Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried peanut butter cookies. There was a semi-failure a while back, in which I tried the “amazing” flourless peanut butter cookie recipe that’s all over the internets. Well, they weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either. Not moist, not chewy. More crumbly and powdery than anything.

So when I asked a coworker if he wanted something baked for his birthday, and he asked for peanut butter cookies, I figured it was the perfect time to adjust, experiment, and cobble together something better.

Please note, I didn’t put “low carb” in the title of this recipe. It is a reduced-sugar recipe; however, it has more carbs per serving than my usual experimental baking. If you’re in maintenance, these should be fine, but be warned that there’s actual brown sugar in these.

8 oz peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Splenda (9 packets) or 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 Tbsp softened butter (1/4 stick)
2 Tbsp whey protein powder (plain vanilla flavor)

Let’s talk about these ingredients. Almost every recipe out there demands a cup of peanut butter. But I find it a challenge to measure peanut butter into a cup, then get it all out. So sticky! Instead, I put my mixing bowl on my food scale, and plopped spoonfuls in until it hit 8 ounces. Much easier. Although my use of “plopped” is probably another example of why Scott says I should never write catalog copy for foods.

I split the sweetener between regular and brown, because brown is supposed to make a softer cookie. Because it has a little moisture (molasses) in it. I used coconut flour to bulk up the batter, and protein powder to … well, add protein. Which is apparently also supposed to help make a moister, softer cookie. This is the job that the protein gluten usually does with wheat flour. If you don’t have whey protein powder, no worries, just add a little more coconut flour. Or you could make up the 2 Tbsp in almond flour. Whatever floats your boat!

After dumping everything in the bowl and using the hand mixer on it, I threw on a pair of gloves (I have a huge box of latex-free rubbery gloves, good for everything from hair coloring to jalapeno chopping) and made balls of dough. I flattened them with my hands, then pressed them to an even height with a fork. Because peanut butter cookies without the fork marks are like Florida without sunshine.

Bake on a silicon sheet or parchment paper at 350° for 10-12 minutes.

On the advice of my lawyer the internets, I also put these on a brown paper bag when I took them off the baking sheet. Supposed to absorb as well as paper towels, but not make the cookies soggy.

But the big questions: how do they taste? And are they moist? Well, they taste GREAT. As for the texture, they’re not the weird, light, powdery consistency of the other ones. These are almost more cake-like. Fluffy and light. Definitely a better cookie than previous attempts.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make a truly moist and chewy low-carb cookie. So much of the chewiness comes from the wheat flour. But I’ll keep trying. And I’ll definitely eat my fair share of these.

Nutrition stats, per cookie, for a batch of 20 cookies (approx 2″ across):

100 calories
7g fat
5.5g carb
1.5g fiber (for 4g net carbs)
4g protein

Photodump: All You Need Is (Insert Need Here)

I am so far behind on various projects, but at least I can catch up on dumping pictures from the cameraphone. It’s quick! It’s easy! It’s fun (for me, at least)!

It’s getting colder here in Florida, which means I needed to pull out the heater for the winter. Sometimes, when we three are curled up around the parabolic magic, Scott has his fan on. But it’s three against one, so Scott is wrong.

Our female cat is more “my” cat. The big fat boy leans a little more toward Scott. The other day, my cat was a needy beast who wouldn’t leave me alone. Shadowed me everywhere, even into the shower. She was kind enough to stay there until I went and got my phone and pulled the curtain and liner back around her. Picture this, but with constant creaky mewing as she watched me get soaked in the water torture room.

Yesterday we visited a different Costco than usual, so we could go to the Costco liquor store. Sadly, they didn’t have the Kirkland Signature single-malt scotch. Apparently they only get a few cases once a year, and they sell out fast. We missed it by about a week. Instead, we got a 1.75L bottle of Maker’s Mark. It’ll last us a year! Our local Costco also doesn’t have the self-check lanes. We need these at our Costco! I’m totes jealous. Grocery stores here don’t have them either. Unless you count Wal*Mart as a grocery store, which I don’t.

Need a cake for Thanksgiving? How about a turkey that looks like someone’s junk? With a bloody nose? Who had a C-section?

It’s labeled as a “turkey football”. Sometimes our local Target gets some funny ideas about what makes a good cupcake cake. (As if there is such a thing as a good cupcake cake, right?) Although compared to some of the turkey cakes over at CakeWrecks, this one’s a stylish and graceful work of art.

But really, this is all you need.

Statistically Speaking

I have three sources of statistics for this blog. Two of them are provided by my hosting company: Webalizer (which is ugly as sin) and AWStats. The third source is Lijit, who provides the handy search box and my one experimental ad. (And let me just say, I really REALLY want that TiVo remote with QWERTY keyboard they’ve been showing a lot lately.)

They don’t all agree on specific numbers, which is perplexing. For example, this past Monday, November 15th, I got either 386 visitors, 285 visitors, or 478 visitors. The lowest number is from the ad provider, which may mean that they only showed ads to 285 of the people who came by. But 386 and 478 came from the two stats programs running at the same time on my host.

They do all seem to agree on what search terms lead people here. The most popular is “ipad sleeve pattern”, followed closely by “black bean brownies dr oz” and “roller skating movies”. An impressive mishmash, if I do say so myself.

I’m delighted that there are a number of searches for “gluten-free” and “coconut flour”. Also, quite a few people have found me because of “Suprep bowel prep”, and I hope with all of my heart that they read my description of it and demand a different product from their doctor. That stuff is awful.

Most of you are from the United States. But there are also hearty handfuls from Great Britain, Canada, Ukraine, and Australia, as well as a smattering from dozens of other places around the world. Ukraine? Fantastic! Ласкаво просимо to you all!

The weirdest thing, though, is that the ad provider thinks the most-used search term to find my site is “bad sportsmanship photos”. Does anyone out there know what that could be leading to? I don’t think I even have the term “bad sportsmanship” on this blog anywhere. Well … except that now I have it twice.

Anyhoo, welcome to you all, thanks for stopping by. And in the spirit of bad sportsmanship, I’ll leave you with some fluffy kitty toes.

Wellness Biometric Screening

A lot of workplaces lately are offering discounts or bonuses on health insurance based on biometric screenings. I went and had mine today, even though I think the whole thing is … well, if not a complete pile of bull, then a bunch of somewhat-wrongs wrapped up in a bow.

The screening consisted of several parts. Here’s why they all suck:

1. BMI: First, they measured my height and weight, and used a chart to show my BMI, or body mass index. Now, for someone of my average height (5-foot-4) and build, the BMI scale is relatively accurate-ish. However, if you venture much below 5’2″ or above 5’8″ or so, the numbers start getting crappy — the taller you get, the more scrawny you have to be to fit within the numbers (and conversely, the really short can be much heavier and still be considered “fit”). That’s because BMI was developed almost 200 years ago by a Belgian mathematician as a quick and rough way to assess trends in large groups, NOT as a tool to measure individuals. It came into favor in the ’70s thanks to Ancel Keys, the same guy who convinced the government to get behind a high-carb diet for health.

A better measure would be body fat percentage, but they certainly don’t have the time, money, or manpower to dunk us all in the tank. I’d also like to see waist measurements and waist-to-hip ratios instead of BMI. Funny thing, the pamphlet they sent us away with mentions both of those waist-related things, but we didn’t get measured for them.

2. Glucose: Yes, it’s good to know your blood glucose numbers. They can certainly be an indicator of diabetes, hyperglycemia, or other issues. However, these screenings don’t require you to have fasted for over 10 hours. They also don’t take into account when you last ate, or what you last ate. So we’re comparing the glucose of people who just ate a sandwich and chips an hour ago to people who haven’t eaten since the night before.

If we can’t count on everyone to fast beforehand, maybe we should be looking at the HbA1c, which is more of a snapshot of how blood glucose has been over the previous 3 months. Or even better, a full glucose tolerance test — fasting beforehand, drinking a measured amount of glucose, then charting of the resulting blood sugars over several hours.

Overall, the glucose doesn’t suck as much as the other biometrics, since at least it’s not based on inaccurate formulas. Still, it doesn’t tell you much of anything.

3. Cholesterol: Several problems here. Just like with glucose, fasting matters in a cholesterol screening. If you had something sugary an hour ago, especially something with fructose, your triglycerides will show as way too high. That’s not a fair way to be judged. Also, this test was done with a quickie fingerstick instead of a venous draw. The machine measures total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides, then calculates the LDL using something called the Friedewald formula. In a perfect world, LDL would be measured directly, and would also be divided into large LDL particles (actually good for you) and small LDL particles (the actual bad stuff).

(Yes, I fasted for these numbers. I knew they’d be more accurate that way.)

As you can see, the Friedewald formula failed me, because my triglycerides are too good. They’re lower then 45 mg/dL, which is below the threshold of the machine, so the formula (which is TC – [HDL + Tri/5]) can’t be applied.

There are a couple of boxes checked on the left side of this picture. That means I’m supposed to follow up with my doctor, because of my low triglycerides (that’s right, the stuff they want you to get as low as possible) and my nonexistent LDL (which is actually represented in a fair-ish manner by the “non-HDL” reading).

I had a cholesterol test less than a month ago, when I was in the hospital. My triglycerides were 43, and my LDL was directly measured (not calculated) at 74. Which an actual cardiologist raved about. So I won’t be rushing out anytime soon to get followed up on these bad numbers.

4. Personal Health Assessment: Last up is a big ol’ quiz we have to take through WebMD. There are a ton of questions about stress, habits, exercise, nutrition, and miscellaneous other factors. Then you get a score on the 100 scale.

I was completely honest about food. And this was frustrating. They group fruits and vegetables together as one item — for this survey, a glass of fruit juice is equivalent in health to a serving of broccoli. Which is absoulte bull. Also, saturated fats and trans fats are considered the same thing here. I eat a LOT of natural saturated animal fat, and NO trans fats. Still, I was totally honest with my answers.

I was shocked to score as high as 84, especially since I got a 72 last time I took this thing. I think I improved on stress, and my cholesterol numbers were slightly better. Just for giggles, I plugged in fake numbers for my foods — 6 servings of fruit/veg, 6 servings of grain, and zero servings of high-fat foods. What a surprise, my number jumped up to 93.

So yeah, my biometrics are all good. But I feel bad for everyone who’s going to fail these tests (and either not get a bonus [or worse, have their premiums raised]) because they’re using outdated formulas, inaccurate calculations, and ideas about health that are the fads that just won’t die.

Easy Spaghetti Sauce / Chili Base

When I was growing up, my folks used to make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce every now and again. Seems like we always had some in the freezer, and it was always freakin’ delicious. I learned to make it, and just threw down a batch the other day. It works as spaghetti sauce. It works in a lasagna. And if you chuck a can of beans and some cumin into it, it’s an awesome chili.

I say “easy” in that it is indeed easy, but this is a simmered sauce. It takes time. So this is the perfect project for a weekend day when you’re just kicking around the house.

First, brown two pounds of ground beef. I used 93/7 beef for two reasons: it was on sale, and with that small amount of fat, you don’t have to drain the fat. If you don’t want to. You can still drain the fat if you’re on one of those crazy low-fat fad diets, but you don’t need to.

Look here, I drained the fat so you can see how little there was:

See? Not even half of a small almond can. Which I’d cleaned out first. Because I poured the fat back into the pot. This draining was for demonstration purposes only. I really don’t recommend it. It adds flavor, and all of the healthful benefits of natural animal fat.

Have I made my opinions of meat fat clear? Good. Fat returned to pot, and it’s time for the first wave of additions.

One onion, diced. Eight or so stalks of celery, diced. You could also dice up a couple of bell peppers, if they float your boat. Can’t stand the things myself. Next: a couple of tablespoons of chopped garlic (yes, I used the stuff in the jar). I eyeballed the spices, but it’s approximately 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, and a tablespoon or so of chili powder. I likes me the chili powder.

You don’t need to sauté the vegetables; they’re about to spend hours simmering, which will get them plenty soft. See? Easy! Now for the next additions:

1 can of diced tomatoes (I like the “petite diced” for the size. You’re welcome to use bigger chunks if that floats your boat). And here’s where I hope you used a large pot, because this recipe calls for two jugs/cans of tomato juice. My folks used to use the big-ass metal cans of Campbell’s juice; this time around, I got two 46-oz bottles (again, because that’s what was available).

Why juice, and not sauce or puree or paste? There’s just something magcial about how the juice reduces down over a few hours. I guess if you want to be really adventurous, you could substitute one of the cans/jugs of juice with V8. Me, I’m not that ballsy.

Dump in. Mix. Bring it to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low.

Now put the lid on, half-cocked so steam can escape. And let it simmer gently for … let’s say 6 hours. Because that’s how long I let this particular batch simmer. Stir it every half-hour or so, or whenever you get up to go do something else. Look at how much it’s reduced:

Dark. Rich. Tasty. BUT WAIT! Sure, you could serve it up now, but it’s not as good as it could be at this point. This sauce really requires some time in the freezer. I can’t explain what happens; I don’t have the math for it. But it’s good, good stuff.

Let this cool a bit on the stove. Portion it out to suit your family — for the two of us, I put it in two-cup containers. Back in my youth, the family-of-four servings would be frozen in old Cool-Whip containers. I put them in the fridge first, since our freezer is kind of full, and I didn’t want all that warmth in there. After they cooled down, I stacked them in the freezer.

When you want to eat it, no need to pre-thaw (although you can toss one in the fridge the night before if you want to). What we’d do in days of olde was throw the frozen block of sauce in a saucepan and add in one of those little 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce. Along with a dash of chili powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Heat until the frozen block is demolished and it’s all bubbly.

Serve it on spaghetti. Or spaghetti squash. Layer it in a lasagna. We’re going to try to make noodles from zucchini, like Alton Brown did on Good Eats recntly. Or you can throw in a can of drained beans and some cumin when it’s thawed, and it becomes chili! Sometimes I’ll put some in a dish, add some frozen meatballs, and take it to work. A quick blast in the microwave, a sprinkling of parmesan, and that’s some damned tasty lunch.

Photodump: More Feet Than You Expect

We’ve had a busy time lately in general. And as always, I take pictures of every damn thing.

This pop machine at work (I refuse to say soda, Florida!) is having issues. I don’t think the bottles inside can truly be considered “ice cold” anymore.

We went bowling with friends a couple of weeks ago. I had no idea that bowling shoes were getting so groovy! Scott’s were orange with flames. Mine were this fantastic lime green, one of my two favorite colors. The bowling balls were also an awesome variety of colors.

I scored over 100 in both games, and that’s good enough for me. The next day, I had aching muscles I didn’t even know existed.

Seen at the grocery store. I think Dr. Oz needs to try his own cure.

We’ve visited Gatorland a couple more times, and always go into the aviary. For a dollar, you get a popsicle stick with birdseed glued onto it. In the process of the birds attacking the stick, some of the birdseed falls on your feet. I can now say from experience that birds biting your toes is tickly.

Last but not least, our regional AAA magazine learned a lesson that we learned early on with the show Twisted Flicks: when using the captial-style L next to the I, a quick glance can make the word “flicks” look like another word altogether. A much more profane word.

Colonoscopy 2010!

So a part of having Crohn’s disease is getting looked at from the inside more often than the average bear. Most people are encouraged to have a colonoscopy every 5 years starting at age 50, or age 40 if there’s a history of colon cancer in your family.

Me, I get to be scoped every two years. Although this time we did it a bit early; I’ve been on a new medication for a year, and we wanted to see what kind of healing it’s been doing. So it’s actually been 1 year and 7 months since my last colonoscopy.

Probably a lot of you have never had this experience, but you most likely will in the future. So what should you expect? Here’s what goes on.

The day before the procedure, you aren’t allowed to eat solid food. You’ll get a list of the fluids you’re allowed — basically, anything liquid (or Jell-O) that isn’t red or purple. You definitely don’t want anything staining anything red … down below.

So I spent the day hungry. I opted to not drink any of the fruit juices (pineapple, apple, strained orange) on the list, because sugar just makes me hungrier.

That evening, you have to drink something gross. No matter what brand you get, it’s always gross. I’ve done a couple of other types, and it’s always involved mixing a powder with water and drinking anywhere from a liter to a gallon. And this stuff is ALWAYS salty. Because it’s the salts that make it work, pulling water into the bowel and causing everything to rush out. But usually you can flavor it yourself, so you can make it salty lemonade or salty Gatorade or whatever other flavor helps you swig it down. (Research afterward shows that there are pills that can be taken, but they’re dangerous to the kidneys. DAGNABBIT.)

This stuff I was given, Suprep, is already flavored. And sweetened. With Splenda. Now, I use Splenda in baking a lot, but I know that it’s too sweet, so I always reduce the amount. All commercial products made with sucralose are always, always too sweet, and this was no exception. The flavor they chose was what I call “medicinal berry”, the kind of mixed-berry flavor you’d find in a cough syrup or cold elixir. So even diluted in water, it was a too-salty and too-sweet and too-gross berry sludge. I was unable to finish it.

Bottom line: DON’T USE SUPREP. It was the worst I’ve ever used.

After drinking for a while, it’s into the bathroom. Now comes the cleaning out of everything that’s left inside. My little girl-cat was sympathetic, and hung out in the bathroom with me for most of the evening. If you’ve tried to chill your prep liquids to make them more palatable, then you’ll be shivering all the while as well. The evening before the procedure is, by far, the worst part of the whole thing.

Next morning, really early, it’s off to the hospital/clinic/office where you’re having the procedure done. A little paperwork, maybe a payment, and then it’s time to take off your undershorts, throw on a classy hospital gown, have a pregnancy test if you’re a female (they will never, EVER not do this, even if it’s fun ladytimes that day), get an IV inserted, and lay around for a while.

My doctor is always late. For office visits, I always expect to sit in the waiting room for an hour and a half after my appointment time. For this procedure, first thing in the morning, I was wheeled into the actual action room 50 minutes late. Ugh.

The complete hookup includes electrodes on the chest, the IV in your arm, a blood pressure cuff, a pulse monitor on your finger, and one of those oxygen tubes in your nose. The plastic of which always smells like a new shower curtain. (As you can see, I was shooting for another low blood pressure world record.) Everyone gets set, and then it’s lights out. They inject anaesthetic into your IV line (my anaesthetic looked like milk), you feel incredibly happy and fuzzy for five seconds, then you’re waking up afterward. It’s nice that modern knockout juice wears off pretty fast — 15 years ago, I woke up from my first colonoscopy groggy and freaking out, and spent the rest of the day in a haze. Nowadays, I’m coherent right away, and while I wasn’t allowed to drive the rest of that day, I was able to do anything I wanted to without fuzzyheadedness.

The doctor came by afterward, chastised me for my sub-par prep (I warned him in advance that I wasn’t able to finish the Suprep, what with the gagging and crying), and reported that everything looks generally OK. He took some biopsies, and I go in to visit him in two weeks (where I’ll wait 90 minutes in the outer chamber first) to get a full rundown.

I was up and dressed and walking out within 20 minutes of waking up. Scott pulled the car around, and homeward we went. Now, there are two big tasks after this procedure. Number one is to get the air out, and number two is to eat. As for number one: throughout the procedure, they pump you full of air so that they can see everything clearly. So afterward, you have to fart like your life depends on it. Last time, I had a hard time with this, and was in some serious pain until I got home and rolled around a lot. This time, I was apparently posessed by a frat boy, and was able to get the job done quickly while still at the surgery center.

Secondly, EATING! After four skipped meals, it was time for a big, soothing, greasy goo-burger. Diet be damned. So off to Five Guys it was! And then home for a big nap. I’m glad I took the day after off work, so we could tackle some of the usual weekend chores and errands.

Overall, it’s not too traumatic an experience. Especially if you don’t have a strong gag reflex, because the drinking of the salty water is the worst part of the whole thing. I’m definitely requesting a different prep next time. Or, hopefully in two years, they’ll have come up with a better pill-based prep system.

Oh, and — the babysmasher at Five Guys had the oddest logo on it. Couldn’t not take a picture.