Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Going Gluten Free: The Controversy Continues

It’s a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Often known as the ingredient that provides elasticity in baked goods, gluten has the potential to cause a myriad of symptoms in individuals with a gluten allergy, intolerance, sensitivity or celiac disease.  And it’s a hot topic at the moment. But, while a gluten-free diet is essential for individuals with a diagnosed gluten issue, is there really any benefit to going gluten free for anyone else?

Types of gluten-free diets:

  • An elimination diet
  • A replacement diet

Elimination, as the name suggests, requires removing any gluten from the diet. In many cases, an elimination diet resembles a low-carbohydrate diet, where items containing gluten, such as breads, pasta and baked goods, are no longer consumed on a regular basis.  However, to completely eliminate gluten from the diet, individuals need to be conscious of all the food items that might contain the protein, such as soups, sauces and gravies, for example. A typical meal with an elimination diet includes a portion of protein, vegetables and a gluten-free starch; dessert on a diet eliminating gluten can be fruit.

A replacement diet, however, requires finding items to substitute for those containing gluten. Those who follow a gluten-free replacement diet often look to include breads, baked goods and pasta in their meals in moderate amounts.  These replacement food items are made with a variety of gluten-free flours.

Some otherwise healthy individuals claim going gluten free has helped them:
Lose weight
Boost energy levels
Alleviate gastrointestinal distress

Yet, experts warn against these claims.

According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, there is no significant benefit to going gluten free for the average person.

In fact, Dr. Leffler claims the practice is a “waste of money” because gluten-free products are expensive. To be clear, Dr. Leffler is referring to a gluten-free replacement diet.

Drawbacks of going gluten free (for those not suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy):

Possibility of overeating
Loss of vital nutrients such as iron, calcium, fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folate
Higher caloric, fat and sugar content in many gluten-free replacement products
Gluten-free products are typically more expensive

So, what’s the bottom line?  The most recent research suggests those following a gluten-free diet for weight loss or to improve health should really be focusing on lower carbohydrate intake.  A diet that eliminates gluten may be a healthier alternative for those looking to cut carbohydrates and calories; a gluten-free replacement diet would not be suggested.

Gluten- free diets that replace food items containing gluten with gluten-free alternatives should be left for those who really have an issue with gluten. To date, medical findings do not appear to support utilizing a gluten-free replacement diet for those who have no gluten intolerance, sensitivity, allergy or celiac disease.

For additional information on gluten-free diets and acceptable foods, visit:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Feasts

As the days stretch long and the temperatures sizzle, the temptation of grilling and fresh fruits are impossible to resist. So don’t! This is a great time of year to delve into new recipes, invite a few friends over for a delicious visit, and expand your palette.

Here’s a few recipes that I’ve been creating and enjoying as the weather turns warm! (And as a bonus, they’re vegetarian and gluten free!)


If you enjoy a little pizzazz for your taste buds, this recipe will hit the spot! It’s fresh, lightly sweet, and plenty tangy. It’s a delicious side, or you can add some protein and make it a meal!

Serves 2
5 minutes to prep

Using a large bowl with a lid, add 2-3 cups of fresh baby greens, ¼ cup crumbled feta, 2 tablespoons chopped almonds, 2-3 sliced strawberries, and drizzle pomegranate vinaigrette over everything. Then place the lid on the bowl and shake until well mixed. Serve immediately.

Alternatives: try using dried cranberries in place of the strawberries, or walnuts instead of almonds. You could also try a soft goat cheese or sharp cheddar.

We are meat eaters in my family, but when a vegetarian friend came to visit, I was up for the challenge. This is an amazing combination of flavors that is just as filling as sitting down to a hamburger!

Serves 2
20 minutes to prep
15 minutes to cook

Clean and remove the stems from 2 large portobello mushrooms. Set them upside-down (with the stem side facing up) in a bowl or baking pan. Combine 2/3 cup olive oil with ¼ cup balsamic vinegar. Add 1 teaspoon fresh garlic. Shake together until blended. Pour over the mushroom caps. Refrigerate for two hours.

Combine 1 cup of fresh basil, 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons pine nuts (best if toasted first in your oven). Blend in a food processor. Drizzle oil into the processor and combine, until the pesto reaches desired consistency.

Once mushrooms are marinated, place them on medium-hot grill for about 10 minutes.

Peel and slice 1 medium eggplant into medallions, about ½” thick per slice. Use butter or oil of your choice to coat each side of the eggplant. Salt, and add to the grill. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side.  

Toast 2-4 slices of gluten free bread.

Mushrooms are done when tender. The eggplant will soften significantly, so be careful not to overcook. Layer one slice of bread with two eggplant medallions, then top with pesto and add a mushroom cap. Serve sandwich open-faced.

Alternatives: Grill halloumi cheese and layer on top of the sandwich. Roasted red peppers make a lovely garnish. Add some mayonnaise to your pesto for a creamier topping.

We do not drink soda…and this is why!

Pour 4 oz. of your favorite unsweetened juice – I’m enjoying pomegranate juice right now – into a glass. Add unflavored seltzer, some ice cubes, and slip a slice of lime onto the edge of the glass. Delicious!

We have friends who request this every time they visit. It’s a simple side that is a people pleaser, especially if you have some picky eaters in your home!

Serves 2
10 minutes prep
30-40 minutes to cook

Gather two pieces of tin foil, about 24-30” in length. Spray both pieces of foil with nonstick coconut oil spray. Peel 3-4 russet or red potatoes and cut into 1” thick medallions. Place on one sheet of foil – they can touch, but don’t layer them. Roughly chop one medium yellow onion, and lay the pieces over the potatoes. Salt to taste, and add 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a zigzag across the potatoes. Use the second sheet of foil as a cover, and crimp the edges together, creating a sealed packet.
Cook for 30-40 minutes om a high-heat grill. If you have a second grate farther away from the heat, put the potatoes there. If you must place the potato packet right on the flames, flip them halfway through to avoid burning.

Potatoes are finished when they break apart easily with a fork.

Let us know if you enjoy any of these summer favorites – or if you have some new recipes of your own to share!

Contributing Writer

Friday, November 1, 2013

Preparing Dinner for Those with Food Allergies

Ah, the joys of entertaining: theme selections, menu decisions, decorating elements…with it comes the pleasure in creating an ambiance for your guests that will not only compliment the menu and occasion, but also show your care and consideration for their tastes. I've yet to host a get together, even the most casual, that didn't take at least a few hours of preparation.

Dinner party preparation

It can get even more complicated when one of your guests has a food allergy or limitation. How on earth do you prepare food for someone who can’t have soy, corn, dairy, and/or gluten? And if they have an allergy that could lead to a severe anaphylactic response, it is of utmost importance that special care be taken. If you are or will be faced with the task, here are some basic steps to take to make the event your hosting a success for everyone.

Ask questions. People with food allergies are used to the way they must eat and are often experts on the topic. Not to mention, they usually enjoy instructing others in the finer elements of making a gluten free meal, for example. So if it is someone you are close with – such as a family member or friend – don’t hesitate to ask how you might best prepare food to ensure his or her health. They may ask you not to bother, that they will bring their own dinner. If so, trust that they have their reasons. Some people are extremely sensitive, and they recognize that no one can be as careful or as knowledgeable about their condition as they are.

Keep it simple. While you may wish to make a special dish that involves a complex recipe, say, dairy-free macaroni and cheese or gluten-free bread, when cooking for a specific allergy for the first time, stick with the basics that don’t need to be altered, like basic meat or fish dishes with a side of vegetables. If serving appetizers that require bread for dipping and you are having a gluten free guest, gluten-free crackers or corn chips are easily purchased at almost any grocery store.

Separate everything. For those who are sensitive, it’s imperative that foods be kept separate. For example, if someone has a corn allergy, make sure any corn products are kept in a separate bowl, away from the vegetable tray. I once attended a function where the hostess had gone out of her way to purchase a fruit tray so I could partake in the refreshments, only to unload a container of cookies into the middle of the fruit, getting crumbs all over the fruit. For someone who has celiac disease and cannot eat even a crumb of gluten without an immediate reaction, this made it impossible for me to eat the fruit. When in doubt, put things is separate containers, and keep the offending items off to the side, so guests have easy access, but cannot drag crumbs over other foods. Also, use serving spoons in dips and spreads, so your guests will not use a crust of bread or the edge of a corn chip to dig out their serving, thus contaminating the dish for the allergic.

Be detailed. Keep the labels from ingredients and make sure you check each and every label for the offending food issue. Allow your guest with the allergy to review the labels to be sure the foods are safe. Few people guess that soy sauce has wheat in it, or that chocolate bars can contain soy. Some folks with food allergies are hyper sensitive, and cannot eat foods made on the same grill or pan as the offending food.
Dinner prepared for friends

Don’t get offended. Despite your best efforts, the allergenic may fear eating your creations. Whether they worry you weren't careful enough, or are simply in the habit of avoidance, try not to take offense. For some of us, we've gotten ill despite the best intentions of our loved ones, and we are a bit shy to try anything. Because food allergies often affect digestion directly, your guest may be currently battling a digestive ailment, and simply not be up to risking any further illness.

Be honest. If you aren't up to preparing foods for a food allergy, or quite honestly, don’t have the time – they can be a bit complicated – don’t hesitate to tell your guest before the event. While I appreciate the effort friends make to ensure a gluten free option for me, I also know it may be more than they can offer. In the event that you can’t provide a specially made meal, but still want to offer something, check with local restaurants or caterers if they can provide a meal for your guests. Often, that is the easiest way to be sensitive, while still allowing for the other preparations you need to complete.

Preparing for a get together can be fun – and at times, stressful. When a guest joining you has a food allergy, it can complicate the situation. But using the above suggestions should help get you started down the right path to having a successful event. If you need some additional thoughts, here’s a great article by the Gluten-Free Girl about cooking for a gluten free guest, and this could be applied to almost any food allergy issue.

What tips do you have to share that have worked for your get-togethers?

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Gluten Free Baking

If you've ever stood in the organic aisle at your local grocery store and scratched your head over the choices of gluten free flours, sweeteners, and other baking ingredients, you are not alone. Whether you are simply adjusting your pantry to healthier, more nourishing ingredients, or you've been recently diagnosed with food allergies or autoimmune issues concerning gluten, the change can be overwhelming. What ingredients do you buy? What works best for which applications?


The good news: with a little careful substitution and some tried and true recipes, you can discover a whole new world of gluten free dessert creations that will please your palate and treat your body right.

Gluten free flour blends can be a great option, because they require little adjustment and are generally a cup for cup substitution. Looking to make your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? This is the way to go.

For more complicated recipes, like gluten free angel cake and bagels, or even certain cake recipes, you’ll want to blend your own flours. This gets challenging, because you’ll need to add elasticity agents like xanthan gum and/or guar gum that help to mimic wheat flour in recipes. You can find some awesome flour blends on various websites, or you can experiment with the nature of the different flours and create your own. Warning: this may involve a lot of trial and error. But for the kitchen warrior who has a willing taste-tester, it can be a blast.

Curious about what kinds of flours are out there? Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of flours and how to use them.

If you are adventurous, you can explore specific flour recipes. Almond flour recipes are often delicious, with a hearty finish. Coconut flour creates a delicious flavor with a sweet edge. Chickpea flour creates amazing treats. You can even skip the flour altogether with these bean-based brownies.

Not sure where to start? You can even find boxed gluten free/alternative flour mixes at just about any grocery store.

Sliced bread in a basket

A couple of tips on baking for the newbie setting off on this adventure:
  • Explore recipes online and read the comments. Using different flours also means creating different textures. Gluten free batters often look a lot wetter – and sometimes thicker – than what you are used to. See what tips others offer before you start. 
  • Almond flour and coconut flour get much browner than traditional flour – and even more so than other alternative flour. Coconut flour can appear to be burned, but taste fine. Tapioca flour, when used alone, doesn't brown significantly, but if baked for too long, can turn rock hard. So while your rolls will look pale and perfect, you may break a tooth trying to take a bite! 
  • Allow some latitude for flavor and texture. Each flour and blend has its own benefits and drawbacks. You may find that you like your old recipe better…or the new one. And if you are making food for someone who has a food allergy, what might taste a bit strange to you may very well be a thrill for them. Remember that they haven’t had the “regular” recipe in probably quite a while. For example, I love gluten free pancakes, and I can’t remember the taste and texture of wheat-based ones anymore. 

Ally Bishop
Contributing Writer

I will leave you with one of my favorite recipes to make for guests – Brazilian Cheese Bread. It’s delicious, gluten free, and folks will be begging you for the recipe!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quin-what? Quinoa!

gluten free
Quinoa seeds image from
If you've never heard of quinoa before now, you’re probably thoroughly confused at the moment. If you already know about this energy-boosting complete protein, you’re probably a fan of all it has to offer. The list isn't a short one, either; quinoa has bragging rights to numerous healthy qualities. Do you know all about quinoa nutrition?

Lesson One: Rewind! What is quinoa?

Quinoa is a seed, technically, but is eaten and prepared as a whole grain. Quinoa is from the same family of vegetables as spinach and beats. It grows in mountain air 10,000 feet above sea level and poor soil, so quinoa stalks come from a tough plant. Through even extreme weather, quinoa stalks grow up to about six feet and can produce an entire cup of seeds. Equivalent to about the size of a sesame seed, a quinoa seed can be found in a variety of colors but store-bought quinoa is typically white. Specifically, quinoa can be purchased at natural food stores and occasionally the well-stocked organic section of your local grocer.

Lesson Two: Why should I even care about quinoa?

To start, vegetarians capitalize on it as a complete protein; it’s packed with all of the amino acids necessary to meet nutritional protein levels. Quinoa is also a friend to celiac patients and others who abide by a strict gluten free diet. And the list goes on. Nearly everyone can appreciate the fact that its high levels of Riboflavin boost energy levels and metabolism, and that it contains nearly twice as much fiber as most grains. To top it off, quinoa is a good source of iron, calcium, manganese, copper, lysine, and magnesium.

Lesson Three: You've got my attention! But how can I prepare and eat this super-food?

Luckily for you, quinoa is known for its versatility. It can be incorporated into so many different types of meals and snacks. There are quinoa salads, quinoa soups, curried quinoa— the possibilities are practically endless. It can easily become a staple in your kitchen. However you incorporate it into your diet, the first step to cooking quinoa is always the same.

Quinoa is covered with a bitter, natural coating called saponin. This taste will ruin even your best quinoa recipe if not thoroughly rinsed off. Fortunately, quinoa bought within the United States has usually already been rinsed and dried before it’s on grocery store shelves. To be sure, always rinse off quinoa before cooking or let it soak for five minutes in cold water. After the rinse, you can dive into either of these fine recipes with quinoa for your first venture into all that is quinoa.

Winter Fruit Salad from

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

1 1/3 cups quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
2 kumquats - seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Bosc pear - peeled, cored and chopped
1 cucumber - peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup trimmed and coarsely chopped watercress

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat stirring often, until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and cool completely.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the kumquats, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Steep for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, pear and cucumber. Add the dressing and toss well. Add the watercress and toss again and serve.

Vegetable Quinoa Winter Soup from

Ingredients (for 8-10 cups): 

1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup red quinoa, uncooked
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
Quinoa soup image from
1 zucchini, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups diced tomatoes,  juice included

1 can aduki beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp curry powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
pinch of saffron threads

  1. Heat oil in large soup pot. Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft. Add carrots, zucchini, and garlic. Saute for another 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add vegetable broth, tomatoes, quinoa, beans, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for  20 minutes.
  3. Add spinach, stir, and cover. Simmer for another 30 minutes. As with all soups, the longer you let the soup simmer and set, the more flavor the soup will develop.
Amanda Gilmore
Contributing Writer