Tag Archives: Ashland Food Coop

Toffee, Moose Munch, a Pie, and a Cake too!

24 Jun

italy map

How can it be that three weeks have passed since we returned from Italy?  That’s almost unbelievable! It seems as if we were just there… and yet now we are back in our small town… and settled once again into our daily routines.  I suppose that is how life works.  It just speeds along… and the vacation that you waited forever for is suddenly over, and you find yourself back in “the real world.”

Well, fortunately our “real world” is not so bad.  In fact, it’s pretty darned nice.  We wake up every day in a peaceful place; war is not something we have had to deal with.   We have access to good  food and clean water, we have shelter, and more than our share of good neighbors and friends that help us in so many ways.  We are more than lucky; we are blessed!

Cary's Toffee

Before we leave the Italy trip in the past,  I want to share with you an idea that I read about recently and acted upon while on our vacation.  The author suggested taking along little treats (from his hometown but not home-made goodies!) and he shared how he gave the treats to the people who worked for the airlines (the stewards, the clerks at the ticket counter, etc) to thank them for their service and assistance (notice these employees are generally not tipped).   He also reminded us to say “Please” and “Thank you” more often (unfortunately not everyone does!)  His premise is that even though the airline employees are getting paid to do their job, a simple thank you, or a small gift will not go unappreciated.

I loved this idea and because I also LOVE Cary’sof Oregon Toffees, I brought along a bunch of their small boxes of toffee (and also a couple of bags of Harry and David’s  Moose Munch) so that I could try out this “gifting” technique.   The very first opportunity to gift someone came at the Lufthansa counter in Newark.  Our plane had arrived late and literally hundreds of folks were lined up trying to “fix” their travel plans.   We waited in line  and we watched the ticket agent for more than 30 minutes as he patiently handled crisis after crisis.

When it was finally our turn, he helped us rebook our reservation and because we were going to be late getting into Munich (and would miss the only flight out to Pisa that day), he also arranged for us to get a room for the night (and meals!).  I reached into my suitcase and brought out the Moose Munch (I figured he needed a larger gift as he would likely share it with his co-workers) and set it down in front of him. He looked surprised and said, “You don’t have to give me anything!”   I explained that we were just so grateful that he was taking such good care of everyone that we wanted to thank him.  His happy smile was our reward.

That was our first attempt at gifting and it was a great experience… and so we followed that up by sharing chocolates with the reservations agent in Munich, with the woman who owned the home where we stayed in Vernazza, and  the cooks at the villa, among others.  Each and every one of the “gifted” people was pleasantly surprised by the gesture and it felt so good that I wanted to pass this idea along.   Try it for yourself and see… and do let me know how it works for you.  It will be fun to hear how seemingly small gifts can have a big impact.

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Oh!  about the pie…  Yesterday I finally made a pie to thank a man whom I have never met for doing a huge favor for me.  Tom Marks, is an associate of Emile’s and he operates the Organic Produce Warehouse in Ashland.  Last summer Tom moved a very large refrigerator to my home; clearly not an easy task.  He didn’t have to do it… but he did it and that fridge has made a huge difference in my life.  This pie can’t begin to repay the debt of gratitude I feel, but it is a start!

To begin, I found some lovely blueberries and added some apples and put together a pie in just under an hour (a little long but I am out of practice!) and when it was baked brought it to Tom’s workplace (he was away from the office).  Later in the day I got a very happy email thanking me for the pie.  Thank you Tom for your much needed assistance!

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As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  John F. Kennedy

PS: Before I sign off, I’d like to invite anyone interested in learning how to make beautiful (and gluten-free) cakes to come to my class at the Ashland Food Coop on July 8.   You can read more about it here… and I hope you’ll consider joining me.  It promises to be a delicious evening!

Lastly, here’s a photo of a wedding cake I made recently with pints and pints of fresh organic berries.  It was such fun to make and I love how the berries are the only adornment it needed.

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Because I can’t deliver a pie to heaven…

4 Dec

ImageLast night I taught my second class on gluten-free baking at the Ashland Food Coop and while I’m not an expert on the subject, over time I have learned some tricks that are helpful.  I’d told the students that we were going to bake four different goodies in two hours… and with the help of two very kind volunteers (Thank you Lynn and Alan!), I was able to accomplish that.

One of those items was a gluten-free Apple Crumb Crust pie.  The crust was made using the perfect pie crust recipe from the Simply Gluten-Free website by Carol Kicinski… and really, it is perfect!  It’s a simple recipe and although rolling out the pie dough requires a bit of patience, the finished product is flaky and delicious.  Many thanks to Ms. Kicinski for creating this recipe and sharing it with the rest of us!

The only challenge for me in preparing this dough for my class was that, once formed,  the dough needs to rest an hour in the fridge.  With only two hours of class time, I didn’t have the luxury of doing that.   Instead, I decided to make some pie dough at home, chill it, and bring it to class with me.  Once I demonstrated the method for making the pie dough, I put the fresh dough in the fridge and pulled out the dough that had been resting for a while.

With the chilled dough, I formed a simple fluted crust, filled it with apples, cinnamon and sugar and topped it with a crumb crust made from gluten-free flour, oats, butter, and cinnamon.  I wish I’d remembered to take a picture of the finished apple pie to show you.. or a recording of the delightful sounds coming from the folks eating it!  (It’s an easy recipe – I’d be happy to email it to anyone that’s interested.)

Because I’d made pie dough twice yesterday, and only made one pie, that meant that today I woke up thinking about making a pie for someone who was gluten-free… and since today would have been my Mom’s 78th birthday, I wanted it to be someone special.  It took a little while, but once I thought of the person, I knew I’d made the right choice.  The pie recipient is someone I’ve known for a long time.  She’s the mother of two young girls who are beautiful and precocious.  A number of years ago when she was a teenager, she watched my little redheaded girl for me.  Now she has a little redhead of her own.

Tonight I drove to her family’s home and was impressed by their beautiful display of Christmas lights and decorations.  My friend saw me approaching and met me at the door.  Her daughter stood beside her and immediately asked if I wanted me to meet their kitty.  I told them that I couldn’t stay, that I had only a moment to deliver the pie to them and mentioned that I hoped that they liked my choice of flavors because I know that not everyone likes pumpkin pie.

I needn’t have worried.  As luck would have it, Ariana said that pumpkin pie is a favorite at their home.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised…the serendipitous moments that I’ve come to experience by giving away pies has been truly amazing.   Sometimes it even feels like I have gotten nudges from angels. In any case, tonight as I get ready to call it a day, I believe that somewhere in the universe, my Mom knows that I was missing and thinking about her.Image

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.  Henry David Thoreau

Gluten-Free and Me

30 Nov

Gluten-free Pumpkin Pie

 

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

Do you have any dietary restrictions?  It seems that many people do.  Some dietary habits come about because an individual has made a decision to eat (or not eat) certain foods (for example, deciding to be a vegetarian or vegan).  Others are necessary because of the individual’s intolerance to certain substances.   One of these, that seems to affect many people, is the sensitivity or, in the case of those with celiac disease, the inability to tolerate any amount of gluten.

For those of you who might not know what gluten is, here is the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:  “a mixture of proteins not readily soluble in water that occurs in wheat and most other cereal grains. Its presence in flour makes production of leavened baked goods possible because the chain-like gluten molecules form an elastic network that traps carbon dioxide gas and expands with it.

What has all this information about gluten have to do with me?  Well, I spend a lot of my time baking food for other people… and more than a few of them are gluten intolerant.  And because I love to create good food that everyone can eat, I have made a concerted effort to learn how to bake cakes, cookies, and of course, pies, that are gluten-free.  Sometimes this is not very hard to do, especially when there is only a small amount of flour in the recipe… and then there are times when things don’t quite work out as planned.

Once, when making a gluten-free cake, I tried to remove the finished cake from the pan, and it cracked and broke into pieces.   The cake tasted good but it was not possible to put it back together, and so, instead of making a traditional layer cake, I made a trifle by layering bits of cake, fresh whipped cream, and berries.  Do you think anyone minded that their cake wasn’t in the right shape?  I don’t think so.

Just the other day, I was making gluten-free cookies and tried substituting coconut oil for the butter in the recipe.  What happened?  A few minutes after I put the cookies in the oven, they started to merge and by the end of the baking time, I had one huge “cookie.”  I was pretty disappointed until I broke off a bit of the ginormous cookie and tasted it.  It was delicious!   My friends didn’t even seem to mind that they were eating bits of cookie instead of “cookies” and (bonus!) according to Cathy Guisewite, the creator of the comic strip, Cathy, broken cookies have no calories!

Next Tuesday I am scheduled to teach a gluten-free baking class at the Ashland Food Coop.  During the class I will share tales (and recipes) of some of my successes (and also some of “oops” moments) about baking gluten-free.   If you can attend, I’d love to see you there.   Wish me luck!

 

My First Gluten-Free Apple Pie!

5 Feb

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If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’ve made gluten-free pies before.  To do so I have used a variety of things to form a crust.  At times I have used ground nuts for the crust; other times I have used crushed cookies.  What I hadn’t yet tried was making a gluten-free pastry crust.

At the gluten-free cooking class that I taught at the Ashland Food Coop one of the attendees indicated that making pie crust was something he was hoping to learn how to do.  Unfortunately I could not incorporate that lesson into my class, but I was inspired to learn how to do it so that I could demonstrate it at a later date.

Today when I began preparation for this pie I searched for a recipe for pastry in one of my gluten-free cookbooks.  Several of the recipes called for sorghum flour, but I didn’t have any of that at home so I turned to the internet.  In the past I’ve found some great recipes on Simply Gluten-Free  and that is where I began my search.  After quickly scanning the available recipes I found this heading: Perfect Gluten-Free Pie Crust and I knew I was on my way.

What is great about this recipe is that it is not much different from making an ordinary pie crust and the author includes a number of helpful tips.  My regular gluten-free flour blend* worked like a charm and I recommend following  the suggestion to roll out the crust between sheets of parchment paper.  My crust did not make it into the pie plate in one piece, but it was easy to press back together… and crimping the edge of the crust was almost a breeze!

For the filling I chose organic Granny Smith apples, brown sugar and cinnamon with about a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed in.  As for the topping, I took the remaining gluten-free flour and added a half cup of butter, a half cup of brown sugar, one half cup of gluten-free rolled oats, and a half teaspoon of salt and mixed it together until it was crumbly.   Then it was simply a matter of putting the apple filling in the crust and sprinkling the crumble over the top.

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Then it was just a matter of waiting for it to bake!  One hour later, the finished pie was removed from t he oven!

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Gluten-Free Apple Pie

After I allowed it to cool for a few minutes, I carried it over to Deb, my next-door neighbor.  Deb, as you may recall has been gluten-free for a while and she has been a wonderful source of inspiration for me on my gluten-free baking and cooking  journey.  Right now Deb’s sister Jane is visiting and I thought this pie would be a nice treat for them to celebrate their time together.

Deb broke a tiny piece of the crust off immediately and told me that it was good… and that was all I needed to hear.   This recipe is definitely a keeper!  Please give it a try… and if you do, let me know how it worked for you.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  Wayne Gretzky

*To make gluten-free all purpose flour combine 2 cups of brown rice flour, 2/3 cup of potato starch, 1/3 cup of tapioca flour and 1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum in a mixing bowl.  Whisk well so that all ingredients are evenly distributed.

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

 

For Dee: A Very Special Teacher

2 Jul

About two weeks ago my husband, Emile, and I attended the SOREDI 25th Anniversary Annual Dinner.  At the dinner, some people were recognized for helping SOREDI get its start, while others were honored for creating businesses that have prospered in southern Oregon.

Emile is the General Manager of the Medford Coop and since 2012 was declared the International Year of Cooperatives by the United Nations,  one of the groups that was honored that night were the representatives of the cooperatives in the Rogue Valley.  Those four coops are: The Ashland Food Coop, The Medford Food Coop, The Grange Coop, and the Rogue Federal Credit Union.

All of the coop representatives sat at one table and it was quite a nice group.  I sat next to Barry Robino,  the CEO of the Grange Coop.  It seems that Emile had told Barry about my pie adventure and he asked me about it.  When I told him that most of my children’s teachers had received pies, Barry mentioned that his wife, Dee, was a kindergarten teacher.  And then he told me a story.

First some background:  Every year, Barry’s wife, Dee, creates a book for each and every one of her students.  This book is for the children to keep and it is all about them.  That is an amazing feat when you consider that Dee has two kindergarten classes and upwards of 42 students to do this for!

Now for the story: It happened that one night, one of Dee’s students was getting ready for bed and while most of the time his Mom was the one who read to him, on this particular night, his Dad was the one reading to him. The young boy had selected the book Dee had created and his Dad began to read it to him.  At one point in the book the Dad noticed that his son was crying and he stopped reading and asked him what was wrong.  The son replied, “Oh it’s okay Dad.  I always cry at this part of the story.”

I thought, “What a wonderful thing Dee has done!  She created a book that really touched this child… what a gift.  He will treasure that book and remember it forever.”  And since I have been thinking about that story for the last few weeks, I finally realized that I needed to make a pie for Dee… to thank her for her love and commitment to her students and for going the extra mile to make their kindergarten experience so special.  I only wish that all children could have such a wonderful start to their educational career.

raspberry Rhubarb Pie

Teaching is leaving a vestige of one self in the development of another.  And surely the student is a bank where you can deposit your most precious treasures.  ~Eugene P. Bertin

 

Day 294: International Year of Cooperatives

25 Jan international y.of. coops

 International Year of Cooperatives is intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The Year will also highlight the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development. From Argentina to Zambia, the 1.4 million co-operatives across the globe will be celebrating and showing how they build a better world. (from the UN website

On October 31 of last year, the United Nations General Assembly launched the International Year of Cooperatives.  Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and managed by their members.  In southern Oregon, there are several cooperatives that you might have noticed: Rogue Federal Credit Union (RFCU), the Grange Coop, Ashland Food Coop, and the Medford Food Coop.  Recently, Bill Meyer of KMED, interviewed managers of those coops on RFCU’s Living Local Blog (hosted by Gene Pelham).  You can link to that interview here.   Two things that I learned from that interview are that those four cooperatives provide jobs for more than 600 people in southern Oregon and they have combined gross sales of $113 million.

Tonight my husband, who manages the Medford Food Coop, was at a coop meeting. I thought I would surprise him and his team with dessert. Shortly after their meeting began, I walked in with a Chocolate Pecan Pie (still warm from the oven) to help them keep up their strength for the tasks at hand.

As I drove home, the aroma of that pie was still present and smelled so delicious, it’s a wonder I was able to give it away at all!

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