Friday, September 28, 2012

French Bread, Oh Sweet, Gluten-Free, Vegan French Bread


When I said goodbye to gluten about two years ago, I missed French bread more than anything. I tried some disappointing variations made with egg whites and miscellaneous flours, but they had all of the sex appeal of a sponge. Plus, I really hate the idea that I have to apologize for a gluten-free food when entertaining guests.

Last week, my best friend Marcella gave me the book Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts for my birthday. When I found her recipe for French-Italian bread and discovered that it's completely vegan, I nearly wet myself. Who ever heard of a gluten-free vegan bread recipe?

Last Sunday evening, we enjoyed the first fruits of the cookbook. A-MA-ZING! A tender, chewy interior ensconced in a perfectly crispy crust made this the best French bread I have ever made. Period. I suppose French bread baked in a professional, artisan bakery would surpass this, but for home baking, it was as good as it gets.

As far as the flours are concerned, I use Arrowhead Mills for the millet flour and Bob's Red Mill for the other flours, starches and guar gum. Also, the original recipe calls for xanthan gum, but it's so expensive, I use guar gum to great effect.

Viva la resistance!

makes one loaf

2/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1 1/4 teaspoons guar gum
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (not quick-rise)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit

Grease a long French bread loaf pan -- about 2 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long -- with olive oil and dust lightly with millet flour.

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Quickly dump in the water and oil and mix with an electric mixer until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat for three minutes on high speed.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Cover the pan gently with a dry towel and set in a warm place to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while the bread is rising. Lightly oil the top of the dough before placing it onto the center rack of the oven and baking for about 50 minutes. When it is done, it will have an internal temperature of at least 205 degrees and sound hollow when tapped. Bake for another 10 minutes if it is underdone.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kid Food


I really hate the term kid food. It implies that everything other than chicken fingers and fruit gummies is too advanced, too flavorful, too grown up for children's consumption; we have to dumb it down, refine it, pump it full of high-fructose corn syrup then stuff it into cartoon-character-clad packaging. Why can't we just serve kids real food? Like the kind that grows up from the ground or on a pasture or in the ocean? 

Unfortunately, my oldest son does not find my ideology poetic or appealing. 

"Ewww, this is spicy!" he whined the other day. 
"No, it's not," I replied. "It just has flavor."
"Yeah, but I hate flavor!" 

We have fought so many dinnertime wars. You know the drill. If you eat one more bite you can have dessert. But this is what you asked for! You're not leaving this table until you finish that plate... And, the other day, I reached a new low: Don't you know there are starving children in Africa? 

Fail. 

A few days ago, I pulled out a piece of construction paper and slapped a sticker on it and so began the Brad's New Foods Chart. Every time he not only tastes but eats a small portion of a new food, he gets a sticker. When he fills up the chart, he gets a prize.

So far, he has enjoyed -- yes, enjoyed -- quinoa, multi-grain tortillas and scrambled eggs. I haven't served pb&j in three days. Win. Since then, I haven't heard him even once utter his typical complaint when staring down something he doesn't want to eat: "I like good food, okay? And good food is in Paris."

So, how do you get your kids to eat healthy foods? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Simple Lentil, Mint and Nectarine Salad


I'm now working full time as a freelance writer on health, fitness and nutrition. Go figure, I'm blogging less now than ever. Nevertheless, the job is ideal and allows me to both dust off my ambitions and help my oldest with his homework and play with my youngest between his naps. I am blessed.

In between marathon writing sessions in my home office evaluating the benefits of yoga versus aerobic exercise or the latest research on this or that nutrition advice, I enjoy frequent trips to the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee or a quick lunch. 

This is the easiest, most delectable entree salad I've ever had. I wish I could say it came to be of much contemplation and trial. But I have no time for either. It was just one of those meals that came dancing out of my refrigerator from the ingredients on hand. I suggest it for lunch or a side dish for dinner, especially a late-summer picnic dinner. 

serves 2 entrees (or 4 side portions)

2 cups cooked, cooled lentils
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 ripe nectarines, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lime
sea salt
ground black pepper 

Toss the first five ingredients together then season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.