Maple Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze

I love fall baking and my husband loves maple and apple, so this is always a very yummy few months for us. Just because I decided to give up gluten, it doesn’t mean my family has. Of course they support my new eating lifestyle, but truth be told, gluten-free baking is a whole world of its own. Ingredients are different, baking times are different, the whole chemistry of it all is different. It intimidates me, so I still bake some “regular” treats for my boys to enjoy, and to keep my confidence up amidst countless gluten-free recipe fails.

I ended up making this recipe up. My husband was in the mood for something maple flavored, and I was anxious to perfect an apple cider glaze. I figured I might as well try to kill two birds with one stone, because, why not?

The result exceeded my expectations. YUM! The cookie wasn’t too sweet, and the glaze gave it a little extra. I’m always afraid glazes will taste to much like powdered sugar, but this one kept the apple flavor and was sweet without tasting just like sugar. Success! The cookie was good without the glaze, but I really think the glaze just made the cookie. I brought some extras to work and they didn’t last long. Give this one a try! It would be great on the Thanksgiving dessert table, too. Enjoy!

Maple Cookies with Apple Cider Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. maple extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  2. Cream shortening and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg, syrup, and extracts until well mixed.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.
  6. Chill the dough for an hour.
  7. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  9. While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze. Bring the cider to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in the butter, cinnamon, salt, and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar until well combined. Add remaining powdered sugar to thicken the glaze, if desired.

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Gluten-Free Recipes

When I decided to give up gluten, I thought it would be impossible. Wheat and flour are in EVERYTHING! I did a little internet research to see what I could and could not eat if I was going to fully commit to this diet. This article was very helpful in telling me what to avoid, what to check, and what was OK. Basically, the foods to avoid list was intimidating:

  • Barley
  • Bran (oat, wheat)
  • Bulgur
  • Cooking spray for baking (may contain wheat flour)
  • Couscous
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Farro
  • Flour containing wheat, barley, or rye or any of their derivatives
  • Graham flour
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Kamut
  • Malted milk
  • Malt flavorings
  • Malt vinegar
  • Matzo
  • Meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables that are breaded, floured, served with a sauce made from wheat, or marinated in a wheat-based sauce such as soy or teriyaki
  • Rye
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Wheat
  • Wheat germ

See what I mean?! If I’m not allowed to eat any of these things, what could I eat? Well, after scouring the interwebs for a little bit, I did find a decent collection of recipes to get me started. This got me through my first gluten-free week and gave me the confidence I needed to continue eating and cooking this way. I’ll post reviews of some of these recipes soon.

Better Homes and Gardens Gluten Free Recipes
Simply Recipes – Gluten Free Recipes
King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Recipes
Gluten-Free Goddess Recipes

The World Without Gluten

hold-the-glutenFor my 100th blog post here on Things Kay Likes, I give you a post devoted to gluten. This blog is supposed to be about things I do like rather than things I don’t like. But, up until almost twelve weeks ago, I was in love with gluten. I love bread, pasta, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, pizza crust…I could go on. What’s not to love? Gluten is that lovely little protein that holds your favorite foods together…literally. It’s what gives your dough elasticity; it’s what helps your baked goods rise; it’s what makes your cookies nice and chewy. So why would one even want to imagine a world without gluten?

I’m a migraine sufferer, that’s why. For the last seven years, I have dealt with debilitating migraines that have affected my work and my life. I’ve been to about a half dozen doctors, kept a food and lifestyle diary, tried to combat the migraines with exercise, tried a dozen prescriptions and variations of vitamins, had CT scans, and an MRI. Some things worked better than others, but the truth of the matter is that some people just have migraines and have to learn to live with them. I’m one of those people. But, if I’m going to have to learn to live with migraines, I want to at least do everything I can to stop taking time-outs from life because of them. And though I embrace Western Medicine, I’d prefer not to take my super RX every couple of weeks. I prefer a more natural approach when possible.

I know gluten-free diets are trendy now, but after reading about the connections between gluten and the nervous system, I figured I have nothing to lose by changing the way I eat. Never have I ever thought that I have Celiac Disease, but the possibility of a gluten sensitivity or intolerance seemed more likely the more I thought about it. I always felt sick after a big bowl of pasta or carb-loaded meal. I thought that was just normal.

I basically gave up all gluten overnight. It was easier than I thought, but I soon became aware of those sneaky foods that had hidden gluten. The first week or so was the most difficult as my body (and family) adjusted to my new diet. I felt generally OK, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference physically. After a month, I still got a couple migraines. They didn’t seem as intense, but they were still there. Fast-forward to present day and I can say that I am seeing an improvement. I recently went 26 days between migraines! That’s huge for me! Just four, fix, six months ago, I was getting a migraine every 10-17 days. To give this “treatment” a fair chance, I want to see how I’m doing after six months, but I have to say that I’m pleased with the results after only three. (Note: I have cheated just to see if this was all in my head or note. The two times I cheated – once with a piece of bread, and again with a cookie – I felt very sick afterwards with flu-like symptoms. Both times, I was OK after a few hours.)

If you’ve ever read my blog then you know my passion for baking. With this new diet comes new baking recipes and challenges, so you have that to look forward to. My first gluten-free week, I prepared a bunch of recipes to get me through breakfasts and lunches for the work week. I’ll post the ones I tried and what I thought of them soon. In the meantime, here are some interesting articles if you’d like to learn more about gluten and/or the connection with migraines and the nervous system. Happy reading!

More Info about Gluten
Why 80% of People Worldwide will Soon Stop Eating Wheat
Migraines Linked to Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Sensitivity
The Effects of Gluten on the Brain and Nervous System
How Does Gluten Affect the Brain?

 

Kitchen Remodel

After a little blog-cation, I’m back. A lot was happening at the end of August. We got our kitchen remodeled and I decided to cut gluten out of my diet. I know, two very different and random things, but it through the normalcy of my life a little out of whack and I think I’m back to my normal self. More on the gluten situation later – let’s talk about this kitchen remodel!

My husband (fiance at the time) and I moved into our townhouse in 2009. We planned on staying there for a maximum of five years before moving into a more “permanent” home to hopefully raise a family in. Our five years isn’t up, but since moving in, we got married, had a baby, and got a dog. What was once an ideal dwelling for two adults, became a little crowded by mid-2011. Quickly realizing this, we listed the house at the end of 2012 in hopes of speeding up our life plan and finding that more permanent home to raise our family in. We knew the housing market wasn’t good, but we were optimistic. That lasted for about a week. We took the house off the market after maybe three months and decided to just suck it up and make the updates we wanted to. First up: our kitchen.

Our townhouse was built in the 1990′s. In “kitchen” terms that means old appliances, white plastic (?) cabinets, white plastic hardware, white vertical blinds leading to the patio…all around…dated. It’s a galley kitchen and our biggest complaint was space. We weren’t ambitious enough to want to change the configuration, so we decided we could just live with that. But we could not wait to update everything (except the appliances, which we already updated two years ago). By everything, I mean floors, cabinets, counter tops, hardware, lighting, paint, back splash, sink, faucet, patio door fixture.

Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses, my husband and I didn’t even think twice about hiring a contractor to complete this work for us. We consulted Yelp and narrowed it down to about three options. After some consultations and quotes, we made our decision by the end of May. We weren’t in a rush, so we agreed on a July start date – which would be after our family vacation. Well, IL ended up getting pounded with some rain that caused our contractor to have to basically redo a couple of their jobs. No big deal, we’d push out our start date to August. Well, early August became the end of August. We thought the project would take two weeks especially because no permits were needed for this project. I actually believed them and was convinced it would only take that two weeks. One small thing after another caused the project to take a full four weeks. And let me tell you, it is not easy to live in a house with a toddler and an energetic dog when you live in a small(ish) townhouse with no kitchen! We got so tired of eating in restaurants, and were relieved when the work was finished. It’s not perfect and we’d make some different choices, but overall, we’re happy with the experience and our new kitchen!

I wish I had better “before” pictures, but the kitchen was basically white with deep blue walls and a sandy-colored parquet floor (which the previous owners placed on top of black and white linoleum). We also had three different types of lighting in the space: 1 fluorescent, 1 can, 1 regular fixture. Most of these photos are from my husband’s Instagram. Enjoy!

BEFORE: never mind my adorable child’s “angry” face, but here you can see our lovely old cabinets, counter tops, and walls.

BEFORE: let the demo begin!

BEFORE: more demo! You can see our old floor on top of our OLD old floor.

BEFORE: goodbye, linoleum.

AFTER: some progress – new floors and cabinets are in!

AFTER: ta-da! Welcome to our new kitchen!

AFTER: ta-da! Welcome to our new kitchen!

 

My First Trifle: Lemon Berry

For as much as I like to bake, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that until this summer, I had never – ever – made a trifle. It’s one of the easiest desserts to make, and it was the perfect solution when trying to figure out what to bring over to my sister’s house for our playdate/bbq. I had an ungodly amount of berries on hand, so I went for a lemon berry trifle.

When looking for a recipe, I noticed that most of them required cream cheese. My sister has a serious aversion to cream cheese, so I ended up just making up my own recipe. I also relied on Cool Whip and boxed angel food cake mix since I was seriously pressed for time. The biggest disappointment was that I don’t actually have a trifle bowl (GASP!), so I settled on a clear mixing bowl (I can’t believe I admitted that). My version did end up a little on the sweet side, but overall I think it had a really great, refreshing flavor.

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Lemon Berry Trifle
My own recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Betty Crocker angel food cake, prepared in loaf pan
  • 1 box lemon flavored instant pudding
  • 1 box French vanilla flavored instant pudding
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip
  • Assorted berries (I used blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries – about 2 qts total)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the angel food cake according the box. Once cooled, cut into 1″ cubes.
  2. Prepare the two boxes of pudding together. Mix in half of the cool whip and then refrigerate for at least a half hour.
  3. Get your berries ready by washing, drying, and slicing them how you’d like.
  4. To make your trifle, layer the cake, pudding mixture, and berries. I started with the angel food cake and then added a layer of the pudding mixture. I arranged the berries along the edge to they’d look nice through the glass bowl, and just dumped a thing layer in the middle. I topped that with a little more pudding mixture and then I went through the pattern again. My last layer was the rest of the Cool Whip topped with the remaining berries.
  5. Chill for another half hour and serve the same day.

The Best Grout Cleaner in the World!

You guys, I just learned the greatest cleaning trick in the world, thanks to this pin I found on Pinterest.

One of my major complaints about my bathroom is the shower. It’s about 20 years old and has the original white tile all over the walls. That wouldn’t be so bad, but it also has white grout and the bachelor we bought our house from probably never…ever…cleaned it. Gross. So, we inherited a nasty shower that I’ve attempted to clean with every product under the sun.

The magic cleaner? Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach.

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I know, who would have thought? It’s a gel, so it is easily applied to grout lines. After I poured it on, I gently scrubbed it into the grout since it obviously spilled down the sides of the wall. I let it sit a couple minutes and rinsed it away with water. I couldn’t tell a major difference right away, but I came back an hour or so later and was blown away. I tested a small part of the shower (so as to not waste my time if this didn’t work) and it was very obvious which part of the shower I had cleaned. The top picture here is the before and the bottom is the after.

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The only downside is that now it is more apparent where the grout is actually missing. Sigh. A bathroom update is on the long-term plan, but this will do for now.

Tang Pie Parfait

Tang Pie. What in the heck is that? That was my first question when I heard of this. I went to a Memorial Day party this weekend. This is an annual party that has a different theme each year. This year’s theme was country/hillbilly/white-trash. I always bring a dessert, so I needed to come up with something appropriate. My husband came to the rescue and asked around at work for ideas. Alas, Tang Pie was thrown into the mix.

I didn’t like the idea of bringing a questionable pie to such a large party, so I decided to make individual Tang Pie parfait things. To my surprise, they turned out! It tasted like a less cold version of orange sherbet.

Next time I think I would make them in shooters. This amount was a bit much and a little too rich, but all in all, a pleasantly surprising success!

TangPie

Tang Pie Parfait
Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Tang orange drink powder
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 box of Nilla Wafers
  • 1 bag of Orange Slices candy
  • Clear plastic cups

Directions:

  1. Mix together the Tang, sour cream, Cool Whip, and sweetened condensed milk. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Crumble three Nilla Wafers in the bottom of each clear plastic cup.
  3. Fill the cups with the desired amount of the Tang mixture.
  4. Crumble another Nilla Wafer on top of the Tang mixture.
  5. Garnish with an Orange Slice candy.
  6. Keep refrigerated and serve chilled.