Category Archives: gluten free

Night and Day

I can’t believe the difference.

Yesterday I could barely move my left leg. Walking around Costco and Trader Joe’s was more of a shuffle than a walk, and worse than that, it was agony to get in and out of the car. The right knee, oddly enough, was working much better than the left. (I say “oddly enough” because it’s the right knee that I kept re-injuring over the past two weeks. Every time it would start to get better, I would catch my foot and trip on something and the healing process would have to begin again.)

You might or might not recall that I’ve been eating Paleo/primal style for the past three weeks in a desperate effort to find relief for my painful knees and joints. For some reason, the water kefir that had been keeping me pain free over the past year wasn’t working anymore.

I had a big dose of nightshades (tomato and peppers) in Monday night’s dinner — was that enough to cripple me on Tuesday? Could be. I was very careful yesterday, avoided all semblance of nightshade (tomato, peppers, paprika, eggplant — which I can take or leave, but the other stuff appears regularly on our table), and woke up this morning in much less pain. Got in and out of the car this morning without a twinge. There’s still a little pain there, in both knees, a sort of underlying barely noticeable occasional ache, but nothing like yesterday, and all the other joints seem to be humming along nicely, which they weren’t, not exactly, yesterday.

Coincidence?

Just in case, I’m going to be avoiding tomatoes, peppers, and paprika today as well, to see if the improvement continues.

Paleo tweaks

Found a great tweak to my go-to coleslaw recipe. Coleslaw is my favorite way to eat cabbage, although the stir-fry cabbage I made last week was pretty amazing. (This, from someone who had a sort of okay-I’ll-eat-it-because-it’s-a-vegetable-and-vegetables-are-supposed-to-be-good-for-you attitude.) The coleslaw sauce recipe came out of a gluten-free cookbook, and was so simple to remember: equal parts mayonnaise, sugar, and white vinegar, whisked together. I ‘d add a pinch of salt and a little white pepper to that. Creamy coleslaw perfection.

Okay, so how to make this Paleo friendly? Homemade mayo, check. Raw apple cider vinegar, check. Sugar?

I thought about stevia, but didn’t really want to go there. My past experience experimenting with the stuff didn’t seem too promising for this recipe.

Trying to go completely sugar free… but finally broke down (don’t want the cabbage in the fridge to go moldy from sitting there) and tried honey in the recipe today, as in (for a wedge of cabbage, shredded)

1 TBS mayo
1 TBS raw apple cider vinegar
1 TBS raw honey

It made for a flavorful dressing — didn’t even need the salt and pepper. The honey was very strong, and can probably be cut down to a teaspoon or a little more. And of course I’m not eating as much honey as is there in the sauce because when the coleslaw is gone, there’s still sauce left on the plate. So while it’s not exactly cutting out sugar, it is cutting way down, and substituting raw honey (which has its own health benefits).

You can read on, or ignore the rest, which is mainly medical musing and a little background as to why I’m doing this “Paleo” way of eating, or trying to, anyhow.

***

Feeling my way here… I’ve been in a lot more pain lately, over and above (don’t you love redundancy?) what the water kefir has been suppressing…

(Digression: How do I know what the water kefir is suppressing? Because of what happens when I don’t drink it, if I didn’t get around to harvesting the latest brew and due to our busy schedule, have to run out the door without my morning cuppa.)

Anyhow, have begun trying to eat according to “Paleo autoimmune” guidelines, more than I was when I was just following Paleo guidelines. Something that I hadn’t cut out before were the nightshades (specifically tomatoes and peppers — I can take or leave eggplant), nuts, and eggs. The earlier stuff involved in transitioning to Paleo-style eating as defined by Robb Wolf  and other people I’ve been “listening to” (as in, reading books and websites), well, that wasn’t so hard, considering that our kitchen has been gluten-free for over a year now, and over the past months I’ve been experimenting with dairy alternatives as well.

As a matter of fact, I had been eating a lot more eggs lately, especially since cutting out GF oatmeal and other GF grains. Eggs are relatively cheap protein, and since we get free-range eggs from friends with chickens they ought to be fairly healthy. However, the increase in joint pain this past week makes me wonder — am I reacting to the increase in eggs in my diet?

Need to get a handle on this so I can function again. In case I didn’t mention it before, I tried the medical route the last time my joints, especially my knees, were this painful. All the doctor wanted to do was throw — what are they called? NSAIDs? — drugs at the problem to mask the pain, and then when the damage had progressed far enough do knee replacement surgeries.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the medical people are out there and available with some sort of “solution.” I’d just like to avoid drugs (I looked up the side effects of what he prescribed. Scary.) and surgery if at all possible. I thought that the water kefir would be enough — it was enough, for months. But something has changed and so I’m changing my attack plan.

If something in my diet is causing the pain, and it’s as simple as changing my diet to eliminate the pain (or cut it way down to manageable levels once more), well then, I’d much rather do that than take pills which significantly increase my possibility of stroke and heart attack and I forget what else.

Have been egg-free for only a day — oops, no I haven’t. Mayo has egg in it. Will have to investigate homemade eggless mayo, if such a thing is possible.

Sigh. And yet, it’ll be worth it, if it works.

Easy stovetop vanilla pudding (GF!)

The Debater is sick on the couch with a swollen, sore throat and fever. This is the kid who has trouble keeping weight on, much less gaining it. One thing I can usually get her to eat, when sick, is custard, but the custard that I baked yesterday just didn’t come out smooth — you know that skin that can form on baked custard? Seemed a little rough for a tender throat.

I went looking for stirred custard recipes online this morning, and came up with this one:

http://www.bestrecipes.com.au/recipe/home-made-custard-L4433.html

The commenters seemed to agree that this was easy and delicious, and I liked the fact that it didn’t require a double boiler, and the recipe author’s tip that if you add the sugar after you take the pudding off the heat, it won’t stick to the pan.

So here’s my adaptation:

Gluten Free Stovetop Pudding

4 eggs*
3 cups milk**
3 TBS cornstarch***
3 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together eggs, milk, and cornstarch in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Continue whisking over medium-low heat until it thickens. Remove from heat, stir in sugar and vanilla.

The texture is thin, at first, rather like custard sauce (brings up memories of Anne of Green Gables and the poor mouse that died a romantic death), but thickens on standing. Very smooth and creamy, easy on a sore throat. I believe this might be similar to the “blancmange” that Jo brought to a sick Laurie in Little Women.

You could whisk in cocoa powder or melted chocolate, to make chocolate pudding, I suppose, but I thought vanilla might be a little easier for an invalid.

* I doubled the eggs to add more protein. The original recipe called for 2 eggs.

** I used a can of Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream, plus about a cup of water, to make up three cups. The kid needs calories. If she weren’t for the most part dairy free, I might have used heavy cream instead of coconut cream.

*** I used cornstarch, as it’s not something that we have trouble with. I assume you could substitute arrowroot or tapioca starch

GF Fruit Cobbler (Easy!)

Well, it’s really Wednesday, so this probably shouldn’t be tagged “If it’s Tuesday, it must be gluten-free!” I’m a day behind myself this week. We’re passing a cold around, and this morning I woke up to discover I’m it.

Something comforting is in order, I think.

The basic idea for this cobbler comes from More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. I’m on my second copy, and it’s getting pretty tattered, so I handle it gingerly. It’s not a gluten-free cookbook, but I’ve been able to adapt some of the recipes so far. The recipes are pretty simple and basic, and this is the cookbook (along with Laurel’s Kitchen, during a mostly vegetarian phase) that taught me most of what I know about cooking from scratch. This is the cookbook that taught me to make chocolate pudding without the pudding package from the store. This is also the cookbook that fueled our love affair with cobbler — especially made with fresh-picked wild blackberries, but also great with blueberries or peaches or any combination of berries and peaches.

My quick-and-sloppy GF flour mix works well in this recipe. (See below.)

Fresh, canned or frozen fruit, it doesn’t matter. This cobbler always comes out right. You make the batter first and pour it into the baking dish, sprinkle fruit over the top, and bake. The fruit sinks to the bottom, the batter rises to the top, light and fluffy, and bakes to a lovely golden brown while filling the house with an enticing fragrance. I doubled the recipe to serve the five of us (people around here are greedy when it comes to cobbler), and it disappears quickly. I cut it up into six portions and put one away for Dad’s lunchbox.

Easy GF Fruit Cobbler
based on Quick Fruit Cobbler from More-with-Less

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10″ x 13″ baking pan. Mix the following ingredients, beat until smooth, and pour into pan, spreading to the edges. It’ll make a thin layer.

1 cup sugar (I can cut this by almost half and still get a fairly decent result)
1 cup GF flour mix
1 cup milk (I’ve tried regular milk, raw milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and rice milk by turns. They all work.)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt

Now it’s time for the fruit! You can make an all-one-kind cobbler (we often do, especially when we’ve just come back from berry-picking), or you can mix different fruits. This recipe is very forgiving — it takes fresh, canned, or frozen fruit. I’d drain canned fruit first, if I were you. If you use frozen fruit, your baking time is going to be somewhat longer. How long? I can’t tell you. We pretty much tell when it’s done by peeking in the oven when we can’t stand the wonderful smell any longer. When it’s golden-brown-and-delicious (is that Rachel Ray?), it’s ready to eat.

We haven’t tried this with apples, yet, as we usually make Apple Crisp or baked apples or apple pie with those.

You want your fruit in somewhat even pieces, although I’ve been known to slice peaches (or use canned sliced peaches) and lay them in a pretty pattern, before sprinkling with blueberries or blackberries.

Scatter about 4 cups of fruit across the surface of the cobbler. Bake about 40 minutes. It’s really good served warm with cream, whipped cream, or ice cream. In the unlikely event you have any left over, it makes a great breakfast, cold.

Quick GF Flour Mix

My quickly cobbled-together flour mix, that works well for simple scratch recipes, contains approximately:

1/2 cup rice flour (white or brown seem to work about the same)
1/4 cup tapioca or corn starch
1/4 cup sorghum flour or millet flour

Mix these together before you add them to the rest of the ingredients.

What’s quick about it is that it seems to work well even if I don’t measure carefully. GF flours can be unforgiving. You don’t want to pack them down in the measuring cup. You don’t usually want to scoop them from the flour container with a measuring cup; you want to scoop them gently into the cup and level off, not pack down. However, with this mix I just stick the 1/2 or 1/4 cup measure into the flour/starch I’m grabbing and lightly scoop it up, scrape the excess off the top of the cup with the blade of a knife, and dump it into the mix.

TOS Crew: e-Mealz

Back in January, I confessed my meal-planning woes. You see, we went partially gluten-free (GF) about a year ago — this meant I was cooking regular meals for the family and modifying things to make Eldest’s meals completely GF. We had a menu-planning and cooking system in place that had been working pretty well. At the end of each month, we “girls” would plan the next month’s meals. We cooked on a rotation basis, meaning each of us (mom and daughters, that is) ended up responsible for cooking, washing dishes, and kitchen clean-up about twice a week.

With Eldest’s gluten sensitivity, I sort of took over all the cooking once again. Oh, if a meal was naturally gluten-free, one of the girls could manage. But I was paranoid about cross-contamination, and so if a meal contained gluten ingredients, I took it upon myself to do the cooking.

Two months later, DH was diagnosed with a severe gluten sensitivity, and I made the decision to go completely GF, at least at home. (The younger girls and I still get glutenous food on occasion, when we’re out and about.) Now, GF cooking is not as difficult as I thought it would be, but it was different enough that I — still learning — took on all the cooking. (I know. I should have included the girls in the learning and exploring. My only explanation is that I felt like I was in over my head.) I had kind of a mental block against menu planning. It all seemed overwhelming. We got into a rut of rotating the same few meals, and I was doing all the cooking once more.

I made a couple of feeble stabs at GF menu planning, but it was pitiful. Just pitiful.

Enter The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and the opportunity to review an online menu-planning service. When I heard they had a gluten-free option, I jumped up and down (virtually, anyhow) with my hand up in the air, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” Anything had to be better than what I was doing.

Choosing a plan

When I found out our family was on the e-Mealz list, I went to the e-Mealz website and read everything I could find about their menu plans. They have so many plans to choose from, including store-specific and special diets (low-carb, low-fat, low-cal, vegetarian, and yes, gluten-free). There are even small-family plans if you’re cooking for just one or two people. The store-specific plans take into account the stores’ weekly sales. We’re talking Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, Kroger, and Publix for specific stores. We don’t have Aldi’s and Publix for sure, so it was easy to eliminate those choices. But for the rest… it was tough! I went through all of their sample menus.

I finally settled on the Wal-Mart gluten-free plan. It appears to be identical to the “any store” GF plan, except that it includes prices on the shopping list. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

How it works

You select a meal plan from the options available and sign up. A three-month subscription is $15 (which works out to $5 a month, as you probably already noticed), billed to your credit card or debit card. Your subscription is automatically renewed, or you may cancel at any time.

By the way, I’ve found from personal experience that when I plan my meals and stick to my plan, I save money on groceries (for one thing, it cuts way down on impulse buying, and since what I buy is on the plan, it gets used and doesn’t end up forgotten, in the fridge), as well as time. No more last minute trips to the store for forgotten ingredients! No more last minute trips to the store, period, just because the fridge and cabinets are reasonably full of ingredients but “there’s nothing to eat.”

Every week a new menu is available for download. (You can actually download two weeks’ worth of menus, “this week” and “last week,” so our first week, I got two weeks’ menus to work from.)

My gluten-free e-Mealz menus have each been three pages: two pages of menus spanning seven days, plus a shopping list which includes what I need to buy in a weekly shopping trip, prices, space to write additional items, and a list of pantry staples that I need to have on hand (or buy, if they’re not in my pantry) to fix all the meals for the week.

Our meal plans usually included at least one of each of the following:
– fish
– Mexican
– chicken
– pork
– beef
– meatless

For each day, there’s an entree and a side in the menu plan, with a list of ingredients and preparation instructions. We’ve made some substitutions; for example, when a recipe calls for quick-cooking brown rice, I substitute regular; we don’t do fish on a weekly basis as one of the girls won’t eat any fish except canned tuna, and we only eat pork about once a month, not once a week.

The recipes are pretty easy to make, and the results have been, for the most part, delicious. (Remember, I haven’t made all the recipes because of food preferences.) The GF menus average on paper about $90 a week. Some weeks we spend less because we have a supply of meat already in our freezer. Some weeks we spend more because when we do buy meat, it’s the hormone- and antibiotic-free kind, which costs more.

But what about other allergies?

Because gluten is our main concern, these menus have worked fairly well for us. (I say “fairly” because of our fussy eater, who prefers her food pretty plain.) If your family has other food allergies (for example, corn or dairy) you might not fare as well (pun not intended but it certainly works well, doesn’t it).

In summary

Click on any of the meal plans at the e-Mealz website to see a summary of that plan, and to find a link to a sample menu/shopping list for that plan. Check out a variety of plans — you’ll get an idea of how it works. You can sign up and choose a plan, and if it doesn’t work you can switch plans once every three months.

I think I’ll stick with the Wal-Mart gluten-free meal plan. I don’t always get to Wal-Mart, as sometimes I have to consider the cost in gas compared to the grocery savings, but I like having the prices and the option. I like having menus planned out for me, and with the easy-to-follow recipes, the girls are finally able to learn to cook gluten-free. This one’s a winner for our family.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of e-Mealz here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free 3-month subscription to e-Mealz for review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

Gluten-free Apple Crisp

As I mentioned last week, I ran out of all four versions of my homemade GF flour mix. I had four containers, all slightly different recipes, one each for four different recipe sources (three cookbooks, one online site). I wrote the ingredients for each mix right on the container, for ease of refilling, and I have the ingredients in plastic bags in a couple of rodent-free/insect-resistant bins and in the freezer, but I just haven’t got around to the refilling part.

(In case you were wondering, Bob’s Red Mill is within driving distance. It’s a fair amount of time and gas, so we only go every two or three months, but we’re able to stock up on GF flours and starches from the bulk bins, which helps cut our costs.)

Anyhow, I mentioned last week that two of our adapted recipes use an easy-to-stir-up flour mix. They don’t even need xanthan or guar gum. Just three or four ingredients, and the mix is so forgiving that I don’t even measure all that carefully.

(Just so you know, GF flours and starches are a little different when it comes from measuring. You want to spoon them lightly into measuring cups, or for better accuracy, weigh them. This mix, below, that I use for crepes and apple crisp, I pretty much scoop, but it doesn’t much seem to matter.)

The other thing you need to know about apple crisp is that oatmeal is an important ingredient. Without the oatmeal, it just doesn’t taste like the apple crisp I’ve made over the years. Thus one of the things I buy from Bob’s is certified gluten-free oats.

Apple Crisp

4-6 apples, or enough to fill your casserole when cut up leaving about an inch for topping
2 TBS rice flour or starch (corn, potato, tapioca)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (we like raw cane sugar — use more with tart apples, less with sweet apples)
1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (most recipes call for the smaller amount, but we like a good bite of cinnamon taste)
pinch salt
Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (you can cut down or even eliminate the sugar in the apple filling if you choose to do this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease casserole dish or spray with baking spray.

Wash apples. Core, peel (if not organic) and cut up into chunks. Mix flour or starch with sugar and cinnamon and toss with apples until apples are coated with mixture.

1 cup GF flour mix
1 cup certified GF rolled oats
1 cup sugar (again, you can use less if you like — I’ve cut this by as much as a half)
1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (see note about cinnamon, above)
pinch salt
1/2 to 1 cup butter or coconut oil

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in fat with pastry blender, two table knives, or a fork. (A pastry blender makes this a quick process.) You should end up with a crumbly mixture. Spread on top of casserole. Bake at 350F for about an hour, or until bubbly and apples are tender when pierced.

Best served warm, but pretty good when cold, too. We can do dairy, so we like to pour cream over the top of hot apple crisp, or top with whipped cream, or serve with ice cream.

Quick GF Flour Mix

My quickly cobbled-together flour mix, that works well for crepes as well as apple crisp, contains approximately:

1/2 cup rice flour (white or brown seem to work about the same)
1/4 cup tapioca or corn starch
1/4 cup sorghum flour

Final words

With apples in season and the weather turning colder, this is the perfect recipe for breakfast, or afternoon teatime, or dessert. It fills the house with an amazing apple-cinnamon smell while baking, and it’s a great waker-upper to get our girls out of bed on a dark, dreary, rainy morning when otherwise they’d be tempted to turn over and go back to sleep.

Gluten-free crepes

I ran out of homemade GF flour mix. All of them. I had four containers, all slightly different recipes, one each for four different recipe sources (three cookbooks, one online site). I wrote the ingredients for each mix right on the container, for ease of refilling, but I just haven’t got around to the refilling part.

I haven’t made any GF bread for a month (I’m still new enough to want to follow a tried and true recipe, and these involve one of those GF flour mixes I mentioned above), but I have been making other things, like apple crisp, and crepes. These are simple enough that I can just use my pre-GF recipes, substitute a mix of GF flour/starch, and come up with fairly decent results.

For example, crepes:

4 eggs
1 cup milk or milk substitute
1 cup GF flour mix
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk eggs until well beaten, add milk and whisk again, sift in flour mix and salt, beat well. (These are not like pancakes, which you want to leave lumpy. You want the batter to end up fairly smooth.)

Let batter sit while you heat up your pan. I find it thickens while sitting. I guess the flour absorbs some of the liquid.

I use a heavy cast-iron skillet, well-seasoned. When it’s hot (a drop of water will dance on the surface) I add a large dollop of coconut oil, and that’s usually enough to cook the whole batch of crepes without having to add more.

Add about a half-cup of batter to the pan (a ladle works well for this). As it starts to harden from cooking, lift the edges to loosen and check for doneness. This is the trickiest part, figuring out just when to flip. Our first crepe is almost always a mess, but the rest get progressively prettier.

Once you can flip it, turn it over and cook briefly on the other side. Cooking time varies, depending on how hot your pan is, and whether you like your crepes light in color or delicately browned.

Repeat until you’ve used up the batter. If the crepes begin to stick, add more oil (or butter–we used to use butter, and it added a nice buttery taste, but we prefer coconut oil) to the pan.

I try to make a stack of crepes and then call my hungry hordes to eat, but sometimes the crepes end up going right from the pan to a hovering individual’s plate.

Quick GF Flour Mix

My quickly cobbled-together flour mix, that works well for crepes, contains approximately:

1/2 cup rice flour (white or brown seem to work about the same)
1/4 cup tapioca or corn starch
1/4 cup sorghum flour

Milk Substitutes

Almond, rice, or coconut milk work well in this recipe. Crepes are something like pancakes, and I’ve even substituted apple juice in my pancake recipe when I was out of milk of any kind.

From plain to oo-la-la

We like to eat our crepes the English way. At least I’ve been told it’s the English way, or even the French way. Anyhow, sprinkle with powdered sugar (we shake it through a sieve onto the crepe, to eliminate lumps) and squeeze lemon juice all over. Roll up the crepe and give it another little powdering of sugar. Elegant!

(Eldest, who doesn’t care for the lemon-sugar combination on crepes, prefers to deck hers with applesauce.)

This recipe multiplies well. Just keep to the same proportions: 2 eggs to half a cup of milk and half a cup of flour, and a little salt to bring out the flavor. This recipe (with 4 eggs, I mean) makes almost enough crepes for two hungry teens. To feed our whole family, I have to double it, sometimes (if everyone’s really hungry) make two-and-a-half or a triple recipe.

As my mom, a loyal French Chef fan, would say, Bon appetite!