Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top Ten Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Tips~

It's almost Thanksgiving Day - the day of giving thanks for all of our blessings in life and most importantly...overeating delicious, lovingly-prepared dishes that warm the heart and soul.

If you are a Celiac or eat gluten-free, you also know just how challenging this particular holiday can be when it comes to ensuring that NO and I mean NO trace of gluten/wheat flour is allowed to contaminate your food and ruin a day of blessings.

I put together my quick Top-Ten List of Thanksgiving Gluten-Free Tips that will help you through the entire process, from the kitchen to the dining room table. I have learned throughout the past ten years, just how important these tips are in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable meal to be thankful for.

Top-Ten Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Tips:

1. Make sure that your kitchen is sterile and clean, erasing any trace of gluten/flour, keeping a safe cooking environment. This is especially important if you are cooking in tandem at someone else’s home who may not have a gluten-free kitchen.

2. Sterilize ALL cooking utensils and cook ware that you will use to prepare the meal, from start to finish. Again, especially important if you are eating or cooking at someone's home who is not a gluten-free eater. I can't overemphasize how important this is and how easy it is to pick up a spoon that was just dipped in gluten gravy and then use it to stir gluten-free ingredients. Whammo - contamination!

3. Turkey! Though everyone agrees that a good 'ole turkey bird is naturally gluten-free, you would be amazed at what happens to the poor bird by the time it arrives in your grocer's freezer. I have had to search for hours to find a gluten-free bird that has not been injected, basted, seasoned and saturated in gluten. There are so many preservatives used on your average turkey that are filled with gluten. I recommend buying an organic bird from Whole Foods or your local butcher that is guaranteed to be free of all gluten. It may take a little searching, but you will find a turkey that is safe. If all else fails, in the past I have simply purchased a small turkey breast for myself, basted it with butter and herbs and Viola - a safe Thanksgiving turkey.

4. Broth can be another tricky and dangerous area when cooking a Thanksgiving meal. All mainstream chicken, beef or veggie broths are loaded with modified food starch and other gluten products and can really ruin a good meal for a Celiac. Thankfully, there are loads of gluten-free broths now available that are also organic that must be used in your holiday cooking in order to avoid contamination. My favorite broth is Pacific Natural Foods free range chicken broth. Trader Joe's also has a fairly comprehensive list of GF products now and GF broth.

5. Bullion cubes have danger flashing all around them - did you know that? I found this out the hard way in years past. So if you are dining at a family or friends house this Thanksgiving, it is imperative that you make sure they are not utilizing any type of Bullion cube in their seasoning or homemade broth. Do your homework on this one and suggest your gluten-free chicken broth instead!

6. Whipping cream is harmless, right? NOT. Thanks to my sister-in-law, she just recently showed me a container of Knudsen whipping cream that's sold in the dairy section. As she was reading the ingredients, she noticed that this dairy product contained modified food starch, most-likely utilized as a "binder" to help thicken the product as it's whipped. This came as a shock to me and was really concerning. Make sure that if you are using a dollop of fresh whipping cream on anything you did not make yourself, you check with the host to verify that the product they used was gluten-free.

7. Vanilla, salt and spices are all wonderful ingredients for your holiday baking, but be careful to use only gluten-free products. Most people don't realize that even iodized salt can contain gluten. Though it's more expensive, I have been using fresh sea salts for several years now and feeling much better about the product. I really love the course Sel de Mer!

GF Vanilla extract is much easier to find now in even mainstream grocery stores, as well as spices that are safe. The key is to use the products that you have researched and know are safe. If you are eating away from home this holiday, just pack a bag with all of your GF products to bring to the host to use in whatever foods will be prepared and served to you. Anyone who knows and loves you will be more than happy to accommodate and keep you safe.

8. Gravy! - a staple of the Thanksgiving meal, yet as a Celiac, you must make sure to avoid ALL gravies containing roux/flour in the mix. It's actually easy to make a gluten-free gravy that is hearty and delicious - so you won't feel like you are missing out on a thing! Check out my blogger friend, Gluten Free Girl's site for her very easy and delicious GF gravy recipe!

9. The good stuff - Alcohol and Desserts - now what would Thanksgiving be without these tasty staples? Depending upon what you and your guests will be drinking during the holiday, here's a reminder of the "safe alcohol" that Celiacs and those avoiding gluten are able to drink.

Desserts are just a part of the traditional Thanksgiving feast, but for a Celiac, things need to be modified. But don't confuse "modified" with "boring!" There are a million GF dessert recipes on line, in hundreds of GF cookbooks (that actually taste good) and perhaps, in your own repertoire of homemade recipes. I love Pumpkin Pie, and am pretty sure you do too! There are ample sweets and aperitifs to choose from so you won't feel like you have missed out on a thing this Thanksgiving.

10. Be Thankful~ In these challenging times, no matter what disease we might suffer from, or loss we have experienced...there is ALWAYS something special in each of our lives to remember and give thanks for, to love and honor, and a way for us to share our hearts with the world.

A Very Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to you all ~

Friday, November 13, 2009

GF Pizza Night~ A Photo Tutorial

The food that I've missed the most since going gluten-free in 2000 is....PIZZA!! Not the typical gluten-free pizza in a box, found in the Whole Foods freezer...no no...a real, cheesy, thick or thin crust, hot out of the oven, make-you-salivate kind of pizza that you find in Rome or New York or...good old Pinky's Pizza in Walnut Creek,CA (which sadly,has now closed) where I grew up. That's the kind of wheat-filled pizza I'm talking about, my friends!

Okay, somebody slap me - I've regressed to my previous life. Excuse me.

I still have years of wonderful memories stored in my heart and mind focused around eating at various pizza parlors all over the Bay Area. While growing up, they served as staple meal locations - after soccer games, little league victories, golf tourneys, horse shows and birthday parties. Pizza equaled friends, fun and a night out! So, I hang onto those lovely days past and the aroma of goodness that still fills my senses.

Now, this is not intended to be a sad, walk-down-memory-lane kind of a post - because the good news is, a very delicious and successfully baked gluten-free pizza was created in my very own kitchen last week...almost as good as Pinky's.

I've tried many of the GF frozen crusts that you can buy at certain grocery stores or on line, and as I've blogged before, I've also found two pizza restaurants in San Diego that bake up a mean GF pizza. But baking one from scratch, in your own kitchen, in your own oven, with love and careful preparation, is really quite fun and rewarding...if it works!

I've baked pizzas from scratch with the numerous flours (usually required) during various GF baking classes that I've taken over the years, but putting all the ingredients together and praying it works out in your own oven is a different story -Well, fear be gone! After the first try that turned out quite well, I'm ready to go back in the kitchen this weekend for more.

Follow along with this photo essay/tutorial and then bake your own!

After the dough is mixed, it's important to spread it evenly and as we discovered, not too thick in the middle, in a 13" diameter

Next...use your favorite GF pasta/pizza sauce and spread around on to the dough, adding a bit more sauce in the middle.

Now the fun begins...load up your toppings, layer by layer (this pizza included GF ham slices, artichoke hearts, sliced zucchini, fresh-chopped green onions, spinach and fresh-grated mozzarella)

After baking in the oven at 400 for 30 minutes, Voila! The finished product ~

This delicious and healthy pizza was so easy and contains half the fat grams of the prepared, frozen variety. It's a fun project you could do with children, for a fun night of cooking with friends (don't forget the wine) or anytime you are longing for the food that satisfies and conjures up delicious memories, while making new ones.

The recipe that was chosen for last week's inaugural effort came from Bette Hagman's GF Cookbook, The Gluten-Free Gourmet.

Quick and easy pizza crust -

Serves 6

- 1/2 Cup milk

- 2 Large eggs

- 1/3 Cup of cornstarch

- 2/3 Cup rice flour

- 1/4 Teaspoon of guar gum

- 1 Teaspoon salt

- 1/4 Cup of olive oil

Beat the milk and eggs together. Add the flours, guar gum and salt. Mix in the olive oil.

Spread onto a greased 9" x 13 " pan or pizza stone or (as I did) spread with a spatula in a 12-inch circle about 1/4 inch thick - leave a thicker crust around the edges/outside of the circle to keep the sauce and cheese from running over onto the pan.

Spread sauce evenly over the unbaked crust and top with your favorite toppings.

Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serve with a simple salad, tossed in olive oil and vinegar and you have the perfect meal.

Mangia Mangia!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Healthier Bones for Kids ~

I came across an article today on Celiac.com and thought it was definitely worth sharing, as the diagnosis of Celiac in babies and young children is so very important. I can tell you for a fact that I have Osteopenia, due to the ten years + that I lived through not absorbing much of any nutrients - and that was in my late teens early 20's; some of the side effects as a result of this are challenging to say the least.

The earlier children are diagnosed, the sooner they can be put on a 100% gluten-free diet in order to stop the malbsorption issues that can lead to so many growth-related problems for little ones.

Have a read and be sure to pass this along to your kids, or anyone you know who's children are newly diagnosed or on a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-free Diet Means Healthier Bones for Kids with Celiac Disease
Celiac.com 11/05/2009 - It's well known that people with celiac disease often show reduced bone mineral density, and that metabolic bone disease is a significant and common complication of celiac disease...

TGIF - and next week check back for a fun and easy homemade gluten-free pizza recipe you and your family are sure to love!!