Archive for November, 2010

Gluten and Dairy-Free French Gourmet Food!

Living Gluten and Dairy-Free French Gourmet Food

Living Gluten and Dairy-Free French Gourmet Food

     “Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food” is the second cookbook by Austin Chef Alain Braux. Alain has impressive credentials as a traditionally trained French chef but, even more interesting, is a nutritherapist – a term used in Europe for nutritionists who use only food as a healing medium, as opposed to conventional nutritionists, who usually work with supplements, homeopathy and herbal medicine.

    Since writing his first book, “How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Gourmet Food“, Alain recently discovered that he was gluten intolerant and has gone on to compile his knowledge into a new book for those of us who love good food, more especially traditional French food.

    Alain’s comment `gluten-free junk food is still junk food’ is such an astute observation and one that resonates deeply with Rita and me. He believes we should eat thoughtfully, be aware, and indulge carefully on special occasions.

Features found in this book aside from the wonderful recipes:
1) Narratives from people about their journey of GFCF discovery – one of these stories might be your `aha!’ trigger
2) Sympathy for the many reasons you may be attempting to self medicate and suggestions on how to find the right doctor
3) Why keeping a food journal is so very important (there may be additional sensitivities)
4) Setting yourself up for gluten-free and casein-free success
5) A comprehensive list of resources for Celiac Disease and Autism including books, magazines, organizations, and online support
6) Those mysterious food additives that could indicate `hidden’ gluten – pages of them
7) `Safe’ and `not safe’; in medication, vitamins, toiletries, household cleaners

    Now about those recipes: this book contains a carefully chosen distillation of Alain’s gluten-free baking repertoire that focus on breads, breakfast, tea time treats, and cookies. The dairy-free options are carefully noted as not everyone with the gluten issues has problems with the dairy protein.

    The recipe that initially grabbed our attention was Brownies à la Farine de Coco or Coconut Flour Brownies (chocolate, go figure). We baked them for a benefit to raise money for a local Georgetown organization known as The Caring Place where I volunteer working in the food pantry. The benefit event was an evening of music with two tribute artists plus desserts contributed by a local bakery and homemade desserts created by The Caring Place volunteers.

The Caring Place Benefit Event

The Caring Place Benefit Event

    I make good tasting food but my presentation skills are not first rate – just never had that gene. Turning a basic pan of brownies into something that looked appealing next to professionally prepared items was worrisome. There were quite a few crumbs remaining in the baking pan (which were not wasted – Don had them as mix-ins for a scoop of ice cream). So each brownie was placed on a cupcake paper for background and I added about one-half teaspoon of melted raspberry jam as a glaze to anchor any more stray crumbs. The chocolate-raspberry fragrance was nearly intoxicating as Rita and I drove them to the venue.

Raspberry Glazed Coconut Flour Brownies

Raspberry Glazed Coconut Flour Brownies

    Rita and I enjoyed listening to the two entertainers warming up and checking out the stage facilities while we helped with setting up the service tables. But we had been running all day so once it appeared that all was in order we headed back home to plot out our Thanksgiving meal.

Rita Setting Up Coconut Flour Brownies

Rita Setting Up Coconut Flour Brownies

    Our family Thanksgiving meal is on Friday this year due to travel considerations. It is working out so well that Friday may become our designated family gathering day. Rita and I are baking Alain’s Cookies au Chocolat et Pecans – Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies for one of our desserts at this meal.

    Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are with whatever and however you are celebrating!

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

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Sweet Potato Obsession

SOS Kitchen Challenge

SOS Kitchen Challenge

    The SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient for November is sweet potatoes, another one of my favorites! SOS (i.e. Sweet or Savory) is hosted by the fabulous duo Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  and Kim at Affairs of Living. Be sure to check out their SOS Kitchen Challenge sites for lots of yummy recipe submissions that are sure to inspire you. It is due to my obsession with this veggie that The Gluten-Free Edge has long had an entire recipe category labeled Sweet Potato.

    I was working on a sweet- potato-coconut-pecan biscuit recipe back in March about the time they went out of season here in Texas. They are still on the to-do-someday-list and Ricki’s Sweet Potato Biscuit post reminded me that I need to get back to that soon (like when they are still in season). 😉

    However, currently the Thanksgiving menu is on my mind along with other events so I am going really simple with something that I used to take along to the office with me back-in-the-day when I was employed as a data consultant.

    What do you do to stay healthy with very little time to spend on yourself? You take it down to the essential elements of food, sleep, and exercise. One of those food elements was the sweet potato, which became my best mid-morning snack. As long as that was tucked in my lunch bag waiting for break time I could easily bypass any confection that came along.

Sweet Potato Obsession
Sweet potatoes (mid-sized)
Vanilla extract (in a dropper bottle)
Almond extract (in a dropper bottle) optional
Cinnamon (in a salt shaker)
Truvia packets

    Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly and trim if necessary. Dry them off and then stab with a sharp knife several times to create steam vents as they can explode otherwise (quite messy to clean up). Place them in your microwave and set the timer for five minutes initially.

Scrubbed, Trimmed, Ready to Cook

Scrubbed, Trimmed, Ready to Cook

    There is a learning curve here as sweet potatoes vary greatly in size, shape, and moisture content and microwaves vary greatly in power. So you must be prepared to keep that little sharp knife on standby to test them every so often until they are tender enough through-and-through to mash up with a fork.

    They are very hot and steamy when they first come out so allow them to cool while you do something else. Then split them down the middle and cross-hatch the insides leaving the skin intact as part of your eventual packaging. Sprinkle with the Truvia granules, cinnamon, and a few drops of vanilla. The vanilla adds the flavor illusion of marshmallows melting on top of a sweet potato casserole. Note: the dropper bottles save on spilling and cleanup – my eye-hand coordination was never reliable.

Baked, Split, Scored, Seasoned

Baked, Split, Scored, Seasoned

    Half of a good sized sweet potato may be enough for your snack or if they are small then pack up a whole one. I kept a saucer, mug, and metal spoon in a desk drawer so I could have a cup of coffee and snack that didn’t taste like it came out of a deli bag.

Finished, Wrapped (and one already gone)

Finished, Wrapped (and one already gone)

Gretchen (Mom)

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A Really Edgy Day

    Today was our scheduled bi-weekly grocery shopping excursion. It was almost an ordinary trip with a few extra items added in anticipation of our family Thanksgiving gathering which we are hosting.
    Earlier this summer as I was reading labels in the pantry I noticed something that I had previously managed to overlook. The red-and-white can of tomato soup listed wheat flour as an ingredient. The room tilted slightly as I went light-headed for a moment.
    This tomato soup is a key ingredient in a New Year’s traditional dish that Don and I have jointly prepared in the 33-going-on-34 years that we have been together. He chops the onions, adds rice and ground meat, mixes and seasons the mixture, steams the cabbage leaves removing them carefully to avoid tearing, and delivers them to the cutting board. There I carefully shave the thick ribs so they don’t break when rolled and I stuff and wrap the rolls. They go ever so carefully into a large oven-proof casserole dish where they are covered with several cans of tomato soup plus a can or so of water. And it cooks in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours until it is tender and fragrant.
    It is so tasty that we often decide to have a couple of ‘test runs’ before the New Year and a couple of ‘quality assurance’ batches during February and March.
    Since that inadvertent label discovery incident I have done my very best imitation of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. But today there were fresh cabbages, now in season, in the produce section and Don said ‘how about stuffed cabbage’? Again I went light-headed and carefully studied the avocado selection while trying to regain some composure.
    Evidently I wasn’t very composed because his reaction was ‘you mean we can’t ever have stuffed cabbage again’?!! Not fair! Headache and navy blue mood were followed by several hours of funky miserable depression.
    We worked through our pizza issues so surely there is a solution to the tomato soup. My great misgiving stems from the fact that we have occasionally tried store brands of tomato soup and it just never worked. Somehow I have to figure out the flavor mystique of this particular soup.

Gretchen (Mom)

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