Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gluten Free...and Dairy Free?

My mom is intolerant to dairy, and I've wondered myself about it.  But cutting out gluten is a big deal, and to cut out something else would be even harder.

Because who doesn't think a yogurt cup, a snack cheese, or a bottle of kefir isn't a quick, great snack?  Especially for people on the road.

But after reconnecting with an old friend who is gluten free AND dairy free (and a few other things too), I became inspired that maybe I could become healthier.

For example, I hired a trainer and for about 4 months all I could lose was 6 pounds.  She was like, "what are you eating??"  Like I was sneaking 52 cupcakes every week and leaving it off the food journal.

I was eating greek yogurt all day!  Because it is a really good thing to eat.  I like dairy.  I like cheese, milk, etc. etc.

But this past sunday I quit.  I've been eating other things, using coconut milk creamer in my coffee, and had a little almond cheese.  Yes, I said almond cheese.

The thing that's been really different, is that I have energy all day and all evening.  I can work all day, eat dinner, and then practice the 3 or 4 hours that I really need.  I'm not too tired anymore.

And I weighed myself at the gym.  Since Saturday, I have lost 2.6 pounds.

Coincidence?  Possibly.

But I'm going to go on like this for a while and see.  Then inevitably I'll have some dairy somehow, and then I'll really see.

What I don't like about this change is that it puts me one step further out from "regular" food.  But I know I can deal with the hassle of telling everyone about being gluten free, and so what's dairy too?

I like the idea of making a positive change for better health.  In itself a reward.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Are you GF and dairy free?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Duinkerken Bread

I can't tell you how amazing this bread is.  While I was in NYC, we made this mix at my friend's house, and it was better than any eating out we'd done. 

What I mean to say, is that my friend made it.  I provided some moral support, of course.  And an appetite.  At first, it seemed like a bother to me that the directions require you to beat 2 egg whites.  I mean, who beats egg whites in recipes anymore? 

I'll tell you who.  The people who work hard because they want to eat some super-awesome gluten free bread, that's who!

Check this out:

Looks like bread to me.  Tastes like bread to me.  In fact, the best gluten free bread I've ever had.

Actually, I think the beaten egg whites make all the difference.  The ingredients do not contain any dairy, nor do the directions advise adding any.  Therefore, I have decided to take the leap of also going dairy-free.  (I have been holding out on this because my previous favorite, the Gluten Free Pantry Bread Mix, contains dry milk).

So I ordered a whole case of the stuff (that's 6).  It's not on Amazon, but my friend Jen found it on buy the case:

So yesterday I tried it in the bread machine.  I put the warm water in the machine with the yeast, then beat the egg whites, then added all the ingredients and mixed.  It went pretty well.  I also put the 2nd (not used in the recipe) egg yolk on top for a crusty top.

So here's what it looked like out of the bread machine:
Success!  Guys, you have to try this one!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oh, Babycakes. Why.

I had the opportunity to spend this past weekend in New York City, and I had a wonderful time.

I stayed with an old friend from Ohio who lives in the city, who also eats gluten-free, so we had a lot to talk about and compare notes on.

We tried to go to as many places with gluten free offerings as possible, however we weren't able to get everywhere.  On my next trip, I really look forward to finding some Everybody Eats products to try, because I was disappointed to have missed them on this trip, having heard so many good things about them.

One of the places I was able to go to was Babycakes Bakery.  We arrived later in the day, and I was a little surprised that it is such a small storefront, but of course that doesn't matter.  Great things can come from small places!

Anyway, the location was extremely small, I would guess the storefront was about 12 feet wide, with the main counter just a few feet away from the door.  It was quite cramped, with a couple stools against the wall on the right, and two or three stools in front of the counter in the few feet between the counter and the front window.

When we arrived, there were two people sitting and talking on the stools to the right, which were directly in front of the main cooler with the baked goods.  About two or three people were ahead of us and so we were not able to look at the selections until after they had all checked out with their orders, due to the space.

When it was our turn to step up to the glass, I began to look at the selections when a young lady carrying two large trash bags (I mean large, they were about 5 feet tall each) came out of the kitchen area and asked us to move so she could take the trash out of the front door.  We walked all the way up to the front of the store and got out of the way.

After she had passed by, we returned to the counter, and because the written item descriptions were not all matched up with the trays of cupcakes, etc., I asked the man behind the counter which gluten-free (non-spelt) selections were still available.  He looked at me like I was stupid and said, "what it says on the glass."  Then he seemed to be obviously annoyed that I was not selecting a baked good soon enough for his taste, because he said, "Can I help anybody who knows what they want?"

That comment, I felt, was pretty rude.  I really didn't appreciate someone talking to me like that, someone who is asking for my business and my money.

So anyway, I went ahead asked if I could please have a red velvet cupcake.  He said Ok, I also selected a vanilla, chocolate and carrot.  Then my friend ordered a "Healthy-Ho" which is something like a sandwich of two brownies with cream filling inside.  He brought the order to the front, with a total of only three cupcakes and the fake Ho-Ho.  I said, "that's only three cupcakes," to which he replied, "Oh, did you want the carrot?"

To which I replied, "Um, no."  Which was my best decision all day.  The total price for these items was 16.60.

We took our selections to go, which he packed in boxes and put into an "I heart NY" plastic bag.

We then walked briefly around the Chinatown and Little Italy neighborhood, returned to the car, and drove up to Lincoln Center and sat down to enjoy them while watching the fountain.

The man at the counter had packed the three cupcakes in a box with a plastic window that was not glued to the top of the box, so the piece of cellophane had fallen onto the cupcakes under the weight of the box containing the Healthy Ho.  So when I opened the box, it looked like this:

But it's not what it looks like, it's how it tastes, right?

So I picked up the red velvet to taste what I expected to be a great cupcake.  But it was heavy.

So I pulled back the paper and took a bite.  I'm sorry to say, it was quite dry, and rather dense.  And the icing was very oily.  The texture was kind of inconsistent, with a moist spot here or there, a harder spot here or there, and the rest just, well, um...dry.

And the taste?  Well, I must admit I grew up in the midwest at a time when most every woman baked and many were masters.  So for better or for worse, my background dictates certain expectations for baked goods, and I am sorry to say that the taste fell far below my expectations.  It had more of a taste of fruit ingredients than that famous taste of red velvet cocoa with creamy frosting.

And so I did what my grandmother, who taught me how to bake, would probably have done.  I put it back in the box.

But I don't think it's fair to judge an entire bakery based on two bites of one cupcake.  Fortunately, I had two more chances to be delighted.

I moved to the vanilla cupcake with the green frosting.  Again, as I picked it up, it felt a little heavy.  I took one bite--and how was it, you ask?  Dry, yet again.  And it tasted more like orange or citrus than vanilla.  I commented to my friend that I must have been given the wrong flavor, and she thought it might have been "flavored" with lemon extract, or there may be lemon juice in the icing.

Well, the last time I baked anything "vanilla" flavored, I used vanilla.  And the last time I baked anything "lemon" flavored, I used lemon juice.  And so on.

So to me, this was not a pleasing flavor when I expected "vanilla."

After my first bite, I also returned it to its box.

When we made it back home, this is how the box looked (Uh, yum?):

I would just say, that in terms of an overall experience, I am going to have to give Babycakes a thumbs down.  

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, I'd give them a 1 for customer service, a 1 for price/value, and a minus 2 for taste.  (Maybe that's a little harsh.  How about just a minus 1.)

When we got home, my friend made a batch of homemade gluten free chocolate donuts, which were awesome.  That cheered me up!  But the ironic thing, is that when I was leaving Raleigh to come to NYC, I stopped by our awesome local dedicated gluten free specialty store, Rosie's Plate, to pick up some pita bread, they asked if I wanted to buy some cupcakes to also take to my gluten free friend.  I declined.  But next time, that is exactly what I am going to do.

(Also a shout out to other triangle bakeries like Moonlight Bakery, The Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakehouse, and Meepcakes in Winston-Salem.)