Where am I and why am I not writing?

So, why haven’t I updated my blog regularly this month?

Good question, and the answer is: I have been sick. First with some sort of cold, then with some sort of virus, and this week I was glutinated by something. I don’t know what. When I’m sick I don’t write coherently, and I don’t want to cook or take photos of my food. I’m just grumpy and you don’t want to be anywhere near me!

Previously I mentioned that I didn’t get intestinal distress from gluten, just the rash. Well, apparently being gluten-free for the last while has changed that fact. Not only did my stomach revolt but I had a severe, severe, severe headache for 2 days straight (you try using a microscope and counting chromosome aberrations all day long with a headache. Its not pleasant).

Now that my stomach is better, the dermatitis herpetiformis has again erupted with gusto all over my elbows, knees, scalp, back of the neck and in the scar I have on my right cheek. I’ve had to wrap my elbows in bandages just so I cannot scratch because my new insane short term goal in life is to scratch off all 30 layers of dead cells on my elbows and destroy the underlying basal lamina. Will this result in permanent scarring? Hell yeah, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I stuck it to the man! Or rather, my elbows. My knees are also itchy, but since it snowed AGAIN last night I will be wearing jeans again today, and its really hard to scratch knees while wearing jeans. I am going to work, and I should maintain some sort of decency. Plus its a biology lab, and not wearing pants in a little dangerous.

And no, I don’t know what I ate. This makes the whole situation even worse.

Any road, as previously mentioned it snowed again last night. So I must go clean off my car and get to work. Hopefully I won’t feel like mud and I’ll be back to the kitchen soon. I’m getting a little tired of Lara bars. But not the cherry pie Lara Bar *bliss*.

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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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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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Moist almond, orange coffee cake — a recipe adapted from Louise Blair’s “Great Gluten-free Baking”

Gluten free moist orange almond cake Gluten free moist orange almond cake I just bought a new gluten-free cookbook: “Great gluten-free baking” by Louise Blair.This is an excellent book. Lots of yummy, easy and very tasty baking recipes. Beautiful photographs for many of the recipes, and easy to follow instructions.Here I have made one of Blair’s recipes, modified it a bit as I didn’t actually have enough ground almond to make the cake as written, nor did I have large oranges. I had one medium orange and a bunch of clementines. This recipe contains no added fat — the moisture comes from the oranges, and the only fat is from the almonds, and that is ‘good’ fat (but that doesn’t mean you should eat the entire cake!). Delicious with coffee — actuall just delicious anytime. YUMMY!

Moist Almond Cake
adapted from Louise Blair’s “Great gluten-free baking” — I have written the recipe using the measurements I used, if you want to use the actual measurements, please buy the book (or go to the library).

Ingredients

  • about 1/2 lbs (0.2 kg) orange type fruits (oranges, clementines mandarins), preferably seedless
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (415 mL) ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups (590 mL) brown rice flour
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 6 eggs

Directions

  1. Place whole oranges in a pot full of boiling water and simmer for 40 minutes – 1 hour (40 minutes for smaller fruit, 1 hour for large fruit)
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C), grease a DEEP 8 inch cake pan or spring-form pan (I used spring-form)
  3. Put the oranges into a food processor or blender and blend until pulpy. Make sure there are no large chunks of peel. Also make sure there are no pips (in case you used seeded oranges, or you ran into a not-so-seedless seedless orange)
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 40-50 minutes or until just set. I think the cake tasted better a little dry, so I left it in for 50 minutes.v
  6. When finished cool on a wire rack. Don’t try to remove it from the pan until cool — it will fall apart!
  7. ENJOY!

The book suggests serving with whipped cream. I suggest drinking coffee.

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Jerusalem artichoke dip

jerusalem artichoke dip

jerusalem artichoke dip

This dip is thick so you can dip crudites or GF bread sticks or spread this on a lovely GF bagel. I’ve heard you can also use dip/spread recipe instead of using pesto.The artichokes have quite a strong woodsy flavour, so if you do not like strong flavours you’re not going to like this dip/spread — again, think of pesto — if you add too much pesto the flavour is FAR too strong to eat.

Some more background: Jerusalem artichokes are not actually artichokes. They are the tuber a native Canadian (and American) wild sunflower. They can be eaten like a potato but have a much stronger mustier taste.

Jerusalem artichokes are very high in inulin, they help your body absorb calcium and magnesium and will promote the growth of healthy beneficial bacteria in your tummy. This is great for people who have had some sort of intestinal damage — does this sound like you? Because they affect your intestinal tract JA’s can cause.. er… wind, similar to that experienced if you ate too many beans.

Another warning: even though the Jerusalem artichoke is a native to Canada (and parts of the US), Agriculture Canada considers this plant to be an agricultural weed — it competes with crop plants. So, if you compost like me (i.e. I don’t turn over my compost, so the compost does not get very hot) do make sure you cut your unused tubers into tiny pieces before composting, if you don’t you may have a weed problem. That being said, the flowers of the Jerusalem artichoke are marvellously pretty, so maybe you do want a weed problem?

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb (340 g) Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 bunch green Swiss chard or spinach (I used chard)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) GF mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) real Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro (coriander leaves)

Instructions

  1. With artichokes with a brush, they tend to be dirty so scrub really well. If you cannot clearly see the rings around the tuber then you haven’t scrubed them enough. Dry them with a tea towel.
  2. LIGHTLY rub artichokes with oil. I cannot stress lightly enough. If you rub too much they will be a real pain to peel.
  3. Bake in a casserole dish or on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes at 375F (190C)
  4. Meanwhile, remove the stems and the hard centre vein of each green leaf (of chard or spinach) and steam until wilted. This shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes. Let leaves cool.
  5. When the artichokes are finished, remove them from the oven and let them cool.
  6. When cool enough to handle, peel the artichokes. This is the worst part of the whole recipe. Its a pain, but its worth it. Discard the peel.
  7. Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is nice and smooth.
  8. ENJOY!

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