A Year in the Life of a Food Blogger

New YearsBreak started off at such a brisk pace I’d expected it to be full (maybe too full) with get-togethers, holiday-related outings, and attempting new recipes.

Well, that’s what I’d thought it’d be like.  But then everyone came down with the flu right over Christmas.  Thankfully, family was flexible and presents keep, because the festivities had to be put on hold for a couple of days this year.  And that’s the long-ish explanation as to where I’ve been.

Now that I’m feeling quite a bit better (managing to eat solid food providing it’s mild and relatively soft), I’ve been thinking about what a lot has happened in the last year.  And how quickly it’s gone by!  The Crunchy Cook was my new years resolution from last year (this was when I  had a very small handful of food foes), which means my blog is almost exactly a year old.


Biggest Changes:
1. Discovered I have 10 additional food allergies (including eggs, soy, dairy).  This was a HUGE challenge that impacted my entire family.  And it’s still something I’m learning how to work with.

2. Graduated from community college with a two-year transfer degree.

3. Completed my first quarter at the University of Washington (I swear, it’s not nearly as hard as figuring out how to cook with food allergies).

Favorite Foodie Reads:
1. Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found Food that Loves Me Back … And How You Can Too by Shauna James Ahern.  I found this book very encouraging.

I don’t know that I’d love it quite as much now that I can’t eat the majority of food mentioned, but Shauna’s advice to use food restrictions as a reason to say “Yes!” to foods you’ve never tried has been very helpful in my own food journey.  And a good reminder that there is still a world of flavors out there waiting to be tasted.  Even for allergy girls like me.

Firsts:
1. Started my food blog, The Crunchy Cook.

2. Went on a cruise and was actually able to eat (I got to hand it to Disney, they sure do handle dietary restrictions well).

3. Took a junior-level class at the university (it was awesome, and also not nearly as mentally challenging as figuring out what to cook for dinner when you have a whole collection of food allergies).

Goals/Hopes for 2013:
1. Learn to cook more gluten-free/allergen-free food.  I’m hoping to attempt a new recipe every weekend (not all of them will show up on the blog because not everything will work, but it’ll get me in the habit of trying out new things and being fearless in the kitchen).

2. Blog more regularly about the food I’m learning to cook; I want to have a record of all the recipes that have worked.  And just generally what it’s like being gluten-free/allergen-free.  I’m new to the blogging community, but loving it already.

3. Finally be able to set the date for the wedding (fingers crossed!).

Well, what about you?  What are your goals, hopes, or resolutions for the coming year?  Anything you’re hoping to learn or cook?

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My Allergen-Free/Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Yes, I know it’s now December and this is no longer seasonally fitting to talk about Thanksgiving.  I’d planned on showing off pictures of my Thanksgiving feast sooner, but the combination of coming down with a cold that just didn’t want to go away and attempting to get back into school mode enough to finish out the quarter meant that blogging has taken a backseat the last couple of weeks.  Thanksgiving was great though, so it at least deserves a quick mention.

My immediate family—mom (several allergies), sister (gluten-free and multiple allergies), and brother (practically vegan and also a couple of food allergies of his own)—is, needless to say, pretty gosh darn hard to feed.  And with the addition of my 10 newest food allergies, we weren’t sure how we were going to work out Thanksgiving.  Not to mention, the extended family has never really understood allergies (they’re getting better) but having a meal at their house felt like I would’ve been risking a trip to the ER.  

Thankfully, Mr. Munger’s parents invited us over for dinner.  This meant that there were more heads trying to figure out what would be Kelsey-safe and less food for any one person to make.  And it worked out great.  

What I had for dinner: turkey, cranberry sauce, peas with onions, stuffing (my future mother-in-law actually found gluten-free/dairy-free/egg-free/soy-free bread!), smashed red potatoes, sweet potatoes, pickles, and even rolls (made by yours truly).

I’ll try and get the roll and cranberry recipes to you soon because they turned out great.  And the cranberries are super easy to make! 

So how was your Thanksgiving?  Any tips for working around food allergies this holiday season or figuring out how to explain your dietary restrictions to the people you’ll be celebrating with?

An Allergen-Free Thanksgiving: Healthy, Safe, and Yummy

pumpkinsWhen I first found out about my newest assortment of food allergies a couple weeks back—10 new food allergies, baby—I felt like the floor had just dropped out from under me.  What will I eat?  Will I ever bake again?  Will I be able to eat anything that actually tastes good?  Ugh!  I’m starting all over again!

I felt like I’d finally reached a point where I didn’t have to constantly think about celiac disease, I’d gotten used to reading every single ingredient label before popping even the smallest thing into my mouth, and I was slowly coming up with new favorite recipes.  But now I was starting over from scratch.  It was very discouraging.  Very discouraging.

As a result, I’m thankful for my family, fiancé, and future in-laws.  They’ve all made the transition to allergen-free eating a lot easier by sportively helping me find food and never making me feel like an inconvenience. 

It’s so nice to know that tomorrow I’ll not only have a plate full of Thanksgiving food but that I’ll feel safe eating it because everyone has gone out of their way to insure it’s Kelsey friendly.  Not only will my food be safe and decently healthy (junk food is pretty much off limits now), but it tastes good too!

And, perhaps one of the best reason to be thankful, since I’ve been avoiding all my many allergens I’m feeling a lot better and my stomach has stopped hurting continually.  I may not be able to eat all of my usual Thanksgiving-y favorites (couldn’t figure out how to make a pumpkin pie but maybe I’ll do one for Christmas), but I feel like I have my health back.  And my family and family-to-be have made this Thanksgiving not just something to survive, but something to enjoy.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

We be Pirates

In honor of Halloween I thought I’d take a brake from my usual theme of food allergies and gluten to show off my costume.  Mr. Munger, the fiancé, is graduating with his BA this December, so as a graduation present his parents took the two of us plus my mom and sister all on a Disney Cruise.

I’d honestly been kind of leery about going; I pictured myself super hungry and far away from any grocery stores and it seemed like it might be like vacationing inside the Small World ride (cute in small doses, but a bit too perky and little-kid-ish to make you really want to settle down and get comfortable).  I was wrong on both accounts.  Disney did a fantastic job of feeding me (Me!  The girl who can’t eat anything) and ship was beautiful, relaxing, and fun.

Pirate Night is the special evening on the cruise where everyone dresses up. And, luckily for us, my future mother-in-law has some mad skills when it comes to costumes.

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My mom and sister, Shannon, think that Mr. Munger and I should use this as our engagement picture.  Maybe.  We all picked out the colors, material, and patterns that we wanted for our costumes and then De worked her magic (I decided she’s like a fairy godmother for pirates).

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The gang!  My sister, Shannon, is in the fantastic hat and striped pants, Mom is in the middle (her costume is the same colors as her university), and my future sister-in-law, Sarah, is on the bottom right.  De, the woman who made these awesome costumes, is on the top right.

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A touch of Disney magic.  I think we look like the pirates in Peter Pan (perhaps Captain Hook’s nieces?).  I doubt I’ll ever want to dress up as anything other than a pirate again for Halloween now that I have a pretty nifty costume.

Happy Halloween, everyone!  So, what are you dressing up as?

Chocolate Birthday Cake (gluten & sugar free)

[Update: Due to new allergies, this isn’t something I can eat anymore.  But I’ve left it on the blog because it’s tasty]

In honor of my sister’s seventeenth birthday, I attempted my first gluten-free cake.  As many gluten-free people know, a birthday just isn’t quite the same without cake.

I didn’t have much luck finding a classic chocolate cake recipe that was gluten-free, so I modified a standard cake recipe by changing the flour and sweetener.

Unfortunately, I got a little confused while mixing the ingredients, didn’t mix them in quite the right order, so the cake turned out a little denser than I would’ve liked.  It still tasted nice, though.  I also discovered that frosting a cake is much harder than I’d imagined. My hat goes off to everyone who is able to make frosting look like an art form (I’m just happy if I can get it on the cake and not all over the kitchen).


Allergan/Sensitivity Info: Gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free.   

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 softened butter (don’tput it in the microwave, let it stand for about 30 minutes)
  • 3 eggs (these also need to be at room temperatures, so you can let them sit with the butter)
  • 2 cups brown rice flour(gluten-free)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder (check the label to make sure it’s gluten-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/3 cups Spenda/generic brand of sucralose (you can also use 2 cups sugar instead if you don’t need it to be sugar-free)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk

Directions:

  1. Lightly grease the bottoms of two cake pans (either 8x8x2-inch square pans or 9×1 1/2-inch round pans).  Line the bottoms of the pan with waxed paper (I didn’t have any on hand so I lightly dusted the bottom of the pans with coco powder after I’d greased them).
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt (in other words, all of the dry ingredients except the Spenda/sugar).
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter for about thirty seconds. Then, slowly add Spenda/sugar and beat it for a couple of minutes until well combined (don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl).
  4. Add eggs to the butter and Speenda/sugar mix.  Mix for about a minute after adding each egg.  Then, beat in vanilla.
  5. Now, alternate between adding the milk and the flour mixture to the butter mix.  Beat together.
  6. Divide the batter between the two pans and spread it out evenly.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).
  8. Cool cakes completely before removing them from the pans.
  9. Frost with whatever you like and serve.  I used Pillsbury’s Creamy Supreme vanilla frosting (both sugar-free and gluten-free).  Homemade cream-cheese frosting would also be yummy.