Gluten Free Adjustment

I kicked gluten out of my house about 4 months ago. It still shows up on occasion (like at Thanksgiving, for a big shared meal), but other than that, I’ve been gluten free. Or at least, I’ve stopped BUYING anything with gluten in it.

I’ve not always been super good at not EATING anything with gluten. Sometimes it’s things I don’t even think about, like making pound cake for a friend and licking the spoon, only to have horrendous stomach trouble for the rest of the day. Other times I start eating something – like fried mozzarella sticks – only to realize halfway through the first one that it’s been breaded and fried. (And then have horrendous stomach trouble for the rest of the day, and sometimes the next two days as well.) Or, at the beginning, deciding I didn’t give a flying f-sharp and eating a cupcake (only go have horrendous… well, you know).

This last week I decided, since I’d been doing so well, to try a normal beer and see if I was ok. I’m not sure why I thought I would be, as beer is fermented barley mash, and barley contains gluten, but I love beer… so I tried.  Been sick for two days too. No more beer for me, unless it’s sorghum beer.

I’ve found that I don’t really crave a lot of things I thought I’d miss, like pasta (easy enough to make rice or rice pasta instead) or breakfast cereal (GF oatmeal woo!), or even cookies, which make up pretty easily with gluten free flours. And after getting really sick from most of those things, I find they’ve lost a lot of their appeal.

Bread, however, I can’t get away from. I love bread. I spent years getting good at making yeast breads.

And now I’m having to really think about this whole food allergy thing, and how I will never be able to eat those breads again.

Which is kind of huge.

I’ve had some decent gluten free breads too. They’re just not the same as wheat bread. They taste good; they have good texture… but they are different. And anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

When I started out this GF thing, it was all an experiment, a sort of side strategy to help with my joint pain and with my tummy troubles that my arthritis doctor said I should do for 3 months to see if it’d help. While I didn’t think it’d do much, I figured I’d at least try. I got past the freak out pretty quickly (about a week of freaking out, really), but it was always “I can do this for 3 months”. Even when I felt better, when I was finally having a normal relationship with my digestion* for the first time in my adult life, it was still “I can do this for 3 months”.

But it’s been three months, and I’m still doing it. And if my little beer experiment means much of anything, I’m going to still be doing it three months from now. And the three months after that.

I know I have it easy, that 10 years ago there was almost no support for people who couldn’t process wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. On the other hand, there’s a big perception that gluten intolerance is the latest fad diet**, and so many restaurants don’t take it seriously. Heck, for awhile I didn’t even take it seriously.

Three months later and I definitely take it seriously. I know what I can eat at restaurants (Asian and Mexican foods are my staples for eating out), and I know I have to plan in advance if I’m going to be able to eat on my lunch break and not have to eat noodle soup every day from the local Vietnamese place. I know where I can shop in the grocery store and what parts of the store I don’t even have to visit anymore.

As much as I’ve learned, though, I’m still feeling like I’m adjusting to a totally new way of food. After all, “never” is kind of a long time to think about.

*For the record, it’s really nice not to have to plan my errands around which stores I visit after eating, and whether they have bathrooms I can tolerate.
**It’s a fad diet I kind of understand. For a lot of people giving up Gluten means giving up all processed foods and eating more fresh vegetables and lean protein – a change that would make just about anyone feel better if they’ve been eating a lot of processed junk. That said, there’s a difference between “feeling better” and the kind of gastric distress someone with an actual gluten intolerance (or a systemic histamine allergic reaction type allergy) will have.

Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Artichoke Gratin

Another borrowed recipe, this one from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Her Baked Artichokes au Gratin is an amazing recipe, super easy, and though it’s not gluten free, the only gluten containing ingredient is breadcrumbs, which I easily replace with GF pretzels/crackers/Rice Chex that I pulverize in the food processor.

I double this recipe for Thanksgiving, since I’m feeding 10 people. Last year there weren’t any leftovers either!

Baked Artichoke Hearts Au Gratin with Green Onion, Parmesan, and Romano
(Makes 4 servings, but recipe can easily be doubled; adapted from Rose’s Baked Artichoke Hearts in Martha Stewart Living, November 2008.)

You will need:

  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, and larger ones cut in half
  • 3-4 green onions, green part only, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs <- This is your GF Substitution Point, I like Rice Chex Crumbs in this recipe
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/3 cup mayo or light mayo (do not use fat free)
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp. zest and 2 T juice)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic puree

Preheat oven to 325F/170C. Thaw artichoke hearts in the microwave if they’re still frozen, then drain well. Cut larger artichoke hearts in half so they’re all about the same size.

Use olive oil to grease 2 small gratin dishes or 1 medium sized baking dish. (Medium = an 8.5 x 8.5 inch square baking dish. If you double the recipe, you’ll want to use a 9×13 pyrex baking dish) Arrange artichoke hearts in a single layer in the oiled dish, then sprinkle finely sliced green onions over the artichokes and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Mix together bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, and dried herbs. (If the cheese isn’t finely grated you might want to buzz it in a mini-processor for a minute or two.) Whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, lemon zest, and garlic puree; then mix in 1 cup of the bread crumb/cheese mixture. Use a rubber scraper to spread this over the top of the artichoke hearts, setting aside the rest of the bread crumb/cheese mixture.

Cover the dishes with foil and bake in 325F/170C oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 375F/190C. Remove foil and sprinkle the remaining bread crumb/cheese mixture over the top of each dish. Put back into oven and bake about 25 minutes more, or until the topping is lightly browned, and the dish is hot clear through.

Serve hot and wait for compliments!

Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

This is an internet recipe, but I have no idea where it’s from anymore. Regardless, it’s delicious, and you can use either bourbon or blackstrap rum to make this pie (both are delicious).

Obviously you’ll need a gluten free pie crust (which really just means pie crust made with a gluten free all-purpose flour blend, which is a little crumbly for a top crust but fine for a bottom crust, since you can piece something together in the pan), and there is a little bit of flour in the actual pie filling as well. Sweet or brown rice flour both work just fine, or more of your AP Flour Blend.

(Which I guess makes this the least Gluten Free of all my recipes, since it does require a Gluten Free Flour blend, but if you’re going for the least amount of impact on your Thanksgiving, I think these pies are worth it. I’ll also make a basic pumpkin pie with the same crust recipe.)

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

You will need:

  • 1 – 9″ prepared pie crust, do not pre-bake/blind bake
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup pecan, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl mix together eggs, corn syrup, butter, light brown sugar, bourbon, flour and vanilla until well combined. Add the chopped pecans and chocolate chips and mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust.

Bake pie on the bottom rack at 425°F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 45 minutes. Let pie cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Drunken Rum Carrots

Ok, so this is basically a stolen recipe from The Pioneer Woman. She posted a recipe for Whiskey Glazed Carrots last year, and I HAD to make them. Except that I didn’t at the time have any whiskey (and now I don’t get to drink whiskey, thanks to the Gluten Free).

Instead, I make the recipe, following her exact instructions, with Blackstrap Rum instead of Whiskey.

This makes the carrots sweeter, which I don’t mind even a little bit. I’ve thought about adding some finely minced onion and garlic to the sauce as well, since I think that’d be good. And you could probably add some spicy too. Either way though, it’s not hard to do, and Pioneer Woman has the best pictures of her instructions ever!

Drunken Rum Carrots

You will need:

  • 1 stick Butter, Divided
  • 2 pounds (to 3 Pounds) Carrots, Peeled And Cut Into Thick Circles
  • ½ cups Jack Daniels Or Other Whiskey
  • ¾ cups (to 1 Cup) Brown Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60-90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet. (This would be where I would add the finely diced onion and garlic, and cook them until they were golden brown and had let off most of their liquid.)

Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining butter.

When butter melts, sprinkle brown sugar over the top. Stir together, then add carrots to skillet. Cover, and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.

Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

Gluten Free Thanksgiving: Orange Cranberry Relish

This is probably the simplest, most delicious cranberry stuff I’ve ever had. I do a little bit of fussing with the orange, but that’s my personal preference.

You need:

  • 1 bag of cranberries (I think 12 or 16 oz?)
  • 1 large orange
  • sugar

You also need:

  • A bowl
  • A food processor

Place the cranberries in the food processor. Cut the orange up into chunks, remove any seeds, and put the whole thing in there too. Push go, and let the processor run until you have a finely chunked, red and orange bowl of amazing. You’re going for seed-bead sized chunks, not puree (but it’s not an exact science). Stir in some sugar – I usually end up wanting about 3/4 cup, but I’ve seen recipes for this that call for anywhere from 1/2 to 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar. 3/4 cup is usually just about right for the sweet/tangy balance for me.

Refrigerate until serving.

The Orange Trick: The white pith of an orange can be kind of bitter, so I do the following to my orange:

  1. Using a paring knife, cut the zest – just the orange part, not any of the white part – off the orange in big strips.
  2. Using a serrated knife, slice away the rest of the rind, get all the white pithy part off.
  3. Cut the orange open and remove any seeds
  4. Toss the zest and the orange pulp into the food processor in chunks
  5. Proceed with the rest of the instructions

This gets the bitter pithy part out of the relish, and leaves a prettier result (no white stuff). I’m fussy like that!

Planning a Gluten Free Thanksgiving

I’ve found over the last three months that living Gluten Free hasn’t been as hard as I’d thought most of the time. Since I do so much cooking, it’s been pretty easy to make delicious yummy food that just isn’t made with wheat, barley, or un-tested oats. All that said, though, in two weeks (yikes) I’m going to have my mother and father, mother and father in law, and brother and sister in law all here at my house for Thanksgiving again.

Which is really very fun – it’s a big potluck kind of Thanksgiving.

But the gluten free thing is kind of a challenge, more so because my mother in law is completely unfamiliar with what it means to not eat gluten, not helped by the fact that she lives in a tiny farm town that doesn’t have anything remotely resembling “specialty” food (at one point, before I was GF, we had a conversation where she said that the area she lived in was too poor to have people that couldn’t eat gluten).

Fortunately the turkey is easy. My father in law always brines and smokes a turkey for us, so not only do I not need to cook it, I don’t need to worry about it – I know what’s in his turkey brine, and it’s perfectly OK for me to eat.

Also, it’s the best turkey any of us have ever eaten. Ever.

Mashed potatoes are also easy, as is some kind of green bean dish (I may actually make a homemade traditional casserole, which just avoids the flour in canned soups and means I make my own, which is yummier anyway). Everyone loves my artichoke gratin, and I can just as easily make that with GF breadcrumbs (or pulverized GF pretzels). I can thicken the gravy with cornstarch instead of flour, there’s no gluten in my orange and cranberry relish or in the drunken rum carrots, and I’ve caved in and agreed to have some baked (frozen) yeast rolls for everyone else, since I know that my brother and father in law are of the opinion that it’s not a meal without bread, and can go through an entire bag of rolls just between themselves.

Which leaves me with two fussy problems.

Stuffing and pie.

The pies I will just make myself.

My mom and dad will be here to help with our side of the cooking, and I’ve made gluten free pie crusts before. They’re not all that easy to make, because the flour doesn’t have the sticky stretchiness that regular wheat flour does, but piecing the crust together in the pan works just fine as long as you don’t need a top crust. Which means pumpkin and my bourbon chocolate pecan pies.

I think everyone will be happy with that, and if they’re not, they can buy their own damn pie from the grocery.

Stuffing I’ve kind of caved in on, but I’m not overly upset about it. When I set out to do this whole Thanksgiving thing, I decided I didn’t want anything on the table that I couldn’t eat. I was willing to negotiate on rolls, but I’m more worried about that than the stuffing, because I love bread. LOVE bread. So maybe I’ll buy some GF bread to serve instead.

Stuffing, however, my mother in law always makes, with a mixture of white bread and cornbread.

When I asked her if she would be willing to make it only with cornbread (and with cornbread ONLY made with corn and not with white flour) she balked. Her husband and sons both LOVE the stuffing she always makes. Making it without white bread just wouldn’t be the same.

So she’s making the stuffing she always makes, but using a gluten free cornbread, and will put some aside for me that doesn’t have white bread in it.

It’s not the ideal situation, but I think it’ll work out without having to ask anyone to buy gluten free bread that might not be any good for $10 a loaf.

Anna’s (mostly) Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu:

  • Smoked Turkey
  • Assorted Stuffings (GF and not)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Drunken Rum Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole (homemade, GF)
  • Artichoke Gratin
  • Orange Cranberry Relish
  • Frozen wheat rolls (not GF)
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

If anyone wants recipes, let me know in comments and I’ll do what I can to have them posted soon!