Monday, October 29, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes Summary

Just in time for Halloween, I want to recap some of the gluten-free and wheat-free pumpkin-featuring recipes that I have made available both recently and over the past year online. These gluten-free recipes include everything from main-courses to side dishes to desserts, and pumpkin provides the Celiac-safe ingredient of inspiration for each creation.

Note: the hyperlinks (blue, underscored text) within the text below links to the page(s) with the actual recipes. I didn't want to repeat the full recipe text for each of these here, since it is just a click away already.

Now, since I am definitely a fan of gluten-free desserts, especially around the Holidays when there are ample excuses to bake some extra treats, let me start with those recipes.

Dessert Recipes

Gluten-Free Pumpkin RollA perennial favorite this time of year is the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Roll recipe. This particular pumpkin roll has that flavorful pumpkin spice-cake rolled around a layer of sweetened cream cheese filling. The whole creation is dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, and served chilled. What a fantastic way to enjoy that pumpkin!

Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt CakeHere is a quick and easy pumpkin-accent cake that will fit the season well: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake recipe. A nice blend of spices - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (and even a bit of cocoa!) - give this cake much of the same overall flavor as a pumpkin pie would enjoy. And, it is quick and simple to prepare.

Main Courses and Side-Dishes
Are pancakes a main course?

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pancakes
I don't know about you, but for me, Pancakes do count as a main course on more than a few occasions. So, here is one type of Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe that I enjoy on occasion. I say "one type" because I tend to regularly vary the ingredients, especially the flours that I use, on a rather ad-hoc basis. Some days I'll use some Millet flour, other days will include Sorghum, and still others the Teff and Buckwheat (which IS safe for Celiac sufferers in its pure form - it is NOT a wheat, though it sounds like it). I also have a tendency to throw a few chocolate chips into the mix and turn the whole pancake into a giant cookie of sorts :)

Pumpkin as Pasta
I recently wrote a blog about using pumpkin as a "pasta" of sorts. As such, this dish works well as both a main course or a side dish - take your pick. Quite often, it is a wonderful low-calorie and healthy feature item for my dinner. It is simple to prepare, mild in flavor (primarily taking on the flavor of whatever pasta sauce you choose), and starts using pumpkin in its most basic form, without the usual pumpkin-pie spices many are accustomed to. This recipe relies on the basic baked-pumpkin recipe.

Standard Baked Pumpkin Recipe
I wrote this gluten-free blog entry just a while back, about how to prepare a small pumpkin-pie type pumpkin as a baked pumpkin for eating as you would any other baked squash. It is quite simple to take a pumpkin, "gut it", place it in the oven, and produce a healthy and satisfying dish (or foundation for other recipes). And, speaking of a foundation for other recipes, I'll move on to another recipe which features this baked pumpkin...

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto
And now, for a wonderful pumpkin-accent side dish for the season, do not forget the Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto Recipe. It has a mild, pleasant flavor, with just a hint of cinnamon to go along with the very subtle pumpkin undertones. It relies on the baked pumpkin recipe again, though you could probably just as easily use canned pumpkin if you choose.

Happy Halloween!
Certainly all these recipes could make for some great Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes as well, so keep them close at hand for any of those leftover pumpkins you may have sitting around in a month. I know I'll be feasting on various pumpkin recipes for the next few months, as I have already cooked up quite a pile of pumpkins and have frozen their cooked pulp for later. Happy Halloween everyone, and happy pumpkin eating too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones Book

I have had quite a few people asking me about when our Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones book would be available for purchase, and instead of continually responding to individual Emails regarding the status, I wanted to let everyone know what the plans are at this time.

I plan to make the content of the yet-unpublished Biscotti and Scones book available (when complete) for free on our website. It may be a while yet, but, in the mean-time, for those of you who don't know, we do have some free recipes online already for some wonderful breads, pizza crusts, waffles, and much more, over at our online Gluten-Free Recipes Library. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin "Pasta"

Here is another one of the Gluten-Free Recipes I have been enjoying during the Fall, just in time for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the pumpkin harvest season in general. Pumpkins are such a wonderful, healthy gluten-free food, it is a shame to not find ways to use them more often than just the standard gluten-free desserts like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and so forth.

What many people do not realize is how mild the taste of pumpkin on its own really is. And, so often pumpkins are only associated with the complementary flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, clove,... that we tend to forget what pumpkins taste like in their natural state.

I've recently been baking all sorts of dishes using the small "pumpkin-pie" type pumpkins. They are a squash, and they have a flavor, on their own, that is nearly as mild as what would be found in a Spaghetti Squash. The flesh is tender, low in calories, of a low glycemic index, and full of beta-carotene and natural fiber. They are quick and easy to prepare, and keep for a nice amount of time prior to cooking, and after cooking the flesh can be stored frozen indefinitely for later consumption.

So, today's "recipe" leverages my previous gluten-free recipe that I posted here: gluten-free baked pumpkin recipe. In fact, there really is not much more to be done - just prepare the baked pumpkin as described earlier, then top with your favorite pasta-sauce! I love this dish! In fact, I find it as enjoyable as any gluten-free pasta, and had I not been on a gluten-free / Celiac Disease diet, I would still work this recipe into a "normal" diet along with standard semolina pasta - it's that good.

I topped this particular batch of pumpkin "pasta" (pictured above) with my favorite pre-made bottled sauce: Gia Russo's Hot Sicilian Sauce; which, though not specifically labeled gluten-free, contains no gluten-containing ingredients in the sauce and no warnings of it being prepared in a shared facility or such. The spicy/tangy nature of this tomato sauce makes for a really flavor-packed "pasta" dish, and one that is low in calories and packed with nutrition. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bargains at Jigsaw Health - Gluten-Free Bars and other products being discontinued

[UPDATE: The product (Jigsaw Bars) appear to no longer exist, sorry to say]
I have been a real fan of Jigsaw Health's Jigsaw Bars, not just because they are gluten-free bars, but because I really like the taste and texture and the fact they are sweetened with Xylitol instead of sugar. I wrote a Jigsaw Bar review on the Gluten-Free Blog a while back if you want more details of my opinion of the product.

Sadly, I just received an Email from Jigsaw Health saying that they are discontinuing these bars which I have come to love and consume regularly, and that they are offering the buy-one-get-one-free deal while supplies last, and free shipping over $69.00. I really liked how Jigsaw paid attention to labeling their products "gluten free" (or, containing no gluten, etc.) which made shopping through them much easier. And, this is one of those cases of a great gluten-free product (the Jigsaw Bars) just not getting enough press, market attention, and ultimately sales.

You can create a great gluten-free product, but if you can't find the market you need to support your manufacturing and sales operation, even the best product will disappear before it ever really takes off. I am definitely bummed out by this news about the Jigsaw Bar, as I will now need to seek an alternative product, and to date I have yet to encounter anything else that really offers what I want in such a product. Luckily, I have already tested freezing these things, and I just ordered a pile of them to put away for the next year or two.

I still want to talk to Pat Sullivan, the head of Jigsaw Health, and see if he'd consider just putting the product "on hold" for a while to see if enough demand can be generated to resurrect the bars in the not-to-distant future. And, if not, I'd like to see if by any (very outside) chance, would he be willing to release the gluten-free recipes / formulas for the Chocolate and Coconut-Almond jigsaw bars to the public-domain? I realize he used some hard to come by (from an individual's standpoint) high-end ingredients in those bars, like the whey-protein-crispy-things and the Omega-3 extracts and more, but if I could adapt the recipe and at least come close with something I could formulate at home, I'd gladly give it a try and release the resulting recipe for others. Perhaps Pat will be able to sell the rights to the formula to another manufacturer and recoup some of his investment instead, which I surely wouldn't blame him for if he can, and if it gave me a new commercial source for the bars again, that'd also be fine. But, if not, I'd sure like to try to bake / make such a thing myself.

In addition to the Jigsaw Bars, Jigsaw Health has other products - everything from vitamins and supplements to Xylitol products, and so much more - on sale right now, as they reduce their product offerings to focus on sustainability of their business. Since I already put in my order, I'm no longer worried about not getting my bars and a few other products before they sell out :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

CNN to host Celiac Disease Week

For those of you with cable television and access to the news channel CNN, October 15th-19th CNN will feature a series of segments highlighting several aspects of Celiac Disease. CNN is joining in on the October Celiac Awareness Month to assist with educating Americans about Coeliac Disease and the Gluten-Free diet.

It turns out that CNN news anchor Heidi Collins is a Celiac sufferer, and during her show (9AM-Noon EST) starting on Monday October 15th, she'll present the following news:

Monday: What is celiac disease?
Dr. Aline Charabaty of Georgetown University Medical Center's Division of Gastroenterology will join CNN's Heidi Collins in the Newsroom to discuss the basics of celiac disease, diagnosis and treatment with a gluten-free diet.

Tuesday: "Non-Gastrointestinal Complications of Celiac Disease."
Dr. Richard Mandel of the Center for Advanced Orthopedics in Philadelphia will discuss the orthopedic complications of celiac disease and celiac patients can improve bone health. Also in the CNN Newsroom, Dr. Robert Mangione, dean of the St. Johns University College of Pharmacy, will explain how gluten in medication can impact celiac patients and discuss the immediate need for labeling of gluten in medication.

Wednesday: "Gluten-Free School Lunches."
Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) will offer tips for safely sending celiac children to school and federal school lunch requirements to provide gluten-free meals.

Thursday: "Hope with Celiac Disease."
Vanessa Maltin of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and Beyond Rice Cakes author will be on CNN discussing new resources available to help patients cope with celiac disease including cookbooks, video podcasts, cupcake parties and celiac camps.

Friday: "Gluten-Free Dining in Restaurants."
Tips for managing food allergies at restaurants and how patients can ensure a safe dining experience.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto

The Fall presents plenty of opportunity to create some wonderful gluten-free recipes during the time of Halloween and Thanksgiving. One of the stars of the season is pumpkin, which happens to be in-season just at the right time for these holidays. As such, the holidays bring with them an expectation (at least for me) of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin roll,... but now I also see other great uses for this healthy and versatile squash.

I recently wrote a gluten-free blog entry about one such recipe, a super-healthy gluten-free baked pumpkin recipe (the blog also discussed the potential health benefits of cinnamon too if you're interested). Further extending the reach of pumpkin into other gluten-free main-course and gluten free side-dish options today is a recipe that takes the baked pumpkin from earlier and uses it as a featured ingredient in a new dish my wife created:
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto

That's a picture of the final product, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon on top. It's not one of the better pictures I've taken, but I think it's good enough to get a feel for what to expect.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Risotto Recipe


  • 1 Cup Risotto (uncooked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ¾ Cup Vegetable Broth
  • ¾ Cup Organic Whole Milk*
  • Cups Water
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ Teaspoon Cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1 Cup (packed) Flesh from Cooked Pumpkin-Pie Pumpkin (i.e., approximately half of one small baked pumpkin-pie pumpkin)

*Note: Can substitute soy milk for the organic whole milk. Or, remove milk and increase vegetable broth to 1 Cup and water to 2 Cups. Risotto will not be as creamy with such substitutions.

  • Begin by baking the pumpkin pie pumpkin according to my prior blog (baked pumpkin recipe) and go as far as scraping out the cooked flesh into a bowl (once baked pumpkin is cool enough to safely handle). Once pumpkin flesh is ready for use, proceed.
  • In medium (2 Quart) sauce pan stir together Risotto and olive oil over medium-high heat. Continue to stir for approximately one minute.
  • Add remaining ingredients (this includes the pumpkin) and stir. Bring to boil and then cover. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes (Check after 20 minutes. If liquid has been absorbed and a creamy sauce remains, Risotto is done - if not, stir and continue to simmer until done.
  • Give the risotto a final stir prior to serving. Garnish (optionally) with Cinnamon as pictured.
That's the recipe, sweet and simple. It yields a risotto with a pleasant, mild accent flavor that just makes it stand out from plain risotto, as well as fit in as a perfect Halloween or Thanksgiving dinner addition. I have specifically targeted using fresh-cooked pumpkin from scratch as the pumpkin ingredient of choice. I don't know how the recipe would perform with canned pumpkin, but you could certainly try it.

Since I picked up 60 of these locally-grown pumpkin pie pumpkins (at the bargain-price of 3 for a dollar!) from farms near my parent's place here in Ohio, I've been busy cooking pumpkins quite regularly. 20 bucks worth of pumpkins filled nearly the entire trunk of my car. So, now I'm busily trying to get through 6 to 9 pumpkins a day - baking them, digging out the centers, and freezing the pumpkin flesh for future (off-season) gluten-free recipes use.

This works quite well by the way (freezing the flesh for later), as I tested it out before buying a pile of pumpkins. Simply place the cooked flesh in freezer bags or freezer containers, allow to cool to room temperature, then pre-chill in the refrigerator, and finally move them to the freezer for long-term storage. When ready to use, simply extract from the freezer, thaw the pumpkin flesh, and include in your recipes.

I have been working on additional pumpkin themed recipes, and I plan to add all these recipes to my online gluten-free recipes library as time permits (in addition to here on the Gluten Free Blog). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Super-Healthy Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipe

Ah yes, that wonderful gluten-free squash (or gourd) that many of us love to make into Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Rolls, Pumpkin Bread, Pumpkin Custard, and so many other delicious pumpkin-themed treats (not to mention pumpkin soup, and toasted pumpkin seeds). Pictured above is a small pumpkin of the variety usually sold as "pumpkin pie pumpkins" - which measure only between 5 and 6 inches in diameter, and weigh (while intact) about 2 pounds each (or, 1 kilogram). They have a much thinner and more tender skin than the large jack-o-lantern / Halloween carving-type pumpkins, and are very simple to work with and prepare.

Who would have guessed you could also use this incredible gluten-free vegetable for something so healthy and simple as a main-course or vegetable side-dish? And, better yet, a dish that takes nearly zero effort to prepare (certainly very little work compared to those pumpkin desserts and other recipes). The pumpkin is not just for Halloween or Thanksgiving holidays - instead, it can introduce a nice change of culinary scenery to your everyday lunch or dinner.

The Baked-Pumpkin (or Cooked/Microwaved Pumpkin) Recipe
Well, quite simply, this is about as healthy of a gluten-free food you can find. It has an incredibly low glycemic-index (or, another useful blood-sugar-impact analysis method, glycemic load), is full of essential vitamins, protein, and nutrients, plus it delivers a nice dose of your daily fiber requirements - all with a mild taste that is easily accented (as it is in pumpkin pie and other dishes). To top this off, my "recipe" is going to further attempt to positively affect your health by reducing your blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides with cinnamon, and I'll explain that effect too a bit later in this post.

  • Simply take your pumpkin-pie pumpkin and split it vertically in half (from the stem at the top, to the center point at the bottom.
  • Scoop out all the seeds and loose fibers in the middle of each pumpkin half
  • In an oven-safe pan or pyrex dish an inch or two deep and large enough to hold the two halves of the pumpkin, place 1/2" of warm tap water.
  • Now, invert the pumpkin halves in the water (i.e., center of pumpkin facing down in pan)
  • Place in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes - when ready, a fork or knife should easily slide through the pumpkin.
  • Remove from oven.
  • Carefully (remember, this pumpkin is hot!) use a spoon to scrape the fleshy inside of the pumpkin away from the very thin rind, and place this onto serving plates or into a bowl for serving.
  • Suggested topping: upon serving, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over each portion served, and perhaps a bit of granulated Splenda (or sugar / brown-sugar if you don't mind the calories or don't watch your sugar intake).

With the baked pumpkin being so mild on its own, the slight accent of cinnamon and a sweetener should remind you just a bit of a pumpkin pie. And, when it comes to health, you can't get much better than the nutrition of cooked pumpkin (check out that link - it is a really useful nutritional analysis site), which for every half-pound of cooked / baked pumpkin yields:
  • only 50 calories per 1/4 Kilogram (half-pound) serving - the entire prepared pumpkin likely won't exceed 150 calories, and it is quite filling
  • nearly 250% of your RDA of Vitamin-A, much of that as Beta-Carotene
  • nearly 3 grams of fiber
  • essentially zero sodium
  • roughly 20% of RDA of Vitamin-C
  • a bit of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acides
  • about 8% of your Iron, and 4% of your daily Calcium recommendations
  • A super-low glycemic-Load of only 4 (in a range that goes up to 75 or 80)!
Hopefully you'll enjoy the pumpkin for both its taste and it's health benefits! I know I sure like these little pumpkins prepared as I detailed above, and I am so glad they are safe for Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free people too. I plan to experiment with a few other spice combinations, perhaps adding a bit of clove, nutmeg, ginger, etc to my dish - much like a pumpkin pie or pumpkin roll would use. I keep meaning to try this, but never get around to it, perhaps just because I enjoy the Cinnamon by itself so much. And, speaking of Cinnamon again...

Health Benefits of Cinnamon in Recipes and your Diet
If you already own my Gluten-Free Desserts recipe book, you have probably noticed that we use Cinnamon quite regularly in recipes (many times as "optional" ingredient if you don't care for cinnamon). We do this for a few reasons:
  1. we love the taste of cinnamon and the accent it provides to certain recipes
  2. Cinnamon can essentially be a gluten-free "flour" of sorts, as it is a powdered, ground form of the bark of a cinnamon tree with a super-high fiber-to-total-carbohydrates ratio (nearly 80% of the carbs are in the form of fiber), and a 1/4 ounce (about 1 Tablespoon) has 4 grams of dietary fiber.
  3. and, because scientific-evidence demonstrates Cinnamon's ability to lower fasting blood-glucose levels, triglyceride levels, and cholesterol levels - which is a very nice side-effect for such a versatile and delicious ingredient. *(see NOTES below before going TOO crazy with cinnamon).
If, in addition to consuming Cinnamon via our dessert recipes, you find additional ways to incorporate it into your daily life elsewhere (e.g., I love adding it to my pancakes, coffee, milk, tea, and many other things), hopefully you will get the full health benefit that was demonstrated in this 2003 study entitled: Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes.

There have been some concerns with long-term high-level dietary intake of cinnamon, though I personally wonder how much has to do with pharmaceutical companies wanting you to take their Diabetes medicines instead of using cinnamon as a first-line attempt at combating the disease. One reason I am a bit skeptical about the true presumed toxicity threat from cinnamon consumption comes from the fact that a particular cinnamon health-risk discussion paper went so far as to implicate cinnamon with pseudo-science repeatedly, pointing the finger at cinnamon for all sorts of things that can not be proven, like this:
"At least one case report points to carcinoma formation after the consumption of up to five packs of cinnamon chewing gum a day in a 24-year-old non-smoker"
The fundamental flaws in that type of statement come from 1) the incredibly small sample population - i.e., "at least one case"; and 2) the inability to rule out any other causes of the carcinoma aside from smoking - like, how about whether the gum used artificial red dyes or food colorings, like nearly all such gum does, or perhaps artificial sweeteners if applicable. This type of "proof" of cinnamon toxicity is bunk and a serious stretch to say the least. As such, it makes me question the motives behind that entire discussion paper, as the paper takes many different angles of attack on cinnamon to dissuade its use. You decide for yourself what to make of it though.

Now, on to the real science of potential cinnamon toxicity...

NOTES: Types of "Cinnamon" and Toxicity Potential Discussion
Basically, there are two primary types of Cinnamon available to consumers - the less common Ceylon Cinnamon ("true cinnamon") and the common mainstream "Cinnamon" (Cassia, or "Bastard Cinnamon") that is sold as powdered cinnamon throughout the USA. The cinnamon we all most likely use regularly is the latter type - Cassia - and is the type reported in the media and studies to have a beneficial effect on blood glucose (blood sugar), cholesterol, and triglycerides levels.

But, Cassia also contains higher levels of a toxic component called coumarin than does Ceylon Cinnamon (which contains very little - but also contains little of the chemical in Cassia that purportedly helped blood sugar and such). Cassia ("cinnamon") contains somewhere between 2 and 4 milligrams of coumarin per gram (mg/g) on average. The European Food Safety Authority has set the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of coumarin at .1mg/Kilogram body-weight per day as being safe and of no threat to health (see here for further discussion and the .1mg/Kg/day reference).

What does this mean? Well, if you weigh 154 pounds (70 Kilograms) for example, the acceptable TDI for you is 7 milligrams of coumarin from Cassia "Cinnamon" or other sources (70 Kilograms x .1mg/Kilogram = 7 milligrams ). So, using the upper end of coumarin-level estimates (4mg/g) in cinnamon, consuming ~2grams of Cinnamon per day at 4mg/g coumarin concentration every single day for life would put you at the TDI threshold (i.e., between 1/2 and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon every day).

Cinnamon Health Benefits in relation to toxicity concerns
By comparison, the health-benefits-from-cinnamon study showed substantial and significant benefit from cinnamon when consumed at between 1 and 6 grams per day (i.e., a maximum of a quarter ounce / day). And, even the lowest-dose level (1 gram/day) produced substantial reductions (in blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides) in this study, with such dosing levels being well within the TDI threshold discussed above.

Though it was only one study on cinnamon's health benefits, the study appeared scientifically valid and placebo-controlled and everything, and it showed the following results (after just 40 days in the 6g/day group, and with nearly the same findings in the 1g/day group):
  • Between 18-29% lower fasting glucose levels
  • approximately 25% lower cholesterol levels
  • approximately 25-30% lower triglyceride levels
Those are some rather impressive figures to say the least! I'm looking forward to additional, larger, follow up studies that can further validate these results. They sure look encouraging, and are substantial enough to provoke persons like myself to include cinnamon in their diet. As with any dietary alteration, it is probably best to consult with your doctor or physician to make sure you don't cause any unplanned drug-interactions and the like (especially if you are using Diabetes medications already). And, I only put this information here for you to evaluate and make personal decisions on, as I am not a doctor. You may want to read other sources like this one on Cinnamon Health Benefits for similar information and further research.

In the mean time, using a bit of cinnamon on your freshly prepared baked pumpkin, or in and on some of your favorite desserts, is certainly a delicious way to enhance your gluten-free foods while potentially improving your health along the way. Enjoy!