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Sunday, November 28, 2010

GF Peppermint Strips

As a rule, Gluten Free products are more crumbly than their wheat-based original recipes.  Pictured here are Peppermint Strips.  I chose this for my first GF experiment  because the candy on top hardens when it cools.  Even if the GF flour replacer yields a more breakable cookie, the hardened candy will hold it together.  Yesterday I tested this theory and made one pan with Glutino's Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose Flour.  Success!  My theory was correct.  This flour replacer is nice because its a 1-to-1 conversion, and has a nice flavor.
The pans in this picture are made with regular flour.  It would be far too expensive to make multiple batches that are GF.  The flour replacer is $5.00 for about 3 cups of flour. 

Now I'll scrub down everthing in my kitchen to be rid of the (regular) flour dust before I can make any more GF products.  Stay tuned for further experiments.  :)

For the Peppermint Strip recipe, see:

For more info on GF baking see:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Placemats Plus Napkin Rings

Got six placemats quilted today.  Hope to get them bound tomorrow.  Below the mats are some border remnants.  Am looking for a simple pattern for napkin rings.

In Which a Kitchen Table Becomes a Cutting Table

...and a basting table, and a marking table.  Good bye back ache!

Baked Cheese Torte - Regular & GF

Grandma Clara's Baked Cheese Torte

I've intended to make this cheese cake for years.  Past efforts were thwarted by one vexing ingredient.  In Grandma's day they called it Baker's Cheese.  I called my grocery store to find out if they had it; they said they did.  They had Baker's Brand String Cheese.  Not at all what I needed.  Fortunately I found it at another store, under the name of Dry Curd Cottage Cheese. 

I had a list of ingredients and minimal notes for how to make the cheese cake.  I had already combined ALL the wet ingredients and had been mixing forever, but the curds were still lumpy.  So I finally strained the batter, threw the curds in the food processor, then blended the resulting paste back into the liquid.  Whew!

The true test of success was to take a piece to the nursing home and see how Grandma liked it.  She ate every last bite and noted how smooth it was.  At 101 years of age, Grandma would happily survive on bakery alone!  I'd been wondering how she made it before there were food processors?  They did it by pressing the curds through a metal seive.  Food processors are truly something to be thankful for!

2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (or GF ginger snap cookie crumbs)
7 TBSP butter, melted
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine crumbs with butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Reserve 2-3 TBSP crumb mixture for the top of the cake.  Press the remainder into a glass 13 x 9" pan.  Press crumbs along the bottom, and up the sides of pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

1 lb baker's cheese
1 lb regular cottage cheese
5 eggs
5 TBSP flour (2 1/2 TBSP cornstarch)
2 tsp vanilla
13 oz. can sweetened and condensed milk

Blend two cheeses in a food processor until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.  Pour into prepared crust.  Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Turn oven off, allow cheese cake to remain in oven for an additional 15 minutes.  Then open oven door and allow cheesecake to cool down - (still inside the oven) for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

For Thanksgiving we had traditional (non-GF) pumpkin pie, apple pie (non-GF) and my GF cheesecake.  I served the traditional pies from the kitchen table, and placed the GF dessert well away.  I had enough utensils that there would be no temptation to use the pie utensils to dish up the GF cheesecake - thereby contaminating it.  Several people asked me to put some cheesecake on the plate they had already eaten pie on...but that would have contaminated the utensils I used for the GF item.  Just like when you go up for seconds at a buffet, you need a fresh plate.

I can see this will require more practice.  But its good to know I survived my first GF holiday.  Hope yours was happy!  :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

So much to be thankful, family, friends, food and fabric!
Have a Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Adventures in Gluten Free Living

Now that I need to eat gluten free, I'm cleaning out my cupboards.  I love my kitchen with its beautiful spacious pantry.  But oh the gluten lurking there!  I filled five large grocery bags of noodles, oatmeal, cereals, canned soups, gravies, salad dressings, bouillon cubes, seasoning blends, instant this and that.  These were given to friends.  I gave another bag of bread flour, wheat gluten, cornbread and muffin mixes, etc. to a freind who bakes bread regularly.  And still more will go to a food bank.

Yesterday I went through spices and sauces.  Have to give away soy sauce (Kikkoman is made with wheat, La Choy is not), worchestershire sauce, spaghetti sauce, teriyaki, etc. These either contained wheat or non-specified "spices" or "natural or artificial flavors."  

Thankfully, all my McCormick and Wildtree spices were free of non-specified ingredients. Now my spices are gluten free and in alphabetical order.  (Eat your heart out Martha Stewart.)

Food labeling laws require identification of the top 8 allergens, but there's still room for improvement.  Don't Hunts and Heinz know that by listing "spices" in their catsup any one with food sensitivities can't consume their product?   Likewise, Hungry Jack and Aunt Jemima syrups contain "natural and artificial flavors."  Wouldn't it be in their best interest to have the widest possible customer base (including me)? 

And so the search for "safe" everyday foods continues.  Van's has a great frozen waffle.  Which I either top with pure maple syrup (expensive) or today I topped them as I would a potato pancake - with applesauce and plain Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream.  That was very tasty.  Kinnikinnick makes delicious gluten free gingersnaps.  I'll be using those in place of graham cracker crumbs for a cheesecake crust on Thanksgiving. 

Meanwhile, my mom talked to her butcher about which turkey products are gluten free.  He gave her the 800 number for Jenni-O.  All their turkeys are gluten free, but the gravy packet is not.  My mom returned to the store and told the manager that the butcher deserved an "Atta-boy."  What a great experience!

One funny thing occured when I visited Perkins Restaurant. I asked the waiter if they had any gluten free information (some places do). The waiter asked me to repeat myself, then politely told me, "No, we don't have any free food here."  He asked the manager to stop and talk with me. The manager was quite helpful, and I ordered two fried eggs over hash browns. To his credit, the waiter came back and asked me to explain my question to him so he would understand for future reference.  Another great experience!

I know this transition will take time.  But how reassuring to encounter food industry professionals committed to customer service, consumer safety and education.  :)

Discharge Dying and Fabric Painting

Discharge dying means you are removing color.  Here I tried removing color on two different fabrics.  The one on the left was done using a bleach pen.  On the right I used Soft Scrub with Bleach - you can use the paste or gel.  Aside from bleach, you can use a thicker product called DeColourant.  Your choice of fabric is really important.  The fabric on the left has a white back side, and the fabric on the right is the same color through and through.  You can see which worked better.  I was striving to capture the veins on the leaf.  I got some of what I wanted on the backside of the fabric.  It may have turned out that way if I had let the bleach set a little longer.  After rinsing out the bleach, you saturate the fabric with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to stop the reaction.  Then you rinse that out and press.
Here is the result when I painted a leaf with gold paint and laid that on fabric.  I was pleasantly surprised when the leaf structure showed up so nicely. 
The following was done using a maple leaf on white fabric.  This is my favorite.  Had the class been longer I would have added some yellow leaves.  The leaf in the upper left was my stencil.  A lady in the class asked if she could use my stencil, and wanted to know where I bought it.  I told her I just picked it up off the ground!  She looked confused until I opened up a book and gave her a (real) pressed leaf to experiment with - and to keep for her very own!  So fun to meet a kindred spirit who shares my enthusiasm for leaves.
This experiment didn't turn out as I hoped, but gave a different and interesting result. 
I love how the white on white pattern became blue on blue.  So often I see a pattern I like, but can't find it in the right color - this might be an option for that situation.

The instructor used Jacquard Paints Textile Color.  The paint has to dry 24 hours.  Then you use your iron to heat set it.  It is then flexible and washable.  The instructors said its a fun way to dress up a tote bag or kids' tee shirts.  I'm thinking it would also be useful in making art quilts - when you want a very specific look.

All in all, this class was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon!  :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Janome Horizon - Part 3

If you own a Janome Horizon, you should know that some of the automatic plate converters are defective.  Mine broke a few weeks ago.  The little tab snapped right off.  I thought I'd made an error, but it was poor craftmanship.

The solution is simple - just replace the entire plate with a new one.  I left my machine in the shop a few days so they could clean it too.  The repair and cleaning were at no cost.  Still, given that the 1/4" foot was also defective and replaced, I can't help but wonder what's next?

At any rate, be aware.

Christmas Placemats

Real life has been interfering with quilting.  
Baaa Humbug to the mundane chores that get in the way! 
I have 365 days to plan, yet every November I realize I have a LOT to do. 
One thing I DID in 2009, was to snatch up some sale items for Christmas 2010.
These panels hadn't been cut properly.  I got them for $0.99.  
They've been patiently awaiting my attention for 11 months.
There are two holiday fundraisers coming up - one at work, the other at church. 
If I get crackin' I may be able to contribute to both.
Today was the start of a three day weekend - to be followed by a three day work week - then a four day weekend. Thank goodness - there's much to do!  :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday Weigh In - Decisions, Decisions

This little feller needs to make a decision - before both cones melt!  If only we all employed such careful deliberation to our daily decisions. 

Thing is, we make diet-related decisions all day long - even when we're not aware of it.  Research shows we make over 200 food and beverage choices a day!  

I pass a candy dish every time I move from my desk to the printer.  One piece can't be too bad...right?  But if I repeat that decision 10 times a day, its gonna add up!  And in my mind, I haven't eaten anything because I never actually sat down to enjoy it.

There are times when we make bigger decisions on impulse.  Picture this: You've had a long hard day.  No time for lunch.  Meetings, deadlines and interruptions.  By day's end, your brain is mush.  You come home to find the meat is still frozen.  You're hungry and tired.  As you take inventory of your limited meal options, the kids start to bicker.  The TV is on.  The phone rings.  The neighbor kid wants dinner too, so he's repeatedly ringing the door bell. This, of course, prompts the dog to go berserk.   

Sound familiar?  So throw a lousy frozen pizza in the oven, and call it dinner already! 

Even when we've planned, shopped, thawed, and cooked our meals in an orderly way, we still make other decisions - such as portion sizes - without really thinking about it. 

Mindless munching is Enemy Number One.  Fortunately we can combat the enemy by increasing our awareness and modifying our environment.  To learn more about eating mindfully, see:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Good Bye Gluten

Good bye dear friend.  I miss you already.  I've learned I can't have wheat (among other things) for the rest of my ever-lovin' days.  What a bummer. 

I've crafted my baking skills for years.  But the slate - like my cupboards - have been swept clean.  I'm starting over, with different ingredients, textures, methods and expectations. 

I'm grateful to Betty Crocker for coming up with a few (not just edible, but tasty) desserts.  I hope Betty will also find ways to make healthy, fiber-rich, every-day foods such as sandwich bread or rolls.  Many of the gluten free breads are just plain wretched.  Seriously, like very expensive cardboard.

On the bright side - I expect to live longer and healthier by changing my diet.  My gut will heal and I won't be anemic - for the first time in my adult life.  My stomach will stop hurting when I eat.  All grumbling aside, I will get used to it. 

This is where quilting comes in.  I get my best ideas when I'm absorbed in a project and forget to think about the problem at hand.  Solutions that evaded me become perfectly clear.  So in a round about way, I think quilting may expedite my adjustment to gluten-free living. 

Meanwhile, if you have any tips to share, please pass them along! :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

THE Birthday Cake

This recipe has been in my family longer than I can remember.  My Grandma Mason cut the recipe out of the Milwaukee Journal.  She no longer baked, so she gave the recipe to my Grandma Clara - who proceeded to make the cake for countless birthdays for years to come.  So there was disagreement as to whose recipe it really was!  The founder or the baker?  Either way, having this cake on your birthday was always a treat.

In the family photo album there's a picture of my (then) 1 year old baby sister held by Grandma Clara above the cake, posed as if to steal chocolate chips off the top.  In later years my older sister managed to glean ALL the chocolate chips off the top, while the rest of us were asleep.  This cake was always breakfast the next day, so we were sorely disappointed when we lifted the cake cover! 

Grandma Clara made it with dates.  Later, I decided to make it - thinking I had dates in the cupboard.  No dice - so I subbed raisins.  After baking this cake for several decades, Grandma decided she liked it better with raisins.  So rest assured, the substitution is Grandma-approved. :)

Chocolate Chip Cake

1 c. sliced dates (or raisins, for a sweeter flavor)
1 c. hot water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. flour sifted with 3 TBSP cocoa
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine dates, water and baking soda in sauce pan.  Heat just to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cream shortening in a mixing bowl, then blend in sugar, followed by eggs.  Add flour/cocoa mixture.  Add the cooled dates and liquid at the last.  If batter is very thick, add 2 TBSP water.

Pour into a greased tube pan, and sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts.  Bake at 325 degrees F. for one hour.  When cool, sift powdered sugar over the top.

This is how it looks after baking. The recipe doesn't tell you how the heck to get it out of the pan and onto a plate.  Wait until its fully cooled.  Here's what I use to do the job. 
Enjoy promptly (before someone steals the chocolate chips off the top)!  :)

Wednesday Weigh In - Holiday Food Safety

A few years back, a coworker consulted the dietitians about food safety.  It was a few days before Thanksgiving.  Everyone was coming to her place for turkey dinner.  She'd bought a frozen turkey on sale a week ago, and had been riding around with it in the trunk of her car ever since! 

Had this occured in the depths of winter, that would have been one thing.  But we'd had a week of unseasonably warm (50-60 degrees) weather when she posed the question.  She insisted it was OK because the nights are so cold.  Upon questioning her further, we learned that she parked in a heated garage.

It took all four of us to finally convince her to get rid of the turkey she had, and to go get a new (non-temperature-abused) bird.  Of course, she wanted to thaw the new one on the kitchen counter...

She ultimately took our sage advice to heart and no one was sickened on Thanksgiving.  Now that's something to be thankful for!

For complete holiday food safety information see:,0,1110610.story

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Autumn Impressions

Collected a few leaves this fall.  You can see the top five maple leaves moving from green to yellow to orange, and finally orange to red-brown.  But the sixth maple looks like a punk rocker - bright, bold and different from the rest. 
What confluence of conditions would produce such an unusual color pattern?  Was half the leaf in full sun while the other half was shaded?  I'm trying to picture a quilt made in gold and hot pink, with lime green accents...

There must be some way to transfer the leaves' colors onto fabric.  Could I use them  like a stamper, capturing their outlines and delicate veins?  I played around with crayon tracings, but Crayola can't compete with Mother Nature.  Funny that the purple glitter crayon showed up the best.

These leaves will go back into the book for safekeeping, until inspiration strikes again.  :)

Stuff Happens

Autumn yardwork and activities have kept me away from quilting and blogging.  Regular exercise has also cut into my quilting time.  So I was really looking forward to a one-woman sew-in Friday night.  But it wasn't meant to be! 

Did a few minutes of sewing, when there was an awful clunk!  The needle snapped in half and the automatic plate converter broke right off.  Technically, it was my own fault.  But can't they invent a dummy-proof machine?  To add insult to injury, my garage door is acting up (and down).  I think its hyperactive. 

So what's a girl to do?  Meet a friend at the outlet mall, of course!  Every Christmas I say "Next year, I'll start shopping sooner."  Today I did it.  Got a few gifts and whole bunch of ideas. :)