Tag Archives: Gluten Free

Food for Thought

22 Jun

There seem to be two different gluten free diets. The type that people do because they have gluten intolerance or celiac and the type people do because everyone else is singing the praises of a gluten free diet. But like other fads, there are pitfalls and critical thinking is essential.

I do not want to discourage people who would benefit from a gluten free diet from doing one. I do want to encourage folks to think critically about their food choices. Read labels! Did you hear that?! I said, READ LABELS! Yes, it’s really that important. When I shop, my thinking goes something like this, “Would I have eaten something with this nutritional profile before I was gluten free?” If the answer is no, then I think hard about why I want to buy it. Am I buying it because it’s the only option? If yes, then do I actually need it? If yes (i.e. I am not willing to stop eating x all together), then I will go home and use Mr. Google to find a recipe and learn how to make it myself without the bad stuff, and using better grain choices. What I’ve written below is part awareness raising and part encouragement toward critical thinking. I’ve written this because I do not want my website to be just another cog in the wheel encouraging people to buy into a fad.

Going gluten free because “it’s healthier”? That’ s a rather blanket statement and depending on what you’re stating it’s healthier than, quite possibly inaccurate.  Yes, it’s healthier for people with actual medical issues but what do we even mean by “healthier”? What makes it healthier? Is it the lack of wheat and associated GMO? Then why not eat organic ancient grains?  Is it the idea of replacing white bread with something healthier? Many gluten free items contain starches that have no nutritional value but are necessary to mimic gluten in baking. Is that actually “healthier” than white bread? Store bought gluten free products are often dense in carbs and calories and low in nutrition. Here’s an example: the organic, yeast free, sugar free, wheat free, whole grain spelt bread I used to eat was “healthier” than most gluten free alternatives that had corn syrup, corn starch, tapioca starch, sugar, white rice flour. The spelt bread just wasn’t healthier for me. It’s really not that dire though, there are nutritionally dense products out there, they just tend to be even more expensive. You have to be willing to do your research and not just blindly throw products in the cart thinking gluten free = healthy.

Going gluten free to loose weight? This is also a bit of a tricky one. As a blanket statement, “a gluten free diet will help me lose weight” is a bit silly. Yet, some people will lose weight and lots of it.  People will fill up the void created by cutting gluten with healthy or unhealthy choices. Some people will end up cutting almost all grains, increase veggies and fruit, switch to whole (gluten free) grains rather than their previous white flour goods, or just eat a more balanced diet generally as a result of cutting gluten. Other people will run to the frozen isle, find the gluten free section, and stockpile breads, muffins, donuts, cinnamon buns and replace their old carbs with carbs that possibly worse. Perhaps going gluten free would help you lose weight but if your only goal is to lose weight, a better focus might be to increase exercise, water and veggie intake or just take a really good look at your habits and see if there is room for improvement. Or perhaps, just perhaps, your body is actually really happy where it is and doesn’t want to go on a fad diet.

Going gluten free to feel better? It makes sense to eliminate foods to see what might make you feel better provided you’re actually not feeling well, or if you suffer from illnesses related to digestion. Sometimes, we can attain a grater level of health. The question that’s really important to ask yourself when doing elimination diets is, what else shifted when you cut gluten. Did your meat and cheese sandwich go the way of the Dodo and now suddenly you’re a salad with hard boiled egg kinda person? Did you suddenly give up grains for root vegetables?  Were baked goods also the only source of eggs in your diet? My encouragement here is pay attention. Perhaps it’s better balance, less processed food, less sugar, no eggs, more vegetables, that is making a difference. But then again, perhaps it is cutting gluten that makes you feel better.

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help too. My healthcare practitioners really helped me feel empowered and gain knowledge. There is so much information out there and I really believe that for most people the only way to really “get it” is to actually study it and continue to study. Since not all of us want to become doctors, nutritionists, etc. why not ask those who know what they’re doing for help? If you suspect you may be Celiac then get your hiney to a doctor. There are some pretty serious implications with Celiac disease and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cutting gluten will help you avoid further injury to your body. However, you may also need to heal damage that the previous gluten has caused. My Naturopathic Doctor helped me with the healing process and for that, I am grateful beyond words.

I really want to encourage people to think about their diet within the context of the bigger picture. Gluten free information is everywhere, products are popping up all over the place, there are advertisements in health magazines and so on. This is really permeating our thinking and I’m not sure that’s entirely good. What is good is that there are options for people who cannot eat gluten. Yippee! What isn’t good is that manufacturers seems to be using this awareness as a tool to sell us crap food at exorbitant prices.

It was my realization of how non-nutritious many of the GF choices were and the associated ridiculous cost that led me to start developing my own recipes. Finding the best, healthiest way possible to be gluten free without giving up too much of my favorite things is important to me. It’s all about balance. Some of my recipes are for unhealthy things like cakes, and cookies. In my family, we call those “good, delicious and non-nutritious.” Those aren’t great food choices but food is social and we have birthday parties, holidays etc. Gluten free people shouldn’t have to stand on the sidelines while people enjoy their cake. I’ve tried to find ways to increase the nutritional profile of the recipes I’ve made. I’ve used pseudo-grains, avoided common allergens when possible (nuts, soy, pea flower, for example) and tried to decrease the starches I use (a work in progress). My recipes should be used with the same critical thinking skills I encourage above. These are tasty substitutes for their gluten containing counterparts. But it’s really not a good idea to eat chocolate cake every day, gluten free or not. So please, enjoy the recipes, use them, and by all means improve them and make them part of your balanced diet!

Advertisements

Lemon Bars – Gluten Free

18 Jun

When I was a young adult and had first lived on my own, I got really into making Lemon Bars. I lived in this little basement suite with my cousin and I would make lemon bars in our tiny kitchen. Any occasion would call  for Lemon Bars and I even made them for bake sales when extended family would ask me to. Thinking back, it’s a bit surprising because I also worked as a baker. You’d think I would get tired of it but apparently not.

Recently, I decided to revisit the Lemon Bar. These are not something I would normally make any more because they have more sugar than I prefer to work with and I cannot figure out how to substitute coconut sugar or any healthier alternative. The reality is that these babies require standard granulated sugar. However, my husband was barbequing up a feast last week and needed lemon for his marinade. The store only had bags of lemon so we had lemon to spare. I so happen to have two potlucks this weekend so viola … Lemon Bars!

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1 cup Sorghum Flour
  • 1/2 cup Potato Starch
  • 1/2 cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1 cup Butter (soft)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 3/4 cups Lemon Juice (juice of 4 lemons soaked in hot water first)
  • 3 TBS Lemon Zest (zest of 4 lemons)
  • 6 TBS Brown Rice Flour
  • 4 TBS Tapioca Starch
  • 1/2 Tsp Xanthan Gum
  • 3/4 Tsp Baking Powder

Instructions:

Prepare the crust first. Preheat oven to 350F. Using the whisk attachment for a stand mixer combine all the ingredients for the crust and mix until it is course and mealy. Press the mixture into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 18-20 minutes.

While the crust is baking prepare the filling. Using the whisk attachment again mix all of the wet ingredients, then add the lemon zest and sugar and beat until incorporated. Slowly add in the flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum and baking powder and beat until smooth. Pour over the par-baked crust and bake another 18-20 minutes until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar.

When the bars have cooled slice into bars.

Yield: 9×13 pan

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Gluten Free

7 Jun


image
You know those  chocolate chip cookies that have a bit if a crisp outside and an oooey gooey center? Well these gluten free chocolate chip cookies mimic those oh so well. I used to cheat on my wheat free diet every once in a whole when this friend of mine would bring his chocolate chip cookies to a potluck. Of course the cheating ended when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance but luckily I now have this recipe to satisfy the craving. Though, I do not make these often as they disappear at an alarming rate and there is only two of us in this household.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1 Tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 Tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 1/4 Tsp xanthan gum
  • 3/4 C butter softened
  • 1/2 C palm sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2 C white sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp gluten-free vanilla
  • 1/2 C gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer the small ones)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whip butter until it is creamy. If the butter is not soft soften it in the microwave in intervals of 10 seconds but make sure not to melt it.

Add sugars and beat again until smooth, add eggs and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Slowly add the dry ingredients (except chocolate chips) making sure to mix the dough well to ensure you do not get any clumps of flour. Gently mix in the chocolate chips.

Use a 1″ disher scoop to drop the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure to leave space between the cookies as they will spread out a bit. If you do not have a disher scoop, you can drop by tablespoons. Disher scoops are handy for making uniform sized cookies.

Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Let the cookies cool a little before you remove them from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Store in an airtight container for about 5 days or in the freezer for up to a month.

I adapted this recipe from this recipe, which I found to be a little bit too chewy and sweet.

Hamburger Buns – Gluten Free

8 Apr

photo_1[1] My experience playing with GF flours seems to have paid off.  I am finally comfortable altering recipes without feeling obligated to first try them as is. This skill served me well over the weekend when I decided it was time to learn to make gluten free hamburger buns. Grilling season is approaching, in fact my BBQ loving husband has already fired up the grill a couple of times. We enjoyed some lovely organic, grass fed burgers over store bought buns. Honestly, they’re not too bad. Some of the GF buns are actually okay if you toast them. But it seems so silly to spend oodles of money on the healthiest meat only to wrap it in a bun devoid of nutritional value. So the bun-baking experiments began.

A week or two ago, I tried to form my regular bread recipe into buns but they turned out a bit dense and more like a kaiser than a hamburger bun. I opted to keep researching and keep trying and that’s when I came across this recipe. I liked the simplicity of the recipe and I could tell (from my previous bread-baking experiments) that it would likely work out quite nicely. The photos of beautiful looking buns helped too.

I try not to bake with too much rice flour so I opted to try the high fiber flour blend recommended bphoto_2[1]y Living Without on their handy dandy Substitutions List. I used sorghum, teff, millet, tapioca starch and corn starch. The flour blend did not disappoint. Now, picky eaters could be triggered into denial of the deliciousness of these buns based on the darker, brown colour of the teff flour. I have not found a light teff flour yet but I don’t mind if my food looks funny. Purple potatoes are delicious so why not brown bread 😉 If your family doesn’t like strange looking food, you may want to use something other than teff flour.

In order to rephoto_4[1]ally feel like I could recommend this recipe to you, I just had to try it loaded up with ridiculous amounts of veggies. So I piled on the sprouts, tomato, onion all over a veggie patty. Guess what!? This bun has staying power! It did not crumble, I was not left eating the last of my burger with a knife and fork. I didn’t need a box of napkins to clean up my hands after. In fact, I’d say my hands were about as dirty as they would’ve been had I eaten a wheat bun! Really. It’s true.

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of high fiber gluten free flour blend
  • 1 Tbs xanthan gum
  • 1 Tbs yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower or grape seed oil
  • 1 Tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and/or sesame seeds

Instructions:

  • Warm the eggs in a bowl of hot water if they are not already at room temperature.
  • Proof the yeast by measuring out the hot water, stirring in the honey then adding the yeast. Let this stand for about 5 minutes or until it is foaming.
  • Meanwhile, measure the rest of your wet ingredients into a stand mixer and blend lightly.
  • Gently stir in the yeast mixture (when it is ready).
  • Pour in the flour and blend for two minutes on medium-low.
  • The dough will look like sticky cake batter more than traditional bread dough. It should fall off the paddle but not be runny.
  • Drop the batter on to a parchment lined baking pan or a greased bun pan, dividing the batter evenly between the buns (8-10 buns). Shape the buns (see notes).
  • Gently rub olive oil over the buns and add sesame seeds or salt.
  • Let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
  • Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and the internal temperature is 180 degrees.

Yield: 10 hamburger buns.

Notes:

Shaping the buns: The dough cannot be shaped as regular gluten dough would be because it is so sticky and delicate. It can flatten out and become dense if over-handled. Water  is the only answer. Use wet fingers or a wet silicone spatula. I prefer to have a bowl of water and a mini silicone spatula near by while I’m working. Once your dough is evenly divided, use the wet, spatula to give the buns a nice shape. These will puff up really nicely as you bake them so focus on getting them to the correct diameter and let the rising and baking attain the height for you. Don’t worry too much about getting the buns wet while shaping, this will not harm them unless you really soak them.

Oiling the buns: I prefer to use my hands rather than a pastry brush as the dough is very soft and the brush can leave lines in the dough.

Getting a rise: Make sure the ingredients are at room temperature as this will help the rise. They did not appear to rise much in the 30 minutes I left them but did nicely in the over. The texture was quite airy and there were definitely nice air bubbles (see second picture), so don’t worry if you don’t see too much difference in size before you pop them in the oven.

On flour: If you live in Vancouver, BC it is probably worth your while to make a trip to the flour isle at Famous Foods. They carry a wide range of flours, can answer questions readily and are more affordable than any other place I have found in Vancouver.

Beef Stroganoff Soup

8 Feb

This week has been a strange week for leftovers. For some reason, the other person that shares this house and all its food didn’t take many lunches. This left me with a rather large hunk of roast beef (meant to be used for roast beef sandwiches). Needless to say, there’s only so many roast beef sandwiches or roast beef reheats a girl can do. Today the limit was reached and when my special someone announced that there was another work lunch today, I realized that all that expensive grass fed, non-medicated blah blah blah roast beef was going to go to waste! Nooooooo!

It seemed to me that this was an occasion to call on the resident superhero (also known as a  the crock pot) to whip me up some lunch. I looked in the fridge and realized that I hadn’t roasted my veggies this week and that my portobello mushrooms were teetering on the edge of wasteland too. Then the idea formed, mushrooms, beef, noodles, in soup form is Beef Stroganoff but with less fat. Not that I’m against fat but sometimes it’s just, you know, a bit too much. This soup gives that Stroganoff taste but is a much lighter meal while being quite substantially heavier on the veggie portions side – gotta get your 7-10 a day!

Ingredients:

  • Beef – I used about 2-3 cups of cubed roast beef, but I’m sure you could use just about any lean cut (other than ground beef).
  • 3-4 large Portobello mushrooms
  • 1-2 medium onions
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs paprika
  • 2 tsp tarragon
  • bay leaves
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • GF beef bouillon – the amount will depend on your tastes and the type you have. Start low and work your way up, especially if your brand is high in sodium.
  • 1 package of GoGo Quinoa brand Penne pasta (Lower on GI index & higher in protein than most rice pastas)
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • Optional: GF onion bouillon, GF herb bouillon, GF veggie bouillon. I used quite a bit because I like a very robust flavored broth.

Directions:

  • Cube the beef, onions, mushrooms and place in a crock pot.
  • Throw in the bouillon and spices.
  • Cover with hot water to almost the top of the pot, leaving room for the pasta.
  • Cook on high for 2.5 hours or until the onions and mushrooms are tender, stirring once or twice to make sure the spices etc. are mixing up nicely.
  • Add pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is just al dante. The pasta will continue to cook as the soup cools so keep your eye on it so it does not overcook.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Notes:

  • You could probably use stew meat for this soup and it would be great. Some people prefer to brown the meat first. I have never had success with that method as my meat comes out tough every time. I find that it is much more tender if I just let the crock pot do the work.
  • You can get a more caramelized flavor by  browning the onions and mushrooms first. This is certainly not necessary but would give more depth of flavor.
  • I use a tea ball for the bay leaves so that I don’t have to go fishing them out or serving them to people.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Soup

9 Jan

This recipe came from one of those happy accidents that can happen in the kitchen. It all started when I stumbled across a recipe for “Aftermath Health Drink” in Vista magazine. The drink is meant to help you get over the indulgences of the holidays. I could see the detoxifying qualities of the drink so I whipped up a batch. A drank a cup of it and decided that I really wouldn’t like another. But I’d made the broth and I do not like to waste. Besides, the flavors seemed to call for a creamy, coconut, sweet potato mix. So I went for it and the results were beautiful!

You could make this all in one go or you could roast your veggies and make the broth ahead of time, earlier in the week while doing other meals. I believe that will be my approach as otherwise, this recipe would be quite a time commitment.

Ingredients:

Broth:
2 Litres of water
2 garlic cloves
1 med chopped onion
Ginger root about 2″ chopped
1-2 Tsp caraway cracked
1-2 Tsp cardamom seeds cracked
3/4 Tsp red chilli peppers

Vegetables & Chickpeas:
2 large sweet potatoes
1 head of cauliflower
1 large can of chickpeas (796 ml)

Final Ingredients:
1 can coconut milk (296 ml)
1 Tbs coconut oil**
1 Tbs salt
1-2 Tsp ground cumin

Instructions:

Combine broth ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. I recommend using a tea ball/herb ball for the red pepper flakes, cardamom and caraway seeds so that your soup will be creamer after it’s blended.

At the one hour mark, begin prepping your vegetables.

Clean cauliflower and sweet potatoes and place in roasting pan. You can peel the sweet potatoes either before or after roasting. Drizzle cauliflower with olive oil before roasting. Roast vegetables at 400°F until soft about 40 minutes.

Drain the chickpeas, drizzle with olive oil and spices – if desired. I used chilli pepper flakes, salt, cardamom and ground cumin. Roast for about 20 minutes. Be sure not to over cook the chickpeas or they will become too hard. They should be cooked enough to get a roasted flavor but not roasted until crunchy.

Combine the broth with vegetables and the final ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth.*  You may need to do this in batches as this makes a lot of soup.

Return to pot and simmer for another 1/2 hour, adding additional seasoning as necessary.

Notes:

* If you would like a really smooth, restaurant style soup, you will need to strain the soup. I do not bother as I don’t mind that it’s not perfectly smooth.

** I added coconut oil to improve the mouth feel and to slow digestion and therefore feel full longer. This is probably not necessary if using full fat coconut milk.

Yield: About 12-14 cups

Time: 2.5 hours

Spinach Puffs

19 Dec

Melly's Spinach PUffsJust in time for your holiday entertaining! These crazy simple little appetizers are always a hit. Someone asks for the recipe at least once every time I serve these. So I’ll admit, this post is a bit selfish as now I can just refer people here, which will make giving out the recipe easy peasy – just like making these.

Spinach Puffs are golden, crispy, cheesy balls of bread crumbs, egg and spinach. They are the perfect hot appetizer for parties because you can make them up ahead of time, put them on a cookie sheet in your freezer and when the timing looks right pop them in the oven. People will follow their noses right to your kitchen. Another plus is that these are far healthier than store bought hot appetizers and also more affordable.

I like to have some of these in the freezer for spontaneous entertaining that happens from time to time, or for a late night snack after I’ve been out dancing. I almost always have these on the menu for parties and often take them to parties when I am a guest. They are just that popular.

Ingredients

  • 1  10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I use Kinnikinnick gluten free Panko-Style bread crumbs)
  • Seasoning to taste (Italian or other spice blend)
  • 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cups of nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1/3 cups melted butter
  • 3 eggs beaten

Instructions

Thaw and drain the spinach. I find it best to squeeze out excess water by hand.

In a small bowl beat the eggs and set aside.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Mix the bread crumbs, seasoning, Parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast together in a large bowl.

Add in the spinach and make sure it is well distributed throughout the dry ingredients.

Add the butter and eggs and mix until well blended.

Form the batter into 1.5″ to 2″ balls.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet & freeze.

If you are going to serve these right away, you can leave them on the cookie sheet to go straight into the oven when you’re ready. If you intend to keep them for another occasion, let them freeze through and then store them in an air tight container or freezer bag.

Bake from frozen at 400 degrees F for 15-20 or until golden brown.

Note: Make sure you get spinach that is well chopped. If you forget to thaw your spinach you can thaw it in the microwave in 30 second bursts on a lower power setting. If you overheat the spinach, be sure it cools again before adding the egg.