A Sketch That’s Funny For The Wrong [IMO] Reasons, A Podcast, and Other Thoughts

It’s a stream of consciousness type of day, so don’t expect any order to this post. Order’s overrated anyway. Not overrated? David Wain and Michael Showalter’s new romantic comedy spoof “They Came Together” starring Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, available in limited theaters and on demand. God, they are comedy geniuses. No, that has nothing to do with allergies. Except maybe it does. There’s a scene

[SPOILER ALERT]

in which Amy’s character gives her order to Paul’s character at a coffee shop and it’s completely wacky and overdone and impossible to remember except he totally remembers it and it’s definitely love, and I feel that way sometimes when I order food. She was being spoofy, but I completely related because I’m a completely awkward food orderer, and any man who can remember the random nuances of my diet is AOK in my book. Or a keeper, as they say. (Speaking of, did you guys hear about the travesty that is muggle quidditch players getting too cool for Harry Potter?)

[END SPOILER ALERT]

Sort of related to Harry Potter — well, very related to Harry Potter — I do this podcast called Common Room, where all things pop culture (especially “geek” pop culture, like HP) and food, fitness, and fashion converge. First of all, totally listen to it! Second of all, one of our segments is called “Customizable Cooking” where the group of us — a bunch of girls all around the world, from New York to Australia and inbetween — make the same recipe but tweak it in our own unique ways. In a recent episode, we recreated my gluten-free vegan pumpkin oat muffin recipe, which as you may know, has absolutely saved my life. Listen to the episode here (and discover the importance of giving the correct measurements when telling people a recipe).

I recently also made the original cookie recipe the muffins are based on, but as a sheet cake. They came out delicious, if not ugly.

Pumpkin Cookie Cake

One giant cookie!

It’s hard to believe that I invented that pumpkin recipe more than two years ago. Also two years ago? I learned that generic Benedryl doesn’t work as well as the real thing. Today, I dug into the pocket of the blazer I was wearing and discovered some generic Benedryl. I don’t think I wear that blazer very often.

Another thing I don’t do often is eat at communal dinner parties. Much like the characters in this Fourth of July sketch (watch below). In the interest of not spoiling the punchline, if you are a loyal follower of my allergies — or just know the basics, leafy greens, fish, horseradish — you should get why I think the ending is ironic for exactly the wrong reasons. PSA: people are allergic to more than just the popular things, people.

I’m pretty sure I’m still scared of eating spinach. One week from right now, I’ll know if I can eat spinach, and more importantly, how this Xolair thing is working. Last night I had a dream where the vegetables from Veggie Tales attacked me. Like verbally and emotionally. Mostly the tomato. Which is weird, because I can eat tomatoes. I’m not 100% sure if it’s anxiety about spinach or if I’m just reliving my senior thesis about Evangelicals in pop culture because The Leftovers premiered this week.

Which is another thing you should watch.

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Gluten Sensitivity — Not A Real Thing?

So, I already talked about how I hate getting asked if I’m gluten free…but something I didn’t touch on was how irritated I get when people with no medical issues treat their fad diets like medical issues.

I am NOT talking about people with celiac disease. That’s a real medical issue, and having watched my friends with celiac eat gluten, I can tell you, it’s serious.

It’s precisely because of how serious things like celiac and food allergies are that this latest “I feel so much better without gluten” craze pisses me off. Since “going gluten-free” is now a fad diet, people who actually will get seriously ill when exposed to gluten are in EVEN MORE danger. Or, people who are not in any danger from gluten, but are in danger from other things, are thrust into this confusing world that puts our lives at risk.

A few examples of what I’m talking about:

1. When I was in college, I had to see the nutritionist to figure out how to eat in the cafeteria because I was constantly getting sick. The following dialogue ensued:

Cindy: I don’t think I am getting enough vegetables in my diet, because I’m getting sick from vegetables I’m not allergic to from cross contamination.

Nutritionist: Oh, of course you are. The kitchen uses leftovers from one dish and repurposes it the next day. I have a solution. I get a lot of people gluten free pasta.

Cindy: Oh, but I don’t need gluten-free pasta. I can eat regular pasta.

Nutritionist: What about salads? That’s a really good option for gluten-free students.

Cindy: I’m allergic to leafy greens. What are other ways I can eat more vegetables? I can eat tomatoes, peppers, zuchinni — is there a way the kitchen can prepare those without cross contamination?

Nutritonist: You know, I have found that a lot of the students I work with really enjoy this chicken parmigiana dish. It’s great, and we can make it gluten free,  And with a side salad. And that’s a nutritional meal.

Cindy: I keep kosher, and can’t have salad, so I just want to talk about eating more vegetables.

Nutritionist: If you’re not going to need the gluten free pasta, I don’t really know how I can help you. The salad bar has a lot of choices.

And so on…

2. A former colleague decided to try to go gluten-free. I asked him why, and was particularly interested because he was completely insensitive to my food allergies. By that, I mean, he would leave food on my desk, touch my tupperwares while I was eating with his salad hands, have meetings with me while he was eating salad he knew I was airborne allergic to…he was less malicious (I hope) than he was misinformed. And partly because I don’t think he understood the difference between real food issues and diets like his. For instance:

Cindy: Why are you going gluten-free? Have you noticed yourself getting sick?

Colleague: My sister doesn’t eat gluten, her doctor told her not to.

Cindy: But she gets sick, presumably. Do you?

Colleague: I might, how would I know?

Cindy: Do you feel weak? Do you poop more often than normal?

Colleague: No. But gluten is bad for you. Let’s google it. [He does]. See, it says here that whole wheat is better for you than white flour.

Cindy: That’s true, but both have gluten.

Colleague: No, whole wheat is better for you than white flour.

Cindy: Everyone knows that. But whole wheat has gluten.

Colleague: See, it says whole grains in general are much healthier. So I should go gluten-free. You think you know everything about food.

Cindy: I know a lot about food, because I have to think about it constantly. I bake and cook and know all about ingredients because food can kill me. Whole wheat and white flour have gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, and cross contaminated into most oats. It’s in whole grains as much as in non-whole grains.

Colleague: Are you sure? I don’t think so.

Anyway, he decided to go gluten-free for a week. At the end of the week, another colleague asked how it was going.

Colleague who eats gluten: How’s the gluten thing going?

Colleague from above: You know, I haven’t lost weight. I’m eating salads without croutons, but by the end of the day, I’m so hungry, I’ve been eating a bag of pita chips after dinner.

Cindy: So you’re eating gluten.

Colleague from above: I guess so? I mean, it’s hard to just eat salad.

Cindy: There are things you can eat that are gluten-free that aren’t salad.

Colleague: I don’t know, I don’t think so. I haven’t lost any weight at all this week.

His misunderstanding of how food worked may not have impacted me in that moment, but in general, he was flippant about my allergies because he couldn’t see the difference between his gluten-free week and my medical issues. Not eating gluten didn’t fix him (though, of course, he ate gluten) so how could my issues be real?

Not to mention, had he had a real gluten issue, like an allergy or celiac, he wouldn’t have even eaten his salad, as the dressing more than likely had gluten. And the cross contamination of the croutons in other salads would have been an issue.

The more people who go on fake gluten-free diets, the harder it is for people who actually do get sick from gluten to explain their needs coherently. Or for people with other food needs to be heard. I’m not talking about people who are intellectually honest about it — people who say, “I can eat gluten in small amounts, but my doctors have said it affects X condition. I don’t suffer from celiac disease or food allergies, but gluten is a trigger for my X condition.” I’m talking about people who talk about how they gave up gluten and their stomachs are “better” and yet, they sneak gluten in every now and then and “regret it.” People who have self diagnosed a sensitivity to gluten and therefore don’t eat it…except when they do.

You don’t “regret it” when you go to the hospital for an anaphylactic allergy. You thank god that you’re alive. You don’t “regret it” when you’re hunched over your toilet for days except when you’re fast asleep and talking incoherently because you have a celiac flare. You thank god that you’re alive and probably notice some dirt in the grout on your bathroom tiles.

The good news is, a follow-up study to the non-celiac gluten sensitivity study was just conducted, and it turns out, there likely isn’t such a thing. Read the info here. So maybe all this nonsense will stop. And we can move on to other fad diets, like paleo or Atkins or you know,  just eating in moderation.

Let’s leave off with a good laugh with Jimmy Kimmel, who’s totally on my team. He asked people on a gluten free diet what gluten is — and like my former colleague, they had not a clue. It’s kind of hilarious.

 

So, Are You Gluten-Free?

I am not gluten-free.

First of all, I can eat loads of gluten (loads being a hyperbole. I can have rye, wheat, and barley three times a week each and can’t have spelt yet). I may be cottonseed oil-free, leafy green-free, fish-free, nut-free, pomegranate-free, horseradish-free, plum-free, peach-free, grapefruit-free, cauliflower-free, mushroom-free, gum-free, chickpea-free, etc., but bring on the gluten!

Oh yeah, and second of all, I’m not a food. Or the lack there of.

A cookie can be gluten-free. A burger. A menu option. Even a shampoo. Foods or products that one could suspect contain gluten can, in fact, turn out to be free of gluten.

People, on the other hand, do not contain gluten. Therefore, I’m as gluten-free as the best of them, but I’m also door-free, spoon-free, DVD-free, paper towel-free (is it obvious I’m just naming things I see in my apartment?).

I’m often asked, though, the titular question of this post: “So, are you gluten-free?” I always say, “No, I’m all about gluten, I just can’t have that bread because of x (where x=cottonseed oil; traces of nuts; untrustworthy factory; too-processed; not challenged yet, etc.).

I know it’s not meant to be a hurtful question. And most of the time, I don’t let it become one. I like to pretend I’m impervious to pain. But I’m not. And sometimes, a gnawing thought will come to my mind and I’ll recall the last time someone asked me if I was gluten-free and I just scream to myself, “No, I’m CINDY!”

Cindy.

I am a writer, a leader, an advocate, a doer, a thinker, a consultant, a reader, a TV-fanatic, a dog lover, a student, a teacher, a cook, a dancer, a rapper, a comedian, an ENFJ who teeters on the lines of ENTP. A friend, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a person. A Jew, a New Yorker, a Brooklynite, a Brandeisian, a sort-of Angelino, a Trojan.

I’m reminded of an art exhibit I read about recently that I can’t stop thinking about. A group of people were photographed with writing on their body indicating an identifying factor, and the photos were accompanied by a caption indicating what they were not. (http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/161489/provocative-photo-project-goes-viral-among-orthodox-students#undefined). I often ponder the questions of identity (there’s a whole rabbit hole there, and this isn’t the blog for it. Please see my other blog at www.aliceinwonderland.com for those questions #notreallymyblog), and I think some of that is because my identity often gets taken away from me.

What I mean is, I often first meet people in the context of meals. Food is how we socialize these days — especially in the Jewish community — so the first thing most people learn about me outside of a professional environment is “Cindy is allergic to lots of things (but isn’t gluten-free).” That’s fine, and my life depends on it, but there’s so much more. See above. That’s a partial list. And while I’m “the girl with the many food allergies” I’m not just “the girl with the many food allergies.” And I don’t want to be.

So why keep this blog, you ask? You, meaning anyone who’s ever had the above conversation with me in real life. For a few reasons. One, to update my family and friends on my challenge status. I neglected to mention in my “identity paragraph” (ew) that I’m a social butterfly (BH, that one’s for you, and for everyone else, it’s tongue-in-cheek). I live far away from my family and many friends, and this blog allows me to keep them (you?) updated with my progress without having to make a bunch of phone calls. Two, to keep a log for myself. I could keep a private diary, but the motivation is stronger when I know I’m accountable to an audience. This log has proven helpful as I’ve decided what to challenge, as I’ve looked back on recipes, as I’ve struggled to remember how far I’ve come. Records are important, and this is mine. Three, when I was first experiencing increased symptoms, I turned to Google because I was too scared to talk to most of my friends (though, T, thank you again for being my constant G-chat support and Benedryl enforcer). I found blogs to be helpful resources, but also primarily geared toward mothers or people who had more common allergies. I wanted to be a voice in the space for someone with multiple allergies, in their 20s, who had the allergies forever but saw them get worse. And some of you have reached out to me letting me know I’ve helped you — which means everything. When I see someone’s search query “allergy to horseradish???” I know that I made them feel like they weren’t crazy, something that’s rarely been done for me. In turn, and this is number Four, by seeing people’s queries, by interacting with readers, I feel like I’m not crazy. Someone else is allergic to horseradish. Therefore, I’m not making it up in my own life.

All of the above wins in the cost/benefit analysis of my identity issue. But. That doesn’t mean I want to be Super Allergic Cindy. I just want to be Cindy, whose food allergies are impactful but not any more identifying than someone’s IBS, cancer, insomnia, ADHD, etc. Not that those are all equal, but you get the point. Everyone’s got something. I have this. But that doesn’t mean I am this. Tener and Ser are two different verbs (thank you, Duolingo!)

I don’t need anyone to validate my scope of identity. But I would like it to be invalidated less often. And I know I’m not alone in this. So, instead of asking “Are you gluten-free?” next time someone doesn’t reach for the bread, try one of these two options:

1. Don’t ask anything, and let them not eat bread. Who are you, Marie Antoinette?

2. Ask, “Would you like me to steer clear of you with the bread because of a dietary restriction?”

Or, I guess, 3. “Do you not eat gluten/do you only eat gluten free?

Same goes for all food-related things. If you must know, ask about the food, not the person. But maybe don’t ask, and wait for someone to say something. My friend wrote an excellent piece about this on his new blog about living with Type 1 Diabetes, how we don’t know why other people eat the way they do and shouldn’t make assumptions about their habits. He’s right. And I promise, if my life is in danger, I’ll let you know.

Because I’m Cindy. And among other things, I’m the furthest thing from shy.

This is Cindy.

This is Cindy.

This is food.
This is food.

 

Food Challenge Round 19: Cindy vs. Buckwheat

First, I want to say how proud I am that I’ve actually tried the foods I’ve said I would for the last few weeks. No more last minute changes. But I do sort of wish that I’d made a last minute swap for apricots this week, as I’m 99% sure I’ve eaten apricots and been fine (I never actually tested positive for them, or tested for them at all, but for some reason they terrify me and I feel like I need to eat them where I know I’m safe to overcome this totally irrational fear). I wish I’d made the switch, because buckwheat went…mediocrely.

Hey look! It's two foods I can't eat for the price of one!

Hey look! It’s two foods I can’t eat for the price of one!

I cooked buckwheat pancakes in the morning and they smelled FOUL. But when I tasted them at the doctor’s office, they were delicious. So right away I knew something was up, but I can’t really get my head straight before 9am most days and I was operating on almost no sleep and two consecutive 12+ hour workdays at my 8am challenge, so I let it be. After one pancake though, I got this weird airy feeling in my throat and chest. I’ve had this feeling before, and I usually ignore it and keep eating, and then get sick. It’s the impending doom feeling. It happened with pickles, it happens all the time with watermelon, and it used to happen with blueberries and walnuts when I still ate those. So this time, I trusted my gut and asked the doctor if I could stop eating. (I’m learning how to be safe, yay!). He said sure, and we just chatted about his latest Now That’s What I Call Music 45 CD.

And then the tingling started. No big deal, but like, my lips and chin and jaw started feeling…off. Not swollen. Not painful. Just, annoying. And hyperaware. And tingly. Like my whole body had become centralized in my face and I couldn’t balance out. This did not concern the doctor, who said I had no visible signs of sickness. Twenty minutes later, when the tingling persisted but didn’t get worse, he released me, with no medicine. We called it a “slight positive.” Meaning, I can have exactly that amount of buckwheat on rare occasions if I need to. Sort of like onion powder. But, unlike onion powder, I don’t think I’m going to be coming across buckwheat that often. And considering I’ve avoided onion powder successfully since that challenge a few months ago, I think the point is moot.

Anyone 3/4 of a bag of buckwheat flour? Because for $5.99 (for like 4 cups, mind you), that flour needs a good home.

Oh, and ps. Now that I can’t have buckwheat, I feel like I will get more incensed the next time someone suggests I eat gluten-free. Nope. I can eat real wheat (sort of) and I cannot have one of the standard gluten-free wheats, so world, stop asking if your gluten free cookies or cakes or what-have-yous are helpful to me. They aren’t. /endrant

FOOD CHALLENGE TALLY

Cindy: 13

Allergens: 6

Next Up: Apricots

Introducing Christy-Made, a New (Allergy-Friendly, Vegan, Gluten-Free) Baked Good Catering Service

It’s really hard to find quality baked goods that meet all of your allergy needs and still taste like baked goods. For instance, I can have gluten but I can’t have nuts, and you’d be hard pressed to find a bakery that’s nut free but not gluten free or vegan or both. Like, maybe I want an egg and butter filled brownie made of wheat that just doesn’t have traces of nuts. And is baked by someone competent who I can literally trust with my life.

Enter Christy-Made. Christy is an incredible baker (though, moment of truth, her baked goods aren’t kosher so I’m going based on smell and heresay from dozens and dozens of people who I’ve witnessed eat her baked goods) who just started a new catering business where she handmakes baked goods for any occasion and delivers them straight to your home or office or wherever! While her baked goods aren’t necessary specialty (meaning gluten-free, vegan, allergy-friendly, etc.) they can be. She’s really knowledgeable about food allergies and intolerances, and she’s very eco-conscious, too — all the ingredients are local and organic.

Christy was instrumental in helping me understand my bevy of new allergies back in March. Even though she is not an allergy sufferer herself, she knows how to adjust and tweak her recipes to cater to people with special dietary restrictions. She walked me through baking once gluten, eggs, dairy, and xanthan gum were all out of the question. So if you’ve liked my pumpkin oat muffins or anything in that variety, know that I built those recipes using tips and tricks and inspiration from Christy. She helped me figure out foods I could use to replace old staples in my diet, and taught me how to tweak old recipes. So while I haven’t had the joy of actually eating her food, because technically her kitchen/equipment isn’t up to my standards of kosher, I know it’s good, and I know it’s made with care.

So check out Christy-Made. And next time you’re in LA and need a nice dessert, call on Christy. Whether or not you need her to go the extra mile and adjust the recipe to your restricted diet

Emmys! (and some hives)

It’s the superbowl of TV…the Emmy Awards! Only, there’s no typical food for this major American holiday, which is a shame. It’s my turn to host the Emmy’s “party” this year (read: a few friends in sweatpants sitting on a couch watching the show), and I decided to cook what will maybe become an Emmy’s staple menu.

Main Dish:

Homemade pizza — for recipe, see here.

Side:

Fried zucchini — essentially, zucchinni fried with garlic, salt, and pepper.

Dessert:

Strawberry chocolate oat muffins – a twist on my pumpkin oat muffins (vegan! gluten free! nut-free! woo-hoo!) only with pureed strawberry and some chocolate powder instead of pumpkin…or cherries

It all would have been an absolutely SUPERB dinner to accompany a really incredible Emmy show (Homeland! Homeland! Homeland!) but I erupted into hives for a reason I simply can’t understand.

Or maybe I can understand it. Last Monday, on the second night of Rosh Hashana, we had the traditional new fruits to make a blessing for the new year. I am allergic to most fruits, certainly exotic fruits, so I didn’t eat them. No one anticipated an airborne reaction, because there was no horseradish involved. And yet, I broke out into hives for a few days following that meal. My guess right now is that I had an apple that was right next to the fruits, and as with the horseradish incident of Passover, I think the apple absorbed some of the other fruits’ essences. Apples are pretty absorbent — they’re known to absorb most of the pesticides sprayed on them, for instance — and since I had definitely not overdosed on apples and that’s what I was eating when the hives began, I can only imagine they are the culprit. It’s been under a week, and I haven’t been strict about my Benadryl usage, but these sorts of hives can reappear for days. So I’m betting it’s that. Or I overdosed on wheat, with it being in the pizza, and having challah pretty regularly as part of all the ritual meals. Not that I’ve been eating a ton of challah, but I’ve had less wheat over more time than in most weeks (most weeks I eat wheat only on the weekends, in huge amounts. This week, I’ve had bread at many meals, but in small amounts).

Either way, my traditional Emmys meal was slightly marred, but very delicious, so here’s to hoping that next year:

a) I’m closer to winning an Emmy

b) my allergies are in check enough to eat the above foods totally 100% safely

Why Aren’t More Gluten-Free Products Nut-Free?

I’m not a marketing guru, or even a product development guru. I did a pretty mediocre job in AP Economics in high school (though, in my defense, my class was before 8am, I had zero friends in it, and the teacher used to say “thousand” like “thousthand” which was distracting. And he only spoke in terms of the supply and demand of apples, which always got me thinking about other foods, other possibilities, and why he couldn’t be more creative).

The point is, I don’t know very much about targeting a consumer base, but I do know this:

It makes no sense for the only gluten-free oat flour and gluten-free oats available in LA to contain traces of tree nuts.

The backstory:

I’m invited to attend a Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house. Said friend asks if I can bring dessert. I say sure, because I make killer pumpkin oat muffins. Turns out another friend, with a wheat allergy and celiac is attending the meal as well.

“Great,” I think. “She can never eat dessert, but since oats don’t have gluten, and I only bake with oats, I can give her a treat. How wonderful for us all.” (Sometimes, I think like an old woman who might think she’s in a terrible rendition of “The Importance of Being Earnest.”)

So I ask my gluten-free friend which oats to buy, because I know some oats contain traces of gluten (would it kill them to put it on the package though? #complaintsforanother time #thisisn’ttwitterwhyamipretendingitis?

She tells me Bob’s Red Mill is the only brand, and maybe something “Valley” but that’s harder to find. Bob’s it is!

So I go to Whole Foods, where said flour and oats presumable are stocked, and I can’t find any that say Gluten Free. Awkward. But I pick up the regular Bob’s and it’s manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts and soy. I get it. Because they make like almond flour or whatever. But it seems silly that they can’t take more precautions to ensure lack of cross-contamination, like a different floor in the facility or a neighboring one, or something. Anyway, I look for gluten-free oats – just rolled oats – thinking I can adapt my baking to use no flour, or just make flour from my oats in my food processor (I have gotten creative, crazy, and ballsy). But every single gluten-free rolled oats was connected to tree nuts in some way. And every non-gluten free oat? Not connected to tree nuts.

Notice the allergen information.

You’d think a company that fills such a niche need would a) want to make sure they cover the entire niche, ie gluten free people with nut or soy allergies or sensitivities and b) want to cover multiple niches to expand their market base (ie tap into the people who need nut-free flour and the people who need gluten-free flour.

But alas. We don’t live in that world, yet. So even though I can only bake with oats, I still can’t bake for someone who can’t have gluten, because my oats are glutenous. That is beyond lame.

It also begs a question I’ve been thinking for a while — can’t all products with nuts just be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts, and all products that don’t have nuts be manufactured elsewhere? Like a nut factory that all the food companies share so that the nut-free population can eat foods that don’t have nuts themselves and no longer have traces of nuts? There are just so many random products that may contain nuts or are processed with nuts (salsa, for instance, WHY?), and it seems silly. I wonder how much nut isolation would increase sales, compared with the costs associated with a nut factory.

I’m half kidding.

Any donors?

(ps I love Bob’s Red Mill, as they introduced me to teff and anasazi beans, two of my favorite new foods. So no hard feelings, Bob.)

Vote for Breakaway Bakery, the best kosher dairy-free, peanut-free, gluten-free bakery in LA!

My friend’s aunt runs an amazing bakery in LA that’s kosher, gluten-free, casein-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, wheat-free, gum-free, whole grain, organic, transfat-free, preservative-free, and almost soy and tree nut free (some of their flours are processed in facilities that process treenuts and soy, though the equipment is cleaned before the run of the flours they use — allergens may still be present in the air around the flour, though. None of their products contain soy or treenuts).

The baked goods are delicious, and the owner is lovely. She’s well-informed and responsive to questions. And it was her informing her niece about the dangers of xanthan gum that helped her niece realize my corn bread reaction was likely to the xanthan gum in it. Niece tested, doctor approved.

Anyway, the bakery — Breakaway Bakery — is competing in Intuit Go Payment’s Get Business Growing contest. Please take a second to vote for them and grow this business. It’s great to have a local bakery that meets these needs, but by selling their goods in other areas, more people will have access to the baked goods they need.

And yes, I believe baked goods are a necessity. I’d much prefer buying muffins to baking my own.

Click here to vote. Click here to visit Breakaway Bakery’s website.

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Cherry/Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins – Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Potentially Egg Free

I got a little bored of my pumpkin muffins, and after a friend (who happens to be a pastry chef) made a delicious strawberry merengue dessert for me a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to experiment with strawberries. Especially now that I am definitively not allergic to them.

This recipe is so easy and I made it up so feel free to tweak it as you wish…I wound up with about 10 muffins. Play with proportions for more.

1 cup oat flour

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

2 egg whites (or 1 egg, or apple sauce or egg subsitute)

1 cup sugar

1ish tbsps brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

a drizzle of oil

5-6 strawberries

10ish cherries

Preheat the oven to 400. Puree the strawberries and cherries in a blender. I didn’t de-pit the cherries, so I spit the pits out of the muffins which I’m ok with, but I guess you can de-pit them or buy pitted cherries if spitting bothers you. Mix the dry ingredients, eggs, and oil in a separate bowl. Add the cherry/strawberry puree. Mix well. Pour into a greased muffin cupcake tin.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins – Vegan and Gluten Free

There are three days a year I absolutely need to eat pumpkin pie: Sept 13 and May 12 & 13. I do this in honor of my beloved late friend Bernard Herman, who loved him some pumpkin pie. We started a tradition in May 2005 to buy Bernard a pumpkin pie for every momentous occasion, in homage to him eating my friend Elyssa’s pie when she was out of town, in the most Goldilocks of ways. It was just so something he’d do, and he loved the food so much. Plus, as my friend Zach pointed out, what college students ever got to say the sentence, “We’re going to buy Bernard a pie?” We did.

And so every year since his passing, I keep the tradition alive by eating pumpkin pie on his birthday and the anniversary of his death/the following day when I found out about his death.

Except I can’t eat pie. It’s been secretly breaking my heart since the whole “no wheat or eggs” thing started 60+ days ago. How would I eat pie today? What if I couldn’t eat pie again?

Enter pumpkin oat muffins. I’d made them before as an erroneous cookie, and I’ve experimented a bit since, but since the whole “3 times a week” diet thing started, and since I’ve been trying to avoid any contact with egg yolks so egg whites are out of the picture, I’ve steered clear of desserts. Until now.

The following recipe is based on a pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe from Cooks.com. I had the original before this whole thing started, and it’s delicious. But if you’re looking for an egg and gluten free alternative, the muffins are great. Also, since I can’t have nutmeg, cinnamon, or ginger, I replaced those with extra sugar and brown sugar. Refer to the original recipe for the proper spices. But seriously, delicious either way.

I don’t typically measure so much when baking, especially when I’m playing around with ingredients, because you really can’t tell how many oats equal one cup of flour. So the below are total approximations, but I feel like you can sense the consistency as you’re baking. Plus, if it’s a little gooey (it was the first time) you get a great souffle. Who doesn’t like souffle?

3/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp baking soda

~ 2 cups oats

~ 1 tsp brown sugar

a heaping cup of sugar

3/4 cup oil

1 tsp salt

1 can pumpkin

1/4 cup applesauce (to make 1/4 cup applesauce, since I can’t eat prepared foods, I used this applesauce recipe from allrecipes.com. I trimmed the portions to 1/4 the original amount to make sure I only made as much applesauce as to replace one egg, ie 1/4 cup).

Preheat overn to 375.

Mix flour, sugar, bakind soda, salt, brown sugar, and oats. Add in pumpkin and appleasauce. Mix well.

Drop into a muffin tin. If you don’t have little paper liner things, dab a little corn starch into the tin to keep the muffins from sticking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a knife can be removed without any residue.