Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Non-crumbly Tasty Gluten Free Tortillas (Seriously!)

Well, actually these come out a bit more like fajita wraps, but even my gluten eating friends and family love these. I've been wanting to post the recipe for a while, but keep feeling stumped, wondering how to describe the flour mix and such. But then I tried some store-bought gluten free tortillas yesterday and they were slimy and horrible. So here goes...

First, you need a good flour mix. I make up an all around, very versatile mix that I keep in a big jar in the refrigerator. The ingredients in it sometimes vary, but the main idea is that you need to keep a proportion of half starch to other kinds of flours. Maybe even a little extra starch. When you run your hands through the mix, you should be able to feel that "starchy" feeling like you get when you touch cornstarch. I've never tried it, since I can't use potato, but I suspect the all-purpose gluten free flours like Bob's Red Mill likely are similar and would work. This is my current mix:

3 C. garfava flour (or garbanzo bean flour)
2 1/2 C . arrowroot (or tapioca, potato or cornstarch)
2 1/2 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sorghum flour
1 C. millet flour (or quinoa flour, or whatever I have on hand if I want to experiment)

This mix was based on one from Carol Fenster's Special Diet Solutions:

3 C. garbanzo/fava bean flour
2 C. potato starch
2 C. cornstarch
1 C. tapioca flour
1 C. sorghum flour

I notice hers has a higher proportion of starches. This starch thing is definitely important.

Pliable, Bendable, Non-Crumbly and Tasty Gluten Free Tortillas

2 C. flour mix
a good-sized pinch, roughly 1/2 teas. xanthan gum
1/2 C. water
2 Tbls. olive oil

Mix it all together until you get a workable, non-sticky dough. You might have to play around with the water and flour amounts.

Turn this out onto a flour-sprinkled board. This is a rare gluten free dough that for some reason improves with kneading. Knead until it's smooth and pliable.

Divide into 6 balls.

Roll out into tortilla shapes.

I have a cast iron griddle, which works well. Oil and heat whatever kind of non-stick griddle or pan you have. When it's nice and warm plop a tortilla on top. It's often best to do this with a spatula. Sometimes they stick a little to the board and you have to scrape it off a bit with the spatula. Heat for a minute or a few, until it looks like it's starting to be cooked and firm. Flip over and finish it up. Often they will form bubbles. This is good and makes them that much lighter and tastier.

Amaze your gluten-free friends with your tasty and bendable wraps.

The one time I made these when they didn't work was when I was trying to show a newly diagnosed celiac friend that life didn't have to be bad. Food could be non-crumbly and good! And then these came out crumbly and wouldn't hold together. I still don't know what I did wrong. But even if, for some odd reason, yours don't work at first, don't give up. These are worth it. I always think it's going to be a huge amount of effort and don't make them that often. But the truth is, once you figure them out, it goes pretty quickly. I always wind up wondering why I don't do them more often. Especially after I just paid $5 for some really horrid slimy disks that I'm going to feed to the garbage can.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Haven't Been Sucked up by Gluten Wielding Aliens

My, what a strange time it's been. If anyone is still checking in on this, you've probably figured that I decided to give up on this blog before it ever really started. Or that I went insane, ate half a cake and did myself in from intestinal distress. Or something like that.

Actually, I've been unwell. I don't want to go into the whole sordid story here, but I did mention it on my other vehicle of spew, my art-related space. It turned out that the generic medication that I'd been taking wasn't any good. This particular pharmaceutical replaces a vital hormone that my body no longer makes on its own. Of all things, it was my gluten intolerance that led to me figuring it out. My pharmacy was going to switch me to another generic. The new pharma company wouldn't vouch for it being gluten free. Feeling ripped off, I had to go on the name brand at a much higher price. As soon as I took the first dose, I went from having so little stamina I could barely stand without breaking into an exhausted sweat and feeling faint to feeling almost close to normal. Even my chronic pain got more controllable. I'm ecstatic and relieved to get some of my life back, even as I'm raging inside for how much I've lost due to a bad drug that was supposed to be "equivalent" to the name brand. I'm finding out I'm not alone. Scary.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pumpkin Soup with Coconut "Cream"

How about Halloween in May? This is great made with coconut milk beverage (see below) or coconut milk. The stuff from a cow would work too, if you can do that. This is my adaptation of a recipe from Vegetarian Dishes from Around the World by Rose Elliot. 

Pumpkin Soup

1 15 oz can of pumpkin (plain, not pie mix)
1 onion
2 large cloves garlic
2 T. olive oil, margarine or butter
4 C. stock or water
salt and pepper
2/3 C. coconut milk, coconut milk beverage, or light cream or milk

Peel and chop onion; peel and crush garlic.

Melt the oil in a heavy saucepan or pot and cook the chopped onion for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and pumpkin, and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the water (or stock) and some salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes. Purée the soup in a blender and then stir in the coconut milk (or cream). Reheat gently.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Herb Garden

The cat has been too strung out cooking to post. (Well, that and tendinitis.) But I'm poking in briefly to share a thought for the day. People who have to cook a lot should consider having a little herb garden. Mine is in pots just outside the door, so when I'm cooking I can just step out from the kitchen and grab whatever I'd like to use.

When there's anything left over to grab.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Because I Want to Hear You Scream...

I recently stumbled upon a medical abstract from France at allallergy.net, "Conduct Disorders and Food Allergies." Your problem isn't food sensitivities or allergies, folks. For people like us who keep insisting that certain foods make us ill, our real diagnosis is neurosis. The medical help we really need is psychiatric, but people of our ilk are so deeply in denial about our "conduct disorder" that we're unlikely to allow ourselves to be helped voluntarily. And if you happen to be a mom whose kids are reacting to certain foods and you keep them on a diet avoiding those foods? Food sensitivities actually aren't the problem requiring medical supervision. You are the problem requiring medical supervision. Why, your medical carers should suspect Munchausen by Proxy and monitor you!

I once saw an allergist who thought like this. She told me I needed to consume milk for my health (even though my internist had told me that I should "never eat anything from the udder of a cow" and I'd actually had a positive blood screen for casein before. But it wasn't her blood screen, so it didn't count). She, who happened to be the Head of Allergy and Immunology at a major teaching hospital, made it clear that she thought I was neurotic and irrational. I reported to her that consuming things made with seitan (fake vegetarian meat made of wheat gluten) made my throat swell to a frightening degree (accompanied by asthmatic tightening in the chest and violent itching), and that eating pasta and bread, among other things, made me feel ill in other ways, too. She literally rolled her eyes in irritation and told me, rather sternly, that I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten too! (I should add that I was so ignorant then, I didn't even realize that gluten fell into the category of wheat. I knew nothing about celiac or gluten sensitivity or food sensitivities in general, and I didn't know anyone who did—and certainly not anyone I'd believe. But my throat was always swollen and I was sick and itched all the time.) This esteemed expert practically ordered me to consume milk, for the health of my bones, of course. I wanted to believe her. I didn't want to be on a special diet. So, feeling emboldened by this allergist's recommendation, I went out and had an ice cream. Doctor's orders! And, of course, this was immediately followed by a severe throat swelling incident. (At least I wasn't exhibiting signs of having a conduct disorder. I was following through with learned medical advice. This is a healthy sign of not being neurotic.)

A year after this Expert rolled her eyes at me, I had a positive gliadin antibody screen with another, more progressive doctor, and received a diagnosis of celiac disease. This was doubly confirmed, in no uncertain terms, by the dramatic positive reaction I had to a gluten free diet. I'll spare you the disgusting details, but I will add that the last time I accidentally ingested a small amount of gluten, not only did I have the usual uncomfortable and embarrassing GI symptoms, but my whole mouth blistered in sores and all my other inflammatory problems went wild. I was sick for days. Obviously, this must've been some sort of Pavlovian anxiety reaction provoked at the thought of eating gluten.
The list of things that will set off my reactions is fairly long, but when I avoid them, I have no oozing eczema, no uncomfortable throat swelling, and no head-to-toe violent itching all night. These are problems that plagued me, daily, for years before I discovered their connection to specific food triggers. Obviously, I'm sadly neurotic and am misunderstanding things that have no clinical relevance.
It's easy to write off medical idiots like this, but what's scary is that their opinions are mainstream, even here in supposedly progressive California.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Apologies

I'm too bleary from being in the kitchen too much. I made a mistake in the first recipe I so proudly presented to you, the banana muffins. That should've read 1/2 C. + 2 T. mix of flours, rather than the original 1 C + 2 T. I even got a nice (and much appreciated) comment from someone who made them with my original measurement, who said they turned out and that she liked them. I hope that just proves my point that recipes can be...uh, adaptable? I do apologize, though. And will try to remember that I have, indeed, begun to cross that age divide that makes reading glasses recommended.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Savory Baked Apple

A good side dish to go with rice and greens, this also makes a decent fake chutney for those of us who can't do citrus. There's a similar recipe in Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmoms. Hers calls for half the amount of sauce poured over a whole apple. This is my take on it:

2 large or 3 medium apples, preferably something like a Granny Smith, cut up into chunks. Put aside.

Mix the following in a baking dish (using a wire whisk helps): 

4 T. honey
2 t. gluten free Dijon-style mustard (but plain will do in a pinch)
1/4 C. + 2 T. (6 T.) water

Add the apples and mix it all together. Bake at 400F for about a half hour. Give it a stir after 15 - 20 min. How mushy you want to cook the apples is partly a matter of taste, but I like  it when the sauce gets frothy and the apples have cooked down into very soft chunks. This does sort of stick to the baking dish (make sure it's not your turn to wash the dishes). But the apples sure do perk up an otherwise boring dinner. 

Someone told me that she uses this filling in rice-based spring roll wrappers. She makes little rolls and deep fries them to make apple tart-like things. I've never tried it, but thought I'd pass along the suggestion.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Graham Crackers

I was craving graham crackers for months, and finally caved in. A recipe search turned up this fabulous recipe from Erin at "My Aspergers Girl" (just looking for it again I saw some of her others, including one for biscotti I hadn't seen before. I'm salivating). My gluten eating friends love these too. I'll stop rambling. You should start baking.

PS I used coconut milk. If you're feeling really self-indulgent, after you open the can, skim off the globs of coconut cream and put it aside. Save this for dipping your warm grahams in after they come out of the oven. Make a  nice warm beverage too. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beware of "Experts"

A little over a week ago, I heard a program on a local NPR station whose guest was a "nutrition expert." I'm still fuming. The host had said they were going to talk about all kinds of health and nutrition topics, including food allergies. So of course I stayed tuned to listen.

During the show, the topic turned to celiac disease. Or, rather, "celiac's disease," [sic] as our expert nutritionist called it. She even claimed to have it. My eyes grew large and my hairs began to stand erect as I heard her tell a caller that celiacs have to avoid "hybridized forms of wheat," but that "non-hybridized forms of wheat" are gluten free! She recommended spelt and kamut as acceptable alternatives for people who can't eat gluten. She also cited rye bread as something eaten "in Germany" that is ok for celiacs.

I've since discovered that this "expert" has offices in two states and claims to have extensive experience working with celiacs and people who have other food sensitivities. Frightening.

This "expert" uses some letters after her name that look like some kind of credential. After searching, all I can figure is that this might be some kind of diploma mill-style designation. At the very least, it's obscure. Beware of letters after names. They can look impressive, but not mean much.

That said, during my time in the world of the gluten free, I've also discovered that even a recognized certification is not a guarantee of getting competent knowledge about gluten intolerance or food allergy. I had a terrible experience with a licensed dietician when I was first diagnosed. This was someone my diagnosing doctor had actually sent me to. She knew almost nothing about the requirements of a gluten-free diet, gave me some out-of-date info, and read from a photocopied list—that another patient had given her!—of name brand foods she "thought" I "might" be able to eat. She also suggested that the food allergy-related throat swelling and rashes I kept having were really manifestations of a "food phobia," and that I should explore the psychological aspects contributing to this. (How fascinating, I thought. I have "phobic reactions" even when I've unknowingly ingested one of the suspect foods! And I don't have these phobic reactions when I haven't eaten any of the suspect foods. The subconscious mind must be powerful indeed.) I found out later that this dietician's specialty is working with anorexics. She sees mental health issues behind every food related disorder. Idiot.

But anyway, that's a digression from talking about our original idiot. The upshot is, beware of "experts," even when they are presented with awe and esteem on what you'd previously thought was a trustworthy current affairs show on your local NPR broadcaster.

For the record, that whole thing about "hybridized wheat" is complete and utter nonsense. Some people with milder sensitivities to wheat alone, but NOT people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, claim they can tolerate spelt and kamut. Many health food stores and companies like to tout these as wheat alternatives. But people who are gluten sensitive can never eat these. Wheat is wheat. Spelt and kamut are forms of wheat. Rye and barley also contain gluten, as do most oats that have not been grown under strict processes that eliminate cross contamination (and even then, some gluten intolerant people still can't tolerate even these "gluten free" oats). To suggest that rye bread is gluten free is unconscionable.

Beware of nutrition "experts."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Banana Cherry Muffins

Oh my, these are good. Seriously. I don't want people to get the impression that I'm always mad and bitter. Au contraire, I think one of the things about being forced to eat the old fashioned way, by actually cooking everything, is you really appreciate your food. And these babies are good! 

One of the reasons I wanted to start a blog about gluten free cooking is I've come to realize that I almost never use mixes anymore, and the stuff that I make not only isn't that much more effort than with a mix, but it tastes better. I also almost never slavishly follow recipes. I consider them more guidelines, especially when it comes to what sort of flours to use (and always use a mix of flours—only one kind of flour, especially rice flour, makes for the grainy, miserable celiac cooking from the days of yore. No thanks.)

At any rate, this is my recipe, adapted from a banana bread recipe in  Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney. Their version calls for fine rice flour. I find that if you add a mix of other flours instead, especially something with a little millet flour, you get something far moister and non-crumbly, and.... get this! It's still edible a day or two after baking!

I do this in my KitchenAid stand mixer, which makes it easier, but you don't need it.

1/8 - 1/4 C. cherries (I usually use frozen — blueberries or other fruit work too)
1/4 C. raisins
4 T. butter (or, if you're like me and can't do that, margarine, or palm oil shortening, and or coconut oil. I always include at least 1 T. coconut oil.)
1/4 C. sugar, maple sugar, and/or brown sugar
1 egg (you could probably do it with egg substitute, which I haven't tried.)
1 1/2 - 2 ripe bananas
1/2 C. + 2 T. gluten free flours of choice (my favorite is 2 T. sorghum, 2 T. millet, 2 T.  rice, 2 T. C. amaranth, plus 2 T. extra of one of the above)
2 1/2 T. arrowroot starch, tapioca starch OR cornstarch
1 t. gluten free baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F

Wash, dry and pit cherries (if fresh), and cut into halves and quarters. Mix this with the raisins and set aside.

Cream shortening or butter with the sugar(s) until light and soft. Add the egg. 

Mash the bananas and add to the creamed mixture (if using the mixer, just adding in hunks is sufficient). Whisk the flours, starch(es), and baking powder together and fold into the banana mixture. Gently stir in the cherries and raisins so they're evenly distributed. 

Fill six parchment muffin cups in a muffin pan and bake 20 -25 min until golden and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a rack.

Pour a mug of your favorite hot beverage, peel open your warm muffin, and pretend you're in a bakery.

Seven Years

I've been gluten free for seven years. The other day my husband, who'd just been eating out with a colleague at a new sushi place, proudly brought me home some sushi (some kinds of sushi rolls are pretty much the only restaurant food I can eat). I opened the box, salivating. It's so rare I get to eat something I didn't have to make myself.

I stared at these fancy rolls, dread setting in. One of them, a large one, had a coating on it that I swear looked like... bread crumbs? And these crumbs were scattered around the box. The others had what looked to be soy sauce-based sauces. My heart sank. I called the restaurant to find out what was in the rolls. One had a wheat-based sauce, and that big one was... a breaded katsu roll. He didn't seem to quite understand what the problem was. "Yeah...it has some kind of coating on it..." I knew if I said anything it would be perceived as unwarranted criticism, after he'd tried so hard, after all, to do something nice for me. And there I go again, rejecting a gift with my neuroticism. 

I remember reading something written by a gastroenterologist when I was first diagnosed. In it, this doctor pondered why it is that some of his patients--and almost exclusively male patients--cannot (or rather, will not) understand that gluten free means absolutely none at all, not even a crumb. I guess it applies to patients' families as well. Seven years, I felt like wailing, and I'm being gifted with a breaded katsu roll? 

But I could see disappointment in his face. He'd actually been trying to be nice. He doesn't get it. It's frustrating for him too. I try to understand.