Category Archives: gluten free


no flour GF cookie dough

No Flour Cookie Dough

Remember when you were a teenager and you’d get together with your friends to make cookies? And you wound up eating half the cookie dough before you even got the first batch out of the oven? Okay, well maybe that was just me, but it sure was tasty.

Don’t eat that

Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden we were being told not to eat cookie dough because it contained raw eggs and those could be a source of salmonella poisoning. I’ll confess that when I was a kid I ate it anyway because I loved it so much. But then when I had kids I wouldn’t let them eat it because somehow it was okay if I got sick but not if they did.  So I figured out how to make cookie dough without the eggs.

Then we were told not to eat raw cookie dough (even without the eggs) because raw flour could be a source of e. coli. That was a bummer. It was also the end of the raw cookie dough in our house.

Going gluten-free

Over time I changed my diet, going gluten-free and reducing the amount of sugar and sugary foods I ate. Giving up the cookies wasn’t too difficult. It turns out that as good as I am at baking regular bread, cakes, and cookies, when it came to gluten-free it was more of a challenge. One that for the most part I wasn’t interested in trying to figure out. It was easier to give it up or to buy what I wanted from the Gluten-Free Sourdough Company.

In spite of making healthy changes I confess, however, that every now and then I’d have a secret, sneaky craving for cookie dough. Then one day I was having a conversation with my sister-in-law who told me about a raw cookie dough recipe she had eaten that was made with chickpeas and peanut butter. She couldn’t find the recipe but just knowing it was made with chickpeas was enough to get me started. I began to experiment and eventually hit on the recipe listed below.  

The day I came up with the final version my editor for my book The Pantry Principle was visiting. She wanted to know what I was making. I told her it was a healthy version of raw cookie dough and offered her a spoonful right out of the cuisinart. She loved it! We both dove in with spoons, it was kind of like a return to my high school days.

Cookie dough is popular again

Fast forward yet again and once again raw cookie dough seems to be a big thing. There are companies, cafes, and cookie dough bars opening all over the country. The Minnesota State Fair has even added raw cookie dough to the list of foods available at the fair. I imagine it won’t be long before other state fairs follow suit, I fully expect to see it at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show next year. The problem is that what’s available commercially seems to be made with regular flour (making it a non-option for those who need to eat gluten free). Commercial options are also high in sugar and definitely need to be consumed in strict moderation. What I love about my recipe is that because it’s made with chickpeas it’s got some protein. Don’t get me wrong, it still has sugar (especially in those chocolate chips), but I’ve cut the sugar down to as little as possible making this an option that is as healthy as I think I can make it. 

If you’re seeing news blurbs about cookie dough and feeling a sense of nostalgia (and a desire to make cookies just so you can eat the dough) consider making my No-Flour Cookie Dough. Just be aware that this recipe does not bake into cookies, it’s meant to be enjoyed raw.

No Flour Cookie Dough
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 can chickpeas, drained
  2. 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
  3. 1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice
  4. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/2 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Combine first five ingredients in food processor until mixed well
  2. Scoop into a bowl and add chocolate chips by hand
  3. Spoon into ramekins or mini-muffin cups and chill 2 hours before serving
  4. -- or enjoy with a spoon straight out of the bowl ūüėČ
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Gluten-free — Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Will eating a gluten free diet make you healthier? Not necessarily. While eating gluten free is necessary for those suffering from celiac disease, for the majority of people who don’t suffer from gluten intolerance it’s not necessary to go out of your way to avoid it. However doing a gluten elimination diet can help to determine if gluten sensitivity is an issue for you.

For the 1% of Americans who do suffer from celiac disease, it is critical¬†to remove gluten from the diet completely. Otherwise it can cause damage to their small intestines as it is an autoimmune disease. A larger, growing percentage of the population¬†are experiencing non-celiac gluten sensitivity. While they don’t have¬†damage to their small intestines, they can¬†experience some symptoms similar to those with celiac disease. ¬†These symptoms may include brain fog, bloating, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, and more, all of which¬†can be helped by removing gluten from the diet.¬†Unfortunately however, a gluten free diet may be¬†harmful to your health¬†if you‚Äôre not careful as many gluten free items lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Not only that, but they often contain processed and or refined additives that can cause digestive upset.

According to a Consumers Report 2014 survey, approximately 25% of people questioned believed that gluten free foods have MORE vitamins and minerals than other foods. Many people simply think that eating gluten free is healthier. Because gluten free foods are usually highly processed, have less nutrition, and still contain unhealthy ingredients such as artificial colors , artificial flavors, additives, and preservatives, that may not be the case.

HIGHLY PROCESSED

Gluten is found in many whole grain products made from wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.  These grains are commonly found in many foods that we eat.  The gluten free alternatives for breads, pastas, cereals, pastries, and other processed foods are often made from highly processed alternatives such as starches, or flours from non-glutenous grains. They also usually contain fillers, extra fat, sugar, and/or sodium to replace the taste or texture of gluten. Whole grain products naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, highly processed food products however, do not have the same beneficial levels of these nutrients. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of gluten in your diet, aim for real, whole foods that are naturally gluten free such as quinoa, brown rice, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.

LESS NUTRITION

Gluten free baked goods typically use flour replacements that provide less nutrition than whole grain flours. These replacements are usually low in nutrients and high in carbohydrates. Tapioca starch, cornstarch, and potato starch are three ingredients commonly used to replace wheat (or other glutenous grain) flour(s) in gluten free food items.

  • Tapioca starch –¬†often used as a thickener, however it contains no nutritional benefits and is over 88% carbohydrates by weight.
  • Cornstarch –¬†very low in dietary fiber and contains negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals. An added challenge with cornstarch is that the corn may be genetically modified which present additional health challenges.
  • Potato starch – frequently¬†used as a thickener, contains little nutritional value while having a very high starch content. Another issue with potato starch is that potatoes are¬†increasingly being genetically modified. ¬†Currently there are five different varieties that have been modified.

DIGESTIVE UPSET

Gluten is a very important part of many food products, especially for bread. Gluten is like a ‚Äúglue‚ÄĚ that helps food products stick together so they aren‚Äôt crumbly and fall apart. The gluten in grains such as wheat¬†allows it to rise and have a fluffy consistency rather than being dense and flat.¬† In order to compensate for the lack of “glue” in gluten-free products manufacturers¬†use¬†gums ¬†to give the¬†dough a sticky consistency. The most commonly used gums are xanthan gum (used as a thickener, emulsifier, and food stabilizer), guar gum (a thickening, stabilizing, suspending, and binding agent), and locust bean gum (used for thickening and gelling). ¬†While these gums are generally safe for consumption, because they¬†are mostly indigestible fiber they often cause side effects such as intestinal gas and bloating. Some of these additive gums, such as xanthan gum, can be sourced from corn or soy (two highly GMO crops) which would be another reason to avoid them.

LESS VITAMINS MORE SUGAR

Just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it is a healthy choice, low in calories, or low in carbohydrates. Actually many processed gluten free foods are less healthy in that they have more calories and sugar than regular foods. Many gluten replacement foods are actually not only low in nutrients, they’re very high in carbohydrates.  Because these carbohydrates are highly processed they are foods that can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.  This is a significant difference from gluten-free whole grain products such as quinoa or amaranth which, because they are whole grains, do not have the same effect on blood sugars.

As an example, a Consumer Reports comparison of a regular blueberry muffin with a gluten free blueberry muffin found that the gluten free muffin contained 30 more calories and 7 more grams of sugar.  

Regular muffin: 340 calories, 17 g fat, 24 g sugar
GF muffin:          370 calories, 13 g fat, 31 g sugar

Whole grains are a good source of many nutrients especially the B vitamins, iron, and fiber. It’s important to understand that even gluten free grains when consumed in their whole grain form provide a high level of nutrients.  It is the processing that damages, or reduces, the micronutrient levels while increasing carbohydrates.  Gluten-free grains include:  quinoa, teff, amaranth, rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, and oats.

Check out this slideshow of popular gluten-free food products

ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS

Just because a food item is gluten free doesn‚Äôt mean that it is free from artificial colors, artificial ingredients, or preservatives. If you‚Äôre trying to eat gluten free, make sure you read the label. Rather than relying on gluten-free versions of cakes, cookies, crackers, cereals, and other starchy crutch foods, it is best to find whole foods that are naturally gluten free. Whole foods which¬†aren‚Äôt processed are more¬†likely be free from artificial additives. ¬†It’s important to remember that gluten-free isn‚Äôt the magic pill to a clean and healthy diet. ¬†Choosing vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds,¬†fruits, fish, and lean meats will provide the healthiest options.

Nordic Diet

There’s a new diet trend that appears set to take the world by storm, the Nordic Diet. It appears to be a Scandinavian take on the concepts of the Mediterranean Diet. According to a study published in The Journal of Internal Medicine it lowered cholesterol and inflammation among study participants who followed the plan for 18 weeks. ¬†Without a doubt there will shortly be a book, a cookbook, several websites with recipes, and a new crowd of enthusiasts. ¬†That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it may not be the right thing for everyone.

The diet does allow for whole grains, primarily rye, barley, and oats, as well as low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, game meats (like moose), fruits, berries, vegetables, and canola oil. While new diet plans always garner a lot of excitement it’s important to remember that there is no one size fits all diet. We are bio-individual creatures and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. If someone is gluten intolerant they need to avoid the rye and barley (and source gluten free oats) allowed in this nutritional plan. Just because it’s part of the diet doesn’t mean it’s the right choice if your body can’t handle it.

I do have a couple of thoughts about this diet and about food trends in general:

  • The Nordic Diet calls for canola oil. In the United States this is not a good choice as the vast majority of it is contaminated by GMO. Some estimates of contamination and cross-contamination are so high that there are those who believe there is no unmodified canola to be found in the U.S.
  • The diet calls for low-fat dairy. This is not a healthy option. Starting with the fact that dairy is one of our few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be consumed with fat in order for the body to properly utilize it). Vitamin D is also important to help the body properly make use of calcium. When it comes to the old notion that high fat diets cause obesity, recent studies have shown that the opposite is true. In measured studies, those who consumed whole-milk dairy products had reduced risk for obesity.
  • The diet does not, as far as I’ve been able to find, specifically talk about sourcing of food. ¬†While game meat is unlikely to be adulterated¬†with added hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, poultry and fish need to be sustainably sourced. ¬† It’s interesting to note that¬†game meat in general may be gaining some prominence as people seek to avoid meat from animals raised in confined operations.
  • Vegetables and fruits still need to be sourced without pesticide residue and GMO contamination.
  • I imagine that there will be more of a call for root vegetables. ¬†This is a good thing as root vegetables are high vitamins, beta-carotene, and fiber. ¬†[side thought: I’m always surprised when I buy parsnips at the grocery store and the checkout clerk wants to know ¬†what the “white carrots” are.]

With food trends in general I expect we’ll face a year ahead with more, New, BETTER (read tongue in cheek) superfoods that convey all sorts of health benefits. ¬†I’m not a huge fan of seeking those out and quite frankly we have superfoods that are local and easily accessible, there’s no need to keep chasing the latest super ones.

I imagine there will still be some sort of push to get bugs onto the menu and into the grocery stores. ¬†They’re cheap and easy to raise, a quick, convenient source of protein. ¬†I’m not a fan but that’s a personal preference. ¬†I also don’t eat things like squid or eels that doesn’t mean I think they’re dangerous or bad for you. ¬†With anything that we eat we have to look at how it’s raised. ¬†Remember, you are what you eat includes whatever the animal you’re eating ate.

I still believe there’s not enough focus on fermented foods. ¬†These are in a category referred to as functional foods, they have a specific health benefit. ¬†In the case of fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, and lacto-fermented vegetables they add beneficial probiotics to our intestinal tract, helping us to break down our food, boost our immune system and stay healthy. ¬†While I see more and more evidence of some fermented foods I believe we would all benefit from eating more of them. ¬†Ideally we’d learn how to make them at home.

I’d like to believe we’ll continue to see a growing influence of tip-to-tail consumption that will encourage us to eat more fully from the whole animal. ¬†Learning to eat organ meats again, consuming more bone broths, getting away from the white-meat-only-chicken-breast diet that so many of us have become accustomed to.

Whatever nutrition plan lies ahead let’s remember that we need to eat according to the needs of our bio-individual bodies. ¬†Our dietary needs change over time. ¬†We don’t eat the same in our 40’s as we did when we were a toddler or an adolescent. ¬†But however we choose to eat, whatever we’re eating, let’s focus on clean, healthy, sustainably sourced foods rather than jumping from one popular diet plan to another.

photo: PL Przemek

crockpot shredded chicken

Pot Pie Makeover

The comfort of pot pie

One of my favorite meals is pot pie.  When the weather gets cold and wintry, there is nothing more warming and delicious than a pot pie.  It’s also a wonderful convenience dish. Filled with meat and vegetables, it’s a meal in one dish.

What’s in the box?

For many people pot pie is something that comes in a box from the freezer section at the grocery store. While certainly convenient, these tend to come with a variety of ingredients that are not a great choice. Here, for example, is the ingredient list from

Stouffer’s White Meat Chicken Pot Pie:
Water, Chicken Meat White Cooked, Flavor(s) Chicken, Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth Dehydrated,
Food Starch Modified, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum, Dextrose, Flavor(s), Salt, Whey Protein
Concentrate, Mono and Diglycerides, Cream Whipping, Apple(s), Flour Bleached Enriched, Wheat
Flour Bleached Enriched, Carrot(s), Celery, Chicken Fat, Egg(s) Yolks Dried, Niacin, Milk Non-Fat
Dry, Onion(s), Peas, Polysorbate 80, Iron Reduced, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Chicken Base, Contains BHA,
Contains BHT, Canola Oil, Caramel, Corn Syrup Solids, Lard, Maltodextrin, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),
Soy Lecithin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Corn Starch Modified

44 ingredients! Going through this list one by one would be a rather long endeavor so I’ll skip to the chase and point out that there are GMO’s, lots of chemicals, known carcinogens, possible MSG, probably pesticides, and potentially heavy metals in this box.  There’s also a nasty ingredient called carrageenan which can cause intestinal distress and has some other unpleasant side effects. Not very tasty in my book.

So what’s the answer?  

For me it’s making my own pot pie.  14 simple real food ingredients (15 if you include the seasoning on the meat).

Before when making pot pies I used to cook a chicken or a turkey and then dice up the leftover meat to use in a pot pie.  Certainly a convenient way to make use of the leftover meat, but rather time consuming.  Recently I had an epiphany.  Why not shred the meat instead.  I theorized that the shredded meat would be just as nice in the pot pie, but could potentially be made much easier than having to roast a bird, carve off the meat and then cut it up.

Using my crockpot, one of my favorite kitchen appliances, I made shredded meat overnight.  I actually wanted to try making pot pie and chili with shredded meat so I cooked enough meat for both dishes.  Using two turkey breasts and six chicken thighs (to get a good mix of white and dark meat), I put them in the crockpot with seasonings (I used Kirkland’s No Salt Seasoning and some fresh ground pepper) and 1/4 cup of nourishing broth.  I let it cook on low all night.  In the morning when I got up the meat was fully cooked and so tender that it shredded without any difficulty simply using two forks.  

Sidenote:  I use my crockpot overnight on a fairly regular basis.  I figure just because I’m asleep doesn’t mean my crockpot can’t be working for me.  Nourishing broth, soaking beans, overnight cereal, marinara sauce, all kinds of things work well in the crockpot overnight to be ready to use when you wake up in the morning.

Updating your pot pie

As much as I like pot pie, over the years I’ve become less and less enamored of the idea of eating my meals encased in a crust of dough, especially a gluten based dough.  Although it’s possible to make gluten-free pie crust, I’m not very good at it (and not particularly interested in spending the time on it these days).  So I’ve come up with an alternative.  I make dumplings and serve that as the top “crust.”  It’s delicious without being overwhelming in the way of simple carbs. It also requires a little less labor.  The dumplings are great because they provide just the right amount of toothsomeness to the pot pie; the right balance to top off the delicious filling.

Here’s my basic-ish recipe for a pot pie.  This recipe is for mushrooms and peas because that’s what I had on hand when I made it last.  Usually the vegetable part of a pot pie is somewhat flexible which is one of the things that makes it such a wonderful dish to have in your repertoire. The recipe does include bone broth which makes it tastier and more nourishing.  Enjoy!

GF Dumpling Pot Pie
Print
Ingredients
  1. Gluten Free Dumpling Crusted Pot Pie
  2. 10-12 baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  3. 2 T. organic butter
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour (these days I'm using Namaste and really like it)
  5. 1 C. nourishing broth
  6. 2 C. whole fat organic milk
  7. 1 heaping t. dried onion
  8. 1/2 t. dried thyme
  9. 1 t. sea salt
  10. 3 C. shredded chicken
  11. 2 C. peas, frozen or fresh
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish
  3. Melt butter in a large sauce pan
  4. Add mushrooms and stir gently until mushroom soften
  5. Add flour and toss gently, coating mushrooms
  6. Add broth and milk, stirring well to incorporate fully and bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat and add onions, salt, and thyme, cook 5-7 minutes until sauce begins to thicken
  8. Add meat and peas
  9. Top with dumpling crust
  10. Bake 30-35 minutes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
GF Dumpling
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup gluten free flour
  2. 2 t. baking powder
  3. 1 t. dried parsley
  4. 1/2 t. dried dill
  5. 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/4 cup organic butter
  8. 1/2 cup whole fat organic milk
Instructions
  1. Combine flour, baking soda, and seasonings mixing well
  2. Slice butter into thin pats and then blend into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal
  3. Add in milk and combine fully until it forms a dough
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto top of filling
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Is Gluten The Problem?


More and more people appear to be sensitive to gluten. While gluten sensitivity is different than celiac disease, it is still problematic and can cause immense digestive distress, bloating, unexplained rashes, migraines,¬†¬†fatigue/fogginess, unexplained weight loss (or gain), joint pain…and more. ¬†Believe it or not, eating gluten can trigger more than 300 different symptoms for those who are sensitive.

I have been fortunate enough to hear Dr. Tom O’Brien speak three times. ¬†Believe me when I tell you that he is passionate about gluten. ¬†He has made it part of his personal mission to move the question ‘is gluten causing my health problems’ into the light and into conversations between patients and healthcare professionals.

Now he’s stepping it up and presenting a free seminar from November 11-17. ¬†Each day there will be 3-4 seminars available on-demand for 24 hours.

According to information on his website :

The Gluten Summit will:

РBring the latest research to the public eye with interpretation from Dr. O’Bryan;

– Call more attention to gluten-related disorders;

– Potentially improve diagnosis and treatment in practice;

– Teach better practices for safely eating outside of the home;

– Encourage more clinicians, practitioners and patients to ask, ‚ÄúCould it be gluten?‚ÄĚ

The lineup of speakers is absolutely amazing. ¬†It’s hard to believe that all of these speakers are available for free simply by signing up for this event:¬†

Prof. Michael Marsh

Dr. Loren Cordain

Dr. Alessio Fasano

Dr. Umberto Volta

Dr. Aristo Vojdani

J.J. Virgin

Dr. Mark Hyman

Jeffery Smith

Dr. Deanna Minich

Dr. Yehuda Shoenfeld

Dr. David Perlmutter

Dr. Daniel Amen

Suzy Cohen

Dr. Mark Houston

Dr. Rodney Ford

Andrew Keech

Erica Kasuli

Cynthia Kupper

Dr. Liz Lipski

Dr. William Davis

Melinda Dennis

Dave Asprey

Nora Gedgaudas

Dr. Peter Osborne

Jaqui Karr

Sayer Ji

Tom Malterre

Dr. Marios Hadjivassiliou

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

As more and more people struggle with issues related to gluten sensitivity it’s important to learn what you need to know and can do to better support your health. ¬†Chances are this issue affects you or someone you know.

Full disclosure – I believe in what Dr. O’Brien is presenting so much, and I’m a huge fan of so many of these speakers (and have heard a number of them speak before — they’re good!) ¬†that I’ve signed up to be an affiliate and am sharing this information. ¬†I’m hoping to reach as many of you as possible so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to hear what these folks have to say. ¬†You can sign up for free here.

Why Gluten Free Sourdough?

Today’s post is from Sharon Kane, the very talented baker and author of The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking. ¬†In this article she shares her journey from sourdough consumer to someone with multiple food sensitivities who needed to find an alternative. ¬†During her long journey to learn how to make gluten-free sourdough bread Sharon was focused on making it as nutritious as possible by continuing to use whole grain flours. ¬†It is important to note that many gluten free products currently on the market are made with enriched and nutritionally deficient flours. ¬†They are also often not soaked and, as she explains below, this is an important part of the process which helps to make the end result more nutritious.

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 10.00.17 PMSourdough baking is a time-tested bread baking technique that was used exclusively until the discovery of modern commercial yeast. The technique utilizes the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the grain, and in the air, to leaven bread. Sourdough bread becomes highly digestible because the flours are fermented or ‚Äúsoaked‚ÄĚ in the starter as well as in the long rise period.

Some people may remember their grandparents soaking oatmeal the night before cooking it for breakfast. Soaking neutralizes natural enzyme inhibitors in the grain, begins breaking down the tough cellulose fibers, fosters the formation of probiotics and enzymes and releases vitamins. All this makes for a more nutritious finished product that is easy on the digestion with many nutrients available for assimilation. Sourdough breads have a robust taste, long shelf life and freeze well.

I became successful at making sourdough rye bread and happily ate the bread for a few years. Then I learned I was gluten intolerant and could no longer eat my beloved rye sourdough bread. I also learned I was highly sensitive to eggs, dairy, soy and commercial yeast.

Wanting to continue eating good bread, I went to the market and saw that all the retail gluten-free breads contained one or more of the ingredients I needed to avoid. I realized that if I wanted bread I needed to be able to control the ingredients and the baking technique.

I began experimenting with gluten-free flours using the rye technique as a guide.  My parameters were:

  • Use gluten-free whole grain flours
  • Minimize the use of high starch flour
  • Use only simple food ingredients so no xanthan or guar gums nor baking powder or soda
  • Minimize the use of all sweeteners
  • Use high quality oils, fats and flavorings

I began experimenting with the sourdough techniques I had mastered for the rye bread and it took one whole year to make a successful bread! Five more years of research and development led me to use different flour combinations and different types of breads.

This type of baking is different from conventional gluten-free baking and is also different from conventional sourdough baking. There is a bit of a learning curve to this technique however many people have mastered it and are happily eating nutritious gluten-free sourdough bread from recipes that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, yeast, peanuts, baking powder/soda, and xanthan and guar gums.

Don’t forget to stop by The Art of Gluten Free Sourdough Baking¬†for a FREE sourdough starter recipe.

On My Mind Monday 7.02.12

news | photo:  mconnors

It’s never the same two weeks in a row. ¬†A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, health and holistic living. ¬†Read what’s on my mind.

Tending the Body’s Microbial Garden – It seems that mainstream science is beginning to realize that wholesale, repeated slaughter of our intestinal flora may not be such a good thing. Holistic practitioners have been saying for decades that supporting the gut is key to supporting health. Starting with a baby’s first inoculation via the birth process to our exposures we build a hopefully healthy intestinal eco-system. ¬†When we take antibiotics and wipe out both good and bad bacteria there are negative health effects that accumulate from this overarching destruction. ¬† I’m glad to see that mainstream science is beginning to recognize the benefits of a healthy digestive system. ¬†If you want to learn more consider reading Liz Lipski’s amazing book, Digestive Wellness.

Meat Without Drugs – For those Omnivore and Flexitarian eaters out there this is a huge deal. ¬†The FDA has known for decades that the producers in the meat industry over-use antibiotics in order to keep their animals healthy in spite of overcrowding and filthy conditions. ¬†The problem is that those antibiotics are still present in the meat when you eat it, leading to a regular low level exposure. ¬†Over 70% of all antibiotic use in this country is in animal feed. ¬†That’s an astounding number. ¬†It appears that this situation may also be one of the leading causes behind antibiotic resistant bacteria. ¬†We are essentially inoculating our bodies over and over again. ¬†You can avoid eating meat with antibiotics in it by purchasing organic, purchasing meat labeled “raised without antibiotics”, or purchasing directly from a farmer that you trust. ¬†And support this campaign, sign the pledge.

More than honeybees РIt turns out the dangers from our damage to the environment are affecting more than just honeybees.  One big takeaway from this article is how the loss of meadows and wildflower habitats is affecting the bee population.  They need to have a wide mixture of plants available for foraging.  All the spaces that we consider weedy and remove or cover over or control by mono-cropping are exactly the spaces needed by the bees.  And we need them to pollinate our food.  It is, after all, an eco-system and one which we need to respect.

Olive Oil and Slippery Politics – sadly it’s not just in this country that politics and corporate aims challenge the issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility. ¬†Unfortunately this compounds the situation already clouded by adulteration of olive oil. ¬†To my mind the solution is simple and straightforward. ¬†Stop adulterating the product, support small farmers, accept that this is a regional product that does best when produced sustainably. ¬†However the EU’s solution is to create an overwhelmingly tragic repeat of what has happened to the dairy industry in this country by paying farmers to stock a reserve which will at some point no longer be acceptable for consumption. ¬†It’s difficult as consumers to know what makes a good choice for olive oil, to know who is not adulterating and who is not being squeezed out (sorry) by corporate interests. ¬†I know of a few producers that I believe sell a clean, quality product if you are interested in purchasing your olive oil for quality and purity. ¬†Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf, TX, Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs, TX, and the Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, CA. ¬†High quality olive oil costs more, but you can tell by the flavor that you are getting an amazing product.

Farm to Dumpster – So much of our food is wasted. ¬†In a world where there is growing disparity between the food haves and the food have-nots this is a deep shame. ¬†In a world where food costs are rising this is sad. ¬†In a world where the environment is stressed and global warming is a reality, this is just wrong. ¬†We need to do better. ¬†We need to be more mindful about our food and how we use it. ¬†Learn more and make changes….start with Jonathan Bloom’s excellent book, American Wasteland.

What I’m Reading:

Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Mardone – This book was on a friend’s cookbook shelf and she pulled it down to share a recipe that she particularly liked with me. ¬†Flipping through the pages it looked amazing and, more than that, delicious. ¬†I am one of those people who truly does READ a cookbook. ¬†Reading through the pages of this one is a journey through foods that signify comfort and love. ¬†But they come without gluten and dairy, a huge issue for many people. ¬†I was so inspired by this book that before I was done reading it I ran to the grocery store to buy the gluten free flours to make Sivlana’s mix. ¬†The one issue with her mix is the use of Xanthan Gum which is a binding agent. ¬†Some people can be very sensitive to it and suffer from flatulence or bloating when eating it. ¬†I haven’t experimented enough with the mix and the recipes to know if it’s okay to leave it out but I must say the recipes I’ve tried so far have all been amazing.

Contact me to learn how you can $ave on high quality supplements


disclaimer:  cmp.ly/5

Understanding Gluten Free

gluten free rice flour | photo: Andrea Nguyen

I’ve realized that I need to put together this post on gluten free. ¬†I’ve been writing about the topic for a while but mostly in smaller posts either on Facebook or Twitter. ¬†But there still seems to be some confusion out there about gluten so I’m answering a number of questions and putting it all in one place.

Let’s start with what is gluten? ¬†Gluten is a composite of gliadin and glutenin and is the active protein which makes flours sticky enough to rise when baked into ¬†bread products. ¬†The more gluten there is in a grain the more stretchy the flour made from that grain will be, and the more it can rise.

What’s the big deal about gluten? ¬†For those who have autoimmune disorders such as Celiac Disease or an IgA deficiency eating gluten can provoke an inflammatory body response and is very damaging to the intestinal system. It can cause a wide range of digestive difficulties including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, pain, and damage to the intestinal tissues. ¬†Additionally many people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis) find that they do not do well when they eat gluten.

Trudy Scott, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution notes in her book that there are a number of clinical studies showing that gluten can also provoke anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.  Trudy provides easy to understand instructions for a gluten elimination challenge on her blog.

Which grains have gluten?  Fewer grains are glutinous than non-glutinous; they are easy to remember using the mnemonic BROWS. That stands for Barley, Rye, Oats, Wheat, and Spelt. While oats do not contain gluten they are often grown near, stored with or transported with grains that do contain gluten so there is a concern regarding cross contamination.  Therefore many people who need to avoid gluten choose to buy certified gluten free oats.  All of the other grains do not have gluten; these include quinoa, teff, amaranth, corn, rice, buckwheat, and millet.

Gluten free does not mean low carb РI have heard that there are some people who think that if a product is gluten free that also means it is low carb.  Grains by their nature are higher in carbohydrates; so gluten free grains (any grains really) do not qualify as low carb.  It is important to note that some grains are lower in carbohydrates than others.

Gluten free does not mean whole grain – Sadly many people in the search for gluten free don’t stop to consider that the healthiest way to eat grains is in their whole form. ¬†A whole grain contains the outer bran, the endosperm, and the innermost germ where the beneficial oils are. ¬†Unfortunately many gluten free products available on the market are not made with whole grains. ¬†They are made primarily with the starchy endosperm. ¬†Whole grains are important as the fiber and the germ help to slow down how quickly your body can absorb the simple carbohydrate of the endosperm and also helps to balance blood sugar levels. ¬†The fiber is also important for digestive and bowel health. ¬†Eating a diet high in simple carbohydrates can cause weight gain, intestinal problems, and other health problems.

Gluten free is NOT a weight loss plan – I am not certain how this concept got it’s start. ¬†The only supposition I have (and this is my personal thought, not substantiated as yet by any studies) is that people who went gluten free and lost weight did so either because they lost the “false fat” from inflammation, or because they changed their entire nutritional plan. ¬†By being mindful of the gluten in their food they were also mindful of other aspects of their eating which in turn lead to weight loss.

Gluten free for athletes – This appears to be true. ¬†While there are currently no definitive studies regarding this issue it seems many athletes are going gluten free and finding that they feel better and anectdotally report better performance. ¬†Articles about gluten free athletic performance have appeared in magazines such as Men’s Health. ¬†And according to the website The Gluten-Free Athlete¬†a number of professional athletes are following this diet. ¬†If you are interested in trying this you can either stop eating gluten and see how you do, or consider taking using Trudy’s gluten elimination challenge.

How pervasive is gluten РPeople who need to avoid gluten because of health issues need to be aware of the fact that gluten not only appears in food but also in many personal care products.  Our skin is our largest body organ and anything we put on it gets into our system.  Gluten can be found in lipstick, lotions, moisturizers, and shampoo products.  It is important that you read the ingredients on these labels as well as on your food if you need to avoid gluten.

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

Overnight breakfast success

Recently I received an email from Susan who wrote in wanting to know if I had any great recipes for breakfast.  She had seen the crockpot granola I shared and was intrigued by my idea of using the crockpot to cook breakfast over night.  I love using my crockpot for all different kind of recipes.  And really, there’s no reason not to use it.  Crockpots are simple to use easy to clean up, and an energy efficient way to cook.
 
And they’re not just for dinner. There’s nothing better than coming downstairs to a nice hot breakfast, ready and waiting. But you didn’t have to cook it. Because you made it in the crockpot. After all, if you’re willing to leave it on all day to make dinner, why not leave it on overnight to make breakfast? Especially when you’re cooking for a crowd. After all if you’ve got a house full of guests that’s the time you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking anyway. So let your crockpot do all the work and you’ll look like a kitchen star.
 
This casserole is one we enjoy. While it takes a little bit of prep time it’s so delicious and totally worth it. 
 
Sweet potato crockpot breakfast casserole
Print
Ingredients
  1. Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
  2. 2 large sweet potatoes, washed and shredded
  3. 1 onion, chopped
  4. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 3 tablespoon coconut oil
  7. 1 pound cooked meat - organic and preservative free
  8. 1 cup shredded cheese - we prefer white cheddar
  9. 1 dozen organic eggs
  10. 1 cup whole organic milk
  11. 1 teaspoon herbs of choice - suggestions include oregano, basil, chives, thyme, but you can use whatever you prefer
  12. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  13. 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Grease inside of crock
  2. In a pan saute potatoes in 2 tablespoons coconut oil until starting to brown, remove and set aside
  3. In remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil saute onion, peppers and garlic until warmed through and starting to soften
  4. Layer in the crock 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 vegetables, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, repeat layers, top layer will be cheese
  5. Mix together eggs, milk, herbs, salt and pepper
  6. Gently pour egg mixture over layers in crock
  7. Cook on low 8-10 hours (or overnight) until eggs are set
Notes
  1. Delicious served with a little salsa on top
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
 

Gluten Free Holidays

christmas cookies | photo:  Till Westermayer

For those who have to avoid gluten the holidays can present a particular challenge.  Especially the winter holidays.  Most of the traditional foods are cakes and cookies, made with wheat, rye, or barley, all grains which contain gluten.

If you’re trying to figure out some delicious gluten-free holiday options here’s a roundup of some of my favorites found around the web:

    • The Art of Gluten Free Baking has an amazing list of mouthwatering recipes. ¬†Honestly it’s so good I could stop here and it would be enough.
    • But that would mean you’d miss the yumminess found over at Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef
    • I love fruitcake (really) and it’s just not the holidays without it. ¬†So here’s a¬†fruitcake recipe.
    • Not a fan of fruitcake? ¬†How about pannetone? ¬†It’s amazing and delicious, sweet and rich, and definitely worth making.
    • I love biscotti, but never more than at the holidays. ¬†Don’t know why it just seems to go together for me.
    • Then there’s gluten free gingerbread men, gingerbread cake, and soft gingerbread cookies.
    • Of course it’s not a Christmas morning without pancakes
    • And for those who are Jewish there’s¬†latkes and sufganiyot.
    • Last but not least, don’t forget the pie crust¬†for those holiday pies(and you can get some coupon deals from Cooking.com while you’re there)