Wordless Wednesday: bread isn’t evil! May 20, 2015Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking, photography.
Tags: bread, food, pictures, wordless wednesday
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Time equals food February 17, 2015Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: celiacs, cooking, food, health, time
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One of the most frustrating aspects of having Celiac disease is the amount of time it takes away from…everything. It shouldn’t be that bad…I just have to stay away from gluten. However, it seems that I’m basically stuck making everything from scratch now.
It’s amazing how many things contain gluten. I can’t even buy many types of frozen vegetable mixes (!) without running into gluten. (They use it to thicken the sauces.) It’s a bit nerve-wracking buying anything that doesn’t have a ‘certified gluten-free’ symbol on it, and even then you have to be careful. (It turns out that there are limits to the test, and I’ve found I react to anything that has gluten-ingredients, even if it is certified gluten free. Apparently it’s just too hard to get rid of all of those nasty epitopes in things like vinegar.)
Of course, there are boxed alternatives to most foods that are gluten-free, but you’re paying 2 to 3 times the price for those items. When we switched over to a gluten-free diet, our eating out expenses pretty much dried up, but the grocery bill jumped enough to make up for it and then some…and I don’t even buy that much processed food.
There is the option of taking a tax deduction at the end of the year to feed into your medical deduction. In order to do this, you have to keep every receipt, denote the items that are gluten-free, find a comparable item that contains wheat, determine the difference, and keep track of the differences. The problem is that if you don’t hit the minimum on your medical deduction, you can’t use all this anyway. We seriously considered doing this until we realized that we probably would not exceed the necessary amount to do anything but the standard deduction, and it would take a LOT of time and research to begin with. Therefore, it seemed like a big waste of time.
Now I’m down to trying to make most things from scratch to keep expenses down, but this is certainly not helping with the time issue. One example is (decent) bread. If you buy gluten-free bread, it generally tastes unpleasant, though some brands are more tolerable than others, and you’re easily paying twice the amount of money for a loaf that is a 1/3 to 1/4 the size of your average wheat loaf. At least. I used to buy the fancy artisan bread from the local baker and it was probably the same amount as the gluten-free stuff, but it had a LOT more bread. If you’re used to the grocery store stuff, it’s even more dramatic. And the choices are pretty limited, too. If I want a loaf of sourdough, I have to make it myself because there just simply isn’t any premade available. (And seriously…who doesn’t love fresh sourdough bread?!) This is not a quick and easy process.
This whole issue wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t enjoy food so much. As much as not needing to eat would be convenient, I don’t think it’s in the cards.
The luxury of a home-cooked meal November 30, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in feminism, food/cooking, societal commentary.
Tags: celiacs, cooking, food, luxury
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The other day, I had a discussion with someone who was complaining about something related to fast food. I jokingly said that one way to avoid the problem was to, “You know, buy food at the store and cook it at home.”
That’s a luxury I can’t afford. I don’t have enough time to do that.
I have to admit this comment really got under my skin a lot more than I expected. The primary issue I have with this is that the real luxury is having the income that allows one to purchase precooked meals on a consistent basis. Claiming that cooking food at home is a luxury makes it sound like it’s something I get around to as a way to relax after having bon-bons and a massage on the couch while watching reruns of Quantum Leap.
The other reason it got to me is because I have no choice. Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I have discovered there are only about three restaurants in the city where I feel comfortable eating. I cannot eat over at friends’ houses because most of them don’t understand the dangers of cross-contamination. Even a crumb of gluteny food leaves me in pretty bad shape for nearly a week. I imagine a lot of people think this is hyperbole; I wish it was.
I have no choice but to cook almost everything I eat. I cannot buy prepackaged foods. If I am lucky enough to find ones I don’t react to, they are priced to cost nearly twice as much as an equivalent food containing wheat. I can’t afford that. In fact, most people I know can’t.
This comment left me feeling like somehow my time is less valuable than this person who said it. Cooking is most definitely work, and it’s time-consuming work, as well. It’s bad enough that domestic work has been ignored in economic terms forever, but now we’re trying to rebrand it as a luxury?
Wordless Wednesday: Pictures in food April 23, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking, photography.
Tags: cooking, food, pictures, wordless wednesday
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Traveling off the wheaten path April 20, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: celiacs, food, gluten, gluten free diet, travel
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One thing I discovered pretty quickly is that I am incredibly sensitive to even small amounts of wheat/gluten. I am finding that this makes traveling with celiac disease a lot more challenging than I ever anticipated. It is also frustrating as one of my favorite parts of traveling used to be finding all the cool places to eat.
Unfortunately, travel seems to have become a fairly regular thing for me now, so I’m having to get used to it.
I’m learning some things that help. First, I have to either be sure there are places I can eat that are reliably gluten-free, or I have to get a hotel room with a kitchen. (I’ve become a fan of places that end in “Suites.”) I’ve also discovered that Whole Foods and Trader Joes are my favorite pairs of words when I travel (although probably Whole Foods, moreso). Planning ahead is pretty vital.
The gist of it is that a trip that involves me driving usually involves me packing a bunch of food to bring along, maybe even a cooler. If I’m flying, which was the case earlier this month, I have to have a hotel room with a kitchen and a rental car to go pick up food. I also then have to find this balance between having the right food and not overdoing it so that I don’t leave food to feed an army in the fridge when I leave.
So what do I eat?
I usually do sausage (assuming I can find a safe brand) and scrambled eggs with peppers for breakfast. Lunch involves salad with chicken (I can usually find precooked breasts or sandwich meat, although I will cook it myself in a pinch) or hardboiled eggs. For sides, I like baby carrots, and I can even make a very simplistic potato salad fairly easily. I’m finding there are a lot of packet sizes of things like coconut oil or other stuff that comes in handy as condiments. If I need something that I can’t get in packets, I just try to buy the smallest available size.
I usually find a place for dinner, but if not, there are options in the frozen foods like fish sticks or corn dogs (with more salad and carrots, of course). I’m always relieved when there’s a PF Changs nearby. We don’t have one in Fargo, so not only do I get my Chinese fix, I can do it without any gluten. And cookies…there are gluten free cookies out there.
Though it’s not the best, I also have a stash of M&Ms or something similar with me…because it’s a good idea in case schedules or something get off. (While I don’t usually get sick any more, I can’t say I feel the best if I overdo it on snack foods.)
Believe it or not, I pack a few ziploc bags, a lunch box, and a blue ice pack into my suitcase. I stuff the lunch box full of food before I leave the hotel room. I imagine I look pretty sporting hauling it around with me (it’s a soft-sided, purple and pink box), but it at least removes the temptation to eat anything that could be dangerous. And it’s better than spending half the trip sick in the hotel room…or coming back very sick.
The biggest inconvenience is the time it takes. Going to conferences can be rather tiring, and some days are very long. If I can get there a day ahead of time, I can do a bunch of shopping and prepare food, which makes it easier. I also go through and rewash all the dishes by hand before I use them, just in case someone didn’t do a thorough job and there are crumbs or other things on there. (I imagine this is a good idea, either way.)
I’m getting more practiced at this and finding that it’s not as difficult now that I’m getting better at it. I don’t even get too many comments about my lunch box any more.
3 Karrot Gluten-Free Muffins February 23, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: carrots, celiacs, cooking, fodmaps, food, gluten free diet, muffins
(Note: I’ve made a couple changes since I originally posted this. It produces much fluffier muffins, and fluffy muffins are good in my book.)
I could tell you what I’ve been up to lately, but it’s pretty much the same thing I’ve been up to for the past year and a half: I’m either working on a paper or a proposal…although now and again I’m trying to help my student out. But really, it’s kind of getting silly to say this as it hardly changes.
I have, however, been spending a lot of time perfecting my carrot cake recipe. One day, a few weeks ago, I had this horrid craving for carrot cake. The problem I have is that a lot of gluten-free food in general tastes pretty awful: I haven’t had one I like yet. Second, even if I did like them, most mixes I come across are not FODMAPs friendly…meaning they have some ingredient or other that will make me sick. (If you’re not sure what this is, you can read about it here.) Finally, I try, as much as possible, to eat paleo. Unfortunately, FODMAPS friendly paleo foods are rather tough to come by. Most use nuts or coconut flour (or taste even worse than the run-of-the-mill gluten-free foods), so those are out.
I decided I had to come up with something myself. I added the condition that my friends who eat ‘normal’ diets must enjoy eating it, too. I am pretty sure this one succeeded. I also tried, very hard, to make it mostly carrots. I don’t think I succeeded, but I did manage to at least balance the carrot to flour ratio…it’s much better than the standard 3:1 flour to carrot ratio in most recipes. (Most carrot cake, in my opinion, is just spice cake pretending to be healthier than it is.) I am aware that most people don’t consider sugar or brown sugar to be paleo, but those, along with molasses, are the only FODMAPs-friendly sweeteners I can handle.
I’ve finally perfected my recipe, so I’ll share it below. I’m very excited because it’s one of the very few baked goods I’ve made lately that I can actually eat myself. I will warn you that it’s really a pain to make, but it’s totally worth it. However, I’m quite serious when I say not to deviate from the instructions. As much as I love kitchen short-cuts, you don’t want to just throw everything in the food processor and call it good.
And one last note: while you may want to try substitutions, be very careful about maintaining the moisture balance in these muffins. I learned the hard way (and repeatedly) that one little change can leave you with hockey pucks or mushy gunk in short order. Therefore, this recipe won’t work if you decide to throw honey in for the brown sugar. You CAN get away with 1/4 c. of a dry sweetener instead, like palm sugar or raw cane sugar, if you want to try something else.
If you do make changes, please let me know so that I can pass them on to anyone else who is interested.
3 Karrot Muffins
Makes about 12 muffins.
- 11-12 oz. fresh raw peeled carrots
- 2/3 c. dehydrated carrot (make sure it’s not processed on the same equipment as wheat…I buy them online)
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 c. potato starch
- 1/3 c. tapioca flour
- 1/3 c. sweet rice flour
- 1/4 c. white rice flour
- 1/4-1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
Optional cream cheese ‘filling’
- 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 2 tsp. coconut oil
- 2 tsp. sweetener (sugar, maple syrup, whatever)
I’m going to start with the cream cheese filling: you don’t have to do it. If you’d like to do it, there’s an easy way and a harder way. The easy way is just to cut your 4 oz of cream cheese into 12 chunks of the same size. It tends to dry and crack a bit though, so the harder way is to blend the cream cheese and coconut oil (and sweetener, if you want some) in a small bowl using a mixer. This will have a nicer texture and look nicer, but it doesn’t really taste much different. Put it in the fridge for later.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Mix the eggs and dried carrots in a separate bowl. Set aside. Leave this sitting for a while. In essence, you’re using your eggs to rehydrate the dried ones.
While waiting for the carrots to rehydrate, add the following dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl: potato starch, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, white rice flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Combine thoroughly.
Place the raw carrots in a food processor or blender (if it’s a really good blender) and run until the carrots are finely chopped. (By finely chopped, I mean ‘not quite a puree but as close as the machine can get.’) Next add the dried carrots and egg mixture. The eggs should whip up and give the mixture a lighter orange color, and it should look like a puree. (Note: don’t shortcut and throw it all in the food processor at once unless your machine is VERY good. I tried that and ended up with a serving of baked carrots in the middle of a couple of muffins.)
Before you take the next step, get your muffin pan ready. I generally like to use foil muffin papers for these as they seem to soak through paper liners. I also suspect the foil liners do a better job of baking the muffins evenly.
Add the coconut oil, vanilla extract, and lemon juice to the food processor and run again. Add contents of the food processor to the bowl of dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. I usually just use a large spoon to do this as the mixture seems awfully thick for a mixer. Divide batter evenly between muffin liners.
If you’re using the cream cheese (mixture), add about 2 tsp. to each muffin. Make sure to press it down into the batter a bit. I don’t recommend making divots in the muffins as it seems to create big air bubbles.
Bake for 25 min. Let cool for a couple hours at room temp before serving (even though they smell incredible). Because of the raw carrots, these put off a lot of moisture and need to be cooled properly.
Recipe Double Header: Maple-whipped sweet potatoes and gluten-free sweet potato pancakes January 1, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: breakfast, celiacs, cooking, food, gluten free diet, paleo, pancakes, recipe, sweet potatoes
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The other day, Mike and I were eating at one of our favorite local restaurants (i.e., one of maybe five that is celiac-friendly and hasn’t tried to kill me yet), I tried a new dish: maple-whipped sweet potatoes. We both fell in love with it, and so I’ve made it a couple times at home. It’s super easy. Also…it might be paleo, depending on your feelings on maple syrup.
The best part of making these is that I usually make large enough quantities that there are leftovers. Some people I know think, “Yay! Leftovers!” I personally think, “Yay! Pancakes!” Some people think that’s too much work. However, given I cringe every time I watch my kids dump a half gallon of maple syrup on pancakes, these are sweet enough (in my opinion) to avoid syrup altogether…unless you’re younger son who still thinks they need syrup. A pat of butter is nice, though. So far, everyone in the house seems to like them.
Maple-whipped sweet potatoes
2 lbs. of sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3 tbsp. coconut oil
1/4 cup. maple syrup OR 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp water, 2 tsp maple extract
Toss the sweet potatoes in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and coconut oil. There’s two ways you can do this, depending on the time you have. You can throw them in the crockpot (low for 5 hrs, high for 3 hrs) or bake in a covered dish at 350°F for one hour. I prefer the crockpot method as they always seem more moist, but if you’re in a hurry, you’ve got options. Once they’re done cooking, let cool for 5-10 minutes, then put them in a large mixing bowl with the maple syrup. Use a hand mixer and blend until smooth and creamy. (Whether you’re doing this with the brown sugar mixture or maple syrup, you may need to add water, a tablespoon at a time, to get it creamy.)
Sweet potato pancakes
1 lb. maple whipped sweet potatoes
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1 tbsp. coconut oil
Mix all ingredients together and cook on a non-stick pan or griddle on medium-low to medium heat until browned. Flip, and brown on the other sides. I’d suggest making smaller pancakes – about 3 inch diameter. You have to watch these carefully. Because of the high sugar content, they go from brown to blackened very quickly if the heat is too high. Also, there’s no good way to see if they’re done on one side except for checking. The high moisture content insulates the top side when the bottom side is being cooked.
Post Christmas food frenzy: buckwheat crepes December 28, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: celiacs, cooking, food, gluten free diet, recipe
Our family has had a tradition of having a ‘nice’ breakfast or brunch on Sunday mornings. For a while, this consisted of getting together with extended family and calling it “waffle Sunday” because we almost always had waffles. (After my celiac diagnosis, the waffle maker was handed off to another home where it is hopefully happy.) Later, I spent the summer with a friend in Berkeley, and the topic of crepes came up.
I adore crepes.
My friend said his grandfather made the best crepes ever, and so he spent a morning teaching me how to make them. It was far simpler than I thought. You combine 1 cup of wheat flour, 1 egg, and enough milk to have a very sloshy liquid. It’s probably the same consistency as warm custard before it’s set, or maybe egg nog. Then you add about 1/2 tsp. of some sort of oil to a small frying pan, and once it’s hot, add enough batter that you can spread a thin layer over the bottom of the pan. Cook until the edges start to get crispy, then flip. I moved from white flour to whole wheat flour (and my tummy hurts just saying that) because I liked the nuttier taste.
It’s not easy to make gluten free crepes. But another thing I adore is buckwheat because of it’s nuttier taste. The search was on, and I came across a wonderful site explaining the history of crepes and galletes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for as I wanted a buckwheat crepe that would be suitable for things like fruit fillings, and apparently galletes are not. I was thrilled when I came across this recipe for a way to improve the nutritional value of buckwheat and make a sort of pancake out of it. Still…too thick.
I decided instead to try my old recipe using the principles of soaking the buckwheat groats first. I took 2 1/2 cups of groats and soaked them in water for several hours. (You’ll want to check the recipe link to see why I do this.) I then rinsed the groats and blended them with a mixture of water and heavy cream (2:1 ratio, respectively). Once I had a thick enough batter, I added about 3 eggs. Then I continued to add water and cream until I had the same egg-nog consistency thickness I got with my wheat-based crepes. Everything else went the same as before, using between 1 tsp. to 1/2 tbsp. of coconut oil to cook the crepe. They will work for either savory or sweet fillings, if you like a nutty flavor. They are very filling, either way.
Gluten-free buckwheat crepes
1 cup buckwheat raw buckwheat groats
1 to 1 1/2 cups water and heavy cream mixed 2:1 (or milk of your choice)
Pour buckwheat into a bowl and add dechlorinated water to about 1 inch above buckwheat. Let soak for several hours. Strain and rinse with warm water to get rid of slimy texture. Add groats, egg, and water/cream mixture to blender and blend to smooth. Continue to add water/cream until batter is ‘soupy’.
Add coconut oil to non-stick frying pan over medium to medium high heat (somewhere between 1 tsp. and 1/2 tbsp per crepe). Add about 1/3 cup batter, pouring into oil, and tilting pan to coat the bottom. (You will have to figure out how much works for you depending on how large your pan is and how thick you like your crepes.) Cook until brown spots form on underside of crepe. Flip crepe and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
Favorite toppings at our house are sliced bananas, berries, sometimes whipped cream. We’ve also used straight syrup (did your insulin level just go out the roof), philly cream cheese honey and nut spread, or a blend of cream cheese (4 oz), orange marmalade (1 tbsp), and maple syrup (1 tbsp). If you want to go the savory route, ham and cheese are always good choices.
The paleo diet: just like grandma used to make October 19, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking.
Tags: celiacs, cooking, food, gluten free diet
I know this isn’t really sciencey in the physics sense, but it’s been an interesting exploration for me. In the past couple of months, I have been doing some dietary changes, primarily because I’m finding that, with my celiac disease, I really can’t tolerate any grains except rice. Even the wonderful, delicious, gluten-free Udi’s bread and muffins obviously do a number on me and have to go.
As a result of trying to go grain-free, I’ve started reading a lot about the paleo and primal diets. It turns out I’d pretty much gotten rid of dairy (although I have another post about that particular adventure) and beans since those have made me sick for a long time.
When you read the comments about paleo by non-paleo folks, it’s interesting how they discuss it as an extreme diet, how it’s horribly based on animal foods, etc. I understand what they mean. I have always had a bit of trouble with the idea of eating organ meats, which are touted as wonder foods. I remember being force-fed liver as a kid and forced to cook it as a teenager. I watched in disgust as my parents and grand-parents would squabble over turkey hearts and gizzards at Thanksgiving. (Heck, my dad and grandmother still argue about it.) Who would eat that stuff?!
Thinking about these things brought me back to a lot of the dreaded trips to relatives as a kid. Beyond the organ meats, there were canned veggies. My grandmother canned everything, and with the exception of peaches, it was generally pretty gross once it came out of the jar. That’s what they did on the farms: grow as much as they could during the summer and then can it for the winter. Old habits die hard when you grow up on a farm, so that’s what we ate for dinner at grandma’s: lots of canned veggies.
I often wondered about how these old ladies could live well into their nineties eating some of this stuff. It could only be attributable to their sturdy constitutions, as far as I was concerned. They had those hardy German-Russian and Norwegian genes to keep them going.
Except now I’m sitting here in my 30s with an autoimmune disorder that’s becoming increasingly common and I’m starting to wonder…if I ate that awful stuff, could I live into my 90s? Because really, I look at this “extreme paleo diet” and am realizing that it’s really not that different than the things that farm families ate all the time in the rural areas of North Dakota just 100 years ago.
I pulled out my copy of “German Food and Folkways” and started looking very carefully at the recipes. You know what I noticed was lacking? Flour. There are a few recipes here and there, but they’re scattered and there’s no section that focuses on baked goods.
I did find a huge section talking about meats. Apparently my German-Russian ancestors probably gorged on liver and kidney. They ate tons of fresh eggs and raw or fermented dairy. And then there were the veggies: copious amounts of beets, cabbage, and potatoes.
Corn was fed to animals when there wasn’t much to graze, so no one in their right mind would eat it. Wheat flour was used occasionally but not all the time because it was a lot of work to process and would go bad pretty quickly, not to mention attract rodents and other pests.
Now I’m starting to wonder. Rather than telling people that I’m going on the paleo diet, which people think is extreme, I wonder if they would react better to me calling it the traditional German homesteader diet? Because bacon is involved, I’m sure they’ll be more open to it.
And now you’ll have to excuse me…I have to see if I can force myself to cook some liver and onions.
Friday Fun: Your father smelt of elderberries! August 16, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in food/cooking, photography, younger son.
Tags: berries, food, hiking, outdoors, pictures
During the past week, we took a family vacation before school started. We chose to spend a few days at Lake Itasca State Park in Minnesota, which is the home of the Mississippi headwaters. There are tons of places to go hiking, so we chose a trail and found, much to our delight, that there were tons of wild raspberries growing along the trail. We picked them as we walked, and by the time we were done with our hike, we were almost full.
This little adventure left me and the younger son really curious about the other berries on our outdoor excursions. We took some pictures and then went and bought a berry guide at the visitor center.
The following is a visual guide of most of the berries we saw and our best guesses as to what they were:
And the main reason this is fun is because I now understand the second half of this joke better.
(Elderberries apparently don’t smell very good…)