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Let them eat cake! And cupcakes!

Being gluten and casein free gets a little complicated around holidays/special occasions… particularly birthdays. And if you’re hosting a party and have a million things to do, and you’re starting to feel old and tired (I know that saying that while still in my 20s should be forbidden — sue me!), the last thing you want is to take a full day to make some elaborate dessert that you can actually enjoy on your own birthday… right before you yell at those damn kids to get off your lawn. 😉 That is why I am, once more, grateful for Silvana Nardone’s Cooking for Isaiah. I found a couple of recipes I fell in love with: chocolate cake (to please George) and strawberry cupcakes (in true “fresita” form!). The results were absolutely delicious, so I thought I’d share the recipes. (For full size pictures, click on the images!)

First, make sure you still have some of the same all-purpose flour blend from this entry. It works for every single recipe you can think of that uses normal flour, achieving a taste that is just as good (and sometimes better!) than regular wheat flour. Next…

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting
If you overwhip the chocolate frosting, just add water, a drizzle at a time, to make it glossy and smooth again.
SERVES 12 • PREP TIME 30 minutes (plus cooling) • BAKE TIME 30 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups Silvana’s All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1½ cups water

    1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease two 9-inch (22.5cm) round cake pans with cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment paper and grease the paper. To make the cake, in a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder and boiling water; let cool slightly. Whisk in the cold water, vanilla, oil and eggs.

    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined; divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.

    3. To make the frosting, in a large microwavable bowl, melt together the chocolate chops and water on high power, about 2 minutes; stir until smooth, and let cool to room temperature. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the chocolate mixture on medium-high speed until light and whipped, about 12 minutes. (Note: this has not worked for me either of the two times I’ve made this cake… but then, I live in Florida, so room temperature is pretty warm. I end up having to pop it in the fridge a few minutes before whipping.)

    4. Run a knife around the edges of the pans to release the layers. Invert one cake layer onto a cake plate, flat side facing up. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about 2 cups of the whipped chocolate frosting evenly on top. Invert the remaining cake layer, rounded side up, onto the frosting. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before slicing. (Another note: you can add sliced strawberries in that middle layer, and it will be amazing. I also had extra frosting left over, so I just piled it on the bottom of the cake plate, like a little cake skirt, and took advantage of it being strawberry season and decorated it with strawberries all around the cake. Delish!)

    5. Roll your eyes (or blush, maybe you’re a prude) as people make inappropriate noises while they enjoy this cake and exclaim how they can’t believe it’s GFCF.

    Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
    MAKES 12 cupcakes • PREP TIME 18 minutes • BAKE TIME 20 minutes

  • 1½ cups Silvana’s All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup strawberry puree (about 5 ounces/150g strawberries)
  • ½ cup rice milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 drops red food coloring
  • ½ cup all-vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup all-vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 2¾ confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup strawberry puree (about 5 ounces/150g strawberries)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkles, for topping

    1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. To make the cupcakes, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

    2. In another small bowl, combine the strawberry puree, milk, vanilla and food coloring. (Note: I used fresh strawberries and lightly pureed them in the blender. This gave the cupcakes an incredibly fresh and real strawberry flavor.)

    3. In a large bowl and using a handheld electric mixer, beat the shortening on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Alternately add the flour mixture and the strawberry mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan until each cup is two thirds full. Bake until the cupcakes are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack.

    4. To make the frosting, in a large bowl and using a handheld electric mixer, beat together the shortening, confectioners’ sugar, strawberry puree and salt on medium-high speed until fluffy. Pipe or spread over the cooled cupcakes; top with sprinkles.

    I’d recommend you make two batches of the strawberry cupcakes — if you want a chance to enjoy ANY of them before they’re devoured by everyone else!

  • June 11, 2011   4 Comments

    Day 98 of being GFCF

    I’ve stopped calling it “gluten-free and dairy-free”, mostly because I’m a little tired of people telling me to just have Lactaid products. For me, it’s not lactose, it’s specifically casein, so it doesn’t really help, but good luck trying to explain that to… pretty much anyone without a food allergy. And so, GFCF (gluten-free, casein-free) it is!

    I’ve also given up on not exaggerating it at restaurants and saying I just have to “avoid” those things: waiters do not care. And really, if you’d been on your feet for seven hours already and were about to get home to cook for three kids, make sure they did their homework, and bathe them before attempting to put them to bed, all for less than minimum wage, would you care?! Now I just say I’m “really, really allergic and cannot have” wheat/dairy and they’re usually pretty careful. I guess they don’t want to be responsible for someone going into anaphylactic shock in front of them? Who’da thunk?

    But… I’ve slipped. I won’t intentionally have dairy, but if there’s a little butter on my steamed veggies or a tiny bit of cheese on my hardshell taco, I’m not really going to flip out, either; in fact, I’m going to enjoy the crap out of it.


    In general, my health is ridiculously better. I’m pretty much never sick (I should probably knock on wood right about now), I have more energy (it’s a work in process, I still need more than eight hours of sleep a night, for some reason), and I’m much happier. The downside is that while before, when my blood sugar got low, I turned into a cranky mess, I now turn into Snow White’s evil stepmother… and I WILL turn you into a freaking frog if you don’t feed me… and then I’ll roast your legs and eat them.

    Another really uncomfortable downside is the whole “body reboot”. I have to have pretty small portions at meals or I feel kind of disgusting. I have to eat about every two hours, or my stomach feels like it’s going to eat the rest of my organs. The more I read about people detoxing from gluten, the more common it turns out this is… which is pretty reassuring: it indicates I’m on the homestretch! Complete detox is just around the corner!

    Now if I could just keep from getting occasionally and randomly glutened, I would be more willing to eat at other people’s houses. *sigh*

    April 12, 2011   5 Comments

    Getting glutened…

    Part of the reason I haven’t been too bummed about giving up gluten is because I honestly don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I never crave cupcakes and cookies, I really only like ONE kind of chocolate (Vosges Red Fire — all other chocolates kind of gross me out), etc. If I ever “crave” anything, it’s usually salty and acidic: think Claussen pickles or lemon wedges with salt on them… or pretty much any fruit or vegetable you can think of with lime juice.

    However, there is ONE craving I had not been able to shake for over a month: I really wanted some freakin’ ribs. There’s something that’s just so satisfying about eating meat with your hands, ripping it off the bone with your teeth, savoring the slightly spicy sauce as you lick your fingers.

    So this weekend, when we ended up having to go to Orlando to help our friend Fere fix something on her car, I was de-ligh-ted when George suggested we have dinner with Farah and Fere at Smokey Bones. FINALLY! My delicious, delicious ribs were going to have a party in my tummy! And imagine my delight when I asked for their gluten-free menu, and not only were the ribs safe, but all the sauces were, too!

    Except, not. I have no idea what qualifies as “gluten-free” on restaurant menus, but restaurant gluten-free is decidedly NOT gluten-free. They do, however, cover their butts by stating in writing that they are not liable for any cross-contamination or any possible “changes” in their recipes. FABULOUS.

    I have spent the past two days doubled over with stomach pain, battling a cold thanks to a compromised immune system, getting a rash on my face that is similar to the beginning of a lupus flare-y one, wearing sunglasses indoors because the of the massive migraines I’m dealing with, cranky, wanting to do nothing but sleep, having a hard time focusing, and bursting into tears whenever iTunes randomly shuffles to any Regina Spektor song.

    Smokey Bones, you are on my shit list.

    February 14, 2011   8 Comments

    Day 16 of Being Gluten and Dairy Free, a.k.a. DRUGS HELP

    OK, so maybe not REAL drugs. But natural drugs? Yes.

    I had added UltraInflamX and gut flora (sexy, right?) into the mix when I embarked on this “life-style change” and, a few days ago, as per my natural-remedy-loving-doctorfriend’s suggestion (which let me just add, is totally my philosophy, I don’t even take antibiotics when they’re prescribed by doctors unless it’s an actual infection), I added Fish Oil and Melatonin.

    After a lifetime of sleeping four hours a night or sleeping next to windows that shine BRIGHT SUNLIGHT IN YOUR FACE as soon as it’s five a.m., I had never really gotten used to sleeping “through the night”, or what is known in some crazy circles as a solid eight-hour sleep. I would hear about people sleeping eight to ten hours a night and think, “What is this urban legend you speak of? Eight hours?! Not possible!”

    My new best friends are Herbal Sleepytime Extra tea + one melatonin pill (unfortunately, strawberry flavored… it’s not as good as it sounds). I do not understand what crazy person decided that melatonin is a dietary supplement and should be sold over the counter because OH MY, I have never been as drunk as when I take ONE at night (this coming from, unfortunately, an ex-lush, so honestly, it’s SRS BSNSS). It knocks me out in about five minutes flat (or perhaps I am just that susceptible to the powers of suggestion/placebos?). I sleep through the night like a dead thing, wake up refreshed, well rested, and ready to focus on whatever task lies ahead of me.


    I mean, things are still far from perfect. They’re much better than a week ago. I only feel like everyone hates me and life is not worth living and why even bother showering during five minute intervals maybe four times a day. My desire to exercise is back, I am enjoying spending time outdoors more, and instead of procrastinating endlessly with work, I tackle translations immediately! With, er, occasional breaks to blog? Heh.

    My mom was here for a visit when I had just started with this whole thing, and yesterday I felt I had to apologize for my cranky and out of control behavior while she was here. My mom laughed at me and said, “Hon, you weren’t cranky AT ALL.” Apparently, my paranoia about being cranky and mean is much harsher than how I’m actually behaving (although I still think George deserves a medal). She did say it was the most pleasant I’ve been in a long while, and that she can actually tangibly see how gluten/dairy were poisons to my system. Well, I’ll be!

    Additionally, I’ve had a couple of people mention to me, with no knowledge of this elimination, how I seem “brighter” or “lighter” or “radiant”. If it’s that obvious to people that don’t even know me that well, then how can anyone argue that there are foods that while they might not cause anaphylactic shock, clearly harm you from the inside out? It will never cease to surprise me how so many disorders/ailments (Lupus, Psoriasis, Autism, Epilepsy) can be relieved, lessened, and sometimes “cured” by diet alone. Yet our society chooses to pump people full of artificial drugs which are just toxins that will cause all kinds of side-effects that we have NO IDEA about in order to achieve temporary relief but not really getting rid of the ailment itself. What is WRONG with us?!

    This is my little soapbox statement, guys: eat locally grown, seasonal fruits and veggies. Load up on good-for-you fats (fish oil, nuts, avocado). Consume lots of lean protein — if it comes from animal, make sure it’s free range, antibiotic and hormone free. Avoid empty “white” carbs. And if you still don’t feel 100% OK, go to a doctor that will help you find your food allergies. If your insurance doesn’t cover it or you can’t afford it, try an elimination diet. Not everything we want to eat is what we SHOULD BE eating. Diet and exercise are the answer to physical well-being. Spiritual well-being? Well… that’s a whole ‘nother entry, i’n’t it? 😉

    January 20, 2011   6 Comments

    Day 10 of Being Gluten & Dairy Free, a.k.a. “This too shall pass”

    Attar of Nishapur, the Sufi poet, immortalized this saying with a little story. He told of a powerful king who assembled the wise men of his kingdom and asked them to create a ring that would make him happy when he was sad, and sad when he was happy. The sages pondered his request, and finally decided what to do: they handed him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it. Genius.

    Bahá’u’lláh says, in the Arabic Hidden Words, 52: “O SON OF MAN! Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.”

    I guess there are echos of this in all religious, mystic, et al texts throughout recorded history. And right now, I’m clinging to these quotes for dear life.

    Being dairy and gluten free is HARD. If I eat out, everything has gluten or dairy in it, or worse yet, being unaccustomed to eating this way, I will distractedly order something that contains them. Like Starbucks yesterday. I ordered a simple latte, waited for it to cool enough to sip, and then my spirits fell a little when I realized I had to pass it over to George and order myself something with soy in it. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it’s not a big deal, but it starts adding up and gets a little overwhelming.

    It’s difficult to gauge how it’s affecting me. There are external factors to be considered, but physically, this is basically it: I have more energy. I dance around a lot. My body feels stronger. I am losing weight despite eating like a pig (proof positive that fat is not the enemy — prosciutto, anyone? almonds?). I am sleeping through the night. My acid reflux is gone. It’s been 10 days straight without me getting a cold (unheard of before this, more so during winter months). It’s patently clear that there’s been an improvement, a huge one…

    However! (There’s always a however!) Like I said, perhaps it’s the external factors, but I have never felt this out of control emotionally in my life. Today I spent six hours straight crying. Everything seems devastating, overwhelming, and like I am not capable of dealing with any of it. While I have the physical energy, I do not have the emotional energy to function. I have never, not even in my most awful teen/college days had thoughts this dark and overpowering. My only way of explaining it is to say, as someone else so adequately described it, you don’t want to know.

    This is supposedly normal, some form of withdrawal as strong as quitting drugs. I didn’t anticipate it (I just thought I’d be sleepy, perhaps a little cranky). If you ever choose to quit dairy/gluten… be forewarned. Not everyone goes through this as harshly, but some people do. You will need an excellent support system, plenty of distractions, patience, and an insanely strong will.

    And a reminder that this too shall pass.

    January 14, 2011   5 Comments

    Gluten & Dairy Free?

    Years ago, I was diagnosed with Lupus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease. I was basically always sick in every possible way you can imagine. It was kind of hellish.

    Fast-forward to about three years ago when a doctor friend suggested I try out an elimination diet. She was amazing — she sent me Metagenics products, recipes, and prayers. A rather whole-istic approach, pardon the pun, but it was a method of helping heal not only the physical, but the spiritual, as well. But I digress!

    I immediately started feeling better — I wasn’t perpetually getting colds, I had the energy to work out more, &c. I started doing CrossFit regularly and decided to try out the Zone diet. The Zone is much like everything this friend had recommended: I eliminated white carbs (rice, flour, pasta) and ate carbs with a low glycemic index, lean protein, good fats (avocados and almonds, for example). I had never felt better in my life. After eliminating gluten from my diet, the few times I did choose to have something with a little gluten in it, I would get horribly sick. I would get cranky, sleepy, break out in a cold sweat, be doubled over from stomach pain, and within a day or so, I would inevitably get a cold. I quickly learned to stay away from gluten.

    Once I was on this track, I remember reading an excerpt from a health book quoting a study on patients who were often misdiagnosed with Lupus when all they had was a simple gluten sensitivity — I’m not even talking full on celiac disease here, just a simple sensitivity to gluten with constant exposure to it could completely compromise your immune system enough to mimic Lupus symptoms. Isn’t that insane?

    The more doctors I spoke to and saw, the more information I obtained confirming what I already knew: I definitely should NOT be eating gluten… nor should I be eating dairy. The gluten bit I could deal with, but the dairy? That just broke my heart. No cheese? No Kefir? No yogurt? I decided to gloss over this bit of medical advice and just stick to the no-gluten portion of it…

    However! I have been falling off the wagon the past I-am-not-going-to-admit-how-long. It all started with a non-gluten muffin. It was followed by baking cookies for someone else, which made having flour in the house OK. After that came Pioneer Woman’s delicious Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Pizza and Cupcakes with the recipe for The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake EVER. It was all downhill from there. I started getting sick ALL THE TIME again, feeling like crap, being cranky, you name it.

    Fast-forward, again, to another article — one that George’s mom shared with us when we went to Tennessee (if you’re not pronouncing it tĕn’ĭ-sē’, accentuating the TEN! then you’re not saying it right, folks). The article was written by a woman who had celiac disease and talked about how irritable gluten made her and basically, how it was ruining her life (OK, maybe not those exact words, but I KNOW WHAT SHE MEANT). Everything she wrote about how she was feeling, emotionally and physically, made me want to cry. It’s like there was finally proof that this wasn’t all in my head and other people totally got me. I think that was, as we say in Spanish, “la gota que colmó el vaso” or the drop that made the glass overflow.

    And so, this is what we’ve come to:

    Goodbye dairy, goodbye gluten, you’ve been terrible friends, you’ve hurt me for years, but it was just so hard to let you go because of all those wonderful times we shared together. Remember that Mexican flan? Remember that beautiful challah I baked? Here I spent an entire life making you look good and taste amazing, and all you did for me was destroy my insides and break my heart. We’re so over. I’ll always remember you fondly, I can’t say I won’t miss you or long to be with you and hold you, look deep into your doughy insides, sprinkle you, grated and lovely all over my omelettes… but you can’t hurt me anymore. I’m stronger than you and I’ve finally learned to cut the things that only harm me out of my life.

    *Sigh* And thus concludes day two of being without you. Goodbye, my loves.

    January 6, 2011   10 Comments