Dawn and I met online through our blogs several months ago. We have a lot in common as mothers, home cooks, writers (she writes the blog, Cuter Than Gluten), and health conscious eaters. We also live several towns apart.
On a recent September morning, Dawn and I met for coffee at a shop in Florence. We talked about photography, self-publishing, and her first cookbook, Culinary Creativity: Let your restrictions set you free. Her story and cooking philosophy piqued my interest right away.
Dawn found a way to remake her favorite foods with new ingredients after both she and her daughter were forced to adhere to a special diet for health concerns. A little while later, the cookbook was born.
The cookbook includes over 110 recipes from breakfast to dessert (without gluten, dairy, soy, cane sugar, nightshades, or baker’s yeast) plus 32 Japanese-inspired bento lunches — all simple and satisfying to serve.
The recipes I made (Almond Cheese, Corn Tortillas, and Almond Butter Cups) also happen to be really good. There are many others I want to try: Onion Rings, Plum Ketchup, Tahini Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pears, and Raw Chocolate Truffle Pie. Here’s a glimpse of our conversation that day.
What is your first food memory?
Eating hot oatmeal with honey and raisins for breakfast in our very cold cabin on a mountaintop in West Virginia. It was still dark outside but nearly time to leave for the school bus.
Where did you learn to cook?
My mother used to help me create recipes when I was very young and I got some experience there. More recently, I spent a lot of time reading cookbooks, blogs, and watching cooking shows such as Iron Chef and Chopped.
Tell us about your background in art?
Since I was very young my parents always encouraged art. I mostly focused on beading and sewing, but I also took a lot of pottery classes. You can see some of my fabric art here.
Is there a food or drink that always reminds you of home?
Actually so many foods remind me of my childhood. Many of the recipes in Culinary Creativity are based on foods from home. Definitely hot chocolate, popcorn, split pea soup, and vegetable pot pie.
Name three things you always have in your refrigerator.
Almond butter, apples, and onions (not all together though).
Describe the perfect snack.
Ice cream. It always comes back to ice cream with me. Favorite food hands down.
What dishes would you serve from Culinary Creativity for a casual dinner party with friends?
I know my friends’ food preferences fairly well, so I would serve different dishes for each group of friends. A dinner party I would like to attend would include Dal, Ginger Roasted Beets, and Spinach Chickpea Curry. I would also make Chapatis.
Do you have a recipe from the book you would like to share?
Honestly, I want to share them all.
Thanks for sharing your family’s recipes and story Dawn!
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Almond Butter Cups
slightly adapted from Culinary Creativity by Dawn Allen
makes 10 (3-inch) cups
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup almond meal/flour
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (about 8 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (roughly chopped; or use chips)
Line a regular or mini muffin pan with parchment baking liners. Place the pan in the freezer.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond butter, almond meal, maple syrup, and salt and process until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Set up a double broiler (place a metal or glass bowl that fits tightly over a saucepan filled with several inches of simmering water) over medium heat. Melt the chocolate in the double broiler, using a spatula to stir as it melts, and when after 7 to 10 minutes it’s smooth and completely melted, remove from heat.
When the melted chocolate is still liquid but close to room temperature, take the pan out of the freezer. Very quickly spoon a little chocolate into the muffin liner, and use the back of the spoon to spread the chocolate evenly inside the liner. There should be a thin coating of chocolate in each cup but not so thin that it will all fall apart when peeled from the paper. If the coating is nearly see-through, it means the chocolate is still too hot. Put the pan back in the freezer and wait for the liquid chocolate to cool a bit more. Work quickly to coat all the cups and then place back in the freezer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add a spoonful of filling to each mold (flatten gently with your fingers) and then pour another layer of chocolate on top so the filling is completely covered. Return to the freezer again until chocolate is set. Once set, remove liners from the pan and peel off.
Store in the refrigerator (or freezer for later use) in an airtight container.