Monday, February 3, 2014

Project Allergic: Apple Spice Muffins (Gluten, Dairy and Egg Free)


Last week I found a tasty version of gluten-free apple muffins to add to my weekly breakfast line-up, but after scouring every possible place I could have saved it on my computer favorites and iPhone bookmarks, it was nowhere to be found.

Not what I wanted to deal with in my hungry pre-coffee bed-headed state. This was a good reminder that I need to streamline my recipe organization soon...

Standing at my kitchen counter, I frantically searched the web for a similar recipe and managed to uncover this.

I already had most of the ingredients, so modifying it to fit my allergenic needs was a snap. I was impressed with the fluffy yet substantial texture of these muffins, and they really hit the spot paired with a bowl of fresh blueberries and a piping hot cup-o-Joe. :)

Modified Apple Spice Muffins

Wet Ingredients:
3 Flax Eggs*
3/4 c. Applesauce (I used my granddad's home-canned version)
1 c. Brown Sugar (I'd love to experiment with reducing/replacing the sugar. My only complaint)
1/2 c. Canola Oil (Next time I'll try using melted Coconut Oil)
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. All-Spice
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. Brown Rice Flour
1/2 c. Oat Flour (Bob's Red Mill=Gluten Free)
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

Topping:
1/2 c. Peeled/Cored/Diced Apples (plus extra if you have a hungry toddler like I do!)

Pre-heat oven to 350°

1. Mix all of the wet ingredients in a larger mixing bowl.

2. Sift all of the dry ingredients into a smaller mixing bowl

3. Slowly fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful to not over-mix.

4. Place liners into a muffin tin and fill cups about 3/4 of the way full.

5. Gently press a few apple pieces into the top of the muffin. They come out nice and soft, so you could probably put on as many as you want. Or, as the original recipe shows, you could also put the apples in the middle of the muffin.

6. Bake the muffins for around 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. I had to bake mine for 24 minutes.
 
*Flax eggs are soooo easy and a wonderful alternative for those of us who can't eat chicken eggs:

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 Tbsp. Ground Flax Seed Meal with 3 Tbsp. Water. If the recipe calls for more than one egg, just double the recipe accordingly. So for this recipe, I used 3 Tbsp. Flax Seed Meal and 9 Tbsp. Water. After everything is mixed together, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes, or until the consistency is thick and gel-like. When you add it to the mixture, it should easily slide out of the bowl, leaving little residue behind.





 

 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

MoneyMoneyMoneyMo-ney...MO-NEY!


In light of some recent conversations I've had regarding money, I thought I would write about our current financial strategy. I wouldn't go as far to say that we are budgeting "gurus" or anything, but we have come a long way since we've been married. I hope the following is encouraging to at least one person out there who would like to try something different with their spending.

The first year we were married, my husband and I operated on what I like to call a "retroactive" budgeting system. I don't think this is unlike what many other people do--simply tracking the money you spend after it's already spent. This resulted in guilt-inducing money conversations every time we balanced our checkbook.

That was back when I actually balanced a checkbook. Just like Daddy taught me--down to the last freaking penny.

And sometimes we would sit there for hours and hours trying to find that last 19 cents...and looking back now, I just laugh at how much persistence I had...and how accommodating my husband was...

And then it dawned on me.

Why in heaven's name are we trying to control our spending after the money is already gone? Does that even make any sense?

Duh, Katie!

And this is when we finally sat down and came up with a PRO-active strategy. It's genius, I tell you...and I can't believe it took me so long to discover what the rest of the civilized world probably already knew.

Hey...I never said I wasn't stubborn.

There have been many versions over the past six years---budget notebooks and crazy complicated spreadsheets---but I think we have finally landed on a system that works best for us...at least for right now.

Here is our method:

My husband and I sit down (usually after a salary change or another significant life change---like having a baby, for instance) and figure out exactly how much money we make every month. Using www.mint.com (a wonderful budgeting tool that links to your bank account) we enter that number in as our income. Then we make a list of all the different categories of spending we have on a regular basis.

--It's very important to understand that this looks different for everyone. It was such a relief to realize we could make our own categories based on our own unique lifestyle, and not a cookie-cutter version I found in some random money book.--

After the list is complete, we begin dividing up our monthly income into these categories--starting with the bills that are a fixed amount and working our way down to the areas that are more flexible.

When that feels pretty comfortable, we enter in our budgets on Mint. As the month goes on and money is spent out of our account, we tell Mint which category each transaction belongs to. Once it links the transaction to the budget category, the remaining money in that area is shown on a graph.  It's basically an online "envelope" system.

Here are our categories:

Tithe
Rent
Utilities
Renter's Insurance
Car Maintenance
Auto Insurance
Health Insurance
Pharmacy/Doctor's Visits
Weekly Cash Allowance
Predetermined Online Shopping Items
Gas
Cell Phone
Haircuts
Student Loans
Savings Goals (we currently have a long-term, mid-term, and a short-term goal)

While Mint was wonderful for our regular bills, we often forgot to check the categories in other areas before swiping our card at the store.  Even though we had the Mint app on our phones for when we did remember to look, sometimes checks or credit card purchases wouldn't clear the account fast enough to update the budgets. After a few months of trying this and failing miserably, we decided that using cash for things we shopped for frequently might be a better option. Having to physically depart with cash each time we spend and then also seeing the stack of bills get smaller and smaller is finally enough for us to keep a closer eye on our spending. Because when it's gone, it's gone!

And so I give you...The Cash File!




It's not very pretty inside, but it does get the job done!

Our file is divided into seven categories:

Groceries
Household
Toiletries
Baby
Slush
Date Night
Clothing

For about two solid years, we operated on a monthly cash system where we had enough in each category to last us the entire month. We found this to be incredibly frustrating, because a month is a really long time! We frequently ended up with no money left in our grocery section about a week before the next month began. No good! It took a lot of humbling to realize that I am more like a child than I'd like to admit, and that operating on a weekly system would be much more feasible.

Now, we budget the same monthly amount, but instead of carrying it all around at once, we make weekly withdrawals from our checking for a week's worth of cash. It may seem juvenile, but it works for us! It's great to not have to try to remember how much money is left in the grocery budget, because I just look in the cash file and instantly I'm aware of the situation.

Though I do feel like we are in a pretty good place financially, we are most certainly a work in progress. Things do get awkward around Christmas or when other big expenses come up unexpectedly. Thankfully we have a decent sized emergency fund! Eventually, however, I know I'd like to figure out a plan to save for these things in advance. Again--a work in progress!

I know money is a difficult subject for many of us, but the most important thing we have learned is that it's not about how much money you have, but rather it's about how well you manage what money you do have--even if it's not very much. Even though we've had pretty meager salaries thus far, we have been able to pay off a boat-load of debt. Now, other than our student loans, we are completely debt free! And, let me tell you...I can't wait until the day when those blasted loans are paid off!

For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this post, I hope you found our story encouraging and maybe even a little helpful! :) Happy Tuesday!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Project Allergic: It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, It's Scrambled Tofu!!

After an epic crafting fail tonight, I decided that my cut-and-paste misfortune was in actuality the universe nudging me to do something a little more productive with myself.

But then all I wanted to do was watch shallow teenage TV dramas on the internet and eat chocolate and barbeque chips. What IS it about The Carrie Diaries? Oh geez.

So....after jolting myself back to reality, writing was really the only other option. And since I have an apparent infatuation with food this evening, I thought a post on one of my newest concoctions was definitely appropriate.

I bring you.....Scrambled Tofu!

Ok, ok, before you heave on your lap, just wait for the explanation.

Many of you who are reading know for the past several years, for whatever reason, I haven't been able to eat gluten. Two years ago, when pursuing the issue further with an allergist, I discovered through some testing that I'm actually not allergic to wheat/gluten, but I AM allergic to dairy and eggs. Wonderful! So, in addition to my gluten intolerance (which I'm now assuming is merely a digestive issue), I was also faced with the challenge of avoiding three main staples of my regular diet--cheese, mayo, and butter. Super frown-y face.

After mourning the sharp downturn in my culinary life, I slowly began the process of figuring out what I could eat, and how to make it palatable at the very least. It has been a treacherous journey for my taste buds, but I'm finally finding some tasty alternatives to some old beloved favorites--like scrambled eggs, for instance.

I will caution you, however, that typing "scrambled tofu" into a Google search engine will bring up several recipes incorporating onions, vegetables, and various oils that I either can't afford or don't have room for in my tiny kitchen. For some of you, this may be the preferable option, but all I wanted to do was replicate the texture and taste of scrambled eggs as closely as possible. And so began the process of figuring it out for myself. Fun!

I am happy to say that several failed attempts and a willingness to choke down less-than-ideal results have finally paid off. The following is a method I personally enjoy---and I hope if you are allergic like me, or just plain adventurous, you will enjoy it as well. :)

Katie's Plain-Jane Scrambled Tofu

Ingredients:

*these measurements are very precise. Be sure to measure carefully...

One package of extra firm organic tofu (I find mine at Wal-Mart fairly cheap)
2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil or preferred cooking oil
2 splashes GF Soy Sauce
A healthy pinch Nutritional Yeast (I found this in the bulk section at Hy-Vee)
a few shakes Dry Mustard
a dash Onion Powder
a dash Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Open tofu package and divide it into fourths with a kitchen knife.


2. Place one square of tofu on a clean kitchen towel, using it to wring out the extra water over the sink or a bowl. Leave it smooshed in the towel while you complete the next step.

 

3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients.



4. Carefully crumble the squeezed-out tofu into the wet mixture--combine thoroughly and allow to soak for a few minutes.




5. In the meantime, pour a little of your preferred cooking oil/dairy free butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Let it warm until just before sizzles--any hotter and the tofu will stick to a stainless-steel pan, if you are using one.


6. Dump the entire mixture into the pan and stir constantly for about 3-4 min.

 
 
And here you have it--light and fluffy scrambled tofu that mostly satiates my need for the real deal. I like to pile mine on top of a toasted gluten-free waffle each morning before plopping myself in front of a Gilmore Girls re-run. It's my daily treat!
 
 


Monday, December 2, 2013

And now for the recap.

When one enters a grueling masters of music program in addition taking on a teaching assistantship that includes running at break-neck speeds on behalf of the university athletic bands and simultaneously attempting to hold a marriage together in the midst of it all, it's a little disorienting to sit down when it's all finished and finally take a deep breath.

I was almost scared to.

I knew that in the middle of all the crazy weeks of unwashed laundry, late night writing sessions, cramming for tests and projects as Marching Mizzou revved up for rehearsal because it was the only time I available, I had completely lost myself. It sounds terrible, and I tried so hard to not let it happen. I balanced things so well in the beginning and then all of a sudden it transformed into a brutal game of survival.  There were unexpected blows at every turn with hardly a moment to catch a gasping breath.

Picture a less deadly version of The Hunger Games.

Only the protagonist has a baby at the end.

Well...I haven't read the second two books, so maybe she does have a baby in the end. If she does, I'd be super impressed. Especially if she did it without meds in the wilderness. Which is pretty much the way I did.

Don't worry...I'll save that story for a different blog post. :)

In all seriousness though, when the room stopped spinning and I did finally let myself reflect on the past two years, I was excited to figure out what this new life would look like. The puzzle pieces are all scattered about, and I am (im)patiently waiting to see how they will fit together. I know there's a plan for it all, and instead of anxiously fretting about what the next step is--I'm just going to try to enjoy the ride.

Today I am thankful for where I am. I have students to teach, places to play, words to write, and a home to keep. I have a beautiful daughter and a hard-working husband, and a gracious God who loves me more than I could ever imagine. What else is there, really?


 

 




Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's never too early to discipline...

Myself, that is.

I need a time out.

I think it hit me about the time I dropped a Tupperware filled with sliced red peppers and then preceded to repeatedly slam the vessel to the floor that once held them.

Oh...and I was yelling.

I yelled as I picked the pathetic little things up off of our dirty linoleum, yelled as I stomped my way over to the trashcan, and then gave an encore worthy UGH!! as I shoved them into the layers of smelly garbage.

Really?

YES!

Wanna know why?

I spent the previous forty-five minutes convincing myself to get off the couch with the promise I could scavenge tasty tolerable sustenance to feed my growling tummy, and those red peppers were part of the plan. Peppers, avocados, and toasted gluten-free bread. I even had an overwhelming urge to pee, but even that wasn't enough to rouse me from my resting place. The fear of becoming fat and lazy? Nope..not enough. The only reason I was able to drag myself out of my comatose state was for some friggin red peppers!

I just love being pregnant.

No, no. Let me rephrase.

I just LOVE being pregnant with food allergies. Only a pregnant lady who can't eat eggs, wheat, or dairy would let the loss of a container of plain-jane red peppers send her into this much of a tizzy-fit.

I'm sure the "Armageddon" episodes on the History Channel and "Death of a Cheerleader" on ABC Family combined with Bravo's "Pregnant in Heels" had absolutely nothing to do with it.

My poor husband...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Couch Dwellin'

Hey peeps! Or....peep....whatever. HI!

I have been a little busier than I had imagined the last time I posted...orchestra gigs....camps....MU summer welcomes....eating....



I really tried to not eat the whole thing...but it was the best cheese-free/gluten-free pizza I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. YUM. Even though I've started my second trimester, I still get those insane waves of nausiousohmygoshputsomethingwithcarbsinmymouth. Veteran moms, I'm sure you know the feeling!

Though I've been procrastinating a tad, I've started a few projects to help me start preparing to connect with our little one.

The first one is a baby book of sorts, only it is just a little journal I can write in every day. I've been filling it with scripture, prayers, notes, encouragements, etc... It's been really good for me to channel more of my "baby obsessed" emotions into something a little more productive than stuffing my face with pizza, watching backtoback episodes of A Baby Story, and poring over all of the ridiculous posts on mommy message boards. :)

Another little thing I've started is an embroidery project to put scripture around what will become the baby's room. I know that it's a little early to start decorating, but I will hit the ground running with school in a little over a month, and I know there won't be time to do ANYthing. AND, my sewing machine is going to be in the shop for two weeks...so I HAVE to start doing something, people!

Anyway, I really wanted to stitch little samples of Psalm 139 to hang in pieces...either in large painted embroidery hoops or frames. I haven't decided which. Getting started was a little rough, but I'm getting the hang of it, thankfully:)

First, I just entered the text with a cute font into Word, printed it out, and taped it to a sunny window.  After cutting a square from a bird's eye flat and taping it over the printout, I carefully traced the words with a fine tipped sharpie.



Leaving me with this--and I haven't the faintest clue why I can't get the picture to be right side up. My head hurts too bad to mess with it...so you'll have to use your own inventive imagination.



The current state of the project has been sitting on my coffee table for a few days until I get the gumption to continue working on it. I almost have the first line stitched. Too many baby shows on TV for me to stay focused!!

The marker lines are a bit dark and thick to cover up with the thread I have, so next time I will probably just use a light pen or pencil. I think this one will look okay from a distance, but I'm definitely working toward an improvement next time.

No belly pics this time...though it is definitely a larger bloat since the last time I posted! My OB even gave me a curt little lecture about eating more veggies so I won't gain weight so fast...and I'm currently looking for a new OB!! :) As long as I'm healthy and happy, I really don't think comments like that are necessary. The only reason I gained 6 lbs. is because unlike a lot of women, I had the (amazing) blessing of being able to keep all my food down. And I'm really hungry!!

Ok, that's enough for this time...happy 100-degree July weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

8 Weeks

Our second doctor's visit yesterday was very exciting, partly because it was our fourth wedding anniversary!!  Normally I wouldn't have had two appointments so close together, but my OB wanted to double check the baby's measurements to confirm my due date. I didn't complain because it just gave me another chance to make sure everything was going ok in there. I was so suprised to see how much bigger the little bugger was! The heartbeat was up to 160 bpm and you can totally make out where the head/arms/legs are. So cute! I keep talking to my belly telling him/her to "be careful in there!" hehe... never to early to nag, right?

The only concerining matter was that the previous week's bloodwork indicated my thyroid isn't functioning up to par. The doc said it's pretty normal for someone like me and scribbled off a perscription for Synthroid. My mom has been on thyroid meds for years, so it really didn't suprise me much. I was a little sad to have to add one more pill to my cocktail, but I guess you do what you have to do.

Nausea has definitely reared its head...though I'm not the type to actually throw up. I was thirteen the last time that happened, and I think I just will myself to not do it anymore. I would rather do most anything else than to heave uncontrollably into a nasty toilet. Not my cup-o-tea. So....about 2pm every afternoon...when that yucky swimmy feeling hits....I just park my happy butt on the couch and suck on candied ginger until it's time to make dinner.

Are you bored yet? Too bad..I'm going to keep blabbing.

One of the ways I try to boost my mood is to exercise at least every other day...usually swimming, biking, or jogging.

ONCE in a while, I pop in my prenatal yoga dvd. It's total cheeseball...so I'm not always in the mood. The ladies look like teletubbies without the wierd head thingie. Seriously...check it out: http://www.gaiam.com/text/videos/90-0020_video.html.

But anyway...yesterday I hopped on my bike for a few laps around the park across the street. It was a gorgeous morning, and since I usually feel pretty great when I'm working out, I was having a great ride. Until.....I tried to turn around on the narrow path so I could go look at a different part of the park. Normally sharp turns are a cinch....but since I'm just a little off these days, I forgot to look the direction I wanted to go...and instead stared directly down at my bike. BIG mistake. The bike drunkenly wobbled about and since my seat was hiked almost all the way up (from the triathlon), my feet couldn't reach the pavement. There was a moment of "oh crap" where everything started moving in slow-mo and I was TERRified I was going to fall off the bike. NOOO! I determined to NOT fall...and somehow I didn't. Whew! My adrenal glands had a hey-day with that near disaster and I was so shaky that I had to go sit on a bench to calm down. So...maybe I should forego the biking for a while...or at least the 180-degree turns.

Anywho...that's enough for one week.

Here's the latest progress:



The sad part is that the belly bloat is 0% baby and 100% gaseousness. Oh weeeell. That's what the flaxseed meal is for. Eat up!