“Aaaack! He kissed me!”
I was in the fourth grade when I had the misfortune to become the object of someone’s obsession. His name was Roger, and he was a slightly overweight, buck-toothed, Polynesian boy whose father was in the military with mine.
For a reason known only to himself, he decided he wanted to kiss me. So, for seven months, my recesses were spent running away from Roger. As soon as I stepped onto the playground, he would be after me. Fortunately, I could outrun him, and I managed to evade him for seven long months.
Then came that fateful day in April which I’ll never forget. Roger was absent! After a morning of long division and grammar, I joyfully ran to the playground monkey bars with my friends. Finally, I could just sit and relax and play without worrying about Roger.
And that’s when it happened. Unbeknownst to me, Roger was not absent for the day but only missing the morning for a doctor’s appointment. So, there I was, sitting at the top of the monkey bars, happily chatting away with my friends, unaware that the stalker was stalking his prey.
Suddenly my friends screamed, and I turned around, which was the wrong move to make. Before I knew it, Roger had laid a wet, sticky, yucky kiss right on my cheek! “Aaaack! He kissed me!” I yelled, and to this day, I believe a guardian angel must have been looking out for me, because I quite literally jumped off the top of those monkey bars, about eight feet off the ground; landed squarely on my feet at the bottom; and took off running to the girls room, which is where my teacher found me fifteen minutes later, still desperately washing my cheek with soap and hot water, with just as hot, wet tears steaming down my face.
The irony is that once Roger had been able to kiss me, he left me completely alone. The chase was done, and he was no longer interested. I was too young at the time to give this particular life lesson any significance other than that I was finally free and able to relax for the last two months of fourth grade recess, which I gratefully did.
Sometimes, we get just as caught off guard when we’re cooking. We’ve mastered the tricks of substituting key ingredients to match our food restrictions, and we’ve created many a recipe with much success. But then it happens: We’re baking or cooking something for company or the family, and the recipe just does not work; and the question is, “What do I do now?”
1. Don’t panic: 99% of the time, whatever you’ve created is still salvageable. Usually the problem with what you’ve cooked is either a taste issue or a texture one. In either case, there are remedies.
2. If it’s a texture issue, cover it: If it’s a baked good, make a fruit compote where you saute some fruit with Agave and spices and serve it over slices of the cupcakes, cake or cookies. If it’s an entree or vegetable item, sprinkle the type of cheese you can eat over it and warm it in the oven to melt the cheese. Or make a sauce that complements the dish and pour it over the entree or vegetables. The fruit or melted cheese or the sauce will help to cover the texture issue.
3. If a baked good’s taste is not what you’d like, drizzle it: If a cake or cupcakes or cookies aren’t quite to your liking, nothing works better than a good drizzle. Melt some allergen free chocolate, thin it with your type of milk product, and drizzle it over the cake or cupcake or cookies. Or if you can use powdered sugar, make a glaze of your liking with powdered sugar, a liquid to thin it, and flavoring of your choice — vanilla, orange, mint, etc…. Or use a cream cheese that you can eat where you melt it in the microwave with your type of milk to a drizzling consistency. A good drizzle covers a multitude of taste imperfections.
4. If it’s both a taste and texture issue, disguise it: If you’ve made something that is falling apart or has a texture that is too soft or too thick or too anything, turn it into a crumbled or cut up mixture that can become a part of something else. For example, a cake that you crumble or cut up can become a layer in a parfait or trifle of fruit, yogurt or pudding, and cake or you can layer it with ice cream or frozen nondairy dessert to make a terrine. Vegetables or meat can easily become a part of a stew, stroganoff, soup, or layered pasta or other type of casserole. Once you layer the food in with other things, the taste and texture issues become a non-issue.
5. If something you’ve cooked doesn’t taste good, doctor it: Generally if you don’t like how something tastes, you usually have a sense of what is wrong. It might be too salty or too sweet or too bland or different spices are competing with one another or one spice is too overwhelming. In any of these cases, you can remedy the situation.
If it’s too salty: Add more of the solid (vegetables, pasta, meat, beans, etc…) or liquid (broth, water, juice, milk, etc…) ingredients to balance out the ratio. Or use a dash of something sweet like honey, Agave, maple or brown rice syrup, etc… to counter the salt.
If it’s too sweet: Add an acid like lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. Or if it’s a dish that will work to do so, add some salt or more pepper or a spice that works with the dish like cayenne or cumin.
If it’s too bland: Add something sweet, salty or spicy to jazz it up. Or use lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, in small amounts like a teaspoon at a time, to bring out the other flavors more. Or invest in oils like truffle oil which a small drizzling of on top of a dish goes a long way toward adding deep flavor.
If it’s too spicy: Cut the heat with something sweet like honey or Agave or molasses or with something fatty like your type of butter or peanut butter. Or if it’s a dish that you can mix rice or pasta into to spread the spice out more evenly, do that.
If one spice is overwhelming: Add a little more of a complementing ingredient. For example, spices like nutmeg, cloves, coriander, anise, ginger, etc… can be “diluted” with the addition of more fruit. Herbs like basil, dill, oregano, bay leaves, etc… can be evened out with more vegetables. Garlic, onions, chives, etc… can benefit from more beans or chicken or meat.
If flavors are competing with one another: Decide which flavor you want and add more of that one. Or add more ingredients until the flavor are dulled. Or add a sweetener or something salty or an acid like vinegar to help the flavor meld more with one another.
The below are muffins which I’ve never, ever had any issues, so you won’t need to apply any of the above “fixes”!
Gluten Free Cranberry Chip Pumpkin Muffins
3 1/2 cups Authentic Foods Gluten Free Multi-Blend Flour Mix
1 tbsp gluten free baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cups finely chopped dried cranberries*
1 cup Enjoy Life Allergen Free mini chocolate chips**
2 cups pureed pumpkin or one 15 oz can pumpkin
1 cup liquid egg whites
1 cup Agave
2/3 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup soy milk (or whatever type you prefer or need)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 24 muffin tins with If You Care Baking Liners (or another type if you prefer or simply grease the cups).
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cloves with a whisk until the flour is light and airy, not heavy.
3. Stir in the cranberries and mini chocolate chips.
4. Mix the pumpkin, egg whites, Agave, oil, and milk.
5. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend until well combined.
6. Evenly divide the batter among the muffin tins. The cups will be 3/4 full.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Muffins will be puffed up and golden brown.
* Make sure the cranberries are finely chopped, because large cranberries in this muffin will mess up the texture of the muffin since you’re using gluten free flour. I generally use my food processor to just chop them up, but you can always use a pastry knife or simply chop them up by hand.
** Make sure they are mini chocolate chips to help with the texture of the muffins. You can also reverse the ratio and have one cup of the cranberries and two cups of the mini chocolate chips, which is how my children prefer it.