Saturday, October 31, 2009

Simple Birthday Cake

For those of you who can do gluten, this is a super simple, quick to whip up cake that even non-allergic people enjoy. It's really a non-recipe kind of recipe. Ready?

Simple Birthday Cake

1 box safe cake mix
1 can soda pop or carbonated beverage of choice

Preheat oven. This is important, because the cake goes together super fast, and needs to go straight into the oven. Pour dry cake mix into a large bowl. Pour soda on top. Mix until blended. Pour into well greased pan and bake according to instructions on box. That's it.

This does make a very soft cake, which does not hold up quite well enough to make it a layer cake, and it will stick a little to your cupcake wrapper. But it is yummy, and easy, and the kids don't mind licking the wrapper to get every last bite.

We have had great flavor with Fanta orange soda, 7-up and Sprite. Coke was ok, and Dr. Pepper was kinda strange. Be bold. Try any flavor. It might surprise you.

I'm working on a slightly improved version of this simple cake, and I'll let you know when I have it down. So far the preliminary trial looks AMAZING. I hope to share soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Flavor of Fall- in a mug

I am striving to find a warm drink that my daughter can wake up with each day. Since she was about 18 months old she has started every day with a warm glass of chocolate soymilk. Or vanilla. Or cinnamon rice milk. Warm and creamy is the theme. However, hemp and coconut milks do not suit her palate, which are the two milks currently at use in our house.

So. She has been starting the day with herbal tea. It doesn't quite fit the bill. She drinks some of it, but has yet to slurp it down the way she did with her milk. I would also like something that has a bit more nutritional value. And so far, warm juice has not gone over well.

Today it hit me. She loves pumpkin pie. How about a pumpkin latte- minus the coffee part. Thus, a warm comforting mug of fall flavor is born. Pumpkin pie in a cup. Does it get any better?

It does. Not only does she like it, it is packed with healthy things that make Mommy feel much better about how she starts her day.

Pumpkin Latte

1/3 c canned pumpkin puree
2/3 c hemp milk
1/3 c coconut milk
3 Tbsp organic sugar, or to taste
Dash of pumpkin pie spice or pie seasonings, to taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves

Mix all in small saucepan and heat through. Serve warm. Leftover can be put in the fridge and microwaved the next day. Yummy! It really is like pumpkin pie in a mug. And all amounts can be varied to suit the taste buds of your little people. Perfect. I love a recipe with wiggle room.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chemistry of Baking

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a certain chemistry in baking. A sublime glow that comes from baking a scrumptiously fluffy morsel with a delicate crumb that everyone in your family raves about. A magical satisfaction that is brought about from being able to craft a treat that is so similar to those being enjoyed in typical American households across the country that no one would suspect yours is substantially different. It is much like a romance, that chemistry. A bit of nurturing and love produces memorable results. Neglect and lack of effort produce sorry little bricks that even the dog won't bite.

That hangup that your seventh grade home economics teacher instilled deep within your soul, the one that tells you not only must your measurements be precise, but the stars must also align just so in order to get a tasty end result? It's bunk. Complete and total.

I remember that class. And the teacher. And the disapproving stare I got because I didn't want to scoop that last stubborn slimy bit of egg out of the eggshell with my finger. My teacher was insistent that my results would be substandard because of the missing 1/4 teaspoon of egg. Obviously if I could not measure with precision I would never be a competent baker.

Bah! I'm here to tell you she was wrong!

Please show me the master baker who starts a recipe by sitting down with his chemistry books to figure out the exact amount of baking powder needed to bring enough lift to a cake. And how the reaction changes when there is an introduction of an acidic liquid such as vinegar, and yadda yadda yadda. It doesn't happen. It IS NOT exact. Watch any person with years of experience with baking. They add a handful of this and that with a pinch of the other, and get bisuits and breads that are melt-in-your-mouth heaven. Not a measuring spoon in sight.

So, all you allergy mamas that are afraid to bake. Stop being afraid. There was no chemistry involved, no exact science. Your measurements don't need to be precise, just close-ish. Yes, the more accurate you are the more easily you can repeat your results. That is the real reason they have assigned measurements to recipes. To make repeating fabulous results easier. If you have a recipe that is so finicky that measurements must be precise, pick another recipe.

My idea of a great recipe? One that I can fudge and still have it come out yummy. I don't spoon my flour into the measuring cup and level it with a spatula. I scoop it out, and give it a little shake to level it. Sometimes I eyeball what 1/2 teaspoon of salt could be. Or just pour milk in until the batter seems the right consistency. I replace eggs with whatever is in the pantry. I pick whatever combination of flours I favor that week.

The moral? Stop being afraid. It's not as exact as you fear. I promise. And the results are so darn tasty. The more you do it, the easier it gets to judge what you can fudge. All of the recipes on my page are completely fudge resistant. So play a little. Have a little fun making your little one's tummy happy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to Basics

Finally able to sit down and blog this week's allergy appointment. I knew going into it that this would not be a fun one. We had so many clues leading up to our annual battery that there would be new allergies. Like increasing chronic tummy pain, seemingly random allergic reactions, and constant eczema. While I knew it wouldn't be good, I was not prepared for the full scope of the news delivered.

I walked in knowing that I needed some conclusive answers to help me to bring relief to my daughter. When the allergist asked what we thought she should test for, I answered, "Anything edible." Why waste space with environmental allergies? We can't avoid them. Only treat them. Food? We can avoid that if we know what it is. Test for anything edible.

Not only did the existing allergies react more strongly than ever before, we added a host of new ones. Yikes. For those of you keeping score, we now avoid: dairy, eggs, peanuts and treenuts, chicken, soy, rice, sesame, chocolate, tomatoes, fish, crab, lobster, and clam.

I do have to scratch my head and ponder some coincidences. Such as the fact that my daughter has NEVER liked chocolate- in any form. She even complains that is smells bad. First time we have ever tested for it, and she is allergic. She used to gobble up spaghetti like any other kiddo, and about a year ago she suddenly decided she no longer liked the sauce. She still ate the pasta plain, but no longer liked the sauce. And very rarely used ketchup. She never liked raw tomatoes until just about a month ago. Things like that make me wonder if my daughter is more in tune with her body than she realizes, and than we give her credit for. Was it truly a dislike, or was it a stronger aversion brought about by a slight allergic reaction? (Although she came up at 4++ for tomatoes. Wow.)

There was some good news. She did not react to beef this time around. I'm not sure how much good this does us though. For those of you who have taken red meat out of your diet, then cheated by indulging in a burger (or other form of red meat) you know how painful it is. Ouch. Doubled over misery and much protest from your entire digestive system. Not sure if I want to try to put that back into our diet. At least, not until she has been without belly pain for awhile, so we can be aware of how it is truly effecting her.

So now I feel like I am relearning how to feed my family. How to balance the needs of non-allergic and allergic. What on earth does a mama make now?

Back to the basics for us. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. Beans. Quinoa. Internet searches for creative recipes to try and to adapt.

And hopefully it'll go over better than last night's dinner. Apparently sweet potato soup with black beans is not to be properly appreciated by the under 8 crowd at our house.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Pasta Review

Some time ago my family removed wheat from our diet, on doctor's orders. As if anyone would ever wake up one morning and think, "You know what? Cooking is entirely too easy around here. I think I should take wheat out of our diet." Ha!

Really, for us, wheat was the hardest allergen to part with. It is EVERYWHERE! It hides in innocuous places that would have never occurred to the average consumer. And, let's face it. Gluten rocks. Really. It lends such a wonderful simplicity to baking, such carefree ease in achieving fabulous tastes and textures when cooking.

Gluten free? Not so much. You have to coax ingredients into playing nicely together, and lovingly craft each delectable bite with careful attention.

One staple of our diet that was hard to give up? Pasta. Kids and spaghetti go together. Early in our quest for wheat free pasta, we tried several. Quite a few gooey, gummy rice pastas. Finally, I stumbled upon a gluten free blogger that shone a light of hope into our newly wheat free world. She painted pictures of tasty dishes not only free of wheat, but free of most of the allergens we avoid. Thanks to her, I learned to how to bake and to cook again without fear, and WITH flavor and wonderful texture.

She also recommended the pasta that we began using. I figured with her level of experience, she had tried enough of them to know that this must be one of the best available. Tinkyada
has served us well. The texture is good. It has a bit of a bite to it that I never cared for, but with adequate rinsing and some sauce, it worked. It was the best we had experienced.

Until now. Recently, I made spaghetti with a box of Lundberg brown rice rotini. Um. Holy sauced divinity Batman! It was good. The texture was wonderful, and there was no telltale bite, or aftertaste. None. It was even good COLD. (We don't like the other one cold. No thanks.) It really passes the taste test, the texture test, the ease of preparation test. All of them. With flying colors.

Anything can pass the test with sauce, right? My husband served plain Lunberg elbows a few nights later, with just drizzle of olive oil. I had seconds. And thirds. That has never happened before. I have never liked undressed rice pasta before, with out any trappings. A new day has dawned.

In all fairness, I only tried it because they sent me a very generous supply to share at my recent allergy friendly tasting party. So, yes, they kinda bribed me. And I'm so glad they did. Because I'd still be putting up with a lesser product based on recommendation of a very knowledgeable stranger.

So two thoughts for you: 1) Try it. It's good. and 2) Recommendations help, but keep trying until you find one YOUR family loves.