I am in the mornings now. This is a big change since I never used to want to eat breakfast even though I knew how important it was to eat breakfast. Then my choice was toast. Now that has changed too….eliminating gluten from my diet.

It hasn’t been too terribly hard, but it does take a bit more thought and planning. I have been trying different recipes, some good and others not so great. I don’t eat sandwiches too often so bread has been pretty easy to do without, but I miss toast. I did get some gluten free bread just so that I could have toast, but it is very expensive, so I won’t be having this very often.  Also, baking takes on a whole new challenge with the different types of gluten free flours. Thank goodness for Bob’s Red Mill! I am lucky enough to live near the Red Mill store and am able to buy gluten free flours in bulk.

I plan on making a new gluten free recipe at least once a week. This past week I have tried two new recipes: Gluten Free Pizza Dough and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bars. These both are excellent and you would never know they were gluten free. I will post the pizza dough recipe soon.

Here is the Pumpkin Bar recipe and some of the changes I made to the original recipe. It is more like a cake than a bar, as it is moist and fluffy.

I used pumpkin that I pureed and froze last year instead of canned pumpkin. I changed the refined sugar in this recipe to sucanat as this is less refined. I didn’t change the oil this time, but I will try using coconut oil next time. The frosting is the only thing I haven’t figured out how to change. I am not sure what the alternative for powdered sugar would be other than using whipped fresh cream as the frosting (you just couldn’t frost ahead of time).

 GLUTEN FREE PUMPKIN BARS

4 eggs

1 – 1/2 cups sucanat (can use white sugar)

1 cup sunflower oil

16 oz. pumpkin puree (or 15 oz can pumpkin)

1 cup white rice flour

1 cup cornstarch

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan, set aside.

Mix eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients and then add to pumpkin mixture. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Spread into the 9 x 13 pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool and Frost. Cut into bars.

FROSTING:

4 oz cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

approx. 1 tbls milk kefir (or enough to make frosting spreadable)

1 tsp vanilla

2-1/2 to 3 cups confectioners sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, kefir, and vanilla until smooth. Add confectioners sugar and mix to spreadable consistency.

 

 

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A Year in Review

It has been one year since I began my blog and decided I would review my journey to see how it has progressed. Last year my goal was to simplify my life and I know this has happened. I have never felt more content and fulfilled as I feel right now. No, life hasn’t gotten easier – our budget strings are pulled so tight they are ready to break, but I still feel more relaxed and ‘almost’ stress free. It has been a challenging year and fun at the same time. At least fun for me. I love learning new things, trying new things, and creating.

One year ago I decided that to begin this ‘Simply Basic’ life I would: Make a Plan, Reduce Clutter, Cook From Scratch, Ditch the Disposables.

I ‘plan’ all the time. I don’t have a written plan, but my mental plan of where I wanted to go changed direction a bit and has been very enlightening.

Reducing the clutter has evolved on it’s own. When you don’t shop or buy ‘stuff’ the clutter seems to go away! I did clean out closets and drawers (both kitchen and bath) and donated a lot of unused ‘stuff’. For the items I couldn’t part with but rarely used I put in a box and have decided that if I don’t use any of the things in the box within 6 months they would get donated also. So far I have only gotten into the kitchen box ONCE so I see the rest of the box going away soon!

Cooking from scratch has evolved a bit. Instead of last year’s plan to make ‘ready made mixes’, I have embraced the “Real Food” way of food preparation. It still is cooking from scratch, but on a different level. This past year I have learned that Kombucha and Kefir (both milk and water) are so delicious and a major health food, along with fermenting vegetables: cabbage into sauerkraut, beet kvass, salsa, gingered carrots. The kefir and vegetables provide probiotic, healthy bacterias that are good for our gut and liver. I have learned about healthy fats – coconut oil, lard, butter – and how good they are for us (and NO they DO NOT raise your cholesterol). I began rendering my own lard from grass-fed pork. I successfully started and grow my own sourdough starter and have made many successful things with the sourdough: english muffins, tortillas, pancakes.  I have played with making our own cheese, but currently the cost of the raw milk doesn’t make this an option right now. I really want to raise a couple of goats. This way we could have our milk  (I already have the eggs), so why not? The list could go on, but these are the highlights. My husband says our kitchen is like a science experiment. You never know what will be growing or brewing at any given moment.

Ditch the Disposables has been pretty easy. I rarely use paper towels, but just can’t totally eliminate them, but one roll lasts for months now and most get thrown into the compost bin and not the trash. We use cloth napkins and lots of dish towels, but they are simple to wash so they aren’t a big deal.  I still use plastic, zipper type bags but I wash and reuse them several times before they go to the recycling. I have been making my own household cleaners, shampoo, deodorant, and most recently soap, so this has eliminated unnecessary packaging waste. The homemade, personal care items have been really fun to make and I am so pleased with the results. I will post about these items another time.

So, all in all, I have come a long way. The journey isn’t over, it has just begun. Oh yes, the final item on the list from last year, Stop Procrastinating…..this is still a work in progress ; )  .

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Am I Gluten Sensitive? Maybe…..

Was I feeling sick? NO. Just un-well, if this is a word. Just how do you describe not feeling good but not feeling ill. This best describes how I have felt for the past couple of years. I just figured “I am getting old” or blaming menopause due the hysterectomy I had a couple of years ago were the reasons I didn’t feel right. I ached so horribly bad in my hands, knees, and feet that I lived on pain relievers. I went to see my doctor and was diagnosed with arthritis in my hands. I went to see a naturopath and she did give me some advice regarding my aching pain – stop eating russet potatoes and tomatoes! Well, I did eliminate these two food items from my diet and I had some relief most days. I know these do cause me pain because when I have eaten them, I get that oh so familiar aching back.  I love potatoes – prepared any way – mashed, baked, fried, salad, etc. I also use a ton of tomato sauce, paste, stewed, diced, fresh or canned in all my cooking, so this poses a few issues and most of the time I choose to eat them and deal with the pain later. Then came more research and I stumbled across the issue of Gluten Sensitivity and it’s related symptoms. I found several different websites that listed symptoms of gluten sensitivity and I have many of the classic symptoms. Now, mind you, in addition to my love of potatoes, BREAD was my first most favorite food item. I would eat toast almost every day, sandwiches for lunch, french bread with my tomato based pasta sauce and PASTA! Gluten, gluten and more gluten – every day! Maybe it wasn’t just the potatoes and tomatoes after all….. 

Move ahead several months… 

I have been eliminating gluten containing foods from my diet. I cook brown rice pastas and am making sourdough bread items (souring the dough helps inactivate the gluten in the flour). I am able to eat Yukon Gold and Red potatoes with no issues. When I do eat russet type potatoes I can feel it, so I try to avoid them as much as possible.

I feel so much better now.  So, am I Gluten Sensitive? Quite likely.

The following is a list of symptoms I found and wanted to share – do you suffer from any of the following? Something to consider…..

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity share some of the same symptoms. Although the actual damage occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, specifically in the small intestine, the symptoms manifest in many different ways and often show up throughout your entire body. 

Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease have hundreds of symptoms; the following lists don’t contain them all, but are a good sampling:  

 Gastrointestinal symptoms: These are some of the “classic” — although not the most common — symptoms of celiac disease: 

  •  Abdominal pain and distension  
  •  Acid reflux  
  •  Bloating  
  •  Constipation  
  •  Diarrhea  
  • Gas and flatulence 
  • Greasy, foul-smelling, floating stools 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Weight loss or weight gain 
  • Nongastrointestinal symptoms: Interestingly, although gluten sensitivity and celiac disease affect the gut, most people’s symptoms are not gastrointestinal in nature. This partial list includes just some of the more than 250 symptoms not centered in the digestive tract. 

  •  Eczema/psoriasis  
  • Swelling and inflammation   
  • Joint/bone pain 
  • Fatigue and weakness (due to iron-deficiency anemia)  
  • Nosebleeds 
  • Night blindness 
  •  Vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies 
  •  Headaches (including migraines)   
  •  Depression, irritability, listlessness, and mood disorders 
  •  “Fuzzy brain” or an inability to concentrate 
  •  Infertility 
  •  Abnormal menstrual cycles  
  •  Dental enamel deficiencies and irregularities   
  •  Seizures  
  •  Clumsiness (ataxia) 
  •  Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) 
  •  Respiratory problems 
  •  Canker sores (apthus ulcers) 
  •  Lactose intolerance  
  •  Rosacea (a skin disorder)  
  • Acne 
  •  Hashimoto’s disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus erythematosus, and other autoimmune disorders  
  •  Early onset osteoporosis 
  •  Hair loss (alopecia) 
  •   Bruising easily 
  •  Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) 
  •  Muscle cramping    
  • Read more: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/symptoms-of-gluten-sensitivity-and-celiac-disease.html#ixzz0wibRuGky 

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    Sourdough Success!

    I have been playing with sourdough and my starter for a few months now and think I have finally lost my fear of failure. I was intimidated by the starter for what I now realize was crazy. The starter is so simple and so forgiving. It continues to work, even when I neglect it. I am not too consistent at feeding it and I have forgotten about it at times and yet with a little feeding it performs beautifully.  I am still trying to make a sourdough bread that isn’t as heavy as a brick! I will keep on trying for good bread, but in the meantime, I am turning out absolutely delicious sourdough english muffins and tortillas. No more store bought for us!  Thank you to GNOWFGLINS Sourdough eCourse!

     

     SOURDOUGH ENGLISH MUFFINS

    (makes 8 muffins)

    Soak the following overnight or up to 24 hours: I let mine sit 12 hours so this step could be started early in the day and cooked in the evening.

    • 3/4 cup sourdough starter
    • 1 cup water                              
    • 2 cups flour (I used white, whole wheat)
    • 2 Tbls. ground flax seed (optional)

    Stir to combine the starter and water, then add the flour and ground flax seed. Stir well to combine. The dough should be quite sticky, so if it appears to be too dry you can add a bit more starter and/or water. Cover and let sit on your counter.

    The next morning add:

    • 1 tsp. sea salt
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tbls. raw honey
    • optional add-ins: seeds, dried fruit (raisins,etc), cinnamon, chopped nuts

    Mix to combine with a wooden spoon. Turn dough out onto lightly oiled surface (about 1 tbls. of olive oil) and oil your hands lightly too. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes, just to incorporate the salt, soda, and honey. Pat into a circle and cut into 8 equal pieces either using a pizza cutter or large knife.

    Lightly dust your hands with flour and gently roll each piece into a ball. Flatten slightly, about 3/4″ – 1″ thick, 2 -1/2 inches in diameter. Place the muffins on wax paper or parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for 1 hour. The muffins will rise just slightly, but will rise more when you cook them.

    After the muffins have rested, heat a cast iron skillet or griddle on medium/medium low heat. Don’t use too high of heat, you want the muffins to cook through without burning the outsides.

    Carefully transfer the muffins onto the skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Turn them gently so you don’t deflate them. 

    Cool on cake rack and when cool, store in covered container up to a week (if they last that long!) or freeze for longer storage. 

    These are so easy and relatively quick to make. Hands on time is maybe 10 minutes to prepare for soaking, less than 10 minutes mixing and kneading, and 10 – 20 minutes cooking, depending on the size of your skillet or griddle.

     This recipe could be doubled or tripled.

     

     

     

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    Thursday Thoughts

    It’s been way too long since I posted anything. It is not for lack of anything to say or lack of anything happening on the old home front, that’s for sure. There has been a lot going on, so today I am just posting my random thoughts for Thursday….

    The Garden – it is doing quite well actually. We have enjoyed lettuce, chard, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, kohlrabi, new potatoes, artichokes, cherries and cabbage so far this season, all from our own backyard. I have nearly 7 lbs of beets to can and I just picked our first tomato (!) with tons more just waiting to ripen. I can’t wait for the romas to make salsa and the others to can for use this winter. I am now getting ready to plant a fall crop of beets and lettuce and in a few weeks I will plant garlic.  

    Preserving – so far this summer I have picked and froze strawberries, blueberries, and marionberries. I made some strawberry jam and mashed and froze the marionberries to make jam at a later date. I picked 52 lbs of peaches this week and just finished canning 8 qts today. They are not quite ripe enough, so I am going to can more in the next day or so. I am looking forward to picking pears and apples in the next couple of weeks.

                                             

     Yard Work –  We are in the middle of a complete remodel / addition to our house and the front yard has truly suffered from neglect so we took a break from inside work and focused on redoing the front landscaping. I still need to add a few more shrubs and plant bulbs this fall for spring flowers, but the heavy work is done for now.

    These are just a few of the things going on here.

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    It’s Not Always about the Money

    In the planning for our daughter’s surprise birthday party I was trying to incorporate real foods to the usual BBQ affair. I wanted to serve nutritious foods that would be enjoyed by all and not be seen as my ‘science’ experiments! Although I didn’t make my own hamburger buns, we did have grass fed beef burgers. I adapted my baked bean recipe to incorporate soaked, dry beans: kidney, garbanzo, white. In the past I would have just purchased cans of all these beans. Dry beans are so economical and I always make extra to keep in the freezer making them just as easy as opening a can of store bought.

    The condiments were all homemade, with the exception of the mustard.  I make my own mayonnaise, ketchup, and relish. I did get the comment “why make ketchup, it is not that expensive”. My response was that I make it because I know what is in it – No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No MSG, NO GMO’s! It is not always about the money and the last time I bought a bottle of organic ketchup it was $3.98 for 36 ozs and I made 52 ozs for about the same amount. I haven’t figured the cost exactly, but tomato paste, vinegar, organic sugar and a couple of spices aren’t too terribly expensive.

    I also made a very tasty Corn and Blueberry Salad that was a surprise hit. This salad will make a great addition to all those summer BBQ’s. I have made a similar version of this salad using avocado in place of the blueberries, but I came across this recipe and was intrigued by the flavor combination using blueberries.  The best part of this salad is that it is a make ahead recipe and goes together quickly the night before.

    Here is the recipe:

    Southwestern Corn & Blueberry Salad

    makes 8-10 side servings

    6 ears fresh sweet corn

    1 cup fresh blueberries

    1 cucumber sliced

    1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

    2 tbsp. lime juice (approx. 2 fresh limes)

    2 tbsp. olive oil

    1 tbsp. raw honey

    1/2 tsp. cumin

    1/2 tsp. sea salt

    1. In large pot, bring salted water to boiling. Add corn. Cook, covered 5 minutes, or until tender but don’t over cook. Drain and cut corn from cobs.

    2. In a serving bowl combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno.

    Dressing

    1. Combine lime juice, oil, honey, cumin and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Whisk together. Pour over corn mixture and stir to combine.

    Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours).

    Variation: omit blueberries and add diced avocado.

    (This post appears as part of Real Food Wednesdays –http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/06/real-food-wednesday-6910.html)

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    A New Direction

    ‘To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.’ 

     When God takes something from your grasp, He’s not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better.  Concentrate on this sentence… ‘The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.’   Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.

    I was just sent this in an email today and it fits so well into my life right now. I have been wondering which direction I should be going and some days feel like I am going backwards. I have been struggling to find the direction that I am meant to follow and have been floundering a bit. Maybe this was my ‘sign’ to follow.

    This past week I have been deciding which way my blog should go. I knew I wanted to share my journey, but have been struggling with the thought – “why would anyone care”. I don’t have anything profound to share that isn’t already being blogged about, but there is still the feeling that it is the right thing to do. I read so many other blogs and am truly inspired by everyone out there. Well, I have been listening and am going to follow that not-so-silent voice in my head and move forward.

    I discovered after trying to insert something onto my current blog and it wasn’t working I would have to switch my blog over to a new site – OK, now how do I do that?  This was my first thought, so I started searching and of course everything I found costs more that my non-existent finances could afford. Well, whether it was fate or that ever so powerful guiding hand, I am being led in the direction I need to go.  (I might even be able to generate a tiny amount of income from my new site!) This is something I knew nothing about 7 months ago when I started this. ‘To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.’  I can definitely say I am doing something I’ve never done before!

     I am excited to move forward and hope that  in some small way I can inspire others to trust and follow where HE is leading us all.

    Something good will happen to you today; something that you have been waiting to hear.

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