Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Zumbathon for MS

In an effort to raise money for our 2014 Challenge Walk we decided to get creative with our fundraising and host a ZUMBATHON ® for Multiple Sclerosis!

Where: Todd Wehr gymnasium at the Milwaukee Academy of Science
2000 W Kilbourn Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53233

When: Sunday January 19, 2014

Time: 10am onsite registration, 10:00-1:00pm ZUMBATHON ®
We will host two sessions with breaks in between for prizes and refueling!

Cost: $10- preregistration, $15- day of registration
(Exact change or a check made out to the MS Society would be appreciated for day of registration)


Donate $10 to Hayley Rezel's Challenge Walk and please note "ZUMBATHON" in the "personal note" section to register! Then show up on the 19th for the fun!

Proceeds from this event will go to benefit "Team Heller" of the 2014 Challenge Walk. Here are some of the team members at the finish line from 2013. Pat, far right, our team captain has MS and she is one heck of a fighter and an inpiration to me as a woman, an educator and a mom!

Below is a picture of the Lawrence family (sans the Texans who we hope will join us in 2014). In the middle is my grandpa Chuck who stood by my grandmother for over 50 years in sickness and in health. My grandmother Nancy was diagnosed with MS in a time where little was known about this condition. She was told to go home and rest, she was told she wouldn't live to see her kids graduate from high school. She lived to see 3 out of 4 GRANDCHILDREN graduate from High School. She was an amazing woman who I have grown to understand more after her passing and my aging into adulthood. She carried herself with grace even when things were tough. She always cared about others and used humor to make us smile even if she wasn't at her best.

These are the people I walk for, these are the people I volunteer for, these are the people, that even though I have two left feet, I will participate in the ZUMBATHON ® for Multiple Sclerosis for!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Six Cheese GF Mac-N-Cheese

I have continued to experiment with gluten free cooking and baking and so far I've only had one failure... Pie crust... But I digress.

Tonight I made a delicious variation of my creamy Mac-N-Cheese. I was nervous because it required a roux, something I haven't tried making since going GF. SUCCESS!

Here is the recipe:

Serves 4

Half a box GF Scharr Penne Pasta (boiled for 9 minutes)
1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup 5 cheese shredded Italian blend cheese
1 cup milk

3TBS butter
3TBS Mom's Place GF flour blend

Melt butter in pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

Heat milk in a separate pot and bring to almost a boil. Whisk in roux. Once smooth, begin adding your cheese a little at a time until melted.

Pour over your cooked noodles!

Sorry no picture! It got devoured before I could take one!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gluten Free Corn Dogs

I cheated today... I ate REAL bread... Luckily I don't have Celiac's, but I will probably pay for it in hand pain tomorrow. So, no knitting until I get it out of my system. We went to Firehouse Subs today and they didn't have any GF bread (not surprising.) I planned to just pick out the middle and leave the bread like I normally do when I get a sub from a place that doesn't have a lettuce wrap or GF option. Well, by the time we got the sub home the cheese had melded to the top of the bread and it was impossible to get the top off without making a GIANT mess. So, I took of the bottom and just ate it like an open face sandwich. And then some slight guilt set in, because the bread wasn't satisfying, it was just a vessel that put the other tastey goodness in my gullet. Oh well, I knew I had a delicious GF dinner awaiting me...

Which brings me to the real reason you are here... GLUTEN FREE CORN DOGS! I LOVE CORN DOGS! I love everything about them... the crunchy texture on the outside, the taste of honey in the breading and the salty hot dog in the middle. I LOVE THEM! And since going GF I missed them and I am certainly dreading the Wisconsin State Fair because I will have to decide between cheating again and dealing with some pain or passing by all the Deep Fried GOODNESS that I have always indulged in once a year at the State Fair. But after tonight's dinner I know that I will have an alternative that will satisfy my corn dog cravings!

My husband recently posted a Corn Dog recipe on my facebook page as a hint that we could make them at home. I saw it as an opportunity to alter it to a GF recipe. Now it might not be fit for someone with Celiac's in the form that I used, because I couldn't find "certified yellow corn meal" and since I don't have Celiac's I don't worry too much about a little cross contanination. I am sure you can find certified GF corn meal, but I went with Bob's Red Mill corn meal that didn't say Gluten Free, but also didn't list wheat or gluten as an ingredient, it just said it was processed in a facility that also processes wheat and other allergens that I didn't really read.

The original didn't call for Bisquick, but since I was altering it I decided GF Bisquick would be a good place to start since it has all the levening ingredients worked out. Well the recipe with that replacement was REALLY soupy so I added an extra 1/3 cup GF flour mix and another 1/3 cup of yellow corn meal. That did the trick! Oh and I POUR the dry ingredients into the measuring cups instead of scooping them. You might have to experiment a little bit to get the consistency right.

So now for the recipe!

Wooden Skewers
Gallon Ziplock Bags
1 Gallon of Veggie Oil
Tall Cup or Glass

8-10 bun length hot dogs


1 cup GF Bisquick
1/3 cup GF Flour Mix (I used Mom's place GF Mix)
1 1/3cup yellow corn meal
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup milk
1 egg brought to room temp and then beaten
1 TBS veggie oil
1 TBS honey

While you're preparing the batter, pour the oil in your deep fryer and set the temp to 350 degrees F. If you don't have a deep fryer you can do this stove top, but then you'll probably need less oil and should use a REALLY deep pot and a thermometer to make sure the oil gets up to the proper temp.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. The batter should be thicker than pancake batter, if you find you think it is too thick, add a little more milk, about a TBS at a time.

Dry hotdogs with a paper towel, this helps the batter skick to the hot dog, and then skewer them with a wooden skewer.

Place the gallon ziploc bag into the large cup and then pour the batter into the ziploc bag. EASY CLEAN UP!

Once your fryer is up to temp, dip the corn dogs into the batter and carefully lower them into the fryer until they are immersed. Fry the corn dogs for 3-5 minutes until they are golden brown. You may have to rotate them a little to make sure they fry evenly. My hubby did this part because I am CLUMSY! We fried two at a time and he was able to finagle them to rest in one of the holes on the side of the basket.

It seems like quite a bit of work, but it was a pretty quick process and it helped to have some teamwork in the kitchen. Plus the end result was WELL WORTH the time spent in prepwork and cooking!

We rested them on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet to make sure they stayed crunchy!

Here is the end result!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Going Gluten Free and the Wonderful World of Disney!

We've neglected the blog... But we've been BUSY! I wrapped up my seventh year of teaching and then the whole family went to Disney World, since then it's been enjoying the unseasonably cool (but wonderful) Wisconsin weather. You can thank mom for that... She FINALLY got central air put back in the house and she hasn't needed it... yet...

But onto the stuff related to the title...

Mom has been gluten free since January and I joined her in April. Her chiropractor suggested she reduce inflammatory foods so her dominant hand wouldn't hurt so much. It got to the point where she couldn't write or knit due to pain and inflammation. Once she went gluten free her hand stopped hurting so much and she is back to knitting! I had similar pain, but not as crippling as hers was. At first I was skeptical and thought she was a little crazy, but I supported her decision and thought I could never do it. Then on Palm Sunday we went to a brunch and I indulged on cakes and buns. That night my hand was really hot... I could feel the temperature difference in my palm near my thumb. That was a wake up call... I didn't want to end up with the crippling pain my mom went through. It wasn't as tough as I thought and it was nice to have support from my mom and from my friend/coworker Christine who is also GF. It made me feel like less of a weirdo... But it made staff breakfasts on Friday really tough because there weren't many options. I found an AMAZING GF coffee cake recipe and made it for Christine's bridal shower and another staff breakfast. Coworkers who are not GF said "If you hadn't told me it was GF, I would have never known!" What I love the most about it is that it uses GF Bisquick, so I don't have to do all that crazy mixing flours and such. I added lemon zest to the cream cheese layer because I LOVE lemon and I also used almond milk instead of regular milk. I had to add TBS extra of almond milk because the batter just seemed too dry.

When we went to Disney it was also an AWESOME experience to be GF. At each restaurant we worked directly with the head chef or restaurant manager to find items that were already GF or recipes that were easily adaptable. Not once were we let down by the quality of the food. I had a delicious pasta dish at Via Napoli that had an Alfredo type sauce with chicken and FRESH SPRING PEAS. I picked every pea out of that plate and declined dessert. Next time they can just make me peas with Alfredo sauce. I didn't take a picture but I wish I had! What I did take a picture of was the Chocolate Banana Creme Brûlée I had at Kona. I wanted to lick the plate it was so good! It was so refreshing by the end of our trip that the manager of our resort quick service, Contempo Cafe, recognized us and had her allergy pad ready to take our order. We are vacation club members and were staying at our home resort, Bay Lake Towers, so the walk over to the Contemprary was a welcome jaunt to get a quick meal that was delicious and GF! I cheated a bit near the end of our trip and paid for it hand pain the following days when I was knitting. But it seemed to leave my system quicker than when I first went GF... about two days of pain and then I was back to normal. No heat in my thumb area and no throbbing pain.

Here is that delicious Creme Brulee I meantioned... see how the plate is scraped clean!

My husband and son have also joined me in reducing their gluten intake. We already ate lower on the gluten scale, but noodles and bread were a staple in several meals a week. They've been okay with replacing the noodles (D-man actually prefers the GF noodles), but I haven't found a good bread that pasts their test. It is more of a texture thing than a taste thing. I on the other hand love Goodbye Gluten's multi-grain bread. Today I used a GF flour mix to make chocolate chip cookies and no one could tell the difference. YUMMY! The change has been slighlty different than our normal diet, but I feel better and I feel better knowing "my boys" are reducing their intake as well. It might not be for everyone, but it is certainly for me!

Here is my favorite family photo from the trip.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Let the countdown begin!

We walked the local MS Walk in Milwaukee this morning. 3.5 miles after a winter spent hibernating had me dragging my bottom towards the end. I had to motivate myself to put one foot in front of the other... Pathetic! I know we will get there... This was just a wake up call. Time to start walking EVERY nice day outside and every crappy day inside. Let the training begin! CHALLENGE WALK 2013... I'M UP TO THE CHALLENGE!


PS: The walk is really in Door County, but Green Bay was the closest city the countdown program recognized.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Victory Garden

This year I am putting in a raised garden, actually I am taking part in the Victory Garden Initiative in the greater Milwaukee area. A group of volunteers will come to our yard and put in the raised garden. There is a fee associated with the garden, not too much in my estimation, and they fill the raised garden with organic soil. They even offer mentors to new gardeners, or old gardeners who need some advice.

Here's the link if you're interested. You have to sign up by May 4, so hurry on over if you want to get in on the action.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but we've gone Gluten Free at our house. It all started just over 3 years ago when my right hand started to hurt when I tried to open jars, hold the steering wheel of my car or even write. I rested, iced, compressed and elevated to no avail. I even quit knitting for over a year, no help. Then my doctor advised that I try eliminating inflammatory foods from my diet. What are those? Sugars and Gluten can cause inflammation in some folks. Other foods that may trigger inflammation are dairy and nuts. So I jumped in and did a 21 day cleanse, eliminating all of the above along with meat and fish for the first 10 days. Besides getting immediate relief in my hands (4 days in) my daily heartburn went away. I also found I had lots more energy and I was sleeping through the night.

After the 21 days I brought back dairy first, no reaction. Then nuts, no problem there either. I decided to avoid sugars as much as possible even though I do not have a reaction to sugars either. It was gluten, the very first time I tried gluten my heartburn returned and the soreness in my hands soon followed. That sensation left me within 24 hours, but I didn't want to go back. Daily pain know...a pain.

So we cleaned out house out of gluten foods. We read every label and found gluten aka WHEAT in weird stuff, like soy sauce, ketchup along with the foods that are composed out of wheat like noodles and breads.

We eat a lot more veggies these days and we are happier. I'm excited that we are putting in a garden so we can pick our own produce.

I will post pictures as we go along.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hippity Hoppity... Natural Dyed Eggs

Last Sunday my mom and I attended Swiecone for my cousin Pat's Polish Syrenna Dancers. Each Palm Sunday they throw a feast as a fundraiser for they cultural dance group. The food is always delicious and the dancing never disappoints! I enjoy the homemade sauerkraut with bacon and caraway seeds! AMAZING! Although we are not Polish, we enjoy this event and the company of Pat's family and especially his wife Stephanie, who is my favorite cousin that lives in St. Francis. :)

One thing that I also enjoy is the cultural history that the even provides. They bless the food in Polish tradition and serve eggs as part of the blessing. They also share ways to dye eggs naturally, something I thought I would share with you today.

Foods that naturally dye eggs-

Red- beets, cranberries or red onion skin
Blue- blueberries
Yellow- yellow onion skin or lemon zest
Orange- orange zest or carrots
Green- spinach

I chose blueberries, the frozen kind, that at some point my mom or I spaced and put them in the fridge instead of the freezer and I found them yesterday morning and went... DOH! I had about a 1/4 of a cup left and didn't want to waste them, so out came the eggs to dye naturally.

Here is the process...

Submerge your eggs in water, add 2 TBS vinegar, a hearty amount of salt and the blueberries. Smash up the blueberries to add more juice/dye to the water. Bring the water to a boil, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Voila! Naturally dyed eggs!

Pictures to come soon!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A few of my favorite things

What have I been doing?

Knitting, sewing and the normal day to day stuff. I thought I'd take some time to share a few of my latest favorites

Sewing vintage looking aprons

The apron on the cover reminds me of one that my mother-in-law gave me shortly after meeting her. It's one that she made a long time ago. I love that the pattern book shares stories about each apron.

I've also been making a bunch of gardening aprons, which is essentially a BBQ apron. I make sure the pockets are super large. Here's a link to this pattern

It's from the Purl Bee, which not only has sewing patterns and tips, but has knitting, name it. I love their website.

Aprons are fun for little girls too, this website has a really cute pattern that you can whip up in an afternoon.

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Messenger bag for boys...take your cars with you

There are a lot of girls in our family. I have two sisters, 3 daughters, 5 nieces and 9 great nieces. I have one grandson and we also have 2 great nephews. I made this bag for one of those little guys.

Let's hear it for the boys!

This is a twist on my previous messenger bag, seen here

Before I assembled the bag, I made an insert that holds toy cars.

I started with coordinating fabric, elastic and the usual sewing equipment. I used a few of my grandson's cars as a reference.

Next, lay the elastic across the fabric and pin the ends down.

Next, mark your seam lines, I used the cars to help me determine the distance between my stitching.

Sew the stitches, I went back and forth several times with my machine.

Double check the distance between your stitching.

Assemble the interior of the messenger bag, you should have the pieces shown below.

We're going to make a big pocket on the inside too. The dimensions for my bag were 14x33" for the long section that forms the front and back. This piece was 30x18", folded in half to form a 15x9" pocket. The 15" will extend beyond the width of the portion that forms my bag, that's okay. We want to make sure we get the pocket in the seams that will form the bag. You can cut off the portion that extends beyond the seam allowance once you've attached the pocket to the interior portion of the bag.

Placement is important, I put mine down 2 inches from the top portion of my bag. I also marked with chalk the sections that I will sew down to divide this bad boy into two parts.

Position the previously sewn car pocket to the other side.

The interior section that forms your bag should look like this.

Sew down 1/4 inch on both sides then get ready to trim.

Sew your side pieces to the main portion of the interior of your bag. This is what it looks like when assembled.

Big pocket attached to interior of bag

That's it!

You can attach this completed section to the exterior portion to make a reversible bag.

This blog has a nice tutorial on how to sew the inside portion to the exterior portion, making the bag reversible.

DIY Bag Lover

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas gift cards

I have 3 adult daughters, one in college the other 2 are living in their own homes. It's pretty easy to find gifts for the two older daughters as they live close and I am good at listening for hints. When I asked my youngest daughter (21) what she wanted for Christmas she said something to this effect "food, I'm a poor broke college student". So true, but wrapping up a month's worth or groceries isn't very practical. I decided to buy a few of her favorite treats and attach gift cards to Target (they have food now) and a few other fun places.

How do you disguise your gift cards?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

De-junking my body...21day cleanse

A few months ago one of my nieces posted that she was going to do a 21 day cleanse. That's crazy, I thought, but I was intrigued. I didn't want to commit to 21 days (what a chicken) so I did a 3 day detox a la Dr. Oz. it was rough, I felt like crap (toxins leaving my body/withdrawal symptoms) and craved protein. Afterwards I felt great. I decided to continue to have a green smoothie once a day and limit processed food.

Let me interrupt my story and mention that I've been suffering from inflammation in both hands for 3 years, to the point of not knitting for over a year. My doctor had suggested that I eliminate sugars and gluten from my diet as they may be contributing to my hand inflammation. I thought that was crazy too, I've been eating this stuff all of my life, why would I suddenly have a problem with sugars and gluten...oh yeah, I'm getting older, stuff starts to break down, that could be it.

My niece posted that she was going to do the 21 day detox again, right after the New Years. Anyone interested? Yuppers, I'm interested.

I checked out the rules and thought, I can do this. No sugars or sweeteners except stevia. No gluten...none! No dairy and no meat for the first 10 days.

I do have protein mixes at least 2 times a day and all of the veggies I can eat plus fruit (2 times more veggies than fruit).

I can do this! At day 11 you can add in fish or chicken for the remaining 10 days.

Well, it's day 15 and I'm pleased to say that it's going well. The inflammation in my hands has subsided to the point of me not noticing it. I even started to knit again...I'm sharing my story not because I intend on converting you, just wanted to say...

I STARTED TO KNIT AGAIN! I can hardly believe it.

Enough ranting, here's a recipe I am enjoying.

Spiced Lentils

2 cups lentils
1/2 onion, diced
1 diced fennel bulb
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon toasted fennel seed, ground
1 teaspoon toasted coriander seed, ground
1 bay leaf

Soak the lentils in water for 10 minutes. Rinse and pick through for stones. Coat the bottom of a pot with a generous layer of extra virgin olive oil. Sweat the onion and fennel until tender. Season with salt. Add garlic and spices and continue to cook for one minute. Add lentils and water to cover. Simmer until lentils are tender. If needed, more water
I cook mine down to resemble refried beans, about 45 minutes

You can find more lentil recipes here...I really enjoy the sweetness of the onions, we usually fry them up with some chopped up bacon. Salt and Pepper and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.