Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hidden Wheat...

Its out there! Lurking, hiding, waiting to reach out and grab you!

There are a few places that can have wheat, even when you least expect it. Chocolates. Yes, chocolate. The last thing you would expect. We get chocolates at work for Christmas. And even with staff nibbling, they don't go very fast. We broke open a box the other day, and I had one. Its the only thing I can think of that would have had gluten... because I'm having a reaction.

Soups. Cream soups in particular. Lovely roux. Butter and flour. This also means no creole/cajun cooking. No gumbo. I suspect jambalaya and dirty rice both contain flour.

No bechamel sauces. Most gravies and sauces do have flour. At home, you can substitute cornstarch.

I found wheat in a bag of dried currants, of all things. *Sigh*. And be careful of the French Fries, they might have wheat, even baked potatoes, in restaurants, are sometimes plunged into the deep fryer to warm them up.

Worcestershire sauce contains wheat, as does soy sauce. Go for tamari, but make sure its wheat-free (tamari is SUPPOSED to be so, but gets adulterated with soy sauce).

Where is the strangest place you have found wheat?

Saturday, January 12, 2008


So this vaguely pornographic-looking food is mochi. Its made out of sweet rice flour (basically a short-grain rice) and is available in refrigerated sections of your local health food stores. Its supposed to be squares that puff up and are chewy inside, but it usually erupts into these shapes... if its overcooked too much, it becomes hollow, and truly phallic looking. (I should have taken a pic of my first batch, they were unique).

Its very tasty, I eat 'em with creme fraiche, but I just wish I could get them to work properly.

I've tried letting them come to room temp, smaller squares, larger squares, lower temp, higher temp...I've even tried to do them on the stovetop...they do ok on the stovetop, but they stay very very dense then.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gluten-free dining...

So yesterday I went out for our staff holiday meal. Its always a challenge finding a restaurant that people like, and that is safe for me. It usually involves much perusing of menus beforehand to be able to find something safe that is not a salad.

I had a wonderful meal. I had ossobuco with amazing mashed potatoes. It was heavenly.

Here are my tips, if you have to eat out for work:

Let your boss know, ahead of time, that you have an issue. If you can work with him or her to find someplace to eat, do the research in advance. Most places have menus posted on websites these days. If you can go ethnic, do so. You have more chance of getting good food that is safe in an ethnic place. Particularly Indian, Mexican, South American. Thai and Ethiopian can be safe. Chinese usually isn't. The restaurant we went to was Italian (gasp!) but not chain Italian.
Chains are usually not safe. Too many pre-frozen items. Small family-own restaurants are usually best, although I wouldn't suggest Southern fare. Too many deep-fried this and floured that.

If possible, tell them when you make your reservation, that there is a celiac coming to dine.

When you order, have two options for the waitstaff to ask about. Be sweet about it, explain that you have this horrible problem, and could they please check for flour, breadcrumbs, any type of wheat or gluten. And bat those big brown eyes at them. (ok, guys, this might not work so well for you, unless the waiter is a cute gay boy). Above all, be polite, charming, apologetic. "I don't want to be any trouble, but if I get anything with wheat I will become horribly sick".

I have had waitstaff suggest items that they know are safe. I have had them suggest desserts that are safe. I have, in general, had wonderful service.

And when you leave, leave a big tip. If you don't have a reaction, go back and frequent them. If you do have a reaction, go back and tell them. I have raised a fuss in the past, when I got something I thought was safe, and it wasn't. I did end up getting my money back, then I went home and died.

But by doing a little homework, being clear, you can get a wonderful, gluten-free meal. Even in a pizza parlor. And yes, even in a chain.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

On cookbooks and books...

I get frustrated with a lot of the 'gluten-free' or 'wheat-free' or 'you can't eat anything, or so you think' cookbooks. They either give you specific recipes, without giving you ideas on how to tweak things, or they use spelt or kamut. And they all have their own specific blends. Because I don't have enough bags in the cupboard, I need to make up batches of YOUR specific mix in order to try one recipe. Note to all cookbook authors: spelt and kamut are wheat. They are ancient forms, but they are wheat.

There are also a lot of recipes for things that have NEVER contained wheat. I can get recipes for Cuban Black Bean Soup or Shrimp Risotto from any cookbook. What I can't get are recipes for fried chicken or hushpuppies, or rolls. For scones, soda bread, or angel food cake.

I've gotten some good tips from some, but in general, the majority are frustrating, and I end up creating my own recipes, using specific flours for tastes/complementary flavors/behavior.

There are two books I would highly reccomend, though neither is a cookbook per se.


My only issue with the Gluten-free Bible is how she deals with communion. And I hated the Hol-Grain crackers which she likes (maybe I got a bad batch?).

Some of my favorite go-to cookbooks are actually mainstream. The Joy of Cooking is one, I got some good info from an early edition on different types of flours. I have a couple of Asian cookbooks (bean flours, rice flours) and Indian cookbooks. I have a vegetarian cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey that is fabulous.

While its not a cookbook or a book, I also picked up a copy of Gluten-free living at the grocery store. I wasn't that impressed. It seemed like it was a one-woman production. I've learned a lot more from Living Without. There I learned that you only need to let gluten-free bread rise once.

So, for me, while I do check out gluten-free cookbooks from the library, I don't tend to buy them. I tend to go to the mainstream stuff. Because in trying recipes, I read what the recipe is supposed to look like/feel like. And that is how I can judge if the gluten-free version is right.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Almond-Cherry Scones

1/4 cup dried cherries (I used tart Montmonrecy from Trader Joes)
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup of corn flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (or yogurt if you prefer)

Pour the boiling water over the cherries and leave to rehydrate. Sttart cast-iron griddle heating Mix all dry ingredients together, then add butter. Blend butter in as if making pastry.
add sour cream, mix as well as possible. It will look lumpy at this point. Add the cherries and water and mix, just until blended.

Form into a rough "pancake" shape and plunk onto the griddle. Let it cook for about four minutes or so before cutting lines into the top. (The griddle should be turned to lowish)
When its firm enough, flip it over and cook on the other side.
Note: It did get a little overly brown, this might do better in the oven, or kept very low. It was still tasty, esp with cream cheese, for breakfast this morning (Sun, Jan 6th)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Salt-rising bread part 1

So since I've been sick I've been reading a lot of cookbooks. And I found a recipe in the Little House on the Prairie Cookbook for Salt-rising bread, which requires that you start with a sponge/starter thingy. I figured since I'm home and feeling like crud, I'd try adapting it. I also got a couple of tips from Beard on Bread. So I fired up the oven to its lowest temp, 170 (which turns out to be 150) and then turned it off.

I then heated up:

1 cup of milk

added 1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp cornmeal
and then 1/2 cup of quinoa flour.

dumped all this in a bowl and threw it in the oven with the oven light on, to ferment. Its supposed to ferment for, as far as I can figure, about 16 hours or so. (You are supposed to start it at noon of the day before).

It is foamyish. I'm tempted to put the oven back on preheat for two minutes to warm it back up...but we'll see in the morning.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Edited to add, the oven did not stay warm enough, even with the oven light on. I may try Alton Brown's idea of a heating pad next.