Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gluten-Free Halloween Items and Party Recipe Ideas

Some Festive Gluten-Free Halloween Party Ideas

Dressing up some favorite GF party items for Halloween

Have you been contemplating what foods to make for a Halloween holiday party — whether appetizers, desserts, or other snack items? Kate, one of our gluten-free blog contributors, put together a sampling of her own ideas for some simple to make, and simple to convert from everyday fair into Halloween themed variations, gluten-free recipes that fit the occasion nicely.  She served these up this weekend to a group of people that found the items rather delightful.

I think you will all agree, these playful holiday treats should be quite easy to replicate using your favorite recipes.  She created things ranging from a pumpkin that is performing some Exorcist-type expulsion of green goo (in this case a tasty guacamole!), to some lovely one-eyed (cyclops) chocolate-dipped strawberries, to some gluten-free cupcakes covered with spiders!

Other items at her party included "bloodshot-eye" deviled eggs and other adventuresome and creative treats.  Here's hoping these all provide inspiration for a great GF holiday spread.  In addition to being gluten-free and wheat-free, she was able to accommodate the dairy-free / vegan / vegetarian crowd very nicely too.

(pictures all credit: Kate)


Cyclops-eyed Chocolate-covered Strawberries 

Oh my... Gluten-Free Cupcakes crawling with spiders!
Gluten-Free Halloween Party Treats Ideas
Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Probiotic Amounts in Kefir and Yogurt : Billions, perhaps Trillions

How Many Billion Probiotics are in your Yogurt / Kefir?

Probiotic Pills Prices are Ridiculous Compared to just consuming Kefir / Yogurt

[Note: this is a followup to my last closely-related article where I consider Healthy Gut Microbes May Prevent Celiac (beneficial bacteria as a defense, perhaps)]
Probiotics are those "beneficial bugs" that exist in vast quantities in healthy gastrointestinal tracts.  I have written other blogs here including a recent one about how Healthy Gut Microbes May Prevent Celiac (and other autoimmune diseases).

With scientific studies, like the one mentioned in that blog, providing further evidence that a healthy digestive tract — aided by probiotics —  may help us avoid and/or improve outcomes for various conditions and diseases, we may find ourselves asking: where can I get the most probiotics for the buck?

The answer is simple: kefirs or yogurts are definitely the most cost-effective probiotic source around, and here's why... (and yes, I am aware that some people may have digestive issues that make "dairy" not sound like a solution they can tolerate... but, read on first and reconsider that point after you see the numbers).

Probiotics in Kefir / Yogurt: Billions (and TRILLIONS) of Probiotics

Redwood Hill Farm Gluten-Free Goat Kefir
Redwood Hill Farm Gluten-Free Goat Kefir

To the left I included a picture courtesy of Redwood Hill Farms (brand) Goat-Milk Kefir.  This is a perfect example of a product that is utterly loaded with Probiotics!  From the Redwood Hill Farms web page discussing the "Health Benefits of Goat Milk Kefir", we can obtain information about how many billion priobiotics are in an ounce of Kefir, by extrapolating from this quoted material:
Laboratory testing shows that Redwood Hill Farm brand kefir containing our proprietary blend of probiotics, “Flourish®”  averages 2.6 billion live probiotics per gram!  We use an average as batches can vary slightly and the number of probiotics at the beginning of our products ‘life’ can be slightly more or less than at the end of the products life.
WOW! 2.6 billion probiotics per gram of Kefir!  Did you catch the "per gram" part? Yes, PER GRAM!  That is a TINY amount of Kefir with a HUGE number of probiotics. Keep in mind, there are just over 28 grams per ounce.  Therefore, there are nearly 75 BILLION probiotics per ounce of this Kefir! And, that means that an 8-ounce serving would have nearly 600 BILLION probiotics in it, an a quart container would contain around 2.4 TRILLION probiotics.

Now, compare that to all the probiotic pills on the market!  How many pills would you have to take to equal the amount in an 8-ounce serving of Kefir?  Better yet, what would it cost?! 
A quart of this specialty (Goat milk) Kefir cost somewhere around $6.00 at Whole Foods recently, which means an 8-ounce serving of Goat Milk Kefir cost $1.50 and provides 600 BILLION probiotics with it.

Even if you may have issues with dairy products, are you really sure your body could not handle an occasional ¼ Teaspoon of Goat Kefir that would provide around 3 billion probiotics? There are Twenty-Four (24) ¼ Teaspoon servings per ounce... or, 768 of these ¼ Teaspoon servings of 3-billion-probiotics each per quart!  How much would 768 "3 billion count" probiotic pills cost by comparison?

Probiotic Pills : Billions of Probiotics, at what cost?

Most probiotic pills I have seen at health-food stores and/or online are just ridiculously expensive for the amount of probiotics in each pill / tablet.  One of the better priced ones I have encountered is the gluten-free NOW Foods (brand) Probiotic-10 V-caps with 25 Billion probiotics per capsule and 50 capsules per bottle that sell for somewhere in the range of $16 -$17 on Amazon currently.

This particular NOW Foods gluten-free product has 10 strains of healthful  bacteria (including: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarious, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, Streptococcus thermophilus ), which is similar to what you would find in many yogurt cultures.

A bottle of these will (theoretically) get you 1.25 TRILLION probiotics in total,  which is about the same amount as you'd get in ½ a quart bottle of that Goat Milk Kefir.  The difference: the Kefir equivalent will cost you only $3.00 versus the $16-17 for the pills.  So, you can save 80%+ by going the Kefir route and just eating a tiny 2 Teaspoons of Goat Kefir per day to get that 25 Billion organisms.

Now, if you absolutely cannot handle any form of dairy (or are a dairy-free / vegan by choice), the NOW Brand pills may be a decent option.  But, remember... keep any pills refrigerated to maintain high potency. THIS IS IMPORTANT, as exposure to heat can kill the beneficial bugs.  And, in fact, this is a reason for concern: if anywhere along the distribution channel (e.g., during shipment, trucking, shelf-stocking, transport, etc) those pills were exposed to a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time, the probiotics that you paid all that hard-earned cash for could be DEAD!  If the probiotic bacteria dies during transport/storage, then you have just paid a fortune for nothingness.

Are your Billions of Probiotics still alive (and effective)?

If you didn't already realize this, there is an easy way to test for whether probiotic bacteria organisms are alive and well.  With yogurt or kefir, this is simple enough... just place a Tablespoon of the yogurt or kefir into a quart of milk and sit that in your oven overnight with ONLY the oven-light on (for the slightest heat-source)... the bacteria should do their job and multiply like crazy and transform the milk into kefir, essentially.  In effect, you are cloning the bacteria in mass numbers, and you can make your own yogurt this way (same principle as a "starter" for sourdough breads).

So, in theory, if the probiotics in your pills/capsules are actually alive and functioning, you could add the (powdered) contents of a probiotic capsule to some quantity of milk and achieve the same outcome (i.e., produce kefir / yogurt).  I cannot say I have personally tried this, not for lack of curiosity, but for the simple fact I prefer getting my probiotics by way of kefir / yogurt instead of costly supplements.  If anyone tries it and wants to post their results here, I'd welcome hearing about your observations.

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.