GF Flour Choices and a Few Personal Words….

Wanna know what flour blends I favor? It took me a few months or maybe years to figure this out for my cooking style. First, I bought a zillion weird and a few typical gf flours. Tried to bake with each and every one of them. Found out a few kinda suck and stopped using them. Others are used infrequently but have real value for a few recipes that they match to. If you are new to gluten free or just trying to get into baking gf this post is for you.

My favorite blend is King Arthur’s Gluten Free All-Purpose blend; made of three flours; brown rice, potato starch and tapioca flour. It is versatile. It makes great pie crust that my family really loves. I use it in most of my muffin recipes. I use it for gf pasta making and for cookies that wow.  Get some and give it a try. I actually make my own blend (same exact blend as KA’s basic all-purpose flour) as it is cheaper but you can buy it at your local grocery store in a  box.

 

king arthur flour

Another blend I like very much is Better Batter, the copycat version you can find on glutenfreeonashoestring. I make a batch and keep it in the freezer so it stays fresh. Great for quick breads, desserts and pastries.

If you want a cup for cup replacement flour there are some good options; Cup 4 Cup or King Arthur’s Measure for Measure flour.  They can be used in your favorite recipes for the most part.

king arthur flour

white rice flour

White rice flour or cornstarch work well for breading things and thickening. I always keep both on hand. Ditto for tapioca flour which I use in my blends and some other recipes. Gotta have it available. I also keep sweet rice flour to use in my main blend and in a few recipes. It adds flakiness in my pie crust. Potato starch is great in my basic blend and a few other blends/recipes. Another must have.

I use sorgum flour in a number of recipes including my delish buttermilk pancakes. It has a nice flavor compared to things like quinoa flour or bean flours. Uggh on them! I still have some in my freezer but I NEVER willingly use them. I do have some chickpea flour but rarely have a need for it.

Occasionally I use teff flour; in small amounts. It makes breads darken and seem like rye or pumpernickel breads.   But, it can give a muddy flavor if you use too much. Coconut flour is another flour I keep in the freezer but only use occasionally.  It can dry out a recipe if you use too much so  use sparingly.

I just got some cassava flour to use to make flour tortillas.  I hear it is fantastic.  I’ll let you know how that goes…

My suggestion is that you start with one or two blends and a couple single flours that can be used in combination. I rarely ever use just one flour except for breading or thickening. A great blend is critical.

Don’t let all the flour choices discourage you.  Try a few and find out what works for you. Some need to be frozen or refrigerated especially if you don’t use them up rapidly; check for that storage information so your flour blend that costs a lot doesn’t get rancid on you.  Have fun!

A personal note. I am sorry I haven’t blogged much lately. Been struggling somewhat. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and had a partial mastectomy in early August. On the first of October I started radiation therapy and it has sucked my energy and focus away from most of my enjoyable hobbies including this blog. I hope to feel better soon; 3.5 more weeks to go! At least I won’t lose my hair, LOL! I have done a bit of baking and cooking but due to my low energy I seldom can find it in me to write. This will change in November I hope.  Peace and happy gf cooking!

Perils of Lunching out in NY State

Just back from the Finger Lakes up in New York State. Gorgeous. Didn’t eat out much. Did a lot of grilling at our rental cabin. Yummy results. But I will share on the three places we did have lunch at. The first was at Three Brothers Wineries up near Geneva New York, up towards the eastern top portion of Lake Seneca. The large parking lot was packed, buses, limos, vans, zillions of cars.  We finally stowed the pick up in a wider space and strolled in the central area. Many buildings, including a micro brewery, stores and dozens of folks trotting this way and that, groups in matching shirts, twenty somethings swizzling wine slushies as well as hordes of people drinking, eating, enjoying life loudly. We went to the take out area in the Cold Brew Coffee eatery.  I ordered a chicken sandwich on gf bread and an ice tea.  I left Joe to get the sandwiches and walked out to secure some where to eat. I got a nice table but had to wait nearly 20 minutes for him to show up.  He had a bratwurst sandwich which shouldn’t have taken so long.  Guess it was my choice…. My requested gf bread was somehow changed to what looked like an over-sized multigrain taco shell. I went in to ask if it was gf. The young fellow acting as the expediter said yes it was and as he spoke he tapped his gloved finger on my taco shell! I told him that he had just contaminated my food with his hand as most of the food there was on bread, rolls, pizza dough or pretzel dough. Ridiculously unprofessional and totally uncalled for behavior. I walked back as I was not willing, at 2 pm, to wait another 20-25 minutes for a sandwich when I was sick with hunger. I tore off the top half of the taco shell, tossed it and ate the rest. It was actually pretty good. But I will never go back there; too noisy, too crowded, incredibly slow service and Joe felt I was crazy lucky to not get glutened.

apple and chicken salad

Next place was at Wagner Vineyards near Lodi where we had our cabin. I ordered a composed salad with apple slices and grilled chicken. It arrived with a big wheat bun resting on the salad. I told the waitress that the salad was unacceptable, she said does it have to be remade. I said yes. They did in short order and it was okay if a bit boring. We wee on the outside deck and it was breezy; at one point I had to put my hands over my salad as chunks of the lettuce were blowing away in the gusty wind! Acceptable but nothing I would order again; the wine based vinaigrette was watery and bland.

Lastly, we ate at the Carriage House Café in Ithica on our way out of town. I had the grilled chicken, brie, artichoke and caramelized onions on gf bread. The sandwich was awkward as it was not sliced in half and the bread was grilled or griddled making it kinda hard to bite off a chunk. I managed and the flavors were awesome together. I think I got the end of a loaf; a bit tough. I had the same sandwich last summer and it was stunning in every way. This was still great; just not quite as perfect as the previous sandwich.

carriage house

Moral of story: check harder before choosing places; it I had researched the Three Brothers I would have seen all that pizza and pretzel dough and how big/commercial the place was…best avoided. Otherwise it is often the luck of the day as to the bread quality and the wind that might blow away your salad!

Lovely Meals in Gorgeous Cape May!

Just back from a fabulous weekend in Cape May, New Jersey with my guy.  Stayed at a cute little B&B about 8 blocks from the beach; The Inn at the Park on Madison St. Our room was on the third floor; a mini suite with a fridge, double shower, huge bed, armoire instead of a closet and a sweet day bed. Plus adorable crystal glasses for late night thirsty moments and the usual amenities like WiFi, a flat screen TV, air conditioning.  They made acceptable accommodations for my gf needs for the two breakfasts; scrambled eggs, smoothies, an omelet, all good and all safe.  inn at the park

mad batter

That corner table is where we sat!

But even better yet were the three meals we had out; our first night we went to the Mad Hatter in downtown CM.We had a little corner table with benches and fluffy cushions: wall carvings of whimsical fish and other old timey decorations: so cute! The menu had several gf choices. I went with some specials which were naturally gf. My waiter said he would alert the kitchen as to careful as to cross contamination. I had a great seafood risotto but my favorite flavors were in my starter: the watermelon, blueberry and strawberry salad with feta cheese. So bright and refreshing. I enjoyed some delish wine, great company; got stuffed to the gills and no glutening! watermelon salad

seafood risotto.jpg

The next night we went to a classic big seafood place right along the bay; Lucky Bones Back Wash. We went a tad early; at 6 pm: no wait for a table.  Place was hopping, ordered drinks and enjoyed the organized chaos. We were near the pizza oven and the bar so it was super busy but fun to watch. We totally enjoyed some shared apps; fire roasted shrimp with lots of fresh garlic and so buttery; they were perfectly cooked; fat and moist. And a large plate of hot steamed mussels in red sauce with lots of fresh basil and gf toasted rolls for mopping up the sauce. Mmmmmmm.  For my entree out came a big platter with two crab cakes on top of herbed polenta and a lemony sauce with tiny green beans: all gluten free and all crazy delish. FYI: polenta is like creamy cornmeal mush made with coarse corn meal. I did have some of his wahoo; firm white fish; tasty. Such a classic place and they do brick oven pizza. Again…too full for dessert…alas as they had gf choices….

                        

 

Our final meal in carefree Cape May was a delightful lunch at a hip eatery in North Cape May; Bella Vida Garden Restaurant on North Broadway. They have a number of gf choices even buttermilk pancakes! So maybe breakfast next time… Anyway,  I choose a fresh salad composed of a healthy layer of tiny greens, grape tomato halves, cucumber slices and half an avocado. On top of that was a big pile of shrimp and crab salad. I chose the ginger sesame salad dressing which give it a quirky but wonderful spin. So fresh, flavorful and tasty. And again…too full for dessert!

So….Cape May is a great place for gf compared to the slim pickings in the Lehigh Valley where I live. Several places had full page gf menus or lots of notations on the regular menu as to safe choices for celiacs like me. So, I found the wait staff to be experienced at gluten free and it was easy to eat safely.   I even had some great coffee ice cream with big chunks of dark chocolate in a cup. Forget where; downtown, tiny shop. So delish! Can’t say enough good things about eating in Cape May, NJ. Enjoy!

Jersey Mike’s Subs are Awesome

Been five years plus since I ate a hoagie straight off the counter at a sub shop. Just didn’t find any place I could trust.  The other week I heard about this place called Jersey Mikes, a small chain originally from New Jersey.  This past weekend we went there for a quick supper. I normally eat meals full of produce and clean proteins.  But for once I wanted to indulge my cravings for an Italian hoagie full of good meats and cheese. Don’t forget the lettuce and tomato!

So when I asked for a gluten free roll they started cleaning; after finishing the last customer before mine they washed, cleaned and changed their gloves after washing their hands.  A big piece of sub wrapping waxed paper and they started to build my sandwich.  Full of three or four kinds of ham and the like. Three slices of provolone, lettuce, tomatoes and a good sprinkle of oil and wine vinegar later it was ready. Sliced in half and wrapped tight.  I splurged with a bag of chips: the full surrender to oinky food!

13-italian-reg

Their photo; not a gluten free roll but you get the idea!

It was glorious! Meaty with ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami and pepperoni and that creamy provolone cheese. They topped it with lots of the green stuff: shredded lettuce and there was pretty good for February tomatoes sliced nicely. The Udi hoagie roll was okay; not great but not bad, a touch dry; I pulled off some of the surface as I just don’t enjoy eating a lot of bread. I like it balanced by the meat filling and the light dressing.  I couldn’t quite finish the entire sandwich so I wrapped up the remaining bites and had them the next day.  Still yummy.

The staff was very friendly and totally accommodating. The counter girl even asked me how I liked it after I had eaten about half of the hoagie. They made me feel comfortable in my request for safe gluten free food and that was huge.

So, I didn’t get glutened, I got fed. I conquered my fear of eating in a fast food sort of chain restaurant that serves gluten rolls in the same location as my gf meal was prepared. Perhaps that seems small to some of you but for me it was a big leap of faith and I did feel rewarded. Success: a safe meal that I didn’t have to make, it satisfied a real craving and I conquered a fear I had been struggling with for a long time. Success.

There are lots of other menu choices at this friendly little eatery: next time, a steak sandwich sounds perfect!

Five Years Gluten Free and Fabulous!

Today is a milestone for me.  Five years since I went gluten free. Five years since I gorged on regular pizza, bagels and pasta like an idiot.  Five years of tummy being mostly pain free. Five years of learning how to cook gluten free. Five years of figuring out gluten free baking. It has been great to be mostly free of gut pain, anxiety, and a host of other issues that have dogged me much of my life. I still eat well. I still love to bake. I feel I have adapted fairly well to this new diet. Lots of cooking though, as the premade stuff is expensive, not that tasty and full of crap I don’t want to put in my body.  I still make a pretty awesome pie I have to say. I have created incredibly yummy gf cookies and muffins. My mom doesn’t really think a lot of the baked goods are gluten free as they are too tasty in her mind! So far so good in the cooking realm.

kitchen sink cookies

blueberry ricotta tart

Writing this blog has been a wonderful experience. It will be five years for that in a week or so. I still enjoy this process of writing and sharing. I plan to keep at it for the foreseeable future.  Honestly, I often look up favorite recipes on my blog and cook off my tablet propped up in the kitchen.  It’s a very handy resource for me.

 

My family has been very supportive of my new diet. They bend over backwards to cook safely for me or to find safe restaurants for dinners out. I so appreciate their efforts and unstinting support.

chocolate-chip-pumpkin-muffins-011

My man has been awesome about it. Never complains, always supports me and seems to thrive on the meals I cook for him. He always wants baked goods to take home with him. He ca be somewhat finicky so I know they must be tasty if he wants leftovers! I appreciate his support more than I can express here.

flowers 005

Most of my friends have been really helpful and supportive. Countless tasty meals and thoughtful snacks. I am lucky to have them in my life.

barra rossa pizza

So I am already thinking of the new things I will cook and bake in this next gf year. Stay posted for some changes to my blog in the coming weeks. It’s gonna be awesome!

Barra Rossa Restaurant: Great Philly Eatery

We went to Philadelphia this past Saturday to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit at the Franklin Institute. It was awesome. I loved every moment. Highly recommend it. Afterwards we went out to dinner in the neighborhood of  TJ Hospital a few blocks to the east of Center City. I thought I was picking a new restaurant but it turns out that Stella Rossa changed their name; due to similarity to another restaurant so we were there a while ago, maybe two years ago. As we got to the front door of Barra Rossa we looked at each other and said “We’ve been here before!”

   barra rossa lights

I remember how great their gf  pizza was so I had another pizza; different toppings; smoked mozzarella, red sauce, prosciutto, and a touch of arugula.  It was very tasty although I couldn’t hardly taste the smoke in the cheese until I ate my leftover slices for lunch. Go figure.  I didn’t think to take a pix until I had eaten some pizza; pardon the casual two slices gobbled down shot!barra rossa pizzaMy glass of California Riesling was very smooth and fruity; perfect!  We shared an appetizer of lump crab, portabella mushrooms and basil oil which was utterly delish.  Someone thought I had eaten more than my fair share!  I also had the arugula and pear salad with candied walnuts. The pears were kinda hard and it was a lot of arugula.

I only chose items marked gf on the menu and made the server aware of my gf needs as a celiac.  Yet once again I got mildly glutened.  Upon reflection. I remembered that  I had that same salad last time.  And the same mild feelings of having eating a tiny bit of gluten. I am strongly feeling that it was a matter of the candied walnuts. I know for myself that buying nuts is very problematic as often the cross contamination issue rears it’s ugly head.  Nuts are often processed on the same equipment as wheat and that is a problem.  Restaurants probably feel that they don’t need to worry about gluten in any food ingredient that normally does not contain gluten. If my issue was less serious this wouldn’t be the problem it is.  Some of us with celiac do react to tiny amounts of gluten from this sort of cross contamination while natural ingredients like nuts or dried fruit are processed.  It’s hard to believe until you experience it but this is a reoccurring problem for many celiacs. So, in this case, I have resolved not to eat nuts or dried fruit while eating out. They are just too problematic.

anjoOne more reflection, pears….they are a favorite fruit of mine but an unripened pear has no place in a salad. Slightly under ripe is okay but hard pear is virtually flavorless and the skin can be bitter.  If your pears are not ripe enough or are over ripe, use a crisp apple instead.  Just unfair to sprinkle hard wedges of pear in a salad. No one can enjoy that.  My guy does not care for pears. My best guess is that he has never had a perfectly ripened pear. Overripe they not have an enjoyable flavor.  We got some small pears at Walmart the other week and they seemed to just rot from the inside out. Ugh! Normally I like to get Anjou pears at Valley Farm Markets in a six pack and let them ripen in a bowl at room temperature. A perfect pear is a delicate, sensory treat of texture and juicy flavor. If you don’t like pears; well then, I think you haven’t had a good one yet.  Keep trying!

I do strongly recommend this restaurant. Their gf pizza is the bomb and that crab appetizer was just amazing. If you are in Philly; this is an excellent choice for a meal.  Just avoid the nuts if you are gluten free and be wary of unripe pears!barra rossa bar

Aldi’s Update February 2018

Today I have an Aldi product update to share.  A few totally unrelated items that I recently purchased and want to comment on.  First, their grapefruit seltzer; ridiculously cheap and mixes perfectly with kombucha tea or fruit juice. The label says PurAqua.  Caffeine and sugar free. Just carbonated water and natural flavoring. Great to have a new flavor choice for a mixer.                            grapefruit selzer

Secondly, their SimplyNature house brand organic fair trade light brown sugar. Soft, moist, great flavor and cheap. And it is organic and sustainably grown by small farmer cooperatives according to their label. Can’t get much better than that.  I am busy using my bag of Aldi’s organic sugar in my baking efforts. It does seem to add a better flavor than regular granulated sugar. It is far cheaper in Aldi’s than in the local Giant grocery. brown sugar

For snacking I am enjoying their Casa Mamita Chunky Salsa, mild version.  It tastes very fresh and is yes, chunky.  They have spicier versions; see picture below! Great with Aldi’s Blue Corn Dipper chips. Clancy Dippers are decent but the blue corn dipper is just amazing in flavor and crunch. Cheaper than what I can find at my big box local grocery store too!

I like their own brand organic ground cinnamon. Great flavor and far cheaper than organic cinnamon usually is.  I wish they would get in even more spices and that they would label them as gf. Ah the typical celiac lament!

Finally, their Red Lentil Rotini is back; I loved cooking with it when I found a box quite a few months ago. I look forward to using it again!  Cheap, organic, high in protein, iron and fiber. Win Win!

red lentil

My friend Josh says I need to work for Aldi’s as I write about them so often…. I write about this company often because their food is wonderful. If there is an Aldi’s near you; what are you waiting for? Great food, great prices and lots that is gf for folks like me who have celiac disease. Enjoy!