Monday, December 1, 2008

Being thankful for family who "get it"

Our extended families have been incredibly supportive of our gluten free needs. They are happy to go to restaurants with gluten free menus when we go out -- and they have been more than willing to prepare safe, gluten free feasts for family gatherings.

Take this Thanksgiving. My sister and her husband hosted and coordinated, cooked and cleaned, and -- except for one premade pumpkin pie that they bought at a fundraiser -- the meal (for 15 of us) was entirely gluten free. And quite delicious, I might add. We started with olives, humus, cheese and Mary's Gone Crackers. The turkey, of course, was the centerpiece. Roasted vegetables (including baby brussel sprouts, new for me but actually really sweet), squash (made by my mom), a wild and brown rice "dressing", green salad with a nice vinaigrette (provided by my in-laws), mashed potatoes and gluten free cornbread (provided by us). I baked some gluten free Heath Bar brownies and a gluten free apple pie, using an Annalise Roberts recipe and a Whole Foods gluten free pantry pie crust, and we had ice cream as well. Although none of the foods being prepared for the meal contained gluten, it is always more challenging to cook gluten free in a "gluten" kitchen, and I appreaciate the extra efforts my sister and her husband made to keep preparations safe, such as using new cutting boards.

I don't think that anyone came away from the meal saying "that was a great gluten free meal" -- I think they came away saying "that was a great meal". Because it was. Not only did the food itself taste great -- but because it is simply nicer and warmer when everyone at the table can fully partake of a meal , and not worry about whether something is safe to eat.

So, thanks!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bakers Challenge for November -- Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting

- Name of the Cookbook - Shuna Fish Lyndon's recipe - ( … he-recipe/)
- Name of the Author - Shuna Fish Lyndon
- Hosts for the month - Dolores the host ( with Co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go ( assisted with the gluten free info.

This was my second attempt at a Daring Bakers Challenge. I see from the other Daring Bakers posts that some folks are really creative -- at this point, I'm just trying to get the basic recipe made! I used Better Batter flour for the gluten free flour, and upped the baking powder to 1 teaspoon. I used a 9 inch springform for the baking pan. The cake didn't rise very much (either that, or it rose than sank) so it was a fairly "short' cake -- more like a torte. However, it was really moist and quite tasty. Definitely on the sweet side, but not too sweet for my taste.

I had read reports that the frosting was WAY sweet, especially in conjunction with a sweet cake, so I halved the recipe, and reduced the sugar even further. In the end, I used about 6 tbls. butter, 1 an 3/4 cups confectioners sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 3 tbls. heavy cream and 3 tbls. caramel syrup. I also added a little sea salt. The frosting was nice and light and fluffy; I didn't think it was too sweet. The half recipe did cover the top and sides of my not very high cake.

If I was making the recipe again, I'd make sure to halve the caramel syrup -- it made far more than was needed, even if you were making a full batch of frosting. Now I need to figure out what to do with the leftover syprup -- maybe combine with heavy cream to make caramel for ice cream?

The assembled cake (frosting and cake) was delicious. I drizzled some of the caramel syrup on top for decoration. I would definitely make it again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thin, pliable, gluten free wrap bread

There has been a lot of interest in the gluten free blogging and message board community in developing gluten free wrap recipes. Gluten Free Gobsmacked has a whole series of useful posts with a number of variations, including some that were based on a thread originally posted on the Delphi Forum. I was particularly intrigued by her latest post in the series, for Mock Lavash, which called for a combination of whole grain gluten free flours and buttermilk powder. It occurred to me that Pamela's Baking mix already included a combination of whole grain type flours as well as buttermilk, so I decided to try making the recipe using Pamela's mix as the base. I also added Expandex (modified tapioca powder) which results in a very pliable mix. I also eliminated the yeast, since I didn't want the bread to rise. So, here is my latest variation (with thanks to Kate and all the others who have been working on refining this recipe!):

1 cup Pamela's Gluten Free Baking mix
2 tablespoons Expandex
3/4 cup warm water (note, probably doesn't need to be warm anymore since no yeast is used, but I haven't tried it without warming it yet)
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate bowl.
4. Add wet ingredients to the ingredients, mix on slow to combine ingredients, then mix on high for about 2 minutes.
5. While dough is mixing, line a jelly roll sized pan with parchment paper. Don't skip the parchment paper -- the dough is very wet and sticky.
6. Pour the dough onto the parchment paper lined pan. Use a wet spatuala to smooth it out. The dough is very thin and wet and should spread fairly easily.
7. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes until edges are brown (if you have a hot oven, start checking earlier).
8. After the pan has cooled, peel the parchment paper off of the wrap bread. I usually got it in thirds. You can store it in an airtight ziplock for a day or so.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A good and easy dinner

Last night we had a fast and easy, but still mighty tasty, gluten free dinner, courtesy of Receipezaar. Baked tilapia with tomatoes and olives, baked swiss chard with olive oil and parmesan, and quinoa (toasted, then cooked like rice). The meal preparation only took about 30 minutes total.

Also, for those of you in the Greater Boston area, check out Sorry I Can't Eat That's posting about A New Leaf, a terrific health food store in Needham Massachusetts with a huge selection of gluten free food.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers September Challenge -- Lavash and Dip

This is my first Daring Bakers challenge. The challenge this month was to bake Lavash crackers and a vegan/gluten free dip to accompany it. We received the recipe for the Lavash (both wheat and gluten free versions) but could do anything with the dip, so long as it was vegan and gluten free.

I made the gluten free version of the Lavash, using Better Batter flour for the flour mix. I think that I didn't roll it quite thin enough -- also, the dough didn't rise at all!

My results were a bit mixed, to be honest. I think that the crackers were too chewy -- I don't know if this is because of the rising problem, or because the crackers weren't rolled thin enough.

For the dip, I made a quick Olive Tapenede. This is a really easy condiment that we make regularly in our "Magic Bullet," although I imagine you could use a food processor as well. Combine olives, capers and a bit of olive oil, and process. The rough proportions that I used are 1 part capers to 3 parts olives, with enough olive oil to liquify. If that is too salty for you, use fewer capers. (The tapenede is a great sauce for grilled fish as well).

Thanks to Shel from Musing From the Fishbowl and Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, for hosting this month.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Garden at the Cellar, Boston area restaurant

Hi -- I may have found another potential restaurant for a nice gluten free meal in the Boston area. A couple of weeks ago, we ate at the Garden at the Cellar, a small restaurant near Harvard Square in Cambridge MA. It focuses on preparing food made with local ingredients. There were four in our party, none of whom are gluten free and we had a delicious meal. However, the restaurant clearly knew what was in its food, and it is a restaurant with a small kitchen with a personal touch, so I asked our waitress if the restaurant could accommodate gluten free. She said absolutely -- in fact, she herself had celiac! She said that in addition to herself, the other staff could also help someone with celiac order a safe meal. Eating out is risky, but I think that a restaurant like this one, which prepares meals to order and has an emphasis on seeking out excellent local ingredients, is a good possibility. (And our waitress said the french fries were gluten free.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today, I tried baking gluten free chocolate chip cookies using the classic Nestles Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe (off the back of the chocolate chip cookie bag). I used Better Batter flour instead of wheat flour, and used 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead of 1. (Better Batter is a premixed gluten free flour, that also includes the xanthum gum). They came out perfectly! I'm planning to bring them to a 4th of July picnic tonight, where there are no gluten free eaters at all, that's how good they are.

I've been using Better Batter flour for baking cakes, cookies and muffins for some time now, and find that it is a great substitute for all purpose wheat flour in these types of recipes. Check out their website for a lot of good recipes as well, including a very versatile recipe for the "World's Easiest Crescent Rolls." I've used this dough (with cottage cheese) to make rolls, chocolate rolls (using Nutella), pizza crusts, pot pie crusts, and cheese "hot pockets" -- yum. I have no financial or personal connection with the site -- I'm just glad to spread the word about a gf mix that really simplifies baking. (By the way, it is currently on sale at Amazon -- the shipping rates go down as you buy more product.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gluten free in Mexico

We just returned from a one week trip to Mexico. We went to Akumal -- a beautiful, laid back beach village about an hour and a half south of Cancun, but a world away in style and ambiance. This was our first international trip since Emily's diagnosis but Mexico turns out to be a pretty reasonable place to eat gluten free. The following were some of our strategies:

1. We stayed at a condo with a kitchen: we had previously been to an all inclusive, and I have read that many people have success eating gluten free at all inclusives, with advance warning to the chef. However, even aside from food issues, we prefer the space and amenities that you get with a condo. Ours had a fantastic location, right on the beach, with a balcony overlooking the sea -- we ate breakfast and lunch on the balcony just about every day. (We rented ours through We ate 3 dinners in, and went out 3 nights plus a lunch -- however, had the dining out not worked out, it was comforting to know that we could eat all our meals in if necessary.

2. We brought some gluten free food with us: Pamela's mix (for pancakes); a gf brownie mix and a gf muffin mix (w/ chocolate chips), as well as disposable foil pans to bake them in; a couple of boxes of nut thins; a couple of bags of corn thins; a jar of peanut butter; small size disposable containers of peanut butter that we were able to carry on to the plane; small packets of salad dressing, ketchup and mayo; some freeze dried fruit packets; a couple of bags of Tinkyada pasta; small packets of lemonade mix; small bags of Ian's gf chocolate chip cookies; Zone bars. We also brought along some basic cooking gear -- we've found that it is hard to predict what condition pots and pans will be in at a rental condo. Sometimes they are stainless that you can clean and use with comfort, other times they might be scratched Teflon. For this trip, we hit upon the perfect set to bring with us-- a nice sized camping set of pots and pans, that all fit into each other and didn't take up that much room in the suitcase. We also have a collapsible colander that folds flat, and also bring a large spoon and spatula. Next time, I'm going to add a set of silicon muffin "tins" and a one cup measuring cup. We did bring most of the gluten free food in our hand luggage -- last time we traveled, the one bag that was lost was the bag with the gluten free food in it, and we didn't want to replay that experience! Although you do need to declare "food" at customs in Mexico, we didn't have any problem bringing the food in; it was all in its original packaging.

Of course, we had to buy additional food in Mexico. We stopped at an enormous, well stocked supermarket in Playa del Carmen, which was very similar to an American supermarket. We bought eggs, butter, yogurt, oil, cheese, milk, some chopped meat, rice, fruit and vegetables, 100% juice and a few other staples, including a couple of bags of corn tortilla chips. Mexico stocks a lot of the same brands and products that you find in the US -- in fact, some of the products are directly imported (you can tell because there is a big sticker listing ingredients in Spanish added to the product.) Although I was not able to verify this 100%, it is my understanding that Mexico does require labeling of major allergens, and we certainly saw allergy statements on many products. However, we tried to be cautious and stuck primarily to brands we were familiar with (such as General Mills and Kraft) and products that were not particularly processed with lots of strange ingredients. Finally, on one of our excursions to the Akumal "pueblo", we bought a big packet of homemade corn tortillas -- there must have been 50! -- for about a dollar. (Note that we did not call manufacturers to verify the gluten free status of the few "processed" items that we bought (jam, tomato sauce, potato chips) -- we felt comfortable with the combination of reading the labels to ensure that ingredients were "safe"and wheat, rye, barley, oats weren't listed, in conjunction with the products being from manufacturers who fully disclosed gluten in the U.S. or who maintained gluten free lists (such as Sabritas, which is the name that Lays products are sold under in Mexico.) If you don't feel comfortable with this, you should bring all processed food with you.)

3. We used a Triumph restaurant card for eating out: we ate at 2 restaurants in Akumal, each of them twice. La Cueva del Pescador is primarily a fish restaurant, although you can also get chicken a steak there. We used the restaurant card there, and the waiter really seemed to get it. One night, Emily had fish; the other night chicken. Both times, her meal was prepared separately, with just lime and salt for seasoning. According to the waiter, the homemade tortilla chips were fried separately from items containing gluten (and this made sense, because the restaurant didn't have any items such as onion rings or chicken nuggets). We also ate at Turtle Bay Cafe -- Emily had the chicken caesar salad (with our own dressing) both times. The owners of the cafe are American and are often on site, so I was able to verify with them that the chicken was not grilled in the same area as items containing gluten. Again, we used the restaurant card with the waitstaff, and sure enough the salad arrived without croutons or dressing, as requested. We also went to Lucys for homemade ice cream (not from a mix) -- I speak some Spanish so I was able to verify what the ingredients were with the person serving. Several times we went out for drinks in the afternoons, and brought our own tortilla chips with, because many times the chips served are fried in the same oil as gluten items such as chicken nuggets.

Do you have strategies for international gluten free travel? Is so, add them to the comments!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Easy gluten free cheese straws

We've decided to try adding photos to the blog, but are having a few technical difficulties. Anyway if you crane your neck, you can see a photo of some gf cheese straws that we made today. These were incredibly easy -- a combination of gf flour, Parmesan cheese, baking powder, black pepper, water and olive oil. The recipe is from the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light magazine, and is called Pecorino-Black Pepper Breadsticks. To me, they seem more like cheese straws than breadsticks. I followed the recipe ingredients and instructions pretty much as written, although I substituted gluten free flour for the regular flour called for in the recipe (remember to add xanthum gum as well, if your flour mix doesn't include it already) and used Parmesan instead of Romano. I couldn't quite get the breadsticks to roll out, so instead I shaped an 8inch long rectangle on my cutting board, and sliced thin strips with a knife. I moved each strip to a parchment covered baking pan and baked. That's it!

A teen and her family's experiences living gluten-free.