This week’s Sweet is Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies from the amazing new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story with 100 Tempting Recipes. This book is so much more than a cookbook, full of delightful stories and beautiful photographs. But oh, the recipes…
In trying gluten-free recipes from cookbooks and on-line sources, I have come to trust www.glutenfreegirl.com. My husband has a deep love for bread. I feared I would never again be able to make a yeast bread we could share, a gluten-free bread that was edible, a bread we could break together. My first many attempts were laughable. But I did conquer the challenge–thanks to Shauna, the Gluten-Free Girl. That alone was reason for me to trust her recipes, after many failures from other sources. I have been anxiously awaiting this new cookbook, knowing that anything Shauna and her husband put their name on is going to be delicious.
Delicious it is! The first recipe I tried from the new cookbook, the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies, turned out perfectly. I think you should own this cookbook, whether you eat gluten-free or not, just for this recipe! I shared the brownies with friends who do not eat gluten-free and they enjoyed them immensely. Driving the brownies across town to their house was one of the most difficult sweet deliveries I have made this year. Every stoplight provided opportunity for me to pull back the foil and gaze at these brownies. Maybe I could have just one more…
I made two batches, one with Ghiradelli’s 60% cacao bar and another with their 70% cacao extra bittersweet bar. The batch made with the 70% bar became Chocolate-Peanut Butter & Jelly Brownies. I spread one with Trader Joe’s Raspberry Fruit Spread and topped it with another brownie. The peanut butter blends perfectly in this recipe, not overpowering the chocolate but still making its presence known, and a bit of fruit spread added just enough tartness to make a great flavor combination. These brownies will be my tried-and-true brownie recipe from now on, the ones I will make when I need a pan of chocolate-y goodness to cheer up a friend, the ones I will make when I am craving a hot fudge sundae with delicious brownie crumbles on top. They will also be made when I need no excuse to make brownies, I will make these just because they are delicious!
This week I’m extending the word friend to someone I have not met, yet has changed my life, enriched it, for the better. This week’s Sweet Friend is Shauna James Ahern. Through her books, her website and her recipes, she has illuminated what at first appeared to be a very dark path.
A year and three months ago I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. The doctor told me I had to eliminate all gluten from my diet, handed me a one page list of recommended foods to eat, said this was going to be a little tricky because I am vegetarian and wished me well. No biggie, I thought. I’ve traveled the world and managed to eat well as a vegetarian. This was NOT going to be difficult.
I made it as far as my car in the parking lot at the doctor’s office before it hit me: there would be no more donuts. I sat in that parking lot sobbing about donuts. (Sounds ridiculous, but I really love donuts!) I was mourning the loss of what brought me to food blogging, what allowed me to spend time with my friends, what brought me comfort and happiness. It wasn’t just donuts but it was much of the faux meat I built meals around, it was the delicious onion rings I looked forward to at my favorite diner, it was cupcakes.
Exactly an hour after I left the doctor’s office, I was meeting my husband to work, to install a balloon sculpture at a nearby library. I needed to focus on work, but felt slightly distracted worrying what I could eat for lunch. I decided to stop on the way at the bookstore to look for a gluten-free cookbook. I found one cookbook full of nothing but sweets and one other book, Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern. Armed with these two books, I felt a little more confident but was still a blubbering mess the rest of the day. A trip to the grocery store that evening resulted in more tears–no veggie burgers, no more veggie hot dog bites, no more frozen 4-cheese pizza. What was I going to eat? Could I ever eat out again? I bought every variety of gluten-free flour available at the store, several varieties of gluten-free crackers, bread and pizza crust and went home to figure out how this was going to work.
Well, how it was going to work was spelled out right in front of me in Shauna’s book. I read the book in two days and put it down only long enough to bake, to experiment with new recipes in the book. I was going to be okay. The music was going to be a little different, but I could keep dancing in the kitchen!
Reading Shauna’s book helped me realize I was not alone in how I came to this diagnosis. I had been battling weight issues, never felt full no matter how much I ate, had symptoms of hypothyroidism and anemia so severe a blood transfusion was recommended. I visited many doctors in an attempt to feel better, one suggesting I should simply have a steak because being vegetarian isn’t healthy. Another wryly commented that I could have colon cancer because nothing else explained my anemia. Finding the right doctor took perseverance, finding Shauna’s book provided the roadmap to wellness and happiness. Someone else had been there before me, someone besides a rushed doctor helped me understand. I was going to be okay.
Today, just over a year later, I am so much more than okay. I am healthier than I have ever been and I am experiencing food on a whole new level. I do not miss the pre-packaged, processed faux meat I was eating before my diagnosis. I am not sad when I see a pastry that contains gluten, instead I want to run home to my own kitchen and attempt my own variation, sans gluten. I have tried foods that I did not know existed a year ago, my knowledge of food, cooking, eating…it has all changed in the most beautiful way. I fully intend to experience everything that I can eat and there is so much that I can eat!
So thank you, Shauna (and Daniel and Lu, too) for enriching my life, for leading the way to a healthier, happier way to dance in the kitchen.
(Photos in this post by Bentley Skeie)