Baking Healthy with Cara Reed of Forkandbeans.com
If you are a fan of healthy but decadent baking, you probably know Cara Reed from Forkandbeans.com Yes, that blog title doesn’t exactly project healthy content (more on that later) but Cara is a prolific blogger who, in her words, creates recipes “where food allergies and creativity come together”. She agreed to sit down with us to talk about how she develops recipes like her creamy GF vegan Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake and Chocolate Sandwich Cookies while still adhering to a health conscious lifestyle – and how her blog got its name.
Recipes excerpted with permission. Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweetsby Cara Reed. Published by Page Street Publishing 2014. Photos by Celine Steen.
Dédé Wilson: Cara! We are finally aligned…two busy women! Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us. I know our Bakepedia community loves your recipes. Tell us a bit about your background.
Cara Reed: Well first of all, thank you so much for reaching out…I started the blog in 2011 right I was diagnosed with food allergies. I had issues that had been plaguing me all my life.
How did you get tested?
I went to a food allergist and he pricked me with about 100 different things. About 15 things came back as things for me to pay attention to…I really started paying attention to how certain foods made me feel bad…I did elimination diets and really took note…I had always loved to bake and gluten and dairy and eggs were an issue for me and I was literally crying on the floor of the kitchen! These ingredients were so important to baking and I was seeing my future life without all the things I had loved to eat…I mean I was literally crying on the floor and then I thought, others must be in the same boat! Thing is that at that time I was limited to who I could reach out to…there weren’t many people out there as resources…so I decided to start the blog and to make it my journey about baking this new way. I want it to be an educational place where I could answer the questions that I had…and to help others too, to the best of my ability.
So tell me about the name, forkandbeans.com. How did you come up with that?
It’s the funniest thing ever…I didn’t like the name either! But you know when you have an idea in your head and its stuck there? I needed a name for the blog and you have to take that step and the name was frustrating for me. At the same time I didn’t want to let that prevent me from starting the blog! I was ready to get going! And I’m nerdy and dorky and it was cute…I figured, hey I will just take it and run with it or I could sit here forever and not get started. Once I started the sight I grew into the name…
So where did you start? Was there an ingredient did you began using that you fell in love with?
Yes! I think egg substitutes like flax seed meal…I am fascinated with binders and structure…psyllium husks is another one… I appreciate and adore these substitutes because they do so much in a GF baked good…they create a binding structure to the point where you often don’t even need xanthan gum…they are my heroes!
Talk to me about your journey with sweeteners…
At this point I’ve walked away from sugar completely…and here I have this cookbook and I can’t eat that stuff…I now use raw honey…it stabilizes my blood sugar level. Prior to this my view on sugar has always been eat it in moderation…enjoy that cookie or whatever it is that you make…
This is so interesting…we writers know that we work on books and it can take a while for them to be published. So your book Decadent GF vegan Desserts does contain some sugar in the ingredient lists and meanwhile you were on a personal journey that evolved…I don’t find that to be a conflict…we are all on a path and hopefully things continue to develop and change!
Exactly…certain approaches work for people at certain times…I love to bake and creating forkandbeans…it is hard hard to marry my mission to where I am right now personally…. no sugar, no dairy…grains…. how does it all mesh together? It is a continuing journey; let’s leave it at that. I am not strictly vegan…I am open to many different ways of looking at food…I am not perfect by any means…I consume dairy from time to time, but then I suffer….
I think for those of us who are thinking about food all day long – everyday – it can be a challenge to find our way. There is just so much out there! Have you looked into GMO vs. non-GMO at all?
I read and try to keep up with what’s out there in terms of new information but for me personally I mostly just keep looking at what my body reacts best to.
Will there be a 2nd book with a different approach?
I don’t know…I am a bit conflicted about it…. it completely rocked forkandbeans and people responded to that content…
Let’s talk about the Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake and the Chocolate Sandwich Cookies…we are featuring these recipes of yours from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking. Any tips on these recipes in particular for bakers who want to try them.
For the strawberry cheesecake make sure you soak your cashews well and that you’re using a blender with an “S” blade (such as a Vitamix). You need a powerful blender to truly blend well and make that creamy consistency. Also, allow the cheesecake to set. It takes some time to set properly, so be patient.
For the choc cookies…these are so much fun to make! Is it cheesy to say, “have fun”? If you don’t have a piping bag, use a plastic bag…I’m all about using what you have around. Use it to pipe the filling.
How do you like to like to eat them? Do you twist them apart and eat the cookies and filling separately?
What I do is I scrape off the filling and eat the cookie! I want the cookie not the frosting! Give me a cookie; that’s what I want. Like if there is a slice of cake, I will eat the cake and not the frosting. Others dive for the frosting!
I appreciate you being so frank with us about your journey with food, food allergies and the creative process. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes! Three years ago I was that girl crying on the kitchen floor. I thought I was never going to get to eat all the desserts and things that I liked ever again. I was pretty despondent! I think about how far I have come and want people to know that they can go that far too…I want to give hope to others. I really aim to reach those that are along on the journey and also but people that are just starting out and don’t know here to begin.
It’s a lonely place when you think you won’t ever eat your favorite treats again…but know that if you stick with it and eat in whatever way that is healthy for you that you can learn and start baking and making these delicious desserts again that you will love using ingredients that make your body feel good.
Cara, thank you so much for your time. And if you write another book, we will be in-line for a copy.