Sunday, August 30, 2009

123 Gluten Free: Blueberry Muffins

123 gluten free blueberry muffins
This post is brought to you by 123 Gluten Free: Meredith's Marvelous muffin/ quickbread mix. Chris was buying some of those manly protein powder things online, and the website he was using carried these. Being awesome, he added this to his order. Then, for weeks he teased me by saying he had a surprise for me but he didn't have it yet. Gah the suspense!

When it finally arrived, it was in the middle of a very busy week so the package sat on my counter. This morning was very un-busy and there just happened to be a huge thing of blueberries in the fridge, so I decided to try it.

There are directions for both banana bread and blueberry muffins on the package, with online instructions for pumpkin, carrot, or zucchini bread.

I deviated from the directions a bit. I didn't have 1/2 c. butter, so I used about 1/4 c. butter, and filled in the rest with sunflower oil and applesauce. I also didn't use milk. I used water instead.

The package directions say to bake for 2o minutes, but mine got a little brown. If you make these, check them at around 15.

How was the muffin? Good texture and overall flavor, but I felt it was missing something. They tasted just a tad bland. I think using orange juice in place of the milk would yield more flavor, and I think the recipe could have used a tad more blueberries than the 1 1/4 c. called for.

Would I finish the batch? Definitely, and I'd even share them with company. That's the real test of a recipe, you know.

Would I purchase the mix again? Probably not, but only because it's so easy to make muffins from scratch.

It's a good quality product, and I'd recommend it to beginners or people who don't like making muffins from scratch.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Midnight snack: apples & peanut butter

I don't always like to post recipes. Some times I post what I'm snacking on. We tend to eat the same old things, and I love when I see these types of things on other blogs. Gives me inspiration.

Back to studying!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

pumpkin muffies

gluten free pumpkin muffieA little blurry, but you get the idea.

For years, my favorite thing at Panera was their pumpkin "muffies." It's a cross between a muffin and a cookie. Genuis. It's like they took a muffin and lopped off the top.

I was recently at Panera (by the way their classic salad is awesome) and I saw them in the case staring at me. Of course, when I start craving something like that, it's off to the kitchen to recreate it. These were soo easy and smell so wonderful- like fall. Using honey for some of the sugar would probably give them a more complex flavor (I know, I'm talking about complex flavor in muffins...) and make them a little moister. These were by no means dry, unless you get distracted and let them bake too long. They're still yummy if that happens.

Pumpkin Muffies

1/3 c. millet flour
1/3 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. corn starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 egg
1 T. applesauce
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
1/8 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
dash of ginger

Mix the dry ingredients together well. In a separate bowl, add the wet ingredients to a slightly beaten egg and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them up well. Let the batter sit there a minute before you start spooning it onto a greased cookie sheet. It will be like making really wet cookies. They will spread out on the sheet, but they won't spread much in the oven. Bake them at 350 for 10-15 minutes, sprinkle them with powdered sugar, and try not to eat them all at once. It makes about a dozen muffies, or probably about 6 muffins.

*As you can see by the picture, my muffies are not as puffy as the ones at Panera. I think the only way to achieve that is to bake them in rings, but if you're going through that much trouble you might as well make muffins. Either way, we get a tasty treat so we win. :o)

**Note: Check the comments for a different version that might be a little better.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Vegetable Soup

When I want something hearty and healthy in a hurry, I make vegetable soup. It freezes well, so it's easy to make a big batch and freeze individual portions for instant meals.

This isn't really a recipe, but more of a guide:

-Start with the tomato base: Mix equal parts broth with tomato juice.
          Of course, this is flexible. Whether using chicken broth or vegetable broth: Make sure it's GF. Sneaky source of hidden gluten. Tomato paste or sauce may also be used. Or, leftover spaghetti sauce.

-Add in leftover, cooked, canned, or frozen veggies.
          Beans and cooked rice or quinoa can also be thrown in. This is a great time to clean out the fridge!

-Season with salt, pepper, oregano, fresh minced garlic, and parsley

That's it. Suddenly you have soup. I like to pair it with cornbread, crackers, or grilled cheese.

So, freeze a big batch and cross your fingers another Hurricane Ike doesn't happen and ruin the freezer full of food!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Iced Coffee

I know, another drink post.
It's really good though!

Iced coffee is super easy to make. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than getting one at a coffee shop, and it tastes just as good.

Start with a glass of ice and your favorite creamer or milk, soymilk, rice milk, whatever. I like to use the flavored ones.

Brew a pot of coffee 1 1/2 to 2 times normal strength.

Pour it over ice, add cream and sugar to taste, and stir.

See? Easy! And I didn't pay three bucks for it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Glenny's Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies

picture links to product info

I was wandering around HEB last night, and I always take a peek at the gluten free section in case there is something new or something is on sale. Sure enough, I ran into these. I've never heard of this company, but the website looks like it sells healthy snacks. In the mood to try something new and loving all things oatmeal right now, I picked them up.

I got home, settled into my couch, and pulled out the cookies. I read the box first: America's First Gluten Free Oatmeal Cookies, 55 calories per cookie, dairy free, 11 grams of whole grains per serving. Not bad.

They come 10 soft cookies to a box. They taste great, and I promplty downed 165 calories. There is something about these cookies. They taste and smell like some treat I used to eat when I was a kid, but I can't quite place it. It's gunna drive me nuts trying to figure it out.

Would I finish the box? Yes

Would I buy them again? Maybe. They were tasty, but because GF oats are expensive, the box was $5. I could make my own for less money.

Glenny's also makes gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cold Tuna Salad

gluten free tuna noodle saladI should have eaten leftovers for lunch, but I really really wanted tuna salad. I got one of those random cravings.

It was so nice and cold, with chewy noodles, tender tuna, crisp peas, and just enough mayo to bring it all together. It was perfect with some green iced tea.

And also, since my mind is gearing in that direction, it would be a great take-to-school lunch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

gluten free healthy breakfast cookies
The start of another semester is approaching very quickly. I'm getting emails about orientations and tb tests, parking, and library orientation. I'm calling the financial aid office trying not to sound panicked, like every year. Ah, the sounds of late summer. I'm excited about the new surroundings, the new people, and the new routine.

With the start of another semester comes the challenge of feeding myself. These past *cough* six *cough* or so years of undergrad have started no earlier than 10am if I could help it, but I will be expected to be downtown, parked, and in class or lab ready to go at 7 or 8am. I am going to do my best, but I have a feeling there will be many snooze buttons and many rushed mornings for this confirmed non-morning-person.

I absolutely can not go without breakfast, so I'm focusing on portable options to eat quickly, or while sitting in traffic (if need be).

One of these creations has been greatly aided by my recent discovery that Whole Foods carries gluten free oats again. Oh, happy day! I have eaten oatmeal for breakfast every day since, and it has been wonderful. Oh, and for the record I prefer the Gluten Free Oats brand over Bob's Red Mill. They have a much better texture.

This morning I created these breakfasty cookies. They're hearty, versatile, healthy, and very portable. I like to leave mine in the oven a little longer at a little lower heat so that the edges get crispy and carmelized. Try them!

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

2 T. unsweetened applesauce
1 T. molasses
1 egg
1 1/2 T. agave
1/2 t. xanthan gum
3/4 t. cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
pinch salt
heaping 3/4 c. gluten free oats
1/4 c. flaxseed meal

Preheat the oven to 350. Wisk everything but the oats and flax in a bowl. Stir in the oats and flax, and spoon the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. They don't really spread, so make them as big or as small as you want, and flatten them down a little. Bake them for 8-10 minutes, or longer if you like them firmer.

Makes about 8 cookies, depending on how big you make them.

I'm happy with the basic recipe. I'm going to try adding nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut, dried fruit, and different flavorings like cardamom, vanilla, cocoa, peanut butter, banana, and pumpkin.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Berry Green Tea

summer berry green tea
I feel lame posting a "recipe" for tea, but it's sooo good and refreshing, and good for you with all the antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin c. It's naturally sweet, and the tea gives it a slight bite.

To make it, boil 4 cups of water, and add it to a pitcher that contains 4 or 5 green tea bags. Let it steep for a while, so the tea brews good and strong. Add 2 cups of 100% juice (I used Juicy Juice Berry). Let it cool and stir before you serve it over ice.

That's it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chocolate chip cookies

gluten free dairy free chocolate chip cookies
I've said it here before, but I am the weird girl who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies. Strange, though, that I've been craving them for a few weeks.

I used a little less sugar than I normally would, because I used milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet. They turned out better than I expected. The first batch out of the oven were scarfed down before the second batch could be put in. Thankfully, I did not do the scarfing by myself. I had some help from my mom, brother, and sister, who gave them the thumbs up and keep coming back for more.

You can just barely taste the vanilla in the cookie, and the chocolate taste is there but not overwhelming. By using less sugar, the individual flavors are much more detectable. I think these are the best chocolate chip cookies I've made. If they were made with butter, I'd imagine the flavor would be enhanced even more, but I decided to stick with shortening this time.

They are actually better the next day- if any last that long!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. sorghum flour
scant 1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/4 c. corn starch
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. baking soda
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. shortening
1 egg
1/4 t. vanilla
2/3 c. chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a hand mixer, mix the shortening and brown sugar until all the sugar is moistened and the lumps of shortening are gone. It won't cream like normal, because there is less shortening in these cookies.

Add the egg and vanilla, and mix it well until the mixture looks uniform.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add them to the wet ingredients and mix them together, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Place balls of dough on a greased cookie sheet. These cookies do not spread at all. They will pretty much come out exactly how they were placed on the sheet, so flatten them down a little before baking. Bake them for 8-10 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and the tops are set.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Oh, check out the cute platter I painted at the Mad Potter. I didn't create the goofy cupcake; my sister Suzy did. I just took her drawing with me and copied it. She also drew the "Evil Wheat" over on the sidebar. She's got more talent than I do when it comes to drawing random things!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Purely Decadent Key Lime Pie (& oats!!)

I had an interesting trip to Whole Foods today.

First, I found gluten free oats! Yay, they're back! It has been a very long time since I've had any, because our local distributor stopped shipping them or something. I am very glad they're back. I am eager to try this new brand, because all I've tried are Bob's Red Mill, and they sometimes had random hard pieces throughout the soft oatmeal. I guess they were part of the oat plant or something, but it was very disturbing getting something hard in your oatmeal. In my head I was paranoid they were bugs or something, and it kinda ruined it for me.

Second, they were out of potato starch. What a strange thing to run out of.

Third, I got some of that Key Lime Purely Decadent dairy free ice cream. For some reason they've been out every time I've gone looking. But today, the dairy free ice cream gods were on my side. They were on sale. Plus, I had a coupon.

So how was this long-awaited ice cream? Disappointing.

After my first bite, I noticed that it had that same, too-sweet taste to it that the cookie dough flavor had. There are brown sugar/ cinnamonish swirls that are good, but are a bit overkill in some bites, and non-existent in other bites. There are also random huge balls of 'graham cracker.' Can't decide if those were good or bad.

That all would have been forgiveable if the key lime flavor was pronounced at all. I was hoping for a great, tart lime flavor, but I could barely taste the lime part! It seemed like the sweetness completely overpowered the individual flavors and all you could taste was sweet.

I could have gone with a sherbert or sorbet, sprinkled some graham cracker crumbs in it, and gotten a way better key lime pie flavor.

This is not to say that overall, the ice cream doesn't have a pleasant taste and texture. I am just very disappointed with the execution and was expecting something very different. I will probably finish the rest of it here and there, but won't buy it again.

Man, I hate to end on a bad note here.

I think I'm going to have chips & salsa for dinner. :o)


gluten free kolache
*A quick word about Kolaches. The traditional description for a kolache is fruit-or-seed-filled sweet pastry. The technical word for this meat-filled kind of kolache is klobasnek, according to Wikipedia. However, I've never heard of it and the popular word around here is kolache. Also, kolaches aren't sold everywhere. On last year's trip to California, we asked for kolaches at a donut shop and the lady looked at us funny. They're pretty ubiquitous in Houston.

If you've never heard of it, it's pretty much a dinner roll filled with meat and/or cheese. They're sold in the donut shop and we normally eat them for breakfast.

This morning my Tony mentioned how he wanted kolaches for breakfast, and I felt ambitious enough to make them.

Ideally, the bread surrounding the filling should be very soft. Mine didn't turn out quite right. They were much closer to the texture of a hot pocket. I think next time I'll try using more starch and less brown rice flour. Regardless, they turned out very tasty.


3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/4 c. sweet rice flour
1/2 c. potato starch/ corn starch
1 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. salt

1 t. sugar
1/2 T. yeast
a little more than 1/2 c. rice milk

1 T. oil (I used sunflower)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 375. Proof the yeast while you mix the dry ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the oil & egg, and add the yeast mixture. Mix it all up into a dough.

Using floured hands, create balls of dough and flatten them down. Place your choice of meat (I used ham and cheese, but sausage is very popular) in the middle, and fold the dough around it. Make sure it's all covered, or the cheese will melt out while they're baking. Place the kolache folded side down in a greased pan. A 9 inch round worked well for me.

Once they're all filled, let them rise, then bake them for 15 minutes.

Best enjoyed with coffee and orange juice. :o)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An interesting read.

There was a time when America loved its staple crops. We once stood proud among the amber waves of grain. Now we're running from them.

The case against corn—and corn-based sweeteners—has been made with such vigor that some sensitive souls won't even buy fresh ears at the farmers market. These days, health-conscious consumers are just as wary of gluten—a dietary bogeyman found in wheat (as well as barley and rye) that turns up in a startling array of foodstuffs. According to a report from the market-research group Packaged Facts, sales of gluten-free products in the United States have grown by an average of 28 percent over the past five years and will soon be worth $2.6 billion. In May, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of ABC's The View, went on a bread-bashing publicity blitz for her best-selling new book, The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide. Even America's pastime has turned its back on wheat: Last week, Coors Field introduced the first gluten-free concession stand in Major League Baseball.

The lavishing of attention on wheat alternatives is wonderful news to the sufferers of celiac disease, for whom any amount of dietary gluten can inflame and destroy the lining of the small intestine. (The human gut can't fully process gluten. At best, it's converted into a set of indigestible protein fragments that pass uneventfully through the gastrointestinal tract. If you've got celiac disease, these fragments set off a damaging immune response.) This can show up as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, skin rash, anemia, fatigue, or osteoporosis—and the long-term prognosis isn't so good, either: Celiac patients have almost twice the normal risk of cancer, and one-third of them suffer from another autoimmune disease, like Type 1 diabetes, lupus, or multiple sclerosis. (They may also be susceptible to schizophrenia.) As far as we know, the only way for people with celiac to stave off these dangers is to eliminate gluten from their diets—entirely and without exception—for the rest of their lives.

But diagnosed celiacs only account for a small fraction of the bloated and still-expanding market for gluten-free products. (In total, the disease affects just 0.75 percent of the population.) The remainder are those consumers who believe, for one reason or another, that gluten is hurting them, too. According to Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland and a leading expert on the disease, almost half the people who show up at his clinic are on the gluten-free diet before they've even been tested for celiac. For every patient whose intestinal biopsy turns up positive, he says, nine or 10 more test clean but commit to going G-free all the same.

These patients are described as having "gluten intolerance," a nebulous condition that amounts to something like celiac-lite: They feel pain or discomfort after eating wheat, rye, or barley but lack the hallmark signs of intestinal deterioration. The notion that you can have the symptoms of celiac but not the full-blown disorder is based on the idea, first proposed in 1992, that a person's reaction to gluten can be plotted along a sensitivity spectrum—with celiac patients falling at the most vulnerable extreme. Since there's no way to "prove" a case of gluten-intolerance in the lab, the diagnostic criteria are rather lax. To qualify for the condition, you need only discover (with or without medical supervision) that going "G-free" makes you feel better—in body or mind or spirit.

I'm all for people eating what they want, but lately I've started to wonder how gluten intolerance might relate to a more general anxiety about food. The mere fact that someone who cuts out gluten feels better doesn't mean that he has an autoimmune disease or a wheat allergy or some other medical condition. Any kind of restrictive diet can help alleviate gastrointestinal distress. If you're paying more attention to what you eat, there's a good chance your symptoms will lessen. That's not because gluten or red meat or another food is damaging your small intestine; it's because eating less makes it easier for your gut to recover. Then there's the placebo effect of starting any treatment, which might well address some of the more abstract symptoms of gluten intolerance, like fatigue, mood swings, and depression.

The health benefits of a gluten-free diet might also be a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. It's well-known that our digestive system adapts its secretions (rather quickly) to whatever we're eating. A prolonged stint on the Atkins diet, for example, can make it harder to digest starchy foods. According to a 2006 study in Journal of the Pancreas, a colony of lab rats subsisting on low-carb, high-fat food pellets ended up with less pancreatic α-amylase, an enzyme that helps break down complex carbohydrates. Now imagine that you've cut out gluten from your diet completely—that means no bread, no cereal, no wheat whatsoever. Chances are you'll have reduced your total intake of carbs, and thus the amount of α-amylase in your gut. In other words, the mere fact of being on a gluten-free diet could make you more sensitive to grains and cereals—which would only reinforce your conviction that you're gluten-intolerant. Slip up for even one meal, and you'll pay the price with indigestion. (Same goes for people who don't eat meat or dairy: A momentary lapse can yield a nasty stomachache.)

The fact that "going G-free" means eating fewer cupcakes and less pasta suggests another source of relief. It is, after all, an elaborate diet—and so delivers all the psychological benefits of controlled eating and self-denial. "Once G-free, you are no longer simply robot-eating bag after bag of pretzels," writes Hasselbeck, in a chapter of her book titled "G-Free and Slim as Can Be!" Gluten intolerance may be a medical condition, but according to Hasselbeck, it's also an approach to eating—like South Beach or Skinny Bitch—that's supposed to make you lose weight and feel good about your body.

Is it a coincidence that the specter of gluten intolerance only emerged in the midst of the low-carb bonanza? In the accompanying graph, I've charted the rate at which major newspapers mentioned "gluten intolerance" or "gluten sensitivity" over the past two decades and compared it with the rate at which they mentioned the "Atkins diet."

Both pop-culture trends began to surface about 10 years ago; the Atkins diet peaked in 2004, and gluten intolerance followed a year or two later.

The concurrent rise of the low-carb craze and the anti-gluten movement merely reflects the latest nutritional wisdom. A similar pattern emerged back in the 1990s, when the main dietary villains were saturated fat and cholesterol. The dietary fad of that era was the olive-oil-soaked "Mediterranean diet" and a reduced intake of meat and dairy. As doctors and dieticians urged us away from butter and ice cream, we started to become more aware of how hard it was to digest these unhealthy foods—nutritional advice became a medical problem. The second graph shows how newspaper mentions of "lactose intolerance" and "lactose sensitivity" track mentions of the "Mediterranean diet," with interest in both phenomena peaking around 1995.

I'm not suggesting that anyone who avoids gluten is secretly trying to lose weight. The purpose of a gluten-free diet is, naturally, to feel better. But there's a complicated relationship between feeling good and eating less. When a restrictive diet becomes an end in itself, we call it an eating disorder; when it's motivated by health concerns, we call it a lifestyle. That's why Hasselbeck says going G-free will make you slim (a sign of wellness) rather than skinny (a symptom of anorexia). It might also explain the relationship between food sensitivities and fad diets: People who are intolerant of gluten or lactose get a free pass for self-denial.

All this raises an important question: So what? Why is it anyone's business if some fraction of the market for gluten-free products has no particular sensitivity to wheat, barley or rye? Can't they just enjoy being G-free? I asked Alessio Fasano whether there would be any downside to jumping on the no-gluten bandwagon. "Gluten is useless," he said. "It's an intervention with no side effects, no complications. The most dangerous consequence of a gluten-free diet is the expense." (As an erstwhile Neapolitan, he did seem disturbed that people might be giving up pizza without legitimate medical reasons. "It's their fault," he said after thinking it over. "They can do what they want.")

Not every doctor agrees with Fasano. While it's certainly true we don't need gluten to thrive, the G-free lifestyle does introduce its own problems. A June advisory from the Harvard Medical School warns that packaged, gluten-free products may provide less fiber and fewer nutrients than standard supermarket options. And a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that gluten-free diets could hamper the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

More worrisome is the fact that adhering to a gluten-free diet creates its own set of anxieties. To eliminate all wheat products from your diet is an incredibly ambitious endeavor. Web sites devoted to the topic are choked with warnings: Steer clear of oats, which might contain traces of wheat gluten; only buy pre-packaged meat, so as to avoid the contaminated deli-slicer; don't trust the "gluten-free" labels at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods; and so on. These are burden enough for adult celiac patients, but imagine the stakes for all those worried parents who have come to believe (without good scientific evidence) that dietary gluten has something to do with autism.

Then there are the more abstract costs of an unnecessary gluten-free diet. I won't dwell on the idea that eliminating wheat deprives you or your children of certain culinary pleasures. (Who isn't exquisitely sensitive to the delicious gluten in fresh-baked bread?) Still, it's worth pointing out that the G-free lifestyle can be very annoying—to friends, lovers, work-buddies, and anyone else who might have you over for dinner. For more on this, see Chapter 9 of Hasselbeck's book—"How Not To Be a Party-Pooper." Here's one way to refuse a gluten-laden treat without offending your host: "The drop: If all else fails, you take the cookie and oopsie! You are just so clumsy, it's unforgivable! No, no, you couldn't possibly have another …"

Ironically, the people who may benefit most from the current vogue are those who have been G-free all along. The proliferation of gluten-free products has made life for a full-blown celiac easier than it's ever been, and a greater awareness of gluten-related disorders has more celiac patients getting diagnosed than ever before. (There are still thought to be millions of undiagnosed cases in the United States.) Let's hope those gains aren't erased when the conventional wisdom shifts again and we leave this diet craze behind us.

I could say a lot about this article. Overall, I like it and the message it's sending.

I know that Elisabeth Hasselbeck's book has gotten a lot of scrutiny from the Celiac community, and it seems like people are just jumping on the gluten free bandwagon. To be fair, I haven't read it and don't know if the criticism is justified.

I don't know exactly why, but it bugs me. I think it's because I'm forced to do it, while other people are doing it because it's trendy. Call me bitter, but it's not fair that they can make a big deal out of eating gluten free, then choose to start eating gluten again whenever they get tired of it. [I know, I know. Life's not fair. Bite me.]

I'm not trying to be a Celiac snob- everyone has their reasons for doing what they do. However, I think that gluten free diets have become glorified. It is not easy to follow a gluten free diet while keeping it balanced and healthy. I think that is a common misconception. Honestly, if I wasn't obligated to eat gluten free, I don't see why I'd choose to do it.

One good thing that's coming from the gluten free popularity is all of the new products. Can't complain about that!

My motto: everything in moderation.

Your thoughts?