Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cheesecakes

It’s a baking time of year, and I’m not about to let low-carb or gluten-free get in my way. Also, it’s a pumpkin time of year, and Scott loves pumpkin pie. I figured this would be the best of all worlds.

As a note, I don’t think I’ve ever had pumpkin pie before. Sure, my parents made one every Thanksgiving. But I wasn’t all that big on Thanksgiving foods in general — I ate Spaghetti-O’s or macaroni and cheese throughout my childhood, because absolutely nothing on the Thanksgiving table sounded edible at all. So it’s certainly possible that this will be my first taste of a baked good based on pumpkin.

For a base, I looked back to my coconut cheesecakes. I figured I’d still do the cupcake versions, since I don’t have a springform pan. Also, the cupcake-sized cakes make it easier to not take too large a slice. You always know what one serving is.

I researched pumpkin pie spice, and also looked at little jars of it at the grocery store. Since it was made from a blend of spices I have on hand, I decided to throw together my own.

THE CRUST
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp (3 packets) Splenda (or the sweetener of your choice)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Smoosh the crust ingredients together (I put on a rubber glove and did it by hand). This was exactly enough crust mix for 12 cupcake cups; the problem was that the recipe I whipped up made way more cheesecake filling. So:

THE REVISED CRUST
3 Tbsp melted butter
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp (3 packets) Splenda (or blah blah choice)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Split the mix up among 12 cupcake cups (18, if revised), and press it down into the bottoms of the cups. I then opted to pre-bake the crust for 5 minutes before putting in the filling. I don’t know that it made all that much difference, but it felt fancy.

THE FILLING
2 packages (8-oz. each) full-fat cream cheese
1 can (15-oz) pumpkin (make sure it’s purely pumpkin, not some sort of “pie filling”)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Splenda (or … you know)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

I wasn’t especially delicate here — I dumped everything into the bowl, then blended it with my hand mixer. All of the spices are ground. I went heavier on the cloves (initially I only wrote down 1/4 tsp) because whenever I open up the little can, I remember how much I absolutely love the smell and taste of ground cloves.

Mix it all up, then pour it into your cupcake cups. This is enough filling for 18 cups. I only made enough crust for 12, plus I only own one 12-cup cupcake pan. So this is what I did with the remaining filling:

Bake them at 350° for 25-35 minutes. I started checking at 20 minutes, set five a couple more times, and took them out at the 30-minute mark. Your oven may vary.

How about the nutrition facts? I ran the numbers with the increased amount of crust, so this is based on a batch of 18 cupcake cheesecakes, all with crust.

PER CUPCAKE CHEESECAKE
160 calories
14g fat
5g carbohydrate
1.5g dietary fiber (for a net carb count of 3.5)
4.5g protein

And! The bulk of the carbs are coming from pumpkin. So hey, vegetables! (Or culinary vegetables that are botanically gourds, or squash, or fruit, depending on how obstinate you want to be.)

As usual, these go in the fridge after they’ve cooled a bit. It helps the butter in the crust hold together better, and gives a nice, dense texture to the filling. I likes my cheesecakes heavy.

An Incredibly Busy Week

Wow, what a week this has been. Busy, busy, bizzay.

First off, of course, was the night I spent in the hospital. We learned that my heart is in phenomenal shape, so no worries there. The mysterous chest pains have mostly abated, just twinging now and again. Also, the sporadic dizziness is completely gone. Regular doctors will be consulted, but it’s entirely possible we’ll never find out what this was. Strained muscle? Sudden-onset GERD? Swollen chesticles?

Right as I was getting released from the hospital, I got an email from my manager letting me know about a last-minute cast meeting the following night. Not mandatory, but attendance was recommended. I figured this was the news we’d all been waiting for — the corporate sponsor of our little show originally signed on for a three-year contract, which will expire in February of 2011. We’ve been waiting for many months to find out if they’d be extending that contract.

The answer is no. The last day of our game show will be February 4, 2011. None of the actors yet knows if we’ll be offered spots in other shows; it’s too early for that. We may start hearing in late December or early January. But it’s nice to have over three months’ notice about the closure.

Then, since Scott has linked to a couple of my posts lately, my web host started getting fussy. I started getting hourly notices that I was going over my traffic limits (partly due to my penchant for photo-heavy posts, no doubt). The big mystery was that when I went to the control panel, it would always say I was at zero for my outgoing traffic. Which it’s always shown.

I’m coming near the end of year 7 with this particular web host, and while they haven’t been mind-blowing, they’ve been OK for my needs. But clearly not anymore. Because seriously, just over 3,000 unique visitors hit my site on Wednesday. That shouldn’t be enough to overwhelm anything. (And a big thank-you to those 3,000 for their care- or curiosity-filled visits.) Since I haven’t received any upgrades in storage space or traffic or anything in that 7 years, what was a good package in 2004 is now one of the worst packages available in 2010. Since that host’s offer to fix my issues was to have my upgrade to a more expensive plan, I moved to another host instead.

Which turned out to beone of the high points of the week.

Seriously, this was the easiest move I’ve ever done. The blog runs on WordPress, and I was able to export the whole thing, import it at the new place, and with a few other file uploads and tweaks, it was exactly as it was before. Also, redirecting the domain to the new host took about 5 minutes, instead of the old school 48-72 hours. So two hours after deciding to change hosts, I did my research, picked a host, bought some space, moved the site, transferred the domain, uploaded files, and had a perfectly running site with much more traffic, storage, and perks.

I think this karmically makes up for the fact that every time we’ve moved Basic Instructions, it’s been a massive headache full of problems and extra steps.

I also learned a couple of things this week: first, here in Orlando, the only place to get Corelle plates that aren’t in a boxed set is Wal*Mart. That’s right, the city of a thousand outlet malls doesn’t have a Corningware factory outlet. BOO! Second, I learned that Adam Savage of Mythbusters has great taste in tee-shirts:

And that makes my chest hurt … with SCOTT-PRIDE!

Mrs. Meyer, in the Hospital, with the Chest Pain

Or, an alternate title: What to Expect at the Hospital When You’re Experiencing Chest Pain.

So right off the bat, I’ll let you know: I didn’t have a heart attack. My heart is fine. I’m spoiling the ending, but that seems like the right thing to do. And it also seems like the right thing to do to share what this experience is like, because it’s scary and unnerving and weird, and if you have to go through it sometime in the future, you’ll know what to expect. Onward!

Monday night, around 7 or 7:30ish, I noticed a pain in my chest. A hard to explain pain, but I’d say it was sort of a heaviness, combined with a little bit of pinching, and kind of a dull ache. I didn’t immediately feel too concerned, because the pain was just right of center on my chest. But as time ticked on, the pain (which ebbed and flowed) moved a bit down my right arm, and I was feeling an occasional radiating numb/tingly/chilly feeling that would rush through my body, kind of like a lighter version of what you feel when you’re about to pass out.

I started freaking out a little. I told Scott what I was feeling, then I went to my old friend, the internet. Where I learned that for women, heart attack signs are frequently weird — my favorite is the “feeling of dread or doom.” (Which I totally had, but was probably the anxiety kicking in.) The pain isn’t always on the left side of the chest, or in the left arm. It can occur on the right, or you could have no chest pain at all. Numbness, tingling, chills — all possible signs. Combining those with the fact that one of my Crohn’s medications lists chest pain and numbness as possible serious side effects, and we decided to hit the emergency room.

My last ER trip was for a major Crohn’s flare in early 2009 — incredible joint pain and a fun rash. I think I waited in the outside waiting room for an hour and a half to be seen that time. We chose a different (and far superior) hospital this time around. And know this — if you go to the ER and say the words “chest pain”, you get seen FAST. I was hooked up to an EKG machine within 5 minutes of arrival. After that, I answered a few questions about past surgeries, medications, conditions, and pain level on the 10-scale (I gave it a three), and they moved me back to a bed.

hosp-me

I got gowned up, they put an IV port in the big, juicy vein on my right arm, and they drew some blood. More about the IV port later, with a picture coming up (fair warning if you’re easily grossed out). A couple of nurses came by to get me comfy, then a doctor came to visit. He let me know that the standard procedure was to keep me overnight, then run some tests in the morning, including the stress test (the treadmill — you’ve seen it on House). He’d looked over the initial EKG, and it looked mostly good but there was one “blip”. He thought it might just be nerves making me blip, but they absolutely wanted to make sure.

Then he proceeded to tell me that all week, he’s had a weird streak of thirtysomething women come in with chest pain, and more than one had “the real thing” (read: heart attack), so he wanted to be absolutely sure about me. Way to make me freak out a little more, doc.

They also took a chest x-ray, which I didn’t even have to move for. They brought the portable x-ray equipment to me! Which was much nicer than the other hospital when I had my big Crohn’s flare, where they rolled me down the hall to the x-ray room and made me stand up with my arms over my head for the test. Since my joints were rock-hard and on fire, that was horrifyingly painful. This time, a piece of cake.

hosp-room

They were having a full night at the hospital — we sat and twiddled our thumbs for a couple of hours, while we heard the nurses talking about how there were no rooms and no beds available. But finally, luckily, a single room further back in the ER opened up, and I was moved there. I used my panorama camera feature to show from the monitor over my head to the big glass door (which doesn’t cut much sound from the hallway).

I settled in, and since it was 1:30am by that point, Scott went home to get some sleep. I was told that there would be more blood taken at 5am for testing, and sometime after 8am I’d go for my stress test. Lights out, and I tried to sleep. But the ER is a noisy place, even if you’re in a back corner, and the combination of that, my monitor beeping now and then, and the automatic blood pressure cuff inflating on me every hour or so made sleep hard to get.

hosp-stats

Here’s my monitor, by the way. Top line is heart rate (even when I’m calm, it’s in the 70s — I have the heartbeat of a hummingbird, so 90s when I’m moving around isn’t that unusual). Middle line is my breathing, bottom line is blood oxygen percent. The blood oxygen meter was strapped to my finger, but it frequently dropped its connection, and it would beep whenever it went to the “?” reading. Also, you may think that a blood pressure of 110/52 is low, but my record for the night turned out to be 97/45. It’s always low, though, so no worries.

Okay, so the IV. That also kept me from sleeping.

hosp-iv

That thing hurt worse than my chest. I couldn’t bend my arm, but I also couldn’t straighten my arm. And I couldn’t really twist my arm. There were only a couple of positions when I didn’t feel the dull throb of a foreign body in my arm, which meant that I had to try and sleep on my back (I’m a total fetal-side type) and keep my arm resting carefully on a wad of blanket.

From the blood around the entry point, I’m going to guess that a fine bruise will be appearing in the crook of my elbow in the next couple of days. The nurse who put it in wasn’t particularly gentle.

5am came, and they drew more blood. The nurse told me that they check for a certain cardiac enzyme that the heart releases during a heart attack. They were also running a lipid panel. Off she went, and I tried for a couple more hours of sleep. By 7am, I gave up, sat up, and turned on my TV. Fortunately, USA was running some Bond movies, so I was able to enjoy the awfulness of the ending of Dr. No and the first half of Moonraker. And really, was there ever a point where Roger Moore’s Bond didn’t seem like a dirty old man?

Scott and I texted back and forth for the morning. He got his morning in order then headed over, and showed up around 9-ish. We got a visit from one of the cardiac folks, and she told me about the tests in store for the morning. And also that I wasn’t allowed to eat until I’d done them. Before Scott arrived, a nurse also came by with toothbrush, toothpaste, and some lovely warm, wet towels to swab my face with. I changed into a fresh gown, and she gave me a pair of fuzzy socks. Very nice.

10am or so, and it was off for the tests. First, the stress test (which Scott wasn’t allowed to watch). I met the cardiologist, a nice guy who was shocked at my cholesterol levels. “Why are you even here?” He asked. “Your cholesterol is 140, and half of that is HDL!” (For the record, this morning’s cholesterol levels: total 144, HDL 61, Triglycerides 49, LDL 77.)

They strapped me up with a dozen electrodes and had me hop on a treadmill. They amped the speed up until my heart rate was over 155 beats per minute. (I was hovering right around 179 for the bulk of the testing. I really didn’t know that my heart even goes that fast.) I didn’t actually run on the treadmill; the top speed was just a very brisk walk with the belt on an incline. When it ended, I felt like I was going to pass out (which is apparently completely normal and expected). I plopped back down on a gurney, and they checked my blood pressure for a few minutes. Everything slowed back down, the electrodes came of, and I was stuffed back in my wheelchair (which was enormous) to head out for the next test.

Next was the Echocardiogram — an ultrasound peek at my heart’s shape and size, and the workings of all of the flaps and valves and doohickeys. They also look for clots, strictures, blockages, and anything else that might be amiss.

hosp-ultra

The easiest way for the technician to ultrasound me was for me to lie on my side, which was doubly great because I could see the screen clearly. Scott was allowed to come in for this one, and snapped a shot of the fun. The tech took all sorts of still pictures, some video with cool color, and sound files of the various lub-lub and whoosh-ka-whoosh noises for the cardiologist to look at. Some of the sounds of the heart actually sound like a DJ scratching a record. The technician said that she sometimes thinks her job is “a cross between DJ and video gamer.” Very cool!

We headed back down to my room in the ER (a regular room still hadn’t opened up yet) to wait for all of the results. We were told that the stress test and echo results should come back pretty fast, because the cardiologist was going to leave at noon. I was cleared to eat without restrictions, and one of the nurses brought me lunch, which I ate while The Price is Right was on. Double win!

hosp-food

This was possibly the best industrial meal I’d ever been served, you guys. A grilled cheese sandwich (although they probably used margarine), tomato soup, peas (not bad at all with some salt & pepper), iced tea with lemon slices, some slimy pears (which I skipped), and a sugar cookie. Damn the gluten, full speed ahead — I dipped the sandwich in the soup, was pleasantly surprised by the peas, and the cookie was shockingly good. I did not, however, eat the decorative slice of beet on the big-ass leaf. We all have our limits.

We were warned that I might not get results (and/or released) until 5pm or so, or even possibly the next morning, but fortunately everything came through earlier than that. I didn’t have to spend a second sleepless night, hooray! The stress test and echo came through great — no blockages, no murmurs, no weirdness. My heart is totally good to go.

I didn’t get an answer on what’s actually wrong with me, but we were able to check the most important and deadly thing off the list. Now begins more investigation with my regular doctors, to try and find out what it could be. I’m still feeling the pain a little bit tonight (even though it’s less than it was yesterday), so I don’t think it’s indigestion or sudden-onset GERD or anything. But it could be something as simple as pulled muscles, or some weird inflammatory thing, or any one of a huge list of other things. I’ll visit both my gastroenterologist and my regular clinic in the next week or so, and we’ll take it from here.

So, there’s what to expect in the ER when you have chest pain. Don’t be afraid, and don’t be afraid to go there. Even if it turns out to be nothing serious, even if your heart turns out to be fine, it’s SO worth it to get checked out. Even if (especially if) you’re a big guilt-riddled worrywart like me, who’s sure it’s nothing but freaks out at the thought that it might be something. The woman in the next room over, when I was in the first bed, said she’d had her chest pain for over two weeks. Which almost made me feel even more like some sort of weird whiner, because my pain had only started that night. But it also shocked me, because who waits for two whole weeks before being seen with chest pain?

So go! Get it checked! Don’t wait, and don’t be afraid. They’re all there to help you, and want to make sure you’re OK.

Photodump: Skating, Disney, and Fontography

skate-dorks2

Wednesday mornings are frequently roller-skating mornings. Our local rink (in beautiful Kissimmee, FL) has an “adult day” session, which is mostly full of adorable seniors wearing velour skating outfits. Combine roller skating with new phones that have an action-shot-panorama mode on the camera, and you get this kind of tomfoolery. The panorama stitching isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for me.

skate-school

The local rink recently changed ownership, and these banners went up for their skating school. I was perplexed by the weird off-center logo of S-shaped skaters. Check out the site if you want a glimpse into the past; it looks like it was designed years ago. Not a surprise, since the rink’s site is just as much of a throwback.

ziti-sisters

For you Disney fans, there’s a new show at Epcot. My coworker and I sauntered over on a break to check it out. It’s in the Italy pavilion, featuring “The Ziti Sisters”. The sisters represent aspects of Italian culture, from music to romance to art and history. A very cute show with audience participation (and very bold costumes).

buzz-chase

Speaking of Disney, this ad showed up in an entry on my RSS reader. Is it me, or does it look like a maniacal Buzz Lightyear is chasing that poor kid?

police-slogan

Lastly, I was horrified to see that the Orange County Sherrif’s Office cars have a slogan in quotes … in comic sans. Clearly, the ways in which they’re “making a difference” don’t include using modern, classy fonts.

A Mini Staycation

I’ll admit, a staycation is probably a lot more fun here in Orlando than it is in a lot of other cities. Scott’s younger brother visited us for a few days, so we took time off and checked out some places we hadn’t yet visited. We also got in a good little chunk of Disney, of course.

I’m hosting these snappies over at Flickr — I’ve been receiving notices that my site is going over some allotment of something, since I’m on the cheapest possible plan. It’s probably my penchant for pictures that puts me over bandwidth, so hopefully this will ease the pressure on my tiny site. Anyhoo, onward!

Our first day was Disney. We hit the Studios for the big three rides there, then moseyed over to the Magic Kingdom. After a half-dozen rides, we stopped at Aloha Isle for some Dole Whip. While there, we saw this foursome. Now, it was my understanding that adults weren’t allowed to wear costumes inside the MK, except during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. There was no party this particular night, so I was surprised to see a quartet of crazy getups. The hidden girl is in a full, actual Snow White costume. Next to her, I’m calling the girl “Sexy Minnie”. Following them were the boys — a cowboy with butterfly wings, and what I can only describe as a sexy Nazi costume. Perplexing!

Day 2: Universal! We visited both parks when we came down to find an apartment, almost 4 years ago. Hadn’t been back since. And there were several rides that were new to me — on our last visit, we rode Dueling Dragons first and I was queasy the rest of the day, so I didn’t go on Spiderman or The Hulk. This time we Hulked (which was awesome), and hit the all-new Harry Potter section of IoA. Welcome … to Hogwarts castle.

The warnings list for the new Forbidden Journey ride is massive, and yet they didn’t include a very important one. I think arachnophobia should be among the warnings. Seriously. Also, this ride (as well as most big Universal rides) requires you to put your whatnot in a locker before riding. I’m glad I remembered the locker issue, and just loaded my crap into my pockets and safety-pinned my pockets shut.

The ride was well-themed — the most impressive job I’ve seen Universal do. But I won’t ride it again anytime soon, since a goodly portion of it was motion-simulator, and as such made me queasy. A shame.

They did have plush shark hats over near the Jaws ride, which I forced Scott to put on. We didn’t buy one — I don’t think he’d be able to find many occasions to wear it. We went back out to CityWalk for lunch.

I saw signs for the BK Whopper Bar, and thought, “I HAVE to check that out!” I had visions of a full Fuddrucker’s-style toppings bar dancing through my head. Sadly, the Whopper Bar turned out to be a smallish Burger King. That’s it. I opted this day to not have it my way, and eat elsewhere.

Day 3 started at Disney, where we rode Expedition Everest and Dinosaur. Is it just me, or is Dinosaur better-lit these days? Seems like for a while, when something broke, they’d just turn the lights off on it. This time through, I could see almost everything. It’s still a pale imitation of the Indiana Jones ride out in California, but it’s all right.

Then we went to Gatorland! We’ve lived a mile away from this place for three years, and never visited before. Did we like it? Well, we upgraded our one-day admissions to annual passes. It was cute! And quaint! And chock full of fascinating animals. Especially …

TINY BIRDS! A room full of lorikeets, parakeets, and budgies, where you can buy a popsicle stick covered with birdseed for a buck and get covered in tickly cuteness. And yes, you really do need to watch your step — the birds walk all over the floor and up on your feet, so you have to kind of shuffle around.

Even Scott, who has a self-documented fear of birds, enjoyed our new avian overlords. This beautiful orange guy even got on Scott’s shoulder and licked his salty face. And now, thanks to annual passes, if I ever have a bad day I can just pop over to Gatorland, pay a buck, and get covered with tiny, happy, tickly birds.

We ended the day at Epcot. Scott observed that this mural at the front of Spaceship Earth looks like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. To which I say, a thousand times yes! The annual Food & Wine Festival is in full swing, but we did the German buffet at Biergarten instead. And it was a delicious sausage festival. (Heh heh.)

Today it’s back to work! Which means … back to Epcot. Love it!

Photoblog Phanatic

I do so enjoy it when pictures I take end up in photoblogs.

Yesterday, a picture I took in Costco a couple of years ago appeared out of the blue in Poorly Dressed People, part of the Cheezburger network. I didn’t submit this one; I was surprised to see it on my Google Reader feed, and was all, “Hey, that’s my picture!”

Today, one I submitted: An amazing parking job over on Bad Parking. Really, it’s impressive. The guy parked with precision.

And of course, there’s the classic fireman cake, which Scott blogged about at Basic Instructions, and found some internet fame after being reposted to Cake Wrecks.

Costco no longer has the fireman as an option for cake-based graphics. So we’ll never see that recipe again.

Technically, I’ve made Cake Wrecks twice — recently they posted a post full of watermelon cakes, one of which is mine. I got a picture of it at our old Albertson’s grocery store. I wonder if their cakes are why all of the Albertson’s stores in this town closed down.

I keep my camera phone at the ready on the rare occasions we go into Wal*Mart, but I’ve yet to see anyone in real life who’s freaky enough to appear in People of Wal*Mart. Now, if they had a People of Costco blog, I’d be submitting practically every week. (There is actually a photoblog at peopleofcostco.com, but it was last updated in December of 2009.)