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My BIG FAT Grain Free Life: Life, Baking Pans, and Other Sundry Things...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life, Baking Pans, and Other Sundry Things...

I recently enjoyed a wonderful vacation with my family in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  It was fun (hiking and apple picking), beautiful (mountains, colorful foliage and cool weather - sigh) AND we found some neat places to go that I wanted to share with you.

I'm baking a lot of grain free things these days and don't normally like to cook out of aluminum.  As much as possible, I use glass bakeware, but sometimes have to resort to an aluminum baking pan.  While shopping in the charming town of Black Mountain, NC, we strolled into one of my favorite stores, The Common Housefly.  Their tagline is "toy store for the food conscious".  My kina peeps, know what I mean?

The Common Housefly is a foodie's haven carrying high quality cookware, bakeware, utensils, and lovely loose leaf tea and tea gadgets. While perusing the store, I found this baking pan made by USA Pans and toyed with getting one.  It was such a nice and heavy pan and was coated with something, yet not a Teflon-type surface.  Low and behold, it's made of aluminized steel (65% of the steel is recycled) and coated with an environmentally friendly silicone that is free of PTFE's or PFOA's.  Still having some concerns about aluminum leaching into our food, I contacted the company to ask about it.  Michelle of USA Pans told me that the silicone coating - Americoat - provides a protective barrier which would prevent the aluminum from leaching into the food as long as the coating doesn't get scratched.  She said it's very important to use silicone utensils to serve out of the pans (I flip my baked goods out.) AND don't use abrasives when cleaning the pan.  (There's no need, mild soap and water did the trick quite nicely.)

Anyhoo, I bought the 9" round pan and baked banana cake in it.  I wouldn't have believed the difference a baking pan could make!  I am absolutely sold.  The corrugated bottom of the pan allows air to circulate and bake more evenly than traditional pans.  I noticed a huge difference in the texture and color of this banana cake as opposed to any I've made previously.  And - I greased the pan, but used no parchment just to see how it would release.  The cake released without any problem.

Using grain alternatives in baking can be tricky, yet this pan made it, well, a piece of cake!

OK -onto more lovelies...balsamic vinegar to die for and ICE CREAM!  Whilst strolling through the adorable town of Biltmore Village, we found a charming, locally-owned establishment called The Tree & Vine specializing in the most wonderful imported olive oils and vinegars I have ever tasted in my life.  I'm Italian and I'm serious.  THE BEST.  I've been making salad with their traditional balsamic (the fig balsamic was another favorite) and my whole family (except a cute minor that couldn't care less about oil or vinegar) tastes the difference.

We're not only indebted to The Tree & Vine for opening our palates to wonderful oils and vinegars - they also recommended a local ice cream shop called The Hop Ice Cream Cafe that makes out-of-this-world homemade ice cream daily- AND - they make non dairy and even vegan options for people with sensitivities. 

Because of our daughter's food sensitivities and tummy trouble, ice cream is simply OUT.  To be able to walk into an ice cream shop on vacation and order a delicious, creamy treat that our girlie can have is a wonderful thing.  It was a joy to see her eyes light up with excitement and go into dramatics over the deliciousness of this ice cream.  (I'm not sure where she gets that...)

The first time we went, she had chocolate ice cream made with coconut milk.  I tasted it and am dead serious when I say you could not tell it was dairy free.  Our second trip, she chose their vanilla latte ice cream made with almond milk.  She could NOT get over this flavor that tasted like a special coffee drink.  She was beside herself.  

My ice cream of choice?  The full-dairy salted caramel...I can't GET OVER THE DELICIOUSNESS OF THIS ICE CREAM!!!  (Uh oh.)



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