Thursday, April 30, 2009

Product Review: Glutino Original Crackers

Good gluten-free crackers are difficult to find, the right combination of texture and taste seems as elusive as Goldilocks and the perfect porridge. Glutino's Original Crackers come close to just right. There's something just a little bit off about the flavor, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Usually a nice slice of cheese, sour cream and salsa or peanut butter easily mask that. It isn't my favorite GF cracker, but it's still a good choice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Product Review: Glutino Dark Chocolate Candy Bars

Candy bars can be deceptively dangerous for the celiac, many companies use wheat flour in manufacturing to prevent the newly chocolate coated candies from sticking to the equipment. So, the ingredients won't mention wheat- but it could be there. The best bet is to call the manufacturer of your favorite candy bar and ask them about their manufacturing process.

In the meantime, a great substitute is Glutino's Dark Chocolate Candy Bars. This combination of chocolate cream, wafers and dark chocolate makes a delicious snack and is just the right size for a little chocolate fix. I'm looking forward to trying the chocolate-peanutbutter bar very soon.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Art of Simple Substitution

A rather belated Happy Earth Day to everyone!

This year, my Earth Day wasn't spent communing with nature, but rather with artist and peace activist Robert Shetterly. The Honors College brought Rob, best known for his series of paintings entitled Americans Who Tell the Truth, to campus for the annual Rezendes Ethics Lecture and he was absolutely amazing. As a person, as an artist and as an inspiration. His talk, titled the Ethics of Collateral Damage, juxtaposed his well-known paintings of national heroes, local crusaders and historical figures with another project called Collaterals exploring the unknown human faces behind the term "collateral damage." While calling attention to the civilian toll in Iraq and elsewhere, his talk also made essential points about Americans expectations from and relationship with our government:

"It should be obvious that when a government has lied to its people about the reason for taking them to war … then you should realize that unalienable rights as a term is a smokescreen, a mass narcotic that induces denial and hypocrisy, and a term which is viciously defended not because it’s a point of truth, but because it masks a lie.”

Certainly food for thought. Rob also brought a sampling of six paintings from his Americans Who Tell the Truth series now numbering 135 and set to grow with the addition of several notable truth-tellers, including Jim Hansen. His ability to capture his subjects likeness and spirit is incredible. I was particularly excited to see the just completed portrait of Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning- the Honors Read selected by my class. *star struck*

After the lecture, we took Rob out for dinner at Woodman's Bar and Grill, a favorite local spot in Orono. Small, local places like Woodman's are great for celiacs. The kitchen is small and usually the chef is flexible. I used simple substitution once again, asking to substitute rice for the pasta in the Shrimp Napoli- a delicious combination of shrimp, sun-dried tomato and mushrooms in a pesto sauce. Yum!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Product Review: Pamela's Ginger Cookies with Sliced Almonds

My great-grandmother was an amazing baker. Her cookie recipes especially were amazing, my favorite was her molasses cookies. They had a light, airy texture and somehow always achieved the perfect balance between the molasses and the ginger. I use the past tense referring to the cookies because, of course, I can no longer enjoy them and I haven't yet succeeded in replicating them quite right with gluten-free ingredients. It is a work in progress and I hate to tease my readers, but if I ever do get it right, I can't publish it. Family secret.

But I can recommend a substitute! Pamela's produces a wide-range of gluten-free cookies (often also non-diary) and I just recently tried their Ginger Cookies with Sliced Almonds. The ginger flavor was a little too strong for my palate (spoiled by past tastes of perfect molasses cookies), but they are, after all, ginger cookies and a strong ginger flavor should be expected. The cookies have a nice texture and the sliced almonds are a nice edition. They're neither dry or moist and, therefore, go very well with tea.

This afternoon, I paired my ginger cookies with tea purchased from the Baxter Tea Company, an amazing little, Maine-owned company that sells amazing teas. The Baxter Tea Company is a great business in several respects (small, Maine-owned, sells tea), but what captured my business was that the owner donates ten percent of her profits to maintaining Baxter State Park. That is a cause I whole-heartedly support, especially if I get high-quality loose tea as part of the bargain! This afternoon's tea was Dutchess Grey, a variation on Earl Grey that contains lemon peel, cloves, cinnamon and safflowers. I don't care for the heavy flavor of bergamot in Earl Grey, so this was an excellent selection for me and the spicy citrus flavor complimented my ginger cookies beautifully.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Product Review: Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix

I've enjoyed Pamela's products for several years now, their mixes and baked goods are always safe bets- especially when you're looking for something to satisfy a sweet-tooth! Their Baking and Pancake Mix is a wonderfully versatile product, creating light, fluffy pancakes and moist, yummy cakes and muffins. I always keep a big bag of this mix in my kitchen cupboard because it works in so many recipes (and the recipes on the back are excellent!) and is so easy to use, the mix already contains a combination of brown rice flour, white rice flour, tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, potato starch and xanthan gum. This is the secret to non-gritty and non-crumbly gluten-free baking: xanthan gum and a diverse combination of flours. Having a wide variety of flours in one bag saves space in small kitchens!

Today, I used the Pamela's mix to make blueberry pancakes. I just followed the simple recipe on the bag and in a short time had a plate of light, fluffy blueberry pancakes. I've also had great success with other recipes from the bag. Their straightforward muffin recipe is easily adapted to create blueberry muffins, apple cinnamon muffins, chocolate chip muffins- the sky is the limit. On the first bag of Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix there was an amazing recipe for carrot cake. My gluten-free-phobic brother enjoyed it without complaining and he won't touch anything I tell him is gluten-free (so, I don't tell him until after!). The recipe wasn't included on the second bag- horror! But fortunately, I rescued the old bag from the trash and will reprint it here:

Carrot Cake
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 and 1/4 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (if you like walnuts in your carrot cake . . .)
Beat oil, eggs and sugar together, mix in remaining ingredients- batter will be thick. Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or use two, greased, 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Cool and frost with a cream cheese frosting.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You Know You're a Celiac When . . .

A little Jeff Foxworthy-esque humor borrowed from Gluten-Free Celiac Web, NeuroTalk and Roses Round the Door (I didn't agree with all their humor . . .). Laughter is the best medicine. Enjoy!

You know you're a celiac…
  • When you can use a loaf of bread for a doorstop or a weapon.
  • When you go to a potluck and only eat what you brought.
  • When the employees of the only restaurant in the city that will serve you gluten-free food see you coming and immediately change their gloves.
  • When making a great batch of brownies make you so happy that people might think you won the lottery.
  • When you collect doctors like other people collect painted plates.
  • When one of your mottos is "lips that touch gluten shall never touch mine."
  • When two shelves of the fridge are devoted to strange jars of flour and xanthan gum.
  • At Christmas, visions of guar gum dance in your head.
  • You've ever driven more than 40 miles to buy flour or a cookie. takes you 4 hours to grocery shop and your eyesight is ruined.
  • You hyperventilate when passing by the bakery counter.
  • You've ever deliberately rammed your cart into a Shredded Wheat
    display in a fit of rage.
  • You've ever had to take out a loan to pay the grocery bill.
  • You'd gladly pay any price for a pretzel that doesn't taste like
    sawdust, or bread that doesn't taste like an old shoe.
  • The centerpiece on your dining room table is a bread machine with memorial candles.
  • Your bread looks like a moon rock and tastes like dried out Play-Doh.
  • Your bread weighs more than any moon rock could possibly weigh.
  • One of your primary goals in life is to create "Fake Oreo
  • You've disinherited loved ones for putting their knife in your
  • You've brought a suitcase full of food with you on a cruise.
  • You can spell transglutaminase and dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • You just discovered how to make flour out of turnips.
  • You show up at the annual church pancake breakfast with a mask and sardine lettuce rollups.
  • Having solid poop is the highlight of your day.
  • You have a sign in your kitchen saying "Gluten free environment"
  • You have actually considered using a gluten-free bagel for a hockey puck
  • You know all about xanthan gum and its uses.
  • You hide the gluten-free cookies when guests come over, so they dont eat them.
  • You read the ingredient label on green tea - plain green tea.
  • You know exactly when Post added barley flavoring back to the Fruity Pebbles and you're ticked.
  • You take a list of safe drinks to the bar with you. And actually consult it before you order a drink.
  • You see someone buying rice flour in the bulk section and you just have to ask them if they are gluten intolerant too!
  • Tt drives you crazy when someone says they completely understand your diet, they did Atkins.
  • People roll their eyes at you when you say "no thank you" to someone's gluten filled dessert
  • You've refused things as "simple" as gum or sucking candies because you don't know if they're safe.
  • Your friend invites you over for your birthday and want to make you a gluten free birthday cake but you plead with them not to, because although you're trying to seem like you don't want to put them through the hassle, you're secretly terrified there will be cross contamination.
  • You hugged a chef for making you special meals every time you walk in.
  • You've mastered the art of lying when other people ask you if you're hungry.
  • You long to look at the contents of other people's fridges and pantries just to see what normal people eat.
  • If you don't remember what crackers are supposed to taste like.
  • If you bring "special" beer to the party, and don't share.
  • If you actually have nightmares about reading labels.
  • If you compare all of your food to "normal-people-food."
  • If you call all your relatives when you get sick. It MUST be because something you ate has been cross-contaminated.
  • If you know that Xantham Gum is not for chewing.
  • If you don't lick stamps.
  • If you sit on the phone with a pharmacy for an hour to find out what type of starch they use just so that you can take a generic Tylenol and be-rid of your headache.
  • If you know that spelt is a distant cousin of wheat, but buckwheat is not related to wheat at all.
  • If your grandmother INSISTS that you don't have celiac, you're just “suffering from mal-absorption”
  • If you burst into tears of relief at the sight of the words "gluten free" stamped on the corner of the Nestle hot cocoa mix.
  • If people at summer camps roll their eyes and tell you to "stop annoying the junior waiters with your stupid low carb diet because you're skinny enough already"
  • If you actually KNOW what an anti-TTG and an IGA blood test are.
  • If you forget to buy bun, rolls, bread, ect. at the store for all the gluten eaters of you family
  • If people have invite you to "The Olive Garden" on April first.
  • If you sold your house to buy groceries
  • If you can find "hidden gluten" in food labels in the blink of an eye,
  • If your family couldn't find them if they had a magnifying glass, dictionary, and Ph.D.
  • If people whisper that your new 'disease' is just an easy way to get away with being anorexic (b/c you can't eat anything when you are anywhere else besides your own kitchen)
  • If you wept the first time you tried to make gluten free sugar cookies
  • If you have ever made a list of everything you would eat if a magical genie could cure you
  • If you keep this list with you at all times just in case you should come across a magical genie.
  • If you have searched for a magical genie.
  • If you now have a large collection of old lamps.
Really, it's not this bad! But sometimes it's good to look at the humorous side.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Celiac Conundrums: Communion

Let me begin by complimenting my own title: that is some nice alliteration.

Being a celiac and living gluten-free is full of conundrums, but, let's face it, so if life. My recent Easter trip to my parent's and Sunday morning spent at church services prompted me to address the difficulties of celiacs and religious ritual, particularly troublesome: the sacrament of Communion or Eucharist. Just in case anyone was unaware: communion bread, wafers, etc. contain wheat. This leaves the devoutly Christian celiac with a difficult decision. Should she stop taking communion? Only take the wine? Ask her religious leader to substitute a gluten-free or low gluten host? Such decisions depend, of course, on the individual, but also the doctrines of their church.

Researching this topic introduced me to the troubles Catholic celiacs (and possibly Seventh Day Adventists?) face in the decision regarding whether and how to take Communion. The primary problem appears to be the pesky theological doctrine, transubstantiation, the belief that the bread and wine change substance into the body and blood of Christ through the sacrament of the Eucharist. For reference’s sake, this is the same theological doctrine that caused early Christians to be accused of cannibalism and feed to lions and other ferocious, hungry, carnivorous animals (well, it was part of the reason). According to Catholic canon, it is impossible to consecrate a host made of something other than wheat and water. Therefore, gluten-free substitutes aren’t even an option. There is a low-gluten option produced by the Benedictine Sisters with a gluten level of >0.01% (within the European standards for labeling gluten-free foods) made with wheat starch. Of course, taking just the wine or abstaining altogether are also options. I feel confident God understands. Jesus said, “Take this in remembrance of me.” Not, “You’re going to remember me when that gluten reaction kicks in.” The most important part of the whole debate is remembering the significance behind the sacrament.

Every so often I think to myself, “Jeez, I’m glad I’m not Catholic!” This is one of those times. I’m confident that if I walked into the pastor’s office at my parent’s church and asked him to consecrate gluten-free bread for me, he would happily agree. One thing about Congregational Church doctrine (and this is pretty wild considering Congregationalism developed from Puritanism), it’s pretty easy going. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I stopped taking the bread during Communion and only took the grape juice. This was an easy decision for me. I’m not particularly devout and my Mom bakes the Communion bread for our church- I KNOW there isn’t any transubstantiation going on with that bread (and transubstantiation is not part of Protestant beliefs), especially since the leftovers are given to the birds. I also didn’t worry about feeling different or singled out, Communion is brought right to my pew by Communion servers with excellent balance (and in most cases, knowledge of my condition: my family’s been attending this church since I was two).

In the end, it’s a personal choice. Schedule a meeting with your religious leader and talk about your concerns, probably you can work something out everyone is comfortable with- God, Jesus, the Church and (most importantly) you.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dining-Out 101: German

German cuisine is one of my favorites; simple and hearty, but always an intriguing combination of flavors. Last spring, Sister, Mom, Gramps and I happily trekked through the Wurzburg region in Southern Bavarian. Before departing on our journey I made many copies of the German, Spanish and French versions of the International Dining Cards in the appendix of The Gluten-Free Bible. Despite my cards, I opted to largely play it safe and order bratwurst at almost every establishment. I'm not a big sasuage fan, but there's just something about bratwurst. I love the texture and the flavor. While in Germany, I especially enjoyed how each bratwurst I ate tasted different because every restaurant made their own. Same with the sauerkrat, each establishment used different seasoning to achieve subtle variations in flavor (carraway seed was my favorite addition).

Fortunately, I can relive my German travels close to home at Richard's Restaurant and Edelweiss Lounge on Maine Street in Brunswick. Their bratwurst is reminscent of its German counterpart as is the atmosphere in the restaurant itself (dark paneling, beer steins, dim lighting). It feels like a little Bavaria in Midcoast Maine. I was also excited to find a GF dessert on the menu that was actually interesting. I usually pass on dessert at restaurant's because I can have the typical GF desserts like ice cream at home, but I would have had a difficult time creating this concoction of almond brittle, vanilla ice cream, chocolate rum sauce and fresh whipped cream called Don Ricardo in my kitchen at home.

Aside from the bratwurst, bauernwurst, sauerkraut and hot potato salad, I advise extreme caution in enjoying German food. It's not surprising that a cuisine best known for wienerschnitzel (basically deep fried veal) isn't exactly celiac-friendly. Many entrees include sauces thickened with wheat flour or include dangerous noodles or dumplings. Probably a good idea to learn a few German words, such as Weizen (wheat). As with any restaurant, ask the staff how they can best accomodate you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Very Celiac - Friendly Easter

Some holidays and celebrations can be very difficult for the celiac. Traditional foods are suddenly off-limits to you, but you're surrounded by friends and family who can (and should) still enjoy them. Personally, I didn't find the adoption of a celiac-friendly Easter celebration difficult because I've never enjoyed hot cross buns and my family's Easter feast is naturally gluten light. One of the best things about visiting my parent's is I don't have to cook! So this post is without recipes (although I will be hounding my Mom for the ricotta salad recipe to appear later), but full of tips!

Below is a picture of the delicious Easter dinner my Mom made (disclaimer: the bread is not gluten-free) and a preview of the gorgeous Moss Rose china pattern I'm looking forward to inheriting. Mashed potatoes, spinach, asparagus and deviled eggs are all naturally gluten-free. Ham is a meat to be very careful of, especially spiral cut hams like my family prefers. Sometimes these have fillers that are decidedly not celiac-friendly and the glaze can contain wheat starch or wheat flour. We've had good luck with Cook's brand hams in the past.

Above is the surprisingly delicious ricotta salad Mom made from a recipe she found in a magazine. I'm always very suspicious of magazine recipes (for totally unknown reasons) and had my doubts when Mom asked me to plate the salads. But I was very pleasantly surprised. The ricotta had a light, lemony flavor that paired well with the mustard in the dressing, the sweet tomatoes and the slightly bitter greens. I give this recipe two thumbs up.

Lucky me, I enjoyed two custom-made desserts this Easter. Mom made a strawberry trifle and a chocolate cream pie, since these recipes were not gluten-free she created alternatives for me using the exclusion principle. The exclusion principle is very simple, just remove the offending ingredient and serve your recipe without crust, topping, etc. To make the tri-full (the debate over pronunciation continues) GF Mom simply omitted the pound cake. For the chocolate pie, she just saved me some filling sans crust and added a little whipped cream. Both were delicious and I didn't have to share!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Product Review: Kinnikinnick Pizza Crust

Kinnikinnick is not easy to spell or pronounce, but most of their gluten-free products are delicious. Their pizza crust is new and improved, now squared shaped and with cornmeal on the bottom. The crust has an excellent texture (not at all gritty) and a slightly sweet taste that goes well with pizza toppings.

I find it works best to cook the crust alone in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes on each side before adding the toppings. Here I made a green veggie pizza (garlic, artichoke hearts, green pepper, onion and basil). Also great with olive oil, garlic and mozzarella cheese to accompany soups and salads.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gluten in Pop Culture

Not long after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I stumbled across an interview with Emmy Rossum (best known for playing Christine in The Phantom of the Opera) in a fashion magazine. I distinctly remember during the interview Emmy ate only the insides of her sandwich. The interviewer questioned her about her strange eating habits and Emmy replied she had celiac disease and was unable to eat wheat. As a brand-new celiac I was thrilled to discover another celiac, especially a famous one (Although I probably wouldn't recommend her dining strategies). I wasn't alone (and as the only diagnosed celiac in a large family I often do feel alone), there were others like me out there! There's no underestimating the importance of role models, I applaud Emmy's work with YouthAIDS and hope in the future she'll devote some of her volunteer time to celiac awareness.

I think most celiacs recognize the need for increased awareness of celiac disease and gluten-free diets (I was on a plane once and the man sitting in front of me assured me that the gluten-free meal and the low-sugar, diabetic meal were one and the same- um, no). Gluten-free bread got a shout-out Tuesday night on an episode of 90210 I found decidedly unimpressive and vaguely insulting. First, gluten was defined as a carbohydrate (you all know it's a protein, right?) and secondly, I felt my life-long adherence to a gluten-free diet was trivialized by the characters' flippant remarks. Finally, the rest of the show dealt with the very real issue of young people suffering from manic depression, an issue that deserves attention. But why drop the ball with gluten and celiac disease? I left feedback and would encourage others to do the same.

CW Feedback
Warner Brothers Feedback

CBS Television
51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

The X - Files: Baking with Xanthan Gum (Scones)

I love to bake. So it's unsurprisingly that my family and friends would kindly gift me with gluten-free cookbooks. What is surprising is that I never use them. I don't know why, they're all well-reviewed and filled with delicious sounding recipes. For some reason, I just didn't want to venture into gluten-free baking; it seemed too complicated with the different flours, dough enhancers, vinegar, etc. Well, here is an example of personal growth through blogging. For the sake of my blog, I decided to try out gluten-free baking with all it's complexities. As documented earlier, I went to the NLC and invested in a variety of flours and xanthan gum. I was ready to begin.

For my maiden voyage I choose something easy and that I really miss: scones. Whole Foods has an excellent Almond Scone I enlist my Mom to get for me every time I go home, but it's not quite the same. So, I pulled out my copy of More From the Gluten-Free Gourmet and assembled the ingredients for English Tea Scones.

English Tea Scones
  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, blend together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the yogurt until the dough forms a soft ball.

Knead lightly on a rice floured board. Roll out to 3/4 inches thick and cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter. Place the rounds on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.

Top with jam and Devonshire Cream (1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 tablespoon confectioner's sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla blended). Delicious - sweet, tender and flaky. I was so excited about my successful gluten-free baking and my yummy results, I called my Mom to brag! Even my sister enjoyed them, she remarked they went very well with the tea. Well, it was Twinning's English Breakfast Tea and they're called English Tea Scone, so I hope they went well together!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Reading Labels: What the heck is triticale?

Food shopping is an adventure for the celiac, reading labels and trying to figure out the definition all those words that look like they jumped out of a chemistry textbook is a challenge. Unfortunately, the FDA has not taken it upon themselves to make our lives any easier. Currently, the FDA encourages manufacturers of foods that contain common allergens (generally soy, milk, eggs, fish, nuts and wheat) to label their products, but this labeling is entirely voluntary. So is the labeling of gluten-free products (if you enjoy reading documents with absurd amounts of quotation marks check this out). Ugh. Gotta love bureaucracy. So the lesson is: always read your labels!

In our modern society, successfully reading food labels nearly requires a Ph.D. in Chemistry (my History degrees are generally unhelpful). It's a good idea for every celiac to familiarize themselves with common food label terms and whether they're dangerous or benign. In the early days you might consider bringing a cheat sheet along with you to the grocery store - better safe than sorry!

Today's confusing label term is triticale. What the heck is it? Celiac beware, triticale is a grain cross between wheat and rye. Double bad. The grain was first bred in Scottish and Swedish laboratories in the 19th century. It has a higher protein content than wheat, but current milling techniques designed for wheat do not work with triticale. Triticale is grown mostly in Western European countries for animal feed, but developers have high hopes for it as a replacement for wheat crops in developing countries for it's high protein content and, also, as a biofuel. Trekkies may recognize this grain from the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."

Monday, April 6, 2009

The X - Files: Cooking with Xanthan Gum (Gingerbread Pancakes)

It's taken me awhile, but I've finally decided to start experimenting with xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is produced from the outer layer of a tiny, inactive bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. It doesn't sound very appetizing, but it's tasteless nature and ability to hold together small particles makes it an ideal substitute for gluten in gluten-free baking (it's the gluten in wheat flour that holds ingredients together). An eight ounce package of xanthan gum produced by Bob's Red Mill (I really like Bob's Red Mill's products and Bob . . . he's clearly a man who knows how to acessorize- check out that bolo tie and newsboy cap) set me back $12.55 at the Natural Living Center. Pricy, but most recipes only call for a teaspoon- so it will last FOREVER.

The next morning, I decided to experiment with my morning pancakes (hooray for weekend breakfasts, usually it's just oatmeal and I run out the door). Actually, I would have been better suited tweaking the recipe to make the batter less thick (since in the past I've noted it's extremely thick nature), but it was Sunday morning and I wasn't thinking clearly yet. I ended up with very thick, very filling pancakes. But it's a great recipe, so I'll include it here minus the xanthan gum because it really wasn't necessary.

Gingerbread Pancakes
Combine all wet ingredients in one bowl and all dry ingredients in another. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet. Cook on a greased skillet. These pancakes are so thick, they won't cook all the way through on the stove top. I cook them for a few minutes on each side and put in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Serve with butter and maple syrup or get all fancy with whipped cream and strawberries. I think next time I'll increase the coffee and milk to try and make the batter a little thinner.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Madison!

Today Madison celebrates the big 0-3!
Her birthday wishes include catnip, tin foil balls, greenies, and more catnip.

Product Review: Nana's Cookie Company

Labeled gluten-free products are few and far between in the Union Marketplace at UMaine. The Marketplace just recently started caring a selection of No-Wheat and No-Gluten cookies from Nana's Cookie Company. They're a little pricey for my wallet (over $2 a cookie), but this past week the university bought my lunch and I decided to give them a try. My review is: they're okay. The Chocolate Crunch flavor was the only GF option at the Marketplace, although their website lists several other flavors. The cookie was very moist for a GF cookie, but the chocolate flavor was weak. In fact, the cookie tasted healthy. In my opinion, cookies should not taste healthy, they should be delicious and decandent and filled with chocolatey goodness. These cookies are not any of the above, which, in my opinion, makes them undeserving of their hefty pricetag. I'm glad to see some gluten-free options trickling into the Union, but for my GF dessert needs I'll stick with the rice krispie squares- yummy, GF, huge and only $1.25!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dining-Out 101: Japanese

Lucky for us celiacs, some delicious foods are naturally gluten-free. This includes on of my personal favorites, sushi - yum! Originally, my sister and I had plans for pizza Friday night, but a discussion of food at thesis defenses (very random) gave me a craving for sushi that couldn't be ignored. Sadly, our usual sushi spot, Ichiban on Union Street was closed (temporarily, I hope). So, instead we ventured over to the Mall to explore a new restaurant, Green Tea, which serves both Japanese and Chinese cuisine. We had to wait awhile for a table, but it was Friday night and we were without reservations. Although my sister strongly disliked the hostess, our waiter was friendly and prompt. While it wasn't as good as Ichiban (taste or presentation-wise), it took care of my sushi craving and the Spicy Tuna Tempura roll was gorgeous.

We also ordered the biggest seaweed salad I had never seen.

Dining-out at Japanese restaurants is easy, as far as gluten-free dining goes. Most items on the menu are naturally gluten-free, including most sushi, miso soup, tempura and many entrees (watch those noodles!). Two things to be cautious of: the sauces used in entrees and some of the fancier sushi rolls and soy sauce. I've noticed most Japanese restaurants provide Kikkomann brand soy sauce on their tables. One of the first ingredients in this particular brand is wheat, so I usually bring a small container of own soy sauce in my bag. La Choy is one example of a gluten-free soy sauce.

With a little organization and forethought, dining-out at Japanese restaurants is simple and delicious - enjoy!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Against the Grain? A Diet Philosophy

Adopting a gluten-free lifestyle is the only treatment for celiac disease. It's an adjustment and requires a great deal of commitment, but I've also discovered it to be an impetus for trying new things. A couple years after being diagnosed I read Jax Peters Lowell’s The Gluten-Free Bible and while Peters Lowell has excellent advice about living gluten-free in a gluten-filled world (bring your own crackers, brilliant!); she is not someone I would like to go to dinner with. At first, I was intrigued by her recommendation to outlaw gluten entirely from my surroundings. It appealed to my selfish side; the absence of gluten would mean the absence of my cravings. For me, completely removing gluten from my life was never a viable option. I live with a roommate who enjoys a regular diet, I’m the only celiac in a family of six and, as much as my type-A personality would like to think I otherwise, I cannot control everything, everywhere. I could never be so inconsiderate and self-absorbed as to announce to my roommate/sister she can no longer bring gluten products into our apartment (although I will not relinquish my right to nag her about the cleanliness of the bathroom). My dining-out philosophy is “you catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar.” If I can’t find a gluten-free option on a menu, I’ll nicely ask the waiter for recommendations. I don’t think threats are necessary; if I eat a little bit of gluten, I’ll be uncomfortable- but I’m not going to sue anyone over it. As celiacs we might be living life “against the grain,” but we can’t expect the rest of the world to accommodate us. We have to be pro-active in our own dietary lives. Let your host know you cannot eat gluten, but never guilt-trip him or her if they forget and serve Grandma's chocolate cake- you want to be invited back, don’t you? Even better, adopt my strategy: always offer to bring dessert.

She has great advice, but some of her discussions of attitude just rub me the wrong way. But anyway, could I have ventured farther from my topic? I intended this post to discuss beer. I miss beer and it's taken me a long time to find a worthwhile substitute. This beer brewed by Redbridge Brewery and bottled by Anheuser-Busch (which means it’s readily available) fits the bill (thanks to Sarah for the discovery). It’s brewed using sorghum and doesn’t use wheat or barley. It’s not the greatest beer ever, although it has consistently taken gold in the Gluten-Free Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival (so what if there were only ten competitors?). The sorghum gives it a sweet flavor that takes some getting used to, but aside from that it has a very mild flavor; I might describe it as watery. I’ve been known to say “life is too short to drink gluten-free beer,” but, as far as gluten-free beers go, this is very drinkable.
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