Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gluten-Free Cookbook

I just got a new cookbook from Amazon for review:  Cooking For Isaiah by Silvana Nardone   It was one of the two that I mentioned the other day.

I think Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free cooking would be hard, though it's becoming easier with the increase of products now available in mainstream super markets. Even General Mills is coming out with Gluten-Free baking mixes. But, for families that want to cook from scratch and not use premade gluten-free products, cooking has a lot of challenges. I was really curious how Silvana Nardone would deal with the struggles of substituting wheat and dairy in this cookbook. 

Rachel Ray wrote the forward for this cookbook, but I've found that her recipes often use expensive ingredients and are more time intensive then they sound. Honestly, I haven't liked her cookbooks or recipes.  So, I wasn't sure how this cookbook would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Silvia Nardone did just what I hoped she would--she developed a gluten-free flour that can be made into a pancake mix and used in a variety of other ways. She generally uses normal ingredients outside of the flour ingredients themselves. To make this mix more affordably, you can grind your own rice flour using a Nutrimill (though I'd suggest you call the manufacturer for tips on how much at a time to grind because I had a friend who was helped by doing this). It won't grind the other ingredients, but you can get them in bulk at some Whole Foods or at Amish Markets (which would likely be the cheapest option). But, if you're not in a big city, Bob's Red Mill products are carried by many main stream grocery stores now.  Usually, people use spelt as a substitute, but you're still stuck needing good recipes using that substitution.

I was a bit surprised with her choice to use vegetable shortening for baking as a substitute for butter. But, I realized that while Ms. Nardone is taking out the wheat and dairy, she wasn't taking out the partially hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup. I did a little research though and the verdict (at least on the internet) is that fully hydrogenated shortening is okay--it has no trans fats and Crisco makes a shortening that fits this bill. She also uses Marshmallow Fluff and Light Corn Syrup in a few recipes. 

The other substitution she makes is rice milk--which I think is a great choice. It tastes far better than the others and it's least expensive of dairy alternatives if you get it at Trader Joe's. I used to have to drink it because I was lactose intolerant for 2 or 3 years in my 20s.  I'm trying not to give too much away, but I don't think I am, because it is her recipes, experiences, and stories that make this cookbook what it is as much as her flour substitution recipe. 

As for the recipes, they'd be great for adults. Many of the recipes are far simpler to make and in flavor than the names would make you think--which is a good thing. It would be very easy to modify the recipes and make them little kid friendly by taking out a few of the spices or decreasing them. The main dishes are much more to the tastes of adults than children--but I think that is one of the easier meals to modify--baking and breakfast are far trickier. Her recipes don't use non-dairy cheses, which are expensive and taste different. 

I think this would be a great cookbook to try--even if the main dishes aren't to the taste of you or your family. Her ideas and flour recipe are worth the cookbook.  I haven't made any of the recipes yet, but I'm going to make the butternut casserole tonight and I'll post tomorrow how it turns out!  It's a good one to check out from the library first--to see how you like it.  If you do, would you please comment and let me know how you like it?

She does have a website that looked great:  And on her site she lists her favorite gluten free websites.  So, I think if we had to go towards a gluten free diet--I would definitely start there =)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My brother often tells me that everything is going to eventually progress to online shopping.  I have a hard time believing that after this past weekend.  After a month of wrangling with Sharp, we finally were able to return our broken tv to Costco (11 months after purchase) for a refund.  We didn't find what we were looking for at Costco.  Although I love Costco, one of the hardest things is that there aren't sales people with detailed knowledge of their products.  Such was the case for us on Friday when we really needed some helpful advice about picking out a new television to replace the broken one.  So, we headed over to Best Buy.  God was very gracious to us and we ended up with a young man who wasn't intent on selling us an LED tv.  He explained the differences to us between Plasma, LCD, and LED.

Plasma was the first to come out.  It has a glass front so it can get glares from lights or reflections from the light from windows.  But, it has the best colors of the three.  Panasonic and Samsung are the two primary makers of plasma televisions.  Panasonic's technology actually came from Pioneer, I believe the salesperson said.  There used to be huge concerns about leaving the television on because it would burn the image into the screen.  Our salesperson said the technology has improved so that you don't have to be as concerned about this as one used to.  The frames are 600Hz as opposed to the much lower Hz available in LCD and LED at the same price.

LCD (which is what we used to have) is good technology and came out after plasma televisions.  Samsungs and Sonys are the highest thought of brands with LG often being one of the top ones as well.  You want 120 Hz if you have a BluRay player because of the speed of the frames.  The 60 Hz won't show the picture to the fullest capability of the BluRay player.

LED televisions are the newest technology.  They use the least amount of energy and are the flattest screens of the bunch.  It was an amazing picture.   With the LCD and LED televisions, you do not get the glare that you can get with Plasma televisions.  Again you do want a 120 Hz or more if you have a BluRay player.

I am not technologically savvy enough to explain the difference between LCD and LED televisions.  I can say though that we ended up buying a Plasma.  For the same size screen, plasmas are significantly less than LCD and LED.  The biggest downside I see for the Plasma is the glare from the glass.  But, we don't watch a lot of television.  We primarily like to use it for movies at night, so it works great for that!

I was very thankful for all the help our salesperson gave us and that he didn't try to pressure us.  I am thankful I was able to walk into a store that had a helpful sales person and get the answers I needed to the questions we had.

Our second experience was at Guitar Center in Towson, MD.  Musician's Friend is an online music store that has been around a long time.  But, Guitar Center is a chain that continues to stay in business.  I learned on Saturday why.  My husband needed to purchase an acoustic electric guitar for church.  We've been looking around and it finally seemed the right time to do it.  The thing about guitars is that they all play a little differently and it isn't something that can easily be bought online--you have no idea how the strings and guitar will feel in your hands.  A review by someone else can't tell you that.  We had a great experience at the store and we found a used guitar that someone had just decided they didn't want to purchase.  I am so thankful for it!  I am also thankful that the shopping is done!

So, I'm still of the mind that I like being able to shop in stores and don't have to do it all online.  And--I am very thankful for good customer service.  It will very often persuade me to make my purchase at one store over another.

Two New Cookbooks

I am very excited.  Two cookbooks are on their way that I will soon get to review.  One I requested because I have many friends with gluten or dairy allergies.  We do not have these allergies in our family, but I think that my body does not tolerate it well if I eat too much dairy.  I am hopeful that this might be a good one, or at least that it will have some good ideas.

The second cookbook, I'm especially excited about.  One of my favorite cookbooks is America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook.  Basically, it's a modernized Betty Crocker cookbook.  The basics are updated with more flavor and spice.  America's Test Kitchen is publishing a new Healthy Family Cookbook this month.  I am looking forward especially to see what they do in the baking recipes.  So often the substitutions people do are expensive or use artificial ingredients.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's gonna be alright...

Last night, God was so gracious to me.  I had a horrible day yesterday.  I was cranky and so frustrated with life. I needed perspective and encouragement.  And even as I struggled with God, he was loving to me.

When I say that I homeschool, people say many things.  One is that they could never do that.  Another is how lucky I am to stay home.  Sometimes people aren't sure what to say.  Homeschooling is a wonderful thing, but it's like being a full time stay at home mom (which is a full time job) and then being a full time school teacher on top of it.  So, it's a bit like doing two jobs many days.  I do love that I get time with my kids and that I get to see them learn.  But, there are many struggles amidst the joys.

This year I was so overwhelmed that I pulled out of the homeschool co-op group I was in last year.  But, then yesterday, I realized that I needed them.  I need my friends.  As much as my kids need social interaction, I needed the other moms--even if I'm only able to keep track of people and dialogue online.  I need to know that I'm not alone.  I need to hear about the struggles of other moms to help me put my own struggles in perspective.

As I was driving last night to get together with my friends, I heard these songs..
For several years, Sara Groves music has been a blessing to me.  Her songs express such an honesty.

This first song was me yesterday--fighting my private wars in my own heart.  The video isn't of Sara Groves singing, but the gal who sings does well, I think.

When I am in the midst of struggles, I find myself feeling these words from
the lyrics from The Long Defeat by Sara Groves...

I pray for an idea 
and a way I cannot see 
It's too heavy to carry 
and impossible to leave 

We walk a while we sit and rest 
we lay it on the altar 
I won't pretend to know what's next 
but what I have I've offered 

I pray for a vision 
and a way I cannot see 
It's too heavy to carry 
and impossible to leave 

I met with my friends and it was just good to be with them.  To talk and know I'm not alone.  It gave me perspective on my struggles without me saying a word about all of them.  And then on the way home, I heard this song...

And then finally, I was ready to remember that I want to be one of the saints marching home.  

dear friends, if you are struggling today please know that my heart and prayers are with you.  We are walking through these struggles together.  We are not alone.  I was reminded of that last night and I am so thankful that God blessed me with fellowship and friends in the heart of my weakness and cries.  I didn't deserve it.  At all.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


My children get some choices but not as many as a lot of children probably.  I don't remember what it was like when I was a kid except that I didn't have many clothes.  The kids in my classes made comments--and those I do remember.  It was hard.  So, the summer after 6th grade when I started working, I started buying my own clothes.  I didn't have a lot of taste though and had no idea what was in style, but I tried.  I had Guess, Bongo, and Esprit clothes like everyone else--except that I bought them on clearance and at outlets.  My husband has a memory of being given a pair of shoes as a child that he had to wear and which he hated.  It made an impression on him.  Now, he wants to wear what he wants to.  Surprisingly, he will let me shop for him.  I bring home clothes, he tries them on, and I return the ones he doesn't like.  Sometimes that means that I return everything and sometimes I return only one or two things from a group of five items.  Today I get to return one of three packages of socks =) to Marshalls.

Based on my own childhood experiences with clothes and my husband's, I've thought about when and what clothing choices I should give my kids.  A couple of months ago, I donated a bunch of the girls clothes that they weren't wearing.  A month ago, Autumn mourned the loss of one of the dresses because now she wants to wear it.  It frustrated me, but at the same time I knew that the point of donating the clothes was to help her learn to be thankful for what she has.  My kids get to choose what they wear each day from their clothes (given a parameter like shorts and a shirt).

But, when it comes to choosing what clothes we purchase, my kids get to choose between two shirts, but they've never gotten to simply go into a store and pick out clothes that they'd like to buy.  I can't afford to give them that choice.  So, there is a balance that I have to find.  When I am able to give them a choice between two things, I do--like which color they'd like for their winter coat.

This is an example of how it plays out when we go shopping...
I needed new shoes for Eli for the wedding and new sandals for Sami for the last month of summer since hers were torn and stunk! =(  We headed to Payless for their BoGo 1/2 off with an extra 20% coupon.  I tried to get Eli to try on a pair of dress shoes.  He refused.  I held out another and he refused again.  I found a nice pair of tennis shoes with colors that matched his outfit for the wedding and he lit up.  I was concerned because the price tag said $16.99.  He tried them on and they fit.  I had my own concerns about the heels on the dress shoes and how much Eli runs around, so the nice tennis shoes made sense to me.  I thought I would only buy one pair of ballet shoes and use one pair of our old ones for the fall for the girls since they cost about the same as the price tag for the tennis shoes.  Then, I set to looking for a pair of sandals for Sami.  I couldn't find anything less than $10.99.  Finally, my eyes landed on a pair that were $7.99!  I pulled them out and showed them to Sami.  She loved them--yay!  Then, I went to look for the box for Eli's shoes and discovered that there was a tag that said they were $9.99!  I was thrilled.  I could buy 2 pairs of ballet shoes and the others.  After the 20% off and bogo, Sami's sandals ended up being $3.20, Eli's $8.00 and the ballet shoes averaged $12.  I was very thankful!  I have come to feel that it is not really me that helps me find the right shoes for my kids, but it is God's hand.  I seek to be a good steward and stretch what the finances he has given us, but at the very same time I have seen him provide choices that we're able to afford.  I came home very thankful!  Sami is very happy and doesn't feel like she didn't have a choice.  And Eli loves his shoes too and I feel good about them too.