Friday, November 25, 2011

Chips and Dip

Since yesterday was Thanksgiving and since mostly there's not a whole lot of people benefiting from my no recipes SFGF blog...then I didn't post anything yesterday but I came away with quite a bit of insight and some topics for today.

First of all, Thanksgiving is about the worst forms of selfishness and gluttony. Hee hee. Ok so that was a harsh start. Secondly, there is very few "traditional" foods for Americans to enjoy if they are SFGF. Lastly, I am going to post a recipe which was a huge hit but I'm still working out conversion kinks.

Let's start with the first topic. Thanksgiving was traditionally a time that we would recognize our good fortune (specifically as it had to do with coming to the 'new world' and shaking the cloak of tyranny off our backs. I wasn't there when this happened but I'm told that's the basic principle. Current day we have an abundance of everything - and it's great we have all we need but at some point it becomes a bit ridiculous. Especially when the papers and news and neighbors can complain and whine about how things are tight and money is inflated and doesn't buy what it used to - but you'll still see them watch their fancy 55 inch LED TV and buy an over priced Christmas tree with all the lights and trimmings. Holidays are supposed to be for bringing family and friends together over a special meal they all share or contribute to while spending time in a relaxed setting and enjoying each other's company. If there is ONE single person ever in the history of the world that would describe the holidays as "relaxing, enjoying family, and sharing" I'd like to meet them. Most people are hurried, rushed, panicked, stressed, taking on too much at a time all while muttering about "what is mother going to say this year in front of the kids?" It's anything but relaxing. Then you either show up at someone's house for dinner, or you throw a dinner yourself and there's two or three days worth of prep, cleaning, cooking, and work. Everyone leaves and you collapse, spent and exhausted. Another proof of gluttony - and a focus on the overabundance and excess. Like being mowed down in Walmart for today's hottest deal, or two people fighting over the last turkey at the grocery store. Don't we have something better to focus on than hullabaloo? This isn't typical for everyone - in my house there tends to be a lot of company in the kitchen - but good luck getting a decent comment or kind word. It's like a bevy of maids all bustling to do their chores. I have enough work for me, get out of my way so I can be done.

Here is a list of this year's T-day meal (I had the opportunity to go elsewhere and decided that was for the best for everyone involved)

white dinner rolls
white mashed potatoes
green bean casserole (with the fried onions on top)
cranberry sauce (canned)
pumpkin pie
sweet potato pie
ice cream
whipped cream

I'm fairly sure I heard a collective groan from all the people I can imagine reading this blog who are GFSF and read that menu.
Basically, it's starch, gluten and sugar. In a nutshell. At first I was thinking, ok I can work with that, I can have turkey (if it's not stuffed) and maybe umm ... water? There was a ton of food; an overabundance if you will. There was enough for about five families and there were three present. People eat until they are sick and can't eat anymore. There's relatively little self control and even more complaints (yep yours truly) about how things were not what they wanted. Well... something had to give. Complaining doesn't change anything and being upset about it isn't exactly going to contribute to the family get together atmosphere we all crave from holiday artwork.

The day before, I decided what I wanted to eat which equaled what I would cook and bring with me. And I know you're thinking, "WTF, they invited you, can't they provide a decent meal? HOSPITALITY AND ALL!!" Oh, well, yes of course! I would think a caring or thoughtful person would definitely take some considerations and do their best to be helpful or provide something for you. But not everyone can be that way, or thinks that way and especially not everyone is as well informed of your condition as you are, so there has to be some leeway. It may very well be a learning experience for people around you or even a conversation starter - nothing brings people together like a meal, and being creative with your meals can really be a positive thing.

After brainstorming, the menu then included:

Spinach artichoke dip
deviled eggs
sauteed green beans
upside down sweet potato pie
pumpkin pie

And the panic again! Wait! Lots of those things are loaded with sugar! Nope. I found some spectacular sugar free recipes and definitely, they not only came out delicious, but no crash at the end! I was the only one awake after dinner!

The pies were to die for, and sugar free to boot. The sweet potato, I made one for me and one for everyone else with regular sugar and it was phenomenal. No more worries about what to eat at a family meal, you have ideas above! Keep that in mind for upcoming Christmas festivities. None of these are very difficult and I'll include their recipes as we go.

Here's the first! (bear with me while I try to deal with conversions, I am still relying on my cup for the most part!)

Upside down sweet potato pie

1-2 large (cooked, peel removed) sweet potatoes - mashed
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
3 oz. sugar free maple syrup (plus a little extra if needed)
1/4 oz ground nutmeg
1/4 oz ground cloves
1/2 oz ground cinnamon
1/4 oz ground ginger (powder form works best)
1/3 oz vanilla
10 oz crushed/chopped walnuts OR pecans
2 oz butter - melted
3 oz dried cranberries (OPTIONAL! these typically have sugar added to them)

In a bowl mix sweet potatoes, cream, 1 oz syrup, all the spices (reserve 1/2 oz of cinnamon aside) vanilla and mix well. I used a mixer for this but hand mixing works fine. Pour into a well buttered baking dish. In another bowl, mix nuts, rest of cinnamon and the rest of the syrup, (cranberries if you like) and butter until it will form a ball. If you find it's not sticky enough, add a little more syrup. Your nut mixture should be able to be formed, but somewhat sticky. Crumble this evenly over the top of your sweet potato mixture and bake until brown and crispy on top, 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.

This is an original recipe which I came up with at 9pm the night before Thanksgiving. That's not to say it doesn't exist elsewhere or someone else made it first. I just didn't do any kind of internet searches so I have no reference for my idea other than I wanted sweet potato pie, LOL.


Saturday, November 5, 2011


There are a few odd bird people out there who just do not like sushi. At all. Some people like different forms of sushi and that's fine, and some people have never even tried it but turn up their noses at it. I don't understand this much. There are a lot of foods I don't like but I'm willing to give it a shot first. I hate hot spicy foods but I love chili (mild) hot tuna rolls and hot wings. There may be more hot foods out there I will like one day but at least I can say I will give it a whirl.

Back to sushi. This is a grey category for someone who is gluten free. It's even more grey for someone who needs to watch their blood sugar (white rice has a VERY high glycemic index.) I have decided to compile a "Survivor's guide to sushi" for all those out there who are GFSF. This list is in no particular order other than I just thought about it or have already been thinking about it.

1. Never order anything 'tempura.' Just don't. Tempura is supposed to be rice flakes (similar to bread crumbs) but most tempura is made from wheat. I know this isn't what you wanted to hear, but unless you're going to do tempura at home and sub this out, don't go there.

2. Bring 'tamari' sauce. Real soy sauce is actually made with wheat. Yeah. Bummer. So avoid ordering anything that has eel sauce on it (made with soy sauce) or anything that doesn't have soy sauce on the side. Bring your own wheat free sauce or tamari sauce. It tastes better and has no wheat.

3. Americanized sushi is your friend. Yes, the Japanese chefs are not only cool to watch, many of them personable and eager to put on a show and definitely authentic - they will not know how to roll a sushi roll without rice. It's just against every moral fiber and code ingrained in them. Sushi chains and specialized restaurants may have a better ability to roll sushi without the rice. Basically you pick your sushi - salmon, cream cheese, avacado, and cucumber - these are rolled together in a seaweed wrapper and then plated. There is no rice. I cannot rave enough about this roll. Not only is it filling and delicious, but it has zero worry. Some places will note their rolls as available "riceless." Do not confuse this with "sashimi." That's a whole other bird, ahem, fish, altogether.

4. Go for the sashimi. If you are a true die hard sushi lover and enjoy a nice block of fresh fish right out of the water, go for it! Sashimi is delicious and "pure." No additives, no sauces (unless specified) and it comes in an array of fishes. Yellowtail is one of my favorites along with escolar (which has the texture of room temperature butter). If it is served on rice, simply eat the fish without the rice. Dip in your tamari sauce. Enjoy.

5. In the event that you are on a sushi craving and you cannot find any Americanized versions of your favorite rolls, and seems you left your spare bottle of tamari in your other Lamborghini, well you're still in luck. Some restaurants and sushi places will have the tamari, if not, expect to skip this step. You'll have to live without it a bit. As for the sushi, try to get a high protein version of whatever roll you like. Skip the veggie roll this time. In order to slow down the sugar bomb of the rice, choose a fish filled roll maybe with some cream cheese. Fat and protein are your friend for blocking the body's ability to binge on rice sugars.

And I too love a good saki. Who doesn't? I could drink saki all afternoon in a great sushi bar while eating before a Goos concert for which I had front row tickets. Oh ya. I did. That's not to say it was good for me. It's really best to skip the saki. Like beer and wine, it messes with blood sugar very very badly. If you want to spend the next week with sugar cravings - drink alcohol. Otherwise, yep you knew this - skip it.

So, this cooking blog with no recipes, how's that working out for us? Well. Since I just forbade all alcoholic drinks, I'm going to share one of my hugely popular drinks that might satisfy the soda freak in all of us. Sure you can order diet soda and I'm sure that's fine. You can pass on a glass of champagne and sip a glass of boring water (which is good for you!! don't give it up!) but if you're out and want something fun, see if the bartender will put this together for you, or easily make it at home.

I put no measurements - why? Try it yourself, see how you like the flavors, add more or less of each thing till you know how you like the taste. Some people need more sweet, some more hot. Play with it and pick your comfort level.

Ginger lime soda:

Carbonated lime flavored water
lime juice
grated ginger
liquid stevia

put ice, stevia, ginger and lime in a glass and mix. Pour in the carbonated water and stir. Enjoy!

It's so easy, even I can't mess up that one (like I messed up the brownie recipe I was going to post today - /cry!) This is also considered a whole food and raw recipe for any of the foodies... I think I'm the only one reading this so far, save a few good hearted personal supporters.

I have a lot more ideas up my sleeve, so here's to more behind the times blogging! /cheers

UPDATE! I found an additional tip! Avoid imitation crab meat! Unless you are sure it's made with tapioca starch ONLY (as listed on an ingredient list) then don't eat it!

(the picture below is sushi called "lollipop" the wrap is cucumber! It's amazingly delicious)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lose the Stigma

In the 80's my mother bought a food scale. It was to perfectly portion her meals so she knew she was eating an appropriate amount of food (not too little not too much... but it more erred on the side of too little.) She is a german woman and would never be built like a pixie, but I remember the scale being hidden when guests arrived. Suddenly, it was a weakness or negative to have a scale in the house. Like normal skinny people can control what they eat but larger and normal size people have to be told by a number.

I always swore I would never have a scale in my kitchen. No matter what, I would not rely on a machine to tell me how much to eat. Well....

Americans forget how easy it is to cook with a scale! I own no less than 8 measuring cups, 3 sets of measuring spoons and countless scored bowls etc showing me how much of everything I need for a recipe. Recipes are written with 3 cups of this and 2 tBsp of that. And one of my recent favorite websites (which has been taken down sadly) referenced this problem. Ever confused a tsp and tbsp? Happens all the time. Ever sifted 4 cups of flour only to find your mixture is too liquid? That's because the American measuring system is seriously flawed. According to said website that no longer exists - a cup of flour in a humid climate may very well measure more than in a dry one... simply because the water is taking up some more space. But weighing your ingredients gives you a very consistent amount every time.

So, I bought a scale. One recommended by above website. It seems to work well. It's been challenging to not reach for a spoon or cup to measure, but like finding a comfortable chord progression on a guitar, it seems too easy to be true. Suddenly, compulsion drives my reaching for a cup, but ease makes things quicker to just add to the bowl. 412 grams of this, 56grams of that. voila. Recipe.

What does this have to do with anything about sugar free or gluten free cooking? Glad you asked. You see, the sugar substitute I use is very thirsty. If the moisture is not evened out, good luck, you'll be eating crumbs with a spoon and a quart of milk. I can measure with a cup but it's not always going to be accurate. And I'm going to do my best to be posting recipes here which have been converted to weight.

Get rid of the stigma of a kitchen scale. It doesn't dictate how much you're supposed to eat (listen to your stomach for that one) and start enjoying the ease of whipping up a batch of GFSF brownies with mascarpone frosting (dh's favorite.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the Kitchen

It didn't start just one day. I didn't wake up so sick I thought I was dying and then decided to get help. It was a long process of "what is going on?" and "why do I feel like I'm running to keep up but always falling behind?" In Dec. 2010, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This, another on the long list of things I've been given as diagnosis since I was 16. Luckily, or unluckily, at least they didn't add another medication to my daily routine. Wohoo! Gluten is the offending protein; I'm told and avoid that to live a long healthy life. My particular case was caught as a result of malnutrition. I was starving to death, trying to eat and never getting anywhere. I also have blood sugar issues - blood sugar roller coaster with a disastrous crash at the end. They said to cut out bread, pasta, pancakes, and soy sauce.

I wonder how many people even think about the amout of wheat they eat in a day? If you've ever listened to health or nutrition gurus they tell us to eat a "colorful palette" or varied diet. Diets rich in one thing is always a bad thing. So, why is America and many other places, eating so much wheat? Go into your cabinets, grab something in a box and tell me if wheat is on the ingredients. Do you have bread in the house? Cereal? How often do you eat that in a day? Here is a sample of a typical American menu for a day:

Cereal with milk, OJ, toast and butter, maybe an egg.

Turkey cheese sandwich, apple, soda, granola bar

Pasta with tomato sauce, cheese, green beans and garlic bread.

Now, I'm being seriously generous with the "healthy" menu here. Many people have just the cereal, or a pop tart for breakfast, school lunches are notorious for bad things, and dinner could be just a McD stop away. This was the diet that was killing me. Too much sugar, and too much wheat, a combination that made me feel like I had been placed in a corner. Everyone else got to socialize, have fun, go to parties. I was stuck to the side, trying to avoid the pies, lasagnas, dips and sushi. GASP. Sushi.

I love cooking, I've always liked playing with food. There's nothing better than finding something you like and sharing it with friends. Food's always been my thing. Until this year. And something changed. I didn't want to eat anymore. I just didn't want to socialize. It wasn't any fun. It wasn't enjoyable. Meals consisted of meats, vegetables and dairy. Imagine for one moment never ever being able to have a slice of cake, a piece of pie or a cookie again. Or just a piece of toast for that matter. Then something hit me one day. I just wanted to be normal. And, for the most part, people are horribly brainwashed as to what "healthy" is. Hint: Listen to those people who say eat a varied diet.

More and more people are being diagnosed celiac. And wheat happens to be a huge staple in our very much NON varied diets. Fast food is wheat bun and meat patty with wheat filler. Fries are fried in oil with wheat stabilizer. Sauces and flavorings have wheat fillers and thickeners in them. This is just "normal" food. Not the cakes, pies and crackers that are obviously made with flour and sugar. There is sugar in bread. Obesity is a huge problem too (no pun intended,) perhaps we have a correlation.

So, here's where I start. I have searched the web for recipes that are sugar free gluten free and I'll give those people credit if I loved their recipes. Otherwise, this is just me, not being cornered anymore.