Monday, August 11, 2014

Wild Cherry-Plums Season: time to cook and freeze some.

Cherry-Plums In Season

Sweet Treat on Local Trees (Somerset, UK)

The summer fruit harvest continues.  Soon after my recent blog about preparing the wild blackberries harvested this year, the (apparently) wild plum trees in the area really started to hit their peak for ripening fruit. 

Fresh Cherry-Plums (halved / pitted)

I suspect these trees grew on their own (wild) since they are growing immediately along a public bike path that is carved through some varied, and otherwise rough, terrain.  As the plums were littering the paved bike trail and being turned to puree by passing bikes, I figured I might as well collect some and puree them myself at home.  So, now it is time to enjoy these fresh plums and cook some up for freezing in a very similar manner to how I prepared my blackberries for longer-term storage.

There are so many different varieties and cultivars of plums that I am not 100% sure which type of plum(s) we are harvesting — I believe these plums are all "cherry plums" of some sort.  These wild plums have been nearly perfect even without any pesticides or other treatments applied to them.  We have encountered only 2 wormy ones out of a couple thousand plums so far.

The cherry plums coloration is quite similar to some Victoria plums, but those tend to get much larger.  Whereas these plums are all 2-3 cm (an inch or so) in diameter with a very small pit, the Victorias (from what I have read) get as big as 5-6 centimeters in diameter, much more like a normal commercial plum you would see at the grocery store. 

We also have what I believe are Mirabelle plums growing wild nearby, though they were not fully ripe yet — I plan to harvest some of those in a couple more weeks. If you want to see the wide range of plums and related fruits available, check out the incredible variety of Plums, Gages, and Damsons that are offered for sale on fruit-tree dealer sites like Pomona Fruits and Orange Pippin Fruit Trees

Recipe : Simple Cooking and Freezing Process

Much like my blackberry cooking process, this plum-preparation cannot get much simpler.  I just halved the plums, pitted them, and tossed them in my trusty large stainless steel 6-quart pot with perhaps 1/2 cup of water and brought them to a boil.  After that, I reduced to a simmer and stirred every so often for an hour or so until the puree / sauce was thickened to desired state.   After that, I waited until the sauce cooled down and then froze portions of it for later use while keeping about 1/2 of the sauce in the fridge for use in my morning yogurt over the coming week (with a bit of honey and vanilla added). 

Fresh Plums : in the pot, ready to cook down

Cherry Plums (after cooking down into a puree)
I sure hope these plums return in full force next year!  I am definitely a fan of fresh plums and naturally-occurring gluten-free treats that I can use in my own recipes.  I will definitely use these in yogurt, but I also think they are going to be quite nice in my cakes, pies, and other dessert recipes (whether as a sauce / topping or whether directly in the baked goods).  Yummy!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fresh Blackberries : Simple Cook and Freeze Method

Extending the Fresh Blackberries Season

Blackberry Puree Ready-to-Use for Many other Recipes

This year I have been fortunate enough to encounter a bumper-crop of fresh blackberries growing wild where I live. There have been so many blackberries ripening at once that eating them all while fresh is just not possible — I can eat perhaps a quart of berries a day, but something has to be done with the remainder.

So, time to cook these berries up for simple storage (and reduced storage space in the freezer too).

The steps to this "recipe" cannot get much easier:

  1. pick berries, unless a very nice neighbor or friend donates some to your cause;
  2. rinse them off well in a colander
  3. place the berries in a nice large pot in which you can cook down a substantial batch on the stove top at once.  If you have very ripe berries, there should be no need for any additional water in the pot (to prevent burning or such), since they should have a lot of their own natural juice
  4. bring the berries up to a light boil — if your berries are as ripe as the ones I am using, your pot should have plenty of liquid in it just from mashing a large stirring-spoon through the berries a couple times.
  5. reduce the heat to a simmer and be patient — stir every so often to prevent any burning and let the batch cook down as much as you desire.  This can take an hour or more to off-steam enough liquid to thicken the mixture considerably.  
  6. Let cool and place into containers of your choosing and freeze (and, perhaps keep some in the fridge for the coming week or so) 

Fresh Blackberries ready to cook down on stove top

Although I could freeze the berries whole, I have limited freezer space and this process allows me to greatly reduce the volume of the berries.

I have kept a bunch of cleaned, used, pint (1/2 liter) size plastic yogurt containers into which I place my cooked berry sauce.

Then, I place these containers in the freezer for easy retrieval and thawing when I need blackberries for any other recipes I am planning, or simply for my morning yogurt.   I make my own flavored-yogurt by simply adding about a 1/2 cup of this cooked blackberry sauce to a cup of greek or plain yogurt, along with a bit of honey and slight bit of lemon juice (or couple drops of lemon oil).  This is the way a blackberry-yogurt should be — loaded with berries and full of flavor!  

I also use this puree in some other gluten-free dessert recipes, like: cheesecakes (right in the batter), other cakes (in batter, or in the frosting, or both), berry pies (used along with some other fresh/frozen berries), my morning pancakes (in or on), and much more.

This is one of my favorite gluten-free recipes / treats that comes along during a limited season each year.   I hope you are able to find some fresh berries nearby to try this yourself.

Nicely cooked-down blackberry puree / sauce
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Awesome Gluten-Free Bread : Genius Brand Spiced Fruit Loaf

Genius Spiced Fruit Loaf is Simply Excellent Gluten-Free Bread!

Fantastic Gluten-Free Bread at Reasonable Price

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety
This bread is simply fantastic, gluten-free or not!

When I first encountered this gluten-free bread, with a brand-name of "Genius", I could not help wondering if the bread would live up to its name.  Without a doubt, it definitely does!

This is one of those rare gluten-free breads that I enjoy without toasting (worth noting, since toasting is a "requirement" for so many GF breads if you want the bread to have a decent texture and taste).  This sliced spicy fruit loaf review does not require any additional bread preparation in order to achieve optimal taste: just eat it, and enjoy.

Genius brand Gluten-Free Bread : Spiced Fruit Loaf Variety (close up of slices)

As you can imagine, the bread tastes very nice toasted too, though it is wonderful even fresh and untoasted.  I find myself eating it plain, or with a bit of almond butter on it, or occasionally toasted with a bit of butter.  In all cases, the texture, crumb, and taste are very nice and I am thoroughly enjoying the fact I am eating tasty bread.

One of the keys to the fantastic texture of this Gluten-Free Spiced Fruit Loaf bread (apparently) is the fact it does not rely on the old-school and more traditional gluten-replacements — such as Xanthan Gum and Guar Gum — but instead it uses Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, which is an inert polymer used as an alternative to animal gelatin (and, somewhat related to and along the same lines as the carboxymethylcellulose (i.e., Dow Wellence gluten-free gluten-replacement product), which I first wrote a blog about in September, 2012).  And, I am please to further report: this stuff does not bother my GI tract like Xanthan Gum (which generally causes me pain).

This was my first encounter with a gluten-free product that used this particular gluten-replacement additive to mimic gluten, and I must say it does a fantastic job of doing so (best I have encountered in commercial gluten-free breads).

The full list of ingredients is as follows (quoted from their site):
Water, Tapioca Starch, Sultana (12%), Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Sunflower Oil, Yeast, Raisin (4%), Currants (4%), Caster Sugar, Psyllium Husk Powder, Humectant: Glycerine, Stabiliser: Hydroxypropyl Methyl Cellulose, Dried Egg White, Cinnamon, Maize Flour, Salt, Maize Starch, Mixed Spice (Coriander, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Fennel, Clove, Cardamom), Rice Starch, Preservative: Calcium Propionate.
Notice that Psyllium Husk Powder too: more fiber and texure!  And, the dried egg whites are certainly going to help with that gluten-replacement also.

Reasonable Price for Great Gluten-Free Bread

I am actually tempted to call this not just "reasonably priced", but rather low-priced gluten-free bread — especially given the absolutely ridiculous price of some gluten-free breads I have encountered in the United States (I have seen a small loaf of gluten-free paleo bread at Whole Foods Market for $11.00!! ouch!!).   In fact, most commercially available gluten-free bread in the US is absolutely absurdly overpriced with typical tiny loafs costing in excess of $6 or $7, which is just crazy given that the base ingredients are usually quite cheap (potato starch, rice starch, etc).

Price is where the Genius Gluten-Free Bread shows its genius again: this loaf is only £2.50 (i.e., about US $4.25/loaf) and it is a nice sized loaf (400g, or approximately 14 ounces).  Basically, it is pretty similar in size to a "real" loaf of raisin bread or similar fruit loaf.

Hopefully you will have a chance to try this bread.   My product-review bottom line: Genius gluten-free bread is highly recommended!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Monday, June 23, 2014

Waitrose Fiery Alcoholic Ginger Beer Review - Refreshing and quite nice!

Waitrose Fiery Alcoholic Ginger Beer Review

A new Gluten-Free "Beer" to try

This adult-only ginger-beer is a delightful recent find I encountered in the United Kingdom at the Waitrose grocery store chain.   When I first came across the bottles at the store, I was immediately intrigued by the description on the label: "An alcoholic ginger beer made with Jamaican Ginger, Sicilian Lemons, and a hint of Chili."

Waitrose Fiery Ginger Beer (Alcoholic)
 Chili, did I read??  Interesting!  So, I quickly took a look at the product page on the Waitrose web site to see if this is considered a gluten-free alcoholic ginger beer, and yes it is.  Perfect... and, as soon as possible a couple bottles made their way into my shopping basket and on to be chilled in the refrigerator.

Review: A refreshing, satisfying, cool drink with added zing

I found this gluten-free ginger beer to be rather delightful.  It definitely left me satisfied and was a great cool thirst-quencher perfect for summer.

The effervescence is noticeable, though not overwhelming — I'd say it is just about right.  I have had non-alcoholic ginger ales that have been either too flat or too stingy-bubbly, but this drink gets it spot-on in my opinion.

As for the presumption of "heat" I made upon reading the "Fiery" portion of the label as well as that mention of Chili — well, I certainly do not consider it "hot" in any way.  Any "fiery" aspects are quite tame, though that is just fine with me given that the drink comes together nicely with the discernible hint of those Sicilian lemons present in among the notes of ginger and the ever slight heat from the Chili.  I like the drink quite a bit, though I would welcome a true hotter (spicier) version with more Chili if it were ever produced.

Since the options for gluten-free beer are somewhat limited, and I am not particularly an avid wine drinker (occasional is plenty), this GF ginger-beer fills a gap in my drinks menu.  Definitely recommended, and count me in for refills next time I make it to Waitrose.

Now, if only this would be sold in the United States of America (USA)!  I am not aware of anything quite like this in the US, but perhaps I can find a way to ship the stuff there if enough demand exists?  Shipping would be cost-prohibitive I fear, and each bottle is currently costing £1.77 (i.e., around USD $3.00 at the time of this writing).  That is certainly going to equate to a "premium" gluten-free beer / drink option by the time any shipping and retailing-costs are added.   Anyone have "extra" luggage space and heading to the US?

Nice, bubbly, GF Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Monday, April 28, 2014

Costco: Gluten-Free Honeyville Almond Flour bulk bag

Costco has Gluten-Free Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour

New item at our Costco: 3 pound bags of fine almond flour!

Honeyville brand Blanched Almond Flour (Gluten-Free) 3# bag at Costco
If you have been looking for a very fine almond flour for your gluten-free recipes, check your local Costco store: I just came across this product this week at our Houston, TX location.

The flour has worked nicely in a few recipes I regularly use in my gluten-free diet:

  • pancakes:  I used along with finely shredded coconut flour and buckwheat flours and it was quite nice
  • yogurt: I often put almond butter in my yogurt along with fruit and berries, so I tried this almond flour instead and rather enjoyed it
  • chocolates: I created some quick coconut / almond "haystacks" using shredded coconut and this almond flour, cocoa, coconut-oil, and maple-syrup and found that to also be a tasty treat
This 3 pound bag was $18.99 at our Costco, and 3 pounds is a lot of almond flour!  I hesitated at first when I thought "how am I going to use all this?", but after purchasing it I am fully sure that I will use it quite quickly since I am finding it a versatile gluten-free recipe ingredient for so many things I make.  I think this will be quite nice in cookies and pie crusts and tarts and other things too.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Halloween Items and Party Recipe Ideas

Some Festive Gluten-Free Halloween Party Ideas

Dressing up some favorite GF party items for Halloween

Have you been contemplating what foods to make for a Halloween holiday party — whether appetizers, desserts, or other snack items? Kate, one of our gluten-free blog contributors, put together a sampling of her own ideas for some simple to make, and simple to convert from everyday fair into Halloween themed variations, gluten-free recipes that fit the occasion nicely.  She served these up this weekend to a group of people that found the items rather delightful.

I think you will all agree, these playful holiday treats should be quite easy to replicate using your favorite recipes.  She created things ranging from a pumpkin that is performing some Exorcist-type expulsion of green goo (in this case a tasty guacamole!), to some lovely one-eyed (cyclops) chocolate-dipped strawberries, to some gluten-free cupcakes covered with spiders!

Other items at her party included "bloodshot-eye" deviled eggs and other adventuresome and creative treats.  Here's hoping these all provide inspiration for a great GF holiday spread.  In addition to being gluten-free and wheat-free, she was able to accommodate the dairy-free / vegan / vegetarian crowd very nicely too.

(pictures all credit: Kate)


Cyclops-eyed Chocolate-covered Strawberries 

Oh my... Gluten-Free Cupcakes crawling with spiders!
Gluten-Free Halloween Party Treats Ideas

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Collection where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Probiotic Amounts in Kefir and Yogurt : Billions, perhaps Trillions

How Many Billion Probiotics are in your Yogurt / Kefir?

Probiotic Pills Prices are Ridiculous Compared to just consuming Kefir / Yogurt

Probiotics are those "beneficial bugs" that exist in vast quantities in healthy gastrointestinal tracts.  I have written other blogs here including a recent one about how Healthy Gut Microbes May Prevent Celiac (and other autoimmune diseases).

With scientific studies, like the one mentioned in that blog, providing further evidence that a healthy digestive tract — aided by probiotics —  may help us avoid and/or improve outcomes for various conditions and diseases, we may find ourselves asking: where can I get the most probiotics for the buck?

The answer is simple: kefirs or yogurts are definitely the most cost-effective probiotic source around, and here's why... (and yes, I am aware that some people may have digestive issues that make "dairy" not sound like a solution they can tolerate... but, read on first and reconsider that point after you see the numbers).

Probiotics in Kefir / Yogurt: Billions (and TRILLIONS) of Probiotics

Redwood Hill Farm Gluten-Free Goat Kefir
To the left I included a picture courtesy of Redwood Hill Farms (brand) Goat-Milk Kefir.  This is a perfect example of a product that is utterly loaded with Probiotics!  From the Redwood Hill Farms web page discussing the "Health Benefits of Goat Milk Kefir", we can obtain information about how many billion priobiotics are in an ounce of Kefir, by extrapolating from this quoted material:
Laboratory testing shows that Redwood Hill Farm brand kefir containing our proprietary blend of probiotics, “Flourish®”  averages 2.6 billion live probiotics per gram!  We use an average as batches can vary slightly and the number of probiotics at the beginning of our products ‘life’ can be slightly more or less than at the end of the products life.
WOW! 2.6 billion probiotics per gram of Kefir!  Did you catch the "per gram" part?  That is a TINY amount of Kefir with a HUGE number of probiotics. Keep in mind, there are just over 28 grams per ounce.  Therefore, there are nearly 75 BILLION probiotics per ounce of this Kefir! And, that means that an 8-ounce serving would have nearly 600 BILLION probiotics in it, an a quart container would contain around 2.4 TRILLION probiotics.

Now, compare that to all the probiotic pills on the market!  How many pills would you have to take to equal the amount in an 8-ounce serving of Kefir?  Better yet, what would it cost?! 
A quart of this specialty (Goat milk) Kefir cost somewhere around $6.00 at Whole Foods recently, which means an 8-ounce serving of Goat Milk Kefir cost $1.50 and provides 600 BILLION probiotics with it.

Even if you may have issues with dairy products, are you really sure your body could not handle an occasional ¼ Teaspoon of Goat Kefir that would provide around 3 billion probiotics? There are Twenty-Four (24) ¼ Teaspoon servings per ounce... or, 768 of these ¼ Teaspoon servings of 3-billion-probiotics each per quart!  How much would 768 "3 billion count" probiotic pills cost by comparison?

Probiotic Pills : Billions of Probiotics, at what cost?

Most probiotic pills I have seen at health-food stores and/or online are just ridiculously expensive for the amount of probiotics in each pill / tablet.  One of the better priced ones I have encountered is the gluten-free NOW Foods (brand) Probiotic-10 V-caps with 25 Billion probiotics per capsule and 50 capsules per bottle that sell for somewhere in the range of $16 -$17 on Amazon currently.

This particular NOW Foods gluten-free product has 10 strains of healthful  bacteria (including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarious, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Streptococcus thermophilus ), which is similar to what you would find in many yogurt cultures.

A bottle of these will (theoretically) get you 1.25 TRILLION probiotics in total,  which is about the same amount as you'd get in ½ a quart bottle of that Goat Milk Kefir.  The difference: the Kefir equivalent will cost you only $3.00 versus the $16-17 for the pills.  So, you can save 80%+ by going the Kefir route and just eating a tiny 2 Teaspoons of Goat Kefir per day to get that 25 Billion organisms.

Now, if you absolutely cannot handle any form of dairy (or are a dairy-free / vegan by choice), the NOW Brand pills may be a decent option.  But, remember... keep any pills refrigerated to maintain high potency. THIS IS IMPORTANT, as exposure to heat can kill the beneficial bugs.  And, in fact, this is a reason for concern: if anywhere along the distribution channel (e.g., during shipment, trucking, shelf-stocking, transport, etc) those pills were exposed to a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time, the probiotics that you paid all that hard-earned cash for could be DEAD!  If the probiotic bacteria dies during transport/storage, then you have just paid a fortune for nothingness.

Are your Billions of Probiotics still alive (and effective)?

If you didn't already realize this, there is an easy way to test for whether probiotic bacteria organisms are alive and well.  With yogurt or kefir, this is simple enough... just place a Tablespoon of the yogurt or kefir into a quart of milk and sit that in your oven overnight with ONLY the oven-light on (for the slightest heat-source)... the bacteria should do their job and multiply like crazy and transform the milk into kefir, essentially.  In effect, you are cloning the bacteria in mass numbers, and you can make your own yogurt this way (same principle as a "starter" for sourdough breads).

So, in theory, if the probiotics in your pills/capsules are actually alive and functioning, you could add the (powdered) contents of a probiotic capsule to some quantity of milk and achieve the same outcome (i.e., produce kefir / yogurt).  I cannot say I have personally tried this, not for lack of curiosity, but for the simple fact I prefer getting my probiotics by way of kefir / yogurt instead of costly supplements.  If anyone tries it and wants to post their results here, I'd welcome hearing about your observations.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my FREE Gluten-Free Recipes Page where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available and more.