Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween - carve your pumpkins!

We really like making gluten free desserts from Pumpkins, but, to be quite honest, we "cheat" and use the canned pumpkin - it is just so much easier. There are pumpkins that are especially good for pumpkin pie filling, but those pumpkins are not the type you will see most often around Halloween for decorative purposes. When you go to create you Jack-o-Lantern, chances are you have a much larger variety that would probably not be optimal for baking with.

We acquired our pumpkins (pictured above) from farmers an hour South of us, and a couple from local stores once they were marked down the last few days before Halloween - most were only a couple bucks. We had beautiful weather here in Ohio Sunday and Monday this week (versus the rain/snow mix that has plagued most of October), so we carved our pumpkins and lit them up last night.

That is part of what has been keeping us busy, but only a small part. I have taken time to begin the migration of this gluten free blog to the new Blogger Beta so I could use "labels" to better categorize my postings over time, and be able to group things like "Recipes", "News", and so forth. Should make life easier for readers.

On the gluten free recipes side of things, my wife has been busy as always. In fact, she created a perfect fall-holiday dessert we will soon publish the recipe for: gluten-free pumpkin roll! Mmmmmm! Delicious! I have not had a pumpkin roll in ages; in fact, not since I went GF quite some time ago. The problem was always getting the gluten free version of the recipe to handle the rolling up step, since without gluten it does not have the elasticity that a normal pumpkin roll would have. Well, Laura has done it, and with minimal added Xanthan Gum. And, the flavor is quite similar to any good pumpkin roll I can remember.

While she works on recipes, I have been trying to eradicate the fall leaves that have piled up in the yard. That has been a non-stop adventure. No sooner do I have them cleaned up, then a whole new wave of them come down. And, we have well over a hundred trees in the yard, so this is no small pile I am talking about - the resulting pile is the larger than my dining room. I pile them up in the back of the yard to make compost material for the garden/flower-beds. Every year the pile starts out huge, and then reduces to about a foot or two deep as it decomposes. And, yes, the Halloween pumpkins will end up on that same pile in a few weeks. Call it recycling on a grand scale. :)

In addition, I have been working on our website and other aspects of the book-sale preparations. Not much is visible online perhaps, but hopefully that will change in the coming week. Our online recipe collection has been increasing, and plenty more are on the way as we have time to post them. In addition to the pumpkin-roll, we have a nice quinoa dish, plus some roasted peppers and garlic, and our daughter even created an interesting and tasty Panettone style bread (a sweeter bread with dried fruit and nuts in it).

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Recipe - gluten free and dairy free Buckwheat Bread

gluten free and dairy free Buckwheat Bread
gluten free and dairy free Buckwheat Bread

Gluten-Free + Dairy-Free Buckwheat Bread Recipe

Laura has managed to produce another bread recipe worth publishing on the web. This one is a gluten free and dairy free Buckwheat Bread (pictured above). I like it, and my parents like it, and everyone that has tried it likes it thus far. It uses light buckwheat to obtain a rather mild flavor, along with a bit of Flax and some SoyMilk.

I have eaten it plain, toasted, and even with a chocolate-hazelnut spread on top (which all really went well together). There are now a solid four bread recipes in our repertoire, which gives me some nice variety. More on the way too. Next planned one is a Cinnamon-Raisin bread (mmmmmmm! I miss that bread).

My wife and I have been trying out this nifty little specialty pan recently, called the Baker's Edge, which maximizes crust-surface-area through a unique maze-like design. I'm doing a full review on it in the next few days - so stay tuned for results and pictures.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

GF Foods Discount Bounty Day!

Today offered a few wonderful surprises for me. One of them was an unexpected bounty of heavily discounted gluten-free products. I was just up at my local health food store discussing strategies for selling my new book there, when the owner mentioned that another regional health food store was going out of business. And, since he had been in talks with the other owner about taking over their customer-base, he told me how the store was liquidating their merchandise if I got there today.

Talk about good timing! So, I made a trip the Stess-Less Gourmet in Strongsville (the one going out of business) to discover there was still a rather decent inventory of gluten-free products for the picking -- all at HALF OFF! Oh, I was like the proverbial kid in a candy-store! I left with my car's trunk full of gluten free foods and related products that are otherwise just so expensive. Even the famed Larabar (energy-bar style treat) was a half-off item, and since I had never purchased one before due to the $1.79/bar price, I tried one right on the spot and then loaded up on the chocolate/coconut/date variety (it was rather tasty).

I continued this opening/tasting of things I had not ever tried before (due to the potential risk of paying a lot, and not liking it), with the store manager's approval (since I said I'd pay for anything I opened). Oh, what a wonderful day to try things! So, I found a few new products I liked, and a couple I did not. The ones I did like - I bought the entire inventory of. In fact, that picture above doesn't even start to show the pile. I purchased all the Quinoa grain (a favorite of mine), a good amount of the flours and starches (like Amaranth, buckwheat, and more), all of the cereals that I liked (gluten free cereal is so ridiculous otherwise - and now it was the price of "normal" cereal), and anything else I knew I could use. Heck, even the Silk Soymilk was 1/2 off and cheaper than anywhere else I could get it.

Another bit of good news is that my normal store (Vital Choice) is taking on the business from the other store (which was only 6 miles away), and my store is selling my books too. So, a new crowd of regional people will have a retail opportunity to buy my book now. Overall: an excellent day!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Gluten-Free "Wheat Bread" perfected

Gluten-Free Wheat Bread
Gluten-Free Wheat Bread

Gluten-Free Wheat Bread Recipe

"Wheat Bread" you say? Gluten-Free you say? Yep!

Laura has outdone herself again. After the third attempt at perfecting the gluten-free "wheat bread (tastes like)" recipe, I think she has what is a darn convincing product. The first two attempts were pretty good, but had some minor issues to correct. This version corrected those issues and is very, very good. It sure tastes like the real thing to me.

Here is a direct-link to the recipe: Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free "Wheat Bread"

I am looking forward to feedback from others. I have taste tested it on just a small number of people thus far, since it just came out of the oven a couple hours ago. It should be relatively simple to make, and much cheaper than using store-bought pre-mix ingredient versions that are commercially available, and with a much better flavor.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes Recipe

I have a new recipe to share with anyone that loves the taste of Pumpkin. This is a Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes Recipe that I came up with the past couple days. I will admit, I have had a tough time getting the outcome to be consistent, and these pancakes are very sensitive to proper moisture content and pan temperature... some batches came out perfect, others were a bit "wet" inside. I have the flavor just where I want it to be.

I had a few objectives with this recipe:
  • Dairy-Free - done: I use water in the recipe vs. Milk
  • Low-Fat - no added fats
  • High-Fiber - Yes! About 8 grams per batch (which, I call a serving) - about four 4-5" pancakes. 5 grams from the Pumpkin, 2 from the Teff, and the rest from Buckwheat, Cinnamon, misc.
  • Nutritious - 300% of the RDA of Vitamin A, some Iron/Calcium, (and all that Fiber).
  • Easy to Make: generally, but needs tuning to meet this objective completely and consistently.


½ Cup Pumpkin (Canned, unflavored)
¼ Cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
¼ Cup Buckwheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Teff Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ Teaspoon ground Cloves (or Allspice)
¼ Teaspoon ground Nutmeg (I used fresh ground)
1 Teaspoon ground Cinnamon
Pinch/Dash of Ginger
¼ Cup Water** (this seems to vary a bit based on pumpkin and what day of week it is)

Just mix it all together well (I used electric mixer). Place the resulting "batter" on your fry pan or griddle in amounts that when spread to a thickness of 3/8" or so (using a spatula or spoon) form a 4-5" round pancake. Adjust your frying temperature such that the pancakes cooks about 3/4 of the way through prior to flipping (and, without burning). Continue to fry second side until golden brown. When done, the inside should look like a normal pancake (i.e., cooked through, with some bubbles, and not overly "wet") -- this is what I found hardest to achieve consistently thusfar, as temperature seems critical, and the water content. (oh, I almost forgot to mention, I also love making these a bit less nutritious by adding some chocolate chips to the recipe on occasion - yum!)

I considered separating the egg-whites out, whipping them up, and folding in later for volume, but didn't want the hassle. I could also start be beating the entire egg, but didn't try that yet. I may try adding a bit of rice-flour. Who knows. If anyone wants to improve and donate the "perfect" formula for success, feel free... I always look forward to recipe improvements!

I serve these gluten free pancakes with just a touch of Maple Syrup, and a glass of fresh Apple Cider (which is in season right now). Makes for a great Fall treat, though I could sure eat the pancakes year-round!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why I prefer Cast-Iron Pans for Baking

Asian-Style Sesame Asparagus
Asian-Style Sesame Asparagus
That picture is of a very simple to make grilled (pan-fried) Asian-Style Sesame Asparagus that uses some Gluten-Free Tamari for a nice little twist on the basic grilled asparagus. I placed the recipe (not that it is difficult enough to create to warrant having a "recipe") on my gluten-free recipes page.

This recipe, like many others, works really well for me when prepared using cast-iron pans. In this case, I used a flat cast-iron griddle to sear/grill my asparagus. Though the final product looks good and tastes great, some recipes like this can take more time to clean up after than they do to create, which is one of the main reasons I love cast-iron pans: I have yet to find anything I can not clean off of them with relative ease.

Why Cast Iron is Awesome for Cooking

So, why else do I love cast-iron for cooking with? Here are a few of my reasons:
  • Cleaning - as mentioned above, a well-seasoned cast-iron pan is darn near impossible to "ruin" with something that will not come off. You can scrub them with steel-wool if needed. You could (if really desperate) probably take a grinding wheel to them. heh. They are amazing!
  • It's not Teflon: there have been a few studies that suggest the non-stick coatings used on various pans are not good for you (to say the least), and that those coatings are getting into our food and water supply. And, one of the worst things you can do to teflon (it is a plastic) is to overheat it and cause fumes to be released as it burns. And, nearly everyone that has used a non-stick pan has at some time or another accidentally done this.
  • OK, cast-iron is not a "non-stick" surface, but how long do your non-stick surface pans last? I have had "good ones" and cheap ones, and regardless of the brand or coating, as soon as any wear or scratches mar the surface, your non-stick pan has just been condemned to a downhill slide towards uselessness as it loses that magical non-stick ability. I just got sick of pitching pans - what a waste! A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is darn near as non-stick as teflon, especially at cleanup time.
  • IRON: Yes, something us gluten-free people are susceptible to is a dietary shortfall (and bodily uptake) of Iron. Cooking in cast iron introduces extra iron into your diet somewhat naturally. The iron in the pan oxidizes a bit as water gets on it and dries (i.e., it rusts), and there is a little transference of Iron into your diet. With small children, you want to make sure not to overexpose them to iron (be it through dietary supplements or any other means), but for adults any added iron should be just fine.
  • These pans are indestructible. They are built like a tank.
  • The only downside: they are heavy. Some of our largest fry-pans are really difficult to pick up with just one hand, especially if full of food. And, you don't want to accidentally drop one on your foot.
  • You can get some absolutely awesome cooking results with things like cast-iron dutch-ovens that would be nearly impossible with regular cookware. Because they are so heavy, you get wonderfully controlled heat conduction.
  • Versatility - We use our pans both for stovetop and in-oven applications (sometimes both for one recipe). We love our cast-iron dutch-oven for exactly this reason - our homemade baked-beans and pulled-chicken recipes are prepared on stovetop and oven. As long as there are no plastic handles and such to worry about, the whole thing just goes right into the oven safely.
I really like the Lodge Brand Cast Iron products, especially the pre-seasoned ones. Even the non-pre-seasoned pans are fine if you do not mind taking time to season them yourself by coating lightly with oil and placing in an oven for a few hours (it may save you a few bucks). I have noticed that even WalMart carries a fair number of their products lately, as well as Old Time Pottery, and quite a few other places. Highly recommended product - and, made right here in the good old USA.

Whew, another long posting. I like writing and getting ideas out of my head, since it seems to clear the way for new (and perpaps even better) ideas in the future - and this gluten free blog is one of my idea outlets. But, my sister recently accused me of being a bit loquacious with my blog entries, so perhaps I'll start writing shorter passages. Or, maybe not. :)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free "Wheat Bread"

Yes, it is possible! I am convinced now that my wife has created an astonishingly Wheat-Bread-tasting gluten-free and wheat-free bread! The flavor is the best of any bread I have had in years, though she is still perfecting the texture and rise-rates of the bread-dough and such. It reminds me of a commercial standard whole wheat bread with its flavor - nothing short of amazing.

This is the second attempt at creating a gluten-free "wheat bread". The first attempt had excellent flavor, but the interior of the bread was a bit gooey (The outside was perfect -- I ate the entire crust in one sitting). This second attempt is much closer to the desired texture inside, though it still appears to need a bit more leavening and a bit less liquid. Now, I will eat the entire crust, plus the top inch and a half of the loaf... the lower part is too dense yet in my personal opinion. Regardless of the density issue, I still think it is way ahead of the commercial brown-rice bread I have had (which is as dense as a rock, and with taste and texture to match. heh).

As time permits, my wife will certainly be trying her hand at perfecting this bread. And, once she does, I am rather positive it will garner quite a bit of attention in the celiac disease, gluten-free, and wheat-free diet communities when we release it on our website. Wish Laura luck, as you will all reap the rewards of her efforts!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Link between Celiac Disease and Cognitive Decline

Just reading the title of a new article today -- "Mayo Clinic Discovers Potential Link Between Celiac Disease And Cognitive Decline" -- is enough to give anyone with gluten enteropathy a bit of a pause. That's not exactly the kind of news we all want to hear.

The found there was a link between Celiac Disease and cognitive decline, though it did not go as far as to really isolate the complete cause of the connection -- that is what is to come in the followup study/research. This study has led to some theories about where there is such a correlation, which include:
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Inflammatory cytokines -- chemical messengers of inflammation that could contribute to problems in the brain
  • An immune attack on the brain that may occur in some patients with celiac disease
Some things mentioned that are a cause for hope include:
  • The cognitive impairment seemed to be, relatively uniquely, of a reversible form of decline
  • It appears not all CD patients are at risk; though researchers can't identify which ones will be and will not be
  • Following a strict gluten-free diet will likely prevent most consequences of the disease.
The article is an interesting read.

On a completely different note: it is now snowing in Cleveland! This is just a bit premature for my liking. Perhaps I am suffering cognitive decline already, but I can not recall when it last snowed this early in the season. I know it has snowed on a few Halloweens over the years, but early October? The snow has been coming in waves... sunshine for a bit... some flurries (some rather significant ones)...back to sunshine. Strange, seeing all these fall leaves still on the trees, many of which are still green, and then waves of snow entering the scene. I just couldn't give up wearing shorts for the season yet, so I put on my windbreaker and went out to get the mail -- tolerable in brief bursts, but it is a bit chilly. If these cold temperatures persist for more than a few days, I guess I will have to bust out the jeans for the season a bit earlier than normal.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Gluten Free Fall Treats - Apples and more.

Yes, fall has some particular treats to offer the gluten free individual, especially in the fresh produce area. Though you can probably get Apples all year round wherever you live, I find them so much better when they are basically fresh of the tree and locally grown. Above pictured are a couple of Cortland apples from near our house, and these are just fabulous for eating plain or baking pies with. A wonderful combination of sweetness with a bit of tartness, and a crispy non-grainy white fleshed interior make for quite the gluten free treat!

In general, when it comes to apples, if you can follow the harvest schedule in your area (each variation of apple is picked during a certain week or two of the year), you can have fresh picked apples (unlike the ones at stores that have been in cold-storage for perhaps months at a time on a trip from New Zealand to here) for easily a couple months in the fall.

I've written about some other fall treats for Celiac Disease sufferers - things that are gluten-free and quite delicious: like, pumpkin, fall squash (which store well for months), and a few other things. Even various nuts that are harvested this time of year are a great treat and can be used in your baked goods.

Well, time to go enjoy (or not) the other side of fall now: raking leaves!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Celiac Disease - on CBS Evening News today

I was at a friend's house earlier today, and we had the TV on, and I was suddenly surprised to see on CBS primetime evening news a rather substantial spot about the medical condition of Celiac, entitled deciphering a common disease. They featured a couple particular medical cases, as well as discussed how as many as 3 million persons in the USA may have it and not know.

I wanted to talk about it on my gluten free blog in case anyone that wanted to see the footage missed it. The link above goes to the text version of the show, and here is a link to the
Video URL for the CBS NEWS segment on Celiac Disease

Overall the story was great, especially in the sense of raising awareness of the disease. I take issue with a few of the things in the story, but perhaps it is due to the time-allotment that certain things were bypassed/omitted.

Some of the things I didn't particularly care for:
  • When the child said "no" to the question about, is there anything that she can't get gluten free that she would like to eat, I couldn't help thinking "yeah, right!". Especially since many of those commercial products at the gluten-free store are really not that good. I think they have come a ways, but are (generally) a long way off from being up the quality standards the general public applies to their normal (non-GF) foods. And yes, it's too bad it is not so easy as going to the "gluten free store" for a solution to everything, but perhaps someday it will be... we can all hope.
  • Next, they talked about how there is a blood-test for Celiac, but as we all know, that is not exactly considered the "gold standard" that an endoscopic duodenal biopsy is. Guess the latter didn't sound too appealing for the evening news.
  • They certainly didn't give much attention to the GI (Gastro-Intestinal) issues the disease causes, especially the gross details of what gluten consumption does to anyone that has Celiac. They simply wrapped it as "stomach pain" or discomfort or such. Once again, the whole details would probably gross out too many viewers.
The clip did have enough information to provide some basic education on Celiac and Gluten Intolerance though, and for that I am plenty thankful. The education aspect of the show is quite valuable.

When the show came on at my friend's house, it was a bit ironically coincidental to all of us. He and his wife were just over to our place for dinner for the first time a few days earlier - where we served GF foods, and though we discussed CD/GF some, I don't think they grasped how widespread it is and so forth. My friend's wife had just walked in the door from work, and her husband says "you won't believe what is on the news... after Mike just talked about it this weekend". Then, when the news story discussed how the one young girl they featured nearly died from it, I think it really sank in how insidious this disease can be. And, it suddenly seemed to go from this unheard of condition that just I happen to be afflicted with, to something that really does exist out there in the public at large in a percentage substantial enough to merit prime-time TV discussion. I feel these two friends are now in tune with the situation -- and that is two more that otherwise may not have known.

If awareness leads to progress towards a cure, or better diagnoses, better gluten free foods, or anything else positive, that is what matters. Keep the awareness coming!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Gluten Free Recipes Library Finally Online

Gluten-Free Recipes, Online and Free to the Public

I have finally launched my new public Gluten Free Recipes Library online at my book site.
At this point it only contains links to a few recipes, but I will be adding quite a few more GF recipes over time including more breads, pizza crusts, cookies, and quite a few other menu items.

The first recipe available (for a gluten-free multi-grain bread) should emulate the approximate long-term vision for future recipes, with both text versions of the recipe as well as a link to a download-ready PDF/Adobe-Acrobat-Reader versions when time permits (such PDF versions will be permit much nicer formatting than what I can accomplish in a website these days, and include pictures and other well-formatted content in each document, much like a typical page from my gluten-free desserts cookbook).

The site has been streamlined to make it load as quickly as possible for readers/viewers that do not have high-speed/broadband connections or who are using a mobile / wireless device. More tuning will take place as required to ensure the best GF-recipes experience for everyone.

And, of course the thing most everyone really cares about: more recipes! Yes, they will be coming as soon as the website has proven itself through some further testing.

And, I will hopefully get back to blogging about other useful gluten-free topics soon. I have some feedback about European travel and gluten-free foods availability to discuss (per my sister who's job sent her to Italy, Belgium, and the UK for a couple weeks recently). Surprisingly, she found the UK to be the easiest and most accessible gluten-free foods market (I was suspecting Italy would be given their high incidence rate of Celiac). More to come on this.