The Week of Magical Eating, Day Five: Phoebe-Phriendly

I realized recently that if I lived alone, I would not cook the way I do now.  I would eat scrambled eggs, I would eat yogurt and granola and pasta.  I would cook occasionally, but what I do now built out of a desire to care for my then-boyfriend, now-husband.  Some of it was, admittedly, to impress him, because he was eating microwave dinners and frozen bagged teriyaki concoctions.  But some of it was born from a desire to nurture him, because he was eating microwave dinners and frozen bagged teriyaki concoctions!
Somewhere along the line, I discovered that I really liked this whole cooking thing.  It became challenging but fulfilling, stress-relieving and relaxing, but also a self-induced obligation.  Deep within these seemingly-contradictory-but-somehow-harmonious-co-existing attributes, the urge to feed and nurture remained.  I cook because I love.  It is the best, most sincere, heartiest way I know how to show my deep affection and fierce warmth.  If I cook for you, it means I care about you.
As I have mentioned on this blog before, I have a friend Ph. who presents some challenges to my ordinary routine.  She is a good friend.  I care about her.  Therefore, I want to feed her.  But her particular dietary needs present me with unusual requirements.  Not only does she eat gluten-free, but dairy-free, corn-free, and nut-free.  This has, much like the Caesar dressing in my previous post, become a minor obsession for me.  I never realized how much of my love involved cheese, milk, and butter, to say nothing of wheat products.  But I care, and I feel driven, and I want to cook for her.  It has become a kind of mission for me.  So I have been educating myself; experimenting with alternative flours, rejoicing in olive oil, learning about how soy milk reacts differently than cows’ milk.  I have done some reading, found some new “friends” online, and discovered with delight how many flour and starch options exist in the bulk foods section of Market of Choice.
Despite all this, I haven’t done much baking yet.  I find myself a little intimidated because I don’t like failure.  I don’t know how these new ingredients react to each other yet, and I dislike the idea of presenting substandard or imperfect food.  But I bucked up my courage recently and made my way through my first bag of rice flour.  One semi-triumph was a version of Elana’s “Magically Moist Cherry and Apricot Cake” from Elana’s Pantry.  Since Elana uses almond flour as her primary gluten-free alternative, I cannot use her recipes verbatim.  Ph. cannot eat tree nuts.  Additionally, Elana uses alternative sweeteners, and I have not yet delved into the mysterious world of agave nectar.  So some amendments needed to be made.
For a girls’ TV night, to which Ph., ironically enough, was not able to attend, I attempted Elana’s cake.  I used white rice flour instead of almond flour, and sugar instead of agave.  Since the resulting clumpy, bumpy batter would not have poured, per the directions, if I’d pointed a gun to my bowl, I added a few splashes of soy milk until things loosened up a bit.  I smoothed the dough out in my pie plate and stuck it in the oven.  Thanks, I suspect, to the soy milk addition, I had to up the cooking time by ten minutes or so, and when I took it out of the oven, it certainly didn’t look like Elana’s.  Hers looked moist with a lovely crumb and a golden crust.  Mine hadn’t lost the spatula-smoothing strokes I’d used to even out the batter.  I broke off a clumpy edge and took a taste.
It was tasty, if different.  Rice flour seems to contribute a grainy texture that I’m not thrilled with, so I know that more experimentation awaits.  But the cake was not as dry as I had feared it would be.  Finally, a baked good that Ph. could eat safely and enjoy (she loves dried fruit).  Since, as it turned out, she was not able to partake on that evening, I broke all my rules to make the dish completely Ph-Phriendly, and made a yogurt glaze to drizzle over the top.  Vanilla yogurt, defrosted frozen blackberries, and a tiny splash of creme de cassis.  This added just the moisture the cake seemed to need.  A few days later I had a slice spread with cream cheese.  That was good too.  Oh what would I give for nondairy cream cheese?
So experiment #1 is complete.  Next up, new flours, mixes of flours, and maybe a fruit crisp.  Doors are opening, and I’m on a mission.

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One thought on “The Week of Magical Eating, Day Five: Phoebe-Phriendly

  1. Your blog makes me so happy. And hungry. Always very hungry. 🙂

    I know EXACTLY what you mean about feeding people because you care. I first recognized that feeling (as with so many others), after reading it perfectly described in a book (Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, in this instance). And I too love that challenge of cooking for someone who can’t eat like I eat… I wish I could be there to eat all of your tasty food, but alas, will have to just ogle the pictures, and drool on my keyboard.

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