August 30, 2007
When I was first diagnosed, I realized I was going to need some help converting my kitchen and my cooking to gluten free. So, I swung by the library to see what they might have on gluten free cooking. The librarian where I could find all types of special diet cookbooks and told me I ought to try out the books by The Gluten-Free Gourmet. She mentioned that Bette Hagman's books were some of the most popular in this category. I gathered up Living Well Without Wheat and The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread, ready to figure out how to change my cooking.
Bette's books guided me through my journey in learning how to cook gluten free. I made many of her bread recipes from The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread and other recipes from her books The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Food and Living Well Without Wheat. It felt like Bette was there guiding and teaching me. Bette's books built my confidence and knowledge so that I was able to begin experimenting with my own recipes. She gave me the knowledge that enabled me to be the adventurous cook I had been prior to my diagnosis.
I made Bette's Sourdough Bread recipe from her book Living Well Without Wheat. It's a fun and enjoyable recipe where you begin by making your sourdough starter. Once it has fermented nicely, you start your bread. While it's rising, you feed the sourdough starter, so it can keep growing. While the bread was baking the aromas were so heavenly and the flavor of the bread was wonderful. And the sourdough starter? It's sitting quietly in the refrigerator until it can break free and go wild in another loaf of bread.
Thank you Bette for all your hard work in making these cookbooks. They are a gift that will keep giving not only to me, but to the gluten free community for years to come.
August 27, 2007
Once we have our selections, we hurry over to the check out lanes. The kids have the candy duty, they make sure our chocolates get on the conveyor belt. Once it's rung up, they make sure to grab onto our box, so we don't have to hunt through all the bags once they are in the back end of the van. When we're all seated, my kids will open the box and pass it around. For a few moments there is nothing, but delightful silence as each of us contemplates the flavors in our candy. After we finish eating, each of us discusses their chocolate, what we liked or disliked about it. Since our candy is sadly all gone, I start up the engine and we head for home. (Note: In this picture from left to right are truffles rolled in macadamia nuts and round Sprinkelz.
My husband and I enjoy a wide variety of flavors in my chocolates, although I have a soft spot for anything with marzipan in it and my family prefers peanut butter. While I was reading the website Go Dairy Free, I happened upon a wonderful review and critique of Lagusta's Luscious truffles. As I was contemplating these wonderful truffles I realized I needed to make truffles, right now and I didn't really want to wait. I may have forgotten to mention that dark chocolate truffles are one of my favorite candies.
Then I remembered that the The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard, she is the pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck's Spago, had a recipe for Bittersweet Truffles. Unfortunately the ingredients weren't dairy free, like Lagusta's Luscious, and I was woefully out of bittersweet chocolate. This meant a little number crunching, a melding of ingredients and some pointers for technique, which turned out a recipe that was inspired by both Lagusta & Sherry. (Note: In the picture from left to right are truffles rolled in carob powder and Chocolate Sprinkelz.)
Dark and intense, these carob and cocoa flavored truffles will satisfy all of your chocolate cravings.
1 cup carob powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup coconut milk
3 Tb agave syrup
5 Tb + 1 tsp coconut oil/coconut butter
5 tsp vanilla flavoring or flavoring of your choice
Coatings: cocoa powder, carob powder, Sprinkelz**, chopped nuts, or your choice of coating
1. Dump into the large bowl of a food processor or a large mixing bowl the carob powder, cocoa powder, coconut oil, coconut butter and vanilla flavoring.
2. Pour the coconut milk and agave syrup into a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir the liquid regularly.
3. Pour the liquid into the food processor bowl or mixing bowl. Processes until blended or stir until everything is blended together and creamy.
4. Scrape out the truffle mixture into a medium sized bowl and allow to cool. Then place into the refrigerator to chill down prior to making the truffles.
5. Pour out into small bowls the various coatings for the truffles.
6. Using a spoon or melon baller, scoop out a small amount of truffle filling. Squeeze into a rounded shape and then roll in the palms of your hand to make balls. Then roll into the coating and press the nuts or Sprinkelz into the truffle. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet or into a storage container. Make the truffles in small batches as the coconut oil melts at 76 degrees. After you make a few, place the truffle filling in the refrigerator to chill it back down.
7. Store the truffles in the refrigerator so they stay firm.
What did my family think of the truffles? Well my children enjoyed making them with me, but they didn't care for the flavor. It was too intense for both of them. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the truffles. I liked the truffles with nuts. My husband liked the nuts and cocoa powder.
(Note: In this picture from left to right are truffles rolled in chopped pecans and cocoa powder.)
* Where did I find gluten free Sprinkelz? I bought mine from Whole Foods and Amazon.com sells them in a 24 pack. You could also try your local health food store.
August 26, 2007
The pictures are of some of the produce from our local vegetable market, since I've been going there quite regularly this summer. I really enjoy going to the market, since everything is gluten free.
Here are a few tidbits about myself:
1. I took graduate philosophy classes with my dad, as we were enrolled in the same Master's program.
2. My husband and I were best friends, who fell in love with each other. We married and have been together nineteen years. We're still best friends.
3. We share our home with a 5 year old Shetland Sheepdog. She drops enough hair every year to make another puppy, but we wouldn't have her any other way. By the way for those of you who don't know it, Timmy is in the well...he falls in every day...
4. I won't share my home with any creature that might consider a member of my family a potential source of food.
5. My husband and I are from the Gulf Coast and we track hurricanes throughout the storm season (1 June to 30 November), because our families live along the coast.
6. I don't watch horror/slasher/excessive gore movies.
7. Most of the books I read for enjoyment are children's literature. In the last year I've read books from: J.K. Rowling, Dianna Wynne-Jones, Bryan Jacques, Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi, Patricia Wrede, Eoin Colfer, and more.
8. The worst job I ever had was serving over cooked and burned vegetables in my college cafeteria. After spending two hours serving and smelling the aromas from the food on the line each day, I couldn't eat any of it. I lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that semester.
Now that I've posted some things about myself, I'm supposed to tag some others. Maybe these guys would like to meme along...
Never Trust a Culinary Student
The Well Fed Celiac
Gluten Free Mommy
August 22, 2007
My recipe was inspired by the ingredient list at Babycakes Bakery in
I used the Chocolate Chestnut Cake Mix from Dowd & Rogers for my cupcakes. This mix always turns out a beautiful deep chocolate cake that my family thoroughly enjoys. The cupcakes turned out beautifully and the agave cocoa frosting was light and delicate. Since the frosting has coconut milk in it and is soft in texture, you should store these cupcakes in the refrigerator.
½ cup butter, coconut oil or coconut butter, softened
6 Tb cocoa powder
½ cup agave syrup
2 Tb chestnut flour
1 Tb sweet rice flour
1 Tb arrowroot starch
1 Tb coconut milk
1 tsp chia seed
1. In a small bowl, combine the chia seed and coconut milk, then stir together. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes. This will allow the chia seeds to form a gel. Once the gel has formed, you strain the gel to remove the seeds.
2. In the bowl to your mixer, plop in the butter or oil and cream on low speed.
3. Slowly pour in the cocoa powder and continue to cream together on low speed. Then scrape down the sides of the bowl.
4. Dump in the agave syrup, the flours and chia/coconut milk mixture. Blend on low speed. Once blended, scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are blended together.
Whatdid my family think of the frosted cupcakes? My son didn’t care for the agave cocoa frosting, but loved the cupcakes. He thought the cocoa flavor was too strong. Vanilla is his preferred frosting flavor. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the frosted cupcakes. My husband said, “Mmmmmmm…mmmmmmmm...mmmmmm” as he chewed away. I thought the cupcakes were wonderful and the frosting was a very good alternative frosting. It’s much softer than a frosting made with sugar, but it will firm up once refrigerated.
August 18, 2007
The produce has been delicious and abundant. They have everything from kohlrabi to blueberries. Oh my...the blueberries...they are my weakness. My daughter and I pick some up with a plan to make muffins. After we wash them, my daughter asks if we should taste them to make sure they will be good enough for muffins. Oh dear...it was our undoing...we devoured that pint of blueberries. We couldn't stop, each berry seemed bigger than the last and the quest for the largest, sweetest berry keep us searching, tasting until the carton was bare.
Saddened when she realized that we wouldn't be having blueberry muffins, my daughter asked me, "What are we going to make, Mom?" "Not to worry, we have some ripe bananas that we make into muffins," I told her. We started to work on our recipe, which was inspired by the Banana Coconut Muffin recipe from Epicurious.com.
The muffins turned out moist and flavorful. Each bite tasting of banana with a hint of coconut and the rich sweetness of macadamia nuts.
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 large egg
1 tsp kudzu/kuzu powder*
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
1/4 cup flaked coconut, for tops
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin with with 8 paper liners or place 8 silicone muffin cups on a cookie sheet.
2. In a large bowl, dump in all the flours, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend the mixture together.
3. Crack the egg and place it into a small bowl. Pour in the kudzu/kuzu powder and stir together. Allow the kudzu/kuzu powder to dissolve into the egg. Break apart any bits that won't dissolve with the back of a spoon.
4. In a medium sized bowl, pour the coconut oil, agave syrup, egg & kudzu/kuzu mixture, and mashed bananas. Stir the mixture together.
5. Pour the banana mixture into the large mixing bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Take care not to over stir the mixture.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with flaked coconut.
7. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and serve.
* You may substitute 1/2 tsp guar or xanthan gum for the kudzu/kuzu powder.
What did my family think of Banana Coconut Macadamia Nut Muffins? The recipe received three thumbs up from my crew. I warmed up the muffins and served them for breakfast the next morning.
We went and picked up more blueberries from the vegetable stand...
3 more pints to be exact...
Still nary a baked good in sight...
August 14, 2007
I located a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Polenta Cake by Master Chef Christine Collins from the UK. She writes for The Eastern Daily Press (EDP24) from Norfolk, England.
A very enjoyable cake recipe that enjoyed a variety of ways. Served plain, with hot fudge sauce or with vanilla ice cream, it was thoroughly enjoyed by my family.
I made sure to use gluten free ingredients, halved the recipe and then adjusted the quantities as I was converting it from metric. You can buy gluten free yellow corn meal from Arrowhead Mills, gluten free baking powder can be purchased from Bob's Red Mill and gluten free cocoa powder by Shiloh Farms can be found at the Gluten Free Mall. I have also found a gluten free organic Cocoa Powder at Trader Joe's, but make sure to read the labels. (Note from August 25, 2007: See the comments made by Nick and myself below as to why this paragraph was adjusted for clarity.)
1/2 cup + 2 Tb butter
1/2 cup + 2 Tb sugar
3/4 cup almond meal
3 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
5 Tb yellow polenta or fine cornmeal
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp almond extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 4 X 10 loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, dump in the almond meal, cocoa, polenta or cornmeal and baking powder. Stir together.
3. Plop the butter into a mixing bowl and cream on medium speed. Pour in the sugar and mix with the butter. Add the beaten eggs and almond extract to the bowl and continue to mix.
4. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients in to the mixing bowl and combine on low speed.
5. Pour the cake batter into the pan and spread to even it out.
6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a pick comes out clean. Serve with ice cream or fudge sauce.
What did my taste testers think? My husband and I thought it tasted great. My son thought the cake was okay, but didn't care for the flavor of the the almond extract. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the cake and preferred having it with hot fudge sauce.
August 8, 2007
Carol, an author, cooking instructor, recipe developer and gluten free advocate, has written a new cookbook, Gluten Free Quick & Easy. Building on her background, she’s created numerous recipes for gluten free cooks of every skill level. The book contains over 200 recipes, as well as menus for entire meals, a variety of GF cooking tips, and details on a new idea she calls “Plan Over” meals. I think her new book can assist anyone who needs help in the kitchen, and I’ve purchased my own copy for future reference and menu planning.*
Sometimes planning ahead for meals is something I don’t feel like doing. On a busy evening filled with lessons for the kids or afternoons when I’m just too exhausted to cook, it would be nice to have a nutritious meal readily available. Carol’s new book provides a method for anyone to plan ahead and gives tips on how to make your efforts successful. Her method can be used not only for her recipes, but all your favorites as well. With her plan, build your chart of menus, create a shopping list, and cook your planned-overs. Then, for those times when you need a quick and easy meal, you’ll have everything you need to put dinner on the table in a few minutes.
I got an opportunity to ask Carol a few questions about her book, but I wanted to ask her about more than just her book. I’ve been gluten free for three years – she for more than 20! I wanted to talk with her about the early days of GF cooking, her culinary successes and failures, and her insights into future issues for the gluten free community.
Sheltie Girl: You have been eating gluten free for a number of years. How are the ingredients we have available to cook with today different from what was available when you were first diagnosed?
Carol Fenster: Today, there are MORE ingredients to work with and these ingredients perform BETTER than the older ones. For example, when I first started baking gluten-free items we only had rice flour, potato starch or cornstarch, and tapioca flour. Today, we have more flours to bake with and those flours produce a better texture (e.g., sorghum flour) with a higher nutrient content.
We also better understand the culinary traits of these ingredients so we can use them in new ways that capitalize on their traits (such as sweet rice flour in pie crusts to add greater suppleness and pliability rather than just as a thickener). Part of what I do is experiment with different ingredients and writing these cookbooks has been a study in chemistry.
Some new ingredients help us capture the texture and appearance of gluten-containing items. For example, I now use modified tapioca starch, called Expandex, quite regularly in my breads and muffins. It became available to me in 2006 (too late for Gluten-Free Quick and Easy) and I use it liberally in my forthcoming book, 1000 Gluten-Free Recipes (Wiley, 2008). It makes the texture of breads and muffins less dense and more like “normal” baking. The holes in the crumb are irregular and airier, and less like the dense “cake” texture we often get in GF baked items.
SG: We have all had kitchen disasters and I loved the story you shared about your hair and an electric hand mixer. Was this your worst gluten free cooking disaster?
Carol: In terms of my personal safety while cooking, yes this was it. In terms of flavor/seasoning disasters, I once soaked chicken breasts in a salt-brine and absent-mindedly added more salt during cooking. The result was chicken breasts so salty that we couldn’t eat them. Most of the other disasters involve dropping a pan of batter on the way to the oven.
SG: What was your first gluten free baking success?
Carol: My first success was converting my mother’s chocolate cake recipes to be GF. She baked that cake at least once a week all through my childhood and it was a big void in my life when I had to stop eating it. She has been dead for a long time, yet I think of her every time I bake that cake and it was so rewarding to have that cake back in my life.
SG: What success led you to developing cooking classes and writing cook books?
Carol: There was no one single success, but rather the dawning realization that I could feed myself with my revised recipes and perhaps others could benefit from this knowledge as well.
SG: In your new book Gluten Free Quick & Easy, I particularly liked the chart for menu pl
Carol: The need for speed! Up until recently, GF food had to be prepared from scratch and took a lot of time. There are so many TV shows and cookbooks today that emphasize quick and easy cooking, yet all are “mainstream” and often irrelevant to the GF cook. That––coupled with the new labeling laws that took effect on
I would like to think that while mainstream America has Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee and their wonderfully quick recipes, the gluten-free community now has
SG: Gluten Free Quick & Easy is sprinkled throughout with tips to help the gluten free cooking process. Which tips are the most important for someone who is new to gluten free cooking?
Carol: The tips on pl
SG: In combination with your other cookbooks Wheat Free Recipes & Menus and Cooking Free, you have provided the framework for many gluten free dinners. Do you have any recommendations on how to add these recipes into the Quick & Easy menu pl
Carol: Choose your favorite recipes from those books, preferably those with meats that aren’t heavily seasoned or sauced so the meat is more neutral and more adaptable to a second meal. Then, anytime you cook a steak, pork chop or tenderloin, or chicken breast, think about how it can be reincarnated into another meal and cook extra, if necessary, so you have leftovers. Freeze the leftovers in easily accessible packages, in easily-portioned amounts. For example, I often cook two pork tenderloins and freeze the second one, cut in medallions, so I can remove just as much as I need for a second meal such as green chile stew or pulled pork sandwiches. The same principle applies to chickens: I often roast a whole chicken even when I know the two of us can’t eat the whole thing at one meal.
Another way to approach this is to decide how many servings your recipe yields. Decide how many servings your future or second meal requires and cook enough to have food for both.
SG: I particularly liked that you continued your weekly pl
Carol: Determine serving size chart at WebMD. Then compare the serving size to your recipe yield to figure out how much more food you need for the second meal. So for example, if one medium pork chop is a serving and I serve four people at a meal, then I need to cook 8 pork chops so I have 4 for the first meal and 4 to freeze for the second meal.
SG: Baking bread is one of the first challenges many of us undertake when becoming gluten free and our first attempts are not always successful. You have included a number of bread recipes and mixes in Gluten Free Quick & Easy. What are the most important things to remember when attempting to bake gluten free bread?
Carol: 1) Remember that the dough will be very soft––much softer than we expect––but don’t add more flour (as I did the first time I baked GF bread) to make it look more “normal”. 2) Bake the bread in a nonstick pan for the best browning and texture. If the bread doesn’t brown well on the bottom, sides, and top then the insides can’t rise as nicely and have a wonderful texture. 3) Bake the bread long enough to be done inside—registering 205 degrees with an instant-read thermometer. Under baking is the chief reason for fallen bread; the bread may look nicely browned on the outside, yet undone on the inside. If the bread browns too quickly on top, lay a sheet of foil over it.
SG: In Gluten Free Quick & Easy you included a number of menu suggestions. What things should we consider as we develop our own gluten free menus at home for eating healthier?
Carol: Incorporate as many fruits and vegetables as possible, avoid hydrogenated fats (transfats), and use sensible portion sizes. Also, think about how the food looks on your plate. If you’re serving a main dish that has lots of colors and textures (such as a casserole) then the vegetable and/or side dish should be a plain color (such as broccoli or corn) rather than a mixture of vegetables.
SG: Many things have changed in the last twenty years of gluten free cooking. What are the biggest things you have seen happen and where do you see the gluten free food industry going in the next ten years?
Carol: The biggest thing to happen in the last twenty years is the collective recognition by the medical profession, the food industry, and the media about the importance of a gluten-free diet. When I first became GF in 1988, I didn’t know anyone who ate like I did. In fact, having a food sensitivity back then was viewed as an odd defect that would eventually “go away” or as a means to gain attention. Today, with events like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference in 2004 that defined celiac disease and its treatment and then the FDA labeling laws that took in January, 2006, we took giant strides forward. Also, the formation of the American Celiac Disease Alliance (of which I am a member) gave us a lobbying influence on government and the food industry.
In the next ten years, we will see GF labeling on all foods sold in supermarkets and health food stores. More restaurants will offer GF options, making it easier to dine out. I see gluten-free being as commonly accepted as diabetes, at least in terms of people recognizing what it is. The entertainment industry (movie theater concession stands, cruises, entertainment parks, etc) will offer GF options.
Once the term “gluten-free” is defined by the FDA in August, 2008, we’ll probably see many more BIG NAME manufacturers offer GF options. We all feel that many are waiting until the definition is very clear before attempting it. Nonetheless, many small entrepreneurs will continue to enter the market with books, foods, and services oriented to the GF consumer.
We will see more conferences and other events dedicated to GF food. In the past, these conferences have been medically oriented, but now we have Suzanne Bowland and her GF Culinary Productions. She organizes lecture series and next month (August) she’s having the 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Culinary Summit in
We’ll see lots more info on the Internet, such as blogs, which are growing in popularity. I HOPE we’ll have a show on the Food Network, PBS, or some other channel dedicated to people with food sensitivities. The Food Network asked me to write a GF page for the web site, so that’s a step in the right direction.
SG: I read an interview you did with Today’s Dietitian (“Putting the Healthy into Gluten-Free” by
Carol: Dietary Issue #1: Nutrition:
I hope that we can move beyond the focus on the safety of our GF food (which, of course, is critically important and always will be) to include the issue of
Also, I hope we’ll emphasize the healthiness of whole grains in our diet, for example the super-grains such as quinoa and amaranth. They rival wheat in nutrient content and are rarely stripped of their vital fiber and nutrients, as wheat is. I heartily support the Whole Grains Council in their work to encourage us to eat more whole grains and just because we can’t eat wheat (the major whole grain) doesn’t mean we can’t eat whole grains.
Dietary Issue #2: Obesity
We once thought that all celiacs were skinny. But that image is misleading, since celiacs can be overweight. In the future, I hope we will emphasize the importance of healthy eating, with less emphasis on foods that are made with unhealthy fats. You will notice that I don’t use transfats in my books and always offer healthy substitutes for butter (although doesn’t everything taste better with butter!!!!) such as non-hydrogenated spreads.
I also hope we will emphasize appropriate-sized portions of food on our plates. Many celiacs think they can continue to eat as much as they want, possibly from years of overeating and not absorbing the nutrients. I am continually appalled at the HUGE portions served in restaurants. For example, just last week my daughter-in-law ordered a Caesar salad (she’s not GF) and it came piled on a plate that was really a serving platter and there was enough to feed 4 people. All of the entrees were HUGE, as well. This only encourages people to eat far more than is necessary, so it is no wonder that we are a nation of increasingly overweight people.
Dietary Issue #3: Exercise
This may not be a matter of the food we eat (or don’t eat) but it goes hand-in-hand with good health. Eating wisely and safely is terribly important, but exercise is very important for everyone. It is critically important for persons with compromised autoimmune systems (and celiac disease is an autoimmune condition), because there are so many other complications that go along with celiac disease. We need to keep our bodies healthy.
Dietary Issue #4: Dining in Restaurants
We will see more restaurants take an interest in providing GF food for diners. The New York Times article last week was proof of that, plus the
Carol’s new book is published by Avery Books, a division of Penguin Group USA. You can buy the book from the Penguin Group or from Amazon.com, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble or your favorite local book seller. You can find out more about Carol and where she will be next from her website, Savory Palate.
* Jennifer Schlesinger of Avery Books provided me with a promo copy of the book so I could ask Carol questions prior to publication. I have donated the promo copy to Spread the Bread for their gluten free bread giving program.