Charting life's circuitous path


Gluten Free Lemon Chia seed muffins


Some things about elimination diets that you should know:

  • You might find that you haven’t eliminated enough.  *sighs*  We’re 7 weeks into our elimination diet and the hubby has added soy and chocolate to his list.  The headaches, while not worse, aren’t really better so we’re taking out a few more possible culprits.  It was always a possibility that dairy and gluten weren’t the sole offenders, but it’s even more restrictive with the addition of soy.  Chocolate is easy to spot (although a LOT more painful to give up – bye, bye chocolate chip cookies!), but soy is sneakier (especially if you’re wanting to eat out).  Still, we’re fighting the good fight and it’s another 2 weeks before we start to reintroduce foods slowly to see how we react.


  • Everyone will think you’re crazy and they’ll ALL tell you (or give you “the look”). o_O Some might even make tasteless jokes about not being able to eat anything and starving to death.  Ha.  Ha.  Others might give you their horror stories of not eating such and such or give you dietary advice. In fact, be prepared to be looked at like wierdos for trying to do something about your health.  Only those that have gone through it are supportive about your endeavors and everyone else will continue to ask you if you can eat cake when you’ve expressly said no.  Again.

Then there are the wait staff who ask you if it’s a “real allergy” or if it’s, and here they trail off.  As if it’s something they can’t even bring themselves to mention.  Personal choice.  Diet.  Fad.  Or, in other words, just weird.  Maybe I’m being too sensitive but I’d like to think that it doesn’t really matter whether I’m “actually” allergic or doing this for my own good – the food should be prepared with the utmost care.   So far we’ve explained that we’re trying to determine if we are allergic and everyone smiles and walks away with our order.  Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust those smiles.


Eating on the wild side.

  • Food will become a joy again.  You’ll get yourself out of that cooking rut of recipes and suddenly you’re making quinoa with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes or gluten free moussaka for dinner and loving every nutritious bite.  Food hasn’t been this varied since I overhauled my diet years ago to combat my cholesterol.   I’m cooking a LOT more than I used to, but it’s all been so delicious and we’ve both enjoyed our meals.  I feel so much more freedom now than before.  And that’s odd because you’d think it’d be the opposite.  You know, like how everyone keeps reminding me.  🙄


Here’s a recipe for Gluten Free Lemon Chia Seed Muffins I made today.  They have a great crumb, they’re moist and the chia seeds do an excellent job of subbing for poppy.  We didn’t notice a difference and we loved them paired with the bright lemon.

I used a homemade flour blend that consisted of:

  • 700 g Brown Rice Flour
  • 250 g Potato starch
  • 50 g Tapioca starch

The blend worked really well in this recipe, but go ahead and try any gluten free flour you have on hand.

Gluten Free Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

(Notes:  Some measurements are in grams since I found it easier to do my tweaking with the weights rather than with tablespoons.  Original recipe was for Orange Poppy seed mini muffins in the William-Sonoma Essentials of Baking book.  I tweaked it so much that it hardly resembles the original.)


  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 280 g gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp xantham gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup splenda
  • 25 g vegan butter + 65 g applesauce


  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line 12 cup muffin tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until blended.  Add sugars, butter, applesauce, and milk and stir until mixed.
  3. In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  4. Pour dry into the liquids bowl and mix carefully – when dry is almost incorporated into the wet, add chia seeds and mix until incorporated.
  5. Spoon into muffin tin, bake for 15 minutes.  Turn out onto a cooling rack and drizzle with icing made from powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Cool and munch.  🙂




Cinnamon Swirl Streusel Bread

“How do you plan to be happy if you stop doing the things that make you happy?”

My brain can be a scary place.  Lately I haven’t been feeling wholly at one with it, and it’s like holding onto a dandelion in the wind.  I’m always scared that any gust of wind might just send it scattering across the vast expanse of consciousness.  I don’t think it really will do that, but I’ve started to watch it warily out of the corner of my eye.

When you’re feeling the long tendrils of depression pulling you in, you aren’t really all that worried about things like, well, fun.  You start to roll into yourself like a poked hedgehog trying to keep all of the “me” bits from escaping.  This self-preservation can be a good thing since it’s comforting to just focus on your own, immediate, needs while tuning out the chaotic world.  On the other hand, you start to lose the very things that were keeping you together in the first place.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve let things go.  I used to enjoy reading magazines on a daily basis and soaked up articles on family finances and organizational tips from the thick pages of Real Simple.  I moved on to the more lofty and meaty material found in  Whole Living and Cooking Light before the former went under and the latter got snooty.  Soon, nothing was happily waiting for me at my doorstep every month and I just stopped looking.

Magazines, of course, won’t make a life in themselves.  But the small details were being smudged into oblivion.

My recipes were becoming mediocre.  Sure, I still cooked and baked, but it just wasn’t all that challenging.  I meant to take on a big baking challenge this year where I went through a year of cakes and blogged about my experiences from recipes from around the world, but  I just couldn’t get it together.  Every recipe looked either daunting or just dull.  The idea still sits on my desktop but my mouse skitters past it like a badly laid trap.

I lacked enthusiasm and I lacked it with broad strokes of gray.

So it came as a bit of shock to me when my psychologist asked me what would make me happy.  I listed what I used to do and when she asked me why I stopped, I just sat there.  I guess I figured why bother.  Why spend all of that energy on something I wasn’t all that geared up to do?  Why not just wait until I felt more like it?

“But when will that be?”

Hm.  Good point.  At my current rate, not any time soon.

So, recently I spent an entire evening at my local bookstore flicking through stacks of magazines trying to find “the one”.   I ended up with a subscription to Saveur for a year and a promise to myself to see how it goes.  I’m hoping that it’ll be worth the $12 (cheap, right?) and that it’ll give the current slim pickings in periodicals a time to refresh with more interesting choices.

I’m also dipping my toe into more experimental cooking.  I’m trying to catch my whims and make things that inspire my imagination.  I want to try baking without my recipe books to see what I can do and to test my skills.  Perhaps with the edible pride on my plate as evidence of my efforts, I’ll gain back a bit more of my happiness and stability.

With that, I present to you a very simple, very tasty and completely me recipe!  This recipe captures my love of baking and my love of yeast and cinnamon.  And I added my own little twists to it to reflect my currently swirled mental state. 🙂


Cinnamon Swirl Streusel Bread

Bread Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pkg yeast
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp flour

Cinnamon Streusel

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter/margarine

Bread Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix 1 cup flour and the rest of the dry ingredients.
  2. In a measuring cup, add warm water (120 F deg), vanilla and butter.  Stir butter until it melts.
  3. Pour liquids into the dry and mix with handheld mixer on low for 3 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup of flour and stir with spoon until it comes together.  If too wet, add a bit more flour.
  5. Knead dough on lightly floured surface, working in more flour until it comes together.  It should feel soft and light but dry (not overly sticky).
  6. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 45 – 60 minutes.
  7. Deflate dough, roll out into a 12 in x 8 in rectangle and top with cinnamon sugar mixture.
  8. Roll and pinch sides.  Slit dough log down the length with two long strokes.  Twist dough gently (like you’re ringing out a towel) until completely twisted.  Twirl dough into a swirl and place in a lined 8 in pie pan.
  9. Top with streusel and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 F and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  11. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes, remove from pan and let cool in a rack until ready to eat or store in an airtight container.  Top with glaze before serving.



Flourless chocolate cake

flourless chocolate cake

Happy Valentine’s Day to all and sundry!

It’s morning, my Valentine is still asleep and I have to go to work today, but we’ve been celebrating being together all week long.  A romantic dinner at our local Italian restaurant one day, a movie night another (I’m lucky to be with someone who thinks that Hitchcock’s North By Northwest makes for good date night material) and this flourless chocolate cake the next.  After I was denied a day off today, we decided to just make the most of the entire week!  How do I love my hubby?  I can’t even begin to count the ways. 🙂

He’s been a real support for me since I’ve been emotionally unraveling and he’s helping me along this journey through all of my past experiences so that I can face the future more strongly.  Sure, he’s a bit forgetful and sure he’s easily distracted, but he’s completely wonderful, caring and compassionate, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone or anything else.

I had never baked a flourless chocolate cake, but I knew I wanted to gift him this cake for Valentine’s day because he not only loves chocolate but really decadent chocolate cake.  With 8 eggs, nearly a pound of chocolate and very little else, I didn’t know what else could be more decadent and simple.

If you’ve never made a flourless chocolate cake before, it’s almost like a souffle.  There’s a lot of egg, a lot of jiggle in the middle as it cooks and while it won’t sink completely on you, it can be a bit undercooked in the middle if you aren’t too careful.  If when the cooking time is up and it still jiggles like jello, then my advice is to turn off the oven, and let it sit in there an additional 5 – 10 minutes until it firms up to the smallest of jiggle in the middle.

Here’s the recipe I used for this truly wonderful chocolate cake for my even more fantastic Valentine.  I hope you can share your love and your love of food with someone today, too. 🙂


Flourless Chocolate Cake

(Note: Recipe comes from the Williams Sonoma Essential Baking cookbook with my adaptations noted.)


  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 large eggs, separated and at room temperature


  1. Mix almond meal and powdered sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a double broiler (or very slowly in a pan, like I did), or in the microwave until melted and blended.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 300F. Butter the sides of a 9 inch springform pan (the cake will rise to the top) and line the bottom with parchment (or you won’t be able to remove it).  Set aside.
  4. Using a whisk, whip egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Don’t overwhip.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted and cooled chocolate until blended.  Pour mixture into a large bowl.  Using a rubber spatular, gently stir in 1/4 of the egg white into the chocolate.
  6. Gently fold in the almond meal mixture.  Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently to mix (I use my spatula to “cut” down the middle of the bowl and scooping it over at the end to fold the mixture before I turn the bowl a quarter turn to repeat the process).
  7. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  If still jiggly in the middle, turn off oven and let cake sit for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.  Do not cook until completely firm, but a bit of jiggle in the middle is what you’re aiming for (it’ll set up a bit more once you remove it from the oven to cool).
  8. Remove from oven and let sit on wire rack for 3 minutes before removing the sides of the pan.  Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.