Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow Break

After I heard last night there would be no school the following day due to the blizzard, I was wandering around the house whispering to myself my snow day mantra, "Embrace the snow day, embrace the snow day." I used to hate snow days. The kids would be so bored despite my efforts at crafts, baking, play dates with the nearest neighbors, and I would get nothing done around the house. Then I decided to mentally reframe how I thought about snow days. I decided to see the positive in them: I didn't have to get the kids dressed and out the door at the crack of dawn, ditto for me, no lunches to make, no carpool. Of course, there is also the memories that are made from watching the little ones make snow angels and catch snowflakes on their tongues.

Fortunately, my husband was off this snow day. He spent most of the day shoveling, and my kids went outside to play around in the snow as he cleared the walkways. The neighbors wandered over and the children made snow angels with their friends. Rosie didn't like that Lillie threw snow at her. I told her that's how you "play" in the snow. When they came inside their noses were pink, and their clothes coated with snow like a donut with powdered sugar. "Hot cocoa, hot cocoa", they cried. No problem, easy enough request. Wait, no, the packet of hot cocoa is processed on equipment that processed wheat. Once again the seemingly easy becomes not so easy. I decided to pull down the canister of Ghirardelli cocoa, and make the hot cocoa recipe on the back. Hot cocoa became easy once again. Once you try making cocoa from scratch, you will never go back to the packet. There is a richness which cannot compare to the boxed stuff.
I can't say the day was exactly idyllic, moral begins to break down by early afternoon, but while all the kids were gathered around the kitchen table drinking their hot cocoa, they were quiet and content. So make yourself a cup of cocoa and embrace your snow day!

It's worth buying better quality unsweetened cocoa powder. I think Ghirardelli natural unsweetened cocoa is the best you can get in the supermarket. It's not much more than Hershey's, and if you put the two side by side you can't help but see the difference in color and richness of texture. There is also a type of cocoa called Dutch processed, which contains alkali. For an easy primer on dutch cocoa versus plain, click here. For this recipe, you can use either.
Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup milk (dairy, soy, rice, coconut)
Whisk together first two ingredients in a small saucepan. Add the milk, whisk together until blended. Heat over low heat for 8-10 minutes, until small bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk occasionally while heating. Serve immediately, garnished with marshmallows or whipped cream, if desired.
Microwave method: Mix cocoa and sugar and set aside. Pour milk into a mug and heat on high for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in cocoa mixture.
Serves 1

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Swap This!


I feel like every magazine this time of year has a cover story on cookie swaps. These are parties where groups of people get together and bring several dozen of one kind of cookie, and a large container. Then they each take a few of the other people's cookies, resulting in a stunning array of goodies without doing all the work to make such a variety. People often try to show their personal best at these affairs, either by bringing elaborately decorated cookies or outrageously delectable ones. But once again, these parties are gluten fests for which the Celiac doesn't benefit.

As I peruse the the recipes the home magazines give, usually accompanied by a lush photo spread, I "tsk, tsk" to myself that they are train wrecks for the food sensitive--full of eggs, nuts, wheat flour and butter. But can you expect much more from the "non-sensitive world"? Then every so often, I will serendipitously come across a recipe that works well with gluten free flour subbed for "regular" all-purpose flour. Butter in these recipes is easily switched with non-dairy margarine, ditto for milk. Occasionally, I will even find a recipe that is egg less--then I'm dancing in the streets!

Below, I am presenting two sweet treats that no-one will even suspect are gluten and allergen free. They are stand outs on their own. If you are bringing them to a cookie swap, or putting them on a buffet or platter with gluten-ful goodies, I suggest wrapping them in cellophane bags with a ribbon bow. This will keep them uncontaminated while attractively presented. Holiday's are especially difficult times for the food sensitive, with all the celebrations and gatherings that include festive foods. But with a little creativity no one has to be left out!

This recipe was adapted from a cookie contest winner in the January 2011 Cook's Country Magazine. The nuts in the recipe are optional, and the cookie is totally fine without them. You may want to mix up the types of chips you use (i.e. white chocolate or cinnamon flavor), as long as the total equals 1 1/2 cups. Judging by the look on the faces of those that have eaten these bars, they are truly bliss!

Chocolate-Cherry Bliss Bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum* (such as Jules' brand)
1 1/2 sticks non-dairy margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), chilled, cut into cubes
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown works fine too)
1/4 granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted**
1/2 cup gluten-free old fashioned oats
1- 12 ounce jar cherry preserves
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted** (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, with 3 inches of foil hanging over the edge of the pan. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, margarine, sugars, salt and cinnamon until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to a medium sized mixing bowl, and stir in coconut and oats. Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture, and press remaining mixture into prepared pan. Bake 15-18 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

Spread jam over warm crust. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts (if using), top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 18-22 minutes. Cool on wire rack, about 1 hour. Lift cookies out of pan using foil sling or parchment paper. Place on flat surface, and cut into 24 bars. Store in airtight container.

Yield: 2 dozen bar cookies

*If your flour blend doesn't include xanthan gum, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to dry ingredients

**To toast coconut or nuts: Spread coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350F degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until light brown, turning occasionally. Coconut can go from
brown to burnt quickly, so keep checking it.

Anyone who has seen snow in New York City needs no explanation for the name of these cookies. This recipe was inspired by one in a Joanne Fluke mystery.

New York City Snowballs

1 cup (2 sticks) non-dairy margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond or mocha extract (optional)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum* (such as Jules' brand or
Better Batter)
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut or finely chopped nuts (or half of each)
Confectioner's sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together margarine and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla extract, cocoa and salt. Mix until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour in 3 additions, blended well after each addition. Stir in coconut or nuts.
Dampen fingers, and roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes until firm. Switch cookie sheets halfway through baking time.
Allow cookies to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely (at least 30 minutes).

Place confectioner's sugar in a small bowl. Roll cooled cookies in confectioner's sugar. Store in covered container.
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

*If your flour blend doesn't include xanthan gum, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to dry ingredients

Monday, December 6, 2010

Donut Mix-Up


During the holiday's it can be especially difficult to find substitutes for ones family's tried and true recipes and memory evoking foods. For example, giving a child a store bought gluten free cookie is no substitute for freshly made sufganiyot, the fried jelly donuts traditionally eaten at Chanukah time. To me it is especially important to have nice gluten free and allergy free options at home, since there are so many parties at school (and elsewhere this time of year) where my kids need to bring their own food. I want them to feel caught up in the festivities like everyone else. And, let's face it, inevitably food contributes to the celebration.

Last year I thought I was really clever when I discovered a shortcut to make great gluten free donuts---gluten free pizza dough mix! I used Whole Foods 365 brand, and it was great. I came to this by dusting off an old syllogism I learned in college (if, then, therefore). I remembered reading that Paula Deen's mother made donuts from refrigerator biscuits (the kind you buy in the tube), and I thought the gluten free pizza dough mix yielded a biscuit like crust, therefore it may also yield a decent donut. And, it did just that.The only thing I did different than the package directions was add an extra 1/4 cup sugar. They fried up beautifully in 350 degree oil. I used a pastry bag to fill them with strawberry jam, and put out melted chocolate and confectioner's sugar for toppings. Lillie loved them!!!

So what a disappointment on the first night of Chanukah this year, when I took the remaining box of 365 Pizza Dough Mix out of the cabinet and mixed up the contents only to find that it had a weird smell. Checking the box I saw to my chagrin it had expired a while back. Yikes. The clock was ticking and I had a kid with a special diet who I didn't want to disappoint on the first night of Chanukah. To add insult to injury, I used all my eggs on the rotten mix. I frantically thought and remembered the box of Gluten Free Bisquick I had in my fridge. I remembered once seeing a recipe for Bisquick donuts with the non GF variety. I quickly went to the Betty Crocker site and did a search, no luck. A Google search finally yielded the recipe. My nice and ever prepared neighbor lent me another dozen eggs, and I set to work with a prayer on my lips that this would work. I had to add more liquid to the GF version, but they came out lovely. One advantage of the Bisquick donuts over the pizza crust version is that they stayed soft even the next day. Gluten free baked goods often harden when not eaten fresh. But Lillie was able to take one in her lunch for a party at school! So for this mother, I found that necessity is indeed the mother of invention!

As a postscript you may be wondering what Rosie ate, as the donuts contained egg, I have a little secret I use to make super easy eggless and vegan (but glutenny) donuts. E-mail me at the address on the right if you would like to know!

If latkes are your thing, pretty much any recipe will work, just substitute potato starch or any gluten free all-purpose blend for the flour or matzo meal called for in the recipe. As an egg substitute, you can use Ener-G Egg Replacer, or 1 Tablespoon potato starch dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water. This acts like a "glue" to keep the latke together.

If sugar cookies are your thing, I tried Better Batter's Vegan Sugar Cookie recipe this year. It came out nice, but not as sweet as I would like, although the kids didn't seem to care. Sugar cookies are more about the process than the end result in my opinion---especially if you're 4 years old. It seemed as if it would work great in a spritz press though, just don't refrigerate first.

Happy Holidays!

The gluten free version of Bisquick is dairy free as well---a nice plus in my opinion. I call these "anything fritters", as you can add just about anything to them, such as grated apple or zucchini, or sliced bananas. They are easy to make and delicious to fresh and hot.

Gluten Free Bisquick Donuts
2 cups gluten free Bisquick
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup rice, soy or dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Confectioner's sugar

In a large mixing bowl, mix together first 6 ingredients. Add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, if mixture is very thick. Cover and refrigerate until oil heats.

Meanwhile, heat 3 inches of oil in a large pot on medium-high (375 degrees) heat. To test readiness of oil, drop a walnut size piece of dough into hot oil. If it floats and small bubbles appear around it, the dough is ready. Using two tablespoons, scoop up batter in one and push it off the spoon with the other into the oil. Don't crowd the pot. Fry only 2 or 3 donuts at a time. Using a slotted spoon, turn donuts when they appear golden. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove donuts to a paper towel lined plate and drain well. Repeat until all batter is used up.

Hint: Put a two inch piece of peeled carrot into the boiling oil to soak up all the yucky brown stuff that appears when frying. It keeps the oil clear and your donuts looking good.

Allow donuts to cool for 5 minutes. Using a pastry bag fitted with a round tip, fill donuts with jam. Place confectioner's sugar in sieve and sprinkle over donuts. Best served warm. Store tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Yield: 1 dozen small or 9 large donuts.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make and Take


Well another major holiday season is upon us, and that makes me nervous. Anytime I have to take the kids out for meals or any food related celebration at another's home. I run through the usual concerns in my mind: will there be items they can eat, will they be victims of cross contamination, will I hear the "no fair" blues from them? But, as I illustrated in a previous post, there are tips I can offer to make your experience more pleasant.

1) Be Pushy

I'm not one to elbow my way to the front of a buffet line, no matter how hungry I am, but in the case of food sensitivities it is important to be served first in order to lessen the chance for cross contamination. If you don't believe me, observe a buffet table and I will guarantee you will see someone serve themselves glutenny stuffing and then stick the same spoon in the carrots (otherwise permissible). Even better, ask your host if you can make up a plate for your child in the kitchen before the food even hits the table.

Discuss with older children what their options are on the table. Although you may wish that your protective wings will always be spread over your children, they won't. At some point your children will have to go out into the world and be in charge of their own illness or allergy. This is a good opportunity for them to test the waters.

If your grandmother tells you that little Susie can have "just one of her special nut crescents; it won't hurt her". You have to politely and firmly educate grandma and reiterate that one nut crescent, however delicious, is one too many.

2) Be Clear

You should definitely speak to your hosts beforehand so that they know the special dietary needs of your family members. Whether they do anything special is another story. Don't resent them if they don't. Some people are very confused when it comes to food allergies and celiac disease. They are afraid of "messing up", so they prefer that you bring your own food. This is fine, and in many cases preferable in my opinion. On the other end of the spectrum you have those that want to try really hard to accommodate special dietary needs, but fall short. For example, once I spoke to a hostess and told her I would like to bring meals for two of my children. She was adamant that she would be able to provide food for them. We discussed that in the context of her planned menu, she would leave a couple of pieces of chicken plain for the girls. When dinner was served she said, "Ooops! I totally forgot. But I made the sauce myself (that's on all the chicken), it's just honey and mustard, nothing else." That's lovely except Rosie is allergic to mustard.

For Thanksgiving you may have a situation where the host seems to understand your needs, but goes ahead and puts flour in the turkey baking bag (as is suggested by the manufacturer---sub-potato starch by the way), either forgetting about the gluten issues, or thinking that doesn't "count". Well, it does and you must be clear about everything.

3) Bring a Dish

If your hostess' husband decides to pour the gravy (thickened with flour--again sub-potato or cornstarch) over all the turkey which your very diligent hostess made otherwise gluten free, you are out of luck for a main course. So, it is a good idea to bring a dish that is filling, and everyone can enjoy. Just be careful, as above, about cross contamination once the dish hits the table. I also like to bring an extra special, showstopping dessert. I feel this makes Lillie and Rosie feel less bad about not being able to eat everything on the table. In addition, for children their ages, desserts are a big deal. At holiday time, they are often extra special offerings, so I want to ensure they feel included and satisfied.

Overall, it is not impossible to eat at others homes and enjoy the camaraderie and festivity of celebrations, but you must do your homework beforehand, and not let down your guard at the actual event.
Happy Eating!

This corn pudding is both gluten free and vegan. You may substitute one large egg for the cornstarch mixture, which will render it vegetarian, but not vegan. This is a hearty and homey side dish, and can be a filling main course for those who forgo meat on Thanksgiving.

Vegan Corn Pudding (Spoon Bread)

2 Tablespoons non-dairy margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 cup gluten-free yellow cornmeal*
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten free flour blend or oat flour (gluten free certified oats only)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 Tablespoons warm water
1- 15-ounce can non-dairy cream style corn (such as Green Giant brand)
1-11-ounce can whole sweet corn, drained (frozen corn, thawed or steamed, fresh may be used)
1/4 teaspoon Frank's Red Hot sauce (or any that is gluten free)
2 Tablespoons jarred or canned sliced jalapeno peppers, drained and chopped (optional)
1 1/2 cups soy or rice milk (reduce by 1/4 cup if a more cornbready texture is desired)

*Note: I didn't have gluten free cornmeal on hand, so I used gluten free dry polenta (corn grits), which I ground finer in the food processor. Cornmeal has the same contamination problem as oats, so be sure to buy one that is marked gluten free. You can also use Ener-G brand Corn Mix.

Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees. Place margarine in a 9x9 or 8x8 square pan and place in oven until melted. If you are using Pyrex, this may be done in a microwave. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add next five ingredients until well blended. Whisk in soy milk.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for one hour, or until top appears golden brown, no longer moist, and slightly cracked. Serve warm.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Best we could do


I stared down at the finished cake on the counter in front of me. Instead of looking like the beloved image of Minnie Mouse I had known since I was a child, a slightly crazed looking cartoon mouse stared back at me. It reminded me of "Itchy and Scratchy", The Simpsons' slightly crazed version of the iconic "Tom and Jerry". I sighed and said to myself, "It's the best I could do, and I just hope it's the best cake a four year old has ever seen." It was late and I had spent an hour decorating the cake that Rosie had requested for her birthday. Not to mention the hour it took to bake, plus the time spent going to the store to buy the mold, and the time researching a vegan and gluten-free recipe which will satisfy all my children's needs. I thought back to how I once stayed up until 1:30 am, with a sinus infection, 8 months pregnant to decorate a 3-dimensional duck cake for Lillie's second birthday. If that's not love, I don't know what is!

I looked down at the kitchen floor and debated whether to mop it. I easily decided against it, as I would have nearly over a dozen four year olds tramping across it the next day. The living room was strewn with toys and Daisie's clothes, which she now changes at will for seemingly no reason several times a day. Posie slept peacefully in her swing as I debated what I could do to make the house look presentable before she woke up and demanded my attention, possibly until the wee hours of the morning. I sighed. It will just have to do, and laughingly thought I'll just try and keep the parents at the door, the kids won't care how my house looks. Finding it impossible to be a perfectionist these days, even if I wanted to, I decided it's just the best I could do. And, I think that's the most anyone should expect from any parent. When I had my first child, a friend of mine, who is a child psychologist, told me about the "Good Enough Parent" concept. Gone are the days of perfect parents imagined in the Dr. Spock era. Followed onto the trash heap are the overindulgent yuppie parents who tried to not only be perfect themselves, but also to make perfect children (all probably ending up in intensive pshycotherapy BTW). Nowadays just being good enough is enough. What a great concept! When you have a child with special needs for which you try to compensate, I think the idea of trying to do everything perfect in the act of compensation is quite prevalent. For me, my child has to have the perfect gluten free cupcake in order that she doesn't feel different from all her other classmates eating bakery cupcakes. I've been searching for the perfect gluten free bread so that Lillie can have a decent sandwich at lunchtime. It can be tough, but ultimately I think it's only as tough as we make it for ourselves. Recently I spoke with a parent who was in the process of going gluten free for her son. I ran into the woman dropping her son off at the first birthday party he was attending as a gluten free eater. She took out his permitted snacks, then told me she ran into technical difficulty trying to make a gluten free pizza for her son. It was so important to her that he could have the same thing as everyone else for lunch at the party. She had spent all morning on the endeavor only to end up empty handed. She felt slightly defeated and greatly frustrated. The mother told me she was running over to our local pizza shop to get him an order of fries in order that he would have something special for the party. "But" I said anxiously as she had one leg in her car, "they fry the breaded onion rings and mozzarella sticks in the same oil--it's not really gluten free!" She froze and looked like she might either strangle me or cry or both. I instantly felt bad. "It is good enough for now" she said. I didn't disagree.

As I watched the kids at Rosie's party chomp on their cake without any indication they knew it was gluten free or vegan, I thought that we're often harder on ourselves than we believe others are of us. We're our own "toughest customers". At the end of the day, a smile on our child's face is the biggest indicator that we are "good enough"!

I discovered a fabulous new recipe book called The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal. It has recipes that are gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, soy , peanut, tree nut and sesame free. It is my new baking bible. The page for chocolate cake is already batter streaked and worn. Run, don't walk, to buy this book! The author calls for using her own flour blend, but as I had difficulty finding the ingredients required, I substituted Jules All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend, and it worked beautifully.

Chocolate Layer Cake
from The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook, p.p. 106-107

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour blend (see note above)
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if not included in flour blend already)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup rice milk
1 1/4 cups rice milk
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups warm water

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, line with cutout parchment paper, grease again, and dust with a little cocoa powder (or just spray with Pam).

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour mix, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

3. Add the egg replacer, rice milk, canola oil, vanilla, and warm water and beat on medium-low speed until smooth, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.

5. Bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Bake until the cake is pulling away slightly from the sides of the pans and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

6. Let cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Cover the cake pan with a large plate, flip, peel off the parchment paper, and flip the cake back onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Repeat with the other cake. Frost as desired. Store covered.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Webby Good Cupcakes


A few Sundays ago, I dropped Rosie off at a birthday party, and about two minutes in, her cupcake (which I brought special for her) fell in the dirt. I wanted to cry. That might be the reaction you would expect from the child. But for this mom, there was so much tied up in that little cupcake. I had stayed up late the night before to bake and decorate her "special" cupcakes so that she would feel "normal" at the party. There was all the daily tension and challenges of dealing with food sensitivities in that stupid cupcake! It represented more than just a few bites of sweetness. For a moment she looked at me and I looked at her, frozen, as I decided my next step. Did I say, oh well you can have another one at home. Or, did I schlep back home and get her another little cake which I hoped would bridge the gap of "normalcy" for this child? Sometimes you can't give your kid what he needs, and the disappointments of life must be faced--even by a four year old. And sometimes Mom can go home and pull another cupcake out of the freezer. Which I did.

Sometimes your kids ask you for things which you cannot deliver. And sometimes you can. Sometimes the request are of the roll your eyes variety (on the parents part), and sometimes as a parent you stop and say "Yeah, that's actually reasonable." On the cover of the October/November issue of Living Without (a magazine dedicated to "Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free Living"), there was an appealing picture of blueberry muffins with spider-web frosting on the cover. The request from my gluten-free and food allergic children to make them was actually of the latter variety. I got the usual, "Please, can we have them, yes, when, when, tonight? NO, tomorrow? Please (accompanied by expectant smile)". However, given that we have a new "flower" in our garden (k'neina hara), I was rather busy to say the least. Just serving dinner was a huge effort, decorated cupcakes too?! I told the kids they would be a special treat for the then upcoming holiday of Sukkot. I decided Sukkot was an very outdoor oriented holiday, and spiders are part of there's the connection.I found it slightly odd the original recipe called for using blueberry muffins. I subbed out chocolate cupcakes from my new favorite cookbook Sophie Safe Cooking, which uses oat flour and no eggs, nuts or dairy products (see previous post for new found love of oat flour). So these recipes are great for my kids.

Using store bought frosting such as Duncan Hines Whipped Frosting (which is vegan as well as gluten-free), makes this recipe only look time consuming! If you can't find certified gluten-free oat flour, but have certified gluten-free oats, finely process them in a food processor to form a flour.

Spider Web Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

from Sophie-Safe Cooking by Emily Hendrix, p. 90

2 cups oat flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cupcake liners. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 35oF degrees.
In one bowl, mix oat flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a second bowl, mix oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour cold water and oil mixture into dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour into lined muffin tins. Fill each muffin cup about 1/2 full.

Bake at 350F degrees for 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into a cupcake will have a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (non-dairy)
1/2 tablespoon non-hydrogenated non-dairy margarine or shortening (such as Earth Balance)
1 container non-dairy vanilla frosting (such as Duncan Hines Whipped Frosting)

In a small microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips and margarine. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth. If chips are not melted, return to microwave for 15 second increments, stirring in between until melted. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a a round decorating tip (such as size 6 or 7), or a zip top plastic bag. If using a plastic bag, snip a small hole at one corner once filled.

Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla frosting, creating a smooth, flat surface. Make several concentric circles with melted chocolate, about 1/4 inch apart on vanilla frosting. With the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick, draw a line from outer edge of cupcake to center, then about 1/2 inch away, in the opposite direction. Repeat and you will have created a "spider web" design on top of the cupcake. For an added bit of whimsy, position a plastic spider on top.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An apple a day...or two, or three


Mares eat oats and does eat oats....and little Lillie does too! Finally. We received the go ahead for Lillie to integrate oats into her diet once again. That may not seem terribly exciting to most people, but I was practically dancing in the streets. I kind of went a little crazy with Bob's Gluten Free Certified Oats and Oat flour---I ordered a case. I only have 2 small bags left! I made oatmeal cookies, brownies, blondies and my favorite apple crumble!

I have a favorite streusel topping recipe that is really healthy. Although I had been using it for years, I had to cease and desist while Lillie was off oats for the past year. It comes from Susan G. Purdy's book Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too. While most streusel recipes consist of flour, sugar and cinnamon, Purdy's is mainly oats. I had to tweak Purdy's formula to remove small amounts of wheat germ and Grape-Nuts cereal called for in the recipe. But, it remains crunchy and delicious due to the oats. If you can eat nuts, add 1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts to up the crunch factor.

If you live in a region where apples are grown, now is the time for harvesting them. Many farms open part of their groves to the public for a fee. Apple picking is a wonderful fall activity for the family. I think it's great to teach the kids that food doesn't grow in the supermarket. As well, there is nothing like taking an ingredient from farm to table in the same day. The recipe below is very kid friendly in terms of making and eating!

This recipe can be made with many combinations of fruit; berries and plums work well too. But being apple picking season, you may have an excess on hand. I like to use Granny Smith apples in pies and crumbles, as their tartness contrasts nicely to the sugar in these dishes. But, you may use any firm, slightly tart apple for this recipe.

Favorite Apple Crumble

6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced (1/4 inch thick slices)
2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
1/3-1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

(adapted from Susan G. Purdy's Oat Streusel Topping, p. 429, Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too)

1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (I used Jules' brand)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup certified gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple or orange juice

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Place apples in the pan. Sprinkle with remaining filling ingredients and toss together with a mixing spoon or your hands, until apples are well coated. Pat down the apples so they are evenly spread out across the baking pan.

For the topping, combine and toss together all the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Add the extract, oil and juice and blend with a fork, or toss with you fingers until everything is combined. The mixture will be crumbly, not smooth like a batter.

Spread the topping evenly over the apple mixture. Pat down gently with your hands.

Bake at 350F degrees for 50-60 minutes. Poke a fork in the apples to make sure they are tender. Topping should be a dark golden brown. May be served warm or cold.

Serving suggestion: Best served warm with a scoop of non-dairy ice cream or non-dairy whipped topping.

Yield: 8 servings

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pizza Presto


Today I went into what is known as "the other pizza place" in town. It's not terribly convenient for me normally, and I like the one I usually frequent. Since Lillie has had Celiac Disease, that should be changed to "infrequent", actually. But when we did go there as a family, Rosie's mainstay was french fries. There wasn't much else to eat for her at the pizza place, other than salad. But today I had just Rosie and Daisie with me, an errand to run a block or so away from "the other" and an hour to squeeze in lunch before dashing off to a doctor's appointment. So I went in, ordered pizza for Daisie and myself and fries for Rosie. As I was waiting I asked the owner if he carried gluten free pizza. He said that he just started making whole wheat pizza, then commented there are so many different allergy issues and shrugged. I thought to myself, I wish I could just shrug off allergy issues.

Daisie's and my pizza arrived first and I cut the steaming hot slice into small pieces for her. When the counterman brought over Rosie's fries I noticed they seemed to have a batter coating. That's a red flag for eggs. I asked if they were the "spicy fries", which I know has a coating, he said no, and when I asked if he knew what was on it I got a shrug. The owner didn't know either, as he had disposed of the carton they came in which had the ingredient list. The owner called the salesman for the french fry supplier, and he didn't know either. One big shrug! Rosie's fries sat on the counter for 40 minutes while we waited for an answer. No substitute was proffered, no refund suggested. This coupled with the fact that the owner didn't know what was in the food he served (along with not so great pizza) made me determined never to step in that store again. As I gathered up the children to leave, I debated whether or not to go Gordon Ramsay on him(who I'm sure would have rapped him on the knuckles with a wooden spoon), and lecture him about how an owner or chef must know the ingredients in the food he serves. But I just left, disgusted, and saddened that little Rosie had to sit there nursing a cup of pink lemonade while I tried to quickly prod Daisie to finish, so I could dash home and make her lunch before my appointment.

Today's episode reminded me of why we mainly eat at home these days. Restaurant dining should be a pleasure, a break from cooking, an enjoyable outing. It has turned into a hardship. A tense hour or so that I no longer enjoy.

Lillie misses our outings to the pizza place. I've tried different substitutes. Until now the best has been $7 a pop frozen gluten free pizza, which is the size of a salad plate. That hefty price tag for convenience food was on sale after Passover. Lillie liked it well enough until I tried a homemade pie from yet another serendipitously found cookbook purchased for $1 at the local library. The other day she told me that she wants pizza, but the one I make, not the one with the thick crust (from store bought mixes I've tried---not bad in my opinion), but the homemade one. I thank G-d when we hit on something she truly likes. The fact that it's easy is even better. This pizza crust is "pourable", so it saves "sticky hands" clean-up. The messiest part is measuring out the flours. What I've found to be convenient is to make my own mixes, so to speak, by setting out several Ziploc bags and measuring out the dry ingredients for the crust. Then I write the required remaining ingredients on the bag and cooking temperature, and freeze my "mixes". Then when pizza is requested I just dump the contents of the baggie in a bowl, whisk in the wet ingredients and we're good to go. In Italian pronto meets right away or ready right now, while presto means soon. So with food sensitivities we cannot have everything "pronto" anymore, I can at least have it ready "presto"!

Culinary Potions by Eve Berman, DO, was written by an osteopathic doctor who treats many patients suffering from food sensitivities. Hubby enjoys this pizza too. Since it makes a large 12" pie, there is enough for him to grab a couple of slices from Lillie's lunch! It does contain eggs as an integral ingredient, so unfortunately it is not good for Rosie. The recipe can be made dairy free though. I've made it with soy milk and it turns out great! Make sure to spray pan well with cooking spray as it is sticky. The author suggest buttering baking pan, but I find that cooking spray is more reliable.

Fairy Ring Crust

from Culinary Potions, p. 61

1/4 cup 2% milk or soy or rice milk
2 large eggs
2/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon xanthum gum

Pre-heat oven to 400F degrees

Blend the milk and eggs with a mixer (or whisk by hand).

Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.

Grease a raised-edge pizza pan (12-inches) with butter and pour in the dough.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, then remove from the oven. The crust is done when it lifts easily from the pan with a spatula. If the crust sticks, cook for a few more minutes. Add desired toppings, and return to the oven (for about 10-15 minutes) until cheese melts, and toppings are cooked through.

Yield: 8 slices

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hot days...Cool Katz


As camp season is upon us I face the unsavory task of going through my children's special dietary needs and medical treatments to a new crop of adults. That task in itself is pretty daunting. I find it best to leave as little wiggle room as possible. This basically translates to providing most food myself. My daughters' camp offers lunch and snacks every day. Lillie cannot partake of any of it unless they serve potato chips (and even then they must be plain) or ices. It is a great convenience...not having to make lunches all summer...IF you can take advantage of the program. Since I have to prepare lunches for them nearly every weekday, one thing that I look for on these hot summer days is convenience.

Basically Lillie has three acceptable lunches: pasta with sauce and melted cheese in a thermos, yogurt or a sandwich with margarine (not butter!) on both sides of the bread and square cheese. One day I gave Lillie a brand of gluten-free sandwich bread other than Katz's brand gluten-free Sliced White Bread. Upon returning home she asked me indignantly, "Why didn't you give me the bread that tastes good?" Recently, I was pleased to see that they have come out with a Wholesome Bread variety that contains, fava and garbanzo beans, teff flour and flax seeds. Loving whole grain bread to start with, I was pleased to see that there is a now a tasty gluten-free variety. As I find the goal of most gluten-free companies is first and foremost to make their products taste like "the real (glutenful) thing". As a result, it seems they tend to use a lot of "white" flours like potato, rice and tapioca, which are low in fiber. Upon sampling Katz's new higher fiber bread, I found the texture similar to the regular brand of high fiber bread I buy for myself. As I've mentioned before on this blog, Katz's is the only gluten free brand I've come across that tastes good without heating or toasting. Although, it arrives frozen, so I usually do store it in the freezer and reheat before making Lillie's lunch.

Given my aversion for using the oven in 100 degree heat as we've had the last week, I also love Katz's line of cookies, everything from Sprinkle Cookies to Jam Thumbrints to Chocolate Rugelach---my all time favorite. Katz's really has done a great job of making them look and taste like "the real thing. Recently, I went to a reception at our synagogue, and grabbed a box of the Chocolate Rugelach for Lillie on the way out the door---she ate half the box by the end of the event. And, they looked similar to the glutenful variety on the dessert table!

If you can't get Katz's in your local store, they have a program wherein you can refer new store and they will send you a $50 coupon for their products! I think that is very cool of Katz's.

In this very hot weather I also hate making hot soups, but my family still clamors for their soup Friday night. One day I made a strawberry soup, and Lillie and Rosie decided we should have a different colored soup each week. To date I've also made blueberry soup and cantaloupe soup (my personal favorite).

It may seem strange to cook the cantaloupe melon, but somehow the dish works. With all of the fruit soups, do not even think about eating them until they are fully chilled--8 hours to overnight. This is a good way to use up a melon that's seen better days, and maybe isn't so aesthetically pleasing on its own.

Cantaloupe Soup with Blueberries
from Cooking the Whole Foods Way, by Christina Pirello, p. 113

1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted and diced
1 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup apple juice
Pinch of sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Fresh blueberries, for garnish

Place peach and cantaloupe in a soup pot with apple juice and salt. Cook over medium heat, covered about 10 (to 20) minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth (Note: you may also place in a large storage container and puree with a hand blender). Stir in lemon juice and vanilla, pour into a bowl and cover. Chill thoroughly before serving. Serve garnished with fresh blueberries and mint leaves.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Macaroon Mania


It started the day after Passover. The phone began to ring with friends and relatives calling me from the supermarket. The conversation went something like this, "They have cans of macaroons on sale for just 99 cents, do you want me to get you a few?" At first I answered with an enthusiastic "Yes!", as few gluten free goodies are that low in price. Those little flourless coconut gems that are the mainstay of snacking during Passover are like week old rotting fish as soon as the holiday is over. Who wants them when you can have a Chips Ahoy? Except of course those who eat gluten-free all year.

Then, I began getting a can or two left on my doorsteps in plastic grocery bags. I had to put a stop to this. I had also purchased a cart load of various Passover cookies and cakes myself. I wasn't sure anymore of the utility of the macaroon throughout the year. What could I do with them I wracked my brain. Other than using the cans as door stops, I decided the crumbly macaroons might make a quick and easy pie crust. I took it a step further with the next Jewish holiday on my mind, and decided to use them as a crust for a Shavuos cheesecake in lieu of the traditional graham cracker crumb crust. Being cheaper than a box of gluten-free cookies, I decided this was not only a tasty choice, but an economical one as well.

It is customary to make a bevy of dairy dishes for the spring holiday of Shavuos. Since Rosie doesn't eat dairy, and most of the dishes are also made with eggs (think blintzes and quiches), I limit myself to a few dairy desserts (and provide non-dairy options for Rosie). Cheesecake is a must have though. And, being a New Yorker, I like a dense yet creamy version of this delicacy. Too much air and fluff and the cake no longer holds my interest. Farmer cheese, cottage cheese and any other cheese than brick style cream cheese (like Philadelphia brand) have no place in my cake. I decided to complement the tropical nuttiness of the coconut in the macaroon crust with the citrusy and exotic flavors of lemon and ginger for this cheesecake. The result hit just the right note. Lillie liked the crust best. I enjoyed the creamy filling.

You can leave this cheesecake bare, or top with a can of cherry or blueberry pie filling for a traditional look. If fresh berries are in season, they make a beautiful garnish. Comstock pie fillings are gluten free according to the company. It may seem "fussy" to add one egg at a time to the mixture as directed below, but it is essential for achieving the proper texture of this cheesecake.
Ginger-Lemon Cheesecake with Macaroon Crust
1-11-ounce can coconut macaroons, any flavor
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
20-ounces brick style cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees. Spray an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the macaroons In a medium sized mixing bowl. Using your fingers, crumble the macaroons until they reach a crumb-like consistency. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. With your fingers, press macaroon mixture into bottoms and partially up sides of spring form pan, set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth using a handheld or stand mixer on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Add remaining ingredients, stirring on low to combine.
Pour cream cheese mixture into crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cake appears set. Do not let top brown too much. Cool for 30 minutes on a metal rack. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours to overnight before serving.
To serve: Unmold from spring form pan and place on serving platter. Serve plain or topped with cherry or blueberry pie filling or whipped cream and fresh berries.
Serves: 10-12

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adorable Avocados


I love the produce section at my local warehouse store. They have restaurant quality fruits and vegetables, and generally better prices than my local supermarket.

I love the variety and colors available. The mini tri-colored Holland peppers are my favorite--like little pepper offspring. Next to them today I spied a 6 pack of avocados for only $4.99. Giving them a squeeze I found my thumb sunk into the flesh just enough to indicate they were just perfect for immediate use. My mind skipped to dinner and I thought of slicing them up with tacos. But that wouldn't use up the entire bag of ripe and ready green goddesses. As I pushed my heavily laden cart into the walk in refrigerator (which was blissful in today's 80 degree heat), I thought about Mother's Day coming up this weekend and an elegant salad came to mind. Two of my favorite things are gazpacho soup and guacamole. I don't know if it is the combination of the cool fresh vegetables and piquant Latin flavors or the overall feeling of lightness when indulging in these fresh and healthy starters. I decided to combine them for a lovely layered salad that is a visual feast for a celebratory table.

You can use little footed dessert bowls, but clear "low ball" style glasses work well too. You may even layer the ingredients into a glass trifle bowl for a great addition to a potluck buffet.

I try to make this dish a bit healthier by garnishing with baked plantain chips, but you may also serve with the ever popular and naturally gluten free corn tortilla chips.
Say Ole and enjoy your day with mom.

Avocado and Cucumber Gazpacho Salad with Plantain Chips and Jalapeno Cream

3 English Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 orange Holland pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow Holland pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium vine ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 medium ripe, firm avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh chives
1/2 cup chopped scallions
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar

For Jalapeno Cream:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded
1 clove garlic
¼ cup cilantro, packed
1 teaspoon lime juice

For Plantain Chips:
1 large ripe plantain
½ Tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, place cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and avocados. Pour lemon and lime juice over avocado mixture and toss gently to coat. In a small bowl or shaker bottle, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over salad and toss gently. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

To serve, spoon into individual glass bowls. Top with a dollop of Jalapeno cream and garnish with 2 or 3 plantain chips. Pass additional jalapeno cream and plantain chips on the side.

For Jalapeno Cream:
In a blender or food processor, process all ingredients until well blended. Place in a covered bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

For plantain chips:
Line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Slice plantains 1/8-inch thick and place in single layer on cookie sheets. Brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle tops of plantains with salt. Broil on high on top oven rack for 5-6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Turn oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 13-15 minutes. Cool on rack for 10 minutes, remove with a spatula.

Serves 6-8

Monday, April 26, 2010

Share the Shirataki


The other night I came home late and needed to make a quick dinner for myself. I scanned the fridge and my eyes lit on a new gluten free item I had purchased called House Foods brand Tofu Shirataki Spaghetti Shaped Noodle Substitute (8 oz./$ 1.99). The word "Tofu" on the package may send others running towards the packaged cereal aisle, but since I visit the tofu case weekly, I was eager to try this product. What did worry me was the phrase "noodle substitute". The item looked like a noodle. I hoped it would taste like a noodle. Why couldn't it be called a legitimate "noodle"?

I grabbed the package and set to making my now famous spicy peanut noodles. Before Rosie was diagnosed with a peanut allergy I would make this dish almost weekly. Since then, never for the family, rarely just for me.

The "noodle" preparation instructions are fairly easy. You must first rinse the product well to get rid of its "authentic" aroma. I read that this is really a fishy aroma. I rinsed the ersatz noodles very well in a colander to avoid any unpleasantness. Then one can either microwave the product for 1 minute or parboil for 2. I chose the microwave (I was really hungry). As it cooked, I whisked together the dressing, and then dumped in the noodles when they finished cooking.

The noodles do have the appearance of Ramen-style noodles, and I thought they would work well in an Asian style dish like a noodle bowl or Pad Thai. Upon my first bite, I was struck by the texture. It was quite what I imagine rubber bands would taste like if eaten. However, I got past that and concentrated on the flavor. Like tofu, the flavor of the noodles are neutral---I did not taste any fishiness once cooked. They were the perfect foil for the peanut sauce.

Although I feel the price is high for the portion size, I do think the convenience and nutrition outweighs the price. As well, the Shirataki noodles are no more expensive than your average gluten free package of noodles. As far as nutrition goes, there are only 40 calories for the whole package, 1 gram fat, 4 grams fiber and 6 grams carbohydrates. That's pretty good in my book! I would like to see larger packages that are more appropriate for family sized dishes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my noodle dish made with the Shirataki noodles, and especially enjoyed the ease and quickness of prep. I decided that Shirataki noodles could be the Ramen of the gluten free world!

This recipe won me a finalist position in a Crisco sponsored cooking contest. I didn't win, but the recipe is a "winner" according to family and friends. You may also substitute 1-12 or 16- ounce package gluten free brown rice spaghetti for the Shirataki noodles.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

2 - 8 ounce packages Shirataki noodles
1/3 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2 scallions, chopped

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain, place in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together next 7 ingredients. Pour sauce over noodles and toss well to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions.

May be served warm, or cold. Toss before serving.

Yield: 4 servings