Archive | November, 2013

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!


Why do I volunteer?

25 Nov

pie shells for nordic sale

A month or two ago I attended a dinner with some folks from the Nordic Ski Team from Ashland High School.  After a while the conversation turned to fundraising for the team.  A few ideas were bandied about and before I could stop myself I said, “Why don’t we bake and sell pies for the fundraiser?”

Have you ever done something like this?  I would like to blame the wine at dinner… but clearly I like volunteering for causes that I believe in.  And my son really seemed to enjoy the Nordic Ski Team when he was in high school.  The kids on the team were fun to be around… and they supported each other.  At the time, I was impressed with how easily they connected and was happy to contribute to their success.

It has been two years since my son graduated from high school, and yet when the need for help arose, I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “Why don’t we sell pies for the fundraiser?” knowing full well that I was freely offering my services.   At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal…  or maybe, I knew that it was something that I could do to support some of the kids in our community.   In any case, today I spent about ten hours with a bunch of like-minded folks and baked more than fifty pies to raise money for the Nordic Ski Team.

Last night I couldn’t sleep because I knew that this fundraiser had been my idea.  The phrase, “What the heck was I thinking?” kept rattling through my brain.  I know that I did not have to do this… but in some way I needed to do it… to support the kids,  to encourage the other volunteers, and finally, to pay back those who had supported my kids in their school careers.

Tonight I am tired but happy.  A group of volunteers had a great day baking and connecting… and the Ashland High Nordic Team will be able to buy some much-needed equipment.  As I look back on the day,  I can say that I am very glad to have been a part of this project.

ski team pies


“How can we expect our children to know and experience the joy of giving unless we teach them that the greater pleasure in life lies in the art of giving rather than receiving.”  James Cash Penney

Showing up is what Friends do

14 Nov

Over the last few weeks I’ve learned that several of my friends have been going through pretty difficult times.  One friend’s husband has been facing very serious health challenges while another friend lost his mother.  When I heard this news, my first reaction was to think something along the lines of “why do bad things happen to good people?” My next response was to bake each of them a pie.


Marionberry Pie

In his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, Harold S. Kushner writes, ““Is there an answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people?…The response would be…to forgive the world for not being perfect, to forgive God for not making a better world, to reach out to the people around us, and to go on living despite it all…no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened.” 


How do you respond when bad things happen to your friends?  Though sometimes I think it is hard to know precisely what to do, I have found that often doing something as simple as showing up matters a great deal.  On my desk I have pasted the quote, “You can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to show up” by George L. Bell.  Something about those words really resonates with me… I guess it because it’s imperative to me that the people I care about know that I am the  kind of person that they can depend upon…. the kind of person that shows up.  And if I just happen to show up with a pie, well, I think that will work out just fine.

“A true friend never gets in your way, unless you happen to be going down.”  Arnold H. Glasow