Thursday, December 24, 2009

Party Planning


This morning the girls were setting up a pretend birthday party in their playroom. They laid out plastic play cups and plates, Lillie donned a birthday crown, and as far as I could tell Daisie was the only guest. I overheard Rosie tell Lillie that the cupcakes were gluten and allergic for her. Lillie responded that at this party noone is allergic to anything. I thought it was bittersweet. Cute in how even in play Rosie warned Lillie to be careful of the cupcakes, yet a bit sad that my girls could only eat whatever they want in pretend play.

In reality, one who has special dietary needs must be prepared for parties and celebrations. Our holiday season just ended, and for many around the world theirs is just beginning. I have a few strategies to help manage parties with your celiac or allergic child (or even yourself). But, above all your mantra needs to be "Be Prepared!"

1. Talk to your Host: Although it may be awkward to grill your host on what they are serving, it is necessary. I don't expect the host to prepare anything special for my children, but I do try and find out if there is anything they can eat. Recently, a very nice mother sat on the phone with me and read ingredient lists from items she planned to serve at her child's birthday party. I told her it wasn't necessary, but she very much wanted to provide food for Lillie.

2. Cross Contamination Conundrum: After ascertaining from your host whether or not your children will have something to eat at their home, you now have to explain that just because the food is gluten/allergy free doesn't mean they can put it in their mouth. You must explain the dangers of cross contamination, especially at a party when the food is often buffet style, and people may stick a serving spoon from permissible food into non-permissible food and back. Ask if they can take off your child's portion before the food even leaves the kitchen. I was very proud of Lillie when the mother of the birthday girl told me that Lillie said she didn't feel comfortable eating a certain snack even though she knew it was gluten free, because the children were sticking their hands in non-permissible food at the same time. The best thing you can do is prepare your children to advocate for can't be there with them 24/7!

3. Pack a Lunch: There may not be food your children can eat at someone else's house, therefore you should pack them an appropriate meal and snack. I find it's always good to try and have your child's meal "fit in" with what the host is serving. This seems to foster a sense of inclusion. For a party last week, I spoke to the mother and found out what she was serving, then prepared a "corresponding" meal for Lillie. The other kids were having pasta, flavored potato chips and cake. So Lillie had gluten free pasta, plain potato chips and a gluten free cupcake. Her friends are used to her toting along food, and it's now basically non-issue. She came home talking excitedly about the games she played and a magic show, and not once mentioned the food.

4. Share a Dish: Ask the hostess if you can bring a main dish or dessert to the party that everyone can enjoy. This way your children will definitely have something to eat, and they won't feel "different". Gluten free lasagna is a good choice, as it is almost indiscernible from the wheat variety (I use Tinkyada brand noodles). Bring something that travels well, such as a casserole or salad. Pyrex makes a line of baking dishes that come with insulated carriers and hot/cold packs. They work beautifully and your dish can hit the table even without being heated up. The less it is "handled" the less risk you have for cross contamination. A plate of cookies or brownies is a good choice, as you avoid the need to use serving utensils. You don't have to worry about someone cutting into a glutenful cake and then using the same cake server for a gluten free cake.

Overall, you want to make the situation run as smoothly as possible for your child so they (and you) can enjoy the celebration! This means a bit of legwork on your part, but it is worthwhile in the end.

This versatile meatless recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. It can be used either as a main course served with rice on the side or warm corn tortillas. Or, it makes a nice hot dip served with tortilla chips. The original recipe calls for dried beans and whole tomatoes, but why make your life hard, I substitute canned beans and diced tomatoes. The prep time is under 30 minutes with this simple sub.

Baked Mexican-style Beans with Sour Cream and Chilies
adapted from Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin, p. 50

2 - 15 ounce cans kidney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sized onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28- ounce can diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 -ounce can mild green chilies, drained and diced (optional)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup sour cream or non-dairy sour cream substitute
2 cups grated (8 ounces) Monterey jack or cheddar cheese or non-dairy soy cheese

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chilies, oregano, salt and pepper, and raise the heat to high. Cook for five minutes. Add beans, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes (at this point you can use the beans as a vegetarian chili if you wish).

2. Pre-heat oven 375 degrees. Put half of the bean mixture in a large casserole sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cover with half of the sour cream and half of the cheese, add the remaining bean mixture, and top with sour cream and cheese.

3. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Serves 4 as a main course

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Generally Speaking


I just received a great link to General Mills Live Gluten Freely site. It lists all the General Mills products (and there are many) that are gluten free. Although I realize the main motivation is sales, I still thank General Mills for providing this invaluable information. I wish more companies would jump on the bandwagon and provide clear nutritional information at the click of a mouse.

The list includes such products as Betty Crocker Gluten Free Baking Mixes, Fruit by the Foot and Chex cereals! The list is convenient and worth forwarding to friends and family who may be in a position to feed your gluten free child.

The site also includes some good recipes using General Mills products---of course.

Below is a recipe from the General Mills Live Gluten Freely website utilizing the fabulous Betty Crocker Gluten Free brownie mix

Turtle Brownies

Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours
Makes: 16 Servings

1 box Betty Crocker® Gluten Free brownie mix

Butter and eggs called for on brownie mix box
25 caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom of (8- or 9-inch) square pan. In medium bowl, stir together brownie mix, butter and eggs until blended. Spread 2/3 of batter in pan. Bake 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, microwave caramels and whipping cream uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Drizzle caramel evenly over partially baked brownie. Sprinkle with half the chocolate chips and half the pecans. Drop remaining brownie batter by small spoonfuls onto caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and pecans.Meanwhile, in medium microwavable bowl, microwave caramels and whipping cream uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Drizzle caramel evenly over partially baked brownie. Sprinkle with half the chocolate chips and half the pecans. Drop remaining brownie batter by small spoonfuls onto caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and pecans.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until top of brownie looks dry. Cool completely before cutting. Cut into squares, 4 rows by 4 rows.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pancake Panache


Last week Rosie's teacher told me she had refused to participate in a baking project that involved eggs. When the clever teacher realized what may be the problem, she asked Rosie if tomorrow they made a cake without eggs would she help? She said yes. Then on Shabbos she started pointing out to Lillie what she could not have because it contained gluten, such as the challah the rest of the family ate. This continued through the weekend with Rosie pointing out that Lillie could not have "her" pasta, even though Lillie had her own. I recognized what was happening. Rosie was only gaining self-awareness of her own allergies. However, Lillie did not recognize the same, and got angry and even physically lashed out at her, as she interpreted Rosie's remarks as teasing and taunting. I took Lillie aside and tried to explain what "going through a stage" meant, and that Rosie wasn't trying to be mean. But even for a bright 5 year old, there is just so much they understand.

I decided for dinner Sunday night we needed something everyone could eat. I also wanted to do something easy as I had been sick the previous week and felt sapped. I had a bag of Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix, a newer item in their store brand gluten free line, which I was anxious to try. All their gluten free products are delineated by a "g" symbol on the packaging. This definitely makes shopping easier. Having been in the store earlier in the day, I queried the manager whether he had a vegan pancake mix, but he only directed me towards the gluten free one!? Most pancake mixes call for milk, but the Trader Joe's Gluten Free mix specifically calls for rice milk or water. It also boasts it is wheat, peanut, tree nut, milk and dairy, soy and corn free. It does require 2 eggs though, which I substituted Ener-G Egg Replacer for Rosie's sake. The results were fine, although a bit flat. I attributed this to the lack of eggs which give pancakes a fluffy lift. I think a couple of pinches of baking powder would remedy the situation in the future. I felt good about serving this pancake mix to the whole family, as the ingredients are much healthier than your average glutenful pancake mix. Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pancake Mix definitely gets a thumbs up from my family. Lillie even ate seconds, something she usually never does!

Give the kids a few chocolate chips (Trader Joe's are the best!) to make faces or free form designs on the pancakes. Rosie's masterpiece...

With Chanukah arriving tomorrow night, pancakes of the potato variety are on most people's minds. They are a boon to gluten free eaters, as they are basically naturally gluten free. Just substitute potato starch, rice flour, or any gluten free flour blend for the small amount of flour or matzo meal in most recipes. Since there are a gazillion potato latke recipes out there, I will spare you. Instead, I am providing a recipe for Thai Corn Pancakes. This is a popular street food in Thailand, and a colorful, flavorful packed addition to Chanukah celebrations.

Thai Corn Pancakes with Cilantro Mayonnaise
from Recipe Encyclopedia, Pub. Crescent Books, p. 307

2 cloves garlic
1 small red chili pepper
3/4 inch piece fresh ginger or 1/8 teaspoon ground, dried ginger
2 eggs or equivalent egg substitute
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon sweet chili sauce
14 ounce can sweet corn kernels, drained
1 Tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil (more as needed for frying)

Cilantro Mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise or Nayonaise (a vegan mayonnaise substitute)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
8 scallions, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Coarsely chop the garlic; chop the chili pepper and ginger. Place the eggs, cornstarch, cilantro leaves, garlic, chili, ginger, pepper, chili sauce and half the corn in a food processor. Process in short bursts for 30 seconds or until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and fold in remaining corn.

2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of the corn mixture into a frying pan (repeat leaving 1 inch between pancakes) and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until golden. Turn over and cook the second side for 1-2 minutes or until the pancakes are cooked through. Repeat the process until all the mixture is used. Drain pancakes on a paper towel.

3. To make the Cilantro Mayonnaise: Combine the mayonnaise, lime juice, cilantro and scallions in a bowl. Mix well. Add pepper to taste. Serve the pancakes hot or cool with a dollop of Cilantro Mayonnaise.

Serves: 6

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner in 30 minutes...or less!


After 82 years of travelling the same route down Broadway, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade changed it's path. This was a well coordinated change on their part, choosing the most optimal route for maximal enjoyment by spectators. We don't all have the benefit of well planned changes, sometimes they are sudden and not so pleasurable. So it was this past week when Rosie fell ill with swine flu, the next day Lillie was diagnosed with strep throat, and the next Hubby and Daisie came down with bad colds. I knew attending my family's annual Thanksgiving extravaganza was completely out of the question.

I felt somewhat bereft at the thought of missing our annual family get together. It was the only day in the entire year my whole family manages to get together, if only for a few hours. My mother fusses over her menu with me on the phone, making sure there are choices for Lillie and Rosie's special dietary needs. "No, " I tell my mother, "you don't have to make gluten free stuffing...I'm sure Lillie won't eat it anyway." No matter how hard I try to convince my mother not to make the Sweet Potato Pineapple Puffs they always seem to end up on the table. The week of Thanksgiving my mother times her cooking schedule down to the minute. The golden crusted franks-in- blankets and mini-knishes are pulled from the oven as the first grandchild crosses the threshold. That is what I missed this year.

As for me, I was rushed off my feet this week, bleary eyed as if I had a newborn infant in the house. My sleep was not restful as a feverish children (or husband) woke me up at midnight or 3 a.m. for more Tylenol. My house ran like a hospital ward for several days, and I was the head nurse. I graphed temperatures and medicine dosages on a legal pad. One hand constantly flying to people's foreheads to see if the cursed fever had broken, the other to the tissue box. Needless to say, a turkey dinner with all the trimmings was not in my scope this year. But as the day neared I felt we should carry on that great American tradition of eating turkey on the last Thursday in November, simply because we are Americans. Even though, when asked most people will sheepishly admit they don't really like turkey. The week prior I stood talking to me neighbor as she unloaded our kids from carpool debating whether or not to get my "free" turkey which the supermarket gave out to customers who had spent a certain amount the prior month. "Yeah, " she said, "I don't really want mine either, we don't really like turkey. But it's free." And there's the rub, it's free! I would be a fool to turn down 20 lbs. of free meat. And that is why I always have a turkey hibernating in my freezer over the winter months, until I decided to finally cook it or throw it out in the midst of Passover cleaning. Several years ago I switched over to getting just a turkey breast after a particularly disastrous episode involving a too small roasting pan and a large Turkey prepared too close to the start of Shabbos.

After getting over my turkey trauma and getting just the breast one year (which is infinitely more manageable to cook) I found it came out delicious in the crock pot. The meat becomes incredibly moist, and most of the traditional accompaniments (carrots, potatoes and turnips) can be prepared in the crock pot as well. This year I decided I would go the crock pot route as my day was hectic. I could pop the bird into the pot in the morning and forget about it until dinner time. This was my kind of Thanksgiving prep. So in the end we did sit down to a Thanksgiving meal. Infinitely simpler than the one eaten by my extended family, but it retained the spirit of the day--even without the sweet potato pineapple puffs!

This recipe can easily be prepared either in the crock pot or in an oven cooking bag. Either way, you don't need to baste or tend to the turkey as it cooks. Toss a few whole sweet potatoes (pierced with a fork) in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour, and you have a meal!

Crock pot Turkey
(or Thanksgiving in a pot)

2 cups baby carrots
6 new potatoes, scrubbed and halved

1 cup chicken broth or stock

1 medium sized frozen turkey breast roast (bone in)
, thawed
2 medium onions, peeled

black pepper to taste

1/4 cup orange juice

3 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 Tablespoon fresh ground ginger root or 1 teaspoon dried ground ginger

Place potatoes and carrots in bottom of crock pot, pour chicken broth over all. Remove turkey breast from wrappers and cut off excess fat. Rinse inside and out with cold water. Place onions in cavity of turkey and place breast side down in crock pot (depending on size of crock pot, you may have to position your turkey breast vertically). Sprinkle with black pepper.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients and pour over turkey. Cook on Low setting for 6 hours, or until turkey reaches 180 degrees with a meat thermometer.

To prepare in an oven bag: Using a large oven bag, such as Reynold's brand, shake 1 Tablespoon of corn or potato starch inside the bag. Prepare turkey as above, inserting ingredients in bag placed in a large baking pan, instead of crock pot. Tie end and make 6-inch sized slits in bags. Cook in 350 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Allow to "rest" 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Easy Turkey Gravy

Pan drippings
1 Tablespoon corn starch

fresh ground black pepper to taste

Ladle pan drippings into a small saucepan*. Set over a low flame and whisk in corn starch. Continue whisking several minutes until gravy has thickened. Stir in pepper and allow to simmer 3-5 minutes.

*Note: If you prepare your turkey in an oven bag, my little secret is to hold bag over the saucepan, snip one corner and allow the liquid to pour into the pan while holding back the solid material.

If you want an easy, gluten free alternative to stuffing, try this buckwheat recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin (p. 88).

Kasha Pilaf

1 Tablespoon Margarine (or Olive Oil)
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered (3 cups)
1 medium-size onion, minced

1 1/4 cups kasha (medium granulation buckwheat groats)

1 egg or equivalent egg substitute (such as Ener-G Egg Replacer)

2 1/4 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Melt Margarine in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onion, and cook until the mushrooms are brown and tender, about 10 minutes.

2. Mix the kasha and egg together in a medium-size saucepan, and stir briskly over low heat until all of the kasha is coated with the egg. Turn the heat to medium and "toast" the kasha by stirring constantly until the grains are dry and separate, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms and onion and toss. Add the vegetable stock and salt, and cover the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Serves 4

As for the Sweet Potato Pineapple Puffs, the recipe can be found on page 286 of the Spice and Spirit Cookbook.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Catch Up with Ketchup


I am a member of a great e-mail list that services the area in which I live. It provides updates on stores and restaurants that have gluten free products, as well as general helpful information. This week the e-mail came through with a complete list of Heinz products that are gluten free. One of the member's of the e-mail list made an inquiry to the Heinz corporation, and passed the information on in the weekly e-mail. So, I am passing it on to you, my good reader, to save you an annoying phone call with yet another customer service rep. who asks you tons of personal information short of your cat's name.

Heinz BBQ Sauces (Original, Chicken & Rib, Garlic, Honey Garlic Only)
Heinz Chili Sauce
Heinz Cocktail Sauce
Heinz Horseradish Sauce
Heinz Ketchup
Heinz Organic Ketchup
Heinz Reduced Sugar Ketchup
Heinz No-Sodium Added Ketchup
Heinz Hot & Spicy Ketchup
Heinz Mustard (All Varieties)
Heinz Pickles (All Varieties)
Heinz Peppers (All Varieties)
Heinz Relish (All Varieties)
Heinz Sloppy Joe Sauce
Heinz Tartar Sauce
Heinz Traditional Steak Sauce
Heinz Worcestershire Sauce
Heinz Vegetarian Beans
Heinz Distilled White Vinegar
Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar
Heinz Apple Cider Flavored Vinegar
Heinz Red Wine Vinegar
Heinz Garlic Wine Vinegar
Jack Daniel's BBQ Sauces (Original #7, Honey Smokehouse, Hickory Brown
Sugar, Spicy BBQ Only)
Jack Daniel's EZ Marinader -- Teriyaki Variety
Jack Daniel's EZ Marinader -- Garlic & Herb Variety
Jack Daniel's Steak Sauce (Both Varieties)
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Lea & Perrins Traditional Steak Sauce
TGI Fridays Salsa (All Varieties)

Current as of October 2009

The corporation also provided an easy Barbecue sauce recipe using some of the ingredients above. You can prepare it in large batches and can or freeze it for later use and added convenience.

Heinz Ketchup Basic Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup Heinz Tomato Ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce*
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

In saucepan, combine all ingredients.
Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Brush ribs or chicken with sauce during last 10 minutes of grilling or

Makes about ¾ cup of sauce.

*For use with meat, make sure Worcestershire sauce does not contain any fish products.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is Better Batter Better?


The challah trials (and tribulations) continue at our house. For several months, I have been using Bob's Red Mill GF Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix with chocolate chips on top, for added appeal, for Lillie's challah. It was passable. She tended to eat the chips off the top, and about half a muffin. As far as affordability, one packet of mix (about $5) yielded enough muffin size challah rolls to last me a month (I use 3 per Shabbos). But, there was always an unappealing sliminess (sorry Bob that's the only way I can describe it) in the mouthfeel of these rolls. Then a product crossed my radar called Better Batter. The product is a blend of rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pectin and xanthan gum. It differed from my standing favorite flour blend, Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, in that it contained brown rice, as well as white rice flour (Jules also uses corn flour). In certain applications, I felt the Jules flour did not have enough structure and was too delicate for certain applications (those Souther Belles!). So I set out to see if Better Batter is better.

The flour is sold both online and in health food stores. Their website offers numerous recipes, including many vegan options. The fact that the flour could be used in eggless, dairyless recipes has particular appeal to me, as I can make one baked good for the entire family instead of gluten free items that contained eggs and egg less items that contained wheat flour. Better Batter wasn't available in any store near my home, so I ordered a 5 lb. box online (I was optimistic). It is also available in 2.5 lb. and 25 lb. boxes and cases. The company also sells pancake and brownie mixes. The shipping and handling charge was a bit off putting when I calculated the value of the product versus those available in the supermarket, or Jules' flour--which often has free shipping deals. But if Better Batter is ordered by the case (which is only 4 boxes), it actually works out cheaper than Jules'. I inquired at my local health food store if they can give me a case discount, and they said they would and looked into ordering the product. It pays to ask!
When the very chic pink and brown box arrived, I decided to put it to the test according to the instructions on the back. For yeast breads (loaf), it instructs you to double the liquid in the regular recipe, and for shaped yeast breads, halve the liquid. Since I wouldn't be shaping my challah, I went with the doubling method. I decided to use my standard, white flour, egg challah recipe from The Taste of Shabbos. When I opened the Better Batter I noticed it was closer in texture to wheat flour than Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, which resembles more a fine powder (not surprising since the first 3 ingredients are tapioca, potato and corn starch). It also looked more like real flour; I attribute this to the brown rice flour, which adds some appealing tannish flecks to the blend. In addition, the smell was similar to wheat flour. I was cautiously optimistic. I loaded the ingredients into my special-reserved-only-for-gluten-free-flour bread machine and set it on the dough cycle. I looked in the window after a few minutes and noticed it seemed a bit too dry. I pondered whether it was the flour blend or me. Hmmm. Then I realized when the box said "double the liquid", they didn't just mean the water in the recipe. The challah recipe also contains oil and eggs---both liquids. I added a bit more water and oil and set the bread machine in motion once again. The result was a nice fluffy batter which I spooned into oiled muffin cups. One batch yielded18 muffin sized rolls. Enough for 6 weeks. In terms of economy, Better Batter was shaping up to be as good, if not better than Bob's bread mix. But, the proof is in the pudding. If the baked good tastes awful, economy goes out the window (or in the trash can).

The challah came out nice and fluffy, with a light golden crust. I popped a barely cooled roll out of the muffin tin and tasted it with some jam (Trader Joe's makes the best). It was delicious! Whoopie! The texture straight out of the oven was just like a baking soda biscuit. The roll of course lacked the chewiness of wheat bread, but that is the case with all gluten free bread. It is the strands of gluten which are created in the kneading process that lend chewiness to wheat bread. This challah was more like a not too sweet muffin. When I gave it the ultimate test (Lillie), it passed with flying colors. Even without chocolate chips, Lillie munched through the entire roll and uttered an "Hmmm, good!" So, I knew I had a new challah recipe (an unslimy one to boot)!

The next, and ultimate in my opinion, litmus test was Rosie's favorite chocolate chip cook recipe. If Better Batter could hold up in an eggless recipe, I knew it was a keeper. It passed with flying colors. In comparison to Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, Better Batter held together, well, better. Without eggs as a binder, and without gluten to similarly bind the batter, gluten free baking can be tricky. But I found the Better Batter yielded a soft, chewy cookie that didn't fall apart.

Lately, I seem to breathe a sigh of relief when I find a gluten free product I can "settle on". That is, the end of the road, so to speak, in my search for the perfect pasta, challah, cake mix, etc. With so many balls in the air in my daily life, it's one less thing I have to worry about. So finding "go to" products is a big relief.

I definitely intend to use Better Batter in more of my baking; I will probably order a case next time. As for Jules, I am not tossing her aside entirely. Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour will be like my cake flour. The more delicate texture is perfect for cakes and shortbread cookies. The wonderful thing about gluten free baking is there is room for so many different flours. Like a family, they each have their own unique qualities and talents!

This challah recipe tastes best when warmed before eating. I wrap the individual rolls in foil, and store them in a Ziploc bag in my freezer. I thaw and heat as needed. The Better Batter website also offers a braided challah recipe.

Always Successful Challah
from The Taste of Shabbos, p. 3

4 1/2 cups of Better Batter Gluten Free Flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tablespoon salt
1 packet dry yeast
2 cups warm water (more as needed)
1/3 cup oil
3 large eggs (plus 1 for egg wash, if desired)

Add ingredients to breadmaker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Set breadmaker to dough cycle. If dough appears too dry after first mixing, stop machine and add additional water.

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray two muffin pans or 2 medium sized loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

When cycle is complete, scoop batter into prepared baking pans. Beat egg with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush top of batter with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes for muffin pans and 30-40 minutes for loaf pans. Remove from oven when top of bread is a light golden brown. Cool on racks.

Store tightly covered in the freezer if not using immediately. Heat in a 225F degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebrate! Good Times?


Last Shabbos, we had two celebrations to attend. One was a shalom zachor, the celebration on Friday night to welcome a new baby, and a bar mitzvah the following day. Both are known for endless tables of baked goods and other goodies. So, of course I came prepared. For the shalom zachor, I packed up two luscious, sprinkle ridden cupcakes for Lillie and Rosie, I even put them on their own plates. So, when we arrived, I was able to pop out their desserts and place them in front of the girls. It was not an issue of trawling the dessert table to maybe or maybe not find something acceptable for their dietary needs (more likely not).

They happily licked and munched their cupcakes, but as children will be children, their eyes are bigger than their stomachs. And, their big eyes spied an artfully arranged bowl of blue chocolate lollipops. "Can we have them?", they asked hopefully, knowing my usual answer of, "No, they're allergic and/or have gluten," was coming. But it didn't. I thought long and hard. Knowing they were homemade, and knowing that only one store in my neighborhood sold the blue confectioner's chocolate, I wracked my brain trying to think of any offensive ingredients. I decided it was worth trying, praying silently Lillie wouldn't be moaning with pain the next day, and I would go to the head of the list for Most Irresponsible Parent of the Year award. Their eyes lit up when I said yes and they eagerly grabbed for the blue chocolate teddy bears and baby shoes. They ripped off the cellophane and carefully curled blue, shiny ribbon, and chomped eagerly into this rare treat. It gave me joy to know they could choose something off the dessert table, like all the other children. But, I know that being a "good" parent doesn't mean doing what necessarily makes your child happy, rather it means making the responsible choice---I hope I had.

The next day Lillie was fine, and I breathed a sigh of relief. One point for me. I was floating on the cloud of satisfaction about the prior night's event going so well, that I didn't see the figurative wall that loomed in front of me at the bar mitzvah. Once again we set off with the girls' food packed in a small tote bag, along with the Epipen and Benadryl. Usually we can find something for Rosie in the form of fruit or potato chips, and we weren't disappointed. But, we recently were told to be more circumspect with Lillie at parties as potato chips for example, could be cross contaminated with crumbs from the pretzels clinging to someone's hand as they reach into the bowl. We gave the two older girls fruit, and Rosie had some pretzels. Daisie was given a cookie I hoped wouldn't make too much of a mess and Hubby and I helped ourselves to kugel and salads. Then the trouble started. I paused as I was spooning some apple kugel into Daisie's mouth, and when I reached down to give her another spoonful, Rosie was in her place. I panicked, the egg laden kugel had touched Rosie's mouth, but not gone further, as far as I could tell. I wiped it off, then we waited. I watched her like a hawk for an outbreak, but thank goodness, nothing appeared. In the meantime, Lillie kept staring wistfully at the displays of gorgeous chocolate and nut cakes, and trays of cookies she couldn't have. Then the whining started. I pointed out a large bowl of tortilla chips (hopefully uncontaminated) I felt were alright for her, but she wasn't interested. At eye level were bowls of chocolate pastilles. Once she got hold of the idea, she roped Rosie into the whine fest. "But we had candy last night at the party, why can't we have today?" went the argument. "Well, I said, these have decorations and I need to look at the ingredients, also most dark chocolates are produced on equipment with nuts." I made my way into the kitchen to try to find the containers for these chocolates. No luck! I returned to my kids and had to deliver a firm no, and point out what they could have. The protests ensued, loudly. The "unfairs" flew like bullets at me. I turned toward Hubby and strongly suggested he finish up and we head home. I was deflated. I was the "mean mommy" that afternoon. But, I knew I was really the "responsible mommy", and that means doing what is necessary for your kids well being, not what is popular with them 100% of the time.

In general, I try to be well prepared so my children don't feel a "lack" at social functions. For an upcoming party at school, I asked the director what will be served, so if for example they are having chocolate chip cookies, I will try and send in permissible chocolate chip cookies, so they don't feel so different. For birthdays, I like to make really great decorated cakes, so their isn't a feeling of having a "nebby" allergy-free or gluten-free cake. This year, I had a joint party for Lillie and Rosie (their birthdays are one month apart), and I made an egg free, dairy free chocolate cake to accommodate Rosie, and a gluten-free vanilla cake for Lillie. Both butterfly cakes looked fabulous and received rave reviews. No one could tell they were "special" cakes. For Lillie's cake, I decided to try a "regular" recipe and put Jules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour to the test. It passed with flying colors. I used a recipe from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard, Spago's pastry chef. The cake has more eggs than most birthday cake recipes, so I feel they really gave the gluten-free flour the structure that it needs. I made the cake the day before, and it was buttery tasting and light the next day.

Here is my gluten-free, (and optionally dairy-free) version of Sherry Yard's favorite birthday cake. You can experiment with your favorite gluten-free flour blend, but I cannot guarantee the results will be the same as mine.

My Favorite White Birthday Cake with Chocolate and Butter Fudge Frosting
from Desserts by the Yard, p. 7, by Sherry Yard

For the cake:
3 cups Jules Gluten- Free All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk or soy or rice milk

For the frosting:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks margarine

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven, and pre-heat to 350F degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together two times and set aside.

3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or use a large bowl and a hand mixer, and beat together at medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is very light and fluffy. Scrape down the paddle or beaters and the sides of the bowl.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

5. Beating on low speed, add the milk and the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating wet and dry ingredients. Beat only until smooth. Scrape into the prepared pans.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, switching the position of the pans from front to bake and rotating them halfway through. To test the cake for doneness, lightly touch the top with a finger-it should spring back into place; the cake should also be beginning to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. If necessary, bake for 5 to 10 minutes more.

7. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto the rack and remove the pans. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours before frosting. (The cakes may be wrapped and refrigerated or frozen at this point).

For the frosting:
1. Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (or double boiler) on 50 percent power for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow to cool until warm to the touch.

9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy. Add the cooled melted chocolate and beat for 1 minute, until smooth. Frost cooled cake as desired.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fair Game


Lately Lillie has been playing this new game wherein she sums up how many "fairs" she received in the day. More often then not, she compares them to the number of "fairs" Rosie received (according to Lillie) during the day. What are "fairs" you may ask? They are a five years old's perception of justice in her world.

During the recent holiday of Simchas Torah where it has become customary to distribute copious amounts of candy to children at synagogue (to symbolize the sweetness of Torah), Lillie felt she received negative amounts of "fairs". I decided to pack both Lillie and Rosie gift bags with treats they could have. I didn't even give them "healthy" snacks like raisins and apple slices. They had Laffy Taffy, Fruit Roll-ups, potato chips and punch (o.k. it was 100% fruit juice...but still). I did this to avoid any unforeseen difficult situations that may arise with the food being proffered in synagogue, as well as to make them feel they were receiving special treats just like all the other children. I thought this would work out well. It did...until someone offered Lilllie a licorice stick. I spotted the pre-teen girl out of the corner of my eye. She approached us with a wide smile, the glare from her braces reflecting off a bright red stick of licorice. "Do you want some licorice?" She innocuously asked Lillie. "No", I interjected sharply, then proceeded to mumble something about allergies, she can't have that, etc. "Oh, well how about a toffee." She countered, seeming a bit confused about the whole situation. "No, not that either, but thanks." Then she backed off. And then Lillie let loose with a tirade about the unfairness, and how Rosie had 12 "fairs" that day and she had none. And why didn't I buy gluten free licorice, etc. I felt there was no winning. And some days there isn't. I've realized that no matter how hard you plan, the emotions of a five year old are just too precarious. Sometimes your "substitutes" work out, and sometimes they just fall flat---no matter how cleverly conceived!

One thing that didn't fall flat during the recent holidays was a chocolate confection I created that everyone could eat, and everyone loved! I made two dozen, and they went quickly. I also found them to be an economical alternative to store-bought boxed chocolates. They reminded me of Chunky chocolate bars a bit, hence the name.

You can also use the melted chocolate from this recipe to make chocolate dipped frozen bananas. For a cute story, and easy recipe, check out the charming storybook No More Cookies by Paeony Lewis.


1/2 Tablespoon margarine or butter
10-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe's are especially good)
1 cup Gluten Free crispy rice cereal (such as Erewhorn)
1/2 cup raisins or chopped, dried fruit
1/3 cup chopped nuts or crushed banana chips (optional)

Place margarine and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. If chips aren't completely melted, microwave in 15 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted.

Stir remaining ingredients into melted chocolate until well blended.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a waxed paper covered baking sheet or tray, or into mini paper baking cups. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Store covered in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 2 dozen chocolates

Wednesday, September 30, 2009



So Lillie has flat out refused to eat her favorite yogurt, M and M YoCrunch, as currently there is a picture of Frankenstein on the package (it's a cartoon Frankenstein...not meant to scare kids). She claims it tastes different. I offered to call the company with her and have them explain that inside it's the exact same yogurt she eats almost every day for breakfast (yes, I felt guilty at first giving her M and M's for breakfast---I checked the nutrition info., it has the same sugar content as La Yogurt). Today when she came home from school and was tantrumy over her snack situation I offered her one of my fancy Rachel's Yogurt, which comes in such exotic flavors as Plum Honey Lavender and Pomegranate Acai. She aceded and tried the Orange Strawberry Mango, and declared that she liked the orange flavor. The company asserts that all the flavors are gluten free, and if you are lucky, you will find them on sale, as I did. Well, at least this should get us through October. I pray there isn't a scary elf on the package come December!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009



Well the holiday season is upon us. At Rosh Hashana I had the pleasure of sampling two unique honeys from the The Bee Folks in Maryland. First I tried a Heather Honey from Scotland. Leave it up to Scottish bees to produce a sturdy honey. It was so thick it wouldn't drip off the honey dipper. And, it had a strong smell and almost molasses like taste. However, I can see spreading it on a thick piece of homemade bread to enjoy with tea on a chilly Highland's morning. The Blueberry Honey was more appealing to me. It is not blueberry syrup mixed with honey, it is actually honey gathered from the nectar in blueberry bushes. It was a very light honey color, and I could definitely detect a faint blueberry flavor. Both items are Star-K certified kosher, and were reasonably priced. They were sold as a school fundraiser from Lillie and Rosie's school, but you can but directly online at the link above. The company also boasts Cranberry, Buckwheat and Killer Bee Honey!

A lovely looking recipe for challah crossed my path this week. It is from Jules Gluten Free Products, of which I am a big fan. It appears to make a nice, light and fluffy challah. The recipe does call for yogurt, but soy yogurt may be used to make the recipe pareve. I look forward to trying it! Please post your results below if you try it before me! Click on this link for the recipe.

I don't know what a holiday meal would be like without brisket. Erev Yom Tov I called up my mother, and seemingly out of breath she said she just finished her brisket clinic. I thought she said "bridge clinic"-- an avid past time of hers. When I asked how the game was, she said, "Brisket, not bridge! All my friends have been calling for brisket advice." Even my friends call my mother for brisket advice. I have dubbed my mother the "Boynton Beach Brisket Queen". Her brisket is known far and wide for its richness of flavor, tenderness and melt-in-your-mouth quality. When she asked me how mine turned out, I sheepishly replied "Tough". "That's because you cooked it in the oven", she replied. Actually, this time I did it on the stove-top, the Queen's preferred method, and it still came out tough. "Hmmm, " she pondered, "you didn't cook it long enough." She was right! I learned my lesson; don't start making a brisket at 9 p.m., unless you plan on staying up until 3 a.m.!

The recipe below gives both the oven and stove top versions of my mother's brisket. I find the oven version easier, as you just cook it in a disposable aluminum pan, put it in the oven and forget about it for a few hours. This freezes well, but you must slice the meat and freeze it in plenty of gravy.

Boynton Beach Brisket Queen's Not-So-Secret Brisket Recipe

3 pound beef brisket

1 -15 ounce can tomato sauce
1-15 ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
2-3 onions, sliced
1 envelope gluten-free powdered onion soup mix
1 Tablespoon garlic powder or crushed garlic
1 teaspoon paprika

6 carrots, peeled and sliced in thirds
6 celery stalks, sliced in thirds

Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees.

In a large soup pot, brown brisket over medium-high heat.

In a roasting pan large enough to comfortably accommodate brisket, mix together tomato sauce, cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup water (more if needed to thin mixture), onion soup mix (reserving 2 Tablespoons) and onions. Make several 1-inch slits in brisket with a sharp knife. Rub brisket with additional soup mix, garlic and paprika. Place brisket in roasting pan and spoon sauce over meat. Bake covered with foil or lid in pre-heated oven for at least 3 hours. Add carrots and celery to baking pan after 1 hour.

Allow to cool overnight in refrigerator. Skim off fat from gravy and slice brisket. Cover with pan gravy and return to a 300F degree oven for another 1-2 hours to tenderize (this may be done right before serving).

To prepare on top of the stove, follow directions as above, except remove brisket from pot after browning, discard any rendered fat, and mix sauce in pot as above. Return brisket to pot and simmer on low heat for 5 hours.

Remember, the secret is cooking the meat long, slow and low. Enjoy!

Serves: 6-8

Sunday, September 13, 2009



Holiday time is filled with tradition and family gatherings, coupled with the desire to share those treasured memories with your children. A big part of the Jewish holidays are the seudahs, the festive meals that are served twice for each day of Yom Tov. There are time honored dishes in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions that have been passed down for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Some foods are symbolic, such as apples and honey, or carrot tzimmes, whose golden color and coin shape represent prosperity in the new year. Then there are those foods our grandmothers and mothers made and are just traditional and comforting. When we cannot prepare those foods for our children because of allergies or disease, there is a small sense of loss. It is not simply a matter of swapping roasted potatoes for noodle kugel, but rather a break in the chain---a disconnection from our tradition.

I haven't made kugels much in the past few years due to Rosie's egg allergy. I have made attempts, but found that the potato kugels didn't amount to much more than mashed potatoes baked in a 9x13 inch pan! That is why I was thrilled to find a recipe for vegan noodle kugel in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's The Vegan Table. Swapping out gluten free noodles for the "eggless" egg noodles in the recipe presents a taste of tradition that everyone can enjoy.

For more eggless, dairy free traditional dishes check out Vegan Began by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Bernard.

Although kugels are often a "do ahead and freeze" type of dish, this recipe is best made the day of, or the day before you are planning on serving it due to the nature of gluten free noodles. I like to add sliced apples to my noodle kugel, and find it especially festive this time of year.

Noodle Kugel
adapted from The Vegan Table, p. 175

8 ounces gluten free egg noodles (or linguine broken in 3rds)
1/2 cup pareve margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), melted
3/4 cup nondairy sour cream (i.e., Tofutti brand)
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
12 ounces firm tofu, crumbled
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I found this amount of sugar too sweet...reduce by 1/2 if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 medium apple, thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (more to taste)

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray a 9x13 or 9x9 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (the smaller the pan, the higher your kugel will be).

Prepare noodles according to package directions, until al dente (a bit firm). Drain and rinse.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted margarine, sour cream, applesauce, crumbled tofu, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in cooked noodles, apples, raisins and vanilla.

Spread noodle mixture evenly in prepared pan. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings

Saturday, September 12, 2009

End of Summer


Labor Day is behind us and the rich reds and golds are beginning to come out on the leaves.  My tomatoes are clinging to the vines against the occasional fall breeze, and my herbs are begging to be picked before the first frost.  Incorporating garden herbs and vegetables into recipes this time of year brings back the sunny days of summer right to your table. Having the children realize the full cycle of life when they are reminded these vegetables they are (finally!) eating are from those tiny little seeds they helped plant last spring.

I strongly feel that children with special dietary needs have an advantage over those that can blissfully eat the typical American diet without caution.  Celiac or allergic children need to read labels carefully, ask questions, and often have to turn to homemade alternatives (i.e., baked goods) rather than plastic wrapped convenience foods.  They will go into adulthood with a headstart on good nutrition practices.  The recipes below are brightly flavored and full of texture to please palates of all ages.  They are also fun for little ones to help prepare.  The polenta rounds are reminiscent of mini pizzas, and the quinoa salad is an extremely healthy alternative to the mayonnaise laden side dishes that turn up at barbecues and picnics all summer long.

This quinoa salad is my favorite, and comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello. Ms. Pirello's book takes macrobiotic to a new and user friendly level. She uses has a variety of gluten free recipes, and uses alternative grains like millet.

 Lillie helping me make quinoa salad

Quinoa Salad
from Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello, p. 54
2 cups water
pinch of sea salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup fresh green peas
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 to 2 celery stalks, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
7 or 8 fresh mint leaves, minced
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
soy sauce
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Bring water and sea salt to a boil over medium heat.  Add quinoa and bring back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.
Bring water to a boil in a pot over high heat.  Add corn and boil 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in iced water.  Drain and set aside.   Add peas to boiling water and boil 30 seconds.  Drain and cool in iced water.  Drain and set aside.  Toss the quionoa with corn, peas, cucumber, and celery in a large bowl.
Whisk together the lemon and orange juice, mint and basil to taste, soy sauce to taste and the olive oil in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over hot quinoa mixture and toss to combine.  Serve immediately or the quinoa will take on too much moisture and become soggy.
Yield:   4 to 5 servings
The following recipe is my own creation, and makes use of the lovely summer bounty in my garden. It is quick, easy, and can be used as an appetizer or side dish. The kids like putting these together, as they resemble mini-pizzas. 

Tomato-Basil Polenta Rounds
1 tube prepared polenta
1/4 cup olive oil
3 vine ripe or plum tomatos, thinly sliced
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
1/4 cup grated parmigiana cheese (optional)
Slice polenta into 12 pieces.  Brush both sides of polenta with olive oil, and place on a non-stick baking sheet.  Place 1-2 slices tomato on top of polenta rounds. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil.  Sprinkle cheese, if desired.
Place baking sheet under low broiler for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve warm.
Yield:  12 servings