Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (gluten free)

Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix (Gluten Free)

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Hi! It’s been a while. My apologies. I have no excuses. I’ve been busy, but despite that I’ve cooked and baked a lot over the last month. The problem is, none of it has felt blog-worthy. I have been sticking to comfortable favorites or relying on trusted books and blogs to provide me with recipes that don’t need adjustment. Our new head of state, a new year, and other, more personal changes have left me in need of stability, and cooking—an area where I usually expend creative energy—has become a haven of predictable results.

I find that happiness for me is about balancing security and excitement, having a life that feels both safe and adventurous. Sometimes achieving a reasonable equilibrium means subduing my own wildness when the world feels out of control. In times of upheaval my creativity becomes subtler. This recipe is far from avant garde, but it is my own.

Tahini is trendy, particularly and surprisingly in sweet preparations. Back in December I saw a recipe for Tahini Brownies on Brooklyn Supper and since then I’ve encountered tahini confections on many food blogs including Tahini Scones on Well Floured and Ginger Tahini Cookies on Vegan Richa. Tahini is slightly bitter, making it a perfect accompaniment for chocolate. It’s also subtly nutty (though made from seeds, not nuts) in a way that doesn’t dominate other flavor’s like peanut butter can.

This snack mix is a chocolatey, lightly sweet, salty, crunchy, and makes a very satisfying snack. I plan on bringing it with me to AWP (The Association of Writers and Poets Conference) where I anticipate the need for delicious gluten free snacks. I think it would even make a tasty breakfast.

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Tahini Chocolate Snack Mix

1/4 cup sorghum
3 cups rice or corn Chex
2 cups gluten free pretzels
1 cup almonds
1/4 c cacao nibs
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (white, black or a mixture)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 175°.

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a lid (glass is best) over medium-high heat until quite hot, but not smoking. (Test with a few drops of water, they should sizzle and evaporate almost immediately.) Add sorghum to hot pan and cover. Shake gentle back and forth over heat to pop, cracking lid occasionally to release steam. Stop when pops are 10 seconds apart and pour popped sorghum into a large bowl.

Add Chex, pretzels, almonds, sesame seeds, and cacao nibs to bowl with sorghum and toss to combine.

In a small sauce pan combine tahini, honey and butter and heat together until thoroughly mixed. Pour over Chex mix and stir until evenly coated.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly and sprinkle on chocolate chips. They well melt slightly spreading around chocolate goodness.

Illness and Idleness

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(www.edwardhopper.net)

I’m sick and I’m reading Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City. The book is an exploration of loneliness, an examination of how loneliness informs art, how difficult it is to express. Laing writes about the isolation of living in New York, about the anxiety of Edward Hopper’s paintings, Andy Warhol’s awkward silences, all kinds of solitary experience. Laing talks about the repulsiveness desperation of loneliness, but by talking about celebrity examples she overcomes the distastefulness of her subject. She explicitly links the artists’ biographies to their work, making direct connections between experience and expression.

There is something comforting in it as I lie here in bed, head cloudy with congestion, intestines aching. What is more isolating than sickness? Illness is internal, impossible to share. But it isn’t just pain that makes illness isolating. Sickness is disabling. While other do, the ill rest, sleep, hurt. They must conserve energy that others use. The ill do not take chances, do not challenge themselves, do not strive. Illness is boring, stationary, inactive. From the outside illness looks like apathy, but from the inside it feels like war. Each of us inhabits a single body and our experience within that body limits and defines our interaction with the world.

Imagining the experience of another body is the ultimate form of strangeness. Most of us simply can’t do it, like the narrator in Raymond Carver’s short story “Cathedral.” His encounter with the blind man in the story makes him uncomfortable and combative. When the blind man invites him to close his eyes, he chooses to keep them open, opting for the comfort of his familiar sight over the potential revelation of experiencing the world without it. He chooses not to engage.

It’s a privilege, this choice. The blind man doesn’t have the option of seeing; he is separated by something outside of his control. He cannot experience the world as the other man does. Sometimes empathy is not an available option. The sick cannot choose to inhabit the experience of the well, as much as they may long to.

Illness limits choice; it removes options. Often from the outside, these limitations seem negligible, they also seem like fussiness or obstinacy. Sometimes even from the inside it can seem that way, especially when symptoms are at a minimum and self-care means saying no to your job, friends, or family. With IBS, I can no longer be spontaneous. Feeling okay throughout the day requires a 3.5-hour morning ritual of exercise, hot drinks, a light meal, supplements, and a heating pad. It’s a rigid ritual, and it has taken away morning, which used to be my favorite time of day.

Difference is loneliness, lacking shared history, shared language, shared interests. As Laing points out in her discussion of Andy Warhol’s use of repetitive images, sameness is comforting, or in Warhol’s own words “all the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.” Conditions that make conformity impossible feel antagonistic, oppressive. When one is too ill to do, and must simply wait, it is easy to feel not only lonely, but purposeless.

In these moments of inactivity, to fight despair, I think about fairy tales where the heroine is frozen in place or locked in a tower, where she searches the earth or becomes lost in a forest, for years, decades centuries. For all that time, she is simply lost, waiting, dormant. I try to wait just as patiently.

Girl Food: Fennel Carrot Soup

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I’m sure there are plenty of men who love salads and women who would pick a steak over a brownie, but I don’t know any of them. There are certain foods that seem to appeal only to women: Buddha bowls, taco salads, and soup. Men categorically dislike soup. I have no idea why. I could eat soup every day from October through April, and all the women in my life seem to feel the same way. This particular soup has a rich caramelized flavor that comes from oven roasting the vegetables before adding them to the pot.

 

Adapted from the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine, this recipe epitomizes what I loved about that publication: it’s easy to make, has a short ingredient list, and yet it’s impressive enough that I’ve made it for dozens of special occasions, the most recent of which was a holiday lunch with my mom, aunt and sister. My sister and I both have IBS, but our symptoms and problem foods are almost opposite. This soup, however, works for both of us.

 

The original recipe, which appeared in the November 2008 issue of Gourmet calls for an onion, which I’ve replaced with a handful of scallion tops, because I don’t tolerate onion well. I also microwave the fennel oil because it intensifies the flavor and aroma. I make this soup with an immersion blender which produces a chunkier texture that I love. If you want a silky smooth puree a traditional blender is best.

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Fennel Carrot Soup

2 large fennel bulbs with fronds
1 lb. carrots, broken into 2” pieces
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch scallions (green onions), white bulbs removed and discarded
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon fennel seed
sea salt

Heat oven to 425° with rack in the bottom third of the oven. Slice fennel bulbs 1/4” thick and spread on a rimmed baking sheet along with carrots and garlic. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, and about 1/2 tsp. salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. After 20 minutes, add the scallion.

Meanwhile, chop about 1 tablespoon fennel fronds and set aside, discarding remaining fronds and stems. Grind the fennel seed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Mix with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl and microwave 30 seconds, until fragrant.

When vegetables are caramelized and tender, transfer to a soup pot and add stock. Use an immersion blender to puree to desired consistence. Season with additional salt to taste and heat for 5 minutes or so on stovetop. Serve in wide bowls garnished with fronds and fennel oil.

 

 

All Better

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When we say someone has healed, there’s an implied permanence, a sense that the sickness or injury is gone forever. Like “happily ever after,” healed is an impossible promise. And yet, we believe in healing. Healed is a word doctors won’t use with diseases like cancer that may return. For tentative restorations, there’s a different vernacular. We talk about remission, reduction. We fear false hope, being caught unawares.

But does impermanence negate recovery? My IBS symptoms wax and wane, and every once is a great while, they disappear. Yet even in symptom-free times, in my mind, my condition lingers. I don’t think of myself as well.

Unlike the relief I feel waking up after a lingering cold and finding that my head is clear and my breathing easy, with my stomach, feeling well is not enough.  I cannot shake the worry that I may get sick again. I do not simply enjoy being well. I get fixated on permanence.

It isn’t just in matters of physical health that fixedness matters. When it comes to loss, grief, or heartbreak we also speak of healing as if it is a single process, something that leads to a definitive moment when we are cured. But I’ve found that much like my IBS symptoms, my emotional discomforts increase and lessen, but are never wholly negated. I learn to deal with certain triggers, but the underlying tendencies find new outlets. Things improve for a while and then get difficult again.

Obsessed with patterns, I track these recurrences, their cyclical nature. Sometimes I feel that I have improved, matured, but this may be more a matter of stabilizing my environment than developing internally.

It’s the holiday season, a time of traditions and memories, when past and present blur. As adults, we return to our childhood homes. We return to our pasts, old symptoms, old habits, old feelings, return. My parent’s house evokes complex feelings. Sometimes I enjoy the familiar rooms, other times I find myself angry or forlorn. Uncertain of what to do, of how much freedom I am allowed, I lose confidence. I lose maturity, insight, autonomy. I feel old pain. Wounds that I thought had healed reopen.

Does this mean that I never healed, that my mettle is a matter of distance, that my poise is only a lie? If my answer is no, then I must rethink what healing is, to allow the possibility that to be wellness is always momentary, that a relapse of sickness does not negate the moments of health and comfort. Instead, it makes illness and wellness transitory states, both of which, will pass.

Let’s Tell True Stories; Hear Our Voice

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It is tempting to tell happy stories, to bend our lives into pleasing shapes and end them with happily ever after, but these stories, though well-meant often do more harm than good. They isolate us, shame us, silence us.

Here is a story: I hosted thanksgiving dinner at my apartment. Friends from near and far joined me, each bringing a dish to share.

On social media this story is a picture of me trussing the turkey and another of two dogs begging, a recipe for cranberry sauce, a joke about tryptophan-induced comas.

The true story is a bit more uncomfortable. The day before the holiday I get into an argument with my boyfriend. It’s not a new fight, but it sends me into a crippling bout of flash-back fueled anxiety. I’m so anxious that even playful disputes between my two canine guests leave me shaking and anxious. I stay busy because I know that if I let myself process the whole dinner will fall apart and I want desperately not to ruin the day for myself or any of my guests. I cook, and play hostess, and the guests come, but instead of enjoying the meal I critique and criticize myself. I am frustrated with everything that isn’t just how I planned, just what I wanted. I hide how I feel as well as I can and hope that no one can tell I’m not at my best.

There is nothing particularly compelling or noteworthy about this story, but it illustrates the dissonance between our lives and our stories, between the narratives that we tell and our authentic experience.

We need to return to the truth, to tell stories that matter. I believe that the upcoming Women’s March on Washington (https://www.womensmarch.com/) is a story that needs to be told, which is why I’ve signed on as the producer of a film documenting the event, Hear Our Voice.

 

Hear Our Voice is not just the story of one person’s perspective on the march, it’s a story of diverse perspectives. We are seeking footage from people attending the march and those who cannot attend. We are seeking true stories about women’s issues, inequalities, and injustices. We need your help. Learn how you can get involved https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hear-our-voice-a-documentary/x/15560188.

Sausage Mushroom and Sage Lasagna (Gluten Free)

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It’s an oddity of human behavior that we are prone to repeating behavior that has short term benefits but negative long term consequences, like dieting. Restrictive eating rarely leads to permanent weight reduction—in fact, recent studies have shown that people who follow low calorie diets for long periods often end up obese later in life—but despite the evidence, I still get sucked into the cycle of restriction and indulgence. I find it easier to skip meals than to resist dessert. I’m working on it, though, trying to find a balance that I can maintain. One of the ways I’m doing this is by eating what I want. I know this sounds strange, but I’ve found that I often end up overeating when I’m trying to avoid a craving, so lately I’ve been listening to them instead, which is how, less than a week after Thanksgiving, I ended up inventing a new lasagna recipe.

This lasagna is one of the best spontaneous creations I’ve ever come up with. It’s creamy, smokey, peppery, and earthy. Substituting a traditional béchamel with a mixture of ricotta, cottage cheese (my midwestern roots are showing, I know) and pureed pumpkin provides an ethereal sauce that balances the richness of sausage and mushrooms and doesn’t overwhelm the grassy freshness of spinach thyme, and sage.It also keeps the calorie level a bit lower.

Sausage, Mushroom and Sage Lasagna

1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed, broken into small chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 lb. fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 lb. ricotta
1 lb. cottage cheese
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup Pecorino Romano
1 cup Mozzarella
2 cups smoked Gouda
18 oz. oven-ready gluten free lasagna noodles (I used Mueller’s)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Heat oven to 400º.

Brown the sausage on all sides in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, then remove sausage from pan, leaving fat behind. Add garlic and mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are tender and moisture has evaporated. Add spinach, thyme and sage and cook one additional minute, until spinach is just wilted. Salt lightly and pour into a fine mesh strainer and allow to drain while preparing other ingredients.

Mix the pumpkin puree, ricotta and cottage cheese in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If a smoother texture is desired, blend some, or all, of the mixture with an immersion blender or food processor.

Mix the Mozzarella, Gouda, and Pecorino in a bowl, tossing to combine.

Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish and spread a small amount of pumpkin mixture in the bottom. Top with a layer off noodles, spread with 1/3 of pumpkin mix, add 1/2 of sausage mixture, and sprinkle with 1/3 of cheese. Repeat these layers once more, using the same amounts, then top with pasta, remaining pumpkin, and one last sprinkle of cheese. Dust top with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg in desired.

Bake 20 minutes covered with foil, then remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

 

 

 

Hobbies, Traditions, and Cranberry Sauce

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We tend to define ourselves by our money making ventures, but the things we do purely for pleasure are much more revealing. I’m currently reading a memoir—Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk—about a woman who copes with the loss of her father through acquiring and training a goshawk. Spending time with a fearsome animal may seem an odd way to grieve, but for her it is essential, a ritual that allows her to experience her loss without being overwhelmed by. Cheryl Strayed deals with her grief in a similar way, hiking thousands of miles while processing the death of her mother in Wild. Deaths are not the only losses that can overwhelm, and I’ve begun to think that our hobbies are an essential part of how we understand and cope with our individual stresses.

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I’ve been cooking for a long time, but I didn’t start baking regularly until the last year or so. Cooking is practical and immediately gratifying. Baking is more personal and time consuming. I share my bakes, but I don’t select them based on other people’s preferences. I make things that I like, I bake for my own joy. After decades of unhealthy relationships where I obsessed over other’s happiness, I am finally learning to value my own. Baking makes me feel capable and comforted. It’s a chance to practice slowness, carefulness, and close attention.

This sauce isn’t difficult, but it does require watchfulness. The cranberry sauce I grew up with was the kind that came out of a can, carefully slid from its metal sheath and placed in a cut crystal dish. When I finally discovered the homemade stuff in my twenties, I fell head over heels. A good cranberry sauce is beautiful, tart, and easy to make, one of those small touches that elevates the otherwise mostly brown smorgasbord of a typical Thanksgiving table. This version is less sharp than most with tangerines, cinnamon, and star anise mellowing the tart cranberries.

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Cranberry Clementine Sauce

1 package fresh cranberries
4 clementines, zested and juiced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until sauce is thickened and cranberries have burst.

New Discoveries and New Intentions

 

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An early, and none-too-impressive attempt at a gluten free baguette.

I spent all day yesterday in the kitchen. I baked a delicate, slow-rising spelt and einkorn bread; roasted a sheet pan full of beets and sweet potatoes; caramelized a crunchy crust onto some freshly-foraged pecans; tossed together a caper-flecked tuna salad; broke down some raspberries into chia seed jam; blended steel-cut oats with pumpkin and spices; and simmered parmesan rinds to make a flavorful stock. I will use these things for meals throughout the week, and in that sense they’re practical, but making cheese stock and slow-rising bread for twelve hours are not sensible choices, they’re indulgent ones.

I loved cooking before IBS, but I kept my homemade meals simple. If I wanted something extravagant, I’d treat myself to a night out. Now, it’s eating out that’s an exercise in self-restraint. The bread basket, list of pastas, and dessert menu are off limits. I indulge at home. I’m getting better and better at creating meals that approach top-tier-restaurant quality. I experiment with things I would never have attempted when I knew someone else could make them for me. Some things (here’s looking at you, bagels) still fall beyond my abilities, but I’m getting better and better the more I practice and experiment. Making decadent food at home creates a new need for self-restraint. I can’t purchase a single cookie, instead I bake dozens. This has made me pickier about what I chose to make, and mindful of my consumption.

I started this blog with the intention of adding a fresh perspective to the gluten free dialogue, one that understood wheat free diets are essential for many people who don’t have celiac disease, and one that didn’t rely on pre-mixed flour blends. But I’ve discovered that a lot of gluten free baked goods don’t agree with me. I’m not sure if it’s the xanthan gum, a few of the specific flours, or the extra eggs and/or dairy that many gluten free recipes call for, but eating gluten free doesn’t always leave my tummy happy.

Gluten free baking is also really hard. With sweets, it’s not so bad, but most of my baking is more savory: bread, crackers, pizza crust. Gluten free versions of these things are not great, and have very little shelf life.

Recently I’ve been experimenting more with “ancient” hulled wheats, ones that haven’t been hybridized and genetically modified. These forms of wheat: spelt, einkorn, and farro (emmer) don’t cause the symptoms I associate with wheat. In fact, they leave me feeling better than gluten free baked goods do. They also taste better and have a longer shelf life. I’ve been eating small amounts of ancient grains for a while, but despite my lack of symptoms I’ve limited my consumption based on the idea that I tolerate these grains because they were low-gluten, not gluten free. Since I believed my digestive issues were tied to gluten, I thought that my tolerance of these grains was tied to my eating them with restraint. Then, just last week I encountered a new study on non-celiac wheat sensitivity.

I know that eating wheat makes me sick, but not eating it makes me feel privileged and guilty. Like my IBS, my wheat sensitivity is comprised of a number of severe symptoms but for a long time my experience was unsupported by a medical diagnosis. I’d read dozens of articles telling me that I was crazy, unhealthy, and dumb for avoiding wheat. Michael Pollan, my long time local-food guru suggested that it was yeast, not wheat that was the problem, so I tried a locally made sourdough, but it caused all the usual symptoms. I knew that eating wheat made me bloated, tired, dizzy, shaky, and gave me vertigo, but my doctors and friends insisted that, since I don’t have celiac, there should be no reason why I couldn’t eat wheat.

Just a few days ago I encountered a new explanation, a substance known as ATI (amylase-trypsin inhibitor), which may be the real cause of non-celiac wheat intolerance. ATI is a type of protein that only exists in modern, free-threshing, non-hulled forms of wheat. It’s an explanation that makes a lot of sense to me. It explains why some forms of wheat don’t trigger symptoms while others do. Since learning about ATI I’ve been eating more einkorn and spelt and less gluten free food and I’m feeling better than ever.

I’m telling you all of this for two reasons. First, because it hasn’t been that widely publicized and I want to spread the word to other people who might benefit from this information. Second, this is going to change the way I bake here on the blog. There are way more sites exploring gluten free baking than there are using hulled-wheats. I plan to shift my focus toward ancient wheats, though I’m sure I will still use a variety of flours. I look forward to sharing a new stretch of my food journey with you.

 

 

Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola

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I’ve believed in the importance of eating locally since first reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma a decade ago, but in recent years the issue has begun to seem a lot more complex than it did back then. In 2006, I was living in Athens, GA. It’s a town only an hour and a half from my current home in Milledgeville, but a very different sort of place. There was a well-stocked weekly farmer’s market, a sort of design-your-own CSA called Athens Locally Grown where I could order local meat, soap, and produce each week, and delicious restaurants with a farm-to-table approach. Back then, my only dietary restriction was self-imposed pescatarianism and I made a comfortable living as a hairdresser. I bought almost all of my produce and protein from local sources, walked almost everywhere I went, and I was proud of ecological savvy.

When I moved to New York a few years later, local eating began to mean something very different. The union Square farmer’s market stocked an impressive array of fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and baked goods, but some were from as far away as Vermont, and all were exorbitantly expensive. On one of my first trips there I spent $35 on the ingredients for a 2-serving salad! In New York, eating anything was expensive, and eating locally substantially more so. I still frequented farmer’s markets and found a few restaurants that served sustainable regional fair and somewhat reasonable prices, but I also ordered a lot of delivery pitas and pizza, ate exotic fruits from the Chelsea Market, and bought sandwiches from the corner deli.

Now that I’m back in Georgia, I’m surrounded by farm land and yet, finding local food is difficult. My last rental had a back yard that my landlady allowed me to convert into a small garden, but Now I’m back to an apartment with a small communal yard and—aside from a few tomato plants and herbs growing on my front porch—unable to cultivate my own food. The farmers market here is the 1st and 3rd Saturday mornings of every month, which means that sometimes there’s a three-week gap. Its selection is unpredictable and limited, sweet potatoes will appear one week then not be available again until a month later. Eggs are $6 a carton and often sold out by 10 am. I find myself buying most of my food at the local Kroger. I purchase out of season berries, quinoa, gluten free pasta, squash grown in South America, spinach from California. And I usually feel pretty good about my choices. After all, I eat little processed food, lots of fruit and vegetables.

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But even at the best of times, most of what I eat comes from somewhere far away. My oatmeal, yogurt, olive oil, parmesan, coffee, rice, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, and cinnamon are nowhere near local, and I’ve never troubled myself much with worrying about where they come from. I tell myself that even the strictest of locavores allow themselves a spice cabinet and a bag of imported coffee, but do I really need quinoa, millet, amaranth, and four different kinds of rice? Do I need flax seeds and chia? Do I need imported dried figs and freeze dried strawberries?

We, the growing subculture of the food-loving health-conscious carry our groceries in reusable bags to reduce waste, but we also consume imported cassava flour and goji berries en masse, without thinking about the ways our sudden demand changes the availability and affordability of these crops to the people for whom they are a local resource…

The thing is…chia seeds and psyllium husk are pretty much essential to managing my IBS-C; I’m not giving them up any time soon. Being intolerant to wheat, locally milled flour and even farmers’ maket baked goods are out of the question. But I am trying to expand my ideas about eating locally. This granola features Georgia grown sweet potatoes, local sorghum syrup, and pecans picked from my back yard. It’s not completely regional by any means, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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Local Pecan and Sweet Potato Granola

 1 large sweet potato1/2 cup amaranth
3 cups old fashioned oats (gluten free if desired)
1/2 cup pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup sorghum syrup

1.Preheat oven to 400°. Cut sweet potato in half. Place one half, cut side down, on a foil-line baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork and roast for 1 hour, or until soft.

2.Meanwhile, peel and grate the other half of the sweet potato and place in large bowl.

3. Next, pop the amaranth. Heat a high-sided, heavy-bottomed, pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Place 1 tablespoon of amaranth in the pot and shimmy back and forth over burner about 10 seconds. Dump popped grain on top of shredded potatoes and repeat with remaining amaranth, popping 1 tablespoon at a time, reheating pot for 30 seconds between batches.

4. Add oats, pecans, cinnamon, salt and sugar to bowl and stir to combine.

5.When sweet potato is cooked, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Allow potato to cool slightly, then remove skin and place flesh in a small pot with coconut oil and sorghum syrup . Heat and stir over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until warmed through, them remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.

6. Pour sweet potato puree over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spread onto 2 foil-lined baking sheets and bake for 45-55 minutes, until evenly browned and no longer stick, stirring ever 1-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before storing or eating.

The Gift of Baking

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When you can eat anything, food often seems like a cheap show of affection. Before I got sick, my mom sent cookies for Christmas, my birthday and Valentine’s Day. It was nice, but not particularly moving, not when cookies were a regular treat easily made and easily indulged in. Then, a year and a half ago, I discovered that my body had developed an intolerance to wheat. Now making cookies for me involves buying unfamiliar expensive ingredients and trying out new unpredictable recipes. My mother hasn’t tried it. She still bakes for me, but she tends to select familiar recipes, opting for flourless chocolate cake over rice flour cookies. Her hesitancy to venture too far into the unknown is reasonable; wheat free baking often goes wrong. It’s part of what keeps people so tied to the same old wheat-based recipes even as more and more of us find ourselves no longer able to enjoy them.

 

With a restricted diet, food gifts take on new layers of meaning. When a friend made coconut flour pancakes for brunch I couldn’t stop thanking him. I almost cried when my friend Shannon presented me with half a dozen chocolate chip cookies to celebrate the completion of my thesis. I felt deeply loved when my mother baked my favorite spelt bread recipe when I visited this summer, allowing me to eat lunch with the rest of the family. The fact that it was overmixed and slightly burnt, barely registered; I was too delighted to be eating a sandwich.

 

it’s hard to imagine these days, but there was a time when gifts of food were the epitome of extravagance. Queen Elizabeth’s suitors were as likely to win her affections with marzipan as with jewels. Sugar and spices were once luxuries, things truly valued. Now, for most of us, a cake is easier to acquire than a carrot. But when I stopped eating wheat, I once again began to appreciate baked goods as treats, rare and decadent things. I know exactly how much time and effort goes into a loaf of bread, a pie crust, a cracker. To eat these things, I have to make them.

 

Most of the baked goods in my life now come from me. I make my own bread and cookies. It’s a time consuming hobby, but one I enjoy more than I would have imagined. On the weekends, instead of binge-watching TV, I press corn tortillas and bake sheets of homemade granola. I’ve gotten to know the different types of flour, discovered favorite new recipes. It’s taken time to learn how to work with spelt, einkorn, and gluten free flours. I often share the things I make, but there’s no denying that the baking is for me, that I do it mostly for my own pleasure.

 

My enjoyment of cooking used to come only from the product, my joy in the results of my labor. But wheat free baking is often unsuccessful, and through my tests and failures I’ve learned to love the process itself, to enjoy making food, to understand that doing so is a gift.