Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The best gluten-free bake-book...

If I haven't said it before, it's Babycakes by Erin McKenna.
One of my two complaints, though, is that it's all too sweet and uses too much sugar. They're not bad on the fat, and they do use coconut oil, but do not specify that in order to bake at 350 and higher the coconut oil has to be REFINED, not virgin.

I think it's the vegan thing. People who don't get enough good, whole animal fat and proteins in their diets crave sweets and starches. There's also this tendency that we all have to jump onto a simple bit of information and lose all sense of context. What Michael Pollan calls "nutritionism." There's a lack of information about smoke points and detailed information about what makes food good and good for a person - people just glom onto a factoid, and discard the system that surrounds it: "blueberries have antioxidents," "spinach is super-good for you and has lots of b vitamins," and "agave is less glycemic than sugar" or "coconut oil will do everything including help you lose weight, help your immunity and organize your closets." If coconut oil is damaged in too high of a heat, (or if your spinach is unaccompanied by a good fat,) it's not doing anything good for anyone!

Our other fantastic allergy-free bake-book, which is also vegan, is the same way with the over-sugaring, but better with the nutrition information, although they've bought into the mainstream myth that low-fat is good. I always cut out at least 1/4 cup of whatever sweetener is used and occasionally remove all the sweetener and replace it with applesauce or raisins or whatever.

Some recipes for Nicola...

These are especially for Nicola, who's older boy has recently gone gluten-free. 
All these ingredients are available at Rainbow. Some of them are at Whole Foods.
One of my favorite books for allergy-free baking is the Food Allergy Survival Guide by Vesanto Melina, Jo Stepaniak and Dina Aronson. My only complaint is that there's too much sugar and the recipes are too sweet, so I cut them down quite a bit and add more liquid to compensate if it's honey or maple syrup.

Flour Mix from Food Allergy Survival Guide:

3 cups potato or tapioca starch
2 cups chickpea/garbanzo flour
2 cups brown or white rice flour
1 cup arrowroot starch

This can be kept in a jar or airtight container for months. It seems to almost behave like wheat flour, which makes it nice for substitutions. FYI, though, the potato flour is SUPER absorbent. I much prefer the tapioca starch for consistency.

Super-easy one bowl muffins:

12 muffins

2 cups flour mix
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon guar gum or 1 egg, beaten
large pinch of salt
2 cups nondairy milk or water
1/2 cup coconut oil, grapeseed oil or ghee, softened

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking cups. Blend together all dry ingredients: flour mix, guar gum (if using it), salt, in large bowl. Whisk in milk or water, oil and blend until smooth. (Add egg here if you're using it instead of guar gum.) 

Spoon into cups being careful not to overfill. Bake until lightly browned, and when cake tester or toothpick comes out smooth from middle of a muffin, about 25 minutes. Cool on a rack. 

These will be best the same day and still tasty the next am. After that, freeze them and they'll keep a long while. 

The muffins can be varied with just about any blend of fruit, nuts, spices, etc. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hee Hee. "The Totally Insane Cook Goes To Town"

So this is one of those evenings when I'm cooking for the entire week. First there was dinner to be had tonight, early - Baked chicken, coriander beets, cauliflower, green salad and rice pasta for those who partake, (and no one did tonight) - then Little Moo and I baked cookies because she hasn't had any in at least 3 weeks - then I whip into gear and clean the kitchen in preparation so that I can start a whole bunch of stuff for the week. There are nuts to soak, one batch to drain, rinse and get to drying in the oven and an oxtail stew to start to be finished tomorrow. The stew comes complete with a battery of fine veggies that make it a pretty much complete meal, including roots, greens, onion, garlic, and finally, broth. If I have a spare burner I might put on a batch of coconut milk custard cause I can just ignore it until it's done.

So I was on Facebook and just finished a thread with this little tidbit, which I think completely embodies the crazy evenings of cooking that happen here about twice a week. A friend commented that I should write a book with recipes and stories about our journey with allergies and GAPS and the rest. This was in between a few tasks and while doing a few others:

Oh, what about a cooking show that doubles as a comedy called "The Completely Insane Cook Goes To Town." Each episode would feature a Julia Child impression, a song for each recipe, plus one tearful confession while I chop numerous onions...sort of like a more sane Glenn Beck if he actually did anything useful. Then there could be, at the end, "This show was brought to you by the letter G, for garlic...yep. Lots of garlic."

My apologies. It's another long evening in the kitchen and I'm already half way to insane."

Thought my readers might appreciate that.

And, no. I'm absolutely not being serious.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A moment of weakness, then it's over.

Those of you who know me also probably know that we have food allergies. They're not severe - so far, no one has wound up with anaphylaxis. But we do get covered with itchy hives and have all kinds of secondary symptoms. One of our allergies is gluten, which has all kinds of repercussions. If you know me then you also probably know that I'm generally not one to complain, but tonight was just awful, I'm exhausted and at my wits' end and, so here I go. One whiny blog entry and then I'm done.

Ready? Here it goes.

Another of our allergies is corn. Yet another is soy. Both of these are so ubiquitous, especially corn, that we don't buy any prepared product, unless we know for sure that it has none of our allergens in it. I can count those products on one and a half hands. Frozen organic spinach, mango chunks, berries, coconut milk, Food For Life rice breads, coconut butter, rice pastas, rice crackers. That's it! We don't even use spice mixes since often they have fillers in them.

We are the ones sitting in the park with our big steaming thermos of whatever is for lunch that day with a side of homemade sauerkraut. No restaurants, no takeout. Generally no food cooked by anyone other than me and a few people who know our situation. It's extremely limiting. We often can't break bread with friends...unless it's rice bread. Whenever we bring L. Moo to a birthday party I've generally been up baking the night before so that L. Moo can bring a batch of cupcakes that she can eat and share with her friends, who are also stuffing their faces with whatever storebought vanilla or chocolate corn/gluten-filled confection that would be sheer poison for us.

I'm fine about this. The only room I inhabit besides the bedroom is the kitchen. I've accepted that fate and try to make it as enjoyable as I can.

There are nights, though, that try my patience. This is one of them. One of our main issues is getting Little Moo down to sleep at a reasonable hour. She has always been reluctant to sleep. Any obstacle to getting to bed keeps her up. For a long time we couldn't get her down before 10. Now we push dinner as early as we can, which is difficult when so much from-scratch preparation goes into it. I try to make food for 2 or 3 days at a time, but that's not always possible. We eliminated all but the smallest amounts of meat at night. This means that her big protein meals are the first two, and more cooking for me during the day. Her breakfast is now hearty dinner fare, which is fine. I'm perkier in the morning, anyway.

Tonight we got her dinner-filled, bathed and in bed by 8:10, at which point, I went comatose in front of this screen and left her with my husband who tried to get her down until he suddenly remembered: Supplements!

Ack. The supplements. Chinese herbs for immune boosting, inflammation-taming, and rash-soothing, all in a tiny pink Ikea teacup with a bit of water. Little Moo is a trooper. She takes them morning and night, every day, rain or shine. If we miss a dose, she wakes up the next day with bigger rashes and noticeably more itching. Morning supplements go hand in hand with a teaspoon of cod liver oil, one drop vitamin D3, high vitamin butter oil and probiotics. Luckily, she likes the taste of the oils and her little spoon of dairy-free yogurt paste. But the supplements taste awful. I've heard this kind of wretched drink prescribed by Chinese Herbalists called "mud tea." Really, for a little kid, she has absolutely fantastic discipline, but still, she's only 3!

Each day there's a new way to get her to take them.

"When you take the supplements, you get a slice of fruit/a few raisins/dried mango."

"Do you want to go to swimming? Well, we're not going anywhere until those herbs are in your tummy!" (We've never yet missed a swimming lesson for this reason.)

"Your friend, who's a very big girl, most certainly takes her supplements all by herself!" (I know for a fact that the little girl in question takes no supplements at all and if she had to take them all #@!! would break loose...)

"Look, either you take them yourself, or I can help you take them." (It's never fun, and it makes me feel like Joan Crawford of the Chinese Herbs, but sometimes she just can't do it by herself.)

For the first month or so, we were nearly 40 minutes late to preschool each day, then finally in the last 2 months it's gotten easier during the day. Her evening dose is another matter, especially when I screw up.

Tonight I was exhausted from last night's insomnia and completely forgot to mix the herbs at the right time. I'm usually obsessively habitual about it, but I just couldn't focus tonight. By the time the herbs were taken, one batch had been spilled on her blankets and she was mad and decided that the time had come to stop cooperating.

So here I am, seeing tracers and posting this.

All done ranting. Now it's back to the kitchen for me where a batch of half-made coconut milk kefir awaits its mason jar before I can call it a night.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

(Almost) Instant Mango Lime Sorbet

The key to this is a powerful blender, like a VitaMix, although you could just as easily do this with a blender and an ice cream maker.

For a vitamix:

2 bags frozen organic mango chunks, or about 4 frozen mangos
Juice of 1 lime
3 drops stevia or 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 ripe banana
1/3 cup coconut milk or coconut milk kefir

Put in blender. Blend. Scoop. Eat. Enjoy.

If you don't have a vitamix:

Blend the above ingredients until smooth. Put into ice cream maker. Churn for the appropriate time according to instructions on appliance. Scoop. Eat. Enjoy.

If you have any left over, you can either freeze it (reblend before serving if you're using a vitamix), or if you use kefir in the sorbet, you can plunk the rest in a jar, let sit overnight and call it preserves.  Add to nut butter on some kind of nut butter delivery system (toast, lettuce leaf, celery stalk, spoon, finger...etc.)
Or, use to top something else tasty, like a 1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt or kefir, or nut yogurt. Use your imagination. It's super tasty.