Friday, December 19, 2008

Gluten-Free Homemade Grape Nuts

I got pregnant a month after going gluten free. All I wanted was to wake up to starchy comfort food, but being new to the world of GF buying and cooking, I had a hard time finding anything I wanted to eat. I wrote an entire post a while back on gluten-free breakfast ideas hoping to help newbies out. I have found quite a few hot breakfast cereals that I love: Bob Red Mill's GF Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal and Creamy Buckwheat Cereal. I also eat a lot of quinoa and popped amaranth and the occasional bowl of oatmeal.

But I've really missed cold cereal since going gluten-free. I used to start every day with wheat flakes, Cheerios, and Grape Nuts all mixed together with raisins and chopped almonds. Yum. I've been less successful in finding satisfying gluten-free cold cereals. Perky O's sort of taste like Cheerios but not really. Nutty Rice and Nutty Flax similarly sort of approximate the consistency of Grape Nuts but not really. And all the Peanut Butter Panda Puffs-type cereals? They all have tons of sugar and/or no fiber. I have nothing against sugary cereals, but I at least want a healthy option.

Flakes are a little beyond the home baker, but I've discovered that people do make their own Grape Nuts (and, of course, load them down with sugar). Since Grape Nuts in the box are pretty simple--just flour, salt, and water--I decided to just leave out the sugar in my own recipe. You do have to bake them twice (once as a cake and once as crumbles to dry them out), but you could double the recipe easily. I had a bowl with raisins and almonds the next morning, and they really do taste just like Grape Nuts!

Grape Nuts
This recipe makes one quart.

3 1/2 c. whole-grain gluten free flours (I used 1 c. GF oat flour, 1 c. sorghum flour, 3/4 c. brown rice flour, 3/4 c. teff flour)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. milk

Combine the dry ingredients and mix in the milk. The mixture should be something like cookie dough (not the pudding consistency of GF yeast bread). Spread it 3/4-1" thick on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20-25 min. Remove the tray from the oven and cool for 20-30 min.

Break up the baked bread into large chunks and pulse in food processor until the pieces are the size of Grape Nuts. Spread over two jelly roll pans and bake at 300 for 1 hour. Stir every 15 min. Let them cool before eating or storing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Menus for Nov. 17 and Election Thoughts

After a long absence, I'm back to the Gluten-Free in the Greens. Thanks to those of you who wrote asking if all was well. Your emails made me feel part of a community, not just a lone voice talking to the void. My last post at the end of June came just as we embarked on a lonnnggg road trip to see family and friends (a great reason that I wasn't posting). Then came weeks of debilitating seasonal allergies culminating in a nasty sinus infection (an unfortunate reason I wasn't posting). Then came the weeks of catch up. But I'm finally back, juggling blogging between freelance writing, a 14-month-old, and life. It's nice to feel normal again.

Gluten-Free in the Greens is decidedly an apolitical blog, but I am a decidedly political being. On election night I sat up watching CNN, listening to Democracy Now! and NPR, and monitoring I am definitely a news junkie. I can't not talk about how over the moon I am that Obama has been elected. I can't not talk about it especially because this election symbolizes for me something like what this blog symbolizes for me. (BTW, Check out my friend Laura's report about Grant Park on election night!)

As much as I like Obama and want to sit back while he fixes everything that's bad (Universal health care! No more war! Peace in the Middle East! Global warming stopped!), I know that's not going to happen. Hopefully he will pursue a progressive political agenda and pass some of his legislative priorities, but that's not the point. For me, the point of his campaign and election has been that I, along with a lot of other people in this country, can change something, can accomplish something I believe in.

Change isn't the property of politicians. I started this blog because I needed to make a change and embrace the fact that I'll never eat gluten again. And all of you gluten-free bloggers out there have done the same thing. I can't count the number of times I've met someone with celiac, sent them to my blog, and heard back that reading what I've written and discovering other blogs has really helped her make the transition to gluten-free eating.

After so long without blogging, I was a little a afraid that I'd just give up. It would be so easy. I've gotten out of the habit of reading my favorite gluten-free blogs. I haven't been cooking as much. I haven't been taking pictures of my food. But this forum is important to me, so I'm using this post as a recommittment to myself that I will keep blogging. This week I had a rather painful interaction with someone I love that touches the root of what celiac disease can cause: social isolation. In the wake of that, I realize that I have to keep blogging. It's my responsibility to raise awareness about issues that are important to me. People do listen if you keep talking about something that needs to be talked about. That's what I've learned from this blog, and that's what I've learned from Obama.'s what I'm eating. The Gluten Free Menu Swap is being hosted by Esther at The Lilac Kitchen this week. Head on over there to find out what other gluten-free bloggers are cooking!

Sunday: Broccoli Quiche with the Gluten-Free Girl's crust (sans sugar and cinnamon), mashed sweet potatoes with coconut milk
Monday: baked beans, applesauce, sauerkraut, brown bread
Tuesday: Laotian feast at book club (we're reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down)
Wednesday: baked beans again!
Thursday: tomato soup with home-canned tomatoes (!) and grilled cheese
Friday: socca and chard
Saturday: tomato soup and grilled cheese

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My One-Pot Meal: Tamale Pie

I'm participating in the "Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free" Blogging Event for the first time! The theme is "One-Pot Meals." Maybe soon I'll actually get around to hosting an event...

In any case, tamale pie is my one-pot entry. It's a natural one-pot meal. You get your veggies, protein, and grain all in one whack. It's also versatile: I've made this recipe with meat, without meat, and vegan.

If you've never encountered a tamale pie, which I hadn't until I married the Science Teacher, it's not a "pie" in the crimped pan of flaky dough sense. There's a layer of chili on the bottom and a layer of cornbread on top. Of course, this is where your preferences come in--how do you like your chili? Beany? Meaty? Vegetarian? Lots of veggies? Just tomatoes and onions? So hot you may as well have rubbed a habenero all over your tongue?

The cornbread part is a whole other debate. Our tamale pies tend to have thicker cornbread crusts, but the Science Teacher's mom's version is of a thin-crust variety. And then the question of what kind of cornbread to make arises. Cornbread is a funny creature. Whenever I mention to anyone around here that I've made cornbread, I tend to end up in conversations like this:

Me: "I made cornbread last night--it was totally rainy-day comfort food!"

Other Person (surprised): "Cornbread? Really? How do you make it gluten-free?"

Me (somewhat bemused): "The same way you make watermelon gluten-free--it just is."

OP (persistently): "But how do you make it without flour....."

Sigh. I'm considering getting tee-shirts printed with the recipe. This is what I get for moving north to Vermont, the place where no one says "y'all" (except, of course, the Science Teacher, and he attempts to use it in the singular, as in when he addresses me with "Whatta y'all want for breakfast"--I don't even dignify such grammatical frippery with an answer) and all cornbread contains flour.

You see, I grew up with all-cornmeal cornbread. I have since discovered that there exists "Northern" cornbread, which is usually at least half flour and contains more sugar than its southern cousin, and "Southern" cornbread of the type I ate growing up (case in point, even the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special refers to their cornbread recipe as "Southern Wheat-Free Cornbread"). Check out the wikipedia entry on the regional differences in cornbread recipes.

Before I give you the recipe I use--which does change every time I make it--let me give some tips for tamale pie customization.

The Crust:
For the crust, you can basically use your favorite cornbread recipe. One cup of cornmeal/flour (not including the other ingredients) will yield a fairly thin crust; two cups a nice thick crust. You can simply adjust your favorite recipe for the amount of cornmeal/flour you need. The batter must be thin in order to cover the entire pie so you might need to add a little liquid to achieve the right consistency. Don't worry too much about it--cornbread is forgiving.

If you prefer lighter, cakier cornbread, use half cornmeal half gluten-free flour (brown rice, sorghum, or whatever you have on hand) plus a 1/2 tsp. of xanthum gum. Use 3-4 tbsp. of sugar, honey, or maple syrup per two cups of cornmeal/flour for a sweeter cornbread, or 1 tbsp. (or none) for a more savory cornbread.

You can also add shredded cheddar and chopped jalapenos, if you like.

The Chili:
Since you probably have your own favorite chili recipe (at least, I hope you do!), I won't make suggestions here. Just make sure that you have enough filling to balance out the crust you've chosen. Three cups of beans or a pound of meat plus veggies is probably enough for a 1-cup-of-cornmeal crust but not enough for the thicker crust.

Tamale Pie
As you can probably tell, tamale pie can be highly improvisational. Here's a starting place for your experiments! These recipes are inspired by those in Jane Brody's fabulous Good Food Book and Good Food Gourmet.

2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. boiling water
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. honey
1 egg
2 tbsp. oil
1 1/4-1 1/2 c. buttermilk or yogurt

Chili Filling:
1 lb. ground buffalo
1 tbsp. oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 c. kidney beans
1/2 c. black or green pitted olives
1 can of diced tomatoes
2-3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bottle gluten-free beer or 12 oz. water
1 tbsp. gluten-free worchestershire sauce
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 heaping tbsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
generous pinch of cinnamon or allspice

Mix 1/2 c. of the cornmeal with the boiling water. Stir until combined. Mix with the other liquid ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients in another bowl. Set aside until you're ready to pop the pie in the oven.

Brown the meat--if you're using it--rinse it in cold water (this gets rid of any grease), and set it aside. Heat the oil and saute the onion, green pepper, and garlic until soft. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon or allspice, and cook for about a minute. Add the rest of the ingredients, and cook for 20-30 min.

Transfer the chili mixture to a greased 2-3 qt. casserole dish (deeper is better as the cornbread will rise). Stir the wet crust ingredients into the dry ingredients, and pour over the chili filling. Bake at 350 for 30 min.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Asian-Style Tofu Loaf

I grew up pretty much unaware of tofu as food that I might actually want to eat. Most of the meals I remember centered around meat: chicken casserole, hamburger goulash, baked flounder, etc. Not terribly unusual for someone whose grandparents grew up on farms.

I first encountered tofu on a regular basis in college, where firm tofu was ubiquitous on the salad bar and, for the first time, I had friends who were vegetarian. I ate it then, but I can't say I loved it. Even when I experimented with my food identity, first becoming vegetarian and later going through a vegan phase for 8 months, I never really got the hang of tofu.

In the past few years I've found new techniques for cooking tofu though. I have a killer baked soy-sesame tofu recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. I learned about stir-frying tofu from a mini-tutorial in EatingWell. In general, I feel more confident in my abilities with tofu now. So last Friday, when I needed to either invent dinner from our larder or go shopping, I opted to stay home and do a little experimental tofu cookery. Enter Project Tofu Loaf.

I've never made a loaf out of anything but flour, turkey, or ground beef. So I did what most internet-addicts do--I googled it. A Google search for tofu loaf turns up a bunch of results for a recipe called Tip Top Tofu Loaf. At first, I thought someone had just discovered the nirvana of tofu loaves. After reading a few negative recipe reviews, however, I realized that they were all test-driving a particular recipe from La Dolce Vegan. The message I got was: whatever you do, don't make it bland.

Most tofu loaves call for tofu, some bread crumbs or oatmeal, spices, ketchup, and maybe some tahini. I couldn't find any "this was fabulous!" reviews for this breed of loaf so I decided to base my flavor principle on one of my favorite condiments: spicy peanut sauce.

When the Science Teacher came home, the loaf was already baking and I was upstairs playing with the Little Pottamus. He walked into the room, and we started talking. Casually, I said, "Guess what's for dinner, honey?"

"Soup from the soup restaurant?" he answered, half hopefully. "No," I said, "even better." He gave me the dubious look he reserves for my announcement that I've snuck vegetables into the dessert again and asked, "Okay, what then?"

"Tofu loaf!" I said brightly. Then a forlorn expression of horror and disbelief crossed his face. I laughed so hard I fell over on the floor and cried. "Is it shaped like a turkey?" he asked as I continued to cry.

When dinner time arrive, he poked skeptically at the loaf and said, "You should have called it tofu bake. 'Bake' doesn't conjure images of lentil pate and other hippie delicacies." Then he took a bite. And another. And another. After consuming the bigger part of a large hunk of tofu loaf, he asked, "Next time will you put some chopped up peanuts in it, too?"

Asian-Style Tofu Loaf

1 14-oz container firm tofu
1/2 c. TVP
1 c. GF bread crumbs
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1-2 tsp. chili-garlic paste (sriracha)
2-3 tbsp. peanut butter
2-3 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tbsp. lime juice

Place the TVP in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over the TVP until it's covered. Put a lid or plate over the bowl, and allow to sit.

Saute the onion and carrots in the olive oil until the carrots are tender (maybe 10 min.). Add the chili-garlic paste in the last few minutes of cooking.

Crumble the tofu in a large bowl. Add the TVP. Add the sauted veggies. Add the peanut butter and stir well to distribute. Add the soy sauce, tumeric, and lime juice, and stir well. Press the mixture into a greased 8x8 dish, and bake for 50 min. at 350 in a preheated oven. Allow to cool before cutting.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

I'm back after a two-week hiatus! I've just started a new part-time job and am still juggling my old part-time job (as well as my full-time+ job as a stay-at-home mommy). All of that has led to not as much cooking experimentation. We've been eating some old favorites and emptying out the freezer--after all, it's almost blueberry season here, and I need to make room!

As some of you might remember, I went to my cousin's wedding two weeks ago. I felt pretty good about how my gustatory experiences panned out: I think all the food I ate was safe, and I managed to eat more than just the salad (though I'm definitely going to take Sally's advice next time and take salad add-ins for a more substantial dish!).

I couldn't eat the dessert at the wedding, of course. They served cupcakes that you ice yourself. Apparently, the caterer thought allowing guests to ice their own cupcakes was a terrible idea. My opinion is that you can do what you want at your own wedding and that it's no better or worse of an idea than the current trend in wedding appetizers: the mashed potato bar. Think ice cream sundae meets mashed potatoes, chives, and bacon. There were even sundae-style dishes. Suspecting lurking gluten, I skipped it.

Missing out on ice-your-own-cupcake fun wasn't a terrible hardship. I've never been much of a dessert person when I eat out. Not that I don't love dessert. I once attempted to fast for Lent (don't ask me why) only to fail when I encountered a chocolate chip cookie for the first time in months at Bohemia Bagel in Prague. But I have found that my waistline and my general well-being both appreciate it when I consume very moderate amounts of high-sugar desserts. I'm much more likely to eat a small piece of dark chocolate or a few spoonfuls of ice cream partnered with squishy Medjool date than a whole piece of cheesecake.

Enter mini-cupcakes. I bought two mini-cupcake pans last summer when I was experimenting with gluten-free cake recipes and didn't want to have to eat a whole piece of cake just to try out the recipe. I'd get to try a few bites of a new recipe and not have to feel like I was splurging. So all summer, I made cupcakes, tried them out, and then took them to picnics to share with my friends.

This is the beauty of the cupcake. Think about it: when you make a whole cake, there are no "tastings." You bake the cake, you ice the cake, you refrigerate the cake until serving time. With cupcakes, you bake the cupcakes, you ice the cupcakes, and if one or two get eaten between then and the party, no one's the wiser.

I tried a few of Brendan's recipes at Something in Season before he decided to stop blogging: the caradmom-date cake and the ginger cake with dark chocolate glaze stand out. I wish he still maintained his archive so that I could link to them. I hadn't tried a chocolate cake, though.

Having a solid chocolate cake recipe in your repertoire is key. The flourless chocolate cake--a blessing to us gluten-free folks--is not what I'm talking about here. Don't get me wrong, the flourless cake is heavenly--smooth, decadent, and super-chocolaty. But it's also expensive, relying on lots of eggs, butter, and good-quality melted chocolate, and fancier than what I have in mind.

I'm talking about an old-fashioned, layer cake type of recipe. With that, you can always make a great birthday cake. Before going gluten-free, I used the thrifty Moosewood chocolate cake with no eggs or butter (it uses oil and is leavened by a reaction between baking soda and vinegar--remember those volcano demonstrations in elementary school science?).

Making a gluten-free version turned out to be easy. I started with the Moosewood, threw in a pinch of Brendan's ginger cake and some cinnamon, and voila! Chocolate cake, or rather, mini cupcakes. I iced them with an old-fashioned caramel icing that my grandmother taught me how to make. The only substantial change I made to her icing was to add sea salt for a salted caramel taste. Yum!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Icing
This recipe will make 1 8-in cake, 12 cupcakes, or 24 mini cupcakes (plus a ramekin of batter for the cupcakes).

1 1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthum gum
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
a generous pinch of cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 c. oil
1/4 c. pureed prunes
1 tsp. vanilla
10 tbsp. brewed coffee (or water)

As simple as it gets. Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Mix them together. Spoon into your prepared pan of choice. Bake at 350 for 15 min. (mini cupcakes), 20-25 min. (cupcakes), or 30-35 min. (8-in cake), until a knife comes out smooth.

Salted Caramel Icing

1 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. milk (any kind)
1/4-1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4-2 c. powdered sugar

Mix the sugar, butter, milk, and salt in a heavy pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about 5 min. Add the vanilla. Cool the mixture to room temperature and beat in the powdered sugar a bit at a time with your mixer. (The cooler the caramel when you add the powdered sugar, the less you'll have to add to get it to a spreadable consistancy. Alternatively, you can mix in the powdered sugar and refrigerate it--the icing will stiffen as it sits.) Ice your cupcakes and refrigerate!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Menus: May 11

Our menu this week comes mostly from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Recently, he's inspired me to cook my own beans instead of buying canned. I never realized how easy it is. With a 12-hr soak, the beans are usually cooked in less than an hour. I plan to use them in a few meals and freeze the rest. For the price of two cans of Progresso chickpeas (about $2.50), I get 2 lbs of cooked beans, or over nine cups. And their taste is immeasurably better than canned.

Tips for cooking dried beans: When cooking your own beans, add 5 inches or so of kombu to make the beans easier to digest. Don't add salt until the beans start to become tender.

Our Mother's Day meal--sushi bowls--consists of brown rice topped with pickles (in the small bowl), Japanese omelets, braised veggies, and avocado. Mmm! What more could a first-time mom want? I've included the recipe for spicy 2-hour pickles. Don't be too scared by the amount of sriracha called for--my palate doesn't tolerate very hot chiles, but I don't have a problem with these.

The Gluten-Free Menu Swap is being hosted by Faking It Gluten-Free Style this week so head on over there to check out what other GF bloggers are eating.

Question of the Week:
What do you do when you're invited to a wedding (or similar event)?
Take your own food? Call the restaurant ahead of time? Talk to the caterer?

Sunday: sushi bowls with Japanese egg crepes, pickled daikon (see recipe below), and braised carrots and parsnips

Monday: stewed chickpeas in their own broth with tahini and bread crumbs, kale

Tuesday: chicken soup, yet-t0-be-determined veggie

Wednesday: chickpea redux

Thursday: Dinner at my in-laws'

Friday: my cousin's rehearsal dinner

Saturday: my cousin's wedding

Spicy Quick-Pickled Daikon (a variation on Bittman's Asian-Style Quick Pickles)

1.5 lb. daikon sliced into quarter circles
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. dark sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3-4 tbsp. chili-garlic sauce (sriracha)

Place the daikon in a colander. Sprinkle the salt over it and rub it around with your hands. Put a plate over the salted daikon (still in the colander and in the sink or over a plate to catch the liquid) and a weight on the plate (I use my iron tea pot). Let it sit for 30 min. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Put the daikon in a bowl and pour the chili sauce over it. Let it still for at least one hour before eating.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eating Out and Gluten-Free in D.C. Part II: Java Green

The last time I was in Washington, D.C., I discovered Teaism and their gluten-free menu. We just returned from another visit--and, oh, were the azaleas gorgeous! No Teaism this time, as delicious as it was during my last trip. I was hunting for new gluten-free territory, and I found it at Java Green, a downtown cafe on 19th, near K St.

After a morning at the National Portrait Gallery, we headed over to Java Green. The Science Teacher raised his eyebrows when I told him, somewhat sheepishly, that it was a (mostly) vegan cafe. He has nothing against vegan food, but having worked summers at a camp with a not-terribly-good macrobiotic chef, he maintains a healthy skepticism towards it. However, he loves to eat out and loves it even more when I get excited about eating out, so he was game.

We arrived and the place was fairly busy, but it was around 1 p.m. so we were able to order and find seats without waiting too long. The menu is large and consists of paninis, wraps, noodle and rice bowls, salads, and huge selection of blended juices and smoothies. They also only use wheat-free soy sauce! Kaveat: nothing on the menu is designated "gluten-free," but there are a number of items labeled "wheat-free" (their online menu doesn't indicate the wheat-free options, but you can download their new menu, which does show the wheat-free dishes, at the bottom of their homepage). From what I can tell, beyond the obvious fact that a panini isn't gluten-free, some of the fake meat products or the sauces used on them contain wheat and some don't. The Science Teacher ordered sweet potato noodles with spicy mock chicken, which was not wheat-free; however, if he'd ordered it with the regular mock chicken, it would have been wheat-free.

I ordered the Silk Road (pictured above), a plate of baby spinach, steamed silken tofu, mock chicken in a sesame-soy dressing, carrots, cucumbers, and roasted nori. I was a little worried about the mock chicken, thinking about my favorite vegetarian sausage that I had to give up when I went gluten-free (isn't all of that stuff made with seitan??). I questioned the woman who took my order, and she went back to the kitchen to check. When she returned, she said it was only made of soy products. I was good to go! As you can see, the food was beautiful and fresh. It was also very tasty. I usually don't finish my restaurant meals, but I kept nibbling at the mock chicken until nothing was left on my plate. It was a pleasure to be able to order something "as is" from the menu.

Java Green also bills itself as an "eco" cafe. They compost the food waste and recycle their utensils, glass, and paper products. They use china dishes instead of disposable and biodegradable carry-out containers. They buy wind power to offset their carbon footprint and support a variety of eco-conscious, fair-trade organizations. You can eat gluten-free and support a business that's trying to act in an ecologically responsible manner!

The Science Teacher's sister told me that Java Green is also one of the few places that her kosher-keeping friends can eat downtown. Another plus!

Also, check out the DCGluties' post on Java Green and other information on their website about eating out gluten-free and finding gluten-free food in the D.C. area.

Stay tuned for reviews of gluten-free eating (in non-chain restaurants) in Vermont:

Kismet in Montpelier serves up gluten-free buckwheat crepes, wheat-free tamari, rice bowls, tamales, gluten-free bagels, and more. The owner's son has celiac so she knows what she's doing.

That's Life Soup
in Montpelier always has gluten-free options, and they're labeled on the menu. They also usually have vegetarian and dairy-free soups. Call ahead though because the menu changes daily and sometimes they run out of some soups by dinner time.

The Skinny Pancake in Burlington offers up a complete menu of gluten-free crepes to nosh on as you listen to their great line up of musicians.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quinoa-Almond Butter Cookies (Kosher for Passover)

Passover's almost over, and I'm surrounded by people who are sighing over their matzo and guiltily buying non-kosher-for-Passover food because they're starving and can't find any other food. I could feel bitter. After all, when Passover ends, I don't get to return to wheat, barley, oats, rye, and spelt. Instead, I listen with bemused detachment and a smidge of pity.

Every year those eschewing chametz spend a week in gluten-free boot camp. They're never there long enough to become accustomed to always carrying food they can eat and to not feel somewhat deprived without gluten (given, there are other foods restricted by Passover, such as legumes, but giving up black beans for a week isn't the same for most people as not eating bread).

Having been gluten-free for a year and a half, I also know that life without wheat isn't that bad. It's not bad at all, in fact. When the Science Teacher told me that he and his friends used to eat matzo pizza in desperation, I thought Who needs matzo pizza when you've got a quinoa crust? I made quinoa porridge this morning for breakfast, which very few non-gluten-free people would think of eating, and it was delicious. Nutty and a bit sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg. I have a huge advantage because I have all of this culinary know-how at my disposal. I think of trying quinoa for breakfast as a part of my endless search for new great breakfast cereals whereas it probably wouldn't occur to a gluten-eating person. Of course, part of the point of Passover might be feeling some deprivation. If so, I guess the gluten-free folks get an easy out for once!

In any case, it's great to be able to share some goodies, savory or sweet, with those who are feeling deprived without chametz and kitniyot. I whipped these up in moment of anti-macaroon sentiment...

Passover-Friendly Quinoa-Almond Butter Cookies
These cookies are a version of my peanut butter-oatmeal cookies. The banana flavor is pronounced so if you don't like banana just leave it out and add a little more liquid (for the coconut milk to soak up). The almond butter flavor, however, is much less pronounced than the peanut butter flavor is in the original version so you might add either some almond extract (1/2-1 tsp.) or more almond butter.

1 c. quinoa flakes
1/4 c. quinoa flour
1/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. almond butter
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. mushed banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. (or more!) chocolate chips

Preheat the over to 350. Mix the flakes, flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix the almond butter, honey, brown sugar, egg, banana, and vanilla in a large bowl. In several parts, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix. Stir in the chocolate chips. Spoon tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 12-13 minutes--until the tops just start to brown--for soft cookies. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Similar Recipes (not necessarily kosher-for-passover as written)

Gluten-Free Quinoa Almond-Butter Cookies

Monster Qunioa Peanut Butter Cookies
Almond Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Banana Cake

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Homemade Yogurt

I've been eating yogurt for years, but until I lived in Russia, my yogurt consumption was limited to Dannon and Yoplait. I hated dumping Dannon Fruit on the Bottom yogurt into a bowl and watching it hold its cup-like, gelatinous shape. Reminded me of cranberry sauce from the can (which, I admit, I love, but the can ridges are a bit scary).

In Russia and later in Ukraine, I discovered yogurt made from 1%, 2%, and even whole milk. Suddenly I could get any kind of yogurt I wanted and in all sorts of surprising flavors, like prune and pineapple. After growing up on the ubiquitous berry concoctions, I was hooked. Later I lived in Bulgaria, the home of yogurt, and discovered tarator (see below for recipe) as well as the joys of a good-quality plain yogurt.

Yogurt flavors and companies have multiplied since I was a kid eating from a conical Yoplait container. Dannon sells their Activa brand, which claims to help your digestion (though I'm not clear how it differs from any other yogurt with active cultures), in fun flavors, like fig. A recent perusal of my dairy aisle turned up whole, 1%, and several kinds of Greek-style yogurt. I'm not, however, terribly excited about the amount of sugar or, worse, artificial sweeteners used in them. And now that the Little Pottamus is eating yogurt, I need to be able to find organic whole milk yogurt for him. Shame on Dannon, Yoplait, and even Stonyfield's for putting so much sugar in their yogurts marketed at kids!

So why not make my own? Turns out it's super easy and far cheaper than buying yogurt from the store (even with the most expensive organic milk our coop has on offer homemade yogurt is half the cost of the commerical yogurt I would normally buy). And homemade yogurt tastes better than anything you can buy in a store--it's creamy and you can make it as rich as you like. Making yogurt doesn't take much time. I usually put the yogurt on as I'm cleaning up the kitchen or prepping dinner. Give it a try!

Homemade Yogurt
Some recipes call for added powdered milk to make it thicker. I've never had a problem with homemade yogurt not being thick enough, but you might experiment. I like my yogurt plain or with a little maple syrup or tahini and, of course, with plenty of add-ins!

1/2 gallon milk (2% is my favorite, but you could use any kind of cow/goat milk--see below for non-dairy tips)

1/2 cup plain yogurt with active cultures (a carton of Dannon or Stonyfield's will do)

candy thermometer
2 quart-sized glass jars with lids

1 8-oz. glass jar with lid

large pot with lid (for sterilizing the jars)
pot with heavy bottom (for heating the milk)
small cooler or pot (for keeping the milk warm as it becomes )

Step 1--Sterilize the jars: Put two glass quart jars, their lids, and a small (8-10 oz.) jar and lid into a large pot (I use my pasta pot) with a few inches of water. Put a lid on the pot, bring the water to a boil, and boil for about 10 min.

Step 2--Scald the milk: While the jars are sterilizing, heat a 1/2 gallon of milk in a large pot with a heavy bottom. Hook a candy thermometer on the side. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk reaches 85-90 deg. Celsius.
Step 3--Cool the milk: Remove the scalded milk from the heat and cool until the milk reaches 50 deg. Celsius. I partially fill the sink with cold water, plunk the pot in the sink, and stir to speed up the cooling process.

Step 4--Inoculate the milk: Put 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures (I've used Dannon, Stonyfield's, and homemade yogurt from a previous batch successfully) in a 1-cup measuring cup. Add 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and stir to remove all of the lumps. Pour the yogurt-milk into the rest of the cooled milk and stir to combine.

Step 5--Pour the milk into the jars and cap them. Place the jars in a small cooler or deep pot. Add enough hot water until the jars are 3/4 submerged (you may need to place the smallest jar on top of an upside-down cup to make it tall enough). The idea is to keep the milk at around 50 deg. Celsius. At this temperature, you should have yogurt in about 3 hrs. (don't test the jars until 3 hrs have passed, or you risk losing heat each time you check on them). If the milk has gelled, congratulations--you've made yogurt! If not, just leave it a little longer, until it gels. Stick it in the fridge and enjoy. You can also freeze yogurt, just don't fill the glass jars too full or they will break (yep, one of my nice Mason jars broke yesterday).

Yogurt Recipes and Resources

Homemade Yogurt at 101 Cookbooks
A Comprehensive Yogurt-Making Tutorial (a more in-depth version of my instructions)
Homemade Soy Yogurt
Homemade Soy Yogurt at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt at Stephen's Recipes
Buy a GF, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Yogurt Starter!

Tarator (Balkan Cucumber-Yogurt Soup)
Labneh (Yogurt Cheese)
Greek-Style Soy Yogurt or Soy Yogurt Cheese

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: April 14

The Gluten-Free Menu Swap is being hosted this week by Gluten-Free Sox, so head on over for some great menu-planning ideas...

Passover starts next Sunday. In our household, we celebrate Shabbat on Fridays and major holidays, but, not being Jewish, I don't fast on Yom Kippur and don't purge my house of chametz (which does actually include some things that the gluten-free do eat) before Passover. We don't, however, serve ham at our seders--all the food there is above board and kosher for Passover. Gluten-Free Bay's Passover Roundup 2007 has great resources and recipes whether or not you'll be heading to a seder soon!

This year, we're going to a record number of seders: three! To all three, I'll take gluten-free mock matzo, and I'll take the tzimmes dish below to the first one. I'm on the list for a dessert for seder #2, and I'm looking for a yummy, not-t00-bad-for-you dessert that TRAVELS. We'll be driving 10 hours the day of the seder. Any ideas?

Sunday: turkey chili, apples and kale, cornbread
Monday: Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese, salad
Tuesday: Black Bean Burgers, mashed butternut squash, kasha and onions
Wednesday: mac n' cheese redux
Thursday: more bean burgers!
Friday: pizza, salad
Saturday: We're taking Winter Squash-Chicken Tzimmes to a pre-seder seder

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: April 6

In How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman suggests that one strategy to preparing vegetarian meals--that might involve many "side" dishes rather than one main dish with a few sides--is to prepare a big pot of beans and/or grains early in the week and find ways to incorporate them differently into several meals. This week I'm trying this menu-planning tip out with kidney beans. I bought two pounds at the co-op. I'll use some in the kidney bean-apple dish, some in the chili, some in a quinoa salad for lunches. I might even make some lobio, a classic Georgian (the country, not the state) dish. If so, I'll definitely blog about it--such a tasty salad is not to be missed!

This week we're eating...

Sunday: broiled rainbow trout, steamed broccoli, baked sweet potatoes

Monday: broiled crab cakes (Virginia-style, not Maryland, for you crab cake aficionados), steamed broccoli, creamy buckwheat cereal with pesto

Tuesday: sauteed kidney beans with apples, braised cabbage, cheese

Wednesday: turkey chili, corn tortillas

Thursday: pizza with a quinoa crust

Friday: kidney bean night redux, challah

Saturday: turkey chili for friends, cornbread

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quinoa Pizza Crust

I've always loved pizza. Pizza for sleepovers. Pizza for end-of-season elementary school basketball team parties. Pizza nearly every night in college (remember someone knocking on doors around 11 or 12 trying to get together enough people to buy pizza at $1/slice?).

I grew up on Pizza Hut and Little Caesar's, usually on Friday nights. Those days, after my ballet lessons, we'd pick up a pizza and eat the breadsticks on the car ride home. That pizza was always much more edible hot than the day after. I remember discovering "gourmet" wood oven pizzas in high school with "exotic" toppings, like BBQ chicken, and the idea that everyone could order their own.

When I moved to Vermont, I discovered American Flatbread. My favorite was the Punctuated Equilibrium, a combo of red sauce, mozzarella, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, and local goat cheese. When I was in graduate school, the Science Teacher and I had weekly date nights at Flatbread after my late seminar. We'd order pizza--half with sausage half without--split a salad of local greens and talk about Slavoj Zizek. Then came my diagnosis...

The first gluten-free bread I made post-diagnosis was a pizza crust. As bummed as I was never to eat another Moonshadow (red sauce, mozzarella, feta, artichoke hearts, spinach, roasted red peppers, and walnuts) at Positive Pie, I was comforted to know I didn't have to give up pizza altogether. I've tweaked the first recipe I ever tried here and there, subbing quinoa flour for some of the brown rice flour and starch, but having found a recipe that worked, I didn't really experiment with other recipes.

Until this week. We had plans for dinner and Euchre with friends on Friday. Our friend asked the Science Teacher whether we could order pizza. "Great," the Science Teacher said, "except Kara won't be able to eat it. How about we'll bring the crust and you supply the toppings?" I was feeling a little experimental so I looked through some cookbooks for inspiration. I ended up perusing Jane Brody's Good Food Book. She's a science writer for The New York Times, and her cookbooks all revolve around the premise that whole grains are good for you and sugar/refined grains aren't. She's also the anti-Atkins--you should read her praising the nutritional qualities of the potato. The Good Food Book also is half nutritional information, making it a great cookbook for people who love to read about the food you're eating. I've been cooking and eating from her cookbooks since I was a kid.

She gives a recipe for a brown rice pizza crust. Not brown rice flour, the whole grain, mixed with mozzarella. I thought it sounded somewhat strange, but I'm used to weird ingredients turning into phenomenally tasty food (my chickpea brownies come to mind) by now. I googled the recipe to see whether others had tried it and came up with a few hits describing a similar-sounding crust in Veganomicon. In fact, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen just used a brown-rice crust in a quiche. Sounded promising.

Here's the two mini-pizzas from brown rice I made for lunch to try out the recipe. I mixed shredded mozzarella into one crust and a parmesan/nutritional yeast combo into the other. I liked the parm/nutritional yeast crust though the Science Teacher thought the mozzarella crust had a better texture. Neither particularly tasted ricey, which I found surprising. The crust was also solid with a nice crunch--you could pick it up without fear of disintegration. I made a rice crust and a "regular" crust for our Euchre night--both were a hit (well, at least they were all eaten)!

Last night, when we were having a take-out food night (a very rare occasion in our house) with friends, I decided to make myself a quinoa crust using the same technique instead of ordering out. If you're new to quinoa, definitely give it a try. It has a ton of protein, a nutty flavor, and a consistency similar to that of couscous--and it cooks up in about 15 min.

I liked the quinoa crust as much as the rice version though it took a bit more egg to make the grains stick together. The crust was crunchy with no detectable sogginess and substantial--I could pick it up and eat it. I topped my pizza with red sauce, mozzarella, feta, walnuts, chicken sausage, caramelized onions, and sauerkraut. Yum!

Quinoa Pizza Crust
This recipe could easily work with any whole grain. If the grain is sufficiently glutinous (i.e. a sticker rice), I think you could omit the eggs (and cheese) for a vegan crust.

2 1/2-3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup raw quinoa--I like to toast my quinoa before adding water)
1 whole egg plus 1 white
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup parmasan
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast.
(or try a 1 cup of shredded mozzarella instead of the parm/nutritional yeast combo)

Preheat the oven to 450. Mix all of the ingredients into the quinoa thoroughly. Oil a baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Press the quinoa into a pizza-like shape on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 min. Create your dream pizza--don't forget the walnuts--and bake for about more 10 min.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: March 24

Thanks, food bloggers, for the fabulous food we made last week! I didn't post my menus so I'll let you know how they turned out:
  • The Science Teacher made Ginger-Lemon Girl's Cheddar Baked Hominy (see photo above). We added 10 oz. of spinach and some cottage cheese and used Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar to great success!
  • I cooked up Gluten-Free Bay's Spicy Black-Eyed Peas and Collards with some brown rice (I first sauteed it with a little olive oil and some spices before adding water).
  • On Saturday, we tried Book of Yum's pesto-buckwheat fries (except that we used Bob Red Mill's Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal)...they sort of melted into a flat pile of pesto-corn goo in the oven (I think we didn't cool the cereal long enough). Tasted fantastic, though the aesthetics were lacking. We'll try again this week.
  • Lastly, I jumped out of bed on Easter morning to bake some of Gluten A Go Go's Irish soda bread. As always when a bread calls for lots of starch, I subbed in some more protein- and fiber-rich flours. I used 1 c. GF oat flour, 2/3 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. corn flour, 1/4 c. sorhgum flour, 6 tbsp. tapioca flour, 2 tbsp. white rice flour. Lovely!
Here's what we're eating this week...

Sunday: pulled pork, slaw, cornbread
Monday: Turkey-Quinoa Balls (subbing quinoa for the couscous), polenta fries, salad
Tuesday: beer-marinated tempeh tacos (inspired by Sea's menu last week), slaw
Wednesday: stuffed mushrooms, kimchi, buckwheat pilaf
Thursday: Wednesday redux
Friday: Tacos redux
Saturday: out to dinner!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homemade Kimchi

Kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish, is a staple of Korean cooking. "Staple" might be a bit of a misnomer since when I think of staples, I think of eggs, cheese, raisins, and oatmeal--all ingredients that show up fairly regularly in the foods I eat each week. But I don't include all of them in most meals, which seems to be how kimchi figures into the Korean diet. The only analogous food I can think of for myself is peanut butter.

Kimchi's importance to the Korean diet has recently propelled it into the world of big media. (As a political aside, I find it absurd that The New York Times covers the kimchi beat but has ignored the testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Winter Soldier II.) Kimchi, which on Earth is a live food teeming with good bacteria, could apparently turn evil in space. Sort of like Spawn infesting Spidey. Yes, scientists are worried about mutant kimchi (taking over the space station?) and exploding kimchi (getting all over the equipment). The last point I understand: only last week I was making sauerkraut-apple-millet soup when I opened a fresh jar of sauerkraut and suddenly had bubbling, fermented cabbage juice spewing all over me.

I recently attended a kimchi workshop at our local co-op. Cramped into the small conference room that barely passes for a workshop space, we talked a lot about the friendly bacteria in fermented, "live" foods and how healthy they are for your digestion. What a bonus for those of us with sensitive innards! She had already completed steps 1-3 (see below) so we were left to add our choice of spices and pack it all into our jars. I went home with a happy little jar of kimchi ready to do its thing on my counter.

I put it into the fridge after about a week. I was worried that I hadn't let it ferment enough because it didn't particularly smell bad to me. It turns out my concerns were groundless: the Science Teacher took some in his bento dinner to his weekly snowboarding trip with his middle school students. Their comment? "Woah, it smells like my locker..." Sounds (smells?) like kimchi success to me!

Homemade Kimchi
This recipe was adapted by Sandra Lory, a Vermont herbalist, from Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation.

Makes: 1 quart
Prep Time: 20 min.
Fermentation Time: 1 week or more, depending on room temp and how fermented you want it

4-5 tbsp. sea salt (not iodized table salt)
non-chlorinated water (boiled and cooled water)

1 lb. green cabbage (any kind)
1 med. daikon radish, sliced or grated
1 med. carrot, sliced or grated

1 med. onion, finely chopped
1 bulb garlic, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. ginger, minced
fresh and minced hot pepper or cayenne, to taste

1. Make a brine: mix 3-4 tbsp. sea salt with 3-4 c. non-chlorinated water until dissolved.

2. Mix the veggies together and pour the brine over them. Cover with a plate (or something with a little weight) and leave for a few hours or overnight. This step allows the veggies to soften by themselves.

3. After the veggies have softened, drain off and save the brine. The veggies should taste salty. If they don't, add some salt--up to a spoonful (note: adding too much salt will slow down the fermentation).

4. Mix together the onions, garlic, ginger, and hot pepper in a separate bowl. Add to the softened veggies. Use your hands to crush them, which will help release the juices.

5. Pack the kimchi tightly into a quart jar with a wide mouth. Press down on the kimchi and try to get all of the air bubbles to rise to the top. The brined juices should cover the veggies when you're done. Add a little brine if necessary.

6. Place a small jar filled with water on top of the kimchi (which is left open to the air) to weight it down and make sure the brine continues to cover the veggies. This step prevents spoiling.

7. Allow the mixture to sit for at least a week unrefrigerated. Press the kimchi down each day to make sure it stays submerged in the brine. You can adjust the seasonings at any point. The longer the kimchi ferments, the sourer it becomes. The more salt, the slower it ferments. You'll smell it beginning to ferment. Allow it to ferment until you achieve the flavor you like (1-3 weeks).

8. Cap the jar and place it in the fridge. It will last for months if kept cool. Mold and discoloration on the top is normal; just skim it off. Don't tighten the jar too much or you'll end up with an exciting kimchi eruption.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gluten-Free Vacation: South Carolina and Beyond

I love to travel. After I finished my MA in English a few years ago, the Science Teacher and I took off for 5 weeks of sightseeing, training, swimming, and eating through the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, and Bosnia. We had a blast. One of our more amusing post-trip jokes came when we realized that in practically every picture I'm toting a little plastic bag that carried yogurt, fruit, and muesli. Ahh, muesli. Muesli was my travel staple before I went gluten-free. Either it or the ingredients for it have been available practically everywhere I've traveled. I carried bags of it around that summer and ate it for breakfast with yogurt practically every morning. Now that I'm gluten-free, though, most commercial muesli is out. What's a gluten-free girl to do for food when she can't carry it all with her?

I mentioned previously that my first gluten-free trip took us to Istanbul and that I was somewhat disheartened at the large suitcase of food I ended up taking. In the past, I have prided myself on my ability to pack light. For our previous 5-week trip, I schlepped all my stuff in a daypack. My 22 in. suitcase felt like a Louis Vuitton trunk set.

In hopes of lightening my load, I've come up with some gluten-free travel tips. As my bits of advice are completely dependent on the kind of trip you're taking, check out Book of Yum's account of her recent Florida trip for another take on gluten-free travel. I take lots of road trips and pack tons of food. For such a trip, the challenge is in eating out, not figuring out what to eat for breakfast. And my South Carolina trip was a hybrid--I definitely made room for some unnecessary favorites. It's the I'm-carrying-my-life-in-my-backpack travel that's more challenging for the gluten-free packer. So before thinking, "but I want my GF pancakes in the morning," consider whether you're taking:
  • a car trip (i.e. you're taking the Subaru wagon and the big coolers): read my advice and laugh as you enjoy your Cardamon-Date Muffins (aka Not-Too-Sweet Midnight Muffins), your sandwiches on millet-oatmeal bread, and your Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.
  • a plane trip to single destination (i.e. you're taking a suitcase and won't have to carry it around except in the airport): read and decide how much of your suitcase will go to clothes and how much to food. You might find you don't have to fill it half with food...
  • a plane trip to multiple destinations (i.e. you may have to run 1/4 mile with your luggage to make your train): I'm really talking to you!
I've realized that successful gluten-free travel for light packers depends on a few points:

1. Don't rely on specialty GF products for most meals. I'm not saying don't bring your Bumble Bars or homemade granola bars or GF chocolate. Those are more for treats and emergencies than for providing regular meals. But do figure out what you would be happy eating for breakfast that doesn't involve access to Bob's Red Mill products. Rice porridge? Millet? Kasha? Baked sweet potato? Eggs? Yogurt? Choose food that can be purchased at your run-of-the-mill Food Lion where maybe you'll find a new GF product to try (the Food Lion on Lady's Island, SC, had a surprising GF shelf--I wouldn't call it abundant, but there was cereal, flour, and snacks). Choose staples to take that use space efficiently: a bag of cooked cereal, some fruit and nuts, energy bars, etc. (Did I really need those rice cakes that took up so much room in suitcase on our Turkey trip?)

Staples I Packed for SC:
Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies (I'm addicted...)
6 Cardamom-Date Muffins
natural peanut butter
energy bars
Dagoba's dark chocolate
roasted almonds
dried figs

Light Packer Rating (1-5): 3 (I definitely took several space-suckers, but the muffins were great!)

2. Do your research. Where are the grocery stores? Are there natural foods stores? Visit the local celiac association website and/or email a contact for advice. Be confident: if you can find a grocery store, you will be able to buy rice, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, etc. There are worse things than eating a lot of stir fries.
Research for SC:
My research turned up Whole Foods in SC but none in the areas where we'd be. A few web searches turned up a chain called Earth Fare. I found Bob's Red Mill GF Gluten-Free Oats, which I thought were sold out all over the country, and millet flour. My aunt also recommended a store in Columbia called The Fresh Market. Other web searches for restaurants turned up your regular chain restaurants with GF menus (sorry, but I'm not an Outback Steakhouse girl) but nothing that sounds interesting enough to check out.

Light Packer Rating: 5 (I knew exactly where I needed to go to find my food the day after we arrived.)

3. Make sure you have food for the plane, for when you first arrive, and for emergencies. There's nothing worse than looking for a grocery store in a country where you don't speak the language when you're hungry and jetlagged. Traveling light on food requires energy for foraging.

Food I Took For Traveling:
The Science Teacher and I stopped by our local co-op on the way out of town for lunch and dinner supplies, though after reading Biggie's post on airplane bentos, I can't believe I didn't pack bentos for the both of us.

1/8 lb. nitrate-free smoked turkey
small chunk of asiago cheese
1/8 lb. nitrate-free roast beef
small chunk of provolone
Mary's Gone Crackers crackers
1 container Greek-style yogurt
1 banana
1 apple

Light Packer Rating: 3 (The food took up a lot of space in my backpack. A bento would have allowed me to condense everything much more with the added aesthetically-pleasing factor.)

4. Find a kitchen. Surprisingly, this usually means staying either high or low on the room rate scale. "High" might mean condo, suite, or house. "Low" probably means friends/relatives or hostels. It's hard to cook that rice if you don't have a heating implement.

Our SC Kitchens:
Our aunt and uncle's kitchen in Columbia, and the family beach house kitchen in the low country. The Science Teacher made paella and pasta arrabiatta....mmmm.

Light Packer Rating: 5 (We always had a place to cook...)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: March 10

It's taken me longer to get back in the real-life groove than I thought. We had a great off-line, trip to South Carolina: no computers, no iPods, no blogs (for me), no video games (for the Science Teacher). We played the Settlers of Catan Card Game, and the Science Teacher cooked up lots of gluten-free seafood dishes (think: paella and pasta arrabbiata). I'll be up with a debrief soon.

One of the reasons I've had a hard time getting back online is our new attempt at convincing our almost six-month-old to fall sleep without nursing. Breastfeeding is one thing (and I'm in no way weaning him), but using me as a human pacifier is quite another. It's been more emotionally exhausting than I would have thought. First, there's been the crying (yes, we are pursuing the controversial cry-it-out strategy). Second, there's the realization that my baby's taking little steps away from being completely dependent on me. Both have been hard for me, but as I see our kiddo be more well-rested, I'm feeling less emotional (and more able to blog!).

The good things that have come from our new sleeping plan? I get to see a beautiful new relationship evolving between the Science Teacher and the pottamus as he gets to take an equal role in the putting-to-bed of the baby. The Science Teacher and I have reclaimed our bed and room. And the pottamus is learning to comfort himself and be okay playing by himself a bit in his crib. He's gone from waking up every 2-3 hrs. to sleeping 8:30 p.m.-7 a.m. with maybe one feeding. Everyone's sleeping better!

Here are my menus for the week sans any 5 a.m. experimental baking:

Sunday: mushroom-onion pizza, baked sweet potatoes
Monday:Chicken Cacciatore, polenta, sauteed asparagus
Tuesday:falafel, pita, veggies, olives
Wednesday:baked beans and sauerkraut-apple casserole
Thursday: the Science Teacher's off snowboarding, and the pottamus and I will have dinner with friends
Friday: more beans and kraut...yum
Saturday: still up for grabs...

Monday, February 25, 2008

See You in a Week for a Gluten-Free Vacation Debrief

When I was growing up and going to school in western Virginia (not WEST Virginia), schools had quite a few short breaks planned during the spring. Of course, Virginia still had snow then so make-up days meant that a Thursday-Friday-Monday off over Easter often turned into just a three-day weekend. But in Vermont--and I guess in most of the northeast--the weeklong February and April breaks are sacred.

Well, it's February break, and the Science Teacher, the pottamus, and I are off to the hopefully sunny, not-really-that-warm South Carolina barrier islands for a week. The Eye on the Sky is forecasting another foot of snow on Tuesday so island life, albeit chilly, will definitely be better than salting the steps and shoveling the Subarus out again. I'll be back next week (though not next Monday) with a post-trip debrief on my gluten-free trip and gluten-free eating on the go in general. I'm off to roast some almonds, take some muffins out of the freezer, and bake some cookies for my stash before we leave. Happy cooking and creating!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

One Recipe: Gluten-Free Graham Crackers, Cinnamon or Ginger Snaps, and Thin Mints

Last summer was my first summer of gluten-free, s'moreless camping. I was eight months into my gluten-free adventures, though, so I'd progressed past the point where I would have been sitting around the camp fire morosely drooling over everyone else's s'mores. I took my favorite chocolate chip-peanut butter-oatmeal cookies (which I need to get around to posting someday soon), intending to use them as graham cracker replacements. But unlike a conventional s'more, I found the cookie-s'more to be less than the sum of its parts. I tasted chocolate-peanut butter goodness and toasted marshmallow goodness but not as much of either as I wanted. So I ate them separately. No big deal.

But I'd like to be able to make a s'more, if I wanted one. So I started perusing the web for recipes. My problem with most graham cracker recipes, though, is that they contain an incredible amount of fat and sugar. They're more a cookie than the slightly sweet cracker I always ate as snacks growing up. I started tweaking recipes and came up with a whole-grain, no-starch graham cracker like those I remember....and three other variations. The latest turns the graham crackers into Thin Mints, which I've been craving ever since making Karina's Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies last week. Note: all of these recipes have been tested in the middle of the night, as I attempt to bore my 5-month-old into sleep!

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers

This recipe can be easily doubled--it makes a bunch of little crackers but not so many regular- sized ones. These crackers would make a swanky s'more dipped in chocolate with toasted marshmellows...or with homemade marshmellows dipped in chocolate...or both.

2 tbsp. teff flour
2 tbsp. gluten-free oat flour
2 tbsp. brown rice flour
2 tbsp. sorghum flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamon
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthum gum

1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. canola oil
1/4 tsp. vanilla
water (as needed)

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until a smooth ball of dough forms. Add flour if the dough seems too sticky or a little water if it is too dry. Chill for 10 min. Divide the dough in half. Flour a surface and roll out one half to 1/8 in. thickness. Cut out in squares or using cookie cutters. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10 min. Let the crackers cool on the tray until they are crisp. Makes about 3 doz. 1.5 inch cookies.

Now for the Variations!

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Snaps
Omit the cardamom and add 1/2 tsp. nutmeg. Increase the sweetener by 1 tbsp. white sugar and 1 tbsp. molasses. If you want a very crisp cookie, bake 1-5 min. longer.

Gluten-Free Ginger Snaps
Omit the cardamom and cinnamon. Add 1 tsp. ginger. Increase the sweetener by 1 tbsp. white sugar and 1 tbsp. molasses. If you want a very crisp cookie, bake 1-5 min. longer.

Gluten-Free Thin Mints
Girl Scout Thin Mints without all of the not-so-healthy ingredients! Omit the cardamom and cinnamon. Increase the sweetener by 1.5 tbsp. white sugar and 1 tbsp. molasses. Add 2-3 tbsp. cocoa (preferable a dark cocoa, like Hershey's Special Dark or Dagoba's). Add 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract with the vanilla extract. When the cookies are cool, melt dark chocolate, stir in 1/2-1 tsp. of peppermint extract, and dip cookies (on one side, or completely coated for an authentic Girl Scout experience).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: February 18

Gosh, I haven't posted since last week. But my lack of posts doesn't mean I haven't been cooking--I've been tweaking a gluten-free graham cracker recipe that I hope to post about this week. Also, stay tuned: I'm going to make yogurt and labneh (a yogurt cheese) for the first time ever! Why, you might ask, am I making my own yogurt? Well, it has to do with my reading...

Last week, I discovered that other foodie bloggers are reading what I'm reading. I just finished a fiction jag (during which I read Pevear and Volohkonsky's new and fabulous translation of War and Peace--I highly recommend this version, which is far superior to any previous translations) a few weeks ago and picked up Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food.
Sally over at Aprovechar mentioned that she's reading it, too, and that she was somewhat disappointed with the book (its scope is much less than that of his previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I also hardily recommend). I wasn't exactly disappointed, but the book seemed less full of new ideas and more full of somewhat extended ideas from OD. The book can be summed up by his mantra: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

In any case, it's very well researched and documented, and I found myself at our local library on Friday checking out some of the books he cites, notably Marian Nestle's What to Eat and Food Politics. What to Eat is a look at our supermarkets and the politics that goes into what is available for us to buy and how it's labeled. I'm both horrified and fascinated by the statistics and anecdotes she recounted: almost 70% of Danimals yogurt is sugar; the USDA routinely tries to weaken rules governing organics and is only stopped (some of the time) by hundreds of thousands of letters from consumers; farmed salmon can have double the fat and saturated fat as wild salmon (not to mention all of those artificial dyes--how many times must I have exclaimed over food coloring on a platter?).

So, while we have very high quality yogurt produced locally, I was interested to find out exactly how difficult making my own would be. Hence my forays into yogurt-making. I'll keep you posted.

Here's our menus for this week:

Sunday: Indian-style savory mashed sweet potatoes (from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites), curried lentil-carrot salad, pineapple-apple chutney
Monday: Pumpkin-Chicken Enchiladas, sauteed kale
Tuesday: Enchiladas, Take Two!
Wednesday: Mezza with olives, hummus, labneh, pita, and roasted squash
Thursday: We're out of the house...
Friday: Red Lentil-Apricot Soup, kale, challah
Saturday: Friday leftovers

Need healthy snacks or desserts? Try these gluten-free chickpea crackers--I've made them several times and am never disappointed. They're also a great use of Bob's Red Mill All-Purp GF flour, if, like me, you can't stand the beany taste it imparts to everything. Also, try Karina's Mint Chocolate Cookies. I adapted them to be lower in fat and to be completely whole grain very easily: use equal parts brown rice, teff, corn, and sorghum flours in place of her flours, and replace half of the oil with applesauce. Instead of mixing the chocolate chips into the cookies, I melted them, added a little mint extract, and dipped the cookies. Almost like Thin Mints!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gluten-Free Menus: February 11

I just bought a new cookbook at our fabulous new-used bookstore in town--I took in a few old books and turned them into Mark Bittman's (aka The Minimalist's) new cookbook, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. This comprehensive vegetarian roadmap is quickly becoming the go-to cookbook in our house. All of the recipes this week are found in or were inspired by this 4000-recipe tome. The strength of this cookbook lies not in any individual recipe, though everything I've cooked from it has been tasty, but in its underlying principle. Bittman doesn't say, "Hey, this is what quinoa is and here's a quinoa recipe." Instead, his book is packed with charts called "Improvising Asian-Style Noodle Bowls," lists like "13 Other Fillings for Rolled Kale or Stuffed Grape Leaves," and variations on stock recipes like classic guacamole. I'm sure there will be more great recipes to come, and I'll keep posting my new finds.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Breakfast Bonus! Please check out my recent post on gluten-free breakfasts to see what fiber-and-protein-filled goodness I eat in the mornings.

Sunday: Paella with turkey and shrimp, carrot sticks
Monday: Thai Corn Cakes, Vietnamese spring rolls with a spicy peanut dipping sauce
Tuesday: Monday redux
Wednesday: Coconut Lemongrass Soup with crunchy tempeh
Thursday: We're out of the house
Friday: sushi bowls (brown rice, avocado, scallions, daikon, radishes, smoked salmon with nori to scoop it all up)
Saturday: sushi bowls strike again!

Bonus Dessert: In honor of this week's theme, I'll share this recipe for Dark Chocolate Meringues, which satisfied and continues to satisfy my recent chocolate cravings. These cookies are different than other chocolate meringues I've made in the past, containing both cocoa powder and melted chocolate, which impart a richness and chewiness unusual in meringues. Who cares about gluten with chocolate such as this?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Gluten-Free Breakfasts

I love breakfast. But as I've said before, I'm a creature of habit. Before I was diagnosed, I ate a bowl of oatmeal almost every morning. There were a few weeks after my diagnosis that I thought I was going to have to give up oatmeal, but I was lucky. I found out about my gluten intolerance right about the time Lara's Gluten Free Oats began to be available at our local co-op. Besides those few panicky weeks, I have little to complain about. My temporary oatmeal hiatus, however, has prompted me to diversify my breakfast fare. I'm hedging my bets against future GF oatmeal price spikes and shortages...

I've compiles a picture of what I might eat for breakfast, mostly because early on I spent a ton of time surfing the web for healthy, interesting gluten-free breakfasts:

1. Oatmeal

Thanks to the companies listed, I often eat a bowl of oatmeal cooked in soymilk with raisins, blueberries, flax meal, and walnuts. If you love oatmeal, too, read this poem by Green Mountain State poet, Galway Kinnell.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats and Steel Cut Oats

Lara's Gluten-Free Oats (and oat flour!)
Gifts of Nature (you can buy oat groats here)

2. Bob's Red Mill Mighty Tasty Gluten-Free Hot Cereal

At first, I saw this corn-based hot cereal as an oatmeal substitute. I cooked it in soymilk and added raisins and chopped-up apples. The taste wasn't inedible, but it wasn't inspirational either. And it wasn't oatmeal. Then last summer I noticed a grit, cheese, and jalepeno bowl on the menu of our favorite breakfast place. Hmmm. The Mighty Tasty GF Hot Cereal does have a suspiciously grit-like consistency, though it's protein and fiber content make it nutritionally superior to most grits. When I started treating it like the grits it was, I found out why it was dubbed "mighty tasty." This cereal is a great choice for a cheesy (see below), warm, savory breakfast with lots of protein and fiber.

To try, cook 1/4 c. Mighty Tasty GF Hot Cereal (or grits or Arrowsmith's Rice 'n Shine cereal--they taste the same in the end, though the rice cereal has less protein and fiber than the corn cereal) in 3/4-1 c. water for about 10 min. Put 1 ounce of chopped-up cheddar cheese in your breakfast bowl (I use Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar). When the cereal is done, pour it over the cheese and stir to melt. Add flax meal, walnuts, and salt and pepper.

2. Gluten-Free in the Greens' Multigrain Hot Cereal

When I was little and refused to eat cold cereal (drinking the milk totally grossed me out), my mom would make me a creamy, wheaty hot cereal with raisins and honey. This multigrain cereal reminds me of those winter mornings when it was so cold I'd get dressed in front of an open oven door. The beauty of this hot cereal is that you cook all the grains in one pot ahead of time, preferably on Sunday night, pop it in a Tubberware, and have hot breakfast fixings for the rest of the week. My directions assume you'll be making it ahead of time and will be eating it for about 4 days.

In one pot, pour:
1/3 c. millet
1/3 c. brown rice
1/3 c. amaranth
1/2-3/4 c. GF steel cut oats
4.5-5 c. water
(This recipe makes about four servings. To adjust the amount or types of grains, just add three times more water than grain.)

Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 min, covered. Check it from time to time to see whether the pot needs more water. Turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and allow the grains sit for 15-20 min. and absorb any remaining water. If you're cooking this the night before, spoon the cereal into a tubberware and wait for breakfast...

To eat, add 3/4-1 c. of the cooked cereal to a pot with raisins and a little salt. Add 1 c. milk or soymilk.* Cook gently until the milk and cereal are thick. Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and let the cereal rest for a few minutes. I add frozen blueberries at this point. Pour into your breakfast bowl. Add cinnamon, cardamom, or whatever spices you like, and flax meal and walnuts.

*note: I really like the taste of cooked soymilk, though I don't like that of cooked milk. If I was using regular milk, I'd just heat the cereal in microwave and add regular milk to the already-hot cereal. Just be aware, if you decide to cook the cereal in regular milk, that it won't taste like cold milk you added to already-hot cereal.

3. Not-too-sweet Midnight Muffins

One of my quirks is that I love to spread and dip (the little pottamus and I should get along well when he hits toddlerdom), which means that ordinary muffins, meant to be eaten plain in all their sweet-fruity-nutty goodness, don't really satisfy me for breakfast.

As a result, I've tended to like toast more. Unfortunately, I've struggled to find a brand of GF bread that has a decent protein and fiber content and that doesn't contain a lot of starch. Toast is also problematic because it gets cold when you take it to a restaurant. Eating cold toast when everyone around you has warm and crunchy wholewheat makes me want to invest in a travel toaster. So my search for a whole grain bread product that I can spread peanut butter on (isn't all bread just a vehicle for peanut butter?) and that travels well to breakfast restaurants has led me back to muffins.

Enter the pottamus. He hasn't been sleeping terribly well recently, and I've found myself up in the middle of the night, pacing up and down our small downstairs. He usually doesn't buy it. He's not upset; he just doesn't want to sleep. But I've found that baking is a surefire way of getting him to sleep. I wear him in the Ergo carrier or my ring sling and go about cooking. It bores him to sleep, I guess. Either that or there's something more peaceful about the movements I make while cooking than the please-go-to-sleep-so-I-can-go-to-sleep ones I make while pacing. Regardless, I've found myself inventing muffin recipes at 3 a.m. several times recently.

Because I want something healthy for breakfast, my rule of thumbs for muffins for muffins are little or no starch, not too much fat, and not too much sugar. This recipe makes about nine muffins (a strange number, I know, but I'm the only one eating them so I don't like to make too many, in case I don't like them). I eat them split and spread with peanut butter with a touch of honey.

In a large bowl, mix:
1/4 c. corn flour
1/4 c. teff flour
1/4 c. GF oat flour (quinoa or sorghum would also work)
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. xanthum gum
spices: I like 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and cardamom
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

In a small bowl, mix:
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 lightly beaten egg
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tbsp. honey (if you don't want to add jam or PB to your split muffins, you might add 1-2 tbsp. more sweetener)
3/4-1 c. milk

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix. Add in 1/3 c. dried fruit (I like chopped dates). Pour into muffin tins and bake for 20-25 min. in at 350. Go put your sleeping baby to bed.

4. Japanese-Style Breakfast

a bowl of rice
a hard-boiled egg, or leftover fish from dinner
miso soup

5. In the Greens Tips for a Healthy Cold Cereal Fix

Gluten-free cold cereals aren't difficult to find: Panda Puffs, Gorilla Crunch, and Brown Rice Twists are fairly ubiquitous in natural food stores. But I didn't eat sweetened cereals before I was diagnosed, and I wasn't about to start buying the organic, GF equivalent of Frosted Flakes just to get a nice, cold crunch on a summer morning. Here are the gluten-free cold cereals I've found that have a decent amount of fiber and protein and little added sugar. I tend to mix several cereals together and often add flax meal and walnuts or almonds to boost my fiber and protein intake (and for the added crunch!).