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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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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Ancient grains blueberry banana bread (gluten-free)

bread close up

YUM! Banana bread! I love banana bread. There are many different gluten-free banana bread recipes out there, and I wasn’t satisfied with any of them. So this is my attempt at improving what was already out there.

I wanted a recipe that was high in fibre and nutrients. In order to do that I wanted to use as many different types of flour as possible. I also added flax seeds for fibre, and blueberries for antioxidants.

This is not the light and fluffy banana bread that is common as a snack bread or dessert. I’m not saying it doesn’t taste good, its actually very tasty, but you can tell its better for you than most other breads. Think of a regular banana muffin versus a banana bran muffin. This one is closer to the banana bran. I plan on cutting slices and freezing them individually between wax paper for excellent, healthy breakfasts on the run! Next week I’m going to try to reduce the fat content and turn the recipe into muffins. Stay tuned!

There to see more photos, click the links ‘outside of bread’ & ‘inside of bread’ directly below.
outside of bread
inside of bread

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Gluten-free vegan Vietnamese noodle soup

soup close upOne of my favourite lunches is Phở – Vietnamese noodle soup. It looks very complicated to make, because of all the ingredients, but it is really quite a simple! This low-fat vegan version is great for lunch or dinner. If you really hate tofu, and are not vegan, you can substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth, and grilled chicken breast for the tofu.

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Gluten-free Beef with Broccoli

beef and broccoli

Nothing rings in the new year like Chinese inspired cuisine. Although far from authentic, this American/Canadian Chinese style food is still absolutely delicious! And a great thing about this type of meal is that it is so simple to make gluten-free. Just finish it off with a side of rice — I prefer steamed jasmine rice — and you’re good to go! The whole thing only took me 15 minutes to prepare, 20 if you include the time it took me to find my pairing knife. I have absolutely no idea why it was in the living room.

Okay, not entirely true. I tend to wander about a bit when I’m cooking. But still, I don’t usually leave knives in the living room. Oven mitts? Yes, they’re in there all the time, but not knives.

This dish is excellent as the flavour is not compromised if you add extra chili oil, sauce or crushed chili peppers which gives the dish a real zing. If you really cannot handle the spice, don’t add any at all chili at all, and it will still be delicious. Personally I cannot stand when my mouth is burning, but I do like things zesty, so I add just a pinch of crushed chilli’s to the sauce. Recipe serves about 4 people, 2 if you’re really hungry and don’t eat it with rice.

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Gluten-Free fingerling potato and egg salad

new years day lunch 020 editedI had a craving for potato salad today. Since we were going to a New Years Day lunch I made some to bring along. This super easy recipe is best made with red skinned fingerling potatoes for colour, but I couldn’t find any at the store, so golden skinned potatoes had to do. Of course you can use most potatoes for this recipe, but fingerlings are very buttery and creamy, making this version a treat to eat. If you are going to use non-fingerlings, stay away from baking potatoes and russet types, they will fall apart when you boil them due to their high starch content. The stone ground mustard gives the salad the unique flavour. Without the mustard, the whole thing is very bland. Regular mustard can be substituted if you do not have stone-ground.

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