Gluten-free?

 

I have no idea where this photo came from. It was emailed to me. Made me giggle. I guess Mark Bittman does know how to cook everything!

 

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Why don’t people listen?

Now, I’m not bothered by people bringing in gluten filled desserts to share with co-workers. To be honest it gives me a medical excuse to say no to food that I really shouldn’t be eating anyway.

But I’m really, really fed up with having to repeat myself. \Every other day I have a conversation similar to the following:

  • Co-worker who has been told I’m a celiac at least a handful of times: “Shauna, why don’t you try a cookie/cake/samosa?”

  • Me: “Thank-you but I can’t. They do look delicious”

  • Co-worker: “Sure you can, they don’t have that many calories!”

  • Me: “I have celiac disease. I cannot eat anything containing gluten.”

  • Somebody else in the lunchroom “Do samosas/cakes/cookies contain gluten? Are you sure? I thought it was only bread and pasta that contained gluten”

  • Me: “I’m pretty sure your cake/cookie/samosa was made with wheat flour. All wheat flours contain gluten”

    Co-worker who brought homemade goodies “But I used white flour, not whole wheat!”

  • Me: “Actually, on a volume to volume basis, white flour has more gluten than whole wheat because the bran in whole wheat takes up room that would otherwise be taken up by the endosperm. But that really doesn’t matter as I really can’t eat even a milligram of wheat flour. Thank-you for offering me your baked goods”

At this point I try to sneak away to avoid more insanity.

I’m a biologist. I work with biologists. They must understand basic immunology and protein biochemistry. Why do I have to explain myself? WHY!

Its even worse if I bring in a sandwich on GF bread. I inevitably get somebody saying “AH HA! I caught you! You said you couldn’t eat bread and you are clearly eating a sandwich” which brings up the whole “No, I said I couldn’t eat gluten, which is in wheat, rye, spelt and barley. This bread is made out of (insert gluten-free flours of your choice here)”

*sigh*

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A warning about turkey gravy

Just so we are all on the same page: if you mix too much cornstarch in with your turkey drippings, you will get a gravy that is closer in consistency to smooth porridge. Perhaps I can use this to spackle my bathtub. Gluten-free, turkey and sage flavoured spackle.

Other than that disaster, my turkey dinner shaped up well.

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Latest Research On Celiac Disease

For those of you who are unaware, I am a biologist. Because of this I frequently read the latest scientific research papers on subjects of interest. Being a celiac, I am obviously interested in the latest developments in celiac research. While I know I cannot explain a lot of the research in layman’s terms (sorry, too much jargon) I can still let you guys know some interesting facts about celiacs you may not have known. If you have questions just ask. If you want sources, I have listed them at the end, just click the “read more >>” link.

  1. The lining of the small intesting in celiacs is inherently different in comparison to the lining of non-celiacs. Even if the disease is not active, the proteins in the intestinal lining have a different set and formation of carbohydrates (sugars). These sugars known form what is known as a glycosylation pattern on the surface of the intestine and are responsible for interaction with many body functions, which means that the interaction with other body functions and the intestinal cell wall is different between celiacs and non-celiacs. Exactly what this means is not yet known.
  2. All humans have bacteria in their intestines which help them digest and metabolize certain foods and nutrients. Celiacs have more rod shaped bacteria in their gut than non-celiacs. They have a different bacterial flora than non-celiacs. This difference is still evident even after being on a long-term gluten-free diet. I am definetly continuing my regimen of probiotics (BioK all the way).
  3. There is a hypothesis that the immune system in the intestine of celiacs have a hard time discriminating between pathogens and benificial particles (i.e. gluten peptides) which suggests that gluten might be mistaken as a pathogen. Although not proven, there is strong evidence to suggest that this hypothesis is correct.
  4. A group of researchers have determined that some non-human primates (apes/monkeys) are also celiacs. Specifically they found a group of rhesus macaques that displayed celiac like symptoms, including production of anti-gliaden antibodies, when they were fed gluten. The researchers suggest that these macaques could prove useful in further celiac studies.

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The BEST spinach dip there ever was and ever will be EVER and its gluten-free!

spinach dip The best ever

Last week, Steve of Gluten-free Steve asked a number of gluten-free bloggers a number of questions. The whole event can be found on his blog and is definitely worth the read. One of the questions he asked was: “What is your favourite gluten-free snack recipe?”. Well, he actually had a fill in the blank questionnaire which said: “My favorite gluten-free snack is:” but that is beside the point.

The actual point is, I gave Steve the recipe for the best spinach dip ever and I didn’t include a photograph! It was sad. So, I have re-posted the recipe (also available at Steve’s Blog) along with the photo (above) and a warning. The dip looks odd and green — two things that turn people off of the dip when they first encounter this delight. You’ll find that at a party, people will take small spoonfuls when they first approach the food table in order to be polite, but once they try the dip they go back for seconds, thirds and fourths. There won’t be much left at the end of the night. Because of this, I always make a double batch. My photo shows a double batch. I’m not sure the exact dimensions of my dish, but its roughly the size of a 8.5×11 inch (21.6×28 cm) piece of paper. Maybe a little smaller (definitely not larger).

The BEST spinach dip there ever was and ever will be EVER!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz (250 mL) (approximately one package) cream cheese. Yes, you can use light or fat free.

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) Parmesan cheese, preferably freshly grated but one time I was out and found that the powdery processed stuff also works in a pinch. Its not as good, but it works.

  • 1 rounded tablespoon (15-17 mL) freshly grated Romano cheese (again, the powdery stuff works but won’t be as tasty.)

  • 1 rounded tablespoon (15-17 mL) very finely chopped sweet red bell pepper.

  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) garlic powder. DO NOT use garlic salt. Alternatively you can puree or finely mince 2 cloves of fresh garlic.

  • 2 green onions (scallions) white and greens finely chopped

  • 1/2 package frozen finely chopped spinach; (those frozen square blocks) thawed and squeezed dry. Do not use if the spinach is wet! You’ll ruin your dip.

  • 1/2 cup grated medium cheddar – old cheddar is too strong

  • 1 tsp (5 mL) of cayenne pepper — less if you don’t like spicy dip. I usually add 1/2 the regular amount if I’m serving to people who are very…er… meat and potatoes. You know, the sort of people who think anything other than salt and pepper is fancy — they tend not to like dishes with an edge.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Mix ingredients (except spinach) with a hand or stand mixer. If using a hand mixer that isn’t very powerful, you might want to consider microwaving your cream cheese for a minute or two. This will soften it up so you do not burn out your motor.

  3. Fold in spinach

  4. Transfer to the oven-proof dish in which you plan on serving this dip. If desired, sprinkle the top with some more cayenne pepper for decoration.

  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes. You’ll know the dip is ready when the edges begin to bubble.

  6. Remove from oven and serve with gluten-free nachos, gluten-free flat bread, raw vegetables, gluten-free breadsticks or gluten-free pumpernickel-like bread.

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Crazy Orange Turtle’s Roasted Chicken Recipe (gluten-free herb mix)

roasted chicken

Nothing is simplier and tastier on a weekend than a nice roasted chicken – it only takes a few minutes to prepare and an hour to roast. You can accompany the chicken with almost anything: pasta, rice, potatoes, salads, carrots, broccoli etc. etc. anything goes!

The key to my recipe is the spice mix and the lemon. The spice mix is great to use on any poultry dish — the mix makes enough for this recipe and more for storage, so you can just pull it out and use it whenever you make poultry.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • Crazy’s chicken spice mix, enough to cover chicken (recipe below)
  • salt (if desired)

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry the chicken
  2. Rub Crazy’s spice mix all over the surface of the chicken, along with salt (if desired)
  3. Cut lemon in half, shove one half of the lemon into the chicken, this will keep the chicken nice and moist
  4. The other half of the lemon should be juiced, and the juiced poured over the top of the chicken
  5. Roast chicken at 400F (205C) until the internal temperature of the dark meat reaches 170F (76C), this will take 40 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your chicken. If the internal temperature still has not reached the appropirate temperature after an hour, just keep roasting – you just have yourself a very large chicken.
  6. Remove from roasting pan and carve. I like cutting the chicken into quarters instead of carving. Whatever you do, please enjoy!

Crazy’s Chicken Spice Mix

In a small bowl combine the following dried herbs and spices:

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) rosemary, preferably ground but whole works as well
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oregano
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sage
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) marjoram
  • 1 1/2 (7.5 mL) teaspoons thyme
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) smoked paprika

Mix well, and store extra in an air tight container

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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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