Pumpkin Spice Cake: gluten free and delicious.

I mean honestly, you can't even tell it's gluten, grain & refined sugar free. It's that good. I wanted to make a pumpkin spice cake for turkey day that I could actually eat and love (I'm eating gluten-free, sugar-free and *sigh* low-carb because of this adrenal burnout issue).

I practiced with cupcakes early in the week, which is something that I never do. Usually I launch into a new recipe on holidays or for parties without care for the fact that it may totally flop. But this time I smartened up. I knew that I'd have to combine and adjust a couple of recipes to get it right. I based it on Elana's pumpkin spice muffins and Comfy Belly's pumpkin bread (almost cake). 
(my recipe is below the photos)

We ate it with a toasted nutmeg ice cream (modified-- I subbed xylitol and stevia for sugar and coconut milk for some--not all-- of the dairy). Yum. That ice cream is sooo good.

Here's what I did: note: I'm not a recipe writer-- so bear with me

Pumpkin Spice Cake
(makes enough for a double layer cake--but you could make this as cupcakes, muffins or even a loaf, just adjust the cook time and maybe cut the recipe in half)

2 cups of pumpkin puree (homemade or canned-- I used canned this time)
1 cup of coconut nectar (you could also use honey, agave or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp Stevia clear liquid*
1/2 tsp Vanilla creme liquid stevia
6 eggs

1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt

spices--(not exact-- sorry!):
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
almost 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1/2-3/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp of cloves

4 cups of almond flour**
4+ tsp coconut flour (yes, teaspoons-- a little goes a long way with coconut flour)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine wet ingredients and blend well (I used an immersion blender, but a mixer is fine.
Add in rest of ingredients (if you want, you can mix the dry separately and then add in gradually ;)
Bake in two well-greased round cake pans-- I buttered, lined the bottom with parchment and then buttered and floured.
Bake until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I think it took about 35 minutes?? Whoops. See. I told you that I'm not a recipe writer. Next time I'll get it right. Set the timer for 30 and you should be fine.

*if you don't want to use stevia (or want it to be officially paleo) sub another cup of your choice of liquid sweetener and a bit of vanilla--- but in this case you may need to leave out an egg or two to get a similar texture... You could also use just plain liquid stevia.

**I love Honeyville blanched almond flour, but this time I used Bob's Red Mill I whirled it in the food processor to make a bit finer.

I almost forgot!-- I made a frosting of cream cheese, butter, tiny bit of cream and powdered 'sugar' that I made from xylitol... i think i added stevia to that too...



Silver linings.

It cracks me up that Finn dressed in the same colors-- I think it was by chance! B and that tongue...
I know that it was just a couple of weeks ago when I was writing about being nostalgic for autumn in New England. But you know what? California ain't too shabby this time of year either. I witnessed some amazing skies last week-- especially while driving down to the San Joaquin Valley (over an hour drive-- but the closest Trader Joe's!).  On Saturday night the first frost arrived and we woke up to a blanket of golden leaves in the backyard that turned brown by the evening. It was pretty cool.

By the way: It's Nablopomo day 14 and I'm barely surviving... happy Wednesday!


My favorite veteran

My Grandad has a booming voice and a sparkle to his eyes. He is the only grandparent I have left at age 89, and he lives across the country from me, in Rhode Island, where he's  lived for most of his life.

When my brother and I were little, Grandad would tell us his war stories. I could never remember the details, so 8 years ago I recorded him telling a story at my aunt's dining room table.*

Here's the story of when he was captured....
George Chaplin was a waist gunner during World War II on a B24H  that was shot down on June 23, 1944. The crew was on its 16th mission (although they would later be given double credit for many of those missions, so I'm not sure of the final count). They set out from Venosa, Italy to bomb an oil rig in Romania. They were flying at 25,000 ft and had just dropped their bombs at 9:20 when they were hit with an 88 mm shell (Grandad was taking photos of drop so he knew the time). By 9:30 they were on the ground.

When they were hit, the plane caught fire and my grandfather was burned on his neck, eyebrows and eyes. Before jumping, he noticed the ball gunner was stuck in his position. He attempted to get him out but he couldn't release the clutches on the ball gun and he had to go. (The ball gunner managed to do it on his own.)

Grandad jumped over the 50 caliber machine gun in his waist window and into the air. He had a "panicky" few seconds when he realized that his parachute was on upside down but was able to find and successfully pull the cord.

As he parachuted to the ground, he saw one of his crew members burning in his own parachute. They landed within 50 feet of each other on the south side of the Danube River in the Bulgarian town of Ruse. Grandad didn't recognize the other man as the radio operator at first because his face was badly burned. He'd later find out that the radio operator had actually fallen out of the plane when they were hit, but was fortunate (or smart) enough to have his chute on.

This is a B24...(but not his).
A truck drove up while he was trying to figure out how to get himself and his burned friend out of there. Out stepped a "half-uniformed man and another in black civilians with a fedora". Grandad thought that he was waving a gun but it turned out it was a black notebook. He was told not to run so he stopped because he didn't want to get shot.

Two other men from his crew were already in the truck-- both had been struck by flak. One had a broken wrist.** Grandad communicated to the driver that he wanted to give the radio operator morphine from his first aid box. They had no common language, but eventually it worked out. One of his other crew members was a veterinarian and instructed my grandfather on how to inject the morphine into the radio operator's arm. 

They were taken to a garrison prison where they stayed for 3 months. There were soldiers there from the Bulgarian army and navy and one Jew.  Seventeen of them shared a cell and they lay on wooden shelves to sleep and left the cell only to go to the latrine.  He was interrogated quite a few times by an officer who spoke Oxford type English fluently, they asked him 'every question under the sun' including personal questions about his family. He made up lies to all of them.

During one of the several bomb raids while they were there, my grandad was in solitary confinement and they wouldn't let him out. Guards were left there with him and they were as scared as he was with only a wooden shack protecting them. 

When Stalin's armies caused the capitulation of Bulgaria 3 months later, my grandfather was 'repatriated' through Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and then back to Venosa in Italy. It was there in Italy where he told his corporal that he was 'just burned' not wounded. It was because the corporal wrote 'no wounds' that he wasn't eligible for the purple heart. (Even though he should have been). In his words, "It was one of those medals that I believe that I earned, however I don't have. Makes no difference, I'm alive and well."

My grandfather was almost home and in Rhode Island on October 23, 1944 "the very day that my oldest daughter was born". My Grandmother, Dorothy "Dottie" Harlow Chaplin, knew nothing about his whereabouts or if he were alive until that day. 

Incredible isn't it? The stories our grandparents have... I know that there are countless stories of other veterans, stories that I can't imagine living through and not being completely insane because of PTSD.  And of course, there is so much more to my grandfather that I haven't told in this post, but I just wanted to share a bit to honor him for Veteran's Day.

*I was hoping to submit the recording to the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project, but it has a lot of extra 'noise'. I may have to re-record. I feel like it is so important to record the stories of our elders. I loved hearing his voice as I listened to the recording today and was wishing that I had recorded my mom's stories. I can still hear her voice, but I get scared that someday I won't be able to.

**4 of the crew members were in the Bulgarian prison, 4 in Romanian prison and 2 disappeared. Two of the guys who ended up in Romania first landed on an island in the Danube. They killed and buried a guard there and were later captured. One of them (a real 'backwoods boy') tried to escape three times. He was beaten and put in solitary confinement. On the third escape he found horses and was about to steal one when the owner of the horse stuck a gun up to his head and took him back to camp. When he got there he found out they had capitulated and he was free.


Teen Yoga

Tonight was the last class of my 6 week 'yoga for teens' session.

 It's been almost two years since I stopped teaching high school to be home with my boys and I was really missing the energy and presence of teenagers. I used to teach an elective yoga class in addition to environmental science-- but this new class was especially good because the students actually chose to be there. They signed up, paid for it and came to the classes outside of the school day and on top of their heavy loads of extra-curricular and sport activities.

Aren't they awesome? We did some partner yoga tonight (as you can see in the photos), which is so much fun to do with this age group because they really want to be social (at least this class did-- it might not work with every group).

I love seeing the contrast between my adult yoga classes and the teens.  I find it fascinating, the different ways that people move, and how their bodies respond to various verbal prompts or poses in general.

But what I truly love is sharing a practice that has helped me to become more aware of my own body and mind in ways that have had a profound impact on my daily life.

I'm feeling grateful.... and sleepy.


Thanksgiving sides & such: gluten free

illustration: Rebekka Seale
I'm already getting excited for Thanksgiving... I'm not hosting this year, so it will be easy-- no spatchcocking or setting up a minute by minute plan for the cooking (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but as you probably know, the logistics take some coordination--even with the fun, small group we had last year).

This year, we get to go to my cousin's house. His amazing Aussie wife specializes in over-achievement far beyond my pre-adrenal burnout days. She is also an organizer extraordinaire. I love the fact that even though I live 3000 miles from home I still have some family here. My mom's sister --a transplant from Rhode Island--- lives next door to my in-laws and raised her kids here in this small town.
The hosts:  cousin, Aussie wife, 2 kiddos
The guests: My aunt and uncle, another lovely cousin & her 2 boys, friends of said lovely cousin (I think they are a couple and a toddler), the amazing Aussie's mum (all the way from Oz), and the amazing Aussie's aunt and daughters (who also live here in town), and finally--the four of us.

What I'm bringing:
  1. Sweet potato & sage butter casserole: this was a hit at last year's feast. I Highly recommend it.
found on The Bitten Word. Photo: Martha Stewart Living
2. A Festive cocktail: I'm thinking.....either the ginger bourbon fizz (illustrated above) or a version of this classic whiskey smash (maybe made with ginger syrup instead of simple syrup and possibly subbing another liquor):

from Bon Appetit

A gluten free stuffing/dressing-- I think I'll go the cornbread route (I came up with a tasty GF cornbread recipe based on others but of course didn't document it. I'll post it when I figure it out again).  Here are two cornbread dressings that look yummy: 1) Cornbread dressing with smoked bacon & pecans (from Southern Living) :

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck
 2) Cornbread, sausage & pecan dressing (from Bon Appetit):

Photograph by Christopher Testani

Toasted nutmeg ice cream from Saveur (also a winner from last year-- I changed it a bit but will figure that out later):
Credit: Todd Coleman
Some sort of gluten free dessert: I think I'll turn this butternut squash cake gluten free:

somehow crossing it with this pumpkin spice cake:

That's all for now... What are you cooking?


Found: Small town P.O.

I live in a REALLY small town. The post office isn't open on Saturday except to access your post office box and peruse the bulletin board.

J usually goes to the box to retrieve our measly mail, but today I was the one to make the trip.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of the bulletin board posts.

For example, who knew that Bonsai Dan the Man was in our midst?! I want to set up an appointment to learn a thing or two from him....

 I'm guessing this next one is for real? Although it makes for good comedy. I'm not sure where he got the note paper, but I sure do hope he finds some under the table work to get himself a photo ID. He IS resourceful.

And lastly: Would you call on this? Are you a trusting person? I generally am, but there's a cynic inside me that wonders... I hope there's not a horribly sad story behind it.

That's all. FYI: my headache turned into a stupid cold. I didn't think I'd make any post at all for Nablopomo day 10. Is this better than nothing? I'm not sure.


For your viewing pleasure: at play.

My head hurts tonight and after a long evening of rowdy boys I don't think I can muster up much writing.... so here are a couple of videos that I loved from last year. They are both beautiful and not too long-- please enjoy!

The first one is the JP Auclair street segment from All.I.Can by Sherpa Cinemas. The clip is 5 minutes. I love everything about it, especially the 'pay-off' (as Jason told me it's called) at about 2:45. So cool-- check it out:

The second is a short film by Juan Rayos of the most bad-ass girls on long boards in the mountains outside of Madrid. 4 minutes.

happy friday! I hope you get to play outside this weekend...

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