Bring on 2014!!

I love the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. I enjoy looking back over the previous year and looking ahead to the coming one. And this year I am really excited about the coming year!

A Look Back

2013 was a year of continued growth for me. I started on a journey to deal with my food issues and all the issues that went along with them back in April 2012. But it wasn't until this year that I really started to see the fruits of my labors. It finally all started coming together for me this year and I credit that to the intentions that I set for myself for the year and to the continued effort that I put into it. There were times this year when it would have been easier to slip back into comfortable, old habits. But I knew where those habits would lead and I didn't want to be trapped again. And there were occasions that I did repeat old patterns; but once I realized what I was doing, I noticed my actions without judgement and then chose new actions that were in line with my intentions for the year.

I blogged about my the intentions that I set for 2013 a year ago. Here they are from that blog post:

My Intentions for 2013

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  • Manage my time well, utilizing my schedule to do so.
  • Strive for balance in my life. Balancing my roles as a wife, mother, student, home manager, self, and dreamer as much as possible. Following my morning routine will help me stay balanced.
  • Grow my creativity by writing and taking photos more.

I was by no means perfect this year. And that's okay; perfection wasn't what I was working toward. I set these intentions with the desire to add to my life, to increase my enjoyment of life. There were times during the year that I strayed from these intentions. But they were always there, waiting to guide me back onto the path of the life I wanted. I spent 2012 being controlled by food and my weight. All I wanted for 2013 was to learn to enjoy life again. And I am so grateful that I realize that goal this year. Not only did I learn to enjoy life again, but I fell back in love with life! And that is worth every ounce of effort that it took to get to that point. I am so grateful that I am ending the year stronger than I started.

How Yoga Influenced My Life

Another thing that I credit my renewed positive view of my life to, is yoga. If you have been following me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest then you know that I started exercising 5-6 days a week on October 24, 2013. I decided to make that consistent effort to exercise and release stress to see if I could deal with some physical problems that I had been having for a while without having to take medication. There is nothing wrong with taking medication when it is needed, but I knew that I hadn't given exercise and stress management a consistent try. So before I went on the medication, I decided to really try to manage my conditions with consistent exercise and stress management. I was scheduled to follow-up with my doctor on January 2nd so I committed to exercising 5-6 days a week until I went back to see him. At the time, I couldn't decide if I wanted to take the med, but I was so tired of how I was feeling. So I decided to give regular exercise a try and if I didn't see any results then when I saw my doctor in January I could decide to go on the medication.

I am so happy that I tried because I have gotten so much relief from my ailments, even other people can tell by the way I move now that my body is healing. I have noticed that after a high stress event, some of my symptoms start to reappear again. But to combat that, I have increased my relaxation focused activities, amount of sleep and gentle exercise around times of stress, and that has helped to improve and shorten the duration of my symptoms.

When I started exercising in October, my goal was to log onto YouTube each morning and exercise with whichever video caught my attention for that day. I had subscribed to a bunch of reputable fitness channels so I knew that I could make a choice without injuring myself. My goal was to keep exercise fun by being varied and spontaneous about what I chose each day. I posted the videos with a review to share with everyone that followed my blog on the social media sites. And for the first few weeks I did pretty good, but then I rediscovered yoga. :) And now I'm afraid that I haven't been as varied in my workouts anymore. So, my apologizes to everyone that liked getting the varied recommendations from me because I know that lately they have all been yoga, with occasionally some Pilates. :D But I can seem to bring to make myself do anything else!

The truth is that I have gained so much from doing yoga regularly, more than only physical fitness. While I have strengthened my body, I have also strengthened my mind and brought calmness and peace to my life. I am so much better at dealing with stress now, and happier too. Honestly, I enjoy yoga so much now that I secretly wish that I could live in my yoga clothes and teach yoga. Here I am on the verge of graduating from nursing school (finally!) and all I want to do is practice yoga and share yoga with others so they can have their own transformations too. It will be interesting to see where my path ends up going! I have finally learned that I don't have to have everything in my life figured out and planned out. Instead, I am focused on taking life one step at a time; enjoying each step, making decisions as they appear and trusting that I am on the path that I am meant to be. This has given me freedom that I have never felt before.

The Future

Looking ahead to 2014, there are some exciting things on the horizon. I will be graduating from nursing school in May 2014! After many years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication from all my family and with the support of extended family, we are finally on the verge of completing this goal for our family. I have no idea what area of nursing I want to work it and that's okay. I will figure that out and end up where I am meant to be, even if it takes a while to figure it out. One day I will know where my place is.

I am also really excited to continue to grow my yoga practice. About 3 weeks ago I discovered Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Something about her style and personality really clicked with me and I love practicing with her videos. She is launching Reboot, a 29 day yoga experience on January 2nd. I decided to join the program and I am really excited to see where my yoga practice is by the end of January. I'm looking forward to a month to grow and deepen my practice.

I am also excited to continue writing. I want to blog more and spend more time writing. I started writing a children's book series and so far I have 2 books in the series. It is a lot of fun to lose myself in this imaginary world and write these stories. My children love the stories and want me to write more. They also wish that the stories had pictures. My son asked me if the stories could have pictures "by the end of 2014". I told him that I didn't know but was a good goal. I would love to be able to turn these stories into books with beautiful pictures that my children and other children could enjoy. We'll see... :)

I don't have my intentions set yet for the coming year because my husband had off this year after Christmas and we were enjoying a lot of relaxed family time. But I will share them with you soon. As this year draws to a close, I am grateful for all the blessings of this year and for all the lessons learned.

Onward to 2014!!

Why Do I Use Brown Rice Flour?

Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice FlourBy now you have probably realized that I bake with primarily brown rice flour. I thought I'd take a moment to talk about why I do. This post is long but I review cake mixes, cookie mixes, brownie mixes, all-purpose baking mixes and different types of flour. Almost everything you might want to know about gluten free baking that I have tried or experimented with in the last year and a half. When I first went gluten free, I was scared of the idea of baking gluten free from scratch because in my search for gluten free recipes, I was reading a lot of comments about how baking without gluten takes a lot of trial and error and how that missed efforts will turn out as hard as hockey pucks. So needless to say, I was nervous. I love to bake from scratch but I didn't want to make a bunch of food that would be wasted and end up in the trash. The price for gluten free ingredients is expensive and I really didn't want to be wasteful.

So I began my foray into GF baking with baking mixes and all-purpose baking mixes. I had mixed results with this approach. First of all, I really missed making my own stuff. It's just not the same to open a package, mix in a couple additional ingredients and bake. I wanted to bake like I used to bake. Second, it was more expensive. Sure the price of a gluten free flour is pricey, but not nearly as pricey as buying a baking mix every time I want to bake, which is pretty darn often I have to admit. Last, the taste wasn't the best.

I did find a few gems, like Betty Crocker's chocolate and yellow cake mixes. Those cake mixes are amazing! No one can tell they are gluten free and the cakes turn out delicious and moist. The thing I like about those cake mixes is that someone who isn't gluten free can make them for someone who is, without having to have a bunch of other ingredients on hand. For example, my mother in law is a very thoughtful hostess and it bothered her when our family would get together and I couldn't eat dessert too. Once she learned about these cake mixes, she bought one and tried it. She was happy with the results and surprised by the good taste. Now whenever our family gets together, she makes a cake that we all can eat and enjoy.Betty Crocker Gluten Free Products

As for the cookie mixes, I haven't had the best results with them. Betty Crocker's cookie mix turned out well, but tasted like cookies made from a mix, not from scratch. I tried King Arthur Flour gluten free all-purpose baking mix and made pretty good cookies, but they were still lacking a bit of something. My kids thought so too because although they would say they liked them, they would follow that up with a question about when could we make the "old" cookies again, meaning the pre-gluten free days cookies. I also tried Cherrybrook Kitchens cookie mixes.Cherrybrook Kitchens Gluten Free Dreams There mixes are gluten free, dairy free and nut free. A really good choice for someone with additional food allergies. I thought these cookies were good, less box mix taste. The downside to these is the price for the amount of cookies that they make. Each box doesn't make much over a dozen cookies, which isn't enough cookies for my household. However, in spite of the cost and the amount the mix makes, Cherrybrook Kitchens makes a really good sugar cookie. And unless I can successfully make my own sugar cookies this year, I will probably be buying a box or two to make this Christmas.

I have tried two brownie mixes, Betty Crocker's and King Arthur Flour's. Out of these two, Betty Crocker edges out King Arthur's by a little. The King Arthur's mix has a rich, chocolately taste. The downside is the texture. Something is just a little off about the texture of these brownies, a little too spongy for my taste. The Betty Crocker have the fudgy texture that I like in my brownies, but they dry out pretty quickly and still don't taste as good as the from scratch recipe that I used to make.

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-purpose flour

There are two gluten free all-purpose baking mixes that I've tried. I already mentioned the King Arthur Flour mix when I talked about the cookies. I was pretty happy with that mix but there wasn't enough in the box for someone who bakes a lot like me. Plus I wasn't completely happy with the taste results whenever I baked with this mix. The other mix that I've tried is Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. The combination of flours that they use in their mix give the cookies an odd taste, in my opinion. I am a really big fan of Bob's Red Mill but I was really disappointed with their gf baking mix. One of the flours that they use gives the cookies a bitter flavor. I think it is the garbanzo bean flour that causes the bitterness because they also use garbanzo bean flour in their biscuit mix and it has the same bitterness to it. I really like the idea of using a bean based flour, but the result isn't the best.

So this brings me to why I use brown rice flour when I bake. After trying all these various mixes with mixed results, I decided that I was ready to try my own. I bought white rice flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour and almond meal. I tried the flours alone and in all kinds of combinations. White rice flour makes the food grainy so I don't use that at all anymore. Coconut flour adds a coconutty flavor and fiber to whatever I am making with it. However it absorbs a lot of liquid and can't be swapped out for regular flour in a recipe without adding liquid too. The quinoa flour is pretty good also. I like to use it whenever I want to bread something, like fish. I also really liked to use the almond meal; it adds a slightly almond flavor and I love the idea of baking with almond meal instead of a grain. Sometimes I bake with a combination of these flours, but keeping this many specialty flours stocked in my pantry is a bit pricey. So I began experimenting with using only brown rice flour. Once I started do that, I was really happy with the results of the baked goods. I have found that baking with brown rice flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum gives the best gluten free baked goods that doesn't taste like it's gluten free. I will continue to experiment with other flours in the future, but for now, I will probably do most of my baking with brown rice flour.

All of the flours that I mentioned are from Bob's Red Mill. I really like this company a lot. I think their ingredients are high quality and they seem like a great group of people. I used to buy their flours in my grocery store, but then I discovered that I can by them off Amazon and save a little. And if you chose to subscribe and save, like I do, you can save even more. You can pick how often you want the product to come to your house, depending on how much you bake. And by subscribing, you will get the lowest price per ounce you can get from anywhere. I get a 4 pack of 48 oz. bags so I also get the lowest price by buying in bulk. All these little things add up to help offset the increased price of buying gluten free ingredients.Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Products

I hope that by me sharing my experiences with some of these products will help you as you navigate through the gluten free world. We are so lucky that there are so many options to choose from today. I'm sure celiacs and gluten intolerant individuals that lived 50 years ago would love to have the wide variety of choices that we have. But buying gluten free is pricier and we all want our money to stretch as much as possible. Hopefully by sharing my opinions, will help you make your own choices and spend your money wisely.

If you have any specific questions about any of the products that I mentioned or any other gluten free product, let me know and I'll do my best to help you out. You can ask in the comment section below or directly contact me through my "Contact Me" page or message me at my Facebook page.

 

Disclaimer: the opinions in this post are my own and I was not paid or given any of the products listed to review. The photos are not my own but the property of the companies whose image it is. Clicking on the pictures will take you to the company's website, where information about their product can be found.

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Muffin Mix

Back before I had to remove gluten from my diet, I created a recipe for Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins that we all loved! My daughter mentioned them the other day and asked if I could make them again soon. I've made them since going GF, but only for my children and husband to eat. Today I decided that I really wanted some banana muffins too. And since I haven't had the time to create my own GF muffins, this seemed like the perfect time to try out King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Muffin Mix. King Arthur Flour Gluten free Muffin MixThe muffin mix is a vanilla base that you can use to stir in whatever added ingredients you want. You could make them into blueberry muffins, cranberry orange muffins, or banana muffins, like I did, just to name a few. I followed the recipe on the back of the box with only a few exceptions. Since I was making banana muffins, I wanted to cream my bananas first instead of stirring them in at the end like the box recipe suggested. So I creamed my bananas really well; then I added the melted butter, almond milk (another personal choice of mine), eggs, and mixed it all together really well. The other thing that I did that was not on the box recipe was that I added my 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips to the bag of dry ingredients and stirred them around in the flour to coat them. I have learned that it is best to coat whatever you are stirring into muffin batter with a little bit of flour first before adding them to the batter. This helps keep the added ingredient from falling to the bottom of the muffin during baking. When you take the time to coat your chocolate chips, blueberries, or whatever else you are adding, you end up with your ingredient dispersed all throughout the finished product. The last thing that I did different from the box recipe was that I did not spray my muffin papers with cooking spray. I did not do this because I didn't see it. Oops! A little to quick with the skimming of the recipe. :) Anyways, I should have sprayed my muffin papers with cooking spray because the end result makes a very light and slightly delicate muffin that sticks some to the muffin paper. I was able to carefully get most of my muffins out of the paper after baking, but I had to be extra careful. I believe that it would have been far easier if I would have sprayed my muffin paper first as the recipe indicated. I will be sure to do that the next time!

King Arthur Flour Gluten free Muffin Mix Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

So what did I think of the finished product? I loved them! They were a very light and airy muffin, not grainy at all. The rest of my family loved them too. My daughter gave me her seal of approval by asking for seconds and saying that she wished she could eat even more after that. Needless to say, I know what I'm give her for breakfast tomorrow. I really was very pleased with this product. I particularly like that it is a muffin base mix that I can use to make whatever kind of muffins my family wants on the day that I am making them. I will definitely be keeping a couple of boxes of King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Muffin Mix in my pantry from now on. I can't wait to make blueberry muffins now. Yum!!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Grains of TeffA couple of weeks ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted a recipe for teff. I had no idea what teff was so I googled it. Teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia. It is the smallest whole grain in the world. And this tiny grain is packed with nutrients. In one serving, which is only a 1/4 cup, there are 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 10% of calcium, and 20% of iron. That's a lot of good things packed into a tiny grain! After I read about what teff was, I decided that I wanted to try it. I saw that Bob's Red Mill sold the product on Amazon. I tweeted that I was excited to try this new grain that I just learned about. Someone from Bob's Red Mill saw my tweet and contacted me, saying that they would love to provide me with a sample. I was so surprised by their kind offer and quickly accepted it. A couple of days later my package arrived. The good folks at Bob's Red Mill sent me a full sized package of teff to sample, as well as a bag of their gluten free muesli! Imagine my delight! I opened the bag of muesli right away and tasted some. It was delicious. There is a recipe for muesli cookies on the side of the bag that I'm excited about trying. I'm hoping to make some this weekend. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out.

I made a serving of teff for breakfast. I had no idea what it was going to taste like. It had distinct aroma while it was simmering on top of the stove. Based on that, I thought that the teff would have a strong flavor, but it doesn't. Teff is actually very mild flavored. After tasting a few bites plain, I followed the directions on the bag and sweetened my bowl with a little honey. I also stirred in raisins and sliced almonds for the dried fruit and nuts that it suggested. It was delicious! While I was eating, it kept reminding me of something that I couldn't place. Finally I realized what it was, it reminded me of cream of wheat. The mild flavor and the texture are very similar to cream of wheat, which of course I can't eat anymore because it contains gluten. Now I have a gluten free replacement for cream of wheat- a warm bowl of teff!

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Whether you can eat gluten or not, I encourage you to try this mild flavored whole grain. It is quick and easy to prepare, just bring it to a boil on top of the stove then simmer until the water is absorb. It is a warm and nutritious breakfast option for cold winter mornings. I would love to hear what you think about it. Let me know in the comments section if you have ever heard of this whole grain and if you have ever tried it or want to try it.

Bowl of Bob's Red Mill Teff with honey, raisins, and sliced almonds

 

Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Pancake Mix

20121227-202557.jpg This was the 2nd gluten-free mix that I tried for pancakes and I doubt I will try anymore because this mix is a big hit with the whole family. King Arthur Flour has good quality products that I used to use before going gluten-free, so when I saw this mix in the store I was hopefully that it would be good. And I was not disappointed. The pancakes cook up light and fluffy with no funny texture or taste. They actually have a yummy vanilla-like smell when they are cooking. These pancakes taste best when they are hot. They are still pretty good when they are warm, but they are amazing when they are piping hot. The leftovers also reheat well the next day. How amazing to still be able to eat pancakes and be gluten-free! Let me know what you think about these.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

 

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