Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gluten Free "Spreads"

I have quite a bit of a sweet tooth.  It is not something I am proud of - it just is, so I learn to deal. I deal by drooling over wonderful blogs and cookbooks, which probably is not a good use of my time but alas, I indulge.  I see something that looks so yummy and easy but is full of gluten, I really want to make it over so it is gluten free.  Now I leave the hard conversions to Nicole over at Gluten Free on a Shoestring, because she has some kind of magical recipe converting super powers or something.  Please go and check out her blog because you will be wonderfully woo'd by her prowess.

Any who, I have seen this "spreads" recipe a few times. It is originally from the Pioneer Woman and I'm pretty sure I saw it on her Food Network show.  It also shows up in her "holiday" cookbook that is only sold at Target.  It looked so easy and utterly scrumptious that I just had to make it gluten free.
My first step was to find the recipe fast. Yes I had the cookbook but I'm at my computer 90% of the day so I googled, "Pioneer Woman Spreads" and *BAM* it showed up on her blog too.  I promptly printed it out and took out some butter to come to room temp.

By now, you are probably on the floor laughing from that last paragraph.  I have many sarcastic jokes readily available about the name of this recipe and just realized that my Google search is down right dirty sounding.  I'm so sorry Ree, truly I am - I mean no disrespect! Honest!

Now back to the recipe, two sticks of butter is A. LOT. of butter, so I used light butter. I do not think you can notice a difference at all. I know some people get pretty uptight that light butter is not real and has a bunch of additives but honestly, it's all pretty normal stuff and some ingredients that I already use in gluten free baking so, I'm good with it.  Others find that light butter has too much moisture content and that it can mess with your recipe.  Maybe, but unless you are making frosting, I find that light butter can substitute quite nicely with less fat and calories.

I also have really been digging the gluten free flour blend over at Sarah Bakes Gluten Free Treats.  It consists mainly of brown rice and sweet sorghum flours which are considered whole grain. The flour blend is roughly 70% these two flours and 30% starches, which really is nicer than blends that have white rice as the main component.  It doesn't always work in all situations and that's ok, we have other blends to use for those times.  But for today, I used this blend and it worked great!  One of the main reasons why it worked great is because I aerate the flour with a whisk in the container before measuring.  Then I lightly spoon the flour into the cup and carefully level it with a butter knife.  This ensures that you are not 'packing' the flour blend into the cup and makes for light and fluffy baked goods.

Gluten Free Spreads

1 cup (2 sticks) light butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 whole egg
2 cups of gluten free flour blend (I use this one and see note above on measuring.)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon good vanilla
6-12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (I ended up using the whole bag - I know, right?)
1/4 cup toffee crumbles/chunks (I used Heath brand.)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 1/2 sheet pan with unbleached parchment paper.
  2. Place butter into your mixer bowl and start whipping it with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the brown sugar and continue whipping.  It will not look like regular butter and brown sugar will, it's ok - stay with me.
  4. Add one whole egg and keep whipping.
  5. Add the vanilla and keep whipping.
  6. Add the salt and keep whipping.  Mix well.
  7. Stop the mixer and put the flour into the bowl and slow start mixing the flour in.
  8. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  9. Turn the mixer to medium speed and let it whip for about 2 minutes.  It will turn into a very light and fluffy batter.
  10. Pour the batter onto the parchment paper and spread (this is where the name comes from!) it on the pan as uniformly as you want to so that it is about 1/4" - 1/2" thick.
  11. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes (I think I baked it for about 17 minutes).
  12. Remove pan from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the big cookie.
  13. Place pan back into the oven for 2-3 minutes.
  14. Remove pan and spread (there's that term again!) the chocolate chips evenly over the large baked cookie.
  15. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate with the toffee crumble/chunks.
  16. Let the chocolate set and the cookie cool before cutting into pieces with a pizza cutter.

ENJOY!  My whole family loved this treat and kept asking for more.  It is so easy and very quick if you are looking for something to hit your yearning belly fast.

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Friday, May 2, 2014


Wow! It's been a super long time since I've written a piece for the blog but man has life been crazy.

As you know I have a full time job, that I actually like, find interesting, and I am always learning new things.  I also get to telecommute from my home office all. of. the. time., which really is a dream come true. With that said, I have been swamped with new business since January while helping other teams out as well, so needless to say, it has been crazy pants.

When it gets crazy pants for me, I have to work out in some fashion.  I am not obsessed nor am I one of those nut jobs that has to work out or I'll die (god forbid).  But I have learned through an injury in February when I had to "rest" that I really need to make time to work out.  It just makes me feel better all around and my mood gets a boost too which helps during stressful work times.  So this has become a pretty big priority in my life, I'm sure my heart thanks me.

We continued with kids activities, dance for #1 and wrestling for #2 and they both were in swimming lessons.  #1 actually has tested out of the YMCA swim program so we are now looking for a swim team for her.  She wants to be in the Olympics some day. #1 also celebrated her first holy communion with a nice Sunday brunch with our family and close friends.  The cake I made for that did not turn out as well as I had hoped, but I did run out of regular sugar and had to use raw sugar.  That may have contributed to it being very dry.

Our other main activity during these MIA months for me was Girl Scouts.  February and March are consumed with selling girl scout cookies. I mean, it is almost every weekend with cookie booths or some other girl scouting event.  This year it completely paid off as our troop was the second top selling troop in our service unit and our girls are going to be honored at our service unit award ceremony next week.  I'm excited to see the girls get this special award in front of their peers, they worked hard and so did all of our troop parents.

March also brought the arrival of our nephew, Brayden Joel.  He is about the most perfect little thing ever.  I hardly put him down the day that we went to visit him for the first time.  I am so proud to be an Auntie again and the kids were thrilled to have a cousin that lives in the same state.  They are already planning sleep overs and all sorts of things with Brayden as their guest.  It's cute to hear them talk about it.  They love him so much.

April brought #2's fifth birthday. It was a doozy I tell you.  We went all out with a Thomas theme again.  I made bright blue frosted cupcakes for the kid party and a Thomas pan cake for the family party.  We treated the kids to a night out at Jumps & Downs, an inflatable jumpy house place with pizza for dinner.  The next day our family and close friends came and I served several different gluten free pasta dishes that I created.  They will make their way to the blog here some day soon. He was so happy with all of his gifts and he received a ton of legos.  I made a special thank you card to go a long with his Thomas themed ones:

For Easter this year we took a trip to Las Vegas to visit our new niece Ella Dawn who was baptized on holy Saturday.  It was a great event and she is such a sweet chubby little girl. We all fell instantly in love with her.  We also had a great time swimming in the salt water pool that had a water fall and hot tub. We took the kids to the strip one afternoon to play games at Circus Circus.  That was a blast and #2 won this huge bear at the game where you throw a softball into a milk can.  A game almost impossible to win and here a little five year old has it in the bag.  To say the least we were all shocked and it was a great moment for our little guy.  I also tried my hand at some other games and won #1 a minion (so cute!) and some other stuff.  They enjoyed it a lot.  We ate that day at Vince Neil's diner and it was great for every day burger/fries type of food.  Later that night, Thew and I went to see La Reve, the dream at the Wynn.  All I have to say is that the Wynn is very beautiful and the show was great.  I had an awesome time out with my sweetie.  

On Easter morning the kids were surprised to find that the Easter Bunny found them all the way in Vegas.  After a breakfast of colored hard boiled Easter eggs, we went to my sister-in-law's church for an egg hunt.  The kids had a blast.  We spent the rest of the day hanging out with family, eating a great meal, having another egg hunt, and just enjoying our niece (even if she did have a blow out onto my white capri pants!!!).

This pretty much brings us up to date.  I'm hoping to be able to post at least a few times a month as I've been baking and cooking up some pretty yummy gluten free meals and treats.  I hope you all had a great first quarter of 2014 and if it depresses you that the year is already a quarter over with, go outside and take a walk or jog, you'll feel better, I PROMISE!

Until next time,
J. K. Sasse

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Latest Obsession: Project Life

I have always been a scrapbooker.  Ok.  Maybe not always.  My Aunt Margaret really was the scrapbooker in the family.  She started very early with the super basic Creative Memories concept and kept completely up to date with all of her family memories and adventures.  At the time, I was into making  greeting cards.  I cranked out handmade greetings for every holiday and event there was - stamped, painted, glittered, layered and even popups sometimes.  I was awesome at it and loved it!  However, slowly but surely, she won me over and I began scrapbooking too.

I started out slow, purchased the basics and went to town.  My very first scrapbook was a scrapbook of my solo trip to Europe in my twenties. I look back at it now and cringe. It is so simple and not me. Plus there isn't one word of journaling. But the pictures are in there and the trip is documented.  As a whole, it is a great thing.  After this attempt though, my other attempts have fell very short.

One year my friends and I met once a month to scrapbook.  Honestly, I got nothing done.  I've always had a certain kind of analysis paralysis when it comes to making something permanent like this.  Especially with photos that are expensive to develop/print and then you purchase all this paper, embellishments, albums, pages, and page protectors.  It had to be JUST RIGHT, or well, I just wasn't going to commit. 

Case in point, I have had no issues committing to my husband of twelve years, but do you think our wedding and honeymoon are scrapbooked? Nope.  What if something newer and cuter comes out?  What if I hate it in five years?  In my defense, I did scrapbook our dating year to have out at our wedding so people could view our 'story' but that is it.

Other than my Europe trip and my dating life with Thew, the only other thing officially scrapbooked is #1's first birthday.  She loves that thing and looks through it all the time.  I really want to make more scrapbooks for my kids to look through.  They love looking at all the digital photos of themselves on the computer, just imagine their delight in being able to look at their photos in a scrapbook whenever they want to OR pull out for friends and family to reminisce?

This brings to me a post last week on the "Our Best Bites" blog.  It was all about how Sara captures and documents her family's memories. There are several options listed but the one that struck me was Project Life.  What is Project Life?  The best way for me to describe it is "pocket scrapbooking".  The page protectors have different size pockets in them and then you slide in photos and cutely designed cards to embelish it.  It is quick and easy. People say they get so much done in a short amount of time.  The best part about it?  NO COMMITMENT!  If they come out with newer cuter embellishment cards you can take the old cards out and put the new ones in. DONE.  This appeals to me - seriously appeals to me and my whack-o scrapbooking commitment issues.  If you want to check out project life, you'll need to go to  Ms. Higgins is the creator of project life and you'll find all sorts of great info on that site.

After doing some digging and realizing that I'd have to now purchase all new albums and page pocket protectors (I have a ton of the original Creative Memory albums, pages, and page protectors) - I started to groan. How much was this going to cost me?  Also the thought of having to print a ton of pictures off at Costco without cropping and adjusting them also left me feeling some of that commitment phobia coming back up like some bad drink I had in college. Then, I saw that Project Life was digital with Photoshop Elements or Photoshop.  What you say?  Seriously.  There are also several digital templates and kits sold by Project Life's digital shop as well as freebies that people have made and blogged about.   Go to Pinterest and search for project life freebies and tons of posts come up.  It made me feel giddy!

I purchased some templates and one kit from the Project Life digital site, downloaded a free trial of Photoshop elements from Adobe and then went to YouTube to see how in heck I could use these things.  You can also take formal project life/photoshop classes at though they do cost quite a bit, and I wasn't sure I was ready to commit to that (here we go again!).  I did find two videos on YouTube that were super helpful.  One of them is done by Jessica Sprague and she did a great job - the other one is by an Australian gal who also did a good job.  Here are the links to those:

Jessica Sprague teaches digital Project Life
Digital Project Life Basic Tutorial

Here is my first page - it's a title page, and I was really just trying to figure out to snap everything together and resize things if I needed to - it was super easy:

Now that I know what I'm doing, I have the tools, and some freebies, I'm going to tackle my son's baby book.  I already started with traditional digital scrapbooking so I think it will be a combo pack for him.  I am focused on getting that done this year as well as our 2014 year so I can just stay current.  Once I'm current then I'm going to do my daughter's baby book - she is older and I haven't even started on it yet.  Regardless with what I do with this, I know the kids will be thrilled.

Another bonus with this is that I can print the 12x12 pages and have them developed at Costco. I will then use my current paraphernalia to create the books. I'll adhere the pages to thicker pages and use page protectors to protect it.  I can also use some of my embellishments if I want to on these pages too since the protectors and albums are built for it. These are all vintage Creative Memories and no longer are available for purchase.

I hope this has inspired you to check Project Life out or maybe just start organizing your photos. Whatever it has done, it's a good thing....

Until next time,

J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy Peasy Apple Sauce

I know I have been MIA around here but January is kicking my butt!  Work is crazy, home life is equally crazy, and I have some important events coming up that I can't wait to share with you but it will have to wait.....but I'm excited!!!

Today, I am on all day long conference call (this was my last week as well) and I needed a snack ASAP when they all went to get a quick lunch.  It wasn't my lunch time yet but I felt left out. Of course I wanted peanut M&M's my candy addiction of choice these days but um, I have to weigh in tomorrow, so not an option.

I went into the kitchen and I saw the 2 applesauce packages I bought with a coupon yesterday. They are unsweetened - blech, but I had an idea.  Why not doctor it up with some yummy stuff? I'm so glad I did because this is just way too awesome not to share.....

Cinnamon Sweetened Apple Sauce
Serves 1

2 individual servings of unsweetened all natural applesauce (can use bulk)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 packages of splenda
good sprinkle of cinnamon (probably 1/2 - 1 tsp)

1. Empty apple sauces into a bowl.
2. Add vanilla, splenda, and cinnamon.
3. Mix well and let the flavors combine a bit.

Eat and enjoy!!!  It really is so yummy and it still counts as a power food because you did not add any sugar!  This is the bestie best best snack ever!

I promise that I have been hoarding up on posts, I just haven't finished them.  I will be back as time allows - so hang in there with me!!

Until next time,

P.S. did you notice the name change on my blog???  I'm still thinking about it.. we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Triple Chocolate Cake

Every year for Christmas, my family celebrates the birth of our Savior with a "Happy Birthday Baby Jesus" cake (Baby Jesus cake for short).  We do the whole she-bang, there are candles, we sing happy birthday and everything.  Some of my family members even put a baby Jesus on their version of the cake - I have yet to find one that is food safe, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.

So the dilemma was on, what do I make.  It has to be gluten free, it has to be good so my gluten eating guests will love it and not know the difference but most importantly I had to make it ahead of time since I would be gone the entire day on Christmas Eve.  I asked fellow GF bakers what their recommendations would be and finely settled on a devils food cake from Gluten free on a shoestring. This worked for me because I already had all of the ingredients and it would be a cinch to make.  I did however bake it in a 9 inch round pan and it took three times as long to bake it.  I know it was in the oven for over an hour and then lately because GF baked items can be so finicky, I will shut off the oven and let the baked good sit in there while it cools off, I did this for another 20 - 30 minutes or so.  It really is up to you and your oven.  If you under bake the cake, it will fall inwards in the middle and no one wants that.  So you have to play it by ear and make sure to test it to see if the middle is completely cooked. I do this with a clean toothpick to see if any cake batter is still on it - crumbs are ok because they are baked, but any ooey gooey batter is a definite sign that it needs more time in the oven.

I baked the cake on a Monday and once it was cool, I wrapped it tightly and froze it.  In the winter time in MN, that means I put it out in my garage until I needed it.  This worked fabulously!

I needed to serve the cake on a Wednesday, so I choose to wait on the frosting until that day, but honestly, in hindsight, I did not need to do that and it caused a lot of extra work for me on Christmas morning.  Live and learn. 

I took the cake inside so it would start to thaw slightly so I could split the cake in half.  I started the cut with a serrated knife and then finished it with a nice long piece of unflavored dental floss. It worked like a charm.

Now that I had my two layers, I knew that I wanted to fill it with Nutella Cloud Frosting.  I started with the Nutella Cloud base recipe from Sweetapolita because this gal knows her frosting I tell you and then I changed it a bit because I love Nutella and more of it is always a good thing right?  I also love how this recipe turned out.  I've tried others that were too airy and hard to pipe and that is not the case with this recipe.

Nutella Cloud Frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita

1 cup unstaled butter, softened at room temp
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners')
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
125g semi-sweet chocolate chopped, melted, and cooled slightly (I used Ghiradelli.)
1/2 cup of Nutella
pinch of salt
drizzle of milk as needed

1. Weigh out semi-sweet chocolate into a microwave safe bowl ensuring it is broken up.  Microwave it on high in 30 second intervals until fully melted.  You'll need to stir it often to break up hot spots.  Let cool a bit.
2. In your large mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, carefully place the butter and powdered sugar and start to mix on low until fully combined.
3. Add the salt, vanilla, and Nutella to the butter/sugar mixture and beat well.
4. Lastly add the cooled melted semi-sweet chocolate and again beat well.
5. At this time determine the consistency. If it is too thick add a drizzle of milk until it looks like how you want it.

Now that you have made your filling, carefully put about 1/2 of the frosting in the middle of the bottom layer and spread it evenly across.  Place the top layer on half and use more frosting to fill in the outside edge.  Once complete, cover tightly and place back into your freezer while you make the next layer of frosting.

I wanted this to be festive and oh so yummy. I knew it had to have ganache on top but after filling it, with the nutella frosting, it really needed a crumb coat to hide the filling and the fact that I split the cake open.  The answer?  A simple stiff buttercream crumb coat.  Now butter cream is very basic, but of course, I googled it and settled on this recipe from Savory Sweet Life.  This is another gal who knows her frostings.  I made this on the thicker side with just a drizzle of milk so that it was spreadable. Making it thicker allowed me to only have one coat of buttercream which was awesome.  She also gives tips on how making it thicker is easier to pipe onto cakes and you'll see the design much more easily as well.  Good to know!

Now that this is made, retrieve your cake from the freezer and put on a nice thin, even coat of this wonderful buttercream.  You'll be so glad that you did and when you are done, back into the freezer you must go!

Lastly, for the ganache, I referenced Savory Sweet Life again with just a slight modification.  I took her recipe and added some *GASP* butter!  Everything is better with butter and honestly this cake has so much already what is a few more tablespoons really?  Again in hindsight, I should have used Sweetapolita's ganache drizzle recipe because this ganache came out a little thick and didn't quite drizzle like I wanted to but man was it still super yummy.

Ganache Recipe
Adapted from Sweet Savory Life

1/2 Cup heavy cream
12 ounces chocolate (I used semi-sweet by Ghiradelli.)
4 Tbs butter

1. Heat heavy cream in microwave until bubbly and frothy.
2. Pour hot heavy cream over chopped up chocolate and mix until melted.
3. Add butter and with a hand whisk, whip until smooth.

Take the ganache and spread a layer over the entire top of the cake after you take it out of the freezer for the final time. As you are spreading have it drizzle down the sides of the cake like shown in the picture above or below.

I know this was a long drawn out deal, but honestly this was worth it.  The cake was a huge hit - my Dad even had two pieces.  It also holds over super well in the freezer.  It's been almost 2 full weeks since I've made the final product and we are still finishing it off.  It tastes just as good now as it did the first day we enjoyed it.

If you have any questions, please let me know and ENJOY!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Years Eve - 2013

It is the last day of 2013 and I am back to the blog!  I had a really nice holiday and I hope that you all did as well!

For this very last day of the year, I'm going to look back and reflect with gratefulness on a few items that just come to mind this morning:

Living a Gluten Free Lifestyle:
For the majority of this year, my family and I have been leading a gluten free lifestyle.  It has broadened my horizon's in the kitchen and I'm no longer afraid to bake bread or try to convert a recipe.  I'm hoping to share more of my GF kitchen success on this blog in 2014.  It does not have to be scary or strange.  Sometimes, I will admit, it is complicated but knowing others to discuss things with helps.  That leads me to two of my new friends that I met in 2014, Anneke and Donia.  We are frequent fliers over at the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog and realized that we all live really close to each other.  We started conversing via email and share our GF woes and successes in the kitchen.  It has been a god send to be able to bounce things off of other people and get ideas and technique tips that I may never have tried before.  We hope to all meet in January for a weekend of GF fun!

Good Friends & Family:
I'm always so grateful for my wonderful friends (as noted above - 2 new ones this year!!).  I like making new ones and connecting with old ones.  Which reminds me of that old Girl Scout song, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold."  Though we are all so busy, I do try to make connections with my friends as much as I can.  Email, texting, and video chat has made that so much easier.  In fact this year, my sister-in-law and niece joined us for Christmas Eve present opening via face-time.  They could see all of us and we could see them perfectly.  We even had #1 and #2 stand up on either side of the computer screen as my niece was held up for a "cousins" photo.  It was super cute and something we could have never done before without the technology that we have.

I think people take this for granted, I really do.  I often reminisce about the '80's and the primitive electronics and technology we had.  We are so lucky today and I'm so grateful for the laptop, tablet, digital camera, scanner/printer, DVR, cable, the oodles of software on these hardware objects, and so on that I use on a daily basis.  Though sometimes it gets in the way, it really makes my life so much easier.

Thew, #1, & #2
These three people will always be the number one priority in my life and I feel that this year we have grown closer as a family unit.  We have taken many trips together, have family game nights, enjoyed going to the movies, baking cookies, reading exciting adventures, and just hanging out together.   We all truly enjoy each other's company and love each other dearly - I will be eternally grateful for this and their presence in my life forever!

What things from 2013 are at the top of your mind today on this New Year's Eve?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

So, I've done it again, I've over planned, over committed, over done it this holiday season.  Due to my completely delusional accurate account of time (yes, there are only 8 days until the big gifting 2 day free for all), I am super behind in all of my life including this blog and some things have got to be crossed off my list so that I can keep my sanity.  For now, one of the crossed off items is the blog - I'm doing this, so I can get my kids gifts wrapped and a few cookies baked, while still working full time and carting everyone around to activities and such this week.

I came to this conclusion after reading a magazine article in Savvy (a MN publication) about where you saw yourself on January 1st.  I thought for a moment and saw myself as a relaxed and happy person.  The next step is to figure out, how do you get there.  Make a list of the items you want to do, determine what has to be done and cross the rest off.  With that, the blog did not make my "MUST DO" list, but don't worry - so many other things did not make the list either. So I'll apologize to everyone that I usually bake homemade gifts for too - but I want a healthier holiday this year.  I'll be back hopefully the week of December 30th, so please stay tuned.   

Be safe and most importantly, make your 'must do' list and visualize yourself in the new year. You will be all that more serene for it. A happy holiday to you and yours!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse