Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all" -Harriet Van Horne

That's me, right next to Marty in the Dolorean, flying through time at 88 mph to fast forward almost a full year and finally bring you a new blog post. Orange vest optional.

This past year was absolutely crazy- what with opening two restaurants, going back to school full time, and throwing a killer 80's birthday party (complete with the RomCom reenactment movie moment to your right)- I have hardly had time to sleep. But it's finally settled down, and I am once again back to eating and writing and writing and eating.

And it's good to be back.

Also, with this new blog post, I have exciting news:

Aaron and I have decided to take our relationship to the next level.

I have been promoted to sous chef.

Yeah, that's not what I thought the "next level" was going to be either. But feel free to pass along this link to the Tiffany Engagement Ring site, and remind him that there are, in fact, 4 C's of diamond buying.

Since my left ring finger is still decidedly bare, for now I have to be satisfied with my new role in the kitchen (and DVR every episode of Say Yes To The Dress until he takes a hint). Being sous chef is actually pretty cool. The fear of all things cooking has subsided, and I have begun to enjoy to take a more active role in our culinary delights. Last Saturday, we decided to party like rockstars and go big or go home. Well, actually, go big AND go home. Go big at our home. Whatever. We shopped and prepped all day, cooked ourselves a five course meal, and enjoyed it all in our pajamas while catching up on episodes of Glee.

It was the shopping that got me, actually. After being dragged out on errands one day, I realized that shopping for food was a little like shopping for shoes actually. Sometimes name brands make a difference- splurge a little and showcase it (read: little black dress, red bottomed shoes). Sometimes you can get away with a generic brand if you accessorize it the right way. What's important is knowing the difference.

So we headed out to go food shopping on Saturday morning. Forutnately for us, we live around the corner from the Italian Market, the epicenter for all things holy in the culinary realm. A quick stop at Claudios to get some house made ricotta cheese followed by a DiBruno Bros. pit stop to pick up sliced serrano ham and I could already feel my salivation glands having an utterly Pavlovian response. These were the designer shoes of meats and cheeses. A splurge, but when you can actually see the guy making your cheese in the back of the glass-walled room, it's totally worth it.

Next, we hit up our local Whole Foods to finish out our shopping list. A ridiculously successful stop at the seafood section yielded a half dozen raw shrimp, an amazing array of fresh oysters, and big, meaty jumbo scallops. On to the meat section, we picked up six lambchops and a few thick cut slices of smoked Black Forest bacon. Looking into our cart, I immediately knew that our night was not going to suck.

Back at home, and it was time to suit up. Well, apron up. Prep time in our kitchen means me jumping up and down like a five year old on a pixie stick binge saying, "What next? What next?" while Aaron patiently begins assembling the necessary apparatuses (apparatusi?). "Chef," he says calmly, "I need you to pick out the plateware."

I am ideal for this job because I really can't screw it up. Picking out plateware in our house does not simply mean "bowl, plate, fork"- no, our tasting China runs the gamut from flat stone tablets, mini tasting spoons, and more geometrical configurations of plates than the Guggenheim. Once my final choices were made, it was time to begin eating and cooking. I only worry about myself doing one of these.

First course was easy- an array of charcuterie and cheeses. Fresh thinly sliced Serrano ham from DiBruno Bros. with thick, white bands of fat marbled in swirling patterns that melts in your mouth isn't a bad way to start your meal. Pair it with two cuts of cheeses- a soft, creamy goat cheese, and a sharp Dubliner cheddar that is so dense it almost crystallizes in your mouth, and a tasting of accoutrements that included a sweet membrillo paste, fresh honey that was a wedding favor from a friend's beehive, and toasted sunflower seeds. To top it off, we got some feta stuffed olives from DiBruno's as well- and the blend of salty and sweet created that instant tingling sensation up and down your mouth and in the back of your jowls. Oh, right, we also toasted thin cut pieces of Enjoy Life bagels to create toasted pieces of bread with hints of asiago cheese to pair with our fresh made ricotta cheese whipped with truffle oil and cracked black pepper. This was only the first course. We were not messing around.

Next course, it was time for Sous Chef Emily to man up in the kitchen. Aaron put me to work shucking oysters for our raw bar tasting while he made the cocktail sauce and mignonette. As I opened the Blue Points, the sweet, salty smell of the ocean floor filled our kitchen, the taste of saline in the air so strong that for a moment we were transported so vividly to a summer afternoon on the docks in St. Michael's, Maryland that you could almost hear the waves lapping up on the sides of the boats in the slips. Along with our jumbo shrimp cocktail, we popped open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and let the sweet, doughy bubbles of champagney love wash the briny flavor of the oysters down and temporarily cloud our brains, for a moment enjoying the lazy dog days in the middle of our kitchen in October.

As Aaron cooked the Black Forest bacon for our next course, the proverbial leaves changed and the smoky scent which wafted through our kitchen brought with it the autumnal aromas of charred meat. Honestly, I am not quite sure why no one has invented bacon-scented air fresheners yet (If you are reading this, CEO of Glade Plug In- I'm trademarking that shit). Although the bacon could have been the meal itself, it actually was just one, sweet, salty note in a much larger symphony of awesomeness. Aaron seared the scallops in the bacon fat (yeah, I just said that) until they were browned to a golden perfection. The plump, meaty scallops proudly boasted their Snookie-like tans atop a glorious mountain of creamy polenta, scallions tucked neatly into the smooth, buttery folds.

Last course was a homage to simplicity and flavor. Three perfectly seared lamb chops stacked neatly on a plate over a dollop of mushy peas- made from fresh ricotta that was literally only hours old. This dish is truly a fine display of unadorned elamentarieness, and a testament to Aaron's cooking finesse. Only the truly great know when a splash of olive oil and a few cracks of fresh ground pepper and kosher salt are all that are needed. The lamb was salty and fatty and melted into a puddle of happiness which enveloped my taste buds entirely.

It was legend...

Wait for it...


Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind was beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza" -Dave Barry

I remember distinctly what one of sixteen-year-old-me's first reaction to my diagnosis with Celiac was. Allergic to pizza and beer? College is going to suck.

And it did suck, at first. Sitting in the dining hall with an entirely new group of people and explaining why you are eating a sad, plain grayish colored piece of grilled chicken that's been Saran-wrapped and sitting in a hot box for three hours instead of pasta and waffle fries like everyone else? Having the, "It's not an allergy, it's a chromosomal malfunction... (sigh) sure, kind of like an X-Man... I guess...Wheat monster? Gluten girl? Wow, yeah those are funny...I'll think about it...Uh, I have to go..." conversation with weirdos at the allergy station again and again? Your face melting into about four shades of red and utter mortification when, at your first party, a drunk upperclassman stands on a chair and announces to the entire room "NOBODY GIVE THIS GIRL A BEER. SHE WILL DIE!!!"? I probably could have done without those.

But eventually, I figured it out. A little too well, maybe. My roommates were always good about the separate pots and pans and toaster rule (to their credit, even when hammered), and eventually became gluten-free experts in their own right. We even managed to get priority housing one year thanks to my...disability. I started packing a lunch to take to the dining hall, avoiding the "allergy station" (and thus, uncomfortable comic-book-based conversations) all together. And, I developed a highly efficient system of dumping a  handle of tequila into one of those margarita party bags and sticking a straw in it for parties.

My sister (also gluten-free) is a freshman at University of Delaware this year, and I know she is stuck figuring it out too (if you are reading this Mom, I didn't tell her anything about the margaritas). Athough judging by her recent appearance wearing a toga in my facebook mini-feed, she seems to be adapting quite well.

Fortunately, for her, and future generations of college-bound students, it's getting better. Like, a lot better. A ton of schools now offer gluten free dining options (Check out this website for 14 Colleges That Cater to Gluten Free Students or, add your own on this posting).

In addition to that, the resources for gluten free pizza are becoming gloriously abundant. Some of my personal favorites include Jules Thin Crust Pizza with locations in Jenkintown, Doylestown, and Newtown PA, and Georgio's on Pine in Philadelphia. I was also super excited to hear news that my favorite person (you know who I'm going to say here, right? Peter McAndrews, owner of Paesano's, Monsu, and Modo Mio) is opening a brick oven pizzeria in Media in the fall. For a more complete list of pizza places in and around Philadelphia, the always awesome Gluten Free Philly blog has the best compilation of gluten free restaurants that I've ever seen, separated by cuisine (just click on Italian and Pizza).

And then there's the issue of beer. I was twenty-three when I had my first beer, a dark, lager-style Redbridge at the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness' Appetite For Awareness event (which occurs every September and is amazing, if you live in the Philadelphia area you should really go). My dad was so proud he looked like he was going to cry. And, as you all know from reading my past posts over and over again, I did enjoy a beer at Citizen's Bank Park at a Phillies game (and, more recently, at the Wells Fargo Center for a 76ers game), but I have never really been a big beer drinker.

But Dogfish Head Craft Brewery might have changed all that. The Delaware-based brewers have introduced Tweason'ale, a certified gluten-free beer that's sorghum-based, and light and delicious with notes of strawberry and honey. And man is it good. It's incredibly easy to drink, a beautiful blend of almost-effervescent sweet and tart, but with a distinct dark and (faux) malty complexity thanks to the buckwheat honey. I ordered a glass on tap at South Philly Tap Room last night and enjoyed every minute of it. Best of all, it doesn't taste like a gluten-free beer. The sorghum taste is all but non-existant, thanks to the subtle nuances and fruity flavors that have been so delicately crafted to create a glorious sympohny of 6.0 ABV.

So, for you gluten-free college students playing beer pong with craft ales and margarita buckets, I say, stay classy... From what I've smelled of day-old Natty Light on the floor of a frat house, you aren't missing out on anything.

Monday, February 13, 2012

La cucina piccola fal la casa grande -Italian Proverb

Thank God for TiVo.

Got invited to a work function on a Thursday night and were too embarrassed to tell your boss you really can't miss this week's episode of Jersey Shore? No problem. Spoiler Alert: This week, Snookie gets drunk, Ronnie and Sam break up get back together break up, Mike and Pauly try to smash with girls at the club, and everyone gets melanoma.

Not that I have much room to record much of anything, what with every single episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations saved by Aaron. He likes to keep them, watch them over and over again, and you know...get inspired. Last month, it took everything I could do to convince him that buying a white linen suit and fedora and booking a puddle-jumper from Miami just to get an authentic Cuban sandwich might not be the most thought-out plan ever. "But Tony did it...."

Well, fortunately for me, last night he watched an episode where Tony goes to Naples, and it inspired the shit out of him. Now our whole house smells like garlic and tomatoes, a delicious scent which, by the way Febreze should really consider adopting for their next line of air fresheners. I'd rather smell pots of house-made marinara and sweet garlic and basil than Yumberry Sangria or Glistening Alpine any day.

So Tony visited someone's Italian mother in Naples who stood over a pot that had been simmering since like, ten in the morning, chain smoking a cigarette and speaking rapid fire Italian as she chopped onions and as the beautiful, rich red TV-screen sauce bubbled, spattering itself all over the stove and the sink (which, if you look closely, is on top of the washing machine) we knew that we had to have Italian tonight.

Forgive the redundancy because I know that I just posted about Italian food, but after seeing this woman move so deftly and with such incredible purpose and intent in her natural element, Aaron was inspired enough that I came home and had a weird de-ja-vous moment of seeing an identical pot blub-blub-blubbing on my own stove and I immediately knew two things: First: I was going to have to get up early tomorrow and go to the gym because second: it was going to be a very very very good night. It didn't hurt that I also saw this...

...which is pretty much the carnivorous equivalent of a Jenna Jameson movie. So I had the feeling that it wasn't going to suck.

But, to appease the middle part of the food pyramid that mentions something about vegetables and leafy greens, we started with a salad. Annie's sells an amazing Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (available at Whole Foods) which not only puts all other Ranch Dressings to shame, but locks them in the bathroom and steals their clothing just to make a point. Toss some lettuce, cucumbers, feta cheese, hard-boiled eggs, oh...and that crispy pancetta in the picture that your cursor keeps accidentally grazing, and the end result is a salad that is not so much a healthy prelude to a meal but a salty, creamy homage to green stuff drizzled in delicious stuff that hits every note of perfection and sticks it's tongue out at those commercials where stick-thin models spray their salads with what appears to be zero calorie sunscreen.

This dinner was partially about the fact that Aaron is a freaking amazing cook, and partially about the fact that the availability of really great gluten free products has hit a level of epic proportion. Whole Foods now carries RP's, a brand of fresh-made gluten free pasta made with brown rice flour, potato starch and egg. It can be served al dente, and instead of that mushy texture that a lot of packaged gf pasta has, it has a toothy, chewy mouth feel that is reminiscent of semolina or durham flour. Aaron browned some beef and stewed it in his big pot of red sauce concoction, and the result was a gluten free pasta that I would swear tasted like it stepped off the boat, registered at Ellis Island, and set up shop in the Italian Market. I was actually surprised that it didn't smack my hand with a wooden spoon and yell at me in a foreign language.

The fine people at Grandma's Grotto (see posting below) sent me home with a goodie bag of frozen foods, which included a loaf of garlic bread which we took great pleasure in heating up and sopping up tasty morsels of ground beef popping with acidic, tangy, tomato sauce in a crispy blanket of melted butter and garlic.

And then Aaron, in his infinite wisdom and knowledge of all things glorious, pounded out two top round steaks until they were thin and layered ricotta cheese, gf bread crumbs, shallots, basil and Parmesan cheese on top, and rolled it up like a cannoli, tying it with butcher twine (see photo above). He seared the outside of the meat and then placed it in a small oval pan and covered it with red sauce and let the inside of the meat cook through. The braciole came out of the oven, ricotta cheese bubbling and browning like a little ode to lasagna, topped with fresh picked basil leaves and cracked crystals of sea salt. He sliced the meat down, and it perched on my plate, amid melty gooey ricotta cheese, next to the pasta, a silent watchdog keeping guard over pasta and delicately crafted sauce.

All in all, it was a wildly successful dinner. I'm going to need a little more "G" (as in GTL) in my life after eating two plates of pasta and almost an entire loaf of bread. But most importantly, Aaron brought a little taste of Naples, sans the heaping piles of glutenous pastas and breads to our kitchen. Which does not include a washing machine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli" -The Godfather

There are certain things that I have resigned myself that I will never be able to go out to a restaurant and order. Onion rings. Mozzarella sticks. Chicken fingers. Garlic bread.

I thought maybe I could bribe Aaron with a bottle of Makers 46 into coming up with some recipes, but I'm afraid to mention it for fear that we will end up with a top of the line deep fryer in our already-crowded kitchen next to the remote-controlled rice cooker or the voice-activated salad spinner.
Now, I don't have to. I found Grandma's.

Grandma's Grotto is a little New York-style Italian restaurant in Horsham, PA, located off of Easton Road. It's the kind of place I would normally drive right by, with a sigh and a wayward glance back in my rear-view mirror as I lament the myriad of fried foods and Italiany goodness that I will never enjoy again.

Or so I thought. Turns out, Grandma has gone gluten free.

They are doing their entire menu gf. And when I say entire, I mean entire. I walked in to find this:

If you are wondering if that is a giant display case entirely filled with shelves upon shelves of gluten free pastries, the answer is a resounding, sugar-fueled yes.

It's not just the pastries, though. Grandma's Grotto is committed to providing a full menu of items that have traditionally been off-limits. And we will start with the most delicious, melty, cheesy, deep fried food of all: mozzarella sticks.

That's right. I love mozzarella sticks. I'm not ashamed to admit it. I mean, who thinks about dredging creamy mozzarella cheese in eggwash and breadcrumbs and then deep frying the whole damn thing? Someone with my disregard for the health of their arteries. As a teenager, I lived on deep-fried fast food. Ciara and I spent hours after school at the local pizza place taking advantage of our not-yet-crapped-out metabolisms by enjoying oil soaked complex carbohydrates and greasy goodness. It's been nine years since I've had one though, and I was beginning to worry I wouldn't remember how delicious they were. Or worse: what if my taste buds had changed and would somehow not recognize the inherent greatness of fried cheese. But, when I took my first bite into the hot, crunchy crust and felt it cave in and melt with gooey, warm, stringy cheese, I knew that it was love. Again.

Next up, chicken fingers. It's been kind of a while since I've had chicken tenders that weren't shaped like dinosaurs (not a sophisticated first-date food), so I was happy to experience a more, shall we say, adult version of this crowd-favorite

 And then, in an instant, my life changed. I ate my first onion ring.

Most people probably don't remember where they were when they ate their first onion ring. They probably don't remember the way the sweet, slightly soft onion slid out of it's crispy, crunchy, salty casing and created a feeling of deep fried joy and love. Then again, most people probably aren't in their mid twenties the first time they had an onion ring. I was officially in my happy place.

Those were just the appetizers.

For lunch (yes, all of this food was consumed over the course of one, very delicious lunch followed by one, not at all productive rest of the day spent wishing my pants had an elastic waist band) the main courses were ravioli and penne with vodka sauce.

The ravioli was delicious- smooth ricotta cheese snugly nestled into beautiful little pockets of pasta and smothered with huge chunks of tomato sauce. The vodka sauce was creamy, and the perfect compliment to another delicious side dish: buttery, crispy, toasted garlic bread.

This is how Italians designed bread to be eaten. Smothered in love and dragged through marinara sauce. God bless them for that.

More than that, though, the staff was friendly and helpful and clearly knew their shit. It's always nice to know that you are in the company of those who won't accidentally kill you. These guys are seriously dedicated to making sure that their menu stays completely gluten free. All of their products are made in-house, so that they are fresh, delicious, and constantly changing and developing.They work with some great vendors like Mr. Ritts and Katz and and sell flour mixes, breads, frozen pizzas, cinnamon buns, and pretty much everything else you could ever want out of their store as well.

But before we were done, there was still one more thing to take care of. There was still that tiny matter of the pastry display case in the beginning....

Gluten free cannoli?

Cheese? Check. Cream? Check. Chocolate? Check. All rolled together in a delicious flaky pasty dough and topped with powdered sugar?

Dear God, yes.

The cannoli is a thing of freaking beauty. It might surpass The Birth of Venus or the Mona Lisa on the scale of Italian masterpieces. It is a delicious slice of heavenly pastry that would have been lost of my palate if not for the fine people at Grandma's.

I owe them. Grazie, guys.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"There is no hospitality like understanding" -Vanna Bonta

We had yet another amazing dinner last night at Monsú.

I am telling you, these people know what's up.

The tiny Sicilian restaurant on the corner of 9th and Christian is the third instillation in Peter McAndrews' (yes, I've spoken highly of him before, and I will continue to for ever and ever and ever) Philadelphia restaurant series.

As with all of his restaurants, the people at Monsú cater amazingly to gluten allergies. Several of the Chef's children have Celiac, and so he, and all of his employees, understand the importance of creating delicious gf dishes. And they know that it all starts with the bread.

Tote, the new gluten free bakery, provides the baguette (which is quite tasty as is- see post below for details) and the phenomenal kitchen staff does the rest. A house-made whipped ricotta with honey and orange, drizzled with olive oil and cracked with tasty grains of sea salt and black pepper arrives at the table in the most unassuming little white dish. It looks so innocent, just sitting there in the middle of the table like "Oh hey guys, what's up? Welcome to Monsú. You should probably dunk a little warm piece of bread in me and see how that tastes." Brilliant. That's how.

The Panelle arrived at the table first, and let me tell you, it is the dish that made me fall in love with eggplant. I never really thought eggplant could be all that sexy, but paired with a crispy chickpea fritter, dolloped with a creamy mozzarella burrata, and drizzled with pesto and it becomes the Kim Kardashian's ass of garden vegetables.

Up next was a giant pan-seared scallop served over sauteed artichokes hit with a splash of a creamy, spicy harissa mayo that cut like butter and melted in your mouth, heat hitting every taste bud. Aaron got a half-order of crab pasta as an appetizer with a rich, smooth, creamy tomato-lemon sauce (and yes, they do have gluten-free pasta) and giant chunks of shave pecorino romano. A green salad- simple, but perfectly seasoned and balanced consists of mixed greens, shaved almonds, golden raisins, and a light and crisp lemon and olive oil dressing.

My entree was a gluten-free pasta tossed with sweet onions, pancetta, and juicy, plump Roma tomatoes, and black pepper, with shaved Parmesan cooked so perfectly that I would have sworn someones Italian grandmother was back in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove.

For dessert, a strawberry and goat cheese panna cotta drizzled with a balsamic sauce so perfectly aged that it had become a syrup, delicately balancing the fluffy pink custard.

But the best part about Monsú is the incredible staff. Like all of McAndrews' restaurants, they are extremely nice and helpful and go above and beyond to make you feel at home. I know this is odd for someone who writes a blog about being gluten-free and proud, but I still get uncomfortable when I have to make a big deal about it at a restaurant. I feel bad because I know I'm that annoying person at the table with the food handicap (thanks, Ben Fileccia). I hate having the spotlight on me- having to explain what it is and ask "Can I have this? How about that?" At both Modo Mio and Monsú, they take care of everything, from the bread service to dessert- you only have to tell them once. I continue to go there because they make me feel, well, normal. And normal is amazing. It is possibly the most wonderful bit of hospitality I have ever experienced.

901 Christian Street
Philadelphia PA 19147


Friday, January 27, 2012

"Acorns were good until bread was found" -Francis Bacon

The simple joy of pulling apart a warm, doughy piece of bread and slathering it with cool, delicious, butter and watching it melt into a warm pool, pouring into the spongy crevasses and settling itself in, ready, waiting to be savored.

I've missed you, old friend.

Tote Bakery
1024 S. 9th Street
Philadelphia PA 19107

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“When we eat together, when we set out to do so deliberately, life is better, no matter what your circumstances.” -Thomas Keller

Dear Thomas Keller, Lena Kwak, and the Entire Developmental Team at Cup4Cup,

I love you.


Seriously, guys. This is big. This is bigger than big. This is huge. This is the Andre the Giant of gluten-free cooking.

Mountain Backdrop &
Wind Fan Not Included

Aaron bought me a bag of Cup4Cup this year for Christmas. As we began exchanging gifts, the curiously bulging, interestingly wrapped shirt box under the tree grabbed my attention almost immediately. I had asked for a sweater, so naturally, I assumed, this must be it. As I picked it up, however, my inner monologue was reeling, Wow, this sweater weighs a lot. This might really be a problem. How am I going to move in this thing? Is this like the sweater version of those sneakers with weights in them? That might not be so bad. I did have all those cookies earlier. But it's really heavy. The Victoria's Secret model in the picture on the website didn't look like she was having any trouble...."OHMYGOD! YOU ACTUALLY BOUGHT ME THIS?"

(Don't worry, I got the sweater too. Unfortunately, 36" legs and D cups are sold separately, so I do not look like the Victoria's Secret model in it. Disappointing for all involved)

Tangential musings aside, I was really excited to get a 3lb bag of flour for Christmas. More excited than most normal people would be at this prospect, I imagine. But I had been wanting to try the flour mix created by the Research & Development Chef at the French Laundry ever since I heard rumors of Thomas Keller branding a gf flour online. The stuff retails at Williams & Sonoma (WAIT WAIT BEFORE YOU STOP READING) and is actually incredibly reasonably priced, considering. $20.00 for a 3lb bag in only about $2 per pound more than the other gluten-free flours I have used in the past.

Apparently, as I learned on the back of the shiny blue bag, Lena Kwak, the chef and founder of C4C, is not gluten-free, and just a naturally awesome and amazing person. So kudos to her on being my new hero.

I was really excited to try my new gift. I am the type of person that wears all of their Christmas gifts by New Year's. I wore the sweater to work on December 26th. Patience is not my strong point. Anyway, I was so excited to try my new flour, that I couldn't even wait for Aaron to make me something delicious. I had to try it immediately.

I had to bake.

I know I've said on multiple occasions that I am not an at-home cook. I do like to bake, although the difference between liking something and excelling at it is one that it not easy to hide. But what the hell, I got 3 lbs of flour, a Betty Crocker cookbook, and lots of kitchen gadgets that Aaron would probably prefer that I not touch. What could possibly go wrong?

I decided to make carrot cupcakes, since they are Aaron's favorites, and I try to pay it forward with the cooking thing sometimes. I got started, and as I poured my dry ingredients into the vortex of sugar and eggs spinning under the electric mixer, I was startled.

"Aaron." I said. "Look at the texture. Doesn't it look weird?"
He peered over his newspaper, skeptical at these last words. I knew he was expecting something disastrously epic, and I could see the disappointment on his face. "No," he said, "It looks normal."

Huh. I thought. Normal is weird. After 9 years of baking with thin, runny batter, the doughy elasticity that pulled away from the edges of the bowl was odd to me. But, I thought hard to remember back, yes....this is what it's supposed to look like.

I've never seen a gluten-free flour behave as normally as this stuff does. It stretches between your fingers with a pliable stretch. It rises in the oven. Hell, it even smells like flour.

And the cupcakes turned out amazingly. I would have never known that they were gluten-free. They were dense and moist and spicy the way carrot cake should be, while still being flaky and delicious.

I've included the recipe that I used below. Just substitute the gluten-free flour cup for cup (OH... I get it now!)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots (5 medium)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of one 13x9-inch pan or two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans with shortening; lightly flour. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the salt; beat on low speed 1 minute. Stir in carrots and nuts. Pour into pan(s). 

 Bake 13x9-inch pan 40 to 45 minutes, round pans 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangle in pan on cooling rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, frost with Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting, smile smugly at Aaron, and enjoy.

Oh, and do the dishes.

Cooking sucks.