20 November 2007

celiac thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be the most depressing holiday for a celiac. It's a whole day that centers around food. And no one wants to feel left out of the festivities. Part of being a celiac isn't just the food, it's the psychology of standing out in a crowd or having to worry about every bite. I've found that I hate standing out with the "special meal." I want to fit in and eat the same food as everyone else. Thus, the most comforting thing for me is being invited to the home of someone who is aware of the simple steps that can be taken to make a gluten-free Thanksgiving that's delicious for everyone.

Turkey. Make sure it's gluten-free. It seems like a no-brainer, but some turkeys are injected with, I don't know, delicious turkey flavor I guess. Whatever it is, some of those injection juices contain gluten, so check the ingredients on the turkey before you buy it.

Stuffing. If you absolutely must serve grandma's traditional bread stuffing, bake it on the side rather than in the turkey. Gluten can be transferred. If you want to stuff the bird, use a rice stuffing or a pure cornbread stuffing. Check those packages of cornbread mix--some add regular flour. Make sure the cornbread is made from pure cornmeal or corn flour. If you add sausage to the stuffing, make sure it's a GF sausage. Sometimes wheat is used as a filler. MSG is okay, though. It's not gluten, it's a corn-based additive.

Gravy. Use cornstarch instead of regular flour.

Potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. They are inherently gluten-free. If you're adding sour cream or cream cheese to mashed potatoes, though, check to make sure modified food starch is not on the ingredients list.

Cranberry sauce. Check the cans and tubs for wheat, modified food starch, or suspicious "natural flavoring".

Rolls and bread. These can be tricky because most GF bread just isn't as good as the regular stuff. (Although in my family those terrible, tasteless snowflake rolls were always served. I've learned to just skip the rolls altogether.) It's one thing I'd rather politely decline than eat a GF substitute.

Dessert. Traditional pies take a little effort. But I think it's worth it. The celiac doesn't want to be eating plain old GF cookies while everyone else digs in to pumpkin pie. At Whole Foods and many other specialty health food stores you can buy GF pies frozen. Some health food stores also contract with local bakeries for fresh pies. GF pie crust mixes and recipes are readily available if you want to bake your own.

Appetizers/snacks. Corn chips are safe as well as vegetable crudites. Make sure dips are free of modified food starch and wheat. Have two cheese plates: one with GF crackers and one with regular crackers.

If the celiac or the parents of the celiac are making the bulk of the meal, I'm sure you'll be making it gluten-free and none of the non-GF guests will even notice. If you are inviting celiac guests and they ask if they can bring something, tell them "Yes!" Celiacs need to be assured that we have control over some of our food.

This year I've been asked to bring a dessert and I think I'll go with my carrot cake. The cream cheese icing is so sweet and decadant! I know that GF crackers will be present and the stuffing will be rice. (I'm not a huge gravy fan, but I know it will be made with cornstarch anyway.)

I give thanks to my friends and family members who help make my life a little easier when it comes to eating.

(Cross-posted at Where in the World Am I?

11 November 2007

arico almond cranberry cookies

Arico Almond Cranberry Cookies. I'm always suspicious of "health food" cookies. I don't buy in to the marketing copy about soulful, mindful snacking, breathing deep to enjoy the essence of the citrus zest and all that stuff. So I was suspicious of the hippie marketing on this bag of cookies as well. (It's all on the back. The front of the bag fools you into thinking it's a modern industrial cookie.)

But I love cookies in general so I had to give them a try. These are surprisingly tasty little cookies. Arico promises "moist & chewy," and they do a pretty good job. They were moister and chewier than I expected and the ziploc bag keeps the cookies fresh for several days after opening. I was impressed at the lack of dry crumbliness.

They have lots of strong almond and cranberry flavor and they are fairly sweet. They use the hip new "health food" sweetener agave nectar. Arico prides itself on high-quality organic ingredients for making gluten-free and dairy-free snacks. (They go so far as to note the eggs are cage-free on the ingredients list. Don't get me started on the "cage-free" myth.) They have several varieties of cookies, including chocolate, and Arico also produces snack bars. I have only tried the Almond Cranberry cookies.

I bought these at Whole Foods. The Store Locator on the Arico website does not appear to be current, since Whole Foods didn't appear on the list. You can buy the cookies in bulk directly from the Arico site or call your nearest health food store.

I'll continue to buy these one or two packages at a time. It's nice to have a fruity cookie on hand in the pantry for tea time. (If we end up moving to Africa next year I'll probably buy a case or two from Arico.)

(Image from Arico Foods website.)

dolce senza grano tortes

Dolce Senza Grano tortes
"Sweet without wheat" is what it says on these frozen cakes at Trader Joe's. I tried the tiramisu torte and the black forest torte. I preferred the black forest, but it's low on cherries. You may want to consider serving with some canned or fresh cherries or some other fruit sauce or compote. The tiramisu is tasty, but the cream left a funny, sticky feeling on the roof of my mouth. Both of these are sickeningly sweet, creamy, cakey, and gooey, just as you'd want a decadant dessert to be. While neither are as good as baked from scratch, these will do in a dessert pinch.

These cakes come frozen and the box instructions recommend thawing for 4 hours in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature. I did one in the fridge and found that 4 hours wasn't quite long enough. Two hours on the countertop was fine for the other cake. These are both a little messy to serve, especially the black forest. The little chocolate shavings fall off the top and get all over the place. While you can take a slice and put the rest in a large ziploc bag and back in the fridge, the messiness may put you off that strategy. (But they will keep well in the fridge for a few days.) I suspect these are best eaten in one sitting, like at the end of a dinner party.

They do not try to mask themselves as health food. They are full of dairy, sugar, and fat. But no gluten.

I bought these at Trader Joe's and I haven't seen them anyplace else. They are imported from Italy. Trader Joe's rotates its stock often so before you make a trip specifically for one of these cakes, give them a call.

(Click on the photo to see the larger size on flickr.)

glutino chocolate dreams

Glutino Chocolate Dreams -- I'd say they're more like chocolate passing thoughts. When I imagine chocolate dreams, I imagine much richer, thicker, higher-quality chocolate. But these are good little cookes. The cookie is dry and best when dipped in a glass of milk or cup of tea. The frosting in the middle is super-sweet, like the filling in some of those generic sandwich-cream cookies that it seems like you always had a grandma or older aunt who would buy them instead of Oreos.

Ingredients include corn starch, soy flour, and cocoa. The box warns they may contain traces of tree nuts and milk. (But what doesn't give a warning like that nowadays?)

I found them at Whole Foods and they can be purchased from a number of online merchants.

They come in little packages, 2 to a pack. But note that the nutritional information says that a serving size is 3 cookies. You have to eat a smaller serving size or a larger one, because no one in their right mind would open one of those little packs and eat just one cookie from it. Unless you are a parent who puts just one pack in your kid's lunchbox and doesn't let her read the serving size information. These would be handy for a road-trip, too, because you can easily put a pack or two in your day bag.

03 November 2007

pumpkin seeds

My Pumpkin

If you carved a pumpkin this week, then you had a bunch of pumpkin seeds laying around afterward. I've always loved roasting them for a post-carving snack.

I wanted to say a little more than "spread on tray and put in oven" for this post, so I turned to Wikipedia for some pumpkin seed info. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of stuff that's good for us: iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. There's also new research showing that they are high in tryptophan. So when you're feeling jittery from eating all that trick-or-treating loot, down a handful of pumpkin seeds to help you relax.

There are various "favorite" ways for preparing pumpkin seeds. I separated mine from the pulp and rinsed them in a colander. Then I forgot about them and left them to dry overnight in the sink. The next morning I spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and lightly salted them. I baked them at 350 for about 15 minutes. They were crispy and light brown on the outside and just a little chewy on the inside.

First I ate them by the handful while they were still warm from the oven. Later in the day I mixed some with sweetened dried cranberries for a sweet and salty snack. Then I topped a green salad with the last of them.

Why do I only do this once or twice a year? I only roast them when I've cut up a pumpkin for some reason. It's just not the same to buy them from the store. I like to get my hands in the pumpkin guts.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. This is a weekly event that collects recipes for herbs and vegetables, sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen. This week it's being hosted by Kalyn herself, so head over on Monday to check out the weekly recap of recipes. Kalyn has begun the countdown to Thanksgiving... speaking of tryptophan.



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