Monday, February 23, 2009

Turning Gluten Free

When one first goes gluten free one feels overwhelmed. What's left to eat? Your old favorite recipes are now your worst enemy. Some pans and utensils are permanently contaminated with gluten and your cupboards and fridge are full of things you cannot eat. Learning about cooking without gluten feels daunting. Don't forget the feeling that you are in this alone. One search on the internet and you will be of whelmed again. The net is loaded with gluten free information, so where do you start.

For me it wasn't that daunting, at first. I had made changes in our diet 27 years earlier when I learned of my son's allergies. I learned about allergies, nutrition, and herbs with a bit of relish. I found studying about such things exciting. I had made changes before I can make them again. I had wanted to go back to being a vegan anyway. During the early 1990's I was working in a health food store, then, and I felt great on the diet(there was less gluten in it.) While pregnant for my daughter I found that I needed more protein than I was eating so the old American diet again crept back on me as my life became more hectic and more stressful.

Like I said, I did it before, I was sure I could do it again. It was my daughter's love of fast foods and my desire for a good old fashion sandwich that challenged me. I will tell you more about my re-education in baking bread next week. What I have for you this week is an ingredient that may seem like a secret, but is used, now, by gluten free cooks. Gum, not the kind you chew. When I first made the switch to gluten free a friend of mine sent me an article from Taste For Life January 2008 issue, written by Lisa Murry. The gluten I now can't have is the glue in glutenous bake goods, but guar gum provides that glue for gluten free bake goods.

So, I picked an easy recipe to start this new baking experience. Pancakes! It work very well, and since then, I have made my pancakes in various ways. I feel that I have my pancakes down pat and my family likes my gluten free pancake better than they had liked my old buttermilk whole wheat pancakes. While my first pancakes were of just rice flour I have settled on a rice/millet combination that I can whip up quickly (Millet helps provide a crisper crust.) Although, I use soy milk, any milk with at least 3g of protein should work, but water will not work. You can use 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin to compensate for this protein need, if you want to omit milk.

Gluten Free Pancakes

3/4 cup of Rice flour (or any flour blend you can imagine)
¼ Millet flour
½ teaspoon of Gar Gum
¼ cup of sugar or less (this is pretty sweet but helps with the browning of the cake)
2 teaspoons of gluten free Baking Powder (Rumford’s is GF, but not corn free)
¼ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ teaspoons of vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup of milk

Mix all the dry ingredients together then add the wet ingredients. Mix well. The batter will be thin at first, but will become very thick in a minute. You want it to be thick, that is a sign that the gluten is retaining the air that makes baked goods rise and you'll have fluffy pancakes that way.

Spoon about a ¼ cup of batter on a hot griddle. They do not bubble like regular pancakes when ready to flip. There will be bubbles beneath the surface and a slight drying along the edges when they are ready to turn.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Accidental Environmentalist

I couldn't help but learn to love nature, and the natural health stuff. My teen years of the 1970's were spent on the family farm in the middle of the state Department of Natural Resources Small Game Reserve. When we first moved to the farm we kept a deer diary, because they grazed in our little valley in herds of 3, to as much as 10. Our record day, was a total of 36 deer. In the fall my father and I would wonder through trails until we could smell peppermint. We would pick some to store and use through the winter months. He made wine from wild Elderberries. My mother made jelly from choke cherries. And, I can't forget the time my little brother and I picked wild strawberries in what turned out to, also, be a Poison Ivy patch. He was allergic to it, but I didn't have one symptom.
Don't go thinking I am a tree hugger. I think environmentalist go too far. I don't believe in Global Warming. The cold weather we have right now was predicted by the Farmer's Almanac and by the scientists who follow the Sun's spots. There is more evidence that the weather is cyclical then the chicken little-ism of what the news media and the public school system is feeding the general public. Look, I don't mean any offense, but when people are saying that the earth has been around for billion and billions of years, and that humankind has been around for a couple of hundred thousand. It strikes me as the height of arrogance to claim we are capable off destroying the earth. We are a part of nature we are a part of the biocycles and balances. One big volcano goes off and all our hard work of reducing carbon emissions is lost. The whole lot, it doesn't make enough sense for me to buy into it.
Yet, I use cloth bags to tote my groceries . I hate having the unnecessary garbage of plastic and paper bags. I could save them and reuse them, but ultimately I will have to throw them away. Since I don't truly need them, why accept them in the first place? It's a part of the throw away society we now live in. Why do we see so much garbage on the earth (and in space?) We are a throw away society. For the purpose of convenience, when it comes to packaging, and clothing, we throw everything away. I first realized this when my father, a cobbler at the time, showed me how shoes were being made so they could no longer be repaired. It was the part of the reason he eventually had to learn another trade. Everything is to be used, thrown away, and bought new. In the case of leather shoes I saw this as very wasteful. Leather items last for hundreds of years.
I don't like the pollution of the environment. I live in it and that stuff makes me physically sick. I find it ugly. I eat organic because Celiac disease has done it's damage. Aside from organic food being sweeter than it's industrialized counterpart, this goes with don't pollute. For me, the poisonous chemicals used in the growing of food pollutes my food.
I think solar power is just plain cool. I have always liked science. My favorite is studying things at the molecular level. Light photons on a solar cell causes the movement of electrons. This flow of electrons is electricity. Isn't that really cool! Absolutely fascinating!
Recycling is the best way to save money and slow down the need to things to be throw things away into a heap somewhere. I find it very interesting and fun to take something and turn it into something else. Sometimes the way my husband tries to save everything, saying we might use it someday ( That someday could be 14 years away!) drives me up a wall, but when he does a MacGyver type thing that saves us from spending money. I think, cool, how did you think of that! So sometimes I complain, sometimes I just beg him to clean it up and organize it so we can find what we have. In the end, it's his shed. I find it best to look away.
*The best thing about recycling is- it saves money.*
My favorite thing to recycle is the wide mouth glass jar. Natural peanutbutter has the best jars. It started with my Hubby. He simply preferred the jar for drinking his tea. Since then, we drill a hole in the cover for a straw to create a drink jar that doesn't spill much liquid. I don't bother to buy regular drinking glasses, because they end up broken in about 6 months. I like regular glasses and I miss them. I just can't see shelling money out twice a year or more just to have the civilized stuff, when these jars do the do the job. With many tiny holes in the lid it becomes the perfect bug observatory. With no holes in the top it stores liquid, soft, and dry foods. They are uniform in shape and size, making a cleaner look in the cupboard and the fridge. Most spoons can fit into the top for filling. The wide mouth makes it easier to fill and to remove stuff. If it gets broken I don't care. I just clean out the 'new' jars as my family eats all the peanutbutter.
To save money and keep your own space beautiful reduce, reuse, recycle.

Monday, February 9, 2009

International French Toast Pancakes or American Gluten Free Breakfast Cakes

I have severe low blood sugar. Some people with low blood sugar can get away with three meals and three snacks, or six small meals. I need 6 meals. Add to that a long list of allergies, I'm a mom, like my Grandmother who always cooked more than the family needed, and the result is I think about food more then I would like.

Because of the allergies, and Celiac disease, I'm missing out on a lot of the traditional foods I grew up on. I'm often thinking about how to convert what I can eat into something similar. As an American with many national backgrounds, and the influence of other nationalities, I often come up with meals that have a mix of two or three traditional dishes from two or three nationalities. This one recipe is an example of just that.

It all started with a desire for French toast. I have yet to learn how to make gluten free bread that I like. Actually I have been intimidated by the thought of making GF bread and finding ways to avoid it. Never the less, I want French Toast.

While digging through a cookbook I noted that Chinese Eggs Foo Young was nothing more then, vegetables, meat, and eggs whipped up together and fried. Needing a lower fat variety I dug out my tofu cookbook. Its vegan version used tofu and tapioca flour, but basically the same thing, vegetables with a binding agent whipped up together and fried. They reminded me of Jewish Latkes/ German Potato Pancakes. So, may I introduce to you:

American GF Breakfast Cakes

Makes 8 cakes

2 cups of cooked rice

2 eggs, (the equivalent of egg replacer, or 1/2 cup of tofu)

½ tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Tbs Agave (or use any sweetener)

Toss all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Mix well. Drop about ¼ cup amounts into hot olive oil, (or fat of your choice.) Cook for a minute on each side or until medium brown.

I served mine with homemade applesauce on top but found the apples overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the cakes. The flavor of store-bought applesauce is not as strong, and therefore may make a good topping.

Eat safe, eat healthy

Edit: I previously posted this with a 1/4 cup of tofu. That was an incorrect amount. 1/4 cup of tofu equals 1 egg, so if you need two eggs you need a 1/2 cup of tofu.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pumpkin Butter

With health problems like mind, I'm all about changing recipes for my needs. So, when I found the Fun Foods on a Budget website recipe Fluffy Pumpkin Mousse, the first thing I did was make it my own.

1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
4 cooked apples * or 1 cup of apple sauce
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/5 cake of soft tofu** (optional)
1/2 cup of brown sugar

I placed this all in a large mixing bowel and using my mixer, mixed well. The Fun Foods recipe calls for a little cooking, but these ingredients are all cooked, so I served it as is. Because of the watery constancy you may want to cook it for a few minutes, but I was happy with it as is.

I served this over our morning pancakes. Later in the day I warmed it in the microwave and ate it like that. Both ways were delicious.

*Once I learned to make apple sauce I find it hard to buy the already made variety from the store, because the homemade is so good. Also, it is the perfect thing to use up old mealy apples.

Peel, quarter, and core apples, place in a sauce pan with ¼ cup of water. Cook in covered pan over medium heat until tender. You can then run through the blender (fine), use a mixer (medium), or my favorite mash with a potato masher (chunky). I am quite fond of chunky apple sauce.

** Since my pancake recipe contains 3g of protein, the tofu was added to raise the protein content. This suits my low blood sugar needs. If you don't want it, don't put it in. It will not make any difference in the taste.