Posted on | June 26, 2010 | 7 Comments
Today was the perfect day to start my summer project. It’s the first day of summer vacation for my two younger sisters and it’s so hot outside that the season is unmistakable. And just a couple days ago was the official start of summer, June 21st. So I thought it imperative that I begin within the first week of summer. I only have so many weeks left before I have to pack everything back up and head back to Rider, which means I’ll be cooking on my own everyday.
Well, who better to start with than the woman who helped me through so much (without even knowing it)? She completely changed the way I looked at gluten free food and the way I look at myself.
When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I was numb. I didn’t respond to anything. I acted like it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. While my mom and my aunt were running around the house, looking for food for me to eat, I didn’t even realize what a big change all of this was going to be. I didn’t feel overwhelmed. In fact, I didn’t feel anything about it at all. I remember that first couple of days just thinking to myself, I have a disease. I even joked about it. That changed really quickly, however, once I got to school (which wasn’t long after). Being cross contaminated everyday and not having friends at school who understood what it was like to be constantly sick made me constantly anxious and depressed. First semester of my college experience, I found myself longing to just be home. At this point, I was also cheating the diet every once in a while, just because I felt like I deserved it. I didn’t realize that I didn’t deserve the pain that came with it.
I went back to the doctor that first winter break and he reminded me of all the reasons that I had to do the best that I could. It made me feel so guilty. I hated myself for putting those bad things in my body purposely, knowing the risks. It wasn’t long after that that I had my very first meltdown. It was after I went to my grandmother’s house for dinner. I had brought along a gluten free pizza to try, which turned out to be pretty gross. At this point my grandmother wasn’t eating gluten free, so there was nothing else for me to eat. I was miserable. But I managed to joke around. When Grandma put out dessert, I smiled and said, “Oh great, more things I can’t eat!” I heard a sigh come from next to me. Someone very close to me was annoyed that I was “complaining” when really I was honestly joking. That night, I cried and cried to my mom and my younger sister, even though I knew this person had no idea what I was going through. It wasn’t possible. This process has been a learning experience for my entire family. At the time, however, this incident was just the last straw.
The rest of my first year continued in this fashion right into my sophomore year, when my friendships at school started falling apart. This was when my mom handed me the book: Gluten Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern. When I first started reading the book, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. Maybe I wanted to keep on wallowing in self pity. But I read and I kept on reading until the very last page. The further I got, the better I felt. Every time I was contaminated from the dining hall, I put down my homework and continued reading, knowing that she knew what it was like to feel so out of sorts, to have the aches, the nausea, the depression. It was after reading her book that I found her blog and started my very own. I wanted to be so much like her, so strong and optimistic. And because I started this blog, I found myself in a world where everyone was so understanding and so easy to talk to. I found more blogs and more recipes and more products than I ever could have on my own and I’ve made so many invaluable friends. And it’s all thanks to Shauna.
So it is with the greatest pleasure that I begin my summer project with Gluten Free Girl’s Blueberry Polenta Pancakes. I thought it only proper that we start with breakfast, right? I won’t mention that I made them for dinner. Breakfast for dinner is the best, especially something like these pancakes. They’re so perfectly filling.
The recipe calls for:
1/2 cup of gluten free flour
1/2 cup of gluten free cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar (I use superfine baker’s sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (I think I’m going to try baking powder next time)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup of blueberries
When I emailed Shauna, she quickly replied with her support and some advice. Instead of using a packaged all purpose gluten free flour, she suggested I use her recipe for Ahern’s All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix, which she recently posted along with her Gluten Free Rhubarb Muffins. It’s an easy, quick mix to make and so far everything I’ve made with it has been fantastic.
The mix includes:
300 grams superfine brown rice flour
250 grams sweet rice flour
150 grams tapioca flour
100 grams sorghum flour
100 grams potato starch
100 grams cornstarch
As you can see, our kitchen looked like a really bad advirtisement for Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flours. We’ve always had good experiences with their products so we decided to use them for this mix. After putting together all of the flours, I put it all in a big plastic bag and shook it up. Shauna says that for every cup of regluar flour in a traditional recipe, use 140 grams of this flour mix and a pinch of xanthan gum. It makes converting old recipes really simple and delicious!
So then it was time to make the actual pancakes..
I put the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking soda together in a bowl and mixed it a little.
I poured some milk into a measuring cup so we could make the buttermilk, but it soon became clear that it had gone bad. It wasn’t past its expiration date yet, but it smelled rank. Had we not made such beautiful pancakes, the kitchen would still smell like it. As luck would have it, we didn’t have any other cartons of milk. So we put a quarter of a cup of water with three quarters of heavy cream and then a little bit of vinegar to make buttermilk. After adding the eggs and melted butter, I mixed it all up.
When I added the wet ingredients to the dry, the batter seemed very thin and there I didn’t think there was much of it. I later found out that this is exactly how I want my pancake batter to be from now on. So after that, I folded in the blueberries and then it was time to actually cook them!
Melting butter on the skillet, I put about 1/3 of a cup of batter onto the pan, since it was a smaller pan. If you’re using a smaller pan, make one pancake at a time. The batter really spreads. When I was making them, I waited until the edges became a bit dryer than the center before flipping them over. I’ve gotten pretty good at flipping them now, though we did lose a couple of blueberries along the way.
Here was the end result of this endeavor.
It looks pretty good if I do say so myself! It took quite a few practice flips, but I think I’ve got it now. I just have to keep making pancakes.
I put some fresh blueberries on top and drizzled the whole thing in honey. Shauna suggests maple syrup, which I think would also be delicious, but I was feeling honey. My mom and I couldn’t wait to eat them. When we took our first bite, we knew these pancakes would be made again. And we knew we were going to play around with them too. I wouldn’t mind throwing some strawberries in there next time! The consistancy of the pancake is so perfect. It’s thin and the edges get a little crispy. And there’s something to be said about blueberries once they’ve been cooked. I love just popping blueberries in my mouth–which is why I did so continuously as we cooked–but the blueberries in these pancakes were amazing. Once you broke them open, the juice and flavor oozed out much like a yolk in a fried egg. Everything together was so delicious and happily filling. It’s not often that I feel full, but these pancakes managed to do the job brilliantly. We managed to make ten pancakes out of this batter, so there was plenty to share between my mother and myself.
The pancakes were a great success and the best way I could have possibly started my summer project! I want to thank Shauna for allowing me to use her recipe and for showing such support. She’s made such a difference in my life since I’ve become gluten free and I’m sure she’s done the same for many others. Thank you for everything, Shauna.