Tag Archives: Gluten-free diet

The Ultimate Gluten-Dairy-Grain-Nut-Soy-Sugar-Free Carob Cake

I have a best friend. On here I call her Muffin.

Muffin has a history with illness; a much more storied, dangerous, and exacting one than mine. Our friendship began when our bodies were strong and our spirits unstoppable. We’re so thankful now that we were reckless, and lived dangerously and fully back then. Now we’re so careful, so precise, and so used to premeditating physical complications and energy black holes. This recipe is from her, and for her.

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Gluten-Free French Lemon Madeleines (and a boost of blogging confidence)

Lemon Madeleines - TheDustyBakerI am a mess of many things.

I bake. I write about famous people who make food. I research articles. I develop recipes. I review events. I take photos in professional people’s kitchens. I blog. I manage my family business’ books. I walk hundreds of miles for breast cancer awareness. I don’t eat gluten. I used to write plays. I grew up with Lyme Disease. Sometimes now that stays hidden. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out how that all comes together here.

I used to feel like I had a “voice” on this blog, one that was quirky and fun and so focused around the joy that is throwing flour in the air and making a mess and being all scrappy in NYC and not letting the whole gluten-free thing be the thing that stops someone from baking and being all dusty in the kitchen. And then two things happened; I started getting a lot more writing/cooking work and my Lyme Disease-related symptoms started making me not feel well again.

Bare honesty here: I don’t feel well a lot, nowadays. I do a lot of things through an incredible doc who does intensely focused plant-forward immune supporting regimens. I also take a combo of pain killers regulated through a pain management doctor I’ve trusted for over ten years. I also meditate, and work with a life coach, and keep a positive attitude, and sometimes let myself cry in the bathtub because in certain moments none of that seems to make a difference.

Sometimes I don’t know how to express this person I am in this body, at this point in my life.  I have a good life. I love my work, value my relationships and have a home that I adore. But I have a history, and even as I’ve tried to start sharing the reason why I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for twenty years, I’ve worried about how it will translate on here.

But then I had a conversation I really needed yesterday. Continue reading

Millet Mug Chocolate Cake (gluten and dairy free)

Gluten-Free Millet Mug Chocolate Cake - The Dusty Baker-2

I’ve been so good with the sugar lately.

As my little tackle with Lyme symptoms flaring has made digesting sugar a bit hard (even small portions induce a bit of shaking), I’ve cut back dramatically on my intake and, therefore, the amount that I’ve been baking. But the other night as I whipped up my little Ramp and Maitake Tartelettes, I was craving something sweet. I don’t really keep sweets on hand, and didn’t want to go full force into a new recipe.

I had a bit of Divine cocoa powder left over from my Divine Gluten-Free Cocoa Brownies and wanted to showcase them in something incredibly quick and easy. A mug cake it would be. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Goat Cheese, Chive and Walnut Scones

I love scones. Ever since I started dating this guy named Ruark and spent holidays at his parent’s house, they’ve intrigued me. I’d sit drinking tea in the kitchen while his dad, Kevin, worked butter and flour together, the air filling with sweetness while everyone else slowly woke. By the time the fluffy pastries were cooling on the counter, we’d be on our third cup with everyone gathered at the table. I could not eat the scones, but I inherited Kevin’s base recipe, which I’ve adapted over the years in numerous ways.

In the next three posts, I’ll be sharing three new scone recipes I brought in miniature form to a benefit for C-CAP, an organization that works with public schools across the country to prepare at-risk high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Continue reading

Why are Women the Gluten-Free Gladiators?

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 2.18.49 PM

Why are Women the Gluten-Free Gladiators?

This is a question I’ve asked myself many times while researching or calling in products, or scanning a list of ingredients at my grocer’s.

I interview high-profile chefs weekly for my Serious Eats column, and there I have to conscientiously focus on bringing more women into the mix; there are plenty of incredible female chefs out there, but the majority of the chefs owning and running high-end kitchens in New York are still men.

Yet when I scan my mental list of bloggers, writers, editors, developers, PR representatives and producers in the gluten-free field, the steep majority of them are women: editors Silvana Nardone and Alice Woodward at Easy Eats and Living Without; writers/bloggers/developers Amy Green, Nicole Hunn, Shauna James Ahern, and Karina Allrich; producers Pamela’s Products, Jules Gluten-Free, Better Batter… I could show you my address book and guarantee that at least 85% of those in the gluten-free world are women.

Alex Thomopoulos has an incredible blog and a web show on Hungry - Gluten-Free With Alex T - that I'm addicted to

Alex Thomopoulos has a beautiful blog and an insanely amusing web show on Hungry – Gluten-Free With Alex T – that I’m addicted to.

As someone who hasn’t eaten gluten-containing products in almost 20 years (minus an incredibly unhealthy and disastrous period in college), I’m mesmerized by how grandly the food world has changed, and the gluten-free food world has developed from a few ingredients and progressive health food stores to the insane trend – yes, trend – that it is now. This community basically made me a food writer, as other ambitions melted away when people around me wanted to know more about how to eat on an adapted diet.

I, personally, am probably not the best advocate for this way of eating.

When someone mentions to me that they’re cutting out out gluten and expects me to be excited and supportive, my response is always, “why?” I have a very specific illness that makes gluten dangerous to my health when eaten with any sort of regularity. It doesn’t stop with gluten, and two-thirds of my life I’ve spent having the same conversation with waiters, relatives and new friends about what I can’t and why I can’t eat certain things. Those with Celiac Disease have it even worse than I, and in support of them (and for many other reasons) I think those who can digest gluten should digest gluten. Yes, eating less simple carbohydrates and more healthy vegetables and proteins in general is better for everyone, and even more so for those with health conditions. But if I could enjoy the crackle of a crusty piece of bread or a slice of pizza, you can be damned sure I would.

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Saved by Pamela’s Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookie Mix

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies: Cranberry Walnut, Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Walnut

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cookies: Cranberry Walnut, Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Walnut

Some days I can counter major crankiness with a bit of hippie love: playing fetch with Mitra (check out this little Vimeo from yesterday), reminding myself of my “just enough” theory, going to a yoga class, hugging a tree (I warned you this is hippie love) or simply remembering that there is only one life we get and so we should just enjoy the silly crap of it all.

Other days I just need a cookie. Yesterday was such a day.

Now I’ve been a poo-pooher of gluten-free baking mixes because I do not believe that an all-purpose gluten-free baking flour exists. Take four of these so called “cup-for-cup” blends and make the same recipe with them and you’ll get four very different outcomes. But I’m often sent mixes for Easy Eats and in my ever-evolving study of them have grown an appreciation for what they offer: something sweet and warm from your oven, very quickly. This is obviously huge if you’re not inherently a baker or if you’re new to gluten-free baking. And for those of us who have our own go-to blends and bins of flours, starches and gums, they offer a quick fix. when you need a cookie!!

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of just any baking mixes. But the list of ones I admire is growing. And soon I’ll start reporting on them more regularly, hopefully one day culminating in my feature in Easy Eats on battling… well, you’ll have to wait for that.

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Look at that stellar cookie texture!

One line that I truly love and respect is Pamela’s Products. I’d used Pamela’s flour in my Taste Test spread and then featured her in an interview on the Easy Eats blog. They then sent me a sampler of her new baking mixes before the holidays and I was honestly shocked when the biscuit mix turned out really great biscuits. I used some of her flour blend in a cake I made, and again was surprised that it was exactly as I’d expected it to be for that recipe, meaning indiscernible from wheat flour.

I’m in Connecticut today, working in my family office, which in itself is a buggery; I’m not a fan of numbers and taxes and credit statements and all, and so when a really frustrating phone call with a credit card company made me miss my yoga class, it sent me into a downward spiral. I’d had a rough night sleep. My knees and back were really cranky. I’m still catching up after a really hard couple of weeks (months) and some days keeping it together takes more energy than others. So when my calculator just stopped working I walked away. Just walked away.

Ok, just from my desk.

I needed that darned cookie.

My twitter feed with said "I NEED A COOKIE!". And James Taylor. I often need James Taylor.

My twitter feed with said “I NEED A COOKIE!”. And James Taylor. I often need James Taylor. And this proves that the craving and the cookies were only 57 minutes apart. Around. My calculator’s broken so I can’t quite do the math.

Luckily I’ve been toting Pamela’s Oatmeal Cookie mix around so that when I’m here I have a quick solution for something sweet or when an unexpected visitor drops by. And after a quick trip to the market for butter (what house does not have real butter, I ask ya?!?!) and some dairy-free chocolate chunks (Enjoy Life is often on sale here, and that makes me happy) I had these babies in the oven in, like, ten minutes. Seriously.

I was, again, skeptical that they would work; the batter seemed a tad dry and it took a lot of beating to soften the butter up enough. I divided the batter into thirds and added chocolate chunks, then chocolate chunks and toasted walnuts, then cranberries and walnuts. 14 minutes in the oven and…

TADA!

TADA!

They’re delicious. I added tons of cranberries, chocolate chunks and walnuts that I toasted up fast. I wanted to see if they could hold up. And I purposely sprayed the sheets instead of using parchment, because I didn’t want to buy a whole roll of parchment for 12 cookies and the bag gave both options. They held up. Totally.

I highly recommend this cookie mix. I literally eye-balled ingredients and they were darned tasty.

Head to Pamela’s Products for this and her entire line of mixes. And to banter back with me on days such as this head over to Twitter, where I’m often venting / retracting / reventing.

Ooh, and these images are obviously not prettily altered and watermarked and all that… but just writing a blog post feels awesome today, too. So, thank you, bloggerreaders.

Video! Basic Gluten-Free Pie Crust (3-methods)

Basic Gluten-Free Pie Crust from Jacqueline Raposo on Vimeo.

Last year, the day before Thanksgiving, an odd turn of events had me running all over Manhattan and Brooklyn collecting gluten-free sweet treats for my first Easy Eats shoot (Treat Yourself, from Jan/Feb). First thing that morning, I found myself with some time to kill after picking up a product by Union Square. I climbed the steps to the Barnes and Noble cafe and sat by a window overlooking the farmer’s market. It’s a gorgeous city scene that early the day before Thanksgiving; cold, still somewhat quiet, and full of excitement for the next few days spent cooking, eating and sharing. I looked down with my hot tea through the frosty window, watching shoppers buying local squash, apples, pumpkin, cider… and thought…

Next year, that will be me. And now it is!

Somehow I convinced my family to come to my little city apartment, grandparents and all. I’m definitely the most domestic of my siblings with the best cookware and kitchen skills, but I have a feeling I won my grandparents over with “I have an elevator” (my siblings places both have lots of stairs). Wednesday morning I’ll head to Union Square for my produce, then spend the day with my sisters brining my bird, making gluten-free cornbread for stuffing, shaving Brussels sprouts, toasting pepitas and pecans, blending soup, and mulling wine. We’ll wake up early on Thursday, and my brother will join us for the parade and a batch of pumpkin doughnuts and cranberry-walnut scones. My mother and grandparents and a cousin and friend or two will then come with tablecloths and extra silverware, and we’ll spread out some folding tables in my living room.

One thing I make every year, despite locale, is the apple pie. I like my pie to be a mound of local apples (often coated in bourbon and molasses) and freshly-ground spices.

I’m a dork for pie. No matter the season, this is my go-to basic gluten-free pie crust recipe, with 3 ways to make it depending on your tools. The video is silly. Silly AWESOME (I hope)!

Wishing you good things this holiday season and all year ’round,

– Jacqueline

Easy Gluten-Free Pie Crust

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • Gluten-free flour blend: 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca starch OR arrowroot starch, 1/4 cup millet flour, 1 tsp xanthan gum, 2 Tbsp sticky rice flour.
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp palm, sucanat or white sugar
  •  1 stick unsalted butter (higher fat the better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

If you have a standing mixer, place the flours, salt and sugar in the bowl and fix with a paddle attachment.  Mix flours to combine thoroughly.  Cube or thinly slice the butter, add to the bowl, toss to mix.  Then mix on low until the butter is just incorporated into the flour, making it look like cornmeal or buttery flakes.  Make a well in the center, add the egg and lemon juice, and mix on low until just combined, to the point where it doesn’t pull into a ball but is about to.  Gather with your hands, wrap in plastic, flatten to a disk and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

If you have a food processor, use the directions above but pulse the butter into the flour, and then the wet ingredients into that mixture.

If you have neither, don’t despair!! You have ten awesome little kitchen gadgets at the ready!  Use the tips of your fingers to blend the butter into the flour, being sure not to use your whole palm or the fleshy part of your fingers (you want as little of the heat from your hands transferring to the dough).  Then use a fork to pull the egg and lemon into the mixture.

Once the dough has been chilled to where it’s not sticky but not too hard to roll, flour a pastry board, parchment paper or Silpat with rice flour, and roll to desired thickness.  Fit into a pie plate, tart plate or slide onto a baking sheet for the perfect galette crust!

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers for Krissy’s Virtual “Baby Shower”!

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers – Baby Shower and Kid Perfect!

Congratulations Krissy!

Krissy of Krissy’s Creations – photo by Jackie Wonders

This gorgeous mama-to-be is Krissy of the blog Krissy’s Creations. We met baking our way together with a small group of (incredible) bloggers through the Milk Bar cookbook we call Milk Bar Mondays. Together we’ve made some killer desserts, including Confetti Cookies, Apple Pie Layer Cake, Chocolate Chocolate Cookies and Carrot Cake Truffles. I’m always bowled over by Krissy’s creations. Seriously. Check out her Milk Bar Birthday Layer Cake. Her recipes are always featured in such gorgeous colors that befit how beautiful her blog is. She’s so inspiring – I’m wowed by her and can’t wait to see what yumminess will continue to come out of her kitchen.

But today’s a special occasion because a group of Krissy’s blogging friends are throwing her a virtual baby shower! She’s expecting her first child, baby Ezekiel, any day now! Check out her latest post at 36 weeks! The shower today is a surprise, so…

Surprise Krissy!

I’m so excited for you on this next stage of life!

Check out our virtual baby shower feast!

Audra of The Baker Chick | <Mini Salted Caramel Brownie Pies
Averie of Averie Cooks | Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Cassie of Bake Your Day | Red Bell Pepper &amp; Ranch Cheese Dip
Erin of Big Fat Baker | Blueberry Punch
Lauren of Keep It Sweet | Baby Blue Cake Pops From Scratch
Nicole of Sweet Peony Blog | Roasted Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Don’t they all look just delicious?!?

Most of the bloggers brought a dessert to the table. I was totally on board with that. But then I started mulling on a few things…

…any kitchen-savvy mom should have a good chicken finger recipe under her belt…

…I make chicken fingers twice a week for the 13-year old in the family I work as a private cook for…

…I have yet to make myself a gluten-free chicken finger…

…adults like chicken fingers too…

…her husband is a professional baseball player… yup, makes me think of stadium food…

…Krissy loves Sex and the City. At Miranda’s baby shower, her one food request is fried chicken…

…(and, yes, I knew that without having to look it up or even think on it for more than ten seconds)…

Voilà!

I tried this version simply replacing regular Progresso bread crumbs that I use at work with a gluten-free bread crumb I found at the market. But a) not everyone can get them easily and b) they just didn’t kill it for me. I wanted a lighter, crispier crumb. So I found a gluten-free cracklebread that totally did the trick:

Light and airy, it pulsed to a good-sized crumb that didn’t dissolve when the egg-battered chicken was dredged in it, but it wasn’t so fine that it completely coated and crusted on the fry. I bought the tomato version simply because it was on sale. And gluten-free aint cheap.

Adding some basic Italian herbs to the crushed box (which resulted in the perfect amount of crumbs for 1.5lbs of chicken breast), I simply went through the basic steps I use at work and can now do, start-to-finish, in about 20 minutes: remove tenderloin from chicken breast, slice into “fingers”, dredge in (rice) flour, dunk in beaten egg, dredge in crumbs, fry on medium in canola or safflower oil, devour with ketchup and mustard. I originally made chicken cutlets for the kid this way, but was psyched when she bought the finger version – more chicken = more protein = less breading and oil.

So, perfect for a home-made replacement for fast-food chicken fingers, right? I so missed having these that I couldn’t help but snack as I shot. They will be gone by the time this post goes live.

So, congratulations, Krissy. I’m cheers-ing to baby Ezekiel with this kid-friendly classic. And while I hope he never has to deal with gluten intolerance issues, here’s a recipe to have on hand just in case you ever need it.

Gluten-Free Chicken Fingers

Makes about 16

Notes: You can substitute any light gluten-free cracker for this cracklebread – I recommend it over toasting and crumbing an actual bread. Play around with the spices as you see fit.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5lbs skinless chicken breast (there about… about 3 large breasts)
  • 3 large eggs, beaten together in a low, wide bowl
  • 1 cup of white rice flour, in a low, wide bowl
  • About 100g of a gluten-free cracker or cracklebread
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup (or so) pure canola or safflower oil (or another light oil)

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse cracklebread until it makes a small but not too-fine crumb. Place in a shallow, wide bowl and whisk in salt, basil, oregano and garlic.

Open the chicken breasts to expose the small tenderloin on the side. Slip a filet, boning or chef knife through this tissue to remove the tenderloin. Cut remaining breast into about 4 spears, following cut of meat for easiest shaping. Note: it takes time to get this quickly. Just go with it. It’s just chicken. Make it look like a finger. The size and shape of the chicken breast (often determined by the quality of the chicken) will give you a varied amount. What’s most important is to get the fingers as consistent in thickness as possible so that they cook evenly.

Pour oil into a medium pan (enough to fit 4-5 with space), about 3/4″ high. Put over a medium heat and heat until it just bubbles when you drop a droplet of water on it.

Dredge each chicken piece in rice flour, then egg, then crumb and place on a cookie sheet. (I find it’s easiest to do the flour and egg with one hand and then toss into the crumb with the other, to reduce caking on real human fingers and repeated hand-washing). Repeat with remaining chicken.

Cook each piece in bubbling oil for about 3-4 minutes a side. This will vary depending on how thick your pieces are and how hot the oil is. You want the oil on the low side of bubbling so that the chicken finger has enough time to cook through without getting too dark. Check for doneness by pressing with a spatula – if it’s firm or near to it, it’s done.

Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Yum!

Flat-bread pulsed into in a small crumb.

Chicken. Fingered.

My childhood given back to me at 31-years old.

Gluten-Free Pork Rind Compost Cookies – A Recipe Swap

North Carolina Pork Compost Cookies

I had two things to accomplish with only a few hours in my kitchen; bringing a gluten-free sweet treat to my sister’s going-away picnic (she’s moving to North Carolina AND THAT DOES NOT MAKE ME HAPPY) and a take on this recipe:

Christianna over at the Burwell General Store really threw me for a loop with this one. Every month for over a year now (in my case) she’s zipped along a vintage recipe to a group of bloggers that I adore. I try to stick relatively close to the original recipe, keeping it in line with the kind of dish (savory, sweet, breakfast etc.) and keeping the prominent flavors included somehow.

But… pork, fruit and cake?!?!

I stewed for a few days and, in Dusty fashion, left this to be done the day before posting with only a couple of hours in my kitchen. But I awoke that morning with a revelation:

It was time to call in a Compost Cookie.

I trotted over to the corner store with Mitra and started grabbing gluten-free snacks and… pork rinds.

At home I opened the bag and – tentatively –  ate one.

Um… I’m not quite sure I get the allure. But they totally worked in the cookies, subtly adding some earthy saltiness and helping to balance a bit of sweet. I used dried dark cherries as my fruit and starting tossing other corner-store finds and pantry staples: chocolate chips, slivered almonds, coffee, oatmeal, potato chips, kettle corn, frozen leftover chocolate cake crumb (from Chocolate Chocolate Cookies).

They were polished off at the picnic. My family indulged, my gentleman friend ate three, and they really satiated sweet/salty cravings. They’re intense – I could only have a few bites. But once again I’ve found the basic Compost Cookie recipe to be a winner.

And the best thing about Compost Cookies are they’re really a grab-and-go experience in your pantry. So take the gluten-free cookie base and weight proportions and go hog wild*!

(*couldn’t help myself)

Check out the takes on the recipe from the group by clicking on the little froggy!

Gluten-Free Pork Rind Compost Cookies

Built around the Compost Cookie by Christina Tosi
Makes about 20-24 cookies

I both weigh and measure my ingredients, based on which is necessary or more accurate.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar (I used palm sugar)
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75 g brown rice flour
  • 75g arrowroot starch (or tapioca starch)
  • 50g millet flour
  • 25g white rice flour
  • 3/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Compost Ingredients (totaling 475 grams)

  • 150g chocolate chips
  • 100g slivered
  • 40g gluten-free old fashioned oats
  • 5g decaf coffee / espresso grounds
  • 40g potato chips
  • 60g chocolate cake crumb (like a crushed chocolate cookie or brownie)
  • 25g kettle corn
  • 30g dried cherries, chopped
  • 25g pork rinds, crushed to various sizes

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugars and corn syrup for 2-3 minutes. Scrape bowl.

Add egg and vanilla and beat on medium/high speed for 7-8 minutes. This step is vital in getting the sugars and fat to combine ideally, and will help the cookies not over-spread.

Meanwhile, weigh out flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together.

Turn mixer on low and add flour mixture until just incorporated, under a minute.

Add all compost ingredients on low except for potato chips, and mix until just combined. Fold in potato chips, trying not to break them.

Roll out onto parchment or Silpat lined sheets. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (this, again, is vital to them not spreading too much).

Heat oven to 375°. Bake each sheet individually for 18 minutes, or until the outsides are just starting to brown but the middles are soft. Cool on pan for a few minutes before removing to rack to cool completely.

Happy Birthday, “I Love You”, and Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Post-post note! The day after this went live I was featured on America’s Test Kitchen for their Blogger Spotlight series! A few years ago my dear friend Thom turned me on to ATK and Cooks Illustrated in general, and I’ve come to refer to this incredibly knowledgeable source for any base recipe that I NEED to get right on the first try: basically they take a recipe and dissect it to the core, and then explain to you WHY certain combinations worked and others didn’t. I was honored, the day after my birthday, to be spotlighted by this incredibly well-known publication, especially with such an intro by their social media intern Belle Cushing.

Last night around midnight my dad woke me up to crack a huge bottle of champagne and have a chat in the backyard hot tub. I had literally just turned 31 – the age my dad was when he had me. We’ve renamed this occasion the “Better Champagne Birthday”. Climbing back into bed later after a text from my mom and a phone call with a good friend, I started mulling on the love in my life.

When I was 19, Ruark was the first man (of no familial relation) to say “I love you” to me. Or, at least, the first one of significance. It was New Years Eve of 2000/2001, and we were dressed formally and dancing at my parents’ house. Since then I’ve remembered every first “I love you” – where I was, if something as simple as making crepes inspired it, and how it felt physically inside of me to say and hear those words with someone for the first time. I remember this with all the men I’ve dated and all the women who’ve honored me with their friendship, giving their “I love you’s” so freely and fully that they’ve sometimes come for the first time at the end of a text or an email. The older I grow, the more weight those words carry. But a good weight – like a thick quilt in the dead of winter or stepping into a cool pool of water on a blistering summer day.

This week I was gifted with a new “I love you”. “I love you very much”, specifically. It caught me off guard. It was delicate, and genuine, and the kind of gift you want to wrap up and tuck somewhere safe.

I said “I love you” right back to this friend – and meant it – and the evening continued on, those words spoken and then left, sweetly, in the air. And then the next day they troubled me. And then the following day I found myself deeply introspective.

So I lay in bed in the first few hours of my 31st year thinking of “I love you”:

The way my father tells me – over and over again – that no one will ever love me as much as he does. The way my mother and I say it as we hug tight. The way my siblings and I say it easily and fully and often. The way Ruark and I end every phone call with it, still, though we’ve not been a couple for three years now. The way Lindsey’s “love you’s” have seen me through 15 years of growing pains. The way Abby ends a text with, “love you darlin”. Or Lyndsey’s “I love you’s” are so full and rich I feel her inside my heart though she’s hundreds of miles away. The way I now have to raise my voice to tell my grandparents I love them so that they can hear it. Or how I can say “I love you” over and over to Mitra, who doesn’t need words to know I do.

I was told recently that old souls say “I love you” first. I rarely have that courage, though I often say that them my head while holding tight or keeping a gaze. Once I’ve said them once, I want to say them again, and in any moment that feels significant.

But I think we often let fear stop us from expressing our love. Or at least I do. Not surface love or lust or social propriety, but real love and affection and attachment. Do we do this for protection or self-preservation? Or because once someone’s said “I love you” we immediately fear the day they’ll go away and we’ll be left to wonder what happened to that love?

And where does that love go once a relationship has ended? If we haven’t seen someone for a month, a year, a decade… where is that love?

Is it possible to love someone who said goodbye to me many years ago or to love someone who I’ve known for only a few months?

I guess the older you get and the more you experience, the more there is to chew on at 1:30 in the morning.

But, today, for me, love is everywhere. It’s in the people who, at some point on my birthday, will think of me with love. It’s in listening to the song that Ruark wrote me for my birthday last year. In wearing the pink chef coat that Erika gave me today. In flipping through the “Cook” Book that Dalane made me of all the menus and quirky texts I’ve sent him since starting my chef job out east.

It’s in Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. The new “I love you very much” person’s favorite sweet. I love making people’s favorites for their birthdays – cheesecake, Snickerdoodles, apple pies, brownies… they’ve been my way to say “I love you” when celebrating someone’s birth. Today, as I transcribe and clean and ponder on the conjunction of a few harmless, full words, I’m thinking “love” with butter, flour, and chocolate.

– Jacqueline

Chewy Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 18 cookies

Note: these are adapted from America’s Test Kitchen / Cooks Illustrated, which I find incredibly reliable when you want to nail something specific. They’re chewy and soft, but very sweet. In general I love subtle sweets, so while these are perfect for those who want bakery or Toll House-type cookies, don’t say I didn’t warn you if, like me, you prefer them with a bit of heft from nuts or oatmeal or almond butter. Sometimes love is baking outside your box.

Ingredients:

  • 10.5 oz gluten-free flour blend (mine was 6 oz brown rice flour, 3 oz. tapioca flour and 1.5 oz millet flour, more or less)
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate baking chips (regular or oversized, as I used here)

Preheat oven to 325°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment.

Measuring out the flours in a medium bowl. Add xanthan gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment (or hand mixer), beat sugars and butter until thoroughly combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth and slightly fluffy. On low speed, add flour mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop into balls (about 1/4 cup or smaller, depending on how you like your cookies). Crack a ball in half and then fit the smooth sides together, so the rough dough from the middle makes the edges rougher and gives more surface area for texture. Place at least 3″ apart on baking sheets.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are slightly crispy but centers are still soft.

Cool on baking sheets (this will help the insides continue to cook but the edges stop before getting too crispy).

Share with many “I love you”s.

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