Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tiny Typo Topples GF Treat

Subscribers to Gluten-Free Living know I’m not happy in the kitchen. But, like a 95-pound weakling giving advice on tackling in football, I ventured into the baking field in our last issue by including a recipe for my mother-in-law’s cheesecake. It’s delicious and really easy to make.

But like anything else, you need a little experience and careful attention to details. In this case, the attention to tiny details should have extended to the production portion of the last issue. The recipe, as printed in the magazine, says, “Beat the egg yolks until stiff.” Frankly, I know enough to be dangerous in the kitchen, but I have a feeling you could beat those yolks until New Years Eve 2011 and they still might not be stiff.

The recipe in the magazine directs you to first separate the eggs and then beat the yolks until thick. So far so good. But then comes the mention of beating the yolks until stiff. The copy should have read, “Beat the egg whites until stiff.” That tiny typo got by me, our entire editorial staff, our graphic designer and our proofreader. I’m really sorry.

So, in the event you are looking for something to serve New Year’s Eve 2010, here’s the corrected version of Lily’s Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 325o

Crust: Actually the cake is fine without a crust. But if you want one, try Kinnikinnick’s Graham Style Crumbs, see if there is a recipe in one of your GF cookbooks, or simply crush some GF cookies with a rolling pin and mix them with melted butter (1-2/3 cup cookie crumbs to 1/3 cup melted butter). Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.


6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 tspn. vanilla
1 tspn, lemon juice
1 lb. cream cheese (2 8-oz. pkgs.)
1 pint sour cream

Beat the yolks until thick. Then add sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon juice. Add cream cheese and beat, and then add sour cream. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff (but not dry) and fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into crust.
Bake at 325o for one hour. Turn the oven off and leave cake in the oven for one hour more without opening the door.
Serve plain or with whatever topping you’d like. This makes a very big cake.

Whether or not you serve Lily’s Cheesecake for your New Year’s celebration, I join Amy and Kendall in wishing everyone a Happy New Year and the best of everything in 2011. For my part, I promise to aim for no typos in our issues and no more terrible headlines!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are You Prepared for a Blizzard?

What a storm! It put a damper on our travel plans, but I was so grateful to be safe and sound at home. Over the years I have tried to make sure my household had a level of preparedness for anything, but I have to admit that I was woefully unprepared this time around.

My refrigerator had the leftovers of Christmas and all the goodies I was supposed to take to our extended family celebration. I had our favorite sweet potato dish to feed twenty people. I also had salad fixings for that same number. I always make an apple crisp, so I have apples coming out the wazoo.

Milk, bread and other staples were still there but I had no bottled water and very few canned goods.

I can tell the kids are getting older because I did not have any AA or D batteries. Typically, Christmas time is the one time when I am loaded with batteries for toys or games! As a quirky twist of fate, I had picked up keychain LED flashlights at Home Depot as a stocking stuffer. Other than those, I only had one working flashlight. I had four pillar candles, two tapers and precisely three tea lights left. I had two logs for the fireplace after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fires.

As the snow swirled and the inches piled up, I became increasingly concerned as I saw these pops of light from a transformer up on a power pole.

The next day, after the snow had stopped and we had finished digging out, we did lose power. As the house started to get cold and there were no Con Ed trucks in sight, I went out to gather some things to get us through the night. I picked up a jumbo pack of hand warmers, a jumbo pack of LED candles, lots of unscented candles, firewood and something to heat on the stove for dinner.

I illuminated the house with candles and everything glowed. Even though the wind was whipping, the house had not dropped below 60 degrees so it was fine.

I whipped up a huge pasta dinner that, according to my husband, managed to involve every pot in the kitchen. The celiacs had Tinkyada shells and the regulars had sausage and cheese raviolis that I had picked up in my shopping adventure. We grabbed some of the lettuce from the fridge and placed the milk and some juice into a snow bank right outside the back door so that we could keep the refrigerator closed.

All in all, it was a pretty cozy few hours. My blackberry was dead, my daughter’s iTouch was dead, the wireless was down, the celiac’s cell phone went dead…so we just hung out. As we were about to fire up an Uno game, we heard the big Con Ed cherry picker rumble down the street. Power was restored and we were back in business!

To me, this was a wake-up call. We are so wired and in constant communication that it’s easy to forget that when the power goes down, those little devices aren’t going to get you through an emergency. You have to actually take time to prepare. It’s time to stock up on canned goods, long shelf life GF food, batteries, bottled water and grab some of those LED candles too!

Something tells me it’s going to be a very long winter.
Kendall Egan

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gluten-Free Cookie Keepers

In my last blog I wrote about trying some new cookie recipes from General Mills "live gluten freely" website.
I'm happy to report that not only did they look very appealing, they tasted great too.
The Russian tea cakes had the traditional short-bread texture, softened a bit by the powdery confectioner's sugar. No one suspected they were made without wheat flour. And surely no one would have guessed the key ingredient was gluten-free Bisquick.
The grasshopper bars are made with a base of Betty Crocker gluten-free devil's food cake mix, topped with creamy icing tinted green and flavored with mint. They were easy to cut and  the bottom held together unlike some gluten-free bar cookies that crumble. They tasted moist and had that terrific combination of chocolate and mint.
Since these two recipes turned out so well, I was encouraged to try at third from the website, holiday layer bars. I had originally put the recipe aside because it uses the Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix. I don't like the mix because it results in cookies that have that tale-tell gritty gluten-free taste and so many other chocolate chip recipes make much better cookies for less money. And the recipe called for candied cherries, which look and taste like plastic to me.
But I decided to just skip the cherries and see if this recipe, too, was a keeper.
The cookie mix forms the base of the bar, which is then topped by a mix of white baking chips, coconut, cashews and sweetened condensed milk. You end up with a rich, chewy bar. I think the rich topping helps cut the grittiness of the cookie bottom.
So I will file all three in my recipe box. You can find the recipes here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last minute gluten-free Christmas tips

I am at that point in the holidays when I don't ever want to be in a grocery store, department store, discount store or mall ever again.
At this point what I need most, I think, is the liquor store!
I jest.
Instead I am spending a lot of time in my kitchen making the holiday cookies that matter to me even though my family is scratching their heads over why we need so many different kinds.
A few years ago I started making almost exclusively gluten-free cookies. It saves me from having to keep my gluten-free daughter's cookies meticulously separated from cookies made with wheat flour.
In the early years, I made two versions of everything. My recipe cards still have notations on how to divide out a portion of the wet ingredients to mix with gluten-free flours.
But gluten-free flour mixes and recipes have improved so dramatically that I find the gluten-free cookies I make are fine for everyone.
I thought I would share some of the things I am doing this year, in case you are searching about for some ideas as the minutes count down to Christmas.

Birds' Nests
My family likes these treats made with a simple combination of one cup of  melted chocolate chips, one cup of melted peanut butter chips, one cup of potato sticks and one cup of peanuts mixed all together and dropped by a teaspoon onto wax paper laid on cookies sheets. Then just leave them to harden. The original recipe called for butterscotch chips, but I had trouble finding a brand that did not contain gluten from barley malt so I just switched to peanut butter chips.
This recipe couldn't be easier.

Peppermint Sticks
I found this recipe in an old magazine and thought it looked very pretty. Essentially, you dip the tips of old fashioned Peppermint Sticks in a chocolate mix made by combining four squares (1 oz) of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon of shortening in a saucepan and heating until melted. Dip one end of the stick into the chocolate, then dip that into chopped nuts or sprinkles.  Lay on wax paper until the chocolate hardens.

Peanut Blossoms
Aside from cut-out sugar cookies, these have to be one of the most popular holiday favorites. I always made two versions of this recipe until I realized that if you use a basic cookie recipe that calls for one cup of peanut butter, one cup of sugar and two eggs you will have a cookie that pleases everyone. After I mix the above ingredients I put the mixture in the refrigerator so it hardens up a little. Then I roll 1 inch balls, quickly roll them in granulated sugar and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. While the cookies are still warm and on the cookie sheets, I press one unwrapped Hershey Kiss onto each cookie. Unwrapping the kisses is a great job for a child, teenager or spouse who is otherwise not much into holiday baking.

This year I also added some cookies from General Mills "live gluten freely" website. I tried the grasshopper bars and the Russian tea cakes, which are interestingly made with the gluten-free Bisquick mix. Both were easy to make and handled well. (One reviewer who made the tea cakes said they fell apart when she tried to roll them in powdered sugar. I did not have this problem, but I waited until the cookies were just slightly warm before picking them up. I also handled them very gingerly). I still don't know if these cookies pass the taste test since I quickly packaged them up and put them away for the holidays. I will let you know if they get raves or boos from my family. You will also find a Peanut Blossom recipe on this site, but I am happy with my easy and relatively inexpensive version.

I hope these suggestions come in handy as you try to get everything done by Christmas Day.

Happy Holidays!

Amy Ratner

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bagels are the Bah-Hum-Bug Cure

It’s four days to Christmas and in looking over my list and checking it twice, I realize that I find shopping for girls a whole lot easier! I just texted my husband to inform him that I have “screwed” the boys and could he help think of a couple of stocking stuffers to inexpensively ease the inequity!

I also just realized that I have a niece and nephew that I haven’t shopped for yet.

Twenty minutes ago, I had to tack on extra, extra FedEx fees to make sure that the 75th birthday present for my Dad arrived on the 24th.

I sat through a two and a half hour elementary school holiday concert this morning, nothing like a fourth grade orchestra performance!

Today is the last day of school and then the kids are off, so it was a “wrapping day” but one son left for school and then walked back in the door fifteen minutes later and announced that his breakfast was upchucked in the woods…so I’ve had the pleasure of his company as I did some paperwork and phone calls this afternoon.

So, there is it. At this moment I am as bah-hug as it gets four days before Christmas. But, then what to my wondering eyes should appear but an email saying that gluten-free goodies are on their way to me!

Joan Popkin, of Joan’s Bagels, is sending me a gluten-free care package. That news turned a frown upside down….I am so excited! For those of you who have not had the pleasure of Joan’s Bagels or Bialys, you need to do yourself a favor and try them.

The bagels arrive frozen and you bake them up yourself. There is an Everything Bagel that is one of my absolute favorite gluten-free products on the market! A Sunday morning with the New York Times, a bagel hot from the oven with a little cream cheese, a slice of tomato and some slivers of red onion are just to die for. A week-day lunch of a hot bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon and a few capers sprinkled on top with a bowl of tomato soup…it just doesn’t get any better!

So thank you Joan Popkin for making my day merry and bright! Check out their website for a terrific story on a grandmother's love and an extensive line of really great products.

Kendall Egan

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gluten-Free Holiday gifts in Gluten-Free Living

Our new issue includes great holiday gift suggestions from a wide selection of people in the gluten-free community.

Everyone really put on their thinking caps when we asked what they were wishing for this year. And some could not resist sharing ideas based on wonderful gifts they had received in the past. Here's a sample:

From Shauna James Ahern, who just got the exciting news that her new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, was picked as a top cookbook by the New York Times, smoked paprika, which she says is a special spice everyone should own.

From Danny Ahern, the chef, good stone ground polenta, which you can use to make great gluten-free pasta.

From Carol Fenster, author of 10 gluten-free cookbooks, a cushioned floor mat to stand on while working in the kitchen.

From Alice Bast, founder and president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, a rice cooker for making delicious grains like quinoa.

From Stephen, author of the the gluten-free blog, GlutenFreeways, gift cards from PF Changs, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.

And that's just the beginning. We have lots more from these contributors and others to help you find that perfect gift for the special gluten-free someone on your list.

Our new magazine also includes an in-depth interview with Alessio Fasano, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, on the future of celiac disease. You will find out what he think about changes in the need for the biopsy to diagnose celiac disease, a pill to treat it, the impact the economy is having on research and much more.

We also have a recipe for a cheesecake that once won Gluten-Free Living Editor and Publisher Ann Whelan a prize in a baking contest, no small feat! It might be just the holiday dessert you are looking for.

If you are wondering whether you have to worry about gluten when you take medicine to treat your winter cold or flu, you'll find the answer on our pages.

We also have details on why lack of Vitamin D is a particular concern if you are gluten free, what a gluten-free seal means on a package label, and advice on how to stay positive and gluten free. Food Editor Jackie Mallorca offers recipes using nuts, seeds and grains and we have more on cross-contamination of gluten-free grains.

Gluten-Free Living is available in more stores than ever with this issue, including select Target and Publix locations, and should begin to show up on shelves very soon. You can also subscribe on our website.

We hope the gift ideas help make your shopping a little easier this holiday season and that our magazine makes your gluten-free life healthier and happier all through the year.

Amy Ratner

Semi Home Made Gluten-Free Holiday Pies

Kendall wrote about this easy short-cut for making pies two holidays ago, but we thought it might come in handy again this season.

I think short cuts in cooking are critical for survival as a working mom. True confessions are in order here, I despise baking. I'd rather have a tooth filled than whip up a batch of cookies, bake a cake or make a pie. Birthdays, and celiac disease, present a major challenge in this area for me.

My daughter asked for an apple pie for her birthday dessert. I had a few options. Making pie dough from scratch--a long process with cold unsalted butter, flour and a Cuisinart was the most unpalatable option. Mixing the dough to perfect "pea sized" consistency and letting it rest is soooo time consuming. Then, to add insult to injury, it still needs to be rolled out!

I thought about using Pillsbury ready made pie crust and just doing two baked apples for the celiacs. This was also not a great option because I really do try to be inclusive of every family member.

But, then I remembered that I had two Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakery pie crusts in the freezer and figured I could use them to make a double-crust pie. The crusts thawed at room temperature and I prepped a bunch of apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and gluten-free flour.

It worked! I piled the apples into one crust and put the other crust on top. After five minutes in the oven, I stretched the top crust and pinched the top and bottom crusts together.

It was absolutely gorgeous when it came out of the oven. The crust was a light golden brown and the aroma was tantalizing. Everyone eagerly came to the table to celebrate.

Since it was semi-home made, it was a snap. My celiac has put in his request for pumpkin and apple pie for Thanksgiving! I can do that EASILY. Frozen, ready made gluten-free pie crust is now my favorite thing in the freezer case.
Kendall Egan

Friday, December 3, 2010

Better food safety benefits gluten-free community

I follow food news pretty closely, mainly because I am interested in writing about anything related to the gluten-free diet for readers of Gluten-Free Living magazine and this blog.

Over the years, I've come to trust a number of others with a specialized interest and expertise in the foods we eat and the laws that regulate them. Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules, an Eater's Manual, is often a voice of reason when it comes to food. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest has pit bull jaws when it comes to exposing false food claims and pushing for healthier eating.

So I paid attention to what both had to say about food safety reform legislation passed by the Senate earlier this week. (Meanwhile, I tuned out the rants of Glenn Beck and the humor of Jon Stewart on the subject.)

Pollan, writing an op-ed piece for the New York Times, called the bill the "best opportunity in a generation to improve the safety of the American food supply." Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI, said "everyone who eats will benefit from this historic legislation."

In what is being called a sweeping overhaul of food safety regulation, the Senate version of the bill would result in more inspections of large-scale, high-risk food processing facilities. Now, a plant might get a visit from an inspector only every five to ten years as an unsuspecting public found out in August when 1,500 people were sickened by salmonella-contaminated eggs.

Another important change would give the FDA the authority to order a recall when a food is tainted. Now the FDA can only ask a food company to voluntarily recall foods and, amazingly, some companies drag their feet even when it's clear a food poses a health risk to consumers.

"The agency would finally have the resources and authority to prevent food safety problems, rather than respond only after people have become ill," Pollan wrote in the New York Times.
Another provision would require every food processing facility to have a safety plan and to run tests to show the plan is working. The bill also set standards for the safety of produce and imported foods.

While these improvements are not specific to gluten-free foods, the gluten-free community would benefit in a few ways.  Quick and forceful removal of tainted products from the food supply is good for everyone. Three contaminated foods that made people sick in the past year - eggs, spinach and pistachios - could all be eaten by someone who is gluten free.

And I would assume gluten-free processors would have to have safety plans just like any other company. (The bill does propose exempting food makers with less than $500,000 in sales who sell most of their food locally and some gluten-free companies would be in that category.)

Another possible, though still theoretical, benefit to gluten-free consumers could come when the FDA finalizes rules for foods labeled gluten free. The FDA has proposed requiring all gluten-free foods to test to less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Some who have been watching the tortuous path of the definition through numerous FDA studies and reviews have wondered all along exactly how the agency will enforce the 20 ppm standard when and if it is approved.

The food safety legislation could create a model for how to meaningfully and regularly inspect food plants. This model could be used to make sure companies that use the labels are held to the gluten-free rules.

Of course the food safety legislation has a few hurdles of its own to clear before it becomes law. The House passed its own bill last year. Now the two bodies have to hash out a final version and it looks like a procedural error in the Senate bill may slow things down.

Still, let's hope they move quickly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 5,000 people die from food borne illnesses every year.
While food safety for those who are gluten-free has additional layers, we are just as vulnerable as anyone else when it comes to the kind of dangers tainted foods present.

Amy Ratner