Monthly Archives: March 2011

Sandra Lee and the cost of Gluten-Free

Last night as I drifted off to sleep I read an article in this week’s New York Magazine about Sandra Lee, the Queen of the semi-homemade world and the current first lady of my fair state of New York.

The article was appropriately informative and mildly speculative:  Lee had a hard upbringing that inspired her to constantly create and stretch every dime, resulting in an empire of Martha-Stewart-esque possibilities for those with less time and money.  But is she too hard-wired for some of her hard-working employees?  Is she honestly full of happy-face generosity or is there some darkness lurking in there?

Honestly, I’m not particularly interested in the argument.  Not that there was much of one.  I think the article was intended more to garner some respect than to question, well, anything.  Of course the woman’s going to be a little type A if she’s going to get done as much as she has.

The article actually worked rather easily on me.  Like many foodies Lee does not cater to – including the likes of Anthony Bourdain and other chefs who I adore – I personally hate most of what she creates on her shows.  Buying a storemade p0und cake and sprucing it up by soaking it in liquor or juice and then adding some fresh fruit does nothing to attract my taste buds.  While I like my home to be comfortable, I have no personal interest in window dressings or stylish upholstery, at whatever cost.  And – here’s where it gets personal – because of my health and diet I can’t simply purchase, spruce up and present a semi-homemade meal.

Now my opinions are grounded in my personal history – I’ve struggled with Lyme Disease from a young age and have had to do without gluten, dairy, sugar and several other foods long before allergy diets and vegetables were “trendy”.  Recently I had two bouts of accidental dairy ingestion because I try to keep such requests subtle, and I paid the price for both of them.  So I respectfully don’t put myself in the strictly local/seasonal/organic group of people that the author of the article implies are “the kind of people who wouldn’t think of carrying their organic Chioggia beets home from the Greenmarket in anything but a reusable hemp tote“.   Not that I don’t love those people.  Or farmer’s markets or hemp, for that matter.

While Bisquick and Velveeta  never have and most likely never will have their place in my home, at least, as Mario Batali said, “she gets people out of fast-food chains, and that’s a good thing. At least she gets them in the kitchen, even if they are using frozen berries.”  And I’m a firm believer that the more time people spend preparing their food, the more they’ll want good food.  Real food.

So why did the article give me something to chew on that’s still present with me this morning?

It’s obviously hard to be a healthy individual in this country, with packaged food and corn-laden products being easier to procure than fresh vegetables with – god forbid! – nutrients and flavor.  Non-organics have about  6 times less nutrients than organics, but heftier price tags.  I’ve eaten many a bland strawberry or apple or asparagus stalk.   Why would someone choose one over a frozen french fry or hamburger slider?  Lee is currently experimenting with a little 70% homemade and 30% prepared as desired by some of her fans.  And she’s a huge fan of Michelle Obama’s getting kids into gardens and in more active lifestyles.  So hopefully a bit more health will get into the recipe she prepares for hoards of, primarily, mothers all over the country who want to present something special to their loved ones but have neither the time nor means to do so as much as they’d like.

But for those of us with food restrictions – celiac, IBS, countless chronic illnesses and allergies – the idea of using something both packaged and relatively cheap is a prize that isn’t even dangled in front of us.  My small loaf of gluten-free bread costs sometimes three times or more than a normal loaf of supermarket wheat bread.  Twice as much as a loaf from an excellent bakery.  Packaged food in my world means gluten-free crackers, canned Atlantic salmon (I can’t even eat tuna), and occasionally a dairy-free dark chocolate.  There is no cheap goat cheese to compare with American made cheddar.  Or an almond or goat’s milk that is as affordable as cow’s.  I can’t even get a natural cereal in a grocery store because sugar (or at least agave) are used to sweeten everything that needs a shelf life.

Yep, it’s not a cheap world for those dealt a weird food hand.

I’m sitting here pricing out medical insurance for my father and I.  He’s getting up there in age and I’m a woman in my childbearing years.  My basic coverage automatically costs almost twice of what a man in my age range does.  And the coverage we’ll most likely get and that is most affordable is only for in-network doctors.  Most alternative medicine practitioners in my world are in their whole own network that’s far from any my HMO will cover.

So today I’m musing on money and food and the body.  I choose to be an artist, a writer, a budding bakery owner.  Those jobs don’t come with health insurance or company lunches or even salaries that comfortably let me get those things on my own.  But this was my choice, and I live a relatively happy and peaceful life in this world where money is an object but not an obsession.  Sometimes I have to take more from those loved ones around me than I’d like, always with the intention to pay it back as best I can through my contributions to my family and society.

Yet I did not choose to get Lyme Disease, nor the continuous cycle of sickness and restriction that have run their courses between bouts of health and productivity.

Right now I spend a lot of time playing with food, trying combinations of things and learning how to make what people like so that someday I can pay my bills from these creations.  And if that means taking more time to make food – good, healthy, delicious, medicinal food – even more affordable for myself and the generation that has grown up with these issues on the brain, then that’s not such a bad way to spend my time.

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Gluten-Free Mochaccino Scones

Mochaccino Scones for Share Our Strength

I love having a reason to bake things other than that I just feel like baking.  Or eating.

My roommate works at the Food Network, and tomorrow they’re having an in-office bake sale to benefit Share Our Strength / No Kid Hungry as part of the GREAT AMERICAN BAKE SALE.  My roommate doesn’t really bake.

Hence this post.

I had to figure out something that could be made easily two days in advance since I was once again en transit after Tuesday.  And something that would fairly represent what I try to put in my pastries (or keep out of it) while still providing a pleasurable treat.

So I made a gluten and dairy free version of the Lemon Genmaicha scones I made last week, bumping up the lemon flavor in both the scone and the glaze and adding a few drops of the hazelnut extract I finally found at the NY Cake Company store downtown (if you’ve never been, go). Continue reading

Lemon Scones with Genmaicha Green Tea

Lemon Scones with Genmaicha Green Tea Glaze

Years ago a dear friend in college introduced me to Japanese pearl jasmine tea, and we’d sit in her basement apartment drinking out of delicate cups that released an aroma I had never imagined could exist so closely available at my fingertips.  Over the next few years I started tasting and buying tea like some people buy wine.  I justified the expense because of how healthy this habit is: teas have been shown to provide and help in the absorption of antioxidants, as well as fight certain cancers, reduce blood pressure and help to regulate blood sugar.  And when you’ve been living with a chronic illness, healthy habits are what keep your worst symptoms in remission year after year.

I try, in humble thanks, to use my health in small ways to contribute to the healing of others.  So I jumped on this Online Bake Sale to Help Japan as soon as I got the tweet.  Driving back into NYC yesterday, on a miraculously empty highway, I looked down the Hudson River at the George Washington Bridge a few blocks from my apartment, and was so thankful.  As recent environmental and political events continue to show us, many of our current blessings can be taken away from us in mere minutes.

So my contribution to this online bake sale is inspired by those who have been displaced by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threat in Japan, and the tea that has, over the years, contributed to my health. Continue reading

Online Bake Sale to benefit Second Harvest Japan

Click on the image to be directed to the bake sale!

I am very lucky to be amongst some incredible food bloggers who are using their skills in the kitchen and their large hearts to assist the wonderful Sabrina at The Tomato Tart in an online bake sale that will benefit Second Harvest Japan in their efforts to bring food and supplies to those affected by the recent Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear, um, hiccup.

As a very fortunate woman, living in one of the best cities in the world with access to as much water, energy and incredible food as I can (rather affordably) pay for, I’m stricken over and over by the idea that so many go without.  And that it all can be taken away in mere minutes, or even seconds.

Let me get all hippie here for a second: we are born into a body.  Where that body is born and to whom completely determine thousands amongst millions of paths our lives can go on.  When born into such privilege, it is our responsibility to live to the best of our ability.  Meaning that we are aware of what we consume, contribute to our society through our work, assist others as best we can, and always be humbled what is beyond our power.  This doesn’t mean we have to dedicate our lives solely to helping others, but that we should take little steps, as often as possible, to live as responsibly and with as much heart as we can.

Stepping off my flower-adorned soap box now.

There are millions of ways to make the world a better place.  This online bake sale is a delicious one.

Please go to the Tomato Tart on March 30th and bid a crazy variety of baked goods from 90 bloggers world wide.  There’s a mouth-watering amount of goods there, and delightfully several allergy-friendly options.

I’ll be contributing a batch of Lemon and Genmaicha Green Tea Scones.  8 if they’re shipped, and if I can deliver them to you locally (within Manhattan)  I’ll double the batch.   And because this is an allergy-alternative site, you can specify if you need them gluten, dairy or nut free or baked with a specific sweetener.

In love, peace and good health,

Jacqueline

Lemon Scones with Genmaicha Green Tea Glaze

TuLu’s Bakery, NYC – Gluten-Free Bakery Review Part One

Mini-cupcakes at TuLu's Bakery, Photo Maggie Raposo

A while back I toured a lovely group of people around NYC’s East Village and Lower East Side, stuffing our faces with gluten-free and (sometimes) vegan sweets from bakeries that have popped up to offer us glutinos the joy of a freshly baked pastry.  I’ll soon be reviving this tour and writing a solo article about our “best of” treats at the varying establishments, but am too excited not to share my findings.

So consider this the first of a 3-part review of the east side’s tastiest allergy-friendly establishments.

The group consisted of 7 palates of a wide variety.  I was the only solely gluten-and-dairy-free eater, which meant both that I had to trust my cohorts’ opinions when faced with dairy-full foods I couldn’t partake in, and that we had some interesting differences in opinion as to our preferences.  Sometimes I’d be the only one who liked a certain pastry – my tastebuds have changed to appreciate certain flavors in a different way.  My two sisters (Maggie and Jess) and cousin Amanda are generally allergy-free, but have had some experience with my allergy-restricted food habits and experiments, so they were able to give solid opinions as to what tasted “normal” and what was lacking to their unrestricted palates.  My dear friend Erin brought her sister Allison, who is a chef/caterer in CT.  Both brought incredible insights and expert opinions to the mix.  Finally, Jessica’s friend Ken offered a big, hungry man’s opinion.

Photo Maggie Raposo

TuLu’s Gluten-Free Bakery

  • 338 East 11th Street
  • Between 1st and 2nd Avenues
  • Open Mon-Thu 10:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10:30am-10:30pm; Sun 10:30am-9pm
  • Pastries average around $3
  • Full-sizes cakes made to order starting at $40
  • Menu
  • Adorable storefront

Our sweet explorations started at TuLu’s bakery, where upon first bite my younger sister exclaimed “this is inspiring me to go gluten-free again”.

We had decided to pick out a few staples at each location – both a basic vanilla and chocolate cupcake and some sort of chocolate cake / brownie – as well as a seasonal specialty or more unique pastry.

TuLu’s sits in the heart of the East Village, and the tiny storefront suggests grabbing an order to go rather than lingering on one of the few stools available.  The entire menu is gluten-free, and vegan options are very clearly labeled for those with dairy allergies as well.

Our favorite: Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bread

Overall, the dairy-free pumpkin bread was the clear winner, with a delicious balance of spice that didn’t overpower the flavor of the pumpkin, and was agreed to be something not peggable as gluten-or-dairy-free.  Surprisingly moist and not too sweet, the lack of graininess that often accompanies gluten-free pastries was absent in this almost chewy cake that we gobbled with glee.

The snickerdoodle that made us sad

 

The snickerdoodle cookie didn’t fare so well to our palettes, being far too sweet with a decidedly flat taste that lacked any complexity and highlighted the grainy texture we were so happy to avoid prior.  As my gal Erin concluded succinctly: “there’s no doodle in the snicker”.

Vegan Agave Brownie

 

The vegan agave-sweetened brownie fared only slightly better.  In fact I, as the only glutino, was the only one who particularly liked this extremely dense treat that everyone else thought had a funny flavor and tasted more like a cake than a brownie.  The lack of eggs and additional starch included to replace them resulted in a bit of a crumbly texture.  But as someone who rarely eats chocolate or sweet treats, I was a fan, stopping in for seconds a few weeks later when I passed by.

Vegan chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosing (and sprinkles!)

Now, as the cupcake craze continues to terrorize the bakery trend in NYC (terrorize, really, Jacqueline?  Yes, eaters, the trend is almost terrifying), we knew some major sampling was gonna be happening.

Sadly for vegans out there, this vegan chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting didn’t quite satisfy, crumbling so completely that we had to scoop it up with forks.  No one was really impressed by the cake (though they preferred it to the brownie), but all were delighted by the light and fluffy soy-based frosting.

Chocolate cupcake with peanut-butter frosting

The peanut-butter buttercream frosting on the dairy-full chocolate cupcake was a huge it, too.  Light and whipped to perfection, (I was told) it had an incredible peanut-butter flavor that balanced well with the chocolate in the cupcake.  The group was a bit split as to if the cake actually had enough chocolate flavor in it, but with the intensity of the frosting, the cake wasn’t holding a candle to taking center stage as well (mixing metaphors, yes.  It’s Sunday morning).

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting

The winner of the TuLu’s cupcake challenge was the classic vanilla with vanilla cream-cheese frosting (with dairy, obviously).  Because of the eggs, the structure was solid and it didn’t crumble as the vegan options had.  While the amount of vanilla in the cake was questioned (some wanted a stronger flavor), the moistness of the cake balanced with a rich but light frosting forgave the tiny bit of graininess that was only noticeable because the group knew of the gluten-free contents.

Conclusions

  • Favorite pastry: Dairy-free pumpkin bread
  • Second up: peanut-butter frosting
  • Thumbs down: snickerdoodle
  • Frosting: group equally split on loving the buttercream, soy-based and cream-cheese.  They were all big hits.

 

The winner - dairy-free pumpkin bread

Thanks go to the group of friends, as well as Maggie Raposo, for taking the pics.
 

Lavender Tea with Lemon Macarons – A Tea Party for a Cause

Lavender Tea with Lemon Macarons

The absolute best thing about my recent blogging endeavors – other than baking delicious things on a regular basis and then getting even more personal with them by photographing and writing about them – is online community sites like FoodBuzz that connect bakers and bloggers with fabulous causes and the companies that fund them.

This recipe was inspired by Kelly’s Tea Party for a Cause. “Electrolux and Kelly Ripa are proud to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund whose mission is to fund research to find a method of early detection and ultimately a cure for Ovarian Cancer. Electrolux has committed to donate $750,000 to this worthy cause.” (From Kelly Confidential website).

Ovarian cancer is a tricky one for us ladies.  The symptoms are mild and often mask as other non-cancer related issues.  There is no effective screening test.  And while science and early detection are improving the survival rate, this form of cancer is still a real and dangerous threat: “…ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women.  The National Cancer Institute estimates 21,850 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States in 2010 and about 13,580 women will die from the disease.”

I am a featured publisher on FoodBuzz, and for every Tea-Party recipe created by a featured publisher, FoodBuzz will donate $50 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund! Thank you, FoodBuzz! This recipe/post will also be eligible for FoodBuzz Top 9 Tea Party Takeover on Friday, March 25th, where 9 of the most delicious posts will be feature on the site.

Please go to Kelly Confidential, and take one minute to select your dresses and tea set for an online tea party! Every time you do so, Electolux will donate $1 to the cause.  This is a great thing to do with a little lady in your life!

Lavender Tea with Lemon Macarons

I’ve had a blast playing with recipes for this event, and when my fifth batch of French Macarons came together last night, I knew I wanted this to be my submission.  Laced with subtle lavender and tart lemon, these are the perfect little delicate treats to balance on dainty fingers and follow with a cup of tea. And they’re naturally gluten-free and dairy free (depending on the filling), so they’re a treat for those of us with food intolerance.

Now macarons are tricky.  This was my fifth and most successful try.  Check out my blog posts on A Cup of Macaron and French Macarons Take One for tips on what did not work and what improved dramatically.  What I’ll stress here is to let your egg-whites sit for at least 24 hours, covered with a paper towel, at room temperature.  This will help some of the water evaporate and the protein build.  Also, when whipping egg whites, start on low and increase the speed, and do not overwhip.  You want stiff peaks but a glossy batter.

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dried lavender
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 drops yellow food coloring gel
  • Filling: I used a pre-made lemon curd from Ina Garten, but I suggest using her recipe if you have the extra time.  It’s spot on.  And I love her.

Directions

  • Pulse the almond flour and powdered sugar until blended, then sift twice to make sure all larger pieces of almond are separated out and the flour is blended well.
  • Add the lemon zest and lavender to the flour and set aside.
  • Pulse the white sugar in processor until very fine.
  • In the large bowl of a standing mixer or by hand, start whipping egg whites until foamy.
  • Add a pinch of cream of tartar, and whip until soft peaks form.
  • Reduce speed to low, and add the fine white sugar one tablespoon at a time.  When fully incorporated, increase speed to medium and then to high, and whip until stiff-peaked.  Timing varies on this, and this is where practice makes perfect.  Add your food coloring gel when almost completely done whipping.
  • Sift 1/3 of the flour into the egg and fold in completely.  Repeat until all the flour is incorporated.  You want to fold in until the batter is smooth, but still light.
  • Spoon into pastry bag fitted with a large tip (I use between 1/2 and 1 inch, depending on what I grab first).
  • Pipe 1 inch rounds onto parchment lined baking sheets, pulling the tip to the side so as to not leave a peak mark.  I use very thick sheets for this recipe.  Double up if needed.
  • Tap the pan somewhat assertively on the counter to remove any trapped air and help batter to settle.
  • Let sit for 1/2 – 2 hours, until a shell forms on the top and your finger pressed lightly doesn’t leave a mark.
  • Now, bakers are completely split on the right temperature for baking macarons.  Some bake slowly and cooly at 270-350 degrees.  I tried to keep my temperamental oven at around 300 for these, holding the door slightly ajar with a spoon.  This way I can keep them in longer to assure that the insides are cooked without browning them on top, which happened with a batch that was drier / baked higher.
  • Bake in fully preheated oven for 5 minutes, turn the pan, and bake for around 8 minutes more, or until the “feet” of the macaron are a bit sturdier than soft.
  • Cool on sheets for two minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely.
  • Fill with prepared lemon curd and refrigerate to harden.
  • Serve at room temperature with tea.  Preferably wearing a skirt.  Or at least barefoot.

Please click here to be directed to Kelly's Tea Party for a Cause

Lavender Tea with Lemon, Please: A cup of Macaron.

Le Macaron - I have almost conquered you

I’ve come up with several alternative blog post titles for my recent culinary experimentation:

Egg Whites Are The Enemy

Pardon My, Um, French?

and my favorite

Manhattan Macaron Murder Mystery

Anyone who’s tried to make these little bits of delight in their kitchen has most likely failed at least once.  And if you are one of those rare people without professional culinary training that perfected the art of the macaron on the first try, please come over and play with me.

Macarons are notoriously difficult to make.  Which means that they’re the perfect challenge for when I’m in the mood to make something complicated that claims all of my attention.  Usually I’m in this mood when I’m chewing on something.  Figuratively, I mean.  I find nothing more calming then browsing recipes, coming up with a game plan, pouring some cheap red wine into an inherited crystal punch cup, and folding almond batter into whipped egg whites.  And tonight I’m chewing.

So I decide to go for broke with both bowls of egg whites I’ve had out “relaxing” since yesterday morning.  I have two baking events coming up, and while I’ve let myself get down to the wire with my recipes, I’m very excited for the combination of a tea-themed event and an online auction to benefit Japan.

But, oops, I don’t have parchment!  Off to the grocer’s.

Ends up, there is no parchment paper to be found in Washington Heights.  Evidently tamales and chile recipes don’t call for it.  So I grabbed a roll of waxed paper and hoped for the best.

And, yes, there is a HUGE difference between the two.  I’ve learned.  But what can you do?  My philosophy is “making a mess into mmmmmmm”, so I’ve gotta stick by my dusty ways and make do.

And I made macarons!  Tinted a delightful spring yellow, pumped with the scent and light flavor of lavender tea in the macaron shell and with a tart lemon curd filling.

I also made a lemon macaron with fresh zest to be filled tomorrow with a lavender buttercream filling.  Not quite as close to “there” as these, but getting there.

What is working more and more with each test batch?

  • The amount of whipping that produces the perfect “stiff peaks” that are neither too marshmallow-y nor overbeaten and borderline dry.
  • Both processing and sifting the almond flour / confectioner’s sugar.
  • Folding the almond flour in three batches, sifting each time.
  • A properly heated oven: I discovered starting around 350 degrees then dropping the heat and holding the oven door open with a wooden spoon worked perfectly.

Now I’m extra excited to take a macaron baking class with my lady friends and buying the right equipment to make this process easier.

Recipes / details / better photos to come!

The Ghost of Baker’s Past…

… and a tribute to Ladies Grey and Child

The Original Dusty Baker - Julia Child

Dusty Inspiration…

The other day while recuperating from my St. Patrick’s Day hosting the evening before, I stumbled upon an episode of The French Chef.  Julia was making Apple Tartin, and in her glorious way she made the pastry in one continuous shot, measuring and moving her ingredients as she needed them rather than using delicately pre-measured ingredients or the convenience of an editor to make her process look seemless. She knocked over her entire canister of spatulas and kept going, joking about it two minutes later.  Flipping the tart from its cast iron skillet to plate sent apples flying and pastry gliding onto the counter.  She rearranged and continued.  Her final product looked nothing like the caramelized version that she had prepared earlier, and she apologized to her audience causally.  But she always had a smile on her face.  She would occasionally half-wink at someone off camera.  In her final ‘bon appetit’ she looked as voraciously hungry as if she had made the most perfect, mouth-watering tart on the planet.  She never apologized.

I delightfully regaled my gentleman friend with the story as we enjoyed the spring sunshine later that day.  The joy of a baking ‘failure’, and how delicious the results can still be.  That truly is dusty baking.

Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby - Lady Gray

I practice Julia’s method in tribute…

I like to think of Julia and my philosophy on dusty baking in moments like tonight.  I’m participating in two online baking events for incredible causes: Kelly’s Tea Party benefiting ovarian cancer research and The Tomato Tart’s Online Bake Sale to Help Japan, benefiting Second Harvest Japan in their efforts to provide food for those affected by the recent disaster.

I’m mentally tossing around several recipes, but have had tea-flavored ideas on the brain and figured I’d try one out while at my father’s house and with access to my little sister’s incredible camera.

Why not a gluten-free scone dedicated to Lady Mary Elizabeth Grey?  Her husband Charles is credited for the bergamont-flavored tea, but in my mind she’s the one who needed a cuppa, having birthed and raised ten sons and six daughters!  Why not combine Earl Grey tea with lemon zest and a lemon glaze?  Why not try a premixed flour from King Arthur flours?  I’ve experimented with pre-blended GF cake mixes and this brand totally won the loyalty of several of my taste testers, so since I’m absent my arsenal of flours and gums and starches I figured I’d give their muffin blend a whirl.  Into a scone.  A perfect scone.

The result?  A dusty, Julia Child-esque moment.  Not a scone.  Not even a muffin.  A muffin-top.  For some reason my original batter was way too moist for a scone.  So I added some extra flour.  Still too moist and sort of rubbery.  Instead of rolling out into scones I figured I’d glob it into muffin pans, hoping they would rise into fluffy yummy-ness.

Muffin for Lady Grey

 

Edible?  Yes.  Even somewhat tasty.  A little bitter from the strong tea, lacking the glaze that might have been and that would contrast the harshness of the flour blend.  Did I eat one?  Yes.  Two, actually.  Am I going to give you the recipe?  No.  Because a better one is coming.

But it was still a delightful time in the kitchen.  Inspired by the exhausted Lady Grey and the inexhaustible Julia Child.  And not a complete failure, as I enjoyed the time I zested lemon, brewed tea, blended butter into flour with my fingers.  And everyone in my dad’s house ate a warm, crusty muffin-esque creation.

Contentment is a dusty kitchen.

Online Bake Sale for Japan

Hi there dusty food friends.

I’m not going to try to begin to encase my thoughts into mere words in regards to what’s happening in Japan.  In this circumstance one feels even more helpless than usual, as the threat of radiation keeps volunteer organizations (wisely) reticent to flock as generously as they might to aid on the ground.   And while I have much respect / awe for my journalist boyfriend and his colleagues, I am selfishly thankful that he is not there.

Which brings me back to little steps.  I am humbled by those who so generously give their time and energy into constantly helping others in uncountable ways.  I am so fortunate to learn from my friends who work in the media and for non-profit organizations around the globe, and I find myself listening intently as they offer their stories and opinions as to what is happening on the ground in places I have never been, with people living extremely different lives than I.

But I believe in little steps.  By donating to organizations that provide education, supplies and comfort (and being smart at which organizations do so with the best use of my dollars), I can support those who bring positive change across the globe.

So I’m participating in an Online Bake Sale to Help Japan, organized by blogger The Tomato Tart. Proceeds will (appropriately) be donated to Second Harvest Japan, who are working to bring much-needed food to those affected by the disaster.

I’m debating between a scone (pumpkin, lavender or chocolate macadamia nut) or a French macaron, either with a green tea filling or some sort of chocolate ganache. Opinions / comments are more than welcome.

And please go to Tomato Tart on March 30th to bid on baked goods from 60 incredible food bloggers!


St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

Hello dusty food friends!

I am just jumping in a jig for the end of the countdown to my favorite holiday.  For some dear friends I’ll be making corned beef and cabbage, roasted potatoes, braised carrots, Irish Cream Cupcakes, Irish Tea Macarons and both gluten-free and traditional soda bread.  Along with some sipping whiskey and pub-esque trivia, I am VERY excited for Thursday evening.

So here’s a little list of the festive recipes I’ve been playing with.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Gluten-Free Irish Cream Filled Carob Cupcakes

Nutty Irishman Pancakes

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Irish Soda Bread

Irish Tea Macarons (updating 3/16)

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