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Learning to bake gluten free bread… with SUCCESS!


It’s taken me 15 months. Yes. A long long time. I can’t even remember the last time I had my dad’s bread. His bread is just amazing. It’s got flax, sesame, raisins, whole grains and more. It’s not like store bought bread that you can squish into a little ball, yet it’s not hard as a brick, nor does it tear when you try to spread stuff on it. We have friends who ask for his bread for desert instead of ice cream…. yeah…. I’ve missed that bread since I went gluten free.

But I’ve been determined to recreate my dad’s bread, but gluten free (it’s already dairy free). I’ve tried. And tried. And tried. And tried. And tried……. sometimes getting something that tasted decent, other times I managed to eat it somehow so all the ingredients used wouldn’t go to waste.

I’ve had bread turn out hard as a brick. Super dense because it wouldn’t rise. Or it would rise but would fall and cave in and just not work. It would look nice on the outside, but was uncooked in the middle… or if it was cooked in the middle, it was super dry and hard on the outside. Or if it looked right, it tasted weird, or sometimes just plain nasty. I tried extra yeast (yuck!) more rising time (forever??), and one thing after another. Different oven temperature, different baking time, and pans, and I just couldn’t get it to turn out like I wanted it to.

As time went on though, I started to get closer. I learned about baking using ratios between starch and whole grains, I learned about different flours, learned which ones I like the taste of and which ones I just don’t. Which work well, and which I’m perfectly happy with never ever buying again. I’ve researched and spent hours staring at recipes, and thinking about it at random moments during the day how I can make it work.

Then I went to North Dakota. I brought flour and stuff with me to bake random things to relax when I needed a break from studying linguistics. But I only ended up making a bunch of muffins and some grape pie.

Now I’ve been home for 3 weeks. 2 weeks ago Jules talked on twitter about baking gluten free bread. But I had just burned my hand, and was working on regaining strength and getting my hand used to doing things and not hurting every time I washed my hands in lukewarm water. Thankfully, a week after that, my hand was back to normal!

Then, came hurricane Irene. And the uncertainty of whether we’d lose power. I sewed a new pouch for my EpiPens in the morning (still not finished with it though) then got around to baking in the afternoon. Once I started, I didn’t stop till it was after 9pm and I needed to get to bed. I started off with baking bread, merging a recipe I had from Jules and my dad’s recipe. Changing the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients as I felt like it should be…. believe it or not, BEFORE I ever mixed the ingredients together. I think I’m starting to get better at this gluten free baking thing, one day at a time! I baked and baked and baked that afternoon, making the bread, muffins (which actually turned more into an apple muffin pie instead of Jules’ blueberry muffins… I had no blueberries on hand, and I’m allergic to bananas, so I totally tweaked the recipe and ended up with something quite different!), graham crackers (Chef Flower and I made 2 GIANT graham crackers to make a huge s’more in the next days!), tapiocia pudding, and pie dough (to be baked the next day, provided we had power).

As I pulled the bread out of the pan, I sliced it open to check to make sure it was totally baked and it was. At dinner I tried it, and my first reaction was, “hey, this is really good! Not quite like Papa’s bread, but it tastes really good!” Chef Flower agreed with me and so did my mom. My dad tried it and his first reaction was, “wow, this actually tastes…. like bread!”

I spread some earth balance on it and sunbutter, and as I bit into that “sammich” I was blown away by how great it tasted, the texture and how it tasted just like a real peanut butter and butter sandwich I used to eat as a kid! Wowie!!!! The next day at lunch, it was still as good, and did I say it slices well too! No crumbling, and you can even slice it thinly and balance it on a knife without the bread breaking in 2 or crumbling to pieces! And it still tasted as good!

So, while I have 1 little thing I need to tweak (not quite liking the after taste of the rice bran in there), I wanted to share with you guys that I have successfully made gluten and dairy free bread that tastes great, is moist, has that marvelous homemade taste, isn’t hard as a brick, yet isn’t like store bought bread, and is healthy for you too! I’ll post the recipe hopefully sometime soon, but being a college student, it may be a week or two, maybe 3 or 4 before I have the official recipe to post. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a picture of it. :)

Now I actually look forward to sammiches because I at last have gluten and dairy free bread that I can eat that tastes good and has the texture similar to my dad’s bread! Yayayay!!!!!

#bakinginacollegedorm: Muffins!

If you’ve read my last several posts, you probably know I spent 9 weeks this summer ON-campus studying sign language linguistics. And yes, I ate in a cafeteria! It was a really great experience, despite a few glitches, overall the experience was great.

And, if you follow me on twitter, then you may have heard about some of my #bakinginacollegedorm adventures… I learned how to bake a gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut free grape ‘pie’, and I also discovered the art of making muffins…. withOUT eggs (I didn’t have any with me), without oil (again, didn’t have any with me) AND in the microwave! So, I’m going to share a bit about how that all works, as you’re probably curious by now. :)

My first attempt was at making gluten, dairy, egg, corn, soy, nut and peanut free (and naturally fish and shellfish free): pumpkin sunbutter chocolate chip muffins! I didn’t pack any muffin tins with me, but had a glass bowl, quite a few reusable plastic containers, and a completely metal pot and frying pan. This time I made most of it in the oven in the frying pan, but I also made some in the microwave in 2 of the smaller glass bowls. Here’s what it looked like:

I gave several pieces to a fellow food allergic friend, and one to my non-food allergic RA and they both LOVED it. The first came to me after she had tried it and said, “wow! That was realllly good! I usually don’t eat bread stuff, but if you have more that you don’t know what to do with, or if you make some again, you can give me some if you want.” In other words, “they were AMAZING!!!”
My RA was surprised at how good it tasted and even more so that it was free of the Top 8 most common food allergens and more, and that I had used somewhere around 10 ingredients!

Later, I decided to try making blueberry muffins without oil, not too sure what to expect. But, surprise surprise! It worked! No oil, AND I made it in the microwave! I had planned to bake it in the oven in the frying pan, but when I started preheating the oven it smelled like there might be something burnt in it and I didn’t want to have to worry about that, so I scooped it out of the pan into a glass dish and baked it in the microwave a bit at a time. But it worked!

My next and last project (I was sick for 2 weeks so I spent those 2 out of the 9 weeks in ND in survival mode and didn’t have time to think about any kind of baking) was to make muffins for my trip home. I had collected kiwi fruit (4 of them!) from the extra fruit the cafeteria set aside for me each day to eat and snack on. I also had 2 apples from the week before. And I had somewhere around a 1/3 cup of Sunbutter left in my room. Some friends thought I was crazy to think of making kiwi muffins, but when I asked Jules of Jules Gluten Free she thought it would taste good, but to be careful with how juicy the fruit is. Yay!! They turned out really good, but I think I may have overbaked them a tad as they tasted great when they were fresh but were a bit dry when I ate them the following day.

The other half of the batch I was making I decided to make into apple Sunbutter muffins, and those turned out really great too! These were really great, and I didn’t even peel the apples!!

So, here’s a rough kind-of-recipe (more like a basic idea to follow) for making muffins in the microwave without oil, nor eggs, nor any of the top-8 most common food allergens:

Flour mix:
Usually I make about 2 1/2 – 3 cups of flour mix for a “batch” of muffins, using the following assortment of flours:
starch:
-potato starch
-sweet white rice flour/white rice flour
(You can also use other starches like arrowroot, tapioca, corn starch, etc… I use arrowroot at home but didn’t bring any with me to ND)

“whole grains”
-sorghum flour (one of my favorites!)
-millet flour
-garbanzo (chickpea) & fava bean flours
(you can also use things like brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, corn flour, etc.)

I put about somewhere around 1 1/2 – 2 cups total of starch, and around 1 or 1 1/2 cups of whole grain… though I never really measure very well. It just gives me an idea to get about the right ratio between starch and whole grains.

Other ingredients:
-sugar (you could use honey if you wanted probably… I only put like somewhere between aprox 1/4-1/2 cup, depending on the other ingredients… and often I don’t even measure so I don’t really know)
-baking powder (sprinkle some on top till you think you probably have enough)

BEFORE moving on: make sure to stir your flour blend + sugar and baking powder!

The “glue”:
In a separate container of some sort, put some flax seed meal (basically just ground flax seed), somewhere around 1/4-1/3 cup, and add over 2x as much water as flax seed. Stir, and let sit a few minutes. This is the glue that helps to hold these muffins together.

Fruit:
Whatever you want… you can use grapes, blueberries, blackberries, you can even use kiwi, probably even watermelon or anything that comes to mind! Apple and Sunbutter tastes great, and you don’t even have to peel the apple! Just slice and core it, and cut it up into small chunks.

Canned pumpkin works well too. It makes it very rich and tasty! (and it’s also really great with sunbutter and chocolate chips :P)

I usually add around 1/4-1/2 cup of Sunbutter when I add it, but it totally depends. You can also add a nice sprinkling of Enjoy Life Chocolate chips (or chunks). Basically, it’s up to your imagination!

A word of caution here though: If the fruit you’ve picked is juicer, then make sure that you stir it into your muffin batter BEFORE adding the water.

The last ingredient:
-water

Add this a bit at a time, mixing till you’re happy with your batter. It should be thick, but also thinner than cookie dough, yet thicker than gravy…. you get the idea.

And the last part:
Spoon/pour into microwave safe dishes, making sure the batter isn’t deeper than 1 or 1 1/2 inches. Now, microwave it on high for 2 minutes at a time, checking every 2 minutes to see how it’s getting cooked. It will rise, and it’s cooked when the top is looking cooked and you can stick a knife down in it without it coming out all gooey.

BUT, make sure to NOT overcook it, because that will make it dry. It usually cooks in about 3-5 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes more, so keep an eye on it.

Let cool before you slice and enjoy…. please don’t burn your tongue (or fingers)! Store in a container or in plastic bags and eat. They’re best in the first day, but are still good for several days without being refrigerated. Because there are no eggs in this recipe if it’s a bit under cooked it’s not a problem because it’s still safe to eat!

So, if you find yourself going off to college, take some gluten free flour, baking powder, and flax seed meal (and it does keep un-refrigerated), and some microwave-safe dishes! You never know when you’ll end up with fruit and the urge to bake and relieve some stress!


#Pieparty …. in a college dorm!

I’ve been on-campus for a month now, and still hadn’t managed to find time to bake anything. Then last week on twitter someone mentioned that they had baked a GF pie. “Can I come over??” I asked. Her reply was “sure” but that it was Gluten Free Girl who was heading up the #pieparty on twitter and FB and she suggested making my own pie for the #pieparty! Hmm…. I thought, how can I make a pie here? I’m in a college dorm, don’t have a fridge in my room, and have limited free time… and not to mention limited resources.

The next morning when I opened my eyes, right across the room sat my pot and frying pan. “Ah ha!” Bit by bit, the plan came together, and I figured out how I could bake a pie in my dorm. :P However, there was still a dilemma: fruit. I talked it over with my grandma, and we came to the conclusion of what fruit would be best for a pie, that I also had access to. Later, another friend on twitter sent me some links on making that kind of pie, and it got me inspired, and I was ready to make gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free while also being soy-free and egg-free (so a friend could also have the pie) grape pie!

While the cafeteria is good at supplying me with fruit they prepare for me so I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination, sometimes I think there’s a little lack of communication…. some days they put way more fruit in “my fridge” than I can eat in a day (unless all I was eating was fruit)! Last week, they gave me a lot of grapes, and obviously making grape pie would work better than watermelon, cantelope, or honey-dew melon pie. :P So, I put 2 TBS of the soy-free earth balance from the fridge in the cafeteria and stuck it in one of the small things of extra grapes and put them in my RA’s fridge.

Later that evening, I took the “butter” and mixed it with Jule’s AP GF flour in my dorm room “kitchen”,

This is my "kitchen". Most people use it as a desk :P


and then added water to it. The pie crust then went into a bag and in my RA’s fridge till I had time to bake it 2 days later. :P

GF Dairy-free pie crust in the making

2 days later, before bed, I braved the sauna-like laundry room/kitchen in my dorm, though thankfully I could prepare everything in my room, and just cook and bake in the kitchen.

I took the grapes and cut them all in half in my pot, added some sugar, and then cooked it into a jam.

Meanwhile, I took the pie crust, and put it in my frying pan, and put the pan in the oven (don’t worry, it’s entirely metal) for 20 minutes while I cooked the grapes.

Yes, I made pie in a frying pan. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

After both the crust and filling were done, I poured the filling (which was more like jam/preserves) into the crust and let it cool.

Then, obviously I had to taste it. But by the time I took a picture of the finished product, my RA (who is not GF) and I tried it and we both thought it tasted pretty good! So, the picture was taken after we tasted it… ;)

Not quite like a “normal” pie, but hey! I baked a pie that was not only gluten, dairy, egg, nut, soy free, but also in a college dorm with limited resources! And, to top it all off, it was quite fun and had that homemade taste to it too! :) And no rolling pin either!

Yes, I <3 tofu

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I grew up eating tofu and never understood why people seem to dislike it so much. My mom had a way of making it taste really good so I always looked forward to when we would eat tofu for dinner. Since my mom’s way of making it taste great used soy sauce I was rather disappointed to find out last summer when I went gluten free that soy sauce contains gluten.

Then, a few weeks ago a friend emailed me asking if I would like the package of tofu she had since she wouldn’t be able to use it before the sellby date. I was excited. A few days later she brought the tofu by and also gave me a bottle of San-J gluten free soy sauce. Boy was I excited!

So, the next day I took the tofu (and another package of tofu we happened to have in the fridge), and made dinner for my family (we also had red cabbage and something else which I really love too). My little sister had a friend over and when she tasted the tofu she was expecting to not enjoy it but the first words out of her mouth after tasting it were “wow! This tofu is really good!”

So, I’m going to share how I make tofu that tastes really good because tofu is not something you need to hate.

What you’ll need:
Gluten free soy sauce
Tofu
Olive oil
Garlic

To be honnest I forgot to cook the garlic before so I didn’t have garlic this time, but my mom usually always cooks the garlic in the olive oil first.

Then, taking a block (or 2 if you want more) of tofu, slice it into cubes, somewhere around 1cm to 1/2 inch depending on your preference.

Put the cubed tofu in the skillet on medium heat, and pour some soy sauce over the tofu. Somewhere around a few table spoons… I never measure, I just go by how much looks right.

Cook the tofu and stir it around. Cook it till the tofu is nice and hot and has absorbed most of the soy sauce.

Serve & enjoy. Yes, its that simple. And by cooking the tofu WITH the soy sauce instead of putting the soy sauce on after cooking it gives it a wonderful flavor.

I thought I had taken more pictures of the tofu than just one… so you get to see my whole dinner: tofu, red cabbage (cooked apples!) And a gluten free bisquick biscuit I had made the week before and frozen. Hopefully the formatting isn’t too weird, I’m still learning how to get the pictures where I want them with my phone.

How I cook… (one of my favorite childhood recipes)

…Is not really helpful to sharing recipes with you guys here. I just don’t like measuring unless I’m baking. But when I cook, I do it how my mom taught me since I was little. A little of this, a bit of that, some more of that and a bunch of this and a sprinkle of this and a handful of this and then taste it, adjust as necessary, pour some more of this till it looks about right, and a bit of that till it feels just right.

Yup. That’s how I like to cook. So, with that in mind, I’ll share a “recipe”… one that I’ve loved since I was little, and several months ago converted to be gluten free. This really doesn’t have a name that I know of, and I have no idea where my mom learned of it (or if she made the dish up). But it has been one of my childhood favorites.

Makes as many servings as you happen to cook. :P (on average it tends to make at least 6 servings, though you can make it less or more).
What you’ll need:
GF Spaghetti
Mushrooms
Some gluten free flour that you like to use to thicken stuff (sorghum works, so do starches like potato and tapioca… take your pick)
Soy milk (or other liquid)
Gluten free corn flakes
Tuna or Salmon (it’s easiest to work from a can or something like, but freshly cooked works too)
Soy butter (or some other butter substitute)
Daiya cheese or other cheese substitute. (Daiya works well and melts well)

Making the dish:
Cook the spaghetti. I usually use about 1/2 a package, but it’s up to you how much you want to make.
In a separate pot, cook the mushrooms (cut them up into cubes or slices first)
Then, take the mushrooms out and set them in a bowl for the time being.
In the pot you cooked the mushrooms, melt some soy butter over medium heat, once it’s melted, add a few spoonfuls of gluten free flour. Mix. Add soy milk a little bit at a time. Whisk it together, cooking it over the heat so the flour thickens. Keep adding milk till you’ve got a consistency you like and have enough sauce.
Add the mushrooms back in.
Add the tuna/salmon.
Add Daiya cheese… probably roughly around 1/2 cup, but adjust to your personal likes.
Stir and let it all heat up.

Take the pasta and drain it once it’s cooked. Mix the mushroom and tuna/salmon sauce into the drained pasta.
Pour corn flakes into it and mix it all together well.
Serve.

This freezes well, so I usually portion it out into little containers for future meals when I don’t have the time to cook, I just pull one serving out of the freezer, nuke it in the microwave and I have a delicious meal. :)

One more thing I want to mention. See the badge on the right for 1 in 133? Please, if you haven’t done so yet, click on it and go sign the petition for the FDA to issue standards for food labeling which would require clear labeling of gluten on food labels. Celiac disease affects at least 1 in 133 people, and not to mention all the others who are gluten intolerant or gluten free for some other reason, so it IS a BIG deal. So, please go and make your voice be heard.

And if you’ve already signed the petition, then spread the word and get others to sign it and keep the word spreading. 1 in 133 people is truly a big deal!

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