Cooking Sunday -Bread, Soup and friends

Last Sunday I got a chance to cook with a woman I have known for years.

We have many aspects of our lives in common, but haven’t had a chance before to just hang out and have fun.

We share a common bond with our twins. Mine are 10 year old girls, hers are 20 month old boys, but she also has the most adorable 4 1/2 year old girl and a lovely and poised 7 year old girl.

We both work hard to educate the public about healthy food, locally grown and organic preferably. After all, what you eat is truly your first medicine. So both of us teach classes, blog and Facebook. I’m the only one Twitttering right now, but somehow I think she will be soon too.

So when she called to ask if I could come over and cook, I jumped at the chance.
When you are a busy doctor, mom, wife, girl scout leader, GIG board member and such, you just don’t get many chances to just cook.

Especially since I started writing this blog, cooking has become a bit of a chore as well. Well, maybe not a chore, but a task, a different way of cooking. I have to admit I don’t typically measure ingredients as I cook.

I go by feel, by eye, by texture.

I choose flours spontaneously- trying different combinations to see what feels right.
Adding a spice when I get the idea that it will make a recipe sing.
Tweaking the moisture by adding just a bit more or less to the right consistency. Jotting down notes on large sticky pads attached to the fridge, occasionally loosing one.
But when I am in that state, I rarely end up with a recipe that I can post.

After all, can you tell me how to talk about the texture of a bread dough? Using words like- soft and resilient work or maybe “the way a baby’s bottom feels” but for lots of folks, they need finite measurements.
After all, lots of people just don’t have a nearby baby to use to compare. And it is a rare gluten-free bread that has that consistency anyway.

But cooking with Ali of Whole Life Nutrition was fun! We managed to get a time and a date together but didn’t truly plan out what we were making. After all, with 6 kids between the two of us, and both hubbies out of town, who can plan?
We each went to the grocery store and grocery shopped, then I brought all of mine to her house.
My daughters just love her daughters and her little twin boys became the dolls for all 4.

Since my girls were happy to supervise the littler ones, Ali and I managed to have a bit of time to just cook and chat.

I can’t remember the last time I shared a kitchen with a friend. After all, most of my cooking time is quick meals for that night or production cooking on weekends to make the busy week easier. My husband and I do get to cook together but we have very different styles so most of the time, one of us takes the kitchen and the other is doing house chores and projects.

But I love cooking in a crowd!

Way back in 1994-95 I worked for an organization in New York City called God’s Love We Deliver.
We would crank up the music and dance as we prepared food. And believe me those guys could really dance. We all went out a couple of times to Webster Hall and the Limelight (now know as the Avalon), their moves put me to shame. But nobody expects a Jersey girl to have moves anyway.

We fed people who were homebound with AIDS. The kitchen was staffed with volunteers and overseen by a paid staff of 10. We served 2000 meals a day when I left in 1995.

I wonder how many meals now? Looking at their website, it looks like a lot more. They just served their 10,000,000 meal! But now they feed folks with cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s too.

I supervised the Friday night shift and the Sunday morning shift while I completed my undergraduate studies at City College in preparation for medical school. I started there as a volunteer after my first husband died, I was laid off by Macy’s and gradually moved into a chef position.

So I am used to lots of people in a kitchen, used to lots of teaching just how to do something.
Have you ever broken down whole rounds of beef for stew? Best of all, it seemed like my crew got to do just that almost every week. One large problem I faced as a manager was explaining to vegetarians that the task for the night was creating stew beef for 1000 meals.
But it was fun, lots of fun, because we all shared a common vision and lots of laughter.

And Sunday, Ali and I did the same.

We laughed, compared recipes, talked about life, kids, husbands and their travels.
We contemplated the seasons, wiped sticky hands and chins, watched the kids on the trampoline and baked.
Actually, Ali baked. She made breads – rice almond with a tender crumb and crust.
Whole grain sunflower seed bread with a touch of molasses.
Millet, brown rice and tapioca starch biscuits! so tender and crunchy all at the same time
She pulled out jams she had just put up; spiced peach jam with sugar and blueberry honey
We spread them liberally on the breads . That is why the sticky faces.
She had a hubbard squash in the oven when we got there that she turned into 2 pots of soup.
Smooth hubbard squash soup with tomatoes and potato hubbard chowder with salmon.

I made my sourdough bread. But I had just fed the starter so the bread took forever to rise. I ended up baking it on Monday.

And tamales, stuffed with cabbage, poblano peppers and tomatillos.
The act of making tamales is one of dedication. First you make the filling, then soak the wrappers, then create the masa dough.
And then the fun begins, smearing each corn husk with the masa, adding a spoonful of filling. Folding and wrapping to keep it all together, layering in a steamer for at least an hour.
So wonderful a contrast, the soft masa and the slightly resilient greens. mild and tart.

Together with a bowl of soup and some biscuits, perfect.

I’m sorry I don’t have pictures. Neither one of us pulled out a camera, we just enjoyed each other, the children and a perfect afternoon cooking in the kitchen

So join me in asking Ali to please publish her baking book. I would love to have those recipes to make again.
And watching her cook, by adding a bit of this and a bit of that, means that I could really use her recipe. in writing.

The search for the Starbucks GF Cake

Like lots of folks who follow the wonderful world of gluten free blogs, I have been wondering about the new Starbucks Gluten Free Valencia Orange Cake.

That a major company would find it a good thing to bring out a new category of treats in these economic times is impressive.

That our collective voices would led them to listen to our pleas for inclusion.

That they understand we want to be able to go get a cuppa and a treat, just like non food-challenged folks.

So it was with very high hopes that I began my search for one of these treats on Wednesday, the day after the launch.

First stop was the Starbucks closest to my office, the one inside the Fred Meyers supermarket on Lakeway.

But no, not a single pastry to be found.

Perhaps Starbucks has two levels of rollout with new products. For whatever reason, the baristas at Freddie’s had no idea that there was a gluten-free option for a pastry. And, they were less than happy to imagine that they would have another item to track.
Funny, since I routinely diagnose folks as gluten intolerant and use the gluten-free aisle of Freddie’s to introduce those patients to the wonderful products available. You would think that having a dedicated market for a product would be highly desirably.

But, oh well, on to the next Starbucks to continue the search. Next stop was the Holly street Starbucks in downtown Bellingham.

Success, or so I thought. They had the new cake attractively displayed in the miniaturized display above the non-working reach-in fridge. Guess they must have been having a bit of trouble with the machinery.

There it was, a golden disc of spongy cake, with sliced almonds on the top a bit of orangy glaze attractively dripping off of one side. But why was it being displayed unwrapped? I had read that it was to be individually wrapped to prevent cross contamination. But then I remembered the post

Erin, on the food team at Starbucks, mentioned the sacrificial display cake.

So, I patiently waited in line. Hoping that when the line of 5 people in front of me were all served, there would be another place that they stored the Gluten-Free ones. A secret, safe place.

I know in a lot of the world, 5 people in line is nothing. Here in the City of Subdued Excitement, 5 people in line is a true crowd.
The guy behind the counter was still being trained about the order process, and the barista was trying to train and make all the drinks. But, I wanted to be able to try this cake, so patiently I waited since I felt sure that the cake was there.

Finally it was my turn. I placed my order, the new counter person started to search for the gluten-free cake. None in the case. He asked the barista, and my heart fell. She looked at him with suprise and said “ we sold out of those hours ago”.

So why do they still have one on display? Why raise the hopes of us Gluten-free people. He tried to sell me another pastry, not quite getting it, but I declined and left feeling a bit sad. Could I truly be mourning the loss of a pastry that I couldn’t have?

No, I realized as I drove to pick up my twins at school. I wasn’t sad that the cake had sold out. Actually, that made me very happy since I liked to think that the wonderful gluten-free folks I know all over Bellingham were enjoying the first publicly available treat with a cup of coffee from Starbucks.

No, I was sad because yet again, I was feeling left out. It is such basic food handling to remove a display of an item you no longer have in stock.
86’ing a sold out food is so common in restaurants, everyone should know how to do that. You sell the last of something, you remove the display.

I do understand that they were having equipment problems and were training but ultimately, they let me down.

So while driving to get the kids, I decided that I would try another location of Starbucks.
Got the kids, told them that we were going to find out whether the Sehome Starbucks had any of these cakes.
Katie responded by asking “why, since I make the best gluten-free cake in the world?”.

Can I just gloat for a minute? I am truly a lucky mom. Just love that my gluten-free twins believe so thoroughly that I am the best baker of gluten-free treats in the world.

So I explained that I wanted to let the readers of my blog know about the cake, to do the research for them so they can see if they want to put in the effort to get one. And, I admitted, I wanted to see if it was a good cake. ‘Cause sometimes, I don’t want to have to bake a cake just to have a treat.

So off to Sehome Starbucks, the one with the drive thru.

And, lo and behold, at the ordering kiosk the answer to my request for the cake was YES! So I ordered two, figuring I would get several opinions back at the office.

Around the store to the pickup window. “Is it ok if they are in the same bag?”asked the young woman behind the serving window.
“Fine by me” I said and happily took the paper bag she offered.
But a quick peek inside showed the UN-wrapped cakes nestled inside.
“Aren’t these supposed to be individually wrapped?” I queried.

A look of total confusion swept over her face, a quick glance to a colleague inside who also looked confused, now I am beginning to question if I had recalled the posting I had read.

No, I was correct. The third person inside quickly took the bag back and explained where the wrapped ones were stored.
But now I am getting a bit concerned. I understand one unwrapped cake since there was supposed to be one on display, but 2? Did the young lady actually unwrap them for me? Are there sampling ones for them to give out? How concerned do we need to be about cross contamination?

I paid for my now fully wrapped cakes and drove to the office for the taste test.
Completely random assortment of folks there, my husband, twins, receptionist Deanna (who is not gluten-free but her boyfriend is) and myself.

I cut up the cakes and we all dug in.
Deanna took one bite and said, “ What is that overpowering flavor?
Ed took one bite and refused to finish his citing mushy texture and orange oil taste.
Katie and Fiona each ate one half of a cake but agreed that I didn’t have to buy anymore. Neither loved it, Katie thought it was just odd and Fiona only ate it because she was starving in one of her post school hungries.

I found the texture spongy and very soft, the orange oil to be a bit much and a definite lack of structure to the cake. The almond flavor seemed to be missing.

Then I took a look at the nutritional contents of this little cake. Funny, the packaging doesn’t tell you how much it weighs. But, for one cake there are 290 calories, with 140 of them from fat.
It contains 16 grams of fat, 25% of our daily fat allowance!
Add to that 32 grams (11% of daily allowance) of carbohydrates and my decision is made.

I’d only buy this if there were nothing else possible and I was truly hungry. I’d rather have a handful of almonds.

At least I am now aware that if I am in an airport and nothing else is around, there is one possibility.

But Starbucks, please, couldn’t you choose something else to carry as well?
Could it be without the main allergens- gluten, nuts, dairy, citrus?
Something with a bit of fiber, protein and flavor?
Something like these maybe?

Gluten Free Muffins made with Bob’s Red Mill Hot and Tasty Cereal

Whole Grain Muffins- Makes 8 muffins.
1 large Egg
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/4 cup Sweet (Sticky) Rice Flour
2 Tablespoons Raw Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 cup Mighty Tasty Cereal (Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 cup soy, rice, nut or hemp Milk
1 tablespoon vinegar
Mix Mighty Tasty Cereal, milk of choice and vinegar; allow to stand for 20 minutes while preheating oven and assembling other ingredients
Beat together egg and oil. Stir together dry ingredients. Stir all three mixtures together only until mixed. Spoon into paper lined muffin pan. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.
You can add berries or cut up fruits if you desire.

Gluten Free Camps for kids

With summer plans already filling our calendar, I’ve been thinking about the limitations food allergies can cause for a child interested in going to summer camp.
Although my summer camping experiences as a child were all about my family, I love the choice to send the kiddos off to enjoy all that summer camps are about-swimming, hiking, boating etc.
So where does a gluten-free child go to enjoy the out of doors without getting sick?

I ended up Twittering with Nancy Lapid from
She has collected a list of gluten-free camps available across the nation for kids and also a couple that invite families or siblings. While most are out-of-state, there is an opportunity at a camp down on Vashon Island.
Check out her list here.

What to do on a flood day? Make Pudding!

Bellingham has been in the news lately. Not necessarily as a wonderful green city that is thriving in this economy but as a community under water.
Check out this video to see how Sudden Valley has been this week.

While we are dealing with so much water, I have neglected this blog. Luckily our home is fine and we used the two extra days off from school to cook a bit.

My daughter wanted to make a special pudding. Right now she is not eating all that much. It has been her pattern in the past so I don’t get too worried.

So when she grabbed our antique copy of Joy of Cooking (1946 edition), turned to Bavarian cream pudding and said “This is It”, we made pudding.

Now I really wasn’t in the mood to create something elaborate, but like many recipes it was truly easy. It happened to be gluten-free as well without any changes.

Bavarian Cream I (page 660 in Joy of Cooking)
soak: 1 tablespoon gelatin in 2 tablespoons cold water
Scald: 1 3/4 cups of organic milk
Add: 1/3 to 1/2 cup organic sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Stir the gelatin into this mixture until it is dissolved. Chill it. As it thickens flavor it with:
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Whip it with a wire wisk until it is fluffy.
Beat until stiff 1 cup of organic heavy cream
Fold it into the gelatin mixture.
Place the pudding in a wet mold.
chill thoroughly.

Although the recipe said to mold it, we were all to eager to enjoy it so we scooped it into small bowls, added a bit of lingonberry preserves and an almond cookie.
This was amazing! Light in flavor although not in calories. Fiona decided that we really should only use 1/3 cup of sugar since it seemed too sweet for her.

Got to love when a child’s sweet tooth is in good control. Now I want to use this as a launching point for a dairy free version and a diabetic version.

Cream Hill Estates

Cream Hill Estates
My mom always said that if something was made with oats it had to be healthy.
Sometimes that was the rationale for cookies for breakfast, occasionally it explained the box that lived in the car.
Most of the time, it was simply the acknowledgment by my registered nurse mother that oats are really good for you.
Of course, that was before we realized that oats are sometimes a source of cross contamination by wheat.

Before we had to be vigilant about those tiny exposures,

before we were gluten intolerant.

Now we can enjoy the healthy properties of oats yet again.
Cream Hill Estates was another generous donor to the ROCK group booth at the Kid’s Fest.
We made some incredible cookies from their donation of bulk oats.
I used the Gluten-Free Girl’s Oatmeal cookie recipe with a couple of tweaks.

Since i know how many children are following a GF and Casien free lifestyle, I substituted Earth Balance shortening instead of the butter and added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder. And since I am a naturopath, I reduced the sugars to 3/4 cup each. I have a real problem with cookies that have a tremendous amount of sugar in them.
All these changes helped with the delicacy of the cookies. They held up very well in transport to the Kid’s fest.

Can any of us just use a recipe? I realize that I want to explore this topic in the future. Seems to me that we all want to change at least one little thing about most recipes in order to make it our own.

Places to Eat GF in Bellingham

After reading a comment from a woman who will be traveling to our wonderful town this summer, I realized that I have never dedicated a whole post to GF dining in Bellingham. While I’ve mentioned various stores and restaurant before, I wanted to comply my thoughts in one post. What follows is the list that’s been swirling around my head.

For a fancier dining experience that will surely not disappoint check out The Prospect Street Cafe. An added bonus is that this restaurant not only serve GF meals, but also features seasonal and local ingredients on their ever evolving menus.

Avellino is a great place to grab a cup a of coffee and a delicious GF pastry or cookie right in the middle of downtown. I’ve also written about the Jeckyl & Hyde Deli and Ale House in a January 2007 post where you can find directions to this restaurant.

In terms of shopping around town for GF products the Co-op and Terra Organica both offer a diverse selection of GF products and by shopping there you’re supporting local businesses. The Lakeway Fred Meyer has a good selection of GF products as does Trader Joe’s, but being big chains, they aren’t my first choice when I need to fill the pantry.

Anyone have any other suggestions of great places to eat GF in Bellingham?