About jwoodcock

Betty Crocker-liscious

I missed cake for a long time.  No matter how many ‘flour-less chocolate cakes’ came my way.  (And, in essence, these are whipped eggs, chocolate, butter (or fat) – they aren’t really cake.)  They are very, very kwowy – you know – that feeling you get when you’ve eaten something so rich, so decadent that you feel you cannot go any further and what you really need is a salty snack to wash it all down.

I’ve tried many off-the-shelf GF cake mixes, but a lot of them are potato-based.  I have to say, I’m not a fan of the potato-based GF items out there.  They tend to be to dense, and have a flavor that doesn’t quite cut it for the sweeter side of things.  Based on this, I tend towards things that are rice-based.  Although the rice can be grainy at times, it isn’t as dense as potato and provides the same lightness and fluffiness that our wheat-based comrades enjoy.

A short time ago, I tried the (what was new) Betty Crocker Gluten Free cake mixes.  They are delicious!  I made a cake when we had friends and family over and they really didn’t know it was GF.  You can tell a slight difference in the texture, but overall, the cake rises to the occasion.  I was happy to have found a good cake mix!

The trouble with finding a good cake mix, is figuring out what delicious GF (and dairy-free) topping to add.  (I can’t have dairy either, so it’s a big conundrum at dessert time – anywhere we go!)  For this, I found a very good butter-cream frosting recipe that does not contain lard or shortening, but instead is butter-only based and decadent atop the GF cake.  Be sure to use GF confectioner’s sugar (technically sugar does not contain any gluten, but you never know where it is processed – so be careful).

So … the next time you are strolling through the baking aisle in the grocery store longing for a wheat-filled treat that you know you shouldn’t ever have – look closer, snag a GF cake mix, some butter and some sugar.  Within an hour you will have a delicious treat to enjoy!  (Be sure to grab some GF pretzels too … you may need it to wash down the 4 pieces of cake you will inevitably eat!)

P.S.  The brownies ain’t too shabby either!!

 

Is my house Gluten-Free?

I often ask myself, ‘Is my house gluten-free?’  With Bill’s recent and unfortunate encounters with hidden gluten, it really makes me wonder just how is gluten getting into my gluten-free house – or life!  Neither my wife or my daughter are gluten-free, so automatically there is definitely a place for contamination in the kitchen, which I am very careful with.  But, setting this aside, what else in my house has gluten in it?  – outside of the kitchen.

It’s truly amazing the amount of products that use wheat or other grain as a filler or binding agent.  Bill mentioned lipstick, and that’s not the only bathroom product that may contain gluten.  The list continues in the bathroom beyond lipstick to toothpaste, soap, hair gel, shampoo, blush, foundation, lip balm and deodorant.  Women’s and men’s products alike have the same issues.  Check this site out for a list of GF bathroom products: http://www.glutenfree-lifestyle.com/glutenfreeproductsbytype.html  It’s worth taking a moment to do so. 

You may ask yourself, ‘why would a dude worry about makeup?’ – well … when you are hugging, kissing, or intimate with your partner, you are inadvertently exposing yourself to gluten.  Depending on your sensitivity to gluten, you could be taking in gluten in ways you never imagined.  As crazy as it seems, it’s important to think beyond the kitchen and what you ingest at mealtime. 

The bathroom medicine cabinet brings a whole other myriad of gluten into life as well.  Even disease-specific medications, such as asthma inhalers and other drugs contain gluten.  We’re not medical experts, so you’ll have to research each of the items you take and talk to your doctor.  http://glutenfreedrugs.com/list.htm offers a good list, but your doctor should confirm. 

As we continue our tour through the house, be sure to look in your laundry room.  Many laundry detergents contain gluten.  Yup – you could be wearing, sleeping in, or walking in gluten and not know it!  Again, due to the extensive use of wheat and other products containing gluten to thicken, bind, and extend products, it’s likely you might be exposed to gluten in a way you never imagined.  Here’s a short list of detergents that other GF-folks have researched: http://ourplacelivingglutenfree.blogspot.com/2010/04/update-gluten-free-laundry-detergent.html  I urge you to do your own research as well.

Whether you are new to the GF-club, or a seasoned veteran, it wouldn’t hurt to take a tour of your house with your GF-glasses on to see what else is lurking out there.  It wouldn’t hurt to rethink the things that are marked as gluten-free either!  You never know.  Maybe we need to brand a GF-Flag that can hang outside our doors?!

Crazy Russian Girls Cake is Crazy-Good!

My best friend lives in Bennington, VT and visits as often as he can.  And, when he does, he is gracious enough to bring along gluten-filled (for my wife and himself) and gluten-free (for me!) treats.  He’s lucky enough to live in a town where a local baker has taken up the gluten-free baked goods gauntlet.  Crazy Russian Girls Bakery was born out of a love of food, baking, and feeding people.  They welcome everyone with their food and it’s no wonder why. 

As I mentioned, I’m only able to inhale in these GF treats a few times a year, but let me tell you, they are delicious.  I’ve enjoyed everything from cupcakes to a multi-layered chocolate cake.  Every bite is wonderful.  (My apologies to those who are allergic to chocolate.  I’m not sure what is worse, chocolate or gluten!) 

Each cake is moist and the texture is spot on.  There’s no gritty feel to their cakes and they hold up to their gluten-filled counterparts.  The frosting is nothing to shake a stick at either, but what’s not to love about sugar, butter and cream anyway!  No complaints here.

My wife and I lived in Bennington for a short while.  It was back in the day where no one knew what gluten was, or how to be free of it either.  There was only one health food store in town selling only some of the very earliest of GF products.  I mostly made everything at home and focused on things that were naturally gluten free – like vegetables, meats, rice, and potatoes – go figure!  I wish the bakery had emerged back then – I would have been there every morning to get a coffee and a nice treat on my way into work. 

Well, I’m glad they are here now.  And … I’m even more glad that I have a great friend who brings me treats I can eat.  Yum!  And, yes, Crazy-Good!

It’s not delivery, it’s D’UDI’s!

I first want to say that I don’t work for and don’t get any kickbacks from UDI’s when writing reviews.  I just really like their products and can’t help but promote them to the GF-masses.  My wife and I had a hankering for pizza this week, and we had all the fixings including a package of UDI’s pizza crust in the freezer.  I had bought them a while back with just this situation in mind.  We went out to the garden, clipped some fresh basil, slathered on some great sauce, mushrooms, cheese, and spinach and put it in the oven.  (I want to note that my wife doesn’t always eat my GF food, especially when it comes to pizza, so she had a nice fluffy Boboli crust on the side!)

The smell wafted through the air and made its way around the house.  We were giving my daughter her evening bath as I pulled them out of the oven.  Ahh … pizza.  Nothing like it.  Picture yourself at the local joint folding your pizza, taking down piece after piece.  Yum!

I couldn’t help myself, and dug right in.  It was great.  No complaints, other than I had to make it!  Which I never mind since I know it’s GF!  The crust held up nicely and was easily folded to my liking.  I was licking my chops as I went back to the bathroom to finish up bath-time.

I put my daughter down to sleep and tip-toed down the stairs.  I proceeded to pretty much inhale the rest of the pizza, which, mind you, is really only 8 inches round – so, it’s not saying too much.  Every bite was great.  Hats off to my wife’s topping choices – she’s a fantastic cook.

To wrap up my raving … go out and get some UDI’s pizza crusts, make it at home, get a movie, maybe even some GF beer – and breathe.  It’s all good.

Food Should Taste Good – Yes, yes, it should – even when gluten free!

My brother turned me onto Food Should Taste Good (FSTG) chips recently and I am completely hooked.  I can’t seem to keep them stocked in the house.  My wife loves them too!  It’s hard to find healthy gluten free alternatives to fiber-rich crackers, and these hit the mark.  I suppose they could go on the ‘happen to be gluten free’ list, but I wanted to call them out seeing as I eat them almost every day.  They have pretty much become a cracker-substitute for me.  There’s nothing like a good slice of Cabot NY Sharp Cheddar on one of these chips.  Yum!

So … what makes them so good?!  I think it’s because they didn’t really focus on the non-gluten aspect of the food.  Instead, they focus on what makes healthy food taste good, like incredible flavors and seasonings.  People often ask me when I cook for them – what did you do to make this taste so good?  My answer is often ‘nothing’.  I let food speak for itself.  A little salt and pepper go a long way.  I think that the folks at FSTG work with this philosophy as well.  The food is good already, they are just focused on what makes it healthier and in some instances more sophisticated.

All of the FSTG chips are gluten free, cholesterol free, and are a good source of fiber (which is needed as evidenced by Bill’s recent experience).  Here are a list of my personal favorites:

  • Olive - these taste incredible.  With a little hummus or even guacamole, these chips are great.
  • Lime - Again … dip these in a little guacomole and you’re at your favorite mexican cantina – and you know it’s GF!
  • Cheddar - I know it seems odd to double up, but I do!  I eat these with a slice of cheddar on top and it’s all cheese-kwow goodness.  I would put these in the better-for-you-than-Doritos category. 
  • Toasted Sesame - these are the ones that are most like a cracker to me.  Serve these with a bit of cheese, a shmear of cream cheese or with other crudete.
  • Multigrain - hey, you asked for healthy and GF.  Here it is.  They taste great with anything, really!

I should say that all of the other flavors are great too, I’m just listing my personal favorites.  So … if you stumble on these simply packaged black and white bags of chips – grab a couple.  You won’t regret it.  Crack open a bottle of wine (yes, wine is GF!), get a nice smoked gouda for the chips, and relax – you’ve had a hard day at work!

BBQ Season Opens with UDI’s Buns!

I can’t even remember the last time I ate a hamburger without a fork and knife.  Growing up hamburgers were always being made in our house.  A little ketchup, maybe a pickle on a nice bun – yum!  We’d hang out poolside eating and swimming, then eating more and swimming more.  Those were the days!

Fast forward to today … as I mentioned in my previous UDI’s post, it’s very hard to come by a good bread for anything, let alone a good bun.  Most of the ones I’ve either made at home or bought crumble in my hands before even making it to my mouth.  It’s like trying to pick up sandcastle!  It just can’t be done. 

This past weekend – yes, the weekend before Memorial Day, I had the privaledge of sampling UDI’s new hambuger buns!  The weather was great, and my sister-in-law was visiting (also GF), so I knew it was a great time to grill up some burgers and give them a go. 

Well … without sounding to gushing – they were fantastic.  Both of us cheers’d as we began to bite into our burgers – sans fork and knife – for the first time in ages.  The buns held up amazingly to the juice of the burger and the condiments.  They didn’t crumble, get soggy, or fall apart even as we progressed through dinner.  We didn’t even toast them either! 

The texture of the bun was great.  Unlike other brands I’ve tasted, UDIs buns are not grainy and hold up to their gluten-filled cousins.  The flavor was spot on as well.  It just tasted like a bun – nothing more to it, really.

So … in short, to all you summer-grilling, beach-going, crab salads eating folks out there – turn on the heat and let summer begin – and leave the forks and knives at home!

Yes, Virginia, potatoes are gluten-free!

Recently, a relative of mine was so excited when I walked in the door, she blurted out – “I made gluten-free mashed potatoes for you!”  I really had to hold in my response – I didn’t want to spoil the moment.  Now, don’t get me wrong, when you are new to gluten free, you pretty much think everything has gluten in it, and assume you can’t eat anything, so it’s natural to think ALL starches mihave gluten.  Well … that’s just not true.  Potatoes, rice, tapioca, and buckwheat (not at all related to wheat) are all naturally gluten-free.  Of course, one reason to not eat any of these is if they may have been packaged in a facility that also packages glutenous items – it all depends on your level of sensitivity and caution.  Celiac.com has posted a list of gluten-free safe foods and ingredients which is worth keeping on hand should you be out at a grocery store and wonder  – “Can I have taro root?”.  (Potatoes, mashed or otherwise are on the list!)

So, eat all the potatoes you want.  Have a baked one with some Greek yogurt in place of sour cream – tastes delicious.  Going with the purest of packaging or growing some of the items yourself, the following are starches that are, in fact, gluten free:

  • Potatoes
  • Rice -white and brown
  • Oats (oats naturally don’t have gluten but are often processed in the same facilities as wheat, so use caution)
  • Corn
  • Tapioca
  • Millet
  • Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’)
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash – zucchini, yellow, acorn, etc.
  • Beans – string, garbanzo, white, kidney, lima, etc. 
  • Soy
  • Peas – technically a vegetable, but a starchy one at that
  • Carrots
  • Arrowroot
  • Chia – yes, as in the ‘pet’
  • Sorghum

So, when you grill up that steak, along with some great portobello mushrooms (just a drizzle of olive oil), serve it up with a side of anything from the above.  You’ll be just as full as if you ate a side os glutenous pasta or macaroni salad.  There’s plenty to enjoy that’s naturally gluten free, and many of these items are healthier choices to boot!

Celiac Awareness Month 2011

It seems nowadays that for every month of the year there are at least a dozen diseases or causes to be ‘aware’ of.  May is no exception, and it happens to be Celiac Awareness month.  So, what does it mean to be ‘aware’ of Celiac.   To us gluten free yodas it means the following:

Simply knowing that Celiac exists,

Being sensitive to those who have Celiac or maintain a gluten free diet,

Understanding that gluten free is not a fad and we aren’t doing it to be ‘cool’

Having Celiac disease isn’t a wish that someone makes while they are blowing out their birthday candles.  It’s not something that someone prays for like a kid wishing for a trip to Disney World.  However, it is a welcome diagnosis to those who have suffered in pain and extreme discomfort for many, many years.  It’s not a diagnosis one hopes for, but it is an explanation.  It’s a relief when it is determined.  I know this may seem like a stretch, but it’s about one’s own awareness of Celiac that brings to light a plan of attack, an escape.  Being aware opens up one’s options for moving forward, feeling better, and living.

Being aware of Celiac is being aware of gluten.  Gluten is an elastic protein that is found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, or barley.  It’s what we often see in bread dough making is stretch and stay together even as you continue to kneed it.  In Celiac, it is the gliadin portion of the gluten that causes an immune response resulting in damaged intestines, hence the malabsorption of nutrients the body needs to thrive.

When your body decides not to absorb nutrients, not to nourish itself, it can be difficult to see a way out.  The wonderful thing about the way out is that it is more often one of the most natural forms of treatment – diet.  A strict gluten free diet allows one’s body to rejuvenate, to grow and rebuild itself to become what it knows best to do – to thrive, absorb nutrients, and fuel the rest of the body.  Although a gluten free diet may be supplemented with additional vitamins and minerals, it’s a gluten free diet that is at the core of treatment.

Those of us with Celiac or gluten intolerance are already ‘aware’, so a month of Celiac awareness isn’t really about ‘us’ – it’s really about educating others on the disease and the diet.  So, how can we educate the public and others in our lives … well, here are some places to start:

  1. Celiac Disease Foundation - a wealth of information about the disease, treating it and further education
  2. Celiac.com - pretty much the oldest site out there dedicated to gluten free and celiac – everything from Q&A, rescipes, the shopping mall, to advice and forums
  3. Recognizing Celiac Disease - a very down to earth book explaining the disease, symptoms and how to treat them

In addition to the above, a new forum has been created as an expansion of GlutenFreeWorks.com called GlutenFreeNetWorks – join in the conversation here and you’ll learn a lot about what’s going on in the world of Celiac and gluten free.  We’ll see you there!

So, if you have Celiac, or gluten intolerance, take this month to bring more awareness of the disease to the world – start locally with a friend, or join in the online conversation.  You may just find that the person sitting next to you on the train is gluten free too, and looking for a good place to eat!

Flatbread Company is Flat-out GF Good!

Tucked in the back corner of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton, CT is the Flatbread Company.  I’ve walked by many of times taking in the delicious smells wafting from the clay ovens.  The primary reason why I walked by was that I really didn’t think they had anything for me since I maintain a gluten free (GF) diet.  Well, this all changed last weekend when I saw a small sign out of the corner of my eye stating, “Gluten Free Pizza & Whoopie Pies Available”.  I turned towards my wife with a look of astonishment, also known as “chocolate-face” in my family, and said, “I’m going in to order a pizza to go!” 

I glanced over the menu, which primarily consists of pizza and salads made entirely with organic, local and free-range ingredients.  I chose the vegan pizza - GF style, added the whoopie pie, and waited in anticipation.  I’ve tried a lot of GF pizza along the way, including ones that you can make at home.  The ones I make at home never really hold up.  They ultimately crumble when you try to fold it in half to eat it – which is the correct method for eating pizza (I may get a lot of flack on that point – but that’s how you eat pizza!)  Other restaurants I’ve eaten at have excellent toppings and their sauce is good, but again, the crust falls slight short. 

A short while later, my pizza and dessert were in hand.  The smell was enough to make you want to tear into it immediately.  So, that’s what I did.  My intention was to wait till I got home, but who has time for that when  you have a deliciously smelling pizza in the back seat!  I took one bite and realized what I was missing – as it turns out Flatbread Company has been offering GF options to its patrons for quite some time – I never knew because I never saw it advertised until recently. 

I folded – yes, folded – the pizza in half and took a huge bite.  It was delicious!  My nose and mouth had finally agreed on a GF pizza worthy of scarfing (no, not the kind you put around your neck!)  I put a huge dent in the pie on the way home, with my wife sampling it too.  (I always have her taste GF items to keep me in check.  Having not eaten gluten for over 10 years now, my taste-buds can be askew and need some assistance in the “Is this really that good?” category.  She agreed that it was.)  I finished the rest of the pizza when I got home.  The sauce, the mushrooms, the olives – everything was fantastic.  It was all-in-all the best GF pizza I’ve had thus far.  The whoopiepie wasn’t all that bad either, trust me.  Two delectable pies in one night!

Through this, Flatbread Company is now on my list of preferred eat in/take out restaurants.  While they are primarily found in the northeast, there are a handful of restaurants as far as Hawaii and BC, Canada.  If you have one close to you, call ahead to ask if they serve their GF pizza – and if they do, pick up a pie or 2 or 3!  You won’t be disappointed.

Kay’s Naturals – A Welcome Addition to Gluten Free Snacking!

Kay’s Naturals was thoughtful enough to send us a generous sampling of many of their varied gluten free (GF) products.  We behaved like excited children opening gifts on a holiday when the large cardboard box arrived.  Having done online product reviews in the past for Qwowi.com, we were pleasantly surprised at how much Kay’s Naturals sent us; it was the most liberal product sampling we’ve ever been sent.  On that note, we can certainly understand how Kay’s Naturals must be very proud of their products.  They were excellent.

Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh created these products with his own wife in mind, who happens to have juvenile diabetes. It is no secret that many tasty treats that happen to be GF or low in carbohydrates also happen to be of low nutritional value.  This fact concerned Dr. Kazemzadeh (Dr. Kay) and that is how Kay’s Naturals was conceived.  We appreciate Dr. Kay’s insights, because it is a noteworthy product line of high fiber, high protein snacks, which also happen to be GF.

For those of you out there who follow a GF diet, you know how agonizing it can be to approach a dessert buffet or tray at a restaurant or party.  While in one moment you are just praying that there is a fruit salad because you know it will be the only thing you can even eat, you would really rather have a gooey slice of chocolate cake.   Eating healthy is, well… eating healthy.  Snacking on fruit is not the same as savoring a piece of cake.  Kay’s Naturals strikes a balance in this notion of healthy eating.  Honestly, some of Kay’s snacks taste “healthier” than others, and we will be honest in our renderings.  Here’s the thing… Kay’s Naturals are healthy… some of the snacks are just “naughtier” tasting than others—and we mean naughty in the good way!

  1. Veggie Pizza Protein Puffs: Yum!  All of Kay’s Protein Puffs have a wonderful crunch and a nice texture.  The flavor in this one really comes out, and it’s a much healthier, yet still tasty version of “a Dorito meets a cheese puff.”
  2. Jalapeño Honey Mustard Pretzels: Surprisingly spicy!  I know, it says jalapeño, but it really does pack a punch!  For me, these didn’t feel or taste like pretzels, yet they were yummy all the same.  They were too crumbly and the wrong texture to be a true pretzel.  Overall, it was good flavor, but I could tell they were healthy.
  3. Honey Flavored, Almond Filled Cookie Bites: These little gems have wonderful flavor, in which the taste of cinnamon and almond really come through, yet the texture is airy.  While tasty and crunchy, they cannot honestly be called cookies; they are more like scrumptious cereal.
  4. Almond Delight Protein Puffs: As mentioned earlier, all of the Protein Puffs were a hit.  Their texture stands up to the non-GF snack world, and for anyone who appreciates a sincere almond flavor, these are perfect.
  5. Apple Cinnamon Protein Cereal, French Vanilla Protein Cereal, and Honey Almond Protein Cereal:  These products are lighter versions of Cheerios.  They are lighter in both texture and in flavor than Cheerios, although much higher in nutrients, so you be the judge.  For us, the flavor didn’t really come through as much as we would have liked, yet the cereal is good, and something we would purchase again.
  6. Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks: These were a hit in our house, and this might have been our favorite product of the samples sent along.  To us, these pretzel sticks actually tasted like cinnamon toast, with a decent texture, and outstanding flavor.
  7. Lemon Herb Protein Chips: Let’s preface this aspect of the review by saying that we love lemon-flavored snacks.  It is rather easy to infuse a food with lemon flavor, too.  Unfortunately, we must be honest and say this snack was not our favorite and we can’t recommend it.
  8. Tomato Basil Protein Puffs: These puffs were surprisingly sweet, and almost tasted more like a sugary, tomato-y BBQ flavor.  We didn’t even notice the basil flavor coming through, which was disappointing.  They are yummy, though, and perhaps should be re-named.  Like all of the Kay’s Protein Puffs, they have nice texture and a great crunch.
  9. Nacho Cheese Protein Chips: If you are in the mood for a much healthier version of a smoky, chili-inspired version of a Dorito, these are the chips for you.  This chip is a fantastic example of a “naughty” tasting snack, which is actually delicious and healthy.
  10. Crispy Parmesan Protein Chips: Awesome!  The taste is perfect, they provide an excellent crunch and texture, and these chips are another example of a yummy snack that you would never believe is healthy, yet carries tremendous nutritional value.
  11. Sweet BBQ Snack Mix: This was another of our favorites.  This was simply great!  It provided a lovely BBQ taste, and varied, exceptional textures, which is rare in the GF snack world.  This was another hit in our household!

One last note—for anyone out there who follows a GF diet, and who is also desiring to lose weight, the Kay’s Naturals website provides a Diet Plan.  We think the Diet Plan is a realistic, affordable, healthy option for GF or non-GF folks to shed pounds.  For anyone searching for a convenient, scripted weight loss program, which is high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients, this may be a viable choice.  The program combines Kay’s Naturals cereals and snacks with other healthy, commonly-available items such as yogurt, lettuce, and canned soups, to make the diet an easy and quick way to step up one’s health, while remaining GF and low-carb.

As you can tell, we really enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, Kay’s Naturals.  We are glad to have found some nutrient-filled GF foods!  We all know what can happen when you overindulge in GF goodies!

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