Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gluten-Free Christmas Recipes and Wishes

I hope the Christmas holiday season brings you joy and comes with some great gluten-free snacks, main courses, and desserts! I always enjoy the holidays from a food perspective, as we tend to create new gluten-free recipes and/or put a few tried and true ones to use as we prepare baked items for our own household and for friends and family we visit during the season.

I have been considering baking up one of these Citrus-Accent Gluten-Free Panettone Breads (recipe link) that we created last year - or was it the year before? I have not had one any more recent than Christmas last year, and I keep seeing those gluten-filled commercial boxed pre-baked Panettone breads in what seems like all the store windows I go past when out shopping lately... leading to a massive craving for a sweet holiday bread! :)



I also want to experiment with some slight alterations to that recipe and perhaps even try substituting some Tofu and/or whey protein and chia seed for the cream cheese and butter it currently employs. But, then again, the butter does lend flavor... perhaps it will need to stay!

I already have a gluten-free chocolate cheesecake ready for consumption, which is a definite "win" for the holidays already. And here, as I ramble about all the gluten-free desserts I plan to consume, my wife is working on preparing a homemade gluten-free ham glaze and some homemade potato salad to take to one relative's house. I guess I need to stop typing and get baking :)

I hope everyone has a wonderfully enjoyable Christmas and holiday season!

In addition, I sure hope you are able to enjoy the holidays completely, and that you have not experienced any overwhelming difficulties or hardships resulting from the current economic situation in the World. I simply try to look past the negative daily news in hopes for a better 2009 and beyond, and a return to more widespread optimism and normalcy on many fronts. There are bound to be challenges ahead, and I figure I will be better prepared to face them when I am in a positive mood from enjoying a week of eating delicious gluten-free holiday treats (surely can not hurt!). Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake : Recipe (variation)


What better way to relax than with some delicious gluten-free dairy-free chocolate cake... yum! After the recent car accident, I needed something positive to enjoy, and this latest recipe variation worked well, at least during the time spent consuming it :)

My wife created this new gluten-free diary-free cake recipe by performing a few rather simple alterations to the Gluten-Free Chocolate Ganache Cake recipe from our cook book (recipe spread on pages 20-21), by using Silken Tofu (i.e., Soy Protein) as a replacement for the dairy components (originally some buttermilk and cream cheese were used - now replaced with Tofu).

The results were fantastic! The cake's taste and texture were excellent, and I never would have guessed it was dairy-free (or gluten-free for that matter). If you can eat Soy, this is a great dairy-free cake option. It maintains exceptional chocolate flavor and a great bouncy, spongy cake texture just like a "real" cake would have.

Instead of frosting the cake, I just sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar on top, and then proceeded to eat a piece... or two... or three. I love great chocolate cakes, and I found it rather difficult to control my desire to eat more than I should. Such is the down side of baking. he he he.

I posted the simple VARIATION to the Chocolate Ganache Cake recipe that appears on Page 20 in our Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts book on our gluten-free recipes page. Here is a link to the Variation text:
All dairy products have been removed for those who wish to avoid casein as well as gluten. Great for vegan diets and celiacs alike. And, we baked this variation in a standard 9" x 13" x 2" cake pan, whereas the original (in the gluten-free cookbook) was baked using three 9" round pans and layering the cakes.

If you have a birthday or other event coming up soon (or, just want to eat cake!), I highly recommend giving this one a try. It is rather simple to bake, fits your gluten-free diet (and/or dairy-free diet), while adding a bit of soy protein too (which, must mean it is good for you, right? heh)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Crash Report : Alive to Write About it, Thankfully!

I am thankful to even be writing today's Gluten-Free Blog. Sorry, no recipes this time...

Last evening was the first significant car accident I have been in. And, it is as close to death as I am ready to come for a LONG time. Til now, the worst motor vehicle incident I can remember being in was a few years back when we were parked at a stop light and the poor old man in line ahead of us accidentally put the car in reverse and slowly backed into us, causing hardly any damage, and absolutely no fear.

This time was quite different,... it caused fear, and it happened so quickly.

Our daughter just returned home from College on Friday, and barely 24 hours later my wife, daughter, and I all decided to do our consolidated shopping together at CostCo and Trader Joes. It was snowing some on the East side of Cleveland where the stores were located, but the snowing had abated completely on the return trip by the time we were heading Westbound on Interstate-480.

In fact, the roads were so clear that I couldn't help thinking, as I saw a snowplow in the rightmost lane 1/4 mile ahead of us, how there was not much of anything for it to really do, aside from applying salt to the surfaces (it was 25 degrees out), until the snow started in this area. Our lane was nearly completely clear of any evidence of recent snowfall with pavement being the only thing to be seen as the semi-sparse weekend evening traffic was steady at 50-55MPH.

But, only a few moments later, though driving with my usual defensive manner and leaving a huge amount of room in front of and behind us, I learned how quickly cautious driving methods can still be destroyed by variables outside my control.

I have a rather clear recollection of what transpired, though the times involved are mere seconds. In a lane or two over to our right side, and just a bit forward from us, an SUV suddenly just apparently lost control and started shimmying and swerving.

Perhaps the SUV driver hit some "black ice", or a similar slick spot and simply panicked or over corrected, perhaps they were distracted by something and made a driving error, I do not know... but regardless of the reason, they soon were entering into a sideways slide. At first, though their car was in the process of turning sideways, it remained to our right and in their lane, sliding in a forward direction. But, the situations was quickly changing as the SUV gained traction, with it now sliding into an arc-shaped path that was drawing it left rapidly.

It was clear the SUV was sliding on an intercept course that would place it immediately in front of our car soon. This happened incredibly quickly. One minute everything was just a normal day on the highway, the next, our lives were in danger!

In what seemed like no time, that SUV previously positioned to our side and right was quickly ending up in a semi-diagonal sliding course that was taking it directly in front of our car. And, of course, a concrete median-barrier was to my left as this sliding SUV approached from the right. All my years of driving experience were tested, and did my best not to lock the wheels or panic, and instead to try to minimize the angle of intersection, and potential impact, with the SUV while not smashing into the concrete wall to my left.

For a moment, it seemed that our car might just slow enough and be able to move enough left and back, relative to the SUV's path, in time to allow the SUV to slide barely past us and across our lane in front of us. But, as split seconds passed, the likely outcome was being rendered differently and a much worse outcome was becoming inevitable. I remember telling my wife and daughter quite calmly, as the space between vehicles was quickly being reduced to zero, something to the effect that "this is going to be bad", and that I loved them.

The next thing I recall is how that dark (probably black) SUV was suddenly white in my vision, as our headlights were essentially at zero-distance from the side of the other vehicle.

And then was the impact... the jarring, jolting bang... the not knowing if we were going to live or die... and, then the momentary disoriented feeling as our car entered into a fast counterclockwise spin induced by the SUV hitting us askew on the front-right corner as its own path was taking it diagonally toward the median (which, later, after my senses were focused again, I noticed the luck of the SUV driver, when I saw how that concrete center-barrier had just ended a few yards earlier - and they ended up in a grass center region, unhurt from what we were later told).

We were now spinning...

I realized my seat belt had saved my life as I was not stuck to the windshield, and I attempted to apply everything I learned for controlling a spin, which I found was rather different in the midst of 4 lanes of continued traffic flow - lanes that our spin was taking us into and through. Then came a quick wave of fear... fear that there would be a domino-effect of a pileup with other vehicles on the highway, with us getting bounced around by repeated vehicle impacts. After what I believe was just 540-degrees of rotation (a full spin and a half), our car was now facing the oncoming headlights of drivers going in the same direction we were originally going.

The engine was off now - it had just "died" somewhere in the collision. I had brought the car to a stop. Some cars still zipped by us, some beeped as they zipped by, and I could see more headlights approaching us as we were stationary in the middle of this multi-lane highway.

A quick survey among each other in the car started: "are you OK,... are you all right... is anyone hurt?"... the questions echoing, along with relieving answers of "I think so", "I believe so", and so on, as I began flashing the headlights, between the high and low beams, at oncoming cars to warn people that there was a car stopped, facing them, right in front of them, in the middle of a 60MPH-zone highway (I figured they would think I was perhaps a police vehicle from a distance, and heed the warning). That finally held enough other drivers off long enough for my wife to activate the hazard lights and for me to see if the engine would restart.

Luckily, the engine did start and what remained of our trusty car, which just took rather a beating, allowed me to drive it, slowly and with some mechanical metal-rubbing and tire-rubbing noises, to the right-hand median and turn to face the direction of traffic; all the while plenty of impatient people were STILL flying by us at what appeared to be "normal" speed. Even after getting all the way off to the right side (against a guard-rail), traffic entering the highway from behind us (we were just past an on-ramp loop) continued to fly by to our left beeping and such.

Witnessing the action of other drivers going past us was a bit surreal, and hard to understand from our vantage point as we sat parked. Sure, they didn't know my pulse felt like it was 200, that my respiration rate was abnormal, and that I nearly felt like passing out from the adrenalin coursing through my body, or that me and my entire family were nearly just killed... they just knew a car was in the right median lane with their hazard lights on. So, beep they must I guess.

We finally had time to assess our condition a bit more, and it still seemed we had escaped essentially unharmed. I found myself amazed, and/or shocked a bit considering the force of that impact. None of our airbags (neither front nor side) deployed, which told me that we were lucky enough to have reduced the impact-speed (difference between our car's speed and the SUV's speed) to probably not more than 15MPH. The front corner of the car was clearly mangled, but we were OK. I can not even imagine the force of a higher-speed impact - this was plenty!

Then we start thinking "now what do we do, and are we really OK?" Strangely, after not owning a cell phone for years, my wife had just picked one up a couple weeks earlier (one of those "short-term" Virgin Mobile units) for a business trip to Illinois, and still had it in her purse. We turned it on and dialed 911, and after trying to figure out where we were exactly, were transferred to local police that, though quite pleasant and helpful, took between 30 and 40 minutes to arrive on the scene; with a tow truck taking another 1/2 hour thereafter. Thankfully, during that wait time, we contacted a friend of the family that lived only 20 minutes away and was able to come get us after we had our first ride in a police car - to a station just 5 minutes away.

Thankful to be Alive!

In what seems like a miracle to me still, we apparently suffered no major injuries aside and were just banged around the car and jolted about, with some bumps and bruises. In fact, a few minutes after the crash, as we were taking our health-inventory, it seemed strange that aside from some feelings of anxiety and shock, that there was not much noticeable physical pain. Well, that did not last too long, as within an hour or two the widespread muscle pain and tightness started, especially in our backs,... and impact pains where the seat belts had focused the force of our weight-restraining efforts. I did not have any physical impact with the car interior, though my wife and daughter had less fortune, even with seatbelts on, as they were on the side of the impact and were banged against the door interiors and such, and will certainly have some bruising or tender areas for a while.

The shock of the experience was more than any of us cared for or ever want to experience again. It all still feels a bit surreal to me, and I am hopeful that writing about this will clear my mind a bit.

Most importantly though: I am glad to be alive, and to know that my family was not significantly injured. There was no blood, no loss of life or limb.

It was a good day! Well, surely it was better than some alternatives we flirted closely with! After seeing the doctors at the hospital later in the evening, and being prescribed Motrin to help with the muscle pains, and being advised to just take it easy for a while and expect the pain to be worse in the morning,... I just have to say that if muscle pain and a few bruises are the limit of the trauma, we all feel extremely lucky and are thankful to alive and be here to say so.

I generally do not care about the car, though I admit I am a bit miffed, as it was our first new car purchase in over a dozen years when we bought it just a year earlier. The car had only 5,000 miles on it. I would have preferred that my 100,000+ mile old car had been the one to get hit, but again, it is all rather irrelevant compared to personal health and well being. I can replace a car. The car's post-accident condition was a fair trade for a positive outcome and for our safety!

For everyone else that has experienced an accident first hand, I can say "wow! I never knew." In fact, given that we have few injuries, I still only partially know. And, I am sorry anyone has to experience such a scary thing!

Please try to drive safely and defensivley everyone,... I know I will... in fact, I will be driving with near paranoid-caution for a while I suspect. Now it is time to go stretch and see if I can get these muscles loosened up a bit.

Friday, December 05, 2008

American Made Holiday Gifts for the Kitchen

I always try to purchase American-made products whenever possible, and the current state of the economy makes me try even harder to locate USA manufactured goods for my Gluten-Free kitchen and home - all in hopes that I help keep people employed here in the United States. I have located some items for my holiday shopping "wish list" this year that will meet my objective, and enhance my baking and culinary capabilities.



I will start by discussing an item I already own from a past holiday purchase... one of my favorite kitchen tools ever! I can hardly describe how much time and effort that LamsonSharp 6" Turner has saved me. It works wonders for flipping my gluten-free pancakes (especially the full pan-sized pancakes I make)! And, all those gluten-free cakes and cheesecakes you see in my book: this "turner" makes a great "cake lifter" too, especially when moving a full 8 to 10" round cake.

We use this large turner utensil to transport an entire cheesecake off of the baking-parchment (that we line a spring-form pan with) and onto a fancier plate, platter, or other cake holder. The leading-edge of the LamsonSharp turner is tapered nicely and slides under gluten-free cakes, pancakes, pizza, etc quite easily. Wonderful product!

Which, leads me to my wish list items from LamsonSharp for this year...

I was looking at the various USA-made kitchen and baking products from LamsonSharp, and noticed they actually make nice knife sets here in the United States yet. I have been looking for a good set of kitchen knives for years now, but keep avoiding all the imported (mostly Chinese, or Chinese components) knife sets that are EVERYWHERE these days. I have looked at higher-end retailers too, and for whatever reason, they bulk of what everyone carries is foreign made.

So, this year I have my eyes on a set of knives from Lamson & Goodnow (i.e., their LamsonSharp line). They sell both stamped knives and forged knives, with the stamped ones being made completely here, and the forged ones incorporating German-made tempered steel. I really do not know if I care whether my blades are forged or stamped; whatever they are, they must be nicer than the knives I currently own.

I also am eyeing up a few of their other kitchen necessities; other specialty items I can see helping me with my gluten-free desserts and baking in general - like that lovely 6" flipper shown above. I bought that one on a whim a couple years ago thinking that it would be nice for pancakes; only to later discover it is handy for so many of my recipe baking and post-baking tasks.

The prices do not look TOO bad, and even if they are a bit more than the cheap Chinese imports, I do not care. I would rather spend a bit extra to get a quality product that, with luck, also helps keep someone in the United States in their job. Saving money on cheap imports does not accomplish much in the long run if nobody in here has a job in the end, right?

This brings me to another favorite bunch of USA-made products...

I have always been a fan of the Lodge Brand Cast Iron products, especially the pre-seasoned cookware (which, if you do not have time to season an unseasoned pan yourself by coating lightly with oil and placing in an oven for a few hours, makes a great solution for just a few bucks more than the unseasoned version). I wrote about using Lodge Cast Iron products for your gluten-free cooking (link) in a prior blog, where I discuss them in more depth.

Lodge cast iron pans are quite reasonably priced too. And, they do not wear out (like inferior Teflon-coated pans). You can scrub these products clean with steel wool if you need to, or nearly anything else (i.e., you are not going to scratch them in any way that will hurt them). Worst case is that you may want to re-season a pan if you end up needing to scrub some of the black patina off. I have a nice collection of them: fry pans, flat griddles, Dutch ovens, etc... the are ALL wonderful. You can find these pans at WalMart and quite a few other places. These pans are highly recommended products - and, made right here in the good old USA in a South Pittsburg, TN foundry.

Although we have a fairly nice collection of these cast-iron pans, there are still a couple most specialized ones that I hope to acquire this year. And, with luck, it helps keep some people in Tennessee employed too!

There are actually still a few products manufactured in the United States. And, some really high-quality and useful products too. I would love to see more products made here, and perhaps this latest economic crisis will reinforce the need for domestic manufacturing... so that when we consumers "consume", we are actually consuming something will result in domestic employment too. Employed persons can then return the favor and purchase other domestically produced items, and perhaps the future of the US economy will start looking brighter.

Well, those are a couple ideas for gluten-free / wheat-free kitchen items this year - all made in the USA. If you have some USA-made ideas that fit this them, feel free to share them in comments. Thanks!

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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Recipes 2008

2008 Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free
Pumpkin Recipes Summary


Just in time for Halloween, here's a consolidated summary of some of the gluten-free and wheat-free pumpkin-featuring recipes that I have made available on this blog and on our online gluten-free recipes library. These gluten-free recipes include everything from main-courses to side dishes to desserts, with pumpkin as the Celiac-safe ingredient of inspiration for each creation - all in time for Halloween or Thanksgiving.

I also have some NEW recipes coming soon that feature pumpkin as well, and I should have them online over the coming days and weeks here too. But, this list will certainly get you thinking of Halloween and pumpin-themed dishes, if you are not already.
Note: the hyperlinks (underscored text) within the text below link to the page(s) with the actual recipes. I didn't repeat the full recipe text for each of these here, since it is just a click away already.
Being no surprise that I am a huge fan of home-baked gluten-free desserts, whether there is a nearby Holiday to provide an excuse to bake some extra treats or not, I will begin with dessert recipes.

Dessert Recipes

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Pumpkin Roll
A 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 & Wheat-Free Pumpkin Crème Brulée
I certainly enjoy one of the ultimate rich desserts - Crème Brulée! And in this case it is an incredible Crème Brulée featuring Pumpkin accents. I sure hope your diet allows you to still enjoy the dairy richness of this recipe, as it is just wonderful, and not only for Thanksgiving or Halloween. This gluten-free Gluten-Free Pumpkin Crème Brulée Recipe features a full-cream Crème Brulée that has a subtle, yet flavorful, pumpkin flavor throughout the rich custard. Creme Brulee can optionally be topped with a caramelized sugar layer if you prefer the traditional burnt-sugar top.



Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Pumpkin Bundt Cake
Here 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 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 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 & Wheat-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 and Pumpkin Eating
These recipes should 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 next month. As in prior years, I have already cooked my pile of pumpkins and have frozen their cooked pulp for later. And, just in time... my 2007 bounty JUST ran out a few weeks before the new pumpkin season started here in Ohio.

Happy Halloween everyone, and happy pumpkin eating too!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gluten-Free Snack Bars Roundup


You have probably noticed the proliferation of gluten-free snack bars that have hit the market in the past year. The current selection goes well beyond the days of when the Larabar was nearly the only gluten-free snack bar on the market, and there is an incredible variety of formulations available now that target particular sub-sectors of the gluten-free diet market.

I snapped a picture of some of the latest incarnations of these diet / snack bars above (there are many more), which each have their own particular features (the features vary by bar, so read the label and make sure you find the one that fits your particular needs the best):
  • Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free (an obvious requirement!)
  • organic ingredients
  • low GI (Glycemic Index)
  • Nutrition Bars with various "Super Foods" in them - typically antioxidants, immune-boosters, and vitamins and minerals
  • High-Protein bars - typically achieving their high-protein status with one or both of whey protein and/or soy protein isolates
  • Vegan, dairy-free
  • Allergen-Free (free of all common allergens)
  • Wonderful Flavor Combinations
As you will notice in that picure above, there are all sorts of different approaches to gluten-free treats now. My personal favorite of recent is the Kind Brand Sesame bar with chocolate drizzle. Excellent! Some of the other "Kind" brand bar varieties are quite enjoyable too, like the various fruit-nut bars. Kind has a nice selection of bars available now, and at last count I think it was 6 or more.

The Think Green, Think Thin, Think Organic, etc... serve their purpose too. The Think Thin type is all about high-protein (soy generally) and low GI impact, and as such I would not qualify these bars as a "gluten-free dessert" (which, I would consider some of the other sweeter varieties of snack bars on the market - especially the ones with chocolate and other dessert-like qualities). The "Think..." brand offerings have expanded rapidly, and there seem to be dozens of different ones to choose from.

The ever-popular LaraBar has now grown into a brand offering a huge selection of flavor combinations (though, they all still feature that Date-based formula, so an appreciation of Dates will sure help if you want to try these). The newer "Jocalat" varieties bring cocoa into what I regard as their "base formula", which makes them much more appealing to me (I love cocoa and chocolate). Again, there are quite a few flavors to choose from.

I didn't care for the original Larabars anywhere near as much as I do the new Jocalat varieties. The cocoa (in each of these new formulas) takes the edge off the overwhelming date-flavor the originals had. These new ones are quite nice. I personally LOVE the chocolate-mint one, and the chocolate and chocolate-coffee types are rather tasty too.

The only Jocolat variety I complete detested was the chocolate-orange (it tasted so strongly of orange peel or oil that I could not deal with it... I might as well been chewing on an orange rind). I like the flavors of chocolate and orange, but only when orange is used in a subtle manner. Perhaps they will update the formula if sales are slow for that variety - if so, I would try it again, otherwise I will never eat the chocolate-orange variety unless I am starving. :)

So, things have certainly changed for the better with the rather wide-ranging selection of gluten-free diet snack bars on the market. These treats are great for keeping handy when out on the road, or at a lengthy meeting, or otherwise away from easy access to your normal gluten-free diet items.

These bars give me a quick and easy SAFE (gluten-free) source of calories if I am finding myself hungry and stuck somewhere that otherwise only offers questionable (or definitely off limits) food options due to obvious gluten exposure possibilities. The bars fit easily in that cup-holder in my car, or in a jacket pocket or shorts pocket (note: I don't carry around any types that would *melt* in a pocket).

As for where to locate these gluten-free snack bars. I have found that I can get most of them at either Whole Foods or mail order via Amazon.com's grocery section, and other grocers carry some too. Amazon didn't have all the varieties, but for the varieties Amazon carries, their prices were rather decent. NOTE: Amazon has items they themselves sell and stock - which are usually a great deal and even include Free Super Saver shipping many times - but they also have many other vendors that sell items via Amazon.com that may not be such a good deal and will cost you shipping most of the time; so, if ordering from Amazon, take time to look around on there and make sure you get a good deal which most often applies to items "shipped and sold by Amazon.com" or such.

Happy snacking everyone!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Miniature Watermelon - Tiny but Tasty


I had to include the above picture just to give a sense for scale when I discuss the miniature watermelon that we raised in our gluten-free garden this year. On the left is a honeydew melon that we also grew, and trust me, it is not even as large as many of the ones I see at the grocery store - perhaps commercial growers have the advantage of being in a State where the growing season is longer.

But, regardless, the two melons to the right of the honeydew are actually "watermelon", or so they were supposed to be according to the seeds we selected and purchased online. Nothing in the watermelon-seed advertisement or description said anything about size, which as you can see = TINY. We anxiously watched these fruit grow, and as they took off quickly I had high hopes... first they reached golf-ball size... then baseball... then maybe just about softball size...then... nothing more! I couldn't believe it.

So, we finally picked one after the stem indicated that it was ripe (the stem will start turning yellow and/or brown). And, here's what the fruit looked like inside:


Yes, it rather appears to be a watermelon. And, it sure did have a lot of seeds. Whatever variety or species this thing is, it is definitely different. I expect is still offers the usual healthy qualities of watermelon: fiber, lycopene, Vitamin-C, etc. Now, how about taste?

Well, it actually tastes just like any "normal" watermelon I have had. It was quite nice in fact. And, aside from the proliferation and abundance of seeds for such a tiny watermelon, this miniature fruit had one neat thing going for it: you could eat the center all the way out to within an 1/8" of the "rind", since the lighter-colored rind-region still tasted fine and was still of a nice texture too.

So, given the yield these "watermelon" plants produced this year - i.e., a few of these Miniature Watermelons per vine - and given the space the vines take up in the garden, I think we will forgo the small watermelon next year and plant more honeydew melon in their place (those were the star performer this year - outperforming the mini-watermelon and the cantaloupe plants too).

My wife and I like to joke about how these tiny watermelon, if you could purchase them in the store, would be some type of "rare" or "select" or "specialty" variety that would cost $20.00/each because of this. he he he. If you have seen the exotic fruits in the markets priced a bit ridiculous, you will know the source of our amusement. It is sorta like how "heirloom" tomatoes are $5.00/pound or something, and they grow just as easily as any others from our experience. Well, enough of the miniature watermelon discussion for now - I could have eaten 4 of them in the time it took to type this Gluten-Free Blog entry :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fresh Peppermint and Recipe Ideas


I love the flavor of mint: peppermint, spearmint, tea mint... it's all good. In addition to tasting great, it sure does look spectacular this time of year when it is in full bloom! And, the bees absolutely love the stuff too, which is great for attracting those ever-necessary pollinators to our garden area, and it also makes a great addition to simply enhance the biodiversity of our yard in general.

In addition to using peppermint in very simple gluten-free recipes, like peppermint tea from scratch, I like to incorporate mint, as an accent flavor, into a variety of recipes - particularly dessert recipes.

There are a few easy ways to go about incorporating fresh mint into recipes. First, you can brew unsweetened mint tea using the mint, and then use that resulting tea as a 1:1 substitution for water in some recipes (if you have a recipe that already uses water, this is a very simple substitution) - or, use it in perhaps a more diluted ratio depending on your personal preference. Next, you can always just mince, chop, or finely shred the fresh mint and measure it into a recipe; or perhaps you will prefer completely drying the mint and then grinding or powdering it for a very fine texture that is less detectable in recipes. And, sure, you could use the purified mint-oils, but extracting the oil is a bit too much trouble for me personally, as I would just purchase it that way if I needed it.

Now, if you too like the flavor of mint coupled with chocolate (as I do!), one of my favorite things to do is mix mint into things like decadent chocolate tortes and create a "French Mint" type torte. I have a chocolate (well, mocha to be exact) torte recipe in my book that lends itself to such modification, by simply substituting the brewed mint-tea for brewed coffee. The result of a mint-substitution here is quite nice, as it makes for a simple variation for anyone that may not enjoy mocha / coffee (I also perform substitutions using orange peel and berry-flavors in that recipe too, with or without coffee.)
Note: The recipe I am referring to is on page 100 - here's a link to the gluten-free mocha tart picture from the book that uses a sponge-cake base, though the picture is rather annoyingly watermarked in that online version. :)
Some of the gluten-free chocolate cake recipes or brownie recipes allow for nice chocolate-mint variations too. Depending on the recipe, I may simply add finely minced fresh mint with no other alterations required; others take a bit more work, but usually it is rather easy coming up with a winning flavor combo. I'm sure you can experiment and discover some favorite gluten-free recipes of your own that feature fresh mint.

You are certainly not limited to combining mint with chocolate, as there are quite a few other combinations that work well and produce a nice refreshing flavor. I have enjoyed mint with berry flavors quite a bit if kept subtle, and mint with other fruits too. And, though my focus has been desserts here, mint also comes into play nicely in some tasty Asian dishes. All I know is that the fresh-mint season is coming to a close soon, and it is time to use some of this season's crop while it is here and I can enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gluten-Free UFO Sighting!


Oh my! What is it?? I recently spotted this UFO hovering in my back yard recently, and it sure looks ominous! lol

After floating around in front of me for a moment, the unidentified flying object started to become clear in my vision (and in the camera's focus),...


And, finally, after the former UFO came in for a landing on my deck railing, I quickly discovered that UFO's can be edible! :)


OK, so I have lost it for the day it seems... but, whenever my wife asks me if I want a White Squash for dinner, I always in turn refer to them as UFO's because of their unique flying-saucer / disc-like shape.

If you have not had one of these white squash before, I highly recommend them. These gluten-free diet treats are wonderful in all sorts of recipes, as their mild flavor (even milder than a zucchini) and nice texture go well with all sorts of other gluten-free ingredients of choice. E.g., we love to fry them up with some Caramelized Onions and Garlic.

Basically, we just cut the squash into one-inch cubes or so, and fry them up or otherwise add them to whatever recipe we need them in. They are also great when prepared in recipes featuring tomatoes too. We will use them as we would eggplant or zucchini, and/or in combination with the same. I like them with a bit of Tamari too, or prepared with Chinese or Thai style sauces. You get the idea: highly versatile veggie!

In addition, these gluten-free vegetables produced a lot per each vine we planted. We placed tomato-rings around a couple plants, and the squash grew mostly vertical when confined in this way, which made for easy harvesting - as the UFO's were quite easy to spot suspended from the vines (and, their nearly-white color stands out from the surrounding foliage nicely).

Hopefully you happen to encounter these wonderful squash somewhere, whether in your garden, at a local farmers' market, or your favorite grocery store. They are definitely worth trying.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gluten-Free Recipe: Quinoa Meatloaf


Gluten-Free Quinoa Meatloaf Recipe: A delicious, moist, and health-oriented Meatloaf variation using Ground Turkey and Quinoa and other gluten-free diet favorites to lower-fat, increase fiber, and maximize flavor! This recipe my wife created a while back produces my favorite meat loaf ever! It is wheat-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and transforms the traditional meatloaf recipe into one that yields fulfilling meal, perhaps even for those people who do not ordinarily care for meat loaf - all while also preserving the essence of what a meat loaf is all about.

I have always loved a great meatloaf, but did not have the occasion to enjoy a great one since starting a gluten-free diet, simply because of the fact most traditional meat loaf recipes rely on bread or breadcrumbs as fillers. To accommodate Celiac Disease diet requirements, as well as satisfy my own love of a great meatloaf, my wife created this wonderful wheat-free glutenfree version of meatloaf using quinoa instead of bread. I already absolutely love quinoa, and the result is an amazingly moist and delicious meatloaf that is significantly lower in fat and calories than a traditional meatloaf.

It also adds a bit of extra inventiveness in the form of health-friendly fiber via either Inulin (i.e., ground chicory root), or Benefiber (brand) dietary aid. I wanted to point out here that although Benefiber is wheat-dextrin, it is labeled Gluten-Free and considered Gluten-Free because wheat-dextrin does not contain any of the gluten-proteins that are at the source of reaction-problems for people with Celiac Disease. If you feel more comfortable choosing a filler that is not a wheat-derivative in any way, go with the Inulin, or perhaps omit completely if you desire.

The recipe is versatile too. Instead of forming the combined ingredients into a meat loaf, you can just as easily create hamburgers using the same recipe and topping (pan fried on the stove). My wife has tested the recipe on a wide range of people that have been absolutely amazed at how delicious and moist and flavorful meatloaf can be, and at how healthy it can be at the same time. I certainly appreciate it when a recipe is both delicious AND more healthy! And, at the advice of some people, this recipe has been entered into baking contests to show even more people how incredible a gluten-free meatloaf can be, whether they are are gluten-free / Celiac or not. It's always good to make recipes available that are friendly to everyone's diet (well, perhaps not for the vegetarians this time around, but for most everyone else).

In case you missed the hyperlink above, here is another LINK TO THE RECIPE over on our free gluten-free recipes library site: Gluten-Free Wheat-Free Meatloaf Recipe using Quinoa and Ground Turkey.

Enjoy! And, feel free to let us know what you think of this interpretation of "meatloaf" and how it compares to the ones you otherwise are used to or remember in your pre-gluten-free / Celiac days. Thanks.

Sorry my picture is not the best, as I think I chose a plate color that somewhat blends in with the meatloaf. But, you can see the texture of the loaf and the little quinoa grains in there if you look closely :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Copyrights and our Gluten-Free Recipes Book

I apologize in advance for what is undoubtedly to be an uncharacteristic discourse (or rant) for me...

I knew this would happen eventually - blatant copyright violations. Some people think that others' hard work should be FREE to them, and free to everyone. They themselves won't work for free, but expect the work product of others to be free and have no problem even claiming others' work as their own.

After just finding multiple recipes from our Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts book posted on the web and blatantly copied right from our book, I am nothing short of very upset. Copyrights mean nothing to some people it seems - which is perhaps why Hollywood and the Recording Industry keep suing people who copy their content on the web.

And, if copyright violation alone were not enough, one particular offender even claimed the recipes were her own creation! I'm sorry, I think NOT! My wife and I worked very hard, and spent years and many, many hours baking countless iterations of our recipes to get them right, and worked on them even to the point where some of our gluten-free cakes won baking contests (against "real" cakes). And now, I have others claiming our work as their own. It hurts. It really does.

We innovated, and poured our passion for excellent desserts into creating these recipes after I discovered I can not eat gluten. I refused to eat desserts that didn't taste like "the real thing" to me. So, after trying other recipes without success (in reaching that "real" status), we went against nearly all accepted "norms" for gluten-free baking at the time when we produced the recipes for our gluten-free desserts book, by first of all removing all *gums* from the recipes. This was almost unheard of prior to our book. We then broke out of the potato-starch and bean-starch mold, decided not to use "flour mixes", and instead treated recipes like any other non-gluten-free recipe (where each recipe uses a custom forumulation of ingredients).

We made use of Sweet Rice, sorghum, amaranth, and even some buckwheat in a few recipes -- things that now seem quite common, perhaps in part due to our contribution to gluten-free baking. We tested the recipes on non-gluten-free people, and entered baking contests with them. We created a book to make these recipes available to other Celiac Disease sufferers and gluten-free and wheat-free individuals, and tried to keep it affordable (especially given that it is full-color throughout, and we only can afford to print a couple thousand books at a time).

We have received many Emails since the release of our Gluten-free desserts book stating how much people appreciate the quality of the recipes and the color photography in the book, and I now have a waiting list for our "next book", which was to be the Gluten-Free Biscotti and Scones book. But, fact is, when people simply post the recipes from our existing book on the web for all others to use freely without purchasing our book, our dessert book sales grind to a near halt. Thus, what is our incentive to create any MORE recipes when our existing ones are being copied without any compensation to us? I had even planned to give the next book away (as an "E-Book") to anyone who purchased our Desserts book. But, why bother? It'll just get posted on the web somewhere, so I might as well post it myself, or better yet, given my current state of mind, I should just stop working on it.

We laid out a fair amount of our own money to produce and print our gluten-free recipe book - not some big "corporation, but WE personally. I have yet to break even on this investment, and with our recipes being copied freely now, we may never do so. We invested our time, money, and determination to "get it right". We sell the books directly, so we know exactly who has and has not purchased them for 90%+ of the books out there, and that makes it even tougher when I see the recipes posted by people that never purchased our book. Makes me wonder how widespread the copying problem is!

I don't know why some people apparently have no problem affecting the livelihood of those that work hard to create great recipes and copyrighted content. And, I now direct these next bullet points at only those that think it fine to post our recipes and copyrighted material online in violation of the DMCA and other existing laws...
  • What price for our book, other than FREE, would be low enough that you would purchase it instead of copying it?
  • Do YOU work for free?
  • Can I copy YOUR work or steal your assets you worked hard to create, without you gettting upset?
  • Is it not enough I post various free recipes on this blog and on my recipe-library page?
  • Do you know some good lawyers? I sure hope so, because I do, and my close friend from college is one that just loves helping me out with various "issues".
I am usually upbeat and try to be helpful to the entire gluten-free community, but at the moment I am distraught and in jeopardy of losing interest in posting information helpful to the Celiac and Gluten-Free community. But, I realize that many of my readers DO value the recipes my wife and I create, and the information we share on this blog, and I would be punishing those not responsible for the copyright issues if I was to just quit my blog and all of this gluten-free writing.

Perhaps my biggest mistake was thinking that problems like this would not diminish our efforts. But, such is. The world is now a different place than when I was young, and the lessons my parents and grandparents taught me about respecting the work of others is no longer a universal concept - especially when it is so easy for some exploit the Internet for purposes to the contrary.

So, I am in one really screwy state of mind right now, and am on the edge of saying to heck with it all. What can I do? I could start selling my book on Amazon or Borders or such just to get more exposure, but how does that avoid the problem? Sure, Amazon will discount it considerable. Is that all I need to do? Will that stop people from copying the content? Sadly, I fear it would make little difference aside from me selling more books at lower margin (break-even if I was lucky). Or, perhaps I should just sell the full rights to my books and let some big publisher or corporation deal with those who copy content -- ANY PUBLISHERS LISTENING OR READING THIS?... , now is your chance, while my mental state is "off".

Well, another option that I am considering is a simple one: no more printed copies of the book. Those of you with printed copies of my Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts book may end up with collectors' items as the book goes out of print when I sell the last of my current inventory. I can not afford the risk of printing thousands of books to have them sit here as the recipes in the book are posted on the web by those who have no problem with such actions.

Now, to all of you that have purchased our book and have resisted the urge to post the recipes and baking instructions all over the web, THANK YOU!!

And, I realize that even with a money-back guarantee on our book, you all had to "take a chance" with an unknown and find out for yourself that our recipes are really wonderful and are as close to the "real" desserts as any can be. Perhaps if we didn't completely suck at marketing, we'd be out there on the television shows, radio, or whatever, getting the word about our recipes and our book around. But, neither my wife nor I is interested in doing so, and as such, it is just word of mouth we will continue to rely on. So, THANK YOU to all who have spread the word about our book too, while not just copying content!

Finally, in an effort to encourage purchase instead of outright theft via copying, I am considering dropping the price of the book down to where perhaps more will just buy it. I know such a move is in essence, irreversible, like selling through Amazon would be (they would instantly mark the book for 1/2 off). If dropping the price considerably would stop the copying, I would perhaps do so. But, if I do that, my current inventory of (printed) books will be the last - at least the last that *I* have printed, as it will be a money-losing proposition.

Anyone have thoughts on this they want to share? I welcome the input.

If you are interested in buying the book, please, don't order it without telling me what you think is a reasonable price first. I currently list the book for $29.95 + Shipping ($4.50 in USA). If that is, in your opinion, just too much to bear given high gas prices or anything else, just email me at:
sales [at-sign] suretalent-books dotcom
NOTE: use subject of "book feedback : KEY456" to get past SPAM filter.
Tell me what you think is reasonable, and/or what will prevent people from just copying the book contents on the web. I will give you a coupon-code to use towards a book purchase for your trouble, and with luck, I'll come out knowing whether I can do anything to minimize the copyright infringement activities through pricing / other changes.

Thank you. :)

Gluten-Free Desserts Book