Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gluten-free for now

A few months back, I decided that I would try a gluten-free diet to see if it would lower my liver enzyme levels and inflammation.  This is a bit of a gamble since my blood tests were negative for antibodies associated with celiac disease. It has been a relatively easy, except when I have been travelling or eating at catered work events.  A couple of times I ate my sandwich and guiltily loved every bite of bread.

There are a lot of gluten free products on the market, and most of them I have avoided.  Not because I am against them, but because the pre-prepared stuff is expensive and since we make most things from scratch at home it wasn't necessary. We have a wheat grinder that I appropriated to make rice flour and corn flour.  I tried to grind rolled oats in it, but they gummed up the works, but Leila ground them in the blender fine enough to use.  Most gluten-free dessert recipes rely on guar gum, tapioca flour, or more exotic chemistry to hold the flours together.  I haven't used them, but have relied on extra egg and a mix of different flours to do the trick.

Most days, before I decided to experiment with my diet, I ate sandwiches for lunch.  I would pile as much lettuce, swiss or farm cheese, meat - if available, or egg, and mustard and mayo that I could squeeze between two peices of bread.  Colleen called them my Shaggy and Scooby sandwiches.  I needed to replace them with something that was quick to prepare that I could eat for lunch, but was filling.  I tried a number of things, but the fastest and best replacement for a sandwich is this salad:

I will try and load a picture, but it isn't really a beautiful meal, and varies with what is available in the garden and what I have on hand.

Poached egg and rice vinegar salad
1-2 poached eggs
Bowl of salad greens - lettuce, beet greens, cabbage leaves, etc.
Splash of Rice Vinegar
Pinch Salt
Dash of Pepper

Optional ingredients:
Beet greens

Banana slices
Apple slices

Preferably farm cheese or Havarti

The way I learned to poach an egg, is not technically poaching.  It is a mix between sunny side up and steamed eggs.  I put a bit of oil or butter on the pan and crack 1-2 eggs.  Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper.  Once the edges start to turn white and the pan is really hot, pour 1/2-3/4 c. of water around the egg and cover with a tight lid.  Then steam until the water evaporates off.  I like the yolk still runny in the middle.

While that is cooking, I wash my lettuce and greens.  Depending how much dirt is on them from the garden, this can be fast or slow.  We are starting to get cabbage loopers on our lettuce so I try to pick through and find them before I stick in my fork.  The salad spinner is great, but won't get the bugs out.  Today I found two.  One in my bowl at the table.  Uggh.

I like the mix of vinegar, egg yolk, and greens.  The greens wilt a little with the hot egg, but somehow that improves it to me.  Especially if the greens are a little bitter.  The banana slices are actually quite good with the mix, even if it sounds strange.  I had it in a salad at a conference in Indianapolis at a very swank restaurant.  The waiter swore to me that the best thing on the menu was a salad with blackened tuna and bananas. I was very skeptical, but he was right.  Amazingly good combination.

One day I was desperate for some whole grains and started trying to make different pancakes.  The recipe I settled on is roughly this:

Corn, rice, and bean flour pancakes
1-2 egg
1 c. sticky rice flour
1/2 c. corn flour
1/4 c. white bean flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt

 I don't measure my ingredients well.  Mostly a dash of this and that, but the ratios are pretty close.  I tried single flour versions, but the rice one was kinda gummy and the corn one needed more egg.  I didn't try an all bean flour version, but my theory is that it is high protein enough to hold it together.  This makes as good of a pancake as I have had.  It can be a bit dense, and adding some oil to the batter helps.  I sometimes have added savory spices - onions, garlic, or salt and pepper.  I have used that instead of a hot dog bun or as a side with my dinner, especially if they are a bit thin they are great.

Leila tried modifying this to make biscuits, but they were grainy.  I think they needed less corn meal and more bean flour.  I will work on it.  Overall, it is a doable.  Our attempts at desserts have been mostly successful.  Leila made a good oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that doesn't use any wheat flour and I keep some in the freezer for when I get snacky after the kids are in bed.  Leila made a great flourless chocolate cake for Kate's Birthday - she is three.  Crazy.  Emily makes a custardy rice pudding with sticky rice that I really like. I think I will stick with it for another month until I am due for another blood test.  If my liver enzyme levels are down, I will probably stay on it, if not I will bake all day long.


Becca said...

Welcome to the world of recipe/cooking/food blogs. ;)

I am sorry about your enzyme "issues" and I hope that gluten-free will do the trick. I hate pre-prepared as well. Another similarity between the Gardunfroes.

Brian G. said...

In some cultures we could formalize the Gardunia-Renfroe family by arranged marriages. Make sure you come to visit in about 10-15 years and we will work out the details.