gluten free portion control

this photo almost never happened: note the self control!
My experience with celiac disease has gone through a number of phases. One that I can't seem to shake is a complete lack of control where gluten-free baked goods are concerned. If there is something I CAN eat... I EAT it. Be it an entire box of cookies in less than 24 hours, or an entire cake. I don't exaggerate. I'm confessing. This likely stems from having grown up in a world where I rarely saw a box of cookies that I could eat. Perhaps I'm just making up for lost time :).

Admitting the problem is step one. One of my more recent management techniques, is to get out of the grocery store without buying VOLUME. I'm very frugal by nature, but sometimes, paying more for an individual serving means not feeling lousy about having overindulged. 

One of my latest finds has been this single serving chocolate walnut brownie by Sweets of the Earth. It is so sweeeeeet - that I can actually walk away (for at least half an hour) after eating only a few bites. 

For those of you who have more discipline, I would highly recommend the flourless cashew cookies - I've linked to their website HERE. I had to stop purchasing them as I can't find the strength to put them away before I've finished the box. I've also tried their vegan, gluten-free chocolate cake. I wouldn't dream of bringing home a cake just for me, but I'm very happy to see it turn up again and again at events so that I can enjoy a piece. These treats also work well for those who are unable to eat dairy or eggs.This is not a paid endorsement - I critique gf foods based on what I find, purchase and want to tell you about.

Next I need to locate where I can purchase their new gluten-free frozen cookie dough... that way I can make only as many cookies as I should eat in one sitting.


gluten-free at the Christmas party

The Party. If we are lucky, we have reasons to celebrate all year. What differentiates holiday parties is often the number we attend and the size of the affairs. I find the bigger the event the more gluten-ous the challenges. I thought I'd address a few of the specifics around large scale events on this post.

For starters, anything being walked around on a tray by a server is likely to include pastry, or something sitting on bread, or a meatball full of crumbs. At the risk of offending, I'll tell you not to ask the server if you're itching to know whether you can eat something he's offering. If possible, go to where the caterers are working and ask if there are any goodies in circulation that are gluten free. I've been a server at many catering affairs in days of yore. We just picked up the trays and moved the goods. We had nothing to do with the food prep and often little knowledge of the ingredients we were presenting. Also note - those trays that now carry something you can eat, were carrying the puffed pastry 5 minutes ago. We all have our own comfort level with contamination risks.
Food is also sitting unattended on tables. Lovely platters heaped with delicious looking goodies. Often no one around who knows what's on the plate either. If it's catered - follow earlier instructions. If this is a pot luck affair... you could get lucky and have someone tell you who brought what - and ask.

Typically - I use my good sense. I eat things that obviously safe (sadly, this is rarely the fresh veggies - I often resent this option, even though it's a smart and virtuous one). I'm not proud to admit, I'm the person who wipes out the cheese platter. I also eat the nuts, potato or corn chips (watching that corn chips are not multigrain, and potato chips are plain to be safe). They make decent substitutes for the crackers. I eat the olives.

Two other very important tips: one, when appropriate, bring something for the potluck that you enjoy eating and that will satisfy your hunger. Tip number two: never show up at a party hungry, even if it means eating trail mix in the parking lot before you arrive. 

I find I'm happier if I don't attend large gatherings with a focus on the food. I go for the conversation. I'm there to catch up and celebrate with friends, and meet some interesting new people. That said, if there is a cheese platter - I meet most of them in its vicinity.

I'll add that these parties are often less about the food and more about the beverages. Those are easier to manage, and I've gone into some detail on the safety of alcohol in a post HERE.

Happy Holidays!!


gluten-free spiced carrot cake

One of my favourite finds on our trip to Copenhagen was the little bakery across the street from our apartment. They made a carrot cake with a distinct cardamon flavour that knocked my socks off and inspired me to try my hand at some renegade baking when I got home. I say renegade, because I'm not a very scientific baker (read more on my technique HERE). I like to play - and assuming the textures feel right as I'm going, I feel pretty sure that the final outcome will be edible. 

I recognize that this is not the comfort zone of most people - so this time, I wrote down what went into the food processor (you could use a mix master - I'm too lazy to pull ours out). The outcome was a springy and delicious cake that we shared with Bennett and Angela. Last weekend I followed my notes and made the cake again in honour of my Mum's birthday. A hit on both occasions. It's a big and hearty cake - best shared.

My flour of choice is chick pea. I mix it with a little brown rice. If you have a favourite flour concoction - feel free to use it. Also, alter the spice quantities to suit your taste. Adding veggies and fruit makes most cake recipes more forgiving - eggs are important too. I don't use xanthan gum any more and don't miss it in cakes, muffins or cookies. I use organic ingredients when I can find them.

Spiced Carrot Cake

1/2 cup oil (safflower, canola, anything of quality with little flavour) you could also use softened butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamon
pinch salt
2 large carrots - grated
1/2 cup pitted dates chopped fine
1/4 cup crystalized ginger chopped fine 
1/4 cup walnuts chopped

Add ingredients in order shown into the food processor. Whirl them around on low with the paddle attachment between additions. Before you get to the carrots your mixture should be fairly stiff. Add carrots and turn up the speed so that they integrate well. At the end throw in the last bits and stir enough to blend them into the batter. 

Pour batter into a non-stick pan. Mine is 10" diameter and has a hole in the middle. This type of pan means that the batter never needs to rise across a wide distance. I credit the pan to the success of this. I'm sure you could also make two small non-stick loaf pans or a 10" diameter round pan work, but I cannot commit to the outcome :)
angel food cake pan or a bundt cake pan both seem to help with gluten-free cake success

The oven. I put the rack in the middle and crank it hot (ours is gas). When at least 400F I pop the cake in and turn the temperature down to 350F. Here it will sit permeating your home with a lovely spicy smell for the next hour. 

If you are not sharing - you can carve it up into about 16 healthy sized pieces. Wrap individually and freeze. They make an excellent emergency breakfast - and are handy for a last minute treat with tea at any time of the day!