Monday, April 29, 2013

Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix by Bob’s Red Mill

I am about to write a product review of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Homemade Wonderful Bread Mix,
but before I do I have to fess up. The FTC says I am supposed to tell you when I write about products that I receive for free, and the truth is – I don’t remember if I the folks at Bob’s sent me this mix, or if I purchased it. I have (from time to time) received product from Bob’s Red Mill, and I have also purchased quite a bit. So there you have it.

During the writing of Learning to Bake Allergen-Free I tried many off-the-shelf baking mixes, and created recipes from some of my favorites for the book. This happens to be one mix I hadn’t got around to trying prior to publication.

This mix is part of Bob’s gluten-free line, which means it is made in a dedicated wheat-free and dairy-free facility. While it doesn’t contain any of the other top-8 food allergens, the facility does process tree nuts and soy. The mix uses a garbanzo bean flour base (along with other flours and starches), and guar gum. I know that some of you need flour blends without rice or xanthan gum, and this contains neither.

Another thing I am asked a lot about bread mixes is – can you make it in a bread machine? The answer is yes. While I used the by-hand instructions, this mix can also has instructions for a bread machine.

I did need to adapt the add-in ingredients. I used hemp milk for the milk. Instead of ¾ cup eggs plus egg whites I used ½ cup flax seed gel and
¼ cup applesauce. Instead of butter I used grapeseed oil.

I found that I needed considerably less time in the oven than suggested. The directions called for 60-65 minutes baking time. I set my timer for 50 minutes (15 minutes less than the suggested time) and found that I left it in a little too long; my thermometer was already up to 212 degrees – optimal would be 205-210. Forty-five minutes would have been perfect.

The result was a slightly deformed bread (it sunk in along the sides a bit), but nicely browned and quite tasty:

I know some of you turn up your noses at garbanzo bean flours. To my taste buds there is no discernable bean taste to the bread – it has a nice mild taste with a very traditional bread-like consistency. It also held up well over the next few days without getting the mushy tops that some gluten-free bread does. All in all I was very happy with this bread mix, and add it to my list of off-the-shelf options. It makes a great sunflower butter and jam sandwich:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The GFAF Expo – At the Author’s Table

Earlier this week I gave you the rundown of some of the great products I found at the Gluten-Free & Allergen-Free EXPO in Chicago. Today I’d like to share an update from the author’s table. In case you weren’t able to attend, here’s what you missed.

I must say that I was thrilled to be able to sit at the author’s table with my book. There is nothing more fun that being able to talk to readers and help solve their gluten-free and allergen-free baking issues.

There were two fabulous books for children. April Runge and Kim Diersen wrote a charming tale of a child who had a monster in his belly. Kim is pictured here with their book:

A complete review of that book is coming soon.

Amy Recob was there on Sunday with BugaBees and BugyBops:

You can find my review of the BugyBops here.

Despite the fact that this was a food conference, most of the books were non-food books. Donielle Baker was there on Saturday with her book, Naturally Knocked Up:

And Stacey Stratton of Peanut Free Zone was sharing Allergies at School,a much-needed resource to help parents navigate the school system.

At the end of the day on Sunday, we were the last ones standing:

Pictured left to right: Colette, Kim, April, Stacey

Do we look exhausted? I’ll be sure to rest up for the next GFAF Expo in New Jersey in September.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back From the Gluten-Free & Allergen-Free EXPO in Chicago

What a weekend!

A pizza party by Schar at D’Agostino’s, meeting up with some of my favorite bloggers, two full days of signing books… there was barely time to visit all of the vendors with their new goodies. But I did manage to sneak away from the author table every now and then and fight my way through the crowds for samples. While many samples needed to be eaten on the spot (such as Crave Bakery’s totally awesome brownies), I did manage to bring a few things home with me:

Luckily I sold out of books, so there was plenty of room in my suitcase!

Of course, everything was gluten-free, and I was thrilled to find that most vendors are now making more and more products top-8 allergen-free. There was even a nut-free zone so that families with nut allergies could walk through that section of the EXPO without concern. Kudos to the GFAF Expo team for doing that!

I haven’t tried everything yet, but of what I have tried, the Way Better snacks get a big thumbs up from me! And of course, the Enjoy Life snack mix and Pamela’s Brownies are ongoing faves.

I was very excited to sample Enjoy Life’s new Decadent Bars. Unfortunately, I found them to be way too sweet; I guess the word “decadent” should have clued me in. Nevertheless, the new bars – like all of Enjoy Life’s products – are top-8 allergen-free.

Of the goodies that I sampled or saw while there, these were some of my favorites:

Nessalla’s Kombucha is a fermented tea; I would have been drinking it all day long if I could have. Gludles pasta (contains eggs) is among the best pasta I have ever tried; it tastes just like homemade pasta.

There are a few items of special note, that I will be writing more about later:

GF Harvest was there with their Gluten Free Oats. These oats are grown from the start to be gluten-free. They were sampling the Canyon Oats granola, which I may already be addicted to (and have already ordered a large bag from amazon of). They also gave me some oatmeal in a cup, which I had for breakfast on Sunday. While I found the oatmeal in the cup to be too sweet, I love the concept of oatmeal to take on the go. I’m looking forward to trying the plain oatmeal (which I have also already ordered from amazon).

I am (still) in search of a great wheat-free and soy-free shampoo and conditioner. I am tired of being itchy after a shower, and I am tired of shampoos that make my hair feel like straw. I was very excited to find NYR Organic, and purchased some hair care products to try. (I will be sure to let you know what I think after I try it.)

Nada Bits gave me some tortilla crumb chips to take home and create with. I tasted some while there – there are both fruit flavored varieties for baking with and plain varieties for cooking with:

The food coloring is all natural (yeah!) Perhaps I’ll try a tortilla streusel topping. What do you think?

And lastly, chocolate. I happened to venture by the blogger booth (yes, there was a very cool area for bloggers to strut their stuff) at the end of the day Sunday where vendors were giving product to bloggers. Despite the fact that most of the author’s were also bloggers, we were at opposite ends of the EXPO. I begged (yes, I really begged) for these Pascha Organic chocolate bars:

They are top-8 free and gluten-free. I will definitely tell you more about these after I try them. You may be surprised that they even made it home. (They wouldn’t have if they weren’t in my checked suitcase, as my plane sat on the runway for three hours waiting to take off.)

But – by far – they best part of the EXPO was hanging with friends and blogging buddies:

That's Cindy Dent Gordon, a.k.a. Vegetarian Mamma above

and Keeley McGuire who blogs about allergy-friendly lunchboxes!

More about the authors and their books in another post coming soon!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It’s Not Your Fault Your Child Has Food Allergies

Listen up moms of kids who happen to have food allergies; I’m talking to you.

I’m tired of the articles that blame moms.

Yes, we carried the child and we passed on our DNA, but we didn’t do (or fail to do) anything to cause food allergies. As moms we protect our children. We are the same moms who labor through elimination diets, hawkishly read labels, seek out the best doctors, and make sure our kids have the right meds. We do anything and everything we can to keep our children safe.

Let’s agree that it’s not your fault your child has food allergies:

It’s not because you breast-fed too long.

It’s not because you didn’t breast feed long enough.

It’s not because you fed your child peanut butter too soon.

It’s not because you didn’t feed your child peanut butter soon enough.

It’s not because you used anti-bacterial soap.

It’s not because your kids played in the dirt.

It’s not because you gave your child soy formula when none of the other options worked.

It’s not because you had a craving for ice cream while you were pregnant.

We all made the best decisions we could based on the information we had. Maybe someday we will have hard evidence on what does cause food allergies and how to prevent them. I sure hope we do. In the meantime…

Enough with the Mommy guilt trip already!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Making Polenta Croutons

Earlier this year I wrote about a meal I had at a local restaurant. During that meal I was able to share a Caesar Salad with my husband. Why was that possible? Because they used Polenta Croutons.

Under normal circumstances Caesar Salad in a no-go for me – the croutons are so often mixed right in that it’s not worth the risk to try to order without croutons. But at the Artist’s Palate, their salad is always gluten-free. Woo-hoo!

Since that meal, it’s been on my list to make my own Polenta Croutons. From my trials thus far I have decided that a recipe for Polenta Croutons is more about the method than the ingredients – short of the recipes that add cheese there is little to no variation in ingredients in the recipes I have found.

My technique isn’t perfect yet (in other words, I still think the croutons at the Artist’s Palate are better) – but these croutons were quite good with my chili last night.

Polenta Croutons

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups water
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp chopped basil (optional)
½ tsp chopped parsley (optional)

Combine the cornmeal, pepper, olive oil and 1 cup of water. Stir together well.

This step ensures that you won’t have clumps of cornmeal in your polenta.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Slowly stir in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low. Cover, but leave vented. Stir every 5-10 minutes for 45 minutes, until thick and smooth.

Transfer to a food processor or high speed blender. Add the optional spices. Blend until very smooth. This step provides a smooth paste. If you prefer your croutons crunchy, skip this step.

Spread the polenta onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate for an hour until set.

Flip the parchment onto another sheet and peel back.

Cut the croutons into slices and arrange with space between them. Bake at 400 for 40-50 minutes, flipping halfway to brown on all sides.

Throw them on your soup, salad, stew, or pasta.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Your Biggest Food Issues

We all know that understanding what food(s) to avoid and finding them is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food allergies. Am I right?

There are so many more issues when it comes to safe food, and today I want to know what’s top of mind for you. Which of the following are your biggest concerns? Choose as many as you like, and feel free to write in other food issues in the comments. Thanks!

What are your biggest food issues?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Finding the Sweet Spot – The Science of Baking

It’s there – that spot in the middle of the racquet that feels just right when you hit the tennis ball, the spot on the backboard that assures the basketball will glide through the hoop, or the spot on the cue ball that will cause it to stop in its tracks when it hits another ball, guiding the second ball right into the pocket.

The sweet spot. It’s not always a single point – there’s a little bit of room just above, below, or to the sides, but it’s undeniably there.

No, I’m not talking about sports, or about sugar, but I am talking about baking. Yes, there are sweet spots in baking.

How do you know when your yeast bread has risen enough? How do you know when your batter is properly mixed, or when your shortening is properly creamed with the sugar? How do you know if you should add more water to dough? Or when your flaxseed gel is ready to use? How do you know when your baked goods are done?

These are just a few of the sweet spots in baking, and – as with all things – once you find the sweet spot, you will recognize it. Of course, the best way to get really good at the science of baking is to practice. I think of every baking project as a science project, but it’s actually a series of science experiments rolled into one larger science project – baking.

It also helps to have a really great recipe that not only gives you specific times for key steps, but the visual cues to go along with it. For example:

If your gluten-free yeast bread starts to develop tiny pock marks during proofing, you are just outside the sweet spot – get it into the oven, now! (and reduce the proofing time in the future).

Your flaxseed gel is ready to use when it is a gloppy consistency (like an egg). If you mix it in with while it’s still too wet you may not get the texture you want.

Jam (made on the stovetop) is done when you can draw a spoon through it and – for just an instant – it leaves a track in the pan.

Do you have a baking sweet spot you are trying to find? Leave a comment with your question and I will do my best to answer it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Got Inclusion?

The National Allergy and Anaphylaxis Allergy Council (NAAC) has announced a new initiative called “Got Inclusion.” The focus is on driving policies within schools for parent/teacher and parent/teacher/student organizations.

Do your or your kids with food allergies feel left of activities planned by these organizations? Is food central to the meetings/activities? The NAAC wants to know what your experience has been. Please take the survey if you have a school-aged child with food allergies. Click here to take the survey.

Click here to find out more about the campaign.