Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gluten-Free Recipe: Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad

Gluten-Free Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad

Refreshing Vegetarian Recipe with a Southwestern Style

This is a simple gluten-free recipe that I find quite refreshing in the Summer. Certainly you could eat this all year round, but it is at its finest when the tomatoes, corn, onion, and lemon are in season. I have found this recipe goes well with everything from Mexican-inspired dishes to just about anything else where the flavors of lemon and cumin make for a nice accent.

So, be creative and I'm sure you'll find plenty of other dishes to serve this with. And, it is actually quite good on crispy corn tortilla chips. By it's very nature, all the ingredients are (or surely should be) gluten-free and Celiac safe — just be sure to check the labels on your cans of black beans and other ingredients just to confirm. An added bonus is that this should be a very healthy salad option, and perhaps help you diversify a bit when it comes to your daily vegetable selections.

The Gluten-Free Recipe

15-ounce can of Black Beans (rinsed)
1 Pint of Cherry Tomatoes
10-ounces white corn - fresh, or drained canned, or thawed frozen corn
½ Cup Chopped Onion
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 Teaspoon Cumin
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

As for directions, it doesn't get too much simpler than this: just throw all the ingredients together in a bowl, and mix them up well. Let stand a bit before serving (either at room temperature or in fridge), and mix well right before distributing to individual bowls/plates (to cover ingredients well with the seasonings).

Chill any leftovers. I have eaten this salad for a couple days after making it fresh, and it has been fine. I prefer it the day it is first made, or the day after though , as I prefer most any dish with fresh tomatoes for that amount of time simply because tomatoes are best and most flavorful when eaten as close to fresh as possible.

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 25, 2007

Celiac Gene Test Curiosity for Gluten-Sensitivity

Enterolab Gluten/Antigenic Food Sensitivity Stool/Gene Panel Test

Last week when I had a routine appointment with my general practitioner Doctor, I asked him if he could run an HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigens) DQ2 and DQ8 haplotypes genetic test, just out of curiosity. I wondered which of these genetic markers I carry for a predisposition to Celiac Disease and gluten-sensitivity. This was mainly for curiosity sake, and I figured that since I had health insurance, I might as well try to get the test performed under a plan I already pay for.

So, my generalist tells me that he doesn't run any type of genetic tests, and refers me to a doctor in the GI (Gastro-Intestinal) department to see if they will run such a test. I received a call from the GI doctor today, and when I mentioned wanting the test, he said they don't run genetic tests because they are "so expensive" to run. I asked him what "so expensive" was, and where he got that opinion from. He said he heard from other practitioners that the tests were "really expensive", although he had no first-hand experience with them. I had him quantify what he thought "really expensive" was, and he said "a couple thousand dollars or so".

Well, at this point I pretty much knew he was uninformed and tried to clue him in on the fact that such tests really are not nearly that expensive. I already knew that Enterolab offers a gluten-sensitivity gene test for $149.00 [UPDATE: I originally wrote this blog in June 2007 when the price was $149, and now it is STILL $149 as of January 2017.  Somewhat Impressive.  Enterolabs also offers more detailed analysis and genetic testing options too, at the link I provided] and told the doctor this. His first question was "is that a reputable firm?". Well, I sure hope so, as I have heard about it from a lot of people on the forums and elsewhere. Seems like it's not a very complicated test to take a swab from inside your mouth, and analyze the DNA for a couple genetic markers. These days, this should be rather straight-forward.

So, even though my health-provider (and health-insurance) won't cover the Celiac-Disease predisposition / gluten-sensitivity predisposition gene-test, a doctor in the GI department at my provider has at least now heard that the tests are lower priced than he thought they were. Who knows if that'll ever make a difference as to whether my insurer will ever offer or cover such a test in the future, or whether the information went in one ear and out the other, but I tried to get him to at least consider the idea.

Also, to be clear, I understand that a gene-test of this type is not a "front-line" test for Celiac. The reason this is the case is that even though you have one or both genetic markers, that does not necessarily mean you'll have Celiac Disease. But, what it can be quite useful for is to eliminate Celiac as a possibility when you have neither marker (the lack of both the DQ2 and DQ8 markers means with 99% probability that you'll not have a gluten problem / Celiac).

I think I'll go ahead and order the Enterolab test sometime in the coming weeks just to satisfy my curiosity. I figure, for $149, it'd be interesting to find out what genetic analysis has to say about my likelihood of having this condition. There are so many people in my extended family with the problem, I figure at least one of the markers must be present in the gene-pool somewhere.

What will knowing the details do for me?... not much, aside from satisfying a bit of curiosity, and giving me a bit more hands-on experience with some testing procedures.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

World-Wide Gluten-Free Bloggers Welcome

I just wanted to thank all the gluten-free bloggers from the United States and around the world for their contributions to the Gluten-Free News site. Although not everyone writes on a daily basis (including myself), between us we have plenty of information and stories to share with each other, including gluten-free product reviews, gluten-free recipes, event announcements, and recaps of our day-to-day lives living without gluten.

[UPDATE: My original Gluten-Free News Aggregator service has been phased out, as discussed in this blog entry, mainly due to the fact that most news-sources (i.e., other blogs) simply disappeared and/or became inactive over time.  Sorry.]

The latest gluten-free blog feed I just added comes from the other side of the world. Ange's blog entitled "Gluten-Free Victoria" is about Ange's experience following a Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Fructose-Free diet in the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. She has product reviews and more online that will be of help to fellow Australians and others around the globe.

If you are reading this, and have a gluten-free blog of your own that you would like to get the word out about and share with others, just let me know. I welcome gluten-free and Celiac (aka Coeliac) Disease bloggers from around the world to contribute their news and blog content via the Gluten-Free News Aggregation page. There are simple (I hope) instructions for how to setup a blog-feed for inclusion there (via link at top of page) if you need a bit of guidance.

I have noticed that summer-time in the USA tends to slow down some of the news-postings and blogging activity - presumably because we are all more likely to be enjoying the outdoors this time of year. This makes it even more wonderful having world-wide contributors, since places like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America are currently experiencing their Winter and shorter daylight hours while we are out enjoying the Summer sun here. Globalization at its best!

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Treat: Watermelon

Though I don't look forward to the steamy hot days of summer, I definitely wait with eager anticipation for Watermelon to be in season. Throughout the off-season, I have seen a few watermelons in various markets, but I avoid them because of price (sometimes $10 or more for a small one), and because (from experience) they just aren't as good as the late-Spring and Summer Watermelon crops.

Recently prices have been falling, and I've been enjoying one of nature's most perfect gluten-free desserts every chance I get. When I was a child, I actually preferred watermelon to desserts like cake, and my mother still tells stories of how I'd ask for a watermelon for my birthday instead of a birthday cake. I'm not quite that fanatical about this fruit now, but I certainly look forward to a perfectly ripe, sweet, and juicy watermelon (preferably served chilled, but fine even at room temperature).

Not only are these fruits wonderful tasting, they are actually quite healthful with their high levels of Vitamin-C and fairly high levels of potassium and fiber and even some B-Vitamins (there's a detailed watermelon-nutritional info chart on this wiki page).

Seedless varieties are certainly handy and make for perhaps a bit more refined eating experience (avoiding the seed-spitting otherwise likely), and have come quite a ways from some early varieties. I used to think the "normal" or traditional seed-filled varieties had superior taste, texture, and juiciness, but any more that is not necessarily the case. We've had a few wonderful seedless ones (like the one pictured above) that were as good as any seeded varieties I have ever encountered.

As for how to best choose the "perfect" melon, well, we have perhaps all heard about knocking on the melon and listening for a deep hollow sound. That seems to be as good as any method perhaps, but my wife and I were recently advised of another way to select the best ripe melon when we had a chance encounter with a Russian fellow that had picked watermelon for years (500 per day he claimed). His advice was simply to choose the largest one, and look for a stem that appeared to be relatively newly picked (i.e., not all dried up and brown, and certainly not rotten). So, we took his advice on the last few melons, and I'll be darned if everyone has not been just perfect! I don't know if this is foolproof, or if all watermelons lately have just been fantastic regardless. But, one way or the other, it has worked and I hope it continues too.

I have another seedless watermelon waiting for me in the kitchen now - certainly bound to become my gluten-free dessert of choice next week when the hot, steamy temperatures are forecast to return. At least I will have a nice sweet thirst-quenching treat to cool down with when that heat hits again.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sweet Tooth had a Baby!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time may recall "Sweet Tooth", a member of our local gluten-free wildlife. Sweet Tooth is one of the female White-Tailed Deer in our neighborhood that is especially fond of - you guessed it - sweets! She helped out with all the leftover gluten-free desserts during product testing and the writing of the Gourmet Gluten-Free Desserts book over the past couple years. And, she has now given birth to this cute little Fawn that was nice enough to let me take its picture as it rested in some tall grass a few days ago.

I'm always amazed how fast the baby deer go from being helpless and fragile to running right along with their mothers and bounding over the various obstacles in the neighborhood. There are at least two newborns that frequent our yard now, and though they are staying close to their mothers, they will soon be playing games with each other much like children. Last year we had three young deer here that would play tag (from the looks of it), where one would try to encourage the others to take chase through the trees, around my neighbors barn, and through half a dozen other surrounding yards. They also practice their flying leaps and bounds that are nothing short of amazing - a full grown one can jump a length of 30 feet, and an 8-foot high fence!

Though it's a bit early to tell if Sweet Tooth's baby will be equally tame and an equal fan of our gluten-free baking, I'd expect we'll find out later this year. Sweet Tooth is certainly the most "tame" deer we have around the neighborhood, and she will even come to visit if we see her roaming about off in the distance and call for her (I really think she knows her name too - the one we have given her at least - as she responds to it!) Even if she is with a group of other deer, she'll come to see what we have to offer - be it some GF leftovers, an Apple, a tomato, or a few other favored treats. Her little one is usually close by now, though not always apparent since it tends to stay hidden in tall grass until feeding time.

In case you wondered, we don't feed Sweet Tooth directly out of our hands like a pet -- she'll come within about 4 feet or so, and that's close enough for both of us. Her fawn still stays a good 30 feet away, which is not surprising, especially given it has no desire for fruits or other snacks yet while it is reliant upon its mother's milk.

Other deer in the neighborhood don't behave the same as Sweet Tooth, and usually stay at least 20 or so feet away and don't even necessarily like apples if presented with one (though, one other deer has a taste for corn and sunflower seed mix that we occasionally put out for the birds and squirrels). But, in an interesting display of ingenuity, the corn-loving dear has learned that we sprinkle the corn-kernels and seed near the base of a few trees - and, it now checks around all the trees within a 100' radius "just in case" :)

Well, that's it for today. A summer distraction, but certainly a cute one. And, it'll be interesting watching Sweet Tooth's Baby grow up and play in the neighborhood. Now, if only there was a way to keep the deer (in general) from getting into my wife's flower-gardens...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Ice Cream

Homemade Gluten-Free Chocolate Hazelnut/Cinnamon Ice Cream (Ice Milk)

My Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Ice Cream (Ice Milk) Recipe

I came up with this gluten-free recipe (or pseudo-recipe) yesterday on a whim, as a way to beat the summer heat (though, officially it is only Spring time). I just decided to mix a few of my favorite flavors together into a sweet frozen concoction I'll call Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Ice Cream.

More accurately, this gluten-free dessert is Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Ice Milk - a much lower fat version of ice-cream. I'm not sure how many of you readers are familiar with the history of Ice Milk as a dessert - it has essentially disappeared from the US market over the past 30 years, and the wikipedia entry about ice-milk mentions how in 1994 when labeling laws allowed manufacturers to call Ice Milk "low fat ice cream", "Ice Milk" basically disappeared from grocery stores in an instant.

I remember consuming Ice Milk as a child, and enjoying the fact that it was lighter and more cooling and refreshing than Ice Cream. Sure, I love Ice Cream and it's creamy richness, but I also like frozen desserts containing no fat at all but plenty of flavor (like Sorbets). Ice Milk is somewhere in the middle for me, and can certainly satisfy a craving for ice cream with a bit less dietary guilt.

Though I didn't use a formal recipe to create my dessert of the moment, it is definitely not difficult to reproduce. I'm used to a bit of experimentation in the kitchen, and I have found that some of the best treats arrive as a result of my improvisational "formulas" - a bit like a mad scientist at times. This particular experiment was all about how to put the ice cream maker to use for a quick cool down (note: I keep the ice-cream maker's "bowl" in the freezer for emergencies, since it takes a good 8 hours or so to freeze it otherwise, and waiting for that ruins my spontaneous creation moods).

So, I started with the obvious components: milk and sugar. Then, a bit of vanilla. Next, some cocoa and cinnamon. And finally, for just that perfect subtle nutty flavor, a bit of hazelnut syrup. I know how much milk and sugar I used, and approximately what amount of each remaining component I tossed into the mix...

The Recipe

3 cups milk - I used 2%, just because it's what was in the fridge
¾ Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Cocoa
3 or 4 Tablespoons Cinnamon (yes, this ice milk had flavor!)
2 Tablespoons Hazelnut Syrup
1 Tablespoon Vanilla

I just placed all these ingredients into my mixer's bowl, and mixed on low speed until the sugar dissolved and the cocoa and cinnamon were distributed nicely (feel free to alter the blance of cocoa and cinnamon to your liking). I then pulled the frozen ice-cream maker's bowl from the freezer, placed it in the machine, and filled the bowl with my mixed ingredients and turned the machine on for 20 minutes.

Now, this is where a decision must be made. Do you want "soft serve" ice-cream that is a bit like a thick milk shake or perhaps a Wendy's (brand) "Frosty", or do you want hard-packed ice cream. If you choose the former, pour that freshly frozen mixture into a glass (as shown) and enjoy immediately! Otherwise, place the mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze it solid for a couple hours. I like it either way, but I really prefer the soft-serve approach for many reasons: instant gratification, awesome cool-down treat, and less cleanup (no freezer container - though, if there are leftovers, you'll still want to freeze that which you do not immediately consume).

So, there you have it. "Low-fat Ice Cream", or "Ice Milk" from days past,... whatever you call it, it makes for a delicious flavorful and satisfying summer treat - gluten-free.

Flavorganics Hazelnut Syrup
Ingredients note: The hazelnut syrup I used is clearly marked "gluten-free" on the back. I found this "Flavorganics" brand of certified organic syrups at Whole Foods recently. And, they have a nice selection of additional syrup flavors that I still need to try out in some gluten-free desserts.

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.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Enjoying Mango Perfection

Mangos are one of my all time favorite fruits - and, being the number one consumed fruit in the world, I am certainly not alone in my appreciation of mangos. I just love this juicy aromatic yellow fruit, whether fresh (best and preferred) or frozen (also quite nice, convenient, and more affordable). Of course, mango is a gluten-free fruit, and one more wonderful dietary safe-item to keep around in the Celiac household.

There are a few different varieties as well, and my favorite are the "Champagne" ones, which are a smaller golden yellow fruit (part of one pictured in the foreground above that has not fully ripened), that from my personal experience have been most consistently wonderful and nearly perfect in flavor and smooth texture. This variety is free from the fibers that appear in some of the flesh of other mango varieties too, which is a definite plus. Once ripe (their skin will actually be very slightly wrinkled and deep yellow), the texture of a Champagne mango is incredibly smooth and the flavor is very sweet. They are mango perfection! (I meant to take a picture of a ripe fruit I had, but I was in a mango mood and just didn't want to wait)

The larger mangos (like the one pictured in the background) are quite nice too, but I have seen more variation in them and have found some that have been very good, and others that have been less than acceptable. The larger variety has a much larger "hairy" seed in it than the smaller "Champagne" variety, but you'll still probably get more fruit off of a large standard mango than a smaller Champagne mango. And, the closer you get to consuming the flesh near the seed, the more fibrous your fruit will become.

I don't particulary mind the fibers near the middle, but it takes a bit of getting used to. And, if you ever see a mango pit that has been cleaned off and let stand outside for a few days, it darn near looks like a mouse because it is so "hairy" with fibers. My wife and I have joked around about how we should collect the pits, let them sit outdoors til they get this "mouse look", and then glue some fake eyeballs and a tail onto them and sell them as silly prank "mice". :)

Though quite a bit different from anything you're probably used to, Mango is also quite interesting in its preserved or pickled form - especially the way Indian varieties of pickled Mango are done with a hot and spicy pickle/sauce (you can get it in a jar at Indian groceries). There is quite a bit of variation in flavor between brands, and it may take a few tries to get one you like - I have had ones that were great, and others that were too strong on the Lime or some other spice or flavor. I used to eat such Indian picked-mango over rice, and loved it - though, I have not had it in years (since going gluten-free) since I have yet to encounter a brand that is clearly labeled gluten-free or does not make me wonder what else is in it that may not be identified on the ingredient list, since it is nearly all sourced from overseas (India region) where ingredient disclosure seems a bit laxed (much like imported Asian foods, where I can clearly see ingredients in a food product that are not even on the ingredient-list).

If you have not tried a mango in a while, or tried one in the past and didn't care for it (which I did many years ago), give it another chance. I am so glad I "re-discovered" mango after going gluten-free, especially those Champagne ones - I definitely would recommend trying one of those first, and if you don't like them, chance are you won't appreciate any mangos. And, if you already like mango,... well, you know what to do!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Brew your own Gluten-Free Beer

Gluten-Free Beer : Brew Your Own at Home

I'm not sure how many readers of the Gluten Free Blog are home-brewing aficionados (especially given how most beer-brewing would require glutenous ingredients like Barley Malt, Wheat, and the like), but in case any of you Celiac Disease sufferers are beer brewers of past, you may be interested in knowing you can purchase gluten-free beer brewing supplies now.

Gluten-Free Beer Ingredients and Brewing Supplies / Equipment

A friend of mine, who happens to make some really great homemade beers (a lager he produced years back prior to my gluten-free days was a favorite of mine), pointed me to some information about gluten-free sorghum syrup and related brewing supplies that he recently encountered in a brewers newsletter (at the time of this writing, Williams Brewing is selling the GF sorghum syrup). And, from the information (currently) at their link, I found all sorts of detail about the product(s), including the following which I have quoted here:
From Briess Malting - Gluten-Free Brewing Supplies, this gluten free malt extract substitute syrup is made from white sorghum, and is ideal when formulating gluten free or low gluten beers. It has the same fermentability as malt extract, which means if you use 6 pounds in 5 gallons, you will typically get a starting gravity of 1.040 and a finishing gravity of 1.018 to 1.012 depending on yeast used and other factors.

It has a lighter body and drier flavor than malt extract, and makes a thin and crisp beer on its own. Or add sugar or honey to enhance the character to your liking. Keep in mind that liquid yeast is grown on malt extract, so dry yeast (grown on molasses) is your best choice for a very low gluten or gluten free beer. See this manufacturers pdf  for more information. This is Briesweet White Sorghum 45 DE High Maltose Syrup.
All this talk of specific-gravity and such... It sounds rather like a chemistry experiment! But, I'm sure it could be an experiment worth giving a try if you have the talent, equipment, or desire to try to be the next great gluten-free beer producer!

I presume this it the same type of Sorghum syrup Anheuser Busch (AB) uses in their "RedBridge" beer (which, is actually quite good for gluten-free beer). And, that's what most GF beers like Bard's Tale, New Grist, and others probably use as well. Thus, it seems quite possible that producing a wonderful home brewed gluten free beer is within reach now.

Now if I am really lucky, maybe I can coax my friend into giving it a try. He definitely has the skill to produce a great artisan specialty brew using normal (gluten-containing ingredients), and I'll bet he could do the same with gluten free ingredients as well. At worst case, I'm sure I could get his help/advice on how to do it myself if needed. Actually, the true "worst case" scenario is that I simply go to the nearest store that carries AB RedBridge and pick up a 6-pack.

Gluten-Free Beer Topics

Some related links to other Gluten-Free beer discussions here on the Gluten-Free Blog:

Happy GF brewing to anyone that chooses to gives it a try!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Zucchini with Pesto, Tomato, and Gouda Recipe

Here's a simple to make, and delicious gluten-free recipe that we tend to make somewhat frequently during the summer months, when the ingredients are in-season. It is Zucchini with Pesto, Tomato, and Gouda (or Parmesan, or any other favorite cheese).

All the ingredients are gluten-free of course, and this dish does not take long to prepare. It makes for a good gluten-free main course, or gluten-free side dish, just by varying the portions served with a meal. I find it plenty satisfying as a main dish in a meal. And, it should be rather healthy in its vegetarian state.

Basically, start out with some young fresh zucchinis. Smaller ones work best, since they are tender and the seeds are not too developed, plus their size is just right for splitting lengthwise in half (as the one in the picture was done) while not producing overly thick pieces.

Place the zucchini on a baking sheet that has been covered with foil and cooking spray. If the zucchini want to roll over, just trip a bit off the rounded side to make a flat spot to prevent rolling. Then, spread a bit of pesto (we used garlic and walnut with sun-dried tomato pesto) over the surface of each zucchini. Add some thinly sliced tomato over that, and then some thinly sliced cheese (in our case, Gouda).

Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes (will vary based on the size of zucchini, etc - if thick zucchini, you'll probably want to lower oven temperature and bake longer so as not to burn cheese). Remove and serve warm. This is bound to be a recipe you will like, especially if you are a fan of zucchini and/or pesto.