Cheesecake Journey, Part 2

cheesecake title

It is not the All-American cherry pie. But Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake has become the “go to” dessert for holidays at my house. If you come for a visit and I have time to prepare it, cheesecake might be waiting for you.  It has taken six decades for me to consider the challenge of cheesecake and I am willing to share.  With the right equipment to help me be successful and enough practice behind me, I think I have come up with a recipe to fulfill my craving for gluten free cheesecake.   If you missed Part 1 of this journey, you can find it here.

Since the crust needs to be in the freezer before we add the filling, starting with the crust is essential.  Prepare your pan with butter and parchment paper.  Then use a food processor to crush the cookies.  You could put them in a plastic bag and crush them to get the same results.  Pressing the crumbs and butter into the prepared cheesecake pan works best when your fingers or spatula are coated with some butter.  And of course, if you are not interested in a chocolate crust, you can easily use a vanilla sandwich cookie.  Either way, this simple crust goes together “as smooth as butter”!

Cover the sides and bottom of the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil or place the cheesecake pan inside of a silicone pan.  Place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes so the butter has time to solidify.  It will take that long to make the Raspberry Swirl and prepare the filling.

I use a small food processor to puree the raspberries.  A large one should give you the same results.  While the recipe calls for 2 pints of fruit, I have found that I have to be careful about picking through the raspberries to find the best ones.  Sometimes that means purchasing more than I end up using.  But a little extra raspberry swirl to spread on the plate or drizzle on a slice of cheesecake is never a bad thing.  Getting rid of the seeds is easy with a wire mesh strainer and a spatula.  If the wire mesh is small enough, the seeds stay in the strainer while the pureed raspberries land in the bowl underneath.  You might have to use the spatula to scrape the bottom of the strainer to get as much of the pulp as possible.  It is worth the effort when you add the sweet fruit to each serving.  Add 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar to the fruit and set it aside until the filling is ready to pour into the pan.

Raspberry Swirl

I have always melted chocolate in the microwave.  But after sitting for a short time, it doesn’t stay melted.  The credit for doing it a new way goes to Ghiardelli.  I was skeptical at first because adding water to chocolate did not make sense to me.  I am always willing to learn a new way of accomplishing a task, so I tried it and was happy with the result.  It was also a more reliable way to melt the chocolate.  Break up the chocolate into a small bowl.  Heat 1/3 cup water in the microwave for 30-45 seconds or until boiling. Without stirring, pour the boiling water over the chocolate and cover the bowl.  After 2 minutes and a few stirs, the chocolate is melted and ready to add to the filling.

melting chocolate

All of the prep work is done and it is finally time to make the filling.  Begin with the room temperature cream cheese.  Mix it at medium low speed until it is creamy.  If you use a high speed for any step of the filling, you will be adding air.  That causes the filling to rise and then fall as it cools.  A higher speed will give a more dense texture.  If you want the filling to be creamy, use a lower speed and beat it for only one or two minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating.  Scraping down the sides and the beater will ensure that all the lumps are gone.  While it is mixing, add the chocolate.  Scrape down the bowl and beaters again and lower the speed of the mixer.

Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium bowl.  This is another step where it is very easy to add too much air.  The eggs do not have to be completely mixed.  Just a little light whisking with a fork will be enough.  Add the eggs to the cream cheese in 4 additions using a low speed.  It is not necessary to mix them in completely with each addition.  See the yellow streaks in the photo below?  That is when you add more eggs.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and complete the final strokes with a spoon or spatula.

cheesecake eggs

By now, your crust is well chilled and you can add 2/3 of the filling.  Spread about half a cup of the raspberry swirl over the filling and use a knife to lightly mix it in.  You want streaks of red to show when you slice the cheesecake so use gentle strokes to swirl it into the filling. Add the remaining filling on top.

adding raspberry swirl

Using a spoon, place dollops of raspberry swirl in a pattern across the top of the filling.  A skewer or the tip of a sharp knife can be drawn through the dollops to create swirling hearts.  Those pretty hearts are going to get covered up with whipped cream and more raspberries, but it looks pretty while it is baking!

cheesecake top

Place the cheesecake in your bain-marie and let it bake for 65 to 70 minutes or until the sides are set and the middle jiggles like gelatin.  I know it is a temptation to open the oven door and peek inside, but resist the urge.  Leaving the door closed until the end of the baking time maintains an even temperature for this dessert.  When done, turn the oven off; leave the oven door slightly open; and let it cool for one hour.  Remove the cheesecake from the bain-marie.  Take off the foil or silicone pan.  Run a warm butter knife between the cheesecake and the sides of the pan.  Then put it in the fridge to chill.  Waiting is the hard part.

After a minimum of 4 hours, remove the sides of your pan while supporting the bottom with your hand.  Slide a butter knife between the bottom of the pan and the parchment paper.  The bottom should slide away.  Still supporting the cheesecake with one hand, grab the edge of the parchment paper and peel it away from the bottom.  The crust should be sturdy enough for you to handle the cheesecake without it falling apart.

plating the cheesecake2

Now you deserve a reward.  You have worked hard and taken your time to do it right. Use a sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water ad then dried to cut a slice.  Add some whipped cream, raspberry swirl, and grated chocolate.  Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

RWC slice2

Print Recipe
Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake
A rich, filling dessert to be served to special guests.
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Gluten free dessert
Prep Time 60 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Passive Time 4 hours
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Crust
  • 20 gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies with filling
  • 1/4 cup butter melted
Raspberry Swirl
  • 2 pints raspberries pureed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Cheesecake Filling
  • 2 bars Ghirardeli white chocolate baking bars 4 ozs. each, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 32 ounces cream cheese at room remperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
Garnish
  • 2 ounces white chocolate shaved
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream prepared as directed on package
  • Raspberry Swirl
Course Gluten free dessert
Prep Time 60 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Passive Time 4 hours
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Crust
  • 20 gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies with filling
  • 1/4 cup butter melted
Raspberry Swirl
  • 2 pints raspberries pureed and seeded
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Cheesecake Filling
  • 2 bars Ghirardeli white chocolate baking bars 4 ozs. each, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 32 ounces cream cheese at room remperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
Garnish
  • 2 ounces white chocolate shaved
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream prepared as directed on package
  • Raspberry Swirl
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Prepare the Pan
  1. Cut a parchment circle 1 to 1 1/2 inches larger than the bottom of your cheesecake pan. Prepare the bottom and sides of your pan with a small amount of butter. This should be kept to a minimum. Place the parchment circle on top of the lightly buttered bottom and press the excess paper to the sides of the pan.
Make the Crust
  1. In 1-qt microwave safe bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter. In small batches, pulse the cookies with the filling into fine crumbs using a food processor or blender. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter and pour into the prepared pan. Using buttered fingers or a buttered spatula, press the cookie crumbs to make an even coating over the parchment on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Cover the bottom and sides of the pan with aluminum foil or a silicone baking pan to create a water barrier. Place the pan in the freezer while you prepare the raspberries and filling. It should freeze for at least 30 minutes.
Raspberry Swirl
  1. In food processor or blender, puree the raspberries. Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl and press the pureed raspberries into the strainer to remove the seeds. You will need to scrape the bottom of the strainer often in order to get all of the puree. Stir in confectioners' sugar and set aside.
Melt the Chocolate
  1. Break the chocolate into a medium bowl. Pour 1/3 cup boiling water over the chocolate. Make sure the chocolate is submerged in the water. Do not stir. Cover with a saucer or plastic wrap and let stand for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove the cover and whisk the chocolate and water until thoroughly blended and smooth. Set aside.
Cheesecake Filling
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Place a large pan or oven safe skillet in the oven. Add about 2 inches of hot water and let it heat again as the oven preheats. This will be your water bath.
  2. Using medium low speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Do not over beat. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix for 2 minutes or until the ingredients are smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least twice during the mixing time. Add the melted chocolate and continue to mix at medium low speed until combined.
  3. Using a fork, lightly mix the eggs in a separate bowl. Decrease the mixer speed to low and add the eggs in 4 additions. Blend the mixture just enough to incorporate the eggs.
  4. Pour 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture into the frozen crust. Spoon 1/2 cup pureed raspberries over the filling. Using a knife, lightly swirl the raspberries without mixing them in completely. Add the remaining filling. Add raspberry puree in spoonfuls to the top of the filling and swirl across the top to make a pretty design.
  5. Place the cheesecake in the water bath and bake for 65 to 75 minutes or until the sides are dry and the middle jiggles like gelatin. Do not open the oven except to check for doneness at the end of the cooking time. Turn the oven off and leave the door partially open. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 60 minutes.
  6. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and the oven. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before removing cheesecake from the pan. Do not cover.
  7. After 4 to 24 hours, remove the sides of the pan. It may be helpful to run a knife between the sides of the pan and the cheesecake so it will release easily. Slide a knife blade between the parchment paper and bottom of the pan to loosen the cake and slide it off the base of the pan.
  8. With one hand supporting the bottom of the cheesecake, grab an edge of the parchment paper and begin to peel it away from the crust. The crust and cake should be firm enough to hold it while you peel away the paper and slide the cheesecake to a serving plate.
  9. Garnish with remaining raspberry swirl, heavy whipping cream, and chocolate curls.
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Cheesecake Journey Part 1

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake

Life is a series of choices. What kind of education should I pursue? Who should I marry? How many children do I want? Should I buy or rent, spend or save? What should I do with my free time this weekend?  Do I buy cheesecake or learn to make it myself? Ahh . . . it’s a choice and someone has to make it.

I grew up with chocolate chip cookies, peach cobbler and birthday cake.  There were no opportunities to learn how to appreciate a refined dessert. Probably the first bite of cheesecake I tried came from a box of five dozen tiny squares.  They were just right for a party where you are trying to serve small bites to dozens of people. But real cheesecake didn’t sit on my plate until I tried some at a restaurant a few years ago.  Then I became gluten free.  No more cheesecake for me.

Some cheesecake has flour added to it.  But it isn’t really necessary and leaving it out makes the filling gluten free. The crust usually has gluten in it also but it can easily be made with gluten free substitutes. I knew that unless I lived in an area that had a true gluten free menu without any danger of cross contamination, commercially produced cheesecake was only a dream.  You would think that a metroplex as big as Dallas/Fort Worth would have some kind of a truly gluten free restaurant with a full menu of delectable desserts. But alas.  It isn’t happening.  So I began a journey to learn how to make cheesecake for myself.  What a journey it has been!  Blogs, recipes, web sites and advice are plentiful. I soon learned that no resource has all the information I needed.  As a newbie in the world of cheesecake, I had so many questions that were never answered completely.  Recipes seemed to be incomplete.  Do you prepare the pan or not?  If yes, then how do you do it?  Is a water bath necessary?  What’s the best way to prevent issues like a cracked top or a soggy bottom?  So many questions.  So few answers.

Much of what I have learned over the last few weeks about cheesecake has come from trial and error.  I will admit that none of the errors were thrown away.  The crust may have been soggy; the top might have been cracked; the filling might not have been as creamy as I expected.  But all the errors were shared and enjoyed.  I gleaned a list of “testers” who became “tasters” and each comment has brought improvement. Here is a synopsis of my journey towards an awesome dessert.

Step 1:  Equipment

You need the right pan for the cheesecake and the right pan for the bain-marie. Doesn’t that make me sound like I know what I am doing?  I fooled you. A bain-marie is a hot water bath that allows for more even cooking. If you have ever used a double boiler to melt chocolate or make lemon curd, then you have used a bain-marie. It is not required for cheesecake, but it helps to keep the top from cracking. I had used it for crème brulee and custard but I had no idea that was the official name.  Now I know and so do you.  We both learned something.

I am going to cut right to the chase and tell you something you don’t expect.  After my first few test recipes, I gave up on a spring form pan. Thousands of people use one and most of them have success.  I did not.  Part of the problem was that the recipe I was using was not at all clear about what to do with that spring form pan.  Do you prepare it like a cake?  Should you do nothing like an angel food cake?  Parchment paper?  Spray coating?  I was surprised to see so many recipes that expected me to know the answer. I was a cheesecake newbie.  I needed to be told what to do!

Some web sites explained that if you want your cheesecake to bake without a crack on the top, you need to use the hot water bath.  And if you use a hot water bath, you need to wrap your spring form pan in layers of heavy duty foil to keep the water from leaking into the crust.  A few web sites suggested the water bath but never suggested that the water should be hot.  Room temperature or hot, the water still leaked into my cheesecake.  Even with heavy duty aluminum foil covering my spring form pan, I still had soggy bottoms.  Was it the recipe, the foil, the pan?  I did not know for sure, but I did know I needed to fix it.  So I discovered a professional cheesecake pan made by Fat Daddio’s.  I found it here. I wrapped it in heavy foil and made a cheesecake.  Somehow that really hot water from the bain-marie was seeping through to the edge of the crust.  So I searched some more and I discovered a silicone baking pan.  Slightly larger than the professional cheesecake pan, the silicone pan held the cheesecake pan and kept the hot water away.  In spite of the numbers you see below, it was a tight fit when I put them together.  But it worked!  Here is the silicone pan I purchased.  You can use a spring form pan and aluminum foil or you can use these.  I only know what works for me.  And I won’t be persuaded to go back!

Cheesecake Pans You will also need a big pan for the bain-marie.  It is like that children’s song. “There was a bird on the branch and a branch on a tree and the tree in a hole and the green grass grew . . .”  Sorry.  It’s the Nana in me.  For my testing, I needed a big pan that was at least 3″ deep so it could hold the water.  I needed to put the cheesecake pan in the silicone pan and the silicone pan in the water pan.  It’s a process.  And this is what it looks like.

layers of pans

You can use a cast iron skillet or a roasting pan.  I used a double size cake pan.  I have had it for a couple of decades and I do not remember the last time I used it to bake a double recipe of any cake.  But it is sure handy for many other cooking projects like crème brulee or a large batch of gluten free Chex mix.

Step 2: Preparation

This is not a cooking project to be attempted when you need a dessert for tonight’s dinner.  Cheesecake takes planning and prep work. The results are worth it.  Plan to make your cheesecake at least 24 hours before you need to serve it.  Lay the bottom of your pan (spring form or professional cheesecake pan) on top of a sheet of parchment paper.  Draw the circle and cut it out about an inch wider than the circle you drew.  I have tried making the circle the same size and I found that it was more challenging to peel it away when it was time to move the cheesecake to a serving plate.  Making it bigger gives me an edge to hold while the cheesecake slides to the plate.

Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. While I use a microwave oven for far more cooking than the average person, bringing cheesecake ingredients to room temperature is not for the microwave.  Set out the butter, cream cheese, and eggs.  Leave them on the counter for at least 2 hours.  I prefer to take my cream cheese out of the cardboard package but leave it in the foil package until I am ready to start.  And I prefer to leave the ingredients on the counter for 4 hours.  I have been known to do this step at breakfast time.  By mid-afternoon, all is ready.

Now that your butter is soft and pliable, you can lightly coat the bottom and sides of the pan.  I use a sandwich bag.  It keeps my hands clean and I can turn it inside out and toss it in the trash.  Keep the coating to a minimum.  Just a tiny bit is enough to do the job.  After I have coated the bottom of the pan and put the pan back together, I lay the circle of parchment paper in the pan and press the excess to the sides.  The butter holds it in place.  While it isn’t necessary, I have found it helpful to put a few swipes of butter on the parchment paper too. Sliding the cheesecake off the parchment is easier when there is a small amount to grease the path.

preparing the panI have the right equipment.  The pan is prepared and ready for gooey goodness.  It is finally time for Cheesecake Journey, Part 2!

 

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Milky Way Cake

 

Milky Way Cake It is not for the person who is dieting.  It is not for someone who is trying to stay away from sugar.  But if you have a sweet tooth, this decadent dessert might be just what you want to top off a meal and share with friends.

I was introduced to Milky Way Cake when we lived in Waco, Texas.  We frequented a locally owned sandwich and sweets shop and this was one of their signature desserts.  I found a recipe in one of my old cookbooks and I added it to my offerings for family get-togethers.  Then I became gluten free.  No more Milky Way Cake for me.  Fast forward a decade and my memory of a favorite dessert just wouldn’t let go.  I pulled out that recipe again and worked on making it gluten free.  It was good, but I knew I could make it better.  After many tries (and too many slices of Milky Way Cake) I think I finally have success!

This Milky Way Cake is full of flavor and it is still completely gluten free.  Gather your ingredients and let’s bake!

First you need the right Bundt-style pan.  Not just any pan will do for this cake.  You will need the large size that holds 12 or 12 1/2 cups.  That’s big but it makes enough cake to serve the neighborhood!  If you have a standard 10-cup Bundt style pan, don’t fret.  Just make  some cupcakes.

And then you need the right candy bar.  That was a tall order.  Standard Milky Way candy bars are not gluten free.  One of the ingredients listed on the label is barley malt.  Barley malt in a candy bar makes no sense to me but I am not the food scientist.  The original bars work just fine if you don’t need to be really careful about gluten.  But if careful is part of your GF menu, then you need Milky Way Simply Caramel.  I was having a hard time finding them until I did a Google search and learned that Mars has a web page where you can enter information and they will tell you where to find a product.  Using that resource I learned that every Walgreen’s in my area sold Milky Way Simply Caramel.  Problem solved!

The next step is to prepare the pan.  I never liked coating a pan with solid shortening.  It makes such a mess!  Then I discovered the simple idea of using a sandwich bag.  Slip your hand in the bag.  Grab a chunk of solid shortening and go for it!  Every crevice of that Bundt pan can be covered with shortening and your hand doesn’t get covered at the same time.  When done, just turn it inside out  and toss it in the trash.  And you thought you couldn’t learn anything new.  Look at what just happened!

My secret to getting it right. Flour it well.

After coating with solid shortening, throw some GF flour on the pan.  I mean that in a literal way.  Sometimes tossing the flour to the center portion of the pan is the best way to cover it completely.  Use a spoon or your hand to toss the flour and make sure it covers the entire pan.  When it looks like every crevice is covered, turn it upside down and tap it against the sink or some parchment paper on the counter to get rid of excess flour.  Done!  Now set it aside and get started with the sweet stuff!

Using a microwave-safe container, heat 6 Milky Way bars and a stick of butter until they can be mixed together thoroughly.  The mixture needs to cool just a bit before you add it to the batter, so doing this step first gives it time to cool down.  Because I used a wooden spoon, I could even keep it in the glass bowl while it heated.  That makes it easier to stir every 30-60 seconds.

MW Cake candy

Let’s talk about getting the right amount of each dry ingredient.   Measuring the flour correctly is crucial–even more with gluten free flour than with wheat flour.  While you can sift the flour, lightly spoon it into a dry measuring cup, then level with a knife, the best way is to use a scale. I know what you are thinking.  “Another tool to find room for in my already crowded kitchen.” ” I have been baking without a scale for years and I can do just fine without it.”  That’s what I thought too.  But trust me, it is a tool you won’t regret learning to use.  It has made a huge difference in the quality of my baking since I started using it.  Just try it; you will like it!  For this recipe I used the scale for my GF flour and the sugar.

Make sure your butter for this step is at room temperature.  That doesn’t mean that you have heated it up in the microwave and let it melt.  Melted butter is not the same as room temperature butter.  I let my butter sit on the counter (or in the mixing bowl) for at least an hour.  Then I add the sugar and cream as well as I can.  This step calls for a lot more sugar than butter and you won’t be able to get it “fluffy”.  But you definitely want it to be mixed.  You can get it started while you are measuring the flour.  That should be the right amount of time for a good “creaming”.

Now we want to add the eggs.  There is a trick for that too.  Even though you are adding the eggs individually, you can put all of the eggs in a cup with a spout and pour each one into the mixing bowl separately.  Voila!  Something else you learned today!

MW Cake eggs

Don’t forget to mix well after each egg is added.  The mixing adds air and functions as part of the leavening.  When all of the eggs are added, you can begin the next step.  When a recipe gives you this instruction: “add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately” this is what it means.  Add 1/3 of the dry, 1/2 of the liquid, 1/3 of the dry, 1/2 of the liquid, and 1/3 of the dry.  If you didn’t take home ec, you might not know that.  But now you do, so take your new knowledge to the mixer and start mixing.

After you add the sweet stuff and the pecans, it is going to be tempting to lick the beater and the spatula.  But I promise you will want all of that good stuff to be in the cake.  Put it all in the pan and let it rest.  Gluten free flour works best when it has had a chance to absorb more liquid.  So let it rest for a bit.  You can rest too.  You deserve it.

MW cake slice

The cake has cooled.  You added a heavy glaze and some extra candy to decorate the top.  Now it is time to reap your reward.  Stay calm  and eat cake!

Print Recipe
Milky Way Cake
A decadent cake made with Milky Way candy bars
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Gluten free dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Cake
  • 6 Milky Way candy bars full size, Simply Caramel
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (300 gr)
  • 5 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups Better Batter gluten free flour (350 gr)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Glaze
  • 1 Milky Way candy bar full size, Simply Caramel
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (250 gr)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
Course Gluten free dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 70 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Cake
  • 6 Milky Way candy bars full size, Simply Caramel
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (300 gr)
  • 5 extra large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups Better Batter gluten free flour (350 gr)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup pecans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Glaze
  • 1 Milky Way candy bar full size, Simply Caramel
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (250 gr)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 325º. Prepare 12-cup Bundt pan with solid shortening and the gluten free flour blend of your choice. NOTE: This recipe requires a Bundt pan with a capacity of 12 cups. If your pan is smaller, make 6-8 cupcakes.
  2. Place 6 Milky Way (Simply Caramel) candy bars and 1/2 cup butter in 1-quart microwave safe container. Microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute until candy is melted and it mixes easily with the butter.
  3. Carefully spoon flour into measuring cup. Level the flour with the flat edge of a knife. Add the baking soda to the flour and whisk until mixed.
  4. In large mixing bowl, cream remaining 1/2 cup butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes. Adds eggs individually, mixing well after each egg is added. Add 1/3 of the flour and soda, 1/2 of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour and soda, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour and soda. Mix well after each addition. Add cooled candy bars and butter. Stir in pecans and vanilla.
  5. Pour into prepared Bundt pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes before baking. Bake for one hour and 10 minutes or until cake tests done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes n the pan. Remove and allow to reach room temperature before adding glaze.
Milky Way Glaze
  1. Place one Milky Way (Simply Caramel) candy bar and 2 tablespoons butter in microwave safe container. Microwave for 45-60 seconds or until melted. Add sifted confectioners' sugar and milk alternately and mix until of desired consistency. Drizzle on cooled cake. Decorate with slices of another candy bar.
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Dining Out – Or Not

Anyone who follows a strict gluten free diet knows that dining out can be tricky.  Some restaurants have gluten free items clearly marked on their menu.  Some have GF menus that are printed separately from their “normal” offerings.  Some expect you to ask while others think it is a fad and do not take it seriously.  That means that the GF diner needs to make sure they know what they are getting when they choose to eat somewhere other than home.

After I started on a 100% gluten free diet (no cheating or guessing) I found it difficult to know which restaurants were safe and which were not.  But I soon learned that there are some rules to follow.

  • Look up the menu on line before you leave the house.
  • Choose a time when the restaurant is less busy so the chef has time to devote to your special needs.
  • Be prepared to teach your server about the difference in eating GF because you want to and eating GF for your health.  If you think the server is not taking you seriously, ask to talk to the chef.  But do it with a smile.
  • If you find a server who is particularly knowledgeable about eating GF, ask for them when you return to that restaurant.
  • Ask questions about specific ingredients and preparation methods.  This requires that you are familiar with hidden sources of gluten that might be unknown to your server (sauces, seasonings, processed foods, etc.)

Even if you are prepared and you ask all the right questions, you can still get glutened from cross contamination or just because the staff does not truly understand what it means to be 100% GF.  There is a local pizza cafe in my town that offers GF pizza crust.  They do not order it already made from a different company.  Instead they make it themselves.  I have eaten there many times and I have been glutened just once.  It was a fairly immediate reaction (within 15 minutes) and I was just glad that I was not far from home.  I am convinced that the person preparing the dough rolled it out in wheat flour or on a surface that was not sufficiently protected.  And yes, I sent an e-mail to the owner telling them of my experience but I tried to be very nice about it.  If a GF item is on the menu, all of the staff need to know what GF means.  They won’t know if we don’t let them know.

The first restaurant I dined at that offered a truly GF menu was Maggiano’s Little Italy in St. Louis.  I live in Texas so I had to go a long way to find that restaurant.  The occasion was a baby shower for my youngest daughter and her first baby.  That was in 2010–a time when eating out and being GF were not mutually compatible.  There were two of us at the table who needed GF options.  The chef came out and talked to us.  He asked if we were avoiding gluten or if we needed to be completely gluten free.  I appreciated the time he took to ask specific questions that would help him make our experience better.  I was especially surprised when they delivered GF rolls to the table.  I was even more surprised to find that they actually tasted good.  The rolls they serve come from a St. Louis company called Andrea’s Gluten Free.  While in St. Louis during that trip I had also visited their store and purchased some items to try.  Andrea’s baked goods can be found at local grocery stores and while they are expensive, they are very good.  The herbed rolls served at Maggiano’s helped to make that experience something memorable.  I have never found any other restaurant that served GF rolls with their meals.  So this was truly a treat.

 

Gluten Free Herb Rolls

Gluten Free Herb Rolls

This photo does not do them justice.  But they were so good that my husband (who only eats GF because I do) liked them better than the bread he was served.  We recently ate at the Maggiano’s in Dallas and found that they did not serve GF rolls there.  I was disappointed, especially since there is a company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that could be making rolls for them.  Local Oven sells gluten free products to schools, grocery stores, and restaurants all over the US.  Their rolls would make the GF menu complete at the Dallas location.

Last week, we were once again in St. Louis and we ate at Maggiano’s for our Valentine dinner.  However, since we knew Valentine’s Day would be busy at any restaurant, we went on Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday night.  I was able to spend some time visiting with our server, Tara, and she was especially helpful with answering questions about the GF menu items.  She explained which foods could be made gluten free for appetizers, main dish, or dessert.  I think this might be the only restaurant I have ever visited that had GF appetizers.  That’s progress!  I ordered Caesar salad and spaghetti with meat sauce.  It is such a traditional dish that I felt it would be a good way to judge quality.  What I didn’t know at the time was that I had choices about the type of pasta that would be used.  I assumed spaghetti meant long, thin noodles.  But at Maggiano’s that is not true.  Next time I will know to make a pasta choice when I order.  I also learned that the pasta they use is from Barilla.  That brand can be found at many grocery stores and I have cooked with it at home.  It is truly a toss up as to which one I prefer–Barilla or Schar.  Both taste good.

salad and spaghetti

The Maggiano’s menu has a few items that include a special feature.  Buy one to eat there and you get to choose a second one to take home.  Their servings are quite large but taking home a second meal intrigued me.  I chose Fettucini Alfredo to bring home.  Unfortunately, I forgot to remind Tara about it at the end of our meal and she forgot to include it.  But next time I will look in the take home bag to see what’s there.  I saw many tables with take home bags so I asked Tara about it.  She told us that almost everyone takes food home since their meals are meant to be shared.  My husband had the Chicken Marsala (not GF) and it included three chicken breasts–way more food than any one person should be eating.  Our take home bag included more than half of my spaghetti with meat sauce, a third of my husband’s Chicken Marsala with buttery noodles, and some extra GF dinner rolls.

Of course we had to have dessert.  It’s all part of getting the full experience at a restaurant!  Their GF dessert is limited to just Crème Brulee but it was a great way to end our Valentine dinner.  Like their other dishes, this one was more than enough for both of us and we enjoyed every bite.

Sweet Ending to a Great Meal

Sweet Ending to a Great Meal

Whether in St. Louis or Dallas, Maggiano’s Little Italy is definitely a place we will visit again.  They make gluten free dining a real delight!

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Husband Pleasing Quiche

Real men do eat quiche!

Quiche is traditionally a menu item for a ladies’ brunch.  While any pastry filled with a custard and vegetables or meat can be called a quiche, the most common form begins with a traditional pie crust.  This hearty version of quiche is a favorite at my house–even with the man of the house.  But it was off the menu for far too long while I struggled with learning to make a decent gluten free pie crust.  I was never very good at making a pie crust before I started eating gluten free, so I was faced with a double challenge–just making a tasty pie crust and learning to do it with a GF flour blend.

A big thank you goes to Nicole Hunn at Gluten Free On A Shoestring.  Her pastry blend recipe uses a combination of Better Batter flour, non fat dry milk, and cornstarch.  I keep a container of her pastry blend in my pantry along with a separate container for her bread flour blend.  Since her recipe makes two crusts, I try to keep one ball of pastry dough in my freezer.  Truly, Nicole makes my GF lifestyle much easier.  I also love her idea of adding a small of amount of confectioners’ sugar to pastry flour when making a dessert pie.  It adds just a touch of sweetness to the crust and makes the whole pie taste better.  If you do not need to be gluten free, you can make this recipe the old fashioned way with your own pastry dough or with a packaged pie crust.  Either way, a salad and this quiche make a great meal.

Quiche Ingredients2

Start your quiche by making the crust.  Letting it “rest” in the pie pan before you bake it will keep it from shrinking as it bakes.  This is especially important when making a pie that requires a baked crust.  It is not as important if you are filling the shell and baking it all at one time.  I let mine rest in the refrigerator while I cut up the onion and green pepper and grate the cheese.  Chilling it at this point also allows the butter to solidify and that makes a crust that is more flaky. While I am cooking the sausage and veggies, I “blind bake” the crust.  Partially baking the crust keeps the bottom from getting soggy.

quiche sausage 2Brown the sausage in a skillet and add the veggies when the sausage is half done.  While it is cooking you can combine the cornstarch, milk, eggs, and mayonnaise.  While the recipe calls for 4 eggs, you can use fewer if you are using a standard pie pan.  My pan is bigger than most and it needs more filling.

quiche mixed

Add the cooked sausage to the eggs and milk mixture.  Then add the cheese.  Pour it into par baked shell and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean–about 45 minutes.  Serve with salad and enjoy!

Print Recipe
Husband Pleasing Quiche
Meat and dairy pie hearty enough for lunch or dinner
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
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Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pie shell
  • 6 ounces breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pie shell
  • 6 ounces breakfast sausage
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 5 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Prepare the pie crust and let it rest in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. Blind bake the crust for 6-8 minutes while cooking the sausage. Take it out of the oven just as it starts to brown but do not let it bake completely. Change the oven temperature to 350° just before putting the quiche in the oven to bake.
  2. In a skillet, cook the sausage until half way done. Add the chopped green pepper and onion and continue cooking. Drain on paper towels to eliminate excess grease.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, mayonnaise, eggs, and milk. Add the cooked sausage and vegetables. Fold in the grated cheese.
  4. Pour into pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in the the center comes clean.
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Brighton Bling

Brighton Bling

Lap quilt with memories!

There is some history behind the lap size quilt shown here.  The story needs to be told but it begins a few decades in the past.  There was a time when kitchen staples like flour, sugar, and rice could be purchased in fabric sacks with stitched seams.  The cotton fabrics used for the sacks were colorful and they were often based on current themes like movies or nursery rhymes.  Feed sacks with flowers and fruit were most often re-used as dishcloths or kitchen curtains.  You could even find a thrifty housewife using feed sacks to make children’s clothing.

Making quilts from available fabrics is not a novel idea.  My favorite quilt history book, “A People And Their Quilts” by John Rice Irwin, tells stories of Appalachian quilters who never purchased quilt fabric from a real fabric store.  Sacks of well-worn jeans from the thrift store often made the warmest quilts even though they were also the heaviest.  But a heavy quilt meant warmth in a home with only a fireplace and no modern conveniences.

My Brighton Bling quilt is certainly not an example of necessity.  Like most quilters, I have enough quilt fabric to keep me busy for a long time!  But once I discovered Brighton jewelry and the pretty fabric bags they give you to store your necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, I wanted to find a creative way to make use of their lovely little bags.  You can find Brighton jewelry at many malls or even at their web site.  If you love wearing costume jewelry (or even the real stuff) and you get hooked on it, you might need to find a use for those pretty bags too.  My first Brighton necklace and bracelet was a birthday gift from a special friend.  That was at least 10 years ago and I still get complements every time I wear them.  I recently learned that the fabric bags are made from the same fabrics they use to line their purses.  Since the linings vary with different purse styles and since styles change every season, the jewelry bag fabrics change too.  Shown here are a few bags and my first Brighton necklace.  (Thank you Phyllis!)

Brighton bags

When my sister called and wanted an idea for using up some Brighton bags, we put our brains together and came up with a quilt.  I pulled out my bags and started looking at all the pretty fabrics.  I began by taking one apart.  The older bags were more challenging because they used some seam tape to hold the ribbon casing together.  The newer bags were more simple.  Once the bags started piling up, I saw how pretty all the ribbons looked and I decided to add those to my project too.  I traded bags with friends.  And a couple of friends were very willing to share bags with me.  I even found that Brighton bags are a common item on eBay.  I ended up with a good variety of bags and then I looked in my stash and found a perfect tone-on-tone fabric to complement the bags and tie them all together.  Then I sat down at my computer and started designing a simple quilt.  While the quilt design can be used with Brighton jewelry bags, it certainly is not limited to that source.  You could use left over fabrics from the pretty dresses you made for your daughter or grand daughter.  You could use any collection of fabrics in your stash!  And since it is meant to have a “scrappy” look, all those scraps that are sitting around in your sewing studio will look just fine.  Your imagination is your only limitation!

When the top was completed, I took it to my longarm quilter along with a Brighton catalog to use as inspiration and asked her to quilt hearts in the corners.  Here is a close up of a corner and the design she chose.  She wasn’t familiar with Brighton when I first talked to her.  But I think she did a great job!

Brighton Bling corner

My Brighton Bling quilt is a great cuddle quilt with grandkids and it keeps me warm on evenings when I am watching TV or reading  a book with my tablet.  Each fabric is a reminder of the friend who gave me a piece of Brighton jewelry or an occasion when I chose my jewelry for a special event.  If you want the pattern, just click on the download link and you can make one too!

Download the PDF version of the pattern here.  Brighton Bling Quilt

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The Ups & Downs of a Quilt Retreat

Retreat Preparation

The photo above is evidence that a quilt retreat is anything but a leisurely weekend with friends.  The prep time for said event is in direct proportion to the time allotted for retreating.  Plan on triple the prep time in relation to retreat time.  It’s work–but the amount of fun you have at such an event is also directly related to the work you do ahead of time.  As you can see from the photo, I prepared for awhile.

I missed last year’s retreat.  New grandchildren have a tendency to take priority over any kind of a retreat.  So I was determined to make up for it.  Projects that should have been completed last year seemed to make it back on the list for this year.  Thus, the UFO (actually there were multiple UFOs).  No, it’s not something from outer space.  To a quilter, the UFO is an Unfinished Object–one of the many projects that get started and then life gets in the way of reaching the finishing line.  Eventually they all get done or our kids put them in a garage sale when we aren’t around to see it happen.  I was determined to get at least 3 of my many UFOs out of way at this retreat.  Did it happen?  Well, let’s just say that life got in the way.  More on that later.

While a retreat center has room for everyone to sleep, eat, sew, and have fun, with all the “stuff” everyone brings, there isn’t much room to spread out.  Some ladies bring a sewing machine, an embroidery machine, and a serger.  You carve out a space at a table, plant your “stuff” around you, and you don’t retreat until the last day.

Retreat Center

This retreat was held in the piney woods of East Texas in a little town called Kountze.  The Stone Creek Lodge has room for 24 to sleep and sew and they even host weddings.  Obviously, this wasn’t a wedding.  We were all determined to “get ‘er done” and have some fun doing it.  From a rousing game of  LCR played with fat quarters (ask me how that’s done!), to a surprise musical duo, and then a jelly roll race, everyone had fun until Saturday night.

2014 Retreat

See the pretty lady in the middle with the grey shirt?  That’s my sister–the younger, prettier sister.  On Saturday night, she had a health issue that led to a broken arm and an ambulance ride to the emergency room in nearby Beaumont.  This was definitely life getting in the way.  Needless to say, she and I didn’t get to finish our projects.  But what we did complete is worth some mention.  The two of us created an embroidery label for a wedding quilt we had started for our niece and we added binding to that quilt.  It was a queen size quilt so a good chunk of time was spent completing that project.

Ocean Quilt

I also completed one of my UFOs–a small baby quilt with monkeys as the theme.  Squares of soft Minkee fabric and flannel create the side blocks.  The back is also flannel.  I used my embroidery machine to quilt each block.  Some sweet baby is going to enjoy this soft project!  And I am glad it is off the UFO list and in  my quilt stash.

 Monkey See both

I made two Minkee tag blankets–gifts for future babies.

Tag Blankets

I came home with more UFOs than I started with.  My hope is that the projects I brought home will get done before the 2015 retreat and I can start some NEW projects.  First on the list is the Bailey Island Hobo bag.  I will be using the fabrics I didn’t get to use on the jelly roll race quilt.  Hopefully, by next year, there will be a finished bag project to highlight here.  And I did finish another project–a bunk size quilt for my grandson.  The photo below is just the top.  It is not quilted yet but that will be happening soon.  This pattern is called Happy Wheels and you can find the pattern for the twin size quilt (and the bunk size) as well as the embroidery designs at my web site.  Andrew will have fun with his cars on the roads of this quilt!

Happy Wheels Bunk

Time to start a new list of the 2015 retreat!

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Homemade Gluten Free Onion Soup Mix

Certain recipes are family traditions.  But when you add dietary restrictions and the limitations of processed foods, it becomes necessary to take charge of your ingredients.  One of my family’s favorite meals included Swiss Steak.  But it probably wasn’t made the way your grandmother made it.  Instead, I always made it in the microwave.  Don’t stop reading yet!  You might be surprised by what you can learn from a new idea.  There was a time when I taught microwave cooking classes for Panasonic, Litton, and GE.  I taught salespeople how to sell microwave ovens and I demonstrated microwaves at retail stores–all sponsored by appliance companies.  I needed to learn to convert many of my recipes to be used in the microwave so I could prove that you really could prepare a good meal using this new appliance.  Well, it was new in the mid-80s and that’s when I was teaching so it was “new” at that time.

But now we have added an additional limitation of gluten free.  One of the ingredients in this family favorite recipe is Lipton Onion Mushroom Soup Mix.  Until recently it was GF, but things change and so did Lipton when they added a wheat based ingredient.  In order to make Swiss Steak, I needed to make my own onion soup mix.  I leave out the mushrooms but you can easily add some to the dish about 30 minutes before you finish cooking it.  I found a recipe at All Recipes that looked like it would work just fine so I used it as a base for my own soup mix.  It begins with these ingredients.

GF Onion Soup

Gluten Free Onion Soup Mix

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

2 tablespoons gluten free beef bouillon granules (I used Herb Ox as it is labeled GF.)

1/4 cup dried onion flakes

1/8 teaspoon celery seed or celery salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

I had everything in my pantry except the dried onions and the parsley.  There was parsley in my garden and if the dried onions had not already been so conveniently available, I would have used fresh.  It probably would have saved a couple of bucks.

I dried parsley from my garden in the microwave.  Cut the washed parsley from the stems. It is not necessary to dry the parsley leaves as you want some moisture to remain.  Wrap the parsley leaves in a damp paper towel.  It should not be wet.  Just sprinkle a bit of water on the towel.  Microwave on high power for 30 seconds.  Unwrap the leaves and move them around so they are not clumped together.  Wrap them up again and MW for 15 seconds.  Unwrap, unclump, MW for an additional 5-15 seconds.  I started with 1/4 cup of fresh leaves and less than a minute was all it needed.  But your time will vary depending on the wattage of your MW, the amount of parsley you have chosen to dry, and the amount of liquid on the towel and parsley leaves.

onionsoup2 onionsoup3

I follow these same steps for drying basil and oregano from my garden.  But in the spring and summer when the herbs are fresh, I use them right out of the garden.  I save the dried leaves for winter cooking.

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Use as a substitute for a 1 ounce package of of dry onion soup mix.  I prefer mixing enough for 2 or 3 packages at one time.  Then I weigh out the ingredients and bag them for future use.  Time involved is about 15 minutes.

onionsoup4onionsoup5

The next entry here will be for that family favorite–Swiss Steak–using this onion soup mix and cooked in the microwave.  Yum!

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Lesson Learned

Bluebonnet pillow sm

As a quilter, I should have put one of my quilts on a bed a long time ago.  Instead I have just been storing them in a glass quilt case.  I love the case and at one time it was full enough that I couldn’t have added another quilt to it.  But I have been sharing my quilts with grandchildren and I finally realized that one of them needed to be where it belonged–on a bed.  So the wildflower quilt made with the Floral Fantasy pattern found here Aunty M Designs is now on our guest bed.  However, I had no pillow shams or decorative pillows to match that quilt.  So I have spent some time working on designing some special pillows.  Only one is done and there will be two of them eventually.  As many projects seem to go, this one has been edited and changed multiple times over the last few days.  But I think I am finally happy with the results.  Of course it will look better when there are two of these against the headboard.  And when time permits, I will be adding some extra throw pillows too.

While the pattern linked above does not include any bluebonnet redwork designs, I have digitized them and am willing to send them to anyone who does machine embroidery.  Just comment below and let me know what format you need and I will send the designs to you.  There are 2 different bluebonnet designs in the quilt–one for the snowball block and one for the border.  The design on the pillow is not one I can share.  But you can find it at Embroidery Library.

So what lesson did I learn?  It is a common one.  As soon as you think something is going to go a certain direction, it takes a turn and heads you down a different path.  Be prepared and sometimes those paths can be more interesting than what you planned!

Update:  Two pillows have now been made!

Bluebonnets

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My Gluten Free Journey

Celiac Foundation

This gluten free Nana has been around for awhile–at least long enough to have a few experiences and learn a few lessons along the way.  Learning to be gluten free has taken me down many paths.  And not all of them were in the right direction.  But first we need to explain a bit about celiac disease.  This site has great information and a symptom check list that might be helpful. Celiac.org

When 1 in 100 people have this auto-immune condition–and most of those are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed–it should be apparent that more education is needed.  The term “celiac disease” is not something I had heard until long after my first diagnosis–which wasn’t described as celiac disease.  Here’s how it started.

While pregnant with my third child, I broke out in itchy blisters at my joints–wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and even on my eyelids.  It didn’t look like a normal rash and it was definitely uncomfortable.  So I went to a dermatologist who did a biopsy of one of the blisters.  He diagnosed it as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH).  He said it was a disease that was definitely not genetic (not true); it took many years to develop (not necessarily true); and it was an old man’s disease.  I was 30 years old!  Keep in mind that this was common information for doctors in 1980; they truly didn’t know more about it.  Then he prescribed a medication that was used for leprosy (no longer made) and told me I had to start a gluten free diet.  While gluten free is a common term today, in 1980 it was a new concept.  He gave me a typed list (no computers in 1980) of food I could eat.  It was about half a page long.  And he gave me a typed list of foods I could not eat.  It was 3 full pages and contained all the foods I had been eating and serving to my family for years.  I will admit that I didn’t stay on the gluten free regimen very long.  It was just too hard to do–especially in 1980.   Plus, the medicine was making the rash better so I just ignored the GF part of his conversation.

Within a couple of years we packed up our kids and moved from Texas to Tennessee where I went to see a new dermatologist to get a refill of my medication.  He did a lot of blood work and discovered that I was extremely anemic.  That had been true for many years and had caused a miscarriage at 19 weeks and problems with future pregnancies.  But no doctor had ever looked into the cause of the anemia until this one.  He immediately sent me to an internist who was convinced I had internal bleeding or leukemia.  The standard tests did not show any bleeding or leukemia and both doctors just dropped it.  Now that is something I just don’t understand and I have seen it happen way too often.  A doctor who orders a test that doesn’t give the result he expects but doesn’t look further into the cause of certain symptoms just makes no sense to me.  But it wasn’t the last time I would encounter this reaction and I didn’t know enough to be my own medical advocate.  Over the next few years I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, Vit. D and folic acid deficiencies, genetic hair loss, and acne (though I was long past the normal age for acne).  No doctor looked very far to discover the root cause and I didn’t either because I didn’t know any better.  Keep in mind that the previous diagnosis of DH was always listed on my medical records and any doctor could have seen it and every specialist I saw mentioned it.

After 2 decades of migraines, anemia, and digestive issues that always kept me aware of the location of the nearest bathroom, I finally got wise and started doing my own research.  By then, computers were making all kinds of research easier.  I discovered many references to a book by Dr. Peter Green called Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic.  And I read this sentence, “If you have a skin biopsy and it is positive for dermatitis herpetiformis, you have a confirmed diagnosis of celiac disease. (page 52)”  Whoa!  Stop the presses!  And now my journey was headed in the right direction.  I read everything I could find.  I did a lot more research and then I went to my GP with a list of tests I wanted him to run.  Thankfully, I had a very open-minded GP.  He told me to come back in a week.  He wanted to study more about celiac disease so he could order the right tests.  That’s exactly what I did and since then we have both joined the journey.  He is the reason why I still drive 90 minutes away for a doctor visit even after living in a different city for 4 years.

However, the GF message still hadn’t sunk in like it should.  I often told myself that half a sandwich or roll or just one slice of pizza wouldn’t be a problem.  What I didn’t know was that eliminating SOME gluten from my diet was helping but was still causing damage.  If I had continued down that misguided path much longer, intestinal or stomach cancer was surely going to be the outcome.  The further away I moved from gluten, the more a small amount affected me and the sooner it began to hurt.  At first, it would take about 18 hours before my digestive system would rebel.  And that length of time made it harder for me to recognize the cause.  Now that my diet is completely GF, it takes about 15 minutes or a very fast and painful drive home.

Along the way, I have learned the importance of using GF products for anything that touches my skin–from shampoo and conditioner to make up and detergent.  I have discovered a really good GF flour blend for baking and cooking (more on this in a future post).  And I have learned to not apologize for trying to educate others about celiac disease.  I really try not to talk about it; but somehow it always comes up in conversation.  I need to work on that.  However, I am no longer anemic.  I have twice as much hair to style as I did 7 years ago.  I no longer get migraine headaches.  And my digestive issues are dormant–as long as I don’t get glutened.

Should you follow a GF diet?  Not necessarily, though there is plenty of research to advocate that a GF diet can be beneficial for anyone who has an auto-immune condition–from arthritis to diabetes and even fibromyalgia.  Should you talk to your doctor about it?  Certainly, especially if there is someone else in your family who has already been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Because it is always genetic–but often asymptomatic–it is likely that one or more of your first or second generation relatives might have it too.  And most of all–listen to your body.  Stand up for yourself when you visit your doctor.  Learn to be your own medical advocate!

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