Sunday, November 21, 2010

Delicious Gluten-Free (Everything-Free) Bread!!

I mentioned in my last post my frustrations with my new allergy-inflicted diet of nothingness.  Although I have managed to lose those last 6 stubborn pounds of baby weight plus 7 more, the real challenge has been re-learning how to cook, and finding the time to do it in!  But for those of you that know me know that I'm always up for a challenge and this one I've embraced wholeheartedly.  Let's be honest, I love to eat, it is a physical, mental, social, and at times even spiritual experience that I'm not going to give up on just because everything that tastes good is off-limits!  The holiday season is coming up and it is the food highlight of my year.  I'm gonna be busy.  Fortunately, God the Creator made us in his own image, so its time to kick those CREATIVE juices in high gear!!

My first step was to read labels.  After reading labels I realized in frustration that almost nothing is safe.  Even stuff that looks safe has hidden codes like: flavors, emulsifiers, and stabilizers, that automatically put me on the red alert.  So I've gone back to the basics and had to break things down by ingredient.  Fresh foods are my friends!  Grilled chicken, rice, fresh veggies and olive oil were staples for a while.  Homemade smoothies, hummus, and organic corn tortilla chips were my best friends.  But the same fare day after day gets pretty old.  And there's just one thing that was always missing...

Every culture has it.  That one food staple that if you took away their entire nutritional pyramid would crumble.  Their restaurants would close and ovens go cold.  For the Irish its the potato.  The Chinese have their rice.  Mediterranean cuisine has the pita, and Mexico the tortilla.  And we are no different.  You already know where I'm going.


We find a way to insert our favorite carbohydrate in almost any meal, sometimes in multiple forms.  It doesn't feel like a meal without it.  I can eat a steak and plate full of vegetables, and still wander around the kitchen looking for something to cram in my mouth because no matter how full I get I just don't feel satisfied.  So, on this gluten-free diet I've gone weeks without feeling satisfied.  That is until I found this post for delicious gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free bread!  

I was skeptical at first.  What exactly is in this bread anyway?  How can it possibly taste good?  But the comments at the bottom of the post shouted their approval.  So, it seemed worth a try.  

First step, gathering my ingredients.  That part was relatively easy.  Even my local grocery store has a small specialty section that holds a host of gluten free flours.  And the one thing I've found is that in replacing flours in any recipe, you can't just take out wheat and replace it with something else.  There is a delicate combination of flours that must be attempted and it is quite a balance!  I'm thankful for everyone that has done the legwork for me to find the right combos so that I don't have to do it.  I'd have given up long before discovering sorghum flour, that's for sure!!

Shopping bag in hand, I approached my kitchen with trepidation.  I had never tried to make homemade bread before.  I have had a breadmaker since my wedding 5 years ago, a cherished gift that I have been too intimidated to use.  The blog promised it was easy.  The directions are for oven-baked bread, not breadmaker.  So, conscious that I was entering into some sacred rite of passage, I followed the recipe doing my best and....Ta-da!  Bread--actual delicious bread that was good enough to cry over.  And I had done it all by myself!  With that triumph, I felt empowered to get creative.  And the confidence to go after my cravings, the beautiful food that I forced out of my mind for the next 8 months as I continue to nurse my everything-intolerant son.  

The recipe that I came up with is inspired by Macaroni Grill's deliciously addicting bread.  A couple years ago, when Joel and I were first married our close friend and neighbor worked at the Macaroni Grill.  He would come home with fresh loaves of bread, their aroma seeping through their paper bags just begging to be doused in olive oil and eaten that night!  It got to the point when, like pavlov's dog we would begin drooling right around closing time.  Mmmm.

It's been several years since I've been to a Macaroni Grill, but I found myself craving those flavors again.  So, I made myself some bread, and even my gluten-eating husband was in for a happy surprise!  I only made one loaf and it did not last the day.  

We tried it warm dipped in olive oil and basalmic vinegar.  Mmmm...
A sandwich!!  How long has it been??  Delicious barbecue chicken with grilled onions, homemade mayonnaise, cucumbers, and lettuce.  Yum!
like I said, did not last long...
Having conquered the challenge of homemade oven-cooked bread, I finally tried my breadmaker.  Let's be honest, my inborn lack of patience plus the demands of an infant means that I will ALWAYS cheat my bread on the amount of kneading as well as time to rise that it requires.  This bread doesn't require a lot, but still my breadmaker attempt was just a bit fluffier when it came out, and ever so much easier!

Here is my recipe, (which as I mentioned is adapted from Sally Parrot's blog):

Yields: 1 loaf of bread

* 3/4 cup millet flour
* 1/4 cup teff flour
* 1/2 cup sorghum flour
* 1/2 cup cornstarch
* 1 cup potato starch
* 1/2 cup tapioca flour
* 2 tsp xantham gum
* 2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp fennel 
* 1 Tbsp rosemary
* 1 Tbsp garlic powder
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 tsp yeast
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp warm (105-110 degree) water

Combine all flours, starches, xantham gum, salt, and spices.  (I have a canister of already prepared flour.  I took the amounts listed above and multiplied by the greatest common denominator to make a mix that I keep on hand (and have used for other recipes) which makes it even easier to make!  All-in-all this bread takes me about 12 minutes to get together and the rest is up to my Breadman Ultimate.)  If you don't have a breadmaker, from here on out follow the instructions listed in Sally's blog.  If you are using a breadmaker, you are basically there.  Pour water and olive oil in bottom of breadmaker.  Add the sugar (this recipe is yeast-based so it needs sugar; I'm not sure how substitutes would work), followed by flour mixture.  Make a small well at the top and add yeast, making sure it is not touching water.  Close breadmaker, set on whole wheat, medium crust, rapid rise, wait 2 hours and voila!  Be ready with butter or oil or whatever you want, and make sure you came with an appetite!! 

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!

**Edit: for a golden crispy crust, coat in butter or olive oil and toast for 10 minutes or until crispy**

Giving Up a la Mom

I mentioned several posts ago that my body is a temple.  One thing I've discovered since becoming a mom--its certainly not a temple to me!! A lot of things go missing from your temple when you have a child--some things obvious, others not so obvious!

You start losing things with the pea still in the pod: curves in the right places, sleep, bladder stamina, lung space, and comfortable positions to sleep in.
Later, once the baby is out, you find you've lost some more things: sleep entirely, bladder control, personal time, showers, abdominal muscles, and that thick, luscious hair you developed while pregnant.

The one thing I was excited to hang on to was that super-boosted metabolism I developed while cooking the little bun.  At least for a few months anyway while breastfeeding.  A ravenous appetite and finally no limitations to what I can have!  Or so I thought....

Then Ezra decided to develop persistent stomach issues.  How did we discover this?  The way you discover a lot of problems with babies--poop.  I won't go into details on what it has looked like, but basically I have spent the last 3 months with my nose buried in dirty diapers, gooey, smelly, sometimes fizzy diapers.  Ugh.  If that wasn't enough to kill an appetite, the diagnosis: food allergies.  Most likely culprit? Milk proteins.  So I had to eliminate dairy from my diet.  Along with dairy went its likely partner in crime--soy.   Giving up dairy and soy was pretty killer--they are in EVERYTHING.  And I LOVE ice cream.  And cheese.  And chocolate (did you know there is soy in almost all chocolate?  I almost wouldn't have survived if not for Seattle-made Theo Chocolate bars, which at $4 a pop are a rare but worth-while treat!)

Unfortunately, dairy and soy were an improvement but not quite enough.  So that mean TOTAL ELIMINATION.  No, I haven't quit eating entirely.  But total elimination means giving up all 8 major food allergens, dairy, soy, wheat/gluten, eggs, peanuts, nuts, fish, shellfish.  Once symptoms disappear I can slowly add them back in, one at a time, minor offenders first.  So I've done it--for the past 2 months.  Yes, this makes me an awesome mom and no, I won't let Ezra forget it.  But it is so hard!  I am hungry all the time!  And I just want some cheese, please.  I have no idea what an emulsifier is, all I know is that I can no longer eat it, and it is in a lot of yummy things!  And eating out has become such a chore, where I have to talk with managers, scour menus, and even after all that work Ezra often still seems to react to something..  What does that leave me you ask?  Rice.  And meat.  An hours to shop, prepare, and cook from scratch.  I'm back in Mauritania and I can't even throw in a Maggi cube for flavor because many spices have soy as a stabilizer!!

I guess this is one way to lose the baby weight.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The True Grace of Southern Womanhood

Lately I've been embracing the 1950's woman in me.  It may be a phase, a way to process motherhood and this stage of life as a homemaker.  It may be a way for the type A side of me to excel at something--even not working.  It may be a result of living in a new house and the opportunity to fix it up more than any of the previous apartments we have lived in.  I don't know how long it might take for me to get bored as a stay at home mom, or yearn for the more academic, social, or physical fulfillment that I have been accustomed to pre-Ezra.  But for now, I am actually having fun!

I've never coveted the title "Stay-At-Home-Mom."  In my mind, that phrase is synonomous with "Just a Mom."  But in the past several months, I have begun to learn that there is a true art to homemaking, something that can be done creatively and is worth taking pride in.  Like most things of late, this has been triggered by Ezra--my desire to have a spotless home (as he lays on the floor and chews on everything), the need for a specific healthy diet, his pleasure in observing his surroundings.  Conveniently, over the past year, I have learned a lot about homemaking from my in-laws (My own mother is amazing, a fantastic mom, immaculate housekeeper, excellent cook, ran a tight ship growing up, and excels at building home and hearth.  One of her gifts is definitely hospitality.  But for some reason I would never have classified her as a "homemaker."  She'd probably take that as a compliment.  Somehow the things she'd accomplish always seem nothing short of magic, with a result that leaves me mystified on how to replicate it.  This is probably why I am still okay even as a grown woman with letting her clean my kitchen whenever she visits).  Joel's family members are solid Texans, culturally speaking, without any of the obnoxious over-the-top Texas-worship for Texas's sake.  Blame my honest Yankee upbringing, but observing different aspects of their cultural gender roles have at times rankled.  I mean, how hard is it for a man to fix his own supper, wash a dish, or throw a load of laundry in the washer (or at the very least PICK UP his own laundry off the floor)?  While I do enjoy having doors held for me, I'm quite capable of getting them myself and really would rather skip folding the clothes every now and then.  As I've gotten to know my in-laws better, however, I've realized its not so much negligence or male chauvenism on Joel's father and brothers parts as it is an art form practiced by his mother and sisters.  I have myself reaped the benefits of coming to the Duncan household hungry, pregnant, tired, whatever the state, and been cared for with completely unassuming and unpretentious acts of service.  I have learned bits about the grace of homemaking from each one of my female in-laws. 

-Mom Duncan prepares food in epic proportions, specializing in healthy, organic, and hearty ingredients that can nourish and sustain her army of a family.  I will never be able to match the amount of precision that goes into her preparation and would never be able to manage even the grocery shopping!  I have no idea how her house has survived 9 children, let alone seem clean and open, channeling light and warmth no matter the amount of foot traffic.

-Elise can throw together a plate of food (something I have always inwardly protested as something I can/should do for myself) that is not only painfully delicious but exquisite enough to be magazine-worthy in the ways that she drizzles sauce, spices, and garnishes to perfection.  She has managed to learn the individual preferences of each family member enough to know that I will always perk up at the mention of avocado and lime, whereas Joel 10 times out of 10 will go for bbq or hot sauce.  This is no easy feat when you realize that there are 18 immediate family members to keep track of, and any number of surrogate family members as well. 

-Michelle quietly picks up the slack in any area that needs it and intuitively fills in the gaps without complaining or even needing to be asked.  She has the gift of making you feel instantly at ease, of being welcoming and hospitable without ever feeling forced or like the hostess.  From the sacred to the secular, the spectacular to the mundane, she always seems interested in what you have to say. 

-Rachel has this elusive middle-child quality that I can't quite put my finger on to explain, but for lack of better words she is such a presence.  I don't know how to describe it best except maybe through its absence.  When she is gone, there are huge empty gaps in the house.  She is not a noisy person, yet there is an eerie quiet.  She is not an overly-energetic person (the kind that energizes you when they are there but leaves you exhausted when they are gone), but there is a distinctly subdued atmosphere when she goes back to school.  And, she can bounce a baby for hours.  LITERALLY.  I get tired and am desperately looking for a pair of arms to pawn Ezra off on long before she does. 

-Aleya has embraced her artsy side, but instead of being emo and completely closed off into that (most of the time :o) she is always catching beauty and sharing it with others.  She has a way with words, with pictures, and an ability to reach out to anyone on any level without seeming judgmental or "better than."  People who feel alone or misunderstood are very drawn to her compassion. 

-Shannon is a woman of so many talents and gifts it is hard to name just one, but she has a depth of emotion and is full of "big thoughts."  Although I've been on this earth for more than a decade longer than she has, she constantly challenges me to engage with ideas that I prefer to ignore.  Plus, she is really fun to spike a volleyball at (or just hang out with :o).

-Youngest of all there is Claire.  Spunky, sassy, sensitive Claire.  She is quick to give her opinion, quick to tell a joke or a story, and quick to apologize.  She's held Ezra for me until her arms were breaking.  I've seen her play with other kids that I know are absolutely driving her nuts, but she doesn't let on at all. 

-Before I finish, I would be remiss if I excluded Amanda, the newest Duncan sister.  She has taught me so much about the power of surrender!  She is the intellectual equal of anyone I know but is a master at defusing tensions through humility.  Sometimes it is her silence, or the way she gracefully allows others to share their opinions without backing down that ultimately wins the battle. 

I started this post intending to share some of the awesome ways I have recently learned to embrace my inner-homemaker.  But somehow this has turned into an ode to the in-laws.  In college I had an experience that soured me on GRITS (Girls Raised in the South), but I've learned a lot about being a southern woman and I am grateful that my husband has such an awesome family that I can get along with and learn from, even if we have different backgrounds and at times very different opinions on things!  I miss my family every day, but it is such a blessing to have people that love me and Joel and Ezra, that welcome me home, even if it isn't Orth Drive.

UPCOMING:   My ventures into the intimidating world of homemaking, a mother's love and my diet of nothingness, amazing homemade gluten-free soy-free dairy-free egg-free nut-free allergen-free bread and the best sandwich in the world!!