27 December 2009

Cream Scones

So I guess I’m on a quest for the best GF scone. Yesterday’s were made with only one whole egg and an egg white as we had run out of eggs. I also ran out of cream so I decided on a recipe that called for milk instead. This morning I couldn’t sleep so I got up early and having replenished the eggs and cream the day before, set about trying the recipe I really wanted to try from Rebecca Reilly’s Gluten-Free Baking. Although, being the sort who likes to tinker with recipes, I couldn’t resist incorporating some of the ingredients from the recipe I used the day before.

My cream scones turned out better than the classic scones, but it may have been because I had two eggs, etc. I still used Jule’s Gluten Free Flour but I added a quarter cup of hazelnut meal to 2 cups of Jule’s flour (which already has xanthan gum and Expandex in it) and then mostly followed the recipe for Raisin Cream Scones in Rebecca Reilly’s cookbook. I did use 5 tablespoons of butter vs. 4 because that is what yesterday’s recipe called for and I like butter. I also upped the baking powder to 1 tablespoon to match yesterday’s recipe.

The other reason I think these scones turned out better is that this recipe says to mix everything quickly with a fork, rather than use a stand mixer for one minute. I think the lighter handling of the dough resulted in a flakier scone. They were also baked at a higher temperature for less time, so they were less dry. They were also slightly sweeter than the others because of the hazelnut meal and the cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. Bottom line is that yesterday’s (see previous post) are more like biscuits and today’s were slightly more muffin-like, but not too much. My husband and I decided that we like both.

Karen, herself

26 December 2009

Gluten-free Scones

Yesterday I gave my friend a 5 lb. bag of Jules Gluten Free Flour for Christmas. She has tried and failed in the past to produce a gluten free scone that met her expectations. I knew she would try again with this flour and I was frankly worried. I was afraid she would try the flour on her scone recipe first and if it wasn’t good, she might give up on the flour. So I made them myself this morning. I have to say that, while they didn’t rise as much as I would have liked, they were otherwise great. I used the recipe in Annalise G. Roberts’ “Gluten-Free Baking Classics” and the results are shown here for you to judge...at least visually.

What made me the happiest was that the dough looked right and handled like a dream, not something you can always say about gluten-free baking.

Big sigh of happiness.

Karen, herself

25 December 2009

Gluten-free Christmas Eve

Yesterday on the Today Show, Joy Bauer (of the Joy Fit Club) took a question from a viewer asking what to bring to Christmas at someone’s home who was strictly gluten-free. Her answer took me back because when it came to desserts, she suggested that fruit was the best option, implying that all our favorite holiday desserts would be off-limits to the gluten-free (she also mentioned flourless chocolate cake or buying something ready made). So happy to say “Sorry, Joy, but you couldn’t be further from the truth!”

Not only can you enjoy gluten-free versions of all your holiday fare, but now it is more simple than ever, thanks to Jules Gluten Free Flour and her “almost normal” baking recipes. I heard Jules lecture at the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America’s conference in Seattle last summer and bought a bag of her flour ($20 for a 5 lb. bag, but worth it). The flour has Expandex modified tapioca starch and Xanthan gum already mixed in so you can use it just like all-purpose flour. I have been making Jule’s sandwich bread with it and my husband and I love it. At Thanksgiving I decided to try using it to make my piecrusts and I just substituted it for the all-purpose flour in the pate brisée recipe that came with my Cusinart years ago. The result was so good that you could serve it to the uninitiated and they would not know it wasn’t the usual gluten-laden thing. It was only slightly more tricky to work with, as it broke easier, but since the recipe has egg yolk in it, it pretty much held together. I used it for both pumpkin and pecan pies and we just did it again yesterday for pecan pie.

So be brave and try your old favorite recipes and if you want to make it simple, try Jule’s flour too. I plan to try French bread next. We’ll see. In the meantime, we are enjoying a totally gluten-free holiday with baked ham and cranberry-wine glaze, Julia Child’s Potato Gratin Dauphinois (pictured above and too delicious for words), spinach salad and pecan pie.

Happy holidays!

Karen, herself

16 September 2009

Open Face Breakfast Panini

one slice gluten-free sandwich bread
garlic clove (optional)
olive oil
2 oz. roasted chicken
1/2 oz. goat cheese or other mild cheese
peach slices
lettuce or spinach, arugula, etc.

Had the best breakfast today. I wanted a high-protein start to my day and had some roasted chicken thighs left over from a previous night’s dinner. I also had some delicious gluten-free sandwich bread I got from PCC Market the other day: Angeline’s Gluten-free White Rice Bread. I didn't feel like making a real panini which would involve getting out a skillet and rubbing garlic and olive oil on the bread and toasting it in a grill pan, so I just toasted it in my toaster and then drizzled olive oil on it. I was so excited about the whole idea of my creation that I forgot the garlic! I used Olivier’s Lemon Olive Oil, then put some organic lettuce on the toast, then shredded about 2 oz. of the chicken and put it on top of the lettuce, then the peach slices and topped it with a bit of goat cheese. Yum.

Just had to share this. Try it.

Karen, herself

15 September 2009

Headache and TMJ

My long absence from this blog is due to my latest attempt to figure out what is causing me 3-5 days a week of headaches. In May I had a routine dental cleaning and afterward suffered my usual 2-3 days of migraine. The difference this time was that after bugging my dentist the last two visits about my post-visit pain I finally got the courage to ask him about my bite issues. Prefacing my question with the comment that I was almost afraid to start because past attempts to fix my bite issues only made things worse, I nevertheless dove in headfirst.

It seems my bite is not only bad, it is unique. My dentist wondered aloud how I could chew a meal at all given my particular problem. I silently wondered why this is the first time he has mentioned it to me. Then he says that it is probably time for me to see an orthodontist. So off I went, thinking I was doomed to wear braces again. Well, the short story is that I am so messed up that braces alone will not do the job. So in June, after many xrays, photos and molds being made, I began wearing a big plastic bite splint, which gives me a lisp, and went on yet another alteration in my diet and started taking even more supplements. In January, the braces go on and about a year later I am looking at jaw surgery to enlarge my lower jaw, which is the source of all my bit problems and probably the cause of all the facial pain and then another year of braces.

I hesitated to write about this for awhile because there is so much sensational information out there about TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), which is the clinical name for my problem. The cause of my TMJ issues mainly involve my undersized and recessed lower jaw, stress and my teeth clenching and grinding at night. I have worn a night guard for about 10 years and it has kept me from grinding my teeth, but does nothing to prevent clenching. Neither does the splint, but it protects my joint. The surgery I am facing is not TMJ surgery, of which much negative press exists, but rather jaw surgery to correct the defective small jaw.

So now I take an anti-inflammatory drug and I am on a soft diet (sigh) which means nothing hard or chewy, no steak, no nuts, no carrot sticks, for God's sake. Looking back on things, I don't wonder why eating too many nuts not only caused me to gain weight, but also triggered a headache. Probably it was the jaw action, rather than an allergy to almonds that was the culprit. I do notice that I feel better on the soft diet and the fish oil and glucosamine and all the salmon I am eating make my skin look great! The other upside to spending thousands of dollars on braces, etc. is that after it is all done (2.5 years from now) I should look 10 years younger since extending my lower jaw will take up some of the slack skin of my aging body and make my nose look smaller. If it cuts my headaches down even one third, I will be happy and think it money well spent.

Unfortunately for me, my days of eating pretty salads like the one featured above are over for the time being. I made this salad in May prior to my diagnosis and it featured Japonica Mahogany Rice, roasted chicken thighs, chopped apple and toasted pecans and dried cranberries with a walnut oil and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. Today I would have to crush the nuts into oblivion if I wanted them and skip the dried fruit and cut the apple up REALLY small.

Some of you may wonder, as my husband did, whether this new diagnosis means I can eat gluten again. The answer is a resounding “No”. I still think the malabsorption caused by the gluten had something to do with my migraine with aura. It is still the case that I am migraine-with-aura free since going gluten-free and discovering my reactive hypoglycemia. I think the TMJ was responsible for a lot of the other headaches that have no aura. Also, after having unintentionally eaten gluten recently (Tums Smoothies can contain gluten it seems), I know that I still have a problem with gluten.

I remain, Karen, herself gluten-free

03 May 2009

Getting Back in Balance

It seems that Spring has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and I have been planting flowers and vegetables...and having fewer headaches. The tomatoes in the photo were from last year's crop. I am hoping to have more this year. 

While weather changes do seem to bring on headaches for me, the change to Spring has been surprisingly mild headache-wise. Each month since January I have had one less headache that I had to take a triptan drug to abort. April was the best month in a long while. Only 5 triptan-worthy headaches. As usual, I think the reason for the improvement is due to a mix of things. My doctor has me taking a preventative blood pressure med that I am now taking half a dose in the morning and half at night. I continue to watch my diet and blood sugar to avoid triggers and sugar crashes. And I exercise almost daily and get enough sleep. One other thing that has helped is to take Aleve with the triptan drug and then to continue taking Aleve on the third day after the headache to prevent any lingering inflammation from triggering it again. That seems to work pretty well, but is tricky. If I take too much Aleve it bothers my stomach. A lot. 

So balance seems to be the word of the day. If I keep myself in balance, mentally and physically, and if the weather isn't too changeable, I can keep the headaches at bay. I still struggle to remember to drink enough water for me. And I have been struggling to get my diet on track. My latest tactic is to really push the fruits and vegetables and try to keep things interesting.  Most days I make a big salad for lunch and I find that if I add some chopped apple or leftover roasted potato to it I don't have the cravings for sweets afterwards. Which is good. I make my own salad dressings to avoid gluten and preservatives that my head doesn't like. Recently a reader asked how I make dressings so I thought I would share my recipe, such as it is.

I keep track of how much oil I use pretty carefully so whether I make a small or large amount of dressing, I always measure the oil in teaspoons. This is because I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and I know that 1 tsp. of oil equals 1 WW point on their program. So if I know how many teaspoons of oil are in a serving of my dressing, I can figure out how to count my portion. So here it is. I just use 1 tsp. of good olive or walnut oil and add either 1 tsp. or 1 T of vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, maybe a bit of mustard or water. I use the 1/1 ratio if I want a less tart dressing, or I add some water. Sometimes I add some stevia (a natural zero calorie sweetener). Sometimes I add a little soft fresh goat's cheese (Chavrie) if I want creaminess.

The trick is to use high quality ingredients. I love the oils from O & Co. My favorite dressing is to use a 1/1 ratio of their citron olive oil and their balsamic vinegar. It is so sweet and delicious. I also like to mix their olive oils with champagne vinegar or red wine vinegar. When I use the latter, I use a larger amount of vinegar: 1 Tablespoon per 1 tsp. oil. 

Latest great gluten-free find: Glutino Fiber Bread. I got it at Whole Foods Market. It tastes like real bread and if you put a little butter on it toasted, you can forget it's gluten-free. It is made from corn and tapioca starch and has flax seed meal, sugar beet fiber, some sugar and egg white and is fortified. At 90 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 2 grams of fiber, it is 2 WW points per slice.

10 January 2009

Reactive Hypoglycemia, Dehydration and Headache

It’s 2009 and I've been gluten-free for two years now. When I started this journey, I thought that discovering my gluten intolerance and other food allergies (or intolerances) would solve my headache problem. Unfortunately, they were only a piece of the puzzle, albeit an important piece. I am convinced that the undiscovered gluten intolerance lead to malabsorption of important nutrients, including the magnesium and B2 that my neurologist wanted me to take to prevent migraine. Now that I am gluten-free, my body seems to actually use the magnesium instead of flushing it through my system. Not to mention the fact that avoiding gluten can save me from osteoporosis, cancers and a number of other serious conditions.

But my headaches persist. Not as bad as before though. In the meantime I have discovered a couple other things that seem to contribute heavily to my propensity for getting headaches. Dehydration and low blood sugar episodes. I have always known that skipping meals or not drinking enough water were sure to bring on a headache, so I didn't skip meals and I thought I was drinking enough water. Here’s the thing: it seems I need more water than the average person to keep from getting a headache. The standard 8 glasses a day are not enough, especially on days when I practice Naginata. I seem to have to rediscover this every so often. When we were on vacation in Phoenix last Fall I needed 10-12 glasses of water a day because it was so dry there. Upon reflection, I think I need that much water no matter where I am. 

The second important discovery is about low blood sugar. For years I have noticed that I seem to get episodes of lightheadedness, shakiness, sweating, etc. midmorning. I noticed it got better when I stopped drinking regular coffee. Then I started getting them again. I noticed I got them after eating a breakfast that was high in refined flours or sugars. So I stopped eating waffles for breakfast. Then I stopped putting jam on my toast. Then I switched to whole grains and that seemed to take care of it. Going gluten-free kind of threw me for awhile. Most gluten-free grains are high on the glycemic index so the episodes came back when I ate things like gluten-free waffles, or toast for breakfast. So I switched to eating gluten-free oatmeal or buckwheat cereal. Everything was great for awhile. Then I started to have sugar crashes in the evening during Naginata practice. It seemed that the more I tried to avoid carbohydrates, the worse it got. Frustrated, I mentioned it to my doctor and she suggested I talk to a nutritionist. She said I might have reactive hypoglycemia. The nutritionist took one look at my food diary and said I wasn't eating enough, especially carbohydrates! I was very surprised by this, but thought it wouldn't hurt to follow her advice for a week and see what happened. She recommended that I eat 30-45 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 15-20 grams per snack. She gave me a diet plan that had me eating a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack (which I was already doing). She also told me to forget about the glycemic index for now and concentrate on getting enough carbs each day, especially on days when I exercised a lot. She said I wasn't giving my body enough energy to work out and that was why I was crashing. Also, the Weight Watcher points level I was following was not enough calories for me. She recommended I add 200 calories a day to my diet.

At first I was afraid that I would gain weight. I had been trying to lose weight without success before. The amazing thing is that the new plan is actually helping me to lose weight again and I am not hungry all the time. The sugar crashes are gone as well. I got a blood sugar measuring kit to test my levels and as long as I eat protein with my carbs and fat and as long as I stay away from fruit juices and highly refined things (like GF waffles...at least in the morning) I seem to stay pretty level all day. 

The bonus was that my headaches went away as well. I had an entire week headache free the first week that was on the new eating plan. I think I may be on to something. These two issues are two important pieces in the puzzle. And I no longer have to feel guilty for eating corn or rice, both of which my body seems to like. Who knew?

Karen, herself