This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

I've really missed soft-serve frozen yogurt.  You can never really be sure the stuff they serve at yogurt places is gluten-free, and you can be pretty sure there's cross-contamination.  I tried the obvious first:  put some store-bought yogurt into the ice cream maker.  Not only did it work, it only took a few more tweaks to make something so tasty, rich and creamy that you'll never be tempted by TCBY again.

I use the Publix store brand fruit on the bottom lowfat yogurt.  While it is fantastic straight out of the ice-cream maker, after a few hours it gets pretty hard.  I would need to thaw it out for a while (20 minutes or so) before serving once it has frozen overnight.  I could make it creamier straight from the freezer by reducing liquid and increasing fat.  That can mean using full-fat yogurt (or greek-style) or using all cream instead of cream and milk.  Added sugar will help (to a point), as will a small amount of guar gum.  Since we tend to finish it off pretty quickly, this isn't a problem. 

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

Freeze the bucket of your ice-cream maker according to directions (usually for at least 24 hours).  Leave it in the freezer until ready to process. 

Combine the following in a separate bowl:

12 ounces of sweetened/flavored yogurt (I use fruit on the bottom)
OR
12 ounces of plain yogurt plus jam, honey, or other sweetener to taste

AND
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar (optional, depending on flavor desired)
1 cup fresh berries or fruit, chopped small (optional) or nuts

Mix everything together
Process in ice cream freezer until slightly thicker than soft-serve

Serve immediately, or freeze up to two hours first.  After two hours, let thaw on counter for 20 minutes before serving to soften up.  

Serves 4 at 1-2 scoops each, or 2 at NOMNOMNOMNOM size servings. 




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Small-Batch Tomato Soup (Gluten-Free)

Because it is apparently impossible to find gluten-free tomato soup for anything less than $5.00 per meal, I offer the following recipe:

Small-batch tomato soup

Ingredients: 

1 small can tomato paste (6 oz, or about 1/3 cup)
1/2 small onion (approx 1/3 cup chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tsp fresh, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
2 cups vegetable stock (or 2 tsp Better than Bullion vegetable base and 2 cups hot water)
Up to 1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk (to taste)
You may also need up to 1/4 tsp baking soda
Optional:  1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, salt-free, if you like "chunky" soup

Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in the bottom of a medium size pot on medium heat
Sautee the onion and garlic until soft
add the basil
continue to sautee until browned
add the tomato paste and vegetable stock
If you want chunky soup, add the canned diced tomatoes
stir well to combine
simmer for 20-30 minutes
taste the mixture.  If it is too sour or acid, add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda and stir well while it foams.  Wait one minute and taste again, adding another 1/8 tsp if necessary.  The soda will neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes, but too much will make the soup bland. 
let soup cool slightly, then stir in cream or milk to whatever preference you have for creaminess. Start with 1/4 cup, taste, and increase as needed.  I have not tried substitute milks (soy, coconut, rice, etc.) and do not know how they behave, but since you're not "cooking" the milk, I suspect it would work just fine. 
 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Peter Pan Peanut Butter

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.

 Peter Pan Peanut Butter

I try to avoid corn syrup, primarily because it makes things too sweet.  Peter Pan doesn't use corn syrup, and they're the best reasonably-priced peanut butter that's listed as gluten-free by Cecelia's Marketplace Guide or package labeled.  I particularly like the crunchy to make GF peanut butter cookies :-) 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts (Gluten-Free)

Brussel Sprouts have an unearned reputation as the child torture device of the vegetable world.  They do have a cabbage-like flavor when steamed (or too old), but it turns out that when you roast them, they come out pretty darn tasty.  I made these for someone who despises brussel sprouts in any shape or form, and he took seconds.  The vinegar browns to a sweet glaze on the sprouts. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Ingredients:
1/2 pound brussel sprouts 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

You can leave brussel sprouts less than 1/4" diameter, but cut larger sprouts into halves or quarters.  Cut the end off the stem, then slice lengthwise along the stem so that the leaves are held together with part of the stem in each piece.

Combine the oil and vinegar and toss brussel sprouts. Set in a pan so that they are 1-2 layers deep. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Serve immediately (they reheat well but don't keep long).

This works beautifully with other dark green vegetables, including broccoli or parboiled green beans. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Yoplait Yogurt

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.
Yoplait Yogurt

Yoplait is a gluten-free hero in my book, because they actually label which of their yogurts are gluten-free.  Check the back of the container, near the middle.  The labels are there for their original and light yogurts, but I did not have one of their greek yogurts to check.  Even flavors you would expect to be off the table (like strawberry cheesecake) are actually gluten-free (and also now in my fridge...).  Remember to double-check the package, as they will remove the gluten-free label if their manufacturing processes change and it is no longer gluten-free. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Gluten-Free Tip: Evaluate a New Restaurant

Depending on your level of gluten sensitivity, a restaurant visit can be anywhere from no big deal to an ordeal.  There are many restaurants out there who have attempted to expand business by jumping on the GF bandwagon, but many do it without research first.  I have encountered restaurants who advertised a gluten-free menu that consisted of a plain iceberg salad with no dressing, and those who have listed items as "gluten-free" without actually checking with the supplier because they didn't actually contain bread. 

When checking out a new restaurant, first try their website.  If they offer an online gluten-free menu it is a good way to see the extent of their selection.  Signs that they may have done their homework include:

* Detailed ordering instructions (i.e. with or without a particular sauce or side)
* Specifics on which flavors of dressing or sauces are GF (meaning they have at least checked with the manufacturer)
* Wide variety, including both sides and dessert options
* Mention of a gluten-free agency such as the NFCA
* Mention of dedicated gluten-free fryers or equipment in the kitchen
* Gluten-Free flags on the primary menu, instead of having a separate allergens menu (more likely that the servers are gluten-aware). 

Red flags that there may be a problem include:

* Extensive legal disclaimers about not guaranteeing absence of allergens and "at your own risk".
* presence of deep-fried foods on the gluten-free menu (such as french fries) without mention of a dedicated GF fryer (You can call and ask)
* an extremely limited menu that includes mostly salads
* a primary menu that would require extremely careful handling by kitchen staff to prevent cross-contamination (e.g. a worker in a pizza place is going to be covered with flour and it will be in the air; to make a GF pizza in that environment is extremely tricky)

Check reviews on http://www.glutenfreeregistry.com/ and http://www.urbanspoon.com and look for reports of people being glutened.  Pay attention to the reviewer's gluten status, if given (i.e. how sensitive they are).

Once you have evaluated online, call or visit the restaurant during off-peak hours and talk to the manager and chef.  Ask if their kitchen and serving staff are trained in gluten-free food handling to prevent cross-contamination of the food.  Ask if the gluten-free items are prepared on a separate cooking surface, or what other measures are taken to prevent cross-contamination.  Ask if the gluten-free status of the ingredients are verified every 6 months or more with the manufacturer to know they are gluten-free. 

A visit may even be better, because you can also evaluate the cleanliness of the place.  If the food is gluten-free but the booths are full of crumbs and the plates are greasy, then you are still risking getting sick.  If you ask about the gluten-free menu and the hostess gives you a blank look or they have to go fetch a separate notebook or print it from online, that may be a red flag that the corporate office went gluten-free without telling the staff. If the manager, chef and staff are knowledgeable and confident in their gluten-free status and you are confident that they are taking proper precautions, it may be time to try the food.

The first three times you eat at a new restaurant, do so on a day when you can afford to be sick.  If you work M-F, then visit on a Friday afternoon so that you can sacrifice the weekend if you get glutened.  If you're a student, try new restaurants on a semester break when you don't have other plans.  I say the first three times, because we have had a good first experience with a place, only to be glutened on subsequent visits.  The kitchen staff is not the same from day to day.  Only you know how much time you need to allow for a glutening; for my partner a bad exposure can give him pain and brain fog for up to three days. 

Go to the restaurant on off-peak hours (either before or after the noon or dinner rush.)  We have found that if we show up at a restaurant between 4pm and 5pm, we get kitchen staff who have the time and energy to be careful.  They aren't rushed off their feet or exhausted from the dinner rush. 
Afterwards, take the time to post reviews on gluten-free registry and other resources.  Mention your level of gluten-sensitivity and whether or not you were glutened by the food.  This will help others better evaluate the restaurant. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ranch Dressing and Dip (Gluten-Free)

I have yet to find a good gluten-free ranch dressing.  I don't know what it is about ranch, but while some (Kraft and Publix, for example) are gluten-free, I just don't like the taste.  And ranch veggie dip?  Forget it. 

This dressing keeps for a few days in the refrigerator, so it's best made up in small, frequent batches.  I adapted it from this recipe, adding and adjusting the herb ratio. 

Ingredients
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried chives
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Optional: 1 tablespoon buttermilk powder

Double the ingredient amount if using fresh instead of dried.

Whisk everything together very well and let sit in fridge for at least 1/2 hour. I've found this to be good for at least 3 days, but the garlic eventually takes over the flavor, battling the other spices to the death and screaming, "there can be only one!"

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Gluten-Free Product Review: Better Than Bouillon


GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.



Better Than Bouillon

Bouillon and broth are two really hard-to-find items in gluten-free.  It's probably because wheat is such a good flavor enhancer for this kind of item.  Better than Bouillon food bases are in most grocery stores, and make an excellent foundation for soups, sauces, or even flavorings for meat.  Their au jus is perfect for a gluten-free french dip, and I've had great success rubbing a teaspoon of it on a pot roast before cooking.  It adds a fantastic rich flavor to the finished meat. 

The manufacturer's website states that they will list any gluten ingredients clearly on the label (i.e. if their "natural flavor" contains a problem ingredient, they will specify it as "natural flavor (contains wheat)").  Cecelia's Marketplace lists the Better than Bouillon bases that are gluten-free, including their premium and organic beef and chicken flavors and their vegetarian "no beef" and "no chicken" flavors. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gluten-Free Resource: Celiac.com

I have no relationship with the companies I review, nor do I receive any compensation for my reviews.

Celiac.com is a resource that has been covering gluten-free since 1995.  They have forums, recipes, articles and a newsletter covering both personal gluten-free living and gluten-free awareness in the broader world.  They're a great first stop for the newly gluten-free, because they offer starter information, like lists of safe foods and ingredients that may pose a risk, information on diagnosis, testing and treatment, and information to help understand what's going on with your body when you're gluten-intolerant.

You can visit them at http://www.celiac.com/.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Roasted Garlic-Herb Potatoes (Gluten-Free)

Ingredients:

5 pounds of potatoes, washed and cut into 2" chunks
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (sub olive oil for vegan)
3 Tablespoons fresh chopped chives (half the amount dried)
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Spread potato chunks in 9x12 casserole dish.
Cut pats of butter and place on top of potatoes.
Evenly distribute herbs over top of potatoes and butter.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Cover with foil.
Bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender, stirring potatoes halfway through.
Remove foil, stir potatoes.
Turn oven up to broil.
Broil 3-5 minutes until tops are crusty brown.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gluten-Free Tip: Intuitive Eating

Intuitive Eating means paying attention to your body's needs through hunger cues.  Many of us have spent a long time destroying our ability to listen to our bodies by manipulating our diets to meet some external guideline.  Most people who discover they have Celiac or gluten-intolerance have already experienced malnutrition to some extent.  When you're glutened, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients.  If it goes untreated long enough, you can develop things like osteopenia (loss of bone density) due to calcium deficiency or severe anemia.  Once you go gluten-free, it is important to pay attention to what your body needs to rebuild itself after a long-term deficit. 

At first you may simply crave calories.  This is a normal response to starvation and your body may urge you to consume easy-to-digest sources such as simple sugars and fats.  You may have a sudden craving for dairy products as you body looks to rebuild your bones.  You may crave iron foods such as red meat or dark green vegetables, or high-protein foods. 

Listen to your body.  You are recovering from an illness, and now is the time to give your body what it needs, not what you think it "should" need.  If you seek a dietician, you'll want to find one who has experience with eating disorder recovery, because your body's starvation experience and recovery (regardless of your weight or what you've been eating) is probably similar enough to compare dietary recovery plans.

Some people may be tempted to avoid food they're craving from a fear of gaining weight.  Right now your focus should be on healing the damage to your body.  People who practice intuitive eating sometimes do gain some initial weight.  But as your body rebuilds itself and learns to trust you to fulfill its needs, the cravings will taper off and your weight will return to a natural level for you.
 
See the 10 Principles of Intuitive Eating at Intuitiveeating.org for more information.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: York Peppermint Patties

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.


York Peppermint Patties

Dark chocolate over peppermint, and oh so tasty without being too rich!  These are a favorite to keep around the house, especially as the mint helps calm an upset stomach.  Hershey's website states that all the Peppermint Pattie candies are gluten-free, so it doesn't matter whether you buy them in full or snack size. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gluten-Free Tip: Match Your Snacks

One of the hardest parts of having to avoid gluten is how so many cultures use food as a social bonding event.  The potluck at work, the family dinner, and the barbecue or pizza party amongst friends are not about gathering fuel for the body; they're about connecting with people and "breaking bread" together.  When you have to bring a baked potato to the pizza and beer party, it naturally makes most people feel self-conscious. 

Try to find out in advance what kind of food will be present at whatever gathering you attend.  If everyone eats bagels at the morning meeting, keep a bag of gluten-free bagels in the freezer at work and thaw one in the toaster.  If It's a pizza and beer party amongst friends, make a small gluten-free pizza for yourself (or better yet, a big one to share!) and maybe even track down one of the gluten-free beers on the market (Redbridge will be the easiest to find nationally, but there are many regional microbrews experimenting with gluten-free).  A movie night is a chance to bring your own microwave popcorn, or even your own air popper and butter to share with everyone.  If there's a potluck, bring a gluten-free offering and ask around to see what other people are bringing so that you can approximate it.  If your child's class has a birthday party, send them to school with a gluten-free piece of cake or a cupcake in tupperware, so that they're not the only ones left out.

Note that in the last case, coordinate with the teacher so that they don't call attention to the food differences or urge the child to try unsafe foods and drinks.  Also pack your child their own plastic fork, napkin and juice or milk mini-bottle, as both the kids and teacher will be handling the utensils and bottles for the class after covering their hands in cake crumbs.  See if the teacher will have all the students wash their hands after eating to prevent cross-contamination on the playground. 

Celiac and food allergies are not just a barrier to food, they can become a social barrier as well.  The recent wide availability in recipe books and websites, gluten-free bakeries and manufacturers who ship can help reduce the sense of otherness in a food-centered gathering. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Featured Gluten-Free Resource: NFCA

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is a comprehensive website that is a great ongoing resource for Celiac and gluten-intolerant individuals.  They cover recent news and research, offer fantastic tips and resources, recipes, and community resources such as gluten-free events and webinars.  They also offer training for health professionals to increase awareness and up-to-date treatment for Celiac. 

You can visit the NFCA at http://www.celiaccentral.org/

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Almond Toffee Brittle (Gluten-Free)

Almond Toffee Brittle (Gluten-Free)

Perfect for multiple day potlucks, as it doesn't need to be refrigerated and handles heat/cold just fine. You'll need a candy thermometer that goes up to at least 280 degrees F. Make it on a day with low humidity! It won't set up correctly in high humidity so the resulting candy will be sticky and soften quickly.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons water
1.5 cups white sugar (cane sugar is best)
1 cup butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup (white Karo syrup)
1 cup slivered almonds

Place slivered almonds on a cookie sheet and bake in oven at 300 degrees F until golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, butter, syrup and water in a medium saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches 280 degrees F (soft crack stage).

Stir in toasted almonds and heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 280 degrees again (mixture will rapidly darken).

Pour onto ungreased cookie sheet and let cool.

Break into pieces and store in an air-tight container (ziplock bag is fine).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Santitas Corn Chips


GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.

Santitas Corn Chips
The best cheap corn chips I've found, and gluten-free.  Frito Lay is the parent company, and has been doing a fantastic job of both testing and labeling gluten-free products.  They maintain a separate list on their website of items that are actually tested for gluten-and those which contain no gluten ingredients.  It shows good gluten awareness that they make that distinction!  Santitas chips, by the way, are on the list of products they actually test for gluten. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baked Caramel Corn (Gluten-Free)

You will need:

6 quarts of popped corn (this is 2/3 cup raw in an air popper)
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound salted peanuts (optional)

Pop popcorn (don't add butter or salt) mix with peanuts (if using) in large bowl.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F
 in 3 quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.
Stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Boil without stirring 5 minutes or until soft-ball stage on candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Add baking soda all at once and stir vigorously (mixture will foam up!)
Pour over popcorn and mix well.
Divide popcorn into 2 large baking pans or roasters.
Bake at 250F for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Use a buttered wooden spoon if you have trouble with it sticking while stirring.
Let cool and store in airtight container (plastic bags work fine!). Does not need refrigeration.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Cape Cod Chips

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.

Cape Cod Potato Chips

Kettle-cooked potato chips, available in typical flavors along with the new Chef's Recipe wonders like Feta and Rosemary, and Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper (my favorite).  Some flavors are available in a smaller snack-size bag.  The chips are labeled on the back of the package, and some are not gluten-free so be sure to look.  I believe most of the potato chips are safe.  If you have questions, you can contact Cape Cod at their website http://www.capecodchips.com.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jicama: A Crunchy, Gluten-Free Snack

Jicama is a satisfying crunchy snack that is starchy enough to satisfy a craving for chips or toast.  It has a texture close to a crisp apple, but a flavor that is bland and slightly sweet with a spicy, earthy edge and so goes well with strong flavors. 

To prepare:
Cut the peel from the jicama.
Slice into carrot-stick size portions (approx 1/4" to 1/2" thick by 3" to 4" long)
sprinkle liberally with lime juice
sprinkle lightly with sea salt
sprinkle moderately with chili powder

If you want to combine flavors on a veggie platter, jicama pairs well with cucumbers, carrots, and (odd as it sounds) watermelon or mango.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Land o Lakes Butter

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.


Land-O-Lakes Butter
Land-O-Lakes is a brand that should be available in almost any U.S. grocery store, and it is gluten-free, generally reasonably priced, and comes in options like half-sticks.  The salted and unsalted versions are gluten-free, but note that the light butter contains gluten.  If you have questions about other Land-O-Lakes products, see their website at http://www.landolakes.com and contact their customer service.  Also check the label, as many of their products are labeled gluten-free. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Custard-Style Rice Pudding (Gluten-Free)

A rich, creamy rice custard perfect for a cold winter day or a holiday dessert.  

Ingredients:

3 cups milk (whole milk will make it richer)
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup raisins (optional, and mix up with dates, almonds, pecans, and/or coconut as it suits you)
1/3 cup butter
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup raw white rice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp (approx) nutmeg, or one whole nutmeg for grating.


Combine rice with 2 cups of regular milk in the top of a double-boiler or in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook over hot water in double-boiler or in microwave on high until rice is tender (approx 30-45 minutes, could be longer depending on heat).

Add raisins/dates/nuts/etc. and butter, stir until butter melts

Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, 1 cup of regular milk and sweetened condensed milk and whisk until blended.

Stir into hot rice mixture.

Pour into greased cake pan (9" square pan for single batch, 9"x12" rectangle for double batch) or 2-quart casserole dish (uncovered).

Sprinkle or grate nutmeg over top

Bake in 350 F oven for 45 minutes or until a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool/set up for at least 10 minutes, or chill in refrigerator overnight and serve cold.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gluten Free Tip: Make your House a Safe Zone

When first going gluten-free, there are several issues with having any gluten-containing products in your home that may range from annoying to really serious depending on your level of sensitivity.  Keep in mind that if you have any gluten-containing products in your home, you have what is known as "cross-contamination."  That means that the gluten in your roommate's sub sandwich travels.

*  It travels to the kitchen counter, tabletop, or any other surface it touches directly.

*  It travels to the knife used to cut it and the plate it was eaten from, which may come completely clean in a working dishwasher.  An older, imperfectly working dishwasher can simply re-deposit the crumbs onto all the dishes washed in the same load, including those you eat from.

*  It travels to the rug, couch cushions, chair, and other surfaces over which it is eaten.

*  Because the person making the sandwiches handled the bag, which your roommate then touched, it may have traveled to every doorknob used to enter the house.

*  Unless your roommate immediately washes their hands with hot water and soap after eating the sandwich, it travels to every surface they touch (including the sink taps, chair arms, remote control for the TV, handle for the fridge, the two-liter of soda, etc.).

*  If your roommate washes their hands but then touches their mouth without realizing it, the gluten then travels to all the places listed above.

*  If your roommate stores the sandwich leftovers in the fridge, it can leave gluten from the wrapper on the fridge shelf or drop crumbs onto items below.

*  If your roommate is also your romantic partner, they can spread the gluten by kissing any part of your face or hands, unless you wash that spot immediately afterwards with soap and water (if they kiss your mouth, there's no hope).

If you're not gluten-sensitive, this probably sounds pretty paranoid.  If you are very gluten-sensitive, then this might sound familiar.  I read a blog where a woman figured out that she got sick every weekend and couldn't figure out what she was still eating that had gluten.  It turned out that she became sick every weekend when her grandchildren visited, because they had crumbs on their clothing and gluten traces on their face when they kissed her.

I started paying close attention, and realized my partner was sick on weekends where we had visitors who ate gluten in the house and then touched surfaces.  When that stopped, the unexplained glutening stopped.

So consider making your house a gluten-free zone, if at all possible.  I know that you have little control over unrelated roommates, but you may be able to claim a section of cupboard and fridge as your own, maintaining your own dishes and tableware and hand-washing them.

If you host parties or have friends over, provide the food yourself and ask them to chip in to cover the cost, or invite a few over early to prepare food from what you have available.  If you can trust your guests to take care, teach them how to shop for gluten-free items.  They may not want to prepare things in their gluten-filled kitchen, but it is entirely possible to grab gluten-free chips and soda to contribute.

If you are in a home with family or partner(s), talk to them about the dangers.  There are so many good substitutes and recipes out there these days that it is easier than ever on the people who must go gluten-free to support a loved one.  There are also so many unsafe spaces for the gluten-sensitive that your own home should not be one of them.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Nutella

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.



Nutella

Really.  'nuff said :-)

I have found so many uses for the chocolate hazelnut spread of the gods.  It is fantastic on gluten-free pancakes, as a dip for Glutino pretzels, or any other desert application you can think of.  In Berkeley there's a gelato place that had Nutella gelato while we were there, and I think they deserve a public medal for it.  I found a recipe for Nutella meringues, which I will share as soon as I vet the recipe for myself.  There's a fancy foodie cafe' on the U.S. East Coast somewhere that serves, as their dessert, a petite tasse of black coffee and a teaspoon full of nutella.  They know that it's intensely rich and delicious enough all by itself, and taps into a person's deep need to lick the spoon. 

Gluten-free status comes from Cecelia's Marketplace guide and personal long-term use by someone excruciatingly sensitive to gluten. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Make Your Own Gluten-Free Lip Balm


Lip balm was a pitfall we missed when going gluten-free.  We spent endless time searching for something that was reasonably priced and didn't try to slip through the gluten-free net by using wheat germ oil.  While I have been assured by businesses that processing the wheat germ oil removes the gluten protein, there is debate as to whether it removes enough for those who are gluten sensitive below 20 ppm. Also, those sensitive to wheat itself in addition to the gluten protein can still react badly to wheat germ oil. As a bonus, most companies don't mention if their vitamin E oil is wheat-derived.

So we finally gave up and made our own.

You can buy your own fillable lip balm tubes online, but I found it cheaper to buy a big pack of cheap lip balm, twist the bottom to get all the balm out of them, and scrub them out with hot water, dishsoap, and cotton swabs.  When they were clean, I turned the base until the inner screw was back down to the bottom so that it could push out the new balm.

For the balm, I used 1/2 beeswax and 1/2 virgin coconut oil.  The former is available in craft shops or at farmers' markets where beekeepers attend.  The latter is in the specialty oils section of many grocery stores (Spectrum brand) as well as health food shops.

I made a batch of about 1/2 cup of each and I still haven't used it up six months later, so keep in mind how much you need.  It keeps for years, so you can always keep a jar of it around for re-fills.  Just heat it up (1 minute in the microwave) whenever you need to pour new tubes. 

Heat the two ingredients together in a double boiler.  Add flavoring, if desired (you can use tiny amounts of baking extracts or candy flavoring).  Mix well until all combined and melted.  Drop a few drops onto a cool surface and test the consistency.  If it is too soft, add more beeswax.  If too hard, add oil. When it is good, use a funnel to fill the lip balm tubes. Each tube takes very little fill; around a teaspoon.  Pour very slowly and expect some overflow the first few times.

Make a disposable funnel out of aluminum foil wrapped around a pencil, if you want to simplify cleanup!  Use masking or freezer tape so that it won't be affected by the heat.  

When the tubes are full, leave them out to cool for a few hours or overnight, then cap.  Store in a dry, cool place.  Keep the used tubes for washing and re-filling.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gluten-Free Tip: Make a Shopping Guide

With gluten free product lists scattered here and there, you may find yourself piling up bookmarks, clippings and notes on the back of receipts as you figure out how to live gluten-free.  You can help yourself put it all together by starting your own guidebook for shopping.

For a pen and paper version, pick up a phone and address book with alphabetized tabs from an office supply store.  Try to get one without the entry labels that say "phone, e-mail" etc., but you can ignore them if that's the only kind available.

You can use the alphabetized tabs to sort items.  I prefer to sort by item type (i.e. C for Cheese) but think about what makes sense to you.  If you'd rather look under S for Sargento instead, go with your own system! Write down the brand, specific type or flavor if not all are gluten-free, where it is available (name of store or website) and where you found the gluten-free information (online, package label, phone number).  Re-verify products when the packaging changes or at least once per year.

Now this system can quickly get out of hand if you try to include every gluten-free product ever made.  Since this is a personal guide, try to restrict it to items you personally buy or use, with maybe one backup brand in case your favorite is out of stock.  It will make for much faster reference in the store.  You can even use it while making your shopping list, specifying brand and flavor on the list itself for a quicker trip to the store.

You can, of course, organize this electronically if you prefer.  A spreadsheet program like Excel or Open Office's Calc program allows you to create multiple categories to search for items.  I would recommend starting with the following layout:

Column A is where the product is available to you.  This can be "online", or the name of a store.  Some items will only be in specialty health food stores, others will be available at your favorite grocery store.

Column B is for the area of the store (e.g. frozen, deli, produce, baking, dairy, etc.)

Column C is the general type of item (cheese, oil, dressing, veggie)

Column D is the specific item (Pepperoni, Mozzerella)

Column E is the brand and specific type, if not all types are gluten-free (i.e. Edy's: Chocolate, pistachio, mint chip flavors)

Column F is where you found the information.  If the item is labeled gluten-free, enter "labeled".  Otherwise list a website or phone number you used to verify the gluten-free status.  This is important, because every time the packaging changes (a possible sign of reformulation) or at least once per year, you should re-verify the gluten status of items.  Companies will not announce that they suddenly introduced cross contamination in their manufacturing; your first clue is when you get sick.  So keep your information current! 

So now you have your own gluten-free shopping guide.  Make sure you make an entry when you buy something new (or see something you want to buy) in order to keep it useful. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Tom's of Maine Soap

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.
Tom's of Maine Bar Soap

One thing that slips through the cracks when most people avoid gluten is skin-care products.  Gluten can be used as an emollient in lotions, soaps, shampoos, shaving creams, etc.  Any of these can enter the mouth or be left on the hands after use, putting you at risk.  

Tom's of Maine bar soaps are gluten-free, and reasonably priced compared to small-market gluten-free natural soaps.  They're also generally available in the health and beauty section of both grocery and big box stores like Target.  There is an unscented sensitive skin version, as well as various others (I like the citrus energizing scent). 

The soap is gluten-free per the Tom's of Maine website.  Note that this applies to the bar soap only; the liquid hand soap and body wash contain wheat. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pico de Gallo Salsa (gluten-free)

Fresh Salsa (Pico de Gallo)

This is better if made at least an hour in advance, and best if made the night before and stored in the refrigerator. That gives the lime juice and salt time to draw the juices from the tomatoes and onions and really temper the flavors.

6-8 fresh roma tomatoes
2 medium red or yellow onions
3 limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 jalapeno peppers (optional - more if desired)
1 tablespoon coarse (sea) salt

  1. Cut tomatoes in half and scoop out (fingers or a spoon) the seed pulp (or as I call it: the nasty slimy bits)
  2. Chop tomatoes into medium chunks (approx 1/4-1/2 inch)
  3. Slice jalapenos lengthwise and carefully remove core and seeds. Rinse to remove all seeds.
  4. chop jalapenos very finely
  5. Peel onion and chop into medium chunks
  6. remove cilantro stems and chop/shred leaves (approx 1 cup)
  7. Juice the limes; you want about 3-4 tablespoons of juice

Mix all the ingredients well together.

Cover bowl tightly with wrap or lid and let sit in refrigerator at least an hour, preferably overnight.
Serve with a variety of corn chips.

This keeps for a couple days in the fridge, but not much longer. On the second day, it's better as an ingredient in something else.  Add fresh avocado for guacamole, cook it into scrambled eggs, or dump it over some chicken breasts and bake for an hour or so for a simple and tasty dinner. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Featured Gluten-Free Product: Bertolli Olive Oil

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.




Bertolli Olive Oil
This is a good all-around reasonably priced cooking oil that works reliably for me, and it's what I generally have in my cupboard for everyday stuff.  Of course I have a stash of the fancy stuff, but I save it for the fancy cooking or where it will make a significant difference in taste (such as dipping oil for GF bread). 

Bertolli is Gluten Free per the Cecelia's Marketplace guide and the Bertolli website FAQ. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Resource: GiG Restaurant Finder

The Gluten Intolerance Group operates The Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program, a restaurant certification program for gluten-free dining.  Their website has a finder for their participating restaurants that lists participating restaurants by state or within a radius from a zip code.

http://www.glutenfreerestaurants.org/

The participating restaurants are guided through the process of setting up a gluten-free facility by GiG, including how to set up the kitchen and train staff to avoid cross-contamination.  The GiG also does spot audits of participating restaurants to ensure compliance.  Of course, nothing is an absolute guarantee when you're at the mercy of someone else's kitchen in a non-dedicated facility, but these should be at least a safer bet than the "gluten-free friendly" tag on Urban Spoon.

You can learn more about their program and what they require from the restaurant by clicking on their FAQ under Site Resources near the bottom of the screen. 

*I have no economic relationship with the resources I review and receive no compensation

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hot Spinach-Artichoke Dip (Gluten-Free)

This is a party-size recipe and can expect to cover a dozen or more people at the "dab on a plate with chips" size serving. These ingredients are all "to taste". Personally I like to overload it with spinach, but your mileage may vary.

16 oz cream cheese (or neufchatel)
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen spinach (or 8oz fresh, cooked down until well wilted)
1 cup coarse-chopped frozen or bottled artichoke hearts
Extras (optional)*

Heat the cream cheese and milk together in the microwave at one-minute intervals, stirring between, until softened.

Use a whisk or fork to whip the cream cheese and milk together until smooth

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir together*

Heat again at 1 minute intervals, stirring between, until hot.

Serve with corn chips, Nut Thins, GF pita, celery, or whatever else makes a good scoop.

Note that if you're looking for a good tapas, you can hard-boil some eggs, cut them in half, discard the yolk and fill them with this dip.  This gives you a fancy, gluten-free, finger-friendly appetizer. 

*At this stage you could add extra flavor with some pine nuts, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, asiago cheese, garlic, smoked Paprika, etc.  The base is tasty on its own, but you can have a lot of fun personalizing it. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Featured Product: Nesquik

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.


Nesquik Syrups
I'm a big fan of the chocolate and strawberry Nesquik syrups because they don't use corn syrup.  Luckily they're also gluten-free! Their bottled chocolate and strawberry milk is also labeled for gluten, which can be a lifesaver if you're out on the road and need a quick fix until you can get to a gluten-free meal.  The milk is stocked in most gas stations and convenience stores.

Their gluten status is really difficult to track down, however.  If you don't have the Cecelia's Marketplace guide, you can go about four levels deep into the Nesquik website to a specific product page, where you will be given the option to live chat with a representative who can verify the gluten status.

The website seems designed by someone who never actually uses food, because it's all about flash and games and marketing shots and not about the actual...you know...FOOD.  You can't even get a list of ingredients or nutritional information (but you can play a "fun" video game!)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Featured Gluten-Free Resource: Travel Info Cards

I have no relationship with the companies or organizations I review, nor do I receive any compensation for my reviews.

The Gluten-Free Travel Restaurant Cards

The cards can be found in 54 languages here:  http://www.celiactravel.com/cards/

Because gluten-free can be difficult enough to navigate in restaurants in my native language, I can't even imagine trying to explain it with a translation dictionary.  These free printable cards (although you are encouraged to donate to the website if you find them helpful) translates basic information about gluten sensitivity in 54 different languages.
Now because the cards can't possibly be an easy reference AND all-inclusive, they're more a solution for the mildly gluten-sensitive.  Having a protracted conversation about cross-contamination and safe food handling in another language seems awfully ambitious.  If you're so sensitive that even slight traces can make you sick, these cards won't be enough of a safeguard.  But they're a great way to start the conversation with your travel host, guide, or hotel wherever you're staying. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gluten-Free Featured Product: Edy's Fruit Bars

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.


Edy's Fruit Bars
These are a fantastic frozen snack, as they contain real fruit and aren't over-sweetened.  My partner goes through the Coconut bars like crazy, while I like the lemonade and strawberry best.  The Coconut bars have shreds of coconut, and while the underlying flavor is delicious, there is a texture problem for me. 

According to their website, the following flavors are gluten-free.  To verify, go to their website, click on "Flavor/Ingredient Search" at the bottom of the page, and select "gluten-free" in the pop-up box.  Many of their ice cream flavors are also gluten-free and will come up in the listing. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flourless Chocolate Cake (gluten free)

Flourless Chocolate Cake

An extremely rich, dark chocolate concoction with the consistency and taste of a truffle. It sounds (and tastes!) much more complex than it is, and the result is something that will wow the crowd. This is best served with a topping to off-set the intensity of the chocolate. Fresh whipping cream is my choice, but for a potluck fresh berries may be a better pick because the cream may fall unless it is kept well-chilled. Even fresh fruit like sliced bananas would be an interesting twist and complement the chocolate well. cream-cheese frosting or fruit dip may be too sweet for your taste, but try it and see!

The liqueur does not entirely bake off, so if alcohol is an issue try substituting another liquid. Water will give a more basic chocolate flavor, while coffee would add a touch of mocha. A chocolate-compatible fruit juice such as orange, cherry or pomegranate would do interesting things as well. Use water and add 3/4 tsp peppermint extract for a chocolate-mint flavor.

If you use a spring-form cake pan, either wrap the outside really well with tin foil to prevent the water bath from leaking in (this is tricky to really make water-tight though), or set a large pan of water on the rack directly below the cake pan (as close as possible). The bain-marie adds moisture so that the surface of the cake does not dry out and crack during the long baking.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur (see note above for substitutions)
1 cup salted butter (or unsalted + 1/4 tsp salt)
3/4 cup white sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
14 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 large eggs
3 egg whites

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

start a pot of water to boil. You'll be either setting the cake pan in a larger pan filled with boiling water (preferred), or if using a springform pan, setting a pan of boiling water directly underneath it. Make sure you boil enough water to give you a 1" deep "bath" (bain-marie).

Line the bottom of a 10" cake pan with parchment and grease it and the sides lightly. See notes above for using a springform pan. You can make mini-cakes with liners in a cupcake tin, but reduce cooking time to 40 minutes.

Place the chocolate pieces in a large glass mixing bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stir, then microwave for an additional 20 seconds. Continue stirring until smooth, cooking for an addition 10 seconds at a time if the pieces are not melting after stirring for one minute.

Combine liqueur (or substitute) and sugar in a small saucepan and stir constantly over medium-low heat until the liquid is clear and sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Soften butter (microwave 5 seconds at a time on high, turning sticks 1/4 turn after each interval until very soft)

stir butter well into chocolate until smooth

stir sugared liquid into mixture until smooth

beat eggs in a separate bowl. Slowly add about 1 cup (doesn't need to be exact) of the chocolate mixture to the eggs while stirring briskly. Then stir the egg mixture back into the main bowl, continuing to stir. This is called "tempering." You are bringing the eggs up to temperature before adding them to the hot liquid. This prevents bits of cooked egg from spoiling the texture of the cake.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Fill the bain-marie with boiling water 1/2" up the sides.
Bake for 45 minutes. the center will still look wet when you pull it out, but it will continue baking for a while even after you've removed it from the oven and will set up when chilled.

Leave the cake in the pan to chill. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill for at least 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator to set.

To remove from pan, let the bottom rest in hot water for 2 minutes. Then use a knife dipped in hot water to run around the edge and loosen. turn over on a serving dish and let loosen/fall. Cut with a sharp knife dipped in hot water between slices. See notes above for toppings/garnish. Store in fridge up to 1 week.

Note: Baker brand baking chocolate is listed as gluten-free as of the 2012 Cecelia's Marketplace guide. Check with the manufacturers, because baking chocolates rarely label for gluten.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Resource: Simply Gluten-Free

I have no affiliation with the companies or organizations I review, nor do I receive any compensation for my reviews.

Simply Gluten-Free

This recipe and informational website is the source of my all-time favorite gluten-free recipe.  The author has actually found a way to successfully bake gluten-free french bread!  It is crusty and chewy and everything I've always loved in wheat-based french bread.  It is our go-to bread at home, when we have bread at all.  It makes a perfect toasted french dip sandwich, and this past Thanksgiving I actually managed gluten-free stuffing that only needed a little extra liquid to be perfect (add another 1/2 cup of broth when using GF bread for baked stuffing). 

My other favorite on this site is the gluten-free pie crust.  We used it for pumpkin pie this Christmas, and it was as flaky and tasty as the pie crust I grew up with.  It is rather delicate and hard to handle.  I recommend rolling it between layers of wax paper or parchment.  Peel off the top layer, flip the crust into the pie pan, shape it, then peel off the other layer.  This will help keep it somewhat intact (but be prepared to have to pinch and mend a little). 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Featured Gluten Free Product: Argo Corn Starch

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT

A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews. Gluten-Free status is based on information from the manufacturer, the current Cecelia's Marketplace shopping guide and personal experience, and may change if the company changes formulation or manufacturing processes.
 
Argo Corn Starch
(may be Kingsford Corn Starch in your region, in similar packaging)


Yes, you can buy corn starch in specialty stores that are specifically made by gluten-free manufacturers and marketed to people on a gluten-free diet....or you can buy Argo/Kingsford from your regular grocery store for half the price.  It can be substituted for tapioca, arrowroot, or potato starch in gluten-free recipes on a 1 for 1 basis if you can't find or run out of a specialty starch.  It can also be used in place of flour for breading and thickening (use 1/2 the amount of corn starch as you would flour for thickening). 

The manufacturer website lists the gluten-free status in several responses on their F.A.Q. page

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pecan Crusted Chicken Strips (gluten free)

Pecan Crusted Chicken Strips (Gluten-Free)
 
Ingredients:

2 large chicken breasts (less than 2lbs)
1 cup pecan meal (you can crush pecan halves in the blender or food processor if you don't have meal; process until coarse crumbs)
3 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
pinch black pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (+ as needed)

Instructions:

Pound chicken breasts until less than 1" thick and cut into strips. Pat dry with paper towels.
Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium heat

Whisk egg and water together in a bowl

Mix other ingredients thoroughly in a separate bowl to make pecan coating, making sure starch is evenly mixed in and there are no lumps

Dip each strip of chicken in the egg/water mixture, then immediately dredge in pecan coating. Place in heated skilled.

Cook for approximately 5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 6 minutes.

If making multiple batches, scrape debris out of skillet and refresh oil between batches.

Excellent for a salad topping or alone with dipping sauces.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Featured Gluten Free Resource: GF Registry

I have no relationship with the companies or organizations I review, nor do I receive any compensation for my reviews.  

The Gluten Free Registry Restaurant Finder

This web resource (including an android app option) offers a geographical search for restaurants that claim to offer gluten-free dining options.  The most useful part, however, is the user reviews.  While Urban Spoon reviews are handy for finding good food, this registry focuses on SAFE food for the gluten-sensitive.

In order to make it a better resource, please add reviews of both your favorite gluten-free restaurants and those that made you sick so that others can make good decisions.  It is generally also helpful to include your sensitivity level in your review (i.e. whether you just need to avoid bread and breading, or if even trace exposure to gluten makes you horribly ill).  If you are only mildly sensitive, you may be able to eat safely at a place that would make someone with a severe sensitivity very sick. 

The primary limitation of the Registry is that it depends on diner reviews, which depend on the diner's gluten sensitivity level and the kitchen/waitstaff that happened to be working that night.  We visited one restaurant (PF Changs) in Atlanta and had a fabulous experience the first time.  I wrote a glowing review on the registry.  Unfortunately the next two visits involved bad gluten exposures and I had to add a new, negative review.  If a restaurant only has a few reviews based on single visits, you take the chance that the diner was lucky that night. 

Please use your own judgement and never hesitate to:

a) ask to talk to the manager and/or chef to make a more informed decision, and
b) walk out or stick to drinks if you see things that make you nervous (unclean plates or tables, uninformed wait staff, etc.)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sausage Kebabs with Orange-Ginger Glaze (gluten-free)

These are perfect for gatherings that offer a grill, or they can be done in the broiler. Mix up the fruits and vegetables however you like!

For kebabs:

skewers (8 large (15") or 25 of the little wooden ones
1 pound sweet Italian sausages
1 small pineapple
1/2 pound sweet peppers
1 medium zucchini or summer squash
6-8 oz whole mushrooms (min. 1" diameter)
1 red onion

For Marinade/Glaze:

1 large naval orange
1/2 tsp dried ginger or 1 tsp minced fresh
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Set wooden skewers to soak in water (this prevents them from scorching while cooking)

Chop veggies and meat into 1.5" chunks if using the small wooden skewers or 2" chunks if using large metal skewers.

Mushrooms and peppers may need to be in larger pieces because they have a tendency to split, but it will depend on the type and ripeness. Try a few pieces on the skewers before cutting up the whole container.

The Italian sausage will be easier to work with if you don't thaw it completely first. Cutting it up frozen will give you neater slices and it will thaw on the skewers as it marinades.

It will be easier if you cut up everything before you start assembling the skewers. Trust me! Then you can pace your ingredients so you don't end up with one last skewer that's all zucchini. Then again...that might be tasty!

add an assortment of meats and veggies/fruits to the skewers. They don't all have to be the same! I find that beginning and adding with a pepper or something "solid" will keep things from sliding off while you handle them. Don't make sausage the first or last thing on the skewer or it may fall off while cooking.

Set the skewers on a cookie sheet or foil. You can keep metal skewers from poking through the ends of the foil with wine corks, but remove before baking.

Mix together marinade ingredients and brush liberally over all the skewers.

Cover in foil and let marinade in fridge for at least 1/2 hour. Uncover before cooking.

Grill or broil in oven for 15 minutes in a single layer, turning once during cooking to brown both sides. If you broil the skewers on a cooking sheet with sides it will catch the juices and keep you from having to clean your oven afterwards! If grilling, you can brush on more marinade 10 minutes before they're done.

Feel free to sub other materials of course, but look for combinations of sweet and spicy to compliment the glaze. Try apples and peaches instead of pineapple, or add/substitute hot peppers if you prefer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Boars Head

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and is available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.

Boar's Head Meats and Cheeses

On their website, Boar's Head says "All of our meats, cheeses and condiments are gluten free."  In addition, just in case you have a question, they have a complete list of their gluten-free products.  Best yet, I've found them in almost any grocery store that has a "fancy cheese" cooler in the produce section.  I was disappointed by their gruyere, but their hard sausages are fantastic on a cracker and would be a great addition to a lunch or a wine and cheese party.  Best of all, since all their products are GF, you don't have to stop and look anything up.  





Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gluten Free Resources: Cecelia's Marketplace Guide



This is the mother and father of all gluten-free resources!  I don't even know how I managed to feed us before we found this book.  It is an annual publications (with updates posted on the website as information changes) that simply lists every gluten-free store shelf item they could get information on.  It tags items that are manufactured on shared equipment, in "also processes" facilities.  Getting this book means no more long Google sessions trying to track down gluten information on products, or hours on hold waiting for customer service to say "what's gluten?".  The guide includes pet foods, toiletries (shampoos, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc.), and over the counter medications and supplements as well as thousands of food products.  It is compact and fits in a purse or glove compartment for accessibility. 

The down side is that the guide is produced in and aimed at U.S. products.  Some companies have different gluten guidelines and manufacturing processes based on location, so the information for the U.S. may not be reliable outside it. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

French Chocolate Truffles (gluten-free)

Makes about 3 dozen.

Ingredients:
9 and 1/2 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter (unsalted)
3 Tablespoons white granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 pound ice cubes

Prep:
  1. Measure out Grand Marnier into a small cup and set it within reach (but not where you'll tip it over).
  2. Fill the bottom of a large bowl with ice and add several inches of water.  The bowl should fit the top of your double-boiler. 
  3. Cover two cookie sheets with wax or parchment paper and make room for them in the refrigerator.
  4. Break chocolate into chunks, either as pre-scored by manufacturer or approx 1/2" to 1" pieces.
  5. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water
Note:  you can improvise a double-boiler by setting a metal bowl in a pot of boiling water so that it floats.  Make sure the bowl is large enough that it can not tip over in the pot, but small enough to allow steam to escape around it.  The metal bowl is then the "top" of your double-boiler.

Steps:
  1. Place chocolate pieces in top half of the double-boiler
  2. Bring water beneath to a boil then reduce to low heat so that it barely simmers. Stir the chocolate occasionally until it is melted smooth.
  3. In the meantime, bring cream, sugar and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring slowly but constantly. Use a flat edge wooden spoon or silicone spatula to scrape bottom and keep it from scorching.
  4. Once the cream is boiling and the chocolate is melted and smooth, whisk the cream into it until combined.
  5. Add the Grand Marnier and stir it in.
  6. Place the bowl with the mixture into the pan of ice water and whisk lightly until the mixture thickens. Do not use an electric beater, and don't beat hard as if you're trying to make meringue. You should get a medium, steady rhythm going because you could be whisking for a while. Go until the mixture holds its shape as medium-stiff peaks, as if whipped cream. Replace the ice in the bowl beneath if it melts.
  7. When the mixture is fairly stiff and cool, use either the pastry bag or a teaspoon to drop bite-size dollops onto the wax paper. They don't have to be spaced out very far as they will not expand.
  8. Cool in the refrigerator until they are set up (could take an hour or two, but you could leave them overnight at this stage)
  9. When they are set, mix the cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a quart size ziplock bag.
  10. Drop a few truffles at a time into the bag and shake gently to coat with the cocoa and sugar. Remove to a separate bowl or tupperware.
  11. When the truffles are all coated, store in fridge or freezer, sealed.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Chocovine

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and area available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.
Chocovine
Okay, as a wine drinker, I was a little "shwah!?" about chocolate wine.  But if you consider it less as a wine and more as a gluten-free substitute for Bailey's, it starts to make sense.  Yes, sadly, Bailey's will not say one way or the other if their Irish Cream is gluten-free, and there are cross-contamination risks in their manufacturing.  Chocovine is mighty tasty in coffee and hot chocolate.  You could drink it mixed with cream over ice, or use it as a baking ingredient in anything from frosting to caramels to flourless chocolate cake. I would imagine it would be tasty made into whip cream or pudding for a parfait as well.  The company states on their Facebook site that Chocovine is gluten-free. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Calico Beans (gluten-free)

Calico Beans (baked beans) can be oven baked or cooked in the crock pot.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs lean hamburger
1/2 lb bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 large can (min 20oz) lima or pinto beans
1 large can (min 20 oz) kidney beans
1 large can (min 20 oz) pork and beans

Sauce:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup catsup
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp salt
2 tsp wine vinegar

Note: This makes a sweet sauce.  If you're looking to make it a little more savory, omit the white sugar and add 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, and 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.  Fry 2 minced cloves of garlic with the onion.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (if not using crock pot)
  2. Fry the hamburger and drain off the fat.
  3. Fry the bacon and drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat.
  4. fry onions in the 1 tablespoon bacon fat and fry until translucent.
  5. Drain all the canned beans well and add to drained meat.
  6. Combine sauce ingredients. Stir into meat and bean mixture. 
  7. Bake at 350 F oven for 1 hour, or cook in crock pot for 2-3 hours.
This freezes well if you need to make it well ahead, and the leftovers taste even better than the original. You can store in the fridge for up to five days and re-heat as needed.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Ancient Harvest

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.


Ancient Harvest Quinoa-Corn Pasta
Out of all the gluten-free pastas available at the local grocery store, this one is absolutely the closest in flavor and texture to wheat-based pasta.  The quinoa doesn't turn gummy and pasty the way rice flour has a tendency to, and the flavor is closer to wheat than corn pasta. I have used it successfully as stand-alone pasta, as well as cooking it into chicken-noodle soup (I used the spaghetti noodles broken into thirds).  The soup froze and re-heated well without the pasta breaking down in the process.  I keep pestering my local store to stock their lasagna noodles, but to no avail!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Meringues (Gluten Free)

These are gluten-free, fat-free, very cheap to make, and are great if you need something to keep fresh for a long while before the potluck.

You will need an electric mixer. Whipping egg whites by hand is a test of endurance. Even one of the $20 hand-held mixers from Wal-mart will work, even if it takes a little longer than a stand mixer.

4 egg whites
2 cups confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Beat eggs until they turn white and frothy. Add cream of tartar and vanilla, then add sugar gradually as you beat until it is all incorporated. Beat on high (or gradually up to 8 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) until stiff peaks form. When you lift the mixer, the resulting point should stay sharp instead of folding over.

Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a large round or star tip. In a pinch you can cut a corner out of a gallon ziplock and use it as a pastry bag, or even just two spoons to make meringue mounds.
Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours. Switch the sheets and turn them after 1 hour for even baking. After 2 hours, turn off the oven and leave the meringues where they are for another hour to gradually cool.

They are more drying out than baking.

If you're in a hurry, you can bake them at 225 for an hour and a half, switching and turning after the first hour. You'll need to watch them carefully for any signs that they are browning on the bottom (best test is the taste test!) at which point you should turn off the oven and let them rest for 30-60 minutes to finish drying.

Store immediately in airtight container.

NOTES:
You can reduce the sugar to 1.5 cups if you increase the cream of tartar to 1/2 tsp, or eliminate the cream of tartar by adding an additional 1/4 cup sugar. Either sugar or tartar is needed to stabilize the whites.

The meringues will not expand any more than they are, so you can set them almost touching each other on the baking sheet if you need the room. I like to make mini-meringues by setting 1" dots very close together. This recipe will fill two baking sheets completely with mini meringues.  (reduce baking time by at least 30 minutes and turn off the oven as soon as they're hard).

You can make meringue "baskets" just like the clay baskets you made as a kid by coiling a long snake of clay. Once they're baked you can serve them filled with something, like fresh berries, custard, or ice cream.

Eggs will separate better cold, but will give you more volume at room temperature. Once you separate the eggs, let the whites sit for 30 minutes to warm and they will whip up higher.

Fresh eggs will give you more stable meringue, 4-5 day old eggs will whip up with more volume (because the fluid is thinner). For this, the stability of fresh eggs is better for handling in the pastry bag.

Play with additives once you have an idea of how the meringue behaves. Try adding 1/4 cup shredded coconut and some almond or coconut extract. Try adding mini chocolate chips and a few tablespoons of cocoa powder. Or maybe a few tablespoons of orange juice. frosting dye added at the soft peak stage will give you colors.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Thai Kitchen

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and are available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.

Thai Kitchen Instant Noodles
I like to think of these as "Ramen for grownups" but really they're Ramen for gluten-intolerant people.  Just like Ramen noodles, they cook up in three minutes with boiling water, you add seasoning packets, and enjoy.  Unlike Ramen they use gluten-free rice noodles and offer more complex flavors.  My absolute favorite is the lemongrass and Chili.  These are available in most grocery stores.  Thai kitchen also has other offerings, including sauces, plain rice noodles, and pre-cooked lo-mein dishes in vacuum packs.  They label gluten-free on their gluten-free products, but the location of that indicator is not consistent across all products.  Sometimes they emblazon it on the front of the box, sometimes it's under the ingredients list in small type.  It's generally worth the hunt. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Ore-Ida Potatoes

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and is available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.



Ore-Ida Frozen Fries
Gluten-free fries are hard to get.  Restaurants rarely have a dedicated fryer, and so their fries are generally unsafe due to cross-contamination from breaded products.  That's why the Ore-Ida fries have been a great find for us.  I particularly love the sweet potato fries, while my partner's partial to the waffle fries.
the parent company, Heinz, offers a full list of their gluten-free products, including regional variations.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Balsamic Vinegar and Sea Salt Caramels (Gluten Free)

One of the highlights of spending Christmas with my parents in Florida (besides the salt-water swimming pools and the Siesta Key drum circle) was the visit to Katy Rose Olive Oils in Sarasota.  Before any real foodie gets condescending about it, let me say that in southwest Michigan the idea of an oil and vinegar bar is pretty damn exotic.

Update: 5/20/14:  There are half a dozen of these in the Atlanta area, and I picked up red apple balsamic vinegar at Oli + Ve in Roswell for another batch.  

You walk into this place and it is rows of "casks" of olive oils and vinegars.  You can taste each one, and/or they will fill bottles for purchase.  Everything they have is gluten-free, and they stock other gluten-free items, such as pastas and candies, elsewhere in the store.

The foodie impulse, of course was "one of EVERYTHING!" I ended up with a large bottle of an herbed olive oil, a medium bottle of a fig balsamic vinegar (so delicious on fruity salads!) and a tiny bottle of the red apple balsamic vinegar.  The last is a thick vinegar with a rich, dark tart apple flavor, and I had a specific purpose in mind for it.  As soon as I tasted it, I knew it was destined for homemade caramels.

Now the caramels are made, and so very, very tasty.  I'll share the recipe, but know that you can either substitute another (high quality) fruity balsamic vinegar or leave it out altogether and they will still be very, very tasty!

1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup corn syrup
2 1/4 cups (lightly packed) brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
1 1/2  tablespoons red apple balsamic vinegar
Extra butter for greasing

  1. line a 9"x9" pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. 
  2. In the saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. 
  3. When it is melted, add the sugar and stir well until it is all incorporated.
  4. Stir in corn syrup and cream
  5. Cook over medium heat for two to three minutes, then raise temperature to medium-high.
  6. Stir constantly until the mixture boils, then reduce back to medium heat. 
  7. Keep at an even boil until the mixture thickens (30 minutes to 1 hour), stirring frequently to prevent separation. 
  8. If sugar begins to crystallize on side of pot, use a wet basting brush and cold water to rinse down the crystals so that they do not affect the texture of the caramels.
  9. When mixture reaches 245 degrees Fahrenheit (firm ball stage) on a candy thermometer or a spoonful dropped into ice water gives you the right texture, remove caramel from heat.  
  10. Add sea salt and vinegar and stir briskly for a few seconds to incorporate. 
  11. Pour immediately into buttered parchment-lined pans.
  12. Allow to cool for several hours or until completely firmed.
  13. Cut into small pieces with heavy duty kitchen shears, a knife, or a pizza roller.  Greasing the cutting edge with butter will help prevent sticking.  Wrap each piece in wax paper. 

The fruity flavor of the vinegar will be subtle at first, but will develop more over time. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gluten Free Featured Product: Herdez Salsa Casera

GLUTEN FREE FEATURED PRODUCT
A regular postings of gluten-free products that I use myself and is available in my local grocery store.  You can check your local store for these items, order them online, or ask your store to stock them. I do not have any relationship with the companies in question, nor do I receive any form of compensation for these reviews.


Herdez Salsa Casera
I was first introduced to this when my parents lived in Mexico for a few years.  It was in cans there, but my local store (Publix) has it in bottles as well.  Look for it in the store's dedicated section for imported Hispanic/Latino foods, not the generic salsa/chips section.  It's a very fresh-tasting salsa, with minimal ingredients.  It's more watery than we're used to in the U.S., but it also isn't cooked into mush.  You can actually tell the tomato from the onion when you take a bite.  It runs mild, so if you generally like medium salsa, go for the hot.
The parent company is Hormel, who lists gluten-free product offerings from all their subsidiaries on their website.  Herdez salsa casera is near the bottom under "Miscellaneous Items."