When people diagnosed with food allergies, as well as their families, first learn of their special dietary needs, the idea to change both grocery shopping and eating habits can be daunting. However Helena Williams, a Le Cordon Bleu Paris-trained chef and owner of the former Smedly’s GastroCafe in Fell’s Point, provides insight and instills confidence in her customers to easily adapt to their new dietary landscapes. Whether customers require highly specialized diets for medical reasons or lifestyle choices, Helena has extensive experience in gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and vegan food preparation.
For Helena, the inspiration to cook for those with allergies began when she realized the current foods in the marketplace lacked both flavor and key proteins and nutrients for a balanced diet. By incorporating fresh, seasonal products and abstaining from processed foods, Helena creates savory menu items that leave her vegan and food allergy customers craving more. She layers flavors by using innovative methods so that her dishes have complex tastes and appealing textures. Expanding upon her previous career where she worked with people with disabilities, Helena encourages every person coping with food allergies to focus “not on what you can’t [eat], but rather on what you can [eat].”
Helena has graciously shared her recipe for Chocolate Fruit Bars, which is both gluten and dairy-free, as well as vegan. Helena is available for private cooking lessons, consultation, and custom menu preparations by appointment only. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]
Chocolate Fruit Bars
• 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 whole bananas
• 1/3 cup agave nectar (preferably dark)
• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
• 1 Tbs. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup raw sugar, optional
• 1/4 cup ground flax meal
• 1/4 cup rice flour, brown, white or sweet
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray oil on an 8×8″ pan. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except ground flax meal and rice flour, and blend until smooth. Scrape sides once or twice. Stir in the flax meal and rice flour, and process for about 3 seconds. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. When done, it will be springy. Allow to cool before slicing and topping.
• Melted chocolate chips (gluten-free by Ghirardelli, Enjoy Life)
• Melted chocolate chips and peanut butter
• Nutella (naturally gluten-free)
• Peanut butter mixed with honey
• Non-dairy free version: cream cheese sweetened with honey, crème fraiche, or sweetened condensed milk topped with cherries, berries or jam
For more information, or should you have any questions about your gluten-free kitchen adventures, please contact the Baltimore Gluten-Free Food Examiner, Paige Kimos Odabashian, at [email protected] Additionally, find her on Facebook and on Twitter: @PaigeO. Thanks for your support!