# Amazing Cupcakes and Some Practical Math

Yesterday Fritz and I made some amazing cupcakes. We used a recipe from the December/January 2017 issue of Gluten Free and More for Vanilla Chocolate Mint Cupcakes.

As we measured the ingredients, I asked Fritz some math problems like we have 1/2 cup of tapioca starch, 1/2 cup of potato starch, and 1/3 cup of white rice flour so how much is that all together and I need 3/4 cup of milk, but I don’t have a 3/4 cup measure so what two measuring cups can I use to make 3/4 cup. Simple questions, but very useful things to be able to calculate quickly when cooking or baking.

The vanilla cupcake mix ended up really good so Fritz, being the helper got to eat the leftover batter. That is, of course, the best part about helping bake.

While the cupcakes baked, we made the mint chocolate ganache filling. It was surprisingly easy. We just mixed cream, dark chocolate bits, and mint flavoring.

Fritz tried it, but didn’t like it very much. The dark chocolate was quite overpowering. He wasn’t sure it would be okay in our cupcakes, but he really didn’t have to worry.

The cupcakes finished baking so we set them out to cool. They turned out so nice and pretty.

With the cupcakes and filling done, it was time to make the mint chocolate chip Italian meringue buttercream frosting. It really sounded complicated, but went together pretty easily. The frosting presented us with another, harder, math problem. We had 1/3 cup of one kind of shortening left, but we needed 3/4 cup total so we had to make up the difference with butter. I showed Fritz the markings on the stick of butter and had him figure up how much butter 3/4 cup would be and then subtract 1/3 cup to find the answer of how much we needed.

We took a little break until the cupcakes were all the way cooled and then we hollowed out the centers, filled them with the ganache and then topped them with the frosting.

We sprinkled some chocolate sprinkles on top to make them extra fancy.

After almost 2 hours our cupcakes were finally ready to enjoy. They are so incredibly good and so rich we can only eat one at a time. Surprisingly, they are better after they’ve been refrigerated for a while. A definitely a hit and totally worth the time it took to make them!

# Daily Food Prep

Homeschooling (at least for me) means making three meals a day, but also being busy during the day. Also, I’m a morning person so I get up ridiculously early (5:30 – really, I only get up that early because Ani has to be at church for seminary at 6), but by about 3:30 or 4 I’m tired and really don’t feel like spending much time cooking dinner. So, most days, I prep our food in the morning so I (or someone else) only has to do minimal work to get food ready at mealtimes.

The kids love it when I make a nice, hot meal for breakfast. Monday is always muffins. I refuse to get up and get to work making breakfast on Saturdays so they get to serve themselves cereal or yogurt or leftovers. The rest of the week we have things like pancakes, cinnamon rolls, eggs (fried, scrambled, or hard boiled), bacon (regular or Canadian), fried ham, etc. Since I get up so early, whatever we are having for breakfast is ready to eat between 7 and 7:30 in the morning (I like to get school started by 8 or 8:30 at the latest).

Lunch and dinner get prepped at the same time I do breakfast. This usually means chopping whatever needs to be chopped, putting out meat to thaw, and gathering the ingredients that will be used when the meal is actually made.

If a meal can be completely assembled in the morning (like a casserole), I do and then I cover it in foil and write the cooking instructions directly on the foil with a Sharpie. Then I put it on the shelf in the refrigerator until it is time to be cooked.

Sundays are a bit different. This year church is 11-2. I usually wake up about 7 on Sundays (no alarms on the weekends, but that’s my natural wake-up time in the winter) and spend the next little while working on food for the day. I have an added bonus of a little helper every Sunday: Adrian! He loves to help me cook.

Since I am already dressed for church when I start cooking on Sundays, I always wear my cute little apron. Other days whether I put it on is hit or miss.

Breakfast on Sundays is usually pancakes and syrup. I make the syrup while the pancakes are cooking by boiling frozen fruit, a little lemon juice, and sugar together. The last pancake is always a big one just for Adrian (I also make random minis along with the regular ones for him to eat while we cook – no wonder he likes to cook with me!).

It’s too much to have a full meal right after church and Skyping Jamie’s mom and then another full meal at dinnertime with church 11-2. I think we’ve hit on the best solution. I make flat bread in the morning and cut it into 6 strips so it’s ready to be eaten. When we get home from church, we pull out mustard, lunchmeat, sliced cheese, and whatever else people want to make quick sandwiches. Then we’re good until dinnertime, but also actually hungry at dinnertime.

We often use the crockpot on Sundays. The length of time things are cooked on low is usually perfect for starting just before we leave for church and being done around dinnertime.

In addition to prepping that day’s meals, on Sundays I also cut up chicken. I do this for two reasons. One, I hate touching chicken so getting it all done once a week makes the rest of the week a little more pleasant for me. Two, trash day is Monday so the nasty chicken bits get taken away the next morning (very important in the summer in Texas!). I make a list of how much chicken and in what form (diced, patties, strips) I need for each meal of the week. I write the name of the meals on sandwich baggies with a Sharpie and then cut the chicken and fill the baggies. Sometimes I have more chicken that I need that week so I dice it up (diced is what we use the most) and put it in meal portions in baggies. They’ll get used the next week. Those baggies go in the freezer to be pulled out and used on the appropriate days.

Being gluten free takes extra time when it comes to feeding my family (I can’t just grab a loaf of bread at the store unless I want to spend a fortune on it), but the effort and planning of getting food prepped in the morning makes the rest of my day go smoother and makes being gluten free a lot easier.

When Ani was told she had to go gluten free, I quickly realized it would just be easier for all of our meals to be gluten free rather than make something special just for her and then worry about cross contamination. The boys have still been eating some gluten. Specifically, Hot Pockets, Hot Pocket Bites, and Ramen. Adrian was eating Hot Pockets or Hot Pocket Bites daily.

Once I was off gluten I discovered that a whole lot of weird symptoms I’ve had for as long as I can remember magically went away. I was told by multiple doctors that I was just a hypochondriac since no test found anything wrong with me. Of course this was before Celiac and not being able to eat gluten became well known so I was never tested for that. I just lived with the symptoms. Then Ani was officially diagnosed with Celiac and not long after I had to take a medication for a few days that contained gluten and all my symptoms came rushing back. Since it’s genetic, it’s pretty much a certainty that my “hypochondria” was actually Celiac the whole time (since then, my father has gone off gluten as well and some symptoms he had all his life and thought were normal, too, went away). A few weeks ago Jamie, who has also been off gluten along with Ani and me, knowingly ate regular pizza. He swelled up like he used to be all the time. At the very least he’s got some sensitivity to gluten.

So that brings me to Adrian. For the last few months we’ve wondered if he has Celiac, too. Genetics being what they are, it wouldn’t surprise us in the least to have a second kid with it. The last few weeks have brought some significant symptoms. The last few weeks also coincide with him eating more gluten containing foods than normal. So we decided we’d just have to take him completely off gluten and see what happens. He’s been off it for a week or so now and several of his issues have resolved. Poor kid. First it was oranges (and grapefruit), then it was watermelon, now it’s gluten. At least having a gluten free kid isn’t a big deal or overwhelming this time around!

# NOT Back to School!

The kids in our ISD went back to school today so we had our annual NOT Back to School celebration. Adrian proclaimed it “the best day ever!” (I love that since a few years ago Ani declared NOT Back to School Day 2010 her best day ever, which was really the start of our super fun, rather than just a day off from school, NOT Back to School days.)

The day started out like every other Monday – with gluten free chocolate chip muffins. I’m pretty sure if I didn’t make these one Monday I’d have a mutiny on my hands.

Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer came on the radio while we were driving. It’s one of the two songs (the other is Bad Blood by Taylor Swift) we turn way up and sing and dance to every time it comes on.

We went to Thin Air, a trampoline park. The kids were so excited that I actually jumped this time.

They have really cool obstacle courses.

I even tried one. I could only make it to the third one.

Ani can make it all the way across easily.

Find the Cameron.

Flying Side Kick!

It’s incredibly hard to get out of the foam pits!

Cameron can climb all the way the wall.

Proof that I actually jumped!

The trapeze is really cool.

Flips are way more fun on trampolines.

I had Ani and Cameron do the first half of In Wha 1 (our current form in taekwondo) while jumping. I tried it. It’s super hard.

An hour of jumping seriously wears you out!

When our hour was up, we went to Mellow Mushroom for some awesome pizza.

The little guys (they aren’t so little anymore!) got macaroni and cheese. Fritz got broccoli with his and Adrian got apple slices.

Ani got Kosmic Karma and I got White Pizza. They are gluten free and so good. Mellow Mushroom does everything in their power to prevent cross contamination which makes having Celiac suck a little less (thanks, Mellow Mushroom!).

Everyone else got a Mighty Meaty pizza. It got devoured really fast.

After we ate, we dropped Ani off to help at taekwondo (our festivities got a little out of hand and she barely got there in time) and then ran to the library to get the last two books I had reserved for the first three weeks of school. Jamie took the little guys to the playground at the library while I ran inside. They didn’t argue at all about getting back in the van when I got done. It was hot (close to 100).

So now we have played and partied. Tomorrow it’ll be time to hit the books for the start of what is sure to be another awesome homeschool year.

(A look back at our previous NOT Back to School celebrations: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, somehow I missed 2011, 2012, 2013 they went to public school, and 2014. We started out just having the day off. It’s morphed into a day – or two – of super fun.)

Adrian’s 7th birthday celebrations lasted for three days. We started on his actual birthday with the bubble machine. Best birthday gift ever!

For breakfast, he had Klondike Bars. Nothing like ice cream for breakfast on your birthday. Friday afternoon, we took the little guys to Chuck E. Cheese’s where they played for a couple hours.

Since Ani was at Youth Conference until Saturday afternoon, we celebrated Adrian’s birthday as a family on Saturday. We went to a trampoline park.

Then we went to see Inside Out (good, but not great, and not a must see again sort of movie). We ate dinner at Red Robin on the way home. Adrian loved being sung to and given an ice cream sundae. We finished the evening by watching the newest Girl Meets World, Girl Meets Hurricane (excellent, and a definite must watch again sort of episode).

Adrian’s only complaint was that he didn’t have a cake. Since two of us are strictly gluten free, we didn’t even think about getting a cake. Ani volunteered to bake a gluten free cake on Sunday. It turned out very good (she even made the buttercream frosting from scratch – 3 whole sticks of butter are in the 4 cups of icing!).

Turning 7 was very exciting for Adrian and he loved his whole weekend of fun. He has told us for months that 7-year-olds do things 6-year-olds don’t do like always getting themselves dressed and buckling their own carseat. True to his word, starting on Friday, Adrian has been doing all the things he promised 7-year-olds do. Apparently in his mind 7 is when you become a “big kid.”

# More Gluten Free Baking

Ani loves to bake so being diagnosed with Celiac Disease was doubly hard for her. But then my friend gave us America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Baking. Everything we’ve made has been so good and Ani is so happy to be able to bake again.

I usually make a double batch of their flour blend (it contains white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and dry milk powder). That equals about 5 pounds of flour and fits perfectly in my large kitchen storage container.

Chocolate chip cookies – Ani made these with half mini semi-sweet chips and half regular size milk chocolate chips.

Shortbread – Ani forgot to turn the temperature down for baking so it was a bit crumbly, but it still melted in our mouths and tasted great.

Peanut butter cookies – Ani’s made these twice and they are incredible both times. Peanut butter cookies are my favorite!

Pizza – I’ve made the pizza three times now. The crust is a perfect mix of crunchy and chewy.

Chocolate chip muffins – I used the blueberry muffin recipe to make these. I think they’d be much better with milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chips. I want to try them using strawberries cut up in little pieces and also try apple bits with extra cinnamon.

Bread – The bread is what makes me the happiest. I don’t like most pre-made gluten free breads. They have a slimy feel to me and they are also super expensive. This bread, while slightly pink (due to the psyllium husk) which takes a bit to get used to, tastes like bread made from regular flour. It works to just eat, as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and makes nice grilled cheese, too.

# Gluten Free Muffin Success

My friend recently gave me a gluten free baking cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Normally on Fridays I buy some frozen gluten free blueberry muffins for breakfast. They are yummy. They are also very expensive (\$4.50 for 4). Today I tried out the blueberry muffin recipe from the cookbook.

First I made gluten free flour blend according to the directions in the cookbook. They give instructions using King Arthur and Bob’s Red Mill flours as well but recommend making the blend using their instructions for best results. I wanted best results so I made the blend (and now I have several cups of it in my refrigerator waiting to be used in the future).

I followed the directions exactly. I even used my nice digital scale and weighed the ingredients that gave both cup measure and weight measure.

Fresh blueberries got folded in at the end of mixing. At this point the batter tasted like muffin mix, but was grainy. For the next 30 minutes the batter rested, mainly to allow the grains (mostly rice) to hydrate properly.

Ready to go in the oven. I even topped them with turbinado sugar like it said to. The frozen muffins I normally buy have sugar on the tops, too.

Fresh out of the oven, the muffins were slightly torturing us. They needed 20 minutes to cool. And they smelled really good.

The muffins came out of the muffin tin nicely. Only one broke. I sampled the bit that fell off. I was pretty sure I have a success at that point, but we still had 10 more minutes in the cooling process to go.

So delicious and no graininess at all. Perfect with butter on them, but good plain, too (the ones I get from the store absolutely need butter). Cameron ate 5 1/2 of the dozen muffins. He thinks they were even better than the ones I buy. He is suspicious of anything gluten free, so that’s a real success.

I’ll definitely be making these again. Even with buying the blueberries, the total cost was about \$2.25 (the majority of that for the blueberries). That’s a huge savings over the muffins I regularly buy.