Gluten Free? Dairy Free? No Refined Sugar? Vegan?

Wow. There are a lot of different approaches to eating healthfully.  Not too many years ago, I pretty much enjoyed just about everything. I was fairly carefree in my food choices, except, perhaps, I was a bit of a food “snob”, meaning I liked incredibly good food. Having had the good fortune of being raised 100% Italian, I was surrounded by garden fresh, exquisitely prepared food on a daily basis. Four years ago when I became so ill and found out it was related to a gluten intolerance, I could not even imagine my life without, pasta and fresh baked bread! After a long period of denial and resistance, I crawled, quite literally, (because I was in that much pain), to the finish line of acceptance and decided I had to learn to navigate through a new lifestyle in order for me to live without pain every day. I can now look back with a new appreciation for where this has lead me and I firmly believe it has added years, if not decades, of quality living to my life. I no longer take my body for granted and realize it has to work very hard every minute of every hour of every day to do everything it needs to do for me to be healthy. I can either help this process or make things more challenging with the choices I make. I have evolved slowly from getting rid of all gluten to getting rid of most dairy, most refined sugar, most eggs, which gets me closer and closer to becoming vegan which I never would have dreamed of as recently as five years ago. I mean, seriously, back then, I thought the best things in life were butter, sugar, eggs and cream.


This year at the gluten free expo, I had a chance to meet and work with a number of incredibly talented and lovely ladies from all over the United States. Each has their own story to share about what they can/cannot, will/will not eat. For the expo purposes, the venue is entirely gluten, dairy and nut free, but we did use all organic eggs, sugar and soy. However, different presenting authors and chefs have cookbooks with different points of view. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from all of them and appreciate what each one has to offer and since, at this time, I still allow some flexibility in my daily food choices (with the exception of gluten), I open all of their cookbooks regularly. I also have to adjust what I make when I am baking for people as I know some things are still considered a little too “extreme” for a few folks and I am sensitive to that.


I took the opportunity of a few cool days this unusually hot summer to turn my oven on.  First up, by popular request, “the bean cake” …
One delicious example of gluten free, dairy free, no refined sugar, but not vegan because it does have eggs and honey in it, cake.  The reason it is affectionately called “the bean cake” in our home is because the cake base is made with yes … believe it or not … white beans!!  It is incredibly yummy and it is from The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts by one delightful, carefree, beautiful soul, Kelly Brozyna.  Visit her website at http://www.TheSpunkyCoconut.com.  Her first cookbook, The Spunky Coconut Cookbook, was one of the first books I purchased on my gluten free journey and she quickly carried me happily into uncharted cooking territory, including cooking my own pumpkins for pumpkin puree.  I will never buy pumpkin puree in a can again!  Although I told my family what was in the cake, they have learned to trust me more and instead of disgusted faces they were curious and eager to try the cake and now it is regularly requested.  So, I am still purchasing eggs on occasion, just not as often. 

Next in the oven, one of the recipes from Amy Green, the author of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Amy’s story is incredible and the gluten free/sugar free lifestyle was her golden ticket to health and weight loss when everything else failed.  She was one of my favorite chefs this year to work with.  The first thing I noticed in her cookbook was the most beautiful dedication of her work to her husband.  It is a love story in four sentences.  He was with her at the expo and based on what I saw, every word, is true. The information and the recipes in her book are definitely examples of someone with professional training.  This is not to say the recipes are difficult or challenging in any way. Quite the contrary, they are incredibly simple executions of top notch dishes.  Although she avoids gluten and sugar, but uses dairy, she gives easy non-dairy substitutions every chance she can.  This is not a complete review of her book because, of course, where do I start, with cakes and cupcakes and that is as far as I got!
I started with the first recipe in that section, Carrot Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting …
Yes, these were as fabulous as they look!!  At first, I was a little worried, the batter seemed to be just a little “thin”, but having worked with Amy in the kitchen, I decided I did not need to double check my measurements, I could trust her.  The result was a moist delicious cake crumb, full of flavor.
Next out of the oven, Lemon Poppyseed Cake.  I fell in love with the whipped cream cheese frosting from the previous recipe so I improvised here a little and added some left over vegan lemon curd to it and the resulting lemon flavored frosting paired beautifully.  Although Amy suggests raspberries, I happen to have strawberries on hand, so I used them instead and I don’t know how it could have been more delicious!!
I offered my sister a piece of this cake who at first declined the offer because, she “doesn’t really like lemon much”, but then changed her mind and ended up eating a whole piece!
Ok, two for two!  One more recipe from this section before moving on …
Banana Walnut Cake (or in this case, cupcakes) with the best whipped chocolate avocado frosting!  Amy made this at the expo and I admit, I was craving it, so I deliberately chose a cake that would support the flavor.
OK.  Now, that I have cut this open, you can see that I substituted chocolate chips instead of walnuts.  I did not realize I was out of walnuts, and had 1 little ounce of lonely chocolate chips that I threw in at the last minute.  No doubt about it, these were hands down the ultimate favorite of the three among all taste testers!!!  Even skeptic random teenagers that seem to gather in my home with some regularity, who don’t even know what gluten free, sugar free means let alone, may not even know what an avocado is, loved them!   We have not one, not two, but three new recipes in our house!
Stay tuned for more recipes from Amy Green as I eagerly move on to the next chapters … to be continued….
In the meantime read her story and get lots of recipes at her website, SimplySugarAndGlutenFree.com
Just when I used up all the eggs, my husband called to remind me that he had to bring cookies to a work picnic the next day.  Hmm, out of eggs, (no surprise), but I do have plenty of sugar.  I turn to yet another one of my favorite chefs that I met at the expo, Cybele Pascal.  Who, unlike, Kelly and Amy, uses sugar, but is gluten, dairy and egg free.   The book I have the pleasure of owning that she has authored is The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.  Although there are a number of favorites I have from her book, I prefer to try new ones as often as I can, because, well, so many recipes, so little time!  Here is one from the cover of the book … Chocolate Sandwich Cookies … a vegan option …
They are, as she describes, like a soft “oreo”.  OK, so maybe there is enough time for repeating some recipes!
PS … I am still getting used to a new blogger home,  trying to decide if I want to “stay” here.  Somehow I realized I have I think, at least three, different font styles and sizes.  I don’t have any idea how that happened nor can I figure out how to fix it right now. (LOL) : )  Oh well.  And I also cannot figure out how to do a proper link, like I was able to do at blogspot.  Hmmmm.  Life is all about being a little flexible isn’t it?



         
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