Sunday, June 24, 2012

Crazy for Coconuts!

  Last year, I was trying to figure out how to drop a few baby pounds and came to talk to my amazing health practitioner about it. She told me to add coconut oil each day to my diet because it would help to speed up my metabolism and that it would help to starve off hunger pains while dieting as well  as give me more energy and help with my defunk thyroid. Well, since this was to be my very first diet, I was terrified and thought I could use all the help I could get! I had seen friends fail, gain it all back and I felt I needed something special to get me to give up some of my bad habits. I didn't want to exchange skinny for crabby. I have 5 kids! I don't have time for being cranky and tired. Thus began my journey into learning all I could about coconut oil because I had not really had any experience with it. I'd seen it at the store but just didn't give it a second thought since I had always heard how wonderful olive oil was and it was what I grew up on. However, I believed her as she has never steered me wrong! The recommend amount was 2 tsp per day. While I had all the intentions of eating it out of the jar, I just couldn't muster the texture. When coconut oil is warm, it is just like regular oil. When it is cooled ( or stored in the fridge) it is solid, like butter. So this led to a quest to find better options with coconut oil! Or at least one I could eat straight out of the jar if need be.

One of the great things I learned was that coconut oil is also a medium chain fatty acid that creates energy for your body to use, not store! That's right, you can eat it like butter and it won't stick on your thighs! Amazing huh? That was what initially sold me, honestly! When you can eat fat and not gain fat? I was a fan right off the bat since it is pretty remarkable that it actually makes you loose fat! It acts like a carbohydrate, giving your body energy but works like a protein acting as a nutritional fat keeping you less hungry and giving you energy. What an amazing way to help me loose weight! No supplements to speed up my heart and keep me up at night with caffeine or FDA approved pills that would certainly be pulled when some research went into the side effects! I could fry my chicken breast in it or a side of fish and not burn it or make it dry while watching my calories? WIN!  I put it in my smoothies, I make muffins with it, I fry anything I can with it, I make chocolate candy with it, bake with it, etc. I have gone as far as transfer nearly every recipe that calls for vegetable oil or butter and use coconut oil instead. That lowers the fat right off the top! I add it to my baked goods for anything that asked for oil, and I no longer try to substitute applesauce because it's the fat that will help me loose fat! And let's face it, fat makes everything taste better! I don't care what you say, bacon and butter cheer everyone up! ( Maybe not together, but you get my drift). And fat or protein really help to lower the sugar index of starch foods so I knew this was a win win for me.

 First, I found that it made amazing fried food! I guarantee, the best ever fried chicken ever! And hey, I thought going on a diet was going to forbid me from ever eating anything fried! If you like popcorn, as my family does, it is the secret to the amazing movie popcorn your paying $10.00 for! ( though I am sure they aren't using the best quality oil for sure because my popcorn from home tastes way better) And you won't need any butter because the coconut oil gives it a nice taste and it's already got a bit of oil on so you can add your seasonings or salt! It's great  for sauteing with such a mild taste that you can use it in everything.  One of the greatest things I learned was unlike olive oil  ( my former favorite oil) I could heat coconut oil  to high temps and it was still healthy! Olive oil is healthy, especially cold and virgin ( extra virgin particularly) but it can't be heated much or it kills off the properties that make it healthy and then,  make it toxic! Oh yes, that's a research article right there. And honestly, olive oil has a bitter  and heavy taste that doesn't go well with cookies or sweet foods.  Coconut oil is a lot different. Not only can you heat it higher, it doesn't burn, smell or change the taste once it gets that hot! And it has such a light and mild taste that it can be used to fry donuts or tortillas! One of the best things about it is that when I am using coconut oil, I don't worry about how much oil I am using, or how many calories of fat this will be, or trying to paper towel it to death to dry all the oil off because I know I need these good fats to heal my gut, skin, hair, thyroid, etc. ! After all, your only dry on the outside when your dry from the inside. So eating those healthy fats naturally gives you healthier looking skin, hair and healthy bowel movements ( fat makes things move ya know) and who wouldn't want ALL that?

But if you do have some dry really works well as a body oil! It's all I am using these days, after all, your skin is the largest organ your body has and it's been proven scientifically that 60% of what you put on your skin is totally absorbed into your body! This means, the toxins in the lotions your using, the preservatives, the stabilizers, fragrances, parabens, and more are sitting in your lymphatic system and entering your liver causing an extra work load for your body. So maybe your eating all organic and free range but if your putting toxins all over your body, your not as healthy as you'd like to be!  And research has proven that these aid in causing cancer. In fact, a recent studied showed that even women who did not use deodorant, had parabens in their breast tissue and they had breast cancer! You can find out more about that here :

  I love the smell of coconut oil too because it reminds me of that tropical suntan lotion I used when I was younger, you know the one with coconut oil in it that smelled like heaven that you would fry yourself in the sun with for a dark tan? Yes, that was me too! That's because native people to the islands have been using it for their skin for a LONG time. A little goes a long way as well and honestly, those fancy smelling lotions I used to use, were as much money but never lasted very long. Another use for this coconut oil is that you can use it to put on your lips as a natural lip gloss! I know right?? Tastes great too and guess what, it won't matter if you eat it, you know it's food so unlike typical gloss, where there are lots of ingredients, most you wouldn't eat ( and since when do you wipe off gloss to eat, drink or even lick your lips? Scary but women eat on average 4 pounds of lip gloss and lipstick! YUCK!) And as a mom I  use it in place of those cruddy baby products that have no moisture in them but just fragrance, chemicals and yes, even parabens or use it in place of your healthy baby lotions and oils! It works really well on my toddlers after a bath. I even used it on my son's rash and it worked wonders! And if you have some dry ends on your hair...guess what, it works for that too!! It's such a light oil that it smells wonderful so you can use it on your hair and not worry you'll smell funky!  As some one who has always had dry hair I found this really helpful and much cheaper then what I was using not to mention, if I have a little on my hands afterwards I can just rub it on my skin! Sorta nice having less products in my bathroom that's for sure! And I share it with my kids!

So my love of coconut oil took me to lots of places to find it and I tested it ALL. Yes, I was going through it pretty fast because it was working so well for me and it was really the only oil my family and I were and still are using. Even my adult son eats 2 teaspoons a day ( he lost 30 pounds so he's addicted to it now) ! I had tried many brands to see what the difference was, verses the cost etc. and they all seemed the same to me. I had been trying several organic and virgin coconut oils from Whole Foods and my local grocery store but NONE were in the same field as this. Tropical Traditions Coconut oil has a rich white color, a smell that reminds you of a coconut fruit bar and a taste that is pretty darn yummy! I know, that's not why your eating it but if your like my oldest son and your going to eat it right out of the jar, or put this on your skin, I am telling you, it is amazing!

How I found out about Tropical Traditions was I needed some coconut flour to make lower carb treats while being gluten free and hoping to enjoy a goodie now and then and not ruin my weight loss attempts. It worked! I did loose 50 pounds in less then a year fairly effortlessly.  And I was thrilled that a little bag lasts so long! Coconut flour isn't a grain flour but it makes amazing baked goods and breads without any added starches or other grain flours! A little really goes a long way so when you think for the price you could have two times as much rice flour, but you will not use nearly half as much coconut flour.  So if I am making a pan of brownies with it, I only need 3/4 of a cup of flour! That's it! Oh, and you can also make bread with it and many other items! It has a delicious flavor, high in fiber, low in carbs and a great source of protein, not to mention all the other health benefits of a fruit, like antioxidants and more! I found tons of gluten free coconut recipes ( and I find new ones weekly) from Tropical Traditions.

Anyhow....I could really go on and on about coconut flour and oil but if you want to learn more about it, I have been authorized to offer you a  FREE book on coconut oil, a $25.00 value just for using the link posted on my blog with your first purchase.  From this site you'll find the flour and lots of other great non gmo, organic, free range, grass fed meats and other amazing baking, household and personal items! Even coconut lotion free if you'd rather something different the oil. I am sure you'll find as I did, it's the best oil to use and coconut flour is awesome for so many gluten free treats and recipes! And another added bonus is this company offers fantastic customer service! In this day and age, it's nice to have that personal touch! You can read even more interesting facts about coconut oil at this link! Don't be surprised if your sitting there for a while.
Here is a candy recipe I use to eat my coconut oil every day! It's perfect when I am getting a tad hungry or mid day when my energy is slumping, it's a great snack I look forward to everyday.

Melt ( or use room temp) coconut oil ( 1 cup)
Measure equal amount of your cocoa powder ( 1 cup) OR carob powder ( this is my favorite)
mix together and add a tad of Celtic Sea salt or any good sea salt ( it helps to balance the cocoa)
a few drops of  stevia liquid ( you can flavors like vanilla cream or orange or my fave, peppermint)
or some Truvia or Xylitol powder ( about 2 or 3 packets is plenty sweet or you could also use any other sweetener such as raw honey or maple syrup or agave if you prefer)

Mix well or melt a bit over the stove ( keep stirring till well blended) pour over some parchment paper lined aluminum or plastic container. Place in freezer for 20 mins, cut it into small or bite size pieces or bend the container so it cracks in pieces, place in a container with a lid. Keep it cold in the freezer or fridge as it will melt if it becomes room temp.

By the way, if you like me, miss some of the old candy treats you used to have, ( Twix, Kit Kat, etc.) I have news for you...there are a few add ins you can put in before sticking it in the freezer. For these,  use a mini muffin pan, line it with mini muffin papers (or cupcake papers) and put half the coconut/ chocolate mix in when liquid, then add Mary's Gone Crackers pretzel pieces or other gluten free pretzel pieces, even one broken gives it a nice crunch. I really like adding a macadamia nut or an almond too, just one per muffin cup to give it a nice crunch or flavor and then top with more liquid chocolate and freeze! You can also use some honey Chex to give it a smores type flavor.  I'll make these so that they are easy to hold, carry, or pretty enough to give as a gift or serve as a treat to friends when they come by.
They look like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

*And you can eat it easily out of the freezer ( it really doesn't freeze because of the oil) So yummy, such a great way to give yourself a little treat, tastes like candy but sure doesn't do anything to your pancreas or liver like candy and remember, it won't be sticking to your thighs! Whoo hooo!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Making Memories and Traditions ( gluten free)

When your newly gluten free it can seem like nothing will be the same. Not the expected pizza place you went to hang out at on Friday nights after soccer games, or grandma's famous cake recipe or your mother in law's amazing biscuits that go so well with the fantastic chicken pot pie you make! How about the holidays? How will they change this year?  The best piece of advice I can offer anyone who is newly gluten free is don't through out everything. Well, through out all the gluten, but not the traditions and memories...those things are permanent! It's hard enough to be taking out gluten, don't try to go without those special foods that you and your family look forward to.  If  you can spend some time retrying those recipes with the gluten free substitutions, you may find that it will be even better then the original! After all, things are always  better with age! Even recipes.

Also, don't forget to start new traditions! Maybe it's not going to be the same pizza place you went to for years, but there are lots of new places now that do offer gluten free pizza. Or  make grandma's cake recipe but just alter the gluten flour? There are a lot of ways to substitute the gluten flour in your mixes. Stores and online outlets are offering many ready made flours or you may even have a go to all purpose mix that you  personally created! What you may find though is there needs to be less or more liquid or more baking soda or baking powder to get a better " rise".   It may need one more egg or more time in the oven, but a lower heat. And it helps to recreate the recipe a week or so before you actually need to " reproduce" it,  just so you can try it out and make sure you've fixed any kinks!

 One mix that I have found that works really well for most flour exchanges is made by Arrowhead Mills. It's their all purpose flour. It's cheap and the ingredients are good quality, low allergen (contain no yeast, corn or soy ) and most of the ingredients are also organic! They recently altered the recipe a bit for a better mix but I have found the new boxes already at my Whole Foods. I am not a fan of the blends that contain mostly tapioca or potato starch ( this one only contains the tapioca but it's not the main ingredient and it's also organic). I am not making any money to " sell" this to you , but just want you to know from years of experience that there are lots of ready made options to help you transfer your recipes without the need to buy more gluten free recipe books or expensive flour blends. Also remember you can find tons of recipes that are gluten free online for FREE too ! You can find this Arrowhead Mills all purpose gluten free mix online if it's not sold at your grocery store. I have been buying it from Whole Foods for years but my neighborhood Walmart just started to sell it  (and for about $2.00 less then Whole Foods) recently! Or maybe they sold it for a while but I try my hardest to steer clear of  Walmart....just don't like the big crowds and lack of customer service, so it was " new" to me. Though I will be checking back with Walmart from time to time. They are offering way more gluten free options and a few other  flour mix's such as Bob's Red Mill . Another flour mix brand that I personally like that also sells cookie, brownie, cake and bread mix's is sold by Hodgson Mill. These mixes are way less expensive then the Betty Crocker and the other brands that sell the same kind of kit's by nearly 55%! So if you haven't found your own secret mix yet, you can still make amazing products with these flour mixes!

Some of our family traditions have to do with breakfasts! We love pancake Saturdays! This has long been a tradition in our home.  My youngest two children get their step stools and  their aprons on. My daughter recently even got her own set of kitchen utensils to use, pink of course! We mix in blueberries or some pecans & cinnamon for a different taste and serve them with either bacon or sausage! And of course with real maple syrup! Our middle son will make homemade orange juice even though we no longer get the freshest oranges being that we don't live in Florida anymore, it's still part of the tradition! I hope you'll continue your traditions as well and not let that ugly " gluten" hold you back this year!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Gluten Free Bread Tips and Recipes

In the 11 years since my son became gluten free, there has been an amazing amount of ready made breads that have come out on the market to purchase. Honestly, all the grocery stores near me sell at least two varieties so I really don't have to make bread anymore. Though ready made breads are very comparable and convenient, they are often twice as expensive then making your own and may even have ingredients that you are allergic to. So you may out of necessity find baking bread the way to enjoy bread once again. Or if your like me and my kids, we love the smell that lingers in the house for the last hour of it baking and then of course, no one is slow to grab a piece topped with lots of butter! To us it's like cookies coming out of the oven! If your baking gluten free though, it's not always as easy or as forgiving as wheat versions. Gluten is the "gift" to the wheat that holds it, gives it bounce, give and elasticity, making it soft and light. Not what happens with every gluten free recipe.

Surprisingly, the way you make the bread is not the most important. I find  great success in the oven but  it is really a lot easier for me to make it in the bread machine. I am not subject to heating the house on a warm day,  and won't  forget things by getting distracted with my business or kids. I would strongly suggest a bread-maker  as it does each step for you so it's harder to mess it up! No thought of how long it needs to rise or heating the oven to make sure it can. There are many bread machine brands that now cater to " gluten free" breads but if you don't have one , fear not, you can still make amazing gluten free bread using a regular bread maker. If you, like me and have an old machine that doesn't have this feature, you won't need to use the double rise or the entire cycle. For my particular bread maker I don't start with the regular start cycle, I use the next one ( my bread maker says " rapid rise") this is the difference between gluten and non gluten breads. The gluten needs time to be broken down and to rest, none of the gluten free flours do. So from start to stop, my bread maker makes a non gluten loaf in a little over two hours apposed to over four if I were doing a gluten bread! It only rests to rise the dough for the yeast! Though  if you do use a bread machine,  be sure to pull the bread out as soon as the cycle ends. Leaving the bread in creates a very soggy and heavy bread. If you accidentally take it out too early or too late, you may be able to save your loaf by putting it back in your oven for a little more " drying" time as the heat will draw out the extra moisture sometimes. Since the bread pans are large in the bread machines, you will have a very full and possibly shorter loaf  bread size. If you are using your oven, you will find great success using a taller and thinner loaf pan for more " typical" size sandwich bread size. Often non gluten breads do not rise as well because they are " heavier". So a shorter pan means a smaller loaf. If you don't have one, you can find a great one here at as well as a good kitchen or housewares store.  But if you don't mind a smaller sized loaf such as the brand Udi's uses, then a normal loaf pan will work just fine and is often perfect for smaller hands or those watching their carbs. I have used the smaller loaf pans just fine. To make sure it stays the size you want, if your using the oven method , when you take the bread out, put the pan on a cooling rack on it's side so the weight of the bread doesn't fall back in and condense the loaf.

You will find many recipes on line and in cookbooks that will work just fine. It's fun trying different recipes to find your perfect preference. Just as with a wheat bread, there are tastes and textures that we all like better then others.  Each flour can have a distinct taste and others are very bland and take on the flavor of the yeast. In general though the guidelines are fairly similar, 2 cups "flour" for every cup of starch. If  you cannot tolerate eggs, then you'll want to try ground flax seed with water to make a more gelatin type glue. You can also add pectin if you don't use egg to help hold together the flours. To substitute the eggs, you need 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder, the finer the better) and then 3 tablespoons of water ( let that sit for about 10 min.s as it needs to thicken to be used) this substitutes for one egg so you would need to double that for 2 etc. I have several recipes that I like but have also tried the boxed bread varieties though I am always adding things to them as well. One thing I like to add to my bread is chia seed. This makes a nice little " multi-grain" appearance to the bread but more importantly, it is an amazing seed! It's so small you can't tell it's there really, (think poppy seed). You can grind it to add to the flour mix you use but I like to just add a few tablespoons of it right out of the bag. It automatically lowers the glycemic index of any food you add it too making it lower in carb count so it's especially helpful in starch rich breads. It is so nutrient dense with  remarkable  amounts of antioxidants and proteins that once you read up on this power house seed I bet you'll be finding lots of ways to add it to your diet daily! In my personal baking,  I don't like to use cornstarch as I find there is corn in nearly everything thing I eat anyway so if I can get a break from it using tapioca or potato starch, then I do. I also don't use corn flour unless it is organic or I absolutely need to ( cornbread for instance).  I started  to add herbs to my breads as years ago and it sure makes the bread take on a flavorful taste! If I am making a sweet bread, I'll add more sugar, cinnamon and maybe even some raisins half way through the baking cycle. If it's a savory bread I am after, I add some Italian seasonings. You could always add some rosemary if you prefer that taste. You may also like to add rice bran to your bread for more bran and nutrition. It's sold by the gluten free items usually.

Here are a few recipes for bread that I like! I haven't added the method as if you have a bread machine you'll follow your directions there. For instance it may say add the wet ingredients first or dry first. I often do my own thing with that. I like to add my milk or warm water with dry milk and sugar and yeast and let it get friendly while I mix the other wet ingredients together and dry. I've also done it where I put in the eggs first, with the apple cider vinegar, and oil, then add the dry ingredients and top off with the milk in a little well of the flour. My machine is so old that they have no instructions for gluten free cycles so you may experiment that way too and see what turns out the best loaf for you. And if it's the oven method your doing, you won't need to do more then just a general mix as the bread doesn't need to be beaten to relax the gluten so you can use a kitchen aid mixer and put in your dry ingredients first, then slowly add the wet, let the bread rest in a warm place for 30 min.s or so then bake at whatever the box or your recipe says but usually it's about 325-350. Remember too as tempting as it is...don't cut that bread until it cools! ( I know it's so tempting but it really makes for a better loaf)

Multigrain flour mix ( makes 4 1/2  cups)
1 cup brown rice flour ( the finer the grind the better)
1 cup millet
1 cup sorghum
1 cup potato starch
1 half cup tapioca flour
Mix this real well, use a sifter to make sure there are no clumps ( potato starch can get clumped)  and from this, take 3 cups for your bread recipe. The reminder can be used  as a flour base for some fried chicken,  hamburger buns or dinner rolls! If you like it, you can always double or triple this.

Basic bread recipe:
3 cups flour mix from above
 (or 2 cups any flour combination of: rice, millet, sorghum, oat, almond , bean, etc. It's best to mix at least 3 flours for the best flavor and consistency.  Then add one cup starch, potato or tapioca or any combination of the 2) What does not work in this ratio is coconut flour because is a very heavy flour and you would need a very small amount of flour and many more eggs to get it to rise)

3 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt ( sea salt is BEST)
1 and 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons of instant ( or fast rise) yeast
mix this together, making sure to incorporate all the ingredients well.
Add to this 1 cup warm milk ( or 1 cup warm water and 1 tablespoon dry milk) or any milk substitute can be used as well.
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons softened butter or 2 tablespoons warm coconut oil or  2 of olive oil
mix that well and add 3 eggs beaten.
Once you have mixed this well ( or your lovely bread machine has) make sure to add a few tablespoons of that chia see if you like or your herb blend that you prefer!

Here is another that I like as well.
3 eggs well beat add
2 tsp cider vinegar add
1 tablespoon oil or butter melted.
1 1/2 cup warm water ( add dry milk if you like to soften the loaf)
add to that 1 tablespoon yeast ( fast rise, bread machine yeast or 1 package)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour mix

Remember each recipe will react differently to the flours and liquid content so you may need to experiment a bit for your perfect and personalized loaf. Happy baking to you and may all your loaves rise!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Taking Time For Tea

My last child is the only girl of our five blessings. Boy were her four brother's happy that she would take their place of  being drug  out to a ballet once a year. While I still take my son's to Broadway shows, concerts and the symphony a few times a year to appreciate the arts, they are now off the hook for the ballet. And wouldn't you know, my daughter is in love with ballet! Since she was a year old she has had several toy tea sets given to her and we  have been in the  tradition of having  tea everyday since she could hold a cup. Of course it wasn't hot then.  In the South, we love iced tea and so she would have a little cup of  peppermint or  a herbal orange vanilla roobios blend. She has had to work (or earn) her way up to have a porcelain tea cup and now has a few in her own collection.

 Either hot or cold, it's a nice little treat that we always share in a more fancy way when we are with her grandma's or  her aunt's, who are all huge tea lovers! I must confess they  make great treats which just adds to the excitement! While several of my boys are much older now, they still drink tea and will make it for themselves. It is a habit formed from a young age. The younger boys are still enjoying it and we have named tea flavors by boyish names, such as " robot" tea! They all have their own tea pots, very manly for the boys of course, a football or a black modern pot.  Everyone loves to pour their own and it's a great deal of fun.

My desire to teach my children about taking tea was for many reasons. First, I wanted my active son's to learn etiquette and how to sit still for a bit to talk with the adults that care about them and want to know more about who they are.  It's never forced on them and they always love it. We made it special several times a year even going to tea rooms to have a " proper" tea. Then, even more importantly, the added benefit of relaxing and getting detoxified. Detoxified?? What does taking tea have to do with detoxing? Well, quite a lot actually. First of all, taking a rest from your day is a great way to balance your mood and refresh your mind. We typically do this after school as a wonderful way to wind down and connect before starting chores or heading back to more school work. We like to put on some relaxing music in the background and after 15 minuets or so, everyone is in a better mood, ready to take on whatever is due next. I am even ready to tackle dinner!

The other benefit in taking tea is it gives us a chance to refuel our energy sources with a little nourishment. A typical English tea is served later in the day, between lunch and dinner usually. This is where a few bites of a sandwich, ( tea sandwiches are just sandwiches cut into 4's usually) maybe a slice of a protein rich quiche  with a few pieces of fruit and maybe a small  treat, give us the energy to make it through the end of the day without a crash in blood sugar and  preventing us from grabbing something " naughty". If your like me and all that fun stuff that makes a tea party so special,  can only happen every so often, you can still  grab a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit and a chunk of cheese with your tea. Balance the fruit or any carb treat with a little protein. Even tea on it's own with a splash of cream ( my favorite is a coconut creamer) and a dash of a natural sugar or a bit of honey is a nice little energy boost! Taking a few moments to rest out of our day seems odd in America, but in many parts of the of the world and Europe, this is normal.

The  best part of tea is the health properties that are known all over the world and still proving their place in medical research as an amazing health beverage. Tea has the ability to help our metabolism, deactivate cancer promoters, it's naturally anti-aging, blood pressure reducing, helps fight against viral and bacterial infections, boosts digestive and excretory systems ( liver, kidney, colon, etc), prevents blood clotting, stimulates the immune system and that's not even all!! Tea is  an amazing wonder drink  that most of the world enjoys and we continue to look at the health properties that make it the most indulged drink after water!  The flavors and varieties are sure to make anyone happy. Even if you don't like it hot, make it iced and enjoy the health benefits and antioxidants that these herbs bring. Taking a little time for tea may help you feel restful and rejuvenated for the rest of the day or even making it a tradition before you head to bed, will ensure a great night's sleep. Personally, I do it three times a day, at least! A hot drink in the am, to get my body to dump toxins that have accumulated while I was sleeping and my body was slavishly doing it's repairs (cleaning the " hotel" as it is). Then in the mid afternoon usually an iced tea for energy and extra antioxidants. Again in the late afternoon with a snack to get me through to dinner and then an herbal tea to relax me before I head to sleep. You can't do it wrong and anyway you choose, you'll be doing some great things for your amazing body!

Here is a great recipe for some gluten free scones, in case you get time to enjoy something a little fancy!

And if your looking for an easy gluten free flour:

2 cups white rice flour
2 cups brown rice 
2/3 cup of tapioca flour ( sometimes called starch)
1 and 1/3 cups  of potato starch ( NOT the same thing as potato flour you won't have the kind of texture )

Mix well and store in a nice tight container.
This makes 6 cups!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baking Gluten Free

Are you new the the gluten free world? Have you found that it seems a bit tricky? Gluten free items are popping up everywhere but they may not be as healthy as you think. If you are looking for a gluten free item, you should first look for the GF symbol, or a wheat stalk with a line across it that says  " gluten free". Wheat free is not the same as gluten free.  Wheat free  means any other grain has been used. For instance, barley, rye or any combination of grains. But it is not exactly gluten free by any means. And it could also be made in a manufacturing plant where wheat products are also gliding on the same equipment.
As gluten intolerance and Celiac disease have become more common, people are looking to alter their eating choices, and the food business is now booming with gluten free items. In fact, it is the fastest growing food market at this time! However, just because something is gluten free doesn't automatically make it healthy.

Some of the national brands that have come into the market in this field are: Betty Crocker, Chex, and Bisquick, just to name a few brands that I see at my regular grocery market. You will  find more options and brands that are exclusive to health markets but so far, most grocery stores are fairly limited. While they are better then their gluten cousins, they are also void of nutritional value in many cases making sugar the first ingredient!  As someone who eats out several times a week, I realize that I am not the healthiest eater 100%  of the time. I admit that I have a sweet tooth and like a goodie now and then. Going gluten free is rather daunting when you love your sweets and treats. Therefore, label reading is essential. For example, while a label may say " gluten free", it is still prudent to read the nutritional value of the product you and your family will be consuming.  Though I have been gluten free for years, I still read the ingredients and I am always amazed at how many of these "foods" or mixes use sugar as their main ingredient! For instance, I looked at all of the boxes of Betty Crocker cake, cookie and brownie boxes for their ingredients. Only one listed the flour they used ( rice) as a first ingredient, the other 3 were all listing sugar as their main ingredient! Then they have flour ( usually rice or, and potato) salt, xanthum gum, baking soda! I am not knocking the fact that mainstream companies have come into the gluten free market, however. I actually feel the opposite and would buy these if I was in a hurry to put something together spur of the moment or was out of my flour mixes and such. And it is great that they have ideas and other recipes you can use to make other dessert choices with these flours. I just know that charging me $5.00 for a cup of sugar and a cup of rice flour seems a bit high , especially if there is no nutritional value in it

For those of you who like to bake from scratch, this can easily be a healthier option. Some of the flours I like to use the most are  chickpea and  coconut flour and while they aren't even real grains they are wonderful sources of fiber and nutrition. Mixing at least three flours together is usually best for flavor or texture in your baking, but you can be more creative then these boxed mixes and you can certainly control the amount of sugar. Trying to keep things simple when you first start this, then go to a natural health food store so you can read those ingredients and find the most healthy ingredients. Some great flours are often not used because of their expense but you may find some at a health food store for probably a dollar or more than these national brands. Then  as you learn how to cook gluten free you can add some other nutritional flours to your recipes and make them much cheaper. If your looking for where to start with a recipe, the internet is loaded with great bloggers and women who have become gluten free for and are share amazing recipes.If you can think it, you can find it! Even crackers and hot crossed buns are possible to make gluten free.

Here is a great flour mix for a pie crust ( or muffins)
1 cup Sorghum flour *Iron and protein rich
1 cup Amaranth  *Excellent protein, high in fiber and lysine ( an amino acid rare in any other grain) lowest
  in glycemic value and perfect for diabetics.
3/4 cup of cornstarch (or tapioca, my preference)
1 tsp xanthun gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
 You can use this mix as the base for a pie crust or muffin  that you like and add the sweetener ( and quantity) that you prefer.
There are a lot of great options  for those who are gluten free. Gluten free can be easy and healthy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Looks can be deceiving!!

Looks can be deceiving is the term for any and all who have Celiacs or gluten intolerance. After all, who knows who has what, when we are all experiencing different problems, symptoms and issues. If you look at my photo here, you'd probably think that was coffee and a regular cupcake. Well, it's actually a vanilla chai latte ( organic, mixed with almond milk) with a gluten/ dairy free cupcake! I don't think you could taste what it was missing either because it really was so amazing.... however, our bodies are a lot like this. We may look healthy on the outside but how we are feeling or what our body is telling us may be a totally different story. And sadly, we may not be feeling anything for years to come and then suddenly we are hit with a devastating illness. Maybe we are experiencing something, but we do not know the connection to what is causing it. Most  Dr.'s are hard wired to give drugs and medications rather then to talk about food and diet. So many people describe symptoms that are in that " gluten" list but Dr's do not what is causing it so they are giving patients a drug for that headache,  IBS or skin rash......when in reality, stopping the gluten could easily stop the reaction. 

Being that gluten can be causing 300 symptoms, it is a common connection to many health problems. Since the effects of gluten can be triggered up to 3 days later, it is sure to make anyone doubt the source! I remember going out to eat, having the rolls, and  later complaining that some one must not have washed their hands or the food must have been bad. I can't imagine how many really nice  places I misjudged with that! Some I never went back to because the thought was so horrible. Thankfully, my husband never showed any problems ,so I am sure it was just me. But since some of my kids would also be affected, we just thought he was really blessed to have a " steel" stomach!

 If you know someone who is suffering from the symptoms of gluten ( I'll blog about that another time) then please refer them to see a Dr.  and tell them to  insist on being tested for it.  It's a very easy blood test these days and they could know if it's an autoimmune issue, an intolerance or an allergy. Some of the different symptoms you may experience may be completely different from your friends or as I found out in the case of my child's. Parents complaining of a child who cannot concentrate or who is tired all the time, may not put the connection to gluten it if their friends child that has been tested positive,  has symptoms like failure to grow or IBS symptoms. Though they may very well have the same problem. This is where gluten can be deceiving. 

 However, since gluten isn't a necessary nutrient for living, it wouldn't be too hard to just go off of it for a month or so and give it a try. After all, that is what I did before myself and my son were diagnosed.  If you are just sensitive, you may not have to worry as much as if you are Celiacs. But it is good to know if you have Celiacs because if you do, you are more prone to other autoimmune issues and even cancers. But either way, it can't harm you to go off of it and see if your symptoms improve. Will they go away right away? Probably not, see gluten can stay in the body from 6 months to a year! But you should see really good results in less then a months time. My most noticeable issues was the energy and the lack of headaches!

There is a world of people suffering with this issue but we are not aware of every connection that could be causing it. I am not saying gluten for everyone is horrible, some peoples health issues are connected to other allergies, smoking, food additives, artificial colors or sugars. The world is full of toxins and stress. And as humans we eat and sleep badly!  I am just saying,  if there was more awareness of these symptoms or more automated testing, maybe we would see far less health care issues. We could spend less on drugs and more money on real food! And maybe we could all start to feel a whole lot better! After all, feeling good isn't deceiving!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where's the gluten??

Remember the commercial from way back, " where's the beef"? I think it was a Wendy's commercial? Well, when you are gluten free for either Celiacs, gluten intolerance, a wheat allergy, or just wanting to have a healthier diet, then " where's the gluten" may be your new motto.

  As a personal gluten free consultant, I get asked this question a lot. After all, most people believe they are gluten free when they first try it. It seems pretty easy, don't eat wheat pasta, bread, cookies and pizza. Ok, I got it! But that is not the only places that wheat is hiding! Or barley for that matter either. So when your looking for wheat, what are you looking for? Well, obviously, the word wheat will be a clue that it would contain wheat. But there are lots of other words that mean wheat but don't say it! Sneaky isn't it?

For instance, " modified food starch". Usually, this means wheat starch, but it could also be corn or tapioca. Though because corn is also a common allergy ( and wouldn't you know the symptoms nearly mirror that of wheat allergies and intolerance) it will often be labeled as corn starch or modified food starch * corn. However, not always. In fact, did you know that if a manufacture does not use more then 2 % of any ingredient, then they don't even legally have to list it? Isn't that a bit scary? And so we have to check the labels very carefully and you may even call a manufacture and ask if the modified food starch is wheat or corn if it is an item you would want to eat. Modified wheat starch will be in a lot of foods, primarily processed foods. You will find it in bullion, gravy, soups and even some chips! So you'll want to be sure to check that one out. I have even seen it in shredded cheese as a way to keep the cheese from caking.

Next you'll see barley malt, it is made from barley and so it is not gluten free. Barley malt is particularly found in cereals and used as a flavor for foods as well. You'll find barley malt in beers, malt vinegars, syrups and milk shakes ( usually as in a " malt shake") as well as other foods.

Where else is the gluten? Well, many other places! In fact, it's even in lipsticks and glosses! Food like dips, fries and seasonings! But here are the  other words you going to mostly look for as these are terms for " wheat", : Couscous, matzo or matzoh, semolina, einkorn, durum, triticale, farina, cake flour, hydrolyzed wheat protein and pregelantinized wheat protein. 

Though there are foods that should be gluten free ( like milk or cheese) some like sour cream may not be so it will not automatically say " gluten free" but you should check the ingredients in any food that is man made! It's a good idea for other preservatives and additives too that aren't good for you either so feel no pressure to buy something you haven't investigated! 

Now you can go off to the market as  a gluten food label detective! And if your in the mood for some beef, try this Ruben sandwich at Jason's Deli, it's gluten free on Udi bread.

What the heck is " gluten"???

Isn't "gluten" the strangest word? I never said it until 11 years ago, and now I say it all the time! So if your new to being gluten free or if your wondering what it means, I'll happily fill you in on what that strange word is.

Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye , kamut and spelt. The last two grains you don't see too often but the first three your probably familiar with. Gluten is the " glue" basically of those grains. It helps things stick together and why it makes such great breads and rolls. Since it is the glue, it literately sticks to your gut! It has that same stickiness that it has to hold the flour together as it does when it hits your stomach's intestines! If you have Celiacs, this is what it does to you. Inside your intestines are small villi ( think a piece of carpet that has the little pieces sticking up) that grab your nutrients as they are digested. However, if the villi are coated with gluten, then your nutrition is basically lost because the body isn't able to grab that nutrition! This is very serious because it causes the villi to die and the damage to the gut can be so destroyed that some of it may never return to a healthy state. This of course, can lead to a myriad of diseases since 90% of our health is in the gut. If you have Celiacs, it is imperative that you are especially careful since this autoimmune disease is often paired with others such as thyroid disease, arthritis and even cancer.

Years ago the gold standard for determining if you had Celiacs disease was to take out a piece of your small intestine and colon. If there was damage there in those two pieces, then you had it! But what if you didn't have damage to that little part did they took out? Did that mean you didn't have the disease? Well, the new standard is just blood tests. Simple, easy and painless! However, still 95% percent of people are still misdiagnosed . I have read where the statistics are as high as 97%. That is a lot of people who are taking drugs for something else or feeling awful a whole lot when they could easily be feeling much better. If you read about this on the internet you will find many different ideas of what and how and when but the basics are the gluten!

 Now non Celiac, gluten sensitivity is seen as a different issue though the treatment is basically the same. No gluten! Biopsy tests can't find the same intestinal damage but they do know that the gut has a reaction to the gluten as does so many other places in the body. It is seen as more of an allergy to the gut. Not the same kind of damage but could it be that these are " pre- Celiac's" symptoms? Since so many more adults then children are diagnosed it would seem possible that they could have started with sensitivities but since we eat wheat so much, ( the government wants us eating that more then any other food group) then it developed into Celiacs? There is much to learn on this still and it is hard to find firm findings. Though it is said that allergies can be inherited as is Celiacs! I have read where the assumption is that this is a European decent issue because wheat was introduced in the Middle Ages in Europe and so the ancestors passed this on since this is genetic. However, where there used to be no Celiacs or gluten intolerance, in North Africa and the Middle East, there now is! Recently I read where a Saharawi refugee camp had tested 65 children positive for gluten sensitivity, 71 did not have it. The main food they were eating was  bread.  They had distended, painful bellies!  I hope as the science for this continues that we will learn more about the hows and why's to stop this from being so misunderstood and misdiagnosed.

 As of now, the rate of having gluten sensitivity is six times that of having Celiacs disease and growing. It is estimated that in 2019, 50-60 % of the population will be diagnosed with Celiacs or gluten sensitivity or pre- Celiac, or light Celiac as it being referred as now. The reason they expect the numbers to increase is because Dr.'s are now more aware of the more then 300 symptoms , tons of autoimmune diseases and learning that more then 50 diseases are direct causes. This coupled with better and easier testing methods. And the fact that patients like you and I are asking these questions. Is it gluten?

Now more celebrities are coming out with their issues with Gluten and making it more public in Hollywood and that is encouraging more people to pay attention to it . To name a few would be Zooey DeSchanel, Rachel Weisz, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Gwyenth Paltrow. And I am sure as more and more people are diagnosed it will become far more popular and there will be more awareness raised. Next blog, where is the gluten?