Gluten Free Valentine’s Day Cupcakes!

As a donor recruiter for SeraCare Life Sciences, I am often searching for patients who have been diagnosed with autoimmune conditions like Celiac disease to donate plasma, blood, serum, or other specimens to help diagnostic research.

In one of my previous posts: Why Celiac Awareness is So Important, I shared a personal story about my college roommate who became diagnosed with Celiac in midst of being away from home and trying to find foods that would work.  Since I’m loving all things that are Valentine’s Day related and I even made a new Pin Board on Pinterest called “Valentine’s Day Treasures,” I wanted to share this lovely recipe with you that I found from a fellow blogger Gluten Free Canteen – check them out at: and find even more fantastic GF recipes.

Not only is it delicious and adorable, but it also is gluten free! So please share this recipe with anyone you know who has gluten sensitivity or Celiac (they are the not same thing), and also feel free to let them know about how they can help improve medical research by donating plasma at SeraCare Life Sciences.

Have a lovely day!

gluten free vanilla cupcake recipe

  • 6 oz. GF flour (4 oz. superfine brown rice flour, 1 oz. superfine white rice flour, 1 oz. tapioca flour/starch
  • 6 oz. white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 oz. warm water
  • 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • Raspberry Buttercream
  • 4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons spectrum vegetable shortening
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon seedless raspberry jam (or until the icing looks pink)
  • Decoration
  • GF sprinkles and/or candy hearts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and place liners in a cupcake tin (12-14).
  2. In a large bowl weigh flours and sugar. Add baking soda, salt and whisk to combine. In a small microwave safe glass bowl melt butter and cool slightly. Add eggs, vanilla and warm water to butter and mix with a fork. Add butter egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the batter is smooth – about two minutes. Scoop into liners slightly less than 2/3 full. Spoon a dollop of jam into each cupcake (a dollop is about a half teaspoon) and swirl gently into batter with a toothpick just until it looks interesting. Too much swirling will get you a red top – so less is more in this case. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes. Lower oven to 325 and bake for about 10-12 minutes more or just until a toothpick comes out without crumbs. Cool for a few minutes and then remove the cupcakes to a rack and cool completely before frosting. Can be made a day ahead.
Raspberry Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and shortening. Sift in the powdered sugar just until combined – on low unless you like your kitchen dusted with sugar!. Add in the vanilla and seedless raspberry jam by the half teaspoon until the buttercream is pale pink or the shade of pink you want. Whip on medium high for about 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy (the time will vary depending on the speed of your mixer). Pipe or spoon on to cupcakes.
  1. Add sprinkles (your choice) right after frosting cupcake. And make the kid in your life very happy.

The Benefits of Plasma Donations for Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis & Other Autoimmune Disorders

I am excited to share with you this blog post that I provided as a guest blogger on Rheumatoid Arthritis Information’s Patient Experience website. Please let others know about the opportunities that are available for people with all types of autoimmune disorders and how they can help benefit medical research all while earning additional income:

Check out the Patient Experience to talk to others in an online forum and learn about how others are making it through their autoimmune illnesses:

I have copied the post below that can be visible live on their website here.

“Welcome to a guest post from Emily Sherman of SeraCare on why you should consider donating plasma to help people with autoimmune conditions!

Autoimmune illnesses are often difficult to diagnose, and since they are often chronic conditions, they can be challenging to treat as well. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition that affects the joints and skeletal system by causing pain, inflammation, and swelling. With rising cases of autoimmune disorders, there has been a greater need for research to develop better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments. Companies like SeraCare Life Sciences, Inc. look for Rheumatoid Arthritis patients to donate plasma so that they can do just that.

Patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis can truly benefit the medical research community by donating plasma. Researchers and IVD manufacturers are looking primarily for positive Rheumatoid Factor (RF) antibodies so that they can create positive controls for test kit validation. Donated plasma is also used for drug testing by pharmaceutical developers before the clinical trial stage is reached.

When given the opportunity, most people would choose to participate in a program that could ultimately lead to new treatments and diagnostic methods for people afflicted with the same conditions. Over the years though, I have found that most people are just simply not aware that these opportunities exist.

At many healthy plasma donation facilities, those who are diagnosed with an autoimmune condition like Rheumatoid Arthritis are deemed ineligible to donate. This is because the plasma collected is being used for injectable products or life-saving transfusions in hospitals.

A Rheumatoid Arthritis patient is, however, eligible to donate plasma for research purposes by visiting a government approved center and asking his or her healthcare provider for consent. Medical professionals need to make sure that an arthritis patient has adequate hematocrit (iron) levels as well as serum protein in order to give approval for plasma donations. While someone with arthritis is not able to save lives through donating plasma for transfusions, he or she is able to improve lives in other ways by contributing to drug development and diagnostic research.

Not only do donors benefit the Rheumatoid Arthritis community by donating plasma, but they also can benefit themselves. There have been some studies shown that donating plasma can temporarily alleviate pain by reducing the antibody levels in the bloodstream for a short period of time. While this may not be observed in all arthritis plasma donors, it is something that can be seen as an added benefit to donating plasma.

Nonetheless, donating plasma is a great way for you to contribute to medical research and help bring new treatments to life. Rheumatoid Arthritis may be difficult to treat and diagnose, but with your help and contribution to researchers you can make a difference and help advance medical technologies.

Emily says “I am the Plasma Donor Recruiter at SeraCare Life Sciences. I look for people who have been diagnosed with various infectious or autoimmune diseases to donate plasma and help improve medical research. People who are willing to donate plasma are compensated for their time and contribute to scientific discovery, research & development of pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic tools. For over 38 years, SeraCare has served the global life sciences community, with distinction. SeraCare develops and manufactures the highest quality, biologically-based products and offers a broad range of related services, backed by expertise in virology, serology, immunology, and molecular biology.”

You can find out more about SeraCare by visiting their web site at

Healthy Satisfying Snacks!

I’m trying to be good and not have too many calories before the holidays. My goal is to cut the calories down low and my exercise level high for the weeks leading up to all the festivities so that if my grandmother offers me a piece of her famous cheesecake I won’t feel guilty!

If you are new to being calorie-conscious, you are probably feeling the hunger roll in during the day. You may think that starving yourself all day is a good thing – but the reality is it’s a sure fire way to end up resorting back to your old ways. It is actually more effective to snack throughout the day and eat several smaller meals, rather than one large feast. 

Here are some of my favorite healthy snacks that help me make it through the day in between meals. 

1. Fruits

Oranges and clementines are my favorite. They are sweet and watery which helps with hydration and the zesty flavor keeps me energized all morning. Plus, I get the extra Vitamin C to boost the immune system during this cold and flu season 🙂

An apple a day keeps the doctor away….but not only that, it’s just a great healthy snack. It’s easy to pack (no hassle of packing it in plastic ware) and it fills you up. Apples are also very hydrating as well!

Bananas are easy to pack too and can satisfy a stomach growl in between meals. Refrigerating and buying them when they are green is a good way to keep the bunch lasting throughout the work week.

Berries are also great snacks because they are sweet and delicious. Weight Watchers actually states that participants can have an unlimited number of fruits and veges! So this means you can snack on as many berries and other fruits as you would like and it will keep you feeling satisfied. 

2. Nuts

Nuts are a great way to get some protein in your body during the day. Low-sodium, unsalted, or lightly salted nuts adds a perfect contrast to the sweet-tasting fruits. Avoid the honey-roasted or regularly salted nuts (as delicious as those can be!). Don’t let those sugar-coated nuts fool you into thinking you are cutting back the calories. The truth is that many of those types of nuts can be packed with calories, even in a small handful. Having unsalted, plain nuts is best, but lightly salted is ok too. 

3. Raisins 

I personally love raisins. A great snack to try is low-calorie yogurt covered raisins. You are getting both the antioxidants and dairy in you at the same time. Plus, they are simply delicious. I find that raisins can actually be a very filling snack. 

4. Low-fat cheese

Cheese is an excellent way to satisfy hunger. Pair it with a fiber rich or multi-grain cracker and it’s even better. Avoid orange cheeses and stick with the ones with low sodium and low saturated fats. Also if you have crackers with it, avoid buttery ones that will only add to the daily calorie count.

5. Dark chocolate

Yes, chocolate is GOOD for you! This is an excellent snack and helps take care of a sweet tooth. Try dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses – you can throw a handful into your purse or work bag and bring it with you to snack on in the office. Studies show that dark chocolate is actually good for your heart, eyes, and skin.

Hershey Kisses Dark Chocolate

6. Fiber bars

Fiber One Chew Bars

FiberOne bars are fantastic. I’ve tried the generic store brands (to try saving a few bucks), but they weren’t as good. FiberOne bars really fill you up and give you the fiber that your body needs. They also come in delicious flavors like peanut butter or oats & chocolate. You feel like you are eating a bakery treat but in actuality you’re having something very healthy for you. 

7. Tea

Although it isn’t a “snack,” black green tea or herbal tea is a great way to reduce the calories, give you antioxidants, and keep you hydrated throughout the day. I know they can be pricey, but Teavana actually has some amazingly delicious teas that you should check out. 

Whatever reason you are trying to count calories for, remember these important rules:

1. Do not starve yourself
2. Do not avoid eating protein & fiber rich foods (even though they are higher calorie)
3. Do not try to cut out too many calories at once 

4. DO try walking every day – it’s low impact, doesn’t get you sweaty, and gets you moving
5. DO try drinking more fluids – water, tea, low-calorie/low-sugar all natural drinks
6. DO get a good night’s sleep – the amount of sleep you get can really affect your metabolism so don’t skip it!

How many calories should you be having each day to lose weight? 
Here is a great tool that I found that will help you figure out how many calories you need:

Happy Friday! 🙂 

5 Tips to Living with Allergies and Your Pet

A dog (or a cat!) is a man’s best friend — unless he triggers a watery, red-eyed and runny nose allergic reaction. You might think that if you have pet allergies, then adopting a puppy or kitten is out of the question — but that may not necessarily be the case. I’ve discovered first hand some great housecleaning tips and tricks that can make your life comfortable around your precious furry loved one without having to stock up on over-the-counter allergy medications.

My boyfriend owns an adorable orange tabby cat named after the Law & Order character, Detective Briscoe. He is strictly an indoor-cat who has full reign of a gorgeous 3-story New England home. Like all cats (and dogs), he carries dander that causes allergic reactions, but unlike most household pets, Briscoe is kept immaculately clean and so is the home he lives in.


Perhaps it’s partly my boyfriend’s slight obsessive compulsiveness that ensures everything is always spotless or that he works as a hospital pharmacist where everything needs to be perpetually sterile — whatever the cause, his home is truly spectacularly clean, but more notably, extremely hypoallergenic, and it’s relatively easy for him to maintain.

You may think that keeping your household neat and tidy on a regular basis takes a lot of effort — and sure, having a house full of mold, dust, and pet dander could seem like a daunting task to handle. But if you are able to diligently use some of these quick products on a regular basis, it will be much easier than sacrificing a full Saturday morning, or other precious time you have off from work, tackling your whole house and your pet!

How Have These Tips Been Successful?

My boyfriend had a house party of around 20 guests and he kept Briscoe in an upstairs guest room, away from everyone in the home, particularly because he didn’t want Briscoe to accidentally get let outside. One of the guests who attended (a spouse of one of his friends) has deadly severe pet allergies and frequently becomes symptomatic upon entering any home where a cat or dog resides. This guest did not even realize that my boyfriend had a cat for his entire visit and remarkably was able to enjoy others’ company throughout the home without showing any symptoms whatsoever.

The reason: Having a super clean cat and a super clean home.

Want to make your home allergy-friendly? Check out these 5 recommended products and tips below:

5 Tips to Living with Allergies & Your Pet

1. Dander Shampoo
My Recommendation: Pet Head Dander Lion Melon Cucumber Shampoo
Price: $10

Pet Head Dander Lion Melon Cucumber Foaming Cat Shampoo

Why is this so great?
Heard of Bed Head products? If so, this probably looks familiar. If you love the products you use on your own head, you’ll love the Pet Head products for your kitty. This is a hypoallergenic foaming cat shampoo that effectively removes pet dander AND destroys odors on contact. The  light melon cucumber scent is a fresh and clean smell that leaves your kitty smelling purfect.

TIP: Try washing your cat every other week ESPECIALLY if you have an outdoor cat. If you have a dog, every other week bathing is also a good idea because he can bring in tons of outdoor allergens into your home after his walks or being outside. Maybe it’s not pet allergies you’re allergic too — perhaps it’s just the Ragweed that was carried in your pet’s fur. That’s why the number one thing you can do to ensure that you remove dander on a regular basis is to have regular baths. Train your pet to have baths on a regular basis by starting this routine while he’s still a kitten or puppy.

Or, you maybe your kitty will just naturally love hanging out in places where you like to wash up, like the sink!

2. Dander Eliminating Spray
My Recommendation: Dander-Out Dander Remover & Body Deodorizer Spray
Price: $4

Earth Friendly Products Dander-Out Dander Remover & Body Deodorizer Spray

Why is this so great?
In between your kitty’s regular bath time, you can use this light spray to quickly keep the dander down and your feline pal smelling fresh. This product is created by Earth Friendly Products which are all biodegradable and recyclable.

TIP: If you have an outdoor cat or a dog who goes out for regular walks, he can tend to pick up smells from the outdoors along with other allergens that can irritate. Try using this spray on your pet before he re-enters your home so that you keep his dander down and reduce the potential for him to carry pollen and other outdoor allergens inside your home.

3. Allergy Air Purifier
My Recommendation: KAZ Inc HHT081 HEPAClean Tower Air Purifier
Price: $80

Kaz Inc HHT081 HEPAClean Tower Air Purifier

Why is this so great?
An air purifier will help to reduce pet dander by using a HEPA-Type filter which provides coverage for rooms up to 170 square feet. It also has 3 air cleaning levels, manual control dial and an antimicrobial-treated filter. Additionally, it has an independently controlled ionizer for improved capture of dust, dirt and pollen while freshening the air. Permanent HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean and there is also a washable pre-filter.

It’s great because it has a gentle, quiet hum that is barely noticeable and it doesn’t need to be monitored — it takes care of cleaning the air itself. Also, because it’s a tower style, it won’t take up much space and can be discreetly positioned.

TIP: Have a purifier located near your kitty’s or puppy’s favorite places to sleep — all pets have a few favorite spots. Ideally, it would be best to have more than one air purifier so that you have more than one room covered.

4. Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
My Recommendation: Black & Decker PHV1810 Pivot VAC 18V
Price: $54

Black & Decker PHV1810 Pivot VAC 18V Cordless Pivoting Hand VAC

Why is this so great?
If you’re like me, then dragging a heavy vacuum cleaner up the stairs is a tough task, especially as a 5’2″ petite woman. Thankfully, I have a big, strong boyfriend to help transport this appliance up and down the stairs, but if you are cleaning by yourself having a small handheld vacuum like this is a life saver and very easy to use. The pivot handle helps you maneuver easier around tight corners and spaces and the nozzle actually extends so that you can get into tight crevaces. It’s light-weight and the battery lasts a long time so you can get a number of uses out of it in between charging.

TIP: Try getting into the habit of charging your vacuum on a regular basis so that it’s always ready to go — this will enable you to use it more often.  Also, if you have a kitty like Briscoe who loves to play with cords, you may want to make sure the charger is positioned in a place that is hard for him to access to avoid the possibility of your feline chewing on the cord.

5. Use Multi-Purpose Cleaning Wipes
My Recommendation: Method All Surface Wipes
Price: $6.99  

Why is this so great?
Wipes are quick & easy to use. Grab one and go.  Finished putting on makeup or brushing your teeth? Wipe up the residue with a wipe and while you’re at it go over the glass mirror, counter surfaces, cabinets, — you name it. I love the Method Multi-Purpose Sprays too. The only thing is, you need to use paper towels or some other type of cloth with it. If you’re like me, you want something quick and easy. Plus, paper towels are pricey and while using a cloth is a good practice, you also have to make sure you are regularly cleaning that cloth. If you have allergies, you don’t want a rag sitting around that you’ve used to collect dust or residue around your home. I’ve tried the cloth option before and it only leads to sneezing.

TIP: Try getting the most out of your wipe by using both sides and going over as many surfaces as possible before you dispose of it. You can also lightly wet it to reactivate some of the product and wipe even more.

So there you have it — 5 products that will help keep your house and your pet clean in a quick and easy fashion, proven to work in my boyfriend’s house and proven to be effective for guests with extremely severe pet allergies.

But here are a couple other pet-allergy suggestions to take it even further (if you’re able to):

1. Try purchasing furniture that has microfiber upholstery.

Why? Microfiber is very hypoallergenic and will make it easy to keep clean and dander free. If you use the pivot handheld vacuum you can easily pick up any crumbs, hair, or pet dander from the cushions without having to break out any fancy extension pieces and without having to laboriously go over the same spot over and over again.

2. If you can, try seeking a more hypoallergenic pet.

If you want to get a cat, try one with short hair, like a tabby and keep him committed to the indoors. While you may think you only have allergies to pet dander, if your cat is constantly coming in and out, he is dragging everything he comes in contact with inside too. That will only  make your home more difficult to clean and will keep you sneezing.


If you want a dog, try one with hair instead of fur, or if he has fur, try a short-haired breed. While it has been proven that allergic reactions are due to the dander and NOT the fur, having shorter fur makes bathing much easier to deal with. If you’re using the Pet Head shampoo, you will be more successful at eliminating dander if you have a dog with less hair in the way of scrubbing the skin surface.

My own personal recommendation would be a Bichon Frise, because I mean…can it get any cuter than this?

So it is true that man can coexist with his best friend without having to rely heavily on over-the-counter medications or live in discomfort. If you have severe allergies then seek a physician to prescribe you with the right medication and continue to follow the tips above. You might be surprised at how great a clean house and pet can make you feel. 

Have severe allergies? Researchers need your help. Donate plasma and be compensated $200/hr. Visit for more details.

A Zumba Class a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away

I never thought that doing the cha-cha and swinging my hips around in circles could be a form of good exercise AND make my muscles and joints feel better.
While I don’t have arthritis, working the 9-5 with a sedentary office job and sitting in MBA classes a few nights a week certainly does a number on my joints and back, and needless to say, I don’t have much room in my schedule for a good workout.
I have many friends who love jogging daily for exercise. That’s great for them, but if you have any joint pain or suffer from a type of arthritis, you are probably not going to enjoy the searing pain from repeatedly slamming your lower limbs into the concrete sidewalk as a method to burn some calories. If that was my only option for exercise, I’d be forced to only eat tree nuts and salad for the rest of my life to stay thin.
Yoga is fantastic for the joints and muscles, and I’m a huge fan, but what if you really need something aerobic to get your heart rate up?
Well, that’s why zumba is so fabulous!
Zumba is a combination of various multi-cultural dance moves and routines with fast-paced, easy to learn steps. And yes, I mean EASY to learn. There are some studios that may have more advanced dancers with more complicated moves, but for the most part, if you join a regular beginner zumba class you are not going to have a problem picking up the steps.
While I’ve mentioned “steps” a couple of times already, this is not a steps-oriented dance class where it’s embarrassing if you mess up or where the teacher has to correct everything you do wrong and nit-pick (I’ve been there and done that before with ballet). Even if you don’t get the steps totally right, that’s not the point of zumba. It’s all about moving your body in different low-impact and non-strenuous motions, getting your heart pumping, and having fun.
I’m the type of person who doesn’t find much exercise “fun” and I tend to roll my eyes when I watch those infomercials with happy, smiling, model-perfect women telling me how fun their excerise video routines are. I’m often skeptical about whether or not buying one of those workout DVDs would actually yield any results. I’m sure there are some that are fantastic, but zumba for only an hour a few times a week keeps me feeling less stiff and alleviates a lot of joint and muscle pain that I tend to get from sitting all day.
If you have arthritis though and want to check out just how great zumba has proven to be for arthritis sufferers, take a look at the article I’ve posted below. Even university researchers are finding from their studies that zumba is great for your body! Start googling your nearest zumba dance studio, stay healthy, and have fun moving to the beat!
If you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, researchers need your help. Donate plasma and be paid $400/hr. Visit for more details.
Zumba & Arthritis
With over 100 types of arthritis, one out of every seven Americans suffers from the disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Arthritis, characterized by inflammation of a joint or joints in your body, produces pain, stiffness and swelling. During the disease, your cartilage breaks down; leaving you with bone rubbing against bone. Participating in simple activities such as walking can cause discomfort. Zumba, pronounced zoo-bah is a dance fitness program developed by Beto Perez. International music combined with multi-cultural dance moves are blended together to create a 40 to 60 minute cardio workout. Worldwide, 20,000 instructors in 75 different countries teach Zumba as of 2010.

Risk Factors and Causes of Arthritis

Risk factors for arthritis include being overweight, joint or bone injury, bacterial, viral or fungal infection of the joint, and repeated or overuse of your joints. A 2005 British study found walking and muscle-strengthening exercises provided a safe way to reduce pain and disability for arthritis sufferers.
Zumba and Arthritis
Because Zumba is primarily dance, the exercise is considered a mind/body activity. You concentrate on your movements instead of your arthritis pain. Steffany Haaz, a public health scientist with John Hopkins Arthritis Center, says dancing helps keep people interested in exercise. Zumba, and other dance-related workouts promote mobility and improvements in pain. Furthermore, according to a Laval University study on rheumatoid arthritis, sufferers who engaged in dance experienced decreases in depression, anxiety, fatigue and tension.

Benefits of Zumba

Zumba is a total-body workout that incorporates interval training into its dance routines. Therefore, you tone muscles, sculpt your body, lose weight and relieve stress while burning 400 to 500 calories per 45-minute session. Because Zumba is weight-bearing, you strengthen your bones and increase your balance and agility. Participants report that Zumba class is fun, which underscores the “stick with it” factor for those who become bored with other exercise routines and quit going to the gym.

Tips For Beginners

Consider executing the dance moves at a much slower pace. Let your instructor know you have an arthritic condition so she will be able to provide you with alternative movements. Modify your movements when the instruction calls for repetitive motions and always consult your physician or health care provide when attempting new activities. Wear a court shoe, aerobic or dance fitness sneaker to ensure safety and more fluidity in your movements.

Photo Credit

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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