Wednesday, March 31

A Month Off

As a part of trying to listen to and understand my body, I occasionally try to remove certain pieces of my diet to observe the effects.  Since my birthday, I have been overloaded with sugary treats.  Lately, my body has a general tiredness that I cannot evade and, ironically, despite this I still have a difficult time falling sleep.  I decided to try eliminating sugar from my diet for a month.  
I begin this little trial in 10 minutes  and, as a desperate measure, I must admit I just ate blackberries with frosting.... Odd combination I know, but I couldn't bear the thought of throwing away my extra birthday cake frosting in the morning.  
So the plan is that all of my recipe posts this month will be sugar-free. By this I mean no processed or refined sugar, agave and natural fruit sugar will be my sweeteners...still debating on natural maple syrup. I am excited to add this little challenge to my {everything-free} lifestyle....cause now it really will be {everything-free}! 
Ha, and so it begins....

My First Cake

After the lovely celebration with friends, my family treated me to a delicious gluten-free dinner at the Del Mar Rendezvous.  A delightful Chinese restaurant, they offered an entire gluten-free menu full of artistically displayed creations of seafood, rice and veggies. 
For dessert we returned to my home, where I had baked my first cake.  

                                

Yes, I baked my own birthday cake.  I couldn't help it! What better time to attempt my first? No one can complain if it disappoints or is a catastrophe for....it's my birthday, ha :-).  But really, it turned out just lovely.  





I followed a recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Allergy-Free Desserts by Elizabeth Gordon.  I was not about to take a risk with something as big as my first cake!  I chose a light, vanilla cake with vanilla, buttercream frosting, topped and layered with fresh strawberries. 


I ate my slice with chocolate drizzled on top and a small scoop of creamy vanilla, goat ice cream. 

It was HEAVENLY.  I hadn't eaten a piece of cake, even a cupcake, for almost two years.  Oh, how I missed it.  

Thank you Elizabeth, your recipe was superb! I look forward to many more delectable desserts from you as I slowly familiarize  myself with your collection. 

Now I must apologize, I got a little carried away with the pictures...but lets be honest it IS my first cake.



A Local Review....

Pizza...the glorious American food that unfortunately has been off limits for me since October 2008, when I discovered my food intolerances/allergies.  Like most gluten-free individuals I see pizzas in grocery stores such as Mother's Kitchen, Foster Farms and Whole Foods and get excited, unitl I read the list of ingredients.... I am not just gluten-free so these pizzas never quite met up to my "standards".   After a bit of giving in and trying gluten-free, but not dairy-free or soy-free and finding myself felling...well let's just say, rather nauseaus,  I began experimenting with my own recipes.  A few months ago I found the recipe I posted  on this blog in January and, oh goodness, I was pretty excited.  There is always room for improvement, so I am sure I will alter the recipe next time I use it, but for now it  gaurentees deliciousness.

Despite my wonderful recipe, I missed the convenience of pick-up or delivery pizza. So I was intrigued when I my Dad emailed me last week about a  local pizzaria that claimed to offer vegan and gluten-free pizza.  We decided to check it out.

Friday night I pulled into the parking lot eager to find Paridise Pizza.  There it was, tucked away in the corner of a small, business complex.  In a rather hidden location, I would not have found it if I had not had the address handy.  I walked in and was greeted by the friendly staff.  I grabbed a menu and began parusing the options.  The prices were reasonable, there were many combinations to choose from and they all sounded even more wonderful when I saw the option of a gulten-free crust at the bottom...oh joy! I asked about the rest of the ingredients within the crust and the staf was more than willing to list them off.  Good to go! There was no soy, egg, dairy or gluten, only an extra charge of $2.  I ordered and walked out of there in 15-20 minutes with one 12" regular Zen pizza, for my family, and two 8" gluten-free pizzas (one Zen as well and one Royal Hawaiian).

The owner, Mychal Dourson was present when I arrived and eager to answer any questions I had.  His nephew, I believe...sorry Mychal if I remember incorrectly...is celiac and Mychal wanted to offer him the chance to order a pizza like everyone else.  He bought a smal package of pre-made crusts and on a whim included them on his the menu.  He shared how surprised he was when he opened to find that his first ten customers asked for the gluten-free crust! Since then, he has been ordering more crusts and trying different brands.  He asked me to get back to him about the crust he used for the pizzas I ordered...so Mychal here are my thoughts:

The toppings were delicious, but the crust was unfortunately very dry and crumbly.   It did not have much flavor and had a stiff texture. 
I would encourage you Mychal to continue searching!

My two requests, Mychal... goat cheese and a thicker, softer crust! I look forward to trying your pizzas again!

Tuesday, March 30

Celebrating with friends...

Birthday celebrations are wonderful.  They are the perfect excuse to gather loved ones around you, for no one can say no to you on your birthday.  It's been exactly a week since my birthday and I am still recovering. A whirlwind of activity, my weekend of celebrating was one to remember.  Full of lovely moments and people, I had the pleasure of enjoying time with dear friends and family.

Celebrating my second birthday as an {everything-free} woman, I decided to use my birthday as an excuse to experiment with cakes, cookies  and restaurants.  I did all the above and loved every bit.

My first round of celebrating included entrees at Via Italia Trattoria in quaint, downtown Encinitas, followed by delicate dessert back at my home.  I had read raving reviews on the restaurant and was excited to give it a try.  It turned out to be a very authentic Italian dining experience.  I enjoyed the atmosphere, but I soon found myself disappointed with the service.  Despite their claim to offer  three different types of brown rice pasta, my server could only offer one.  The pasta was flavorful and gluten-free, but it did not take long for me to wonder if the sauce was gluten and dairy free.  I was left to assume a miscommunication occurred between the server and chef.  I, unfortunately, walked away feeling a bit sick and rather dissatisfied with the experience. 


The dessert back at my house turned out lovely.  
I believe my girlfriends enjoyed my newly created batch of chewy molasses cookies, Trader Joe's flourless, chocolate cake and ice cream with berries and chocolate chips.



The chocolate cake is a go-to for me. It is a easy quick buy at TJ's and always guarantees deliciousness.    I just warm it up, drizzle it with chocolate sauce and top it off with a few fresh berries for decor.







The cookies were a hit, and in answer to multiple requests for the recipe....here it is:

 The Chewy Molasses Cookies

1 cup of sorghum flour
1 cup of brown rice flour
3/4 cup of potatoe starch
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¾ cup of coconut oil
¼ cup of agave
¾ cup of maple syrup
½ cup blackstrap molasses
¼ cup heaping unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 heaping cup of almond meal
1 1/2tsp egg replacer with  2tbsp hot water 
*organic cane sugar for later 

1. Mix the first eight ingredients together in a medium bowl and mix the remaining together in a large bowl.  
2. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet until well blended.  I would recommend refrigeration the dough for an hour at least if not more.  
3. Afterward pull the dough out and let it return to room temperature.
4. Scoop the dough using a tablespoon and roll each into balls with your hands.  
5. Dip the balls, rolling gently, in a small bowl of cane sugar.  
6. Place these on a greased cookie sheet and press with a fork, peanut butter cookie or tic-tac-toe style.  
7. As the final touch sprinkle all them all with a light shower of the remaining cane sugar.  
8. Bake for 15 or so minutes at 350 degrees and then let them cool for at least 10 minutes before devouring.
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18

A day at the Grove...

Although I have technically lived in Los Angeles for almost four years now, I have never been to the Grove.  A beautiful slice of L.A., the Grove is a place everyone should experience at one point or another.  I went with friends today and it was lovely.  I received a taste and now plan to return with a camera, cash for the market and no set expectations.  L.A. provides the ideal setting for individuals like myself.  The people watching is exquisite and everywhere you turn there is an amazing angle or arrangement to photograph.  This is why I should go alone next time...I could hardly keep up with my girlfriends because I was so struck by the colors and textures and variety of faces and dress.  Oh, to have a real camera! My little point and shoot was just not enough to capture the beautiful diversity around me.


The permanent farmers market towards the end of the Grove had an array of international foods and unique trinkets.  I could have milled about there for hours.  A vintage boutique was filled with delicate treasures, jars of knick knacks from decades past and classic, glass bottles lined up along the walls.  




I was in heaven when I past by a few produce booths. 
My favorite subject to photograph, the vegetables and fruit, were rich, vibrant colors.  I could not pass by with out capturing a bit of the fresh, simple beauty.


Evian, I am impressed.  I almost fell over when I found their beautifully designed, glass water bottles...just lovely.  The striped bottles immediately made me think of a summer party in my backyard, with colorful dish-ware, Crate and Barrel style.



The Grove livens up at night.  People are milling about, everywhere.  Again, so fascinating! I sense a strong individuality among these people.  They put forth so much effort to be original in their dress and look.  Respect is given or withheld depending on your image.  Outsiders are easily identified, as it takes a well-developed knowledge of current, urban fashion to blend in.  The women rock amazing heels with almost any and every outfit.  Men look polished, whether they sport the grungy, rolled-out-of-bed-on-purpose look or the designer jeans and shoes ensemble.  Today,  I was reminded of the general rule, never look too put together...it screams "trying too hard".  

Speaking of style...the Anthropologie at the Grove is just gorgeous. fell in love with the layout of the store and their spring collection is absolutely lovely.  Anthro you have perfected the look of feminine delicacy and mystique through your clothing line.  Thank you.

Soon West L.A. I will return and, perhaps, a stop by Babycakes for a tea and treat before hand might perfect the day.  Done!, Babycakes and the Grove will be my next adventure.  A delightful plan, yes?  Well, so long and to all who celebrate it...happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 12

A little craftsie treasure...


I found an inspiring artistic way to decorate a bare wall.  I LOVE it, so I thought I should share it.  Now, if only I had a spare wall...for an Indoor Tree...

Go ahead and give it a peek :-).
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 11

My LA Adventure...





{Courtesy of BabyCakes}

Babycakes, oh glorious bakery of goodness...as I told my sweet friend on the returning drive, you satisfy something deep within my soul...
For those of you who are yet unfamiliar with this little taste of heaven, let me introduce you.  Babycakes is an allergy-sensative bakery in the hub of New York city.  The owner Erin, a San Diego native, has had such success  there that she decided to open another bakery in L.A. Needless to say, when I discovered her plans I was ecstatic.  My friend Kristina and I share the gluten-free lifestyle, so she of course was the perfect pal for this adventure! We made the trip into the city last Friday and I am still raving...

Besides the expected grumbles about traffic and parking, oh and the few close-to-death-experiences driving amongst LAers, we arrived alive and quite giddy.  I felt like a little girl again, on the eve of Christmas morning.  After parking, we entered the quaint, little shop on 7th street.  The classic, neon sign welcomed us as the cute, little, window decor made us, yes, almost squeal.  Walking in I was overwhelmed by the delicious smell.  A beautiful layout of gluten-free goodness was before me...oh blast.  I had to make decisions! I knew this would prove difficult.  I leaned over the counter to get a closer look at the tasty cinnamon swirls, heavenly! 
It took  a bit of courage to say no to a few, but I was finally able to get down to a more reasonable selection...or so I told myself.  One carrot cupcake with lavender, colored frosting (a traditional favorite of course), one red velvet cupcake (something I have never tried before), a double chocolate chip cookie, the famous cookie sandwich (which, may I say, is still rocking my world!),  an agave sweetened brownie bite, a slice of chocolate chip banana loaf and finally some 1/2 off cornbread....pretty much I left with enough pastries to last me the next few weeks.  Obviously, this was the apparent outcome of a seriously indecisive nature and a general deprivation of deliciousness.  

Savoring every single bite, I slowly enjoyed my carrot cupcake and sipped the refreshing, mint tea they had available.  The scene was perfection itself, my cupcake resting on a delicate, tea plate with an elegant, victorian style, silver fork ready to fill my mouth with pure goodness, interesting and rare people to observe and a wonderful friend to share it all with.  

The shop itself was retro 50's vintage, full of "stylish" LAers acting, as only LAers can act.  It held a certain charm that was inescapable.  The girls serving the pastries were friendly and cheerful, ready to offer information about the shop's upcoming growth and any other inquires.  

Thank you Babycakes for considering the West coast just as worthy of your treats as the East coast! The cookie sandwich has been by far the most delectable goodie I have ever, yes, ever had.  I can see why it is a favorite of regulars. 

{Courtesy of BabyCakes}

 Believe it or not, I am still slowly nibbling away at the treasury of goodies I brought back. It is almost unexplainable the utter joy I feel when eating something so divine and experiencing nothing, but a desire for more of it afterwards.  Well Babycakes, you have impressed me and I will have to return! After all, my birthday is coming soon.....

To check it out yourself at www.babycakesnyc.com

{Courtesy of BabyCakes}

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