Dancing Deer Brownies

Sometimes, you need a little chocolate “pick-me-up.”  Yesterday, as I drove back down to my parents’ house, I experienced that.  Luckily, I’d stuck a Dancing Deer Brownie up front with me.

I’ve had a good few days with my Dad, and am happy to be here helping out.  He doesn’t want to be left alone, but he’s picky about who he’ll be alone with.  I make the short list.  :)

I’ve also mostly ripped up my hands while vanquishing the evil demon tree weed, while wearing gloves (I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you this small twig of a weed had a tap root with a two-inch diameter and roots extending 6 feet or more in all directions).  I, however, showed it who’s boss.

I deserve a brownie.

Dancing Deer Brownie

Ah, yeah.  That’s the stuff.

Dancing Deer Brownies are pre-made, certified gluten-free brownies that just. make. you . melt.  They have dry tops and bottoms, but moist, fudgy centers.  The tops are papery, the middle very dense and black, with chunks of chocolate to crunch (at least when they are cold out of the fridge, like I’ve been eating them).

Carter says “mmmmmmm… VERY yummy.”

My mom, who declared she had to try it ONLY because it was for the blog.  “That was an excellent brownie,” said she.

Dancing Deer does make non-gf products, but the gluten-free brownie is produced in a way that it stays gluten-free.

I received samples from Dancing Deer Brownie with the option to blog about if I so chose.
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If Only it was the Onions

I tried to blame it on the onions.

Really, why do those blasted things have to make me cry?

In truth, though, I’ve been crying for weeks.  Four and a half weeks, to be exact.

Note: if you only come to my blog for the gluten-free stuff, you don’t need to read this post.  This is for those who care about me personally, as well as for me to share a burden I currently have.

At the beginning of February, we found out my dad has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had metastasized to his liver and possibly lungs.  By the end of that week, we knew it was definitely in his lungs and also his thyroid.  The next week, the oncologist told him that he’d probably only had the cancer for a month, maybe two.  Within a month he should be in a lot of pain and within 6 months he would be gone.

Two days later, he was in pain.  And mine had gotten that much worse.

You see, the last decade, my dad has always been there to take care of me when things went wrong.  He fixed my car, he installed things and fixed things in my house, he helped me through the ending of a very bad marriage and the subsequent years of single mom-hood and the beginnings of a new marriage.  He became my rock and my backbone.

The day he first saw the oncologist, he told me to make him a list of all the projects I needed help with so that he could do them while he was still capable.  I never set pen to paper, though, before he was on heavy pain meds.

The following week, the new scans came in.  The cancer was now in his bones and soft tissues.  The oncologist had never seen such an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer before.

I wanted to be strong for my dad.  I needed to be strong.  But every time I got a phone call, and every night before bed, I’d curl up in my husband’s lap and cry.

This past weekend, the whole family got together.  My brother had flown in and his wife and children had driven out a week previously.  We wanted to get a big family picture taken.  My father, however, had a high fever all day.  It got worse as we were setting up to take pictures, and we had to take him to the emergency room.

But it was also a party day.  We were celebrating 9 March and April family birthdays.  I had made 72 cupcakes the day before (gluten-free and dairy-free).  There were to be 25 of us there (including the good-as-but-not-blood) cousins.  So instead of being able to help Mom take Dad to the hospital, I got left in charge of the party.  I wanted to be with him, but I was supposed to put on a happy face and play?

I stood outside as my brothers helped my father shuffle, very slowly, to the car.  He was in so much pain and his temperature got up to 104.4.  My sister-in-law came out to check on me.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  But when she started crying in earnest, it helped strengthen me.  You see, I get this time, this chance to prepare myself and say goodbye.  She didn’t with her father – his death was completely unexpected and happened a thousand miles away.

Though Dad spent Saturday through Monday in the hospital, I did not get to see him then, or since.  With 3 kids, 1 in public school (and 2 homeschooling), teaching college (the week before spring break), and having had an ice storm up here, I haven’t had a chance yet.  I am grateful, though, that I have spring break to go and help my mother and be with my father.

Last weekend was kind of a dry run for us.  With a fever that high and his liver beginning to shut down (he is so yellow now), we were worried that it was the end.  None of us want him to suffer, but knowing the end result is soon is also hard.  The original prognosis of 6 months is no longer realistic.

Today, Dad begins chemo in earnest.  He has been doing a double-blind trial medicine so far (so we don’t know if he’s getting meds or placebo).  He knows it won’t change the outcome and possibly not even positively effect the time frame.  He’s doing it for us, he says, so that his children and grandchildren have a chance of fighting it.

My father is one of the most generous men I know.  He may be grumbly sometimes, but he gives so much.

I know he wants me to sing at his funeral, and, for him, I’d like to be able to.  I feel like I should be able to.  I’m the girl who kept Mom strong through those years that Grandma lived with us, then in the nursing home.  I’m the one who sang for four hours, holding one of Grandma’s hands and one of Mom’s, and sang Grandma to Jesus.  Yet, on my birthday, just a few days after finding out about the cancer, I could barely sing for my dad even though I still thought there was a chance he’d be around for another 6 months.

But I’m feeling stronger now.  I no longer cry every time I get in the shower, when it’s so easy to let go.  I no longer cry every time I get off the phone with my mother.

Maybe now I can get back to adding in those “extras” in life, like cooking, putting “something” into my lectures, or blogging about tasty foods.  Maybe now I can enjoy my food again, and feel like I’m allowed to have enjoyment.  I know my father would want nothing less for me than joy.

DadCollageI would like to leave you with the words of my father’s favorite hymn, which I think he has been working hard to exemplify in his life and that he would like me to sing when the time comes.  Perhaps, I will be strong enough.  And, hopefully, I can be this person, too.

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee With ev’ry brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, My roof’s safe shelter overhead
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need; I’ll show that love by word and deed:
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Text by Grace Noll Crowell

Posted in Personal | 7 Comments

SuperSeedz Giveaway

Pumpkin seeds a plenty, pumpkin seeds galore.

We recently received some samples from SuperSeedz.  I certainly didn’t think there would be quite the selection, but there is.

Super Spicy SuperSeedz

SuperSeedz are dry roasted and shelled pumpkin seeds.  They are gluten-free as well as peanut- and tree nut-free, vegan, and msg-free.

We first tried the Really Naked, to give us a baseline comparison.   “They taste like pumpkin seeds.”  Thank you, Sherlock Braden.

Tomato Italiano, I dub thee “Sir Pizza Seeds.”  Seriously, it’s like a tiny crunchy pizza.

“Now, Sea Salt is how it’s supposed to be seasoned.”  Well, I guess that means these are Braden’s favorites.  They are pretty great, I must admit.  Corice has named these her favorite, too.

Oooh, 9 grams of protein per serving.  Can you say gym snack?

They are also high in fiber, zinc, and Omega 3.

Do you like curry?  That sort of sweet, fragrant blend of spices that just seems to pop up everywhere.  Love it!  I bet these would be great on a salad, adding a crunch and some interesting flavor.  Mmmm…  No, wait, Corice has decided Original Curry are her favorite after all.  (“Can I have some more of the yellow ones?” she asks.)  Um, she just stole the bag.

Somewhat Spicy would be great on a taco salad!  It’s really not hot, but that spice does linger a bit.  It’s really making me scared to try Super Spicy.  That might need some lettuce to calm me down.  Carter, however, manned up and loved on the Super Spicy.  I think they were Martin’s favorite.

There is also Coco Joe, which is a chocolate/coffee flavor.  I don’t do coffee myself, so these will migrate to Monica.  We like to hook each other up with tasty food.  :)

Sugar & Cinnamon, “they’re sweet…more Captain Obvious from Braden.”  I’m glad he’s enjoying himself.  These have a lot more depth to them than I would have originally thought because of the vanilla.  They only have 2 grams of sugar per serving.  They aren’t a dessert, but kind of like cinnamon toast (if you hold it upside down and shake off much of the sugar – at least, if you add sugar like I might have seen someone else do).

Cinnamon Sugar SuperSeedz

SuperSeedz would like to give you a chance to try them all out, too!  One winner will receive 8 packs of SuperSeedz (they come in 8 flavors!).

Check out SuperSeedz on Facebook and Twitter, and give them a like or follow.  Comment on this blog to enter the giveaway.  Tell me what you think would be the best thing about these (i.e., flavor selection, high protein, etc.).  This giveaway will close at 9pm central on Friday, March 7, 2014.

Posted in Giveaway, Reviews | 9 Comments

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes; & Giveaway

I have a new cookbook to share with you, and I even have one to give away!

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes is a beautiful cookbook full of luscious pictures and recipes.

I have a wonderful Q&A with the author, Debbie Adler, to share with you, as well as a recipe for Vivid Vanilla Cupcakes.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post about what’s your favorite thing about living “free-from…”.  Mine is not feeling like I’m about to die most days.  :/  This giveaway will end at 9pm central on February 28, 2014.  It is open to U.S. addresses.

www.sweetdebbiesorganiccupcakes.comSweet Debbies - low res cover

Have you always been sugar-free, gluten-free, and allergy-free?
I was found guilty of eating Yodels (ok that dates me quite a bit doesn’t it?) in my
bedroom as a child, as well as of obeying the 11th commandment that says “Thou shalt
eat gluten-filled bagels every Sunday morning for eternity”. So no, I have not always
been a free from person, but I educated myself along the way and became a free from

What made you decide to eliminate sugar, dairy and other allergens from your
I started reading medical journals, this was before the internet, and learned of studies
that were being done that pointed to sugar being the culprit for a host of scary-sounding
diseases and conditions, as well as the cause of premature wrinkles. That was it – I
stopped eating sugar cold Tofurkey. Dairy I stopped eating after reading Skinny Bitch.
Thank you Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin you smart and skinny bitches.

What health benefits have you seen after making these changes to your diet?
I lost excess weight and I’m more toned and in better shape now than I was in my 20’s. I
feel better, too, because I don’t feel as clogged up as I did before.

What are some food substitutes that you’ve found you like better than the “real
I’m a big drinker now – of coconut milk. That’s a miracle liquid unto itself. I also use
stevia and coconut nectar as replacements for sugar.

How did you end up as the owner of your own bakery?
I wanted to eat a cupcake that was made with an all-natural, low-glycemic, sugar
substitute and couldn’t find it anywhere so I figured out how to make them myself and
decided to share.

Did your bakery start off allergy-free, sugar-free and vegan or have your treats
evolved over time?
My bakery started off just sugar-free and organic with a few gluten-free options. Then
when my son was diagnosed with severe and life-threatening food allergies I also made
it completely allergy-free, gluten-free and vegan.

What’s your absolute favorite dessert?
My new favorite, since it changes all the time, is Sweet Debbie’s Dark Chocolate
Drizzled Cranberry Macaroons. I eat one at least every four hours.

Vivid Vanilla Cupcakes


Makes 12 cupcakes

Reprinted with Permission

Must Have


12 standard-size paper baking cups
3/4 cup unsweetened plain rice milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1  1/4 teaspoons sodium-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon stevia powder
1/3 cup vegan, soy-free plain yogurt (Debbie uses So Delicious coconut milk yogurt.)
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out and reserved

Vanilla Frosting

2  1/2 cups powdered erythritol
6 tablespoons warm vanilla rice milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scooped out and reserved

Must Do

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a standard 12-cup cupcake tin with paper baking cups.

2. To make the cupcakes, mix together the rice milk and apple cider vinegar in a

2-cup measuring cup.

3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, guar gum and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle.

4. Add the grapeseed oil, coconut nectar, vanilla and stevia to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Next add the rice milk mixture and stir until it is absorbed and the batter is smooth. Stir in the yogurt and vanilla bean seeds until well combined.

5. Pour the batter into the measuring cup, as the spout will make it easier to pour the batter into the cupcake tin without spillage.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tin, dividing it evenly. Each cup should be about two-thirds full. Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 16 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown and bounce back slightly to the touch. Rotate the cupcake tin from front to back halfway through baking.

7. Transfer the cupcake tin from the oven to a wire rack and let sit for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes to cool completely.


8. To make the vanilla frosting, mix together the powdered erythritol and warm vanilla rice milk in a medium-size bowl. Add the coconut oil and salt and stir until smooth and well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds.

9. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes. Keep unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or wrap and freeze them for up to 3 months. Leftover frosting keeps in the fridge for about 4 weeks if stored in an airtight container.


Posted in Giveaway, Reviews | 8 Comments

Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster, Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

Carol Fenster began cooking gluten-free meals over 25 years ago. Back then, learning that she had to avoid wheat was quite a blow to her lifestyle and she didn’t know anyone else who avoided wheat. Her family didn’t understand how anyone could avoid wheat since her father raised wheat on their family farm in Nebraska and she married into a wheat-farming family. 

Gluten-Free-101But she found solace in sweets, so one of the first recipes she converted to gluten-free was her mother’s chocolate cake that Carol ate throughout her childhood. Not surprisingly, that recipe found its way into Carol’s original Gluten-Free 101 cookbook. Now she could eat chocolate cake, just like everyone else.

A few years ago Carol noticed that Red Velvet cupcakes were everywhere and, given her penchant for sweets, she vowed to develop her own gluten-free version. So, when Gluten-Free 101 was revised and expanded into the new Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), she included it so everyone—especially beginners who want to eat the same foods as everyone else—could easily make it. So, here is the recipe.It makes a gorgeous little cupcake, dainty and flat—perfect for lots of icing on top. Enjoy!


gluten free 101 Red Velvet Cupcake

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Reprinted with permission from Gluten-Free 101: The Essential Beginner’s Guide to Easy Gluten-Free Cooking by Carol Fenster (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014)

Now you can enjoy this wildly popular treat, just like everybody else. This recipe makes dainty little cupcakes with flat tops (easier to frost), and their brilliant red color is so inviting. Arrange them on a pedestal cake stand for maximum effect when serving your guests.  

Makes 12 cupcakes
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 to 25 minutes

1 cup Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
[3/4] teaspoon xanthan gum
[1/4] teaspoon baking soda
[1/4] teaspoon salt
[3/4] cup sugar
[1/2] cup butter or buttery spread, melted and cooled slightly
2 large whole eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red food coloring
[1/2] cup water, at room temperature
1 batch Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (see below)

[1] Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup standard nonstick (gray, not black) muffin with paper liners

[2] In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour blend, cocoa, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt until well blended.

[3] In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on low speed until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Add the vanilla and food coloring to the water. With the mixer on low speed, beat in one-third of the flour mixture at a time alternating with the water, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Spoon [1/4] cup of the batter into each liner.

[4] Bake until the cupcakes are firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely. Frost and serve.

Per frosted cupcake: 325 calories; 3g protein; 16g total fat; 1g fiber; 43g carbohydrates; 37mg cholesterol; 135mg sodium

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed, beat 3 ounces softened, reduced-fat cream cheese or cream cheese alternative, 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons milk or water, and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract together until well blended and smooth.

Gluten-Free Flour Blend

1 ½ cups sorghum flour
1 ½ cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca flour

Whisk together and store, tightly covered, in a dark, dry, place.

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