Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tips for Testing the Diet Change

If you suspect you or your child has gluten-intolerance here are a few tips:

  • The gluten protein is very similar to casein in milk and soy protein. It is often wise to avoid those as well too--at least at first.
  • You can try a few approaches, depending on what sounds most overwhelming to you:
  • 1. Eliminate just gluten, and if there is still a problem eliminate other potential irritants one at a time. This can take a long time and patience, but for some people gradual is easier.
  • 2. Eliminate one or more of the main potential irritants and gradually reintroduce them, watching for reactions. (i.e., milk and gluten; milk, soy and gluten; etc). Don't introduce new foods for at least a month--three months is better. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out how to feed you or your child like this, but it is a more certain approach than #1.
  • 3. Go to a very basic diet of rice, rice milk, fruits and vegetables, and basic meats with no add-ins (like avoid sausage and watch out for tuna because it sometimes has soybean oil). Introduce foods one at a time and watch for reactions. Don't introduce new foods for at least a month--three months is better. This can also be overwhelming for the same reasons as #2. But then there is no question as to what caused the reaction.
  • Be very careful of cross-contamination. Gluten is sticky and even the smallest trace can cause a reaction in some people.
  • It might get better before it gets worse. There may be withdrawal symptoms, similar to that of a drug. The body will not be used to it. (That never happened to us but I have seen it happen to others).
  • Don't give up! Once you get a system down and get your house stocked with "strange" ingredients it will be relatively easy to make substitutions and get by.
  • Keep a food/symptom journal to make sure you get accurate information. It can help a doctor with diagnosis as well.
  • Just because medical tests come up negative doesn't mean there isn't a gluten problem. If you feel better--that's a pretty good indication that the diet is working, regardless of the diagnosis. Gluten-intolerance is hard to pick up by tests.

Tips for Moms of GF Children

Today a friend told me that her son has been having digestive problems and she was going to try a gluten-free diet to see if that helped him. She asked me for any tips or help I could give her. I figured I'd post it here because I'm sure she isn't the only one who could benefit from the information.

It can be really challenging to have little kids with gluten-intolerance, especially if you have to send them to school, daycare, birthday parties, and even just planning a picnic in a park or a trip to a restaurant. Things are getting better as more food producers become aware of the problem, but when I started there was really no help so here is what I learned to do:

  • Make muffins in large batches and freeze them. They are great to send to school and for taking them to picnics and restaurants. Those that have worked best for me are banana bread, applesauce bread, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread--anything moist. (My recipes are without eggs but you can use egg instead of my replacer and take out 1/4 c of some other liquid item to make up the difference). If you are worried about sugar it is okay to reduce the amount of sugar you use in them.
  • Make things like chicken nuggets and chicken tenders and freeze them. It is easy to make them gluten-free and I've never seen anywhere you can buy them. You can substitute any flour you like in the breading mix and it doesn't really affect how it turns out. If the flour taste is too strong just make sure to put a lot of flavorings in your breading.
  • Depending on your child, baby food can be a godsend. They typically make baby foods with rice flour unless it is a pasta dish. I keep on hand Gerber turkey and rice, chicken and vegetables, and vegetable beef. I bring the jars to the park or when I travel and know there won't be anywhere handy to prepare food. Even my 4-year old still eats it. And my kids will eat it cold so it works really well for me.
  • You can now buy several types of GF crackers. My favorites are Glutino (their pretzels are good too), Kinnikinnik animal cookies, and Kinikinnik Smorables.
  • You can also make and freeze various types of cookies. One of my favorites are peanut butter cookies.
  • Corn tortillas are a great substitute for many things. I get a little tired of them sometimes, but I have found that the Banderita brand are the softest and easiest to use.
  • For birthday parties you can bring your own cupcakes for your child to eat. Betty Crocker makes some pretty good cake mixes. King Arthur makes the best one I have tasted (their bread mix is pretty decent too). I also like the Blue Chip brand because it comes in a resealable package. You can divide the recipe and make just a few cupcakes so one bag can last you for several birthday parties.
  • If you take your child to a daycare or nursery, talk to the providers and make sure they will accommodate your child. I take my kids to a church nursery every Sunday. I gave the nursery leaders a large bag of GF snacks to keep in their closet. They have my daughter sit in the same place every time so they can make sure she doesn't try and eat the other kids' snacks. It's hard for the kids at first--but typically not for yours. The other kids in the nursery get jealous of your kid's "special" snack. After awhile my daughter caught on to the routine and has quit trying to sneak the other kids' snacks as well.
  • It can be easy to worry about your child feeling left out because they can't have what everyone else has. Trust me, it's worse for you than it is for your child. You will have some sad moments with your child, but the kids really are quite resilient. Especially if they get used to it while they are young. My kids have learned to regulate themselves very well and even at age 3 they would refuse food unless it was given the okay by Mom. There have been very few times where they actually felt left out and when they did they got over it very quickly.
  • Be wary of strangers who try to feed your children. They think they are just being nice, but it can be disastrous. Be vigilant at parties, wedding receptions, family reunions, church parties, and even grocery stores. Other kids will try to share with yours too so it is important to teach your child to politely refuse.
  • For Halloween, pinata parties, and other holidays, I keep a stash of substitute items to replace any items my kids get that they cannot eat so they don't feel bad. (I mostly have to do this because of the soy/milk intolerance but it applies to gluten too). Sometimes I trade them their Kit-Kats and other such items for safe candy, other times I get small dollar store toys like dinosaurs, pencils or army men and trade for those. Honestly my kids like the toys better than the candy anyway.
  • If you go to a restaurant and order french fries, make sure to ask if the fries are cooked separately, or if they are cooked with fried chicken and other breaded items. The gluten WILL stick to the fries if they are cooked in the same oil.
  • Oats have gluten. Unless you find specially marked gluten-free oats, they will very likely contain gluten. Oats are nearly always grown near, stored with, transported with, and processed with wheat and the gluten sticks right to them. (But gluten-free oat flour is one of my favorites, just FYI).
  • If you are just testing the waters with a GF diet, buy things in small quantities or go in on it with someone and share mixes. Try the instant mixes and see which ones you like. But if you decide to stick with the diet long term, it's good to plan to make more from scratch and buy in bulk. I can buy oats and rice in bulk and store them as whole grains. I grind them every once-in awhile and use them for flour, but they store much better whole. You can also buy things like tapioca starch (a must-have for GF cooking) in bulk.
  • You can pre-make your own flour blends and store them ready-to go. The typical recipe for 3 cups flour is 2 cups flour of your choice, 2/3 cup potato starch, 1/3 cup tapioca starch. I use about 1 tsp xanthan gum for moist breads, and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum per cup of flour for things like pizza dough, biscuits, and breads.
  • Conventional cereals that are gluten free (some won't guarantee it because they don't test, but they don't use or cross-contaminate and we've never had a problem): Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Pebbles, Cupcake pebbles, most generic versions of both of those, Trix, Kix, Chex cereals, Cookie Crisp with Sprinkles (not the chocolate chip ones--those have wheat). I usually buy organic rice crispies and organic corn flakes because they don't put the barley malt in most of those. BUT ALWAYS READ THE LABEL BECAUSE THEY MIGHT CHANGE THEIR RECIPE. WATCH OUT FOR BARLEY MALT.

I'm sure I'll think of more later, but this should be enough to digest for awhile.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My New Favorite GF Pizza Recipe

The pepperoni-only portion of this pizza has soy-free rice cheese on it. Apparently my son does not like the rice cheese baked so I would recommend leaving it off and just putting sauce and other toppings.

I have been very unimpressed with most GF pizza recipes I have tried. Last night I searched for a new one and found one that I really liked. It actually would have made a fabulous dessert pizza (with cinnamon and glaze...mmmm!) as well. (If you want this one less sweet then leave out the sugar and use the original recommendation of millet and rice flour instead of oat and sorghum like I used).

I adapted this recipe from GlutenFreeMommy.

2 Tablespoons almond meal
2 eggs (I used 1 egg and 1 egg's worth of egg replacer because I ran out of eggs)
2 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Honey

1/4 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup oat flour (I actually used 1/2 c oat and 1/2 cub Bob's all purpose flour, just to get rid of the extra Bob's I had)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon sugar for proofing yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 c warm water

1/2 cup warm water

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix liquid ingredients together and set aside until room temperature. Do not mix it in with dry ingredients cold.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients and sift together in a bowl.
  4. In a separate small bowl, place your yeast and the teaspoon of sugar. Mix with about 1/4 cup of the heated water, stir, and let it sit for a few minutes. Once you know the yeast is active, proceed with the recipe. At this point, you want to double check and make sure all your ingredients have come to room temperature.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix.
  6. Add the yeast mixture.
  7. You want the dough to look like stiff cake batter. The dough should hold the swirls of the mixer, but it should be shiny and not dull. Add the rest of the water slowly until the right consistency is achieved.
  8. Grease pan or grease parchment paper and place on a pan. With a cake scraper, slowly spread the pizza dough batter in a 12-13 inch circle. You want the batter to be evenly distributed. Cover your hands in olive oil and shape the edges like you want them. If you find your hands getting too sticky get a little more olive oil on your hands. You don’t want your dough to be too wet, so be careful.
  9. You can either let the dough rise and then cook it, or bake the crust as is. I baked mine at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  10. Then add toppings and place back in the oven until toppings are heated and/or melted

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gluten-Free Bread Experiments

For a long time I had given up on the bread idea altogether. I couldn't find anything that tasted good enough to make me want to spend the money on it. I couldn't really use any of it for sandwiches because it wouldn't stay together, and never tasted very good after the first day it was opened/made. But I have been CRAVING bread lately (probably because I am pregnant now :) ). A friend of mine told me she found a recipe that made delicious, chewy bread that stays together. I was skeptical but desperate so I tried it.

She was RIGHT! I smelled good, tasted good for multiple days, and stayed together!

I will credit the author of the book the recipe came from just as soon as I can find out. I'm hoping to buy a copy and try some other recipes from it as well.

Stir together:
¾ C brown rice flour (I used GF oat flour, my friend uses a mix of rice and oat).
2/3 C potato starch
2/3 C tapioca flour
2 tsp potato flour
2 ½ xanthan gum
2 tsp egg replacer
1 tsp salt
2 tsp (1 pck) unflavored gelatin
1/3 C almond meal (or grind up some almonds)
1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp yeast
Put yeast on top of powder mixture

Stir together in separate bowl:
1 ¼ C warm water
1 tsp vinegar
1 ½ tsp olive oil

Pour on top of yeast and let it sit for three minutes.
Mix everything together on low speed.

Add two egg whites
Mix until combined and beat on high speed for five minutes.

Grease a loaf pan
Spoon into pan and let rise for 20 min. (texture is really sticky, thick)
Smooth it out with wet fingers or greased spatula
As bread is rising, preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bake for about an hour, covering with aluminum foil after first 10 minutes.*

*I didn't have very good success with the foil thing. Next time I am going to cook it uncovered and put foil on for the last 10 minutes. If you don't do it right the crust is way too hard and the middle is doughy. (Still tastes good though).

King Arthur's Bread Mix--Product Review

This tasted pretty good, but it was not as "normal" as the bread recipe above. It almost has the texture of angel food cake, but it stays together better than most GF bread mixes. It also stayed soft after several days. I know mine doesn't look very professional, but that's because I wasn't very careful about smoothing it out in the pan. It made decent toast. It still probably wouldn't work very well for sandwitches because it is still pretty dense and falls apart under pressure. I didn't try doing it though so I could be wrong.