Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Shameless product placement


I've come across a few new (to me) products recently that I just had to share. I feel like I hit pay dirt when I found Katz's Gluten Free White Bread. It's the first gluten free bread that tastes good without warming beforehand. It's purchased frozen, but after defrosting it can be eaten as is. I went on to try their small challah rolls, and they too were great. I am trying to figure out what Mrs. Katz (a mother of two celiac kids) does to make these gluten free breads and rolls stay soft. She uses a blend of white rice, corn, tapioca and soy flour. Having worked with soy flour before (thank you Dr. Atkins) I think it is that which gives the baked goods elasticity. Lillie also likes their chocolate rugelach. They are available at stores around the country, or you can order online. If you order online, you get free shipping with $100 order. The prices at my local store match the online prices.

On a recent busy day when I needed a gluten free cake, I decided to use a mix from Whole Foods called 365 Everyday Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix. It was a bit more labor intensive than I would like for a mix. It called for adding butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks which are pareve), eggs, vanilla extract and buttermilk or yogurt. For the last ingredient, I subbed soy milk with white vinegar added (use 1 cup soy milk mixed with 1 tablespoon vinegar and allow to sit for 10 minutes) for the buttermilk. The result though, was fantastic, I liked it better even than the Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Mix. The texture was very close to glutenny cakes, and the taste was chocolaty and smooth. It lacked any odd taste or texture that sometimes occurs in gluten free cakes. The price was also reasonable, under $4 for one box. However, one box makes an 8 or 9-inch single layer cake. So for a traditional layered birthday cake, you would need two boxes. This seems to be the norm in gluten and allergen free boxed mixes. But, I feel it's still cheaper than a bakery cake!

Another new favorite is Nasoya's Silken Style Creations. This is a silken tofu product that comes in vanilla, chocolate or strawberry flavors, and is vegan, gluten free and dairy free. The chocolate flavor has the exact consistency of good chocolate pudding, and can be eaten straight out of the box as a dessert (o.k. put it in a bowl first...maybe). But, I discovered that it makes a good ingredient as well. I made a mousse using the chocolate flavor tofu for a base. I froze the remainder and came up with a great ice cream substitute. I used this to make ice cream sandwiches with gluten free cookies, I call them "Flying Soysers". The Nasoya website has an eggless, gluten free brownie recipe using the Silken Style Creations. Click on this link for the recipe.

In the waning days of summer, this is a fun project to make, and enjoy with the kids. They can personalize their ice cream sandwiches by choosing different flavor cookies and garnishes, such as sprinkles, mini-chocolate chips, coconut and finely chopped nuts (if not allergic).

Flying Soysers

1- 8 ounce container Rich's Whip
1 package
Nasoya Dark Chocolate Silken Style Creations
2 dozen gluten free cookies (store bought or homemade)
sprinkles or mini chocolate chips, optional

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat Rich's Whip until stiff peaks form. Add Nasoya Dark Chocolate Silken Style Creations and continue to beat until well combined. Mixture will be a light chocolate color*.

Place half of cookies on a flat surface. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate mixture into center of cookies. Cover with remaining cookies and press down until filling reaches edges of cookies. The "soysers" may now be rolled in sprinkles or mini-chocolate chips, if desired.

Wrap each "soyser" in plastic wrap, and freeze 3 hours to overnight, until filling has the consistency of ice cream. Serve straight from the freezer.

Yield: 1 dozen

*At this point it may be used as a mousse or placed in a freezer safe container and frozen for 3 hours to overnight, until it has the consistency of ice cream.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rice is Nice


Most celiacs are intimately familiar with rice. They eat rice in its original form: white, brown, wild. And, they eat it in the form of pasta bread, crackers, cookies, cereals and cakes made from rice flour. Last week I tried to go gluten free for a whole week in order to better understand Lillie's condition. I was struck by how many rice products I ate. This great grain really kept me going, but I suppose it could also be boring if eaten plain, in frequency.

I had a pretty lousy week last week culminating in Rosie taking a trip to the Emergency Room in an ambulance due to a bad asthma attack. I had an ear infection, and the other kids were sick as well. My cleaning lady quit (where I come from a reason to don mourning black), and a few other minor misfortunes. So, it wasn't the best week to try to radically change my diet and go gluten free. But, I had been reading Elisabeth Hasselbeck's book The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide, and she's just such a cheerleader I decided to just do it starting Sunday night.
Well, I found I ate a lot of rice products, and what Lillie complained about was true. She is always complaining that we don't have crackers for her---and sometimes a rice cake just doesn't cut it! She had a stomach flu last week, and all I could offer her was gluten free bread toast. Which, she refused as she seems to disdain all the brands I put before her. When you're sick and celiac, you just don't have time to order gluten free saltines off the Internet!

What I took away from my gluten free week (which lasted 6 days as I hit a wall on Friday when I realized I had only 2 hours to make Shabbos after returning from the ER, that not being enough time to make gluten free challah), was that little Lillie had to be building inner strength from this whole experience. G-d gave her the very special challenge of going through her childhood with celiac disease for a reason, and I truly believe it will only make her stronger. I'm glad I went gluten free this week, especially this very hard week, as it made me see how much planning and sacrifice a celiac has to make in order to feel well and preserve their health. As I bit into a glutteny (yet egg, nut and dairy free) cookie with a contented sigh Friday evening, I glanced over at the curly, redheaded fireball that is Lillie, and felt "gluten guilt". I could switch back to eating all my glutenfull favorites, and now truly appreciate the ease in which they are available. But, little Lillie could not. I felt a new respect for her and the difficulties she goes through on a daily basis. Now when she has temper fits over a cracker, I will understand better, and just try to weather the storm.

The upside of last week was that I found two nice cookbooks for 50 cents each on sale at my local library. To my surprise and delight, in Graham Kerr's Kitchen (remember the "Galloping Gourmet"? That's him!), I found a recipe for a savory pie crust made out of rice! He recommends it for quiches and any savory sort of pie. It's a lot easier than rolling out a temperamental crust, and contains much less fat than a traditional shortening and flour crust. FYI you can now get his book for 1 cent on I overpaid!

You must pre-cook the rice, but keep it slightly undercooked, so the crust won't be mushy.

Basic Rice and Cheese Crust
Graham Kerr's Kitchen, page 131

3 cups water
2/3 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 lightly beaten egg white

Pour the water into a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, add the rice, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain through a metal hand sieve or colander. Pour about 2 inches (5cm) of water into the same saucepan, bring to a boil, set the sieve of rice on top, cover, and let steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the rice to a bowl and immediately stir in the remaining ingredients, blending thoroughly. Place the mixture in a nonstick p-inch pie pan. Press it firmly into the shape of a crust, starting at the center and moving out. Raise the sides about 1/2 inch above the pan rim. It's ready to be filled.

Note: When it's time to add the filling, pour in two-thirds of the quiche filling and let it partially bake. Then pour int he rest of the filling and finish baking. This helps to set the custard and provide a great-looking full-to-the-brim top.

The other book I found was a tiny little booklet entitled, Popular Food from Israel 2000 by Ruth Sirkis. It has all the classic Israeli foods written up in simple recipes. I am a fan of M'jadarah (many variations in spelling of this dish), a savory lentil and rice dish popular across the Middle East. It is Middle Eastern comfort food at its best! Before the fast of Tisha b'Av, I made the Veganomicon version, which used allspice and cinnamon. I subbed brown rice for white, and it was fine. The meal held me over very well for the next 26 hours. The recipe below, is easy, very nutritious and delicious! Remember, the combination of legumes and rice is a complete protein. Try this for a vegetarian entree or a side dish.

Popular Food from Israel, p. 46

1 cup dried lentils
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 onions
1/3 cup olive or canola oil
2 cups cooked white rice

Rinse the lentils and soak them in water for 30 minutes. Drain and place in a medium sized pot. Add 2 1/2 cups fresh water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the remaining water. While the lentils are cooking, chop the onions finely and fry them in half of the oil until golden brown. Remove to a small bowl. When the lentils are ready, add the rest of the oil to the skillet and saute the lentils, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, until the lentils look dry and crisp. Add the rice and half of the fried onions and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes, tossing gently. Put in a serving bowl of platter, sprinkle the remaining onions on top and serve hot.

Yield: 6-8 servings as a side dish

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Close, but different or Some people are just nice!


Close, but different sounds to me like "separate but equal". The latter never really being so. I have begun to see that with gluten free baked goods, they are often close to "the real thing", but always a little different. As with kids with celiac or allergies, they are really regular, little kids with all the quirks that make them unique (and hopefully adorable) individuals. But, there is always that niggling little thing that makes them feel a smidge different. A "thing" which they must be aware and alert about at all times in order that they don't get violently sick. It's not easy, especially for the very little ones. But, every so often, there are people in their daily lives who get it, and go the extra mile to make them feel "normal".

Last Tuesday Lillie came home from camp very grouchy because Tuesday is cooking day for her group. They make nice things with simple recipes. They've made pretzels, knishes, and last week rugelach. As you may guess, all no-nos for Lillie. That Tuesday she was grousing because they ate the rugelach but the counselors didn't bring a snack for her. She wanted them to get her one, but that would require leaving the building where cooking took place, crossing a parking lot and large field to where their gear was kept. So she went without. Then she said one of the junior counselors took her to the art room while the other kids continued the cooking class. Lillie loves art. She doesn't seem to mind being different when the alternative to what she can't do is something she enjoys. Then this morning she told me her division head bought her something for cooking that she could make. "What", I said, "did you make it?" "No, I didn't feel like it", she answered. I felt bad that she didn't realize the division head had gone out of her way to make Lillie comfortable, but I was almost gleeful that this woman had really gone the extra mile for my daughter. I ran into her today and duly thanked her.

When I went to pick up Rosie from her little nursery camp, I saw one of the boys with an ice cream cone dripping strawberry ice cream. My chest tightened a bit and I tensed up. Her teacher does a theme for every week of camp, i.e., animal week, mitzvah week, watermelon week, etc. This week is ice cream week. When she told me that last week I figured I would have until Friday to figure out what I could do for Rosie to provide her with a non-dairy, eggless substitute. They have been making various ice cream themed projects, and I thought the actually ice cream wouldn't appear until the end of the week. I would ask the teacher if I could bring her Tofutti, or if she could provide ices for Rosie. But too late, I thought, as a gooey pink rivulet oozed down the little boy's hand. Then her enthusiastic teacher appeared before me rattling on how she had bought Soy Dream, and it was even Rosie's favorite flavor...strawberry. I breathed out a relieved sigh. How thoroughly thoughtful, and how lucky I am to have these considerate people in my life, I mused. Some days it is really hard, and some days it just isn't.

I decided to try making the simple recipes Lillie brings home from camp in gluten free versions. She made knishes one week and I felt it would be a challenge if I could create a gluten free version of the flaky, delicate dough that characterizes a knish. I have been using Jules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour. It is a light, white flour blend with a "patented" ingredient called Expandex, which to me sounds like some sort of girdle from the 1950's, but is actually tapioca starch. It purportedly allows the gluten free flour to behave very much like wheat flour in baked goods. I have been putting the Jules GFAPF through its paces, with good results. However, with the knishes, I made the pastry dough and put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours (as I would normally do with glutteny pastry dough), before rolling it out. When I took it out of the 'fridge it had the consistency of flubber. I had my gluten free baking a-ha moment. As, I think anyone who bakes gluten free will have eventually. It was that moment that I realized you cannot always treat gluten free dough like "regular" wheat flour dough. The Expandex had expanded and done its job a bit too well. What should have been delicate and flaky was, for want of a better word, flubbery! Nevertheless, I rolled it out and filled it with the very easy knish filling. I was motivated more by thrift than anything else. A five pound bag of Jules GFAPF is $19.99, and this recipe called for 4 2/3 cups of the stuff. When it came out of the oven I examined the golden loaf, then I tasted it. It was actually good. The dough was crusty, not flaky and delicate. But good in its own right. The end product was very tasty, and even more satisfying because it was so easy to make.

Kitchen Corner's Easy Knish Loaf

Note: These can be made into traditional individual knishes, or into one big loaf which is sliced before serving.

4 2/3 cup Jules Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour*
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Prepare 2 cups of instant mashed potatoes according to the directions on the box. Add 1 Tablespoon of instant onion soup or chicken consomme mix to the mixture.

Mix the dough ingredients together until it forms a cohesive dough. Form into a ball and roll out thinly in a rectangular shape between two pieces of waxed paper. Put the mashed potatoes in the center of the dough. Fold the dough over to cover the potatoes, and pinch the edges closed. Note: If making individual knishes, slice dough into 4-inch squares, and fill with a dollop of potato filling.

Transfer the loaf to a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake at 425F degrees until the dough appears golden on top, about 20 minutes.

Note: You can brush the top of the dough with an egg wash for a shiny finish.

*Jules E. Shepard offers a homemade flour blend in her book, Nearly Normal Cooking for Gluten-Free Eating, if you don't have her prepared flour available. H I find her prepared mix convenient, as it is like having a 5 lb. bag of "regular" all-purpose flour in the kitchen! It is no more or less expensive than the brands available in the stores. Her flour blends are available online at Sometimes she has free shipping offers, so it's worthwhile getting on the mailing list.

All Purpose Nearly Normal Gluten-Free Flour Mix tm
(p. xv)

Mix together:
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
4 teaspoons xanthan gum