Archives for posts with tag: gluten-free cooking

I love making fruit pies. Actually, I love eating pies. And the quality of the crust is crucial. The wheat allergy thing has put a crimp in my pie dough making ways. Not only can I no longer eat it but I can tell that it is affecting the quality of the wheat flour pies I make for my family. Pastry making is not as forgiving as other kinds of cooking. The moisture content of flour can vary, the amount of humidity in the kitchen varies, and there are always little variations in measuring, depending on settling. I’ve relied on the “feel” of the dough while I am handling it as well as the texture of the dough when I cut into the pie after I slice it. This is helpful but not the same kind of feedback I get when I actually eat the pie. And don’t get me started on the moisture content of the fruit filling and what it does to the crust! I have also been working with gluten free pie crust recipes.

Here’s the thing, gluten does wonderful things to pie dough. Even so, I don’t like most wheat flour pie dough recipes! I also don’t like most of the crusts on the pies I eat. I had settled on a recipe a number of years ago and it had been a solid winner. Working with gluten free dough was almost like learning from square one. First, the dough is really brittle. It breaks easily. It has almost no elasticity. My first attempts were rather sad looking. Now if they had TASTED good, that would have been okay. But the first doughs cooked up like brick. Okay, I am not being entirely accurate.  Actually, they tasted like bricks with delicious fruit topping.

Last October,  I thought I was getting close. This week I did some more tinkering and I am happy to say that I liked the pie! You might think that I’ve put an awful lot of work and emotional energy into this. You’re probably right. It’s a little win to offset the inconvenience of my gluten free lifestyle. I have come to the conclusion in the last couple of months that the only way to manage the skin problems caused by my wheat allergy, is to avoid eating any food that I have not prepared myself. Think about what this means. Not fun. But here you go, the much promised pie dough recipe!!!

2 ¼ cups Namaste Perfect Flour Blend
2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons xantham gum
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
1 tsp white vinegar

Directions

1.    Mix 1 cup of the flour blend with ½ cup canola oil. Combine with a fork until well blended.

2.    Heat butter in small saucepan on low until it’s nicely browned. (You can tell because it changes to a brown color and gives off an amazingly yummy fragrance).

3.    Add the browned butter to the flour/oil mixture and combine. Put the bowl containing this mixture into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

4.    Combine the remaining 1 ¼ cup of flour with the sugar, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add it to the semi-frozen mixture and cut it with a pastry blender until it is the consistency of coarsely ground cornmeal mixed with some bigger lumps, up to the size of a small pea.

5.    Add the vinegar and milk about 1/8th of a cup at a time. Use the fork to help distribute it evenly but do not stir!!!! Once all the milk is in the bowl and the combination is evenly moist, more or less, form it into a ball with your hands. The dough might seem too wet. Be patient because once the xanthan gum does its magic, the dough will turn to a nice consistency. (This, by the way, is how I dried out the first dough but thinking that it was too moist and adding an extra cup of flour blend.)

6.    Divide the ball into two parts. Roll each part between two sheets of waxed paper and use for one double crust or two single crust pies.

Note: I made a lattice crust this time but it broke a lot while I was making it. It is much easier to roll out a single crust for the top.

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This post is from 4/11/13. It’s perhaps one of the silliest things I’ve ever written. But I like silly so that’s okay. Silly has gotten me far in life. A hidden meaning of this post is my great love for my husband. Soylent Green is a film that I would NEVER have seen if I had not married a man who adores cheesy low budget cinema and begged me to watch it with him. (He had already seen it but he wanted me to see it.) Actually, watching a movie was one of our first dates. He asked me if I wanted to join he and his roommate in watching Terror in the Aisles, a compilation of scenes from horror films. I HATE HORROR FILMS. I MEAN I REALLY HATE THEM BECAUSE THEY TERRIFY ME! But I had already fallen in love with John, which was not yet reciprocated. This was my chance to impress. I would gut my way through it. We got to the scene where Cujo’s face exploded and I started screaming, “Turn it off, turn it off, turn it off!!!!!!!!!!” Not our best date but he never tried to get me to watch horror again. But he did get me to see Soylent Green.

 

I finally got around to making the very healthy chia pudding recipe I posted from my dear friend, Mike, who practices Chinese medicine in New York City. Helen of My Lymph Node Transplant had made it a few days earlier and kindly noted that it was a bit on the bland side, so she had added extra dates to it. At that point Helen declared it, “very nice”. So I doubled the dates. I also ended up roasting my raw cashews after my husband reminded me that he is allergic to raw nuts. I also substituted olive oil for coconut oil. I couldn’t find the latter and I suspect my daughter has absconded with it to use as wax for some project she is doing in her room, perhaps making a surf board out of a tree branch or something. (I exaggerate her mad scientist shenanigans only slightly. Only this morning, I found a seafood fork in the shower.)

After I blended the pudding in the my food processor, I gave it a sniff. It had a pleasant, nutty aroma. The appearance is a nutty tan color. I did not think it looked bad. However, my husband, who will eat ANYTHING, wouldn’t even try a bite. I ate a little spoonful and it tasted good and the texture was similar to tapioca pudding, just as Mike had described in his introduction to the recipe. Wait, a minute. I just remembered something. I don’t like tapioca pudding because of the texture. Actually, I find the texture to be somewhat disgusting. Did I think the fact that this pudding has healthy ingredients was going to change this for me? Aaaah! I have become my grandmother. Unlike the stereotypical expectations of a first generation Italian immigrant, my nonna was a pretty lousy cook. I remember how incredulous she was when her soups didn’t turn out tasty. She would say, “But I put a whole stick of good butter in it and a wedge of good cheese.” She thought the quality of the ingredient trumped all. And grandma, why did you put all of that butter in the soup. Yuck! (My mother has read this post and believes I may have confused her mother with Paula Deen, the famous butter loving chef.)

So, I took all of this time and energy, not to mention the expense of the very healthy ingredients and ended up with Soylent Green! You don’t know what soylent green is? It’s the “plankton based” food that people had to eat in the dystopian future sci-fi movie of 1973 starring Charlton Heston. You see the world had ruined the environment and was running out of food. Charlton played a rugged and “sexy” cop whose wardrobe looked like a mash-up of Oliver Twist and Mork of Mork and Mindy. The masses in this society had to eat processed “plankton” crackers. But as Charlton learns by the end of the movie, there’s no plankton. “Soylent Green, it’s people, it’s people!”

Okay, so my initial batch of chia pudding reminded me of a film about cannibal crackers. That is not a good start. But I had put this much time into it and put lots of good ingredients in. So, like Katie Torlai before me, I started combining it with stuff. I added a couple of tablespoons of pudding to 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons flax seed meal, and 3/4 of a peeled apple, sliced into small chunks. This concoction was to be my breakfast, which I have adopted as my “medicinal meal”, that is the way I get 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal into my diet each day. Consequently, my expectations for breakfast are low.

As I mixed up my small vat of chunky, seedy, goo, the appearance points for the dish dropped from 1/4 of a star to zero stars. It looked really unappealing. I took a taste, fully expecting to exclaim, “Soylent Green, it’s chia, it’s chunky, yogurty, seedy chia!”

To my surprise, the added ingredients actually improved the dish’s texture score from 0 stars to 1 star. It no longer reminded me of the goo from badly cooked okra. The flavor rating was bumped up to 1 1/2 stars.

Ding, ding, ding! Marginally palatable breakfast is served!

Photo from Wikipedia

I just offered Charlton a spoonful of pudding. Coward!!!!
Photo from Wikipedia

P.S. I almost forgot that it is Health Activist Writers’ Challenge month. Today, my health activist sign reads as follows:

You are what you eat, especially if you live in a dystopian future complete with Soylent Green as the only food option.

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I finally got around to making the very healthy chia pudding recipe I posted from my dear friend, Mike, who practices Chinese medicine in New York City. Helen of My Lymph Node Transplant had made it a few days earlier and kindly noted that it was a bit on the bland side, so she had added extra dates to it. At that point Helen declared it, “very nice”. So I doubled the dates. I also ended up roasting my raw cashews after my husband reminded me that he is allergic to raw nuts. I also substituted olive oil for coconut oil. I couldn’t find the latter and I suspect my daughter has absconded with it to use as wax for some project she is doing in her room, perhaps making a surf board out of a tree branch or something. (I exaggerate her mad scientist shenanigans only slightly. Only this morning, I found a seafood fork in the shower.)

After I blended the pudding in the my food processor, I gave it a sniff. It had a pleasant, nutty aroma. The appearance is a nutty tan color. I did not think it looked bad. However, my husband, who will eat ANYTHING, wouldn’t even try a bite. I ate a little spoonful and it tasted good and the texture was similar to tapioca pudding, just as Mike had described in his introduction to the recipe. Wait, a minute. I just remembered something. I don’t like tapioca pudding because of the texture. Actually, I find the texture to be somewhat disgusting. Did I think the fact that this pudding has healthy ingredients was going to change this for me? Aaaah! I have become my grandmother. Unlike the stereotypical expectations of a first generation Italian immigrant, my nonna was a pretty lousy cook. I remember how incredulous she was when her soups didn’t turn out tasty. She would say, “But I put a whole stick of good butter in it and a wedge of good cheese.” She thought the quality of the ingredient trumped all. And grandma, why did you put all of that butter in the soup. Yuck! (My mother has read this post and believes I may have confused her mother with Paula Deen, the famous butter loving chef.)

So, I took all of this time and energy, not to mention the expense of the very healthy ingredients and ended up with Soylent Green! You don’t know what soylent green is? It’s the “plankton based” food that people had to eat in the dystopian future sci-fi movie of 1973 starring Charlton Heston. You see the world had ruined the environment and was running out of food. Charlton played a rugged and “sexy” cop whose wardrobe looked like a mash-up of Oliver Twist and Mork of Mork and Mindy. The masses in this society had to eat processed “plankton” crackers. But as Charlton learns by the end of the movie, there’s no plankton. “Soylent Green, it’s people, it’s people!”

Okay, so my initial batch of chia pudding reminded me of a film about cannibal crackers. That is not a good start. But I had put this much time into it and put lots of good ingredients in. So, like Katie Torlai before me, I started combining it with stuff. I added a couple of tablespoons of pudding to 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons flax seed meal, and 3/4 of a peeled apple, sliced into small chunks. This concoction was to be my breakfast, which I have adopted as my “medicinal meal”, that is the way I get 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal into my diet each day. Consequently, my expectations for breakfast are low.

As I mixed up my small vat of chunky, seedy, goo, the appearance points for the dish dropped from 1/4 of a star to zero stars. It looked really unappealing. I took a taste, fully expecting to exclaim, “Soylent Green, it’s chia, it’s chunky, yogurty, seedy chia!”

To my surprise, the added ingredients actually improved the dish’s texture score from 0 stars to 1 star. It no longer reminded me of the goo from badly cooked okra. The flavor rating was bumped up to 1 1/2 stars.

Ding, ding, ding! Marginally palatable breakfast is served!

Photo from Wikipedia

I just offered Charlton a spoonful of pudding. Coward!!!!
Photo from Wikipedia

P.S. I almost forgot that it is Health Activist Writers’ Challenge month. Today, my health activist sign reads as follows:

You are what you eat, especially if you live in a dystopian future complete with Soylent Green as the only food option.

Okay, this post is not really about the versatility of the chia seed, although I can think of five uses for it off of the top of my head. Prior to becoming a cancer patient, I could only think of two, the original “Chia Pet” and the take off from Saturday Night Live, when they had Kevin Nealon plant chia seeds on his head to replace hair loss.

The I suspect not-so-cranky, Cranky of “Grandma Says” has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.

versatileblogger111

Thanks, Not-So-Cranky! Many of you out there are familiar with these nominations. The nomination is the award and the process works likes the kindest chain letter you will ever receive! The rules are to post the graphic of the award, for me to tell some random facts about myself, and to nominate 15 other blogs for the award.

As you may also know, I try to follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law when it comes to these awards, though this time I actually posted the graphic. It’s very easy. I’m not sure why I haven’t done it previously.

As for the random facts, I did that once but at this point, how many more factoids can I really give you and have them be a surprise? I guess I will give it a try but just one fact. I need to save some material for future blog posts.

1) I love autobiographies and read about all kinds of people, from Malcom X, to gardeners, to chefs, to musicians, to world travelers, to actors, to comedians, to the understudy for Elphaba in Wicked, to RuPaul. People, I even read Andre Agassi’s autobiography and I’m not even a tennis fan. And by the way, it’s a pretty absorbing read.

Instead of nominating 15 bloggers, I am going to feature a blog, which is in line with my quest for health and healing. At the risk of appearing to be a creepy stalker, I am again highlighting my friend, Mike. (If you are reading this, Mike, I am not a creepy stalker.)

As you know, I changed my diet to improve my general health as well as to eat things that are linked to a reduced risk of cancer. I have also extended my health practices beyond traditional medicine. I like to use as many sources as I can. I see the usual suspects, onco surgeon, medical oncologist, internist, but I also see a licensed massage therapist, psychologist, and a naturopathic physician who is certified in cancer treatment.

I am about to embark on a journey to Chinese medicine. I am particularly interested in acupuncture. My most immediate concern is doing something about my stupid hot flashes. I also know that there are other potential positive applications of acupuncture to be explored.

Now some of you might be thinking, “Elizabeth, don’t you have a Ph.D.? Aren’t you always talking about how you were an academic researcher for so many years? Why have you been doing all of this alternative stuff?”

First, my own philosophy fits more into the “integrative” model than “alternative” model. Integrative healthcare is inclusive. Even mainstream Western medicine is getting increasingly integrated. At the Swedish Cancer Institute, there are naturopaths and licensed massage therapists. There are classes on mindfulness meditation and diet.

I am also glad that more non-traditional therapies are being researched using western research strategies. I very much respect that there are other ways of supporting the efficacy of a treatment. Practitioners of Chinese medicine, for example, often point to thousands of years of accumulated clinical evidence. However, the investigative tools that I have at my disposal for evaluating potential treatments are western based. In other words, I am in a better position to critically evaluate research articles than to evaluate evidence gleaned through other methods. I don’t think any reputable healthcare provider is going to discourage patients from being careful about how they treat their bodies, especially cancer patients. There are people who prey on cancer patients. There are also good hearted people who do not have the skills or expertise to responsibly provide healthcare advice but they do so, nonetheless. I am very leery of folks who think something is harmless just because it is “natural” or because it is delivered by a non-traditional provider, who must be superior to a traditional provider because the latter group are bad.

I would like to re-introduce you to my friend, Michael Ishii, of Stonewell Acupuncture. He practices Chinese medicine in New York City. He also writes an informative health blog. Some of his posts are recipes, one of which, I’ve cut and pasted below for a nutritious gluten-free chia dessert. See, I told you that the chia seed figured in this post. Chia is also used in some gluten-free bread recipes as an alternative dough binder to xanthum or guar gums. I have not yet tried this out but plan to once I used up my “economy” (“economy” being relative as gluten-free ingredients tend to be pricey) sized bag of xanthum gum.

Try it out!

Vegan Chia Pudding: Delicious Super Healthy Treat!

Vegan Chia Pudding

OK, remember the Chia Pet TV commericals?
Who would have thought that Chia seeds would be a superfood? Or so delicious!

Chia is a plant that is native to Mexico and Central America. It was cultivated by both the Aztecs and the Mayans who highly valued this food, and the word “Chia” actually means “strength” in Mayan.

Chia seeds are a source of complete proteins, they are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, are rich in calcium, are a terrific source of anti-oxidants and have a low glycemic sugar index.

The seeds, when soaked in a liquid, swell up and become like little miniature pearls of gelatin. They remind me of tapioca.
They are high in both soluble and non-soluble fibers and hence aid digestion.

Since this food contains no gluten, they make a good staple food for those with celiac or who have gluten sensitivity.

My colleague Anca Marinescu, L.Ac., shared with me this delicious recipe for Vegan Chia Pudding.
From a Chinese dietary viewpoint, this pudding is a great Blood builder and will nourish Yin. It contains food that will help you support your circulatory system, strengthen your digestion, regulate your bowels, and support immunity.  The spices warm and support the Spleen and will open and course the meridians while supporting the Kidneys.

Go ahead, try this delicious and healthy dessert!

 Ingredients for Vegan Chia Pudding

Vegan Chia Pudding

3 Tbsp of Chia seeds
2 cups of almond milk (or soy or rice, cashew, hemp etc)
1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for 2 hours and liquid discarded
5 dates roughly chopped
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dried coconut flakes (optional)
1 pinch of pumpkin pie spice
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Soak the Chia seeds in the almond milk for 2 hours or overnight.
Soak the raw cashews in water for 2 hours and discard liquid.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy.
Chill.
Serve garnished with more coconut flakes and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice or try a garnish of fresh fruits or nuts..

makes 6 servings.

This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine’s All-Time Best Recipes issue. I modified a couple of things as noted. It is delicious. If you have never checked out Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I highly recommend it. They discuss the scientific reasons for cooking technique and also use feedback from taste testers.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons salt plus 4 quarts water for soaking the beans
1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried cannellini beans, picked over and rinsed. (I used Great Northern beans because they were a lot less expensive.)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (I used thick cut, nitrite free uncured bacon because that is what I had on hand.)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I omitted the celery because I don’t like it. I substituted 1/2 inch pieces of chard stem.)
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I think there is a scientific reason for using the low sodium broth because it is supposed to make the interior of the beans creamier if they are not cooked in a lot of sodium.)
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 pound kale or collard greens, stemmed and leaves chopped into 1 inch pieces. (I used chard and separated the stems, treating them like celery.)
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes, drained.
1 sprig fresh rosemary
8 slices country white bread (I substituted home-made gluten free bread, natch), 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides.

Directions

1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt into 4 quarts water in large container or bowl. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. (The salt is added to the soaking water for scientific reasons to keep the bean skins tender.)
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle shelf and preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, carrots, and celery (or chard stem pieces) and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 10-16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Remove pot from oven and stir in kale and tomatoes. Return to oven and cook until beans are greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
4. Remove pot from oven and submerge  rosemary in stew. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves an rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.

The veggies after cooking. Chard is so pretty.

The veggies after cooking. Chard is so pretty.

 

 

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

This recipe is adapted from Eating Well Magazine. My daughter loved it and ate 2 1/2 servings. Then she ate another serving the following day for breakfast.

  • 3 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs. (Note: I made bread crumbs from some of my leftover gluten-free bread.)
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (Note: To make gluten-free, I substituted 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.)
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (I often use a combination of cheddar cheese and goat cheese)
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne (Note: I used Trader Joe’s rice penne.)

Preparation

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix breadcrumbs, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
  3. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  4. Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
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