Monday, March 30, 2009

New splint

I could have lived with the previous splint. It was affordable. We made it from stuff around the house. We still don't have an income or an unemployment check.

Now, I could easily get into politics here. How the over taxation of Michigan caused business to run from here. How that it is taxing the unemployment system so that it doesn't send qualified people their checks. We're not the only ones that are not receiving their checks simply because of some fluke in the system. Or with stellar examples of proficiency like this and the bail out garbage, how could we not want government to run health care?

My husband, Ken insisted we buy one. He was right. My arm is feeling much better.

Gluten Freestyling With Lisa

The great thing about families is the way everyone pulls together when your hurt. Every weekend our family gathers on Friday and Saturday for dinner, games, and movies. My broken arm might have stopped me from cooking, but it didn't my family from gathering for our special time together.

Lisa, is twelve years and can show you how easy it is to cook gluten free family meals. She of course received a lot of coaching from mom. On Friday Lisa simply made sloppy joes using gluten free ketchup and spices. She then made a simple salad. Twelve is a little young to be doing deep fat frying, so big brother Jared cooked up the French fries.

For Saturday's meal, Lisa first put on a pot of rice to boil. She then chopped vegetables for a roasted vegetables dish. We were going to roast them part of the way in the microwave and then finish in the conventional oven, but once things got busy with the distraction of her older siblings and nephew showing up it, we forgot to move the dish to the oven. So, we needed to just cook them in the microwave to have them done on time. Lisa topped off the meal with steak and gravy. She did a good job. Her cooking was so delicious I think I might be fired. There were no leftovers.

The amounts in this recipe is all to taste and mood. What I give here is what Lisa choose. My daughter-in-law makes this same dish with fresh onions, the steak in it and uses rutabagas instead of celery.

Roasted Vegetables

1 tsp dried chopped Onions

3 small cloves Garlic

2 chopped Parsnips

2 stalks chopped celery

6 skinny Carrots chopped

Roast in conventional oven at 350° for an hour or until vegetable are tender. For microwave, cook on high for 10 minutes, stir, and finish by cooking for 5 minutes more.

Variation: Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and some spices before roasting.

Steak and Gravy

This is usually done with leftover steak, but since there wouldn't be enough we started out by browning some fresh steak.

1 and ½ pounds of chopped, browned steak. Stir in 2 – 3 tablespoons potato flour. Pour over this enough gluten free broth to more than cover the steak. Simmer on Medium heat until desired thickness. Serve over potatoes or rice.

For my vegetarian needs I tossed some tofu with low sodium Tamari, which is a gluten free soy sauce. I find it both at the health food store and the local grocery store. I tossed the tofu with my roasted vegetables.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life isn't easy

I know it isn't going to be easy to keep blogging, but I will do my best.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A muffin smiling showing that he is happy to be gluten free.

I'm sorry this picture didn't turn out better, but I had to ask, "Should I think that I am getting better at cooking gluten free muffins, when even my cat will eat them?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Anything You Need Muffins

This another long post, but I think it is worth your time. if you are interested in learning the ins and outs of successful gluten/allergy-free cooking.

I first learned about universal recipes from book two of the Tightwad Gazette's three book series, written by Amy Dacyczyn. I have used its muffin recipe so often that the book naturally opens to that page. Ms. Dacyczyn now has the six years of her Tightwad Gazette in one book. I understand from Fun Foods on a Budget, that there are more universal recipes in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. This is exciting to me, because I find this recipes easiest to convert to to my allergy free needs. So, as soon as I am done with my present stack of books from the library, I will be borrowing The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a part of my next stack.

Ms. Dacyczyn's universal muffin recipe, in the second book, was designed to help her readers create a muffin that is cheapest in their area of the country, and to meet their individual dietary restrictions. I personally don't like to call them restrictions. There are far too many other choices to enjoy; to leave yourself in that place of loss you felt when you first learned you had to go without some food. Or as in my case many favorite foods.

In todays blog I hope to further the ability of my reader to create an allergy-free muffin recipe. Because gluten-free bake goods tend to dry out don't make more than you can eat in two to three days. If they do go dry don't throw them out. Break them up into a bowl, top with fresh fruit and a milk of your choice, just like you would a bowl of cereal or strawberry shortcake. I will give a shorthand version of the recipe at the end of this posting.

Gum: Let me start with the important ingredient in gluten-free baking, Guar gum and/or Xanthan gum. These two gums work like a glue, binding the gluten free flours together, so they will hold the air bubbles needed to make light and fluffy bake goods. Guar gum is my favorite because it is corn free. However, for those Celiac's that have trouble with diarrhea, this may not be the right choice, as it is also sold as a laxative. For those with corn allergies, Xanthan gum may not be the right choice, because it is a substance scraped off the fermentation of corn.

Grain: Use 2 cups any combination of flours from the many gluten free grains.

  • brown rice

  • Sorghum flour

  • quiona flour or flakes. Flakes will not work well by them selves, you must have flour as your base ingredient.

  • almond meal

  • millet flour

  • teff seeds

  • bean flour

  • corn flour

  • cornmeal, this one will not work well by its self.

  • or flake cereal, this one will not work well by itself.

You can, also, substitute 1 cup cooked grain for 1/2 cup of the dry flour and decrease liquid to 1/2 cup. My favorite mix: 1 cup rice flour, ¼ cup quiona flakes, ½ cup millet flour, and ¼ cup Garbanzo bean flour.

Milk: Use 1 cup of any milk of your choice. You can use buttermilk or sour milk (add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk). If you want to substitute fruit juice for part or all of the milk you will have a need to raise the protein content. I do this by adding 1 tsp of unflavored gelatin. Raising the protein can, also, be done by using bean flour or nut meal as part of the flour mix.

Fat: You can use

  • up to 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Choose a light oil such as canola, safflower,or sunflower.

  • Another choice is to use 4 tablespoons melted butter,

  • margarine.

  • If using a butter substitute keep in mind these are usually lower in fat than butter and will effect the moisture of your muffins.

  • The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a "wet addition,” like mashed bananas.

  • You can also substitute any crunchy or regular nut butter for part or all of the fat.

Egg: Use 1 egg or choose one of the following substitution choices:

  • Ener-G Egg Replacer - follow directions on box.

  • 2 tbsp cornstarch, or arrowroot starch, or potato starch = 1 egg

  • 1 heaping tbsp soy powder + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg

  • 1 tbsp soy milk powder + 1 tbsp starch + 2 tbsp water = 1 egg.

  • 1 banana = 1 egg in cakes, so they make a good low fat choice here.

  • 1 tbsp milled flax seed and 3 tbsp water = 1 egg. Light, fluffy cakes!

Sweetener: Choices

  • between 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup sugar

  • up to 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • up to 1/2 cup honey or molasses

Baking Powder: Use 3 teaspoons. If using cooked grains, or more than 1 cup of additions, increase to 4 teaspoons. If using buttermilk or sour milk, decrease to 1 teaspoon and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. For those with corn allergies there are many websites that have a corn free baking powder recipe. This works just as well as the store bought, except when you haven't used it in a while. Just be sure to shake the container to reactivate it, this my grandmother taught me was the way she did it, back in her day.

Salt: You can omit or use ½ tsp.

The following ingredients are choices and a clear example as to why you should not think of your allergies as simply restrictions. All combinations use no more than 1 1/2 cups. If using more than 1 cup of wet additions, decrease the milk to 1/2 cup.

Dry Additions: Nuts, sunflower seeds, coconut, dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or apricots, and so on.

Moist Additions: Blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, and so on.

Wet Additions: Pumpkin puree, applesauce, mashed cooked sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit, or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup, or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.

Spices: Use spices that compliment the additions, such as 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg or cloves. Spices could include a teaspoon of parsley and a pinch of marjoram. Another great flavor is 2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon peel.

Jellies and Jams: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 teaspoon jam, or jelly and top with 2 more tablespoons batter.

Topping: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar, or poppy seed on the batter in the tins.

Non-sweet Combinations: Use only 2 tablespoons sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 3 strips fried-and-crumbled bacon, 2 tablespoons grated onion, 1/2 cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Anything you need muffins

2 cups of you choice flour or flour mix

1 teaspoon Guar gum or Xanthan gum

3 teaspoons baking power

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup more or less sweetener

2 tablespoons fat

1 egg or egg substitute

1 cup milk of your choice

To make muffins, combine dry ingredients, and then mix in wet ingredients until just combined and no longer dry. Grease and flour a muffin tin and fill the cups full. Gluten free does not rise like glutenous, so you needn't worry about it overflowing here. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes (give or take 5 minutes).

Monday, March 16, 2009


My Grandmother made homemade white bread once a week, every week. It was tender and chewy. The crust was buttered and had a flaky crunch. A slice with butter on top, just out of the oven or cooled off, practically melted in my month. I remember being set up on the kitchen stool and made to watch. My parents would send me over to help her, but she enjoyed the process and the bit of pride that came with just how truly good she was at cooking. I take those days of chit chat and cooking lessons, where I had to learn by watching, with me every time I go into the kitchen.

I had mentioned in my Breakfast Cake post that I was intimidated by the task of learning how to make gluten-free bread. I felt unguided. Recently, the leader of our local Celiac support group encouraged me to give it a try using Bette Hagman's, the Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. I borrowed the book from the library just in time for Karina Allrich,The Gluten-Free Goddess's, blog posting of her bread recipe. This was followed up with an accidental gluten contamination. The attack, it caused, was so severe and the pain was so intense that moving gluten out of the house (I.e. hubby's bread) is becoming a life and death situation. I was duly inspired to give bread a try.

I started by asking Karina Allrich about changing the sorghum and potato flour of her recipe with rice and tapioca flours. She told me that sorghum was springier than rice and that the texture would change. Since it's the protein in glutenous bread that gives us spring and texture, I consulted the chart in Bette Hagman's book. Sure enough, rice flour has four grams of protein less than sorghum flour. So taking Ms. Hagman's advice I added a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin to compensate for the difference. This protein in not in vegan gelatin, so the bread is not vegan.

I had to make another change in Ms. Allrich's recipe; egg replacer is made with potato starch. Since the reason I cut out potato flour in the first place is because I can't have any nightshade product, I would have to use an egg or tofu. Although I'm not trying to avoid soy, I decided to leave it soy free. A final note on using egg instead of egg replacer is that one tablespoon of oil is usually added to recipes using egg replacer, so I reduce the four tablespoons of oil to three tablespoons of oil.

At this point it is obvious that a simple change in flours wasn't in the science. These are a lot of changes and I had to make it by hand instead of by machine as Ms. Allrich had. I thought the changes over carefully and gave gluten-free bread a try. My first batch rose too fast. I knew it was too high and overproofed. I tried to carefully scrape the edges of the batter off hoping to reduce the possibility of it spilling over the sides. I was sure it would fall after it went into the oven. Well, it spilled over the sides during baking anyway, ended up sunk in, and came out gooey in the center. Oh, but the crust was the stuff I remembered.

After not having bread in a year and a half, this was beautiful. I toasted slices of it in the oven. We had it for supper with our poached chicken and vegetables. Even my Hubby was eating it. Okay he didn't like the chicken, but he ate several slices of the bread. We drizzled honey over it and ate it for desert. We ate it as French toast the next morning. We were out of it by time lunch was done, so I rushed to the kitchen counter to try again.

My change was with the oil. From my experience with making rice pancakes, I learned that unless I cut the oil in half from my old whole wheat recipes, the rice cakes came out gooey. I tried again with only one tablespoon oil. I need low fat anyway.

It rose too fast, sunk in the center during cooking, and came out, not quite, as gooey. We made chicken salad sandwiches with it and topped it with pumpkin butter. We ate it with chicken soup and chili. Toasted it and drizzled honey on top.

The local Celiac support group leader suggested less water. My daughter, Lisa was helping me and insisted I stop, but I added just a little too much water. The bread came out not as sunk in the center and the gooey center leaned more toward tacky. Liz and Hubby had it toasted with eggs and bacon, while I ate it toasted with pumpkin butter on top.

We were out of millet flour and were running low on brown rice flour. I rushed off to the health food store for millet. At home I ran the millet through my Kitchen Aid grain grinder and made a new loaf of bread before setting the rice to grind. I used just one cup of water. It was now a thick homemade cake batter instead of a thin box cake batter and took twenty minutes to rise. It looked so beautiful when I put it in the oven to bake, that I found myself unable to make a new batch of pumpkin butter fast enough in anticipation of the perfect loaf. Everything about it was the same as before just a little less. It was slightly sunk in the center. And just a little less tacky, but we ate more than half of it before our older children arrived for Friday Family Night.

Well, if I'm going to serve it with supper then I had better make another loaf. My oldest son arrived in time to (help) polish off the last of the loaf made with fresh ground millet, he, also, helped Hubby eat a third of the loaf I was to serve for dinner. I pulled it from the oven flat on top and with very little tackiness. It was gone before the evening was over.

The next morning, I wanted to see if I could simply replicate the last loaf's flat top and barely tacky inside. Hubby insisted that I keep experimenting to see if I could get rid of the tackiness. I decided that it needed to rise higher, so I added a teaspoon of yeast. What I forgot to take into consideration was the weather had turned cold. Instead of rising in twenty minutes it took more than an hour. Given the previous wet batches having a tendency to fall if risen above the pan edge I put it in the oven before Hubby wanted me to. But, it was flat on top and barely tacky inside. It wasn't even cooled off before the decision was made, by him, for me to make another.

This time Hubby insisted that I let it rise higher before putting it in the oven. Also, he wanted me to use half an egg, then he went into something about how to figure out half an egg by using a turkey baster. I asked him why I couldn't just put an egg in a measuring cup, beat it up and measure out half of that. He thought I was a genius. He had been telling me for a couple of days now that I should be running around claiming I was a genius. I thought he was saying that to encourage me. The day before, I did, however, have a slice of it with me while I was running errands. It was for eating when my blood sugar fell, but I was taking it out to show people. Sunken top and all. People who can eat gluten tried to understand my excitement, but still had trouble understanding how good a sunken, tacky slice of bread is.

For my next loaf, I forgot to put in the apple cider vinegar, which is used as a dough conditioner. It didn't rise well. Then I decided forget the ½ an egg business. I just could not get the top to rise round like a regular loaf. It is really a function of gluten. While I can get a rounded top on my muffins I'm not getting one on my quick breads, or cakes either. Perhaps it's a matter of knowing more cooking science.

Well, after all the experiments it turns out that I am so sensitive to fungus that I can't have yeast. I guess making bread without yeast will be even more science for me. I don't mind. I am now having a great deal of fun. Learning is fun. We should never be intimidated by it, but inspired by the freedom it brings to our lives. Give Gluten-Free bread a try.

Basic Rice Bread

Mix together in a medium bowl and set aside:

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca flour
½ cup millet flour
2 teaspoons Guar or xanthan gum
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dry yeast

Then mix the liquid ingredients:

1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 egg

  • Using an electric mixer, mix the liquid. Save some of the water aside to allow for the adjustment of the batter's thickness.
  • Add the dry ingredients. Mixed for a couple of seconds, stop and scrape the sides down, then mix for two minutes more. When it comes to adjusting the consistency of the batter lean towards thick. If it takes less then 20 minutes to rise, the likelihood of a sunken center is greater.
  • Scrape the batter into a greased and floured glass bread pan (I'm told that gluten free bread doesn't do as well in metal pans.)
  • I let rise it for 20 minutes in my gas oven, then let it rise 10 minutes more on the counter top while I preheated the oven to 350°.
  • Bake for 35 minutes
  • The inside is tacky, but disappears within a couple of minutes after cutting.
  • I find that an electric knife works best for cutting without squishing.

P. S. One day I mixed the batter with a half cup of soy milk instead of water. It looked like too much liquid so I stopped there. When I poured the batter into the pan it had thickened to a dough and wouldn't rise. I thought of another thing my grandmother did with bread dough. She called them dough boys. She would Flatten rounds of dough, deep fry them, butter them, and then dip them in sugar. They are as good as they sound.

When I served dough boys to my sons, who were teenagers at the time, they dubbed them lumpy bread and made sandwiches out of them.

So, lumpy bread is what I made with this batch of rice bread that wouldn't rise. And yes, it was very good!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chili and Cornbread

Chili and Cornbread are very easy to convert to your needs. You will have to cook from scratch. Ready made items that don't have something I, or another member of the family is allergic to, takes a bit of work. With the pervasiveness in which manufactures use common allergens like, corn, dairy, and gluten, vigilance in reading labels and cooking from scratch are two important survival techniques. Using the ready made or the preseasoned tomatoes and beans will mostly likely not be possible. Remember to read all labels. My chili recipe is Gluten-free, Corn-free, dairy-free, and a serving or two, for one member of my family, bean-free. This meal was a big hit with my family.

Start with browning the beef, onions and following spices:
1 ½ lbs ground beef
½ medium onion diced
1Tbs chili powder
½ tsp garlic powder

Drain the fat off the beef, then add:
2, 28oz cans diced tomatoes
1 Tbs Chili powder
2 Tbs green chilies
¼ tsp Cheyenne pepper (feel free to adjust this for taste)
a dash garlic powder

One person I am serving has a bean allergy, so at this point I remove a couple of servings. I simmer this for about 10 - 15 minutes before serving.

To the main pot I add:
2, 15 oz cans of kidney beans – or 1 cup of dried kidney beans soaked the night before, and cooked earlier in the day.
Then I add enough tomato juice to adjust the consistency of the chili

I set this all to simmer while I make the cornbread. While there are 3 members of my family that can not have corn the 3 men can. So, I am using up what is left of my cornmeal and corn flour on this recipe.

Corn bread
¾ cup corn flour
½ cup tapioca Flour
¼ cup course ground whole corn meal
¾ cup medium grind whole corn meal
1 tsp Xanthan gum
¼ cup of sugar
2 tsp baking power
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk - take your pick of milk type (cow, goat, soy, rice, hemp,...)
¼ cup vegetable oil – if making for those without dairy allergy this recipe is very good with butter as the fat
1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat oven to 400° f. Grease 8 or 9-inch pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

For those who could have the corn bread I serve gluten free bread.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gluten Free Family Meals

Family meals can easily be made into gluten-free meals that are also enjoyed by the gluten advantaged. There are little changes that are subtle enough everyone can live with them. The hardest change is the cost. Gluten-free beef broth is more expensive then plain old whatever broth. All the various flours used in gluten-free cooking is so much more expensive than wheat flour that you will cringe when you see it. However, in terms of flavor switching to gluten-free broth thickened with potato flour, no one has complained that my gravy tastes different. If fact my husband insists that my gravy is just as nasty tasting as it has always been.

Well, with the quality of my gravy aside, I thought I would share with you a couple examples of family meals that are easily converted to gluten-free and the family will still love them. My first examples is your basic baked ham meal. Old Kentucky Ham is gluten-free. Potatoes are gluten-free and any fresh vegetables, or straight forward frozen vegetables, are gluten-free. Let's cover the menu one dish at a time.

Old Kentucky Ham cooked as you always had before. If you covered it in pineapples before read the label on the can of pineapples to make sure that it is Gluten-free and use it just as before. The only change here is perhaps your brand of ham and/or your brand of pineapples. If you poked it all over with cloves before, check the label to be sure, but most likely whole cloves are whole cloves. If you used oven bags before, you can still use oven bags. The directions call for the dusting of the bag with flour. I e-mailed Reynolds and they e-mailed back within 5 minutes. The e-mail included a detailed explanation about the purpose of dusting the bag with flour. The bag could burst (it has to do with layers of water and fat in the bag turning to steam and boiling fat,) and how to reduce the possibility of it happening. How cool was that! The up shot of it is, you can use any GF flour or starch to dust the bags.

Mashed potatoes and gravy are done about to the same as before. If you do not have a dairy allergy then you can mash butter and milk into your potatoes without any change. If, as in our case, with dairy allergies, and one with a soy milk allergy we have found it best to mash the potatoes with just salt and pepper added to it. We don't add the pepper when the relatives who have a pepper allergy comes over. Each person at the table has to add what they want and mix it on their own plate. I have a nightshade allergy. The nightshade family of plants include, potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. I either skip this dish for myself, or warm some rice from the batch of cooked rice I keep in the refrigerator.

When I make the gravy I brown up bits of ham and throw it in with onions, carrots, celery, and two quarts of water. I simmer this, while I bake the ham, bringing the two quarts of water down to one quart of stock. After removing the ham from the roasting pan I strain the stock into the pan and bring it to a boil. This is to capture more of the browning flavor. The recommended method for making gravy with potato flour is to mix the flour with water, just as you would with regular flour, and pour this into the boiling broth. I'm a bit lazy on this point and just sprinkle it on top while whisking it into the broth. This allows me to adjust the thickness of the gravy to suit my family. Usually two to three tablespoons does the job for this much liquid.

Salad vegetables are gluten free and are easily made into many different versions. My quick and simple favorite is spinach, romaine lettuce, with shredded carrots. Since I don't eat meat I sprinkle cooled, cooked beans on my serving of salad. Garbanzo beans go best with spinach. Salad dressing is easy to make. Since mayonnaise is gluten, and dairy free, I whip it up with dill weed and lemon juice for my daughter. For a low fat dressing for me I sprinkle dill weed and lemon juice or apple juice on my salad. For the 'regular' folks I still serve regular store-bought dressing.

Corn from the freezer is just corn. It's gluten free. If you have a corn allergy, just substitute this with any cooked vegetable of your choice. Since we have corn allergies it isn't unusual for me to cook green beans, as well. Or just serve the salad as our vegetable.

Bread is a nice addition, but it will be at least a week before I post my 'learning to make gluten-free bread' experience. Tomorrow, I hope to post my chili and corn bread recipes.