Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gluten Free on the Road

One of the biggest challenges with being gluten free is figuring out what to eat when traveling and on the road.  Of course, you can bring your own food, but that only goes so far, especially if you are taking a very long road trip as we recently did.   We drove 1400 miles in 2 days.  It was exhausting, but even worse was trying to figure out what was gluten free while eating away from home.  The sad fact is that most people don't have a clue what "gluten free" means, and it can be very hard to get a list of ingredients from restaurants.  Gluten seems to lurk in so many hidden sauces and other items, that it can seem very overwhelming at first..

In previous road trips, we would use quick restaurant stops as  a fun way to break up the monotony of driving mile after mile and hour after hour.  However, stopping for a quick bite to eat is quite different when one can't consume a major ingredient found in many foods.
Of course you can bring your own food, but that gets pretty boring after awhile.  Plus, refrigeration can be an issue...a cooler packed with ice and cold packs isn't going to keep food really cold for longer than a few hours. When you're on the road for over 12 hours a day, it just may not cut it.

What we ended up doing is bringing along enough foods and snacks for two meals and then stopping and eating out for the 3rd meal of the day.  

We brought the following foods
  • homemade trail mix (with raisins, peanuts, cashews, and hard-shell chocolate candies (this was one of our treats). 
  • rice cakes with peanut butter
  • EnviroKidz Organic Gorilla Munch Cereal  (yes, this isn't very frugal, we almost NEVER eat cereals due to cost...but again road trips are a splurge and an exception for us)
  •  apple, carrots and bananas
  • water bottles.
Of course, the most important, useful thing we brought on our trip was a book very similar to Next Exit only specific to the interstate we traveled on.  This book was such a gem.  We could look ahead and see where we could find a specific restaurant (that we knew had gluten-free items) or a even a grocery store or walmart where we could buy things like cheese, yogurt, fruits, raw vegetables, etc.  

The key for us was planning.  Having an idea of which restaurants had gluten-free menu items (in our budget) and then combining that knowledge with Next Exit to find those restaurants or stores was so, so helpful.

Of course, once you reach your destination, the difficulties don't stop there..but at least things are a bit easier.  And, unfortunately, we have had a few mistakes, a few slip-ups that left us feeling the effects a few days later (but on the same token, it was only another confirmation that we needed a gluten-free diet for health reasons).

So, if you are embarking this summer on a long road trip have safe and happy travels and hopefully this post will make it just a bit easier to be gluten-free while on your trip!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gluten Free Banana Bread (vegan!)

I'm not fact we LOVE eggs and dairy, but I know that many people who are unable to tolerate gluten are also not able to tolerate eggs or dairy, so I wanted to get some baked good recipes up that would apply to them.  Plus, we are running low on eggs and milk right now, so I wanted to find a recipe that didn't use those ingredients.

This is a very delicious, dessert-y banana bread.  We all really enjoyed it and actually devoured it pretty fast.  And, if has chocolate chips in basically can't go wrong with chocolate chips, right?

Gluten Free Banana Bread (vegan!)

1 cup white rice flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (can be omitted for those with allergies)
3 very ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup sugar 
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup oil (you can use coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, nut oil, etc.)

Mix dry ingredients (except nuts and chocolate chips).  In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix.  Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.   Bake in a greased loaf pan for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until done.

Enjoy your vegan gluten free banana bread!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sweetness and Light

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain

Most of you already know this I am sure.   I think just about all health-conscious person (which includes my esteemed readers) are aware of the fact that high fructose corn syrup (which is in just about all processed foods) is bad.     

However, this leads us to the question, which sweeteners are good...or at least not as bad?    I think most everyone can agree that refined sugar isn't that great for you.  After all, refined sugar, is well...refined.  That means processed. 

It can be very confusing, sorting out all the different types of sweetners on the market....granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses and blackstrap molasses, honey and raw honey, maple syrup, stevia, splenda, aspartame, turbinado, rapadura, sucanat, agave nectar. It's enough to give anyone a headache. 

Personally, I am a fan (to use facebook terminology) of keeping things as natural as possible....this means sweeteners which are mainly unprocessed and whole.

Of course, the most "whole" sweetener out there is honey...if you can get raw honey, it's basically going straight from the beehive to your mouth.   There are a whole host of health benefits of honey....everything from treating burns to anti-bacterial properties.  Raw honey is "best" but of course also more expensive, so in our current situation, we need to make-do with just regular honey.  Many of my baking recipies use honey.

Rapadura is also a very "whole" sweetener.  Historically sugar was made by pressing the juice from the cane and boiling away the water. The product retained its critical vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients.  Yes, you read that right, sugar actually has some vitamins, minerals and nutrients in it.

Turbinado sugar is slightly more processed than rapadura, but it still retains some nutrients, the difference being that turbinado has been centrifuged slightly to remove the molasses.

Speaking of molasses, it is one of the most healthy, nutrient-dense sweetners, especially blackstrap molasses which is high in iron. Blackstrap molasses is actually good for you.

Brown sugar contains molasses, which therefore makes it a bit healthier than white sugar, depending on how refined the sugar actually was. Needless to say, most commonly available brown sugar is pretty highly-refined. Nonetheless, brown sugar is still a slightly better than option than white sugar, since it is *less refined*.

Maple syrup is also a "whole food", going basically from the tree to your mouth with only the minimal processing of boiling off the water.  Real maple syrup also has important health benefits.

I also wanted to touch on agave nectar.  While many people market agave nectar as a "healthy sweetener" similar to honey, it is actually very highly processed and  some claim it is worse than HFCS.

The last category of sweeteners to discuss is "non-nutritive" sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, sugar alcohols, etc).  I think the title pretty much sums it up, anything which is non-nutritive must be pretty bad.   Here is an excellent article from the Weston-Price foundation detailing some of the dangers of artificial sweeteners.   The one exception being, stevia, which isn't so bad after all, although some people think there are risks.  Unfortunately it is generally more expensive than other artificial sweeteners, but a much better option, for people (like diabetics) who might need that option.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gluten Free Pumpkin Waffles

We are still without a working oven, and it was one of those days where I had a hankering for something "sweet" for dinner, so I decided to drag out my waffle maker and try my hand at gluten free waffles. 

They were super delicious.  Not overly sweet, but very thick, hearty and filling.  I served them with whipped cream, scrambled eggs and collard greens.  Okay, so collards don't really go with waffles, but veggies are important.   We had to have SOMETHING green and leafy....and well collards where what I had on hand.

The nice thing about gluten free waffles is that waffles are generally made with multiple grains you really don't miss the gluten at all.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Waffles

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.   Spray waffle iron with oil or nonstick cooking spray.   Place about 1/4-1/3 cup of batter on waffle maker and cook according to the directions.

Serve with maple syrup, honey, fruit, whipped cream, yogurt, whatever you like.

Enjoy your gluten free pumpkin waffles!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gluten Free Italian Sausage and Rice Skillet Dinner

My oven has been broken for the past few days!  Yikes!  I'm so dependent on my oven...for baking bread, making snacks, roasting dinners, roasting vegetables.   So, last week when I noticed that it was taking a REALLY LONG time to bake anything, I started to get worried.  When the appliance guy came to look at it he said the bottom coil was broken and he would be back to fix it as soon as the new part came in.  Well, it's Friday, and still no appliance guy, so I'm guessing this means that we'll have another weekend without the oven.

I've had to resort to buying store-bought (gluten) bread for my husband's sandwiches for his work lunch.  GASP! 

Anyway, I've had to get creative in finding new ways to cook, so I decided to try something new and came up with this recipe for an Italian Sausage and Rice Skillet Meal.  I was also trying to use up a few ingredients from my freezer as we are going on vacation in a few weeks, and I didn't want my freezer to have much in it, in case we lost power (always a possibility in FL) while we were away.  Anyway, this is what I came up with, and everyone pretty much loved it!

Gluten Free Italian Sausage and Rice Skillet Dinner

1 ham bone (this is not necessary, I was just trying to use mine up from the freezer.  If you don't have one, skip step 1. in the instructions.)
2 cups of brown rice
5 cups of water
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp orgeano
1 tsp salt
1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked and drained
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella  cheese.

1. Combine ham bone and water in a large pot.  Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until any leftover ham on the bone is falling off.  Remove bone and discard.  

2. Add rest of ingredients except the cheese.  Cover pot and simmer for 45-50 minutes or until rice is done.  Take off heat, add in cheese, and stir until melted.

Enjoy this gluten free Italian Sausage and Rice Skillet Dinner

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Gluten Free 4th of July Cake

Gluten Free 4th of July Cake

I made this for a 4th of July party.  It was super easy, and yummy.  Although, I'm not 100% satisfied with the cake, so I'm going to play with the recipe a bit.  However, I wanted to post it here anyway, since I'm so proud of it. :)  Yes, the last row is a bit crooked, that is because the kids helped. ;)
Gluten Free 4th of July Yellow Cake

1 cup white rice flour (superfine)
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 tsp xanthum gum
1 cup milk
2/3 cup mayonaisse
4 eggs
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Beat sugar with eggs and mayonnaise until frothy.  Add in milk and vanilla and beat well.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Pour into a greased and floured (I use corn flour to flour my pan) 13 x 9 baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until done. 


1/2 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tablepsoons milk (or more).

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in milk and vanilla until right consistency is reached (adding more milk if needed).

Decorate with blueberries and cut strawberries in the shape of an American Flag.

Edited to add:  DON'T add the cut up fruit until right before serving. Otherwise the strawberries will "bleed" out onto the cake a bit. 

Enjoy your gluten free 4th of July cake!