Tag Archives: Gluten Free

I’ve been chopped!

If you like food, and you like hearing what others have to say about food, you’ve probably grazed on the offering of the Food Network.

As two self proclaimed foodies, my wife and I enjoy following a couple of shows. One of our favorites is the extremely entertaining show Chopped.

In case you are not familiar with the show, here’s a quick overview:

Four chefs walk into a kitchen… oh wait, that’s a different joke. No, here:

4 chefs cook in a timed competition to make the best food. They have 20 minutes to make an appetizer, 30 minutes to make an entree, and 30 minutes to make a dessert. There is a basket of mystery ingredients, which usually has about 3-4 items each chef must use in the final dish. Plus there is a stocked kitchen so they can grab additional things like spices.

In my own fun version, I was hungry. I had about 20 minutes to eat before we needed to go someplace, and I had the following items in my “basket”:

Tortilla Chips,

Raisins,

And Sardines.

Since I considered this to be an appetizer round, I naturally decided to make a quick salsa of Raisins and Sardines, with a bed of crushed tortilla chips. Finding some fresh Cilantro in the fridge with some Mustard, I raced against the clock to bring the elements together– carefully dicing the cilantro, and arranging it all together to form a very tasty appetizer!

Now for the judges…

How did I do?

Food critic one: “I thought the presentation was quite nice, a small colorful bowl, and the cilantro and raisins really coordinate well.”

Food expert two: “I agree, but what I really like the flavor this dish brought out, the salty sardines, and the sweet raisins with the freshness of the herbs, a very good start to a meal.”

Grumpy food person: “But for someone with a background in slow food methods, can we really give him a pass with only 20 minutes of preparation?”

Food expert two: “Good point, I think that using Mustard out of a jar was just a cop out.”

Food critic one: “I disagree Two, I feel the use of fresh herbs like Cilantro is perfectly in line with slow food principles, and it’s not really possible to cook slow food fast.”

And whose dish is on the chopping block?

Judges?

Grumpy food person: “Well, we thought that your flavor combination and presentation were spot on, but that using a prepackaged Mustard instead of making your own was not adequate for you to move on in this competition, and so for those reasons, you’ve been chopped.”

Exit interview:

Me: “Though this is a crushing blow to my own ego, I must say that just being here and making this amazing salsa has been it’s own reward.”

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Gluten free chicken pie

According to legendary chefs, making the perfect pot pie starts with Stromboli. Or at least that’s what I would say, though perhaps I am not yet a legend. There is a slightly epic story behind my assertion, however. And this is how it goes…

Once upon a time there was a Beautiful Maiden (my lovely wife), who pined for a Stromboli (that part is true, so she looked up a recipe online), and enlisted the service of her faithful companion (that’s me) to fullfill her destiny (or at least fill their stomachs).

The result of her quest revealed the Holy Grail– a gluten free Stromboli crust! (I’m actually not exaggerating here, it’s really good!) But if this fairy tale ended here, only part of the story would be told.

The happy couple looked upon the Stromboli they had made, and thought ‘This dough might perhaps be formed into the crust for a pie, being so manageable and soft. Perhaps a pie of chicken?’

With this very thought before them the whole week, they assembled the great assortment of needed items (um, that’s just basic chicken pie filling: carrots, onion, potato, peas, and of course, chicken). Then, following the ancient traditions, the formed their dough and began to bake (true enough, but we really based it on the recipe found here: Gluten-free pizza crust recipe, tarte style).

The product of their labor was, well, see for yourself:

I would offer you a slice, but it was all consumed. If you are sufficiently intrigued, you can make one for yourself:

Here’s the process (we used half of the original recipe for the pie crust, it made enough for a crust and a top. My version is below):

Chicken pot pie filling/gravy (you can use your favorite grandma’s recipe instead if you like)
Ingredients:
one bunch of carrots
½ an onion
6 oz of peas (we used ½ bag of frozen peas)
3 medium potoes
2 cups of chicken (free range organic slow cooked)
2-3 teaspoons of arrowroot powder (or your favorite thickener)
1 cup of chicken broth (enough to make a slurry of the veggies)
Sea salt (to taste)

Directions:
Chop all the veggies and cook in a saucepan with the broth. Add chicken and stir in arrowroot until thick. Pour filling into crust and bake as instructed below.

Gluten free pie crust, from: Torte Style Gluten-free Pizza Crust- by Sara
Ingredients:
½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup sorghum flour
¾ cups tapioca flour
½ cup yogurt (we used cow yogurt and sheep yogurt at different times, both worked well)
1 sticks of butter (¼ pound), completely melted
1 tsp salt
½ Tbsp xanthan gum
Arrowroot powder to roll dough

This recipe makes two, 10” pie crusts, or one crust with top

Directions:

Cream the yogurt and butter together. Add the flours, xanthan gum and salt and continue to mix until well combined. This part is probably best done with a pastry cutter if available. Cover with a towel and let sit at room temperature overnight or 12-24 hours.

Scrape dough out of the bowl and pat into a ball. Cut into two pieces. Flour a counter or large cutting board with arrowroot powder. Form each half into a ball and then roll into two 10” rounds. Transfer to an oiled pie pan and then finish the edges to make the crust. Prick crusts well with a fork.

Bake pie at 300 F for 15-30 minutes until golden brown.

Note: for some pies the crust can be prebaked. for the chicken pie, we filled the crust before bakeing in order to seal the top crust over the pie.

Results:

And now the pie has become a legend.


chili w/out tomatoes (or winter bean soup)

There is probably a hilarious coincidence behind the English word chilly (origin ~1570) and the Spanish name of the chili pepper (~1500). Nevertheless, the irony is that chili, formed by adding lots of chili pepper to meat and beans, goes well with chilly weather.

The modern American version of chili almost always contains tomatoes, a delicious fruit to which my wife is allergic. This allergy, and our combined desire for good chili, drove us to explore some tomato-less recipes. The first step in the most promising versions began with mixing several types of beans. Obviously, kidney beans were necessary, but we were surprised to find the addition of great northern, navy, and lima beans, and even various lentils.

Once we assembled a collection of beans to our liking, we soaked them overnight. Now here I must add that in a second run of this recipe we bumped our menu by one day, and the beans soaked for an additional day. This was one of our best culinary accidents yet. By soaking the beans for one day, they begin to sprout, which leaves them tasting a little ‘green’. The second day of soaking killed this taste, and made for a good flavor. Page 495 of NT indicates that beans should be soaked for ‘…a long time’, but does not indicate if more than one day would be harmful or not, so I don’t know the impact on nutrition after a two day soak.

Anyway, we then covered the beans generously in chicken broth, and simmered for awhile on low. Next we browned some ground beef with a chopped onion and chili spices. Mixing the meat into the pot with beans, we let this simmer until we were too hungry to wait, and ate it topped generously with cheddar cheese and cilantro. We probably only let this cook for 2-3 hours total, but longer would be better. Below I’ll try to give the full recipe. One note, I prefer a very un-spicy version of chili, so if you like the hot stuff, modify to your preference.

Chili (bean soup for a cold day)

1 lb. ground beef or lamb
1.5 – 2 cups of mixed beans (navy, great norther, kidney, lima, and lentils + whatever you like)
3-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
1 onion
heaps of cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
Fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

Spices:
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:
Soak beans for 1-2 days in water, then drain and cook on low in broth. Brown meat on medium and onion, adding spices except basil. Taste spices when meat is sufficiently cooked, make adjustments. When meat is nearly done, add basil and garlic to the beans. After the meat is seasoned correctly (defined by you), add the meat to beans and simmer on low until you think it’s done (an hour or so).

So that’s the basic approach. This makes a good (heavy) meal for a cold day, we got about 4 serving out of these amounts. You could probably make this vegetarian style by subtracting the meat and substituting for the broth.

Try it out yourself! You have plenty of winter left to go, so you have no excuse.


Whole grain flour

It is a well known fact that flour is explosive. It is also well known that anything explosive contains energy. The energy of flour is typically calculated in Calories (that’s a thousand Chemistry lab calories), and according to me is the primary nutritional goal of any flour based food (such as bread).

There are several ways to deliver this explosive to the powerful muscles requiring the energy, but the debate on methods of delivery that I have seen to date are not about the explosive at all. Instead, the discussion centers around everything except energy. Like Iron, Vitamin-B, Vitamin-E, and Fiber. With the exception of Vitamin-E found in the germ of certain grains, these nutritional goodies are found in the husk (or bran). Any grain that is sold with it’s original bran included (rather than having the bran stripped by clever machines) is called a whole grain. I definitely used to enjoy ‘white’ grains, and despise whole ones. (Not only because it’s harder to ignite whole grains, but I thought they tasted better). However, by an interesting path, I now prefer the whole grains. This path is a twisted story of the non-energetic nutritional components of grain.

On page 25 of Nourishing Traditions, an important note is made concerning the loading of whole grains into our body. A natural substance found in whole grains binds to a number of useful nutrients, like Iron, Zinc, and Calcium. Enzyme inhibitors present in whole grains also prevent absorption (digestion) of other useful things. Now, what the book doesn’t mention at this point is that energy is still largely available in these whole grains. Anyway, Nourishing Traditions goes on to deliver the punch line: we can neutralize the inhibitors! By fermenting our whole grains, the micro-organism that eat grain in the wild will destroy the inhibitors for us. Alternately, if you sprout your grain, the natural mechanism in the seed (grain) will get rid of the inhibitors. Up to this point I have not mentioned exactly what grain I am talking about. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter. Vitamin B was discovered in the husk of rice, and the vitamin content of most other grains is also in the bran. My discovery concerning the fermentation of flour had a bit more to do with Teff.

A smallish angry, seed, Teff is gluten free, making it a prime target for my kitchen experiments. Mixing teff flour into various recipes, I noted that the soaked teff became more elastic and pliable. This seems to be the case for most flours, except perhaps for the very fine powdery types like tapioca. Anyway, while the nutritional aspect of flour is improved by soaking or sprouting, I personally like the superior cooking quality of soaked flour.

So try your own today, any flour will do. Let me know how it works!


Flour

I am the last person you should ask: ‘what kind of Gluten free flour do you use’? So, instead of waiting for you to ask, I’ll make a stab at telling you. My answer to the question above is rather complex. That is to say, I have not condensed my answer to a usefully short reply. But here is the what I have found:

I use a number of flours that about 4 years ago I would have labeled ‘exotic’. In fact, I now have a flour stock that looks like it belongs in an apothecary (and another cabinet that is an apothecary, but that’s a different story). From the South American supergrain Quina flour to the (slightly odd) Italian Chestnut flour, my chosen powders are collected from around the world. I also us a considerable amount of Buckwheat since it’s pretty cheap. (Don’t let the Buckwheat name fool you, it is not related to Brussels sprouts. It’s actually in the same family as Rhubarb and Burdock1. Oh, that means it’s not related to wheat either.)

So, when mixing up a flour for a recipe, I try to envision the end product, and then examine my opinion of my flours. I usually have some fine powdery types like Tapioca (my favorite), Arrowroot, or Potato starch (I haven’t used potato). I also keep some ‘soft’ flours, like Sorghum, Quina, or Amaranth, and some dense, or oily flours, such as those from Hazelnuts, Walnuts, or Chestnuts (Chestnut flour has a very smokey flavor, which is amazing–but use sparingly). I also think about using stronger tasting flours such as Buckwheat, but it depends on what I’m making. It needs to balance with the other flavors. I have started toying with Rice flour, but it sucks all the moisture out of my baked goods, so I’m keeping it around for very moist recipes. I think it works okay for dusting a surface to roll out dough, especially since I don’t like throwing away expensive flours.

So, how do I choose? First off, I have had very little success making an all-purpose-blend. If I’m mixing flour for a nice moist chocolate brownie, I’ll lean toward soft and oily flours. If I want a doughy-soft fluffy bread-like cakes, I go for mostly soft flour, but some powdery, and I’ll focus on trying to make things stick together. Now, this sounds a lot like chaos, but in fact it’s a bit more like experimental Chemistry. Once you try out a combination, you get a feel for what the flours will do for you.

So, grab yourself a test tube (mixing bowl), a couple simple reagents (we shouldn’t try for nuclear-pharmacology right off), and try substituting your own Gluten free flour in a recipe. It’ll be fun!

Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to throw out any really terrible results. After all, good Chemists know the difference between an experiment and a lab accident (unless it’s Cold Fusion…)

 

1. There is some discussion as to whether Burdock will stay in the family, but it’s pretty closely related one way or another.


Sans Gluten

Gluten is a protein, and protein is healthy stuff, so that means Gluten should be good for you. And for me. Which it probably is. Gluten is not, however, good for my wife. Nope, this little protein, crafted in the endosperm of certain grains, can knock her down for a good day, with migraines, joint and muscle pain, and similar debilitating effects.

Why Gluten? The reason this otherwise indistinguishable portion of a grain has such a response is not well known (at least to me), but it shows up in a remarkable variety of foods. The reason it shows up in food has something to do with the versatility of the host grain, and the clever application of food engineering. The primary source of Gluten is Wheat, which is often used in bread and bread-like products. Aside from direct uses, Wheat can be included in food as thickener, or to enhance some aspect of the food like it’s energy content. Wheat is particularly useful for making Beer, and the starch from Wheat was used to stiffen cloth during weaving (I think they use a different process now). Gluten is also generated by grains other than Wheat, such as Barley, Rye, and depending on who you ask, maybe Oats. Other names for Wheat are usually historical in nature, since what we call Wheat today is the descendant of some super-evil grain quite some time back. So, you may encounter the locally derived names for Wheat, such as Kamut, Spelt, Bulgar, or Durum. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but at least the biggest offenders. The most interesting hiding place for a Wheat derivative I have seen is Soy Sauce. In particular, the traditionally brewed variety. If you avoid Soy for any of the numerous good reasons to do so, keeping away from the Gluten in Soy Sauce should be pretty easy.

So, in this journey through a life of eating food, we have learned to craft our food without the easy engineering techniques that include Wheat. Several Gluten-free grains are available, but require some practice to use (if you are used to Wheat flour).

While this step is a rather daunting task to most, my wife and I were already pursuing the non-processed food route before we had to leave Gluten behind. My wife has been off Gluten for several years, and we have found that most foods can be made without Wheat. All the recipes I have discussed here we made without Gluten, for the recipes that have flour we use a mix of Gluten free flours.

One interesting note: We have found that soaking Gluten free grains overnight in Raw Milk works wonderfully. A fairly consistent issue with Gluten free flours is the stuff you make with them tends to crumble or fall apart. A good night with the friendly milk bacteria seems to convince this flour to settle down and play nice. However it works, I’m glad that it does. The general approach to ‘fixing’ Gluten free flour mixes is to add Xanthan or Guar gum, or a similar bonding additive. Instead of these shortcuts, we are grateful we can make use of the soaking process to keep our food together.