Tag Archives: parents

What I learned this weekend: 8 lessons about gluten-free food and family

My dad used to be a teacher, and to this day retains a penchant for educating. As kids, we knew we could ask him questions we were “just curious about” and rely on him to tell us all he knew…which we could then furiously transpose onto our homework sheets, which was of course the point all along. (When he caught on, he was not pleased.)

And Mom homeschooled my brother and me for the early days of our educations: Patrick through fourth grade, and me through second. Homeschooling may account for a few oddball tendencies in both of us, but that’s not really the point of this blog post.

The point is, it’s no wonder I developed a desire to teach. Both my parents had been modeling it since, I imagine, day one.

This past weekend, my sister and I visited for my mom’s birthday. We spent much of our time at home cooking together, in a paper-towel-covered kitchen using all-new definitely-safe gluten-free cookware and ingredients, testing recipes for my mom’s blog.

As is always the case, while visiting, I learned a few things. Here are some:

  1. If you put a head of garlic in a bowl, cover it with a lid, and shake it vigorously, it will unpeel itself. At least, some of it will.

    I suppose "vigor" is subjective.

    I suppose “vigor” is a subjective word.

  2. Adapting a non-gluten-free recipe really isn’t as simple as subbing in a gluten-free flour blend.
  3. But cakes underbaked in the middle can become bundt cakes at a moment’s notice.
  4. And still taste great.

    gluten-free spice cake

    No one ever would’ve known…except Mom was modeling honesty this weekend, too.

  5. Going gluten-free hasn’t decreased my seasonal allergies. It’s just that I’ve been living in a place with no natural flora or fauna. Back in Massachusetts, land of the beautiful fall foliage…a-choo!
  6. Parents have way more fun after their kids move out:

    brandy cocktails

    I also (re)learned that I don’t really like brandy.

  7. Socca is still the best thing in the world, but panisses are definitely in the running. (Check out David Lebovitz’s recipe, which is similar to the one we used.)

    Is there anything that can't be made out of chickpea flour?

    Is there anything that can’t be made out of chickpea flour?

  8. My parents are the best parents a gluten-free gal (or two) could ever want.

I already knew the last one, but just want to be sure you do, too.

What have you learned about food and life from your family? Have you had any kitchen mixups or success with new recipes recently? And, for god’s sake, have you tried socca yet?

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Not-Quite-Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have the best parents in the world. I hope I don’t lose any readers by saying this—I’m sure your parents are cool, too—but mine are simply the best, and that’s that. Throughout my life, they have given me so much more than my celiac genes (sorry, I had to). They are generous, supportive, smart, caring, awesome people who taught me to laugh often. They’re also both great cooks and bake approximately a trillion batches of cookies between them for the holidays. They are most likely reading this blog post, so I will try to stop embarrassing them and move on to offending them.

Like I said, my parents have already given me a lot. And they continue to. Last week, I arrived at work to find a package I wasn’t expecting. It contained a note from Mom and Dad, a Bob’s Red Mill gift card, and two baking mixes. Oooh.

Bobs-Red-Mill-Gluten-Free-Cookie-Mix-Chocolate-Chip-039978004673Just the way for me to dip a toe into the perilous waters of gluten-free baking! I thought to myself. As I believe I’ve mentioned, I work for a publisher of gluten-free cookbooks. And I read a lot of blogs. This means I know that great gluten-free baking is a) possible, and b) really, really hard. At least, compared to “normal” baking. It involves multiple flours, the use of strange gums (or the gumption to go gumless), whole henhouses’ worth of eggs, and, above all, you really must buy a [standmixer/blender/sifter/oven thermometer/kitchen scale/other tool] depending on whose cookbook you’re reading. It’s scary!

Facing my fears, I tried out the chocolate chip cookie mix this weekend. I even bought a handmixer first! I shared the cookies with a few friends and kindly informed them that they would be required to provide a quote for my blog.

Friend #1: I didn’t want one before, and now I want one even less.
[Note: He did not in fact try a cookie. He also claimed it would be illegal for me to make up a false quote and attribute it to him, and he was unimpressed when I told him I had already done it to Abraham Lincoln. He’s a lawyer, so I won’t take any chances.]

Friend #2: I think they need more fat.
Me: More…fat?
Friend #2: You know, because they’re already gluten-free…

Friend #3: Well, I think they’re great. [Beat.] But I’m pretty drunk.

Friend #4: They’re sort of like gingerbread. No, that’s not it. Oatmeal-raisin, but without the raisins? They taste like…
Me, helpfully: Fava beans?
Friend #4: [Swallows.] Hmm. At least they’re probably really healthy, right?
Me, sadly: No.

Despite threatening my friends that I would, I didn’t take any photos. I do wish I had at least gotten one of myself trying to shape the dough (more like batter, really) into balls and instead winding up smearing fingerfuls onto the baking sheet into haphazard shapes that puffed, spread, and glommed onto each other unnervingly as they baked. In retrospect, it may have been a mistake to use that “light” Smart Balance butter alternative. I also maybe shouldn’t have freaked out and dumped half a jar of cinnamon into the dough after tasting it. And I probably should have packed a real dinner for myself that night to avoid this: “You’re all getting pizza? Oh, that’s okay. I’ll just…eat half of these cookies.” Such circumstances would make it tough to enjoy anything, and would give just about anyone a tummyache. Many lessons learned, my friends.

51KSJZC7FWL._SX300_The nice thing about this experience is that, from this point in my gluten-free baking trajectory, there’s pretty much nowhere for me to go but up. So, thank you, Mom and Dad. I’m looking forward to trying the brownie mix next; I hear that chocolate does wonders for, well, just about anything.

What was your first GF baking experience like? Do you have a favorite mix or recipe? Any that really are just like Mom’s?

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