I have said it before and I will say it again: I am not a cook. My kitchen and I do not get along very well. To be completely honest, I have one outlet in my kitchen I can get to and my microwave is hooked up to it. So, I do not own a hand mixer, let alone a stand mixer. When I mix anything, it is by hand and it is always a bit of a prayer that my gas oven gets to the right temperature.
That being said, I have always enjoyed playing around with light baking. If the recipe is simple, I am your girl. If it is a box mix, well, that is just an added bonus. I don’t bake often though, because I live alone and am always on a diet.
At the Chicago GFAF Expo, I was a lucky recipient of a box of the Snickerdoodle Cupcake Mix from two-time(!) CUPCAKE WARS Champion, Kyra Bussanich. I met Kyra a year ago, after her first victory but before the 2nd, and was super excited to try out this mix. It had to be for the right reason and a friend in town from California followed by a birthday celebration for Frannycakes certainly qualified in my book!
The texture of the mix is super fine. It actually required a bit of shaking of the bag to make sure I had it all out. This excited me because it was different from what I am used to with gluten-filled cake mixes and the thick, clumpy mix. Not this! After I whipped some butter by hand for 2 Kelly Clarkson songs (or 6-8 minutes according to the directions), I accidentally skipped a step in the instructions and added the wet ingredients to the mix.
So other than making a baker cringe when I mentioned skipping a step, I think a full-on body twitch occurred when I told her I mixed the batter with a fork, as I find it helps eliminate clumps better than a spoon. You are all allowed to yell at me. Anyway, there was a minor panic attack when I discovered my lack of a cupcake pan and the presence of mini cupcake cups. Thank goodness for some ingenuity on my part.
After some playing with my rarely used oven and figuring out baking time, this is what the mix produced:
Since I used Earth Balance as my butter, they did not rise that much. But even with all my kitchen foibles, these cupcakes were AMAZING!!! At the party multiple people went back for 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 10ths. They were a hit with everyone telling me that they could not believe they were Gluten Free.
I am really hoping that these get into stores soon, as this is going to be my go-to mix brand whenever I have to make something. If you are not adventurous enough to try the Snickerdoodle, these are also available in Chocolate and Vanilla. Easy, tasty, and passing the non-GF taste test equals something that I highly recommend you seek out.
I am going to be completely honest. I am a bit lazy and usually do not have time at night to go blog exploring, so unless I hear about a great blog from someone or stumble across it, I probably have never heard of it. Which was the case of GlutenIsMyBitch. At the beginning of March several people I follow on Twitter started posting pics of these supercute “Fuck Flour” buttons and talking about this book they picked up titled Gluten is My Bitch. Even though I had sworn off buying any more books until I got through my backlog, I swung by the Book Cellar to get my own copy because with a title like that, how could I refuse?
To say I love this book would be an understatement. While April apparently has encountered more “run to the bathroom NOW” scenarios than I have, so many of the emotions that she talks about resonated deeply. It didn’t hurt that her writing style and tone are more than a little bit sarcastic. Plus the recipes look simple enough that even I couldn’t mess them up — if I ever decide to make one. You can only imagine my happiness when I saw that she was swinging through Chicago and doing a presentation at the Printers Row Lit Fest. In fact, I was so excited that I started to make the EL trip into the Loop a week early! D’OH! Thankfully a well-timed tweet from April saved me from the embarrassment of wandering around like a lost and confused puppy.On the proper day, Chicago decided it was finally time to crank the heat up a bit and supercharge the humidity in her honor. You know, ACTUALLY give us a day that felt like it belonged in the season we were in and a great day for the city to show off how fantastic it is when the temperatures rise and we all come out of hibernation. After a quick stop for an iced coffee IV, I was bright-eyed, busy tailed, happily caffeinated, and on my way to Printers Row and the Good Eating tent. Upon arriving I quickly spotted local GF bloggers Betsy and Andrea. We did a brief bit of catching up then it was time for April. Thanks to some pesky health and sanitation regulations, we could only look on as she literally whipped together 3 party appetizers, all while having a conversation with Monica Eng from the Tribune.
What I loved was, just like in her book and blog, April was completely open about her challenges, including those fun pre-diagnosis loo runs. Granted, I think she had many more “crap your pants” moments than I did, but every Celiac is different and her stories were just hilarious. Even though every Celiac/Gluten-Free person is different, while she spoke I looked around and saw so many people nodding their heads in agreement and understanding. After about 30-ish minutes, they opened the conversation up to questions. Through all of this, April continued prepping food that we couldn’t eat! Ah, those pesky laws.
At the end it was announced that April would be signing books under another tent. You know, that thing I did not bring because I wore my pin purse and the book didn’t fit? Yeah. That book. And somehow I ended up being one of the first in line. The day was saved when one of the volunteers gave everyone a post-it to write their name on for their autograph. Just like a in a cartoon, a lightbulb went off over my head. I realized that I could have her sign the post it and I would place it in my book when I got home! Brilliant!
I was already feeling pretty good, and my geek-o-meter was hovering in the high zone when it was my time to have my “book” signed. The geek-o-meter went through the roof when, before I said a word, April stated: “I know you.” We have never met in real life. We have never talked. We have had some Twitter exchanges, including getting the previously mentioned button, but that was it. A funny thing happens when the geek-o-meter maxes out. I get loud – er. I actually apologized to April because I felt that after that moment, I started yelling and being a spaz, and pretty much all those things that happen when I get really excited and lose my cool. You know, when I geek out. April was gracious, fun, and awesome. I even got a picture with her: Cute, right? Except April was behind the table and I was in front of it. My brain did not even THINK about asking if I could go around to get the picture. Nope. My brain saw an open space on the table and decided that I would just sit on the table and lean back. Cuz that is what you do, right? April has already blogged about the “inappropriateness” of this picture. I am going to apologize for the whiteness of my thighs in this picture. I don’t pre-tan and this was the first day that felt warm enough to wear shorts. Which means my legs have been encased in jeans for the past 9 months or so. So they are blinding. But really, this picture is thightastic. Enjoy!
Oh, and if you have not picked up the book — DO! It is actually one of the more accessible “Welcome to your new life” books I have read and it is one of the few ones that felt like it was written by someone less than perfect. You know, human. And funny. Cuz we all need to find the humor in our “where is the nearest loo” moments!! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1617690309/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d11_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0TPPEGXTR5B92302VH74&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938811&pf_rd_i=507846
There were about 5 different blog posts I wanted to write this weekend, including product reviews of Red Apple Lipstick, Keeki Pure & Simple nail polishes, about meeting April P, and a couple of ideas still floating around out there that will make it into final form eventually. Then I read a comment on a support group I belong to that made me reconsider and realize that I needed to write this.
I’m going to paraphrase, but the basic comment was along the lines of, “I am tired of explaining my illness to everyone, they only laugh at me, and I don’t want to deal with normals anymore.” This broke my heart for so many reasons.
First of all, yes, Celiac disease sucks. It sucks that we have to make sure that if we dare go out to eat, we need to ask a thousand questions, double and triple check to make sure clean surfaces and utensils are used in the kitchen, that grills are cleaned, that we cannot order like we used to, that even our alcoholic lifestyle has changed. It. Sucks. There is no arguing that. But here is the thing. It isn’t going away. Not every. So unless you want to go back to the land of farting all the time, diarrhea, massive depression, or whatever not-fun symptoms you had when your system was crapping out on you and you didn’t know it, you are stuck with this diagnosis. But the positive to ALL of this is — we have the only autoimmune disorder where we can control it by food. We do not need to spend thousands of dollars on medication. We eat right, we are healthy. How cool is that?
As far as the people laughing and not understanding, well, maybe I am used to that because I was never one of the cool kids, no matter how hard I tried to be. Man, I wanted to be cool and popular so bad that I tried to subvert who I was. I obviously did not succeed at that, but I wanted to fit in so much it hurt. People will not understand or accept what they do not want to understand or accept. Period. If you want proof of that, just look through history. That does not mean they people on the mis-understood side stopped trying. They kept fighting their fight until they got their voices heard.
We are fighting our fight. For every 3 people who laugh or do not understand, there may be one in there that wants to learn more and get it, but is laughing to go along with the crowd. Maybe one of the people we tell our story to is experiencing something similar but is too embarrassed to talk about it. You just opened her eyes to something that maybe her doctor had not considered. For every “normal” (I really hate that word) person you talk to, you are spreading education and awareness. That is now someone who at some point later in their life can say, “Hey, I know someone dealing with that.”
And as far as work/whatever/life not getting it. Been there, done that. I’m the girl who Instagramed the picture of the apple, water, salt, and pepper packets that were all I could enjoy at a company sponsored luncheon. Ok, I didn’t eat the salt and pepper, but they were among the GF items I could eat. What I could not have were the sandwich and chips that were in the lunch. Was I frustrated? You bet your non-flaming hinny. Was I enraged? So much so that I emailed the event planners when I got back to the office and let them know that there was a portion of their workforce that was affected by this. At the office event we had on Thursday, there was a small GF pizza. It was a baby step, but it was a step. My co-workers now order a GF cupcake when they realized after 3 months I was excluded. On food days, there is always a co-worker that will bring in something for me to eat. Yes, it is usually the same co-worker, but another one stopped me from eating something I have made because of something that was added. It is not a perfect situation, but you will find people out there who care.
That being said, I recently was an extra in a movie and am so thankful that I brought a GoPicnic with me to set, because there was nothing at lunch I could eat. But that’s just the thing. I do not expect the world to cater to me. It is nice when there are options available, but for the most part, I try to keep something on me so I can eat with others. Yes, I have to explain why, but when they see I am serious about my health, they accept it. And I am always answering questions about Celiac when I do this.
Life on a daily basis can be frustrating. Trust me, I have been there. I have cried tears of frustration over being excluded due to my diet. I’ve worked for companies that have been great for visitors, lousy for employees. Heck, I still refuse to eat at my company’s cafeteria because the cross-contamination is so awful. The thing is, if I isolated myself from every non-GF person out there, I would not have the community of friends I have today.
And my friends/acquaintances/whatever you want to call them make my life better. The GF’ers who know what I am going through. AND the “normals” who share my love/geekery over theatre, music, comic books, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, literature, and so many other things. If I never put myself out there, they never would have come into my life, making my life that less fantastic.
So, yes, we all struggle. As someone whose symptoms showed up as some pretty scary depression that has gone away post-diagnosis, I know how easy it is to dwell on the negative. But damnit! Life is too short to focus on all that is bad in your life and in the world! Snap out of it already! Have your pity party, then find 1 bright spot in your day and focus on that instead. It might be something as simple minor as something that made you crack a smile, or it could be a major accomplishment. The thing is, focus on the good instead of the bad. Your life will be that much better for it.
Or, you know, be Elle Woods:
Wow! It is June and 2013 is now officially at the 1/2 way point. Plus we just wrapped up Celiac Awareness Month on May 31st.
What a month.
It is only logical (GAH! Star Trek) to start with the bad. By bad I mean, Holy Shizzballs Major Media Outlets, Do You Have Your Head Up Your **edited**! I mean really. How hard can it be to have an intern do 5 minutes of simple internet research to get facts? Apparently it is almost impossible for that to happen. GlutenDude continued his fantastic, award-winning run of sarcastically dealing with the media stupidity out there and sounding the horn for the rest of us to learn where to direct our ire. The first idiot spewing off on GF was Rush Limbaugh. What made me laugh is that the GF community apparently is as fed up with his BS that none of us decided it was worth talking about. Maybe because he flip-flopped his opinion so much that you ended up not totally sure what the heck he was ranting on. And we didn’t want to give him the press he so obviously longs for.
Mid-month we had the Disney Channel brouhaha. A show they air, JESSIE, had an episode where they a) went on about a character having 5 pages of allergies, and then b) had one of the “hero” characters throw pancakes at the allergy boy because he was “annoying. Way to go Disney. Let’s show that bullying and picking on someone just because they are irritating you is the way to handle the situation. This disappointed me most of all because the theme parks are so allergen friendly. If you aren’t familiar with the episode, the GlutenDude response, and what we as a community accomplished, well…the hyperlinks are there for ya.
Of course, the media crap didn’t end there. Nope. Chelsea Handler, who I understand is allergic to Gluten. Seriously, this was awful and ignorant of the people who have to follow the Gluten Free diet because if they don’t they could DIE! And then lastly, because we have not endured enough of a media shizz storm, we got a mention on the Today Show 4th hour by Hoda Kotbi. Well…..yeah. *sigh* MAKE IT STOP!!! Granted, we got a kind of apology, you know, the kind a 4-year-old gives when their mom tells them to apologize for something and they don’t really want to. All this shows me is that we, as a Gluten Intolerant/Celiac community, need to get out there and start educating how important, and life saving, the gluten-free lifestyle (cuz it is not a diet) is for us.
So, if I am calling for action, what did I do?
Well, I wore a Crave Bakeshop t-shirt to a Doctor Who conference.
I wore green. A lot. Considering it is my favorite color, that was not too much of a stretch. Heck, I own 5(!) different shades of green nail polish. So I rock the Celiac Awareness color year round.
There was a bit of a heated e-mail conversation with the owner of a restaurant that handed me her card at the Chicago GFAF expo and invited me to try her Gluten Free Breakfast. Except that it is cooked on the same surface as the Glutenous ingredients and with just a little bit of a clean-up. Granted, I ate when i was there, knowing the risks, but I don’t know if the upset stomach I had after was from being upset or from being glutened. Needless to say, she still seems to think that having GF ingredients makes her GF, I cannot convince her otherwise, and I learned what it was like to, hypothetically, bang your head into a brick wall.
There was the Dining Out with Bruce event at DaLuciano’s this month. To say that I ate a lot of food would be an insult to a lot of food. I think there was about a TON of food to be had. Just when we thought we were done, MORE came out!! This event was such a unifier for the Chicago GF community as it brought so many different people together at an event where you had to talk to your neighbor and learn a bit more. Plus the food was AMAZING!
I did my best to try to educate my company about Gluten Free, and why it is important to have options available when there is a company wide event. Apples, salt and pepper do not make a full, or happy, employee.
Finally hit up the Grand Rapids Gluten Free Food Fair. Talk about being impressed! Well, mostly. One of my favorite companies had a rather dismal “booth”. Other than that, so many local restaurants came out with knowledge about cross contamination and provide safe food samples it was inspiring. Plus I got to meet Willy O, who makes an award-winning GF Pizza! if you live in West Michigan, make sure you Google this FREE event next year. It is worth attending.
The game of phone tag with the company that operates the food service locations at the United Center ended. I finally discovered why they only have their GF booth open during sporting events, and gave them a suggestion or two to make life a bit easier for the GF attendee at other events.
I supported smaller Gluten Free companies. I now own so much Celiac and the Beast wear, it is kind of scary. But I know if she has a v-neck, I am scooping that up! Plus there was the end of the month purchase for some more eyeshadow from Red Apple Lipstick. I’ve purchased from them at the Chicago Expo the last 2 years, but had never done anything online. Until I read this story on their blog. How could I not chip in and help out? We are a COMMUNITY after all.
Except for that minor Twitter disagreement I had with someone who wants people to eat GF his way, aka only the savory not so much the sweet. I agree that there are a lot of sweet GF recipes out there, but am of the opinion it is because replicating the taste and texture of the sweet is harder to do than to replicate flavors of the savory. We did agree that the GF community needs to be health conscious, but doesn’t everyone? Communities do not always see eye-to-eye, it is about how we work together to get over our differences that is important.
And on the very last day of the month, I became the first actor featured on GlutenLibre.com’s GF Performers site. Pretty kick-ass.
I probably did more, but really, all I did this month was live my life. It may, or may not have, helped raise awareness of Celiac Disease. But if I can educate and make a dent in my corner, then I would say it was a pretty good month.