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.