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31 October 2010

Happy Halloween, gluten-free

I'm a gluten-free bagel

I might look forward to Halloween on our island more than Christmas.

Every year, the island's kids and parents gather in town as the light grows dusky. Police cars with flashing lights sit at either end of town (about three streets long) to prevent drivers from going through. This means that every kid's dream comes true: you can walk in the street! run! jump!

All the businesses are decorated with giant inflatable black cats, orange streamers, pumpkins lit up from within by candles, and fake spider webs. Real estate agents, veterinarians, consignment shop owners, and bartenders sit out front with baskets bulging with Tootsie Rolls and Reese's Peanut Butter cups, shouting Happy Halloween!

It's a community gathering. The 12-year-olds roam freely at will, taking advantage of outfits one could barely call a costume to gather candy one more time. The 7-year-olds (like my nephew, Elliott, who went this year as a Ghostbuster) rule the streets, confident after years of shouting Trick or Treat! on this late October night. The parents of the little kids ooh and aahh when they see the other toddlers, the ones we've known since baby group at the Playspace, walking around as puppy dogs or Princess Leia. (Now that I'm an adult I realize — it doesn't really matter what you wear if you are under 5 years old. Any attempt at a costume evokes adoring glances and sighs from the adults.)

The little kids, however? They're not quite sure.

Last night, Lu held my hand almost the entire time we roamed the streets. She wasn't exactly scared. She looked befuddled. Why do we walk up to the store where we buy the printer cartridge and demand candy? And what the heck is candy?

Lu's had plenty of homemade baked goods and an occasional cookie on the ferry boat, but she has yet to experience candy. So really, the entire experience was a chance for her to watch the world around her with wide eyes and try to understand. For the first 20 minutes, she wouldn't take any candy. After she saw dozens of kids swarming at the entrance of the movie theater, she finally put out her hand. And then she clutched that little Twix bar until she had nearly crushed it in her grip.

So basically, Lu thinks Halloween means getting candy, clutching it, then trading the bedraggled candy for a new one.

Never mind. There will be many more years on this island. And I sense how quickly these next few years will go. (Look at this photo of Elliott from four years ago, looking quite a bit like Lu, only three years old. I think that was yesterday. Truly.) Soon enough, she will be the 7-year-old, confident and running without me, eating handfuls of candy.

In the meantime, holding her hand while we walked up and down the streets laughing? I didn't mind at all.

And on the way back to the car, I heard someone call my name. When I turned around, I saw a family and the girl you see in the top photograph.

Look at that: she's a gluten-free bagel!

This might be my favorite Halloween costume ever.

(Okay, that's not entirely true. This is my favorite Halloween costume ever.)

my favorite halloween costume

I had no idea the joy that Lu would bring joy to small children on every street by wearing this costume. "It's Elmo!" we heard shouted, at least a hundred times. Toward the end, when the night had arrived and Lu's face was darkened, one small group of children really did seem to believe she was the real Elmo. This was pretty great.

What kid doesn't love Halloween?

Well, it can be a tough night for kids who are gluten-free. (And of course, with food allergies to peanuts or dairy, it might be even tougher.) Remember that when you are choosing candy for the kids who arrive at your door.

If you are the parent of a gluten-free kid, you're going to want to double check that candy. Here are some lists I have seen this year, the most up-to-date information about what candies the kids can eat:

Gluten-Free Treats from

Gluten-Free Candy List from My

Gluten-Free Candy from

Of course, after the kids have gone to bed, you're going to filch some of the candy from their stash. Admit it. So you might as well make sure you are getting gluten-free candy as well.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

28 October 2010

coconut brown rice

coconut brown rice

"Shauna," you may be thinking. "Have you lost your mind? That's a bowl of rice. Is that all you have to give us now?"

Actually, yes.

It's not that I have run out of ideas. New ideas always seam to leak at the seams around here, and sometimes at the most inappropriate times. For example, this week when we are busy planning an upcoming trip to Colorado for the book, doing signings at Costco, trying to finish a website for the book that should have been completed a month ago (and not for lack of trying), putting together a quite-exciting blog event for November, answering 180 emails a day and feeling like a jerk for leaving the rest unanswered, gathering all our receipts for reimbursement and trying to remember to invoice magazines for payment, plus trying to re-arrange all the furniture in the house to make it feel more like ours? This week? Of course this is the week that we admitted to ourselves that we would really like to buy a house instead of renting much longer. And thus spent some mornings walking around empty houses with Lu bouncing up the stairs.

We're nuts.

At least we're still laughing and dancing with Lu in the living room as much as we possibly can. She always restores us.

So does cooking.

Even when life feels as foreboding as the low clouds hovering over the house right now, standing in front of the stove slows me down. Lu and I made cookies together the other night. At the end, there were raisins strewn on the floor in a wide circle around the chair upon which she had been standing, some of them smooshed by her excited stomping in her new red shoes. She had taken every measuring cup out of the drawer, banged most of them on the counter in rhythm with the Sesame Street songs that played from the computer, and sprinkled potato starch on any remaining space. I should have been annoyed. But we were baking. And for the first time, she actually folded nuts into the cookie dough, using the spatula with deft hands. "I mashed cookies!" she shouted, delighted.

I cleaned up the raisins after she went to bed, then sat down to eat a warm cookie, thinking of all the years we might be cooking together in the kitchen.

Danny's really the one who taught me to cook. I knew how to make a meal before I met him, but I sweated it. I wanted everything right. I knew how to bake before I had to cut out gluten but I didn't really understand the chemistry and magic of baking the way I do now. I didn't feel entirely comfortable in the kitchen until I stood next to Danny, watching, then joining in.

That's really what our cookbook is about: how I learned to become comfortable in the kitchen from loving Danny. And really, how you can too, if you want.

Before I met Danny, I would never have thrown together this coconut rice. And without doing that, I would have missed out on this sustenance. We have eaten eggs fried crisp in coconut oil on top of this rice. I sauteed collard greens with various citrus juices and slivered almonds and ate it on top of this rice. Lu spooned up this warm rice with avocado and roasted chicken and said "Yummmmm...." (She has picked up yum and delicious lately.) It's brown rice without the hippie trappings. This rice sits soft in the bowl, steam rising, a faint smell of coconut and curry arriving after the steam. It doesn't smell like tanning lotion or pina coladas or bad bubblegum. It entices without needing your attention.

You want this rice.

After soaking the brown rice, and throwing in pinches of curry powder and ginger, pepper and lime, on a whim, I turned on the rice cooker and walked away. Lu and I read about 18 books, including this Lois Lenski book, which she asks for 14 times a day so she can recite the text by herself. I cuddled her while the rice bubbled and steamed on the counter.

(By the way, we make every grain we eat in the rice cooker. We throw in quinoa when we first wake up and have a soft pile of it with poached eggs for breakfast. Or teff porridge with molasses and dried cherries. Or oats with prunes and maple syrup. We have at least one big bowl of whole grains as one of our meals every day. And we don't have to think about how to cook them. Just throw them into the rice cooker.)

You see, as much as I love the long, entailed kitchen projects on slow Sunday afternoons, we have far less time to cook elaborate meals these days. We eat quite differently now than we did in the days I wrote about in the cookbook. Somehow, I have thought that the simple meals we eat aren't interesting enough to show you here.

However, in the midst of a chaotic time, sometimes a simple bowl of coconut brown rice is enough to make me slow down and enjoy these moments more.

What would you throw on top of this coconut brown rice? I'd love to know.

coconut brown rice II


My brother and I used to tease my father that he had a lifetime subscription to Somewhere Magazine. Whenever we asked him where he had read a statistic that proved his point, or a story that seemed too far-fetched to be true, he always said, "Oh, somewhere."

Karma's coming back. I cannot for the life of me remember where I read the tip recently that soaking brown rice for at least an hour makes it far more fluffy and less "good-for-you" tasting. Somewhere. Still, you should do this too. Somewhere Magazine was right.

The directions here are for a rice cooker. That's how we cook our rice now. I haven't made a pot of rice on the stove in at least 3 years. If you would like to make this on the stove, then use whatever method you traditionally use.

Or buy a rice cooker.

2 cups brown basmati rice
1/2 can (7 ounces) coconut milk
juice of 1 medium-sized lime
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Soaking the rice. Soak the rice in 4 cups of cool, fresh water. Let it sit for at least 1 hour, preferably longer, if you can. This helps to remove some of the starchiness from the rice. Pour the rice into a large strainer, draining out all the water.

Cooking the rice. Pour the rice into the rice cooker. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, coconut oil, curry powder, ginger, salt, and pepper. Stir it all well. Add 3 1/2 cups cool, fresh water. Stir it all up. Close the lid. Turn the rice cooker to the brown rice setting, then turn it on.

When the rice cooker says it is done cooking, you may eat.

25 October 2010

Pam Anderson's shells and cheese, gluten-free

Pam Anderson's shells and cheese

Lu is talking up a storm these days. Yesterday, when she was hungry, she pointed to a photograph of yogurt in a book and said, "May I please have some of that?" We stood there astonished for a moment, and then we ran for the refrigerator to scoop some honey yogurt in a bowl. (The "may I please" is always going to be rewarded.)

She's throwing words off her tongue like a fastballer now, quick and clean. Sometimes her phrases whizz past us so fast that we need a beat or two to understand. "Oh, you just said, 'Daddy, come look at my painting'! Sure!"

But there's one familiar refrain around here that doesn't need any translation or wondering at the words.

"MaggyPam!" Lu shouts, several times a day. We chuckle a bit and carry her toward the computer.

You see, last month, in New York City, we finally met Maggy Keet. Maggy has possibly the warmest, goofiest smile I have ever seen. She's all enthusiasms and open arms, loud laugh and huge heart. We became instant friends after reading each other's websites. By the time we finally met at a dinner party in Brooklyn, the first hug made what we suspected a reality: we are fast friends.

And may I also point out to you Maggy's dear friend Erika, who writes Ivory Hut? As soon as I became friends with Maggy, I was lucky enough to become friends with Erika. You might know this already, but Erika's home burned down in late August. If you have not read the courageous post she wrote about what happened to them, you must do that now. The moment I finally met Erika, I fell into the most generous and full-armed hug I have ever experienced, aside from the ones Danny and Lu give me. She was a sister, immediately.

It's amazing what writing our lives on the computer can bring us.

Maggy writes a wonderful website called Three Many Cooks. Do you know it? You should. She writes a food blog with her sister, Sharon, and her mother, Pam Anderson.

Not that Pam Anderson.

At the potluck partyin Brooklyn hosted by the gracious Silvana Nardone, I stood next to a table laden with amazing food, all of which happened to be gluten-free. Maggy and Erika and I were talking fast. Justin, our book editor, and his lovely girlfriend, Jen, came up to join the conversation. We talked about the importance of cooking and the joy of knowing other people who feel as excited about food as we do, wildly gesticulating as we went. (Well, not Justin. He's too cool for that.) At a certain moment, I realized I had not introduced them to each other. "Hey Justin, this is Maggy. Her mom is Pam Anderson."

His eyes went wide and he looked flummoxed.

Maggy, as she must have done a hundred thousand times in her life, immediately said, "No, not that Pam Anderson."

Justin gulped. "No, I always think about the food world first. Your mom is Pam Anderson?"

I'm impressed too. Pam was once the executive editor of Cook's Illustrated, one of the most meticulous and respected food publications in this country. She writes a cooking column for USA Today. And she has written six cookbooks, all of them respected and filled with recipes that work.

She has also raised two kick-ass daughters. I love how close they are with her.

This Pam Anderson? She's wonderful.

Maggy Pam!

Danny and I were so happy that Pam and Maggy drove out to the island one morning, a few days before we left for San Francisco, to cook with us. What could be more fun than cooking together? Honestly, when we find people who believe this, we just want to hang out with them.

So we bustled around the kitchen, talking a mile a minute. Pam whipped up a dish of smashed potatoes and leeks that made us happy. We baked a batch of prosciutto-basil muffins from Pam's new book, Perfect One-Dish Dinners. Pam and Maggy both bit into a warm muffin and looked impressed. "They're tender, just like mine," Pam said.

Knowing they liked the gluten-free muffins made me happy. That recipe is damned delicious.

A few days later, we all hung out in San Francisco, laughing and making plans and talking food. Lu was there for all of it. She fell in love with Maggy in New York, Pam at our house, and MaggyPam! in San Francisco. (Sadly, she didn't get to spend enough time with Sharon to add her to the compound noun she likes to shout out now.)

And so, it makes sense that she gets the urge to see them sometimes. I click over to Three Many Cooks and start this video (shot and directed by our friends Todd and Diane, who shot our cookbook trailer too). Lu watches the three of them cooking, and talking, and laughing, entranced. She doesn't move. When it's done, she asks to see them again.

Hearing how Pam gave up her big-time career to be at home with her daughters, and found her path to happiness and success in a different way? I'm happy that Lu hears that story. And I give her a big squeeze, tears in my eyes again, imagining what it might be like when she is an adult and we can cook in the kitchen together.

This post is part of a blog cooperative about Pam's cookbook. For other Sunday Suppers, please visit these lovely people.


Pam Anderson's shells and cheese II

Pam Anderson's Shells and Cheese, Gluten-Free, adapted from Perfect One-Dish Dinners

Lu is going to grow up thinking that everyone writes cookbooks or makes films or paints or takes photographs for a living. I'm fine with that. We're lucky to have so many talented and courageous people in our life. I'm so happy that Lu knows them too.

So when I was choosing a recipe from Perfect One-Dish Dinners to make for the Sunday Suppers blog tour, I flipped through the book with Lu. Of course she stopped me on the page with pasta and cheese.

No problem, kiddo.

We had this for dinner last night, an easy one-pot meal that is still full of flavor. That's the theme of the book — delicious and not complicated. We want to make at least 20 meals from this cookbook alone. So many of the recipes are naturally gluten-free.

When Danny sat down to eat a plate of this shells and cheese — warm and bubbly, cheesy without being too rich, topped with browned breadcrumbs — he sighed after the first bite. About halfway through his dinner he looked up at me and said, "This tastes like a grilled cheese sandwich."

Yep. Or, as Lu said after her second bowl, "MaggyPam pasta cheese? Ummmm....good."

Kosher salt
1 pound gluten-free pasta shells (we used Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese, grated
16 ounces cottage cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
16 ounces sour cream (we used cashew sour cream)
cracked black pepper
1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (watch this video to see how to make them)
3 tablespoons fine-chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Find a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish in the pantry. Spray it with cooking oil.

Cooking the pasta. Put 2 quarts of water and about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (enough to make the water taste like the ocean) to boil on high heat. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the gluten-free pasta. Stir for the first few moments, occasionally, to ensure it does not stick. Cook until the pasta is al dente, or starting to turn tender but still quite firm. The timing will depend on the kind of pasta you bought. For the quinoa pasta we used, this was about 7 minutes. Drain the pasta immediately and pour a touch of olive oil over the pasta and toss. Set aside.

Making the casserole. Mix the cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and Parmesan cheese together, along with the sour cream, in a large bowl. Dump the pasta in to the cheese mixture and toss it to coat. Taste, then add salt and pepper to season to your taste. Transfer it all to the oiled casserole dish.

Topping the casserole. Mix the gluten-free breadcrumbs, parsley, and butter. Sprinkle them evenly over the top of the casserole. Slide the casserole dish into the oven. Bake until the shells and cheese are bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown, about 35 minutes.

Serve immediately. Yum.

Feeds 8.

24 October 2010

how to make gluten-free breadcrumbs

Someone wrote to me recently to ask, "Do you know where I can buy gluten-free breadcrumbs? I can't find them in any store."

When I read it to Danny, we had the same reaction: "Oh honey, you don't need to buy them. They're so easy to make."

If you were wondering how to make breadcrumbs, we'd like to show you. In a video.

Danny particularly cracked me up in this one, so expect a lot of guffaws.

Also, we hadn't charged the camera we have been using for the last six months, so we had to go back to our old camera. (No naming names here, but we're not flipping over this camera anymore.) So the sound is a bit hard. Lean in.

You're going to want gluten-free breadcrumbs for tomorrow's recipe. So make some as soon as you watch this.

21 October 2010

gluten-free Oreos

gluten-free Oreos

A few days ago, on Twitter, someone I follow linked to a recipe for homemade Oreos.

Now I have to tell you, I wasn't a huge Oreos fan when I was a kid. The cookie part of the sandwich always crumbled tough against my teeth. More than any other packaged cookie, Oreos tasted like they had been weeks from the factory. That creamy filling tasted artificial, especially when I compared them to my mom's buttercream frosting. Give me gingersnaps, the tiny crunchy ones that rattled in the box, any day. Or those flourescent pink sugar wafers. Those were so distinctly artificial, like nothing in nature, that I loved the shatter of sugar on my teeth. Animal crackers were always exciting for the little box with the string, so I could carry it around like a purse. And vanilla wafers were so laden with sugar the idea of them now makes my head hurt, but oh how I loved them when I was a kid, especially underneath a bowl of banana pudding.

Oreos? Whatever.

But Danny loved them as a kid. When I showed the link to him, his eyes lit up like Christmas lights. We convert a lot of recipes around here. It's easy for us now. Why not?

Danny and I danced in the kitchen in the early afternoon.  Lu has been crazy about the Cookie Monster lately and saying, "Cookies!" in as deep a voice as she can manage. She stood on the chair and thwacked a spoon against the counter, drumming to the music we were playing. Once I decided on the flours (white rice for crispness, sweet rice for stick-to-itivenss, teff for the soft binding quality), and tossed in a bit of xanthan gum, the recipe was exactly the same. It came together in under ten minutes.

Danny swiped a bite of dough from the bowl of the stand mixer. He got that devilish grin on his face. Before Lu was big enough to understand everything, Danny used to mock smack my arm and say "SHUT UP!" when something tasted good. Now, he just swipes the air and mouths it. (If she starts imitating that, we're okay.) I could tell he wanted to shout, though. "That dough tastes exactly like Oreos cookies."

I took a bite. He was right.

The filling surprised me. I've never been a big fan of Crisco. In fact, we had some in the house because we are working on pie crusts again, and I had read that some people love half butter/half Crisco for their crusts. (I tried it. No thank you.) I scooped a couple of tablespoons into the bowl with the butter and let it whirl.

I'm convinced. This filling has the slightly stiff feeling of Oreos without all that industrial taste. I might just do this for frosting from now on.

Poor Danny and Lu. "Cookies!" she called. I kept her hands away from them so I could set up a photograph. The two of them hovered behind me, waiting, with Lu's hands creeping toward the stack of cookies. Finally, one or two of the shots were at least in focus enough to call it good.

"Let's eat!" I shouted.

Oh my gosh. These homemade Oreos, gluten-free? These are possibly the best cookie I have ever eaten. Danny says there should be no possibly in that sentence. These are his favorite cookie of all time.

You have to make them. Today.


gf oreos, close-up

GLUTEN-FREE OREO COOKIES, adapted from Kitchen Lab Project

I love how food blogs have become a communal recipe box. We share what we learned from someone else, like the index cards where women used to write recipes, and then the next person passes it on with a few crossed-out ingredients or notes added in red pen. I found the recipe for these cookies from someone in NYC who found it on a blog from Scotland called Kitchen Lab Project. She found the recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who adapted them from this book. You know that author was inspired by someone else's recipe before him.

Those of you who have to avoid dairy might be adapting this again soon. I can't see why a buttery substitute wouldn't work for the butter in both places. If you can't eat eggs, you could try the flax seed trick. Or maybe you have a better idea. If you adapt this version of the recipe for your own kitchen successfully, will you leave a link to it in the comments? Everyone should be able to eat these.

For the cookies:
80 grams sweet rice flour
60 grams white rice flour
35 grams teff flour
2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) xanthan gum
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (we used Dagoba organic)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar (we used 1/2 cup organic cane sugar and 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar)
140 grams (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the creamy filling
58 grams (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Making the cookie dough. Put the sweet rice flour, white rice flour, and teff flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk, stir the flours together to combine and aerate them. Add the xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Turn the mixer on and let everything combine in motion. While the mixer is running on low speed, add large pieces of the butter until they are all incorporated. Add the egg and mix well. (At this point, you might think the dough will be too dry. Trust. Keep mixing. It will come together.)

Baking the cookies
. Scoop a rounded teaspoon of batter (literally. scoop just more than a teaspoon's worth) and form a ball. Gently, flatten the dough in the palm of your hand. After you have flattened, smooth the edges of the cookie dough disk to make it evenly rounded. Place the dough disks onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. (These will not spread, but you do not want them to touch each other.)

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes, then turn the baking sheet 180 degrees. Bake until the cookies are crisp on the edges with just a touch of softness in the center, about 5 more minutes. Take the cookies out of the oven. After a few moments, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely.

Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Making the creamy filling. Put the butter and vegetable shortening into the bowl of the stand mixer. (Clean the cookie dough out first!) Whip them up together, then add the sugar and vanilla extract. Beat the filling on high until it is fluffy frosting, about 5 minutes. (Be sure to turn off the stand mixer and scrape down the sides occasionally.)

Assembling the cookies. If you have a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch round tip, you can pipe tiny dots of filling onto a cookie. We couldn't find ours, so we used a teaspoon measure and our fingers to spread the blob of creamy filling toward the edges but not entirely there. Gently, press the second cookie down onto the filling and watch the filling reach the edges.

Continue until all the cookies are little chocolate sandwiches with a creamy filling. Oreos.

Makes 25 to 30 Oreos.

16 October 2010

baking a chocolate cake, in real time.

We are just starting to bake a cake. To be specific, we're baking Dorie Greenspan's devil's food white-out cake, gluten-free.

And our little friend H, who lives in San Diego, is making the cake too. It's her first baking project.

We're doing it together. Want to join us? We'll be updating this post as we go.

First, we threw together a big batch of
our gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. We haven't been home in awhile (and we'll be telling you about our travels in the next couple of days), so we were out of our AP mix.

For new recipes, I play with individual flours, to see what textures and personalities I can bring together in a baked good. But when I'm working with a steadfast recipe I know works well — and Dorie Greenspan's recipes always work — I just use our AP mix.

The recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup flour. In this case, we're using 182 grams of AP flour.

We sifted the flours together in the original mix, then sifted 182 grams of it into a large mixing bowl. And then we added 2 grams each of xanthan and guar gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. That's the dry ingredients.

After we mixed all the dry ingredients together, we sifted in the cocoa powder.

You know, that verb isn't even accurate! I was aerating and incorporating. I don't have a sifter. I hold a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl and slowly tumble the flours or cocoa powder over the sieve and shift it from side to side, over the bowl, slowly. You could also do this with a whisk.

Aerating and incorporating the flours for baking is particularly important for gluten-free baking. After all, we're using more than one flour. Blending them together well, aerating them and incorporating them together, makes a huge difference in the final baked good.

Some people seem afraid of sifting. No need! Read this post by the incredible Gail Dosik (also known as One Tough Cookie) about the semantics of sifting and you'll soon be over your silly fears of sifting too.

Aerate! Incorporate!

It's always good to know where you are going.

If you don't already own Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, you must buy a copy now. If you are serious about baking, that is.

(Also, you should buy her new book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. It looks fantastic. We'll be cooking out of it soon.)

What I love so much about Dorie Greenspan's recipes is that the writing makes you feel as though she is standing beside you, encouraging you and nudging a little bit when something might go wrong. There's a sense of a real person, a wise person who will make you laugh and help you eat the cake when it's done. Those are my favorite kind of recipes.

It's how we tried to write the recipes in our book, as well.

So, when we were making the batter, and looked down in the bowl to see that it looked a bit as if it as separating, it was a comfort to look at the recipe and see that Dorie had written: "Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled."

You want a good guide when you are baking.

Butter. It's hard to make a good cake without butter.

Or at least, that's what I used to think. Those of you who cannot eat dairy, can you pitch in here? What is your favorite butter substitute? We're fans of the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks when we're baking dairy free. Honestly, I have never been able to tell a difference in cakes made with these instead of butter. I'd use them all the time.

I do know they contain soy, however, so those of you with soy allergies have said you need to find something else.

That might look like a lot of butter. (In fact, it's more than the recipe requires. We softened two sticks and the recipe calls for 10 tablespoons.) But remember that no one should be eating an entire cake by herself anyway.

Danny pulled two sticks of butter out of the refrigerator this morning when we awoke, then cut them up into little chunks immediately. This seems to help the butter to soften more quickly.

I've told you, many times, how much I love my Kitchen Aid. This one has been whirling for me since 1995. Please keep going.

Creaming the butter and sugars together is one of my favorite parts of baking. I love watching something appearing, becoming something else, under the steady beat of the stand mixer paddle.

Or, in this case, the whisk attachment. It has been a crazy morning. The kitchen is a nightmare and we woke up to bake instead of cleaning first. Lu had a mottled night of sleep because of her molars. My parents came over to play with her and she wanted only to bake at my side. We couldn't find the chocolate -- Lu had hidden it somewhere. Danny had taken all the cake pans to his restaurant, because he is baking gluten-free desserts there, and he had forgotten to bring them home. And we couldn't find the paddle attachment.

C'est la vie. I'd never let a little chaos stop me from baking.

Because of the chaos, I didn't take photos of the rest of this process. You'll have to follow along with the recipe. Dorie makes it easy.

The batter at first is as thick as frosting. You pour a little boiling hot water into it to thin it out. Then, you add more chocolate.

More chocolate is never a bad idea.

This batter, just before pouring it into the pans, is pillowy and rich, with a deep chocolate flavor. It begs for fingers to be swiped across the top, then licked.

Of course, we obliged.

There they are, ready to go into the oven.

Let's hope the pie pans work.

They worked!

I prefer my cake pans, but these 9-inch pie pans worked just fine as well.

The cakes themselves came out somewhat flat, but Carrie sent me photographs of the ones that H. made and they were the same, with gluten. That must be the way this cake is made. I'm fine with that.

Next, we have to wait for them to cool.

Time to make some marshmallow frosting.

Danny holding the final cake

And here it is — the final cake.

We're leaving in a few moments, after spending all morning baking and cleaning, playing with Lu and eating good food. I'll come back this evening and fill in the steps between cooling cakes and frosted finale.

Oh, and the recipe. But let me tell you, this cake is a winner. Gluten or not, it doesn't seem to matter.

I just can't wait for dessert tonight.

09 October 2010

come have a picnic with us.





picnic in Central Park

On a Sunday afternoon in New York City, we had a picnic. We sent the invitation out into the air and then showed up. Who might be there? How many? We didn't know.

Maybe a handful?

When we walked onto the Great Lawn, we saw a huge group of you, already talking and eating, becoming friends.

yes II

We asked everyone to show up with the words YES or IMAGINE on them somewhere. I have yes tattooed on me. Danny has imagine tattooed on him.

This entire experience has felt like imagining yes.

I loved seeing yes on people's wrists, around their necks, on bags and shirts. It was a lovely feeling.

picnic food

And the food! To my delight, people really did treat this like a potluck, instead of keeping to themselves. Spread out on green grass was an array of food: pasta salad, fruits, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, apple cider, salsa and chips. More food than I ever imagined.

All of it gluten-free.

with Maggy

And we met friends whom we loved without meeting them before. This is Maggy of Three Many Cooks. Love her.

Sammy and Lennon

This is Lennon and Sammy, the boys of our dear friends Megan and Brian. Lu woke up in her stroller to find two little boys waiting to play with her. She was smiling Lu, immediately.


This is Kamran, from The Sophisticated Gourmet. He could not be any cooler if he tried. (Don't try, Kamran.)


And then there were bubbles.

yes III

We were so moved by the chance to meet you all. We shared stories and laughed together. Many of you were kind enough to tell us what our work has meant to you. We cherish this.

But more than that, we loved the gathering. We don't want our touring for the book to be all about us. We want you to meet each other. One young woman told me at the end of the picnic, "I just moved to New York three years ago. I don't know anyone in this city. Now I have 10 new friends.


imagine II

Imagine a gluten-free picnic, with friends and family, bubbles and little kids, new friends and old, good food and conversations.


If you are anywhere near San Francisco this weekend, we are having another picnic on Sunday at noon. In Dolores Park. Bring some gluten-free food to share. And bring your YES or IMAGINE.

06 October 2010

Bakery on Main

We are feeling so lucky these days.

Our cookbook is finally out. We just finished a glorious trip to New York City. We are headed to San Francisco early tomorrow morning for BlogHer Food, where I've been asked to speak. (I'm part of the final keynote address, with my friend Molly Wizenberg and Michael Ruhlman.) We're all healthy, happy, and full of music. We eat well. We're here.

We also feel lucky because we have connected with the sponsors for this site.

Tonight, we'd like to introduce our latest sponsor to you.

Bakery on Main makes great gluten-free granola. It's made with toasted corn, rice, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds. Some of the granolas have apples and raisins. Others contain cranberries and almonds. Another has coconut, filberts, and apricots. They're all full of healthy ingredients, stay crunchy in a bowl of yogurt, and are delicious.

We've been eating this granola for years now. When life is too busy to make my own granola — like the rest of this fall threatens to be! — I'm thrilled that we have bags of Bakery on Main granola at our island grocery store. Danny, who used to think of granola as hippie food, eats this up happily.

They also make cranberry-maple-nut granola bars that have become a particular favorite of Lu's.

We only take on sponsors for this site who make food we love. We don't make the connection with any companies whose food we do not buy. You know that you can trust us when we say:

we recommend Bakery on Main granola to you.

04 October 2010

imagining yes

breakfast at Morandi's

I have been looking for the words for days. I haven't found them yet.

You see, we spent nine days in New York, both the city and its environs, to celebrate the publication of our book, only returning home a few days ago. In those glorious, grubby days, we connected with people who are dear to us, new friends, food writing heroes, and groups of people who came out to meet us. We ate our way through the city, in one memorable meal after another. We taught a cooking class, gathered people together for a picnic in Central Park, went on the radio, met fellow bloggers at the Union Square Greenmarket, talked with folks in a Shaker village, appeared on a podcast, and talked with dozens and dozens of people who have bought our book and love what they have cooked out of it.

We three — Danny and I, plus an exuberant Lu — spent time in nearly every neighborhood of Manhattan south of 96th street, plus visits to Brooklyn, Queens, upstate New York, and New Jersey. All with a kid in a stroller and two suitcases. (Some things never change, it seems.)

When we left for New York, we were anticipating the arrival of the book in the world. We gestated that baby for nearly three years. A week before we were in New York, it arrived early, unexpectedly. Really, we went to New York to cut the umbilical cord. To celebrate. And to let go.

We came back changed.

I still haven't found the words for it all.

I can show you some photographs, though.

And start off by saying that it felt as though the table was set for us wherever we went in New York.

sunrise over Newark

Sunrise over Newark sounds like a joke, right? How could that be beautiful?

This caught my eye as we rode the bus on the New Jersey Turnpike from Newark airport into the city. (I always think of the Simon and Garfunkel song.) Sunrise anywhere lifts my heart. More than that, however, it's those skinny spires behind the hundred telephone poles that made me sit up straight, awake, without any decent coffee. New York City.

I lived there for four years and I never once grew tired of it. (Well, maybe a bit. Enough to leave it.) Every time I see that city, my heart beats faster. Everything happens there. It's the heart of all that is theater and writing, young men drumming on subways and the Egyptian room at the Met, food carts and fine dining, Central Park and the East Village, cigarette butts in the street and unexpected smiles on people's faces, grizzled beards on homeless men and insanely wealthy people hiding in their hired cars, coffee with milk and bagels, humid air and sitting on the sidewalk late at night eating with friends, business men in crisp shirts and young women in fashionable rain boots, raucous laughter bouncing off the cavernous buildings, the smell of stale air on the trains, pizza late at night, and three thousand other small details that make that place the greatest city in the world.

(Don't argue with me. I'm a New Yorker at heart, still.)

One look at the city in the distance and all my exhaustion from an overnight flight faded right away.

Lu sees New York for the first time

This is Lu, looking at the streets of New York City for the first time. After we exited the Lincoln Tunnel and emerged onto the area around Port Authority, she stood up in her seat on the bus (Danny holding onto her legs) and just stared.

That's what she looked like for much of the trip. She took it all in. She watched, absorbed, danced, laughed, stared, asked us questions, and watched some more.

I can only imagine the changes in her brain these past two weeks. She's talking more and more since we returned home, jabbering and telling us stories in short bursts. The city left its indelible mark on her. She loved New York City as much as Danny and I do.

cupcake at Tulu's

There were so many good moments. Like the first morning, when we had breakfast with a friend from Seattle in the East Village. And then we wandered around the corner to find Tulu's Gluten-Free Bakery and this cupcake in the window.

(This place is good.)

the view from Paige's porch

Or the moment when we sat on a porch in the house of a new good friend, (driven there by another new good friend) in the evening as the gloaming settled on all the hills and fields around us, the air warm, the table before us spread out with fresh guacamole, three kinds of salsa, and two kinds of tortilla chip. Danny and I looked at each other at the same time, sighed, and reached for each other's hands.

We felt so lucky. We still do.

The next morning, when we went back, we saw this from the porch.


the picnic

That day, we made an appearance at Hancock Shaker Village, during their annual country fair. Lu lost her mind for the sheep. We walked around the farmers' market, admiring and sampling local blue cheeses. We walked into a room with two tables full of people, people there to see us and have a conversation about food and family, creating and making mistakes in the kitchen. I will never forget that conversation.

We jumped on another train, after Margaret drove us expertly through winding roads, landed in the city, and took off immediately for Park Slope in Brooklyn. We were late to the party in our honor (damned subway work on the weekends!), but no one seemed to blame us. In the apartment of Silvana Nardone waited fellow food bloggers, dear old friends, our book editor, small children running around our legs, and a table laden with incredible food, all of it gluten-free.

(And a motorcycle parked in the hallway, which Lu immediately climbed and sat astride the seat like a pro. We're in trouble.)

We drove home with my friend Mark and his wife Nicole, in their tiny sports car, close to midnight, Lu asleep in my arms, the air warm through the open windows, up FDR drive, talking fast and laughing.

And the next day, a picnic in Central Park, with some of the best people we had never met before.

This was so special that it deserves its own post. We are still trying to take it in. Soon.

danny spinning LU

At one point, toward the end of the picnic, Danny said to me, "Can you take our picture? I always dreamed of doing this, here, with my kid."

He grabbed Lu by the hands, and he picked her up. They spun and spun, in ever widening circles, the both of them laughing and filling the air with the sound.

My heart wanted to burst.

Shake Shack

Afterward, we walked on the Upper West Side, with two wonderful women. Tracy and Kim tested nearly every recipe in our cookbook for us. They were meticulous and joyful, both, and sent us photographs of everything they made. Without their work, you wouldn't have edible pasta or crusty bread.

To surprise Kim for a weekend important to her, Tracy planned a trip to New York so we could all finally meet. We loved them, of course. We knew we would. We talked and laughed as we walked up Columbus toward Shake Shack.

This place takes cares of folks who can't eat gluten. They knew exactly what it is, what we could eat, and how to feed us.

Crinkly fries and root beer floats on a bench outside the Natural History Museum, the wind blowing, the weather shifting, and all of us feeling good just being there.

breakfast at Jennifer's

The next morning, we had brunch at the home of our good friend, Jennifer Perillo. Do you know her blog, In Jennie's Kitchen? You should. This woman took the trouble to make the entire brunch gluten-free for me. And it was all delicious.

The other guests agreed. No one felt deprived because there was no gluten on the table.

Also, because they are also food writers and bloggers, no one made fun of me when I took this plate out onto the front porch to take this photograph.

the Wiley team

Later that day, for lunch, we met the amazing team at Wiley who produced our book. On the left is Justin, our inimitable book editor. Seriously, we love him. Justin, the fact that you are slightly out of focus in this photo has nothing to do with how we feel about you. In the middle is Jana, our PR person, the one-woman force gathering media attention for our book. And on the right is Todd, the head of marketing of cookbooks at Wiley. He's doing all the behind-the-scenes work to make sure the cookbook gets into your hands. He is also one of the dearest friends of my dear friend, Sherry, and the childhood friend of my awesome friend Carol Blymire. (What does it matter that I have yet to meet Carol in person? This is the internet age. I already dig her.)

That's what this entire trip felt like: incredible connections.

cheesecake at Locanda Verde

Also, the lunch we shared together at Locanda Verde ended in this stunning cheesecake. Gluten-free.


Just before we arrived in New York, Lu developed a fervent interest in trains. Mostly, due to this book, which we have now read to her 8,372 times. We could not have taken her to a better city.

Every time we approached a subway stop, she shouted out with intense glee: "TRAIN!" She sat through every subway ride with eyes wide open. She was somehow joyful when we stayed at the apartment of a friend in Astoria, for days, where the train tracks were above our heads and rattled the windows every fifteen minutes when another one roared by. "TRAIN!" she shouted.

And whenever we left the subway, again, she looked back and said, in her lilting voice, "Bye bye train!"

(I do not, however, miss walking up and down the steps of the subway, the two of us carrying her in her stroller. My biceps are amazing right now.)

New York street scene

One day, we walked from 57th Street to 14th Street, slowly. (Well, as slowly as you can walk in New York.) How many human faces we saw that afternoon.

And this guy, who walked about 10 blocks with us and no one ever gave him a second look.

I love that.

Lu looks at New York from her stroller

Lu took it all in from her stroller. She thrived in that city. She ran and smiled and danced and watched and talked until she collapsed with exhaustion, slept in her stroller for a couple of hours, and then woke up to do it again.

Clearly, we are not stimulating her enough at home. She slept solid and long hours every night we were there. Our little island may be too quiet for her.

We watched the city through her eyes, watched the panoply of people, the mix of races and fashions, the directness of conversation, the democratic way that everyone stands on the subway platform together, and we talked about the world in which she lives. In New York, we were so happy for her, to know such a place.

Whole Foods event

And we taught a class. Walking into a Whole Foods in Manhattan, we saw our own names.

That was a trip.

Thank you to all of you who came out that night. We will not forget the connection with you.

madison square park at night

Afterward, we walked uptown in the warm air and found Mozzarelli's, a pizza joint with gluten-free slices. They were just about to close, so we found extra slices in our hands. We walked to Madison Square Park, found a green metal table, and sat with Lu, eating pizza.

We laughed, the stress of making all our appointments for the day slipped away from our shoulders, the next day before us, our daughter dangling her feet from the chair, and all of us eating good pizza together in the warm evening air.

at the Union Square Greenmarket

The next morning, we met fellow food bloggers at the Union Square Greenmarket. This woman was perfectly dressed for the occasion. It was as though she stood there for my camera alone.

gathering salsa

It's fast-talking joy to walk through a farmers' market with other people who love food enough to write websites about it. And then to stop talking to admire the box full of fresh ingredients that would make up salsa later that day.

Those of you were there? Thank you.

Lu examines the peppers

Lu loved the peppers best.


EAT. That we did.

There was an adventuresome meal at Prune with Francis Lam, who is my new favorite dining companion for the way he pays attention carefully to every bite, silent, then releases into exhalation and enthusiasm. (Poached chicken in aspic! Pho beef short ribs! Creamed corn succotash!) Have you been to Prune? Go now.

There was the three-hour Greek meal we ate in Astoria with my old friend Gabe and his wonderful girlfriend, Pilar. We sat at a table on the sidewalk in the warm air and let the waiter decide for us what we should eat. (He was wonderful but sounded like a parody of Borat, so we laughed whenever he stretched out our daughter's name. "Oh Luuuuuucy! Won't you smile for me?") The grilled haloumi alone was worth the entire night.

There was an extraordinary lunch at Gramercy Tavern with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, the authors of The Flavor Bible and many other books. Danny cooked at Gramercy Tavern when he lived in NY (the same time as me, 12 block away, but we never met then), and he cooked with the help of Culinary Artistry, Page and Dornenburg's earlier book, for over a decade. It's how he has created dishes for every restaurant in which he has cooked.

We were both amazed to be sitting with these people in that place. We were even more amazed to feel such an easy sense of kinship with them. The edits of the manuscript for their next book were due the next day, and then they were getting on a plane to Argentina. But they made time for lunch with us.

The eating was amazing on this trip.

gluten-free Reuben sandwiches

Including this Reuben sandwich at Friedman's Lunch in the Chelsea Market. Look at that. How could you not want that?

(It's clear they use Udi's bread for their sandwiches. Good move.)

I could eat at Friedman's Lunch every day, given the chance. Too bad it's across-the-country away.

Here's the thing. We ate nearly every meal in someone else's hands. We only cooked once in 9 days. And in fine dining and dives both, I ate well. And I ate safely.

It's entirely possible to eat gluten-free in New York City.

sherry, shauna, and megan

We met some amazing new people on this trip, people who might be friends for years.

But in the end, it's such a comfort to see old friends. These two women, Sherry and Megan, sustained me through some lonely times in New York, when I lived there, almost a decade ago now. They made me laugh, made me think, and made me feel loved.

Now, they both have children (Sherry has three daughters, Megan has two boys) and I have Lu. We all have husbands whom we adore and respect. And there I was, in New York, on a book tour, hugging them both.

We all agreed — we had no ideas where our lives were going when we knew each other back then. No one could have ever predicted this.


For the picnic in Central Park, we asked people to show up with the words YES or IMAGINE on them somewhere. When we arrived, we were so moved to see it on bags and purses, on wrists and hands. YES and IMAGINE.

I have YES tattooed on me. Danny has IMAGINE tattooed on him.

This trip? It was all about yes and imagine. Years ago, Danny and I imagined a cookbook. We said yes to it, every day, through hard work and recipes that failed and more testing and writing and editing. We imagined it in your hands, in your kitchens, in your homes.

This trip? We saw you with our cookbook in our hands. And we gathered, those of us who were there, to talk about food and family and laughter and unexpected delights. It was, quite literally, a dream come true for us.

Say yes to your life. You cannot imagine what could happen.

Thank you, New York. Over and over. Thank you.

p.s. It seems I did find my words after all. Thank you for reading.