Saturday mornings with Christopher.2. (pumpkin bar recipe)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back in the day, before gluten and soy intolerance's, I was Martha Betty Crocker Susie Stewart Homemaker. Every weekend the neighborhood would wake up to the smell of my freshly made-from-scratch coffee cakes. Christopher would come home from work to the scent of hot melty chocolate chip cookies, still cooling on the cookie tray. If it was someones birthday, our house would be full of pink fluffy cake, even if that someone lived 3,000 miles away. I never passed up an opportunity to turn on my oven. I practically slept wearing hot pads on my hands.


And then came Celiac Disease. And then lactose intolerance. Fructose intolerance. Corn intolerance. Potato, eggs, caffeine- AHHH! It all started piling up so fast, that I found myself wishing it was my head in that oven, not a loaf of bread. I went into a baking induced depression, and I never quite pulled myself out of it. Its been over a year now, and I'm still finding little ingredients here and there that cause my body to react in ways that you wouldn't wish upon your most awful enemy. My husband however, has been the light at the end of the tunnel. On most days anyways.

This is what we used to call "pumpkin season". Christopher's favorite time of year. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin coffee creamer, all made with my wooden spoon and charm. But this year its been different. I'm grumpy in the kitchen now. And wouldn't you be? I don't know my way around anything more than a bag of carrots and a jar of curry powder. But, ya know, I was starting to miss pumpkin season too. No matter how bitter it had made me. So the other night I picked up the phone from work and dialed home. I confessed my pumpkin craving to my much too patient husband, and hung up with a smile on my face, knowing that him and Eleanore would spring into action and dive mouth first into a bowl of some kind of pumpkin batter.

And boy did he come through for me. Actually, maybe you'd like to hear his side of the story...
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"You have to try my famous enchiladas. They're amazing." That was my first attempt to impress Tia with my cooking. When she discovered my "famous" enchiladas were made with canned enchilada sauce and burnt chicken, she was obviously not impressed. So the next couple of years I happily savored the delicious dishes she would whip up. Shrimp pizza. Brownies. The absolutely perfect chocolate chip cookies (every time I would say "no, they're just perfect" and then Tia would find some way to tweak the recipe and make them even better). Winter soups. I was in heaven. I had found my soul mate. My role in the kitchen was mostly relegated to chopping vegetables, which always turned out to be too big, and had to be re chopped. Every once in a while I would cook, and less frequently, I would make something that was actually good. Lightning would strike and I would savor the meal, looking up at Tia every 2 minutes to make sure she liked it, until she got so frustrated with my culinary neediness the dish would lose it's flavor.

After baby came along, we got into a rut that many new parents probably find themselves in, gorging on ultra-bad convienence foods and way too much dining out. We didn't read labels. We revelled in the comfort foods of our impoverished childhoods: Hamburger Helper, macaroni and cheese (with hot dogs!), ramen noodles. Slowly we (and by we, I mean Tia, thank god) began to develop an interest in cooking, and definitely baking, again. About once a week I would bring a big plate of delicious cookies to my shop, only to have them gobbled up without a single word of praise for my wife's superior baking skills. Just as we began to develop a steady menu of dishes, a previously unknown (to us at least) autoimmune disease wrecked everything.

As Tia wrote above, it was Celiac Disease. No more cookies. No more brownies. Certainly no more processed boxed foods or eating out (a blessing in disguise). And as the list of foods that Tia couldn't eat grew steadily longer, until they practically dwarfed those foods that she could eat, cooking became a whole different beast. And although we made good progress on yummy recipes for main courses and dinners, the art of baking was forgotten.

When we finally gathered the courage to explore the world of gluten free baking, it was as though a challenge had been placed on my wife, one she gladly rose to fill. If you think making the perfect cookies is hard with white flour, try working without it. What is the perfect combination of rice, sorghum, tapioca, arrowroot, xanthan gum, and sugar to make the tastiest, most-closest to wheat cookie? Good luck answering that one.

As all this happened, I slowly began developing my cooking skills. I watched. I observed. I was told, over, and over, and over again, the same cooking lessons that were so obvious to Tia. I can't say it was easy on either of us. Unfortunately, so much of Tia's strength was zapped battling her food allergies and Endometriosis, that I ended up cooking a lot more. And now, with her being pregnant, the mere sound of cooking food is sometimes enough to make her sick for hours. I was the last survivor on the cooking island during the entire first trimester. Sometimes the food is really, really really good. Sometimes it's very very bad (I'll never forget the soup in which I dumped in 1/4 cup of black pepper and we all choked), but mostly it is just okay. Its edible.

The other day I did whip up something worthy of blogging about. I got a call from Tia while she was working, asking for something with pumpkin in it. So I sat down with my trusty Google, to find an appropriately allergen-free recipe to make for Tia. Fortunately the always-dependable Gluten Free Goddess came through, but the recipe needed serious modification to accommodate Tia. So here is what I came up with, a delicious fall dessert:

Pumpkin Bars With Maple Frosting:
-1 cup brown sugar
-3/4 cup rice flour
-1 cup sorghum flour
-1 teaspoon tapioca
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
-2 teaspoons shortening
-1/3 cup oil
-1 can pumpkin
-2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Mix wet ingredients in slowly, adding rice milk or water to achieve a thick, but spoonable batter. Spoon into a baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Baking at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. When finished, put it into the freezer to cool.

Maple Frosting:
-4 teaspoons shortening
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-2 teaspoons vanilla
-2 teaspoons sugar
-2 teaspoons maple syrup (the real kind folks)
-3 teaspoons tapioca starch

Heat shortening in a small saucepan until melted. Add in brown sugar and stir well. Slowly add spice while stirring. Finish with the tapioca to thicken. Spread over the frozen pumpkin bars and allow to cool.

-"OVEN PERFECT for Cake", by turnofthecenturies, $3.00.
-"Cherries oven mitt", by HBIC, $10.00.

-"large indian spice kit", by purposedesign, $38.00.

15 comments:

LoveMeKnot Creations September 27, 2008 at 4:48 PM  

mmmm kudos to Christopher that looks delish :)

Have you guys tried ALmond flour? or does Tia have an intolerance to nuts also? that sucks so bad!!!
*hugs*

Christopher And Tia September 27, 2008 at 4:58 PM  

Almond flour is a yes!! It makes for great pie crusts! We haven't bought any in awhile, but now that fall baking season is upon us, we should put it on the shopping list for sure :)

Maggie September 27, 2008 at 5:09 PM  

wow, those look really good!

jessicajane September 27, 2008 at 6:39 PM  

i need some wooden spoons......to whip TIm with.

Karina Allrich September 27, 2008 at 8:02 PM  

Great post! Happy Fall. I'm so glad you liked the recipe and were able to accommodate Tia.

BeckyKay September 28, 2008 at 9:48 AM  

Wonderful post! Tia, you need to let Christopher blog more often! LOL!

Bee Square Fabrics September 28, 2008 at 10:05 AM  

Just discovered your blog, and I'm glad I did. Great post. I totally feel for you with all the food intolerances! Sometime during my first pregnancy my body started messing with me, and I still haven't figured out all my food triggers - and it's been 7 years now!

It is a never ending discovery. :)

Hybrid Hopes September 29, 2008 at 2:54 AM  

Chris has a famous enchilada recipe? ... I gotta call him out on that. Since when, and why did you never make it in Illinois?

Christopher And Tia September 29, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

bee square, mine started when I was pregnant too!! You and I need to chat, lady.

hybrid... the famous part is a joke. its quite the opposite, actually, hahah.

irenedesign September 29, 2008 at 8:58 AM  

Those pumpking bars look delicious! My mom was diagnosed with Celiac about 6 years ago (back in the day when I still cooked for her quite a bit). I know that can be a huge challenge, especially with all of those others thrown in with it! I hope you find lots of other delicious recipes!

Hobocamp Crafts September 29, 2008 at 10:25 AM  

Yikes! I can totally relate! I've had a celiac test- which was negative- but I am actually able to eat only root veggies, pasta no sauce, all fruit must be peeled- just a few terrible details.. in the recipe it calls for Soroghum flour? What is that- I wonder if my health food store would have it.. can it be substituted?
thanks!

Christopher And Tia September 29, 2008 at 10:56 AM  

hobo I'm sure you can sub the sorghum for any other flour that you would normally use :)

(also, even if you test negative for celiac, that doesn't mean you don't have a gluten intolerance. If you suspect you do, its best to try eliminating it from your diet and seeing how your body reacts. I've heard that a billion times, and found it to be true for myself after I tried it).

fly tie September 29, 2008 at 1:34 PM  

macaroni with hot dogs...so it wasn't just my family, ha!

i'm intimidated by baking with all the replacements but said i was gonna do it. i don't use white flour (only wheat) processed sugar, eggs, milk or any of the other "bad" stuff, but i want to stop using wheat. i'll have to try these as cakey stuff is my weakness.

sideshow stamps October 1, 2008 at 2:08 PM  

That recipe looks yummy! I LOVE "pumpkin season"! I'm glad you have found a way to enjoy it again... :)

And hey, is that a picture of your kitchen? With the neato Tea and Sugar tins?... We have that little retro syrup jar with the green block print of a flower on it too! We put cream in it and use it for our coffee "bar".

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