Monday, December 22, 2008

No wonder!

Dr. Cranston called me yesterday with test results from blood testing done last Tuesday. He had met me in the hallway after having my blood drawn, and had promised to call me yet that day with the results. Several days and phone calls to the office later, I still didn't have my results. When I called on Friday the office staff told me that he was coming in over the weekend, and that I should expect a phone call.

I had been feeling pretty crummy, still no where near the energy I would think that I would have, even after taking into consideration the fact that I just had surgery. I've been ready to go to bed at 4:00 each afternoon and stay in bed until the next morning's alarm. I realize that I just had surgery, but surely I should be able to stay up longer than 4:00 p.m.! And this is without adding in all my other responsibilities and loves. I haven't been exercising at all, and before surgery I was exercising before school and in the evening, as well as a full massage schedule. I knew that something wasn't right.

And Dr. Cranston's phone call confirmed that. A normal TSH range (thyroid test) is from 0.47 to 4.68. When my thyroid was tested a couple weeks after my surgery, it was at 0.52 which falls in the "normal" range, and Dr. Cranston was very happy with this number. Anything less than 0.47 would put me in the hyperthyroid range (more thyroid than I need), while anything above the 4.68 puts me in hypothyroid range (not enough thyroid). My test from Tuesday is reading at 5.12, which makes complete sense with how tired and worn out I am, as well as the hair that is in the tub after my baths, and my extremely dry skin.

Dr. Cranston is altering my medication level, and we'll retest in 6 weeks. I'm hopeful that sometime soon I'll start feeling like myself, and that things will be back to normal. I am thankful that Dr. Cranston took me seriously and agreed to retest my levels, and that we're going to work at finding an acceptable level for me.

These last 2 days before Christmas break promise to be busy busy. I'm fighting a cold, which adds to the fact that I have no energy. Pray that the next several days go quickly, and that Christmas vacation can be a time of rest for me!

Merry Christmas to all of you! Relax and REST over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baking up a Gluten Free Storm!

Many heart felt birthday wishes being sent to my dear Gustav today. I'm sad that I'm not able to be there with him today, but I know that his mommy and daddy are doing a great job of celebrating with him. His loving mommy made him a rocket cake yesterday, and I hear it was a HUGE hit today at his birthday lunch with the Hausgemeinshaft! Happy Birthday! I can't wait until you are home in the states again!

Tonight was supposed to involve the landlord coming over to move out the electric stove from my kitchen (several burners don't work on it) and my parents helping me move in a gas range that I purchased at the school auction a couple of weekends ago.

When I called to remind the landlord of his plans for this evening, he told me I just needed to leave his stove outside his garage and then he would take care of it. I guess he forgot about the fact that he said he'd move it for me. When I then called my father to remind him of our conversation about him helping me (to be fair, it did occur last week) he sounded really frustrated and I decided to ditch the idea of moving any stoves tonight. He'd been painting and hanging wallpaper all day (which wasn't going well, I take it) and in addition to all that, it snowed several inches yesterday and it might be a bit dangerous to move anything right now. Instead I think we'll postpone the entire thing until Saturday afternoon.

Instead, I came home and decided to try out one of the gluten free cookie recipes I posted last week. I mixed up the flour mixture in a big ice-cream tubby and labeled everything so that I can easily tell which tubby holds which flour mix. Then I made the dough for the Wedding Cookies (also called Russian Teacakes in our family). Instead of the sunflower seeds, I used walnuts this time. While those were chilling in the refrigerator, I also made some Gluten Free chex-type mix. I used rice cereal, spanish peanuts, and some Glutino breadsticks I had (these are good, but not at all what I was envisioning when I bought them--no substance at all to them, so will stand in for the pretzels that chex mix normally has). I also made some chocolate chip muffins from a Gluten-Free Pantry mix that I found at Walmart the other day. I've looked at WalMart before for GF items, but always came up empty handed. This time I found brownie mix and muffin mix from Gluten-Free Pantry in the same area that the other muffin mix/cake mixes are located. I also found Midel and Pamela's Pantry cookies in the cookie section. Now if they'd only expand into having all the flours I need, as well as pastas.

So far I've taste tested the muffins and the cookies. Both are ok, and actually if I didn't know they were Gluten Free I'd probably think they were fairly average examples of what other people bake. I'm used to my baked good being much better than other people (I know, I'm not sounding very modest...just trying to convey why I'm a little frustrated.) I'm still struggling with the textures of things though--the mouth feel isn't quite right. Doughs are more grainy, not as smooth as I would like. I'm not sure whether I just haven't found the right flour combinations yet, or whether this is something I'm going to have to learn to live with. Time will tell, I guess...

Somewhat related to all the baking mentioned above is an amazing flourless cake recipe that I stumbled across several weeks ago. I was shopping at Sam's for catering supplies for last weekend, and was able to sample this cake. I'm going to make some for myself soon, although maybe I'll have to invite some people over to enjoy it with me since I probably shouldn't eat an entire cake by myself! :) Anyone want to join me?

Milk Chocolate Flourless Cake
(6 servings)

4 oz. Hershey's milk Chocolate Kisses, unwrapped (I think I may try chocolate chips to substitute if I don't have the kisses on hand)
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa, plus additional for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter sides of 8 inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter the paper.

Combine butter and kisses in a microwavable bowl, and heat on medium/high 40-50 seconds. Stir until smooth. If needed, heat again for 20 seconds or until mixture is smooth when stirred.

Whisk in the sugar until combined. Mixture will not be smooth.

Add eggs one at a time and stir until smooth. Add the cocoa slowly and mix until blended. pour batter into pan and place in the middle of oven for 25 minutes or until top has formed a thin crust.

Cool for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate. Dust cake with additional cocoa.

Monday, December 15, 2008


I attend such a wonderful church here in Marion. Upon discovering that I now needed to live gluten-free, one of my friends made an announcement to the congregation during a service several weeks ago. Since then there have been many concerned members who have asked me how the diet is going, offered advice that they've gleaned from "friends of friends", and in general just showed such concern for me and my well being.

Last night was our Christmas Vespers service, and yet another example of their love for me. Someone brought me special gluten free cookies and a recipe attached to the container for how to make them. Originally the recipe was full of gluten, but the recipe has been altered to have brown rice flour instead of wheat flour. The whole Darrow family now likes the gluten free version better than the previous version. Let me tell you, these cookies are scrumptious! Last night I was able to limit myself to one, but I just snarfed down three in the space of 5 minutes. I've only got two left, and then I'll be baking them for myself.

Grandma Darrow's Monster Cookies (Gluten Free Version)

Cream together: 3 eggs and 2 cups brown sugar
Add and beat until smooth: 1 t. vanilla, 1/4 t. white corn syrup, 1 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1 stick butter
Add and mix: 2 t. baking soda, 1/2 cup rice flour, 4 1/2 cups oatmeal, 1/2 c. M&Ms, 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Scoop into balls with cookie scoop or ice cream dipper for big cookies. Flatten on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 min.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's try these!

My friend Diana gives me her copy of "Living Without" (a magazine for people with food allergies--predominately gluten free recipes) after she is done reading it. This month's recipes are all about cooking for the holidays. Most exciting to me was a section on Christmas cookies! For everyday, eating gluten free is easy for me. I was a bit upset though that I was going to have to give up the holiday food that is so important to family traditions. Maybe it won't have to happen now!

I haven't tried any of these, but I'm going to post the recipes so that I don't have to lug the copies of the magazine all over, and they are easily accessed when I go home and have some time to bake with Mom. I will report back which ones are keepers and which should be tossed! Hopefully they will all be keepers!

Here is the basic cookie flour mix that you'll need for all the recipes.

Gluten-Free Cookie Flour Mix
4 cups fine brown rice flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
2/3 cup tapioca flour/starch

Combine all ingredients. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

And now for the cookie recipes! I'm looking forward to decorating cookies with my mom when I go home for Christmas. Some of my favorite memories are Christmas memories of decorating cookies with Mom and Heidi. Mom's cookies always looked the best, absolutely beautiful and more work of art than cookie. Heidi and I had plenty of fun though, and enjoyed making ours as glittery and crunchy as possible--sometimes to the point of being inedible. The cookies got mixed up and put in tins, and Dad was always happy to eat our creations!

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup shortening (can be dairy free, etc... if allergic)
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups GF cookie flour mix (above)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

1. Place confectioner's sugar and shortening in bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly fluffy.
2. Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour mix, xanthan gum, baking soda and cream of tartar.
4. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating on low speed until thoroughly combined.
5. Gather up dough into a ball and chill it for 2 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
7. Flour (with GF flour!) your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes with your favorite cookie cutters. Using a thin spatula, transfer cookies to cookie sheets. Gather up remaining scraps of dough and roll out again, cutting and rolling until you've used it all.
8. Bake cookies in preheated oven on center rack for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack.
9. Decorate with icing! My favorite part!

Spritz Cookies
(these are the ones I'm most excited about! A family favorite!)
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract (our family usually uses almond extract, I believe)
3 1/2 cups GF cookie flour mix
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat shortening and sugar in an electric mixer set on medium for about 30 seconds. Add baking powder and mix until combined. Beat in egg and vanill aextract until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, combine GF flour mix, xanthan gum and salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the shortening mixture, beating on low speed until combined.
5. Pack the dough into a cookie press. Place the face of the press firmly down on an ungreased cookie sheet and press out cookie, a single press for each cookie. Space cookies about 1 inch apart. Decorate with colored sugar, sprinkles, etc...
6. Bake for 8 minutes on center rack in preheated oven until cookie edges are firm but not brown. Cool cookies on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Old-Fashioned Ginger Snaps
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
4 T. brown sugar
4 T. molasses
4 T. orange marmalade
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups GF cookie flour mix
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup sugar, for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat shortening and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Add brown sugar, molasses, orange marmalade and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together gluten-free flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and spices.
4. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture and beat on low speed to combine.
5. Using your hands, roll uniform-sized pieces of dough into balls.
6. Roll balls in the sugar and place on the parchment paper.
7. Bake cookies on center rack in preheated oven for 14 minutes.
8. Let cookies cool about 5 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wedding Cookies
(maybe my all-time favorite cookie)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup shortening
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups GF cookie flour mix
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup finally chopped roasted sunflower seeds (I think we use either walnuts or almonds--I'll have to ask Mom about this)

1. In a large bowl, combine confectioner's sugar, shortening and vanilla extract. Blend well.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour mix, xanthan gum and salt.
3. Stir flour mixture and sunflower seeds into sugar mixture, mixing with hands until dough holds together. Cover the bowl and let chill about 1 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Flour your hands and shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
6. Bake cookies on center rack in preheated oven for about 20 minutes until set but not brown.
7. Spread additional sugar evenly over the surface of a large plate. Reserve.
8. Cool cookies for 10 minutes on sheets. Gently remove with a thin spatula and roll them in confectioner's sugar. Cool completely and re-roll in confectioner's sugar, adding additional sugar as needed.

And the last recipe was given to me by one of my paraprofessionals. Her family has several gluten intolerant people, and so this is a Peanut Butter cookie recipe she makes for all of them. According to Erin, they taste exactly like the real thing!

Erin's Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

That's it! Bake as you would for a normal recipe of PB cookies.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Yippee! I found something I like!

Okay,this is sad. I've already told you that the thing that I was most concerned with about going gluten free was the fact that I wouldn't be able to enjoy beer anymore. This coming from a person that rarely drinks--only partaking when I'm with other family members or friends.

While I've found some really bad gluten free items, I've also found some really good things. Two of the best items are gluten free beer! Yippee!!!

Mom and Dad indulged me the other night when we were in Wichita, and we made a trip to Jacob's--the biggest liquor store in Wichita. There I found 3 gluten free beers, one of which I had already tried and decided I hated. Marion in all of it's glory actually carries gluten free beer, although not a brand that actually tastes any good. I had tried Dragon's Gold even before I was diagnosed--it is terrible! Maybe it was what I was eating while I was drinking, but it wasn't to my liking. Very much like a porter, and although I like dark beer, I don't have a taste for porter. I was so excited to find 2 other types of gluten free beer at Jacob's. I bought 6 packs of both.

Anheuser-Busch has a new gluten free beer, called "Redbridge". It is made from sorghum, and is very very good. Reminds me a bit of a wheat beer.

Lakefront Brewery from Milwaukee has a new beer called "New Grist". Made from sorghum and rice extracts, it also is very good.

Between the two of these, I will be fine. Now I've only got to convince the owner in Marion to carry at least one of them.

While I'm drinking my New Grist tonight, I'm waiting for a loaf of bread to rise. I've been really hungry for a crispy grilled cheese sandwich and hot tomato soup to dip in since it has been so cool lately. But...I can't just go out to the store and buy a loaf of bread anymore. I've got to plan ahead and have something already baked. Pamela's Products wonderful bread mix to the rescue again!

My next project will be to make some pecan sticky rolls with the same bread mix. My friend Diana made some right before Thanksgiving, and I guess they were amazing. She says she made the sweet roll dough from on the same package. She put melted butter, cinnamon, and pecans in the bottom of muffin tins, and then scooped some dough in each. YUM!

I'll keep you updated as I discover new products. I hope you are all doing well!