Gluten-Free Article in The New York Times

This weekend there was an article in The New York Times that really got my adrenaline flowing. A link to the article can be found by clicking here: 

Gluten-free diets are the topic du jour. What really struck me about this particular article was the General Mills element. 

Companies that are making mass produced, processed foods are on the gf bandwagon in a big way. I'm not as grateful as you might think. In fact, I published the following comment on the Times site last night: 

As someone who nearly died before being diagnosed with celiac disease 40 years ago - I am MORTIFIED by two elements that were highlighted in this article:

1) Gluten-free has most certainly become a 'fad' - and puts some of us at considerable risk when operating in the world at large. 10 years ago it was safer for me to order in a restaurant than it is today - because almost everyone assumes that they know what gf means, and most see it as a diet trend. 

2) WHY are we so hell bent on eating commercial foods - (made by General Mills no less) - as if we've learned nothing from the fact that our bodies don't want to eat processed crap.

I'm hardly a crunch granola type - but companies like General Mills already have way too much power over our food supply. They are worried about losing market share... and we are worried about not eating "what everyone else is eating". Monsanto has nothing to worry about. We are lemmings.

I concede that I was being a bit heavy, but I am really struck by how we are not learning anything from the rise in food intolerance. 

Instead of seeing this as a sign that something has gone wrong... and that perhaps we need to take better care of ourselves - we are greedily looking to make our lives look like they used to. We romanticize about foods, and forget how lousy we felt when we ate them (and not just because they had gluten in them!).

We don't seem to mind that our food is modified beyond recognition to behave the way we want it to (and survive on a shelf for a very long time). I'm not above eating gluten-free cake mix... but I have to say that I'm feeling worried about the direction this is taking.

I wonder what "food" will look like in another 25 years.


Goodbye Gluten - leave your reading glasses at home!

This ginger cookie hails from a pretty divine place.

I finally made it up to gluten-free heaven. Entering Good Bye Gluten (GBG) was probably the only time in my entire life that I've walked into a store and could pick anything off of a shelf and "know" that it was gluten-free.

I was also very happy to have a chance to speak with owner Ricki, who explained that she had decided to open the store because her daughter had been diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 15 (nearing 20 years ago) at a time when gluten-free was hard to come by.  

At Goodbye Gluten she has culled the best gluten-free goods on the market and brought them to Toronto. What's not on shelves is freshly prepared and served behind the deli & bakery counter - or in the fridge and freezer. I could make an extensive list... but trust me, you will want for nothing.

Oh, and you need an event catered? They've got that covered too. A colleague of mine at work had her wedding cake made here.  Both she and her guests were delighted with the results.

GBG claims to be the first 100% gluten-free food store of its kind in Canada with this range of offerings. All I know is that Torontonian celiacs couldn't be luckier! Click on the hyper link above for their website.


counter to my last post - gf products CAN be healthy!

I've been feeling bad about calling out how unhealthy many of our gluten-free products actually are for us. In fairness, they are not any less healthy than most processed foods on the market. Just because we are not genetically made to eat gluten, doesn't mean we don't want the same options (healthy or otherwise) that others have. 

Most of us can agree that ANY food (gluten-free or otherwise) is better for us the less we muck about with it. I am particularly pleased with these crackers I just found from Orgran.

These Essential Fibre Crispibread are virtuously satisfying on their own...but best enjoyed with cheese, hummous, or nut butter. They are both gluten-free AND good for me! Only six ingredients: brown rice flour, wholegrain sorghum, psyllium, rice bran and salt. Gluten-free goodness!


gluten free is not synonymous with healthy

Sorry Glutino.... I'm a big fan of many of your products... but I was less than thrilled when I read the ingredients on the side of your table crackers. 

Normally, I wouldn't dream of buying anything without having read the ingredients first. However, when the box read "gluten-free", and came from a trusted gluten-free manufacturer, I happily tossed it in my basket with little concern. Just because a product doesn't contain gluten, does not mean it's a good choice.

I do love the texture and weight of these crackers, alas reading what they are made of I've decided this was my last box. There is nothing good for me here. If this is what it takes to make gluten-free crackers simulate regular ones, I'll happily give them up. 

The point here is not to pick on any one product in particular.  Generally, gluten-free products are made to replicate "normal" food. Sometimes, (ironically) to make these products as close as possible to those we miss - more food science (read chemicals) are used.

I don't need to eat the gluten-free version of what everyone else is eating if a lot of unhealthy ingredients need to go into making it "edible" for me. 

We eat gluten free for our health - right?


Rapini - la mia verdura preferita!

rapini with garlic & olives

My body just CRAVES this vegetable, and when it's in season it is at it's very best. Slightly smoky and just a little bitter, it is an excellent food for the digestive system. My body pulses with happiness when I eat it.

I learned how to prepare this Italian staple Roman-style. Excellent as a dish on its own, or mixed with gluten-free rotini shaped pasta & sprinkled with fresh grated parmigiano. 

It also makes an excellent accompaniment to sausages, fish or chicken. When served as a side, I'll skip the cheese and sprinkle with fresh lemon juice instead.

The method below is called "ripassata in padella" (loosely translates to passed from the pot into the pan) - and can be used to prepare any number of greens like chard, kale, spinach etc. Typically with leafy greens I skip the steaming part and go straight to the pan. 

This is super easy. 

Wash one bunch of rapini, remove tough ends & chop into 2" pieces. Toss into pot with water and steam. 

Peel and split one clove of garlic in two. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a non-stick frying pan and put garlic open side down with a sprinkle of chili flakes.

When rapini is limp remove from water and toss into pan. Add
6-8 salt cured black olives. Stir to coat with oil and cook until any water evaporates. 

I use the water that I steamed the rapini in to cook the pasta (great flavour and use of lost nutrients!). Also saves time and energy washing up :) 

In winter when rapini goes on sale I will steam a number of bunches at once and freeze it. I store it in baggies and then thaw and finish it off in the pan when I want it (thanks for teaching me this trick Rosa!). 

I seriously never tire of this dish - but would be thrilled to learn of new ways to prepare rapini and other seasonal winter greens.


new gluten free products I've checked out

I try not to buy gluten-free cookies. I try, because I have no willpower. Because I have no willpower, I buy gluten-free cookies. It's an ongoing battle. One I typically lose when I see a new cookie on the market that I haven't tried before. Luckily, at $7.95 a box, my budget keeps me from buying every flavour (at once anyway!). 

These GAGA for Gluten Free cookies are made in Toronto, which appeals to my "buy local" attitude. I tell myself it's important to help out new local start up bakeries. You can see I have this dialogue about why I should buy a box of cookies down to an art. 

As usual, I ramble. What you really want to know is whether to part with your $8 should you stumble upon these cookies. There were two other flavours on the shelf  - I naturally lunged for the "chocolicious" ones. If you like a really rich chocolate taste, and a slightly sandy cookie (shortbread-like texture) indulge in a box. They are soft and a little crumbly (not a problem as they are small and can be popped directly in your mouth in one go). I'll probably talk myself into another box of these again soon.
Now onto the savoury. I have been a fan of Mary's Organic Crackers for a few years now. I'm pleased to see them turning up on tables next to dips and cheese at the homes of my gluten eating friends too. A nice change from the Asian rice crackers I've been eating for years. 

In that little bowl above is a newer product from Mary's called Sticks & Twigs. Kind of like pretzels. What I particularly like about these is they are so healthy! I never buy "flavoured" chips, crackers or rice cakes. The less chemicals, the better my tummy operates. This means I rarely venture beyond "plain". These are curry flavour. The flavour comes from one ingredient - curry powder (no weird sounding additives). I know, curry powder is made up of a variety of spices... but that is all they are. I eat a little bowl like the one above and my craving for salty snack is satiated. Unlike the cookies... I eat these guilt free.


invited for gluten-free dinner

You've just been invited to dinner. If you are going to the home of someone else for the first time, you know there is a conversation ahead of you. If you are lucky, the host is already well versed in the language of gluten-free... and those two little words will suffice. 

Ideally it is you accepting the invite, giving you the opportunity to clear your throat and drop the bomb. But how about when you're partner comes home to tell you that the boss has invited you both over to dinner? 

The call will need to be made. Once the conversation has been had around ingredients, I will typically ask if I can bring something. I assure them that it needn't be complicated.  

Of course, at this point I find myself wondering if they are already wishing that they hadn't invited me. Then it occurs to me that if it's too much for them, I don't want a second invite anyway. 

Moving along... when I arrive I usually make for the kitchen and have a chat/review of what's cooking (more of a "how can I help" interaction). The goal being to assist both the host and myself and alleviating the stress that comes with wondering if they put worcestershire sauce (malt vinegar) in the dressing or bouillon cubes in the soup. Hanging in the kitchen also gives me the opportunity to show my appreciation for their special consideration of my particular needs.

Good news: future invites are a sign that all went well - and each visit becomes more natural and enjoyable for everyone.

When we invite others over, my first question is usually whether there is something our guest doesn't eat. I'm setting precedent for when they reciprocate :)

Thanks to our amazing friends for the many delicious dinners we enjoy in your homes - one of my greatest joys (if you'll pardon the expression) is breaking bread with others.