Julia's Guardian Angel Fund

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gluten free, egg free, dairy free Peppermint Meltaways

Yum, yum, yum!


  • 1 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1-1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten free all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk-substitute like Vance's Dari-free
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies


  • In a small bowl, cream Earth Balance Buttery Spread and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. Combine gf flour, xanthan gum and cornstarch; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Shape into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  • In a small bowl, beat Earth Balance Buttery Spread until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk substitute, extract and food coloring if desired; beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Baking Plans

I get to host Christmas this year for my family.  My mom is here from Arizona and my sister and her family will be coming from Wisconsin.  That's five adults and twelve kids.  It's tricky, though, because my daughters sing at 4:00pm Mass and they (we) need to be there at 3:15.  If we want to eat at a decent hour for my sister's family to drive back to Wisconsin, we need to eat at 6:30 or so, which is one hour after we will be home from Mass.

So, consider this my on-line plan.  Here is our menu:
Shrimp and cocktail sauce
Rustic Whole Wheat Artisan Bread
Pumpkin Oatmeal Artisan Bread (from Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day)
GF/EF/DF crusty Artisan Bread (from Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day)
Fresh Spring Green Salad* (Sister is bringing) with Kalamata Tampenade and Sun Dried Tomatoes with Goat Cheese Tart (optional store bought dressing for those adverse to olives and goat cheese tart*)
Grandma Marion's Strawberry Banana Salad* (Sister is bringing)
Borscht (Beet and cabbage soup)*
Main Course
Baked Potatoes* AND Delmonico Potatoes
Apple Cider Glazed Ham*
Assorted beverages (Orangina, non-alcoholic wine, soda, Peppermint Mocha Godiva Coffee)
Christmas Cookies (Some *) (Sister is bringing some)
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake with Peppermint Whipped Cream (A GF/EF/DF Devil's Food Cupcake with Rice based Whip Topping and sprinkles of broken candy cane for the three year old*) - our birthday cake for the Infant Jesus

* are things the really allergic three year old can have.

I also need to find time to get the house whipped into shape.  We have opted to only make two or three different kinds of cookies this year.  Grandma Sue sent some of her world's best chocolate chip cookies.  We can't top those, so we will only add a few for variety.  The kids have picked sugar cookies, sunbutter cups and peppermint melt-aways.  We will make the last two gluten free, dairy free and egg free.

My Christmas baking also includes a few food gifts for elderly neighbors, too.  I like to bake them bread.  This year I will be making braided bread wreaths made from brioche dough with candied cherries or Bambino bread  (see the picture?)  Which would you make?  I am drawn to the message the Bambino bread sends, but love the look of the wreath.  I will also make one for my sister's family to eat on Christmas day. 

Tomorrow's to-dos:
Roll, cut, bake and frost sugar cookies
Make sunbutter cups
Make brioche dough

Thursday's to-dos:
Make peppermint melt-aways
Make pumpkin-oatmeal dough and wheat dough for Christmas Eve
Shape, rise and bake Christmas gift breads
Prep ratatouille and put in crock pot for Christmas Eve
Prep and place in zip-loc bags all the ingredients but water for Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
Make borscht and put in other crock pot
(Put crock pots in the extra fridge)
Prepare Delmonico Potatoes up to final bake and put in fridge
Prepare Apple Cider Glaze and bacon for the main dish ham
Make Kalamata Tampenade

Friday Morning to-dos:
Shape, rise and bake both breads for dinner
Defrost shrimp
Plug in crock pots
Cut out squares of puff pastry for goat cheese tart and bake

Friday Afternoon to-dos:
Put ham in the oven with precooked bacon.
Put potatoes in oven (both bakers and Delmonico)
Set out silver ware and glass ware
Get all serving items on serving area
Put coffee and filter into coffee maker and add water
Bring in coolers and put drinks on ice

Friday After Mass to-dos:
Put out the shrimp and cocktail sauce for the appetizer
Turn on coffee maker
Slice breads
Assemble goat cheese tarts (puff pastry, slice of goat cheese, puff pastry)
Glaze the ham
Put out the salad, dressing(s) and sides (sun-dried tomatoes, other veggies, goat cheese tarts)
Set up the serving area
Put Hot Fudge Pudding Cake together and put in the oven to bake while eating dinner
Whip cream for Hot Fudge Cake and refrigerate

Friday After Dinner to-dos:
Serve cake, cookies and coffee and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus
Open gifts
Do dishes

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Ember Days

As a revert to the church, I am STILL learning about all the beautiful things our religion has to offer.  This year, for the first time, I learned about Ember Days.   Although Ember Days are no longer considered required in mainstream Roman Catholicism following Vatican II, they can - and should - still be observed by the Faithful. In fact, many Traditional priests encourage the Faithful to observe the days. Ember Days are set aside to pray and/or offer thanksgiving for a good harvest and God's blessings. If you are in good health, please at least fast during these three days and pray the additional prayers. Remember the words from the Luke 13:5 "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish."

This year the days fall on December 15, 17, and 18.  Did you miss Wednesday, too?  Praise the Lord we have a merciful and patient God.  So, I'm hoping He will give me partial credit since I just found out about them.

We have much to be thankful for at our house.  Next week, my husband starts a new job.  This is significant because we have really felt the effects the ecomony.   God does take care of all of us.  We have learned to economize and really be thankful for things we used to take for granted, like gym classes for my kids or being able to afford both a babysitter and a movie.  I'm also so very thankful for the generosity of others.  My husband's family has regularly sent a check here or a check there for us to "just go out to dinner."  Members of my family have sent money to fix things that have broken and to replace worn out items.  Outside family members bought the kids Christmas presents this year.  Also, a secret Santa left a gift card at our house to stuff the kids stockings. Prideful creature that I am, I would have perhaps donated that card to another more deserving family in the past.  But, I opted to take is this year and use it for stocking stuffers, as directed.  I turned down help in the past, because of my pride.  I don't think God wants us to do it.  So, this was a truly humbling experience for me.  I'm thankful for the lesson.

But one of the things for which I'm most thankful for is my family.  My husband has not ever lost hope.   He knew God would care for us.  I kept asking why? Or when will things finally change?  "Ye of little faith..." Yes, that describes me.  My prayers changed from "Lord, please give my husband a job." to "Lord, just take care of us and please help me be patient to see your plan."  That's a big change for this impatient, prideful person.  My kids don't whine anymore when I say, "We can't afford that."  And, both sides of our family have helped us so much. 

Lastly, I'm thankful for having a roof over my head and enough healthy food to feed my children.  The next couple of months will be challenging in many ways.  First, I need to keep my budget where it is now because we really tapped our saving over the last couple of years.  I also need to become more independent.  My husband will be traveling a significant amount of time each month over the following year or two.  God didn't intend for me to be a single parent, so I pray for my husband's safety traveling and when he's away and that I manage well on my own.  I am also praying that I can make more time for my kids.  That will be more challenging with him gone.

Happy Ember Days - I will be praying  Joyful Mysteries today.  I will include my readers' intentions to those prayers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Please offer prayers for my mom!

Hey all you prayer warriors out there!  You've done it before and I know you can do it again.  My mom is dealing with chronic illness and  a recent med change is making her feel pretty crummy.  Can you offer up a prayer or sacrifice for her?  Prayer and great medical treatment brought her back from the brink in 2007.  We would really appreciate it. 

We have the wonderful opportunity to have her here with us for Christmas.  We're very thankful!  I'll offer up a prayer for the intentions of my readers, as well.  Thank you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Am I a bad Catholic?

Usually, we wait for the week before Christmas to put up our tree, decorations and all the house "finery".

We didn't wait this year.  After being snowed in yesterday, frozen in today, with activities for which my kids have been planning and practicing for months canceled AND to have the hubby get three, yes three, job offers last week, each on a different feast day (St. Ambrose, Immaculate Conception and St. Juan Diego), we decided to put up the tree last night.  We couldn't go and celebrate.  The kids couldn't do their activities.  We needed something.

One of our holiday traditions is for the kids to sleep under the Christmas tree.  This is so important to my kids.  We move all the furniture around and put down sleeping bags and pillows.  All but the one year old slept there all night (or most of it - five year old was up until 1:00am because he was so excited.)

So, I may be a bad Catholic for not waiting a little closer to Christmas.  But, it was because He has already delivered so MUCH joy this Advent season that we couldn't wait to say ooh and aah (or as the one year old says, "OOOH pretty!") as we wait in joyful hope of the coming of Our Lord!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Economy of Scale

Today, as I waded through the laundry tasks here, I needed something "mental" to do. Here is the Math I did in my head.  Each week I do:
  • 56 pairs of pants (or skirts)
  • 112 socks
  • 56+ pairs of underwear
  • 16 pairs of pajamas (easily with the bed wetting that happens)
  • 10-16 undershirts
  • 14 bras
  • 60 or so tops(including layers, on occasion)
  • 3 sets of sheets (I alternate and do half one week and other the next) or more depending on accidents or sickness
  • 20 or so bath towels
  • 14-21 hand towels
  • 14 dish cloths
  • 2 large table cloths
  • the occasional stuffed animal
  • coats (usually once a month or as needed)

Thank the Lord for large capacity appliances!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Thyroid is NOT my friend!

Six months after my second child was born, I got sick.  I wasn't sick in the classic sense.  Instead, I felt like I was disappearing.  That may sound strange.  I thought I was suffering from post-partum depression and a little sadness about giving up a very lucrative and rewarding career.  I was raised to be a working woman.  I know now that I did the very best thing for my children and love being their teacher.  But, I was actually sick, not depressed. 

Slowly, I needed more sleep, up to 14 hours a day, endured horrible headaches, lost hair, had dry skin, was constipated (sorry if TMI) and felt depressed.  I also had tingling hands.  If that wasn't enough, I started to feel like I was choking.  I wasn't choking, but I felt like I was.  It became very distressing and my husband insisted I go to the ER.  Something was choking me.  It was a goiter.  My thyroid had grown so large, my neck was swollen (didn't notice myself because I was 70 pounds overweight at the time), but it was also putting pressure on my windpipe, hence the choking sensation.  They tested my thyroid levels. Low and behold my TSH was incredibly high (double digits - 89) when normal is between 0.5 and 3.  I was prescribed a low dose of Synthroid and was given instructions to get to my doctor on the next business day.

The nurse-practitioner I saw was petrified and referred me to a surgeon to have my thyroid removed.  The surgeon read the report and sent me to an endocrinologist.  After a month wait to get in, I finally saw one of the best endocrinologist in town.  He did a blood workup and one of the most thorough exams I had ever had.  He called me a week later to explain my problem.  It was Hypothyroidism secondary to Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.  He increased my Synthroid dose, told me to schedule another appointment in 6 weeks and hung up.  I didn't get anymore information from him.  Thankfully, I felt much better pretty quickly.

However, my system goes through spurts when I feel yucky and figure it is my thyroid.  More often than not, I am right.  One of the sad, sad side effects, which the doctors didn't explain was how the thyroid works in the body.  The thyroid is responsible for metabolism.  Every cell in the body relies on thyroid hormones for regulation of their metabolism.  So, when you are not producing enough of those important hormones, your metabolism suffers.  Fun stuff when you are trying to lose weight!  Or maybe not?

I have been having one of those yucky spurts lately.  I usually start to feel like I am disappearing again.   I haven't had my thyroid levels checked in 9 months, so it was time.  Well, my weight loss of late can be explained by the fact that my levels WERE off, except in the other way.  I was over-corrected and my TSH was at 0.12.  So, my "easy" loss of five pounds was more likely a side-effect of  hyperthyroidism.  My meds are corrected.  Disappointing from a weight loss perspective, because I know it will be harder but at least I am feeling better.  Those five pounds lost just seemed too easy.  Now I know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I will not allow anything to dominate me

I was struck with how God sends me messages. 

I was a glutton yesterday.  My dearest friend, with whom I co-school, sent cookies to our daughter's book club, which I host at my home.  She made some date sandwich cookies which contained no eggs.  As many of my readers know, I am allergic to eggs, so most baked goods are off limits to me.  So, a whole platter FULL of delicious cookies that I COULD eat broke me.  I splurged.  I don't know how many I ate, but it was probably more than 10.  I didn't eat them all at once.  One or two here and three before bed with a glass of milk.  Ugh!

Then, I opened up by Divine Intimacy book by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. to #305:
Lord grant me self-control and gentleness, fruits of the Spirit. - Gal. 5:22

BAM.  Right in the forehead.  So, I figured I better keep reading:
"All things are lawful for me'; but not all things are helpful!  All things are lawful for me'; but I will not be enslaved by anything" (1 Cor 6:12).  Here St. Paul is rebutting the claims of those who, under the pretext of freedom, want to enjoy everything and to experience everything.  The liberation for the  prescription of an oppressive law brought about by Christ and confirmed by the Apostle cannot be synonymous with licentiousness.   "Not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires" (Rom 13:13-14).  "All things are lawful" to the Christians "to the pure all things are pure" (Tit 1:15), but on condition that this benefits his own and others' welfare and does not make a slave of anyone.  The freedom of the children of God is in quite another sphere than that of immodesty, greed or anger.  "I will not allow anything to dominate me" is the program to be followed by anyone who wants to become master of himself, in order to submit himself to the one rule, the liberating dominion of God. 

So, that is my motto..."I will not allow anything to dominate me", especially food.

I wish I could say I held my weight loss, but I didn't.  I have gained back the last 2.5 lbs.  Still down 2.5 lbs.

I will be writing next about my struggle with thyroid disease, which is also been a problem lately.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Portion Size -vs- Calories

I am specifically trying to work on portion size, but the devil side of my subconscious plays with me saying, "But that is soooooo low cal.  You can have two or three times that amount and you won't gain any weight." Or even better, "That was SOOOOO good.  A little more won't hurt."

I had that struggle at lunch today.  Trying to piece together a lunch from left overs, I mixed leftover veggies and Israeli couscous with chicken broth and a poached  chicken breast.  There were probably four cups of "soup", but I was convincing myself that since it was so low calorie, I could probably finish it all, totally forgetting that I am really working on portion control right now, not calorie counting.

That is the problem I have with rules.  I have to focus on ONE thing or I rationalize myself out of doing the right thing.  So, I stopped at two cups and put the rest in the fridge for tomorrow.  Admittedly, even two cups of that soup was probably a better choice than home made cream of tomato basil soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, a meal with which I have much less self control.