Weedy Ways

... for a better you!

2011 "Food for Thought"

Each month during 2011 a new article will be added to the top of this page.

All current published articles will be here for you to read and enjoy so grab a cup of tea and relax for a few moments during your busy day.

Use these articles as an aid for your gluten free life, tell your friends and/or family to check them out - especially the one(s) that do not understand or need some assistance in the transition of your dietary needs.

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 Happy and Safe Holidays

The phrase, “Happy and Safe Holidays” is normally a phrase we use to offer best wishes for the season, however, for many of us it also is a reminder to eat properly and avoid Gluten in order to stay healthy! The holidays can be a daunting time for anyone who needs to eat gluten free, especially with the additional parties and events scheduled. It is do-able and it can be enjoyable with minimal, to no, stress!

Most generally you will be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables at most events/parties. If the event/party is hosted by a friend, family member or colleague that you feel comfortable with, ask questions! What is going to be served? Can I bring something (a great idea to have at least one dish that is safe!)? If you’re comfortable with the host or know them well, ask them to rearrange an easy recipe to be gluten free and/or add a gluten free item to the list. Tuck a snack in your bag, purse, briefcase, pocket or vehicle for times you need to eat but don’t have access to safe food or for times of travel. Another good rule of thumb is to always eat something before you go, just in case, it’s much easier than being overly hungry throughout the event/party which will cause you to be unfocused and possibly grumpy in general.

Is the event/party scheduled for a restaurant? See if there is a menu on their website and/or take a few moments to contact the restaurant, at an off hour – not during a busy lunch/dinner hour, ask for the manager or owner and explain your diet.  Ask questions such as: Do you offer any gluten free items? What would you suggest me to order? Do you have the ability to grill/cook this or that on foil for me separate from the other items?

Are you hosting the event or party? Follow all the gluten free rules you already live by – don’t use ingredients that may have been contaminated; don’t share spoons/serving utensils; don’t place gluten foods directly next to the gluten free foods; avoid foods that need to be dipped or items that need to be spread, if possible. 

Are you traveling out of town for the holidays or for vacation, ship your gluten free items in advance.  Make a box of gluten free cookies, bread, pasta or your favorite snacks that are not perishable and that also suit location's kitchen facility, then ship them in advance. Let your host know of the expected delivery and/or check with the hotel for their guidelines on incoming packages.

Are you cooking for someone gluten free and/or would you like to be able to have an item or two, just in case someone is required to eat gluten free and you don’t know?  Be mindful of your ingredients – for example, don’t use butter that has been used by the family or has had prior use; don’t use the same toaster you/your family uses; don’t use the same cutting board for items that may contain gluten, possibly use a plate instead; don’t use the same utensil to stir one dish then another, keep them designated to one particular item only; fix items that are easily gluten free such as Candied Yams (yams, brown sugar, butter), Real Mashed Potatoes (potatoes, milk, butter), Veggie Tray, Fresh Fruit Bowl, Steamed Veggies, Green Salads, Grilled Meat for items such as Skewers or Broiled or Baked Un-Processed Meats without gravy packets or browning items (serve a gravy on the side).

The holidays are meant to be spent as celebrations with family and friends, don’t let your gluten free diet get in the way of fun!  Think ahead, ask questions, always pack a snack, and "if in doubt, go without"!  Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

 

 

 Fall Harvest Enjoyed Gluten Free

 

Stews and soups can be made just like mom or grandma used to, except you must read the label on your broth/granuals/bases, if you don’t have time for homemade stock, be sure it is gluten free.  For a thickener, use an alternative to wheat flour such as a gluten free flour mix, arrowroot or simply corn starch.

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes. 

Enjoy the harvest this fall with a comforting and deliciously easy stew! Originally prepared by a friend who is also gluten free, it’s a favorite that puts smiles on many faces!

Pumpkin Stew

1 10-12 Lb. pumpkin

2 #  stew meat, cut to 1” pieces

3 Tbsp. Veg. Oil, divided

1 C. Water

3 Lg. Potatoes – peeled, cut to 1” pieces

4 med. Carrots – sliced

1 lg. Green Pepper -  cut to ½ in cubes

4 cloves Garlic

1 med. Onion – chopped

2 Tbsp. Watkins Beef Soup and Gravy Base

1 Can diced Tomatoes (14 oz.) including liquid.

 

Brown meat in 2 Tbs. oil, add water, potatoes, carrots, green pepper –cover, simmer 1 hour.

Wash pumpkin, cut 8” circle around the top of stem. Remove top, set aside.

Discard seeds and any loose inside fibers.

Brush outside of pumpkin with remaining oil.

Spoon stew into pumpkin – replace top.

Bake 325 degrees for 2 hours OR just until pumpkin is tender.

Serve stew from pumpkin, scoop out a little pumpkin with each spoonful of stew.

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free – Locally Grown and Produced, it’s Picnic Time!

 

Many people are striving to purchase and use locally grown and/or produced items for many reasons including personal preference, community support, better health, economical factors, etc.  I am one of those people that do my best to purchase local items, especially gluten free, as I keep a close eye on my family’s health and nutritional values.

 

With summer’s arrival the picnics will be in full swing, be sure to enjoy local fruits, veggies and meats.  The best thing about these items is that they are all naturally, gluten free!  Challenge yourself to see how many farms, orchards, greenhouses, local gardens you see as you are out and about, better yet, challenge yourself not to crave the fresh, crisp flavors of fresh, locally grown foods. Do you shop where you can purchase local, have you visited your local co-op? This is your health, what’s it worth to you?

 

Why can’t I find local gluten free flours and grains?  This is a question asked by many – the answer is because there is not a local facility that is designated gluten free and certified as such. The expense and certification are often too much for a local, small company to bear.  In order for local grain to be gluten free it needs to be planted in a dedicated location, harvested with dedicated equipment and processed in a dedicated facility  - all must be gluten free environments.  Cross contamination is a huge factor in a gluten free diet, any gluten ingested causes intestinal damage, in most people much pain and a slew of other unmentionable complications. 

 

Eating at picnics doesn’t have to be difficult for the gluten free dieter.  Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, minimally mixed items such as salads, grilled meats – most seasonings are gluten free, simply grab the jar and read or ask the grill-master at your event what was used, often it’s the easiest choice of salt and pepper.  Choose items that are positioned away from the breads and cakes if possible, search for jello style molds or salads as well. Always take your favorite dish to share and you’ll always be sure to safely enjoy one thing if  the others are not safe!

 

Visit your local stores, farmers markets and co-op for locally produced products (gluten free baking mixes and finished products made in dedicated homes/facilities) as well as the fresh grown produce and meats.  Check with your local Celiac Information Group, for additional information and tips including local dining options that serve gluten free!

 

Is there an item you’d like to cook or bake gluten free? Is there a recipe you’ve been hungry for and aren’t sure how to do it?  Do you have questions about gluten free living or Celiac Disease?  Together there is strength, together there is knowledge and awareness – Celiac Disease shouldn’t be a struggle and together we can make it easier for you, a friend or family member!

 

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

 

 

Gluten Free – Celiac Awareness Month

 

May is Celiac Awareness month. Do you know someone with Celiac Disease and/or has to adhere to a gluten free diet?  Do you know what is gluten free? Do you know what gluten is?  Is it healthier to eat a gluten free diet?

 

Celiac Disease is an incurable, hereditary, auto-immune disease that affects 1 in 100 people.  It has a broad range of over 300 symptoms that may include anemia, weight loss or gain, diarrhea or constipation, bloating, irritable bowel, mood swings, many other unexplained symptoms and may run parallel to diabetes, thyroid conditions, fibromyalgia, etc.  These symptoms are triggered by ingestion of gluten which is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

 

Is it healthier to eat a gluten free diet? No, only if you have and intolerance or an allergy to gluten.  When one takes gluten out of their diet they are removing a lot of nutrients with it as most prepared gluten free items are lacking fiber, have added salt and sugar to make them tasty and are not always calorie friendly.

 

What’s the difference between an intolerance (Celiac Disease) and a wheat allergy?  The symptoms of both can be the same, the difference is that Celiac Disease causes damage to the intestine and if left untreated can become life threatening.

 

How is Celiac Disease diagnosed?  Diagnosis has, in the past, taken years for many so I urge you to talk with your physician openly and ask many questions including, “could my problems be caused by gluten?”  Because there are so many symptoms and we are not all the same, it can be a difficult diagnosis to make.  It can help to make a journal of all items you eat, your activities and your symptoms, remember to include the times of meals as well as the onset and duration of symptoms to present at your next physicians visit. Your physician can order blood work as a beginning test and an endoscopy can be performed, if needed, to examine the lining of your intestine and take biopsies for further evaluation.   A gluten free diet should not be started prior to proper testing by your physician!  If you’ve already been eating a gluten free diet the when the tests are performed they will not be accurate. 

 

In order to help you, to answer more questions and/or give you additional information please feel free to visit my website, listed below, which does link to national organization’s sites such as National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Celiac Disease Foundation and Celiac Sprue Association as well. The Dunlap Hospital Celiac Information Group meets the 4th Monday of each month (except December) at 6:00 in the Community Room of the Hospital please feel free to attend.  It’s offers a comfortable atmosphere to enable you to ask questions, share ideas and recipes or products and/or simply take it all in then assess your questions. The Dunlap website also offers the group’s past newsletters online for your review.  Patients, family and friends are all welcome.

 

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

 

Gluten Free – With Highest Appreciation

 

We who eat gluten free must first let everyone who attempts to cook for us know how much it is appreciated – thank you from the bottom of our hearts (and tummies!)!! Secondly we must explain why we may not eat what is put forth even if declared to be gluten free.  Please note, this article has no ‘behind the scenes’ meaning and is not directed to anyone, it is to be used as a learning tool for those who deal with gluten free diets in one way or another; either cooking for themselves, for a family member or friend and/or as a caregiver.

 

Cooking gluten free doesn’t sound all that difficult – don’t use wheat, rye, barley or uncertified gluten free oats. The tricky part of gluten free is the contamination factors one doesn’t realize and/or associate as a problem.  Let’s take a look at just a few:

 

The Flour: You’ve stopped at the grocery and picked up a bag of rice flour since you are preparing to make some cookies for a gluten free friend. Have flour, can bake – Maybe!  Yes, rice flour is naturally gluten free, however, is that bag you purchased gluten free? Is it from a dedicated facility and have a label that says “gluten free”? Due to cross contamination during the processing of the rice into flour, if it’s not labeled gluten free it may or may not be.

 

Ingredients: What other ingredients are called for in your recipe? Butter, Margarine, Jam, Peanut Butter, Mayonnaise, Relish, Mustard, etc.?  If you didn’t just open a brand new ingredient I can almost guarantee your item has been contaminated by gluten and is not safe to use in the recipe you’re making.  Why, you ask – let’s use butter or jam as an example: Picture yourself preparing toast, it’s all warm and yummy from the toaster and the butter or jam slides off your knife, it is spread carefully around the bread as it melts and it puts a smile on your face to know you have 2 slices … 2 slices! What do you do next? You put the knife back into the butter or jam and spread some onto slice number 2 – Contamination just happened! The moment you touched the bread the first time, your knife was gluten contaminated, when you put it back in the jar to tend to the second slice, you contaminated the entire ingredient with gluten making it unsafe for a gluten free diet.  You may opt for squeeze bottles to eliminate this worry, as long as the tips do not touch the gluten containing item.

 

Other Preparations: What else is being prepared at the same time as your gluten free item? Did you by chance stop to make a family member, or yourself, a sandwich? Did you wash your hands? No, you didn’t since they were clean enough to eat off of – Contamination just happened! Once you touch a gluten item, such as regular bread, your fingers are harboring gluten on them which can create a contamination factor.

 

Utensils: Do you have two items on the stove at the same time, for example pasta for you and rice pasta for a gluten free dish. Did you accidentally use the same spoon to stir both pastas? Contamination just happened.  Even the strainer/colander you use must be completely cleaned very well as to not transfer the gluten protein. Wooden utensils can harbor the gluten protein as well and are not recommended for gluten free cooking unless purchased and used solely for gluten free cooking.

 

These are only 4 of the scenarios that pass through a gluten free person’s mind when offered a dish by someone else.  If you’re a close friend or family member who understands the consequences and illness gluten can cause you’re probably already watching these things. If you are a friend or family member that is attempting to be nice or surprise someone, please still do it, just be mindful of the hidden contaminants that are lurking behind the scenes.  

 

If you’d ever like to hear a funny story, ask my husband how he butters his bread – that is if I actually let him bring bread into the house! He’ll begin with a chuckle and somewhere in his story he’ll say, “It’s a strategic operation…”.  I simply say that I’m thankful for many knives in the silverware drawer and a good dishwasher!

 

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

 

 

 

Gluten Free – Measuring Techniques

 

Hmmmm, measuring, what could possibly be so hard? Well, let’s take a look into the logistics of gluten free flours. Normally, most gluten free flours are denser and moister than a general white or wheat glutenous flour which will cause ‘packing’ if simply scooped out with a measuring cup.  This ‘packing’ effect will have an effect on your final product in various ways, hinder your recipe from turning out properly and/or not let you produce the recipe as well from one time to the next.

 

A tip to begin with, from a friend who bakes and cooks amazing gluten free items for her husband, always use your glass measuring cups for liquid ingredients and the plastic or tin for dry ingredients. This step will allow you to be more precise when doing your final measuring and to always be sure to have the same amounts easier.

 

The rule of thumb for consistent measuring of gluten free flours is to never ‘dip’ your measuring cup into the flour and level it off with a knife. This practice will create ‘packing’ in your measuring cup which will not allow for the final product to be consistent each time it’s prepared as your measuring cup will have more or less each time you ‘dip’.  Since the consistency of gluten free flours is more dense and most have a higher moisture content due to the oils of the grains, nuts or legumes that are ground, it’s better to use a spoon to scoop out smaller amounts of flour into your measuring cup, then level the top off. This procedure will allow for a little bit of air to be between the flour particles which will help the texture of your final product and not allow for excessive amounts of flour to ‘sneak’ into your mixing bowl.

 

Feeling the urge to be more precise? Grab the kitchen scale, make notes on your recipes for each amount used as to how much each amount weighs. As you complete your recipe and the outcome is favorable make a note on the recipe as well, be sure to include the date too. If the outcome is not as good as you’d hoped, make note of what needs to be changed – does it need a touch more flour to be a bit denser, a little less flour to be lighter, possibly a ‘lighter’ flour for a crisper texture and/or ‘bouncier’ or chewier finish? The next time you make the recipe you’ll then remember what to change and what to measure slightly different allowing you to create the same great recipe over and over again.

 

Baking and cooking gluten free can be like a science experiment or a chemistry project at times, but once you get the hang of it you will enjoy trying different blends, mixes and ingredients.  Many gluten free flour blends are available to take the guessing out of how much of each flour to use and make your recipes much easier to make. Don’t get discouraged, ask questions to those of us who do it, find a gluten free cookbook as a guideline and go with the flow … if at first a recipe doesn’t succeed, try and try again!

 

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

   

 

 

Gluten Free Flours – Proper Storage         

 

Storage of gluten free flours is a topic that gets discussed over and over again throughout many support groups and between friends.  Is there a right or a wrong place to store your flour?  The answer is not black and white and depends on how much you use and over what period of time it’s used.

 

The basics of storage for any gluten free product is to store them away from gluten containing products: on a higher shelf, in a separate location (cabinet), in airtight containers, etc.  Storing gluten free flours in the pantry is okay. However, gluten free flours, like other pantry items, can be susceptible to pests and spoilage if not used in a reasonable period of time, especially those with more oil content from the ground grains and/or nuts.  

 

To store your flours in the refrigerator makes a lot of sense, provided you have sufficient space.  If stored in zip lock bags they can tend to not stack nicely and may take on the stronger flavors of the foods surrounding them.  If stored in airtight containers they can take up a lot of space. If you only use one flour blend, space issues are normally not a problem and the refrigerator is your best location. If you use many types of flours and/or enjoy experimentation the refrigerator may be inconvenient as it fills up quickly.

The freezer is a great place to store gluten free flours. There is no chance of spoilage and most of us have sufficient space to do such. Be sure to label the canisters or bags so you can quickly identify the one you seek for recipes and prevent the inside temperature of the freezer from rising too much while the door is open.

Whether you store your flours in the refrigerator or the freezer always remember to let them come to room temperature prior to using them in your recipes.  If the flour(s) are too cool, they can tend to clump, hold excess moisture and hinder the final outcome of your recipes.

RECIPE: Noodles  1 C. Gluten Free Flour mix - - Mix with milk, soy milk or rice milk to form dough – roll thin, cut with butter knife and let dry. Put noodles into boiling broth, cook until the noodles come to the surface.  ** Great added to Beef Roast with Potatoes.  This recipe is thanks to Rick for sharing the finished product during the Dunlap Celiac Information Group’s annual Thanksgiving dinner, the flour of choice for his noodles was Mr. Ritz brand. The noodles were tasty as they were cooked in the beef broth and added to the roast and cooked potatoes and in this use, the noodles took on the texture of a dumpling. Knowing that gluten free can actually be as easy as this recipe is a relief to many!

 

Cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food stays gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember,  unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.

 

 

 

Pantry Pests ~ Prevention, Protection and Elimination

My regular articles are normally geared to gluten free living, but there are lots of topics that mingle into the mix and present themselves important, such as Pantry Pests.

Nearly all dried food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including cereal products (flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, and cookies); seeds including dried beans and popcorn; nuts; chocolate; raisins as well as other dried fruits; spices; powdered milk; cured meats. Non-food items that may be infested may include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.

A stored food product may become infested at the processing plant or warehouse, in transit, at the store, or even right in your home. Most of the stored food insects also are pests of stored grain or other pantry items and may be relatively abundant outdoors. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation, however, foods of any age can become infested.

Stored food insects are capable of penetrating unopened paper, thin cardboard, plastic, foil, or cellophane-wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams. Insects within an infested package begin multiplying and can spread to other stored foods or food debris that has accumulated in corners, cracks and crevices, and eventually the entire cupboard. All stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present simultaneously in infested products.

Prevention – Protection – Elimination are the keys to healthy pantry staples, here are some helpful tips:

Purchase food in package sizes that can be used up in a short time. Do not store food products more than two to four months, if possible. Use older packages before newer ones and opened packages before unopened ones.

When purchasing packaged foods, be certain containers are not damaged and seals are intact.

Store dried foods in insect-proof containers such as screw-top glass, heavy plastic or metal containers. This will prevent entry or escape of insects. Cardboard, paper or plastic wrapping will not prevent insect infestations. Storage of products in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to use will also aid in prevention and protection methods.

Keep food storage areas clean and do not allow crumbs or food particles to accumulate, as exposed food will attract insects. Cleanliness is especially important in areas where pet foods and birdseed are stored.

Locate the source of the infestation. Carefully examine all susceptible foods. Look at the top surface of the product with a flashlight or pour the package contents onto a cookie sheet.  Throw away any/all foods that are infested.

Do not use insecticide sprays for controlling these or other insects in pantry areas as they have no effect on the insects within the food packages and if any control is possible it’ll only be temporary until the source is found and eliminated. Washing shelves with detergent, bleach, ammonia or disinfectants will not have any effect on these pests since these insects lay their eggs on suitable food. Removing infested items and thoroughly cleaning with a vacuum is usually sufficient. As a precaution against re-infestation, again, store susceptible foods in tightly sealed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers or in the refrigerator or freezer.

If infested material is to be salvaged (for example, birdseed) or if infestation is questionable, heat the product in shallow pans in a 130 degrees oven for at least 30 minutes, or place in the freezer at 0 degrees for at least 4 days.

Remember, cooking homemade affords you the opportunity to be sure your food is infestation free as well as gluten free throughout the process and allows you to use fresh and/or naturally gluten free, locally produced and locally grown! Visit your local Co-Op for fresh milk or cream, cheeses, veggies and meats to use in your homemade recipes.  Please always remember too, unfortunately, local grains are not gluten free due to cross contamination that occurs in the field, during harvesting and while processing.