Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gluten Humor

I just about died laughing when I watched this! Exactly my reaction when I found out I had Celiac Disease. I seriously wanted the doctor to operate and remove some vital organs, rather than live without bread for the rest of my life!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Refashioning a Fall Favorite

I equate these cookies with a rainy Seattle fall and back-to-school nights. So...not really sure why I'm craving them on a hot Southern California Columbus Day, but today I decided to refashion this fall favorite my mom used to make: gluten-free and dolled up to satisfy the adult Heidi's palate:

Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg
2 1/4 cups brown rice flour blend*
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup raisins**

3 Tbsp butter
4 tsp milk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the shortening, brown sugar, and pumpkin. Add egg and mix well. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix well; batter will be sticky and fluffy. Fold in raisins. Drop by generous soup-spoonfuls onto cookie sheet; cookies do not flatten out so they can be relatively close together. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze:
In a medium saucepan, melt butter, milk, and brown sugar until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar, beating vigorously with wooden spoon until smooth and glossy. Frosting should be a thick glaze consistency. Spread warm frosting on warm cookies. Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet (if they make it that long--I prefer them warm!).

Makes about 3 dozen generous-sized drop cookies.

* The flour mix I used today is a combination of brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch (I can't give you exact proportions because I mix up a big batch and keep it in a plastic container to use by the cupful in baking). However, you could use any gluten-free flour mix. Keep in mind that flour textures and flavors vary and will affect your baked goods differently.

** I'm not a big raisin fan, but for some reason I love them in these cookies. I generally make half the batch without raisins, so if you do that, cut the raisin quantity in half.

They're not much to look at, but my, they're tasty!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fresh Peach Crisp

I realize that, like everything else in my life except my career, I have neglected my blog lately. No time to remedy that, except to share this delicious dessert I concocted tonight:

Fresh Peach Crisp
5 medium fresh peaches, peeled and sliced into 1-inch thick slices
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup GF multi-purpose flour blend (such as King Arthur)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 cup certified GF oats (such as Bob's Red Mill)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup butter, softened

Heat oven to 375°. Arrange peaches in greased 9x9 glass baking dish. Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender until it forms pea-sized coarse crumbles (I generally banish the pastry blender at some point and massage it with my fingers to get the right consistency--but maybe I just love the feeling of butter on my hands, or maybe I just love to lick the cinnamony-brown sugary-yumminess off my fingers). Sprinkle topping over peaches. Bake until topping is golden brown and peaches are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve warm and, if desired, with cream or ice cream.

* * * * *

This passed the husband test, but probably because I used one of the flour blends that doesn't include sorghum. He doesn't like the aftertaste of sorghum; nearly 9-months into the gluten free life, I am jaded and can't taste it anymore. I'm kicking myself that I forgot to buy ice cream yesterday to go with this. But it was tasty enough on its own!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers Day

What does this cake have to do with Mothers Day, you may be asking? Absolutely nothing. But, thanks to the good people at Betty Crocker, I was able to whip up my first from-a-box gluten free cake when I needed it in a hurry this past week. And it was pretty darn decent (as from-a-box cakes go).

But, really, what does Mothers Day have to do with gluten free? I’ll get there, folks. Patience. (Hahaha! I don’t have any patience, but you must with me. This is my blog and I can do whatever I want!)

So, Mothers Day. Not one of my favorite days of the year. Don’t get me wrong—I have a great mother and many other women in my life who have been mentors and examples and, for all intents and purposes, mothers to me. Growing up I knew lots of women who were bitter about Mothers Day. These women ranged in background from those with fertility issues to those who never married to those who had awful childhoods with abusive parents. I always thought it was stupid to be bitter about a day intended to celebrate the people who helped bring us into this world and the many other people who helped us navigate this crazy life. And I determined that I would not be one of those old, bitter ladies.

That has been a difficult promise to keep through the years, especially as a 30-something childless woman in a church community that emphasizes the importance of motherhood. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of my friends having growing experiences with their children that I will never have. And I would not be quite truthful if I said those bitter feelings didn’t creep up every May when I dread the second Sunday of the month.

This year, in an attempt to stave off the usual bitterness, I started to think about all the mothers who have made my transition to gluten free eating a much easier experience. So, even though I have never (and may never) experienced the fierce mothering instinct which drove most of these women to do what they’ve done, I can (and will) revel in the benefit their instinct has been to my life.

First, my own mother: after learning of my diagnosis with Celiac disease, she ran out to Barnes & Noble prepared to buy the place out of all the gluten free cookbooks in stock. Thankfully, she restrained herself and instead spent hours poring over the various options. Knowing her practical and independent (and stubborn, too—but she didn’t quite use that word) daughter, she carefully chose a cookbook with (as basic as you can get for gluten free) recipes for many of the everyday items I would be giving up, like bread, pancakes, and pie crust. She also delivered the book as a gift that said, “I thought you might like this. But here’s the receipt if you want to choose something for yourself.” I loved it and use it many times a week. Thanks, Mom.

That very cookbook was designed by Jennifer Cinquepalmi, a now-renowned writer, baker, and advocate in the Celiac community. Her motivation for experimenting and creating relatively simple yet tasty gluten free versions of the ordinary foods her family liked to eat? Children diagnosed with Celiac disease. Her desire to be a good mother drove her to create and share recipes that now make my meals much yummier. Thanks, Jennifer.

I mentioned in an earlier post the tireless efforts of my high school friend Anna Dailey McCartney, who along with other concerned parents, was instrumental in getting passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Again, it was Anna’s desire to keep her young allergic son safe and healthy which motivated her to do so much research, writing, speaking, and campaigning to pass this important law which makes label reading (one of my new favorite pastimes—NOT!) sooooo much easier. Thanks, Anna.

And to all my many mother friends out there, Happy Mothers Day. You may not be my mother but I honor your service to mankind and to me, personally.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Trust. A five-letter word. Easy to spell. So hard to do.

Why do I have trust issues, you ask? I don't know. I was not abused as a child and, aside from the ordinary relationship skirmishes that are an important part of growing up, I have not experienced significant betrayal from anyone which would lead me to have a lack of trust in others. But, for whatever reason, I just...don't trust people.

What does this have to do with having Celiac Disease and being forced to go gluten free, you ask? Since changing my diet five months ago (yikes--can it really be five months?), I have been forced to trust people. And it's been an exceptional learning/growing experience for me. Allow me to share just a few of the many examples I've recognized over the past few months:

* * * * *

A new friend who I hardly knew offered to make a gluten free apple crisp for snack at our book club. I had no reason to trust that this woman would do it right except for the fact that she seemed very sincere in her desire to do something nice for me. So, without asking for an ingredient list, I scooped up a spoonful and marveled in not only the delicious dessert, but the genuine extension of friendship which the dish represented.

For my birthday a few weeks ago my boss presented me with darling and delectable homemade gluten free cupcakes to celebrate. I could have questioned her but I opted to stuff one and then two cupcakes in my mouth and sing their praise. My boss doesn't know much about my health condition, but she did research and found something that I could eat and the whole office could enjoy.

I must exercise a whole different kind of trust when I eat out--which I do way too often. This kind of trust involves TOTAL STRANGERS! Before I eat in a restaurant, I research whether they have a gluten free menu or at least an ingredient list on their website. Then once I choose to sit my behind in their facility, I have to trust that the restaurant will actually prepare the food the way they say they will. I must trust that the server actually remembered "no croutons" from the inception of my salad and didn't just scrape them off at the last minute before arriving at my table.

* * * * *

Many folks in the Celiac community would tell me I'm a fool for trusting as I do. They tell me I must be extremely cautious about what I do with my food and that I shouldn't trust anyone else to do it for me to ensure that I don't eat so much as a bread crumb of gluten which could cause more damage to my digestive system (not to mention make me sick & miserable again). While I believe in adhering to the science behind my disease, I also believe that the trust in humanity I have acquired is invaluable.

I'm grateful for the myriad of friends and family who have reached out to me by way of sharing recipes, baking and buying me special treats, giving me expensive flours, and offering their concern. At the onset of this experience I posted that I detest unsolicited medical advice; I can't say I love it now, but I better recognize that people are offering it because they care. They want to find a way to relate, and so they offer up whatever they can to relate to my experience. For that, I am grateful. And this new-found trust in my fellow man? I hope it's here to stay at least as long as the Celiac Disease is.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Control With a Measure of Creativity

Why do I love baking so much? A few weeks ago I asked my husband that question, and his response was that it affords me control with a measure of creativity. Hmmm. Control & Creativity.

Today as I suffered from a serious case of the doldrums, I decided to whip up a batch of lemon bars, gluten free recipe courtesy of my brother's wife (of January's cornbread fame). And I contemplated control. I have been baking (AKA controlling ingredients) since I was about 7. That many years of experience have taught me, in the very least, that measuring matters in baking. The years have also taught me what to expect from certain combinations of ingredients. Hence, control.

But creativity? I'm not a creative person. At least, not in the see-a-masterpiece-out-of-a-lump-of-clay sort of way. And, lately, I've been comparing my lack of creativity against everyone I know who is more skilled than me in any regard. That very comparison game figured highly in today's trip through the doldrums: everyone is smarter than me, prettier than me, and definitely more talented & creative than me. Just when I think I've found something that is uniquely my forté, I meet someone who is vastly better at it than me--baking included.

Here's where I hope to cheat those feelings of inadequacy, however: even if I'm not the best baker, I can still make something delightfully yummy and (sometimes) even attractive out of raw ingredients. And as long as I'm munching away on my lemon bars, or cookies, or pie, I don't worry about all the people whose bars & cookies & pies are better than mine. Because I'm satisfied with my baked offering to myself.

I'm still stumped on creativity. The lemon bar recipe called for 5 1/2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice. While juicing the fresh lemons, I wondered why the recipe didn't call for lemon zest, as well. The oils released as you zest a lemon afford a much brighter lemon flavor than just juice, in my opinion. So I zested my lemons and tossed it into the mix. What? Changing a recipe is one demonstration of creativity, you say? Well, I'll be...

And I suppose all this gluten free baking could be deemed as a bit creative, too, because I've discovered that the ingredients no longer behave as I expect them to. Simply altering one ingredient--wheat flour--completely changes the outcome of my recipes. The "rules" are much looser in gluten free baking, which means I lose some control but at the same time gain freedom for creativity. After all, if it's already a 50/50 chance that they won't turn out, what's wrong with throwing in something different?

So, although I'm inadequate, I will continue baking and enjoying the reign of control while occasionally shocking myself with a little culinary creative venture or two!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Doughnut Joy

You know that saying that goes something like, "You don't want something until you can't have it" -- well, that would describe my relationship with doughnuts. I would occasionally enjoy a doughnut or two, but I could go for months (even years) without pining away for the round fried treats. And then, post-December 1st (the day I began a gluten free life to manage my celiac disease), I started craving doughnuts: hot, sweet, and completely forbidden. I found a GF buttermilk doughnut recipe, and tonight we gave it a whirl. One word: JOY!

This is a journey best described in pictures.

Constructed from a careful concoction of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and that ever-important ingredient, xantham gum

What's not to love about a dessert sizzling in 375* oil?

A little denser than your typical cake doughnut, but they cook faster so they don't absorb nearly as much oil

Maple glaze
Approved by the Doughnut King himself
Doughnut joy!