Category Archives: Celiac Sprue

Help Wanted: Eating GF more wisely, cheaply and saving time. Got tips?

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I bet you think I’ve fallen into a large hole around here and have lost internet access, huh?

Well, I have, kind of.

School started.  Just last year I had 135 students a day (5 classes/high school) and this year?  Oh no… this year I see 171 students (same five classes) and it’s A LOT.  Add that to the fact that the baby youngest toddler is a moving, shaking, running, jumping, climbing and the eldest is well…. keeping up and you can see why I’m dead tired by dinner time.

We’re back on the treadmill people.  Up at 5:15, home by 5:00, dinner, play, baths, and bedtime…then school work.  Bedtime comes around 11:40 or later.  Seriously…this is going to be a long winter!

Top that with the fact that our house, just like yours I bet, has been hit by our lovely economic woes.  Thankfully, we are both employed.  However the loss of pay in the form of pay cuts (8% between the two of us) and double to out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (EEK!) and we are in re-set mode.

We are intentional about the food choices we make.  More than ever now as well.  We have to stretch that dollar farther and we are still choosing to maintain a completely gluten free home.  But as all of you know, that means some serious creativity.

Couple all of that with the fact that time to cook dinner is LIMITED.  Kids (and parents alike) are wickedly hungry come 5:30.  Providing snacks before dinner doesn’t seem like a positive solution at all.  We worry that then we are just giving them outs from dinner – and we want to eat all together as a family.  THAT is important to us.

So.. I guess this post is a conversation starter.  One that I hope will get you all commenting and helping with tips and pointers for ALL of us busy, working gluten-free families.  What are YOU doing to save your brain, your money and your family (health and time together)?

 Home-made GF Quesadillas – add eggs or avocado, etc too

See recipe below signature

Quesadilla

I have limited tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly.  This has a lot to do with my brain.  I am NOT the one in my family who can open the cupboard, see what we have on hand and then whip out dinner.  Nope.  Especially not when there are two kids practically pulling my pants off as they try to get my attention after we rush in after work/daycare at 5PM.  And,  I don’t do mania very well at all.  (Can you believe I do mania REALLY well in the classroom – but just not at home?  I don’t get it either – but it is true.)

Sometimes I am organized enough on the weekend to layout a dinner menu for the week.  I get organized after we pick up our box of veggies at the Farmer’s Market on Sundays and start planning.  Each meal we have to include things that are accessible to the kids – as I’m not a short-order cook and we’re going to all eat together.  Sometimes we make miso soup for them (they LOVE tofu) in addition to whatever we are having, but they usually just eat right along with us.  Once I see what we have for the week, I can easily lay out dinner menus on the calendar at home (or the google calendar we share so I can see it on my phone or at work, if needed).  I love those weeks.  I know what I need to do, when, etc.  It’s so helpful when work things pop up last-minute or unplanned after-daycare doctor visits (my pediatrician should have a frequent-flyer coupon card for free coffee after 10 visits or something… I”m just saying…).

Sometimes I’m not so fabulously organized.  And these are the weeks that are (1) most common and (2) the MOST stressful for me.

Like this week.  Unplanned, but at least there is food in the fridge.  These are the days that my husband finds to be the easiest.  Seriously, in 3 minutes flat he can make a meal plan and get it started.  Me?  OMGosh – I have to know what’s in the fridge for the WHOLE day before I can even begin to figure something out.

Take today, for example.  I know there is ground turkey at home.  I can make lettuce wraps or tacos or chili (oh wait… I don’t have any beans on hand) … k then… I could make meatballs with rice (no pasta either), or.  Dang it.  I don’t know.  When my feet hit the kitchen, I will decide then.

More than just meal planning, however, is saving money.  Cheap Gluten Free Eats!  (Yes, they do exist.)

Here’s the list I’ve been working with this last month.  You can see I’m in need of some change-ups, people. One can only eat so many apples with peanut butter before you just don’t want to even look at them again.  So please.  Let’s work together on this.

BREAKFAST

LUNCH

SNACK

DINNER

Cinnamon Chex

peanut butter/apples or celery sticks

nuts

lettuce wraps

fresh fruit

leftovers

hard-boiled egg

soup/chili

Yogurt

cheese & pears

cheese cubes

veggies

GF Granola

hard-boiled egg

Trio bar (my spendy snack)

Lundberg risotto + protein and veggies mixed in

Hard cheese & GF tortilla chips

rice noodle soup (so much cheaper!)

Fresh fruit

Cantonese-style family chicken & mushrooms

eggs

miso + tofu soup

small salad

fajitas

yogurt smoothie

meat/cheese or avocado roll

meat/cheese or avocado roll

Chinese Chicken & Corn Chowder

homemade GF torillas with eggs/cheese

nori wraps

nori wrap

Tortilla soup

Chilaquiles

homemade tortillas/quesadillas

edamame

grilled meats/fish and veggies/frui

What are your favorite cheap and convenient GF foods/meals?

Let’s get talking, people!

~Kate

PS.  Making your own gluten free corn tortillas is SUPER easy (and much tastier, by the way).  Use equal parts corn flour (masa harina or masa harina para tortillas) and warm water.  You can also add a bit of olive oil or spices to your dough, if you’d like. (I added paprika and chili powder in the ones in the photo.)  Mix the corn flour with the warm water slowly until it forms a soft pliable ball.  Pinch off pieces and flatten in your hand to make tortillas (or thicker ones for sopes).  Cook on a hot, non-stick skillet.

KISS Your Greens, gluten free

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K.I.S.S Collard Greens - GF, of course

Keep It Simple, Silly:  Collard Greens
Photo by Kate Chan

I have to be honest.  The last couple of CSA boxes have had collard greens.  And I’ve swapped them out every week because I’ve been intimidated.

My Love really enjoys collard greens – but it is also because he loves southern food and has had some great food in Chicago.  And me?  Yes.  I like collard greens, but cooking them?  *Yikes*

I’ve heard how “long” and “tough” it is to cook collard greens and have them turn out fabulously.  Seasoning them and making them the right texture and not having either mushy or bitter greens to serve.  And you know what?  I’m much more of a baker than a cook, so that whole “you’ll know when it’s done” thing?  Doesn’t always work for me.  Well, unless I’m grilling chicken or pork chops.  I’ve got that down.

Last week (and this week’s) CSA box had collard greens, so I bit the bullet.  I was going to prepare them and prove my Love wrong.  I was going to make simple and tasty collard greens.  And guess what?  It totally worked.  He wants more.

So tonight, with my family here visiting, we’re making grilled chicken breasts, some more KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) Collard Greens, fresh new potatoes roasted with feta cheese and parsley and watermelon.  And for dessert?  I’m attempting a checker-board sponge cake.  (Yeap, now I’ve gone ’round the bend, huh?)

So, for those of you with greens and not southern touch to your cooking (like me), feel free to copy.  These are fabulous greens.  I’m thrilled to have an easy recipe to make collard greens with now.  And I won’t be swapping out my collards for any more carrots.  I promise.

K.I.S.S. Collard Greens

K.I.S.S. Collard Greens

Serves two.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of collard greens, cleaned/washed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice.
  • OPTIONAL/Main Dish Salad:  chopped chicken, raisins or dried cherries, toasted almonds.

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of water (salted. optional) to a boil on the stove.  While you wait, prepare your collard greens.
  2. Cut the thick center vein/stem out of the collard greens.  Split each leaf in two.  Roll together and slice into thin strips (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch).  Cut the strips in half.  (See picture above of rolled collards that have been cut into strips.  I just sliced the rolls in half one time.)
  3. Drop the greens into the boiling water.  Boil for 6 minutes (thin slices) – 8/10 minutes for thicker slices.  Remove the collards once they have reached the “al dente” noodle stage after 6 – 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your strips).
  4. Drain and press out the excess water.
  5. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan.  Add your garlic and stir until fragrant (1 minute).  Add the greens and stir fry for 4 – 5 minutes until tender.  Drizzle with sesame oil and season with salt and pepper.  Continue over the heat until even temperature.  (The greens will remain “al dente” or just tender and not mush after such speedy cooking.) Squeeze a half a lemon over or drizzle a teaspoon of lemon juice over (or more, to taste) and toss.
  6. Serve warm as a side.  Or top with a few raisins, sliced chicken and toasted almonds to make a fabulous entree salad.
Happy Eats!
~Kate

Gluten Free Basic White Cake

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Gluten Free Ratio Rally

Baking with a cause: YOU and getting you back in the kitchen too!

I’ve written this post a million times over since I decided to host this month’s Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  Way back in the beginning, I signed up for this with high hopes – and I was being completely selfish when I chose the task:  cakes.  And white/yellow cakes.  (Sorry, chocolate cake fans..although a few bloggers appealed to you, I was really on the hunt for fabulous GF white cakes.)

I say selfishly because I do have some fabulous cake recipes.  My favorites are my sponge cake recipe and the mini-vanilla filled cupcakes.  But really, I have been longing for layer cakes due to their versatility.  My favorite cakes have always been white layer cakes.  It’s true!  Even since I started making cakes in our house when I was in elementary school. (I did a fine job of both trashing the kitchen and baking a decent cake.)  My favorite white cake recipe is still being worked on to convert it to gluten free.  I needed some help.  And some inspiration.

And (I hoped)  I can’t be the only one with an aversion to chocolate cakes. (Right??)

And I say that reluctantly because I know that some very fabulous people in my life have made some incredible flourless chocolate cakes for me (birthdays at work, etc).  I’ve eaten each slice with a smile.  But I have a confession to make:  I’ve never liked chocolate cakes.  At the age of six, I completely overindulged:  chocolate cake + chocolate ice cream + first day in new state/neighborhood/house = bad news for the future of chocolate cake in my life.  I am refraining from using details here … after all, this *IS* supposed to be a food blog.

So you see, I am selfish in my quest for the *perfect* gluten free non-chocolate cake.  I’m not the only one who realizes the beauty of a white cake – the versatility, etc.  Oh yes. A white cake is where it is at, people!  And you will see from this month’s ratio posters just how fabulously versatile it is!

I fell on a sword this month taste-testing over 9 cake recipes ideas in four weeks.  Not too pointy of a sword, mind you.  If the cake tasted great, but failed?  I have crumbled them into a baggie and made some “cake pops” for my daughter(s) and I.  We share one “cake pop” after swim lessons.  But I think I’m going to have to invest in some swim time for myself after a month of cake eating.  Ay ay ay!

I’ve discovered a few things about cake baking – especially gluten free cake baking – that I’d taken for granted previously.

  1. Watch your baking time CAREFULLY and check often – especially within the last 5-6 minutes.  An over baked gluten free cake = the Sahara Desert in your mouth.
  2. Have your eggs and butter at room temperature.  But don’t do this if you live without air-conditioning and your house is 80F.  Not cool.
  3. Add your eggs one by one and beat them in for a couple of minutes before adding the next.  (No matter how hard your child pulls on your legs/hands.  Add the eggs one at a time!)
  4. Parchment lined/bottomed cake pans are just as fabulous as dusting them with gluten free flour – and easier for me.
  5. Gluten free cake batter is definitely thicker than gluten-filled cake batter.  Don’t stress when you see it.
And most importantly:  the RATIO makes a difference.  You really do have to measure the flours by weight if you are going to change up the flours you chose to use.  If you see a cake within the several that will be shared today as part of the rally, please do take the time to use the flours they chose to use.  For each of the cakes I made, I used 228g of flour.  Sometimes this was the equivalent of 1 cup of rice flour + 1/2 cup tapioca flour OR 1 cup of rice flour + 1/3 cup potato starch OR 1 cup millet flour + 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sweet rice flour.  Yikes.
I wanted to make a cake that anyone could make with readily available flours that are relatively inexpensive as far as gluten free flours go.  I wanted it to be something your best friend could make for you or your mom or your colleague if they wished to.  So many times our diet is intimidating and expensive.  I just wanted to simplify it all.  (And I’m not going to tell you about my initial starts of using whole grains, less sugar, etc because <girl smacks self in head now> I was making a cake.  I gave myself permission not to think about applesauce in lieu of butter, etc.  I just wanted a cake.  And a good one at that.
I ended up with several.  From one recipe too.

GF Basic White Cake
The basic cake.  With only the primary frosting on.  I had intended to frost this further, but the Chicklet got a hold of the sprinkles and she went to town.  So, it stayed just like this:  minimal frosting and a fabulous crumb.
GF Basic White Cake with Raspberry Jam center

For these little cupcakes, we filled them with a dollop of raspberry jam – (and some with Nutella – YUM!).  No frosting was needed.

GF Basic White Cake with Strawberry Jam and Strawberry ButtercreamSimilar to the one above, filled with sliced strawberries and topped with fresh strawberry buttercream frosting.  All things pink are met with approval from the Chicklet.

The ratio for a basic cake is as follows:

1:1:1:1

Egg : Sugar : Flour : Butter

I’m not convinced that I’ve achieved the cake I dream of.  But, in looking at the titles of the cakes of my fellow GF Ratio Rally participants, I see that I have a fabulous future of cake testing ahead of me.  (Tiramisu! Confetti Cake! Lemon Tea Cake! – just to name a few!)  Maybe one of you will find a way to make it even more fabulous.  That is the beauty of being a gluten free community:  learning, sharing and growing together.

Basic Gluten Free White Cake

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces – 1 cup (226 grams) sugar
  • 4 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 226 grams “My” gluten free flour mix, sifted (1 1/2 cups + 2 teaspoons)
  • OR 175 grams (1 scant cup) rice flour + 50 grams (1/3 cup) potato starch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom of two 8 inch cake rounds with parchment paper OR butter each and flour with rice flour (NOT the rice flour called for in the recipe – please use 1 Tablespoon or 2 in addition to that called for in the recipe).
  2. Beat butter in the mixer until light and creamy.
  3. Add sugar.  Beat again for several minutes (3-4) on medium until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg.  Beat for 2 minutes.  Add next egg and beat again 2 more minutes.  Repeat until all eggs have been incorporated thoroughly.
  5. Add extracts.  Mix in.
  6. Sift together flour(s), baking powder and salt.  Add to cake batter.  Mix in carefully so as not to lose the softness created from mixing in the eggs/sugar.
  7. Divide into cake rounds evenly.  Smooth the surface with a wet spatula.  (I found it helpful to have a glass of water nearby and I kept dipping the rubber spatula into the water to keep the batter from sticking.)
  8. Bake until the top is just golden brown and a toothpick (or cake tester) inserted comes out shiny but not sticky – about 18-20 minutes.  Check your cake as you approach the 15 minute mark at a minimum to avoid over-baking.
  9. Remove from pans by flipping on to cooling racks after removing from the oven.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.
If you want to, this recipe easily converts in to cupcakes.  Bake for 15 – 18 minutes for 12 cupcakes.  When making cupcakes, we loved adding dollops of goodness (homemade raspberry or strawberry jams, Nutella, etc) in to the center of each cupcake and then we topped them with more batter.  These additions also added moisture to the cakes as well and helped them last longer. (Well, as long as a cupcakes can last around kids.)

Please check out the other fabulous Gluten Free Ratio Rally participants and their cakes, I know I will be doing taste-tests frequently from their ideas.  In fact, my sister-in-law is coming this week for a visit… so we have another birthday cake to make.  (Great excuse, huh?)