The Apple Tree Is Empty Now and Brandied Apple Crisp

Dear Joey,

Yesterday we picked the last three apples from our gnarled old apple tree. Those beauties ripened just as the school year wrapped up last spring, when the promise of summer was fresh and exciting. Somehow, summer slipped by and here we were picking the last few of them just two days before school starts again.

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We can’t really make sense of this summertime harvest: apples are a fruit of the fall. What’s the deal with all these things hanging around during the hot summer months, the worst time of the year to turn on the stove and make something with them? I did my best: I baked batch after batch of spiced brown sugar apple crisp and applesauce muffins, along with several jars of applesauce. I sliced apples for the freezer and for fancy cheese platters and for summertime snacks. And we know how many apples Emery munched on while swinging in the afternoons. Still, so many of our apples went to waste. The lawn was littered with them, bruised and cracked open and piling up faster than we liked because it was so hard to use them all.

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I feel pretty guilty about all this. I lovingly blame my grandparents: they had an apple tree in their backyard and darn it if they didn’t find a way to use up every last bit of fruit that tree produced. I can still see them working in their kitchen: my grandpa manning the apple peeler and magically transforming apple skins into curly green ribbons while my grandma flits to and fro, slicing apples and hovering over the hot stove, watching as the apples cooked down. They must have done this many times for the duration of apple season because by the time it was over, their freezer was filled to the brim with applesauce and apple crisps.

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Not us: we did the best we could, but still so many apples went unused. Every time we tossed another bucketful of rotten apples into the yard waste bin, my heart sank a little lower in defeat. Even as I write this, I hear my Grandma Teague’s voice chiding me, saying “How you managed to put up any of those apples is beyond me! You’re a busy girl, my dear.” She’s right: I need to give myself more grace. We had more apples than we could deal with.

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At the beginning of summer, a tree full of ripening fruit symbolized the promise of months ahead full of sweet moments, and I vowed to make the most of every last one of them. And I did, a lot of the time. But as summer wore on, that apple tree turned into an hour glass that emptied too fast.  Time passed and apples fell, and I felt more and more pressure to do more, be more, enjoy more, because soon these golden days would be over. The more pressure I put on myself, the more weary I became. I let more and more apples fall without giving them my attention. Before I knew it, the apples ran out.

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Summer is gone now; school starts today. The tree sits outside our kitchen window empty, and I wonder if I let too many moments with the girls slip by without giving them my full attention, too, just like I did with those apples. I whisper to God, “Was it good enough?” as I wonder how the girls will remember this summer, hoping their memories will hold on to the good stuff and toss away the bad.

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As I sat wondering all this, I thought about Galations 6:9. the verse that talks about not growing weary while doing good, especially to those closest to you, and how it will bring about a good harvest at the right time. I struggle to feel like I’ve done that at all because I became weary a lot this summer, letting moment after precious moment fall, too tired to make the most of every single one of them.

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I put so much pressure on myself to make this summer perfect, but in His kindness God reminded me that the process is ongoing. The apple tree is empty now, but the hard work that will bring about the next harvest is just getting started. So it is with the school year: by next summer, what a good crop we will bring in if we work hard with the end goal in mind. They’ll be like a “trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they [will] prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:3, NLT). Being in the moment and investing our time and energy into their little lives, little by little, will turn into something beautiful and good.

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After we cleared the branches and brought the last of the apples inside yesterday, I set to work on yet another apple crisp, one meant to share with friends who we had not seen all summer long. It seemed fitting to mark the occasion with the last of our little harvest of apples. The girls surprised me by asking if they could help, and I hesitated for a moment. I really wanted to get the job done quickly because our friends would be there soon and I still hadn’t showered for the day, but with all these ideas about wasted time swirling around my head, I said yes instead. Addie hopped up on the counter and helped mix a few ingredients together before insisting she take pictures as Mia and I worked on the rest. And so, we enjoyed the last real free afternoon of summer vacation peeling, slicing, and baking, turning the last of the bit of the season into something special.

Love,

Scratch

Brandied Apple Crisp (GF/DF/NF)

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I realize I’ve been talking a lot about apples lately, but I offer this recipe as penance for my repetition. Gluten free, dairy free and nut free (as always, around here), this crisp is based on my recipe for Spiced Brown Sugar Apple Crisp, which was born out of a need to modify my Grandma’s famous Apple Crisp. This version is tweaked just enough to make it a little bit more indulgent. The topping is a little heartier, but the brandy is really what sets this dessert apart–don’t skimp on it. The alcohol cooks out as it bakes, leaving a delicate brandy flavor that melds beautifully with the brown sugar and spices. And of course, we topped off with with dairy free vanilla ice cream, because is there really any other way to eat it?

Ingredients:

For the Filling:
30 ounces peeled and cored apples (crisp and tart-sweet, like Granny Smith), sliced to about 1/4″ (about 6-8 apples, depending on their size. If they are large, you will probably only need four of them, but if they are on the smaller size, you will need six or so).
4 1/2 Tablespoons brandy
4 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoons pure cane sugar

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Topping:
2 1/2 ounces coarsely ground gluten free oats
1/2 cup Gluten Free Flour Blend*
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup pure cane sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 Tablespoons Soy Free Earth Balance, melted (regular butter works too)
pinch of salt

*This blend contains xanthan gum, but if yours doesn’t, add 1/8 teaspoon to the filling ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon to the topping ingredients. 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a 3 1/2 quart baking dish (I take the easy way out and use coconut oil spray).

Wash, peel, and slice the apples about 1/4″ thick. Toss them into a large bowl as you go and sprinkle the brandy on top when you’re done. Give them a good stir, making sure the brandy is well distributed among the apples.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for the filling. Pour them on top of the apples and toss it all together until each apple slice is coated with the sugar mixture; then pour them into the prepared baking dish.

Pop it into the oven and leave it there for 60 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the brown sugar is melted and bubbly.


Hungrier Than Usual and Applesauce Mini Muffins

Dear Joey,

The cupboards are pretty empty again. I swear I went shopping five days ago, but between summertime growth spurts and the bottomless pit of a boy we share our table with now, food doesn’t last long around here. Gone are the days when we could get by with making dinner out of a single pound of ground turkey, or when we could stretch a pint of strawberries through more than one meal. These kids clamor for snacks before I finish clearing up the mess from the last time they insisted I feed them. They eat all day long, and I spend so much time feeding them, I usually forget to feed myself. I never thought that was possible.

To make matters more desperate, we’re on week three of swim lessons, which means the girls are even hungrier than usual.  They come out of the water ravenous for a snack right now. I feel like I should be stuffing a muffin in their mouth while I wrap them up in their towels like burritos, instead of giving them fruit leather to munch on after they were settled in the stroller.

This week, I followed that feeling and made some mini muffins. I balked at the 90 degree weather, turned on the oven anyway and proceeded to figure out a way to make applesauce and buckwheat appealing to little tummies. Cranking the air conditioning up a degree or two seemed a small price to pay to have a heartier snack at the ready after swim lessons were over. But wouldn’t you know, those Goobies accosted me for the muffins on the way out the door on Monday afternoon, insisting But I’m hungry right now! and Yes, I’m sure it won’t give me a tummy ache while I’m in the water!

So I handed each girl their own little baggie of them and helped Emery eat one of his own before herding everyone into the car. By the time Addie climbed into her car seat, she was on muffin number two. Halfway through it she paused to say, “Mommy! Hear this!” and  sang me a song:

Do you know the muffin lady, the muffin lady, the muffin lady? 
Do you know the muffin lady who lives in San Ramon? 
Yes I know the muffin lady, the muffin lady, the muffin lady. 
Yes I know the muffin lady because she is my mom.
She then giggled and settled into her seat, clearly enjoying how clever she was, and finished the third muffin before we got out of the driveway.
The next morning, I set what was left of the first batch of those muffins onto the kitchen table and let the girls help themselves for breakfast. Before I knew it, most of them were gone and Mia looked intent on finishing every last one of them.

 

“You really like those applesauce muffins, huh Mia?” I asked, trying to confiscate the last few to save for their original intended purpose.

“Yep, I sure do,” she said. “I guess I’m just a muffin girl.”

The entire batch was gone before lunch.

This afternoon was cooler, so I took advantage of it and had Mia help me bake another batch of those little muffins. I am the muffin lady, after all. I have a reputation to live up to–and hungry mouths to feed.

Love,
Scratch

 Applesauce Mini Muffins (GF/DF/NF)

Hungrier than Usual and Applesauce Mini Muffins

These muffins are a great way to introduce buckwheat flour to your battery of gluten free baking supplies. I experimented with it when I first went gluten free, but it tooksome time for me to find a combination of flavors that made me really fall in love with the stuff. The applesauce, cinnamon and coconut sugar work together perfectly here, making the buckwheat’s subtle nutty flavor shine. All of my kids eat these muffins with enthusiasm, and I imagine yours will too. 

Ingredients:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup Gluten Free flour blend
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup Pyure Organic Stevia Blend (or 1/2 cup coconut sugar or evaporated cane juice. These yield a slightly sweeter muffin)
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
Method:
First, turn your oven on to 375 degrees and give a mini muffin pan a good coat of nonstick cooking spray.
Move on to the dry ingredients. Measure the first seven ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk them together. Set aside.
In another, slightly larger mixing bowl, add all the wet ingredients (the following five ingredients) and whisk to combine well. Then gradually tip the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, whisking as you go until the batter forms and there aren’t any more pockets of flour to be found.
Scoop the muffins into the muffin pan using a mini ice cream scoop (or use regular spoons to fill each muffin cup with about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of batter). Dust with cinnamon sugar and bake for 13 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

The Fruit of Our Prayers and Spiced Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

Dear Joey,

Remember all those years ago when we started praying for fruit? I think about how that prayer has been answered every time I pick an apple off of our apple tree.

It all started because we cancelled our membership to a local Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) because our grocery budget couldn’t really handle the novelty of it anymore. It seemed like a good decision at the time. It was the middle of winter, we were getting a whole lot of lacinato kale, swiss chard and leeks that just sort of sat in our fridge, sad and limp at their lack of use. There were only so many ways we could think to cook a leek, after all.

Even so, my ego took a hit when we decided to forego the delivery service for awhile. I was an informed and responsible consumer and belonging to a CSA made a difference, you know?  But we were still getting used to the expenses that arrive the same day a child does, and so we chose to go back to buying commercially produced fruit and vegetables again, promising we would be more diligent with our dollars for awhile and go back to the CSA when our wallet loosened up a bit.

But time kept us moving along and we didn’t go back. We had another baby, moved in with my parents and started the year long work of saving for a house of our own. In the midst of all that, we started remembering our CSA boxes with the sort of wistfulness that made us long for the ease of just-picked fruit magically landing on our doorstep before the sun came up. We even missed that fridge full of wilted winter vegetables (leeks in particular, ironically, because of those tempura leeks. Hallelujah.) We talked about joining the CSA again, but we just couldn’t seem to make it work for our family. I still felt pretty deflated about it. Even the promise of making it work once we moved into our home, the place we’d plant ourselves and grow together as a family, didn’t really help. And so I did what I always do when I don’t get my way: I pouted.

When I came to my senses, put away my bottom lip and thought about why any of this mattered to me at all, I realized this: something primordial is lost when produce is produced commercially. Food was created to be good. It is supposed to taste good. The way our food system works now, most of us are missing out on the goodness of that food. Everyone knows a tomato freshly plucked from its vine tastes nothing like its mealy, flavorless counterpart available at any major supermarket. Our kids sure do: they spit out grape tomatoes purchased from the store, complaining the little things sting their tongue. But they’ve race toward our own grape tomato bush nearly every morning this summer, picking the firey red ones as fast as they can shove them into their mouths.

God intended for food to taste amazing when he created it. I’m sure of it:

“God spoke: 
‘Earth, green up! Grow all varieties
        of seed-bearing plants,
    Every sort of fruit-bearing tree.’
        And there it was.
    Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
        all varieties,
    And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
        God saw that it was good.”
(Genesis 1:11-13, MSG)

I have a hard time believing God only saw the functionality and efficiency of his design as good. This is the same God that illuminates the sky at night with beacons of blazing glory; the same God that infuses a baby’s head with its intoxicating sweetness; the same God that paints flowers in resplendent hue. This is the God that created our food for our nourishment and our enjoyment.

It’s hard to feel like I don’t have a choice but to feed our kids virtually tasteless, pesticide laden foods. It’s hard to teach them to love fruits and vegetables when the ones they’re given are mushy and tasteless.  It’s hard to make a case for eating more of them when it feels more like punishment than something to savor. It’s hard to miss out on experiencing the glory of the way food is supposed to taste.

And so, I began to pray for organic fruit. And I asked you to start praying for organic fruit too. I felt a little foolish suggesting it, but since food is so central to life, I decided a strange prayer like that wasn’t really so weird after all. Plus, I was ready to be rid of the weird mix of guilt, humiliation and longing that still harassed me every time I went shopping. But you didn’t laugh at me. You affirmed me and added to the depth of the prayer, reminding me that fruit is the thing toward which much energy and attention moves; an end product; a result of effort spent. Wasn’t that what we were doing that year, saving for a home? (Not to mention our children’s lives–who they are and who they are becoming–don’t we pray for a rich harvest there, too?) And so, we began praying for fruit. The organic kind.

Eventually, the arduous year of saving for a house produced fruit of its own, and we found ourselves putting down roots in a house with a gnarled old apple tree standing proud in the backyard. I didn’t love the tree at first, but then springtime came and we marveled at they way its blossoms sprang to life and my heart changed. Apples followed, and come back every summer, a very real answer to prayer. We may not be part of a CSA again yet, but we have organic fruit growing at our house.

We’ve been enjoying these apples this summer especially. It’s a little funny that the tree produces before the fall, I think; but I pray our kids remember this summer spent under its branches, picking its fruit and nibbling on them before breakfast in the early morning sunshine. As Addie was eating one just last week, she sighed and said to me, “this is the best apple I’ve ever tasted.”

So many prayers answered, right there, in that beautiful moment.

Love,
Scratch

Spiced Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

The Fruit of Our Prayers and Spiced Brown Sugar Apple Crisp

This recipe evolved from my disastrous first attempt at making a gluten free pie crust. I had never made a gluten free pie before, but with so many apples around, I couldn’t very well not bake a pie, could I? But my best effort nevertheless turned into a salty, gloppy paste. Happily, I have enough of my Grandma Teague’s good sense in me to salvage the apples and make an apple crisp instead. Later, as Joey spooned it into his mouth straight from the baking dish, he announced between bites, “I like this better than apple pie anyway.” 

Ingredients:

For the Filling:
20 ounces peeled and cored apples (crisp and tart-sweet, like Granny Smith), sliced to about 1/4″ (about 4-6 apples, depending on their size. If they are large, you will probably only need four of them, but if they are on the smaller size, you will need six or so).
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour Blend*
2 Tablespoons evaporated cane juice (pure cane sugar works too)                                                 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Topping:
3 1/2 ounces coarsely ground oats (gluten free if necessary)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Gluten Free Flour Blend*
1/4 cup refined coconut oil
pinch of salt

*This blend contains xanthan gum, but if yours doesn’t, add 1/8 teaspoon to the filling ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon to the topping ingredients. 

Method:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9′ pie plate or glass baking dish (I take the easy way out and use coconut oil spray).

Then, the dirty work: wash, peel, and slice the apples about 1/4″ thick. Toss them into a large bowl as you go and sprinkle the lemon juice on top when you’re done. Give them a good stir, making sure the lemon juice is well distributed among the apples.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for the filling. Pour the spicy goodness on top of the apples and toss it together as you would a salad so that each apple slice is coated with the sugar mixture; then pour them into the prepared baking dish.

On to the topping: in a separate bowl, cut the coconut oil into the ground oats, sugar, etc., until it looks like coarse sand. Spread evenly over the top of the apples.

Pop the pan into the oven and leave it there for 40 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the brown sugar melts into spicy liquid love, bubbling up around the edges and beckoning to be married with vanilla ice cream.


On Christmas Baking and Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies

Dear Joey,

Let’s talk of pleasant things, shall we? Skip all the “There’s been so much going on, lately” catch-up and jump straight to Christmas cookies? What do you say?

Christmas cookies have been on my mind for the past couple of days, ever since my Grandma Teague told me she was just getting her Christmas baking underway. As I listened to her admit that she was finally letting go of the need to strive toward perfection during Christmastime and was only going to bake a handful of varieties of cookies this year, I completely missed the point and started fretting about the fact that I myself haven’t started my Christmas baking yet. Nor had I made any sort of list or plan about cookies and the people to whom they would eventually be given.

I guess the truth is that I don’t think of myself as a Christmas baker.  I bake during Christmas – that is true. I even enjoy it and honestly, the season just doesn’t feel complete without doing at least a little of it. But I do not have an urge or need to make any one certain treat this time of year. I know that sounds completely bizarre coming from me of all people, but truly, I am pretty content with letting other people do all the dirty work so I can loaf on the couch with a box of Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s and a tin of my mom’s Russian Tea Cakes.

 

But alas, the more I thought about Christmas cookies and how I am the mom now, and responsible for making new traditions (or passing on old ones) to our children, I realized I ought to get my act together and at least devote a little bit of brain power to what sorts of cookies I want our girls to think of when they think of Christmas. It was just this afternoon when I decided that Spritz cookies were going to  be at least one tradition to pass on. There may be others that make the cut along the way too, but for now, those are the ones I am going to perfect.

Ah, Spritz cookies. Those delightful little butter cookies decorated with shimmering red and green sprinkles. They always looked a little bit like ornaments to my little girl eyes. I can see them piled high in a funky old Christmas tin alongside all the other treats that filled my Grandma’s dessert table. In my memory, there was always a great variety of cookies, but the ones I remember most clearly are Russian Tea Cakes, Krumkake, and of course, Spritz cookies.

Spritz cookies are a traditional, somewhat under-celebrated cookie these days. They originated in Germany, but I always think of them as Scandinavian (since my Norwegian Grandmother always baked them but I don’t remember my German grandmother ever  making them). There isn’t much to them: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour. What makes them special is the way they are made and the shape they take. Using a cookie press with changeable molds, they can be Chrismas trees or wreaths or flowers or hearts. The result is a delicate little butter cookie whose beauty was completely lost on me in childhood. It’s not to say Grandma’s Spritz cookies were not any good — they were. They are. But, well, is it any surprise my heart didn’t swoon over a dessert that didn’t include chocolate?
Even so, whenever I think about Spritz cookies now, I wish I would have lingered a little longer over those gems and paid them their due. Even though I sort of think of them as old-fashioned, in my grown up mind that makes them charming and important. As I stirred together the dough and filled the cookie press and made dozens of those delicate little cookies, I thought about my grandma and how she lovingly makes those cookies year after year, and how she must have learned how to make them from her mother, and then I started thinking about all the women’s hands who had mothered all the generations before me. I wondered how many of them felt like they had to create a perfect Christmas every year, and how many of them baked out of duty and not pleasure?
Mothering comes with so many non-negotiable duties, some the same as they were in the generations before me, and some that aren’t. Baking cookies certainly is not one of them these days. Baking is inconvenient in today’s world: it is messy and time consuming. In a  culture that values convenience, buying cookies saves time and sanity. But I find that when I do the messy things, the messes always somehow manage to get cleaned up eventually, and what I’m left with are the smiles and the giggles and the shy, hopeful whispers of “May I have another one Mommy?”
I think it’s safe to say that I will continue to bake at Christmastime for the sheer pleasure of it. And I hope my girls someday will, too.
Love,
Scratch

Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies

Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food 
On Christmas Baking and Chocolate Peppermint Spritz Cookies
These cookies don’t look like much, but if you like chocolate and peppermint and crispy little tea cookies, I think it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy them. I admit I would not go out of my way to hunt down a good Spritz cookie recipe had I not had a cookie press begging to be used, but since I had one, and a good one at that (a Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II, which I highly recommend), it was easy to walk in my grandmother’s shoes and make a batch of these delicate little beauties.
UPDATE: I first made and wrote about these cookies in 2013. I updated the recipe this year (2016) to be both gluten free and dairy free, but the ingredient list to make the cookies with butter and wheat flour is pretty much the same–just omit the xanthan gum and use salted butter instead of Earth Balance and all purpose or white whole wheat flour instead of gluten free flour. The good news? The kids couldn’t tell the difference and Addie again three years later shyly asked me if she could have another cookie, just like she did when she was three years old.
Ingredients:
1 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (or salted butter), softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (like this one), or white whole wheat flour

 

Method:

First, prepare your cookie press by getting everything set up (design plate chosen/inserted and get everything assembled to the point where all you need to do is add the dough).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, soften (but don’t melt!) the butter. In a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar on medium high until well combined. Add the egg, extracts, and salt; reduce speed to low. Add the xanthan gum (if using), cocoa powder and flour. Stir until just combined. The dough will be sticky.

Then, fill your cookie press, and press the dough out onto an ungreased cookie sheet (don’t use parchment paper, either). You can add sprinkles at this point, if you want to – just sprinkle on top before you put the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes–much longer, and they’ll burn. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

*Variation: for plain Chocolate Spritz Cookies, increase vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons and omit peppermint extract.


Making Adjustments and Super Moist Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins

Dear Joey,

We’ve talked a lot about aging in the past few months, how after we turned 30 our bodies started to ache in places we didn’t really pay any attention to before. A good night’s sleep became more elusive than ever (even after our babies started sleeping through the night), and as it turns out, we carry our stress in our shoulders and necks, and our bodies respond with aches and pains to the stress that surrounds us – whether we are conscious of that stress or not. And lucky for me, my doctor told me that the symptoms of IBS will persist for as long as the stress in my life is present. Great.

Making Adjustments and Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins (Gluten Free)

The doctor’s instructions and the FODMAP information sat on the counter for well over a month before I got desperate enough to try it. Until I really studied it, made a plan (and a special trip to Whole Foods’ gluten free section), I felt like it was too much to take on. But the pains persisted, as did my complaints, and so in an act of kindness (or was it frustration?), you pledged to join me in it- for support, for solidarity. To help me stay strong and make the effort to eliminate all the potential triggers that could be causing the pains I’ve been experiencing for far too long now.

Because of the low FODMAP diet’s strict limitations, I have found myself making adjustments around here by cooking and eating more meat in the past week than I have in the last several months put together (beans are a no no). Not only that, but I’m also munching on rice cakes smeared with almond butter,  stirring up batch after experimental batch of gluten free muffins, urging Addie to eat her sugar snap peas (while I cannot partake with her, as is the norm), and trying very hard to use bell peppers instead of onions in recipes that might be somewhat forgiving of the swap.

Making Adjustments and Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins (Gluten Free)
Thinking about cooking in the past two weeks switched from fun, recreational and exciting to, well, difficult. Sometimes, I’m just mentally too tired to eat much of anything. I keep telling myself I’m lucky because I don’t have food allergies. My problems are much more benign. Let’s face it: if I happen to consume a stray sugar snap pea, all will not be lost. But IBS is no picnic, so I am doing my best to be true to the program so that I can get some true results – and I am not talking about weight loss (although I wouldn’t sneeze at that, if I’m being honest).

I guess it’s the grown up, mature thing to do to start listening to our bodies and giving them the kind of attention they need. It feels a little selfish and a little bit over the top (really? I can’t even eat apples?), but I’m learning that taking care of myself is really an act of love for others, too. Being kind to myself, giving myself the thought and attention and things that I need to be healthy and strong means that I’m giving our girls the gift of a healthy mom, and you the gift of a healthy wife, right? I hope I’m right.

On the upside, delving into a culinary world that differs from the typical American diet can’t be all bad, right? In the end, we’ll (hopefully) be a little bit healthier, and I will have learned a few tricks to add to my kitchen arsenal should it turn out that I have a significant sensitivity to wheat (or lactose, or soy, or onions, or or or . . . ).

Love,
Scratch

Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins (GF/DF/NF)

Making Adjustments and Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins (Gluten Free)

Breakfast was my biggest problem when giving up wheat became necessary for me. But Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix came to my rescue, as it can easily be substituted for regular all purpose flour (which makes transforming most recipes very easy). I used Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Muffin Recipe as a guide, along with the gluten free baking mix and swapping out maple syrup for the sugar (except for the topping). Of course, you could use regular all purpose flour and regular baking powder to make a conventional version of these muffins. I suspect they would be just as delicious. Everyone in my house loved them – even Addie, my pickiest eater. She ate two in one sitting. The whole batch was gone within 24 hours.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups gluten free All Purpose Baking Mix (such as Arrowhead Mills)
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your gluten free all purpose baking mix already contains xanthan gum)
topping: 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar + 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners, or otherwise grease the tin very well.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In another even smaller bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Set this aside as well.

In a medium mixing bowl (or using a Kitchen Aid stand mixer), whisk together the pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until just blended. Spoon into your prepared muffin pan and top with cinnamon sugar mixture (as much or little as you’d like per muffin).

Bake for 25 minutes, or until puffed up and golden.