How Can it be Gluten Free?

GFreeToday I’m writing about the America’s test Kitchen book How Can it be Gluten Free?. If you’re thinking about going gluten free, or you already are, this book is a must. There are bread recipes, biscuits, cake, all kinds of cookies and sweetbreads, different cereals and tips on how to cook the best pilaf, quinoa or otherwise.

I find a lot of the content online for free, but I still recommend grabbing a physical copy because it’s super handy to have it in your kitchen for reference.

I do have a few bones to pick with it though.

First, many of the recipes call for vegetable oil. I’m not 100% but I think some of them call for canola oil specifically. Vegetable oil is terrible. I’ll write a more comprehensive post explaining why in the future. I actually have a bottle of canola oil in my pantry that I only use for polishing wood furniture and oiling my oven door hinges. I do not consider it food. This is only a minor setback though, because it’s pretty easy to substitute coconut oil or olive oil depending on whether what you’re making is savory or sweet. Sometimes I even just use butter. Because butter is better.

Second, these recipes do not take proper grain preparation (soaking/sprouting) into account. I have had some success in soaking the cakes and the chocolate chip cookies, but some of the recipes, like bread, don’t lend themselves to soaking. You could get around this by sprouting your own brown rice and then grinding it into flour, but you can’t sprout white rice and the majority of the flour mix is white rice.

Otherwise the recipes in this book are fantastic. I was making bread for a while using the basic bread recipe and even hubby liked it. I even had success making a sourdough starter with the flour blend and I got a good number of sourdough loaves out of it that were good by gluten free standards, but hubby asked me to just make regular bread after a while so I stopped that. But know it is possible.

One of my favorite things about this book is that there is an explanation of all the things they tried before landing on a really successful recipe. They explain why certain things didn’t work and why others did. You could use this book to help create your own gluten free recipes for this reason. There are also really helpful tips and tricks that would never have occurred to me otherwise. Like using psyllium husk powder – something found in the supplement section of your health food store – for structure.

Be forewarned: if you have a nut allergy there are a handful of recipes that call for almond flour (the pizza crust being one of them) for texture reasons. However, you might be able to get away with oat flour or some other flour that has more protein than rice flour.

Overall this book is amazing. My husband, who loves bread and cookies, approves of the majority of the things I make from this book. The chocolate chip cookies are my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the sugar cookie recipe is to die for. Not to mention the chocolate cake recipe. The book is worth the money just for the desserts alone. That being said, I never knew I could like quinoa as much as I do until I followed the pilaf and porridge directions in this book. The main point I’m trying to make here is that I highly recommend it despite my misgivings. If you’re determined you can get around the two things I listed, and most of the stuff in this book is meant to be a treat anyway, so indulge yourself!

Denver Comic Con.

tardis.oliverOur little one is much bigger now, but he still enjoys Comic Con just as much. And he still loves Doctor Who.

We’re going to be running an artist table for Denver Comic Con this year. I may not return next year because they’re requiring everyone, including artists, to have insurance for an amount of product that I will never have. I’m lucky if my product stock reaches a total value of $2,000 and they want insurance for at least $100,000. If the insurance is reasonable, I might do it. I guess I’ll have to look into it. Anyway. This is the fourth year we’ve done this, and we have fun every year. Our son talks about it all year, and he’s very excited to go this year as well.

Attending conventions with a toddler in tow is certainly not easy, even if said toddler loves being there. The atmosphere is overwhelming (even for me) and keeping him entertained is sometimes difficult, believe it or not. If you ever find yourself at a large event like this with a toddler, here are some things we’ve learned with experience:

Always have extra food and drink. This is very important because a hungry/thirsty toddler is much harder to reckon with than a toddler that has had ample snacking and drinking. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m saying this because we have run out of food and the consequences are pricey.

Bring a blanket and, if you can, a comfy stroller. Heck, make it two blankets. One for covering the kiddo and one for draping over the top of the stroller for a little noise reduction. It really helps. If you’re manning a table, having an extra cushy blanket is excellent for setting up a makeshift bed underneath the table for sleeping.

Diapers. We cloth diapered through all but one of our cons. We cloth diapered for one of the Salt Lake City ones, which meant I had to do laundry at the hotel. This is hardcore. If you’re staying at a hotel and you normally cloth diaper, buy some disposables for the trip. I did this for our second Salt Lake City convention and I can tell you that it makes everyones life easier. If you’re in town you can just bring an extra wet bag with you and it’s not a big deal to just toss the diapers in your diaper pail at home when the day is done. Or, if you really don’t feel like dealing with it, buy disposables for while you’re at the convention.

Extra clothes. Our son is potty trained at this point and he’s very good at not having accidents. However, it would be unwise for us to travel to the convention center without an extra outfit because children are mess machines. It might be a sippy-cup incident, or something happened with some sort of food, or you just didn’t make the bathroom in time. Whatever it is, having that extra set of clothes is always a good idea. This doesn’t matter as much if you’re staying in a hotel close to the convention center because making a trip to your room isn’t as inconvenient as making the trek all the way back home. But I’d still strongly suggest it because it’s so much easier on everyone to alleviate the discomfort of wet/soiled clothing as soon as humanly possible. Your toddler will thank you, and so will the other con attendees.

Have a backup toy. This is something that’s more for tiny babies. Toddlers will usually find the convention itself entertaining enough -because what toddler doesn’t love to watch LEGO trains?- if you have the patience to sit at a certain display with them. If you get bored of the LEGO train before your toddler (this is highly likely to happen), bring something to entertain him, or yourself. Be sure to be mindful of little hands if you’re entertaining yourself though, watching out of the corner of your eye while reading something is never underrated.

Don’t be afraid to buy treats. Even if your family is on a restrictive diet, or you have an issue with your children consuming sugar (like me), the convention is only three days long. Unless you have a table, you may only be there for one day. Sure, the ice cream costs $5.99 a scoop, but it’s worth it. Especially if you’ve managed to bring plenty of snacks to otherwise entertain the never-ending appetite.

Those are my tips for attending a convention. More specifically, manning a booth or table. The easiest thing to do is find someone to watch the kiddo, but that’s not always possible.

I leave you with my newest piece of art. I’m hoping to sell lots of posters of her!

Spring Breakfast Muffins (GF)

IMG_20150513_173913I have been gluten free for a little over a year and a half. I started avoiding it on account of my thyroid, and I still avoid it because it still makes me feel less than great the day after I eat it. I do better with it now than I used to, but I do even better not eating it at all so I generally avoid it if possible. My dad got me an amazing cookbook for my birthday: The How Can it be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. I was going to talk about it today, but I made these muffins two days ago and they’re amazing, so I’m sharing the recipe instead.

Like everything else I cook, I used the recipe in the book as a guideline and made a bunch of substitutions. Sometimes this fails spectacularly but mostly it works out alright. This time I ended up with a delightful muffin that wasn’t too sweet, but perfect for breakfast. Especially with a nice pat of butter on top. I used the blueberry muffin recipe in the book and made adjustments for the different fruit.

All I can say about this recipe is, “I need a strawberry patch, ya’ll.”

Gluten Free Strawberry Rhubarb Breakfast MuffinsIMG_20150513_164308

11 ounces (1 3/4 cups plus 2/3 cup) gluten free flour blend
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 cup sucanat
1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup sour heavy whipping cream
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup rhubarb, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup strawberries, cut into small cubes
extra sucanat for sprinkling on top

  1. Mix the flour blend, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum together in a bowl, set aside.
  2. Combine the melted coconut oil, sucanat, vanilla and stevia in a mixer bowl and mix for a minute. Add the eggs and the cream and mix until well combined.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, stir flour mixture into the egg mixture until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain, about a minute. Fold in the fruit until evenly distributed. The batter will be thick and stiff, similar to cookie dough.
  4. Cover tightly and let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°. The rack should be in the middle position.
  6. Grease a muffin tin, or line with paper liners, and scoop the dough into the cups. I used a cookie scooper.
  7. Sprinkle sucanat over tops and bake until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 16 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
  8. Allow the muffins to cool in the muffin tin on a rack for 10 minutes before removing.
  9. Enjoy.

A thing to note about gluten free baked goods: the refrigerator is not your friend. Refrigeration will make your baked goods dry and dense, so it’s best to avoid it. If you make these ahead, just let them cool completely after removing them from the muffin tin and put them in an airtight container on the counter. Mine seemed better the next morning, actually.

Probiotic Deviled Eggs. It’s getting to be barbeque season and, for some reason, I associate barbeques with deviled eggs. These are my go-to appetizer to bring to any function and I make a batch every time we host. The secret to awesome deviled eggs is mayonnaise. You can’t make stellar eggs without good quality mayo, it’s just not possible. I make my own mayo using an awesome recipe by my friend Melissa at Dyno-Mom. I make the second recipe in that post and it is always amazing!

I usually hate mayonnaise, so when I tell you that homemade mayo is the best, I’m not joking around. Not only is it delicious, but the fermented mayo is good for your gut bugs too, which is an added bonus.

The things next to the eggs in the above picture are bacon-beef meatballs which deserve their own post. I was a little stunned to discover that the only picture I have of deviled eggs is from our little one’s first birthday party. I make them so often I just assumed there would be a larger selection, but there ya go. So pardon the quality.

Deviled EggsIMG_0653

6 hard-cooked eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon vinegar
Paprika for garnish

  1. Peel your eggs and cut them in half, putting the yolks into a large bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the paprika and mix well. You can use a fork or a hand mixer.
  3. Pipe or spoon the filling into the egg halves. Sprinkle paprika on top and serve.

If you need to make this ahead (I usually do) just do the first two steps, cover the bowl -or choose a mixing bowl that has its own lid- and stick it in the fridge. Load the egg halves onto the deviled egg plate and cover them tightly with plastic wrap. I’ve tried tossing them into a bowl before and I ended up with misshapen eggs at party time, which was no fun.

A variation you can do with these is use horseradish mustard, or any other flavor mustard, instead of dijon or yellow.

These are always a hit. This recipe is, by far, my favorite recipe for deviled eggs. But it doesn’t work without the mayo.

How to Make Water Kefir.

Water kefir is a sweet probiotic drink that is very versatile. During the secondary ferment you can add things like a splash of vanilla extract to make a vanilla cream soda flavored drink. Toss in a quartered orange (the whole thing) with the vanilla and you’ve got something that tastes like an orange creamsicle. The preferred flavor in our house is lemon. You can do this in a number of ways, but hubby’s favorite is when I add the lemon juice after the second ferment.

I can tell you that water kefir helps me keep my mood stable. I drink a glass every day. Not only because it’s beneficial, but because it’s delicious! As an added bonus, it’s even easier than kombucha to make.

You’ll need:IMG_0660

  1. Glass jars
  2. Canning lids or other airtight lids
  3. 1/2 cup sugar per 64 oz.
  4. Trace minerals (if using white sugar)
  5. Filtered water
  6. 1/2 cup water kefir grains/crystals per 64 oz.
  7. Mesh colander
  8. Large bowl (a pour spout on the bowl makes things easier)
  9. Extra jar, water, sugar for storing the crystals when not in use

To make:

  1. Pour the sugar into the jars.
  2. Warm up a little water and cover the sugar enough for it to dissolve.
  3. Fill the jar with the rest of the water after the sugar has dissolved, leaving 2 inches at the top.
  4. Add in the kefir crystals and top off the jar with water if there’s more than an inch left after adding them.
  5. Put the lids on the jars and let them sit for 24-48 hours. The longer they ferment, the higher the probiotic content.
  6. Strain the crystals out and set them aside, returning the liquid to the original jars.
  7. Put the lids back on the jars and let this ferment for another 12-24 hours. The longer it sits, the more bubbles in the finished product. This is the time to add flavorings like juice, fruit, extracts, herbs. Whatever you fancy, really.
  8. Place the crystals into the extra jar, cover them with water and a spoon or two of sugar, stick a lid on it and put it in the refrigerator.

I use sucanat for my water kefir as well as my kombucha. The sucanat seems to have a good balance of minerals to keep the grains healthy. I’ve tried using coconut sugar and my results were rather dismal. My grains got slimy and gross (which is an indication of a mineral content that is too high) and the end result wasn’t very pleasant tasting. White sugar works well too, you’ll just need to add in trace minerals or a drop or two of solé every once in a while to keep the kefir grains happy. You need to add minerals if your kefir grains get very small.