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Guest post on NFCA (why I chose to be an online student)

This month NFCA is having a gluten free college bloggers month with guest posts from 8 bloggers, 2 going live each week. I was honored to be a part of the 8, and my post went live last week. I shared the reasons for why I am an online student, and the story leading up to that decision. Mainly, it had to do with the cafeteria being unable to really handle food allergies, and the Student Development Office’s unwillingness to even let me try to prepare all my meals myself. But you can read the whole post here.

I noticed some people commented on the NFCA facebook page about how even though it was great that I was able to take classes online and even get a full degree online, that I was missing out on a very important aspect of being in college: the “college experience”. This consists of making friends, going to classes, and having a social life there and pretty much everything that goes along with being on-campus. I know that this isn’t usually what I talk about on this blog here, but I’m going to share some of the things that have happened in the last year and half for which I have been especially appreciative that God put me in an online program at just that moment.

A lot of people thing that the college experience is one of the most important things to being in college. I beg to differ. For some people it might, but not for everyone. And, I did get my full first year of college as an on-campus student and got to experience campus life. It was great, for the most part. And I’m thankful for my time there as I met 2 of my best friends I currently know there. However, that first semester I did online, was a semester I didn’t know was going to be my last semester that I got to see and hang out with my very best friend whom I had known for over 16 years in my neighborhood at home. Just after finals week, she had a major brain bleed, and was unconscious in the neuro ICU for a month, and after another bleed leaving her brain dead, her family chose to take her off of life support.

If I had been on campus that semester, I wouldn’t have gotten the chances to hang out with her several times that semester and even drop by her house just for a much needed hug. IMs would have been much less frequent and I wouldn’t have gotten to go to the hospital to see her that very first day after she had emergency surgery in the middle of the night because the campus’ semester ended a week later.

Also, if I was an on-campus student, I wouldn’t have even 1/2 as much time for baking. Campus life is very different, and free time…. is even harder to find than it is as an online student. And for me, baking is a stress reliever.

But, for those of you still worried that I’m missing out on something super important to college, I do go to a different school in the summer where I’m on-campus for 9 weeks. However, with that said, I’m extremely thankful that it’s only for 9 weeks. Because in addition to not being able to eat gluten, I’m also deathly allergic to milk and peanuts, being on-campus is a much harder thing for me now… and 9 weeks is about all I can handle. After I get home, I’m more than happy that I don’t have to spend 9 MONTHS of the year dealing with a college cafeteria. Though UND does a fabulous job of feeding me safely in the summer, it is always a relief for me that I’m not there for 9 months every year. I could probably do it, but it would result in a lot more stress and possibly several reactions each semester. Mistakes do happen (and did happen this summer), and we’re talking about my life here. Just one wrong bite, and I could lose my life. If it was just gluten, I might handle it a whole lot better. But that’s not how things are, so I deal with them as they are…
One day at a time.

Oh, and while you’re reading my guest post, go and check out the other posts from the other bloggers as well!

#bakinginacollegedorm: Muffins!

If you’ve read my last several posts, you probably know I spent 9 weeks this summer ON-campus studying sign language linguistics. And yes, I ate in a cafeteria! It was a really great experience, despite a few glitches, overall the experience was great.

And, if you follow me on twitter, then you may have heard about some of my #bakinginacollegedorm adventures… I learned how to bake a gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free grape ‘pie’, and I also discovered the art of making muffins…. withOUT eggs (I didn’t have any with me), without oil (again, didn’t have any with me) AND in the microwave! So, I’m going to share a bit about how that all works, as you’re probably curious by now. :)

My first attempt was at making gluten, dairy, egg, corn, soy, nut and peanut free (and naturally fish and shellfish free): pumpkin sunbutter chocolate chip muffins! I didn’t pack any muffin tins with me, but had a glass bowl, quite a few reusable plastic containers, and a completely metal pot and frying pan. This time I made most of it in the oven in the frying pan, but I also made some in the microwave in 2 of the smaller glass bowls. Here’s what it looked like:

I gave several pieces to a fellow food allergic friend, and one to my non-food allergic RA and they both LOVED it. The first came to me after she had tried it and said, “wow! That was realllly good! I usually don’t eat bread stuff, but if you have more that you don’t know what to do with, or if you make some again, you can give me some if you want.” In other words, “they were AMAZING!!!”
My RA was surprised at how good it tasted and even more so that it was free of the Top 8 most common food allergens and more, and that I had used somewhere around 10 ingredients!

Later, I decided to try making blueberry muffins without oil, not too sure what to expect. But, surprise surprise! It worked! No oil, AND I made it in the microwave! I had planned to bake it in the oven in the frying pan, but when I started preheating the oven it smelled like there might be something burnt in it and I didn’t want to have to worry about that, so I scooped it out of the pan into a glass dish and baked it in the microwave a bit at a time. But it worked!

My next and last project (I was sick for 2 weeks so I spent those 2 out of the 9 weeks in ND in survival mode and didn’t have time to think about any kind of baking) was to make muffins for my trip home. I had collected kiwi fruit (4 of them!) from the extra fruit the cafeteria set aside for me each day to eat and snack on. I also had 2 apples from the week before. And I had somewhere around a 1/3 cup of Sunbutter left in my room. Some friends thought I was crazy to think of making kiwi muffins, but when I asked Jules of Jules Gluten Free she thought it would taste good, but to be careful with how juicy the fruit is. Yay!! They turned out really good, but I think I may have overbaked them a tad as they tasted great when they were fresh but were a bit dry when I ate them the following day.

The other half of the batch I was making I decided to make into apple Sunbutter muffins, and those turned out really great too! These were really great, and I didn’t even peel the apples!!

So, here’s a rough kind-of-recipe (more like a basic idea to follow) for making muffins in the microwave without oil, nor eggs, nor any of the top-8 most common food allergens:

Flour mix:
Usually I make about 2 1/2 – 3 cups of flour mix for a “batch” of muffins, using the following assortment of flours:
starch:
-potato starch
-sweet white rice flour/white rice flour
(You can also use other starches like arrowroot, tapioca, corn starch, etc… I use arrowroot at home but didn’t bring any with me to ND)

“whole grains”
-sorghum flour (one of my favorites!)
-millet flour
-garbanzo (chickpea) & fava bean flours
(you can also use things like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, corn flour, etc.)

I put about somewhere around 1 1/2 – 2 cups total of starch, and around 1 or 1 1/2 cups of whole grain… though I never really measure very well. It just gives me an idea to get about the right ratio between starch and whole grains.

Other ingredients:
-sugar (you could use honey if you wanted probably… I only put like somewhere between aprox 1/4-1/2 cup, depending on the other ingredients… and often I don’t even measure so I don’t really know)
-baking powder (sprinkle some on top till you think you probably have enough)

BEFORE moving on: make sure to stir your flour blend + sugar and baking powder!

The “glue”:
In a separate container of some sort, put some flax seed meal (basically just ground flax seed), somewhere around 1/4-1/3 cup, and add over 2x as much water as flax seed. Stir, and let sit a few minutes. This is the glue that helps to hold these muffins together.

Fruit:
Whatever you want… you can use grapes, blueberries, blackberries, you can even use kiwi, probably even watermelon or anything that comes to mind! Apple and Sunbutter tastes great, and you don’t even have to peel the apple! Just slice and core it, and cut it up into small chunks.

Canned pumpkin works well too. It makes it very rich and tasty! (and it’s also really great with sunbutter and chocolate chips :P)

I usually add around 1/4-1/2 cup of Sunbutter when I add it, but it totally depends. You can also add a nice sprinkling of Enjoy Life Chocolate chips (or chunks). Basically, it’s up to your imagination!

A word of caution here though: If the fruit you’ve picked is juicer, then make sure that you stir it into your muffin batter BEFORE adding the water.

The last ingredient:
-water

Add this a bit at a time, mixing till you’re happy with your batter. It should be thick, but also thinner than cookie dough, yet thicker than gravy…. you get the idea.

And the last part:
Spoon/pour into microwave safe dishes, making sure the batter isn’t deeper than 1 or 1 1/2 inches. Now, microwave it on high for 2 minutes at a time, checking every 2 minutes to see how it’s getting cooked. It will rise, and it’s cooked when the top is looking cooked and you can stick a knife down in it without it coming out all gooey.

BUT, make sure to NOT overcook it, because that will make it dry. It usually cooks in about 3-5 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes more, so keep an eye on it.

Let cool before you slice and enjoy…. please don’t burn your tongue (or fingers)! Store in a container or in plastic bags and eat. They’re best in the first day, but are still good for several days without being refrigerated. Because there are no eggs in this recipe if it’s a bit under cooked it’s not a problem because it’s still safe to eat!

So, if you find yourself going off to college, take some gluten free flour, baking powder, and flax seed meal (and it does keep un-refrigerated), and some microwave-safe dishes! You never know when you’ll end up with fruit and the urge to bake and relieve some stress!


#Pieparty …. in a college dorm!

I’ve been on-campus for a month now, and still hadn’t managed to find time to bake anything. Then last week on twitter someone mentioned that they had baked a GF pie. “Can I come over??” I asked. Her reply was “sure” but that it was Gluten Free Girl who was heading up the #pieparty on twitter and FB and she suggested making my own pie for the #pieparty! Hmm…. I thought, how can I make a pie here? I’m in a college dorm, don’t have a fridge in my room, and have limited free time… and not to mention limited resources.

The next morning when I opened my eyes, right across the room sat my pot and frying pan. “Ah ha!” Bit by bit, the plan came together, and I figured out how I could bake a pie in my dorm. :P However, there was still a dilemma: fruit. I talked it over with my grandma, and we came to the conclusion of what fruit would be best for a pie, that I also had access to. Later, another friend on twitter sent me some links on making that kind of pie, and it got me inspired, and I was ready to make gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free while also being soy-free and egg-free (so a friend could also have the pie) grape pie!

While the cafeteria is good at supplying me with fruit they prepare for me so I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination, sometimes I think there’s a little lack of communication…. some days they put way more fruit in “my fridge” than I can eat in a day (unless all I was eating was fruit)! Last week, they gave me a lot of grapes, and obviously making grape pie would work better than watermelon, cantelope, or honey-dew melon pie. :P So, I put 2 TBS of the soy-free earth balance from the fridge in the cafeteria and stuck it in one of the small things of extra grapes and put them in my RA’s fridge.

Later that evening, I took the “butter” and mixed it with Jule’s AP GF flour in my dorm room “kitchen”,

This is my "kitchen". Most people use it as a desk :P


and then added water to it. The pie crust then went into a bag and in my RA’s fridge till I had time to bake it 2 days later. :P

GF Dairy-free pie crust in the making

2 days later, before bed, I braved the sauna-like laundry room/kitchen in my dorm, though thankfully I could prepare everything in my room, and just cook and bake in the kitchen.

I took the grapes and cut them all in half in my pot, added some sugar, and then cooked it into a jam.

Meanwhile, I took the pie crust, and put it in my frying pan, and put the pan in the oven (don’t worry, it’s entirely metal) for 20 minutes while I cooked the grapes.

Yes, I made pie in a frying pan. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

After both the crust and filling were done, I poured the filling (which was more like jam/preserves) into the crust and let it cool.

Then, obviously I had to taste it. But by the time I took a picture of the finished product, my RA (who is not GF) and I tried it and we both thought it tasted pretty good! So, the picture was taken after we tasted it… ;)

Not quite like a “normal” pie, but hey! I baked a pie that was not only gluten, dairy, egg, nut, soy free, but also in a college dorm with limited resources! And, to top it all off, it was quite fun and had that homemade taste to it too! :) And no rolling pin either!

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