Gluten Free Can Be Amazing!

Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free Mixes

Bloomfield Farms Gluten Free Mixes

A little over two years ago, my family made a decision to eat a gluten-free diet. Our daughter was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and was having an extremely difficult time adjusting to the medications. After a lot of research, it seemed worth a try to assist her in healing by adjusting her diet. This included eliminating several foods, one of which, is wheat gluten.

It may seem like an easy task to accomplish but we discovered it is so much more difficult then one can imagine. Wheat gluten is an additive in so many everyday foods that you may purchase in the grocery store or at a restaurant. Even simple items like french fries, soy sauce, breakfast cereals contain wheat gluten. So, the mission before us was two-fold, we had to check labels and ingredients on everything purchased and we had to find workable alternatives to use in recipes for cooking and baking.

Checking ingredient lists and menu options in restaurants is a never ending task. The safest way to eat in restaurants is to select green salad options and grilled meats. The home baking and cooking, however, became very challenging quickly. There are quite a few packaged options for breads, cookies, cake, pancakes, biscuits, cereal, muffins, and pizza crust on the market shelves. The problem with many of those items for us was that they tasted very bland, dry, gritty and just plain awful!!! They are also pricey and the packages contain less amount of product. I was a bit vocal about my frustration and a local friend sent me an email about Bloomfield Farms.

I quickly found the All Purpose Baking Mix in my local Kroger. I tried it out making pancakes (which were very good), cookies (chocolate chip was relish), and a yellow cake
(which I made into a strawberry poke cake…where you poke holes in the baked cake and pour in jello). All of these baked goods were very good and you could not tell they were gluten free. This made me very curious about other Bloomfield Farms offerings.

A quick visit to their website and I discovered many gluten free products. I could not wait to place an order and try out more products. On my first order, I purchased a muffin mix, pizza crust, bread mix and pancake and waffle mix.

Pictured above is the Muffin Mix. First of all, the mix will make one dozen muffins. That is twice as many as any other mix I have tried. The mix comes plain and we wanted to test out a variety, so I added frozen blueberries, peanut butter and chocolate chips, chocolate chips, and finally cocoa and chocolate chips. I also added a little applesauce to the ones I added cocoa powder to. This was to add moisture and some needed sweetness. Each and every flavor is wonderful! My favorite is the blueberry and my daughter’s favorite is the peanut butter chocolate chip.

If you are already gluten free or just want to try out gluten free, go to http://www.thebloomfieldfarms.com and place your order. You can probably find the All Purpose Baking Mix and possibly the Brownie Mix in your local Kroger. I have requested to have more Bloomfield Farms items in my local store but for now, I have to order online. We are looking forward to trying out the other three mixes and I will certainly be letting you know how they taste! I love the convenience of purchased mixes and I am optimistic that the other mixes will by just as fantastic as those I have already tried. Happy Gluten Free eating!

This is an independent product review. I am not affiliated with or compensated by Bloomfield Farms. I just love their products!

The Dessert Buffet That Rocks!

Buckeyes, Snowman Red Velvet Cake Pops, Brownie Bites and No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Buckeyes, Snowman Red Velvet Cake Pops, Brownie Bites and No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

When taking on the job of creating, shopping for, making, packaging and setting up a dessert buffet, beware as it is a very tiring job for one person. This special holiday themed buffet was created to feed 150 people. I absolutely love baking and candy making but I do not really love time constraints and multiple batches of the same treat just to have enough. Since I said “yes”, I had to make certain that each and every selection was as close to perfection as I could make it.
The key is pre-planning and shopping first. I made a list of all needed ingredients then shopped holiday sales for chocolate, candy melts and any baking ingredients that might be on special at the grocery store. Staples like butter, sugar, flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips, cream cheese were all on special when purchased. I then purchased mini baking cups, and candy papers/wrappers, sticks for cake pops and any sugar decorations that I was out of in my supplies to use on cake pop designs.
Once supplies were purchased, I started making items that could be frozen or refrigerated ahead of time. Some of those things are cake pops, chocolate dipped candies like buckeyes, vanilla creams,etc..) Then, I just systematically made several things every day up until two days prior to the event when more perishable foods could be prepared. Foods in this category are cupcakes and cookies.

Mexican Wedding Cookies, Banana Bread, Chocolate Covered Oreos, Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies, Banana Bread, Chocolate Covered Oreos, Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies

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The photos I have shared are approximately half of the items on the buffet. It was a long two weeks and countless hours of prep but I feel that it was well worth the effort to complete the job without cutting corners on ingredients or time to make everything look great. The report back to me was that everyone loved the treats. So, will I do another dessert buffet? Right now, I would say I am too tired but ask me in a year and I might say “yes”!

Chocolate Covered Oreos, Santa Sugar Cookies, Christmas Mouse Sugar Cookies,

Chocolate Covered Oreos, Santa Sugar Cookies, Christmas Mouse Sugar Cookies,

Vanilla Cream Candy, Buckeyes, Fudge Truffles, English Crispies

Vanilla Cream Candy, Buckeyes, Fudge Truffles, English Crispies

Summer Is Over….Someone Tell the Tomatoes!

I just came in from our deck. It’s very cold and rainy today. As I looked over the edge of the deck to find our dog, I saw tons of green tomatoes and plants filled with blooms. The plants look as though they are thriving better than ever. I know about six plants are well over 6 ft tall from the ground to the top of the deck railing. They are hanging over and just loaded with fruit. You may be wondering why I am talking about tomatoes like it matters. Well, it does matter!
We have never had a successful garden before. This year was a first! We planted all the easy to grow seeds and lots of herbs. We have had buckets of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, yellow squash and zucchini. Today, on Oct 16, 2014, we still have buckets of tomatoes, bell peppers and flat leaf parsley growing. Sometimes, we just need to put the seed or seedling into the dirt and trust God to do the rest. He always blesses abundantly.
Tim had his annual tests and results this week. This is always a time for holding your breathe until you get the “all clear” that there are no signs of cancer. Once again, we are fortunate and blessed as “no signs of cancer” is now at the three years mark. Our trust is in God to provide us with that freedom that it is “gone for good”! Two more years to be at that mark….kind of like anticipating those seeds we planted to grow and be fruitful. We just don’t have to worry about it. You put it in the ground in May and here it is Oct and with abundance they are producing and we put our faith in the God that heals. He led us to an amazing doctor who took out the cancer and now we are blessed with the abundance of peace in knowing that healing is present. We don’t have to worry. For all these things, we are thankful.

Oh Baby, Baby and Bread

Baby Cake Pops!

Baby Cake Pops!

I LOVE making cake pops! Baby cake pops are one of my favorites as well. I was very happy to spend my weekend on a rush order for a baby shower for my friend. She is a party planner and this party needed a fast plan! Luckily, she asked me if I would make cake pops! Yes!
This was my first time putting hair on babies and I really love how they turned out. The little mohawks are my favorite. Do you have a favorite among all the cuteness?

This is my third time baking with the starter.

This is my third time baking with the starter.


Since baking the first free form loaf several weeks ago, I have tried a making the recipe suggested on the starter another time in a loaf pan. The recipe calls for 2 1/2 Cups of the starter. To me, it has a very strong sour taste which my family liked, but I didn’t. So, I decided to try another recipe. This one calls for only 1 Cup of starter. It also is flavored with some softened butter and warm milk put directly into the dough. It rises well, it browns to a deep golden color (crusty) and tastes fantastic! I have a large loaf pan that is stoneware. I made three loaves before I figured out how long to bake it. It takes an hour. I had some doughy middles in the first two loaves.
For those of you who would like to try out this recipe, I will post it below. This photo shows the height on the loaf.
This photo shows the height of the loaf

This photo shows the height of the loaf

San Fransisco Sour Dough Bread
1 C. Sour Dough Starter (Make sure your starter is room temperature and has bubbles. If it doesn’t feed your starter and let sit a few hours or overnight.)
4 1/2 C. All Purpose or Bread Flour
1 Heaping Tablespoon of Salt
3 Heaping Tablespoons of Sugar
1 Pkg. yeast (I only use 1/2 a pkg)
1 C. Warm Milk
2 Tablespoons of softened butter
1 Egg
Combine 1 C. of flour, salt, sugar, yeast, butter and 1 C. of flour in your Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle attached. Allow this mixture to become well combined. Now slowly add flour about 1/2 C at a time until it is all added. Change to your dough hook here or before you add the extra flour. Allow the dough to be kneaded for about 5 minutes. You can do all of this by hand if you do not have a mixer with a dough hook. Once kneaded, form your dough into a nice round and place in a greased large bowl. I used olive oil and turn the dough over once to coat the top. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in height. Punch dough down in the center and pull edges down into the dough all the way around. (I have this process posted in the first bread post) Form dough into a loaf and place in a well greased bread pan. Allow to rise until doubled in height and volume. Slit the top with a razor blade of sharp knife. Beat the egg with a splash of water and brush the top of the dough. Bake for at least 1 hour at 375 degrees. Be prepared to have your home filled with a very fragrant, heavenly smell. #bakingbreadsmellsfantastic

Expect the Unexpected!

It seems that for us, we always have to “expect the unexpected”.  My daughter was hospitalized on an emergency basis a couple weekends ago.  It was very “unexpected” and we are very glad that she is feeling better now.  While last week was a bit slow as far as bangle designs, I did decide to make several variations of “Hope Anchors the Soul”.  Here is a peek!ImageImageImageImage

I also did not expect for these to be so popular!   That’s a happy statement because I love to make personalized items that people enjoy wearing or using.  I then worked on some custom pieces for a graduating senior and also many, many teacher gifts!  

This week, I have decided to try what I am calling “hashtag design”….while I have not yet used the actual # symbol and run the words all together as in a tweet, I do plan to do that as well.  Here is a peek at those.Image

Then, there is this awesome song by the Eagles called “Fabulous”.  I have loved it since I first heard it.  It’s basically about a woman that doesn’t have time for anything because she is too busy being her “Fabulous” self! haha!  The song is not in a complimentary tone but rather sarcastic but, I couldn’t resist!  I think all women need one of these!  When the mood strikes, throw on the bangle and off you go!  

 

 

Fabuloous!

Bread Quest! Sour Dough Lovers Unite!

The Sour Dough Kit from Williams-Sonoma

The Sour Dough Kit from Williams-Sonoma

Journey to the perfect loaf!

Journey to the perfect loaf!

After learning that those with gluten intolerance may be able to successfully tolerate sour dough bread, I have been on the quest to find and make the perfect loaf of sour dough bread.
I read where the sour dough starter actually cancels out the gluten. My sweet daughter, has an auto-immune disease which greatly benefits from a gluten-free diet. We learned that she does tolerate and digest sour dough bread. Of course, I am certainly going to do my part in helping her find quality foods that are within her diet.
My first attempts at making my own starter were from “scratch”. It took eight days to ferment the starter and begin baking. After six very dense, fair tasting loaves, I was able to make a pretty good loaf. My starter however, was a bit frustrating to me as it seemed to take about two days to proof a loaf. I also thought it needed to have a better taste.
I started searching for the best sour dough bread I could find. Topping the list was San Francisco Sour Dough Bread made in a bakery in San Francisco. I also learned you could purchase a sour dough starter kit from Williams-Sonoma. (I am not associated with Williams-Sonoma. I am just a customer.)
It arrives with a nice little crock to keep your starter preserved in.

I found the detailed instructions a bit difficult to understand but I ended up with a good end product so I suppose I came close to following it correctly. It begins by combining the starter with warm water and all-purpose flour.

[caption id="attachment_437" align="alignnone" width="300"]Combining the starter packet with warm water and flour. Combining the starter packet with warm water and flour.

Next, cover the bowl and allow to rest. Stirring the mixture at regular intervals is
important in the fermentation process.

Note the large bubbles on top of the mixture.  This is ready for division and feeding.

Note the large bubbles on top of the mixture. This is ready for division and feeding.


For the remaining 72 hours, you will be stirring at regular intervals until the mixture reaches it peak (lots of active bubbles), then you will reduce to 1/2 C mixture and add one cup of warm water and one cup of flour. (If it is bedtime, you will increase the flour and water to 2 or 3 cups and cover for the night) Upon rising, divide, reduce to 1/2 C and feed with 1 C warm water and flour.
The is the final division.  Fill your crock with starter and refrigerate.

The is the final division. Fill your crock with starter and refrigerate.

Beautifully Proofed Dough

Beautifully Proofed Dough


Two days later, I had to bake bread to see how the new starter would work. The recipe is easy. The night before baking, put 1/2 C starter in a bowl with 3 Cups warm water and 3 Cups flour. Cover overnight. The next morning, you will have beautiful starter called a sponge. It’s very bubbly! Take 2 1/2 Cups of the sponge and put it in your stand mixer, add 1 1/2 C flour and mix together. Allow it to rest an hour. Next, add one more C of flour, put on the dough hook, add a tablespoon of salt and slowing continue adding flour until you have a moist, non sticky dough. Put your dough into a bowl and allow to rise 8 to 13 hours! Yes, it takes that long! Yes, it will eventually work! Yes, it’s worth the wait!
Then the fun begins.
Shaping the dough into a round.

Shaping the dough into a round.

Creating a smooth loaf

Creating a smooth loaf


Once you have gone all the way around the dough and folded it upon itself. Place the round on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal. The dough is ready for a second rise. Allow the round to rise for 3 hours.
Finally, cut tic-tac-toe slits into the dough with a new razor blade. Brush with an egg wash, and place into a hot 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking an additional 45 minutes.
The dough round is rising for a second time for 3 hours.

The dough round is rising for a second time for 3 hours.

Brush the loaf you just scored with a razor blade with the egg wash.

Brush the loaf you just scored with a razor blade with the egg wash.

This is a huge, crusty loaf of San Francisco Sour Dough Bread.

This is a huge, crusty loaf of San Francisco Sour Dough Bread.


The end product was a very beautiful round of San Francisco Sour Dough Bread. It is a very tasty bread. Next time, I will be making it in loaf pans to see how it holds up for sandwich bread. I am very encouraged by my first loaf. I feel like it can only get better as I get better at making it! Hope you give the San Francisco Starter a try if you enjoy baking bread or want to start.

Thankful Every Day!

My husband, Tim, was first diagnosed with cancer when he was 28 yrs old.  The six months following the diagnosis were the most difficult months of our lives.  It seemed like we were being attacked from all directions.  We had just packed up our vehicle with baby Laurel and the dog and driven from Memphis, TN to Wadsworth, OH to visit our dear friends.  It was there that Tim discovered a very painful tumor.  It was also there that we received a call that our house had been on fire and all contents were damaged. We would not be able to return to our home.  We packed the car and headed home to assess the damage to the house and to Tim’s health.

The house was heavily smoked damaged so we moved into a Hampton Inn.  Let me just say that keeping baby formula in an ice chest with no way to warm it is not fun but we all made it work.  Tim got into the specialist fast and surgery was scheduled within two days.  He was diagnosed with cancer that would require months of chemotherapy.  Once discharged, he got to begin his recovery in the room at the Hampton Inn and I got to return to work full time.  After two weeks juggling our lives around the Hampton Inn, some awesome friends invited us to come to their house until we could get into a rental home.  Luckily, that happened within two weeks because chemo began.

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Tim’s mother had been fighting her own battle with cancer when he was diagnosed.  She grew progressively worse and passed away in October.

 

 

This time in our lives was certainly a time when we knew we were not in control.  We learned quickly to just be still, quiet and wait for the Lord to handle whatever it was that we faced each day.  I tried to adjust my work schedule where I could go with Tim for his chemo some.    He was very sick from the effects and was hospitalized some for fever and infections.  In fact, he looked so forward to the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner I was planning but ended up hospitalized the night before.  Family came in and we made the dinner but he said he just did not want it because of the chemo taste.  So, my promise to him was that I would make him a turkey dinner as soon as he could taste it.   I did make that dinner but it also tasted like chemo!

Our little sweetie pie, Laurel, enjoyed her first birthday cake sitting on her daddy’s lap in a hospital bed.  She had fun getting cake all over herself and her dad!  We have video of this somewhere and I hope to locate it.  While Tim is a bit self-conscious about having no hair, to me that bald head means he is with us today, a battle scar.  He was such a fighter as he went to the office almost every day, preached every Sunday regardless of how he felt and continued giving of himself to the people of our church.  If you are wondering, what this post is actually about, it is this, cancer is forever in your life.   Cancer survivors are followed closely and monitored for new cancers with body scans.  Scans are initially frequent, like 3 to 6  months and then spaced further apart each year the body is cancer free.  The time between having a scan and receiving the results from the doctor are worrisome at best.

In December 2011, Tim had gone in for the results of his routine scan.  When he got home, I was standing in the kitchen making cake pops when he said, “they found a mass in my kidney”.  I said “what”, thinking I didn’t hear him correctly.  Again, he said “the scan showed a mass in my kidney”.  I think we both had become so accustom to hearing “all clear” that it was just unbelievable that we were once again facing cancer.  I mentioned the cake pops because I was actually making cake pops shaped like little kidneys for a close friend to give to her dialysis team.  How ironic could it get?  All we could do in that moment was cry!

Joyfully though, I am so happy to say that God had this one too!  He led Tim to a fantastic surgeon who removed all of the cancer.  The cancer had not spread and he would not be needing any chemo or radiation.  Today, is the Tim received results from his follow-up scan day.  Today, is the day we both report “all clear”!  Every day we are thankful!  Every day is precious!  Every day we praise God for allowing us to just be “still”.  HE has us covered!  HE has YOU covered too!

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