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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

False Facts - 100% gluten free!

I'm breaking from topic (somewhat) here to let you know about a truly funny comic whose author and illustrator is going after his dream to turn it into a hard-bound, full-color, coffee table book. 

The comic started as a response to the plethora of false information available on the internet; this is his way of mocking or poking fun at at those inaccuracies.  His online forum has gained considerable attention (e.g., PC mag chose his comic as one of their 50 favorite blogs of 2009) He needs to raise print costs, and here's where you can help - simply by donating $15, you purchase your own signed copy of the book.  Not a bad price for a 64-page, full color, hand illustrated book!  If you're willing to support this project at a higher level, there is additional perks you get along with your signed copy of the book. 

He is working with Kickstarter (a great program that helps folks dream their dream) to raise the funds, so head on over to his project to check it out.  He has 28 days (and counting down) to raise the $2,000 necessary to print the book.  To check out his online comic, go here

Here's a brief overview, as he describes it - you'll notice it's gluten free! :)

Helpful summary of key book features:
  • 64 pages
  • Full color from cover to cover
  • Made from 100% recycled papers and soy-based ink by 1984 Printing in Oakland, CA
  • Animal free binding that you can lick to get high
  • Has a retractable self sharpening survival blade
  • Is flame resistant
  • Can be used as a personal flotation device in case of a water landing
  • Has a LAFI rating (laughter from false information) of 1.9 LAFIs per page
  • Is Gluten-Free, but is manufactured in a facility that also processes tree nuts
So... where is the money going?  100% to print costs.  The comics for the books are drawn, selected for inclusion, and all the False Facts are available for your viewing on the internet. I'm designing the book myself and prepping it for print now. Your money is used solely to cover the cost of printing and delivering the books. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Multigrain asparagus risotto


 

I promise no ranting and raving today.  Last week sent the celiac community reeling.  I wrote my un-censored reaction to the Dr. Oz segment, but there were a couple of other highly publicized incidents, both seemingly stemming from a heavy dose of ignorance and a good swallow of intolerance.  In reaction to these events, Karina, our very own gluten free goddess, invited all of us to strap on our helmets and move forward. 

I am going to do just that.  I think we all have a right to be baffled, frustrated, ticked, scared, or [fill in whatever you are feeling here].  I think we all have a right to work towards greater understanding, to correct people when they misspeak about what eating gluten free is all about.  And, I think we certainly have our work cut out for us, as we are living in a country (and dare I say an industrialized world) obsessed with food and weight and fad diets.  But, today I am simply grateful to be a part of this supportive community, looking out for one another; sharing information, stories, and words of support.

So, no flowery speeches from me today.  Nope, today I offer you a simple recipe. 

One that even Dr. Oz would have to admit is ‘healthy.’ (wink)

Multi-grain asparagus risotto

If you have never made risotto before, don’t be afraid of it.  Once you try it, you will never look back; it is a forever modifiable dish.  Risotto is traditionally made with a high-starch Italian rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli, but adding quinoa to the dish adds additional flavor, texture, fiber, and protein.  All good things in my book!  The basic idea is to sauté the grains a little bit prior to adding the broth, to begin the cooking process.  Once you add the broth (one ladle-full at a time) you never stop stirring until you run out of broth.  It certainly requires some time attached to the stove, but it’s well worth it.

¾ cup Arborio rice
½ cup quinoa
1 bunch asparagus, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces, about 1 ½ inches
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
6 oz fresh baby spinach
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 tsp dried thyme
Freshly grated pepper to taste
Olive oil
Kalamata olives (for garnish)

Pour chicken broth into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. 

In a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan.  Add onions and garlic, sauté until onions begin to soften.  Add thyme and some grated pepper.  Add asparagus and mushrooms and continue to stir.  Once asparagus begin to turn bright green, add quinoa and Arborio rice, and sauté until rice looks translucent around the edges.

Add a ladle-full of broth to the asparagus mixture.  Stir until all broth is absorbed.  Add another ladle-full of broth.  Continue to stir constantly and adding ladles of broth until almost all of the broth is used. 

When add the last ladle-full of broth remaining in the saucepan, add the spinach to the risotto.   When all of the broth is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Cover the stockpot and let rest for at least 15 minutes.  Taste and add more pepper, if necessary.

Serve with additional Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and a couple of kalamata olives. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dear Dr. Oz, eating gluten free does not make me fat.

Everybody.  Watch.  Out.   The gluten free diet… Makes. You. Fat!  (please read the sarcasm in my typing)

Recently, Dr. Oz did a segment on his show about ‘the gluten free diet,’ during which he wanted to 'bust the myth' that it would help people lose weight.  During the entire segment, an image behind him declared the gluten-free diet was ‘making you fat!’

I was appalled.  Dr. Oz appears to have been cut from the same cloth as Dr. Phil.  Are either of them really trying to help the public lead healthier lives or are they just looking to sensationalize health topics as a means to increase their media ratings?

In his recent segment on the gluten free diet (it will make you fat!) he works so hard to stir the pot that the entire segment misses the punchline.  It’s unorganized and schizophrenic to the point that I think it probably leaves the general public much more confused than when he began. 

Those unfamiliar with the GF diet probably walked away from that segment shaking their heads thinking, “Those poor people who are gluten free!  They are all going to be fat because they can’t eat wheat!”  I will now have people eyeballing me in the grocery store with my gluten free rice pasta and they will want to spread the gospel Dr. Oz preaches about how fat those noodles will make me.

Dr. Hyman did a wonderful job trying to explain what it means to eat gluten free and why it’s medically necessary for some people.  He also explained very clearly why people who are gluten intolerant might have a hard time keeping weight off when they are eating gluten. 

However, Dr. Oz kept interjecting with illogical follow-up to Dr. Hyman’s statements in his attempt to bring the attention back to the ‘unhealthy gluten free diet, which is full of high calorie and low fiber foods.’ 

The punchline Dr. Oz never got to is that the high calorie gluten free food is just as bad for your waistline as the gluten-filled version it is working so hard to substitute.  Just by virtue of the fact that the gluten free version doesn’t have gluten doesn’t make it ‘free’ when it comes to your waistline. 

Put another way: gluten-free calories = gluteny calories.

Want to eat processed, frozen waffles for breakfast?  Guess what – gluten free or gluten full, they are typically nothing but empty sugar and calories.  Even for people with celiac, if we consume more calories than we burn, we will gain weight.  I would have liked to see the nutritional comparison between Dr. Hyman’s meals shown at the end of the segment to the gluten-full alternatives shown alongside them!  The gluten free lunch was probably a nutritional winner in comparison to that wrap sandwich. 

Dr. Oz’s constant berating of the ‘gluten free diet’ as unhealthy was like nails on a chalkboard.  The ‘diet’ (if we can call it that – it’s more of a way of life than any ‘diet’) is neither inherently healthy nor inherently unhealthy.  There are people who eat healthily while eating gluten free and there are people who eat unhealthily while eating gluten free.  The same can be said for vegans, vegetarians, those with egg allergies, etc.  (I also have to mention here that many people DO gain weight when beginning a medically necessary diet because their bodies are finally able to absorb nutrients!)

I had previously heard some buzz about people in Hollywood using the ‘gluten free diet’ as the next big weight-loss fad, and had even heard that the proliferation of GF products on store shelves and general awareness could give partial thanks to this phenomenon. 

However, I am fearful that this Dr. Oz segment, the tone of which seemed to almost dismiss the medically necessary aspect of gluten free food, is the beginning of black-listing the phrase ‘gluten free.’  Up until now, the gluten free community seems to have been pretty grateful for any publicity, but is all publicity good publicity when it comes to potentially perpetuating misinformation?  If the general public develops a negative association with ‘gluten free’ because of difficult-to-understand media shows such as this, could life slowly become more difficult for those of us who have medically necessary gluten restrictions?  Will non-gluten-free-ers take us less seriously with very real problems such as cross contamination?

Dr. Oz, please don’t use my autoimmune disease as fodder for your sensationalized programming.   My health is at stake. Thank you.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Compassion



“The reason you don’t let your children eat five big tubs of ice cream is because you care about them. With self-compassion, if you care about yourself, you do what’s healthy for you rather than what’s harmful to you.

In her NY Times blog, Well, Tara Parker-Pope writes about a blossoming area of research, called “self-compassion.”  Above is a quote she cites from Dr. Kristin Neff, who has published on the topic, explaining an aspect of self-compassion – being kind to yourself.  

A psychologist myself, I won’t bore you with the academic argument about whether this ‘new’ field is really a study of self-esteem or self-worth, repackaged and relabeled.  To be honest, I haven’t taken the time to investigate whether discriminant validity studies have been attempted or make any educated judgments about the quality of research completed on the subject.  I really don’t care.

What I like about Tara Parker-Pope’s article on self-compassion (and Dr. Neff’s work) is simple:  

If we expected of ourselves the same we expect of our closest loved ones, we would likely make healthier decisions for ourselves and not berate ourselves for minor transgressions.  Unfortunately, we often don’t value our own health and our own needs as much as those of others.

The sentences I quote from Dr. Neff above illustrate this idea well.  Many of us living with medically necessary dietary restrictions are trying to navigate social situations involving shared meals, trying to unlearn years of eating habits that center on convenience food, or struggling to fight the temptation to eat “just one bite” of our partner’s delicious-looking, gluten-containing food. 

The idea that we should continue to ask ourselves, “What would I tell a dear friend to do in my situation?” has miles of latitude.  For example, if your son or daughter was gluten free, wouldn’t you do everything you could to make sure he or she ate safely; would you tolerate even a crumb of gluten containing food on his or her plate?  In another example, if your good friend was deathly allergic to nuts, would you let him or her eat a slice of banana bread that may or may not contain nuts and risk the consequences?

If you are living, breathing, compassionate people, then my guess is the answer is “no.”    We want our loved ones to eat well, stay healthy, and live long.

If you are living, breathing, compassionate people, then the answer should be the same when you replace “your son” or “your good friend” with “you.” 

Since this is a gluten-free food blog, many of you are gluten free or have a gluten-free loved one, so my examples here center around food; feeling ourselves worth standing up for, worth speaking up for, and worth making the effort for, when it comes to knowing what is good for our bodies and what is not. 

However, try applying this simple question to other areas of your life and you might be surprised at how this act of self-compassion encourages you to forget  a minor foot-in-mouth accident as just that, an accident, or that (darn it!) you are talented enough to try out for that juried art show. 

You might be surprised at how many barriers cease to exist when you stop fighting what you know is good for you and take a chance on what you know you can do.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Browned butter brownies (gluten free, gum free)


 

Browned butter seems to be cropping up in recipes everywhere these days – in both savory and sweet recipes, involving meats, breads, and vegetables.  From breakfast to dessert.  Nothing seems to be safe from browned butter!  

Given the proliferation of browned butter, it wasn’t much a surprise to see it on the cover of this month’s Bon Appetit.  

It seems this fat is our newest cover girl!  (The irony!)  

In all honesty, it wasn’t the butter itself on the cover, but brownies made with this butter.  The tagline promised the, “Best-Ever Brownies,” along with the warning, “You will eat the entire tray.”  And there they stood, stacked in all their glory, photographed up close, for all the world to see every crumb. 

They looked as good as any brownie would that close, but oozed an alluring character and mystery, if only because they were made using the ever-famous browned butter. 

Given my lack of experience with this fat fad, and my chocolate craving, I took on the challenge of turning Bon Appetit’s best-ever browned butter brownies gluten free and gum free.  My challenge: to accomplish that crispy, flaky brownie top; keep the middle moist and fudgy; and keep them from falling apart when you grabbed for one (or two… or three). 

In the process, I learned that making browned butter goes a little bit beyond melting and “cooking” the butter, to toast the fat solids (this is what imparts the nutty toasted flavor – and, it seems, everything tastes better toasted).  The recipe describes cooking the butter in the saucepan until it stops foaming.  The recipe writer wasn’t kidding!  In fact, the butter began to foam and froth like no tomorrow.  It resembled something of sea foam and started to get kind of creepy-looking.  Then, suddenly, the foam dissolved away and the butter looked again like melted butter.  And, oh! The aroma is amazing!

This was one mission completely accomplished.  I tried to show you in the picture above, but in case you can't tell, that top is perfectly brownie-crisp and flaky, and that middle is the perfect amount of fudgey, with crumbs that stick to your fork - just like a good brownie should.

Browned butter brownies (gluten free, gum free)
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
These are actually a snap to make, but you may want to bake a double batch, or bake two square pans at a time to freeze one for later.  They are that good!  Also, I don’t like nuts in my brownies, but I know many people do, so I kept that in the ingredient list.

10 Tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 ¼ cups raw sugar
¾ cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder (non-alkalized)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons tapioca flour
4 Tablespoons quinoa flour
1 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Position rack in bottom third of oven (mine was at the top of the bottom third) and preheat oven to 325F.  Line a metal 8x8x2 inch baking pan with parchment paper and either spay with gluten free nonstick spray (olive oil) or butter the parchment. 

In small saucepan, melt the 10 Tablespoons butter over medium heat, stirring frequently.  Cook until butter stops foaming and brown bits form at bottom of pan (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and add the sugar, cocoa, water, and vanilla.  Stir well.

Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes.  Get out a whisk and add each egg slowly, one at a time, whisking each one quickly to incorporate before it cooks.  Add the second egg after the first one is completely incorporated.  The mixture will become thick and shiny.

Add flour and stir until blended.  Pour into the baking pan.

Bake about 30 minutes, until a few moist crumbs are still attached to a toothpick inserted in the center (but toothpick is mostly clean).  Edges will start to look crunchy.
Cool in pan on a wire rack.  It will take a lot of willpower, but do not remove the brownies from the pan/cut into the brownies until they are completely cooled.  When they are completely cooled, lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into pieces.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whole grain muffins, gluten free and dairy free



Maybe it’s the cold weather and carb-cravings, the need to feel warmth in the belly when warmth from the sun on the face has long been absent, but I found myself day-dreaming about muffins on the train home Tuesday night.  I got lost in it, like one gets lost in a complex novel.  Time ceased to exist.

By the time I arrived home, I had a recipe nearly worked out in my head.

The added challenge would be making these xanthan gum and guar gum free.  But, as a second step from cookies, muffins are a taking it to that next level of difficulty, but still within a range of ease.  To start, I began with something savory, something akin to corn muffins.  Something that would go deliciously with the chicken and vegetable soup I had made the previous evening.

I started with amaranth flour and ended with a good helping of maple syrup. 

Even as I spooned the batter into the muffin cups, I knew.  The smell was sweet, familiar in a distant-memory sort of way.  The texture and consistency was perfect.  As they baked, the house filled with a warm golden aroma and the tops cracked beautifully, and I knew.

I am definitely on to something.

By the way, it seems I’m in good company in my gluten free muffin daydreams.


Whole grain muffins
These have a wonderful flavor and a nice medium-weight moist crumb.   Although they are perfect as a dinner side, I can also imagine them split open and buttered with a drizzle of honey or a spoonful of jam alongside scrambled eggs at breakfast. 
 
1 cup sorghum flour
¾ cup amaranth flour
¾ cup tapioca flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
¾ tsp salt
½ cup water

Heat oven to 350F.  Line a standard muffin pan (12 wells) with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, blend all dry ingredients to make one homogeneous flour mixture.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk wet ingredients together.  Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the muffin liners, each will be 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake on center rack for 20 to 25 minutes.