Monday, October 8, 2012

Things that rise and fall…

"You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore." Anonymous

Most of my blog entries have something to do with water.  As I was reviewing some of my favorite quotes, I thought the above quote was appropriate for today's post.  Every time I "lose sight of the shore," it allows god to move in and accomplish great things.  Whether it's stepping out in faith to go on a mission trip during a time of unemployment - and watching God raise the funds to send my family of six to Venezuela - or it's applying for a job and sending the wrong documents by mistake and thinking "I blew that!" only to have God step in and show His grace... God is faithful in all things at all times - in HIS time.

During these past four months of unemployment, I have attempted to cross various oceans, and IN SPITE of myself, God has deposited me on a new shore.  I start a new job as a financial secretary at a local church next week!

Crossing the oceans of life and losing sight of the shore - and arriving at new shores - has its share of wave crests and troughs.  When researching the diagram of a surfer's wave, I learned that "surfers try to stay in the pit (close to the breaking whitewater) where the face is the steepest for the greatest speed potential."

I've always thought being in the "pit" was a bad place to be, but if I were a surfer, being in the pit is a good spot.  I love the part of the definition where it states "where the face is the steepest for the greatest speed potential."  Makes me think about phrases like "it's darkest before the dawn," "things have to get worse before they get better" and "when you're at your lowest, the only way to go is up."

However, even the surfer doesn't stay in the pit.  His/her ultimate goal is to get out of the pit and into that tube - riding the crests & troughs of the wave to the shore.  

Other things that rise and fall?  BREAD!  I've used a vegan French bread recipe consistently for months without any issues.  All of a sudden, this past week, my reliable recipe has let me down - in more ways than one!  I have made this recipe four times in two days and each time it looks like this: 

In the world of bread baking, I'm currently at the trough part of the ride, but prayerfully, I'll be at the crest again soon.

Surf's Up!

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Everything Gluten-Free Slow Cooker Cookbook

The majority of my posts have some reference to waves, ocean, water, etc. but, just like a surfer who needs to take a break from the waves, this post will be taking a break from that theme.  We'll  be chilling out on the beach so to speak. What do you do when you chill out on the beach?  I like to read a book.

I'm so excited to share this book review with you! This month, I was honored to be chosen to test two recipes from the now-released (early!) "Everything-Gluten-Free-Slow-Cooker-Cookbook" written by Carrie S. Forbes - aka Gingerlemongirl.
I had a few delays in getting started.  First delay - I had loaned my large slow cooker to a friend in June and had to wait to get it back from her.  Next delay was realizing that during the summer, I don’t eat much canned food, and both recipes I was testing required the use of empty 15-oz cans.  After jotting a message to Carrie, I decided to try wide-mouth canning jars.  Off to Wal-Mart to buy some canning jars, get home, and realize the pint-sized canning jars really are not as wide-mouthed as I needed.  But, since I was running “behind” I proceeded with the recipes anyway…
The first recipe was the Millet Bread on page 45 of the cookbook.  I greased three pint-sized mason jars and divided the batter evenly among the jars, and voila - 3 ½ hours later, I had delicious millet bread!  I loved how the house smelled as this was cooking! 
Since my jar was not truly “wide-mouth”, I had to cut the bread into fourths, like pickle spears, and the sections came out of the jar easily.  This is not what Carrie intended for her recipe, so please do use the cans as she suggests.  Plus, it’s cheaper to buy a bunch of canned beans or vegetables and make a soup with the contents, than it is to buy the canning jars that don’t yield the shape loaf you’re wanting here.

However, the shape does not affect the taste and texture.  My millet bread “spears” had a great texture and crumb factor.  The flavor reminded me a little bit of sweet cornbread, like the Jiffy brand in my pre-gluten-free days, but it was not overpowering.  I will definitely be making this again!

The second recipe was the Easy Chocolate Cake on page 269.  Anything with “chocolate” in the title gets my attention, so I was really glad Carrie gave me this recipe to try.
I again used a pint-sized canning jar for part of this recipe, and I used my 1-quart slow cooker for the remainder, which made this cute “personal size” cake. 

This size slow cooker makes two very generous servings of cake or four regular size -a perfect sized cake for those celebrations where the celebrant does not want a lot of cake left over.
I added the mini chocolate chips per Carrie’s “tip box”. After all, you can never have too much chocolate, right? I also love Carrie’s suggestion at the top of the page about using this mix as a “gift in a jar”.
This cake was definitely easy, and oh-so-moist!! Not runny like some “moist” gluten-free cakes.  It held up to the frosting.  It was delicious and satisfied that cupcake craving and chocolate craving at the same time.  How exciting to think you can mix this up before you leave for work, and when you get home, dessert is ready!

BOTH of these recipes "travel well" - I threw them in "ziploc" bags and took them to various functions over the weekend, and they held up nicely.  They did not fall apart or turn into crumbs, and they only "protection" they had was the bag.

A few days after testing the recipes, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that cookbook orders were shipping early from Amazon.  I started tracking my order, and then anxiously looking out the window all day long on the day of delivery.  It felt like Christmas!  As soon as it arrived I started leafing through the recipes.  My first thought was - “so many recipes - where to start?” and my second thought was “I need to buy more slow cookers!”

I love everything about this cookbook!  I love that Carrie uses easy-to-find ingredients and gives dairy-free ingredient substitutions.  I love the trivia, tips and suggestions she peppers throughout the book.  I LOVE that the nutrition information is included at the bottom of the page for each recipe - so helpful for those who are on diets where they need to know that information.  I even love the index of this book! You can find recipes very easily. For example, the “Easy Chocolate Cake” is found under “chocolate”, “desserts” and “easy chocolate cake” sections in the back.  This may sound trivial, but believe me, there are some cookbooks that make it very difficult to use their index.

Even if you don’t have to eat gluten-free, you’d enjoy this cookbook.  As of today’s blog post, this cookbook is available at Amazon for an unbelievable price - less than $10!  So hurry on over to Amazon or your local bookstore and buy this cookbook for yourself and several to give as gifts!
As for me, I’m off to buy or borrow more slow cookers so I can try more recipes!
"Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him." Psalm 34:8

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Surfer wannabe

Have you ever surfed a wave - or at least body surfed on a boogie board? I'm a surfer wannabe!  

Yesterday as I was gliding through my swimming pool, cherishing one last swim before closing the pool for the winter, I thought about surfers.  How awesome it must feel to ride along the top of a wave, to "carve" (turning on a wave)  or - the ultimate - to be in the barrel or "tube"!  According to Surfer's Dictionary, "a barrel is where the wave is hollow when it is breaking. For some surfers, it's the 'be all and end all' of surfing." 

Some of my favorite surfing pictures are of those taken of a surfer inside the tube.  That spot can be exhilarating and frightening at the same time. That's the spot I find myself today.  As I ride this unemployment wave, I've been baking gluten-free goodies and selling them at the local farmer's market.  I knew I couldn't pay the bills with the income from the farmer's market, but I thought it would give me a good "feel" for the supply/demand of my local gluten-free community.  As the has summer progressed, I've also contacted local stores and restaurants to request that they carry my gluten-free bread and cookies, and I've dreamed of riding even bigger waves.

Just like the churning and swirling energy and activity that takes place during the the swelling of a "bomb" wave (a really big wave), the anticipation of this new venture has my mind swirling.  Some days I'm focused and staying on my "board", staying inside that tube, and other days my mind is going in so many directions, I crash into the wall of that tube and I wipe out.  Some days the ride is exhilarating.  Other days it is frightening... and other days it is frustrating and depressing.

But, like that dedicated surfer who wipes out and gets back on the surfboard, I, too, will get back on the board and ride the next wave... and I'll try to avoid low tide. LOL  In the meantime, I'll continue to coordinate our gluten-free support group, CEGIS and help educate others about gluten - and of course bake some delicious gluten-free goodies...

Here's a picture of the delicious, fluffy hamburger buns I've been marketing to the stores: 

Want a teaser about what my next post is about? It's about whitewater rafting and slow cooker cooking.  What a contrast right?   I'm honored to be chosen to test two recipes from GingerLemonGirl's cookbook that will be released in October. Go ahead and preorder several copies of this book - they make great gifts and you can't beat the pre-order price! 
Until the crest of the next wave rises...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Jesus is King over the flood"

I saw the above post on Facebook today, and thought how appropriate God's timing is in everything. Just had to share!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Waves crashing

There are times when the sound of the waves crashing on the shore is very comforting and peaceful... and there are times when that sound can be scary, like during a violent storm or hurricane.  Life is similar to that. Things that bring beauty and joy can also wreak havoc and cause pain.

This summer I've been riding many different waves, the main one being suddenly unemployed and thus loosing my "business" of 12 years.  Not only is the much-needed income gone, but part of my identity is gone too.

As the waves have peaked and crested - and crashed - I've explored ways to combine the things I love to do with earning a living.  One of those options has been to start baking gluten-free goodies and selling them at the local farmer's market. While I haven't made a profit yet, I have made new friends with some local folks who cannot eat gluten and we've had some interesting talks.  It's a comfort to discover there are more "like us", and it is very fulfilling to know I've made a positive impact on someone's life by giving them some helpful tips or selling them a delicious gluten-free baked good.

(Wondering what I'm talking about?  Click here: Gluten-free Mimi )

I also attended two gluten-free expos this summer - one in Charlotte and one in Raleigh.  At the expos, I've had the pleasure of meeting some of my gluten-free "heroes" like Jules Shephard and  Lee Tobin, as well as many wonderful gluten-free bloggers that I admire!
I'm loving the peak of this wave - meeting so many people from the gluten-free community who are cookbook authors, bloggers, business owners, etc.  There is a true sense of community among these folks!  I've gotten lots of great feedback and advice from folks like Carrie at Ginger Lemon Girl, Liz at Gluten Free Galley and Noreen at The Celiac Cakery! (THANK YOU!)

I would not have had the pleasure of riding this wave had I not been diagnosed with a gluten allergy 14 months ago, so, as the Bible says in Genesis 50:20, "what man intended for evil, God meant it for good."

As I wait for this wave to arrive at the shore - with a pleasant splash or a violent crash, I do not know - I take comfort in knowing that God is directing the current of the wave, just as He is directing all things in my life... in the meantime, I'll try to remain calm - and have a cupcake -or a donut (gluten-free, of course!)

Friday, June 15, 2012

MyHodgePodgeLife: Riptide

MyHodgePodgeLife: Riptide


Have you ever gotten caught in a riptide/current?  My youngest daughter got caught in a strong undertow once, and it was a terrifying event.  My brother-in-law almost lost his life that same day while rescuing his children from the powerful riptide.  Riptides seem to hit us out of nowhere - just like events in life.

The definition of riptide or undertow is " a strong undercurrent in the ocean, contrary to the direction of surface water."

Receiving the shocking news earlier this month that I will lose my job at the end of the month was as unexpected as someone at the beach who gets caught in a riptide.  The direction I thought I was going is contrary to where the current of life is leading.

What are we supposed to do when we get caught in a riptide? Several Internet searches yield the following advice:

"Do not swim toward shore.
You will be fighting the current, and you will lose.
Swim parallel to shore, across the current.
Generally speaking, a riptide is less than 100 ft. wide, so swimming beyond it should not be too difficult.
If you cannot swim out of the riptide, float on your back and allow the riptide to take you away from shore until you are beyond the pull of the current.
Rip currents generally subside 50 to 100 yards from shore.
Once the riptide subsides, swim parallel to shore and then back to shore."

What do we usually do when we get caught in a riptide? Panic!  We forget everything we've read or learned, flail our arms and fight the current.  Most drowning deaths during riptides are due to exhaustion from fighting the current.

I know this riptide of my life does not come as a surprise to God.  Rather than panic and fight the current, exhausting myself, I'll follow the advice given to those who get caught in a riptide.  I'll "rest in Him" and try to relax as this riptide takes me away from the career I've had for the past 12 years.  As the shock of the riptide subsides, I'll swim "parallel to the shore" and I will get back to shore in God's timing.  That shoreline will look different than the one I left, but it will be the shoreline God intends me to land on.

Maybe this is the next shoreline God is leading me to?

Click here for info: Gluten-free Mimi

"Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, You still them." Psalm 89:8-9