I did it! Gluten-free birthday cake!

Thanks fellow bloggers for your support – I made the gluten-free birthday cake! 

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Well, giant cookie, really.

I got the recipe from my grandma.

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You can tell from the grease stains, this is one of my fave recipes.

Because my son is trying to cut gluten from his diet, I made some substitutions. 

 

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Here’s the usual suspects – oatmeal, Rice Krispies, and good old white sugar – I’ll work on a different sweetener next time, but Basil Rene is right – the world of sugar substitutes is fraught with peril. I used half and half brown and white like Gram says.

In lieu of a sugar substitute, I just cut the amount of sugar down to 2/3’s  cup. 

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Here’s the brown basmati I buy at Cash and Carry in 10 pound sacks, and here’s some coconut oil I found at Walmart for less than $4.

I wasn’t sure about buying the coconut oil at Walmart, but it was the cheapest. My son told me the more expensive oils are “refined” so that you can use them at higher temperatures, for stuff like sautes and stir-fries. I like it for baking – it’s very light, without any odor.

As for amount, I thought I better check, so I googled cookie recipes using coconut oil. I found one that matched my recipe – half a cup of liquid coconut oil for a half a cup butter.  

When I added the oil to the sugar, it didn’t seem right, too wet. But the egg mixed in well, and when I added the rice flour, oats and Krispies, it looked just like the dough I got using butter and wheat flour. It’s always kind of crumbly, when I make cookies, I mash it into spoonful-size balls and set them on the sheet, where they melt into thin, crispy wafers, just like  Gram used to make.  Or I just mash the whole pile of dough into a pan and make “cookie bars.” 

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I wanted a cake so I mashed it into a cake pan.

Baking time was the variable – for my usual size pan I bake them 20 – 25 minutes at 350, waiting for the top to turn brown. This pan was smaller and deeper so I had to bake it closer to 35 minutes. This made it more like a cake than a cookie, but the edges were still  crunchy.

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Here’s the topping – looks like a mess!

I got an idea for a “cookie tart” from Chef Pepin, it just didn’t turn out exactly the way he did it – we just dumped a couple of pints of blueberries and a cut pear into a sauce pan, without sugar or anything, and stirred it into this mess. It was delicious, the tart fruit made the perfect compliment for the sweet cookie-cake. 

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We sent most of the cake home with the birthday boy, but I saved a piece for my husband to eat for breakfast.

Like Chef Pepin would say – et voila! There it is, a gluten free birthday cake. 

 

 

 

Waiting out Winter

As if to remind us, it’s only February, Jack Frost rode into town last night.

Back to Winter

Back to Winter

Clear skies mean lower temperatures. As eager as we were to get out in the sun yesterday, we found ourselves running back inside with numb hands, poking at the thermostat, hovering around the kitchen. After a morning of storm clean-up, I spent yesterday afternoon cooking,  made a big batch of tortillas and a pot of rice.

One pan wonder.

One pan wonder.

My husband got a steak out of the freezer and cut two thin steaks with his filet knife, then threw them into a pan with the rice. Before I knew it we were eating burritos.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

I love it when a good plan comes together.

Try new things – Juanita goes gluten-free

Did you know, you can make flour out of rice? Am I the last person to find out about this?

I try to avoid food fads, but I’ve heard for years that the gluten found in wheat flour will exacerbate pollen allergies. My husband and son are both extra sensitive to pollen – trees like almond and mulberry have made them really sick. Their eyelids puff up, their faces turn red, and they get instant headaches after being exposed to those type of trees. 

My husband has learned to wear a mask when he has to expose himself, he’s also lost a little of his sensitivity over the years. Meanwhile my son seems to be headed right into the worst of it – he’s still in his 20’s, when your body seems to fielding a new set of hormones.

So he and his girlfriend have decided to avoid gluten. My first thought was – what will you eat? I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of life without wheat.  For Cripessake – I’ve spent years learning how to make my own bread, pasta, pizza, etc, why would I want to give up wheat?!

I just bought a 25 pound sack of hard red wheat berries. I had a hard time finding a reliable source of wheat berries here in town, so I went online and got a big bag. And of course it was about half the price per pound, so nya nya Raleys!   As you know, I have storage – it sits in jars and zipper bags on the little turnaround shelf under my counter. I’ve already polished off a big jar’s worth. 

But of course I buy rice in bulk too. So, when I noticed, on the box in which I store my wheat mill, it says all the things the mill will grind, including rice.  I read rice is gluten free. 

In fact, my son had sent me this picture of his rice pancakes one morning.

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My son wanted to assure me he and his bgf were eating right.

Well, you never learn if you don’t try new things. So I dumped a cup of rice into my mill and it ground up into the nicest flour, a little grainier than wheat flour, but usable. I made a batch of oatmeal cookies with it, having read that oatmeal is also gluten-free. They turned out really well. 

So, my son’s birthday is coming up, and instead of the usual gluten-rich angel food cake, I will make him a cookie tart covered with fruit. I got the idea from Jacque Pepin. He made a sugar cookie one day on his show and covered it with glazed raspberries heated in a frying pan. The other day they had blueberries on sale at Safeway, $3 for a big container. I will also get some peaches out of the freezer – I still have a gallon zipper bag full from last Summer. 

One thing I know is that my son is happy when his parents pay attention to what’s going on in his life. They grow up but they don’t stop being your kids,  thank goodness! 

Smile, it’s good for your face

You know me – I like fresh air. Whenever it’s not too wet or wild, cold or hot outside, I like to have my windows open.

We’ve been experiencing some pretty turbulent weather here – unstable – meaning, one minute it’s a howling dumper, two hours later the clouds have broken up, the sun is beating down, and you’re looking for somewhere to dump that bulky jacket.

Yesterday I watched the rain come down, always constant, sometimes downright dumping, the clouds moved through like a herd of angry buffalo. The mood was dynamic – at times the sky would lighten, the rain would  slow, even stop for a few minutes, and we could get out to take a walk. But it had to be a short walk, because suddenly the herd would move in again and the raindrops would become big and heavy, pelting us like little stones. Our raincoats and the dogs little garbage-bag capes are hanging wet in the garage, never seeming to have time to dry out completely before we throw them on again.

This morning I realized it was not raining. I was sitting at my computer and I noticed the silence coming through the walls. At 6 am I  took the dogs for a stroll in the back yard and was shocked to see all the stars and a very bright crescent moon. So, I went in the house and opened the windows – it gets stuffy in here when it’s raining, smells like dogs and farts and feet. 

OMG! – hit in the face by the smell of my neighbor’s sour wood chips. It  smells like the Koppers plant!

https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0901135

My idiot chicken-keeping neighbor has bought a load of treated wood chips, and they’ve soured. She’s spreading them on the pathways in her backyard, which run along the other side of the fence, right under my windows. Here’s someone else’s post about their experience with “sour mulch”.

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/discussions/1631221/sour-mulch-remedy

Yes, they not only stink, they’re “toxic”, and I’ve seen the results in other people’s yards – they will not only kill any small plants you expose them to but will kill the foliage on a tree up to about 4 feet off the ground.  

I can’t believe this woman. She’s one of the worst three neighbors I’ve ever had – Number One was the guy who was growing dope in the same house in which his wife was doing daycare, and they were selling pit bull pups as well as dope. It takes a real ass to measure up to that guy. Number Two was our neighbor Augie, who used to fight with his wife all the time and hit our fence occasionally when he pulled out of his driveway such a fight. It takes a real ass to measure up to a guy who could measure up to Ass Number One.

So there we have Michelle, Number Three Ass. Michelle moved  here from Oakland when her 43 year marriage hit the rocks. This my husband  got out of her when she trapped him at the mailbox one day not long after she’d moved in.

Here’s a tip  for you middle-aged divorced  women – don’t open up that first conversation with the new neighbor with “My Husband Just Dumped  Me”. My husband was completely freaked out, he made me get the mail for a month, and looked through the fence before he approached the gate.

We waved but avoided them after that, until they brought in six chickens. Within a week we noticed a dramatic uptick in flies – whereas in past we might have seen one or two around  a pile of dog crap in our yard, we now had them attacking us and the dogs all over the yard, including the patio. They started getting in the house – it was almost impossible to get out our front door without letting at least one fly in. And they weren’t just house flies – there were the tiny manure flies that are part and parcel of chicken ownership.

I was surprised when my tenant, who never complains about anything, mentioned that the flies were starting to “infest” our garbage cans. Yeah, we know, flies like garbage. But we’d always kept the can  clean, the garbage inside wrapped, and we’d never seen the kind of cloud that was developing around that lid before. They were starting to annoy my tenant’s kids when they took out the trash, starting to get into her house too.

So, I tried to be neighborly. I got a pamphlet from my vet that spelled it out – if you have chickens, you have to do some sort of fly control. The pamphlet went over the fly life cycle, the different kinds of flies, and  offered a variety of natural products to avoid spraying poison. I thought that was pretty nice of me.

The response? “We  don’t have flies!” 

So, we went out, and at an expense of about $3.50 – $4.50 per  trap, we bought fly traps and hung them along our fence, between us and the chickens. They filled up, I mean,  it’s gross – a little plastic bag full  of wiggling flies. They get in but they can’t get out, and they eventually drown. They die in there, and more flies come in, the thing gets completely  packed, until you have a bunch of live flies living off the dead flies in the bag. You can  hear it buzzing from feet away, meaning, time to replace it. 

We’ve spent almost $100 on fly traps since she brought in the chickens. But they work. 

Yesterday I ran into this woman at the end of the driveway when I was taking my dog in and she was taking her dogs out. I wanted to shout, “You Stink!” but couldn’t do it.

How do you deal with people like this? Well, I’ve been doing some reading and working on positive thinking. So I tell myself, the fly traps will work when the ground erupts with flies later this week, and the mulch will  air out within a couple of weeks and the smell will go.

Positive thinking = learning to eat shit with a big grin on your face.

 

 

 

 

 

Take a hike! Humboldt Road still there

While I won’t blame the weather for all my problems, it has been a little onerous being stuck inside during these howling dumpers. It’s kind of fun to watch the trees swaying and the clouds whirling from inside our comfy apartment, for a few hours anyway. But after a couple of days of this stuff, a person is busting to get out.

We had a break in the weather yesterday, the clouds broke up over town, and the sun came beaming in. I’ve been getting a cold, and wanted to stay inside watching tv, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw a couple of loads of wash on the clothes line. As soon as I got out into that fresh breeze, I felt a tremendous rush of well-being. Spring took my face in the palms of her icy hands and said, “Hello Sister!”  

My husband was also feeling the tug of Spring.  We decided to take the dogs out somewhere different. We headed east up Hwy 32 to get a look at the big thunderheads that were circling like big black warships. 

Hwy 32 lays along the remnants of the old Humboldt Road, built over a hundred years ago by our town founder John Bidwell and his partners. It was a toll road, and Bidwell made his fortune from the fees paid by eager immigrants, toiling their way toward the gold fields. There is a short section of the original road leading out of Chico, you can take that section for a mile or two out of town and get back on Hwy 32 to take you the rest of the way to Forest Ranch.  That section is very  pretty,  but we decided to go farther.

Stage coaches left Chico a few times a day during the big Rush.  The grade was so severe they were lucky to make it ten miles – as evidenced by the road signs marking the sites of two popular boarding houses of the time – 10 Mile House, and 14 Mile House. Of course there are new subdivisions at both sites – who could resist those vistas?

Whenever I drive Hwy 32, I think of those people grinding along in those stage coaches. The old road was a winding series of switchbacks, and very steep. The new road was cut through in the 1960’s, with modern equipment, they went right through bedrock to make the road straight. That’s how they saved so  much  of the old road. 

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

Badges inspects an overgrown section of old Humboldt Road.

There is a section of the road along the Peregrine Point disc golf course. This land used to be part of a private hunting club, acquired by the  city about 20 years ago, not sure exactly when. The parking lot for the course sits right on the old road. You have to know it was there – no pavement is left, but you can see old ruts in the lava cap, from when it was an unpaved wagon road. 

If you follow that section east, through bushes and over boulders in some places, you will find the section of road Badges is standing on above. In some spots you can still see the white center line. 

As we strolled along the old road, watching cars and trucks whiz by on the new road just below, we came across a section of what people used to call “the Chinese walls”.

 

This trail doesn't look legal.

This trail leads onto private property, so we turned around.  It’s too bad hikers did not respect the wall here, but I have the feeling it’s been going on since before I was born, when this property was part of a private hunting club.

You will see these rock walls around the eastern end of Chico, into the hills above town along Hwy 32. They were built by workers clearing fields, used as property boundaries. They still make a fine  cattle fence. When I was a little girl, my grandpa told us this was “The Great Wall of China” – he was such a kidder! He believed, as most people believed at that time, that the walls were built mostly by Chinese laborers. Since that time we’ve found out, there were all kinds of laborers involved, including conscripted local natives. But whoever built them, they’re beautiful remnants of our colorful history, I’m glad property owners have maintained them in most places.

The sun was bright but the wind cut right through my sweater as we hiked along the highway. We could not see the mountains through the curtain of storm clouds, but we could see the Sutter Buttes, which look like a big spaceship sitting in the valley. 

We were gone from our house for less than an hour, but came home feeling great.  It’s simple but  true – fresh air and sunshine are good for you. Get out there!

 

 

How about a Spring cleaning for my brain?

Punxsutawny Phil said there would  be six more weeks of Winter. Is that an East Coast thing? Cause here in California, Winter has packed her bags, and she’s got one foot out the door. Yesterday the mercury hit 60, the mosquitoes came out of nowhere, and all around my yard little tidbits of color are popping out.

The almond blossoms are sweet, too sweet – as soon as we get close to that tree, our faces begin to twitter – ker-CHEW!

Not that I ain’t been waiting. I actually took a nap in my lawn chair yesterday, the sun felt like an old friend. Where you been Friend? Where’d  I put that hammock? 

I woke up to the screeching of a couple of hawks, a third sitting in a nearby tree. The two males performed outrageously, swooping and circling back, very dramatic. They flew off, the female trailing behind, I have no idea how this love triangle ended.  These birds come every January, like part-time neighbors, they make a loud entrance, pair up, and set up a nest  in somebody’s big tree. Then they become very shy, we have never seen the actual nest, we can only guess they are here somewhere. Every now and then we see them snatch some prey – they’re very shy about eating, if you look at them, they’ll leave. After the way they carry on in Spring, you’d think they want everybody to pay attention to them,  but I guess they’re just happy.

I try to be happy too, but things get to me, I get stuck in the negative rut. I tell myself, “It’s January, you hate January…” But now it’s February, and I’m waiting for that thrill of Spring. It’s just not coming, something’s bothering me, I can’t  tell what. I worry about my husband’s health, I worry about my kids’ progress and happiness, I worry I worry I worry. It’s hard to let things go, that feeling that something bad is going to happen, or that  things are just crappy, keeps washing over me. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a little boat in the ocean, and I can’t see over the waves.

Sometimes I am just terrified of what will happen tomorrow. Usually when I feel this way, I try to think of something positive that is going to happen in the future, some little thread.  But lately, the world around me is very dark – this whole Trump thing is what my dad would call “eating shit and running rabbits…” I know, the Texans talk funny – that means “crazy”

And here in Chico, we just dodged a major disaster – the enormous dam at Oroville almost blew. By the grace of Mother Nature, we were spared a mayor catastrophe – the moonscape left behind would have dwarfed every big fire we’ve ever had, people would not only have died, but our economy would be sent back to the stone age. A whole  community would have been displaced, and the surrounding communities would have been overwhelmed with refugees who might never recover. 

The worst thing about it was how hysterical our “leaders” got – no matter how they denied anything bad would happen. During back-to-back tv interviews, District 1 county supervisor Bill Connelly and US congressman Doug LaMalfa both contradicted the official evacuation  advice, telling people to go in different directions. Connelly seemed completely freaked out  and at one point said he really  wasn’t sure what the sheriff’s department was advising, but he thought people should  “head east”.  LaMalfa also became a little hysterical, unable to name highways, using Cycle Land Speedway as a landmark.  

When they finally convened a press conference with county and state officials, Sheriff Cory Honea seemed more interested in clearing his own reputation than advising the public. When tv news people from Sacramento began questioning his evacuation schedule he got very defensive. They pointed out that over the weekend he was telling people not to panic, the dam would not burst, then suddenly Monday, in the middle of a busy weekday afternoon, it was “Get Out! Get Out Now!” There was pandemonium, nobody knew where to go, there were no recommended routes, just “Go to Chico!” 

Our local news offered very little coverage. We were visiting friends in Forest Ranch, just 15 minutes up the hill from Chico, and we saw better coverage on Ch 3 out of Sacramento. They sent a helicopter, or we wouldn’t know how close O-ville came from being a scratch mark on the hillside. 

Officials have lifted the evacuation order because, despite promises to the contrary, there has been looting. But there’s a “significant” storm moving in tomorrow, what next? 

I don’t know why I feel so much anxiety, Chico is not in danger. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to barf.  When I try to distract myself with the mundane chores, I find myself clumsy, forgetful. I don’t think it’s just this dam thing, I think life is  getting more stressful in general.  So I found this book called “Feeling Good.” It’s full of what I would call “positive thinking” exercises, I’m going to give it a whack. I feel like I’m making myself sick with negativity, time to do a mental cleansing.

I’ll keep you posted! 

 

 

 

Frog and Toad: not just for kids

The “atmospheric river” has run through our town, on it’s way to Nevada to wreak more havoc.

This morning I was surprised to see the moon shining in the bedroom window, bright and full. The only sound outside is a steady plop-plop from the rain spout.

We’ve been trying to stay busy during the rain, mitigate the outdoor damage when possible, clear the gutters and pick up storm debris. Things get moldy in this weather, the laundry won’t get dry, motivation gets wobbly. It is so tempting to crawl in between the flannels and go to sleep for a month or two. 

Reminds me of Frog and Toad Are Friends, a collection of buddy stories by Arnold Lobel.  I think “Spring” is my favorite story, because it’s so true. 

It’s Winter and Toad has been sleeping. Frog rushes to his door to wake him up, declaring,  “It’s Spring!”  But the only response from inside the door is “Blah!”

“The sun is shining! The snow is melting! Wake Up!” shouts Frog outside the door.  Toad answers, “I am not here…”

We’ve all had days like that, and friends like that.

Not one to be put off, Frog bursts into the house and actually pushes Toad out of bed, dragging him to the porch into the bright sunshine, where Toad complains he can’t see anything. “What you see is the clear warm light of April,” cajoles Frog, promising skipping in meadows, running through woods, swimming in the river, and counting stars on warm nights. 

This only drives Toad back into the bed, where he pulls the covers over his head. “You  can count them Frog, I will be too tired.”  

“You have been asleep since November,” complains  Frog.

“Well then,” says Toad, “a little more sleep will not hurt me…Come back and wake me up at about half past May…”

Frog is never flustered or put down, he always thinks of a solution. Standing in Toad’s house, realizing how lonely he will be over the next month, he sees the calendar on the wall is still on November, and begins tearing off the pages of Winter.  Arriving at May, he has a sudden flash of brilliance.

“Toad, Toad, wake up.  It is May now.”  

I don’t know if it’s okay to pull this type of prank on your friend, but I would say, it’s good to look out for each other. 

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I’ve been watching this daffodil bud, I think today’s the day.