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Tag Archives: gluten free food

Easy, Great H’orduevre

When my husband tried my gluten-free adaptation of an h’ordeuvre I had at book club and loved it, I knew I had to post it. Because it is so easy, fast, and elegant I wanted you to have it for that surprise visit by friends or family.  Will be great for that Super Bowl Party!

The original recipe came from Caprial Pence on his show, Cooking with Caprial.  I have no idea what the original recipe is, because I just made up my own from tasting the h’ordeuvre my book club friend served.

GF Sleuth’s version of Caprial’s Marinated Goat Cheese Spread.

  • 1 log of soft goat cheese
  • Trader Joe’s GF balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • thyme, fresh or dried
  • 1/4 to 1/2  cup of GF mixed olives, coarsely chopped.   I like the tang of kalamata  and GF vinegar-processed green olives
  • GF baguette or GF crackers
  • Throw a whole  goat cheese log into a zip lock freezer bag.  Fill the bag with balsamic vinegar, until it covers at least half  or all of the goat cheese.
  • Then remember it needs a bit of olive oil, so pour two to four glugs of olive oil into the bag.
  • Throw in a couple of scoops or handfuls of dried thyme.  I also threw in some fresh thyme sprigs, about 6-8.
  • Squish gently,  so all the goat cheese turns that wine red color of the balsamic vinegar without altering the log shape of the cheese.  Let marinate for 3 or 4 hours or 2 days.
  • Take out and put the cheese log on a beautiful platter or tray.
  • Top with the chopped olives and a few artfully arranged bits of thyme.
  • Put slices of your favorite GF baguette or crackers around the edges of the platter.
  • Serve with a little knife,  allowing guests to grab a baguette slice or cracker and slice off a bit of cheese log to spread on top.

Voila!  The easiest and most elegant tasting h’ordeuvre I’ve made or served in a long time.

(Thank you, Monica and Caprial Pence.)

Travel Mysteries

Last weekend, my husband and I escaped to a bed and breakfast inn.  Aaah!  How we love California!  Cloudless 65* weather that felt like 80* made us feel like we were on a Hawaii vacation rather than a northern California Thanksgiving weekend.  (Clearly, I had packed the wrong clothes expecting colder weather.)

Waves literally crashed 30-40 feet from our second story balcony window at The Cyprus Inn.   At high tide, the only thing separating us from the incoming froth was the one-lane road directly below.

What I love about a November getaway is the sun sets just about the time you pour a glass of wine and tuck into a few pre-dinner snacks.  Honestly, I marvel at our luck with the weather, because that first night the sunset flamed every shade of red/coral on the horizon, the likes of which I have only seen recently on the blog, www.CanadianHikingPhotography.com.

Enough about the setting, though.  What I wanted to tell you is how after all these years of trying so hard to be conscientious about preventing gluten from entering my body, I sometimes still have problems when I travel, and I simply can’t fathom where I’ve ingested gluten.  It’s crazy.

Upon arriving in Half Moon Bay, we ate a huge, late lunch at that wonderful Italian restaurant called Mezza Luna.  After fighting bumper to bumper traffic for the last 15 miles, we decided to make that meal our dinner.  I had a wonderful Caprese Salad with a red wine vinegar dressing (a safe bet), followed by a vegetable-stuffed grilled chicken breast with a tomato-based, unfloured sauce (the sauce had the appropriately thin GF consistency.)  A safe iced tea was my beverage.  All safe, right?

At sunset on the balcony, we cracked open a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, (one I’d had many times with no reaction), and some raw crudités from the happy hour offerings of the B & B (safe again) with some TJ’s GF rice crackers and their GF humus.

Then…in the middle of the night, the gluten rash’s itching woke me out of sound sleep.  I just couldn’t believe it and couldn’t fathom where I got gluten, at least not in my food.  The only thing I did differently was use a bit of the B & B’s lotion before going to bed.  Even a gluten-filled cosmetic, as you read from past entries, is not a guarantee of a gluten reaction.  And yet…I was having one, albeit without the stomach cramps (thank goodness), nor the tiredness the next day.

Saturday brought more crazy, fabulous weather!  After a breakfast on plain scrambled eggs, plain chopped, fried potatoes with melted cheese on top and my normal cup of coffee (I know…it’s a bit of a food  sin that makes life simply great, doesn’t it? Thank goodness it’s GF), we took a two mile walk on Miramar beach followed by a simple lunch of GF humus and  GF crackers and fruit. (That should have been safe.)  Because we didn’t want to fight the horrendous traffic again, we walked to the Miramar Restaurant five properties down for dinner.  They even had a gluten free menu.  (How cool was that?)  Everything I ordered was off the GF menu, except for the Mai Tai “I needed” to complete the feeling of being in Hawaii.  (Love, love, love Hawaii.) Because Mai Tais are just fruit juices and different types of rum, I usually don’t have a reaction.  (Oh,  and it was GOOOOD!)

Dun, da-dun dun dun…the 2am itch and cramps set in!  (Seriously? This is getting sooo old!)  I am more careful and conscientious about this GF diet than any other Celiac or gluten intolerant I have ever met.  I am annoyingly careful. (Just ask any relative or friend that has ever shared a meal with me.)  And still…I have these reactions.  Honestly, sometimes, I just don’t know what else to do.  I need to be free to travel, because I was born with the travel bug in my veins, but sometimes…

I don’t know if it was an accumulation of miniscule bits of unidentifiable gluten or what, but Sunday morning I woke up with “the debilitating” tiredness, the kind where I drag myself around like a heavy sack of potatoes.  With that, comes an inability to smile…a moroseness.  It just feels like too much effort.  (I really hate that part, because normally I have a sunny disposition.)  Not wanting to ruin my husband’s joy in the getaway, I gave myself a mental shake and planted a fake smile on my face (which he saw through, of course, and felt badly for my discomfort.) I told him in an overly chipper voice, “No it’s okay.  We are just riding home today, anyway.  I will enjoy the heck out of the beautiful coastline on Highway 1 down to Santa Cruz and Hecker Pass.”

And I did…giving thanks the overwhelming tiredness waited until the last day of our escape weekend.  The headlands with the crashing surf were shrouded in a bit of mist, a precursor to the dense fog bank hanging farther out to sea.  An Irish kind of day. Thank goodness I was able to sit quietly in the car and soak in the beauty of the day as we made our way home.

The only possible culprits for the reaction—

Something in the Mai Tai

Something in the lotion

Something on a cooking utensil that cross contaminated the restaurant food.

Honestly, I would like to know if this happens to any of the rest of you gluten sensitive people out there?

This entry is dedicated to my father-in-law, who is starting to realize that my journey through life is vastly different from what he thought.  Thank you for your compassionate concern.

Hit or Miss

Two days ago, my chiropractor friend, Diana, who recently started the Paleo diet, said, “I think wine is sometimes bothering me with a gluten reaction.  But it is only sometimes.”  Of course that started the whole wheat paste in oak barrel production discussion from my first wine blog entry.  What I didn’t discuss in that entry was the “hit or miss” syndrome in wine drinking or tasting, which furthers the confusion and controversy on the topic.

After MUCH original research, i.e. wine tasting, hours on the phone with coopers in Napa Valley, and talking to the actual wine makers in many, many boutique wineries throughout California, I discovered several things from the wine makers and coopers:

  1. Huge bulk wineries usually cannot afford to age their wines in oak barrels.  They use the more economical stainless steel tanks to age wine.  Thus, wineries like Gallo can claim that their wines are gluten free, which they are if aged in stainless steel.
  2. Some quirky boutique wineries reuse their barrels over and over, thoroughly cleaning all residue out of the barrels each time.  Chances are these wines are gluten free.  The wine maker at Kirigin Winery told me that he had not bought a new barrel in 17 years.  He could pretty much guarantee that there would not be one molecule of gluten in any of his wines after 17 years of cleaning and recleaning, and I believe that is probably true
  3. Some wineries filter their wines to such a degree before bottling that the gluten molecule, which is rather large, gets filtered out, usually making these wines safe for gluten intolerants.   Sycamore Creek Winery in Gilroy sterile filters all of the wine under their new Flagship Reserve label.  I have never had a reaction to sterile filtered wines.  Yeah!   Plus, I will be talking about the filtration process in length in my next wine blog entry.
  4. Some of the coopers, who merely use the wheat paste to glue the ends to the staves, would like to claim the wines made in these barrels are gluten free because they thoroughly rinse the insides of the barrels before sending them to the wineries.  Theoretically, the chance of getting a random wheat molecule that did not get eliminated during the rinsing process would be nil.  Yes, I have had reactions to wine made in these barrels, so this is a less than perfect method for removing the wheat molecules.
  5. Coopers from other countries may not use this wheat paste practice, maybe making foreign wines okay.  I talked to a friend yesterday, who just got back from a two week trip to the Mendoza wine region in Argentina.  After talking to an extremely well informed sommelier at one of the wineries, she thought the Malbec and all the the wines from that winery might be safe.  The sommelier assured her that she had watched the wine barrel making process, and there was no wheat paste or powder used.  As soon as I get the name of this winery,  I am going to Bev Mo to find it.  I like to test a potentially iffy wine on a Saturday night when I have nothing important planned on Sunday, in case a hidden gluten takes me out on Sunday.  My daughter, another Celiac impaired, has had some good luck with red wines from Bordeau and Italy.

YES, with all these variables in any given oak-aged wine, drinking wine and having a reaction is a Hit or Miss proposition.  That explains why the reactions or non reactions to oak-aged wines are exactly that…Hit or Miss.  It’s a confusing proposition at best.

How I have dealt with it is to not drink oak-aged wine, unless I have talked to the wine maker about filtration and the source and use of their barrels.  Short of being able to talk to the wine maker, not the wine pourer at a tasting room (who may or may not know anything substantial about the actual wine making operation at the winery), I forego.  It is sad, but safe.

My go-to varietals:

                Unoaked Chardonay

                Sauvignon Blanc  –  a few are aged in oak barrels, so you need to talk to the wine maker if possible or take your chances

                Pinot Grigio

                Riesling – preferably dry

                Champagne and Sparkling Wines

 

Reds…

                Sycamore Creek Vineyard’s Flagship Label

                Kirigin Winerytheoretically ok, but have not tested them yet on my own digestive tract

                Gallo

                A Sniff and Two Sips – our backyard grown and made Merlot and Cab.

Diana update… she stuck to Sauvignon Blanc last weekend and had no cramping. Today’s entry is dedicated to you, Diana.

As an aside, 98% of these busy winemakers and coopers in Napa and the less famous wine regions all over California (Anderson Valley, San Luis Obispo, South Bay Area Counties like Santa Cruz and Santa Clara, Hollister, and the Folsom, Sierra Nevada Foothill areas, etc.) were unbelievably generous with their time and genuine interest in helping me explore this issue with them.  I found it remarkable how open and patient they were with my inquiries, because who am I, a random person asking in depth and detailed questions for my own interest and personal health. I was especially stunned that the actual coopers in Napa Valley, supplying some of the most famous wineries in the world would not only get on the phone, but willingly detail the barrel making process with me.  I can only assume that the gluten issue has become so well publicized in the last five years that they were interested in talking and thinking through the issues with a wine lover trying to weave her way through the landmine of a GF lifestyle.

Thank you to each and every one of you in the industry, who have helped me learn so much!

 

Gluten free German meat rubs

Last night we got to taste the first batch of Opa Helmut’s Rub recipe for German Bratwurst ever made in the US by his granddaughter, Astrid, a friend of ours.  After eating ourselves silly, I need to tell you those sausages were the best sausages of any kind that I have ever tasted, and we have travelled and eaten Bratwurst in Germany.  Never before have I tasted such freshness and clarity.  With no nitrates and no curing, the sausages did not have that “I’m-going-to–last-forever quality that I don’t like in cured meats. Thus, the fresh, pure taste.  I could actually distinguish the ground pork (with no bits of bone or cartilage) etc., mixed with the spices and herbs.  Outstanding!

Of course, Astrid used her family’s secret Bratwurst spice rub, of the Thuringer style Bratwurst, which you will be able to buy soon, along with her other outstanding spice rub mixes, on the website www.opahelmutsrub.com.  Her meat rubs have been a wild hit here in the South Bay Area.  I highly recommend them, not only because they are Gluten Free and MSG free, but are made without weird, unpronounceable ingredients, simply the pure herbs and spices.  What a gift Astrid is giving the United States by sharing her family’s exclusive meat rubs with us.  The best of the German butcher/craftsman has come to America.  Lucky us!

Again, go to www.opahelmutsrub.com to try these amazing, exclusive Gluten Free and MSG free spice rubs.

Vacation Dietary Cheating

What I know about chronic conditions is that it is every day, every minute…no days off!

One of my dear friends, who is extremely careful and conscientious about following her diet, just went on a four day romantic, bed and breakfast getaway with her husband.  Of course, she wanted a vacation from her daily routines.  That is the fun of vacation.  However, just a tiny bit of deviating from her rigid dietary restrictions in the name of “I can’t take it any more;  I need a couple of days off” landed her in bed for four days after her four day vacation…in misery.

Was it worth it?  No one can judge.  The relentlessness of scrutinizing every single bite that goes into your mouth, can wear a person down emotionally.  Sometimes we all just need to cheat, be a little sinful, or simply relax the rigidity.  Yes, we pay, but sometimes in the name of our emotional health, the cost  may be worth it.

My solution, because I have been sick more days of my life than well, is to try to find foods that feel outside of my regular diet that are still gluten free.  I try to get that vacation feeling without actually cheating.  Because I do not include these foods in my everyday diet, I am going to share a couple of my favorite sinful foods that I indulge in on vacations:

Mixed rum drinks

GF caramels, especially the ones with a little extra salt

Very dark GF chocolate

S’Mores with GF graham crackers

Maragaritas

GF Dessert.

S’More recipe

GF Marshmallows

GF graham crackers

GF milk chocolate

Apples

Roast two GF marshmallows over a campfire gone to coals until golden brown.  Core and slice an apple in 1/8 to ¼ inch slices, horizontally with the core hole in the center.  Put a slice of the apple and a square or three of chocolate on one graham cracker.  Grab the marshmallows off the roasting stick onto the cracker, chocolate, apple combo with another graham cracker.  Squish and eat.  Yum!

A GF Comfort Food Recipe to Celebrate FALL

After an intense September filled with…life, I just wanted to share one of my favorite gluten free comfort food recipes with you, even though there is nothing sleuthish about it.   After a successful backyard Merlot and Cab grape harvest with the juice happily starting to ferment in the barn, some overnight company, and one family medical crisis, I needed something chewy, a bit sweet, and a teensy sinful to help me slide into the unwinding process.  For me, that something is a batch of my GF Rum Scones.

My GF Rum Scones

½ to ¾ package (about ½ cup) of Trader Joe’s dried blueberries (I  particularly like these because they are small like currants, although those would work too, and because they are semi soft.  I have also used cut up dried cherries, about ½ cup.

1/3 cup dark rum

Put the dried fruit in a small bowl and pour the dark rum over them to let them soak up that rum goodness while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

1 package Gluten Free Pantry’s Scone Mix

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

1 stick of real butter (butter substitute works fine, if dairy intolerant)

Cut the stick of butter into the dry Scone Mix and spice mixture until the bits are a little smaller than baby peas.

1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork

1 tsp sour cream (optional)

1 tsp GF vanilla

Up to 1/3 cup milk (works fine with a milk substitute)

Add all of the above to the dry ingredients, including the rum/fruit mixture, except the milk.  Mix together with a wooden spoon.  If the mixture is too dry after this to form a ball that sticks together, start adding the milk, a little at a time, until you have the pastry ball.

Don’t over mix.   I squish the ball on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it is about 1 to 1 ¼  inches high.  At this point, you can make an egg wash to brush on top, but I am too lazy for that.  What sits on the sheet is one large, thick circle of potential scone goodness.

Bake in 400* oven for 15-20 minutes.   Cut into pie shaped wedges after cooling for 8-10 minutes (a serrated knife seems the least shape disturbing)

Then, sit back, legs tucked under you with an ultra soft blanket-throw over your lap; put a chunk of savory cheese and this warm wedge of scone on a beautiful breakfast plate; pour a hot cup of tea, mocha coffee, or other delightful beverage, and RELAX!

Aaaah….

Glutenfree Health Drink Alert

Health Drinks labelled Glutenfree

I just spent three days at this amazing eco farm called Lodestar in Arizona, visiting friends. The hostess had been giving her aging mother this wonderful health drink filled with nearly all the nutrients a human body needs to thrive.   And…the mother’s health was responding beautifully.

Of course, when she offered me some, I responded with my usual, “Could I see the container, please?”  In big, bold letters on the outside label were the words, VEGAN, GLUTENFREE.

“Cool!” I carefully dipped a teaspoon into an already made shake to try the flavor. After all my years as a health food nut, I have ingested some foul tasting health drinks, trying to increase my stamina and immune system health. Thus, the teaspoon sized taste.  Crazy what you will swallow to heal yourself!

“Hmmm! This tastes really good.” I have also learned to suspect good tasting health drinks, because they usually have too much sugar or something not necessarily “good” for a body.   I like to read the label to ferret out the unhealthy ingredients that are making it taste so good.

Surprisingly, about halfway down a monstrously long list of ingredients, I see the words “barley” and “wheat.”

“WHAT? No. That can’t be right!” I read it again. “Barley and Wheat” were definitely still in the list of ingredients. I flipped the jar over to make sure I saw the big bold GLUTENFREE  tag on the bottom of the label. Yes.  It was still there.  GLUTENFREE.

“Crazy,” I’m thinking. “Who wrote this label? How could this be marketed as glutenfree, when it clearly was not?” I had no answers to this. However, I now know that even if a product says Glutenfree on the label, I need to ALWAYS read the actual ingredient list. We, Celiacs, can never get a rest from ingredient scrutiny, can we?

NEWSFLASH– READ THE WHOLE  “INGREDIENT LIST” EVEN IF A BIG, BOLD GLUTENFREE IS WRITTEN ON THE LABEL!

As a disclaimer, the drink did have wonderful, nourishing ingredients for any body not plagued with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.  The good taste was not caused by any non healthy ingredients that I could see.  There was a bit of stevia powder as a sweetener.  However, that is good in my mind, because it does not set off any insulin reactions.

I cannot stress enough the shock I had over this inaccurate label. Even with today’s better GF labelling overall, buying products is still a land mine.  Beware!

Safety of oaked wine

Wine too?

These last fourteen GF years, I reveled in the knowledge that I still had the joy of wine and chocolate in my diet. Then, the whole controversy about the safety of oak aged wine surfaced and made me howl to the moon, “Noooooooo!”

And yet when I think back, every time my husband and I grilled some grass fed steak and opened a bottle of red wine to go with it, I had wondered why I got a gluten reaction about two am the following morning. I thought maybe the particular grass the beef grazed on was the culprit. Could it have been the wine? Either way, I can tell you it was frustrating to get a gluten reaction from my own meal preparation!

After some research calling actual coopers in the Napa area, I found out they do use wheat paste to seal the barrel lids to the staves and have been doing so for over 100 years. They all assured me that after the wheat paste dried, they thoroughly washed the inside of the barrels. However, none of the coopers using this practice would guarantee that the wine made in these barrels would be completely gluten free. Theoretically, there should be no wheat molecules left in the barrels after the cleaning. “Cool!” I thought. That next Saturday night I retested the theory by having the grass fed steak dinner with a great red wine. Again, the two am reaction woke me from a sound sleep. “Oh, no! Please don’t let this be true! Red wine is one of the joys left to me on this crazy diet!”

More research ensued. Some coopers admitted to spraying the whole inside of the barrel with wheat dust to help seal the staves. This allows the wine maker to use the barrels immediately without having to worry about leakage. The vintners, in this case, save time, because they don’t have to soak the barrels, which swells the wood and prevents leakage. “Okay, that would definitely be a problem for all gluten intolerants.”

When I talked to other gluten intolerants about their reaction to oak aged wine, some had reactions and some didn’t. For those not experiencing adverse reactions, I wondered if there was, in fact, some damage happening to their systems on such a minute level that their sensitivity was simply not picking it up. No answers to that one, yet.

Because I live in the SF Bay Area where wine tasting and wine drinking is nearly an art form and have grown up surrounded by the viticulture industry, the possibility of having to eliminate oak aged wine from my diet seemed particularly unbearable. Of course, I made it my mission to test and retest the steak dinner/red wine theory. Eventually, I had to concede defeat. My ultra sensitive body had a wild gluten reaction every single time I drank any oak aged wine. When I had the same dinner with no oaked wine…Voila, no two am misery!

This is my reward for being as faithful as possible to a GF diet for fourteen years. Over time, my body has gotten cleaner and purer. The result has been that I have become more and more sensitive to hidden glutens. Any molecule that accidentally enters my system gives me a reaction. “Great!”

Mystery solved? According to my research and my body’s reaction, oak aged wine is definitely and sadly a new forbidden item for me.

The good news…I am having fun exploring champagnes, unoaked chardonays, dry rieslings, and sauvignon blancs!