Gluten-free shampoo

When I was diagnosed with Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) I immediately looked up the ingredients in all of my health care products (soap, shampoos etc) in order to determine if they contained any gluten containing products. I had to change my soap and my moisturizer but my other regularly used personal hygiene products were gluten-free! Hurrah!

Getting rid of the gluten-filled products and eliminating gluten from my diet vanquished the DH on my knees, elbows and face, but the DH on my scalp continued to worsen. Last week I had had enough and once again looked up the ingredients in my shampoo and conditioner. Low and behold those a**holes had decided to change the formula of my favourite shampoo and conditioner to include a wonderful gluten-filled thickening agent.

So I switched to Dove, which is supposedly gluten-free (I hope).

But Dove doesn’t keep my hair in check. The frizz free formula makes my hair frizz like there is no tomorrow (I have hair that is wavy to curly, it never does just one, parts of my head will be really curly, and others will just be limp and straight). I’ve had a really, really big afro all week. Its horrible. My hair is nice and clean and soft but POOF!

If any of you know a gluten-free shampoo that actually gets rid of frizz please let me know. I can’t take my hair being this big. I wish it were the 80s, I’d be so cool.

Please see this photo: http://www.nirvanix.org/hair80s.jpg

That is what my hair looks like AFTER I try to straighten. Maybe I should just cut it all off.

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Advanced label reading

For those of you with celiac, gluten-intolerance or any other food allergy, you are probably very good at reading food product labels. Reading labels is a necessity. I firmly believe that you are what you eat — junk in equals junk out.

What most people don’t realize is that the other additives to our food come from a host of other “interesting” sources. I learnt a lot of these sources while working as a lab technician n the development department of one of Canada’s largest bread manufacturers (which I won’t name, but if you’re from Canada you know I’m talking about one of two companies).

Here is a list of some of the food additives, their sources and why you find them in your food. I’ll start with xanthan gum, because as a celiac it is in most of our recipes. Then I’ll continue with some of the other interesting additives. You’ll be surprised what you eat on a regular basis.

xanthan gum: is a polysaccharide (also known as a complex sugar or a carbohydrate) that changes the rheology (elasticity, plasticity and fluid mechanics) of food. Specifically it is known for increasing the viscosity of liquid, that is, it makes liquid thick. It is produced through a fermentation process, similar to making alcohol (wine, beer) except you don’t use yeast to ferment sugar, you use the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris. What you MUST remember about this additive is that the more you manipulate the xanthan gum, the more it will sheer. This is why you should NEVER kneed gluten-free bread dough. NEVER! If you want perfect gluten-free bread, mix the dough until it is uniform and then stop. I guarantee you’ll have a better bread product. In sauces and dressing xanthan gum acts as an emulsifier (keeps the oil and water components from separating). You can be allergic to xanthan gum, its symptoms are very similar to the intestinal problems associated with celiac — bloating, diarrhoea, gas. You can also be allergic to the corn that is used in the fermentation process to produce the gum.

Carmine: is also known as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470 or E120. A less pure variety is known as cochineal extract. Any of these words may appear on a package. Other words that might be used instead of these are “added colour”, “natural colour” or sometimes “artificial colour” because carmine is actually a bright red pigment. It is considered a natural additive because it is produced from a natural source — the crushed shells of cochineal insects. Examples of food that contains carmine are: Yoplait strawberry yogurt, Tropicana grapefruit juice, campari, maraschino cherries, and pink lemonade. Yum. It is perfectly safe to eat — insects are a little disgusting looking, but they are not poison. Most Jewish councils do not allow this in kosher foods.

Shellac: also known as confectioner’s glaze, food glaze, resinous glaze or pharmaceutical glaze. This additive makes your food shiny and pretty. Found in many dessert type items. It is made from the resinous secretion of Kerria lacca, otherwise known as the lac beetle. Some Jewish councils consider this additive kosher.

L-cysteine: is an additive is a common additive used to make food flavours and aids in baking bread as it softens the texture and reduces processing time. Technically L-cysteine is just an amino acid, and its not an essential one – humans can make it all on their own. However, people who are quite young, old or have malabsorption syndromes may need to supplement this amino acid. So you may think: why is it such a big deal that they add an amino acid to my food? Well, the cheapest, easiest and most common method to get food-grade cysteine to break the disulfide bonds in hair’s keratin. It works best if you use straight hair (more L-cysteine) and that is why the majority of the world’s cysteine comes from plants in China where they hydrolyse human hair. I would like to strongly point out that this is NOT an urban legend, this fact can be found in many, many food science books worldwide. You’ll be happy to know that China banned the making of soy sauce from human hair in 2001. All of this brings new meaning to the phrase “Waiter! There is a hair in my soup!” — as an aside, a German company has now begun to manufacture this amino acid using non-animal sources — this is still an expensive process, and the manufacture from human hair is still common.

Rennet: Used to make cheese, curd or junket. Natural rennet is produced from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach of nursing bovines. Usually a bi-product of veal production. There are other natural replacements for rennet, but many traditional cheeses are still made using rennet. Vegetarians, or those trying to eat vegetarian meals should watch out for cheeses made using rennet.

Well, thats it for now. There are many other additives made from animals, insects and bacteria but these are the ones I thought were the most interesting. Especially the L-cysteine.

ENJOY!

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Product Review: El Peto Gluten-free Italian Bread Mix for the Breadmachine

I recently discovered that El Peto factory, a company that claims to be the “Gluten-free specialists”, is less than a 10 minute drive from my house. Naturally I went to their factory outlet store (yes, the products ARE a LOT cheaper at this factory outlet compared to the same product in the grocery store) and I spent a hell of a lot of money.

el peto italian bread mix

One of the items I picked up was a big bag that contained 7 smaller bags of bread mix, enough to make 7 loaves in the bread machine. At the time I thought “All you have to do is add water? Great I’m game for doing less work!”. So, I took the bag home and immediately began to make a fresh loaf of bread. This is what came out of the machine :

el peto italian bread mix final product

Um. eww. The dough was gummy and heavy. Immediately I realized that the loaf of bread just did not rise. That was a waste of my money!

But being frugal, and having 6 bags of bread mix left I thought “What happens if you just add a tbsp of yeast to the mix?”. So, I proceeded to clean out my bread machine, and I started from scratch. This time I added 1 tbsp of bread machine yeast.

And voila! The result was a perfect moist and wonderful loaf of bread!

I’m not quite sure what happened with this mix. Perhaps they forgot to add yeast to the mix? Perhaps the bag was sitting too long at a high temperature (yeast doesn’t like that). Whatever the case may be, I did have trouble with this mix.

So in conclusion, El Peto Italian Bread Mix for Bread Machines is absolutely yummy! But only if you add your own yeast. Although I do like the taste of this loaf, I may not buy it again. Its a shame because I’ve had El Peto’s other products and they are fantabulous. Next time I won’t be lazy —¬† I’ll just make the bread from scratch!

Oh, and if you do live in Southern Ontario, the El Peto factory store is worth a drive to Cambridge — you can get flours and baking supplies there at exceptional prices. And they do have nice high quality flours. They also have gluten-free cereals, pasta sauces, pastas, pie shells, cookies, pizza crusts, lasagnas, sausages and more. Just stay away from the mixes.

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Pure oils for baking

I live in a city that is large enough to handle a few gourmet food stores where I can buy fancy gourmet ingredients. Unfortunately many people in this town like the small town cloistered outlook on life and things like ‘gourmet’ just haven’t sprung up anywhere. Well, not entirely true. There is one gourmet store in town, and they actually have a gluten-free section, but they don’t have what I want half of the time. They do a good job, but I usually have buy on-line or drive an hour into Toronto to get the speciality items. Perhaps I should stop reading blogs, websites and recipes produced by gourmet chefs? NEVER!

High quality pure orange, lemon, tangerine, anise etc. oils are not easy to find (at least around here). Extracts and flavourings? Sure, I can find those anywhere, but I’m hesitant as these are not always gluten-free and they definitely don’t taste as good as the real thing. By default pure oils are gluten-free. That’s why you pay the big bucks for them right? Well, that and the taste.

So, this morning I found a wonderful site to buy pure oils for baking. Actually I didn’t find the site, it was David Lebovitz who pointed me to the Boyajian citrus oils.

According to Boyajian “It takes approximately 220 oranges, 330 lemons or 400 limes to fill a 5 ounce bottle.” WOW! No wonder you pay a fair bit per bottle. Because of this you don’t need a huge amount of oil to flavour your food “As a general rule, use up to 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dry ingredients, plus 1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid ingredients in any recipe. Start with less, you can always add more.” You can really stretch a 5oz bottle if you’re using less than a teaspoon per recipe. These bottles will last you years and years if you store them properly so they are not necessarily as expensive as they first appear.

I have already TRIED to order myself the mini citrus oil box ($9) with orange, lemon and lime oils and strawberry oil. Boyajian takes paypal for payment, so you don’t have to go digging through your wallet to find your credit cards.

Unfortunately it wouldn’t process anything because I’m not from the US. I do not understand why US stores will not ship out of country. I will pay for shipping! Really! I can understand not shipping to Austrailia or New Zealand — they do have a lot of customs laws, but Canada is just a hop skip and a jump away from the US and Canada doesn’t care if you want to send me citrus oil. Its not against custom regulations!

Its really sad because the Boyajian site also has a variety of other oils and vinegars which I would try one day.

Anyway, if you’re from the US and you’re looking for quality oils try out the Boyajian site. If you’re from another country¬† (like Canada) let me know where I can find quality oils for baking? Please?

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