Archive | January, 2013

Gluten-Free and Me

28 Jan

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For a person like me, who has been baking most of her life, learning to bake gluten-free has been an interesting adventure.  As far as I know, I am not affected by gluten, but it seems every week I am finding that more and more of my friends/clients are either gluten-intolerant or have been diagnosed with celiac disease.  Initially, that presented a dilemma for me, because I still wanted to create lovely food for my friends and clients.  And I can… but I just needed to learn how to do that without using my old “mainstay”, namely wheat.

The hardest part of this process was discovering that wheat is hidden in so many different foods.  This meant that I had to read ingredient labels very carefully.  Some of the ingredients that likely contain wheat are obvious – bread crumbs, pasta, couscous, tabouli, hydrolyzed wheat protein.  Then there are the foods that you might not suspect contain wheat – malt vinegar, soy sauce, beer, brewer’s yeast, and even Red Vines licorice!    Who knew?   Well, most gluten-free consumers do… because they have learned to read labels and to look up the ingredients that might not be easily identifiable such as Dinkle, Chilton, edible starch, kamut, and Farro.  

My neighbor, Deb, has been gluten-free for a while now and she has been a great source of information for me.  She has also been happy to taste the gluten-free dishes that I come up with and will offer suggestions of other dishes that I might want to try.   Sometimes she is at an event that I have catered, and she is the one “selling” my goods because she knows which ones are “safe” to eat.  It seems that many times the guests who have issues with gluten are surprised that someone made an effort to provide food for them.   I just know that if some of my guests can’t eat any of my offerings, then I haven’t really “catered” to them.

Yesterday I helped a friend with an event and made about 10 dozen gluten-free peanut butter cookies for the dessert table.  As we were arranging the platters of sweets two guests thanked me for making something that was gluten-free.   It was such a simple thing to do… and I was glad to be able to provide something that everyone could eat.

Recently my friend’s son was diagnosed with celiac disease and in an effort to show him support, my friend has decided to eliminate gluten from his diet as well.  How sweet is that?  It reminds me of the story from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.  Shauna, the gluten-free girl, has celiac.  Shauna met and then married Danny, a chef.  Soon after, Danny decided to make his restaurant gluten-free so that he could create a place where his wife could eat anything on the menu.  Isn’t that amazing?

Tomorrow is my friend’s birthday, and so tonight I made him a chocolate cream pie that is safe for his son to eat.  The crust is made with those same peanut butter cookies – crushed in the Cuisinart, mixed with a tiny bit of butter, pressed into a pie tin and baked for 10 minutes.  This recipe for chocolate pie filling usually calls for flour, but I simply substituted cornstarch and that’s all that I had to do to make his pie gluten-free.  It was the least I could do for a friend.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”

~ Cesar Chavez

For a list of foods containing gluten, go to this website,  www.celiac.com , and search for the forbidden food list.  It was created by a man named Scott Adams who was diagnosed with celiac nearly twenty years ago.  He created this list so that others wouldn’t suffer needlessly.

An Aching Heart

17 Jan

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Apple Blueberry Pie

There are times in our lives when we are powerless to fix things for our friends and family, even though we would give anything to try.   With aching hearts we do what we can – we may bring food, or send flowers, or just sit and offer our condolences.  It doesn’t feel like much, but it is a way to let our loved ones know that we care.  And at times like these, they may really need to know that.

“You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.” George L. Bell

Baking: An exact science or a way of life?

10 Jan

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

As many of you might imagine, I often have something baking in the oven at my house.  For me, baking has become as natural as breathing… and almost as life-sustaining.   As I child, I jumped at the chance to bake, and eventually became good at it.  Sure, I’ve had my share of baking mishaps – my first pie falling in the oven, my first loaf of bread that was so heavy it could have served as a doorstop,  but that is to be expected.  When we are learning a new skill, mistakes come with the territory. But when we make a mistake, we learn a lesson… and if we pay attention, we rarely do the same thing again.

When I was a young teen, my Mom told me that she would show me how to make Cinnamon Swirl Bread which was a big deal because my Mom really didn’t like to bake.  Together, we made a batch of bread dough and let it rise.  Once risen, my Mom took the dough and rolled it out into a rectangular shape and brushed it with melted butter.  Then she did something that seemed strange to me at the time.  She took the cinnamon-sugar mixture and placed it all one of the long sides of the rectangle, and then she rolled up the dough.  “But how does the cinnamon swirl happen?” I asked her, confused.  “That happens in the oven” my Mom explained as we put the loaves into their pans for the second rise.  It seemed magical to me and I couldn’t wait to see the finished loaves.

Well, now I know that’s not how it works.  When we took the loaves out of the oven, they looked beautiful, and smelled even better.  When we could wait no longer, we cut into the bread and discovered a “log” of cinnamon sugar in the center of each loaf.  There was no magic;  my Mom had just misunderstood  the directions.  Once we discovered the mistake, we laughed until we cried (and ate up every last crumb!)  I’m glad that my Mom made that mistake because in doing so she gave me the permission to do so as well.  What a gift!

Which reminds me of a conversation I had while visiting a friend recently.  Catherine was a nurse in the Navy, worked as an emergency room nurse, and is currently a nursing supervisor.  As I helped her clean up after dinner, she mentioned to me that she had been inspired by my year of pies and said that she could never do what I had done.  I was embarrassed because what she does everyday seems so much more inspiring.  Then I asked Catherine if she liked to bake.  She told me that because baking is such an exact science, she didn’t really do much baking.  Wow.  Perhaps because she deals with life and death issues all the time, she doesn’t want to add one more “science” to her load at the end of the day.  Who could take that kind of pressure?  In her job, if Catherine makes a mistake, someone could die, whereas in mine, we just end up with something that’s imperfect (at best) or headed to the trash (at worst).   Luckily for me, my job is much more forgiving.

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Apple Blueberry Pie

As is usual, I made a few pies this last week.  One was sent to a woman I’ve never met.  She read this blog and told me a bit about herself and the challenges she was facing and asked to be considered for a chocolate pie, and because I could, I sent her one.  It was the same Brownie Pie recipe that I’ve mailed to others (and the only “pie” that I feel comfortable mailing) but sending it off to this “new” friend felt like I was offering a glimmer of hope for better times.

The other pie that I made this week went to a friend who recently had a fire in her home.  When we spoke, she told me about all the things that have happened in her life in the last few years.  Just listening, I felt tired for her and so I asked her, can I bake you a pie?  “Oh you’re sweet” she said, “but you don’t have to do that.”  I know, but that’s part of the fun… I don’t have to do this “pie baking stuff”… I want to.  It makes me happy to do it, and I’ve noticed that the happiness doesn’t end with me; it tends to spread.  And that is a good thing.

Before I go, I wanted to mention that I also baked a few other treats this week because on January 24, I will be teaching a gluten-free baking class at the Ashland Food Coop and I wanted to test my recipes for clarity, timing, etc.  I’m very excited to have the opportunity to share my love of baking with others and I want to thank Mary Shaw at the coop for encouraging me to do this.

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Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It’s our privilege and adventure to discover our own special light.” Mary Dunbar

 

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu, Stastny Novy Rok, Godt NytÅr (Happy New Year! in Japanese, Czech, and Danish)

2 Jan

happy new year

How did it get to be January 2, 2013 so quickly?  It was a busy December for me with lots of catering (thank you everyone!) and then we were away for Christmas with both of our children… and then, BAM, Happy New Year!  I don’t know about you, but even though it arrived fast, I am excited about the possibilities!

I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions but in the past few days several friends have shared interesting links and I thought I would share with you some of my favorites.

Since I am still baking almost every day,  yesterday I decided to bake a pie for someone to celebrate the New Year.  As I thought of who might be a good recipient, I soon realized that many of my friends are on diets right now… and I didn’t want to be the reason someone fell off their diet.  I continued to think about a recipient, and found one right in my neighborhood.  One of our neighbors is an older man who lives alone… and that’s all I needed to know as I put together a quiche for him.  When the quiche was ready, I walked over to his house with a friend and surprised him with a piping hot quiche.  My neighbor beamed a smile at me and I was reminded of how good it feels to do something nice for someone… “just because.”

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Pepper, Onion and Cheddar Quiche

Here is wishing you all a very happy, healthy, joy-filled New Year!

Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.  Franklin P. Jones

 

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