My DH and I went a little overboard a few weekends ago, and decided to go berry picking. When I was growing up, we would go berry picking in the summer, and bring back the best strawberries for use in pies, jams, etc. My DH had never been berry picking before (well, ok, he picked a few blackberries off of a bush in his backyard, but never had the full experience). So I took it upon myself to introduce him to this weekend activity.
If I haven’t mentioned, I grew up in CA, where the climate is more temperate, and you can spend hours out in the sun without dying of heatstroke. In TX, the weekends quickly go from warm to HOT. So after I found the pick-ur-own farm, we decided to get there early to avoid the worst of the weekend heat, which this summer has been brutal. (Is it really only the start of June?!?) We got up at 6 AM on a Saturday (earlier than I get up on weekdays mind you), drove an hour and a half, and started by picking blackberries for an hour or so. After picking about a quarter bushel, we decided to call it quits and switched to picking strawberries. Those went much faster, although were much more labor intensive, and after two quarter bushels, we moved on to the last fruit of the day - peaches.
I had never picked peaches before, and have found that those are so much easier! All you have to do is reach up and grab them. And most times you don’t even have to reach that far! Anyway, after a bushel of peaches (27lb for those who don’t talk farming), we called it a day and went home. And proceeded to spend the next three days packing them all away in a GF fashion.
Intersted in what we did with all of the fruit? Well, this is where I am going to brag. We made sooooo much stuff. Drum roll please:
1. Peach-blackberry jam (8 jam jars) and strawberry-blackberry jam (6 jam jars). Both very yummy.
2. Peach cobbler x 2, berry cobbler, peach crisp, peach pie (glutinous, to be given away).
3. Two quarts each of frozen peaches, strawberries, and blackberries.
4. GF rustic peach bread. Alas this was before I had perfected my GF breads, so they are not as awesome if they could have been.
5. Peach maple-glazed upside down corn cake and blackberry maple-glazed upside down corn cake. (Very tasty, picture of the peach version below. Blackberry version we added a glaze.)
6 . A whole lot of Strawberry daquiris! Yum! (A necessity after picking and processing all that fruit!)
So one of the things that has been hounding me since my switch to GF living has been bread. I never used to like bread all that much, back when I was eating store-bought bakery style bread. Perhaps it was because I was trying to make it extra healthy, and was purchasing only multi-grain bread. Whatever the case, I have found that I now love bread, now that I am eating only GF bread. In fact, my husband jokes that I eat bread more than him (a confirmed carb-aholic).
My dilemma has been that GF bread loaves are much more expensive than non-GF bread loaves - at least double the price for a smaller loaf. I have therefore been on a mission to perfect baking my own bread loaves, which has proven very, very frustrating. I used to consider myself a great baker, including breads. Alas, I have since learned that yeast breads (of which I had only baked a few - most of my breads were quick breads) are a different animal all together.
Compared to making non-GF breads, I really actually enjoy making GF breads, for the simple fact that there is no kneading required. NO KNEADING. (Sooooo much easier. And no double rise. Also a great perk.) However, I tried three or four cookbooks, made my own flour mixes (per a recipe), used silicone, non-stick, and ceramic pans, all to no avail. My breads would sink after baking, be gooey in the middle, and overall not a success.
It is therefore with great pride that I announce success at last! Last weekend I bought myself a new cookbook that seems to have done the trick. I made two yeast breads (plain white and millet) both of which rose perfectly, had a wonderful crust, and taste fantastic! I have a picture of the millet bread below, you will have to trust that when cut it looks beautiful! (It has sesame and poppy seeds on top, which unfortunately fell off during slicing, but I will work on that for next time.)
Sooo….work has been keeping me way too busy to post anything lately, although I have quite a few topics in mind for when things settle down! However, my Dad sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal article on gluten sensitivity that I found interesting. Much of the information I already knew, but for those who aren’t familiar, it gives a good introduction to the three types of gluten-related health afflictions.
You can read the article here:
Because I am not a medical professional, please don’t take anything I say as medical knowledge. But I am somewhat familiar with the topic, so for those who aren’t aware, there are three different types of gluten-related disorders.
1. Gluten allergy. This would be where you end up with swelling, rashes, etc. from ingesting or coming into contact with gluten. I think that gluten allergies may get lumped into wheat allergies (i.e., I am not sure if it is the gluten or some other protein in the wheat that causes the allergy).
2. Celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the lining of the intestines after ingesting gluten. It can lead to further illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease, and can be diagnosed through blood work and intestinal scopes. (It can’t be diagnosed properly if the subject has removed gluten from their diet.)
3. Gluten intolerance. Symptoms are very similar to celiac disease, however, the body is not actually attacking the intestines. This seems to be one of those medical disorders which is a last chance type diagnoses - in other words, if it is not an allergy, or celiac disease, and removing gluten cures the symptoms, it may be gluten intolerance.
I should say that to the best of my knowledge, I am gluten intolerant. (Definitely not allergic, and negative test results for celiac disease.) Before my initiation into the world of gluten sensitivity, I had a hard time thinking about gluten intolerance as an actual disorder. It is much easier to say “this is the problem!” when you have a definitive diagnosis, such as an allergy or celiac disease. However, food intolerance should not be surprising to most people, as there is another, more common intolerance out there - lactose intolerance (which, according to the National Library of Medicine, affects some 30 million adults in the US over the age of 20). And since I am one of those 30 million adults, I don’t know why I struggled with gluten intolerance!
Anyway, that is the 5 second overview on the different types of gluten sensitivity. Hopefully it was somewhat enlightening!
It has been a few months of eating on my new diet, and I am developing a small list of favorite GF foods. I would like to share them with you, just in case you are ever interested in going my way. (It will help you avoid the numerous icky GF foods out there!) By no means do I mean this list to be all inclusive of the best GF foods out there, and I am sure that there are some people who would disagree with some of the foods I have on my list. But I like them, and I guess since this is my blog, I get to put them out there for the world to see! So here are some of my favorites, by food type.
Bread. Just in case you don’t have time to bake your own bread (which I’m sure almost no one does all the time), I really, really like Udi’s breads. Pre GF days, I was eating artisan breads - mostly whole grains with a really good texture and flavor, so switching to GF bread was a huge shock. The vast majority of the GF breads I tried tasted like sawdust - which unfortunately meant that I would eat a slide or two and then end up chucking the rest. Udi’s breads definitely do not taste like sawdust - and in fact, I probably eat more bread now than I did before. That could be related to the fact that GF bread loaf slices tend to be smaller and lighter, so I feel like I need more to be equivalent to a non GF bread. But regardless, I have liked all of the Udi’s loafs I have tried. In particular, I normally buy plain white (I am reverting to kid-dom again), mostly b/c that is the type you can find most easily). But I also like their multigrain (more like a traditional whole wheat type bread). Even my DH likes this bread (although we still buy him regular bread).
Snacks. Because everyone needs snacks! If you are going for party type snacks, this is one area where I think Glutino has it mastered. They have some really yummy multigrain chips and some awesome pretzels. The crackers are great in that they come in two small pouches within the box, so they don’t get soggy before you finish eating them. And of course, if you are going for a meal on the go, LARABARs and their chocolate twins JOCALAT bars are all GF and very filling. I always have some of those in my desk at work in case I end up hungry after lunch.
Dessert. Ok, I have finally found it! It is a chocolate cake by French Meadow Bakery. My DH and I both love it - in fact, my DH said it tasted just like regular cake. We have only found it at one grocery store by us, in the freezer section, although according to their website, it is available in more stores near us. We like the cake at room temperature or still partially frozen. I think it is the icing that makes the cake - there is no shortage - but the cake itself is very good (not dry and not super dense). We have also purchased their chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, which are good as well, but the cupcake is more like the texture of an angel food cake - lots of air pockets, which makes it seem more like a dry cake even though it isn’t. The chocolate cupcakes are definitely the best!
To close my restaurant reviews, I am going to finish by writing about fast(er) food options. I don’t like fast food (McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.), so I’m not talking about that kind of dining. I am instead talking about quicker meal options that lean towards the healthy side. Knowing about these types of dining options are coming to be important, for example, for working lunches, where we don’t always have time for a sit down meal. Unfortunately, like my first post, I have not had a chance to eat at these places on a GF diet myself. However, I imagine that will be changing in the not too distant future. Unfortunately, there are limited options in this arena, so here are a the ones I have found:
Beans and rice anyone? One of my coworkers mentioned this as a potential dining option, since there is a Chipotle near our work. Chipotle’s menu indicates that those wishing to eat GF can eat almost anything on their menu (hooray!). Indeed, GF modifications are their first entry on their special diet page, and they even indicate that they will change their gloves if you are worried about cross contamination. (I suppose I should ask them to do that, so I will have to get over my dislike of making people alter things just for me.)
I may have mentioned before that I love asian food. And so here is another faster type GF option. From the makers of P.F. Chang’s (very GF friendly, as I mentioned in my previous blog post), we have Pei Wei. I am curious to know if they have the same standard as P.F. Chang’s - a distinct station for GF meal prep, but have not asked. They have a decent GF menu - many options to choose from.
Meal in a cup anyone? I know some people do smoothies for meals (I don’t generally, but I do like smoothies). Obviously, fruits and veggies are naturally gluten free, so this one should be a no brainer for the most part. The tricky part would be when you add the boosts. But Jamba Juice’s website indicates “All of our smoothies are non-gluten, with one exception - Pomegranate Heart Happy. Most of our Boosts and Super Boots are gluten free too, except Daily Vitamin, Energy and Heart Happy.”
Lastly, I would like to make mention of one final chain - that hopefully I may soon be able to eat at.
Ok, so this is a little premature. I haven’t eaten at a Subway since I started eating GF, which distresses me to no end, since I view sandwiches as a potentially very healthy quick meal. But Subway is testing GF sandwiches and a gluten free brownie option at 700 outlets in Dallas and East Texas. Hooray! Apparently this was spurred on by Subway’s own employees - and here’s hoping that it will spread like wildfire to the other parts of the country. (As a side note, in the article it mentions that Subway apparently tries hard to meet dietary needs- with some stores offering options for those with diabetes, and others offering options for kosher meals and halal foods. Go Subway!)
To continue my last post, I thought I would write about some of the national chains which offer GF dining options. I am a fan of national chains b/c you always know what you will get - whether it is in NY, CA, or TX. So, here are four national chains to further broaden my GF dining experiences. Still to come, GF fast food (and no, that does not mean my options at McDonald’s).
Growing up in the Bay Area, I absolutely love asian food. I have been to P.F. Chang’s many times before, never with the intent of GF dining. I had heard that they offered GF dining but had not looked into it - until my parents bought my DH and I a gift card for Valentine’s Day. My mom mentioned that she had done some intense research to go with it - she had gone to two separate restaurants and asked how they guaranteed the GF food they prepared was indeed GF. And guess what? P.F. Chang’s has a separate station specifically for GF meal prep. (That was confirmed at both of the restaurants she went to.) With this new information, I am eagerly looking forward to using my gift card (especially with their extensive GF menu)!
Carino’s Italian Grill
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? GF food at an Italian restaurant? I will be honest, I was hesitant to try it - but we were in a smaller town with fewer dining options, and it was late, so we went for it. (I had previously verified that they did indeed offer GF options.) When we got there, I asked for the GF menu. It was not too bad, there were quite a few options. The disadvantage was that they basically have you order the normal options and specify how to make it gluten free - i.e., no flour on the chicken. However, they did work with the Gluten Intolerance Group to develop the menu, so they have tried very hard. When I ordered, the waitress asked if I was allergic to wheat. Now, to those who don’t have food issues, there is a very big difference between food allergies (i.e., will result in asphyxiation), diseases (i.e., celiac disease where your body attacks itself), and intolerances (i.e., will just make you sick). To the waitress, I said no, I am not allergic. And she said that if it was an allergic thing, they make sure to prepare it carefully - different utensils, prep, etc. After hearing that, I said ok, for your purposes, I am allergic. Long story short, I had no problems after eating there.
I know, enough with the italian already. But this was actually the first national chain I ate at while on a GF diet. Similar to the menu at Carino’s, the menu at Olive Garden is limited GF menu, but, as I have a husband who loves italian food, it is nice to know that I have options.
BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
Pizza anyone? I have had their GF pizza several times, and am a big fan. (I think it’s the sauce.) My DH likes the beer, so it’s a win win. :) They also have other GF options (soup, baked potatoes, etc.). It’s similar to some of the other restaurants in that you have to specify the meal modifications, but for the most part, you just have to tell them no croutons.
Well in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would write a post on a few of the different dining options (i.e., restaurants with gluten free options) I have been told of over the past few months. For now I’m going to focus on restaurants I know to be local to me. There are also national chains with GF fare that I will mention later.
Java Dive Cafe/Java Dive Bistro
Thanks to my Mom for sending me the info on this one. Ironically, I met my vet here before I knew it was a dining option for me! I’m going to have to try them out sometime - they are a GIG Certified Gluten Free Restaurant. Sorry folks, this is strictly a local restaurant.
I’ve been to this restaurant pre-GF days, and have always loved the southwestern style food. Not one, not two, but three locations in Austin to choose from, this place offers separate GF lunch and dinner menus, developed in conjunction with the GIG. Ok, this is not a local chain per se, but there are only a few states in which Z Tejas has locations. Menus vary by location. This is a favorite working lunch spot - thanks to my coworkers for pointing this one out to me!
Maudie’s Tex Mex
For those who like tex-mex. (Since you can’t live in TX without eating tex-mex.) A local chain, they just opened up a restaurant by me, although I haven’t been there yet. If you need a beer to wash down the salsa, they serve Red Bridge! (And no, I’m not into beer so have no idea if it’s any good.)
A Plethora of Options
And lastly, not to steal another writer’s thunder (because she put a lot of work into reviewing GF Austin area restaurants), here are a whole bunch of other local GF dining options:
For those of you living near me, no I don’t mean Newflower Market (recently renamed after it’s parent, Sunflower Market). I am talking about my adventures with new types of flours. Remember how I have been putting my grain mill through its paces? This weekend I get to grind another new flour - quinoa flour.
I have been baking my way through some of the cookbooks I got for Christmas, and one of the recipes I will soon be trying - Blackberry Quinoa Muffins - calls for, you guessed it, quinoa flour. These muffins sound great, and as I know that quinoa is a superstar in terms of nutrition, I am looking forward to trying them.
Last week I experimented with another new flour - buckwheat flour. I am sure that buckwheat flour is also a nutritional superstar, but you definitely have to be prepared for the taste. Although the taste is not bad, if you are not interested in experimenting, I might recommend skipping the buckwheat flour.
I made apple buckwheat muffins - which were made solely with buckwheat flour. I added more apples than called for, but the buckwheat is definitely the primary flavor. However, these muffins are fantastic in terms a snack - two muffins will hold me from breakfast through to lunch - a rare feat!
All in all, I will always recommend trying new foods, so don’t look to me to scare you off! But I might recommend quinoa first, as it has more of a mild flavor. And yes, to those who have been asking, someday I will get around to giving you all the names of the cookbooks I have been using.
Today I got to enjoy a great movie - Julie and Julia. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is based on a blogger who spent 365 days cooking a la Julia Child. The first time I saw the movie, I got a pang to be like Julie and cook my way through Julia’s cookbook as well! Watching it again today, I got another pang - and this time, I’m going to follow through (although not all the way through the cookbook)!
If I were Julia Child, I’m pretty sure I would think it was a crime to try to master the art of french cooking sans gluten (and, gasp, sans dairy). Let’s be honest - I think true french cooking probably is a crime without those ingredients. So let’s not tell her what I’m going to try!
Unfortunately I don’t have the stamina to try cooking 365 days of Julia Child, and my waistline will probably thank me for it. I do however, have an important date coming up (Valentine’s Day w/ the DH) - and if I feel up to it, I may just try a new dish (or two).
Luckily for me, not all of the recipes involve wheat. In particular, I am thinking about making Boeuf Bourguignon. It would be quite appropriate given the freezing cold weather we’ve been having, but mostly I want to make it because they made it in the movie and it sounded good. I also love love love sauteed mushrooms and onions!
I remember when I was in school we always watched Julia Child make a Buche de Noel at Christmas, and I always wondered how she could make such awesome looking mushroom meringues. Now, although I won’t be making a cake, I’m still looking forward to cooking with Julia!
It’s almost that time of year again! And no, I don’t mean it’s time to file my taxes. It’s almost time to go camping! For those of us who live in the great state of Texas, there is a very small window for camping (unless you own a RV, which I don’t). It happens to be in the spring - particularly March & April. I suppose I could go camping in the winter, but I have not yet been able to psyche myself into camping in the cold weather (and yes, it can get very cold here).
My DH and I LOVE to go camping. In the spring, our camping gear does not leave the garage. Our dog in particular is a huge fan, and goes crazy when she sees her camping bed being put in the car. :) This year we are determined to go camping more than last year, including hopefully a one week camping trip to test out the huge cooler my DH got me for xmas.
This year I will get to do my first round of GF camping meals. Now, this may sound easy, but camping meals are an art of their own. Some of our meals have included disasters such as pot gumbo (cheese, chili, and pasta I believe, definitely the worst meal I have ever cooked, camping or not) and tasty dishes such as shishkabobs.
As I am preparing to go camping this year, there are a few meal considerations I have to consider:
1. Heat. Even in the spring it can be hot in Texas. I remember one camping expedition when it was in the high 90s in March. Talk about hot! Any meals that I prepare have to be fairly easy to store in a cooler. Obviously there are exemptions for the meal on the first night/morning, but all of the days after… This year we will be trying dry ice to keep stuff cooler longer.
2. Cooking method. While I do have quite the array of camping gear, I am still cooking on a propane burner, through very thin aluminum pans. So rice and other such time intensive foods would likely need to be prepared in advance.
3. GF. Obviously! This should hopefully be fairly easy. For breakfast, I foresee GF oatmeal, GF muffins, cream of rice instead of cream of wheat, eggs, fruit, etc. For lunch, we can have sandwiches on GF bread. Snacks can be fruit and crackers, Larabars, etc. Dinner is the trickier part. We could do shishkabobs, burgers with GF buns, potatoes, veggies…but I am curious as to substantial meals.
If anyone out there has suggestions for GF camping dinners, let me know! I am trying to come up with dinners for a week - meeting all of the criteria above, obviously.