Flour Tortillas, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on May 13, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, finally, finally I got around to developing a recipe for flour tortillas.  Thank you for your patience!

This recipe turned out to be more challenging to get right than I anticipated. But, I have gotten so many requests for flour tortillas–from my readers and from my family–that I was determined to figure it out.

I have to admit–I don’t really like the commercially available gluten-free flour tortillas.  They tend to be too stiff for me and they don’t really roll around fillings all that well.  And they taste kind of funny to me.  When I started to work on a recipe for these, I had a few some specific goals.  I wanted tortillas that:

1) were soft and fairly easy to roll around a filling
2) tasted like I remember wheat flour tortillas to taste
3) used easy-to-obtain ingredients

Traditionally, flour tortillas are made with lard.  Good, quality lard is somewhat challenging for me to get in Seattle, and I didn’t want to render my own, so I knew that if my recipe contained lard, I would never make it.  It turns out that butter is excellent for this recipe.  It provides a nice taste and the texture is perfect.  If you can’t use dairy butter, I would experiment with using lard, shortening, or coconut oil.  Don’t use a liquid oil, though–that will create a different texture for the tortillas.  Also, I played with the amount of salt in the tortillas until I got it to the level we like.  You can add more or less salt depending on your tastes.

If you are a kitchen gadget hound like me, this recipe is a great reason to pull out your tortilla press.  I got mine at a local Mexican store years and years ago for making my own corn tortillas.  It’s one of those single-use pieces of equipment that’s really fun to use.  I use my tortilla press for the first shaping–to create a nicely rounded disk.  I then transfer the dough to a floured rolling board and roll it out a bit thinner.  If you don’t have a tortilla press and you don’t want to get one, you can roll out the dough with a rolling pin. For the rolling process, I use a small Asian rolling pin. This is a handy tool for rolling out small bits of dough. If you don’t have one, you can just use your regular rolling pin. I will say that I use my small rolling pin much more than I would have thought I would.  It’s also handy to have a ruler to check the diameter of your tortillas as you roll them.  And a small knife is handy for cutting off the ragged edges

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreetings from sunny Seattle!  I am coming to you live from my garden.  Whenever it’s sunny and the slightest bit warm, I move my writing operations to the garden table.  I sit in the sun as long as my skin will stand it (about 15 minutes) and then put up the umbrella and settle in.  Being in the garden with the chickens and the other forms of wildlife is one of my most favorite things in the world.  It’s my sanctuary and my joy.

The chickens (or “The Girls”) love it when I come out here.  They are convinced that I am going to give them something delicious to eat.  When Girlfriend was small, she and her pals often had lunch and snacks out here.  The chickens came to learn that little kids eating macaroni and cheese tend to be messy–which means that a lot of macaroni and cheese ended up on the ground–and in the chickens’ beaks.  To this day, their favorite thing to eat is macaroni and cheese.

The "Girls" Left to Right: Peep, Billina (standing), Rosie, Lulu (in back of Rosie), Clover The “Girls” Left to Right: Peep, Billina (standing), Rosie, Lulu (in back of Rosie), Clover

The Girls also know that if I come out here to garden, chances are that I will dig up some delectable worms and bugs for them to snack on.  Our oldest chicken, Rosie (she’s the only one left from our first flock), follows me around quite closely whenever I’m gardening.  It’s often somewhat difficult to dig because she’s prone to sticking her head in the hole–within garden trowel range.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve almost bonked her on the head by accident.  As I garden and she snacks, we chat. She tells me about her day and how much she loves to eat bugs. I tell her how pretty she is. It’s a nice bonding time.

No matter where I am in the garden, all the chickens come by to tell me what’s going on. They usually do it with a high pitched kind of trill in their throat. The also make a “buk buk” sound that is more quiet and subdued than their normal “bawk! bawk!” that they make when they are announcing an egg being laid or sounding the alarm about something.  There’s also a noise they make when they are eating something delicious (like fallen sunflower seeds from the wild bird feeder) that sounds a lot like purring. So, I call it chicken purring. It seems to signal deep contentment. Which is what I feel in the garden. I think I will start purring, too.

As you know, Mother’s Day is in a couple of days.  There’s a cake recipe I’ve been dying to share with you that I think would be perfect for a Mother’s Day treat. It’s called the Pink Cake, and it’s the cover cake on the wonderful cookbook, Vintage Cakes, by Julie Richardson. Julie is the owner and head baker at the Baker and Spice bakery in Portland, OR.  Neither the book or the bakery is gluten-free, but both are so pretty and delicious looking.  I adapt her recipes to gluten-free and they are so good!

I had the good fortune to watch a cake frosting demonstration with Julie while she was in town promoting her book in the fall. And I learned a great deal! She showed us how to prepare and then frost the three layer Pink Cake, which is a chocolate cake with a Berry Buttercream. Not only is it a delicious cake, it’s a stunner!  The combination of pink frosting and three chocolate layers elicits ooos and aahs every time I’ve made it. I’ve now made it several times–for friends’ birthdays and for my own birthday. And, I will be making it for Mother’s Day. I know how to treat myself!

Some of the tips I learned from Julie during her demo are so simple and yet so perfect. One thing she recommends is that you freeze your baked layers before you frost them. This makes the layers less crumb-containing and easier to frost. The other thing she does is brush each layer with a sugar syrup mixture to add more moisture to the cake. This is brilliant! And, finally, she secretly adds a ganache layer underneath the berry buttercream layer–which puts this cake right over the top.

This cake isn’t overly difficult to make, but it does take time and patience. I usually bake the cake the night before I frost and assemble it. After the cake is completely cool, I wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer overnight. The next morning I take each layer out as I frost them. This keeps them nice and cold and easy to work with. After the cake is frosted, you want to place it in the refrigerator until about an hour before serving. This way, the frosting doesn’t get too soft and difficult to spread.

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Happy Mother’s Day to you and the mothers in your life!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you already know, my passion is baking. And, if you haven’t already guessed, one of my other most favorite things to do is to hang out with friends, chatting, and drinking wine. And if this hanging out can be done outside during warm weather, even better. And last week, a combo of all of these things came together at the suggestion of my pal, Jameson, the voice behind the delightful blog Wine Without Worry .

One day a couple of months ago, Jameson called and asked if I would like get together for a wine and baking afternoon. His thought was that we hang out, make the cheese crackers/straws recipe from my book, and then eat the fruits of our labors and drink champagne. Of course, I was delighted to say yes! I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than baking and drinking champagne.

Now, I knew that this wasn’t going to be any old champagne he would bring. He is a wine expert (he was just nominated for the coveted Saveur Best Wine or Beer Blog award). He works as a consultant for wine shops, farms, and organizations around Seattle. And he’s the Wine Editor for Foodista. In addition to all of his other endeavors, Jameson hosts a monthly wine podcast.  Therefore, I knew that when he said he would bring champagne, it would be special–and would be paired perfectly with the cheese straws. I couldn’t wait!  I have to admit: as much as I like to drink wine, I’m not that good at pairing wine with the food I’m eating. I usually pick a wine I like and call it good. Luckily, I have friends like Jameson who can bump up the wine-food experience from just “good” to “wow, this is amazing!”

One of the many things I like about Jameson is that he is curious and always willing to experience and learn new things. He always seems to be traveling to wine growing regions (hello, France!), wineries, wine shops, and to learn from and chat with other wine experts. I think this is a sign of someone who is truly passionate about what they do.  I love being around people who are working in the field they are meant to be in–it’s a joy to behold.  And, I love it when folks like Jameson pair their passion with teaching other people about their field.  This is Jameson.

He is such a busy bee (he is always traveling to gather more knowledge about wine and wine growing), and I had to deal with a long-term virus that felled my family for weeks (not nearly as glamorous as touring the wine country, I’m afraid) that we weren’t able to get together until last week. As it turns out, the day we got together was start of a run of spectacular spring days–a treat for us in rainy Seattle.

As we started, I asked if Jameson wanted an apron and he said, “sure!”  So, I gave him one of the dAhub’s aprons (everyone inOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA our house as at least one apron.  As you can guess, I have many).  As we started making the cheese crackers and straws, I asked Jameson if he ever baked. He said, “a little bit.” I was trying to gauge how much I would need to explain to him about the baking process. He then mentioned, almost off-handedly, that in graduate school he had worked in a bakery and that he had then apprenticed to a pastry chef. LOL! Typical Jameson–he is so humble and low key. So, we got to work in mixing and then rolling the dough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter we baked the straws and crackers, we went out into the garden to drink sparkling rosé and nibble on our creations. I got out a couple of champagne coupes that I had inherited from my grandparents. Even though flutes seem currently to be the preferred glass for drinking sparkling wine, I love coupes. They are so elegant and pretty and using them makes me feel like I’m hanging out at an elegant 1930s party.

I will admit, I don’t really know much about wine or champagne. I know what I like, but I don’t really pay that much attention to years or appellations or varietals or whatever. Luckily, I have friends like Jameson who know what they’re doing and can bring the appropriate wine to match the food. The champagne he brought–or I should say, sparkling wine (a sparkling wine isn’t officially a “champagne” unless it comes from the Champagne region of France)–was a sparkling rosé from the Tenuta Col Sandago winery in the Veneto region of Italy. And it was perfect with the cheese crackers.  And a bonus: it was so pretty in the coupes!

We spent a convivial couple of hours in the garden, drinking sparkling wine, eating cheese straws and crackers, and chatting about our lives and our work and our hopes and dreams. And, when it was time for him to go, he left the remainder of the champagne with me and I sent him home with the rest of the cheese sticks. He gave me the best compliment ever:”you’d never know these were gluten-free!”  Thank you for the lovely afternoon, Jameson!

Jameson’s blog post about our day.

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Cover--Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays COVHey all! I just wanted to let you know that I love hearing from everyone about how they have been baking from my book even though it’s not the Thanksgiving-Hannukah-Christmas season. Me, too! Every week I bake at least one thing from my book. And a friend of mine just asked me to make her a bûche de Noël for her June wedding as an extra cake for gluten-free folks. Instead of a Christmas log, we will call it a Spring Woodland log.

I realize that some folks don’t know that the book has recipes that can be made all year round. Even though the book’s focus is on the winter holidays, there are recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, breads, and pastries that fit any occasion.  For example, this week alone I’ve made the Chocolate Chip Cookies for a family treat and the Cheese Straws and Crackers for a wine date with a pal.  This weekend I’m going to make fried chicken and will use the Buttermilk Biscuits as a side.  And Girlfriend has requested that I make the Pumpkin Doughnuts as a snack tomorrow as an end-of-school-testing-week treat.

Therefore, I’d like to offer one personalized and signed copy of my book as a Mother’s Day gift for a special mom out there. To enter, see directions at the bottom of this post.

I’ve talked about my mom from time to time on the blog. She died in 1998, a few days after Mother’s Day. She had OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAadvanced breast cancer, but her system was so weak from treatment that she ended up having a heart attack while driving to work, which then caused her to have collision with a semi-truck. The semi-truck driver was fine, thank goodness.  After my siblings and I were able to get past the shock of our mother’s sudden death, we realized that she died just as she lived–in a blaze of glory. If you knew my mom, you know that she lived big. And she died big. I know it sounds crazy, but my siblings and my mom’s friends and I are kind of tickled at how she died because it was so over the top. You couldn’t die in a more dramatic way.  In addition, people told us that they saw an amazing rainbow in the direction of the highway on the day that she died. Everyone said, “I couldn’t believe how beautiful the rainbow was and then I heard about your mom and knew that it was her.”

My mom had a heart bigger than the size of California and enough determination to move mountains. Whenever I think about everything she did, I can’t quite believe it. She had her fair share of adversity. She was an alcoholic as a young adult, and she had two marriages and divorces. By the time I was 13, she was a recovered alcoholic and a single, divorced working mom with four young kids to raise–with me as the eldest.  You would think this would be enough for anyone to handle, but not for my mom–she was involved in everything. She worked full-time as a traveling speech and language therapist for the public school system where we lived. She had two master’s degrees. She not only went to church, but was the organist there. She went to a movie club, a book club, and had regular coffee dates with everyone she knew. She was quick to offer help to anyone.  When a friend’s son was in a coma after a horrific accident, my mom went to read to him several times a week for months.  We always had someone living with us.  One was a dear friend of ours who had bipolar disorder and couldn’t quite get on her feet.  The janitor from church camped out in our yard for awhile when my mom found out that he was homeless.  He didn’t want to intrude and therefore wouldn’t stay inside, but he had a nice tent and our climate was fairly temperate.  One of my high school friends got kicked out of the house by her parents for not wanting to go to the “right” college (!), so she came to live with us.

My mom believed she could do anything–and instilled that sense in all of us. There was never any thought that we couldn’t do what we set our minds to do. Whatever needed to be done, she just did it.  She was the kind of person that climbed up on our roof on rainy nights to put tarps over the holes. There was nothing she couldn’t fix with a little duct tape–I inherited that talent from her. We lived in a small town in California that had a large migrant farm worker population–and many of their kids were my mom’s students. My mom was also an audiologist, so in addition to knowing sign language, my mom learned Spanish so she could communicate well with her charges. We had parties where she invited her students to come over and do sign language “recitations.”  My siblings and I participated.  For years I would regale folks with my sign language version of “I Never Saw a Purple Cow” to rave reviews.

Whenever one of us kids wanted to learn something, she made it happen (although I don’t quite know how she did that–we were on such a tight budget). We all got various music lessons and went to camps.  As a very young kid, I wanted to go into theatre. She enrolled me in acting lessons and camps and classes and then later drove me to community theatres all over our small town to get to and from rehearsal. Finally, when I was about 15, she got me a moped because she needed the freedom to drive my younger siblings to all of their things, too. I grew up knowing that I would succeed at anything I wanted to engage with. I hope that I’m helping Girlfriend to do the same thing.

My mom also allowed me to have free rein in the kitchen. At certain points in her life, she was an avid cook–and had even belonged to a cookbook club when we were really young. I remember standing on a stool in the kitchen one afternoon and helping her to roll dolmades for the “Greek” night at her cookbook club. As long as I can remember, she let me experiment as much as I wanted to in the kitchen. And there were many cookbooks to help me along. I did have an Easy Bake oven for awhile, but that didn’t last long for me.  I wanted to bake “real” things.  I would peruse the cookbooks at nap time (I was an odd kid) and then go into the kitchen and work on recipes I thought looked fun. When I was very little, I had to climb up on top of the counters to get to the cupboards. To this day I can feel the cold counter linoleum on my knees as a hoisted myself up.

Of course, as a kid, most of the recipes that appealed to me were baked items–cookies and cakes–so I worked on those. For a long stretch of time in my elementary school years, our oven was broken and we didn’t have the money to fix it. That didn’t bother me–I just fried the cookies on top of the stove. And I made lots and lots of pancakes. At one point I tried to rig up a stove top oven using cookie sheets formed into a box shape–I don’t think that was very successful. I made do with whatever ingredients I could find in the cupboards.  For the most part, it was fairly well-stocked kitchen in the scheme of things–all of the basics were there–but I used substitutions if necessary.  For example, there was never any vanilla extract in the cupboards, so I just learned to use vanilla beans that were there–which made my cookies and pancakes look a bit odd to me, but they tasted good so I didn’t care.

Of course, when my mom died, it was devastating for all of us. But, it also felt oddly right somehow. She burned so brightly that she burned out sooner than others. I still miss her fiercely and am sad that Girlfriend never got a chance to meet her Grandma Barbara. But, she is with me in spirit and I’m grateful to have been able to call her my mom.

To enter the giveaway: leave a comment telling me something awesome about being a mom yourself or about your own mom or mother-in-law. Please leave a comment by 11 pm PST on Monday, May 6, 2013. I will choose a name at random using the Random Number Generator and contact you via email if you are the winner!

The winner, chosen by the Random Number Generator is Gloria!  I’ve sent an email to her.  Thank you so much for your lovely and moving stories about the moms in your life and about being a mom and a grandma.  I so loved reading them.

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Just to let you know that I will be teaching the following class this summer!

Pasta, Gnocchi, and Dumplings, Gluten-Free

Join Jeanne Sauvage, author of the blog Art of Gluten-Free Baking, as she explains the secrets behind creating exceptional gluten-free doughs. The right ingredients, techniques, and equipment are crucial to creating pastas and dumplings that taste just like you remember the wheat-filled originals. In this class you will revisit the basics of classic doughs in order to understand the challenges and foundations of gluten-free cooking as you learn to make gluten-free pasta with basil–pine nut pestogluten-free potato gnocchi with tomato-porcini saucegluten-free dumplings in a chicken-vegetable soup. Jeanne will teach you how to choose the right ingredients for your desired textures, and how to avoid cross contamination with gluten-full items.

The Pantry at Delancey, July 20th OR July 21st, 2013, 6:30-9:30 pm, $70
Registration (register early–these classes fill up quickly!)

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Ho Hos, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on April 28, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery so often I get a craving for Hostess snacks from my childhood.  The majority of my childhood took place in the 70s—which seems to me to have been the Hostess snacks heyday.  Or maybe it was my own personal Hostess snacks heyday because I was a kid then and they were the food of my childhood.

I think my mom kept my three siblings and me supplied with most of the main varieties of Hostess snack cakes: Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Donettes, and CupCakes. Of course, each of us had our own personal pecking order of favorites. The one we all agreed on to the same degree were the Donettes (the mini doughnuts)—they were considered by our mom as a “breakfast food” (which boggles the mind now)–so we didn’t need to worry about them being around because they were always there. Of course, being a chocolate fiend, I loved the chocolate covered ones best–but the powdered sugar ones were just fine.

Twinkies were at the bottom of the pecking order for me—mainly because they weren’t chocolate, which was an instant strike against them. And sometimes they were banana flavored (the original flavor), which I really didn’t like. I think my brother put Twinkies towards the top of his list, so they stayed in the house. One of my sisters was crazy for Ding Dongs, the hockey puck shaped, chocolate coated, cream-filled cakes. I liked Ding Dongs, but they weren’t my ultimate favorite. I think the problem with them is that I thought the chocolate coating was too thin.  And my other sister liked best the CupCakes with the twirly design on the top.

Even though Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and the CupCakes were all basically the same ingredients molded into different shapes, I did have preferences. Ho Hos were my favorite, followed closely by CupCakes and then Ding Dongs. I think the reason for this is that you were pretty much assured at getting everything—the cream filling, the chocolate cake, and the chocolate coating–in each bite. With Ding Dongs and CupCakes, you took a chance of getting a bite that didn’t contain all three at once. As I write this, it seems odd to me that Ding Dongs didn’t come in second for me—you were assured of at least getting the chocolate coating and cake in each bite. Yet, CupCakes were my second favorite—the chocolate frosting was thick on the top, so I could forgive it for having more cake than the others (the frosting was my favorite).  Ho Hos were the top for me. In addition to their superior ingredient arrangement, Ho Hos had the further advantage of an interactive component—you could unroll them and eat them flat. So, they were fun as well as delicious.

Every so often I’ve thought about creating a recipe for them over the years. Then, this past Christmas I got the amazing new Bouchon Bakery cookbook by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. As you know, in addition to his amazing restaurants, Chef Keller has several Bouchon Bakeries around the US. I’m sad that I have never been able to eat at any of them because I became aware of them after I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. But, this may change–as you may know, Keller has now come out with a gluten-free flour mix called Cup4Cup. And I’m wondering if he will (or already has) started offering gluten-free items in his bakeries. If you find that he has, let me know! I applaud Chef Keller for opening up his market to gluten-free folks. It’s so nice to have a superstar chef let it be known that he is aware of and is trying to accommodate those of us who are gluten-free.

Like all of Keller’s books, the Bouchon Bakery cookbook is like a coffee table book in size and weight and beauty.  But it’s full of the recipes from Bouchon Bakery—which makes it a goldmine of information. It is so fun look through and to fantasize over, even if it’s not that easy actually to use in the kitchen. I often go through the book and dream over what I’m going to make next. I will say, this book is more of a professional pastry book than an everyday baking book. But, that’s what makes Keller and his team so special and inspiring. They go above and beyond for all of their recipes. For this reason, I consider this book to be more for special, pull-out-all-of-the-stops baking than for everyday baking.

In addition to so many other fabulous recipes, it has a recipe for his version of Ho Hos. And they are the best dang Ho Hos ever. Like his version of Oreos, TKOs (which I adapted into gluten-free Oreos), his recipe for Ho Hos is amazing. It’s the childhood version all grown up. The ingredients are fresh and real. I realize that some folks want recreations of their childhood sweets to be exactly the same as those from childhood, but let’s be honest: actual Ho Hos aren’t that good.  They are plasticky and bland and are full of horrible ingredients like transfats and high fructose corn syrup.  After an adulthood of making my own delicious baked items, I want a Ho Ho that justifies the time and effort that goes into making them.

So, I set about adapting Keller’s recipe for Ho Hos, which he calls “Oh Ohs.” His version contains a cake layer with a cake type called a biscuit joconde, which an almond sponge cake. I took out the almond flour and turned the cake into a chocolate sponge cake. If you have my book, you will know that I used the Italian version of sponge cake, a genoise (which contains butter) for the bûche de Noël. The sponge cake for this recipe is a a classic sponge, which contains no butter.  The filling is a sweetened whipped cream, and the coating is made with melted chocolate chips.

This recipe does take time. It has several steps, including baking, rolling, freezing, and enrobing. I recommend that you read through the entire recipe before getting started so you can plan your time accordingly.  You will be richly rewarded with the best Ho Hos you’ve ever had!

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Note: I am not a medical doctor.  The following is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for speaking with your doctor.

Fruit bowl clip artI first learned of Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), also know as Food Pollen Allergy, also known as Food-Induce Pollen-Associated Oral Allergy Syndrome, when Girlfriend was in kindergarten.  One of the parents was struggling with many odd food allergies that her doctors couldn’t explain.  She reacted to greens (like kale) when she ate them raw.   I was interested in what could be going on, so I did some research.  At the time (2005) there wasn’t much info out there.  I finally found a personal blog where the person had the same reactions to things that my friend did and he called it Oral Allergy Syndrome.  Thus began my travels into the wacky world of how pollen allergies can affect reactions to food.  And, as it turns out, I am a major OAS sufferer.

What happens in OAS is a cross reactivity between plant pollens and fruit, vegetable, and nut proteins.  It’s actually a pollen allergy—not a food allergy.  So food allergy testing doesn’t help identify it.  Which is really confusing.   The only testing to be done is for pollen allergies to the pollens that cross react with the foods you’re reacting to.   Every time I have a new reaction my allergist looks at my pollen allergy chart and says, “yep, you’re allergic to birch trees (or whatever the appropriate pollen is).”

One thing about me: I’m allergic to everything.  When I got my official pollen allergy testing at my allergist’s office, she had the whole office come in to see my arm (where they did the skin pricks).  Apparently, I reacted the worst of any patient they had ever seen.  I react to everything.  And I have asthma—which also makes OAS more likely.  So, none of this is a surprise to my docs.

The primary culprits in OAS are tree pollens and grass and ragweed pollen.  So, if you react to those, then you may react to the raw foods that have similar pollen protein signatures (say that five times very quickly).    Sometimes the pollen protein signatures are things from the same botanical family, and sometimes they’re not.  And, further, you may react to one, some, or all–or none–of the raw fruits, veggies, and nuts that have the offending protein.  And, you may react to them during some times of the year and not other times of the year.   As you can imagine (or have experienced) this is confusing and annoying.

The reactions one can have to foods via OAS are varied.  Some of the reactions that OAS can cause:

-itchy mouth
-itchy throat
-swollen tongue–can be deadly
-swollen throat–can be deadly
-seized vocal cords (which make you sound like Daffy Duck—ask me how I know, thank you raw celery)
-stomach ache
-vomiting
-diarrhea
-anaphylaxis–can be deadly (I get this from raw bananas)

Part of the fun of OAS (not) is that the reactions can happen some times but not all of the time.  I have found that some of my reactions occur all year, while others of my reactions happen most often during tree pollen season—late winter into spring.  What this means is that I can eat a salad with raw lettuce during the summer and fall but I can’t eat raw lettuce in the winter and spring.  The reason for this is that my body is already overwhelmed with allergies, and adding more pollen proteins to things just makes things worse.  This, as you can imagine, is confusing (and annoying) to friends and family members who can’t keep straight what you can eat and not eat and when you can eat and not eat them.

The other funky thing about OAS is that you can react to some of the things in a pollen category, but not to others.  Also, you can be allergic to a certain tree pollen and not react to any of the foods that bear the pollen protein.  Further, apparently OAS gets worse as you get older.  So, I have been slowly losing things from my diet.  For example, up until Girlfriend was in 1st grade, I could eat raw carrots with abandon.  Then, out of the blue, I started getting stomach-ache when I ate raw carrots.  I also started getting stomach-ache from apples.  As it turns out, these two are linked by the protein signature.  Each year, I seem to react to a new raw thing.  I joke that I may be stuck eating air pretty soon.  And as I looked back on my life, I realized that I had stopped eating all melons because they make my mouth itch.  Melons are high on the list of OAS foods.

The thing that is very odd about OAS (on top of all of the other odd things) is the fact that once you cook any of the things you can’t eat raw, it’s usually fine to eat.   For example, I get a really bad stomach ache and horrendous diarrhea when I eat raw zucchini (so no raw “zucchini noodle” salads for me).   But, if it is cooked well, I can eat it by the plateful.  This is why I microwave grated zucchini before I put it into zucchini bread.  I found out the hard way that the baking process doesn’t cook the zucchini enough for me.

And, because OAS isn’t logical (at least to me), there are some things you can’t eat even when cooked.  Broccoli falls into this category for me.  It makes me extremely ill even when I cook the heck out of it.  Be on the alert for these types of things.

If you suspect that you have OAS, you might want to talk to you doctor about it.  And be aware if you experience difficulty breathing or a swollen throat when you eat something.  This is a sign of potential anaphylaxis and it can be fatal.  If this is you, you need to make an appointment with your doctor to prescribe an epi-pen.  Apparently, about 2% of OAS sufferers have anaphylaxis to some of the foods they react to.  This is me and bananas.  I found this out the hard way one when I was sitting in on a class one day and ate a banana as a snack and all of a sudden, felt my throat closing up.  Oddly, I had eaten a banana the day before and had been just fine.  This is how bizarre OAS can be.

OAS Survival Tips

-If it makes you feel bad, don’t eat it.  It’s not worth it.

-Experiment with peeling your fruits and veggies.  Apparently, the pollen proteins are found in high quantities in the peel.  So peel your apples, peaches, nectarines, cucumbers, etc. and see how you feel when you eat the raw peeled fruit.

-Keep a diary of what you react to and when.  My experience shows me that I react to some things year round and other things during high pollen season.

-Cook things well.  Just lightly steaming something isn’t going to help for most of these things.   I have found that lightly roasting nuts doesn’t help.  They need to be well roasted.  Also, dried fruit and vegetables tend to be OK to eat.  As are canned fruits and vegetables.

-Identify those things you CAN eat raw.  It turns out that I can eat cauliflower raw.  But not broccoli or cabbage.  Who knows why, but I will take it.  Cauliflower and dip is an excellent party choice.  I always make a beeline to the veggie tray at parties and load up on cauliflower.

-Be aware that you may react to more and more things as time goes by.  Just be on the alert for this.  I have learned the hard way not to eat any raw things at parties or restaurants if I’m not absolutely sure that I won’t react to it.

-This may sound odd, but if I am at a friend/family member’s house and they are serving raw veggies, I ask if I can steam/roast/or boil some of them.  I just nip into the kitchen and do this.   Clearly, this is best done in a kitchen that you know well, but it is possible.  And I am sure to clean up after myself.  Also, at this stage, some of my friends just know to steam things for me before I arrive—which is very nice!

-Ask you doctor about allergy shots to the corresponding pollens.  There isn’t a lot of data out there on the effectiveness of allergy shots, but it’s worth a talk with your doctor if this appeals to you.

More information on OAS can be found here and here.

One last note: many OAS information sites/sheets don’t list nuts. But nuts are part of the issue, too.

image from wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-victorian-flowers-and-fruit

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Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on March 30, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t seem to stop messing with recipes for hot cross buns. It’s not that these buns were particularly important to my childhood Easter celebrations, but apparently they left a big impression on me. I have my basic recipe that I seem to tweak more than I usually tweak my other recipes. In fact, I’ve been thinking about them all week, wondering if I should tweak them again. Then I got a call from my pal, Marc (warning: he is a major potty mouth). He’s having an Easter brunch for friends, and one of them is gluten-intolerant. He sent me a hot cross bun recipe he wanted to make and asked how hard it would be to change it to gluten-free.

I am always happy to help folks adapt recipes in order to allow them to welcome more folks to the table.  I am overjoyed when people want to include those of us who have food allergies or intolerances. And it turns out that the person he wanted to make the recipe for is a mutual friend of ours who just recently realized that she is gluten intolerant.  I will admit, though,  that this kind of thing also fills me with a certain amount of anxiety. Especially since the recipe that he wanted to adapt is yeasted. As you know, yeasted recipes require much more tweaking than just a simple cup for cup replacement of gluten free flour for wheat flour. So, I told him I would work on it and see what I could come up with in short period of time.

It turns out that the recipe is one of the must fussy recipes ever. It requires a million bowls and several steps and cooking and straining and resting and rising. This totally cracks me up because it is soooo Marc.  He is a culinary school graduate.  He and his husband often make elaborate dinners for their friends and family members.  Just listening to his preparations for these meals makes me want to take a nap.  But mostly they make me happy–cooking is not his livelihood but it’s his joy and his passion.

Anyway, I wanted to help out and of course it gave me an excuse to work on hot cross buns, again–win-win!  I spent most of yesterday working on adapting the recipe. It uses a technique that I am wanting to use more and more with my baking—rolling out dough with your hands. I have found that it’s challenging to create a gluten-free yeasted dough that can be manipulated by hand, but that bakes up moist in the middle. Most of the time, a dough that is firm enough to be manipulated often bakes up into an end product that is more dry than I would like it to be.  I am still learning about ways to do this that are satisfactory to me–and I hope to share more in the coming months.

I am really pleased with this recipe because it bakes up into buns that a supremely flavorful and moist–they are more dense than my basic recipe and are chock full of apples, dried fruit, and spices.  And they have an appley-cinnamon sticky glaze on top that puts this recipe right over the edge.  They are a wonderful addition to your Easter baking!

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Note:  Instructions for how to boil gluten-free pasta are after the jump.

Like many families, ours has two working parents (although I am lucky enough to work at home) with a busy kid.  It’s so funny because generally I don’t really think of us as busy –but then I realize that that every day we seem to be doing something.  Girlfriend seems to have something every day of the week.  D’Ahub and I have our work and our other activities after work.  I’m kind of a social butterfly and am always flitting to a knitting group, book club meeting, or PTA.  And the house and the garden and the chickens require our attention at least some of the time.

And, I enjoy being busy as long as I enjoy what I’m busy with.  Of course, this past fall was very busy because I was promoting my book.  Every night seemed to contain a book event or class, the days were filled with baking for the events.  When I went out of town, d’Ahub and I had to arrange schedules so Girlfriend could get to her events.  This kind of busy is a “happy busy”–I enjoyed it because I was getting the chance to do all the things I love—bake, meet people, and teach classes.

[This post has been interrupted for some shameless self promotion:  Speaking of my book: have you gotten your copy yet??  Use the link to the left!]

Regardless of how busy we are, we do have dinner together each night.  It’s our chance to relax and connect.  I love to cook, but for dinners during the week we need easy to prepare meals that are delicious, balanced, and nutritious.  And that accommodate our gazillion food allergies/sensitivities.  Many of these are one pot meals—my favorite type of meals for busy days.  I love being able to put everything in one pot and be done with it.   One of my big challenges is that I tend to get stuck in dinner ruts.  We end up having the same 7 dishes over and over, week after week.  The dishes tend to change with the seasons to accommodate the produce and types of food that are best for each time of year, but still…  And while having a rotation isn’t terrible, I do feel the need to break out of ruts from time to time.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my recipes with you in case you’re looking around for easy dinners to make on busy nights.

Today’s dish is Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Chili, and Bacon.   I saw something like it on Ellie Krieger’s Instagram stream–she was at a restaurant and posted a photo of her dish. (By the way, are you on Instagram?  I’m there as fourchickens)  It looked so good that I immediately did a Google search and found a recipe for a dish that sounded like it on the New York Times website.  As per my usual way of doing things, I tweaked the dish to accommodate our needs.  It turned out so delicious that Girlfriend and d’Ahub asked that we put this into our regular dinner rotation.  The wonderful thing is that other than the pot you boil your pasta in, the dish uses one pot.

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I’m getting more and more questions about how to make my bread recipes in bread machines. This is a tricky subject because all bread machines are different and seem to have different settings.  I have the Breadman TR875 (which is no longer available) and I can give you info on how to use that machine, but I don’t have info for how to do my recipes in other machines.

Therefore, I have an idea: I would like to invite you to help me help the other folks on this blog who want to use different bread machines.  The idea is: you use my Soft Sandwich Bread and/or my Multigrain Bread recipe(s) in your bread machine and  then report back your successes to us in the comments to this post. I will then add that information onto the chart below. I will also add columns if needed (for example, if your machine offers the options of different temperatures, etc.).  Hopefully, this will turn into a document that is valuable for all of us. I will also give credit to folks who provide information.

How to comment:  Include the bread recipe you used, any changes you made, the bread machine you used, the settings that worked on that bread machine (see the chart below for info), and the total time it takes in the machine.  For the purposes of this post, it’s best for folks only comment with successes–it’s not that helpful to know about stuff that didn’t work for the purposes of this post. :)

Here goes!

Jeanne's Soft Sandwich Bread in Bread Machines
Brand Setting Color Loaf Weight Total Time
* Breadman TR875 Basic Medium 1.5lb 3hrs 13mins
* Breadman TR444 white regular 1.5 lb (thx to Brenda B)
* Cuisinart CBK100 white gluten-free ? (thx to Tamra)
* Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker white gluten-free ? (thx to Beth)
* Chefmate TR7000 Reg Crust level 1 ? (thx to Carolyn)

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Jeanne's Multigrain Bread in Bread Machines
Brand Setting Color Loaf Weight Total Time
* Breadman TR875 GF Medium 1.5lb 1hr 17mins

NOTE: gluten-free breads don’t usually need more than one rise, but in my machine, there is no way to get a longer rise without using a cycle that has several rises and punch-downs.  So, that’s why the Basic setting works well for the Soft Sandwich Bread.  The Multigrain does well on the Gluten-free setting because it seems to need less time to rise and bake.

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