Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Getting Some Perspective (Food Allergies, Vegan, Gluten-Free) -

Maybe you noticed that we haven't had a new post in a while.  Part of that is due to putting the finishing touches on our Welcoming Kitchen book.  It's due back at the publisher in a few weeks, and it's funny how much work there is to do on a book that I've been working on for four years!

Another reason, though, is that my son has had some medical problems in the last month.  About a month ago, I carelessly fed him a cookie that (unknown to me) contained nuts.  He took one small bite, and then spit it out, but he still had an allergic reaction.  He threw up and the inside of his mouth swelled up.  We are so lucky to live near one of the best children's  hospitals in the country, if not the world.  He was fine, but since this was his first anaphylactic reaction,  it was really scary for all of us. 

Even though I work on recipes that are safe for people with food allergies most days, that doesn't mean that I couldn't get a little lax.  Since the day we found out that our son had food allergies (when he was under a year old), we have been working toward the day when he might outgrow them.  We have protected him by fiercely avoiding contact with his allergens. 

But ... he had seemed so much better.  His numbers had come down.  Other allergy moms who I know weren't as strict as we were.  I certainly would never intentionally expose him to an allergen, but I also let my guard down a little bit.  And we had a rude awakening to the realities of living with food allergy.  It is a serious business.

A month later, we were back at the emergency room.  This time, it was for an asthma attack.  It took several days to get his oxygen levels under control.  It was very scary.  Luckily, he's now doing a lot better, and back to his soccer-loving, brother-wrestling, baseball-playing ways.

The positive thing that I take from this (because I'm always looking for the upside!) is the reminder about what's really important in my life.  It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine, and although I always know that I love my kids, I really remember now that I LOVE MY KIDS!  Hopefully, this feeling will last for a while.  Even when they're bickering and I'm tired, or even when the living room floor is covered in Legos and little cars.

It is my hope that our Welcoming Kitchen recipes will be safe for all of our guests to enjoy, but that some day we won't need special protections for my son, because he will have outgrown his allergies.  Until then, though, I'll keep up my guard and get back into Mama Bear mode to keep him safe. 

So, remember, even if you're careful, accidents can happen, so it's so important to stay aware.  (I will, too.)

I will have a post on a different take on gluten-free pasta in the next couple of days.

Happy Cooking!

My new book,  Ancient Grains: A Guide to Cooking with Power-Packed Millet, Oats, Spelt, Farro, Sorghum & Teff (Superfoods for Life)
is available now! Super Seeds, is available now! You can also find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Isn't it great when you learn something new? It's funny that when you're younger, you so want to seem that you know what's going on, that it's almost impossible to say, “Hey, I didn't know that.” Well … it's pretty awesome to be a little older and admit that you're not so wise! I recently learned something new about gluten-free baking.

I have always assumed that the sour taste of my batters was due to the use of xanthan gum. Cybele Pascal, allergen-free cook extrodinaire, told me that the sour taste was probably due to the gluten-free flour I was using, and not the xanthan gum. I put her theory to the test today.

The gals from The Last Crumb Bakery gave me some samples of their Cheatin' Wheat Gluten-free Flour Mix when we were at the Gluten-free Cooking Expo to try. When I'm trying a new product, I like to use it in a tried and true recipe. I don't have a more reliable recipe than my chocolate cake from our upcoming Welcoming Kitchen cookbook (out next spring). I mixed it up using the Cheatin' Wheat flour instead of the flour that I usually use. The one I usually use includes bean flour as part of the flour mix. This one is bean-free. I have to say that the batter did taste better. The cake tasted good, too (although it tastes great with the bean-blend flour, too). It definitely had a lighter texture than other flours that I've tried.

The thing that I've learned over the past several years of cooking allergen-free is that you can't expect your recipes to taste the same as traditional recipes. That holds true for both the batter and the finished product. More importantly, though, I not only believe --  I KNOW -- that you can make absolutely scrumptious foods that are safe for almost everyone. The great thing about the increased availability of products for the special-diets market is that there are so many quality options. Whether you need a gluten-free flour mix that is bean-free, corn-free or something else, there are good things to try.

So … even if it's ok to lick the spoon (and if it's egg-free, and the flour doesn't taste sour before it's cooked, you can), you still need to be prepared for the weirdness of xanthan gum. It will still make your hands and counters slimy if it gets wet. Just be sure to clean it up well, and know that it's helping your baked goods hold together spectacularly.

Happy Cooking!
Kim and Megan