Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gluten Free Beer

I’ll admit, I haven’t tried any gf beer. I was diagnosed less than a year ago, and I haven’t missed beer that much. It the summer, it was a bit harder. I occasionally would have liked to sit down with one at a bonfire or have one while out camping.

I used to be a huge beer drinker, but then I started bloating with beer. So I stopped drinking it (for the most part), because who wants to have their stomach puff out when they’re out partying? Not me! But I still enjoyed the occasional beer after a sporting event or while playing hockey.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to try one of the gf beers. They’re hard to find, and expensive when I do find them. Plus, I’ve heard mixed reviews about them. I’m not interested in spending $5 a beer (from the liquor store) to find out the taste is horrible.
But yesterday, there was an article in the paper about a new gf beer, called Frio! Frio!,is a barley-free light beer that’s brewed where I live, out of a brewing company called Fort Garry Brewing.

According to the creator, it’s a light, summer beer. Perfect. I never did like those dark beers anyways! And, I can get this beer at Mona Lisa restaurant, an Italian place that serves GF Pizza and Pasta.

I’m going to try and find some GF beer at a store first so I can try it, and then I’ll write a review. Otherwise, I’m supposed to be heading to Mona Lisa on the weekend, so I can try it then.
Here’s hoping that it tastes good!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Starbucks Gluten Free?

I love having a latté at Starbucks (when I’m feeling especially rich and I can afford a $4 coffee). But I do wish that there was a GF food option. Although I’m becoming less and less of a fan of prepackaged foods, sometimes you just need the convenience.

That’s why I was thrilled to hear Starbucks is considering a line of GF food. They’re looking for suggestions/help from the GF community, so if you haven’t seen this, or haven’t logged on to answer the questions, please do! The more responses that they get, the more likely they are to actually bring GF food into the stores.

The questions they want answered are:
• What specific gluten-free products would you like to see in our stores?

• Would you prefer to see it individually packaged or unpackaged?

• How would you like to learn we have gluten-free products? For example, would you like to see it on a sign or would you prefer the barista tell you?

• Where would you like to see gluten-free products in the store; in the pastry case or placed elsewhere?

• The ingredient costs of gluten-free products tend to be higher, so would you understand if we charged more for the gluten-free version?

So please, visit here and let them know.

Travelling Gluten Free

I’m heading off to Calgary next weekend to visit my brother and sister. I’m not sure who I’ll be staying with (my brother is a better cook, but my sister’s place will be cleaner), but regardless, I’m pretty sure that eating gf will be easy (and totally different from the last business trip I took where I shoved gf bars, bread, and a jar of peanut butter in my suitcase because I knew the conference food wouldn’t work for me).

Since my siblings are both athletes, though, they tend to eat pretty close to natural – no preservatives, no added (potentially gluten-containing) weird ingredients, and not much in the way of commercially prepared food. They make pretty much all their food. There are 2 benefits to that – they know what’s in everything (making it easier to calculate things like amount of protein, carbs, etc) and it’s cheaper. The obvious benefit for me is that I can easily tell what’s gluten-free.

So eating at their houses shouldn’t be a problem. My brother even suggested that I send him out a few recipes (he gave me a gf cookbook for Christmas) and he’ll make some things for me ahead of time, or at least have the ingredients for them. I love my family!!

The last time that I was out there was my first visit since being diagnosed. So I checked online with the Calgary celiac association for some local restaurants/stores that cater to the gluten free community. I do this before I visit anywhere. A few minutes of research before travelling can save me from starving! Plus, we get to try restaurants that others have reviewed, and sometimes find really great bargins – like finding out that certain places have gluten-free factories with stores that sell at a discount (think factory outlet shopping for gf food).

Anyways, there is a Chinese food place close to where my brother lives that does GF and MSG Free Chinese food – but they aren’t open Mondays (which is when we tried to go last time). So we’ve made plans to go on Friday night – or at least to order it. I haven’t had really good Chinese food in ages, partly because I was diagnosed with an MSG allergy about 5 years ago, and that meant I was missing out on a lot of my favorites, and partly because it’s hard to find GF Chinese.

They also have a GF bakery about a ten minute drive away, called Earth’s Oven, I think. I really like some of their stuff, especially the desserts. They also had a ginger cranberry bread last time that was delicious!

I’m not even worried about airport food so much – both airports have Tim Hortons, and the yogurt and berries is GF.

I love travelling, and I’ve been finding it more of a challenge since being diagnosed. It’s not bad within Canada and the US since everyone speaks English (or French, but I speak that so it’s no problem). I’m a little concerned about travelling overseas or to South America, where I won’t speak the language. I was hoping to head to the Andes this summer for a hiking trip with a friend of mine, if I can get the time off work. But I’m a bit concerned about my food issues.

How has everyone else found travel to places where you don’t speak the language? Easy? Hard? Do you print out phrases explaining that you can’t have Gluten so other people understand your issues?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

bobs red mill chocolate chip cookies

I tried to bake some cookies today. I just wanted some warm chocolate chip cookies, something I could make quickly and easily. Its really cold out here, -35 earlier today, and I wanted something to warm me up.

I had a bag of Bob's Red Mill Chocolate Chip Cookie mix in my GF cupboard. It looked easy enough, just add a few ingredients, so I decided to make them.

There are certain Bob's Red Mill products that I love. The raisin bread for example. So I had high expectations for this product!

The mix is really dry and looks crumbly in the bowl (and the package says that's normal), but you just press it together and it easily forms cookies. There was a decent amount of chocolate chips in each cookie, so I was hopeful they would turn out.

I put them in the oven, and there was no pleasing chocolate chip cookie smell. It smelled ok, but not fabulous. There was a weird smell in the air, that I couldn't quite place. I looked at the ingredients and guessed it came from the bean flour.

I tried the cookies straight out of the oven, and they didn't really taste like much. Kinda weird, but not that bad. They were soft, warm, but not that much flavour.

Once they had cooled a bit, I tried another one. At first bite, they were ok. Crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. No overwhelming cookie flavour though, kinda bland, with a weird undertone that I attributed to the bean flour.

But they had a HORRIBLE aftertaste. Like really bad. Bad enough that after feeding one to my dad (who eats almost anything and usually eats all gf things claiming he can't really taste a difference), we threw the rest out. They were terrible.

I'd heard good things about them, so maybe I got a bad batch? Has anyone else tried these?

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I've been really lazy this week, partly because it's been so cold here. This is a post I wrote last week, but for some reason I didn't get around to posting it.

I woke up Monday morning with a huge bruise on my leg. While I was scoping it out at the table, poking it to try and remember how that could have happened, my sister pointed out another on the back of my arm. I knew what that meant. My iron was low again! I’ve suffered from iron deficiency for years, and although I used to take pills for it, I stopped a few years ago (now I only take a multi vitamin). So every once in awhile, my body will start bruising like a peach (and I’ll be tired and stuff) and I’ll know it’s time for more iron.

That meant coming up with red meat meals (I process better from animals than from vegetables generally). So I looked outside at the -41 (with wind) weather, looked at the forecast and saw the high for the week was only -23, and I decided to make chili!

I never used to like chili. We didn’t eat much of it growing up, and so I didn’t start liking it until a few years ago. But only I started eating it, I realized, if I made a few modifications, it would be delicious!

My favorite part of chili is that there isn’t really a recipe. You kind of look in your fridge and cupboards, and toss stuff in. Not enough of one ingredient? That just means more of something else!

I like my chili with vegetables, and I base it loosely off of the following recipe (a warning – this is a healthy chili. I often make it using ground turkey):

1 pound ground beef

2 medium onions, chopped

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped

1 cup green pepper (or red or yellow)

1 can (796 mL) whole (or diced) tomatoes

1 whole tomato chopped

2 cans (514 mL) red kidney beans (or one red, one white)

2 tblp chili powder

1 1/2 tblp lemon juice

Brown the ground beef in a frying pan (5 min). When it’s cooked, poor off all the excess grease (this makes it healthier).

Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic, cook until onions are tender (4 min)

Add everything else. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. If it looks to thick, add some water. Then serve!

I usually serve chili over wild rice (or brown). I used to eat it with bread, and although it would be delicious with a nice corn bread, I was almost completely out of ingredients Sunday. Rice gives the chili some extra carbs, and absorbs the chili flavour nicely.
Chili often tastes better the next day... so I put it in some tupperware and ate this for dinner a few times this week.

Friday, January 9, 2009

McNally Robinson

mmm… just got back from dinner with my dad. We went to McNally Robinsons, a bookstore chain here in Winnipeg. They have a really nice café/restaurant, and they have gluten free choices marked right on the menu!

They have baked wings, chicken dishes, and all kinds of things. I had a pork fried ginger with rice, and it was really good. I also had some bbq wings as an appetizer.

It was really good, and then I had a GF cookie for desert. It was also really good, although a bit dry. I think I could have made something similar or better at home – but kudos to them for putting a gf cookie on the menu. My server was also really good – she informed the kitchen that I had celiac, and to make sure to switch gloves and utensils to handle my food.

I’ll definitely be going back there!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Coconut Macaroons

There are no ingredients in my house today. I desperately need to go shopping! I grabbed a salad on my way home for dinner, and made some rice to go with it. A sad little dinner, I know.

Since I had no ingredients, I didn't have high hopes for dessert. But, I had a bag of coconut, eggs (stolen from my sister), and condensed milk. Perfect! Just the ingredients for coconut macaroons!

I LOVE coconut. I think it’s great, and coconut adds a wonderful taste/texture to a lot of gf foods. I usually have a few bags around.

Coconut macaroons are easy to make and most people love them. You need:
14 ounces condensed milk (1 can)
1 tsp cinnamon
300 grams unsweetened coconut (I used shredded, but anything works) that’s about 3 1/4 cups
3 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar

Heat the oven to 350

Mix the condensed milk, cinnamon and the coconut together in a large bowl, then set aside.
Using a hand held mixer, or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form (this will take a few minutes). You’ll know your eggs are stiff enough if you can hold the bowl upside down (over your head) and nothing falls out. I saw Jamie Oliver do that once when he was making Pavlova, and I always tip the bowl upside down now to make sure my eggs are stiff enough.
Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture until evenly mixed.
Scoop out balls of the coconut mixture and put them on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.

You can mold the scoops into a round shape for a nicer appearance.
Bake for about 25 minutes, and cool before serving.

You can dip these in chocolate if you want to try something different, but I’m all chocolated out at the moment, so I left mine the way they were. You can also add oats or coco to the mixture if you want.

Store uncovered for up to a week. If they too hard, put them in a covered container overnight.

wedding etiquette

A friend of mine is getting married on the weekend, and I have an etiquette question for everyone. Is it ok to bring along some snacks in a bag in case I can’t eat what they’re serving?

Normally, I would assume I should bring whatever I can eat, but I spoke with the bride (I’m friends with the groom) about my food issues and she assured me that there would be options for me. It’s buffet-style, and I’m worried all I’ll be able to have is salad! Even if there is chicken /potatoes/rice/veggies there is usually a spice mixture on those.. which often seem to have gluten hiding in the ingredients, I’ve found. And if they can’t confirm it’s gluten free, I’m not going to eat it.

I was planning on just bringing some snacks and eating them at the table while dinner was happening, but when I mentioned that to my friends last night, it was met with mixed reactions. The groomsmen all said bring whatever you want to eat, but some of their girlfriends thought that was rude and I should just pick around what I can’t eat.

That made me a little worried. Is it ok to bring my own snacks? The wedding starts at 2:30 and then we’re going straight to dinner/reception, and we’ll probably be there until well past midnight. I could hide my snacks, but I really don’t feel like I should have to.

So is it ok to bring along something to eat, and eat it while others are having dinner? I'm not talking about a big elaborate meal - maybe some hummas (for the veggtables I know the wedding will serve), a gf bar, and possibly a bun/roll/muffin.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chocolate Truffles

I tried my hand at baking today, using a recipe from Canadian Living that I adapted somewhat. Now that it’s Christmas everyone seems to be baking, and I didn’t want to be left out! Although I’ve done some gf baking, I decided to start off with an easy recipe that didn’t call for anything other than dark chocolate, whipping cream, butter and walnuts, and make..

Dark chocolate truffles!

I got this magazine from a girl at work, because she noticed that there was a section of gluten free deserts in it. I took a quick glance at the recipes, and everything looks good, but most called for gf flour mixes. I’m going to try to adapt those recipes with my own flour variations I think, mostly because it will be cheaper. Plus, this way I’ll really learn to cook gf!

Back to the truffles! The recipe called for 16 squares of premium dark chocolate (make sure its gf), but I didn’t have that. I did, however, have 8 of dark and a white chocolate bar from laura secord (a chocolate store, for lack of a better description. They assured me the white chocolate bar I bought was gf). So I decided to do dark chocolate truffles in a white chocolate shell.

I chopped the dark chocolate into small pieces, and put them in a double boiler. I added cream and butter, and mixed until it was well melted and mixed together (the original recipe suggested microwaving on medium for a minute and a half, then taking out and stirring, microwaving for 10 seconds, stirring, etc. until it was done. However, my microwave seems to have 2 settings, just making a loud noise, and burning. So I decided to do it the old fashioned way).

Once the chocolate is melted and mixed, cover and put in the fridge for about an hour, or until firm. I waited a little longer, probably an hour and fifteen minutes, and it worked fine.

Roll the chocolate into 24 balls, and place on a wax-paper covered tray. I used a tablespoon to get portions of chocolate, and it worked really well. Chop and melt the white chocolate using a double-boiler (or the microwave), and then use a fork (or tongs) to dip each chocolate ball into the white chocolate.

Put the completed chocolate onto the tray, and put back in the fridge. Or else, roll it into something like crushed candy canes, nuts, or drizzle chocolate along the top.

It should only take about half an hour to firm up in the fridge. Then you can enjoy!

Christmas traditions

Since this was my first GF Christmas, I was expecting my traditions to work a little differently. My family usually goes to my aunt’s house for brunch before we open presents over there.

Brunch is always an egg casserole type dish (with bread and veggies in it), fruits and yogurt (with granola) and ponnukokur, because we’re Icelandic. Ponnukokur is Icelandic, a delicious brunch/desert item, think a really thin crepe with brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon all rolled up inside, served cold. It’s delicious, but I thought it was gone from my tradition for good.

My aunt, though, made me a special small egg dish (without bread or breadcrumbs), bought gf granola for the yogurt, and made gf ponnukokur for me. She just mixed potato starch and rice flour and used it in place of the regular stuff. It turned out pretty well, it just didn’t hold it’s shape. So I’m going to be experimenting with recipes until I get that one right.

I was amazed at the effort that everyone put in to make sure that I could eat well! I was also really excited to get a gf cookbook from my boyfriend, and one from my aunt. I’ll be trying recipes and posting results on here. Plus I’ll be taking pictures of what I make!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to everyone!

I'm so excited to be starting off another year, and making new resolutions. This year, I'm resolving to learn as much as I can about the gf diet, and to stay as healthy as possible. Eat less processed foods (of the stuff I can eat) and make more things at home. I'm also trying to save money, so that goal ties in well to my new resolution.

I'm also going to start taking some pictures for this blog, and write more often!

mmm... soup

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, I know that I did! Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, I got really busy with family stuff, plus I got sick with a nasty flu and then strep throat.

This was my first strep throat being gf, and it left a lot to be desired! Thank goodness for my family, because otherwise, I would have been miserable! My previous go-to comfort foods for strep all include some kind of soup, which is now off-limits.

I’ve been meaning to make soup for ages, but I really haven’t had time (ok, I have had time, but I haven’t felt like it). I had made a whole chicken earlier in the fall, and boiled the bones and extra meat bits in a pot on the stove with lots of water, some onions, carrots, and salt and pepper. After boiling all that on the stove for about 5 hours, I strained it, then poured it into ziplock bags (2 cups per bag) and tossed them into the freezer. Since then, I’ve been using the broth in stir-fry, casserole-type dishes, and whenever I need chicken broth. But I hadn’t made it into soup.

So my wonderful brother, after hearing me complain bitterly about my sore throat and the fact that I couldn’t eat, made me some soup. He took 4 cups of broth, added in another 2 cups of water, and started boiling it. Then he cut carrots up into small pieces, and tossed those in (about a cup probably). Onions and celery, and a cup of rice went in as well. I think he added in a dash of tobacco sauce (which he claimed would make me feel better), plus some sautéed garlic (it actually should make you feel better!), some thyme and just boiled it altogether until everything got soft and delicious.

It was really good! If you aren’t sick, you wouldn’t need to add the extra water (like I did) to boil it down. It also looked really easy (from my position on the couch). It lasted me a few meals, and it did help soothe my throat. You could toss in rice noodles instead of rice if you wanted, and add chicken (or turkey).

I will write down exact measurements next time, and take a picture.