Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And the honeymoon period is over.

Well last week was a busy week and I didn't have much time to explore and experiment with new recipes. I've got to be honest, the novelty of a new "project" is over and the frustration of not being able to grab something quick on the way home first hit last week. I'm trying not to stock up on gluten free convenience foods like frozen meals (which are pretty yummy) because they cost about twice as much as the more common brands. However, I have still been consistently spending $10-15 more per week at the grocery store, and it is a small price to pay for health if necessary, but I know there's an easier way to do this.

I scanned over my "recipe" folder in my inbox looking for recipes and websites I may have overlooked and- eureka! I ran across a website one of by BFF's sent me a year ago: http://www.5dollardinners.com/. This woman is a professional mom- seriously! She has kids with different food allergies and still manages to make meals for $5 or less. AND she uses the slow-cooker a lot, which I am a huge fan of because it is pretty impossible for me to screw up. Anyway, one of my former staples was her Slow Cooker Black Beans and Rice recipe (search for it in the recipe index). She also has quite a variety of gluten free dinners. I can't wait to look through them all and get my budget back on track! And you know she's legit because she made it to the Rachel Ray show! RR is one of my personal faves.

Note of caution: The beans and recipe says it makes 6 servings..I don't how much this woman eats but mine had to make at least 12.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A 'hole' in the Gluten Free diet

As I said in one of my earlier blogs, it is entirely possible to eat a well-balanced diet following a GF eating plan. However, it may take a little creativity at times. After about 2 solid weeks of eating gluten free, I realized a short-coming in my own eating plan: the lack of whole grains. I noticed this fairly quickly because my dietitian mind is trained to look for possible nutrition deficiencies in people's diets. I suspect it could take much longer for the average person who is new to GF eating, as there are many potential nutritional shortcomings.

So what's the deal with whole grains? Well for starters, whole grains provide a good source of fiber in the American diet, and for people who aren't eating the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, it is the main source of fiber. General recommendations for fiber are 25-30 grams/day, and my quick calculations told me I was previously getting about half of my fiber from whole grains. Whole grains also are rich sources of many other minerals that are otherwise scarce in the typical western diet. As a newly GF 'convert' I did what most people would probably do: go for the easy grain substitutes (GF bread, potatoes, rice) which are (or are made from) less fiber rich sources, and often not fortified with other important nutrients. In the U.S. most grains are fortified with folic acid, niacin, thiamin, iron and riboflavin- nutrients which are often lost in processing. GF substitutes often lack these also. However, there are several less well-known whole grains that are GF such as quinoa (keen-wah), amaranth, millet, corn and buckwheat just to name a few.

So I turned to my (as of yet) most trustworthy GF resource, a comprehensive book written by Shelley Case, a dietitian who specializes in Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance disorders. It's called: Gluten Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. Why am I partial to this book? I've read tons of great blogs and websites and learned about many recipes and products, but from a nutrition and health perspective, dietitians are really the only professionals trained to examine a diet as a whole and assess its adequacy. There are many people (some of my patients included) who know far more about GF living than I do- but I believe it is a full time job to be able to look at someone's intake and determine "is he/she getting enough protein/calcium/iron/fiber/ carbohydrates/etc based on his/her individual needs?"..and this is something dietitians are skilled to do. This book does that, as well as provide product listings, recipes, the latest research and credible organizations with reliable information. (find at http://www.glutenfreediet.ca/)

Tonight I made a great quinoa pilaf with cranberries and almonds. This might be my favorite GF experiment yet in terms of ease, taste, and health. I think it will be a new staple in my diet. The great thing about quinoa is that it is the only grain that is also a complete protein. Most other grains lack one or more of the essential amino acids that would make them "complete." Again, this is a Whole Foods recipe (I promise I don't work for them): http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/2486.

A De-lish Fish Dish

I try to eat fish 2-3x/week, for heart health and because I love it! I usually buy whatever is on sale, which is often tilapia, but this week it was catfish. I don't recall ever making catfish, but figured I wouldn't be straying too far from my norm as I tend to think most white fish taste pretty similar. But I did get a little nervous when the guy at the seafood counter asked if I was "from here" because most people "from here" don't like catfish. I'm still trying to figure that one out, but I turned to my trusty Whole Foods website for a recipe. I found the following recipe which met all of my criteria (cheap, few ingredients, easy-check!):

I actually had cornmeal in my pantry (I have no idea why), and it made a very good coating-even better than bread crumbs for pan-frying. It was light, didn't get soggy, and in my non-stick pan I was able to get away with very little oil (again, the dietitian voice inside me usually screams the loudest). Mixed with the paprika and spices it made a very tasty fish dish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My love-hate relationship with pizza

I really should have picked an easier first recipe, but pizza is my favorite food and I felt I needed to find an alternative ASAP. I was given a GF pizza dough mix from a friend, but a disclaimer to all: I cannot bake. I love to cook, but baking is a whole different ball game. I once "baked" a cake but never combined the wet and dry ingredients so my mom came home to burnt flour, essentially. My resident expert (R.E.) experienced this lack of baking know-how first hand tonight. I won't give you every play-by-play, but I'll say that the highlight was definitely when my mixer started smoking and I just kept chugging along until my R.E. intervened and told me it was not, in fact, supposed to do that.

Anyway, I was trying to adapt a Paula Deen recipe where she made veggie pizza on English muffins (see recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/veggie-pizza-minis-recipe/index.html). So while my dough was rising (supposedly), I sauteed some eggplant and grated zucchini in olive oil and simmered the mixture in crushed tomatoes. I pre-baked my pizza dough for about 5 minutes and then put on my eggplant sauce along with some fresh spinach and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. I then baked for another 10-15 minutes and-viola! Pizza!

So, the verdict: After spending about 2 hours total prepping, reading and re-reading instructions, waiting for dough to rise, and baking, I thought surely this would not be worth the work. (I mean Mellow Mushroom is right down the road if I need pizza that badly). But I was pleasantly surprised! More than that- it was really good! It was great texture and taste and I can't wait to eat it again..probably for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because I have so much. I used the remaining half of the dough to make bread, which was also quite tasty! So for the skeptics out there- you can still enjoy good pizza and bread while following a GF eating plan. Trust me, if I can bake successfully, anyone can. I mean that. (Although I do recommend that everyone get their own Resident Experts just in case).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thanks for the "feed"back!

Hey all! Just wanted to take a moment to say thanks for all the wonderful responses I've gotten for the blog! I've heard from various people- neighbors, co-workers, friends of friends, etc-and it has been quite encouraging! So thanks for spreading the word. I've got some fun recipes I'm hoping to try this week and I spent a ridiculous amount of money at the grocery store stocking up on staples. A few I plan to try: veggie pizza (with home-made gluten free pizza crust), quinoa pilaf, and Salmon Goat Cheese sandwich. Yum!

All of these recipes are pretty simple. I'll admit, although I love to cook, I rarely muster up the motivation to cook a gourmet meal for just myself. I do a lot of "one person" meals like omelettes and quesadillas and salads. But for the sake of not making this the most boring blog ever, I will cook! I feel kind of like I'm re-enacting the Julie and Julia project! I even have my "resident expert" (my roommate) to offer ideas and words of encouragement, and who laughs at my silly jokes and puns.

I will say that so far in this journey, breakfast has been the greatest struggle, because nearly all breakfast foods are carbohydrate rich and/or wheat-based. I lived off of whole wheat English muffins, frozen Kashi waffles, and Clif bars. Now, I have been making eggs and GF toast, or fruit smoothies. But for my early morning days, I have found a wonderful quick meal bar called Larabars. They are gluten free and made with "whole food" ingredients. It is music to a dietitian's ears when we can read a food label and pronounce AND recognize every ingredient on the label. Larabars have 2 to 9 ingredients and are made with nuts, fruit, spices, and minimal other ingredients (depending on flavor). The chocolate chip cookie dough bar is to die for! And if paired with yogurt and fruit, make a perfect balanced breakfast! They are widely available at grocery stores and Target. Check them out at www.larabar.com. (Note to Larabar: I am hoping you will sponsor me if I become famous and write a book or something.)

I plan to keep a "log" of meals I make for the week, so check back for updates! Happy Labor day!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Something for your sweet tooth

Well the first few days of gluten free have been a success so far. I have eaten pretty much the same thing every day for sake of ease, but I did manage to find time to test out 2 dessert recipes! (I never made dessert regularly before, so why I started now..I do not know!) Next week I am going to plan to make some more meals so that I don't end up eating my rice pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had an abundance of leftover rice from dinner one night and since I am not a huge rice fan (unless it's in risotto), so I took the recommendation of a friend to make rice pudding! The Whole Foods website had an easy rice pudding recipe, and it was delicious! Check it out at: http://wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/935.

The other dessert I made was homemade strawberry ice cream, courtesy of my mother (who found it in Good Housekeeping magazine). It was very easy, and you'll probably notice that I gravitate toward recipes with very few ingredients! If it has 5 or less, I am all about it! This recipe calls for lowfat Greek yogurt which I am in love with. If I had to live on one food for the rest of my life, Greek yogurt would probably be it!

1 lb frozen strawberries
1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (*Make sure is GF-most aren't)

1. In food processor, pulse 1 cup strawberries until finely chopped. Transfer to large metal bowl.
2. In food processor, puree yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and remaining strawberries until smooth. Transfer to bowl with strawberries; stir until well combined. Cover and freeze about 1 hour, until firm but not hard.

It's best eaten right away, but I did save some for later and it was fine. I got 5-6 servings out of this, but the recipe didn't say how many it's supposed to make. It makes about 3-4 cups. I highly recommend!