Last year at graduation, a graduating senior who had been in my class since she was a freshman (in a variety of the courses I teach), she gave me a parting gift. She gave me a coffee mug that says “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail” (Unknown). What a great inspiration, I thought. And then she brought me to tears by telling me that when she thinks of the philosophy of living that I impart. Yea. I have good kids and we have great conversations.
All of this leads me to my latest post. You see, I used to NOT bake or make things because I was afraid of failing at it once I became gluten-free. I would hem and haw and stick to just not eating bread or eating the dense, frozen bricks that were sold as “gluten free bread”. I was afraid of “wasting” the expensive ingredients I would need to bake with. So I stopped. And then I began to experiment more and more. I began to regain my confidence. I remembered the wonderful and hilarious baking adventures that sometimes didn’t work as planned even when I *could* eat gluten.
I realized that limiting what I was trying or not trying anything at all was NOT the answer. My students are always curious to see what I’m eating for lunch or if we have food together. They ask a lot of questions. And their facial expressions ask even more. I love that as kids they just ask – they don’t hesitate, they just want to know what it’s is all about. Good for them!
And then there are the adults. A whole different level of questions or caring – completely. Everyone has their stories of the supportive, the ignorant (“What? I thought flour wasn’t wheat….”), or the hopelessly uncaring.
An acquaintance of my sisters (and I to some degree) was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue about 7 years ago – just after we moved to town. I think she remarked about it one night as we all stood around and had a pizza party. Little did she know before that night that I had Celiac too. The conversation began because she saw us make the pizza crusts from scratch. She was “worried” that the kids wouldn’t eat it. And just as she said that, my nephew remarked that he LOVED “Aunt Kate’s” pizza crust and especially love “her cake”. Truly, these are the preferred crusts/cakes for my gluten-eating nephews. (Don’t you LOVE that!?!)
Our acquaintance was shocked. “How could anything gluten-free be good?”
And “Oh, it’s so much more work.”
Both of these thoughts were quickly discussed and gently disagreed to.
Taste good? Point already proven by the 4 year old taste buds that came/left the kitchen in a flash.
More work? Not any more work than making your own pizza crust with “regular” flour, really. And no rise time for us. Just mix and go.
I remember the River Denial from my own experience. Sometimes it would sneak up on my like a flash-flood. I could reassure myself that the doctors were surely wrong, especially when I began to feel so much better. What could a bite hurt? Oh yea. That bite. It would be the bite that lasted for several days with the weakness lasting for a couple weeks. I try to wear waders now. I remind myself that the River Denial can come from nowhere, at any time, and without warning. That it can hit me when I’m super hungry or walking through the grocery store especially.
Just a couple weeks ago, I told Sweet GF Steve that I had been walking in the grocery store while picking up flowers and a treat for my love on Valentine’s Day when I had a vision of myself sprinting across the store to the donut case and taking huge bites out of my favorite donuts. And then, just as soon as the vision hit me, I burst out laughing. Would that NOT have been a sight to see? A woman wearing heels, racing across the store and planting herself at the donuts? Oh yea, that would have been hilarious! AND I would have been sick for weeks! See? I wear waders. I know when my own brain is playing tricks on me a little better now.
Back to our acquaintance…..
My sister told me last night that this woman is severely ill. She has lost more than 20 pounds in a month (sound familiar anyone?), is in the bathroom or unable to get up/out of bed (again…sounding familiar?), and has gone to several doctors for “testing”. This week she is headed to a major hospital in Seattle for more tests. And she refuses to acknowledge her Celiac diagnosis. She has not even told all of the latest Specialists that she received this diagnosis because… well… this is what she says: “I lost my gall bladder and had to give up eating ice cream. I’m not going to give up eating bread too.”
If you are feeling a bit baffled by her response, have no fear.
I’m equally dumbfounded.
I remember how sick I was.
I remember the trips to the hospital, the illness that prevented me from moving some days, the tests done, and the nights I spent wondering if I was losing my mind.
You couldn’t pay me to go back to that.
But going gluten-free to this woman feels like a risk.
She prides herself on being an excellent baker.
And she measures her success as a mom/parent by how well she can put the “food on the table”.
I wish I knew what I could say/do that would convince her that she will be able to do all of those things – and MORE! and BETTER! – when she is healthy and gluten-free! Surely she will *want* to bake again as now she can’t because she is too ill.
Maybe the advances in the availability of ingredients will make her see the silver-lining in the diagnosis? Maybe not. I don’t know.
We don’t see each other- it’s actually been a couple years since I’ve seen her/her family. It just made me stop and think about it all. We really are lucky that a dietary change can change our lives and help us be healthy again. Really. We are.
Do you have people like this acquaintance in your life? What do you do?
I sincerely hope that this next wave of Specialists in her life helps her see the benefits to being – and staying – gluten-free for her life.
And besides – the mistakes we make in life?
They aren’t failures – they just turn into an unexpected bonus.
Take for example, these breakfast cookies.
I really have been craving some sweet Marilu-style cookies. (Here’s a link to one that is similar, but not the specific Maria to which I am referring.) I used to eat them dipped in milk for breakfast sometimes. The slightly sweet cookie was a perfect accompaniment for breakfast – and portable which made my breakfast-at-my-desk in the morning (7:30AM!) easier.
It was a failure. And I reaped the benefits from that “mistake” for over a week. See this picture? This is a week after making them. I love that they have stayed soft for this long.
When I started out to make my Marilus, I thought I had a great plan.
And then… my brain sidetracked as I entered the kitchen.On the counter I saw the fresh dates and bananas we had just picked up at the store. My friendMohammed makes the most incredible date-chocolate chip cookies (I’ll share the recipe with you all sometime soon) and I love how they impart anatural sweetness. And then I started thinking about my conference- roomie who cannot tolerate sweets/sugars/wines because she is hypoglycemic and sugar easily and quickly tips her balance. I wanted to make a little something for her to show her my appreciate for the fun we had at the conference.
Soon my Marilu cookie craving turned in to “a something with dates/bananas and low/no sugar, thank-you cookie”.
And then during the creation/baking, these morphed again.
They are soft cookies, not crunchy like I imagined with my Marilus.
My sister ate a couple when I was trying to figure out if I liked them enough to post.
She said “Oh, yum! These would make perfect fig newtons too!”
I think I’ll save that for the next evolution. For a week after making these, I delighted in how soft and flexible they stayed. Truly a wonder in relation to most GF cookies. I think my sister is right – they will make great gluten-free fig newtons. I will make them soon, but I truly enjoyed these with my morning coffee.
Are you looking for a breakfast cookie/biscuit for your morning? Give these a try and let me know what you think.
Gluten-Free Banana & Date Biscuits/Cookies
Makes 3 dozen
8 dates (Medjool) pitted
1/2 large banana or 2/3 cup banana slices (no more than 3/4 cup)
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
3 Tablespoons sweet rice flour (+more for rolling or if sticky)
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
- In the bowl of your food processor, process the dates and banana slices until practically smooth and no large chunks remain. It will be a thick goop of sweet fruit goodness.
- In the bowl of your mixer, beat together butter and brown sugar until creamy (about 3 minutes). Add the egg and the banana/date mixture and mix until evenly combined.
- Add all dry ingredients and mix together until combined. If the dough is sticky, add sweet rice flour by the tablespoon to create a cookie dough that is somewhat wet but NOT sticky. Add no more than 3 additional Tablespoons as some will be used when rolling and you don’t want the dough to become dry.
- Scrap into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Dust the counter with sweet rice flour and roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Cut into desired shapes (mine were cut with 2″ cutters).
- If you want, at this point you can brush each cookie with some beaten egg (1 egg + 1 teaspoon of water) and then sprinkle with turbinado sugar. It browns the cookie nicely and adds a little sweet crunch to the top. (I ate these first and didn’t take a picture.)
- Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until semi-golden. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a cookie rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag on the counter for up to two weeks. (Mine lasted 8 days before they were eaten.)
Happy GF baking!