Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gluten-Free Boulder Canyon Adzuki Bean Chips


A couple months back, I discovered these gluten-free Boulder Canyon brand Rice and Adzuki Bean Chipotle Cheese snack chips at CostCo. I purchased a bag the first time I encountered them, and after trying them, the next time I was at Costco, I picked up a few bags - they were most excellent! Their bag was clearly marked "gluten-free", which is the one reason I bought them to try, and I was glad I did.

Essentially the Adzuki beans and cheese and spice made for something like a gluten-free Doritos (brand) tortilla chip, though a bit lighter in texture since they are rice-based (vs. Corn). Also, the PRICE was right : $4.79 for a 20-ounce (i.e., Large) bag of these chips, which is price competitive with non-gluten-free equivalents, and a super bargain for gluten-free snacking!



Gluten-Free Investing
I was actually so impressed by these gluten-free snack chips that I went digging to find out more about the company that makes them : Inventure Group Inc. (Public, NASDAQ:SNAK). I was delighted to see that they were publicly traded on the NASDAQ, unlike quite a few smaller players that make some of my favorite gluten-free foods.



This chart shows the stock-price for Inventure Group since early October, during the insane market panic period of recent. I decided that, although Inventure makes other gluten-containing snaks, I liked their gluten-free snack chips enough that I said "why not, I'll bet on them doing OK", and waited for a nice daily-dip in price to occur.

The stock hit intra-day lows of a dollar a couple times, and I snagged some at close to that price. I figured that for the price of a few bags of chips, I could also own some stock. SNAK (ticker symbol) has since posted solid earnings, announced a stock buy-back, and has now climbed back to $1.85/share, and I hope it returns to and stabilizes near their longer-term average of $3 or $4/share (or, perhaps a buyout buy a larger player). But, more than anything, I hope they continue to manufacture great-tasting gluten-free snacks that I can enjoy! Of course, it will sure be nice if I make enough off their stock to pay for all of their snack chips I am eating :)

It is not often I get to combine my financial / stock-market blog topics with my gluten-free blog entries, but this made for a perfect opportunity. Regardless of whether you are an investor or not, I am rather certain if you are reading this blog that you are wheat-free and/or gluten-free, and as such, these Boulder Canyon brand chips are a nice crunchy, tasty treat.

You can safely put these gluten-free chips out at a party and know everyone (not just celiac sufferers) will enjoy them -- all my family and friends love these chips, and they have had me pick up bags from CostCo for them too... all which makes for a good vote of confidence in the product. The *only* complaint I have is that if I eat too many of these chips at once, like most snack chips, they start to become a bit salty for me.

I am not sure if you can easily obtain these chips elsewhere (I have only seen at CostCo thus far), but hopefully they are available at a store near you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gluten-Free Recipes for Thanksgiving

Gluten-Free Recipes for Thanksgiving are definitely popular right now, whether it is gluten-free stuffing, gluten-free pumpkin roll, gluten-free breads, or a variety of other gluten-free diet foods. I have noticed a surge in web-traffic on my Gluten-Free Recipes Library website the past few days, and I can see what keywords people have used to find the site... nearly all are phrases related to Thanksgiving recipe favorites.

So, I have also been busy getting some new recipes online for people to enjoy. I added this new Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms with Prosciutto Recipe today, and for our dessert cookbook owners out there, I added a wonderful variation to the Gluten-Free Banana Bread - using Chia Seed Slurry and Isolated Whey Protein. My wife also created a fabulous dairy-free variation of the chocolate ganache-cake in our book, which I hope to add the recipe variation instructions for soon too.

The new Stuffed Mushrooms

This recipe is a flavorful and easy to prepare appetizer featuring Baby Portabella mushrooms and Prosciutto, and has a combination of flavors and textures that is bound to satisfy. Slightly sweet, a bit spicy and tangy, and even a slight bit salty from the Prosciutto, these stuffed baby portabella mushroom caps feature a variety of textures to match the complex flavor -- crunchiness of water chestnuts to the meatiness of the mushroom cap.

I do not have time to post the recipe twice, so if you are interested, you can find it at this link: Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms with Prosciutto Recipe.

The Banana Bread Variation

Perhaps this is a bold statement, but I think you would be hard pressed to find ANY banana bread that is better, whether with or without wheat or gluten. The amazing qualities that Chia Seed and Whey Protein bring to this recipe leads to a bread that is nothing short of incredible, and even somewhat "healthy" thanks to the added fiber, Omega 3's, and protein.

I will not go so far as to call it a "diet bread", but it is certainly more nutritious than the original recipe now that I focused on bumping up the fiber, lowering the glycemic index (trying to make it more diabetes / diabetic friendly for those watching their sugar), and increasing vitamins and minerals too. And, with all that healthful-change work, I find it preferable to the original gluten-free banana bread recipe, though it does take a bit more work (and a few more ingredients) to produce this variation.

If you own our book and want to try creating this variation, you can find the recipe variation instructions it at this link: Gluten-Free Banana Bread - using Chia Seed Slurry and Isolated Whey Protein.

Some Popular Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes
The top two searches this week on my gluten-free recipes site have been for the following items:

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Dairy-Free
Cornbread Stuffing / Dressing Recipe




and,...

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free
Pumpkin Roll Recipe



But, there are plenty of other recipes people are searching for and viewing lately, like:
I guess quite a few people consider Fried Chicken a nice alternative to turkey? Works for me! The other two make immediate sense to me, for dessert and appetizer items.

And then there are the breads. Most of the gluten-free bread recipes have been seeing a lot of activity lately, and I guess that means that quite a few gluten-free and Celiac diet persons will be enjoying fresh-baked bread for the holidays:
I hope everyone enjoys all those recipes! I know people are viewing them, and I can even tell when certain ones are downloaded, so the recipes are going to be tested out on a large scale it seems.

GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY SALE
BLACK FRIDAY 2008 / CYBER-MONDAY 2008

For anyone interested in our Gluten-Free Desserts Book and anxiously awaiting a sale, we plan to do a sale similar to the one we did last year. For a limitted time, we will partake in the famous "Black Friday" shopping event (and subsequent "Cyber Monday" event), by offering a Gluten-Free Black Friday discount on our book that is, like last year, the lowest price we will offer for the entire 2008 year.

To get the Black-Friday 2008 / Cyber-Monday 2008 special price, go to this page:
Gluten-Free Desserts Cook Book (clickable link)
...and use the coupon-code "CYBERXMAS2008" which will be good for the days including Thanksgiving through the following Monday and will discount the book by over 1/3 off the normal price during this brief annual sale event.

After the prior discussions on this Gluten-Free Blog about where the price-point of the book would be easy to handle, this discount should give everyone a chance to get the book within the target-zone that most people mentioned. I hope it helps if you are interested and have been waiting.

Happy Thanksgiving
I have been completely swamped with other work, and I am busy trying to stimulate the economy by hiring a new person to help with my business too. With luck, once I have this new resource up to speed to where they can help with various tasks, I can offload some things and get more recipes and blogs done,... or, at least that is the plan :)

So, if I do not happen to get another blog posting up before Thursday (which is quite likely!), I will use this opportunity to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and I hope you enjoy the holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dairy-Free Diet-Milkshake Recipe : Chocolate Pumpkin Spice and Gluten-Free


In my prior blog about Using Chia-Seed Slurry in Gluten-Free Recipes, I mentioned some of the applications of this wheat-free / gluten-free food creation technique including the above-pictured Dairy-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Diet-Milkshake Recipe (this recipe uses a FROZEN chia slurry, in ice-cube form).

A "Diet Milkshake?"

Sure, why not? Healthy Desserts and snacks do exist. This recipe features all sorts of healthful ingredients, and essentially eliminates any less healthy ingredients. The result is an especially low-calorie, low-bad-fat / high-good-fat, diabetes / diabetic-friendly dairy-free "milkshake" that features a wonderful and flavorful blend of chocolate, pumpkin, and pumpkin-pie spices in a frozen treat that will pass the taste and texture test of most people (even children). Even though my target audience is persons with Celiac Disease and/or gluten-free diets or wheat-free diets, this recipe will also fit dairy-free / vegan diets and low-carb diets too.

The milkshake maintains a rather low glycemic index while introducing healthful Omega-3's (specifically the α-linolenic acid (ALA) via the Chia Seed, aka Salvia hispanica), fiber, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins! The pumpkin adds all sorts of nutrition too: fiber, vitamin-A, and more. Cocoa powder brings a pile of antioxidants and fiber into the mix too. And, using Agave Nectar, the glycemic index remains rather low.

This recipe makes use of our Gluten-Free Chia Slurry Recipe (and ice-cubes) featured on our Gluten-Free Foods Recipe Library to make the "chia ice cubes".

Ingredients
7 or 8 Frozen Chia Cubes
(see instructions-link above, or prior blog for how to make)
3/4 Cup Pumpkin Puree
1 Cup Vanilla Soymilk or Almond Milk

TO TASTE:
1-2 Tsp Cinammon
Pinch of Clove
1/4 - 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp Vanilla
1-2 Tsp Cocoa
1-2 TBSP Agave Nectar

NOTE: All main ingredients (cubes, pumpkin, and soymilk) were *COLD* when I prepared this to make sure I had the optimal low-temp milkshake for thickest results :)

Directions

It does not get too much easier than this... simply combine all ingredients in your Blender / VitaMixer. Grind and blend until chia cubes are fully disintegrated and resulting mixture is smooth and creamy texture as you would expect from any milkshake.

The result is a Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Diet-Milkshake that is a dairy-free, creamy smooth "diet milkshake" using healthy chia seed and other diet-friendly ingredients.

Hope you enjoy it. I really wish I had posted this recipe while the weather was a bit warmer, but I don't mind a good milkshake ANY time of year. And, milkshakes need not be just for dessert!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gluten-Free Recipes using Chia Seed Slurry

Gluten-Free Chia Seed : Recipe Techniques


Using using Chia Seed "gel" and "slurry" and ice-cubes in GF Creations


Finally, I have gotten back to my blog and writing more about Chia Seed in Gluten-Free / Wheat-Free recipes! I love the Fall season, though I have been distracted lately by things that come with it: like raking.  This is a long-planned followup discussion on Chia Recipes...

In June, I wrote a Gluten-Free Blog entry entitled Gluten-Free Chia Seeds : SuperFood Status (follow that link for prior discussion and where to acquire the product). Last time I introduced Chia Seed basics - like nutritional / diet information, and the texture and look and feel that should be expected. I also mentioned in my previous blog that Chia Seed is an amazing gluten-free recipe addition / ingredient, and I have used the Chia Seed to create some wheat-free / gluten-free baked goods and other food products that are convincingly like the "real" thing, if not better. Pancakes with such alterations are one of my regular favorites, but I have also gone much further with Chia in gluten-free recipes through a new approach I developed for incorporating the Chia with great success.

I have found that the results I can achieve through a particular use of Chia Seed in gluten-free recipes is nothing short of spectacular, and I want to share the approach with others here, hoping that perhaps it can make your gluten-free baking even better. I am not guaranteeing it will make *everything* better, but it has really helped quite a few of my recipes - even recipes that were already quite good - rise to an extraordinary level on the texture / mouth-feel scale, and on the health-scale too. It has worked wonders in gluten-free breads, gluten-free desserts, and all sorts of things.

Get ready to use a "chia slurry" in recipes...

Chia Slurry Formulation

Creating a "chia slurry" is the key to using chia as an easy addition / substitution / alteration / modification ingredient in many recipes. This slurry will end up providing a gluten-like (i.e., "glue like") binding power to recipes while introducing additional moisture and "bounce", elasticity, sponginess, and the like, that you would otherwise associate with Gluten-containing products.

A slurry is quite simply a highly fluid mixture of water and finely divided material - in this case, that material is chia.

Pre-Hydrate the Chia Seed
We start by pre-hydrating our Chia Seed. I simply use between 1.5 and 2 TBSP (Tablespoons) Chia Seed per cup of water. The concentration can be varied, and will alter the recipe outcomes accordingly. Sometimes I want a thicker mixture, other times thinner. The amount of slurry I prepare depends on what I am baking, but for now, let's just say I have a few cups of water, and the corresponding proportion of Chia I mentioned...

Place the chia seed in a bowl, add water, and stir constantly for a while to make sure all seeds submerge in the water. Then, stir every few minutes for a while to make sure the seeds are evenly absorbing water as they expand like little pearl tapioca balls. Within 15-30 minutes, this hydration process is complete, resulting in the following:



Or, a bit closer look at the resulting hydrated Chia Seed mixture:


Now, place this hydrated Chia in a blender. I have my trusty VitaMixer for this task, which does a fine job of creating a slurry from the seeds. Here is the before and after look:



...yielding...

That is pretty much it! You have just created the Chia Slurry to be used in gluten-free recipes where you would otherwise use water, milk, or other liquids (note: some dry-ingredient amount-adjustments may be necessary to achieve optimal substitution and outcome results).

I process (i.e., grind / chop / pulverize) the hydrated Chia into a slurry immediately before I am going to use it in a recipe. I have found this keeps the suspension of particles most consistent, and also it tends to add another important baking element: a bit of air volume (quite useful in breads for example).

You can allow the pre-hydrated Chia Seed to sit around for hours, or days, if you desire, but wait until you are ready to use it in a recipe before mixing it into a slurry. In fact, if you use a lot of Chia in baking your gluten-free recipes, it is a good idea to keep a container of pre-hydrated chia seed in the fridge all ready to go (saves on hydration time later).

My next Gluten-Free Blog postings will discuss some particular recipe alterations using this Chia Slurry. If you can't wait, feel free to go for it and experiment with some recipe alterations yourself.

In the mean time, here's another use for the Chia Slurry that may inspire some inventive recipe creations too...

Frozen Chia Seed / Slurry Ice Cubes!

Another use I have for my slurry concoction that I created on a whim is chia-seed-ice-cubes. Just take that freshly-blended Chia-Seed Slurry and pour it into ice cube trays and immediately freeze.

These frozen chia-mix cubes have proven incredible in making smoother, creamier, dairy-free "shakes" or "smoothies" or slushies, or whatever. They add an amazing texture-smoothing / gelling quality that thickens up a drink without adding anything unhealthy to the recipe; giving frozen drinks some "creaminess" without any cream.

The reason I make the chia ice cubes (instead of just adding regular water-only ice cubes to a blender with pre-hydrated chia seed) is a simple one: achieving optimal coldness and lowest temperature for best shakes, smoothies, and frozen drinks. If you don't freeze the chia like this first, do not expect the same results :)

Have you ever heard of a "diet milkshake"?


Well, get ready for one..., and here is a preview picture of it, my Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Dairy-Free "Diet Milkshake", that I will also post the very simple recipe for quite soon. The funny thing was that, although this recipe seemed timely just a few days ago (when it was 70-degrees out!), it is now near freezing outdoors. Well, either way, I still enjoy my frozen drinks year round :)

I do not mean to tease people by not posting additional recipes this time with the above slurry-making-recipe and discussion, but rather I wanted to keep the baked-goods and frozen-products recipes cleanly apart from the slurry-recipe for organization purposes here on my Gluten-Free Blog (as I will be referencing this blog again for sure).

GLUTEN-FREE RECIPES USING CHIA SEED

Here are links to a couple recipes using this chia gel / slurry and ice-cubes to get you started:

Also, check out my prior blog about Gluten-Free Chia Seed for some background information on this ingredient and where to acquire it if you do not already have a supplier.


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 for free.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama / McCain: Gluten-Free Politics

I rarely allow my Gluten-Free Blog entries to stray from recipes, product reviews, and the like, but with the United States Presidential election tomorrow, I want to present my take (from purely the standpoint of the concerns of a Gluten-Free / Celiac person) on the high-profile race between Barack Obama and John McCain.

If I had to choose just ONE issue that was important to anyone with Coeliac Disease, it would have to be that of Health Insurance and especially being able to obtain health insurance that includes mandatory and guaranteed Preexisting Conditions Coverage. Celiac Disease IS a pre-existing "condition", and one that is known to also increase the likelihood of a variety of other diseases, like Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, Colitis, and others. As such, you can be certain that Insurance companies are fully aware of these correlations, and if you are ever without insurance and then need to obtain it, do not be surprised if you are disqualified or rated as higher-risk (either immediately, or retroactively should anything negative occur with regards to your health).

If you would choose to argue that Celiac Disease would not be considered a pre-exiting condition for health insurance reasons, I recommend watching the PBS "Point Of View (P.O.V.)" episode entitled "Critical Condition" about the state of health-care and health-insurance in America and seeing the insanely long list of "conditions" that insurance companies screen for in order to weed out any excess "risk" (i.e., their need to actually pay) among those applying for insurance. Also, Michael Moore's "Sicko" covers the topic well, though he is a bit more controversial perhaps, and he explores how insurance companies will do nearly anything to find "pre-existing conditions" to deny payment even when you think you are "covered". I would also recommend watching "Sick Around the World" (PBS Frontline) to see how the USA compares to other countries for health care in general (hint: the USA ranking is not good).

Where does that leave me with regards to Senators Obama and McCain? Clearly I have to favor Obama's call for guaranteed health-insurance coverage for pre-existing condiditons. I do not EVER want to find myself in a situation where I think I am "covered" or othewise "insurable", only to find out that instead I have been denied insurance or retroactively denied payment for services rendered, leaving me stuck with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills.

Of course, this has become one of those divisive issues in America, though I do not understand why. We are the only major industrialized country to not offer national health care, and we are not even talking about that... we are just talking of mandating that insurance companies must take *anyone*, and such talk in the USA is enough to set off all sorts of argument in this country. Well, regardless, I would like to know I can always get coverage.

Next, Gluten-Free Product Labeling laws. I really have no idea where either candidate stands on this issue. I know that in the past, Republicans generally stand up for business interests that oppose any further labeling laws, though I do not know that Democrats have done any better at pushing for stricter labeling of allergens (gluten being just one of many). Food allergies are a major problem for a wide range of citizens, and something needs to be done to represent OUR (citizen interests) against any opposition from industry.

I realize there are all sorts of issues here with regards to cost and product liability and all that. As a business owner, I do not want additional regulations imposed on me, and I understand that product labeling laws could be an undue burden for smaller manufacturers especially. So, I do not know what the right answer is. Fact is, it seems that more and more products are improving their Gluten-Free labeling on their own, as companies see this as in their own best interest for marketing.

Perhaps market forces will take care of most of gluten-free product-labeling needs without further government intervention
, but it just seems like we are moving at a snail's pace. I admit: I am anxious and just want to be able to go to the store, pick up ANY food product, and see a clear indication of whether it is GF or not. Any "kick start" from the government (that doesn't hurt businesses) is quite welcome... perhaps just the threat of regulation is enough (as, there is currently some pending gluten-free labeling law stuff in motion).

Well, we will all soon know the outcome of the election. I personally just hope and pray that we (as a country) maintain civility regardless of the election outcome. I can not help being concerned where this country is headed though, as I have personally witnessed some nearly unbelievable hatred and verbal attacks being exchanged during this campaign, with some even being directed at my wife and I when just out for a walk the other day. We had no idea why this stranger started verbal hostilities and aggression toward us (including using his 100 pound snarling rottweiler to intimidate us from 10 feet away - thank god it was leased), at a public park, until after a few paragraphs of ranting about imposing regulations on him and other such seemingly random banter, something about "you and Obama..." came out; at which point I realized the connection... I had worn a jacket that had an Obama sticker on the lapel. wow! Is this what America is coming to?

I can not help thinking that this constant 50-50 split of America (over the past 3 Presidential election cycles) is engineered by those that run this Country in order to distract our focus from all the real challenges we face. All the so-called "wedge issues" have been designed to ensure a 50-50 outcome it seems. It all just reminds me of the professional sports-team mentality where, in the audience, it is "my team" vs. "your team", when in fact the only really "winners" are the few that have orchestrated the competition while collecting their fat paychecks, sweetheart media / endorsement deals, and getting their stadiums or other venues financed and built with public taxpayer funds. In the case of our government, the few that really make out regardless of which "team" wins is anyone that is part of the revolving door between corporations, lobbyist, and our elected officials. Unless you are in that small group of well-connected and well-positioned people, the outcome is always the same: you continue to have the right to pay taxes for these political engineers to do with as they choose.

And, to think, all I want is to be sure I have life-long health-care coverage regardless of the fact I have Celiac Disease. Seems like a simple request, but thanks to political engineering, I fear my hopes for obtaining guaranteed coverage will be lost in that never ending fray of "wedge issues" that have been designed to ensure that we never see any real change. But, I will at least cast a vote for my "team" this year and try to remain encouraged that someone will deliver something I and others with Celiac Disease could certainly benefit from.