Tag Archives: baking

Separate Birthday for Twins

Twins' Birthday Celebration 2008

For the first time in 16 years (if you count their birth), Isabella and Zachary were not together to celebrate their mutual birthday. Isabella celebrated her 15th birthday at camp, while Zachary celebrated (just barely) at home. I offered to bring him and a few friends to Rockaway Beach or Coney Island. He said thanks, but no thanks. At the end of the day, we asked him with he wanted — a cake.

OMG. I didn’t have a cake. The morning were getting ready for Isabella’s camp, I thought about her birthday, which was three weeks in the future. My sister Carla (knowing that I would not have everything ready) came over. She immediately stepped in to help. I was concerned that Isabella would not have a proper birthday cake for camp. They’d have a cake that she wouldn’t be able to eat.  What’s the fun in that. So Carla baked a gluten-free cake for Isabella. I found cardboard discs to store the cake and put them in the car to cool on the ride to camp. We had the icing in a separate container and asked the camp director to freeze the cake layers and put it together for her birthday.

Isabella Celebrating at Camp with a Homemade GF Cake

Weeks before my twins’ birthday, I  collected gifts to send to Isabella — an American Girl magazine, a puzzle, a dress, Katy Perry stuff, a few treats. Before I left on a business trip, I instructed my husband to mail the thoughtful gifts to Isabella. Victoria went into work late the morning of Isabella’s birthday, so she could give her birthday wishes on the phone at the pre-assigned time. A lot of thought went into Isabella’s birthday.

Zachary, her twin, who was home with us for his birthday, was another story all together. I did not bake him a gluten-free cake (nor did his Auntie Carla). At 9 pm, my husband and I rode our bikes to Ben & Jerry’s for an ice cream cake. The only ones available served 25. We ran into some friends (not random, our families are close, really!) and invited them to celebrate. I left it to Zachary to invite his friends. He showed up with just a few guys following the Harry Porter movie. After everyone left, he wondered aloud if he’d be getting any presents. (He certainly observed the cake baking and gift pile for his twin.)

Zachary Celebrating his 15th Birthday at Home

OMG. Presents. We did not have a single present for Zachary. I panicked. I told a white lie, saying that his birthday gift was in the mail. “What was it?,” he justifiably wanted to know. How should I know? I hadn’t ordered anything. Yikes! Bad mommy. Luckily, I was at the High Line this morning and passed an Apple store — an iTunes gift card would do the trick.

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Gluten free not so junk food

One of my jobs as a parent is to make sure that my children do not subsist on a diet of junk foods — as many American children tend toward. It’s the same job that I do in my other life as a nutritionist. We all know what defines junk food. To keep it simple, think about all that is white — white flour, white sugar, white shortening — and artificial such as flavoring and coloring. You get the idea. On top of reducing the nation’s white food and artificial ingredient consumption, I also am known to bring down the axe on gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. That pretty much eliminates all baked goods. About now, people’s eyes begin to glaze over as they mutter under their collective  breathe about the food police. I, too, desire a fabulous carbohydrate every now and then. I’ll still take mine without gluten, however.

I have an answer. Or, rather the Italians have the answer. (Those Italians!) It’s biscotti — that wonderful hard, not too sweet cookie. The “bis” in b two, referring to baking this cookie twice. Biscotti goes well with just about any beverage including Prosecco (the Italian version of Champagne). For the children, I suggest unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Here’s a gluten-free recipe that’s sure to please. Try to use organic.

Chocolate Chunk Gluten-Free Biscotti

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup almond meal/flour*

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

1/4 cup sweet rice flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups (about 7 ounces) coarsely chopped dark chocolate^

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add almond meal and vanilla.
  4. Mix together all dry ingredients in separate bowl; add to butter mixture.
  5. Stir in chocolate chunks.
  6. Divide dough into four sections and form into logs. About 2 logs fit on a cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned.
  8. Remove from oven and cut into pieces of desired size.
  9. Return to oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on desired crispness.

NB: The dough is quite sticky because of the xanthan gum. To deal with this (and also for nicely browned biscotti), you can store dough in refrigerator for about an hour before forming logs.

* You can use “prepared” almond meal. I like Bob’s Red Mill. Or, you can make almond meal by pulverizing slivered almonds in a food processor.

^ It’s best to use dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) or semisweet. Green & Black works well.

Making gluten-free cupcakes

It’s the annual Feast at Isabella’s school and she thought it would be a good idea to have a gluten-free treat for her class. Well, probably really for her, but she’s a generous soul. So we embarked upon the baking. Per usual, my kitchen does not have all the necessary ingredients. No butter. Isabella offered to go around the corner to buy the butter. She has never gone to the store. It involved crossing a street.

She asked how much butter cost. Do not know, but it must be less than five bucks. Off she went. I looked at the clock. And she was back. With the butter. She ran into Rose. She told me that she spoke to Rose, but not for too long because she didn’t want me to think that she didn’t remember the way home. Good job. I can now put away the vodka.

We are making gluten-free lemon cupcakes that uses chestnut flour. They will be topped with coconut icing. Remember the lemon coconut cake from Entenmann’s? I do. (That was from my childhood, way before my gluten-free living.) The cupcakes are from a mix. Not my usual way of baking. But these are really, really good. I’m sure all the kids will love them.

Isabella did a great job creaming the butter and sugar. It can take a while with a hand mixer. I didn’t feel like lugging out my Kitchen Aide. The box lists water to make the batter, but doesn’t include water in the instructions. I added it, of course, because the batter was like cement without it. We used silicone cupcake holders. I love these. No more paper. Saving the planet one cupcake at a time. Oh, that would be a nice tagline.

Throughout the baking process, we have tuned into Glee on hulu. Thanks to my 15-year-old musical-lover (how did that happen with a mother who is a die hard Pink Floyd fan?), I am now addicted to this show. High school was never this interesting and fun. I find myself laughing out load…alone. That is always a good thing. Does anyone else else notice the uncanny resemblance between Mr. Shuester and Justin Timberlake? The hair, the moves, the voice, the bod. They’re the same. Reminds of Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. Did you ever see them in the same room together?

Okay, the coconut icing smells like dirty socks. It’s too old and unappetizing. Are the cupcakes okay without icing? Kids usually want the super sugary part. What to do? We found a box of Cherrybrook Kitchen icing. Fabulous! Success!