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!).