Gluten free, nut-free Pumpkin pie bar

I am newly gluten free, as of the last 3 months or so. I’m still learning how to navigate a world without wheat, but I’m happy to be doing so.gluten free pumpkin bar

My older son has nut allergies, the kind we don’t want to mess with. A lot of the gluten free/primal recipes I find have nuts of some kind – especially pies and pumpkin related goodies. I see pecan or walnut crusts, almond flour creations – so many ingredients we just can’t have at my house.

I wanted to make a pumpkin pie-ish dessert for Thanksgiving but didn’t feel up to learning to make a gluten free pie crust. I just haven’t tackled pastry yet. I started searching for a good candidate but so many have the ingredients that are forbidden to us.

I finally found a recipe that sounded amazing but is not specifically gluten free. I realized I could adapt it, though and make something for me that is also safe for my son. Here is the original recipe and how I adapted it:

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie Bars

1 stick butter
15 gluten free graham crackers, crushed
1/3 cup sugar

1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 can canned pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
2.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
Start melting the butter while you prepare the graham cracker crumbs.
Crush the graham crackers – you can put them in a gallon ziploc and use a rolling pin, or use your food processor. Next time I’ll use the food processor, they are not quite as crumbly as traditional graham crackers so they required some muscle to crush by hand.

Prepare the crust: Blend the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar, and press into the bottom of the pan. Do not forget the non-stick spray like I did. Bake for 10 minutes, and allow to cool before adding the filling.

Prepare the filling: Blend the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth (use a stand or hand mixer). Add the eggs, mix until blended, then add the pumpkin, spices, and vanilla and mix again. You’ll need to scrape down the sides a couple times to make sure everything mixes well.

Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan before cutting into bars.

You can make this ahead of time – the crust keeps well and does not get soggy or anything. The kids loved it!


Two cool free e-books

Both of these Kindle books are currently free on Amazon. I love knitting and I love paleo so I was happy to grab both of them. You don’t have to have a Kindle to read them (I don’t) – there are apps that allow you to read on your phone or on your PC.

Welcome to Our Home – Knit and Crochet Ideas from Red Heart

I can’t wait to read this one – I am transitioning my boys to a Paleo/Primal WOE and looking for any ideas to help with the change.

The Paleo Kid’s Christmas: 16 Holiday Classics So They Don’t Miss A Thing (Primal Gluten Free Kids Cookbook)

As of this post these books are free but please check the pricing before ordering as this could change at any time.

Going into the holidays gluten-free (Part 1)

For months I kept seeing references to the book Wheat Belly, and for months I kept avoiding the book like the plague.  I’ve been a believer in low carb for quite awhile but not so great at sticking to my intentions.  I had a feeling that once I read Wheat Belly it would be a life changer.

It totally was.

I learned a lot about today’s wheat (and grains in general) and the information presented in the book was enough to convince me to back away from the wheat once and for all.  I went a week without it starting in late August and was feeling pretty good, if a bit off-kilter from the novelty of it all.  When we had a Lunch-and-Learn at work that Friday, I decided a few pieces of pizza wouldn’t hurt.

They totally did.

I felt awful after I ate the pizza – bloated, sick to my stomach, tired and achy. I was so uncomfortable. I was shocked by how strong my reaction was.  I’ve done some reading on gluten since and it’s super clear that I have a gluten intolerance.   As long as I was eating wheat regularly I was able to tolerate it to some degree.  My symptoms were more chronic than acute, and could be explained away as age, or a bad day, or something else mundane.  As soon as I stopped it for a time, my body started to heal and rebelled at the re-introduction.

I’ve had small amounts of wheat twice since then, and both times felt miserable afterwards.

When I avoid wheat, I have more energy than before (which I need, because my 5 year old hates sleep). I am sure I would sleep better if small people in my house didn’t wake at least once a night. I don’t have the aches and pains that I had before – I don’t ever need advil.  I never, ever have that awful gross bloated groggy full feeling after meals.

I’m slowly losing weight.  I’m good with slow because I feel like any change that happens slowly will become easier to sustain.  I am not always low carb as I would like, but just not eating wheat makes a difference.

So now I’m reading Grain Brain and contemplating how to bring my gluten-free ways into the holiday season, with the cookies and baked goods and other traditional temptations.  I’m not really tempted – I’m not – but I need a strategy.

Homemade Chunky Applesauce

My CSA for this year is still going and I’ve been getting tons of apples every week. We haven’t been able to keep up with them and I started looking for applesauce recipes to use them up yesterday. My original thought was to make something in the crockpot but realized that it was too late in the day to get that project started.

I did find a stovetop recipe that seemed suitable, on my favorite food blog, of course:

Pioneer Woman Homemade Applesauce

I adapted her recipe as follows:

I had about 9 or 10 apples of different sizes and varieties. I peeled them (but not completely because my goal was not perfectly smooth applesauce)(plus I hate peeling apples). I cored and cut them into large pieces, and threw them into a large pot.

I didn’t have the lemon juice or apple juice her recipe called for so I used about a cup of water. Next time I’d probably stick to about 3/4 cup. I sprinkled enough cinnamon to cover the surface of the apples, and added 1/4 cup of Florida Crystals Demerara Cane Sugar.

I let everything simmer on medium for about 30-40 minutes, until the apples were soft.  I started checking them around the 20 minute mark.  Once they were soft, I removed from heat and used a potato masher on them until I was happy with the texture.

Loved it!  This made enough for about 4 bowls and was not overly sweet.


How I cut the cord

That is, how I got rid of cable for once and for all.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for ages and finally got up the nerve. I don’t know why I waited so long, the company I’ve been using has awful customer service!

I got fiber optic internet, which is $30 cheaper and 10-20x faster. No kidding.  As soon as it was installed, I called and cancelled my cable TV/internet plan.

Mom gave me a Roku for my birthday – it streams Netflix and Amazon (like the Wii) but offers tons more cool stuff as well.  It’s a tiny device and connects with an optional HDMI cable for high-def.  I haven’t even been able to play with it yet, because my children are obsessed  with it.

Then I got an $8 antenna.  Yes, antenna, just like the old days.  You can get cool, flat ones that you paint to blend in with your decor, but my research indicated that the cheaper option would work as well as the fancy ones in my case. I have no shame, it’s on my window sill for all the world to see! This gives me my network shows at no additional cost.  You plug it in to the same connector that the cable TV uses. After I set it up I scanned and found 24 digital channels. The picture is better with the antenna than it was with my old cable box.

I’m so glad I did this!!! My total monthly expense is now $58 for fiber optic + $9 for netflix. I don’t count the Amazon Prime because I would have that no matter what.

Before {and after} – Skillet bratwurst and rice

Right now I’ll post the before – the after is yet to come!

Saturday night I made what I thought was a yummy dinner, but my kids were underwhelmed.

Package of bratwurst or summer sausage
2 cups rice (cooked)
1 cup of chicken broth
1/2 onion, diced

First I steamed the rice in my beloved rice cooker.  I’m on the fence about which type of rice to use. Brown rice has anti-nutrients, white rice is bland and starchy and pointless…  I need to read up on the options but at any rate, Saturday night I chose white rice.  It is what it is.

I grabbed some bratwurst at Whole Foods (I forget the brand), cut it up into 1″ pieces and browned it in the iron skillet.  I removed the bratwurst to drain on paper towels but left some grease in the pan for flavor.  I added the onions and broth to the pan and let it all simmer together for a few minutes.  Then I put the rice and cooked bratwurst back in to cook with the broth mixture.

I think it turned out wonderfully for a first-time recipe try – I just had the leftovers for dinner this evening.

For take 2 – different rice, maybe.  I think I should add more flavor, some garlic or coconut aminos.  And something green needs to be mixed in, I believe.

Stay tuned for the after version of this recipe…

Coconut Flour Brownies

It’s my birthday, and even though we’re having a quiet day at home I still need a treat, right?


I have made brownies with coconut flour several times before and they are amazing. I use a recipe from this book:  Cooking with Coconut Flour  I grabbed this cookbook when I first started exploring gluten free, lower carb cooking baking and it has turned into a great resource. It has some good information in general about the benefits of coconut, and then some great recipes.  There is a bit of a learning curve to baking with coconut flour but it’s well worth the effort.

This particular recipe has a decent amount of sugar so I would not classify it as paleo/primal, but it’s fine for a birthday treat in my world.

I’ve adapted the recipe slightly from the version in the book – mainly because I didn’t feel like melting butter or coconut oil. I used light tasting olive oil – I use this often when baking. Just make sure that  you choose light tasting – the regular EVOO would be way too strong for a sweet baked good.

Preheat to 350 and grease an 8×8 pan, preferably with coconut oil.

1/3 cup light tasting olive oil (or melted butter/coconut oil)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Blend these together until completely combined and set to the side.

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
splash of vanilla (I never measure vanilla, do you?)

Combine these ingredients and fold in the chocolate mixture from above.

Finally, sift in 1/2 cup coconut flour and 1/2 tsp of salt.  You definitely want to sift the coconut flour as it tends to clump. I like to sift a little in, mix, sift a little, mix… the batter tends to stay smoother that way.

Smooth into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Let cool for awhile before serving.


Fitbit and Cosleeping

Yes, there’s a connection here.

I bought a Fitbit Flex a few weeks ago as an early birthday present for myself.  I liked the idea of tracking steps as motivation to be more active and I loved, loved, loved the idea of tracking sleep.

I’ve never been a good sleeper, and once I had kids things any hope of decent sleep went out the window!  I am a huge fan of safe cosleeping and the family bed.  Cosleeping helped maximize my sleep when the kids were small.  Not having to get out of bed to tend to them meant I would get more rest for work the next day. However as the  children grew I was getting less sleep for work the next day – I’d wake up clinging for dear life to the edge of my king size bed as small people kicked me relentlessly in the ribcage.

I’m especially glad that my younger son coslept as long as he did, because his proximity helped me realize that he was suffering from sleep apnea.  That’s a story for another day, but he’s past that, thankfully, and it’s definitely past time for him to sleep in his own bed.

I knew I wasn’t getting quality sleep, but to see it in black and white – well, blue and bright pink on my Fitbit dashboard – was really eye-opening.  Some nights I would not get more than one hour at a time before tossing and turning restlessly.

I don’t regret a single moment of cosleeping.  It was the best choice I could have made for our particular situation. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but everything has a season and my little guy is ready for this change.

Friday night Ian slept in his own bed for the first time ever – he was excited to try it although he woke at 12:30 and asked to come to my bed.  Progress!  Last night he was glad to cuddle up in his bed again, and this time he slept all night!  I still woke earlier than I prefer (thanks, time change) but was happy to see a stretch of completely uninterrupted sleep on my log for the night.

I’ll continue to watch my sleep logs because I’m trying to figure out what habits lead to better sleep for me. I know that food and drinks before bed, TV vs. a book, and even the time you go to bed can affect your sleep for the night.

And yes, the Fitbit is encouraging me to be much more active.  I try to find opportunities for more steps – I park far from the building, go talk to coworkers instead of IM, and any other small changes that will get me closer to my 10,000 steps for the day.