Tag Archives: gluten-free

Caviar: Nothing But New Eggs to Bear

I should think of cakes when I think of birthdays. Naturally, I should. Chocolate cakes, yellow rum cakes or red velvet cakes with chocolate or white frosting and candles sticking out of them. But tonight, upon this sleepy hour, I somehow think of caviar. Black caviar harvested from a really old female sturgeon fish tightly packed inside a golden tin with an enormous rubber band around it.

Caviar Tin
I don’t know why I should associate caviar with birthdays because I certainly can’t afford it on my birthday and probably won’t be buying anybody a tin of these tiny black pearls for anyone. But the idea that they are eggs, perhaps, is why I associate them with birthdays. The egg is where life begins after all. When an egg hatches, a chic hops out. When an egg is fertilized, something new is formed from it. A baby, perhaps. The birth of something new.

These eggs, this caviar amazes me at first encounter. It’s one of those ingredients that harbors some form of celebrity status in the kitchen alongside Italian truffles, Kobe beef and Blue Fin tuna shipped all the way from Japan. And when one comes across one of these rare ingredients in the kitchen, from what we’ve read or witnessed through the media, somehow all the knowledge we have gathered over the years rise to the surface and arrive at a confluence, conjuring awe. I might not say it out loud, but I can feel my eyes widening in a conversation with its self muttering an elongated “Wwwwoooooooowwwww” audible only to myself. Because there must be thousands of eggs crowding inside the can and I can’t help wonder how much does a dollop, on this nonreactive bamboo I’m scooping it with, costs?

What drives up the cost anyway? Appearance for one. Large, light gray pearls of caviar are prized more than the dark ones. Grayish caviar means the eggs are old (and probably not dyed) as opposed to newer eggs that are vibrantly black in color. Where the caviar is derived from influences price. Caviar from the Caspian Sea, either from Russia or Iran, where most naturally existing sturgeons in the world flourish, typically sell for thousands of dollars. Beluga caviar for example, with a reputation for being one of the most expensive foods in the world, is gathered from sturgeons that are at least 20 years old. Sturgeons from the Caspian sea can be considered “OG” or original since these fish have roots dating back to the time of dinosaurs. Caspian sturgeons are considered authentic caviar, caviar enjoyed by kings and tsars throughout the ages, which add to their value compared to farm-grown sturgeons. Because some species of sturgeons have become endangered, either because they’ve been hunted for hundreds of years or must learn to survive in increasingly polluted sections of the Caspian Sea, the sturgeons become few and far between which can only enhance their selling price throughout the world.

True, price is one of the wow factors to caviar. Beluga and Sevruga caviar can run for thousands of dollars while the Osetra caviar run in the hundreds. Is it that good that these caviar are priced so high in the market? Some say it isn’t the first bite, but the second, third and fourth bite which makes it all worthwhile. Honestly, I’m indifferent to it. It’s like boba, but really tiny with a fishy afterthought to them. Does it make any difference combined with potatoes and sour cream? It tastes pretty good, but I know I won’t get full from it. Too darn expensive! But I also didn’t grow up eating caviar nor do I have any fond memories to tie caviar for me to keep eating it. I’m happy to taste it when it is there, but I won’t be placing my pockets in a deficit to get a tin of it. Perhaps, on one special occasion I may purchase a humble container for family to taste, but that would require winning the lottery which is probably the only time I’ll consider spending on Beluga caviar all the way from the Caspian Sea.

[p.s. Happy Birthday SJP!]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Chocolate Chip Off the Quick Bread

It wasn’t something I was planning on, but something lead me to it. Outside, it’s been very cold … bones freezing and a horrid cough creeps in and out of me, provoked by the cold air. My body craves warmth, deeper than what Vicks vapor rub can do for my respiratory system. I find myself therefore standing in the middle of my kitchen where I see the oven and the burners, the only hearth I know can yield the warmth my body desperately needs to get me over this terrible cold lingering inside my system.

I want something that goes well with tea. Jasmine tea, ginger tea and lemon tea have been the drink of choice these past couple of months to warm the throat and tone down this unsparing barrage of cough coming from me. Frankly, without any added sweetener, the tastelessness finally wears my palate down, and the drab inside my mouth searches for something to compliment tea.

Given the ingredients available to me, I came up with a gluten free chocolate chip bread. In the pantry, there were chocolate chips, sugar, a medley of gluten free flours and olive oil. I still had a tub of sour cream from Costco that needed to be finished along with some eggs. I wanted to use all of these and ended up putting together a somewhat decent gluten free quick bread that I believe matches tea very well.

Chocolate Chip Bread
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Bread

80 g garbanzo bean flour
60 g potato flour
20 g coconut flour
100 g tapioca starch
40 g arrowroot starch
1/2 t xanthan Gum
1/2 t baking Soda
1/2 t salt (Kosher)
1 1/2 t baking soda

150 g sugar
1/3 C olive oil
1 C sour cream
1 C milk
2 ea eggs
1 t vanilla

2 C chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375*. Grease or coat 2 one pound loaf pans and set aside.

Combine and whisk together all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour mixture is moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips until well distributed throughout the batter.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two loaf pans and bake in a 375* oven for 20 minutes. Turn the loaf pans and bake another 20 minutes, this time turning the oven heat down to 325*.

Let the loaves cool for 15 minutes. Slice and eat to your heart’s desire! With tea, of course!


There are plenty of recipes out there on the internet, more alike in so many ways, but different because they are found in different sites. It is the baker’s duty to read these recipes and catch the anomalies, inconsistencies and edits these recipes undergo because though they look good on paper, how it looks in the bowl sometimes goes against the baker’s instincts. I didn’t realize I had these instincts until I came across a recipe I was trying out which at the end simulated cookie dough rather than a loose quick bread batter. At first sight of this quick bread, I thought my entire body was at a standstill. My mind couldn’t move forward and was urging me to add liquid. Had I not added some milk into the batter, this entire blog entry might be saturated with disappointment rather than pride and joy. So for all the bakers out there, novice or experienced, do not ignore those baker’s instincts when you proceed through a recipe… or else you might just regret slicing into a rock rather than a piece of bread. Best of luck and Happy Holidays!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goat Cheese: The Quickening Snow Upon Some Winter Wonder Salads

Every morning is a race. I have to prepare sandwiches. I have to prepare salads. A salad under thirty minutes is the goal… I feel like Rachel Ray sometimes. And I don’t mean just a green salad with tomatoes and croutons, but a well composed salad… with grains, a handful of herbs and sometimes some grilled vegetables. A sensible medley that are cut and tossed altogether with a flavored vinaigrette to complete the salad. This is the challenge every morning. One of the humps I must go through in order for the entire day to go smoothly. A salad in thirty minutes or less. Otherwise, I’ll be behind on time.

Mediterranean Salad with Couscous, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

Mediterranean Salad with Couscous, Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

One thing I learned over the years in making a salad is that goat cheese is a life saver. Goat cheese crumbles by MontChevre is the brand I encounter and use at work all the time. If it wasn’t for this goat cheese, I don’t know what I would do. Honestly, goat cheese is not something I gravitate towards when I think of eating cheese. It’s not something I eagerly perk up my head and say, “oh yes, please do give me another slice of goat cheese!” If I can help it, I’d like all my cheese to be made from cow milk, not from goat.

Golden Beets and Pear Salad with Goat Cheese

Golden Beets and Pear Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans

However, to appreciate goat cheese, one must understand its characteristics. Goat cheese is usually packaged in clear plastic as a log. It is a clean, white cheese that is neutral tasting up until the pungent aftertaste kicks in. After the swallow, it registers in the head in this way, “ah, this wasn’t cream cheese after all, it was goat cheese.” Perhaps, unappealing at first, but then because the goat cheese may have complimented the cracker a bit, one keeps eating more. And this is how the goat cheese is introduced into our palate. From here on, it becomes part of our taste repertoire that we learn to include it in our arsenal of must shop for cheeses, even for the holidays.

Couscous Salad with Kale and Goat Cheese

Couscous Salad with Kale, Cranberries and Goat Cheese

Part of being a food enthusiast is understanding the characteristics of the ingredients we encounter. Even if they aren’t our favorites, we must still strive to learn and figure out how their certain characteristics can harmoniously play into a dish. With goat cheese, I often can sprinkle the crumbles over a composed salad, what I refer to as a quickening snow effect. That pungent creaminess associated with goat cheese nicely compliments sweetness, from cranberries to strawberries; in addition, goat cheese can tame down the unctuousness derived from the oils usually added to moisten salad. Nowadays, I look forward to goat cheese as crumbles which can be readily sprinkled onto any salad because the I believe that quickening snow effect elevates the salad into a thing of beauty.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Remembering My First Taco

The taco is probably the single most relatable Mexican food there is. If we were on Family Feud and we were told to name the most popular item on a Mexican restaurant, we’d probably say “taco.” The word taco has become universal along with the term sushi and hamburger. These terms are so common worldwide that they don’t need to be translated into another language. They are what they are, perfect in their syllables… taco.

Taco 1Tacos abound. It’s a warm tortilla with meat and salsa, a spray of lime and some chopped up onions and cilantro. At least that’s one way to have it. If not, then ground beef with pico de gallo and salsa… done. Two of those and it’s a satisfying meal, along with a bottle of beer or a cold Pepsi. Nothing beats a taco when you’re up to your ears with sandwiches.

Nowadays, the combinations are endless and even the flavor profiles give the taco a bit of a twist these days. Make it with duck confit and it lends a nuance to the taco that segues from our usual choices of chicken, beef or pork. Make it with Kobe beef and it elevates the taco just a little bit more. And if one marinated the beef with Korean flavors, it might just mimic what the Kogi truck has been feeding its loyal followers all these years.

There are many varieties of tacos out there, too many to single out as the best one because a taco is what it is to the consumer. It is either delicious or it is either the worst one that they’ve ever tasted. I don’t think I’ve tasted one quite so awful, and I’ve bought them from some questionable locations. But this isn’t really about that.

taco 2
This is about honoring the memory, that connection with someone when I found myself for the first time overwhelmed with the selections offered at a taco bar. I don’t have much tacos and frankly, at the time, I never really got the taco. I came from a country where people ate rice predominantly. What’s with a taco? Fortunately, there was one individual so proud of their culture who allowed me to observe one way to layer a taco by first warming up the corn tortilla and then spreading a small amount of beans on top followed by a sprinkling of queso fresco. It was then topped with some meat and pico de gallo, a meager drizzling of salsa along with a squeeze of lemon. It was that moment, that day that cancelled out all other tacos I consumed previously for that day became the guideline, the pattern for how a taco would be for me. All of it together, for the first time, seemed to make sense to me and how this taco formed this medley in my mouth. A song was born in my tongue and I couldn’t get enough. Surely, there are many ways and freedom goes a long way with a taco. But that act of a taco, in my memory, shall always be my very first taco.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Loving that Gluten Free Bread

Loving Bread 1
I don’t think we’ve truly tasted bread until we make it with our own hands. I don’t think I would come to this thought had I not turned predominantly gluten free. For in comparison, today’s bread is air. We are sold fluffed air for bread. This is something I wouldn’t have arrived at if I didn’t look for an alternative bread for the almost gluten free lifestyle I was about to plunge into.

As a former baker, bread has always been important to me. From the two years I spent baking overnight, turning out croissants and danishes and muffins on a daily basis, all I can say is that it is as much a craft as a cobbler is to a pair of shoes or a cheesemonger to a sharp aged piece of cheddar cheese. No one can begin to understand a baker’s craft unless one walked in their shoes, and how they might agonize over unproofed dough, tracking down the culprit as to whether it is due to insufficient warmth or overly salted dough. These kind of details are enough to make a baker go insane at three o’clock in the morning. But no one would know, no one would see except him or herself and God. These are the quiet hours when there is nobody around the kitchen and the baker is forced to come to a decision as to whether to start again and face the embarrassment of a fatal mistake as to why a hefty amount of croissant dough met its demise that morning.

Loving Bread 2
Changing over to this new lifestyle, I discovered quickly that not everything gluten free is gold. Although many products are sold out there, some are just really unpleasant and unpalatable. Working with sandwiches, it really makes me think twice about going back when I encounter such a gluten free product. I ask myself why it is I surrendered the joy of a croissant sandwich over this grainy, unbreadlike-tasting bread. That’s redundant and quite a mouthful, but I just spent $7 on a loaf of bread that I’ll force myself to eat because I spent 7 bucks on it even if it isn’t good. I’ll toast the hell out of it and slather it with a ton of cream cheese and strawberry jam just to eclipse the taste of that bread out of my mouth. I’ll chase it with coffee or milk if I have to, just as long as it is gluten free.

The one thing gluten free contributed, aside from minor weight loss and not being quite so bloated all the time, is how it reacquainted me with baking again. Now more than ever, baking becomes necessary. My dissatisfaction with products I’ve encountered encourages me to recreate breads and desserts according to my standards. The idea of making something staple and needed as bread has never surfaced until now. Sure I made my pandesal, but I can’t eat it daily as I do my new gluten free loaf. When I worked in pastry, though an enticing place to work in, no one can really consume too many cookies or brownies for that matter because that would be sugar overkill. Fear of diabetes lurks not too far and if one wasn’t careful with the array of chocolate cakes, ganaches and mousses abound, one can easily trip into some health-related pitfall, if not diabetes, then overconsumption made manifest around the waist.

Loving Bread 3
Bread, when one is gluten free, takes on a different notion. It no longer becomes that item of abuse like the unlimited, free cheese biscuits or house rolls delivered to the table at our favorite restaurant. Oh God, no. I look at that bread basket now and see it as poison. Take it away please! The gluten free bread becomes, in essence, a food item reeling me back to what is important and necessary. This is what being gluten free means. Going back and rediscovering what the basic staple, such as bread, really means to one’s body. In a case like this, the bread without its gluten foundation becomes more substantial, a food item that the body learns to appreciate and not take for granted.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Bread of Life? My Bread for Life!

Food has something magical in it when put together right. Even a mere sandwich, given the right touches of smoke and fat can be transformed into something enormously satisfying and out of this world. Take your pulled pork sandwiches and smoked swordfish salad with minced jalapeno… as though someone has taken a wand and dotted it with a spell so it would taste splendid with each bite. Ahhh, the beauty of a sandwich.

These days, however, before I even arrive at that ahhh moment with a sandwich, I have to have the right kind of bread. Gluten free preferably because I’ve converted and I’m sold. I’ve said it before, being gluten free is quite challenging at times. Temptations abound at work especially when the scent of bread from the pastry kitchen tries to yank me from my bowl and dish gathering each morning. When the baker asks if I want a just-baked, out of the oven type of morning bun, it takes all my energy to repress the hectic swooning inside of me. When I have uttered a firm “no,” I wonder sometimes whether I have let slip from my eyes how much I truly wanted one. Still gooey with melted cream cheese, you said? My stomach tugs at me, reluctantly, I say no again as though the gluten prisoner concealed inside of me has no say in these matters anymore.

Instead, I focus all my energy on making bread at home. More than bread, a bread for life. To finally arrive at a recipe that tastes close to the kind of bread I’ve been eating most of my life, it feels as though I arrived close to where I want to be. I can breathe again. The search is over and I’m sticking to this one for the long haul. I followed the recipe on One Good Thing by Jillee. The pictures convinced me, her labeled “Gluten-Free Bread That Doesn’t Suck” looked like a brioche bread to me. I looked at that bread, imagined having it for breakfast with runny eggs, and I took a chance.

bread for life

I followed Jillee’s recipe but made my own substitutions. I used garbanzo flour instead of brown rice flour, arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch. Olive oil for the butter (I ran out of butter). Had I known that egg replacer could easily be replaced with baking powder, I wouldn’t have spent $6 bucks on it. That and I took the recipe and just dealt with it like a baker. I was uneasy about it at first because I’m not used to bread that can’t be kneaded. I used a paddle to mix this bread, not even a dough hook. My hands remained clean throughout the whole time, which is unlikely when I knead dough.

This recipe is wet and calls for the dough to rise close to the top of the pan. The rise took closer to two hours rather than its estimated 50-60 minutes. The 45 to 55 minute bake time in a 375 degree oven might be too long, so depending on the oven, whether the temperature is calibrated correctly, one might aim for 30 minutes and drop down the temperature to 300 degrees if one wanted to reach the 45 minute mark. My bread was already done and golden brown at 25 minutes. I suppose if I wanted the bread to have a substantial crust all around, I could have baked longer. Even with the substitutions I made, I’m really quite pleased with this bread.

Yummy Bread for Life

I have to say that this bread, apart from being delicious, is quite inspiring. Making it felt satisfying. Having access to it, for the first time, I feel not quite deprived as I have been. I rejoice and I want to share it with my family. I looked forward to making breakfast this morning because I had this bread to offer. Though the bread is cold, having been baked the night before, it tasted even better after it popped out of the toaster. The bread is substantial and grain free which is really what I require most foods to be these days. And it is just lovely, slathered with peanut butter and jelly inside. Bread of life? My bread for life!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Chocolate… A Tale of Two Cakes

Was I dreaming this? Is this for real? I’m fast asleep on the airbed in the extra room when my niece came in and woke me briefly. She said hello and I acknowledged her with eyes barely opened, trying to make sense of time and place and where the hell I was. Oh yes, I was waiting for her to come home. After work, I stopped by her house to visit, but she had gone to a party. She was about to exit the room, and my head ready to fall back on the pillow, when she suddenly backtracked and asked, “Where’s my chocolate cake?” It must have been ten o’clock at night already.

I am the aunt who went to culinary school and spent 6 years in a pastry kitchen. Therefore, I became the go-to person for cakes. Cheesecakes, cupcakes… chocolate cakes. My niece eats a modicum amount of food, but she has fixations when it comes to sweets. They arrive in waves depending on what she’s remembered or learned. It could be a week of pining for, or rather whining for, cookies, brownies or banana breads. I don’t really know whether her list of cartoons actually elicits these cravings, but this week it was chocolate cake. The reminders passes from random voicemail to her own mother calling me about how her daughter, my niece, had been asking for chocolate cake. “Fine, fine,” I said, “I’ll make it on my weekend.”

It’s been a long time since I baked a cake. Since my focus lately had been on gluten free bread, cakes were far from my mind. But since my niece reigns supreme in my heart, gladly I take this on. The simple chocolate cake. But I want to enjoy the cake too and I want my sister to enjoy it too. It can only be gluten free.

The sponge would be the challenge, but a minor one because I already know that I would only need to substitute the A.P. flour with a gluten free alternative. For this, I used a combination of garbanzo and almond flour along with tapioca starch and applied it to a chocolate cake recipe. The result was a success. I baked it on a half sheet pan and decided I would just split the sponge in three equal parts and layer it. I explained this to my sister, upon which she texted me promptly back and asked if I could make two cakes instead of one. I have a nephew now after all and if I make it for one, it meant, I have to make one for the other. “No problem,” I texted, “I got you.”

chocolate cakesIt was one of the hottest days that week… a heatwave fell upon the day when I had to ice the cake. Seeing that my sponge turned out well and the chocolate icing was just right, I had forgotten about temperature playing a crucial part in making cakes. If I was melting in this horrid weather, the cake would surely do too. Thank goodness for my pastry smarts kicking in when they did. Placing the cake back and forth inside the refrigerator seemed to stave off the icing from turning into liquid butter. My poor refrigerator though… it worked double time to keep the cool in. The rewards though… priceless. A tale of two cakes… one for my niece and one for my nephew… gluten free at that… was absolutely enjoyable! Another gluten free success.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Funerary Muffin… A Small Good Thing

It is not worth taking a picture of. It is simply a muffin. Blueberry with crumbles. Two dozen worth. Not gluten free. The one last thing I wanted to do for my Ninang Lilay before she was laid to rest.

As much as I love food and as much as my physique reflected it when I was a kid, my godmother, who I call Ninang Lilay, was the only one who didn’t dwell on this or pointed out the obvious. This was the first thing anybody really saw in me, the first impression they had of me before I could prove otherwise. I was portly. To others, blatantly fat. To Ninang Lilay, it didn’t seem I was that. Though I waited for the words to come out of her mouth, they never did. This memory of her omission was what stuck to me in the end and I really appreciated it. It was hard enough being an immigrant kid trying to fit in to this new country. Try being a fat kid at that. It wasn’t easy. Good thing I had a sense of humor about it.

My Ninang Lilay was a generous and kind human being. It is rare to meet an individual who embodied such an incredible spirit like hers. It is really quite humbling to come across someone like her during this lifetime. Having that in mind, I wanted to make something, give something that would honor the time she spent here on earth. What is appropriate to bring to a wake? Filipinos bring food to the wake so there would be something to eat throughout the duration of the vigil. Cupcakes felt too celebratory and any other cake felt too elaborate. It’s a wake after all, not a party. Muffins kept popping up in my mind. Something that would comfort other mourners. Blueberry muffins then. They were, to me, a small good thing that could comfort at a time of sadness. Funerary muffins. A muffin for the soul.

I didn’t want to fuss over this and I wanted to use what was readily available at home. Beside the flour and sugar, I used sour cream and olive oil. Frozen blueberries. Butter for the crumble. Simple ingredients I hoped would make some impact. But since regular flour now tasted different to me, I was uncertain about the end product. I didn’t know whether people would like it since I couldn’t tell if the muffins were good. The use of regular flour stumped my own taste buds and I couldn’t believe this was happening. Doubt raced through me. So I used the last ingredient up my sleeve. I prayed for it to be good.

Good intentions often are accompanied by good results. Even as I doubted whether these muffins would be consumed, all 24, were polished off even before the third hour; partly because of my own mother who was proudly handing off muffins her daughter made. The other stories that filtered through were that people genuinely liked it. At some point, I was giving advice about baking when I ought to have been praying. (Sorry Ninang Lilay!) Either way, I wished that I could have done more. Nevertheless, the one thing I came away with from this experience is that no matter how simple or elementary a recipe, make it from the heart… project all your good intentions and intellect in it because the honesty of the spirit, that which transfers from one’s hand to the batter is really the best quality ingredient of all. These funerary muffins, when time calls for it, they are a small good thing to have wrapped around mourning hands.

(Rest in peace, Ninang Lilay. See you in the next life!)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blueberry Love and Hate

In the six years I worked in a pastry kitchen, none was more memorable than my tour of duty as a baker. Perhaps because it was the last station that I would rotate to before departing from the pastry kitchen altogether, but also because of how grueling it can be as a baker. Turning my body’s internal clock around was no easy task and, therefore, I found myself sleepless for two years without substantial rest until the weekend. And even then it was a struggle to put myself to sleep on my second day off in order to get ready for my Monday shift which started at 1:30 a.m. For two years, I walked like a zombie for the sake of learning breads.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins

I discovered a love hate relationship with certain tasks a baker took on. I took pride in being a baker, but the amount of work was tedious. Thought I love muffins, making hundreds of them every night wore me down. I didn’t realize this when I first took on the baker’s position. I loved learning the process of making croissants and danishes, but there was a price to this and they were the muffins. People pushed paper for work, I pushed muffins. I mixed the batter and scooped them endlessly ’til my right wrist hurt. Then I would scoop some more with the left and alternate until all the mix was gone. I remember joy when I left this mass muffin baking behind and I swore I would never look, touch or taste a muffin again.

Then arrived a morning when I became gluten free. Can’t bear to have eggs for breakfast day after day or that gluten free pancake. Got to have something different this time. I wanted simple, something I could grab with a cup of coffee. And the blueberry entered my head. There was no way of getting around it. I knew I was going to embark on making a gluten free blueberry muffin.

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffin BatterThinking about it placed me back in the baker’s kitchen, tirelessly scooping blueberry muffins and topping with more blueberries until my hands were blue. I would be considered regal if I dated back to the first civilization around the Mesopotamia, but looking at my blue stained hands just looked tacky. Night after night without help and it felt as though a race with myself before the timer for the first batch of muffins were done in the oven. The anxiety sets in…

But I would just be making a dozen and not 24 dozen which is good. And once I get the flour blend right, it would be easy. Yes. Set the timer for 20 minutes and a different product from the oven would come out altogether. Right. A beautiful blueberry muffin righteous for me to devour and my stomach to enjoy. Correct!

Even with this love hate relationship with the muffin, it shall always be a wavering thing because no matter what caused me to feel great anxiety or feel some aversion to it, I believe I can overcome the psychological reasons behind it. Of course there’s more to the tedium, but because the blueberry muffin in its pure essence is such an enjoyable muffin, I find that blueberries are small entities of home and regardless the path I walked as a baker, there’s always room for a blueberry muffin.

Gluten Free Blueberry MuffinGluten Free and Grain Free Sour Cream Blueberry Muffin
(about 12 muffins)

40 g Garbanzo Flour
30 g Coconut Flour
30 g Almond Flour
70 g Tapioca Starch
30 g Arrowroot Starch
150 g sugar
1 t cream of tartar
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

3/4 C + 2 T sour cream
1 T olive oil
1 t vanilla
1 ea egg
zest from 1 small lemon

1 & 1/2 C frozen blueberries plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 375*. Line muffin pan with muffin cups.

In a bowl, combine and mix wet ingredients including lemon zest, set aside. In another bowl, combine and whisk all of the dry ingredients together.

Add wet mixture in with the dry ingredients and fold with a spatula until combined. Fold in blueberries just until well dispersed inside the batter. Scoop batter into the muffin cups and top with more blueberries. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.

Enjoy muffin with a cup of coffee, tea or milk.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To Bread or Not To Bread… That is The Question

There’s no doubt about it, I’ve got the gluten-free blues. Since tasting that scrumptious pandesal from last week, lately, bread is all I can think about. Sandwiches, paninis, wraps… it’s all I can think about from the time I wake up to the time I fall asleep. Temptations abound everywhere I go and though I know to stay away from it, for the good of my own digestive system, that yeast and gluten together conspire and beckon me close even if I am trying very hard not to think about it.

tofu sandwichesGetting on the gluten-free bandwagon was a choice I recently made. Having witnessed my sister’s weight loss from following the Wheat Belly guidelines, the goal was to become gluten-free and grain-free. That meant staying away from foods with gluten or wheat in it, i.e. bread, beer, soy sauce, etc…, as well as grains like rice and corn. Except for beer, all the latter mentioned were staples to my diet. Heck, I’m Filipino after all and this body of mine was built from rice, mamon and pandesal. When we came to live in the U.S., it then became about the sausage and pineapple pizzas, In-N-Out hamburgers, carne asada tacos and pastrami sandwiches that were ordered occasionally as takeout meals during the week. Not to mention unlimited access to countless chocolate croissants and fleur de sel cookies met during my stint in a pastry kitchen. Aahhhh, the days of gluten, I call them. Such wild and carefree moments with flour not long ago….

Going gluten-free was far from what I considered for myself. I love(d) bread. I was a baker for two years and I absolutely enjoyed the process of yeast and flour coming together to form beautiful gluten strands when kneaded with my bare hands. I loved that encounter of tacky dough against my skin and its eventual release from the heels of my palms. Best of all, of course, is the end product itself that has risen well in the oven and is baked to golden brown; every time, a deliciousness accompanied by a symphonic aroma of sweet, warm and goodness. You just can’t help pick up a roll or two to taste and devour.

pizza crustI didn’t want to go gluten-free let alone grain free. Around the time I was contemplating the decision, I had just figured out how to make good pizza dough. I’ve been laboring over it for weeks, I was so proud of it. I hesitated the gluten-free route because I didn’t want to give up on making and eating pizza. However, after perusing through a borrowed Wheat Belly book from the library, what convinced me to transition is the explanation for wheat and how it isn’t what it used to be. It’s been genetically altered so many times over that the resulting wheat, the modern wheat, may be the source of many health problems, obesity being one of them. All my life, I’ve had weight issues, but any diet or exercise regiment was often short-lived. I equate diets with deprivation and I really don’t like being deprived of a lot of things. But being able to have most of everything but the wheat and the grain… why not give it a try.

It’s a difficult road to take, gluten-free and grain-free. Though the goal is to be both, I am neither a full convert at this point. For two months, I have eliminated many gluten products from my diet (the soy sauce and countless bread tastings for this blog still creeps in though), and limited most of my grain intake. What I can honestly say about myself is that I am predominantly gluten-free. I was never a fan of diets, but becoming gluten-free empowered me to make a simple choice of whether to have or not have bread. Finding myself before trays and trays of day-old croissants, danishes and morning buns at work, I hearken back to Hamlet when I ask, “to bread or to not to bread? That is the question.” I pick up that piece of chocolate croissant, hold it up in the air, and bust out with my own soliloquy, “whether to endure the pangs and sorrows of outrageous hunger.” In other words, I am so hungry, should I have this piece of bread? And as I imagine having this with a fresh cup of coffee (cream and sugar please), I then think of my own small accomplishment which is the weight I’ve lost since staying away from many gluten products. I abandon the bread and walk away.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,