Category Archives: Creative Living

Allergen Free Cupcake Tasting

Allergen Free Cupcake Tasting

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? I know I do. Well, today I had the privilege to take part in an allergen free cupcake tasting.

A friend of mine, Cheyne (pronounced Shane), is a cake artist who is just beginning to launch an allergen free line of cupcakes. Cheyne turned his passion for creating beautifully sculpted cakes into his business called Compelling Cakes. He not only creates beautiful occasion cakes, but bakes delicious cupcakes, or so I heard from everyone else because I could never eat them.

After telling him my personal frustration and disappointment of finding gluten free baked goods that contain eggs and dairy (other top allergens) at local bakeries, he decided to create an allergen free line that both me and another allergen free friend could both eat. He’s been working hard at perfected his allergen free line of cupcakes and his hard work has paid off.

Cheyne held his first allergen free cupcake tasting earlier this afternoon at Cafe Firefly in downtown Algonquin (IL), where Cheyne’s cupcakes and other baked goods can be found. He invited the local allergen free crowd to sample his cupcakes and can I just say….yummm!

I just had to share this beautiful arrangement that John Regan of Twisted Stem Floral in Crystal Lake sent along to Cheyne to congratulate him on his new line of cupcakes and to have in the cafe for the tasting. Its a gorgeous arrangement and looks great on the cafe’s counter. Great addition to the tasting; I just love flowers!

At the tasting I got to sample Cheyne’s allergen free chocolate cupcake, salted caramel cupcake, and chocolate bourbon cupcake. It was a delicious afternoon! The cupcakes were actually moist, light and fluffy and the icing was smooth and sweet. Texture is always difficult with allergen free baked goods, but Cheyne nailed it. I’m so excited to be able to actually go to a coffee shop and buy a cupcake! Another simple joy added back into my life.

At the tasting Cheyne had all the ingredients out that he used for the cupcakes, just in case there were any questions. Great idea when you’re baking for people with food allergies.

His allergen free cupcakes will be for sale really soon, so make sure to follow him on Facebook (Compelling Cakes) to stay tuned. Or stop in to Cafe Firefly to check out the regular cupcakes he has available right now.

Even better, if you’re in the area (Algonquin, IL) next week you can take part in the second allergen free cupcake tasting he’s having. The tasting will be held next Tuesday, March 28th at 10 am at Cafe Firefly . Please let Cheyne know if you plan to come by dropping him a line on his Facebook page, Compelling Cakes. Thanks to Cheyne for the tasty allergen free cupcakes this afternoon. As a part of the allergen free community thank you, thank you for giving all of us another option!

*Compelling Cakes allergen free cupcake line stays away from gluten, eggs, and dairy. Please follow up with Cheyne at Compelling Cakes on Facebook for more details.

Sweet Cupcake Beauties

Sweet Cupcake Beauties

I visited my sis, Sara, over the weekend and she’s been showing me some of the adorable cupcakes she’s been making. They’re so clever I thought I just had to share them with you. She’s been baking them following this cupcake cookbook called What’s New Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. It has some really cute ideas for the most adorable cupcakes for any occasion. And these are definitely Kid Friendly, as the book has some wonderful ideas for cupcakes for kids’ birthday parties.

(Above Photo) Sara made these cupcakes for her boyfriend, as a special treat as they love to eat Chinese food together. These 6 cupcakes are put together in a pan to look like fried rice. The cupackes are topped with rice crispy treats and the veggies in the fried rice are mutlicolor Tootsie Rolls cut up. These would make a great gift for your Chinese-food-loving friends and would be adorable given in a Chinese food box.

(Above Photo) What a great way to welcome Spring with these colorful flower cupcakes. These beautiful flower cupcakes’ petals are made with miniature marshmallows cut in half and dipped in various color sprinkles with icing and jelly beans at the center. These little flowers would be a great Spring hostess gift, given in a basket with a layer of colorful cloth napkins underneath.

Try making these cupcakes allergen free. It will require quite a bit of replacement, but…hello…even those of us who can’t eat gluten, eggs, and dairy crave cupcakes.

Here’s how to make these tasty cupcakes allergen free:
Cupcake- I suggest just buying a mix like Hodgson Mills gluten free yellow cake mix
Eggs- Ener-G Egg Replacer
Dairy- Use whatever dairy substitute you can use (almond milk, rice milk, etc.)
Icing- Try Pamela’s Products gluten free icing mix

Thanks, sis, for the beautiful inspiration! Keep up the creative baking!

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Its St. Patty’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with Corned Beef & Cabbage!
Here’s how I made my Corned Beef & Cabbage. Its really simple and the spiced aroma will flood your house with a mouth watering scent. Its not too late, so here ya go!

Corned Beef Ingredients:
1 package corned beef with spice packet
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
3 potatoes, roughly chopped
water (enough to cover the top of corned beef)

Corned Beef Directions:
1. I made my corned beef by cooking it in my slow cooker with the spice packet and water to cover the meat for 3 hours on high.
2. I then placed it in a pot with the liquid on the stove, covered, at a simmer for half an hour.
3. Then place the potatoes, onions, and carrots in the liquid with the meat and simmer for an additional 15 t 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

*An alternate way to cook the corned beef is to simmer it with the liquid on the stove for 2 1/2 hours. Add the potatoes, onions, and carrots with 15 minutes remaining.

Sauteed Cabbage Ingredients:
1/2 head of cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Sauteed Cabbage Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in large frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and cabbage.
2. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Sautee until cabbage begins to wilt and slightly brown. Add white wine vinegar, caraway seeds, and water.
4. Continue cooking until cabbage and onions are soft and most the water is absorbed.
5. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Hope you enjoy Corned Beef & Cabbage today. I know Matt and I always look forward to it. And don’t forget to wear green today!

Julia Child Inspired Dinner Party

Julia Child Inspired Dinner Party

Julia Child is a chef that gave new life to French food and brought those beloved European recipes into homes across the States. Her story and recipes are now being revisited by a whole new generation with the release of the film Julie & Julia in 2009. My friends and I are included in the group of those being reintroduced to this brilliant chef and her recipes. I remember seeing her on TV cooking shows on Saturday mornings when I was a kid and am now intrigued by and enjoying her tasty recipes!

This dinner party, hosted by my friend Mary, centered around this famous Julia Child inspired recipe: Beef Bourguignon.
Here’s a link to the recipe:
Its a little more complex than some of the recipes I’ve posted in the past and I have to admit that the version we made is not exact. You could say we simplified, but it was still delicious.

(Gluten Free: we used corn starch to thicken and make sure you used GF beef stock)

We started our dinner party sitting around the coffee table on floor pillows eating appetizers, enjoying a warm fire, listening to great music, and talking and laughing a lot.

Mary’s sweet little pup Jay Jay even enjoyed the warm fire with us on the cold winter night.

Our simple appetizers included crackers and tortilla chips, sliced radishes, and black olives stuffed with hummus (you could also use goat cheese or blue cheese). Remember the point of appetizers is just to give your guests something to munch on when they arrive. You don’t want them to fill up on them if you’re preparing a generous meal.

Our Beef Bourguignon progressed nicely and filled the house with a great aroma that definitely made us all crave the warm meal’s hearty goodness!

Serving the tasty dish right out of the pan not only keeps it warm and ensures you enjoy every bit of the pan juices, but also saves on dishes you have to wash (major bonus in my opinion)!

The Beef Bourguignon pairs really well with oven roasted white and sweet potatoes and red wine.

Hope this inspires you to start cooking! Remember even if you simplify complex recipes, you’re still cooking…props to all of you out there who dare to step outside of your food/ cooking box and try new things! Keeping cooking!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

One of things I miss a lot, since going on my “special diet” (see the “Who is Madindy?” page for details) are appetizers and finger foods at parties!

Most of the time appetizers and finger foods include bread, cheese, and eggs somewhere in the mix. So more often than not I’m the one who’s loaded her plate with the raw veggies and fruits from trays and I eat them with no dip (most of the time because the dips are a dairy base). And people say, “are you on a diet?” “oh, you’re eating healthy!” And I’m thinking “oh, believe me if I could, my plate would be loaded with the cheese dips, crackers, cookies, breaded appetizers, etc.”

But, I’m very thankful that my dietary needs have taken me down this food exploration journey and I hope you’ll join me!

So, my allergen-free friends, or those just looking for tasty appetizers that are a bit healthier than those filled with cheese and bread, these Stuffed Mushrooms are for you! This recipe contains no animal products, so its considered Vegan as well.

They are so good that even my friends (who eat “normal diets”) loved them too, always a good sign!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup onion or shallot, minced
1/2 cup crimini mushroom stems, diced
3/4 to 1 whole carton of crimini mushrooms (stems removed and used for the above), cleaned
1 bunch collard greens or spinach, thinly sliced yielding 1/2 cup
1/4 cup tomatoes, diced (small)
1 teaspoon basil (dried or fresh minced)
1 teaspoon Italian parsley (dried or fresh minced)
3/4 teaspoon (gluten free) soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch red crushed pepper
sea salt to taste

Lemon Herb Marinade Ingredients:
1 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon (gluten free) soy sauce
1 tablespoon Italian parsley (dried or fresh minced)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place mushroom caps in marinade blend for at least 20 minutes.
2. While mushrooms are marinating, place oil in sautee pan. Add onion/shallots and minced mushroom stems and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add collard greens/spinach and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add remaining ingredients, mix well and remove from heat.
3. Remove mushroom caps from marinade. Fill each cap with mixture. Place on baking sheet in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until mushrooms are soft, careful not to overcook. Enjoy!

Serves: 4

* Recipe source:

Spring Baby Shower Decor

Spring Baby Shower Decor

As promised earlier this week, here are the pics from Baby Shower last weekend that I did the decor for (with lots of help from friends may I add). I searched around the craft store for about an hour trying to find the perfect thing. Again, it had to be not “babyie” it needed to look fresh and welcoming and be gender neutral. We didn’t want to spend a bundle on decor, but wanted it to be really special. So, here is how it all came together.

Five of the table had the center piece shown above. A small bunch of silk daisies, in a clear cylinder vase filled with natural stones and green moss. A friend had a bunch of the antique baby blocks that added a beautiful touch to each table.

For 2 of the centerpieces I bought 2 bunches of fresh flowers (one for each vase) and had these twigs I painted white for a winter centerpiece. I placed them together in taller clear cylinder vases and stuffed a little green spanish moss to pour out of the top (holding the stems all in place).

Earthy and simple!

The diaper cake was elegantly placed on a cake stand with a clear plater on top (nice touch June) on the gift table!

On the drink table sat an antique baby wagon with more of the antique baby blocks, a colorful runner (really placemats we pulled together), and a 3 tiered stand with chocolates and coffee accessories.

Eating, chatting, laughing, and loving on the mom-to-be!

A great time celebrating a wonderful blessing in life! Great job ladies for pulling off a wonderful shower! Only a month until we’ll all get to meet the new little one!

Diaper Cake for Spring

Diaper Cake for Spring

I just made a diaper cake for a dear friend’s baby shower this past weekend.

She’s due to welcome her little into the world at the end of the March, so we’re all getting really excited! She doesn’t know if her little one is a boy or girl, so she is doing most of her bedding, blankets, etc. in green, so she can add in blues or pinks when she meets her/him.

With my excitement for Spring and knowing the baby will be born this Spring, I went with a Spring look for the diaper cake and shower decor (I’ll post later this week). I was trying to get some inspiration for it all and kept thinking about Spring green moss. Its the right color, not overly “girlie” or “babyie” (neither the mom-to-be or myself are into the “baby look”; you know clowns, noah’s ark, winnie the pooh, etc.). So, this fresh look really seemed to work well.

I used green moss and 2 small bunches of silk daisies I bought at the craft store, as well as pale yellow satin ribbon I got from Buy Buy Baby (they have available in their complimentary gift wrap station) to decorate the cake.

On the tiers of the diaper cake are baby items mostly from the mom-to-be’s gift registry, including the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (one of my childhood favorites and this one is a cardboard book, so its great for young children). There are 2 baby bottles in the center of the cake and one on the lower tier. The cake includes 100 size 2 diapers that will definitely be used in the future.

There is a pack of “rockstar” pacifiers and a baby teething toy, as well as a sippy cup and travel sized baby care items.

Diaper cakes are great baby shower gifts, as they’re not only a gift but a decor item on the gift table and can decorate the baby’s nursery for a while.

Have a baby shower you need a gift for? Not sure what to get? Let me know as I now offer diaper cakes for sale, special made for the mom-to-be’s nursery theme and registry items. Interested? Contact me through the Ask Madindy page.

Follow Madindy

Follow Madindy

You can now follow Madindy on Twitter #/madindyliving and on Facebook #/pages/Madindy/165406443508796?sk=wall#!/pages/Madindy/165406443508796?sk=wall.

Considering I’m still holding onto the past a little bit in my personal life (maybe texting on my phone will be the next technological advancement in my personal life! I think I’m the only 20 something in this country without texting on my phone), I’m pretty excited that I’ve stepped into the year 2011 with Madindy!

Vivacious Vacations: St. Louis

Vivacious Vacations: St. Louis

I love to travel, seeing new things, new places, new people and trying new food! I thought I’d share some of the great places that I’ve had the privilege of visiting; some that may be close to home and some a little further away.

So, I’m launching the new segment today I’m calling Vivacious Vacations, where I’ll feature a place (city, town, country, beach, campground, etc.) that I enjoyed so much and think you might as well! Some were just weekend trips and others were weeks long. I’ll show you the great things to see, to do, and to eat!

For our first Vivacious Vacation I’m featuring St. Louis!

Why I’m featuring St. Louis?
Both my roomie from college and my husband’s roomie from college live in St. Louis. A group of us decided we didn’t want to lose touch so we decided that every Spring us northerners would take a long weekend trip down South and every Fall the southerners would trek up North.

I’ve driven through St. Louis at least 20 times and never really stopped to explore the city. So this trip last Spring was full of the locals showing us the ropes…my favorite way to explore a new place! So, here’s St. Louis!

Having loved and studied so much architecture, St. Louis is a city that excites me with its rich architectural history. The city is filled with beautiful brick buildings that scream craftsmanship long gone.

My college roomie, Shelly, and her hubby, Andy, live in a piece of history in downtown St. Louis. This beauty above is where they call home. It dates back 150 years, built by a man who was a doctor in the civil war. Stay tuned for a future post where I’ll feature Shelly and Andy’s gorgeous historic home, so you can see what they’ve done with the place!

The first stop in St. Louis seems to naturally be the Gateway Arch. Towering 630 ft above the banks of the Mississippi River, it was built as a symbol of Westward Expansion. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, the monument was completed in 1965 and is open to the public.

Yes, that’s right, you can not only hang out at the base of the arch, but you can ride in a little cart to the very top!

Overlooking: One of my favorite things to do in any city I visit is to trek to one of the highest points in the city to overlook from a bird’s eye view. It gives a visitor a totally new, bigger picture, perspective of the city. The view from the top of the arch does just that!

I know you competitive northern baseball fans will cringe, but I highly recommend visiting a Cardinals’ game at Busch Stadium when in St. Louis.

Its not only a great sporting event, but the view of the city from the stadium is beautiful!

And the fireworks show is stunning…added entertainment to the evening!

One of my favorite things we did in St. Louis was visiting the historic Soulard Farmer’s Market. This year round farmer’s market is one of the oldest farmer’s markets west of the mississippi with its first structure dating back to 1843.

The market is not only filled with beautiful sights, but the sounds of the local street performers makes for a lively atmosphere and great music!

With aisles and aisles of local fruits, veggies, flowers, meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, snacks and lots of samples it made for a fun afternoon of food a local flavor. And by the end of the visit we had enough food to cook up a tasty dinner made from all fresh local produce.

I love finding free things to do in cities and St. Louis has plenty of things to do for free. The Budweiser factory is located close by Shelly and Andy’s house, so they knew that on certain days you can go get your picture with one of the Budweiser Clydesdale’s.

Another free activity in St. Louis is the zoo. That’s right the zoo is free and a great way to enjoy the beautiful warm Spring weather in the city!

Another site to be seen just outside the city in a suburb called St. Charles is New Town.

Take a step back to the ways city once were designed. You may think you’re in Mayberry, visiting this pocket of the New Urbanism architectural movement in the middle of a corn field.

New Town was developed by the world renown architectural firm DPZ. It brings back the traditional city planning methods of walkable cities with town centers.

This town scientifically blends various forms of residential, commercial, and municipal buildings.

Most of the properties in the town go for hefty price tags, but the architecture and town itself is pristine. I have to admit that I love this architectural movement, but the town felt a little like I walked in the movie Pleasantville.

What to eat in St. Louis? While in St. Louis we visited local restaurants that represented the melting pot that is the U.S.A., trying both an Indian Restaurant (I’ve always loved Indian food) and Nicaraguan Food (a new thing for me that I loved). Even with my restricted diet I had plenty of options at both places. They were both delicious and both restaurants are run by natives of the country their food originates from. You know it’ll be good when the recipes are things the owner’s grandmother used to make!

I hope this tour of St. Louis gives you a little insight into the sights, smells and sounds of this historic city’s blending of the old and the new. I’ll be traveling to St. Louis again this Spring and am excited to bring back and share even more great sights of the city. Have a great weekend…and start planning your trip soon!

Quick Valentine’s Dessert

Quick Valentine’s Dessert

Just in case you forgot, today is Valentine’s Day. So, you have no idea what sort of dessert you can have on a restricted diet or with limited time to make it…How about chocolate fondu!

Even with my restricted diet, chocolate fondu is a great no bake dessert that I can eat.

The best part about chocolate fondu for Valentine’s Day is its a fun activity that you can share with your loved one!

Here’s how I make my chocolate fondu:
I take a package of allergen-free semi sweet chocolate chips and melt them down in a double broiler. I swirl in a little water and a touch of vanilla extract; stir thoroughly and pour into your fondu pot with a candle or sterno lighter below.

I found this cute little fondu pot at a thrift store several years ago…the red color makes it feel even more festive!

My favorite fondu dippers that follow my restricted diet:
GF Animal Crackers
GF Graham Crackers
GF Pretzels
Bananas (I can’t eat em’ any more but used to be my favorite dipper)

Even with not much time to prepare and even on a restricted diet, you can enjoy this delicious dessert/activity with your loved one. Happy Valentine’s Day!