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The Daily Bitch…. Celiac. It’s a Good Thing. Six Reasons for Gluten-Free Rejoicing.

1 Feb

Ever since I was diagnosed with celiac, everyone has been telling me how great it is that I’m going gluten-free.  They bring me gluten-free muffins and send me links to new recipes for cornbread and piecrust.  They’re waiting for me to embrace my new reality, and I want to be grateful, really I do.  But try as I might, I still haven’t discovered the upside of giving up gluten.  Maybe I’ll get there, but right now I’m working on making it through my errands without having a mini-breakdown.

For example, today I really felt like making angel food cake with chocolate frosting.  It’s a favorite of mine.  But angel food cake is all about fluffy, airy stretchiness and, as we all know, if you want a cake like that, you need gluten.  So when I walked down the aisle with the angel food cake mixes (okay, I don’t bake this from scratch – shoot me), I had to put on my dark glasses so all the other shoppers wouldn’t think I was going through a bad divorce.  Yesterday was similar, except yesterday I was fantasizing about chicken pot pie with a buttermilk biscuit crust.  Different aisle, same sunglasses.

Angel food cake.

You think I’m exaggerating, and I wish I were.  I’m not proud of my obsessive focus on food, or my inability to recognize – no matter how often I’m told – how fortunate I am to be eating the same diet as Gwyneth Paltrow.  I’ve been working on a little list of reasons I should be grateful I’m gluten-free, a list I can pull out every time I start to feel pissed off about never, ever again taking bite of sourdough bread without feeling guilty.

In case you ever start feeling sad about having celiac disease, I will share my list with you.  I’ll give you a sneak peek right now, of just the first reason.  Tomorrow and the next day, I’ll tell you the rest.  Then you, too, will be able to look on the bright side of gluten-free. In a world without angel food cake, you need a nice list every now and again.

How lucky am I to have celiac? Let me count the ways…

  1. I’ve been diagnosed!  A lot of people with celiac go to doctor after doctor trying to figure out why they feel so lousy, only to be misdiagnosed or told it’s all in their head.  So, and this is what my doctor says, how wonderful that I know for sure I have celiac.  But here’s the thing: I got my diagnosis out of the blue, when I felt just fine.  What would you rather do: feel fine and eat whatever you want, or feel fine and order “grilled chicken, no sauce,” when you go out for Thai food? I know it’s wrong, but in this case I would definitely go for blissful, glutinous ignorance.

Tune in tomorrow for more reasons to be glad you’ve got celiac.   Woo hoo.  Really.

Today’s Treat:  Black Salt Caramel Bar, by Vosges.  It is ridiculously expensive, so expensive I am too ashamed to tell you how much it costs.  I hide the bar in my desk and my daughters find it.  Then we have a little fight about how to divide it up.  Then I go back to the store the next day and buy another one.  It’s better than Oxycontin (not that I would know). www.vosgeschocolate.com, but I buy them at Whole Foods and New Leaf in Santa Cruz.  BTW – Vosges sells gluten-free truffles, too.  And yet they don’t identify my favorite candy bar as “gluten-free.”  Which makes me wonder….  But not enough to do anything about it.

Black Salt Caramel Bar, hiding with the flashcards.

Bye-bye for now,

Enid

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But to be nice for just a minute… First things first.

30 Jan

When I told the kids I had to go gluten-free, one of their first questions was, “What about the pancakes??”

We’re big into breakfast around here, and when we have something besides eggs it is usually pancakes.  Baba’s cottage cheese pancakes.  Baba is my mother.  Her pancakes are amazing, very high in protein (you’ll see), and just basically perfect in every way.  Light like a crepe, but toothsome, and a bit sour (again like a crepe, or like a very smooth sourdough pancake).

So, within 48 hours of getting the dreaded diagnosis, there I was, mixing up a test batch of pancakes with my new g-f flour mix, hoping against hope that they would taste at least okay.

And here’s the good part:  they taste just the same as when I made them with wheat flour. 

Moment of surpassing joy.   Let’s all pause and enjoy it, because since I’ve gone gluten-free those moments don’t happen too often, at least not in reference to food.

Baba's Cottage Cheese Pancakes, after two Margaritas! Did I mention they're good for dinner, too??

So, even though you aren’t going to see a lot of recipes on this blog, in this case I’m going to make an exception.  I hope you enjoy them!

Baba’s Cottage Cheese Pancakes 

8 extra large eggs

2 cups (16 oz) small curd cottage cheese  (one medium container)

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons oil (I use melted coconut oil, but canola works fine too)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup  gluten-free flour (see my favorite concoction, below)

To Do:  Add all ingredients to the large bowl of your food processor.  Blend well (until you don’t see any more curds).  Melt butter on the griddle and cook as any other pancake recipe.  Finished pancakes should be about 3 inches in diameter.

Serves 4.

My friend Terry, who is a gluten-free chef, came running to my rescue right after my diagnosis.   I’ll talk more about her later.  But for now, here is her gluten-free flour mix:

Terry’s Gluten-Free Flour Mix

½ cup rice flour (white or brown – I use white)

¼ cup tapioca flour

¼ cup corn starch

 

Mix it up – and do a good job, because this stuff won’t work if it isn’t blended.  Then put it in a jar. Presto – you’re a gluten-free baker!

Today’s Treat:  I went out to lunch in Los Gatos today with my friend Allison, and because she is so wonderful she asked the waiter if they had any gluten-free desserts. And they did!  So my treat today was pomegranate panna cotta on an almond meringue crust.  Delish!  Go have some yourself (and share the ridiculously priced but fabulous Steak Cobb Salad with a friend.)  www.steamers-restaurant.com.

Bye-bye for now,

Enid

The Daily Bitch…Let Me Eat Cake

29 Jan

I know, I know, I told you I was going to drink my cake from now on, but I guess I didn’t think it all the way through. Drinking a cupcake is fine once in a while and if you don’t have to be any where or do anything. But these posts don’t write themselves.  I have deadlines, I have tastings and things.

some days I really just want to eat cake. Like today. I was craving something sweet and I like to bake so I decided to make a cake. I use the term “cake” loosely. Since I am no longer allowed the pleasure or simplicity of flour, this “cake” was made from hemp seeds, you heard me right, hemp seeds, and coconut flour, yes there is such a thing, and a variety of other interesting ingredients. It wasn’t bad, in small doses, if you’re a really big fan of coconut and you have a good imagination.

the real thing

My family wouldn’t go near it so I froze most of it. Then a few days later I was craving something sweet. The only sugary thing in the house that I could eat was the coconut cake. Cravings are bad enough but when you know you can’t have the actual thing you want, desire turns to desperation and this is how I found myself sitting on the couch watching Dr. Phil (is he really a doctor?) eating frozen coconut hemp seed cake. This is what my life has come to. Somehow this whole scenario would be easier to digest if I had been devouring a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake or raw cookie dough. I can’t even binge like a normal person. But hey, I’m going to have to learn to work with what’s in front of me. And right now it’s a half-eaten, very cold, coconut hemp seed cake, and an aging bald guy with a lot to say.

Today’s Treat: A good old-fashioned, naturally gluten-free macaroon.  All of the coconut and none of the heartbreak of hempseed. Get it where you can.

Let Me Drink Cake

28 Jan

Enid brings up an excellent point in her last post, Alcohol.  A lot of alcohol is gluten-free. And a lot of alcohol can help you care less about the fact that you are gluten-free.  Now if I were an alcoholic, I would be singing the praises of gluten right now and feeling very grateful that gluten is alcohol-free. But since that is not my situation I have decided to not have my cake but to drink it instead. So the next time you (Enid) find yourself craving a moist piece of chocolate cake, hot apple pie or creamy carrot cake (do people actually crave carrot cake?) try these yummy recipes instead. You’ll find yourself coming back for seconds and signing (literally) the praises of the gluten free lifestyle!

*Chocolate Cake = Godiva Chocolate Martini

1 oz. Godiva Liqueur

1 oz. Smirnoff Vodka

Rim a martini glass with something sweet. Put ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into martini glass and visualize chocolate cake.

Cupcake = Cake Martini

Cake vodka

Betty Crocker vanilla frosting

Rim a martini glass in frosting. Add sprinkles if it makes you happy. Pour ice cold “Cake” into martini glass and try not to think too much about weird it is that you’re drinking a cupcake. 

 

*Carrot Cake = Carrot Cake Martini  

1/2 oz. Vodka

1 oz. Goldshlagger or cinnamon schnapps

2 oz. Bailey’s

2 oz. Butterscotch schnapps

a few splashes of cream

ice cream

Rim a martini glass in cream cheese icing and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Add all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Put some ice cream in a bowl and eat that instead.

*Apple Pie = Appletini

1 1/2 parts vanilla liquor

1 part Belvedere Vodka

2 parts apple cider

1 tsp cinnamon

squeeze of lime

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

Shake and bake!

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

*these recipes have not actually been tested by me or any one I know but they sound good, except for the carrot cake one.

The Daily Bitch… Goodbye to all that.

27 Jan

Here are two things I’ve been meaning to do: 

Learn to make a perfect, killer, fluffy, rich chocolate cake, and become the kind of woman who is always pulling a loaf of gorgeously rustic, crusty-yet-tender homemade bread out of her oven.

I was waiting to learn both of those skills until I had a little bit more time, until my children were in college, until I found the right friend, or book, or teacher.  Sometimes I would fantasize about learning to bake these things, and I would see myself  (a thinner, wiser, more beautiful and evolved version of me, wearing a cute apron) standing in my kitchen admiring the perfect cake or bread I had just produced.

Yep. Look at that beautiful, crusty bread.

I have aunts and cousins and friends who bake cake and bread frequently and well. Just as I have friends and relations who run marathons, keep immaculate homes, and curl their eyelashes.  I would like to be a tidy, wide-eyed long distance runner too, but what I really focused on during my fantasies was the cake and the bread.  Tall, fluffy, toothsome cakes and breads.  Yum.

But now it’s too late. 

While I was busy in my dream state, planning all those delicacies, cutting out all those recipes, creating files for them, reading New York Times articles about the new, fool-proof bread-making method, so easy that even a child could make it, my body was busy screwing me over.  Silently.  I was trying to decide whether I wanted to begin with a francese or a sourdough, and wondering if Cousin Wendy would give me some of her twenty-year-old starter, while unbeknownst to me the cilia in my intestines were lying down and playing dead.

I guess that’s what they mean by Carpe Diem.  All the time I was supposed to be seizing, all I was doing was dreaming.  Now I am a celiac person (I really don’t like that whole “patient” thing), and my reality is gluten-free.

At least there are cocktails.

Today’s Treat:  Lillet blanc on the rocks, with a tangerine twist.  Dark chocolate-covered almonds for dessert.  www.lillet.com (I buy it at Whole Foods); http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/954 (almonds available online, at Whole Foods near you, or at Trader Joes).

Bye-bye for now,

Enid

The Daily Bitch…..The Good, the Bad and the Gluten-Free Spittoon

26 Jan

Enid and I have been meeting a lot lately to bitch about all things having to do with gluten. After our meetings we sometimes have a tasting of local gluten-free “treats”.

Our first tasting was quite successful; peanut butter cookies, and raspberry muffins from Heather’s Patisserie in Aptos. I had already been enjoying these goodies for several months. But I needed a gluten-free newbie to try them because I cannot trust my own judgment anymore. Once you’ve been eating non gluten substitutes for years your tastes buds change, your standards get lower, you become desperate. Much to my surprise and delight, Enid found them quite tasty. The cookies were crunchy on the edges and softer in the middle with a yummy peanut butter cookie flavor. The muffin tasted like a muffin and was almost the same consistency as one with gluten, our only suggestion-more berries.

Our next tasting was at a lovely little bakery on the west side of Santa Cruz. They had several gluten-free options, so naturally we had to try them all; the brownie, the buckwheat scone, the macaroon and the granola bar. We set each one out on a napkin in front of us, asked the very adorable bakery boy for a knife and cut them all in half. The difficulty in cutting them was our first clue. The crumbly texture our next clue. Sadly we knew before biting into them what we were getting into.

  • First the granola bar, not bad if you’re craving globs of granola and fruit stuck together and eaten without milk.
  • Next was the buckwheat scone. I can think of nothing to say that is not already evident by the name.
  • The macaroon should have been a shoe-in. Macaroons are naturally gluten-free and naturally delicious so I can think of no excuse for a bad one. Its best quality was its very small size.
  • The brownie was the most disappointing mainly because a friend had said they were delicious, and stupidly, as gluten-free people tend to do, we got our hopes up. And it looked promising. It looked like a real brownie. If you’ve ever had a brownie made with black beans than you will understand. It lacked chocolate or richness or any other discernible flavor.

Enid has a rule that I have adopted, the “take one bite and throw it away” rule. This is an especially good rule for people who do “tastings” on a regular basis. Much like the wine taster who swishes the wine around in his mouth and then chucks the rest in a spittoon. That’s what we need- a gluten-free spittoon- but with none in sight we carefully wrapped up all of our uneaten crumbs and chunks in napkins and discretely tossed them. Although Enid took the granola bar with her. I think she was going to use it in an art project.

I do want to say that this bakery was very sweet, the ambiance, the service, everything was lovely, except for everything we ordered. It’s hard for me to give a bad review.  I know I can’t really call myself a bitch if I’m not willing to go there. Still I just don’t think I can name names. I realize this makes the review both bad and unhelpful, but you get what you pay for. Also, I think I have given you enough clues to figure it out for yourself.

Today’s Treat: Always keep a really good chocolate  bar in your purse, you can nibble on it slowly throughout the day, or scarf it down all at once, who cares-it’s gluten free and it’s good! My current favorite  Green & Black’s milk chocolate with almonds .  www.greenandblacks.com

The Daily Bitch…. You’re Telling Me!

25 Jan

 How I found out…

It came in the mail.  I thought it was a doctor’s bill (God knows between me, my husband, and the three kids we rack up the medical expenses).  Instead it was a test result.  One line.  “You test positive for celiac disease.”

And I said — to myself since I was the only one in the kitchen — “What in the hell is celiac?”  Then, since we’re living in the Information Age, I went directly to Google and looked it up.

It was that obnoxious doctor who ordered the test, the one who never looked me in the eye, just kept tapping on the keyboard and sent me to the lab for ten tubes of blood tests.  There was no reason for him to order some assessment for some disease I’d never heard of, wasn’t symptomatic for, and didn’t (don’t!) want to have.

I needed a celiac diagnosis like a car crash.  A car crash that happens on a Wednesday, then keeps happening every time you sit down to a meal for as long as you live.

Perhaps I’m exaggerating.  But just a little bit.  Celiac means giving up gluten, by which I mean wheat, by which I mean cake and bread and muffins and flakey piecrust.  You know… everything fluffy and crispy and stretchy and delicious that you can ever imagine.

Humankind reveres gluten.

From the Bible to the ancient world to Shakespeare, to Marie Antoinette, it’s all they talk about.

Bread and circuses.   That’s what the Romans said the masses love.  I love that.  Sourdough bread and a lady in a spangly dress balancing on the back of a horse.  Yay!

Bread and wine.  Yum.  Francese with fresh olive oil and a glass of pinot noir.  Have I anchored a hundred dinners just that way? Yes I have.

Let them eat cake.  Let ME eat cake.

You get the idea.  The truth is, the first thing I did after my diagnosis was finally confirmed (biopsy, genetic testing, the whole enchilada) was go out and buy myself a “farewell cake”.  I’m posting a picture of it here.  Boy was it good.   Everyone sang “Happy Gluten to You”, then I ate a big piece.  I’ll tell you another day what happened next.

The Best Chocolate Cake in the World. Loaded with gluten, but Oh Baby!! http://www.butterybakery.com

Here are some things I love to do:

1.  Go to the market and buy delicious things. Scrumptious ingredients to bring home and bake.  Delicious cookies and crackers and toffee almonds and cranberry almond loaf and everything else I might see, and want, on the grocery shelves.  It’s like going to a jewelry store.  I adore the market!  I go every day.  I like to do it that way because – really? – how do you know what you’ll want to eat for dinner until you get there and see what looks good?

Now I go to the market in dark glasses because sometimes I start to cry in the bakery section.

2.  Go out to eat.  I love to see what someone else — a chef — thought of making.  I love the whole menu.  I love the surprise!

I can't understand all the words, but I still want to try every dish.

I like to pick what I eat, then taste everyone else’s food, too.  We are big sharers in my family; when we eat out, there is a veritable dance of forks in the middle of the table as we bob and weave, spearing bites of buttermilk fried chicken and pumpkin ravioli off each others’ plates.

I do not like to pick the one gluten-free thing out of 12 – and let’s be honest, most of the time it’s a grilled fish – and just order that.  With no sauce and no sharing.

Not that I don’t like fish — I do.  I just want to choose the fish, instead of settling for it.

Almost done, now!

Sarah and I may do our fair share of complaining on this site, but we do – sometimes – like to look on the bright side.  So, every time I post I am going to let you, our faithful readers, know about at least one thing I ate recently that was both (1) delicious and (2) gluten-free.  Because, even though that class of foods is very, very small… it does exist!

So, here’s my first daily offering.  I hope you like it!

Today’s Treat:  Chocolate macaroons with Orange Dulce tea. I’m so happy that, even when you put milk and sugar in it (and I always do), tea is always gluten-free.  http://www.macaronstore.com/Chocolate-Macaron-12-Pack.html; http://www.mightyleaf.com/product/orange-dulce-black-tea-pouches/.

Bye-bye for now (isn’t that what the bitchy popular girls say?),

Enid

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