Tag Archives: gluten free

26 to 26: Birthday.

Today the countdown ends.

Today is my birthday.

I always feel like birthdays are supposed to be a big deal, like maybe some insanely life-altering moment is just around the corner. But birthdays are just that—days. Normal days filled with normal hours and ordinary minutes and common seconds. They tick away just like average Fridays.

I’m not sure what I was thinking today would be like when I started all of this. I guess that I imagined that I would wake up to a kick in the stomach and a neon “26” looming over my bed. I guess that I thought that life would feel different or time would feel different and really none of that is true.

In reality, I took a nap and carried grudges and brushed my teeth, all like a normal day.

Yet today has been a time of reflection on this journey that I created for myself. I have learned a lot along my path to 26, seeking out and uncovering lessons in the cracks and crevices of the daily grind.

I have felt full and empty; lonely and cared for; hopeful and disheartened. I have laughed and cried and regretted words spoken and actions taken.

It has all been an adventure for me. At different times, this journey of “26 to 26” has felt like both a burden and a privilege. It has forced me to express my feelings and confront some of my fears. It has forced me to cultivate writing as a discipline.

As I bring this series to a close, I am thankful that God does not finish with us until the day we finish this race set before us. I am thankful that life leads us down roads and alley ways lined with lessons in grace and forgiveness and selflessness and humility. I am thankful to be walking down those roads. Even now. Even when they seem too hard, too narrow.

Today I had breakfast with some of my lovely lady friends (the best!), snuggled with my pup while catching up on The Walking Dead (too cute!), noshed on a delicious (gluten free & vegan!) chocolate raspberry cupcake from Esselon Café (drool!), at a dinner of Riceworks chips (glamorous & health conscious!), and finished the day out with a massage (yesssssss!)

It was quiet and lovely.

As I look upon today and the last 26 days, I feel full. Full of so many things: memories, gratitude, dreams, love. I feel nourished in a way, like in leaking words into the blogosphere there’s been some fullness attained, some vision realized.

I want to thank all of you (aka my gramma, Auntie Chris, & Aunt Vicki) who have read along, learned along with me. I am so grateful to have had you all there, cheering me on, nodding your heads in support. I love you for more reasons that just you reading my silly blog.

Another year older, another day wiser. Here’s to making 26 count for the Kingdom!

Cheers!

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26 to 26: A Weekend in Maine

My roommate moved out at the end of August and, with that, seemingly opened the floodgates of change in my life. Good, messy, hard, chapter-turning change.

And she also just up and got engaged married.

Emilia and I made the trek up to visit her in central Maine this weekend. We knew that she’d be in the area for Thanksgiving but we also knew that the likelihood of us getting any one-on-one time with her was just about 0%.

We left early on Saturday morning and arrived just after 10. We spent the entirety of our time together in our pajamas, drinking coffee, laughing, sharing, and listening all huddled around her parents’ wood stove. It was beautiful…and wonderfully warm!

Friends! Coffee! Yoga pants! No showers! It’s the perfect weekend!

Don’t worry. I’m learning things all of the time and this weekend was no different. Here are some old, and one beautifully new, lessons I’m (re)learning:

Now after planning to be gone for the weekend, at nearly 26, I should have been responsible and done my dishes before I left. However, I am irresponsible and I hate doing dishes so I did not. That means that the soup pot from the beef stew I made last Thursday just sat around alllllllllll weekend.

Heck, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s still sitting around. I don’t want to open the lid and disturb whatever smelly, nasty stuff is going on in that thing.

#1: Do the dishes, Alyssa.

While we’re on a similar vein of “things you do that make you an idiot, Alyssa” I should probably address these food allergies that I have. My body hates…no. That is not a strong enough word to describe it. My body detests, loathes eggs, milk, and wheat.

What to guess what I had to eat in Maine?

Oh, don’t worry. Just a big, ole’ turkey sandwich on soft, chewy bread (wheat) slathered with mayonnaise (eggs) and American cheese (milk).

Oh, don’t worry. My intestines are still feeling the wrath of that sandwich.

I should know by now to plan ahead and pack my own food. I should know by now how disgusting I’ll feel and how my stomach will reward me by torturing me during my all too short little vacation with my friends.

#2: Don’t eat the crap you’re not supposed to, Alyssa.

This last one is something that Miranda said, that she taught me.

She said, “At some point, I made a choice…to love him. I made a decision that was for richer or poorer, sickness or health.”

I guess I’ve never thought about it that way—loving being a choice. I suppose that it’s because I’ve always just loved the people who loved me first. I suppose that maybe it’s because I have a romanticized idea of falling, stumbling into love.

I suppose that I’m probably completely wrong.

Love is a choice. It’s the best choice. It’s a hard choice.

It’s a choice that has to be made on the good days and the bad days, on the wedding days, birthdays, and death days. It’s a choice that you just have to keep choosing.

Love is a choice, a resolution.

#3: Choose love. Every day. Choose it with your family and your coworkers and your friends and your enemies. Make the life-changing choice to love because of and despite of.

 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Mojito Sorbet


I know what you’re thinking.
It’s been a while—it’s just been too long.

I know, I know. I’m so sorry. You were probably thinking awful thoughts, thoughts like:  Did she die?! Has she given up on baking?!  Is she throwing her life away?!

I’m back to assure you that I’m still alive, I’m still baking, and…well, I’m still alive.

That last bit is too weighty for this fun post that is all about sorbet. Ah, yes! Light! Refreshing! ALMOST ICE CREAM BUT NOT QUITE!

Or not at all…

Anywho, after several months of what we’ll kindly refer to as “tummy troubles,” I had some allergy testing done. Long story short, I’ve been avoiding three major items: wheat, eggs, and milk. Talk about throwing a wrench into the life of someone who loves food! But, I’m surviving and having fun trying new foods and learning to live life as a carnivorous vegan.

Mmmm…meat!

This dairy-free lifestyle has also meant giving up one of my favorite things in the entire world: GoBerry frozen yogurt. It’s a cute, local frozen yogurt shop serving up perfectly tart and delicious froyo made from local yogurt and local milk and a marvelous array of toppings.

Sigh. Drool.

With warm weather on the horizon, I’m finding a need for a frozen treat that isn’t frozen grapes.

Enter…SORBET!

After buying an excessive amount of rhubarb for a berry crumble (gluten free & vegan—delicious! I can’t wait to share!), I decided that I’d find a way to get the extra into a sorbet. What I ended up with is tangy yet perfectly sweet with hints of citrus. Plus, it looks really beautiful!

I give you…Strawberry Rhubarb Mojito Sorbet!

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White Chocolate Macadamia Blondies

I have felt extremely busy this past week… and a half– holy smokes it’s Tuesday! I’m not sure if I’ve actually been busy–the level of busy that I’ve felt– or not. Whatever. It’s all the same.

And then the time change! Goodness gracious. As if I hadn’t felt tired enough! And then all of this rain!

WHEN WILL IT END?!?!

Sorry. That’s a bit dramatic.

Regardless, I made these blondies last week and wanted to share them with you.

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Mid-making I got into a heated discussion with my roommate who told me that a blondie was the same thing as a cookie which was the same thing as a brownie which was the same thing as cake. Butter-whipping, sugar-scooping Alyssa (das me) nearly had a heart attack. After she had one of these guys, she took it back…I think.

I guess that means that they were good.

When you love baked goods and your body hates wheat, life can be hard. Gluten-free flour substitutes just aren’t they same. They’re not bad, just different.

The beautiful thing about these blondies is that they’re made with almond flour (or almond meal) so it doesn’t require any substitutes. Almond meal is literally just almonds ground until they’re suuuuuuper fine. Kind of like flour…hence the name. You could even blanch almonds and make it yourself with a food-processor. But I am lazy so I just bought mine at Trader Joe’s.

Glorious!

If that wasn’t motivation enough, these blondies have macadamia nuts. If butter were a nut, it would be a macadamia. They’re smooth and light and unsuspectingly fattening. I don’t think they qualify as a “heart healthy” nut. They’re probably Paula Deen’s favorite. And they also pair amazingly with white chocolate.

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And this white chocolate situation–yum. I know some people be hatin’ on white chocolate. Not me.

I’m going to be real with you right now. I’m lazy. The evidence:

  • I took most of these photos on my iPhone.
  • I didn’t have unsalted butter so…yup.
  • I didn’t have corn starch so…we’ll get to that. Continue reading

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Strawberry Spinach Salad

 

 

Sometimes you run out of dish soap in your kitchen. Sometimes the dishes pile up in your tiny little kitchen to the point where you don’t have any counter space or clean things to eat on and cook with. Sometimes, although you really want to, you just can’t motivate yourself to leave your house in the rural cell service-less country and drive the thirty minutes to the nearest Target (especially when you were “in town” a few hours earlier…)

Sometimes those dirty dishes are a really inconvenient excuse to not cook…or bake.

Life. It’s crazy. Lunch. It’s delicious.

Trader Joe’s was having this killer deal on strawberries this week- $2.99 for a pound. Let’s just say that someone that I know ate the whole pound in roughly 24 hours and had to go back to Trader Joe’s last night and get some more.

I put them on homemade frozen yogurt (I’m working on perfecting a recipe!) I ate them for breakfast. I put them on a salad. Ah hem, this person did all of those things.

This salad is simple & simply delicious. This salad can bring a little love (and color) to your life when the weather has consisted mostly of rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.

 

It takes 3 minutes & you know you wanna…

 

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Lemon Blueberry Bread

Food is the way that I care for people. I’m not always very good…err…very eloquent with my words. Especially if I have to say them outloud.

However, I’m pretty well-versed in food.

I firmly believe that things like sugar and butter say “I love you!” louder than most words that I could string together.

I made this bread for a boss’s birthday a few years ago. Since it was sort of a “free game” type of deal in the office, one of my selfish, male coworkers ate most of it. But as he choked down nearly half of the loaf, he kept remarking that it was “like, the best bread [he’d] ever had.”

His passion for the Lemon Blueberry Bread was evident. It was literally all over his face.

And I agreed. It was pretty dang good. And pretty dang easy.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I needed a snack idea. I needed it to be easy. I needed it to be yummy. I needed it to be easy to serve. And I needed it for that night.

I had all of these ingredients on hand, which is just wonderful, so Lemon Blueberry Bread it was!

Don’t get me wrong, I love blueberries, but they are so not the star of this bread. The best part of this treat actually isn’t even the bread part- it’s the lemon glaze. It’s sweet and tart and totally changes your life. Without it, this bread would be ehhhh. But the lemon, it makes it mmmmmmmm.

Lemons are one of my favorite things. They make me think of springtime and sunshine and warm days and barbecues  They’re beautiful and tasty. I like lemons in my water and in my baked goods. My signature dessert is a lemon square. That is a different post for a different time. My friend Nikki told me that I should open a bakery, name it Lemon, and only serve things made with lemon. I see very few things wrong with this idea.

This recipe contains both lemon zest AND fresh lemon juice. This is a win-win.

Prepare to be dazzled.

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Pralines & A Culinary Trip to Nawlins

I love new places. I love them more than new faces. I’ve realized that quite a bit over the last year.

New faces are hard…because they talk and need attention. New places are great because they’re just begging to be explored…and eaten from.

If you haven’t been to New Orleans, Louisiana, you have not yet lived. Seriously. New Orleans has a culture that is so vibrant, so beautiful, and so unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.

Before I explored the beautiful city, I equated New Orleans with Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and topless ladies. Gosh, was I an ignorant fool!

New Orleans is full of comfort food, beautiful people, unique architecture, phenomenal music, and a whole lot of fun. Besides eating out, my favorite activity while I was there was the Rock ‘n Bowl with some killer Zydeco music. Gosh, I danced like a foolish wet noodle.

So sweet.

Because New Orleans is down South, they do food right. They do food delicious.

Crawfish etoufee. Yes, please.

Gumbo? Yes, definitely.

Alligator sausage po-boy? You had me at sausage.

Beignets? Take me to Café Du Monde and bring on the powdered sugar.

But these little guys, they are a delightful piece of sugary goodness.

Pralines. [Pronounced “pray-leans.”]

Now, before I went to NOLA, I thought that a praline was JUST a candied pecan. That is not true. These are pralines. They are not just candied nuts. They’re globs of candied nuts. And they are wonderful.

They are so sweet. Just thinking about them get my mouth watering and my cavities burrowing deeper into my uninsured teeth. Yikes!

Pralines are a candy. Don’t be scared. It will be fine. You don’t even need a thermometer for these guys.

Candies start with sugar. Lots of sugar.

Pralines 009Sugar

We’re making these pralines for our small group. Buckle up.

via Joy the Baker’s cookbook

Joy's Pralines

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups pecan halves

Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper, tin foil, or a handy-dandy silicone baking sheet. Set those guys aside. Start with a medium sauce pan with a heavy bottom. Combine both sugars, the salt, and the heavy cream and heat over medium heat. Stir. Cook until the mixture is bubbling through and smooth. The sugar should be fully incorporated. Add the butter and pecans. Stir until the butter has melted and then let the mixture boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. After 12-15 minutes, spoon the pecany-delicious mixture, by tablespoons, onto the prepared cookie sheets. Give them a little space because they will spread a bit. Allow to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes before removing from the cookie tray.

Pralines

Dig in and enjoy a taste of the beautiful city of New Orleans. Then buy a plane ticket and go there. Get some beignets and a café au lait at Café Du Monde and then go dance your white, noodle-y butt off at the Rock ‘n Bowl. Ride a street car to Jacquimo’s and get some Alligator Cheesecake. Leave a big tip.

If the above is not financially feasible, these pralines are a much more economical solution. But still. Put Nawlins on your Bucket List. And put one of these pralines into your belly.

You’ll thank me later.

Candy Goodness

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