Posted in Breakfast!, Tips and Tricks

It’s a Strawberry World in the Springtime….

Spring has finally (and I mean FINALLY) sprung here in Baltimore. This means many things: ant colony invasion in the kitchen, pollen covering the car each morning, birds chirping, sun shining…and strawberries will soon be in full bloom. Granted, in other places throughout the country I think they already are because the prices have returned to a reasonable amount over the past two weeks. Plus during my near-weekly visit to the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, I’ve noticed that there are 2 vendors selling a small amount of freshly-picked berries, so even here on the cold east coast, some of the strawberries must be staying strong.

My favorite local “pick-your-own” farm hasn’t reopened so I guess they’re not in full bloom yet…but the time is so close I can taste it. Seriously, if you’ve never picked your own strawberries, you need to do it at least once. Not only do they taste completely different than store berries, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in the sun, chatting with friends/family while also feeling like you’re earning your treat. Did I mention the sun?? (WEAR SUNSCREEN. I forgot once and I swear I was the same shade as the berries in my box.) Baltimore friends, you have no excuse, I will gladly accompany you any time 🙂

Regardless of where the strawberries come from, my greatest frustration has always been the same: the berries turning mushy and moldy before I get to enjoy each decadent one. Until last month that is…

On one of those rainy days that seemed to consume the month of April, I was “Pinterest”-ing and among other things decided to search for a solution to my strawberry problem. I’ve heard a variety of debates regarding how to prolong the fridge life of strawberries (wash them right away/don’t wash them until you use them; keep them in the ventilated store container/place them in Ziploc with paper towel) but I’d never asked Pinterest. So I did and lo and behold, apparently there is an answer: vinegar. Now maybe this is one of those tricks that everyone else in the world already knows and is simply news to me, but I was floored. Vinegar? That horrible-smelling stuff I just used to clean the coffeemaker? But I had come home from the store with a 2-lb. box of strawberries that morning ($3.99 for 2 lbs…I just can’t turn down a bargain like that!) So I figured it was worth a shot. Here is what ensued:

1) I poured the berries into a large bowl and kept adding water cup-by-cup until the berries were submerged. Then I added about 1/2 cup of vinegar, mixed the bowl around, and left it in the sink.

2) After about 5 minutes, I came back and poured out the water/vinegar mixture. Then I rinsed the strawberries in a colander. Yes, mine is strawberry-shaped. It’s not because I love them so much I have a separate strainer…that just happens to be the one I strain everything in. (Clearly I cook in small portions.)

3) I hand-dried each berry with a paper towel before placing them in a Ziploc bag between 2 other paper towels.

It was a miracle. No joke, these berries last me 13 days and not a single one went bad! I was speechless. Maybe this is common knowledge that the rest of the world has been keeping from me (like the Bed Bath and Beyond coupon secret…you can use multiple coupons in one purchase! And that includes expired ones!! How did I not know??) but I was blown away. I’ve done it twice now since this inaugural exercise and each time, it’s worked like a charm. Granted, I did just buy my latest batch on Friday but still my hopes are high.

Now onto the next question: But Katie, what will I do with 2 lbs. of strawberries? I’m just one person! Well, don’t you worry, I already thought of that. First, you could chop some up each morning to add to your cereal. You have to get those fruit and veggie servings in somehow! Second, you could add them to ice cream or mix them with yogurt to blend a smoothie (if you’re fortunate enough to have a stomach which can handle either of those.)  Third, you can dip them in melted chocolate for a delicious dessert treat! (Even I got to do that with my dairy-free, soy-free Enjoy Life chips!) And of course, you can bake with them. There are a hundred different muffins, tarts, pies, etc. you could probably make using strawberries but I have to share this most recent creation of mine which has left me drooling. Well, almost 🙂

Strawberry-Vanilla Pancakes. Yep, you read that right. Why didn’t I ever think of this before??

It all started when I used a Living Social deal to order this delicious pancake mix:

But I learned long ago that gluten-free pancakes need a little something extra to make them delicious. Something about the consistency is lacking without that pesky gluten. My go-to is usually blueberries or chocolate chips. However, on this particular morning I had strawberries on the brain. So I got to chopping…

And then I got to mixing. And as I mixed, I thought hmmm…you know what goes well with strawberries?? 
 

VANILLA! So before I knew it, I had all these ingredients in front of me. (The yellow bowl has my flaxseed egg substitute. Unfortunately, my “only tolerates eggs when baked in things” stomach is not fooled into thinking things such as pancakes or battered chicken/fish are baked enough. So no eggs for me 😦

Onto the griddle they went. Now I’ll admit at this point, I was skeptical. They didn’t look so stellar…

Fortunately, I was wrong. They were AMAZING!!! Here is the finished product with some delicious maple syrup and some Katie-safe breakfast sausages (Jones Dairy Farm…I know, misleading because it sounds like it would contain dairy. They don’t!). And coffee of course. I mean, come on now… I think you know me well enough so that should go without saying at this point.

And I even had enough to freeze for multiple weekday breakfasts. Springtime success!

And in case you’d prefer not to do the “taste test the batter” method I used, here is what worked for me. Though I personally would recommend the taste test. It’s more fun 🙂

Strawberry Vanilla Pancakes
1 cup “1-2-3 Gluten Free” pancake mix
1 egg substitute (AKA 3 tsp. flaxseed + 1tsp. water) or just 1 egg 
almost 1/2 cup almond milk (I poured 1/4 cup and then kept adding until the texture seemed right)
3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (adjust based on how much you love vanilla!)
Drizzle the batter with agave syrup (if I had to guess 1 tsp.? Maybe 1.5?)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (again depends on the batter texture you’re looking for)
 
Put on the griddle at 375 and you’re good to go!!
 

Now let’s hope the sun keeps shining and I’ll see you soon at the strawberry patch! Or the Farmer’s Market…they each hold a special place in my heart 🙂

Posted in Breakfast!, Lent

Fish Fridays Are Coming…

First, before I move forward with today’s post, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the unbelievable outpouring of love that came in response to my last post. I sat down to write that post mostly as a cathartic outlet for myself…and I’m just humbled by the number of heartfelt messages and beautiful emails I received. I read every single one and trust me, I cherish each and every kind word, memory, or humorous comment shared. Especially since many of them were from people who never knew my dad, it’s comforting to know that his example and legacy live on to inspire others even all these years later.

Now, onto what’s next. Yep, here we are in March and that means 2 things: I’ve made it through my least favorite month of the year AND it’s almost spring. At least that’s what the calendar claims…apparently someone forgot to clue in Mother Nature. However, what it also means this year is that Ash Wednesday is almost here! And thus so is Mardi Gras AKA Shrove Tuesday AKA Fat Tuesday AKA Fastnacht Day (Yay for PA!!) AKA Who Knows What Else It Can Be Called Day??

Interestingly enough, Ash Wednesday and I have a bit of a meaningful history now. Last year, in late January my crazy “what used to be gluten-induced” symptoms returned with a vengeance. I was the doctor once a week with a double dose of bronchitis and sinus infection that just wouldn’t go away, even after some rounds of antibiotics. I was exhausted all the time, sometimes I even had to rely on my stool to make it through my afternoon classes. Despite my insistence that I was feeling “glutened” again but I swore I hadn’t been around gluten, my doctor was convinced it was just my poor, mixed-up immune system attacking the wrong things in overdrive…because that is sometimes the reality of life with an autoimmune condition. Well, Ash Wednesday arrived. I skipped my normal morning coffee (which at the time always included milk) and breakfast. Aside from the gluten-free host I received at mass, I hadn’t eaten anything all morning. Now for those of you who are practicing Catholics, I imagine you know how you’re usually feeling by lunchtime on Ash Wednesday. You’re hungry, you’re famished, you’re reminding yourself to unite your suffering with Christ and you’re swearing that you’ll never forget how much He loved you again…and that you won’t take the gift of food for granted either. Yeah, sure, and if you’re anything like me that lasts until approximately 12:08 AM when you run to the fridge and grab a snack…because technically it’s Thursday now.

Well, not last year. By lunch time, I was feeling awesome! I was more energetic than I had been in weeks. My stomach didn’t have that dull pain that had come on so slowly that I hadn’t really noticed it was back until I actually spent a few hours without it. My head felt clearer…and though I was still tired, it wasn’t the same kind of “I can’t even formulate coherent sentences right now” brain fog I’d been battling for weeks. And then sure enough, dinner rolled around and I prepared my one meal of the day: a delicious veggie omelette (with cheese). Within an hour, I was fast asleep on the couch holding my stomach and spent a good hour around midnight debating whether the tightness in my chest was severe enough to warrant an ER visit or not. (Fortunately that time it wasn’t). As the weeks of Lent passed, my suspicions grew as without my morning cup of coffee (that was my Lenten sacrifice last year…I know, it was crazy) I was feeling much better in the mornings than I had been.

So why did it take until I ended up covered in hives on Easter Sunday and ended up at Urgent Care to figure out dairy was the culprit? (Well, casein more specifically). I don’t quite know. Call it denial, call it easier said then done to figure out (I really had forgotten about the cheese in my Ash Wednesday omelette so I was convinced it was eggs at first), I’m not sure what to say. What I will say is that it’s not as simple as eating a trigger food and suddenly feeling horrible and knowing what the culprit was. Likewise, it’s not like you stop eating one for a day and you dance around like Sleeping Beauty waltzing through the woods. It takes so much time to heal…and it sometimes takes hours, or even days, before eating a trigger food starts to manifest itself in new, strange ways. (Those of you with eczema, skin rashes, or frequent cold sores but claim you have no food sensitivities, you really should start a food journal. You’d be surprised how many of those are due to trigger foods.)

So, yes, it took me 6 weeks to figure it out. But if it hadn’t been for my Ash Wednesday fast and my Lenten coffee sacrifice, let’s just say the saga could have played out for a lot longer than it did. Once my doctor heard those stories, even she realized I better get back to the specialist for more food trigger testing. Now this year, Lent is going to be a bit trickier. As is my traditional Shrove Tuesday pancake feast. But fear not, I’ve been planning for this.  So here are some important tips to celebrating this week…and then surviving Lent on an already-restricted diet. And just remember, no one on this Earth has the right to judge you…so do what you think is right for you.

1) Make yourself some pancakes, donuts, or even a you-safe milkshake on Tuesday. The rest of the world will be devouring their fastnachts, their drenched-in-butter pancakes, and their too-good-to-be-true milkshakes…you want to be able to join in the fun! Especially if you were gifted the snow day and delay this week, you’ll have plenty of time to cook.

2) Learn to love fish. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t…but on a meatless Friday when you also can’t eat crackers, cheese, popcorn, or grilled cheese, you better get used to the idea. Unless of course you’re allergic to shellfish/seafood.
3) Be careful of tuna fish! The canned variety, that is. That’s right, I was planning my tuna patties for Wednesday’s dinner when I learned two new things: 1) I still subconsciously check labels every single time I open a package of food (survival mechanism I suppose) and 2) canned tuna contains soy. Even the kind in water. Sad, sad day…of course, this does mean I have 2 cans of perfectly good tuna fish to give away 🙂
I promise lots of fish recipes will follow…but for today, pancakes and donuts are the priority. I’m already running behind!
Easier “I can manage this on a workday” Pancakes
(You may remember I posted AMAZING Olympic-worthy pancakes…but on non-snow-days, there just may not be time for all that…these are a worthy quicker substitute, thanks to Elana Amsterdam at Elana’s Pantry)
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
1/4 cup agave syrup (more if the mix is too dry)
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
2 eggs (or flaxseed substitute)

Mix all the ingredients (I added a little honey too) and cook on a skillet or griddle. Of course, feel free to add berries, chocolate chips, M&Ms if you’re allowed such a delicacy (that used to be my apartment’s specialty during senior year at Villanova…M&M pancakes for all!)

“It’s Still Not OK that I Can’t Eat Krispy Kreme..But This Makes It A Little Less Painful” Donuts

2/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/8 cup potato starch
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. guar (or xanthan) gum
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup brown sugar (or I used coconut sugar)
3/4 cup sugar (or the equivalent amount of agave, sweetener of your choice)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (or the corn-free substitute)
3/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup boiling water
*I also added some coffee to my batter…delicious!*


1. Mix all the ingredients together and either add to a donut pan or form into munchkin-type balls on a baking sheet.
2. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
3. Optional “frosting”: Melt about 1 cup of chocolate chips and combine with 1/4 cup boiling water to melt. Add about 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar to the mix and a dash of vanilla extract.
4. Wait until the donuts have cooled to remove from the tray and dip in the frosting!
Now I know I didn’t leave you much time…but the day is long and it’s not even 9 AM. Happy Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday/Whatever you call it!! Have a great day…live it up 🙂
Posted in Breakfast!, Meals/Sides, Product Recommendations

If Katie Squeals in Excitement…

…and no one is there to hear it…well, I think you know the rest.

I found myself pondering this age-old philosophical question over the past few weeks as I’ve adapted to an interesting aspect of living alone: lack of someone with whom to share my various (usually very excited) reactions to life. As you might have determined by now, I tend to approach life with a great deal of enthusiasm, which often manifests itself in overenthusiastic reactions which those who have been lucky enough to live with me grew to know and love. Just kidding, I’ve really been the lucky one with roommates over the past few years.

I left my ACE family of 5 for a year with “The Leading Lady of Lacrosse”. Really. She’s a director of events for U.S. Lacrosse (HUGE here in Baltimore my non-Charm-City friends) and she travels all over the country running tournaments. When she was home from her various road trips, she graciously listened to my endless ramblings about my new school, my new city, etc. Then I moved closer to my school in the cutest apartment with a wonderful person I’ll call “Beautiful B”…because she is truly one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known. Partially because she has a seemingly effortless beauty and grace about her, but mostly because of who she is on the inside. She has a heart of pure gold, an infectious laugh that is simply contagious, and our life chats across our little dining room table remain among my favorite Baltimore moments. Plus she was there for the dreaded “gluten adjustment”. That alone earns her a gold star for patience. Then there was “the Caring Counselor”. Her day job requires that she counsel people…but she was gracious enough to do the same for me each night as we sat on our respective couches and caught up on our days. So for all my years, I’ve been richly blessed with people who at least tolerated my enthusiasm for life..even if they didn’t quite love it 🙂

B and Me! 🙂

So imagine the shift over the past few months as I’ve adjusted to life on my own. Now I will say, full disclosure, I do actually LOVE living alone. Mostly because everything in every cabinet and drawer is completely safe; I can eat off the counter if I drop something; best of all, I only need one sponge and my orange sticker system is simply an artifact of my past life. However, there are moments when I desperately miss the smiling faces, listening ears, and infectious laughs of the people I was blessed to call my roommates over the years. Case en pointe: Monday night. For those who might be living under a rock, “How I Met Your Mother” is in its final weeks. I LOVE this show. Two Mondays ago we met the mother and it was just about the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. Then this past Monday, Ted gave the most moving speech on what love means that I’ve heard in a long time (I know, I know…Year of Love!!). Through it all, I’m sitting on my couch hugging a pillow, wanting to squeal or aww or jump up and down…but it still feels odd to do that with no one around. Same thing on Friday night when I finally caught up on “Big Bang Theory”. I’m pretty sure I let out a squeal on that one. And of course now there’s the Olympics. How do you watch the drama unfold on the ice without voicing your emotions?? I don’t know.

Now before I get too much farther down my tangent, this is supposed to be about food not television, so I promise I’m back. Last night, I decided to whip up one of my favorites to enjoy as I watched the Olympics: breakfast for dinner. I settled on pancakes, took out my new griddle, and set off on my adventure to recreate pancakes that would taste like their gluten-filled/soy-filled relatives. If gluten alone is your issue, get Gluten-Free Bisquick. It’s amazing and your pancakes will be too!! Unfortunately for my soy-free buddies, it’s emblazoned across the side : CONTAINS SOY. And corn. Sigh…

Thankfully, I stumbled across a book recently which has quickly become one of my top 10 life resources: Cooking for Isaiah. It’s written by a mom who wanted to cook great meals for her son who was diagnosed with food sensitivities to both gluten and dairy. There are few cookbooks I recommend (since most recipes can be found on blogs or pinterest these days) but this one I would absolutely order if you have gluten and dairy issues. I decided to adapt her recipe for chocolate chip pancakes…OH MY GOODNESS. I’m not kidding, these were some of the best pancakes I’ve had in my life. Gluten-filled ones included! If you have food allergies, do yourself a favor: make these, enjoy them, freeze some, love them again. It will, for a brief moment anyway, make you forget that you can’t partake in typical Sunday brunches anymore. If you don’t have food allergies, I’d still recommend them…but the ingredients required are not likely to be ones you have on hand in an average kitchen. In which case, I suggest you just need to come visit me for breakfast sometime. Seriously, I had visions of my own allergen-free bed-and-breakfast in my head all night.  The recipe is as follows:

 Olympic-Worthy Pancakes
2/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour (or starch)
1/8 cup potato starch
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. guar guam (or xanthan gum)
1 tsp. baking soda/cream of tartar mix (or baking powder for corn-friendly folks)
4 Tbsp. coconut sugar
3/4 cup almond milk (or whatever kind you can drink)
1 egg (or I used 1 Tbsp. flaxseed w/ 3 Tbsp. water as egg replacement)
1/2 Tbsp. molasses
1/2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Mix it all together. Add a little more milk or oil if the batter is too thick. Otherwise pour on the griddle… 
…cook, and enjoy!!

 






Then just when I thought my weekend had contained enough excitement, tonight I did something I’ve been dreaming about for two years now: I ate a dinner roll. A warm one, fresh out of the oven. See, I went on a shopping adventure today to prepare for our school’s upcoming service project which led me to a place I haven’t visited in years now: the bread aisle. I strategically avoid it on my shopping trips, so much so that I forget it even exists anymore, but today I made my triumphant return. And it smells as amazing as I remember. So as I loaded my cart with 16 packages of rolls, cans of soup, and pounds of American cheese, all I could do was laugh at the irony that is my life. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my car was filled with more gluten and dairy today than it probably has ever been before. And all of that left me craving one thing I never crave anymore: warm bread. So after a stop at my school to drop off my purchases (seriously, you didn’t think I’d let all that in my house did you??), I came home and got to work. And I did it. As the snow fell outside my window once again, I made dinner rolls. And while it was still steaming, I bit into it. I’ll be honest, the taste is slightly odd in the sense that it’s coconut-y so it seems more appropriate for dessert…but the texture and the temperature were perfect!
Again, I wanted to shout it out to the world: I just ate bread!!! But as you can imagine, I don’t think my neighbors here would understand or appreciate the enthusiasm of that sentiment. So instead, I’m sharing it with you. And here is the recipe…so you can have your own “I’m beyond excited about life right now” moment wherever you are.
Katie-Safe Dinner Rolls
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp. flaxseed w/ 3 Tbsp. water

Mix and form into rolls. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes…or until brown.
They may not look amazing…but they are! 
A perfect dinner…complete with a fresh, warm dinner roll 🙂
So now I’ve digested my delicious roll, I’ve packed some away in the freezer for future enjoyment, and I’m settling in with a hot cup of tea and a coconut-rolled date snack to watch figure skating. Seriously, it’s amazing what I can accomplish with 2 weekend days in a row of no work shifts! Now just imagine what I could accomplish if this were my all-day, everyday in my bakery!? I need to start hunting for those capital investors…