Friday, May 29, 2009

Gluten Free Goodies: Flavorful and Easy

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko

Blueberry Muffins

Made with Pamela's Baking Mix

When a recent visitor was announced, my ears perked up. No gluten? Cool! I've been meaning to try some gluten free foods, ever since I started doing most of my grocery shopping at smaller, organic markets. They always have such cute, little packages with adorable names like Kinninnick, Chebe and Pamela's. I bided my time, waiting for an excuse to feed my family these foods that they might think unpalatable, knowing that their collective noses might turn up in refusal, for lack of a good reason.

When I told my husband about my new adventure, his response was "What is gluten?" That didn't surprise me much. I once had to look up the meaning of it myself, as well, when I wondered what all that gluten-free stuff was, clogging up half of the aisles at the neighborhood market.
Gluten is a naturally occurring part of many grains, wheat, rye and barley being the most mainstream. Some people's systems simply do not handle gluten well, causing a variety of different problems which can only be solved by avoidance of gluten. This ailment, dubbed Celiac Disease, is basically an inappropriate immune system response to gluten. Approximately 1/2 to 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease.

Complicating this issue is a correlation which often occurs--intolerance of dairy. While not all celiac sufferers are unable to eat dairy, this problem can range from mild to severe, with many being able to tolerate moderate amounts of dairy products.
Curiously, my research found a correlation between the Jewish heritage and celiac, which may be explained by human history, but my lessons here draw the line at history. Why this correlation exists, I could not say, yet I found it documented in many sources.

A girlfriend of mine who has been diving headstrong into a gluten-free diet for some time now, happily guided me through my quest to select the products with the most traditional or mainstream flavors. Thank goodness for that. There are virtually thousands of products on the market for celiac sufferers, a food offering that would have left me aghast without her help. She told me that most of what is available tastes like chalk or cardboard, particularly those products made solely with rice flour. Bummer! I thought rice flour would be my answer to bread-making.

While I cannot and will not try to run the complete list here, I would like to share a few of the successes for those of you who are on this quest. Most notably, Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix, which I found works well as flour in most recipes, provided a Pancake House delight that surprised us all. Using a mixture of various gluten-free grains, including rice and potatoes, I didn't expect a typical pancake flavor. Wrong! These pancakes were mouth-wateringly delicious.

A later experiment with blueberry muffins, made with the same mix provided the fresh, fruity muffins shown above. I admit to bagging the leftovers specifically for Lauren, labeling them, and then eating them myself. (Is there a symbol for the tail between the legs?)

Lauren's Muffins Were Packaged

with Good Intentions

But Eaten without Self Control

Prior to Lauren's arrival, we taste tested some Quinoa (a gluten-free grain) pasta, finding it quite tasty, despite the fact that I overcooked it slightly. It still made for a nice past with pomodoro sauce. Want to try our favorite recipe for sauce? It's amazingly simple. Check out this link. FYI, this was my very first post on Organic Journey Online, made July 4, 2008. So, you could say that this is a walk down memory lane for me. I'll never forget that day and its many confusing challenges in getting this Internet miracle off and running. I haven't regretted a minute of it. Keep the comments coming; I love hearing from you guys.

Bob's Red Mill Bread Mix was also a delightful surprise, even when it rose so high that my loaf looked like a mushroom. Of course, that could be due to my overindulgence in the yeast department. Oops!

Nevertheless, with a fairly good texture it made a great souffle (Sorry, Lauren, you missed this) and was a tasty dinner bread with a great crust. Isn't the crust half the battle of good bread?

While the bread was yummy and easy to make with the bread machine, when we tried making french toast with it, well, not so much. That's okay, though. It was still a good find.

A Few of Our Successful

Gluten Free Test Kitchen Ingredients

Finally, the Glutino Pretzels, not pictured here, were so good they escaped the photo--hidden, I believe, for a flight to New Jersey. It's okay, Lauren, that's why I bought them! Besides, I ate the muffins. We're even, right?

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