Friday, February 11, 2011

Encouragement (with pictures)

I haven't been blogging.

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I've pretty much been doing everything other than blogging.

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Making Spiderman cookies for my son's 7th birthday.

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The webs are just done with an edible ink pen from Michaels.

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See? Just some curvy-in lines.

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Then some frowny lines - it makes Spiderman look serious.

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And some angry eyebrows.

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Keep going. Angry on top, frowny on bottom.

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So I've been doing stuff.

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But it's just regular life stuff.

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Nothing specifically gluten free.

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But I guess that's a story and an achievement in and of itself.

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I still remember when it took me an hour of reading labels in the grocery store just to find a few ingredients.

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When I felt like I would never eat anything that tasted normal again.

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When I worried about my kids.

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Guys? Seriously.. Can you just stand next to the tree and smile nicely for Mommy?

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Apparently not.

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Sigh... Just one?

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Good. Fine. I'll take it. Cut. Print.

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Where was I?

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I had a point.

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Oh yea.. Now I remember what it is.

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If you're new to being gluten free...

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there WILL be a time...

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in the not too distant future...

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where you'll barely think about gluten.

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A time when it will be so second nature that you'll be able to get in and out of the grocery store with three bags worth in 10 minutes flat.

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A time when you have to go to your pantry and really LOOK at everything when someone asks you what you buy that's gluten free.

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Because you honestly don't remember.

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Someday someone will come to YOU to learn more about being gluten free.

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You'll realize that you really do have it all down to a science.

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And you barely think about gluten at all.

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It will be sooner than you think.

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I promise.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gluten Free Chicken Parmesan

This is Tyler Florence's recipe from the Food Network Website. I meant to take a better picture of all of the layers and gooey, cheesy yumminess, but I totally forgot, and/or had temporary amnesia brought on by the aforementioned cheesy goodness.

Your GF subs and things to verify are...
- kalamata olives - verify that your brand is gluten free
- Verify your dried spices - I use McCormick.
- Use GF flour - I use Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
- Verify your cheese. - I use Kraft shredded (bagged in the refrigerated cheese section, not the shaker can) for the parm and Precious for the mozz.
- Use GF pasta. We use nothing but Bi-Aglut here. But to be honest, we don't make pasta to go with this. We cut it like a lasagna and just dig in. That and a salad and you'll be stuffed.

This is so incredibly good. The first time we had this, my husband made it and we had five non-gf friends over, including two teenage boys. We demolished a huge pan of it and the boys had seconds. What better review can you get than that?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GF Chicken Nuggets

Gluten free kids need chicken nuggets. It's that simple. These plates look no different than thousands of other plates all over the country tonight, and that's very important. (I'd like to think that my countertop looks the same as other countertops too - holy criminy.)

On most nights Ore Ida Tater Tots or Curly Fries would also be on that plate, but I had plans for the rest of that chicken and was just trying to get the kids fed.

While most parents can just reach into the freezer, grab a handful of frozen nuggets, throw them in the microwave and call it dinner, gluten free parents don't have that option. At least without taking out a second mortgage.

BUT! These are super easy, super quick and super good. I either buy thin-sliced breast filets (which these were) so they're a nice and even thickness, making them easy to cook, or tenders. I take them straight out of the package, coat them directly in my gluten free breadcrumbs and fry them in a little corn oil (soy and canola bother my stomach).


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Crunch 'N Munch

I can't even tell you how much I'm obsessed with Crunch 'N Munch right now. I discovered it a month ago when I was having one of those salty/sweet cravings moments.

I have no idea if the other flavors are gluten free, but Buttery Toffee definitely is. Because if there was even a little bit of gluten in it, with the (vast) quantities I've eaten lately, I would have had a reaction by now.

These are the things I think about when people express to me that they have symptoms of gluten problems but don't want to try the diet because they think they wouldn't be able to do it. Or when people look at me and say with such sweet and heartfelt compassion, "Oh my gosh. That must be so hard. I don't know how you do it."

When Patrick overhears these kind of comments, he just rolls his eyes because he doesn't feel sorry for me at. all. What with the Crunch 'N Munch and the Tater Tots and the Haagen Dazs. And the sodas and the Cheetoes. And the ranch dressing. And the bacon. And the - Well, you get the idea.

This is probably the point where I should mention that I'm not a health food blogger. The gluten free diet isn't about health food. Eating more healthfully is a great additional choice, and one that I should (obviously) make more often, but it isn't necessary to the GF diet. At all.

In my gluten free life, the great motivating factor for me has been figuring out how to have normal food. I want my kids to be able to have chicken nuggets and french fries. I want them to have pretty cookies and cupcakes to bring to birthday parties. I want them to be able to eat pizza at those classroom pizza parties and BBQ at the church. Sure we bring our own, but that's fine with them and it's fine with me.

Another thing I think about a lot is all of those regular, non-health-food people out there who have a strong suspicious that they have a gluten problem and who think they can't do it. I went to a celiac support group meeting once where a solid third of the people who were there were well past retirement age. That really got to me. My goal for this blog is to make sure that everybody from a retired couple to a stay at home mom knows that they. can. do. this. You're not going to be eating sprouts and tofu. You'll have a full, complete, enjoyable life full of really good and completely ordinary food.

The gluten free world is getting bigger every day. We've already got cake, cookie and brownie mixes from Betty Crocker and Chex from General Mills and beer from Anheuser Busch. Many other manufacturers are verifying their product line and putting the words "gluten free" right on their packages. From what I've read lately, Snyder's gluten free pretzels and gluten free Bisquick are going to be heading out to store shelves sometime in the next few months. I mean, Gluten Free BISQUICK? How amazing is that?

Anyway... I'm going to get back to my Crunch 'N Munch. We're heading over to the grandparents' for Fourth of July.

Have a great day everybody!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

These are a major staple in our house I always have a big batch of them in the pantry. I've used them in the place of seasoned breadcrumbs (such as Contadina, Progresso, etc.) in any recipe I've come across. I use them at least once a week to make chicken nuggets, I've made onion rings with them and used it as the breadcrumb topping in casseroles. They're awesome.

The best breadcrumbs I've tried are Ener-G Breadcrumbs. You'll have to trust me on this. Ener-G's bread is nasty, but for some reason their breadcrumbs are perfect. They have a nice texture and crunch, without that weird chemical taste their bread has. If you're in the Sacramento area, I've found these at Elliott's and I believe at Sunrise Natural Foods. Call ahead to check on availability.

For spices I always use McCormick. They say that they fully disclose any and all gluten and they've never let me down. You can also vary the amount of seasoning. We love paprika around here so I use a ton. You might want to start with just a teaspoon or two if you're not a paprika fan. I also tend to up the garlic powder a bit.

Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

1 cup Ener-G Breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp oregano


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

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(If you've linked over from Works for Me Wednesday or Gluten Free Wednesdays, welcome. I'm glad you stopped by. )

When I first went gluten free, one of the things I thought I'd never have again was really good cookies. My parents and I used to spend days making Christmas cookies of all kinds. Everything from sugar cookies to pecan balls to Scandinavian cookies like krum kakor and fattigman. It was the only thing I really was sad about leaving behind.

Once I found the gluten free flour mix I use for baking, I was really happy. I made all of those cookies that I grew up with. I was in heaven. Those flavors that I never thought I'd taste again were back. It was wonderful.

The only cookie recipe that didn't translate well was the roll out sugar cookies. I mean they were okay, but the dough was really tempermental. It cracked easily and had to be babied. You had to refrigerate the dough, then roll it out, then it would warm up and want to break. So then you had to put the rolled out dough back in the refrigerator, then cut the cookies, refrigerate it again, then transfer the cookies to the baking sheet. WAY too much trouble for just an okay cookie. Over the years I've tried other recipes and they all were just okay or the dough drove me up the wall.

This past holiday season, I started to look at cookie decorating blogs and was inspired to try it. I tried the recipe that Bridget at Bake at 350 uses and just modified it. You can find her recipe HERE. It ended up being fantastic. It doesn't have to be babied at all and it tastes wonderful. All you need to do is substitute my flour mix, make sure your baking powder and your extracts are GF and that's it. I use Clabber Girl baking powder and McCormick Pure Vanilla and Pure Almond extracts.

You don't have to refrigerate this dough or baby it at all. I usually let the dough sit for maybe 15 minutes in the bowl to rest and make sure the flour and the wet ingredients have melded together. I also use a bit less flour. Maybe 2-3/4 cups rather than the full 3 cups. What you're looking for is a workable dough just like regular sugar cookie dough. Here's my version of the recipe -

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 sticks softened butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp pure almond extract

Important Note: If you're a gluten eater who is making these for a gluten free friend or loved one (or if you're new to gluten free), you will need the following additional newly purchased equipment - rolling pin, rolling surface, baking sheet, and a whisk if you use one (or use a fork instead). Gluten is sticky and tends to stick to the grooves, grain and scratches in these items and commonly comes off in the food in amounts that are more than enough to cause your loved one a reaction. Your baking powder and sugar also needs to be new. If you are using a stand mixer, wipe down the machine and make sure there aren't any bits of dried gluten-containing batters that you might touch and potentially transfer to the cookies. Use the paddle attachment on your mixer rather than the whisk and clean it thoroughly before using it to make sure there is no gluten stuck to it. For more information on cooking gluten free, see my series Gluten Free Cooking Tutorial for Gluten Eaters. It tells you everything you need to know to make these safely for your loved one.

Preheat oven to 325F. (I like my cookies to bake a little slower.) Combine flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg, sugar and extracts to the butter and sugar and mix. Gradually add the flour until it's combined into a workable dough. Add more flour if you need to or water if it's too dry. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes before working with it.

Use the same GF baking mix to roll out the dough. Cut it into cookies and bake until done. I'm really bad about keeping an eye on the time regarding how long to bake these. I tend to hover instead. Bridget's recipe says about 10-12 minutes, so I'd go by that. :)

Now for the royal icing. This is probably the most complicated part. Brace yourselves.

Ta Da!!!! I know.. It's so difficult. I think I may faint from the effort.


This is just like royal icing. It sets up and hardens so that you can stack the cookies. The bag says that the icing begins to set after about four minutes and you can stack the cookies after about four hours.

I used this white icing as my base. I bought several bags to make sure I had enough. I used food coloring (I used Wilton) to make the colors I wanted. I made three shades (light, medium and deep) of pink, purple and yellow, and I kept some white.

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Use white to pipe the butterfly's body and then pipe around edge with your chosen color.

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Fill in.

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Spread the icing around with a toothpick.

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All smooth. Ish. Hmm... Okay it's not really smooth, but it's smooth enough for me. Later on, I mixed in a little bit of water for my flood icing and it worked much better. This is the result with working with the icing right out of the tube. It all tastes the same anyway right?

Now for the fancy part. To make the pretty design, I used this technique that I saw on Sweetopia. The trick is that you have to do it while the icing is still wet, so you have to work fast.

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Pipe the lines.

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Drag the toothpick down the ends of the lines for a curved look.

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Drag the toothpick down the middle of the lines.

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Et voila!

I made these for my daughter's second grade class for her birthday. She said that everyone loved them. And there's nothing more honest than a second grader. One boy even asked if he could have another one. Score! Some of my non-GF friends also tasted them and they said that if I hadn't told them they were gluten free, you would never think they weren't regular cookies.

I love to hear things like that.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gluten Free Favorites - BiAglut Pasta

(Note: This pasta is made with lupine flour, which is closely related to peanuts. If you are allergic to peanuts, you won't be able to eat this product.)

When you first go gluten free, you tend to get stuck on all of the things you can't have. You go to the local grocery store and find the two gluten free products they have and it's just awful. Nothing tastes right. Nothing has the same texture. When I first went gluten free, pasta was a disappointing experience at best.

Don't get me wrong. Most widely available gluten free pasta is okay. Many in a better than nothing kind of way unfortunately. I was fine with it. But my husband? He wasn't. He can't deal with weird textures. So when gluten free pasta fell apart or got mushy, he just couldn't eat it.

A few times I made two seperate pastas. Two pots of water. Two strainers. Two bowls. Too much work. Too much trouble. Too many chances for cross contact. It just wasn't worth it to me to have to go through that much work just have to pasta that was only so-so.

So for a while there, we just didn't have pasta. My husband doesn't have to eat gluten free, so if he really wanted pasta he'd just have it at lunch.

It wasn't long after that that I saw some people raving about Bi-Aglut Pasta. It's made in Italy with corn and lupine flours.

I found a place online that sells it and placed an order. I wasn't expecting much. I was just hoping for something that had a texture that my husband could tolerate a little better.

When we got it, I think Patrick made goulash. We had switched over to rice as the base rather than pasta. We figured if it was really awful we'd just make some rice. Like I said, we weren't expecting anything special. I had ordered fusilli, which is the spiral pasta.

Once the Bi-Aglut was cooked we were both really surprised at how well it held together. Then amazed at how much it tasted like regular pasta. Then just flabbergasted at the texture. It was perfect. I think we both said wow a dozen times while we were eating. It was holding its shape. It was when we went back for more and saw that the pasta in the strainer hadn't hardened up or disintigrated into tiny pieces that we were really sold. It looked and acted just as it had when we poured it into the strainer.

The best thing about this pasta is that you can serve it to non-GF people and they don't notice the difference. One year we hosted Christmas Eve and Patrick made his goulash with the Bi-Aglut Fusili. In the middle of the dinner, my mother-in-law asked me what I was eating with the goulash. It took me a minute to realize what she was asking. She thought that she and the rest of the family were eating regular pasta and I was eating something different. Now that's a testament to how good Bi-Aglut is.

You can find Bi-Aglut by doing a websearch. I usually order mine from Gluten Free Trading Company. None of my local gluten free stores carry it, so we order it by the case.

If you try Bi-Aglut pasta, let me know what you think, and what your non-GF friends and family think.

What are your gluten-free favorites?