Friday, September 24, 2010

The GFCF Recipe Experience: Buttermilk Biscuit Nirvana

So...I have this affinity for biscuits.

I mean, I've only published about five different biscuit recipes...

Each one of my previous recipes turned out a decent biscuit that my family enjoyed. But none of those recipes turned out a biscuit that was this soft and fluffy.

In short, I think I may have finally discovered buttermilk biscuit nirvana.

So what makes these biscuits so different?

It mainly has to with the wet ingredients - this recipe uses more shortening per cup of flour that the others. It also uses slightly more CF buttermilk than the others as well. Then there is the baking - starting out at a high temperature to begin the browning process, then lowering the temperature and baking until done.

I found this recipe in what is becoming one of my most trusted recipe sources - Cook's Country magazine, by the folks at America's Test Kitchen. This bi-monthly magazine always has over 30 recipes to try as well as cooking tips and product reviews. And if you have ever seen their shows on PBS, you know that they tinker with their recipes until they get them just right.

And I then tinker with them to make them GFCF!!!

I hope you will give these biscuits a try. I think they are the best I ever made.

Buttermilk biscuit nirvana!!!


BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
Adapted from a recipe in the October/November issue of Cook's Country magazine


Ingredients

12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) CF butter (I use Earthbalance Buttery Sticks)
3 cups GF all purpose flour
3 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp GF baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp GF baking soda
1 1/4 cups CF buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter, combine the butter and the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Alternatively, you can use a food processor and pulse everything together and then transfer to a large bowl). Add the buttermilk and stir until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times until smooth. Roll or pat the dough out into a rectangle 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Using a knife, cut dough into 12 equal portions. (Alternatively, you can pat into a circle and cut rounds using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, gathering up and rerolling the scraps each time).

Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, sides touching. Bake at 450° for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400° and rotate the pan. Baked until golden brown, about 10 - 12 minutes longer.

Transfer to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Part II


This is Part II of my summary review of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (The Penguin Press, 2006). In this book, Mr. Pollan traces the history of four meals partaken by himself and his family, from their inception on the farm or in the woods to the actual meal itself. In Part I, I summarized the author's "industrial meal," which chronicles the rise of the corn empire and how corn pervades much of what we eat, beginning in an Iowa cornfield and ending up at McDonald's. Now, in Part II, I review the author's look at what he terms the "industrial organic" meal.

Part II: Industrial Organic

After his McDonald's "industrial" meal laden with corn, the author decided to investigate what would appear to be the polar opposite of industrial agribusiness - organic farming. And this may be true on a small scale. Yet as you read through Mr. Pollan's look at large scale organic farming, you get the impression that everything is not what it seems to be.

But first, a history lesson.

The roots of modern organic farming really took hold in the 1930s/1940s, thanks to the work of Sir Albert Howard, an English agronomist. His publication An Agricultural Testament is a landmark essay on the philosophy and methodology of converting organic waste into compost and replenishing the soil, and treating the farm as a natural process. Another pioneer is Rachel Carson, who published Silent Spring in 1962, thus bringing to the forefront the dangers of synthetic pesticide use and effectively beginning the modern environmental movement. The counterculture movement of the 1960s gave rise to People's Park in Berkeley, one of the first organic communes at the time. It also led to a man named Gene Kahn forming his own organic commune farm just north of Seattle in 1971, which is now one of the largest organic brands in the world. And that is where Mr. Pollan's examination of his organic industrial meal (or, as he also calls it, supermarket pastoral)begins.

Cascadian Farm.
Gene Kahn's Cascadian Farm is one of the most well known organic companies, due in no small part that it has morphed from an organic commune in the 1970s to a brand name now owned by General Mills. The author implies that the story of Cascadian Farm is a fitting representative of the industrial organic movement. Because while Mr. Kahn was an organic farmer, he was also a businessman, and by the late 1970s he realized that by focusing on processing foods grown by other farmers (such as freezing fruits and vegetables) and distributing them throughout the country, he could make more money.

And then came Alar. Remember Alar? Alar was a pesticide used by apple growers. It is also an EPA-listed carcinogen. A 1990 60 Minutes feature exposed the dangers of Alar. And in the aftermath, the demand for organic foods skyrocketed. Cascadian Farm, like many other organic companies, incurred heavy debts as they expanded to meet the demand. But once Alar left the headlines, so did the demand. And Mr. Kahn, in order to pay off his debts, was forced to sell a majority stake in Cascadian Farm.

Today Mr. Kahn is the Vice President for Sustainable Development at General Mills. In his words (as told by the author) when he sold Cascadian Farm he wanted to use his position to influence how food is grown, and not so much how it is distributed, and not to influence people on what to eat. That goes against some of the fundamentals of the organic movement, but also is a reality of large scale organic agribusiness.

The Organic Food and Production Act. The Alar scare wasn't the only thing that impacted the organic food industry in 1990. In that same year, Congress passed the Organic Food and Protection Act (OFPA) the first Federal Legislation that recognized organic agriculture, and a mandate for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish uniform national standards for organic farming. Examining this act is the next part of Mr. Pollan's journey into the world of organics.

NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I work for the US Forest Service, which is part of USDA.

In addition to figuring out what exactly "organic" meant in a legal sense, the implementation of OFPA ultimately became a struggle between what the author calls Big and Little Organic - or the large scale organic industry and the small scale traditional organic movement. In all the cases the author cites, Big Organic ended up victorious. To wit:
  • OFPA specifically stated that synthetic food additives and manufacturing agents could not be considered organic. Yet the final standards included a list of permissible synthetics - thus making possible the organic microwavable TV dinner (more on that later). Even though this was overturned in a 2003 court decision, language in the 2005 USDA appropriations bill revised OFPA to permit and possibly expand on the use of synthetics in organic food
  • OFPA stated that animals used to produce organic meat and dairy need to be raised taking into account their "natural behavior." In the case of a cow, that would mean grazing in a pasture. But the final standards stated that cow need only to have "access to pasture," and that access could be limited at certain stages of an animals life. This vague language meant that large dairy farms like Horizon Organic (the largest organic dairy farm in the country) could maintain their feedlot-style practices. With no provisions on how much pasture the cows need, Horizon Organic keeps their cows in a cramped, confined enclosure and feeds them organic feed, with a manure and waste holding pond similar to the large feedlot the author visited in Kansas to track his industrial meal. And the lactation stage is considered one stage where cows do not need "access to pasture." So Horizon's cows are milked three times a day, with the "organic" milk then ultrapasteurized (stripping the milk of many nutrients) so it can be shipped around the country.

And then there's the case of the free range chicken, but more on that later...

Earthbound Farm. The next phase of the author's supermarket pastoral meal involved salad, which necessitated a visit to Earthbound Farm, one of the largest organic growers in the country. In the author's words, Earthbound Farm may represent industrial organic farming at its best. Earthbound Farm began life as a roadside organic farm selling baby greens to a local chef in the Carmel CA area. When the chef moved on, the owners, Drew and Myra Goodman, began selling prewashed salad mixes through local produce retailers. Thus began the prewashed salad business that is so popular today. As orders increased, and large retailers such as Costco and Albertson's began carrying their product, the Goodmans entered into partnerships with established growers in the Salinas Valley CA area. The immediate benefit of this arrangement was that these growers, used to growing in the "industrial" way, now grew the organic way - no synthetic pesticides or herbicides or fertilizer. Today 135 farms grow fruits and vegetables for Earthbound Farm, representing over 25,000 acres of organic farming, much of which was converted from conventional farming methods.

And yet, Mr. Pollan states, this is where the traditional organic portion of the process ends. State of the art equipment is used to pick the greens, which are then placed in plastic bins, placed in a refrigerated truck and then sent to a refrigerated warehouse, where the lettuce is sorted, mixed, washed, dried, and packaged. All of this is done at a temperature of 36° to preserve freshness. The processing plant handles about 2.5 million pounds of lettuce per week.

The real cost, the author writes, is in the amount of fossil fuel needed for this operation - about 4600 calories for a box of lettuce if it's flown to a store across the country. That's about 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food. A similar mix grown and processed the conventional way would only be about 4% higher.

Much like Gene Kahn, the Goodmans feel that everything, including organic gardening, eventually falls in line with the way the world is. Of course, owning a $350 million company helps clarify that thinking. And certainly eliminating pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers from 25,000 aces of land does a lot of good. But the large scale evolution of organic farming have left many of the smaller growers thinking that the the word "organic" has been redefined to the point that it doesn't apply to them anymore, and they are now "beyond organic."

Petaluma Poultry. Mr. Pollan's final stop on the journey to his industrial organic meal is Petaluma Poultry, home of the organic free range chicken. But, like most of the other stops on his journey, life isn't what it seems to be on the packaging. The idyllic farm depicted on the Petaluma Farms packaging is just that - a depiction on the package. Petaluma Farms headquarters is actually located in an office building in an industrial park.

The success in Petaluma Poultry, the author learned, lies in marketing. They do not just provide free range chickens, but a wide variey of chickens, depending on the day of the week. One day, kosher chickens, complete with Rabbi. Another,asian chickens, with head and legs attached. A third, natural chickens, with no antibiotics or animal by-products in the feed. And a fourth, organic chickens - same as natural chickens but fed organic feed. The chickens are Cornish Cross chickens, genetically engineered to grow to broiler size in 7 weeks.

Petaluma raises its organic chickens in a (presumably) cage free environment - a "coop" almost the size of a football field that houses up to 20,000 chickens. Of course, with so many chickens in close quarters and no antibiotics used, the risk of infection is very high. But, according to the company, the chickens have a little more space than conventionally raised chickens. And, they get a few more days to live before they are slaughtered.

The chickens are also considered "free range." But what did that mean? Mr. Pollan found out that at Petaluma, it meant that there was a 15 foot wide patch of grass running the length of the coop, and a door on the either end of the coop gave the chickens the option to range outside freely. But given that the doors are shut for the first five weeks of life, and then the chickens are slaughtered at 7 weeks, they really don't have too much time to free range. And in fact, as the author watched and waited to see if any chickens would come out, not a single one made the plunge. Not that they were encouraged to do so...

The Industrial Organic Meal.
The author treated his family to an industrial organic meal using items bought entirely from his local Whole Foods - the "free range" chicken from Petaluma Farms (which was even given a name - Rosie), vegetables marketed by Cal-Organic (another large food grower who only got into the organic business after seeing an opportunity for profit), organic asparagus flown in from Argentina, salad mix from Earthbound Farms, and a dessert consisting of organic vanilla ice cream and organic berries imported from Mexico. As an added bonus, the author bought an organic frozen dinner for lunch, marketed by Gene Kahn's Cascadian Farm.

First, the frozen dinner. The first thing the author noticed is that the dinner itself contained 31 ingredients, thanks to all of the synthetics allowed under OFPA. These synthetics, the author surmised, are what made the creamy herb sauce creamy, considering there were no dairy products listed. Comparing apples to apples, the author felt like the dinner held its own against conventional TV dinners. But it was still a highly processed meal.

The rest of the meal was, the author states, better. For the most part. A main point Mr. Pollan was trying to make in his dinner selections was that organic industrial fruits and vegetables, much like conventional fruits and vegetables, can be had year round, hence the asparagus from Argentina. Taste is another story - the asparagus tasted like wet cardboard. And then there were the other, as the author puts it, ethical questions, such as the amount of fossil fuel required to harvest the asparagus in Argentina, pack it, chill it, and then jet it to California so it can be sold at Whole Foods the next day.

All of the other foods, even Rosie, were found to be quite tasty, more flavorful even than conventional foods. In part, this is because the foods were locally grown (even though they were large producers shipping all over the US), and also because they were grown organically. The tomatoes, produced by Cal-Organics, have been found to have more natural sugars than those grown conventionally. The same is true with the lettuce. And Rosie tasted better than a conventional grown chicken because, the author speculates, the bird was not fed animal by products nor given antibiotics, which tends to make for mushier meat.

In the end, the author attempts to make comparisons between his industrial organic meal and the same meal had it been conventionally grown or raised. Although Federal regulations do not make health distinctions between industrial organic foods and conventional foods, there is growing scientific research that suggests that some organic foods have higher nutritional values than their conventional counterparts. And, at least when it comes to produce, organic food is certainly better for the environment, since synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are not used. And yet, as Mr. Pollan repeatedly points out, the amount of fossil fuel used to get the meal from the farm to his kitchen is comparable to the amount for a conventional meal, since the vast majority of the energy footprint is due to the processing and shipping of the food. And, as Petaluma Farms and Horizon Organic exemplify, organic free range cows and chickens are often free range due to a technicality.

The cost of the meal? $34 for a family of three, which included a second meal made from leftovers. Of course, $6 was the asparagus that no one liked, so let's call it $28. Realistically, this is not a bad price - comparable to eating in a sit down restaurant. But certainly more expensive than what the same conventional meal would cost. On sale, a conventional Rosie could be had for $0.99 per pound instead of $2.99 per pound, and a salad mix for half the cost of the Earthbound Farm mix - at least those were the prices I found when I went to Rosauers last night.

Certainly the higher price is worth the positive impacts on the environment, and the potential positive impact on our health. And yet, Mr. Pollan seems to believe that the large amount of fossil fuel use, rendering the industrial organic pathway unsustainable (and totally contrary to the original meaning of the word organic), is too much to stomach.

Please stay tuned for Part III of my review of The Omnivore's Dilemma, where the author visits a farm where grass is king, and the animals do all work.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Omnivore's Dilemma - Part I

I just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Perhaps you have read or heard of it - it was published in 2006 and won numerous awards, as well as being a New York Times bestseller. The premise of the book is that the author traces the pathway to four different meals, from their inception on the farm or via hunting/gathering, to the consumption of the actual meals by the author and his family/friends. Along the way, Mr. Pollan provides his personal insight into and critique of the agribusiness world in which we live, and which provides the bulk of the food we eat. While the book does not directly relate to the GFCF experience per say, it does make you think about what you are eating and feeding to your families. In that respect, I think it is worth sharing a summary, which I will do in four parts; each part corresponding to one of Mr. Pollan's meals. Today's first part involves the most common pathway used to obtain daily meals.

PART I: Industrial Foods

The industrial food chain, or at least how Mr. Pollan presents it, begins in the middle of cornfield in Iowa, surounded by acres upon acres upon acres of corn. The catch? Little, if any of this corn, will be directly consumed by humans. In fact, only a small fraction of the corn grown in this country is directly consumed by humans. The rest, like the corn in this field where the author is standing, is commodity corn, used for everything from animal feed to processed goods like high fructose corn syrup. Corn, the author contends, is a main driver of the industrial food chain.

Mr. Pollan's intent is to follow the 90,000 or so kernels that make up a bushel of corn from their inception in an Iowa cornfield to their end as a fast food meal for himself and his family. There are several stops along the way:

The Cornfield. At the cornfield, Mr. Pollan talks about the history of corn, which itself would make a great story for James Burke's classic Connections series. The history of corn involves soybeans (the preferred crop for rotating with corn), German Nobel Laureate Fritz Haber (who, in 1909, invented a process to artificially "fix" nirogen - that is, convert it into a form usable by plants), and World War II (after the war, former munitions plants were converted to make chemical fertilizer). The advent of chemical fertilizer ushered out the age of crop rotation and the use of livestock manure to replenish the soil and brought in an age where science replenishes the soil, not nature. Thus corn can be grown year after year on the same land. Augmenting plant genetics to create hybrid strains of corn to take advantage of this situation has resulted in corn becoming the most dominant force in industrialized agriculture. And yet, most of this is not for our direct consumption, but becomes a part of everything else that we eat.

The Feedlot.
Of the roughly 90,000 kernels in a bushel of corn, Mr. Pollan estimates that about 54,000 of them, or about 60%, end up at feedlots, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) as they are called. So how does the author follow this chain? By buying a steer of course!

The steer Mr. Pollan buys actually spent the first 8 months of its life in a pasture in South Dakota, then was trucked to a CAFO in Kansas. In another year or so, the steer will be big enough to slaughter and send to market, a process that would take several years if the animal was grazing in a pasture. This is what you call fast food!

How is possible? Through the use of corn of course! At CAFOs, animals are held in pens - 90 or so to a pen the size of a hockey rink. Three times a day, a truck dumps feed into the feed bunk and the animals dutifully wander over to eat. But it's not just corn - the animal feed also could contain beef tallow from the slaughterhouse, or chicken litter. And then there are the drugs. For cattle evolved to eat grass, not grain, and without the drugs they cannot not properly digest the corn and are susceptible to ills ranging from diarrhea and inflammatory bowel diseases to even death.

And then there are the environmental concerns. Feedlots, to put it bluntly, are nasty places. It's not just the noxious odor that got to the author, it's the manure so laden with chemicals and fertilizers that farmers can't use it in their fields - it would kill the plants. And then the author thinks about his steer in terms of the amount of fossil fuels it takes to feed him and get him ready for slaughter. Consulting with an economist specializing in agriculture and energy, it was estimated that in his lifetime, the author's steer will have consumed roughly 35 gallons of oil, or approximately 60% of a barrel. And then you multiply that by the 64,000 head of cattle this particular feedlot can accomodate...

The Processing Plant. Mr. Pollan estimates that about 18,000 of the 90,000 kernels in a bushel of commodity corn leave the field and go to processing plants, where food science takes over. You are more than familiar with some of the end results of these processes - corn oil, corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, even xanthan gum. And let's not forget that the ethanol additives in some gasolines are derived from corn. Like Elvis in the classic Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper song, corn is everywhere.

And why is this? Why economics, of course. These days, we can plant more corn than ever before, mainly because modern corn does not need as much room to grow as before; hence, you can get more stalks per acre, and thus more corn. And the more corn on the market, the cheaper the price. And thus more profit for the food manufacturers, since the price you pay at the grocery store doesn't fluctuate like the price of corn or other cheap grains - you still pay the same price whether the corn costs 20 cents per unit or 4 cents per unit. The author gives the example of the industrial cereal industry. At the time this book was written, the cereal group at General Mills generated a higher profit for the parent company than for any other division. This is because the raw materials to make the cereals - most of them derived from cheap grains like corn, soy, or wheat - are extremely inexpensive. And yet, if I want to buy my kids a box of GF Corn Chex, I am still paying anywhere from $3.00 to $5.00 depending on where I shop.

The other factor the processing of food has overcome, according to the author, is our ability to only eat a certain amount of food. The author states that biologically, we can only eat about 1500 pounds of food per year. Which leaves a dilemma for the food industry - how to expand profits if we are only eating so much food. One answer lies in the processing, as well as econimics and marketing. I am guessing that it didn't take much to reformulate some Chex cereals into GF versions - many were already corn-based or rice-based - but by processing cheap commodities like corn into replacements for those GF containing products in the original Chex formulation, General Mills opened up a whole new market for themselves - the GF market. Even at $3.00 to $5.00 a box, Chex is still cheaper (on a per oz. basis) than most other GF cereals on the market- the economic factor. Plus, look at all the different types of Chex mixes you can make - the marketing factor. The other thing that processed food sells is convenience - how easy is it to get a frozen dinner and pop it into the microwave as opposed to cooking a full meal for yourself? You can get a Banquet frozen dinner for $1.00 - there are very few homecooked meals you can make for that price. Pay a little more, and you get larger portions - and eat more.

The Industrial Meal. The author's industrial meal he shares with his family is fast food from McDonalds, which just as esily could have come from Burger King or KFC or any other place. Fast food meals are the perfect example of a second way the limitation on the amount of food we eat is overcome - by tricking us into eating more that that 1500 pounds per year. A lot of this is clever marketing - McDonald's discovered that people won't buy two bags of fries, but would buy that same amount of fries if it was only in one bag. Sodas are a great example of this - Big Gulp at 7 Eleven anyone?

And, as the author demonstrates, this once again all goes back to corn. A great example is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the most common sweetener used today. By replacing sugar with cheaper HFCS (without sacrificing taste), soft drink makers began seeing more profits, and Americans began drinking more soda. But, Mr. Pollan states, this was not because Coke and Pepsi lowered their prices, but because they were able to convince consumers to buy a supersized amount for a few pennies more. Most people, if they go into a convenience store for a soda, would be more inclined to buy a 32 oz. soft drink at 99 cents as opposed to the 20 oz. drink that sells for 79 cents.

This overcomes our predilection for consuming only 1500 pounds of food per year, because researchers have found that people will consume up to 30 percent more food if they are presented with a supersized portion than they would otherwise. Just think about how much more food is eaten between Thanksgiving and Christmas (a time defined by large family meals, parties, cookies, etc.) than any other time of the year.

Of course eating more food means eating more calories. And typically, it's the energy-dense calories that are the cheapest. The author cites reserach that found that a dollar (back in 2006 or so)could buy 1200 calories of chips and cookies vs. 250 calories of carrots, or 875 calories of soda vs. 170 of fruit juice from concentrate. And neuorlogically, we tend toward the energy dense calories.

McDonald's, or any other fast food chain, embodies this principle. The meal the author and his family ate cost $14 back at the time the book was written, and included a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets (the white meat version), a "healthy" salad, a 32-oz Coke (which only cost 30 cents more than a 16 oz. Coke), a vanilla shake, large fries (as opposed to small), and a Dippin Dots type of dessert. The chicken nuggets, which at the time had been reformulated to include white meat chicken, still contained 38 different ingredients, thirteen of which the author could easily determine were derieved from corn. For the three people (the author, his wife, and their son) combined, an estimated 4510 food calories were consumed, some made possible in part by paying a little more for larger portions.

And then there's the corn factor. Given the additives (even in the grilled chicken found in the salad, as well as the salad dressing), most of the calories in the meal are derived from corn. In terms of actual corn, the author (using his knowledge of feed conversion rates and processing rates to make HFCS) figured that it takes about 6 pounds of corn to make just the cheeseburger patty, the chicken in the nuggets,and the three drinks that were consumed. The figure is much higher when you factor in all the other corn-derived additives in the meal. But to try and get a more definitive answer, the author worked with a biologist at UC-Berkeley who ran a chemical analysis on the various parts of the entire meal to look for the presence of corn. The result (with percent of corn listed in parentheses): soda (100%), milk shake (78%), salad dressing (65%), chicken nuggets (56 %), cheeseburger (52%), french fries (23 %). The most astonishing figure here to me is that the cheeseburger - predominantly meat and a bun, with a slice of cheese, ketchup, mustard, and pickle - is 52% derived from corn.

If you have seen the movie Supersize Me, you know the ramifications of eating in this manner. You can easily see how that 1500 pound bioligical limit can be overcome. And it's not hard to extrapolate from that the impacts on health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

There is much more to the story of course - after all, this is only a summary. I didn't even go into the major role the Federal Government played in all this, or how this relates to the American love of whiskey in the early 19th century. Or perhaps the most important aspect of the industrial food pathway aside from the impacts on human health - the impacts to the environment and dependency on fossil fuels. I'll save that for you to read when you get the book. :-)

The author's next meal looks at the industrial organic industry - and a meal made from foods purchased from Whole Foods. Please stay tuned for Part II of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The GFCF Recipe Review Experience - Peanut Butter Oatmeal Granola Bars by A Sugar and Spice Life

Please let me introduce you to Christine, who blogs at A Sugar and Spice Life. Christine started this blog back in August but she is not a stranger to blogging, having formerly blogged about her dollmaking and some recipes. But then it seems that life intervened. Her 2-year old daughter Sam was diagnosed with autism. And Christine began to have stomach issues as well. So on July 4 of this year, she and Sam went gluten free. In her words, going gluten free has been liberating- her stomach pains have disappeared, and she sees some positive signs in Sam too (though she's not jumping to the conclusion that these are solely due to the diet).

I can certainly relate to this, since this blog started as a means of sharing our experiences with the GFCF diet and autism.

I came across Christine's blog a couple of weeks ago as I was looking for a granola bar recipe to try - something the kids could pack in their lunch for school. Christine's peanut butter oatmeal granola bars looked fabuluous, and I immediately bookmarked the post. Last night I finally had the chance to make them.

In a word? Mmm...

Here is a link to Christine's recipe. And here is how mine turned out:


They are GFCF, simple to make, and are the perfect snack. Christine says they also freeze well, but I doubt mine will last long enough to test this out!

Thank you Christine for sharing this recipe. I for one am looking forward to trying some of your other recipes and reading your blog!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The GFCF Recipe Experience: Glazed Berry Cake

We are on our "last hurrah" for berries - not only are the prices starting to rise, but the kids have about had enough of them as well after a summer of enjoyment. So for our grand berry finale, I adapted a recipe found in The Best of Country Cooking cookbook, a compilation of reader recipes published in magazines such as Country and A Taste of The Country (both published by Reiman Publications. The compilation I have was published in 1993.

The original recipe called for raspberries, but I used a combination of raspberries and strawberries, and I think any combination of berries you have on hand would work fine.

It's Labor Day weekend - this is a wonderful dessert for that last summer picnic.



GLAZED BERRY CAKE
Adapted from a recipe in The Best of Country Cooking (Reiman Publications, 1993)


Ingredients


2 cups GF all purpose flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup CF margerine (I used Earthbalance Buttery Sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup CF milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp GFCF vanilla extract
3 cups berries, fresh or frozen (I used raspberries and strawberries)

For the Glaze:

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp CF milk
2 tbsp CF butter, melted
1 tsp GFCF vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan.

Using a whisk, combine the flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine the milk and vanilla in a separate bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the mixture becomes fluffy. Add the egg and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture, mixing well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the baking pan, and place the berries evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake at 350° for 30 - 40 minutes or until the center of the cake springs bake when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, combine the glaze ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Pour the glaze evenly over the warm cake.

Divide into 16 equal pieces and serve!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger: Vanessa from Celiac Princess

This months Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger event was hosted by Shirley at Gluten Free Easily. At my time of adoption, there were already 15 bloggers adopted (And now there are 19 - Wow!).

So who did I choose? I chose Vanessa Maltin, who blogs at Celiac Princess. Vanessa is the food and lifestyle editor of Delight Magazine, a magazine devoted to living the gluten free lifestyle and to those who live with other food allergies. She is also the author of two books - her most recent, The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook: Spicing Up Life with Italian, Asian and Mexican Recipes (Wiley), was released in April 2010. Vanessa's blog is an incredible resource for those who live a gluten free lifestyle.

What drew me to adopt her was the most recent recipe she posted. I am always on the lookout for quick and easy ideas for breakfast for my kids. This is more true now that school is back in session - it's a mad scramble trying to get three kids up and ready for school in the morning! On school days, breakfast is more of a grab and go kind of meal.

Recently, Vanessa posted about the importance of breakfast, citing the same reasons we have heard from the school - a well balanced breakfast helps kids concentrate better at school, be more alert, and be more active. As part of this post, she shared a recipe for one of her favorite breakfast dishes, cinnamon raisin oatmeal scones. It sounded yummy and simple to make - definitely worth giving a try!

And I was not disappointed.


Simplicity? How easy is it to essentially measure the ingredients into your stand mixer and let it do the work, then use your ice cream scoop to place them on a baking sheet to bake? And is there a better smell to have wafting through your kitchen in the morning than cinnamon?

And yummy? You betcha. Even the finicky boy liked them, though he would have preferred chocolate chips over raisins. But I digress...

Being GFCF, I used Earthbalance Buttery Sticks instead of stick butter, and the milk I used was almond milk. Everything else, though, was true to Vanessa's recipe.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to visit Vanessa's blog, and give these scones a try.

Special thanks to Shirley at Gluten Free Easily for hosting Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger this month!