When the World Falls…And Then Gets Back Up Again

I’ve had so many swirling thoughts about the tornado that ravaged my state.  I’ve never said on AO where I live in Oklahoma, but I will say this: we were close to the tornado.  Fifteen minutes away.

May 20th.  I was home with the stomach flu that day.  I turned on the TV because the skies looked menacing.  The general rule here in Oklahoma is that if the meteorologists haven’t commandeered the airwaves, it’s not that bad.  A soap opera was playing, so I was happy to see  it was indeed not that bad.  My relief was short-lived.  Within seconds, the soap opera was gone, replaced by a meteorologist who said, “Folks, we’re going to switch to the weather for a while.  Something could be brewing.”

He was right.  It didn’t start out all too menacing, though.  There was a suspicious cloud with a hook, ready to spawn a tornado at a moment’s notice. For now, a menacing but harmless thing. Then there was more rotation.  Then it was a little funnel, just barely touching the ground and dissipating.  Then it tried again and wisped away.  It was just another little tornado, the things that populate our spring television sets, allow us to beef up our arm chair meteorologist cred, and momentarily disrupt our lives.

By May 20th, the sirens had already gone off two times in our neighborhood this spring.  The first time, The Professor and I sat in our closet with the cats to wait it out.  The next time, we knew the storm had passed our neighborhood by a few miles, so we did rednecks proud and stood in the street and took pictures of the developing funnel cloud.

photo-1

Bad weather, it’s sort of normal around here.

And that’s what this tornado looked like – sort of normal.  Trying to touch the ground, not succeeding, and trying again.  Gaining speed to become a little EF1 or EF2 tornado and then back to originally scheduled programming.  Except, that’s not what happened.  Eventually it hit the ground and stuck.  And in seconds, it went from a small wedge to a behemoth. A super cell, long track tornado.  The stuff of nightmares.

It was hard for me to comprehend how big it was.  Soon it was crossing rivers, plowing through roads I’d driven on and intersections I could see in my head.

And then The Professor’s school was one of the landmarks on the weather map.  My heart dropped.  But I did the projection, geographic calculations we Okies, accidental or not, can do in our sleep.  Storms travel North East.  This one was traveling East North East.  He would be safe. I was safe too.  That’s why I stayed on the sofa when the tornado siren began screaming.

I watched powerless as the shaky TV footage showed the tornado taking out houses.  Then whole neighborhoods.  Then businesses.  And schools.  The debris cloud was so dense that the tornado and its conquests were one large dustbowl extending from the evil skies.  It was on the ground for 40 minutes.  A two-mile wide monster leaving death and destruction in its wake.  Then it was gone.

I watched helplessly as reporters made mad dashes to assess damage.  Helicopter footage showed large swaths of neighborhoods gone.  Then they discovered the schools.  One reporter relayed news while the other listened to police scanners, their normally tidy anchor desk covered in paper, their words less smooth.  One school had every child miraculously accounted for.  But not the other.

Then a reporter started to cry.

We’ve all watched disasters unfold on TV – 9/11, floods, tsunamis.  I was watching this one on TV too, but it was happening 15 minutes from my house.  It was a cognitive disconnect I still can’t quite comprehend.

As if to serve as a reminder that I wasn’t watching a feed from a far away place, our wireless Internet and cell phones went out.  They’d stay out until 11 that night.  Even if the phones had come back, reporters were relaying desperate pleas for people to stay off their phones and keep the network unclogged.  I got one text out to my mom that we were fine.  Everyone else had to wait.

A few hours later, The Professor came home. He’s not emotional in this sort of situation – facts, by the book.  But his voice was anchored in sadness and concern.  We watched the news for another ten minutes and then turned it off.

It’s been several days now since it felt like the world fell out from beneath us – since 25 of our friends, neighbors, classmates lost their lives to the menacing skies. Part of our city looks like a war zone.  Then for people like The Professor and me who weren’t directly impacted, things are normal, or as normal as they can be.  It’s a strange set of realities.

Mixed with sadness and loss are stories – miracles great and small.  A friend was on the team of meteorologists who surveyed the damage and the path (and other sciency things, I’m sure) to determine the tornado’s place on the EF scale.  He said he was encouraged by the number of stories of unlikely survival.

This week, I’m more proud of my accidental state than I’ve ever been.

The Home Depot next to one of the neighborhoods hit became a drop off and triage site for all the pets found in rubble.  Now the farmer’s market where I buy watermelons every summer is housing lost pets and orchestrating sweet reunions.

The local gluten-free communities are banding together to provide gluten-free food for displaced celiacs.

The entire community came together to give a new backpack filled with goodies for every kid whose school was leveled.  That was 1,000 backpacks collected and filled in about 18 hours.  Our local cupcake bakery supplied 1,000 cupcakes.

Big Truck Taco, the world’s greatest gourmet taco-truck business was serving breakfast tacos to first responders the next morning.

My university is housing 100 people in dorms.  Employees gathered supplies like sheets, toiletries, and diapers and the university set up a free store for families to shop from.  Our state school is partnering with a church to provide free daycare for the kids staying in the dorms so the parents can sleep, talk to insurance adjusters or sort through the rubble.  And our cafeterias are serving meals to search and rescue crews that have come from across the country to help.

Volunteers were sent away because so many people showed up.

Within hours of the disaster, the churches in my town were a mobilized and unified front, a single Body of Christ meeting needs 24/7 for a week now.

Westboro Baptist Church, a sad cult of deranged and misled people, are reportedly in town to picket children’s funerals.  The Freedom Riders got to the funeral first along with thousands – yes thousands – of citizens who created a human shield for mourning families.

The grocery store I shop at is donating huge proceeds of their sales to the Red Cross. The value supermarket in town provided 20,000 snacks for kids.  The bake sales and car washes manned by children on almost every corner are donating all of their sales.

(If you want an even more impressive list, look at this blog post).

Last night at 10 p.m., The Professor and I drove up to Oklahoma City after a last-minute need came through our email from church.  A jewelry store in Midland, Texas, had put a call out on the radio that they would collect donations and buy supplies.  The store, along with a few other local businesses, was packed with people dropping off money and supplies.  Midland sent the high school band’s semi with 100 tons of supplies.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw the huge Texas flag streaming off the back of the truck.  The Texans had arrived.

The supplies were amazing – tons and tons of bottled water and Gatorade. Diapers and wipes. Someone donated garment bags full of nice suits.  There were Pack-N-Plays, nursing pillows, shovels, scrubs, and boxes of new pillows and blankets.

DSC02527

Most of the water bottles were heavy 40 bottle packs.  Then we’d get to the more precious offerings – 5 rolls of toilet paper from someone’s home, a four pack of Gatorade.  Gifts from people who gave what they could, meager as it was.  The widow’s mite – sure to be blessed and multiplied.

As I hauled in my place, I found myself praying over the boxes.  That each item would find the right person.  That the business man who needs to get back to work would find the nice donated suits. The nursing mom would find the nursing pillow. The Disney princess backpack would find just the right little princess.

DSC02539

I don’t know if you know this, but I hated Oklahoma when I moved up here.  It was my duty as a Texan to hate it.  But the longer I’ve been here, the more I’ve come to love this place.  It’s not a “getting used to it” sort of love, but a deep affection.  This week, amongst the tragedy and the triumph, my heart is soaring for this state.

Here in Oklahoma, when the whole world falls down, we get back up and put it back together.Oklahoma Home

Advertisements

We’re Okay

Oklahoma Home

I know I’ve been silent on my blog lately.  It’s been a busy season for my business.  I’m coming back soon with some big surprises for Accidental Okie and Swoon Designs.

But I wanted to let you all know that we’re okay.  The horrible tornadoes that ravaged Oklahoma were too close for comfort – just miles away.  The movie theatre currently being used as a triage center is where we saw Batman and Harry Potter and Les Mis.  But we’re safe, unharmed, thankful, and praying for those who can’t say the same.

Pray for our state.  Pray for our neighbors.

Sorry!

I know, I know!  Where have I been?

It’s been a question I’ve been getting a lot.  You loyal fans and friends, you are demanding some more blog posts.

So, here’s the deal. It’s spring and I have about 1,000 jobs with my business, Swoon Designs.  So I’m making graduation announcements, doing wedding quotes, a bunch of stationery, two corporate logos, a big corporate brochure, a charity auction and another corporate job.  Oh and I need to invoice someone.  And cash some checks.  (I’m bad about remembering to collect and deposit money).  And I need time to sleep.  Oh and being on the elimination diet is a little time consuming.  Also, I’m tired.

Here’s the skinny on the past few weeks.

  • Our elimination diet is going great!  The Professor has been able to taper off his IBS meds and my face looks photoshopped.  I would take a picture, but I’ve been working on Swoon jobs for about 48 hours straight and currently look like the before picture of a stunning before-and-after makeover transformation.  We’ve added back fermented soy and baked eggs (like in bread) and a very small amount of peanuts.  Next week, the plan is to add back less cooked eggs (like scrambled eggs).  I haven’t missed dairy except in my coffee and tea.  I haven’t really missed anything, come to think of it.
  • I have become a dark chocolate connoisseur of the highest order.
  • I am no longer a functional, happy person without my morning smoothie.
  • I was incredibly happy when we added back fermented soy.  Asian food, you complete me.
  • The Professor’s car died, but was resurrected by our trusty mechanic.  The aging SUV lives to ride another day…as long as its headlight doesn’t fall out.  I filled out the paperwork on my W2 wrong and my employer didn’t take out much in state taxes, which means our tax bill has the word “thousand” in it.  Together with the car, my parent’s hopes and dreams of becoming grandparents are dashed again.  That was kind of a bummer.  After discovering the two things, I may have hidden in the closet and cried ten minutes before company was coming over.
  • My sister is moving to Massachusetts in a few weeks.  She’s super excited.  I’m excited for her, but sort of sad to have my buddy and helper living here.  She’s currently making dinner since I’m so busy.  I love you Jackie!
  • Once my sister moves to Massachusetts, I will probably be forced to learn how to spell the state name.
  • The Professor planted some beautiful plans in our front flower beds.  We are no longer “those neighbors.”
  • I discovered a show called Sweet Genius and am hooked.  Only we don’t have cable, so that’s a problem.
  • Charlie has gotten fatter.  We’re beginning to suspect he has aspirations to become a cat sumo wrestler.

Okay, that’s it.  I’ll be back.  I promise.

The Dreaded Elimination Diet

Psst – thanks everyone for voting last week for the recipe to save.  The quiche won.  Look for the recipe soon.

I thought about naming this post Just Kill Me Now or something like that.  But the reality is that the more I’ve thought about our elimination diet and the more research I’ve done, I’m actually really excited and hopeful.

Yes, we’re doing an elimination diet.  It’s 21 days long.  It starts today.  We’re not eating corn, soy, sugar, gluten (The Professor is eliminating gluten – Jackie and I have severe gluten intolerance and eliminated it years ago), dairy, peanuts and eggs.

There are several reasons we’re embarking on this adventure.  Jackie, my sister who is living with us, is also gluten-free and has been still having a lot of symptoms associated with food intolerances.  She went off dairy for a few days and a lot of things cleared up.  Since we both have gluten intolerance, there’s a pretty good chance that if she has other intolerances, I do too.  Also, once you have one food intolerance, you’re likely to have or develop others.  (Thanks Mom and Dad…your genetic lottery aspirations have exceeded your expectations).

One of the big symptoms of a dairy intolerance is bad hay fever allergies.  My allergies are so bad that at least once a spring my eyes swell shut, and I get allergy shots once a week.  I’ve also had a lot of weight gain due to bad reactions to birth control pills, and I’m up for trying this.  The Professor also has been having some health issues, and the doctor recommended an elimination diet.  So, the writing was on the wall.  We all need to do this, and we’re all at the point where we’re ready to commit.

All I have to say is this:  If I am allergic to dairy, I will probably lock myself in my house and cry for a few days.  Fact.

We’re following two books.  The first is the Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin.  I read the book this weekend and was intrigued by her explanation of why she recommends eliminating these seven foods.  They are the seven highest food intolerance foods.  They’re foods that are often times associated with healthy living, and so sometimes people who do have intolerances to these foods end up sabotaging themselves because they’re eating the things worst for them.

She has a quiz that lists common food intolerance symptoms.  You get two points if you have occasional symptoms and four points if you have frequent symptoms.  0 – 5 means you probably don’t have many or any food intolerances, 6 – 14 points means you may have mild food intolerances, 15 plus means you have a high likelihood to have quite a few food intolerances.  I scored  48.

I’m also reading and gaining recipes from The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook by Annalise Roberts and Claudia Pillow, two of my gluten-free heroes.  In addition to the Virgin Diet’s focus on food intolerances, both books focus on eliminating foods that cause inflammation within the body.

So here we go.

Step one was researching.  Because Jackie has been spearheading this, I asked her to make a meal plan for the week. As we went through recipes in both books, we caught the vision for great meals that wouldn’t make us feel deprived.  Tonight we had chicken fajitas with a bunch of peppers and onions and fingerling potatoes.  Later this week, we’re having Dal and brown rice and a Greek salad. The more we researched, the more we saw that this could be done.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comNext, the perishable items went to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  Farewell cheese.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comBecause we will be systematically adding items back into our diet, we put the currently unsafe non-perishable foods into a bin in the pantry so we wouldn’t be tempted.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThat’s where the bread and tortillas used to live.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThen we went shopping.  It was quite a trip.  I anticipated it being more expensive to set the foundation for a new way of eating, and it was.  But I think our weekly budget will be back on track after this week.

I was thankful to find dairy free and sugar free chicken broth.  Also we found some great pre-seasoned and safe meat at Sam’s.  Putting all the groceries on the table before unloading was a neat visual reminder that although we’re temporarily eliminating so much, we won’t starve.  In fact, we will be eating amazing, yummy food!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.com

Jackie’s going to make us some kale chips.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comTo set us up for success, I prepared all the veggies.  I peeled and chopped the carrots and stored them in water because Pinterest told me to.  Apparently it keeps them crisp.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comWhen I saw this carrot, I wished I had a snow man.  It is the perfect snow man nose.

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comCarrots, green onions and lettuce are ready to go!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comAnd the whole fridge is stocked!

elimination diet | accidentalokie.comThis weekend I also made roasted red pepper hummus, which will provide a great snack throughout the week!

We’ll let you know our progress.  Because this is a true elimination diet for food allergies, there can be no cheating or all the work is void.  If you have food allergies or have done similar diets, give us tips.  We need them.

Rock the Vote

As you probably know, my recipes are step-by-step with lots of photos.  Why?  Because I think step-by-step recipes are super useful and uniquely suited to the blogging medium.  Also, I hope that many gluten-free newbies read my blog and are less intimidated about jumping head first into the world of g.f. cooking.

But sometimes, I mess up.  It’s true.  I know you’re shocked.  Take a moment to sit down if you need to.

You see, sometimes I get everything set up to blog about a recipe.  I buy the ingredients, start the prep and take the pictures.  But somewhere along the way, I forget to continue taking pictures. Usually this happens if I’m making a meal for company, and I get rushed at the end.  Or my blood sugar is low and I’m on the dangerous tight rope between lightheaded and hangry (hunger-induced anger = hangry).  It’s a dangerous place, my friends.  Just ask The Professor.  He’s been caught in those crosshairs before.

This reminds me of a picture I saw on Facebook a few days ago.

hungry

Can I get an Amen?

So, anyways, my point.  I have a few awesome recipes whose photos just sort of unceremoniously ended before the recipe was finished.  They’re amazing recipes, but I wouldn’t normally blog about them because they’re missing some of the step-by-step pictures.

This was making me sad though.  Because, I mean, they’re some of my favorite recipes.  So I’ve decided to feature one of these recipes, and I’m letting you decide!  Right now, they are on the Island of Misfit Blog Posts, and you have the power to set one free!

Vote in the comments section by Friday, February 15th.  Whichever recipe wins will be featured on Accidental Okie!

Recipe 1: Roasted and Caramelized Vegetables with Sesame Seeds and Rosemary

One of my favorite exports from New Zealand.  Filling and economical and oh so good.

roasted veggies

Recipe 2: Quiche

There’s a secret ingredient.  Spoiler alert: it’s in this photo.

quiche

Recipe 3: Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Dates

The party food of kings…or of all my friends.  One of the two.

datesSo rock the vote.  Save a recipe!

Cast your vote for which one to save by Friday!  If you’re having trouble voting on the blog, vote on Facebook or my Twitter feed.

My Hero

It’s no secret that The Professor and I have cats.

There’s Pippa.  She’s the oldest.  We got her after our four-month old kitty Lucy tragically escaped and was hit by a car.  We named her Pippa after a poem by Robert Browning about a girl named Pippa who goes on a long walk and encourages everyone she meets.  We needed encouragement and a fostered little kitten was sure to fit the bill.

Except Pippa apparently actually means pissy, because Pippa is the pissiest little cat I’ve ever had.  Just like how in the arctic in the summer when there’s flowers blooming and birds chirping, but the ground is still in a state of permafrost, Pippa is always somewhere on the annoyed spectrum.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHere’s she’s sleeping on The Professor’s leg on a road trip. (Yes, our cats travel with us like dogs).  This is her begrudgingly happy face.

There’s only one exception to Pippa’s mood, and that’s when she’s warm…or, well, in need of warmth.  Her affection level is directly related to how cold she is, and how warm she wants to be.  I feel loved.  I feel used.  Mostly, I feel loved.

cats | www.accidentalokie.com

Charlie, on the other hand.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHis full name is Charles Bingly George Warren, and he’s an oaf.  He spends his days begging for food, collecting cylindrical objects from around the house – straws, razor blades, The Professor’s tooth brush, drain plugs – and sleeping on his back whilst loudly snoring.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comAnd despite being on a strict diet, he’s so fat that he can’t properly clean himself…ahem….down there.  So he gets frequent baths.

I have to lock Pippa out of the bathroom during Charlie’s baths because, hearing his plaintive cries, she gets protective and starts biting my legs to let him go.

On to my hero.  That is The Professor.  For Christmas, he got me the greatest gift in the whole world: a cat door.  Yes people, our cat litter is in the garage!  Hallelujah!

cats | www.accidentalokie.comHe bought a kit from Lowes.  We had to buy a “big cat door” to accommodate Charlie’s girth.  This is especially sad seeing that Charlie is not even a year old.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comNext off came the door – the only one in our house not yet painted.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comWe traced the pattern on to the door, which was laying on a work table.  And he used a power drill to cut through the door.  It is a double layer solid door, so we had to match up the template to the other side and repeat.

cats | www.accidentalokie.comThe idea is that you screw the edges and the door pops out.  Hurray!  It worked.

I couldn’t take pictures of the rest of the steps, as I was laying on the ground in the garage, holding one side of the door in place while The Professor screwed in cat door on the other side.  About 10 minutes later, we were done!

It took a little coaxing with treats for the kitties to accept their door, but within about ten minutes, Charlie had mastered it.cats | www.accidentalokie.comPippa, the suspicious cat that she is, chose to only look through it and attack Charlie when he tried to cross.  You shall not pass!

By the end of the day, they were both pros.

Every day I thank The Professor for what has to be the greatest gift ever…no more cat litter in the house!

Budget Binder (And Free Printables)

the reluctant budgeter

My reluctant budgeting continues.

The first time I met with my budget mentor Pat, we talked about the benefits of the cash system.  Money can seem theoretical when it’s electronically zipping out of your debit card.  A few dollars here and a little stop at the store there, and you’ve unknowingly blown your budget.

So we’re working on the cash system.  Not for everything.  We’re not taking dollars and exact change to the mortgage company, but we are using cash for everything except bills, charitable giving and gas for our cars.  It’s divided into five categories:

  • Groceries – food, cat stuff, toiletries, household cleaning supplies
  • Clothes & Makeup – including my more expensive hair-care products
  • Entertainment & Eating Out – this how we feed our Thai food addiction.
  • Play Money – a little pocket money for The Professor and me during the week.
  • Gifts – Because we have a lot of nephews and nieces, we’re putting $40 back each month for gifts and hoping that this will cover birthdays all year and Christmas.

Pat told me that I needed to figure out an organization system.  She said a budgeting system has to have two important elements: it must work for you and you must like it.

Translation: make it pretty.

Yes, you heard right…straight from my mentor’s own lips.  Her reasoning is this: who really wants to spend all that time budgeting?  But if you have to do it, it’s easier when you have created an inviting system that you can tuck into once a week.  Now, I’m sure there are accountants out there who just love spreadsheets and feel at home amongst those white and black lines, but I’m not one of those people.

Being me, I couldn’t find paper and organizers that I liked.  I knew I wanted things to be color coded.  I knew that I needed to keep details to a minimum, and I knew I wanted thick paper.  So, being me, I made my own system.

budget binderIt started with a regular-sized, 1-inch binder with the clear front pocket where you can slide in a cover sheet, some plastic binder pouches to serve as money envelopes and binder dividers.  (In case you long to be just like me, I put the links to the exact things I bought.  You know, since everyone wants to be like me.)  Then I designed my system.  Each of the five categories of the cash budget has a section within the binder that contains three items.

budget binder | www.accidentalokie.comFirst, there’s the cover page.  This is important because this where I defined my categories.  When I told Pat my grocery budget, she said it was a little high, but when I explained that it included things like cat litter, cleaning supplies and toothpaste, she said that it was actually  accurate.  (Score!)  Having all these things lumped together works for me because I buy a lot of them in the same place. Also, I knew I needed my system to be as simple as possible, or I wouldn’t use it.

budget binder ledgerNext is the ledger where once again I kept things simple.  It has three categories: date, details and dollars.  I’ve simplified things further by not recording my purchases by date, but by week.  I section off each month and write how much money we’ve budgeted for the category.  Our grocery budget has seen an increase since my sister has moved in, so we’ve been learning how to adjust for a third eater and a second gluten-free eater.

In the details column, I write down notes.  This is especially helpful if my bill was especially high.  One grocery trip, I had to buy allergy medicine and supplies for a big pizza party.  That will be good to remember when I’m reviewing the month.  I also keep track of cat expenses, so I have a better idea what to budget for Charlie and Pippa.

budget money folderFinally, each category has the cash, stored in the convenient plastic pouch from Office Max.  The goal is for these envelopes to accrue cash – for us to not spend to the limit every month but to build a cushion for a rainy day (or when we want to buy rib eyes or other splurges).

I tried the cash system once before and carried all the cash with me.  This didn’t work for two reasons: First, I was stressed about carrying several hundred dollars with me.  But second (and the real reason), I would be like “Oh look how much money I have!  I should get a coffee,” or “We can totally afford eating out again this week month.”

budget binder percentages

Another thing Pat and I talked about was deciding how much to spend on each category.  She gave me the generally accepted guidelines, which I designed as part of my binder.  My hope is to do quarterly check ups of our spending against this guide.

I’ve been on the system for about a month now.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • A cash system does not work if you forget to get cash before you leave the house.
    I’ve had to learn to give The Professor and me our $20 of play money at the beginning of every week so that we don’t use our debit cards for little purchases.  I’ve also had to make sure to get grocery money before every trip.
  • I can afford things.  
    Before I started the cash system, I spent a lot of time being frustrated because I couldn’t afford things.  I’d tell myself it was the plight of a teacher’s wife.  Now that we have entertainment and play money budget categories, I’ve been able to buy little things that I want.  I was at Target last weekend and saw the soundtrack to the Les Mis movie (the only movie I’ve seen twice in the theatre since high school), and rather than feeling sorry for myself, I bought it with my play money.
  • I spend too much.
    I’ve already pinpointed areas of over-spending, which I’m now able to address.  Also, I was spending money on things I didn’t know about.  For instance, I had a Weight Watchers membership.  Who knew?
  • Grace
    Pat told me that it will take about three months of doing this consistently before I’m not overspending every month.  In the interim, I’m remembering to have grace with myself.
  • I feel empowered!
    Maybe this reluctant budgeter is becoming a little less reluctant.

Because I love all my followers and because I hope this is helpful for you, I’ve created printables so you can have a beautiful budget notebook, too!

budget binder printables | www.accidentalokie.com

Below are PDFs so you can create your own budget binder.

binder cover
percentages
cover groceries | groceries sheet
cover clothes | clothes sheet
cover entertainment | entertainment sheet
cover play money  | play money sheet
 cover gifts | gifts sheet 

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Cupcake Recipe

meatloaf cupcake

Meatloaf, like Brussels sprouts and kale, has enjoyed a culinary renaissance in the past years. Meatloaf cupcakes are one such incarnation.  They’re cute and trendy, and have the perfect amount of sauce coating topped with fancy mashed potatoes.  Serve them at dinner parties where you will wow your guests and eliminate the hassle of cutting individual portions, or make them for your family and store the conveniently sized lunch leftovers.  Either way, they are delicious.

Whether you make meatloaf as cupcakes or in a large loaf, my meatloaf is moist and delicious. The recipe is based on a recipe given to me years ago by my former boss and her sister.

First, get mashed potatoes going.  I’m not going to go into a recipe for this, as I assume you all have a recipe for mashed potatoes, and you all think your recipe is better than any other recipe. No matter your chosen method, it will be best, at least for this recipe, if you first peel your potatoes and you make them as unlumpy as possible.

Now on to the main event.

meatloaf milk and bread

Start by getting the oven going and cubing four pieces of gluten-free bread (or three pieces of regular bread).  I used Udi’s Whole Grain bread here.  Gluten-free bread is significantly smaller, which is why you add more.

Add milk and let the mixture sit together until the bread is mushy.  This liquid-infused binder is the key to the moist meatloaf.

cheese, carrots, onions

While the bread and milk are doing their thing (or thang as we say it in Texas), it’s time to prep. Shred a bunch of cheddar cheese and carrots (or be lazy like me and use matchstick carrots), and thinly slice the white and green parts of some green onions.  Yes people, this meatloaf has flavor.

milk and bread

After just a few minutes, the bread looks like this.  I used a fork to mush up the bigger pieces.
mixtureMix together the bread, two pounds of lean ground beef, two eggs, some salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.  You want to mix this by hand because it can easily become over-mixed in a stand mixer.  That would result in thick, solid, and brick-like (read: sad) meatloaf.  And that’s not what we’re going for here.  So roll up your sleeves, wash your hands, and dig in.

After the base is mixed, add the veggies and cheese and mix just until everything is incorporated. I didn’t photograph this part, as my hands were a bit icky.

gluten-free meatloaf cupcakes | www.accidentalokie.com

Now your hands are clean and beautiful once more.  Lightly oil a regular-sized muffin pan.  I use a spray oil.  (Gluten-free beginners: spray oils can sometimes contain gluten, so make sure to read the label).

meat loaf cupcakesAdd meatloaf to the muffin pan.  Make sure to pack the meat in tight and make a domed top to give the appearance of a cupcake.  Remember, meat does not rise.

This recipes yields 12 cupcakes.

meatloaf sauce

While the meatloaf is cooking, make the topping.  This is an unholy union of brown sugar, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

meat loaf cupcakes out of the ovenAfter about 25 minutes, pull them out.  This is where you might say, “Oh look, my meatloaf cupcakes are gross and ruined.”  Have no fear!  They’re not.  The fat has cooked out of the meatloaf.  I used 93/7 meat, which is quite lean and still the cupcakes looked like this.  They’ve also shrunk.  Don’t worry.

meatloaf

Spoon each cupcake out and put on a cookie sheet.  The cupcakes still have five minutes to cook until they should reach their internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, so do this step quickly – you don’t want the meat to begin cooling down, and carefully – you don’t want to burn yourself.

Liberally spoon the ketchup mixture on the cupcakes.  Imagine a bundt cake with lemon frosting perfectly oozing down the sides of the cake.  That’s the look you’re going for here.  Back in the oven they go for about five minutes.  When you remove them, they should be at temperature.

meat loaf

Now they look like this, which is pretty close to perfection.  But in the words of my infomercial friends…but wait, there’s more!

meat loaf frostingOh yes.  Potato frosting.  Fill a frosting bag or frosting gun with the non-lumpy mashed potatoes and using a large tip, frost the cupcakes.  When they’re all frosted and lovely, put them back in the broiler until the tips of the potato are slightly golden.

meatloaf cupcakeServe with extra potatoes and salad and look like a domestic goddess.  You’re welcome.

Gluten-Free Meatloaf Cupcake Recipe

Meatloaf
1 cup milk*
4 slices gluten-free bread (I used Udi’s Whole Grain Bread)*
2/3 c. finely chopped green onions, white and green parts
2/3 c. shredded (or matchstick) carrots
1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
2 lbs. lean ground beef
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

* If you’re not using gluten-free bread: 3 slices of bread and 2/3 c. milk

Topping
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. ketchup
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly oil a regular-sized muffin tin that makes 12 muffins.

Make a batch of mashed potatoes, opting for peeled potatoes.  When mashing the potatoes, make them as unlumpy as possible.

Slice bread into approximate inch-by-inch squares, place in a bowl and cover with milk.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the bread is soaked through and mushy.

Shred the carrots and cheese, slice the onions.

Once the bread is soaked through, in a large bowl, mix the meat, bread and milk mixture, eggs, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.  Just mix with your hands, so as to not over work the meat.  Add the vegetables and cheese and mix just until combined.

Fill each cupcake cup with meat so that it is packed in the cup and mounded on top to look like a cupcake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center of the meatloaf is nearing 160 degrees.  While the meatloaf is baking, make the topping.  You can microwave it for a few seconds if the brown sugar is not mixing in well.

Remove cupcakes from the oven and carefully transfer each cupcake to a cookie sheet.  Quickly spoon a liberal amount of sauce over each cupcake and return to the oven for about five minutes.

Place mashed potatoes into an icing bag with a large tip.  Remove the meatloaf cupcakes from the oven and “ice” with potatoes.  Place under broiler until the potatoes are slightly golden on the edges. Serve.

Yields 12 cupcakes.

You can also make this as a loaf.  To do that, line a large rimmed baking dish with foil.  Put the meatloaf on the pan, forming into a loaf shape.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Top with sauce and bake for 15 minutes more.  When making as a loaf, the topping measurements are: 1 c. brown sugar, 1 c. ketchup, 4 tsp. yellow mustard and 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce.  No potato topping.

Cooking on a large pan and forming the meat into a loaf (as opposed to a loaf pan) allows the grease to move to the sides of the pan.  Remove the loaf and serve on a fresh platter for a beautiful dinner.

The Uncomfortable Budgeter

the reluctant budgeter

Several weeks ago, I was the guest blogger at Lark and Bloom.  I wrote about my adventure into the world of budgeting and my journey of becoming a budgeter.  Well, a reluctant budgeter.

After a month of trial and error, I have some things to share in the coming days, but in case you missed it, here is the guest post, which served as an unofficial kickoff to the series.

Go to Lark and Bloom to read my original post, or check it out below.  Well, go to Lark and Bloom anyways.  You’ll find it to be one of the most genuine, kind and all-around interesting blogs written by an equally genuine, kind and gosh-darn interesting person, Elizabeth.

 * * * *

Everyone, meet Sarah Warren! I am beyond happy to share the first of several guest posts for An Uncomfortable January. Sarah has been a friend of mine since college. We were freshman who were equally obsessed with Jane Austen, fine china and bowls of pad thai.  She went on to get her masters in writing and now writes at The Accidental Okie.  This means that she sees the hundreds of grammatical mistakes I make on my blog & loves me anyway. Sarah also is the one who did the design for Lark & Bloom, for which I am eternally grateful. Give her a big Lark & Bloom welcome & join in her discomfort.

Sarah- The Accidental Okie and Uncomfortable Budgeter.

I’m on an uncomfortable journey: learning to budget.  Let’s not mince words.  I hate it.  I’m growing to embrace it, but I still mostly hate it.

A combination of being a stereotypical creative right brainer, not excelling at numbers, and hanging on to hefty emotional baggage led me to pass off budgeting responsibilities to my husband.

Last semester he started teaching a college class for extra income. That’s on top of being a high school science teacher.  He didn’t have time to do the budget anymore.  It was ignored for a few months and gross overspending ensued.  I needed to take something off his plate and we realized the person spending the money really should be the one setting the budget.  Since I do all our shopping, I was the natural, albeit reluctant, choice.

I’ve already had a few successes and failures, which I’ll be documenting on my blog over the coming months, but here is a preview of what I’m learning in this uncomfortable journey.

Tackle Demons

For several years of my childhood from middle school to the first year of high school, we were poor.  To this day, thrift stores and canned soup literally cause my heart to beat faster as I momentarily relive those meager days.

Most people walk into a thrift store and think about cool vintage finds.  I remember the year I had to buy my new school clothes at a thrift store and nothing fit my awkward mid-puberty body correctly.  I remember having to work three weeks of babysitting jobs after a friend stole my graphing calculator because she thought it would be funny.  I remember my friends asking why we always had the exact same groceries, and me never telling them that we stood in line for our box of groceries every week at the food bank.

For me, budgeting equaled counting pennies, which equaled feeling all those things again.

When I think about budgeting, I think about my parents arguing about money.  Any time my husband brought up the budget, I was sure he was mad at me.  Our monthly budgeting meetings consisted of him trying to talk and me defensively evading every question.  Not super productive.

The practical steps of setting up a budget are important, but for me identifying and dealing with my own junk and establishing new ways of thinking have been equally necessary.  In my soul searching, I realized I’ve been more secure overspending than budgeting because if I could overspend, it meant I wasn’t helpless like before.

Seek Wisdom

I’m not doing this alone.  Once a week I meet with a mentor at Barnes and Noble.  Pat and her husband’s life story revolves around coming out of major debt, and now they enjoy helping young couples avoid the traps they found themselves in.  We drink coffee, pore over my budget, look at spread sheets and share tips – well, she shares tips with me and I write them down.  Bottom line – if I was doing this alone, I probably already would have given up and gone back to my old ways.

It seems that no matter the uncomfortable journey you find yourself on, there is someone who has wisdom to share.

These days, I’m a reluctant budgeter.  Maybe someday I won’t be so reluctant.  It seems the only way to get from here to there is to continue on this uncomfortable journey.  I might even go shopping at a thrift store by the end of it all.

****

If you have any budgeting tips, I’m all ears!

Happy Birthday Miss Elizabeth

pride and prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Two hundred years ago this week, those famous words were published.

Happy Birthday Miss Elizabeth Bennett.  Happy Birthday Jane and Mr. Bingly and Mr. Darcy.  Happy birthday to the salacious Mr. Wickham and the sad Charlotte and the pretentious Mr. Collins.  Happy birthday to the impetuous Kitty and the dramatic Mrs. Bennett and the wry Mr. Bennett.

Happy Birthday Pride and Prejudice.

There are a few books out there that wrap around our collective hearts and don’t let go.  Jane Austen managed to write one of them.

I remember reading the book for the first time and hating Mr. Darcy at the beginning, as you do, and admiring Lizzie’s wit and strength.  When I learned more about the time period in which the book was written, that strength – that counter-cultural independence – became even more profound to me.  She turns down a proposal.  She’s old and she may have lost her chance, but she turns it down to wait for the right man.  She turns down Mr. Darcy after he’s been unkind to her and her family.  She respects herself.  She’s witty, but kind.

As I grew up and began to see the pressures put on me by myself, by society, by circumstance, and how easy it was to fold, I realized just how strong a character Jane Austen had crafted in Miss Elizabeth.

Of course, the pressures on me were less subversive.  Should I settle for a graduate school I didn’t like because I felt I wasn’t good enough for the one I really wanted?  Should I fling myself at every available guy in college so I have the self esteem boost of having a date?  Should I be bland and witless to fit in?

What would Elizabeth Bennett do?    That is the question we must all ask ourselves.

So today on the blog, I thought we could have a P&P love fest.  Tell us your favorite Jane Austen book or favorite Pride and Prejudice character or favorite moment.  Tell us what you like or hate about the book.  Tell us your favorite memory reading the book or watching the movie.  Tell us which is your favorite movie!  Tell us anything P&P related!

My favorite P&P memory is having the six-hour version with Colin Firth play on repeat during finals week in college.  My roommates and I studied to it, relaxed watching it, and knew it would be on when we returned from the tests of the day.  It became a tradition in our apartment.  The movie equivalent to a security blanket.

My second-favorite memory is watching this awesome fake trailer that makes it look like a melodramatic nightmare…or as my sister called it, a movie of stares.