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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Happy 4th of July!

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Hey everyone! I haven’t forgotten about you! This week has been really busy at our house, enjoying time with friends and summer! Our youngest is turning 4 tomorrow and we have a fun weekend ahead of us with birthday fun and enjoying the holiday weekend.

What’s everyone eating this weekend? Any yummy gluten free treats? I’ll be baking a gluten free birthday cake and plan to share pictures next week. I’m also working on a few posts I hope you’ll find helpful.

In the meantime, I am drooling over this grilled pineapple…might have to pick up a pineapple today!

Everyone have a fun and safe holiday weekend!

BLT Lettuce Wraps

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BLTs are a summer tradition in our house. Big, plump, and juicy tomatoes – hopefully from our garden!, crisp lettuce and peppered bacon. Of course this year, I needed something to put my B, L, and T in! I saw this recipe for BLT Lettuce Wraps and knew I had to try it!

I got the idea and recipe from Gina’s Skinny Recipes, one of my new favorite food blogs. Gina’s blog isn’t exclusively gluten free, but she has a gluten free category and her food looks delicious. I recommend you click on over and take a look!

These lettuce wraps were simple, quick and tasty. They would make a great lunch if you had the B, L and T on hand! Gina gives a great step by step run down of the recipe here. But, they are as easy as tossing the ingredients into a large lettuce leaf of your choice and you’re done!

What you’ll need:
Bacon
Tomato
Lettuce – Gina shredded some for filling and of course kept some whole for the wrap
Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (we’re a Miracle Whip family here)
Salt and Pepper

Dice up your tomato and mix with the Miracle Whip and salt and pepper. Place some shredded lettuce on a lettuce leaf; top with tomato mixture; top with bacon – either whole strips or you can chop it up; wrap it up and enjoy! A reader commented on Gina’s post and said she was going to add avocado to her wrap. Yum! I will be doing that sometime.

A few tips – be sure that your lettuce is totally dry. Mine wasn’t and it was a bit runny and watery. Also, if your tomatoes are exceptionally watery, you might want to take some of the seeds and water out before mixing with the salad dressing.

I didn’t add shredded lettuce to my wrap and I wil next time. It needed a bit more “meat” to it. All in all, it was tasty, refreshing and a nice alternative to traditional BLTs. I’ll be making BLTs again this summer when I have bread baked, because I don’t think I can go the entire summer without the toasted version. 🙂

Brownies

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I love brownies. Love, love, love. I love brownie sundaes. I love little mini brownies with cherries and whip cream. I love brownies IN ice cream (try it at Coldstone sometime if you are reading this and aren’t gluten free). Brownies are my friend. Well, now gluten free brownies are my friend.

Let me tell you a little story about me and brownies made from scratch. We don’t get along. For a friend’s baby shower, I was baking her a brownie “cake”. She doesn’t love cake, but loves brownies, so I was going to bake a pan of brownies and decorate them like a traditional cake. Well, I wanted to make them special for her, so I decided to make them from scratch. Scratch has to be better than a box mix, right? I kid you not, I made three – three – recipes of scratch brownies. None of them worked out. They were just plain awful. So recognizing my defeat, I resorted to a box mix, and they were delicious. And, they were still special. 🙂

Remembering my experience with scratch brownies, I didn’t really know what to expect when I stirred up scratch, gluten free brownies for a chocolate fix last night. Aside from having to restock my brown rice flour mix before starting, the recipe came together really quickly and easily. My kind of recipe!

I was thrilled when not only did the brownies turn out, they were delicious! My hubby and girls loved them too. I believe my hubby’s exact words were, “This might be the best brownie I have ever had”. Success! I just have to chuckle because this isn’t the first recipe or type of baked good that failed miserably for me with traditional all-purpose flour and has been a total success gluten free. I have no explanation for that!

You really must make these brownies. They have the perfect blend of chocolate flavor, chewy bite and gooey, fudgey center. Hubby and I both love the sugary crust they had on the top when they came our of the oven. Today, after being in the refrigerator all night, they are very fudgey and dense – and perfect. 🙂 I can’t wait to use this recipe as a base for all the brownie treats we enjoy.

If you love brownies – make these as soon as possible. You won’t be sorry!

Brownies
From Gluten Free Baking Classics, by Annalise Roberts

2/3 cup Brown Rice Flour Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 ozs. unsweetened chocolate*
4 ozs. semisweet chocolate*
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375. Position rack in lower-middle oven. Line bottom and sides of 8-inch square baking pan with foil and grease with cooking spray.
2. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum in small bowl. Set aside.
3. Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy, medium size saucepan over low heat**. Remove from heat; whisk in sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth and glossy. Add flour mixture and whisk until just incorporated. Stir in nuts if including.
4. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in center of oven. Bake about 45 minutes or until a tester inserted into center comes out with wet crumbs. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Remove brownies from pan by lifting out foil, and cool completely on rack. Cut into triangles or squares.

*I didn’t use a mixture of chocolate. I had 6 ozs. of semisweet in the house, so that’s what I used.
**I melted the chocolate and butter in the microwave, slowly and at about 50% power.

Getting Started Gluten Free – A Few Tips

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I’ve heard from a few of you out there that you are very new to living gluten free. Knowing this has really made me stop and think about those first few days and weeks and what making that transition was like. It’s got my mind whirling with all sort of tips and advice I want to share with those of you. As I have been writing this post, I realize that each of the areas below could be a post in and of themselves, so I plan to revisit each of these tips in more depth in the future. Here are a few things that I did that helped me and I hope they help you too!

Make a list of all the foods you CAN eat
I know, you hear gluten free and you start to think of all the things that are off limits now. Bread, pizza, crackers, cereals, cake, pie, muffins. I’ll just stop, it sounds depressing even now. And then, you start to learn and realize how many other things gluten is in (or could have cross contamination) – salad dressings? soups? some SYRUPS? Seriously? It’s horribly overwhelming. So, I stopped fretting over what was off-limits and made a list -and a long one! – of what I could eat. Fresh fruits and veggies, most dairy products, meats, beans, nuts…I also went through some of my favorite cookbooks and tagged any recipe that was naturally gluten free. I started to feel some stress melt away.

Read, Read, and Read Some More
A couple books that I recommend are Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic by Dr Peter H.R. Green and The G-free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide by Elizabeth Hasselbeck. These books will give you a medical understanding of what you are experiencing, as well as practical tips and advice. And then, of course, there are tons of references online you can read. I found myself reading gluten free food blogs more than anything. I highly recommend reading Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna will make you fall in love with being gluten free!

Give yourself extra time at the grocery store your first trip gluten free (ok, the first few trips!)
The first trip to the grocery store to shop gluten free is not one you want to take the kids along. If anyone, invite someone you know who is an experienced gluten free shopper. If you plan to bake your own breads and baked goods, you will more than likely need to take a trip to the health food store. I haven’t seen a grocer carry all the gluten free flours, starches, and gums you will need. You are going to become well versed at reading labels. Please do not plan to buy all the items you typically buy, just in gluten free form. For one, you probably won’t find everything and secondly, you would spend a fortune. I highly recommend filling your cart with healthy, naturally gluten free items and then picking a couple of gluten free specialty items – crackers, pretzels, etc, to start. Finding the gluten free specialty products you like is going to be trial and error. Don’t spend of ton of money buying them all at once. Give yourself time to learn what you can live without. You might surprise yourself – and your wallet will be happier too! Don’t forget to take along your grocery shopping guide.

Meal Plan
Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. Can I just say it again? Meal plan! You will save yourself so much confusion and trouble if you plan your meals and snacks. Yes, it takes some work, but I think you’ll find you enjoy it. You will get to look forward to all the delicious food you will be eating in the coming days and hopefully, you won’t find yourself starting a busy day and realizing you have nothing to eat. If you plan ahead, your trips to the grocery store will be easier (you can do a little research ahead of time) and you won’t break the bank. By planning ahead, you will ensure your home is stocked with food you can eat. I recommend keeping gluten free “grab snacks” like Lara bars, nuts, fruit and veggies on hand at all times. These will save you in a pinch! Focus your first few weeks – or month – on the meals you and your family are used to that are either naturally gluten free or can be with very minor adjustments (cornstarch vs. flour as a thickener). And because it’s summer, let the grill become your new best friend. It’s so easy to make plain old chicken/beef and veggies – even fruit (grilled peaches anyone?) taste amazing on the grill.

Does anyone have an area they would like help with? Have any questions? Have a great tip or some advice you’d like to share? Please leave a comment or email me! I would love to hear from you! 

New Contributor – Beth

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BethFriends, I am so excited to introduce you to Beth! Beth is what I will call my “Gluten Free Mentor” and a huge blessing to my life. I am so pleased that she will be sharing her knowledge and delicious recipes with all of us on Embracing Gluten Free. I have learned so much from Beth and I know you will too!

She has started by sharing her Celiac and gluten free journey in Your Stories. I hope you will read her story and get to know her a bit! She is a lady full of knowledge and is an exceptional baker and cook. You can trust her tastebuds and I LOVE how she calls herself a “food snob” – I knew I could trust her recipes and advice from the get-go! 🙂

You can look forward to hearing from Beth monthly on Embracing Gluten Free. I can’t wait for you to see the first recipe she is planning to share with us! YUM!

Beth, I am so glad you are a contributor on the site and very happy to have you as my mentor and friend. Welcome!

Your Story – Beth

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Hi, my name is Beth and I’ve been GF for 3 ½ years.  I am married to a wonderful, supportive husband, Gary.  We have four children, two sons in college and a daughter and son in high school.  Unlike many  people who have celiac, I did not suffer digestive problems most of my life.  In fact, I could be classified as a “silent” celiac.  I still do not have pain when I accidentally get into gluten.  My story began about five years ago when I noticed that I was experiencing increasing “gassiness”.  It was gradual, and as I was getting older, I just attributed it to aging, with so many other things that happen as we age.  I had been diagnosed with osteoporosis two years earlier, while I was still in my early 40’s and premenopausal.  But the gassiness was becoming annoying, so I made an appointment with the only female GI doctor in town, who also happened to be my mother’s specialist.  This doctor is wonderful, accounting for the four month wait I had before I could see her.

Let me interject here, that I have a cousin on my father’s side who had sent a note to family members a few years earlier informing us that he had been diagnosed with celiac disease.  I had never heard of it (in spite of the fact that I was a retired nurse) and just out of curiosity at the time, I looked it up to find out about it.  So when I saw the specialist and was giving her a history, I mentioned having a cousin with celiac and asked if maybe I should be checked for it.  She told me that with my osteoporosis, celiac was the first thing she would check for, even if I didn’t have a relative with it.  My bloodwork came back positive for celiac and we went ahead and scheduled the endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.

At that time, I told my mother about my testing and diagnosis and suggested she also be tested.  She’d had osteoporosis for several years and had recently had issues with low blood levels of Vitamin D.   She had the blood tests done and was also positive.  We had our endoscopies with duodenal biopsies two days apart the week of Thanksgiving, confirming celiac in both of us.  My mother-in -law was great about accommodating my new diet for Thanksgiving.  She made the gravy with corn starch instead of flour and the only things I couldn’t eat were the stuffing and dinner rolls!

The next step, according to my GI doctor, was to have my four children tested to see if they carried the gene(s) for celiac.  Those tests were done and sent off to California (at a fair expense) and the results came back that they ALL carried the gene.  On to the next round of tests, much to the chagrin of my daughter who was NOT happy about a second blood draw!  Anyway, they all had celiac panels done and the results showed that my second son, who was sixteen at the time, had celiac.  So, in the course of three months, I and two family members who were diagnosed with celiac disease.  And possibly more surprisingly, we were all “silent”, or in other words, didn’t exhibit the classic gastric distress that many celiacs spend years suffering from.

By the time my son was diagnosed, I had spent three months learning the ropes of the gluten-free diet for myself.  Well, that may be a little too optimistic.  I had, at least, become somewhat comfortable with shopping for gluten-free food and had begun my new life as an active baker of most things gluten-free.  Anyone who has been in the same place knows the incredible learning curve you face when you need to begin looking for gluten in everything you buy, cook and eat.  I think it helped him make the unwelcome adjustment of giving up many things he enjoyed, to have me cooking good substitutions.  I should mention that we are avowed food snobs, my son and I.  The rest of the family is too, to a certain degree, but of all my children, Matthew is the snobbiest.  So, he wasn’t happy with the frozen breads and waffles available at the local groceries and health food stores.  I have spent the last 3 ½ years adapting my old recipes, finding new GF recipes to replace beloved baked goods and experimenting with some of them to make them acceptable to us.  I hope that my experiences and accumulated knowledge can help some of you.

Great Kalamazoo Deals

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I’ve come across two deals this week (sorry for the late notice!) you should try to get if you can!

Hardings Market has Chex cereal on sale for 4/$6 when you buy 4!! This is SOOO cheap compared to the $3.29 a box it usually is. A few coupons have been in circulation for $1/2 for Chex cereal, so it makes them 4 boxes for $5 bucks! NICE!

The People’s Food Co-op in Kalamazoo has Bionaturae gluten free pasta on sale for 3.29 a bag. It’s usually in the 5 dollar range.

Stock up while you can!