Monday, July 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Goodness: Sweet Potato Waffles

I like to eat a hearty breakfast. But having a plethora of food allergies can complicate any meal--especially breakfast. Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, potato-free, oat-free, citrus-free...these words do not really go with breakfast. While a bowl of cereal with some fruit won't cut it, I hate spending a lot of time in the kitchen, and I don't have the time during the school year. So, as a sort of compromise, I double, triple, and sometimes quadruple recipes for things like bread and sweet potato waffles, our breakfast staple. The recipe is easy, prep is quick if you plan ahead, and they are delicious! Bradley and I quadruple our sweet potato waffle recipe so that we have enough of our breakfast staple to last a week to a week and a half depending on whether we eat one or two waffles each morning.

Below is the sweet potato waffle recipe we use, along with notes about our modifications and preparation. The recipe is a modified version of Carol Fenster's recipe in Gluten-Free Celebrations (a must-have cookbook for any with celiac disease).  NOTE: This recipe is for a single batch. We quadruple this recipe each time we make it.

Recipe for a single batch of sweet potato waffles:
*1 cup of brown rice flour
*1/2 cup tapioca flour
*1/4 cup corn starch (We use corn because I'm allergic to potato. If you have a corn allergy, or just want to try a different variation, you can mix up the flours to suit your needs/tastes.)
*1 TBSP sugar (We often leave the sugar out of the mix.)
*2 tsp. baking powder
*1 tsp. cinnamon
*1/2 tsp. salt (I go easy on the salt.)
*1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
*2 TBSP canola oil
*1 medium cooked sweet potato *Be sure to see the tips below!*
*1 1/4 cups milk (We use rice and soy. For our quadrupled recipe, we use one carton of Whole Foods' rice milk--equal to 4 cups--and then one cup of soy. You could use cow milk if you don't have a problem with dairy.)
*1 tsp. vanilla

We mix all the ingredients using our Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and then we use our Krups 4-slice Belgian waffle maker to cook the waffles. These two appliances are probably tied for 3rd most-used appliance in our kitchen. First is our coffeemaker, of course, and second is our newly-purchased Ninja blender. More on the blender and some delicious, food-allergy-friendly smoothies another time... Back to the waffles...

Tips for making delicious sweet potato waffles:
*We've learned that the best way to handle the sweet potatoes is to cook them in the oven just before making the waffles. Since sweet potatoes are a staple food in our house, we bake a bunch of them at a time. We place the scrubbed and poked sweet potatoes in glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray, cover them with aluminum foil, and bake for about 45 minutes at 450 degrees. We use four sweet potatoes for our quadrupled batch of waffles. Once they're baked, the sweet potatoes are fairly easy to scoop out from the skins and add them to the batter. Another (time-saving) option for the sweet potato prep is to bake them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to make the waffles. Since it's outdoor-grilling season, Bradley has even baked some on the grill while grilling another meal to save time with this step.

*Add applesauce to keep them moist. We used to add applesauce (1/2 a cup to a cup for our quadrupled batch) to help keep the waffles moist. Bradley finds them to a bit dry, particularly when they're reheated, but the applesauce addition did the trick. Since discovering that I'm allergic to apples, this addition to the recipe is out, but Bradley still eats his waffles with applesauce.

After making a big batch for the week, we store the waffles in Ziploc freezer bags and freeze them so we can enjoy them throughout the upcoming week or two. We reheat them in the microwave using the defrost setting. Since each microwave is different, it might take a bit to find just the right setting and time to reheat your waffles to perfection.

We enjoy our sweet potato waffles with some Smart Balance and syrup or buckwheat honey. Enjoy them with some fresh fruit...and maybe a few slices of turkey bacon. The waffles have been a hit with family. We make a big fresh batch when we have guests over for breakfast.

Just be careful if you have a dog like ours...Tucker loves sweet potato and is always trying to get his paws on some of the waffles! :) Here he is waiting patiently, just hoping that the stack might fall over.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A balanced summer day

As we are now nearing the end of July (can it be true? already?!), I think I am finally settling into summer mode. In fact, I think that today was my most productive-yet-relaxing day since school let out in June! And I didn't take a nap today. (That's saying something, trust me.) The key to today? I did some school-related things, and I did some "me things." It was a wonderful balance.

I spent some time at Starbucks this morning finishing up reading through course evaluations from this past school year. Doing school work at Starbucks is always more enjoyable than working at school or at home, and reading through the course evaluations is actually enjoyable...and somewhat entertaining. It's interesting to read what the students really thought, and the variety of responses is both interesting and reassuring. Reading the evaluations reminds me just how much I love teaching. Not that there are times when I question my life-calling, but it's nice to have a mid-summer reminder.

As I left Starbucks this morning, I decided that it's okay that some of my happiest moments are teaching moments, and it's okay if I can't completely part with "teacher work" in the summer. It makes me happy, and it keeps me feeling productive, whether it's reading English Journal or other articles, reading (or re-reading) a work I'll be teaching, reviewing course evaluations, etc. In fact, it's probably healthy that I don't drop the" teacher work" all summer. I don't want my students to stop reading during the summer, so why should I stop learning, preparing, and improving over the summer? No, this is by no means revolutionary, I realize that. But today I had a moment in which I recognized and fully embraced this truth. And then, for the whole afternoon and evening, I did "me" things--I organized photo albums, played my violin, and read a book that I'm not planning on teaching. Today was balanced.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A relaxing, gluten-free get-away in Annapolis, MD

This past Friday, Bradley and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we took a short trip to Annapolis, MD. Bradley planned the entire trip, and he did a wonderful job! The trip was relaxing and refreshing! (Yes--I really did relax.)

We arrived in Annapolis Thursday afternoon and checked into the lovely Marriott on the waterfront. Then we went on our first sail (ever) aboard the Woodwind. (We learned that the Woodwind is the sailboat featured in The Wedding Crashers.)We had a two-hour sail out to the Chesapeake Bay. The crew was wonderful, and the weather was just perfect for sailing! Bradley would love to learn to sail and (eventually) own a sailboat, so this was a good test for us. Neither of us had been sailing before, and I am prone to motion sickness. We passed the test, though! We both enjoyed the sail, Bradley even had a chance to help raise the sails, and I did fine wearing my "sea bands"! Hopefully more sailing is in our future!

After our sail, we freshened up and then headed out to dinner. Bradley had made reservations at Chart House after doing some research online and seeing that they were known for accommodating special diets, specifically celiac disease. We took a water taxi over to Chart House (right across the river from the Marriott). When we first started looking at the menu, I was very discouraged. But when we told our server, Jason, that we had several food allergies, he assured us that they could provide a great meal for us and he brought out Chef Chris LaCasse.Chef LaCasse was amazing! He spent several minutes talking with us about our food allergies and intolerances...and we certainly presented him with quite the list! 

We started by telling Chef that we both have celiac disease and, therefore, cannot eat gluten. Additionally, we are both allergic to eggs, and Bradley is extremely lactose intolerant and I can only tolerate small amounts of dairy. Then we went on to some of my other allergies. I'm allergic to beef and fish. There was only one chicken dish on the menu, so I asked if he might be able to modify that dish. "Not a problem," he said, and then we went over the modifications. The side for the chicken entree is a potato dish, but I'm allergic to potato. Chef said he would make me grilled chicken breast with asparagus sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Perfect! We let him know that I'm also allergic to citrus, just in case. Bradley's dish was easier to modify. Bradley and Chef worked out a salmon dish with green beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic. 

Then Chef asked if we would like any appetizers and we told him that we had been eyeing up the Hummus Trio. Chef let said that we couldn't have the edamame hummus, but the other two were safe. Also, since the pita chips were obviously out and the plantain chips are fried in a shared fryer, Chef said he would prepare slices of cucumber and carrots. He was concerned that the traditional hummus has a bit of lemon juice in it, but I told him I could "cheat" a little bit with the little bit of lemon juice. (And I cheated a bit more with one glass of wine, too--a delicious Pinot Grigio our server recommended. But, thankfully, my citrus/citric acid intake was small enough and I didn't have any swelling!)

Dinner was delicious! Chef LaCasse came out again during our meal to see how everything turned out. Fantastic! We were so impressed with the service and the food at Chart House and had such a wonderful anniversary dinner! We were so excited (and hungry!) that we didn't think of taking a picture until it was too late. Next time!

After dinner, we took the water taxi back to the Marriott and then walked around downtown Annapolis for a bit. Pretty much everything was closed, but the town was all lit up. It turns out that there was a Lincoln commercial being filmed that night. Below is a shot of the downtown "square" area lit up. Here's a link to more photos of the shoot:​​os/9628602@N03/sets/72157​6​27146384826/ (Flicker pics taken by a guy we met downtown)

Friday morning we had fruit (bananas) and coffee at the downtown Starbucks. (This was a very small breakfast for us, but it is extremely difficult to eat breakfast out with all of our food issues!) We walked around the harbor and the shops for a bit and then we headed home where we were lazy and watched two movies (The Joneses and One Week) via Netflix Friday afternoon/evening! See, I did relax! :) It was a wonderful little get-away!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An overview of my "chaotic" life and a wake-up call or two...or three...or more

Most people have their own chaos, or their own chaotic areas, in life. And each of us are unique, of course. So, what makes my life chaotic? While I don't believe my life is in a state of complete disorder, it is definitely busy and can be chaotic at times. Here's an overview of what keeps me busy:

  1. Teaching--I'm a high school English teacher. I teach English 10, IB English I, and Speech & Debate. Having three preps means I spend a lot of time planning and organizing for these three classes, and I have a lot of different assignments to grade.  And, no, you can't just do the same thing each school year. I like the variety of having three different classes, but sometimes it can feel like a lot.
  2. Coaching--In addition to my three teaching preps, I coach our school's Speech & Debate Team. Coaching is rewarding and, at times, it's the most fulfilling part of my teaching career. But, it takes a lot of time and dedication. The team practices each week and we have tournaments most weekend. Last school year, somewhere around twenty weekends were taken up by Speech & Debate activities. (I never did the official count because I didn't really want to know.) The team has grown and met great success over the past few years. 
  3. Graduate School--I started working on my MA in Literature (not Education) in the fall of 2008. I should finish next spring (2012)! I take one or two classes each semester, including during the summer. Something that has been making my graduate school experience particularly interesting is the "foreign language proficiency" requirement. (Did I mention I'm working on a MA in Literature--English Literature??) So, since I managed to avoid this foreign language requirement in undergrad when I transferred schools, I have been taking Spanish courses in addition to my literature courses. I have taken 101 and 102...just two more to go to reach "intermediate proficiency."

In addition to the above, I also have the "normal" things to take care of--keeping up with things around the house, taking care of the "dog child," etc. My wonderful husband is very supportive and helpful with all of these areas!
On top of these things, Bradley and I also have to handle having very different work schedules. The end-of-day school bell rings at 2:10pm; Bradley often begins his shift at 2pm. He works a good number of Sundays, too, so tournament weekends often mean that we have very little time together.
And (finally?), I have a number of health issues to deal with, including a plethora of food allergies and intolerances which keep life interesting.

I like to keep busy. If I had a "personality label," it would probably read "works best when busy." When I'm not busy, I feel sluggish and unproductive. And I like to sleep...a lot. I honestly feel more productive when I have a full schedule. Sure, I get stressed from time to time and there are times when I feel burnt out, but I enjoy what I do. But  I've realized that for both my sanity and my health, I need to learn to relax more. And I actually struggle with this. I need to learn how to relax because it definitely doesn't come naturally. Even when I think I'm relaxed, others, including my husband (who knows me better than anyone), sense that I'm not. And I don't want to come across as someone who is uptight all of the time.

I've had some "need to relax" wake-up calls. Thankfully, none of these wake-up calls were serious, but as they've accumulated, they've been enough to tell me that even if I think I'm relaxed, I'm probably not, and I should think about this more and work on relaxing more.
Here are some of the wake-up calls I've had over the past few years:

  1. Heart palpitations--In the fall of 2008, after moving into our house, starting at a new school, and starting graduate school, I started having pain in my chest and shortness of breath. I figured it was my asthma kicking in. When the pain really became annoying, I went to an allergist/asthma doctor and was told that, no, it's not my asthma--it's stress. The heart palpitations went away (I had a lot going on that fall), and they've only returned for a couple of brief periods of time since then.
  2. "Take a chill pill"--I was driving to a Speech & Debate Team tournament with a few of the students from the team. One of the students was a new member. As I was going over times and some tournament information, this student jumped in and said, "I don't mean any disrespect by this Mrs. Fulton, but I think you need to take a chill pill." student had ever said anything like that to me. I wasn't offended; I was interested. This student didn't really know me yet...or so I thought. When I asked what made him think that, he replied that I seemed like someone who gets stressed and uptight over things and I should really relax more. His bold statement and observations have stuck with me...and we still laugh about how he told me this shortly after meeting me and joining the team. :)
  3. Lessons from a voice teacher--One of my former voice teachers from just a couple of years ago was determined to get me to relax! She wanted to cure me from holding onto my stress. She picked up on my nature during my first lesson with her. I wasn't fully aware of it then! While she didn't cure me, she did help during the time I took lessons with her.
  4. Advice from a Spanish professor--As I walked out of our last Spanish class before our final exam just a couple of weeks ago, the professor walked out behind me and then walked beside me and asked if I would mind if she gave me some advice. I said "not at all," but I had no idea what this sweet, older woman was going to say. You guessed it--she said I should relax more. She went on to say, "Sometimes you just have to say f*** it! You don't have to do everything perfectly. Don't take life so seriously! Enjoy life!" The fact that this sweet woman said the f-word was surprising, but it made me take her seriously. And the fact that she made this observation after knowing me for only six weeks really made me think about what she said.

So the first step in solving a problem is to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a problem. My problem: I don't let myself relax enough. I need to learn to function on modes other than "110% 24/7." Now to learn to relax...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A not-so-chaotic beginning

For the past couple of years, I have been wanting to write more. And I figure that I should probably listen to the same advice I give my students--"the more you write, the more your writing will improve." I actually write a lot, but it's mostly in the form of  formal papers (literary analysis/criticism)...and comments in the margins of student papers. A nonfiction literature class I took this past spring semester rekindled my thoughts of starting a blog. Since I don't have a single writing focus in mind, I thought a blog could be a good way for me to get back into writing and explore different topics.

When I was thinking about starting this blog, I thought back to the final "exam" I assigned my English 10 students a little over a month ago. One of the components of their "yearbook" project was to write about a theme or motif that carried throughout their 10th grade year. So, I thought about themes/motifs that have carried through my year. "Chaos" and "seeking serenity" are motifs that have been present in my life for years now. While I'm sure that I'll explore other topics in this blog, much of my life seems to come back to the  notion of "seeking serenity in a plethora of chaos." (Plethora is one of my favorite words that I decided to throw in there. I'm sure some folks think that my life really is a plethora of chaos.) I like keeping busy, but I also need to learn to relax more.

Thanks for joining me on my journey to more serene living!