Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gluten-Free Jennies Carob Macaroon Review

There are plenty of times when my sweet tooth requires quick attention and I just do not feel like baking a gluten-free dessert from scratch to satisfy the "need" for a cookie, cake, or similar treat. When this situation arises (all too often), it is nice to have a few gluten-free snacks around that fit the bill -- like this Jennies Macaroon (carob variety).

In one word: SWEET!
This small 2-ounce cookie (which by the way is not quite photogenic as you can see below, as it resembles a mound or pile of some sort. lol), is just packed with sweetness from the honey contained in the recipe. In fact, there are 34-grams of sugar in this cookie, which is a bit extreme, but guaranteed to satisfy any sugar cravings you have (and, also why I quite often split this cookie into two separate servings).

But, sweetness aside, there is plenty of flavor from the coconut and carob to provide satisfaction too. The carob bears some similarity to chocolate, but yet has subtle differences; either way, it is a nice taste for me. And, this cookie is actually a "high fiber cookie" (in my opinion) thanks to all that coconut fiber, weighing in with a whopping 6-grams of dietary fiber per cookie too.

The product's gluten-free recipe is a simple one, as one would expect of a macaroon (certainly a homemade macaroon would have a similar recipe), with the ingredients label showing only these items in the formula: unsweetened sulfite-free coconut, honey, carob, and egg whites. Period. I always love such simplicity in commercial recipes and appreciate the attention to keeping the recipe free of any chemicals, preservatives, colors, or artificial anything. This is how a purchasable celiac-friendly snack should be!

I have found these gluten-free cookies at a couple local stores, but not widespread. So, there is always the official Jennies Macaroon official website where you can buy them -- including, this rather wonderful sounding order option of 144 macaroons at a time :) Wow! 144... a gross of cookies!? That would keep even me busy for a long, long time. The nice thing about buying in such large quantities is the ability to get that price-point below $1/cookie (the website lists 144 for $125), but then again, unless I have a lot of help eating them, it probably is not a bargain. Anyone nearby want to "go in on a gross" of macaroons with me? he he he

Bottom line: great product. Super sweet. Great taste (I also like the regular coconut macaroon variety, and I have not had a chance to try the dutch-chocolate version, but I suspect it is just fine). Semi-reasonable price for a convenient form of a gluten-free dessert when you do not have time to bake your own. Recommended.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)

Gluten-Free Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)

Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Gluten-Free Recipe : Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip)
Baba Ghanoush makes for a flavorful and versatile appetizer, side dish, or salad. One serving suggestion (pictured above)... We placed the baba ghanoush on a small plate surrounded by gluten-free vegetable chips (somewhat like potato chips, but instead these are made from things like sweet potato, taro, carrots, green beans, and other vegetables). A sprinkling of fresh-ground black pepper over the eggplant dip topped things off.

Baba Ghanoush (aka, Baba Ghannouj or Baba Ghannoug) has been a favorite appetizer / snack of ours for years, and this recipe is one Laura created and tuned according to our tastes in order to bring forth the mildly smokey roasted eggplant (aubergine) flavor in conjunction with a bit of warmth from whatever types of pepper(s) we choose, and presented with the complementary flavors of garlic, lemon, and tahini (sesame paste). We will also add other accent flavors on an as-desired basis; spices like cumin work well, and dried smoked peppers (chipotles, anchos, poblanos) are always a nice optional addition too.

We serve this regularly, in a gluten-free manner, with things like tortilla chips, gluten-free pretzels, and vegetable chips (as pictured above) to name a few. There are many possibilities for variations and serving suggestions, so experiment with whatever sounds good. If you have some gluten-free breads or pita chips around, those may work nicely too.

And, another great thing about this recipe is that it comes in quite handy at the end of the eggplant growing season, when you may either have a few extra eggplants you do not otherwise know what to do with, or if you happen to stumble upon a bargain on eggplant (that was our luck this time: we purchased a whole pile of small eggplants for 15-cents each where a local farmer market was getting ready to close down for the season!)

The Recipe and Directions

We posted the recipe, along with some additional pictures and discussion, over on our gluten-free recipes library at our gluten-free dessert cookbook website. It is dairy-free, vegan, wheat-free, and gluten-free. And, even without dairy, it has a rather "creamy" texture, about the thickness of sour cream of similar. Here is a direct link to the Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip) Recipe.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walmart, Water, and Inflation

We tend to keep a few gallons of distilled water on hand for things like the coffee-maker and similar uses, but I think we may just have given up on buying the gallon jugs of distilled water for good: the price is ridiculous!

Thankfully I do not "need" distilled water for my gluten-free recipes or drinking water, as we have seen the price rise from a low of two gallons for 99-cents just 2 or 3 years back, to 68-cents/gallon last year, and now to a new unbelievable high of 88-cents per gallon (and, this is all comparisons of WalMart prices). OUCH!

This last move from 68-to-88 cents/gallon represents an annual inflation rate of 30-percent! Or, the move from 50-cents to 88-cents, though over a few years, represents compound annual inflation of 20-percent (for 3 years). And yet, the government publishes CPI (Consumer Price Index) information claiming there is zero inflation (actually, they claimed it was negative inflation the past year). Part of that "zero inflation" bunk is due to how they keep excluding the "volatile food and energy" category, which affects a lot of us substantially, from the CPI, so that we (i.e., the government) can paint a rosy picture of negligible inflation to match the negligible (or negative) wage growth.

Perhaps I should have posted this gluten-free blog entry over on my other Financial and Technology Blog instead, but I find that this food and energy inflation directly affects my gluten-free life as I watch prices soar on most everything in my diet, while the government proclaims flat-line inflation. This is exactly why we tend to bake and cook nearly all our own foods -- we do not often purchase pre-made gluten-free items, aside from gluten-free snack foods and gluten-free beer that I should perhaps cut back on anyhow; lol. And, we also grow a lot of our own vegetables already; something that we need to ramp up even further in the coming years to keep costs down.

All of this would be less upsetting if there was some way to earn a return (on investments) that could equal the inflation in daily products. But, the same government CPI number that says we have essentially-zero inflation is also used to ensure the government pays you zero on investments in their own debt-instruments too: e.g., "I-Bonds" (i.e., inflation protected bonds), which are now quite literally paying ZERO because the supposed inflation rate the last 6-12 months was negative. Good luck making up for that distilled-water price-increase with I-Bond "earnings"! And, we all know what savings-rates and CD-rates in the bank are like... surely nothing near 20% annual to match my distilled-water price increase! Arghghgh!

The bottom line: there must be some significant supply/demand imbalance going on somewhere in the "food chain" (or water chain) to justify these prices. I realize energy prices directly affect the manufacture (i.e., distillation) of water, but 20% increase every year?? I want to source as much of my own gluten-free diet products as possible, but just in case I decide I want some affordable distilled water to go with what we grow, cook, and bake, I need to find a good affordable solar-powered water-distillation unit or some such thing. :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Are Vitamins the Cure for Celiac Disease?

Are Vitamins the Cure for Celiac Disease? Well, perhaps not a cure, but they sure may help avoid some of the problems that may otherwise arise from Celiac Disease, according to the results of a 2009 research team in the Netherlands that investigated the effect of vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 daily supplements on homocysteine levels in patients with coeliac disease. The results were VERY encouraging (in my opinion, at least), and suggestive of some protective and/or healing-helping functions directly enabled or extended by these B-Vitamins.

The study did a side-by-side comparison of those with coeliac disease to "healthy control individuals" (i.e., those without Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance), and the findings were quite clearly in favor of encouraging B-Vitamin use among Celiac patients - especially B6 and Folate (oddly enough, this study did not result in a correlation between B12 consumption and a reduction in homocysteine levels that other studies have):
They found that patients with celiac disease and using vitamin supplements had higher serum vitamin B6 (P = 0.003), folate (P < p =" 0.012)" p =" 0.035," p =" 0.007," style="font-weight: bold;">Lower plasma homocysteine levels were found in patients using vitamin supplements than in patients who did not (P = 0.001) or healthy controls (P = 0.003). However, vitamin B6 and folate, not vitamin B12, were significantly and independently associated with homo-cysteine levels.
Well, we need to keep in mind here that the study was about homocysteine levels in patients with Celiac, and the effect of vitamin-dosing on those levels. And I forgot to mention that the reason that lower homocysteine levels are important (in general): above-normal homocysteine levels are correlated as strong risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Thus, in theory, lowering your homocysteine levels is a good thing if you want to avoid cardiovascular problems.

The study's findings about a lesser correlation between Vitamin B-12 and homocysteine levels goes against some other studies I have read about B-12 being effective for homocysteine lowering (in the normal population), but perhaps it is less of the direct-cause for high-homocysteine levels in Celiac patients particularly? I do not know, but I will still take my large doses of Vitamin-B12 regardless, as they make me feel better. (See my prior Gluten-Free Blog post on getting B12 to absorb well, without B12 shots, by taking sublingual B12 - i.e., under-the-tongue B12)

Now, for a final bit of science / techie conclusion quoted from the study-excerpt I read, here is the summary statement of why B-Vitamins / Folate is a good thing for us Gluten-Free folks:
The study demonstrates in agreement with earlier findings, that both the presence and the severity of coeliac disease were determinants of homocysteine levels. The regular use of B vitamin supplements was associated with higher serum vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12 and lower plasma homocysteine levels in patients with coeliac disease. Furthermore, B vitamin supplements seem to have a protective role against the effect of villous atrophy on homocysteine levels, irrespective to the genetic susceptibility status as manifested by carrying the C677T polymorphism of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.
I want my villi protected! :)

OK, so it is perhaps time to make sure you take some B-vitamins as part of your daily routine. As always though, consult with a doctor about large doses of vitamins, folate, etc... there really CAN be side-effects with some. Vitamin B-6 for example, in large doses, can lead to some types of neuropathy (i.e., numbness in hands/feet) and other nerve problems that you likely do not want. The only vitamin in this study that is nearly completely safe at extremely high doses (as a multiple of "RDA") is Vitamin B-12, but I will leave the dosing up to you and your doctor regardless.

Note: the excerpt I was reading was from here.