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  • My advice to those who are just starting GF

    So I have had a few friends that have had someone close to them find out that they need to live a gluten free diet. They asked me to send some advice and tips their way and this is the letter that I have come up with and I thought I would share it here.

    Intro

    Having to live the gluten free diet can seem really hard at first but if you take it slow and don’t stress too much it can become second nature. Realize that it takes time to get the hang of it and you will probably make some mistakes but don’t freak out just realize it is something to change. I have listed here what I think are some basics to help you (or anyone) know where to start but I realize it can still be quite daunting. I suggest to read through it one or 2 times and then pick 2 or 3 things that you want to start within the next day or 2 (like get a new cereal or buy the cookbook). Don’t try to do everything at once otherwise you will be over whelmed.

    Also realize that as you start you are going to be experimenting with what you like. Just because someone says it is good doesn’t mean it is (you will see that a lot on the internet, it looks good and people say it is but it is not). Also remember there are some people out there that take gluten free to the extreme where they wont eat something because it doesn’t have a gluten free label on it. Just because it doesn’t have the label doesn’t mean it isn’t gluten free. These kind of people I find tend to eat food that doesn’t taste as good because they are not as willing to experiment.

    Reading Labels

    When looking at food labels to see if they are gluten free 2 places I look if I didn’t notice something on the front saying gluten free are the allergy list right under the ingredient list. I look here first because more and more are labeling for gluten. It is suppose to be a law that they will have to by something like 2015 or something so a lot of companies are starting now. Then if it is not there I look through the ingredient list. At first this can seem hard and daunting because some of those are super long and use a lot of weird words. Labeling laws have made it really easy all you have to look for are 2 main thing Wheat (any kind of it like wheat husks, wheat flour,..except Buck Wheat) and Barley Malt. These are the most common 2. Most cereals that are not mainly wheat like Rice Krispies have Barley Malt. Now if you are looking at a specialty item that might have Oats or Rye you should look for those 2 things as well but most common things don’t have those 2.Cook BooksHere is a great website for a company that we really like http://www.eatingglutenfree.com/ They have a cook book called “Life Tastes Good Again” and I believe they came out with a second edition that has more (Don’t know if it has the same as the first). I would recommend buying this cook book http://www.eatingglutenfree.com/store-products-EGFCB-1-Life-Tastes-Good-Again-Cookbook_33213455.html (to at least start, the other is also probably great. On their website they have most of their recipes so it is easy to send to a friend that way for one time things but it is so much easier to cook with a book than a computer. (also their chocolate cake mix is great – my sister almost likes it better than normal chocolate cake.)

    Our family likes their flour mix http://www.eatingglutenfree.com/store-products-EGF-FM-All-Purpose-Flour-Mix-Eating-Gluten-Free-All-Purpose-Flour-Mix_40628534.html  It is the one that doesn’t seem to add extra flavors and can almost be used as a substitute for normal flour. One thing to remember with it is if you use a recipe that is not theirs and it calls for a pre-made flour mix you need to see if that mix has xantham gum in it. This flour mix doesn’t and you will need to add it. (it is about 1/4 tsp per cup I think). Otherwise if they just ask for specific flours (for example 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 bean flour,…) just add up the total amount of flour and use this one mix.
    Another great company is Grandpa’s Kitchen http://grandpas-kitchen.com/ they are a family that loved food and most got diagnosed with celiacs disease. So they came up with many good recipes that are gluten free and easy to make. One of their goals was that every ingredient (besides the special gluten free flour) would be one that would be in a typical home or at least for that kind of recipe (who keeps fresh lemons on hand really ;)

    I would definitely get this cook book as well from Grandpa’s Kitchen http://www.shop.grandpas-kitchen.com/Grandpas-Kitchen-Gluten-Free-Recipes-Family-Favorites-GKBook01.htm This cook book has some great desserts in it. If you love pumpkin the pumpkin squares with cream cheese frosting is to die for (I would recommend making only one batch the first time because it makes more than you think it would, otherwise you end up with 3 pans of it like I did when I doubled it. Also their frosting recipe makes a lot so I half that – that is the one following the pumpkin squares). Also the pie crust is super simple and almost easier than normal pie because it doesn’t need to be rolled just pressed in to the pan and there is almost no difference in taste.

    I cook mostly with these 2 cookbooks and recipes I get from others or I see online.

    Pasta

    For a good pasta Tinkyada is a great brand http://www.tinkyada.com/. Most other gluten free pastas if you boil them just a few seconds too long go really soggy and fall apart. This brand holds up to a little more so if you over cook it a little it is fine. It also tastes pretty much the same. I buy the spiral noddles and just use those for all my pasta needs since it is hard as a college student to have all different kinds on hand (though all the types of pasta are good). I the spirals for spaghetti, I make a lasagna casserole just buy using those instead of normal lasagna noodles.

    Breads

    For gluten free bread products the best brand is Udi’s http://udisglutenfree.com/ they have some amazing substitutes. There bagels taste like real bagels. They have some amazing chocolate muffins and their bread is great. It is a little expensive but worth the taste.
    If you want a cheaper option for good bread we use Bob’s Red Mill mix http://www.bobsredmill.com/gluten-free-homemade-wonderful-bread.html it makes a large loaf which can be hard to mange so we split it into 2 smaller pans. Also I use lemon juice instead of vinegar. This company makes a lot of good gluten free flours http://www.bobsredmill.com/Gluten-Free many things are good.

    Snacks

    Here are some common snacks that I eat.
    • Corn chips and salsa
    • Cheese tortillas
    • fruit snaks
    • Trio Bars (a great Cashew bar available at Costco)
    • Lara Bars (also at Costco in packs. Some stores have single bars)
    • Chips (Cheetos, Potato Chips, Fritos, Doritos cooler ranch and cheddar – with these 2 check the ingredients and look for the words wheat or barley in the list. They tend to switch back and forth from GF on these 2)
    • Cheese (String or blocks)
    • Fruit (apples are great)
    • Vegetables
    Breakfast

    Most People find breakfast to be the hardest meal to make the switch because they don’t think there is anything to eat but there is more than enough.
    Chex cereal all flavors except whole wheat and mix grains. You can buy some special gluten free cereals but I don’t like those so much. Also I believe fruity pebbles are gluten free.
    Eggs are great. There are some good recipes for pancakes in the cookbooks. Hashbrowns, bacon, some sausages (you have to check ingredients on this, they use wheat as a filler sometime).
    Most yogurts are gluten free unless they have chunks of cookies, brownies, granola,… things like that. Most companies are labeling their yogurt gluten free anyways now. Also some flavors that you think would have gluten in them like my favorite is carrot cake is just a flavoring so it doesn’t. So just because the flavor suggests gluten free I would still check.

    Restaurants

    Here are some restaurants that I have found to have a gluten free menu:
    Research

    Finding some great ideas to start with is super helpful but you should always be on the look out for more ideas so you don’t get bored with the food you have. I recommend looking at blogs (again with things on the web don’t take everything as doctrine especially on taste), following people on pintrest if you have one (you can follow me Logan Grover, or my sister in law is great Becca Grover, my brother is also celiac). There are some good magazines like kraft foods, they are not always gluten free but this company labels for it on all their foods and recipes. Also experimenting with a recipe that you liked, don’t forget that your first attempt won’t be quite right so don’t give up. Also don’t be afraid to ask others about it. I you see someone at the super market looking at the gluten free stuff ask them for their opinion on stuff and you never know they might be looking at it for the first time and feeling over whelmed by the lack of information they have and the new world they are entering.

  • Quick and Easy Gluten Free Taco Soup

    I came home late one day and wanted a quick meal that was not what I had been eating the last few days. That meant cheese tortillas, salad, and most everything I had in my refrigerator was out. I looked at my canned goods and found a can of chili. Alone that didn’t sound to good so i kept looking. I came across a can of refried beans and beef broth and the idea came.

    Gluten Free Taco Soup:

    -1 can of your favorite chili
    -1 can of your favorite refried beans
    -1 can of beef broth

    combine in a pot and heat on the stove. Bring to a roaring boil and cook for a minute or 2. This helps to thicken it just a little. If tastes good just as it is but you can season it a little if you want with onions/onion powder, garlic/garlic powder, chili powder or any of your favorite spices. Add corn chips or shredded corn tortillas to give it a little more substance.


  • Gluten Free Breakfast Burritos

    Breakfast burritos are a quick and simple meal that I love to have any time. They are also really good because they are filling.

    Needed Ingredients:

    • Corn Tortillas
    • Eggs

    Optional Fillings:

    • Ham
    • Cheese
    • Onions
    • Tomatoes
    • Peppers
    • Mushrooms
    • Sour Cream
    • Lettuce
    • Salsa
    • Bacon

    Make the eggs and put some in a corn tortilla. Then top with what ever suites your fancy. I enjoy cooking the eggs with the meat and cheese in it then adding some salsa at the end. No matter what you like it is a good way to have a filling gluten free meal that is quick and easy. I really enjoy them for dinner too.


  • Gluten Free Lasagna Casserole

    Yesterday was my roommates Birthday and we had quite the little party (given that it was a weekday). We made him dinner and then later some friends came over and we gave him a little surprise party. It was a really fun day. For dinner we made lasagna casserole and I made a small batch that was gluten free for myself. It was pretty simple and it is nice because it will last for a few meals. (To change it to normal lasagna just use lasagna noodles instead).

    Ingredients:

    2-3 cups of gluten free pasta noodles (I prefer the twisted ones but any will work.)
    1/4 or 1/2 lbs of ground beef (depending on how much you like)
    16 oz of tomato sauce (can be any flavor like meat or garlic, etc.)
    32 oz of cottage cheese (for more traditional lasagna use ricotta cheese)
    1 egg
    1 tsp oil
    grated mozzarella cheese (as much as you like)

    start by cooking the ground beef with just a little salt and pepper. (I prefer to boil it to get rid of more fat.) In a pot combine the meat and tomato sauce. Warm that up. In a separate bowl combine the cottage cheese, egg and oil, then mix till blended. In a large greased loaf pan spread a thin layer of tomato sauce, put about half of the noodles in the pan and spread evenly, then spread half of the tomato sauce that is left over the noodles. Next spread half of the cottage cheese mix on top of that, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Then repeat the noodle layer, then tomato sauce, cottage cheese and top with mozzarella. Make sure to put enough mozzarella to cover the top to the noodles don’t dry out.

    Now bake in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees F. You should be able to stick a knife in and not feel any crunchy noodles. Let it cool for 5 minutes then serve.

    Easy variations can include:

    • adding vegetables
    • having no meat
    • adding onion for flavor
    • using another cheese besides mozzarella either instead of or with
    • adding some Italian seasoning to the tomato sauce

    To make it go faster you can boil the noodles in water while cooking the meat. Then reduce baking time by half. You just melting the cheese and heating it all the way through then. Top with something green to give more style and serve with garlic bread.

    Lasagna is one of my favorite meals and being a celiac does not mean you have to give up on pasta which I am grateful for.


  • A Version of Chicken Tacos

    Today I wanted to make dinner with what I had on hand. Though at the same time not using the really quick stuff like frozen meals and such because I wanted to save those for busier days. So as I rummaged through my food supply I found a few ingredients I thought I could put together to make an interesting meal. And the recipe is:

    1 can of chicken
    1 can of white beans
    1 can of petite diced tomatoes

    I drained each of them and rinsed the beans. Then in a pan, on medium heat, I heated a little vegetable oil with some salt, garlic pepper, and basil. Once the pan was hot I added the chicken, beans, and tomatoes and cooked until almost all the liquid was gone. Next I put it on some corn tortillas and served.

    It turned out really good because it was a different version of a taco without the taco seasonings. Though it had a really tomato-y taste, one that is not my favorite but not bad. I think if I do it again I would use half as much on the tomatoes.

    Some variations that I think would be nice are:

    • add some sauteed onions in the beginning.
    • adding vegetables like peppers, broccoli, green beans,….
    • adding water chestnuts for some crunch.
    • Topping with cheese and/or sour cream.

  • Zucchini Bread

    So today I harvested the first zucchini from my garden and I thought I would make one of my favorite sweet breads. (I know it is late in the season for the first zucchini but I planted late and we are at a higher altitude and it was colder later into the year.) So I thought I would share the recipe and how it turns out.

    1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour
    3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. nutmeg

    1 cup sugar
    1 cup finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini
    1/4 cup oil
    1 egg
    1/4 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel (I just used lemon juice)
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350. Grease one 8x4x2 loaf pan.

    Combine flour, xanthan gum, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. In another bowl, combine sugar zucchini, oil, egg, and lemon peel. Mix well. Add dry mix to zucchini mix. Stir just until moistened. Fold in nuts. Pour into pan.

    Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.


  • No Gluten So What About Xanthan Gum

    You may think that taking gluten out of your diet is no big deal because it doesn’t do much but that is not true. Gluten is what gives bread that nice soft texture and what keeps it all together. Gluten is a protein that binds together giving you a great texture and something that will stay in one piece. Without it things just fall apart. There are substitutes for it such as Xanthan gum or guar gum. This are usually a power that are added to food that needs to be bound together. When they get wet the best way to describe them is that they turn into a sticky slime. If you mix it up on its own it doesn’t look to good but if used right they can really change they way a gluten free bread loaf turns out. Something you may find interesting is that gluten is something you have to develop, almost draw out of the wheat. When bread is kneaded the gluten is developed into almost a web like link in the dough to bind it all together. It takes a lot of time to develop this to a point that the gluten will hold together and also give you that light texture. No with gluten free doughs you are not developing that gluten so you don’t have to mix it a lot just enough to make sure everything is combined. (Though sometimes mixing more can be a good thing. I have found that making sure to mix the Bob’s Red Mill gluten free bread mix as long as it says or even a little bit more can make the bread not get as big of air bubbles in it. It could be from the eggs in the dough.)

    Xanthan gum and guar gum are tasteless so you don’t need to worry about flavoring. Though it can be hard to know how much to put in a recipe. The best way is to just start by using recipes that already exist and then once you get the feel for it you can experiment on your own. Also some pre-mixed flours will tell you on the packaging how much you should use per cup of flour. Also it is best to mix it in with the flour before you add it to liquid so it will be evenly distributed through the dough/mix.


  • Prime Culprit: The Gluten

    What really is the problem with celiac disease. Well first it is a genetic disorder that you carry for your whole life but it lays dormant and inactive until you trigger it. Then unfortunately it doesn’t go back to sleep once you have awakened it. It gets triggered through periods of high stress. Mine was when I had a few stressful days right in a row. My brothers was when he got pneumonia. For others it can be some sickness, a stressful time, over stressing the body, for women pregnancy can trigger it, or any other form of stress you can think of. For each person it is going to be different on how much it will take. Also because it is in the genes, just because someone in your family has it then it doesn’t automatically mean you have celiac disease. If you want to know if you have the gene there are some blood tests that you can do but they are expensive and they wont tell you when it is going to get triggered. I feel that it is better just to recognize the symptoms and if you think you have triggered it you can ask the doctor to do the other blood test. (The first one I talked about does gene mapping, the second one just looks for the presence of the anti-body that is made which is a lot easier to measure).

    So celiac disease means that your body sees the protein gluten as a foreign substance that must be destroyed. I think it is kind of an interesting concept because something that your body uses to be able to deal with and it didn’t do any harm to anyone is no but on the bodies black list of death. It is like some commander crossed memos and the poor innocent gluten is now a fellow while there are more dangerous  things out there that our body should be on the look out for. But oh well we are stuck with it for now and there is no going back.

    This gluten when it enters the body is detected and because it is thought of as bad the immune system starts a full frontal attack on it. It produces an anti-body to attack this foreign substance. Though it is like the general gave the wrong coordinates of attack because instead of attacking the gluten it attacks the small intestine. The intestine is where the main absorption of nutrients happen in our body. There are small villi in the intestine which give it a great amount of surface area to absorb the nutrients. When the immune system attacks it is the villi that suffer causing them to be damaged. After a long time of this these villi can disappear.

    This is what causes all the different symptoms that we experience. Depending on how bad it has gotten and what our body thinks is wrong. For some it is stomach problem, others just that they are really hunger, some other bodily disorders because the body is confused on what is really wrong. There are a wide variety of symptoms so one person can have one and another never have that.


  • A Quick Lunch

    Now a days lunch is on of the quickest meals around. We seem to fit in between here and there, giving our self only about 10 minutes to grab something to eat. That makes it hard because there are not really a lot of quick gluten free items out there. But with a little creativity and thinking you can have some really good things. Here are some of my favorite things to have for lunch:

    • A cheese tortilla (using a corn tortilla of course)
    • Cheese chips (again corn chips) (also add a bean dip to make it more filling)
    • Fruit and vegetables
    • A salad (uses Kraft dressing most of them are gluten free and they are easily labeled).
    • If I have bread already made I like making sandwiches (I prefer them to be open faced – meaning only one piece of bread. This is because the bread is usually dry and it makes it easier to eat)
    • Taquitos (they are usually frozen and can be heated quickly in the microwave).

    These are just a few off the top of my head. As I think of more I will add to the lunch list. Though you can always think of your favorite meal that you use to have and see if you can take the parts out that have gluten in them.