Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Foto: Horseradish Poppy Seed Dressing


With winter firmly entrenched in our neck of the woods, our dinners have been gravitating toward the heartier, body-and-soul-warming variety. Slow cooker meals. Roasts. Stews. Soups. While delicious, after a while it all starts to feel a bit heavy. At those times, I find myself craving a fresh salad...something crisp and clean to cleanse my seasonal palate, in a sense.

Kelli's a master at whipping up from-scratch vinaigrettes on the fly. (I can't remember the last time we bought a salad dressing at the supermarket.) But this time, she really surprised me (and herself, too, I think) with this horseradish poppy seed dressing.

The prominent horseradish flavor is unlike any I've had in a salad dressing before, but it was a nice change from our usual vinaigrettes. And you know what? It really works. This dressing has "zest" and an edge as "crisp" as the crunchy bite of a fresh piece of Romaine lettuce.

Horseradish Poppy Seed Dressing


Ingredients
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey mustard
1 tsp prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp poppy seeds

Steps
Combine all ingredients.

Enjoy!

This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, corn-free

* The recipe would also be soy-free, but prepared horseradish sometimes has soybean oil in it.

- Pete

P.S. Update: 2/1/11 - In the interest of bloggerly love, we've also posted this recipe over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays weekly post...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Committed

Pete's wedding band
Inside each of our wedding bands you'll find the letters "AF" inscribed.

Sometimes, when signing an email or sending each other a letter (yes, in this day and age, we still write a hand-written note from time to time...), we'll close with "A&F Yours."

The AF, you may have guessed, stands for "always & forever." It's a reminder that our love for each other - and our marriage - is there at all times (always) and for all time (forever). Always and forever. Commitment.

We felt drawn to "AF" during our courtship as young twenty somethings, and skeptics might say that we were young and idealistic. But we believe in it as much or more so today - in our early 30s, and after more than 7 years of marriage - as we did back then.

That's not to say that everything is always roses and sunshine. We've had our share of challenges, of stressors, of tensions. Every relationship goes through that. We've also, however, had our share of joys, of contentment, of successes. In the grand balance of life, we feel blessed to have our scale tipped favorably in the direction of roses and sunshine, and that includes our gluten-free lifestyle.

"Always and forever" is much more than just a passive statement of our belief about the nature of our relationship. It's a profession of commitment. That we'll be together and support one another through thick and thin; for the good and the bad; in sickness and in health; for the long haul. It's an assurance that one or the other of us won't fade to the background when times get tough, only to "return" when things are happy again. And it's an assurance that one won't abandon the other at some point in the indefinite future. We're in this for life, and "always and forever" is a continual, intentional, active process.

It's a valuable metaphor - and a useful reminder - for the gluten-free lifestyle. Most of us are gluten-free for medical reasons, whether for celiac disease, gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, whatever. We don't get to choose when we want to be on a gluten-free diet, and when we want to be off it. We're gluten-free for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We're gluten-free for life. We're gluten-free at all times and for all time. We're gluten-free always and forever.

There might be (indeed, there likely will be) bumps in the road. Occasional missteps and challenges. A gluten episode here. A failed recipe there. A difficult experience dining out.

But there will also be dramatic highs and wonderful moments. The support of family and friends. Connecting with others in the gluten-free community. Successfully making a gluten-free version of a long-cherished gluten recipe. Finding that favorite restaurant that does things right.

Being gluten-free always and forever is one part passive - it is what it is. But it's also a continual, intentional, active process... reading (and re-reading for the hundredth time) ingredients labels; asking a server at a restaurant the same questions you've asked servers a million times; remaining diligent for the sake of your own health. Each morning, we wake up and say to ourselves (metaphorically, of course), "Today I'm going to be gluten-free. Again."

Like marriage (or any genuine relationship in which you're invested), gluten-free is a journey. One that lasts always and forever. Stay committed to it, and please, remember the most important part... No matter what happens along the way, enjoy it.

- Pete

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Product Review: Dr. Lucy's Cookies

The full line of Dr. Lucy's cookie flavors...
As you know, we've been doing a lot of cupcaking lately. (I'm talking about baking cupcakes, not the Urban Dictionary form of cupcaking, which is a totally different thing...) Naturally, we were happy to change it up and focus on cookies, if only briefly, in today's review. The generous folks over at Dr. Lucy's Cookies sent us some gratis samples to review here at No Gluten, No Problem.

Unlike Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, and Mrs. Butterworth, Dr. Lucy is a real person - Dr. Lucy Gibney, an M.D. who started gluten-free (and allergen-free) baking after discovering her child had severe food allergies. She knows first-hand the concerns of the gluten-free community, and that's evident in how she runs her business. The cookies are made in a dedicated bakery, and they contain no gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts. They are certified gluten-free by GFCO, as well as certified vegan, kosher, and handful of other certifications. We like.

They're available from select Whole Foods, Stop and Shop, Kroger and other supermarket retailers, as well as from select online retailers such as Amazon. The cookies are sold in two sizes - small 1.25-ounce "grab and go" snack packs (4 cookies in each) and larger 5.5-ounce boxes (about 15 cookies in each). These puppies aren't cheap. Based on prices on Amazon, you'll pay more than $7 per box for the cookies (about $0.50 per small cookie). The smaller grab and go bags are more affordable, at roughly $1.10 per bag (about $0.27 per small cookie).

The cookies come in four flavors: Sugar Cookie, Cinnamon Thin, Oatmeal Cookie, and Chocolate Chip Cookie. (More on taste and texture in a bit...)

All the cookies are made from a similar cookie "base" that consists of the in-house flour blend (garbanzo, potato starch, gluten-free oat, tapioca, sorghum and fava), evaporated cane juice, soy milk, several oils (palm fruit, soybean, canola and olive), filtered water, flavoring and citric acid from corn, crushed soybeans, soy lecithin, non-dairy lactic acid, beta carotene, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, calcium carbonate, annatto extract color, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, and methylcellulose.

As you can see, there are a few SAT words in there, and we'd prefer a cookie with a more familiar set of ingredients. If you're a stickler for the 8 major allergens, you'll note that the cookies contain soy.

And while I'm on the subject of information found on the ingredients and nutritional information panel... The smaller grab and go packs list a serving size as 3 cookies, but the packs contain 4 cookies. Really? Why not just make the serving size one full package and make deciphering the nutritional info that much easier for consumers. Grumble, grumble.

That said, let's move on to texture and taste...

The chocolate chip cookies
Texture

The Dr. Lucy's website describes the cookies as "crispy, crunchy," and they hit the nail on the head. There's not a chewy bit to be found on these cookies. They're seriously crunchy throughout. If you like your cookies crunchy, you'll love these from the first bite to the last bite (which is often one and the same bite... since the cookies are pretty tiny, you can pop a whole cookie in your mouth all at once...). It's as if the cookies were popped into a dehydrator. (Would that make them cookie jerky?) And yet, they resist crumbling or falling apart. Mostly. As a crunchy cookie, they're successful. Par for the course for the category.

Taste

Kelli and I were sharply divided on the subject of taste. If Dr. Lucy's Cookies were on trial, we'd be a hung jury. Our difference of opinion came down to the use of bean flours. Neither Kelli nor I have historically been fans of bean flours in gluten-free baking. They can result in "off" textures and a distinctly bean-y taste or aftertaste. However, in Dr. Lucy's Cookies I didn't mind the bean flour (although it was noticeable). Kelli, on the other hand, found it objectionable.

We did agree on several points: 1) The Cinnamon Thin cookie was our favorite flavor. It tasted like a crunchy Snickerdoodle. 2) The Oatmeal Cookie did the best job of masking the bean flour flavor. 3) The Chocolate Chip Cookie was good. I likened it to a (very distant) cousin of a crunchy Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookie. And 4) The Sugar Cookie was our least favorite, and in our opinion, the least successful.

Bottom Line

Dr. Lucy's Cookies can be a bit on the pricey side, and depending on your taste sensibilities when it comes to gluten-free flours (especially of the bean variety), you may like them...or not. If you're not afraid to roll up your sleeves and do a little baking in the kitchen, making cookies like these from scratch at home is no big deal (and in my opinion, much tastier). However, if what you're looking for is a store bought gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan crunchy cookie, Dr. Lucy's are worth a try.

- Pete

P.S. Giveaway Winner! Thank you to everyone who entered your names to win the Tovolo pancake pen from last week's Bisquick review. Karen W in Pennsylvania, you're the lucky winner! We'll contact you via email to get your mailing address and send the gadget your way.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Foto: Pacific Rim Stir Fry

Pacific Rim stir fry with chicken, red bell pepper and edamame
I need a vacation. Pronto. (Don't we all?) I'm not talking a staycation, where you take time off from work but remain close to home. And I'm not talking about a trip, which differs from a vacation in that vacations are relaxing, while trips involve "work," such as high-altitude mountaineering in Bolivia (which we did during the summer of 2007, 6 months after I went gluten-free). No, I need a proper vacation,

Fortunately, we take a kind of vacation every time we cook. Food brings us together in the moment, but it can also transport us to other places and times. Such as this Pacific Rim stir fry, which has flavors and ingredients evocative of a 2006 trip the Big Island of Hawaii. Pineapple, ginger and tamari wheat-free soy sauce combine to create a flavorful sauce for chicken, red bell pepper and edamame. It's not quite a plane ticket to Maui, but we'll take it. (And besides...the girls' passports just arrived, so look out gluten-free world. Here we come!)

Pineapple and ginger are the stars of the sauce
Pacific Rim Stir Fry
Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 very large chicken breast, or 2 average chicken breasts, cubed
Salt and pepper
1 heavy tablespoon minced ginger
4 cloves minced garlic
1 cup pureed fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons tamari wheat-free soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup water
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup cooked, shelled edamame

Steps
1. Saute the chicken in a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. 
2. Halfway through cooking the chicken, add the ginger and garlic. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Add the pineapple puree, soy sauce, water, and dissolved cornstarch. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the sauce thickens and the cornstarch clears.
4. Add the chicken back to the sauce in your pan, toss to coat, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the pepper and edamame at the end for 2-3 additional minutes.

Serve over rice and enjoy!

Note: Edamame can often be bought pre-cooked, in the pods, in the freezer section of many grocery stores. To use in this recipe, as we did, defrost the edamame and remove from the pods.

This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free

- Pete

P.S. UPDATE: 1/25/11. In the interest of bloggerly love, we've linked this recipe over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free's Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays weekly post...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Great Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend Nutritional Comparison

The Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
UPDATE - 4/28/11: The following blog post originally compared 9 all-purpose gluten-free flour blends. It has now been updated with 3 additional blends, totaling 12 all-purpose GF flour blends, plus both whole grain wheat flour and white bleached enriched all-purpose wheat flour, for sake of comparison. All tables, data and "rankings" have been adjusted accordingly since the original post.

Lately I feel as though I've been doing a lot of criticizing of refined white starches in gluten-free baking, and an equal amount of praising of whole grain flours, nutritionally speaking. (Witness my recent reviews of Bisquick's baking mix and 365/Gluten-Free Pantry's pizza crust mix.) Other GF bloggers sometimes do the same thing - we make qualitative statements about gluten-free nutrition, without offering up the quantitative numbers behind the statement. Until now...

I've looked at 12 prominent all-purpose gluten-free flour blends and baking mixes, including our own Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend. Some would fall into the "refined white starches" category. Others would qualify as "whole grain flour" mixes. By popular demand, I've also included two wheat flours for sake of comparison. Most importantly, the numbers don't lie. Here they are, laid bare, so you can draw conclusions for yourself. First, a couple of notes:

1. Because serving sizes varied from 3 tablespoons to 1/3 cup, I scaled every blend's nutritional information to 1 cup dry mix, so we can directly compare apples with apples.

2. I included 6 nutritional components in the comparison: calories, total fat, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars, and protein. (With the exception of calories, all values in the table below are in grams.)

3. No flour blend had trans fat, and all had either little or no saturated fat. From my perspective then, the "total fat" listed is a measure of healthy fats in the blend.

4. These categories tell the nutritional story at the macro, big-picture level. They don't tell the micro-nutrient story, but they still give a good general sense and are a valuable nutritional starting point to evaluate the different flour blends.

5. Also keep in mind that these numbers don't tell the story of taste and texture, and how a given mix performs in gluten-free baking. This is only a look at nutrition, and thus, only part of the story when it comes to baking.

ProductCaloriesFatCarbsFiberSugarsProtein
Simply Gluten-Free4280100004
Tom Sawyer4400104804
Better Batter396092444
Gluten-Free Pantry4800139505
Bisquick4201.593396
Namaste Foods4501.5102606
Arrowhead Mills5602128408
Artisan GF Blend53431207.509.5
King Arthur58701280011
Pamela's48010.5814.5912
Bob's Red Mill40048812412
Gluten-Free Bistro40048812012
-------
Wheat Flour (white, bleached, enriched, all-purpose)4551953013
Wheat Flour (whole grain)40728715016

You can evaluate the numbers for yourself, but here's my take on the breakdown:

I ordered the blends in the table above from least to most protein content, based on the assumption that protein would be a major distinction between blends based on (or entirely made up of) refined white starches, compared to blends made from whole grains. By this measure, the median falls between Namaste Foods and Arrowhead Mills. The max and min values in the list for protein are 4g and 12g, making the middle point 8g, which corresponds to Arrowhead Mills again. As expected, it also turns out to be the rough dividing line between flour blend types.

I'd qualify the first 5 blends in the list as ones based on refined white starches as their dominant ingredient(s), as evidenced by their content:

Simply Gluten-Free = white rice flour, potato starch, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum
Tom Sawyer = white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum, unflavored gelatin
Better Batter = rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, potato flour, pectin, xanthan gum
Gluten-Free Pantry = white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, guar gum, salt
Bisquick = rice flour, sugar, leavening, potato starch, xanthan gum
Namaste Foods = sweet brown rice flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum

In turn, I'd qualify most of the blends in the second half of the list as ones based on whole grain flours as their dominant ingredient(s), as evidenced by their content:

Arrowhead Mills = whole grain brown rice flour, potato starch, rice starch, whole grain sorghum flour, baking powder, sea salt
Artisan GF Blend = whole grain brown rice flour, whole grain sorghum flour, cornstarch, potato starch, potato flour, xanthan gum
King Arthur = rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, whole grain brown rice flour
Bob's Red Mill = garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, fava bean flour
Pamela's = brown rice flour, white rice flour, cultured buttermilk, natural almond meal, tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, potato starch, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, xanthan gum
Gluten-Free Bistro = brown rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum

If we accept these two groups - the refined white starch group and the whole grain flour group - some important nutritional differences (and some similarities) begin to show up when we compare them. For example, per cup of flour blend, the whole grain group had a higher average calorie content than the refined white starch group (493 versus 435). The two groups had approximately equal carbs, as well as comparable fiber and sugars. The real differences came down to fats and protein. The whole grain group had a higher overall healthy fat content. Similarly, the whole grain group had more than twice as much protein as the refined white starch group (10.6 grams versus 4.8 grams).

Within the "refined starch" and "whole grain" groups, there were some interesting exceptions to the rule.

For example, nutritionally Namaste Foods sat on the cusp of the two categories. In some respects it was more like a refined starch blend, but other aspects of its nutrition and its ingredients list seemed to suggest its inclusion in the whole grain group. King Arthur was a similar case. It resembled the refined white starch group (based on its ingredients and its low healthy fat content), but its calorie content (the highest of the 12) and high protein content place it more in line with the whole grain flour blends.

A few additional results of note:

I sorted the results by each category - calories, fat, carbs, etc. - and ranked them, with 1 being the least amount of a given category, 12 being the most.

For protein content, Pamela's, Bob's Red Mill, and the Gluten-Free Bistro ended in a three-way tie for highest protein. The Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend came in 8th out of 12, with the 3rd highest protein content. In general, higher protein = better for you nutritionally.

For total calories, King Arthur had the most, while Better Batter had the least. The AGF blend came in 10th out of 12.

For total carbs, GF Pantry had the most, and Pamela's had the least. The AGF blend came in 9th out of 12.

For total fat, Pamela's had the most, while 5 blends tied for the least, with zero. The AGF blend came in 9th out of 12.

For dietary fiber, Bob's Red Mill and GF Bistro tied for the most, while King Arthur and Simply Gluten-Free had the least. The AGF blend came in 9th out of 12.

Finally, for sugars, 8 blends - including the AGF blend - tied with zero grams simple sugars.

There's more to read between the lines here nutritionally. Keep in mind that all of the nutritional values are for 1 cup of flour. For any given recipe, no matter what blend you use, you'll probably use more or less the same amount of flour - measured either per cup or by weight. That means that if you choose a "whole grain" blend with higher fat and protein content, the resulting baked good will be more nutrient dense, a good thing.

Now let's look at total calories and total carbohydrates. In general, most of the blends got most of their calories from their carbs. Consequently, the blends with the highest total carbs were also the blends with the highest total calories. Again, the same rule applies. For any given recipe, you'll probably use more or less the same amount of flour to make, say, a scone, no matter the blend. If you're concern is losing weight and/or watching your calorie and carb consumption, then you'll want to choose a flour blend that's low in those values. For me, my priority is usually on wanting higher calories and higher carbs, because they fuel my body during training and endurance racing. In that case, I'll choose a blend with higher calorie and carb values, resulting in baked good that are carb-dense. Per bite of scone, I get more carbs to fuel my long runs. In this case, "best nutrition" is a matter of perspective and priority.

For the sake of comparison (by popular request in response to the original post), I've added the values for two forms of wheat flour. What strikes me most is to notice how remarkably similar nutritionally the Bobs' Red Mill and especially the Gluten-Free Bistro blends are to whole grain wheat flour. By calories, carbs, fat, fiber, and protein they're nearly identical. This suggests that if you're interested in adapting gluten recipes that use wheat flour with a 1:1 substitution of a GF flour blend, then the GF Bistro and Bob's are probably good places to start. (I also know through experience that other GF blends, including our Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend, also work very well in gluten recipes, so the nutritional similarity isn't the be all, end all. But it's certainly worth noting the striking similarity.)

Finally, I can't resist doing a small bit of editorializing about our Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend. While it didn't "win" in any one category, I was quite pleased with its across-the-board performance. In some respects, you might consider it a Renaissance Man (or Woman) of gluten-free all-purpose flour blends. There are several great GF flour blends out there nutritionally, and based on the results, I'm proud to count the Artisan GF Flour Blend among them.

Since this is a post about nutrition, I'll refrain from editorializing further about which blends do and don't perform well in baking. That's for another post at another time. But to the point of nutrition, this begins to paint a picture of what we're talking about when we say that whole grain flour blends are "better" than refined white starch blends. At the macro-nutrient level, it largely comes down to protein and healthy fats.

Happy (and healthy) baking!

- Pete

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Product Review: Bisquick Gluten-Free Original Pancake and Baking Mix

GF Bisquick pancakes with pure maple syrup
From time to time I've been known to enjoy a pancake or two. One moment that stands out in my mind was around age 11 or 12. We were camping in New York's Catskill Mountains for our family's annual week-long summer vacation. One morning, my grandmother whipped up a batch of Bisquick pancakes on a griddle over a two-burner green Coleman propane camp stove that seems to be standard issue for pretty much every car-camping family in America. The scene stands out in my mind, not only for the warm fuzzy feelings I get thinking about it, but also because I ate 22 pancakes. Granted, they were silver dollar pancakes. But still. It felt like an achievement.

Fast forward a full 20 years, and here I am, doing a review of Bisquick's new Gluten-Free Original Pancake and Baking Mix (which the company graciously sent gratis). Bisquick is part of Betty Crocker, which is part of General Mills, a company that's been increasingly expanding its gluten-free offerings across its core brands, including the Chex line of cereals. They're a supporter of the Celiac Disease Foundation, and the baking mix is made in a dedicated gluten-free facility, two things to love right off the bat.

The box contains not quite 4 cups of baking mix, which is enough to make not quite 4 batches of pancakes. (Each batch of 10 pancakes calls for 1 cup of baking mix, and the box contains 3 2/3 cups baking mix. Why Bisquick? Give us that last 1/3 cup of mix!)

The mix itself contains rice flour, sugar, leavening, modified potato starch, salt, and xanthan gum. They don't specify the type of rice flour - brown or white - but based upon the light color of the mix, I'd double down on white rice flour. This makes the mix somewhat empty nutritionally. (But I'll be honest...no pancake, no matter the flour blend used to make it, is a fortress of nutrition. Sure, you can get some carbs. But if you're looking for a well-rounded meal, you'd better add some eggs and bacon and fresh fruit to that plate of pancakes.)
The Bisquick Gluten-Free Original Pancake and Baking Mix
We of course used the baking mix to make oodles of pancakes. The box, however, also includes recipes for waffles, biscuits, strawberry shortcake, pizza crust, chicken fingers, and oven-baked chicken. Making the pancakes was straightforward, requiring nothing but the baking mix, milk, vegetable oil, and egg.

The result was a pancake with a nice, light texture. They were moist and chewy, and not at all dense. The flavor was good as well, though it did lean ever so slightly toward the bland side. (As with the nutrition, I attribute this to the refined white starches that make up the baking mix, as opposed to more preferable whole grains.)

Overall, we were impressed with the pancakes we made with the baking mix. Taste and texture were both great, and in the context of pancakes, our nutritional criticism is a relatively minor quibble. And while Kelli and I disagreed as to how closely the gluten-free version resembles the original Bisquick mix (it's been many, many years since she or I have tasted it...), one thing was certain - in some small way, it did take me back to that breakfast in the Catskill Mountains 20 years ago.

And finally, a giveaway! When Bisquick sent us a box of baking mix to review, they also included a Tovolo pancake pen, which we're passing along to you - our No Gluten, No Problem readers. It's like a large water bottle for pancake batter, with a spout on top that you can use to "draw" pancakes of different shapes onto your griddle. It'd be great if you have kids. To enter the giveaway, email me with "Bisquick Giveaway" in the subject line. Entries close Sunday, January 23 at midnight, and we'll announce the winner early next week! Good luck!

- Pete

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Foto: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Pizza

An 8-inch Sicilian version
Continuing our focus on National Pizza Week, today's Friday Foto is a spicy Buffalo chicken pizza done two ways - as an 8-inch Sicilian (deep dish) version, and as a 13-inch thin crust version. This would be the perfect pizza to celebrate the upcoming Superbowl. (For those of you who aren't football fans, Superbowl Sunday is February 6.) When I think of quintessential Superbowl food, at least two things immediately come to mind: pizza and spicy Buffalo chicken wings. In a sense, this recipe combines both into a single, awesome pizza.

(For those of you wondering - No, I didn't forget to add cheese to some of our pizza. Charlotte has proven pretty sensitive to dairy, so a portion of all of our pizzas are kept dairy-free for Kelli and her/Charlotte's breastmilk.)
A 13-inch thin crust version
The recipe combines our basic pizza crust, a from-scratch tomato-based pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, diced red pepper, and Buffalo chicken. It's spicy but not too spicy, and if you're getting tired of the same old same old when it comes to pizza, this will be welcome change! Here's how we make it:

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Pizza


Ingredients
A double batch of our Thin Crust Pizza Crust, par-baked (page 118 of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking)
A single batch of Pizza Sauce (page 120 of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking)
Shredded mozzarella cheese (1/2 - 1 pound, depending on preference for cheesy pizza or not)
1 large chicken breast
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Frank's RedHot Sauce (plus extra)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced

Steps
1. You can par-bake your pizza crusts first, as well as make the pizza sauce, so they're ready to go. Or, you can prep the red pepper and the chicken first, so your toppings are ready to go. Either way, preheat your oven to 400 deg F.
2. Slice the chicken breast lengthwise into strips, then crosswise into thin slices.
3. Sautee the chicken in a bit of olive oil (in batches if necessary, depending on the size of your skillet). Season with salt and pepper, toss and set aside.
4. In the same skillet, melt the butter and combine with the Frank's hot sauce, stirring until well-mixed. Return the chicken to the skillet and toss to coat. Remove from heat.
5. Assemble the pizza: add the sauce, then the shredded cheese, sprinkle with diced peppers, add the chicken, and hit the top of the pizza with a dash of additional hot sauce here and there.
6. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are done to your liking.

Enjoy!

A few notes:
1. Make sure you're using the updated version of our pizza crust (the link above takes you to the correct version). If you have the first printing of our cookbook (Oct 2009-Jan 2010), it will be outdated. Otherwise, you're good to go! Also, lately I've been adding an additional tbsp or two of flour to the pizza dough (the updated recipe calls for 1 1/3 cups...I've been using 1 1/3 cups + 1 tbsp).
2. Our pizza sauce recipe usually makes enough for one 13-inch pizza plus extra (unless you like your pizza super saucy). It should be the perfect amount for 1 13-inch and 1 8-inch pie. Also, our book's recipe calls for adding 2 tsp sugar to the sauce. Lately, I've been omitting the sugar, and like the sauce just as much. Simply season the tomato sauce with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried basil.
Day Two pizza... as good or better than Day One!
Leftover pizza works just as well the next day for lunch! Reheat in a toaster oven on the broil setting - this gives you a nicely heated pizza with browned cheese and toppings, while not overcooking the crust beneath.

You can be sure this will be on our Superbowl party menu, and just maybe, yours as well. Give it a try!

- Pete

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Product Review: 365 Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix

Cross-section of the thin crust version of 365 GF pizza crust

It's National Pizza Week (every second week of January, if you want to play way ahead for next year...). In honor of the occasion, we're doing a review today of the 365 Everyday Value gluten-free pizza crust mix, and upcoming on Friday, check back for a Friday Foto and recipe for dee-licious buffalo chicken pizza.

For those not in the know, 365 Everyday Value is one of Whole Foods' private label brands. It's meant to be a value-priced alternative to some of the more expensive products you've probably become accustomed to buying in Whole Foods', while still upholding the company's high quality standards. The gluten-free line of products, like this pizza crust mix, are made for Whole Foods in a dedicated gluten-free facility. (Good stuff.)

The surprising thing, though, is that - looking at the ingredients on the box - and then considering that this product is sold under the
Whole Foods brand known for quality, the pizza crust mix seems to miss the mark in terms of being considered a whole food. The flours that go into the pizza dough are white rice flour, potato starch, and cornstarch. In other words, the pizza crust is pretty worthless nutritionally. (By comparison, our Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend that we use for our from-scratch pizza doughs uses smaller amounts of potato starch and cornstarch (plus potato flour) for texture, but the bulk of the mix is made up of whole grain brown rice flour and sorghum flour for better nutrition and "whole grain" taste.)

Suffice it to say that, nutritionally, the 365 Gluten-Free Pizza Crust is a delivery mechanism for whatever toppings you put on your pizza.
Spreading the dough onto an oiled pizza pan

In terms of preparation, the 365 GF Pizza Crust Mix is similar to other GF box pizza mixes we'd used years ago, in the sense that it is such a loose, wet dough that you must spread it with a spatula, as if it were cake batter. I can't tell you how strongly the Sicilian in me revolts against this. Pizza dough - even if it's gluten-free - is, in my opinion, something that's meant to be worked with your hands.
Using a spatula to spread the dough into a baking pan for the deep dish / Sicilian version

Normally when making gluten-free pizzas, we like to par-bake the crust first, before adding sauce, cheese and any toppings. However, in this case we adhered strictly to the instructions on the box and added the fixin's straight away before popping it in the oven.
The finished product

The end result was a nicely chewy crust, but it did have a bit of an "off" texture that Kelli described as "spongy" and I described as "a little bit like soft, chewy styrofoam." In addition, because the crust mix is based on refined, white starches, the taste is pretty bland. Again, this makes it a delivery mechanism for toppings, so make 'em flavorful!

Across the spectrum of (many) gluten-free pizzas we've had over the years, we'd rate the 365 GF Pizza Crust Mix as average, par for the course. There's nothing special about it, but we've also had (much) worse. If you're the kind of person who likes to buy and use box mixes, you'll likely be very happy with this choice. On the other hand, the ingredients contain nothing more than the gluten-free flours, some guar gum, honey, salt and yeast. If you have an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend and some guar or xanthan gum at home (plus honey, salt and yeast, which are staple ingredients for most people's pantries and kitchen), you can make your own pizza crust with little extra effort. The only difference is that quantities won't be measured out ahead of time for you, as they would for a box mix.

We'll stick to making our own pizza crust from scratch at home, but if the 365 box mix has ever caught your eye, it's worth a look.

- Pete

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tips for Making Successful Sauces and Marinades

I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about a few of the upcoming Friday Fotos we have in the hopper (such as Pacific Rim chicken stir fry and chipotle agave broiled fish). While the two recipes differ greatly, they do share one thing in common - a sauce or marinade that brings the dish together.

When I think back over the different sauce and marinade recipes I've made from scratch since going gluten-free in January 2007, the most successful recipes have all adhered - to greater and less degrees - to my "formula." It rarely lets me down. If you want to try making your own sauces and marinades, keep these guidelines in mind:

Whether you're making a stir fry sauce or a marinade for fish or meat, it should have a balance of salty, sweet, spicy and acid.

Sources of saltiness might include salt (duh) or tamari wheat-free soy sauce.

Sources of sweetness might include brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, molasses or fruit juices or purees (such as orange or pineapple).

Sources of spiciness might include chipotle powder, jalapeno peppers, chili sauce, Thai curry paste, red pepper flakes, or even black pepper.

Sources of acid might include vinegars (rice vinegar, distilled white vinegar) or fruit juices (orange, pineapple).

You might have all four elements represented, or maybe just two or three. Even if all four elements are present, sometimes you'll downplay one and emphasize another (such as less spice to make a sweeter sauce, or less sweet to make a spicier sauce with more bite). It's great for making "sweet plus heat" recipes, as well as recipes where the sugars caramelize during grilling or broiling, but the sauce still retains a "kick" from saltiness or spiciness.

If you use this "formula" as a starting point, you'll be that much more likely to create successful recipes for sauces and marinades right out of the gate. Here are a few examples of how we've implemented our own formula:

An upcoming Friday Foto recipe for Pacific Rim chicken stir fry uses pureed fresh pineapple (sweet, acid) and tamari wheat-free soy sauce (salt) in the sauce.

Another upcoming Friday Foto recipe for chipotle agave broiled fish uses chipotle powder (spice) and black pepper (spice), salt (salt), and agave nectar (sweet) in a marinade.

One version of an orange sauce I make for Asian dishes uses orange juice (sweet, acid), rice vinegar (acid), brown sugar (sweet), tamari wheat-free soy sauce (salt), and ground chili paste (spicy).

My barbeque sauce recipe uses ketchup (sweet, acid), brown sugar (sweet), honey (sweet), molasses (sweet), distilled white vinegar (acid), Dijon mustard (spice), ground black pepper (spice), and Worcestershire sauce (sweet, acid, and a little spice).

I even use this formula to make my (current) favorite version of a pizza sauce, which uses tomatoes (sweet, acid), salt (salt), and red pepper flakes (spicy), among other ingredients.

That's it. A four-part formula that's easily adapted to your needs and available ingredients, to make deliciously successful sauces and marinades. So get saucy!

- Pete

Monday, January 10, 2011

Comfort Food

It's the end of a very long day as I sit at the computer, wrestling with the horrible tragedy of the Arizona shootings. I just couldn't see launching into a planned gluten-free product review without acknowledging the weekend's events. There'll be plenty of time later this week for more traditional blog posts.

Even in a time like this, I'm reminded of the power of food, not just to nourish our bodies, but to nourish our hearts and souls as well. We often think of meals as being festive and celebratory. But just as much, food is central to times of tragedy.

When we're not personally and directly affected by a tragedy, food and the kitchen table becomes a gathering place for reflection and conversation. (Tonight, that conversation was delayed until later in the evening, after Marin went to bed. She's getting old enough and smart enough that she understands more than we realize, and picks up more than we know, so we're becoming ever more conscious of what we do and don't say at the dinner table...)

When tragedy (or simply, challenging times) befalls someone we know, we often respond by bringing them food. We were on the receiving end of this equation when Kelli was hospitalized following Marin's birth, and dear friends of ours in Colorado brought gluten-free meals to me in the hospital so I'd have dinners to eat while staying with Kelli. More recently, we were on the sending end of the equation, when we sent food to a dear friend recovering from surgery and laid up at home recovering for at least six weeks.

With a tragedy of the magnitude of Arizona, I don't pretend that food even begins to heal the wounds. It certainly doesn't bring back lost loved ones. But in some very small way, food plays a part. It becomes comfort food in much more than the nostalgic "mom used to make this for me at home" sense.

Some of the blame for the Arizona tragedy is being placed on our nation's current divisive political discourse, on a caustic animosity between groups with vastly differing views, on our loss of civility. Food, in this context, can also be unifying. It is an olive branch. To share a meal with someone is to respect them, to acknowledge them, to perhaps even bond with them.

Amidst the drama of the weekend, I was reminded of this spirit of togetherness and inclusiveness by Kelli's parents and their church. An unrelated congregation uses the church space on Sunday afternoons. But this past Sunday, the two congregations came together to un-decorate the church following Christmas. As the host, Kelli's parents' church provided the food. But, as it turned out, the other congregation had at least a dozen members who were gluten-free, including a family of eight who had either Celiac Disease or a pretty severe case of gluten intolerance.

Kelli's mom took charge of preparing a gluten-free meal (with dairy on the side), so that everyone would have something to eat. It was a gesture that didn't go unnoticed by the other congregation, and which was deeply appreciated by the people who had already resigned themselves to skipping yet another meal at a public function where they couldn't eat the food.

What's more, Kelli's parents' own congregation discovered that they had someone with Celiac Disease in their midst, but didn't even know it. She never told anyone, and quietly avoided eating meals at church functions...until Sunday, when she suddenly found herself more fully a part of the community.

As Kelli and I sat on the couch tonight, talking about Arizona, one nagging question kept coming back to us: What do we do? How do we respond? How do we make a positive difference? How do we help, in our own small way, to push the world in a positive direction.

My immediate response was to say that we lead by example in the ways that we know how. We know gluten-free food, and we know people. So put some love into your gluten-free cooking, and then share that food - and that love - with others. It seems we need a little more of that in the world right now.

- Pete

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Foto: Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

For New Year's Day we traveled down to Long Island, New York to visit my (Pete's) side of the family. (We spent Christmas in Ithaca with Kelli's family.) Such are the benefits of now living in the Hudson Valley, where family is a mere drive away, compared to Colorado when a four-hour flight loomed.

For dinner, we needed to accommodate many dietary needs: gluten-free for the Bronskis, dairy-free for Kelli (Charlotte has proven very sensitive to dairy), and vegetarian for my brother's girlfriend. This dish of corn polenta with roasted winter vegetables really fit the bill and left everyone satisfied! (The meat eaters among us paired it with spiral-cut roasted ham. The vegetarians paired it with lentils to make it a complete and satisfying entree. Pairing it with beans would also work well.)

Polenta
Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients
4 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cornmeal
6 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
Salt and pepper to taste

Steps
1. In a medium-large saucepot, bring the water and olive oil to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.
2. Add the cornmeal slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk (to prevent lumps from forming).
3. Stir in the garlic.
3. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until about as thick as oatmeal.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary
Salt and pepper

Steps
1. Combine all ingredients.

Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients
8 cups winter vegetables (sweet potato, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onion, carrot), chopped into equal-sized one-inch pieces
Vinaigrette (see above)

Steps
1. Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.
2. Toss the vegetables in the vinaigrette (a large zip top or produce bag works well for this).
3. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or pan, and roast for one hour, until the vegetables are very soft.

Serve the vegetables over the polenta. (For the photo above, I plated the veggies next to the polenta so you can better see the finished texture of the polenta.)

Enjoy!

- Pete

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Small Town GF Guide: Telluride, CO


Colorado Avenue, Telluride's main drag

Tucked away in a box canyon, nestled up against the rugged San Juan Mountains, in a remote corner of southwestern Colorado, Telluride rates as one of our favorite mountain towns anywhere. It's unique, even among Colorado's mountain towns. The downtown's proximity to soaring peaks (and the subsequent postcard views everywhere you look) is rivaled by few and feels positively European, straight out of Chamonix or the like. The historic Victorian architecture, the ski resort, the restaurants, the blend of died in the wool locals with second home affluence and tourists, the authenticity of the community, and the out of the way location all make for an idyllic mountain getaway. It even has a remarkably good gluten-free scene:

Supermarkets

Clark's Market (www.clarksmarket.com) - On your way into town. Small by "normal" supermarket standards, but has a surprisingly diverse selection of gluten-free specialty foods.

The Village Market - On Fir Street toward the east end of town. Some gluten-free options.

The Market at Mountain Village (www.mountaingrocery.com) - On the mountain at the ski resort base area. Considerably more expensive than either Clark's or Village Market, but convenient if you're staying slopeside.

Restaurants

Allred's Restaurant (www.allredsrestaurant.com) - An excellent upscale, on-mountain dining experience with local Rocky Mountain fare. Located at Saint Sophia, the mid-station on the gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village. Does a great job accommodating gluten-free dietary needs. (Read our review.)

The Butcher and the Baker - A cafe with gluten-free wraps and, on Sunday mornings only, gluten-free blueberry pancakes. (Read a review at Think Outside the Bread Box.)

Cosmopolitan Restaurant (www.cosmotelluride.com) - New American cuisine. Extensive local foods featured on the menu. Does a great job accommodating gluten-free dietary needs. (Read our review.)

Honga's Lotus Petal (www.hongaslotuspetal.com) - Asian. A growing set of gluten-free menu options, including gluten-free tempura, pad thai, and curry dishes. Be vigilant about potential cross-contamination in certain dishes. (Read our review.)

La Cocina de Luz (www.lacocinatelluride.com) - Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Much of the menu is naturally gluten-free. (Read our review.)

Merle's Brown Bag (www.merlesbrownbag.com) - Deli and bakery. Offers gluten-free salads and gluten-free bread options for sandwiches. (Read a review at Think Outside the Bread Box.)

Siam - Aside from Honga's, Telluride's other go-to spot for Asian, with some gluten-free menu options.

Local Resources

Think Outside the Bread Box blog - Kate at TOTBB lives and works in Telluride, and is totally dialed in to the local gluten-free scene.

- Pete

Monday, January 3, 2011

10 Tips for Resilient Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone! I have to admit - 2011 really snuck up on us. November and December were so busy, we hardly had time to anticipate Christmas, let alone the next year. But here we are...

If you're like many Americans, you probably made a resolution (or two or three). And there's also a pretty good chance that your resolution had something to do with eating healthier and/or dieting. Earlier today, Time Magazine published a story about the Top 10 most commonly broken New Year's resolutions, and - no big surprise - eating healthier and/or dieting is on the list.

I like to think that the gluten-free community knows a thing or two about sticking to a diet or lifestyle for the sake of one's health. Then again, adhering to a gluten-free diet is one thing. Making good on a resolution to make that gluten-free diet healthier than it was last year is quite another. And so, we offer you these 10 tips for resilient resolutions; advice that you can implement today so that you can still be successful eating healthier tomorrow.

What you'll hopefully notice in this list are that a) none of our tips are earth-shattering, and b) many of them are remarkably small dietary modifications. We think those two elements are keys to success. If you can easily integrate a change into your daily routine and lifestyle, is stands that much better a chance of becoming routine, and routine is what gives us consistency day to day, month to month, and year to year, so that when 2011 kicks over to 2012, you don't find yourself making the same New Year's resolution you made this year, because somewhere along the line, you fell off the tracks.

And so, without further ado...

1. If you use white rice flour in your gluten-free baking, make the switch to whole grain brown rice flour. It's less refined and much better for you nutritionally.

2. If your gluten-free carbohydrate intake consists of just three words - rice, corn and potatoes - work a serving of quinoa into your lunches and dinners once a week.

3. If you drink sugar-laden soda with lunch, swap it for a glass of water. If you drink two cans of soda during the day, downsize to just one. Juices can also contain lots of sugar. Try cutting your juice 50/50 with seltzer or sparkling water to make a refreshing fruit spritzer.

4. If you're a meat and potatoes kind of guy (or gal), downsize the portion of meat on your plate, and supersize the portion of veggies.

5. If you get hungry between meals and desire a snack, skip the refined, nutritionally poor store-bought gluten-free cookies and crackers. Instead, reach for a piece of fruit. Citrus (oranges!) is in season right now. When apples are at their peak, try spreading some natural peanut butter on apple slices. Or grab a handful of nuts or seeds.

6. Whether you cook and bake with dairy (i.e. butter) or non-dairy alternatives (i.e. vegan shortening), avoid the hydrogenated imitation stuff (i.e. margarine), and reach for the natural and/or non-hydrogenated "real thing."

7. Go the small extra mile to boost nutrition and sneak more variety (and nutrients) into your average, everyday meals. Add some sliced, roasted beets to a green salad, or sauteed diced peppers and onions to a basic tomato pasta sauce, for example.

8. Meal plan. Plan your dinners for the upcoming week ahead of time. You'll have a more focused shop at the grocery store, you'll have less food waste and spoiled foods that sat in the back of your fridge for too long, and you'll incorporate more variety and excitement into your meals instead of eating the same old thing every week.

9. Find inspiration. Maybe it's a favorite Food Network show, or a particular blogger's recipes. But find something that gets you excited about food, and bring that excitement into your own kitchen.

10. Live a little and enjoy a baked treat, a glass of wine, a piece of rich chocolate, whatever your personal indulgence is. There's nothing wrong with enjoying life a little! And, occasionally enjoying your personal guilty pleasure will help you avoid falling off the wagon and bingeing on it when you do get the chance.

To a happy, healthy, gluten-free 2011...

- Pete