Going gluten-free

Date Published: 
September 16, 2011

Before I move forward with today’s column on gluten-free eating, I want to plug an upcoming event. On Tuesday, Sept. 27, from 5 to 7 p.m., I will participate in A Community Celebration of Healthy Eating & Living at the Tidewater Physical Therapy center at 63 Atlantic Avenue, Ocean View.

Special to the Coastal Point •  Marie Cook: Marie Cook’s fresh-from-the-oven loaf of gluten-free bread served with cherry preserves.Special to the Coastal Point • Marie Cook
Marie Cook’s fresh-from-the-oven loaf of gluten-free bread served with cherry preserves.

A Vitamin Social will be hosted by AFPA-certified nutrition and wellness consultant Linda Powers with Beverly Furst and Sue Flynn. I’ll be offering Healthy Eating Tips and Recipes. The event is free of charge, and refreshments will be provided. If you plan to attend, please call (302) 537-7260.

Tidewater is the office for top-notch physical therapist Bob Cairo, who has used his expertise to give new life to my knees, thumbs, wrist and elbow following injuries and/or surgeries. I hope to see you there.

Once upon a time, gluten-free products were very difficult to find. Those of us who depend on gluten-free and wheat-free products are delighted to report that retailers are responding to the increased need.

Those who are allergic to gluten in all of its many forms have Celiac disease – an inherited autoimmune disorder, which has steadily increased since 1950. Joseph Murray, gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., studies the rising incidence of Celiac disease.

In the September issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter, Murray contends that the way that wheat is grown and processed has changed over the years, “affecting our likelihood of getting Celiac disease.” He continues, “There is a drive to provide higher-gluten wheat because that’s what makes bread springy and makes a good sliced loaf.”

So, the wheat we eat today is different than what our ancestors grew and ate and certainly what I ate as a child.

Dr. William Davis, author of the new book “Wheat Belly,” agrees. He writes in the Sept. 5 issue of Woman’s World magazine, “Today, farmers grow a newfangled variety of wheat that produces super-size crops. It also produces super-size waistlines.”

These doctors agree that this “newfangled variety of wheat” has a bigger impact on fat storage than any other ingredient. This wheat is broken down very quickly and increases blood sugar and insulin; insulin blocks stored fat from being burned. According to Davis, “Preventing surging blood sugar and high insulin is key. It automatically trims your waistline.”

A sudden predisposition to gluten intolerance can occur at any age. The digestive process of the small intestine is disrupted, leading to inflammation; but those with Celiac disease may also suffer body fatigue and other symptoms, such as anemia, that until recently went undiagnosed for many years as Celiac disease.

A recent example is No. 1-ranked Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic. Although a major contender for several years, he often had difficulty going the distance in competition because of severe breathing difficulties. This past year, he was finally diagnosed with Celiac disease, and his transformation has been amazing. He no longer suffers from respiratory issues and claims that his new gluten-free diet has helped him feel stronger on the court. Other tennis players are now following Djokovic’s lead.

I don’t have Celiac disease, but I have been diagnosed as “non-Celiac gluten intolerant.”

The more I heard that whole grain/whole wheat products were like the Holy Grail, the more I ate – 100 percent whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat cereals, etc. As whole-wheat products steadily increased in my diet, my dormant asthma symptoms returned with a vengeance. As soon as I decreased the amount of wheat and gluten in my diet, my asthmatic symptoms ceased, and I rapidly began losing weight.

Gluten is everywhere – not just in wheat. Other grains, such as barley, rye, spelt, triticale, kamut, einkorn and faro, can react on the body in the same way that wheat does. I stay away from these grains and have switched to brown rice, quinoa (a seed-like grain and a true super-food), and eat bread made with non-gluten flours, such as sorghum, tapioca, white rice flour, brown rice flour, millet flour and rice bran.

I buy Pamela’s Bread Mix & Flour Blend at Good Earth Market in Clarksville and make my own gluten-free bread; they also sell a selection of frozen gluten-free bread products, but I prefer making my own, which requires yeast. Red Star Yeast is gluten-free; some yeasts are not. Becoming a label-reading junkie is key to reducing or eliminating gluten from your diet.

Gluten can also be found in lipstick, in glue on envelopes, in soy sauce, salad dressings, canned chicken broth (Swanson’s Natural Goodness is gluten-free), Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is gluten-free), starches, emulsifiers and leavening agents. It can also be found in granola, processed meat, seasoning mixes, chewing gum and many other packaged products.

Carol Fenster, author of the cookbook “1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes,” cautions: Gluten is in many products, but it doesn’t always appear as “gluten.” It is often listed as all-purpose flour, unbleached flour, bread flour, cake flour, whole-wheat flour, graham flour, farina, semolina, bulgur or durum – all of which indicate the presence of wheat, and therefore gluten.

Because I don’t have Celiac disease, I don’t have to worry about my lipstick or licking an envelope, but I know that removing all gluten bread, pasta, cracker and pretzel products from my diet continues to work for me. So far, I’ve lost 30 pounds and my allergy problems are better than they’ve been in years.

For additional information, log on to www.Celiac.org, where you will get the full scoop on gluten. Three fine gluten-free magazines are also available – Gluten-Free Living, Living Without and Scott-Free.

And it’s exciting to see that, because of the results of many recent studies, a gluten-free diet is now often recommended for children with autism, because many of these children do not process wheat proteins properly.

Today’s recipes are gluten-free. You will see that you can still enjoy delicious food excluding gluten products. When recipes call for rice, I prefer using brown rice or quinoa because of the extra fiber they contain, but plain rice – polished white rice, long-grained basmati rice or even black rice – is always considered gluten-free.

Rice flour is a common ingredient in gluten-free foods. However, rice mixes are often seasoned with barley grains or barley-based flavorings or soy sauce containing wheat. Because I often prepare stir-fry meals using soy sauce, I spend a bit extra to purchase San-J Organic Tamari, a gluten-free, low-sodium soy sauce at Good Earth Market.

Reading labels does take time, but for those with Celiac disease, just a tiny bit of gluten can trigger major symptoms. Many labels provide a disclaimer that the product may be cross-contaminated. It won’t necessarily say that, but it will provide allergy information that the product has been processed on shared equipment, so your product may contain traces of wheat and other known allergens.

This recipe for Shrimp with Tabbouleh is from Carol Fenster’s book. She writes, “Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgur, but whole grain brown rice makes a nutty and chewy, gluten-free substitute. If you do not have the fresh herbs for this recipe, use one-third the amount in dried herbs.” This salad must chill for eight hours, so it’s a perfect make-ahead dish.

Shrimp with Tabbouleh

Ingredients:

Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 green onions, chopped

2 cups cooked brown rice (you may use instant)

20 cooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Method for Shrimp with Tabbouleh:

Place lemon juice and zest, garlic, salt and pepper in a shallow glass dish with tight-fitting lid. Stir to combine. Add mint, basil, dill and green onions. Toss to combine thoroughly. Add rice and shrimp and marinate overnight or at least 8 hours. Just before serving, add pine nuts and feta cheese and mix thoroughly.

I have several “Favorite Brand Name” cookbooks on my shelves. They now have one titled, “Incredibly Easy Gluten-Free Recipes.” The following three recipes are from this book.

I’m a huge fan of roasted vegetables, and my new favorite grain is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), so this recipe is a winner. Rinsing quinoa is important; the grain has a natural bitter coating that needs to be rinsed off before cooking.

Quinoa with
Roasted Vegetables

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

2 medium sweet potatoes cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 medium tomato, cut into wedges

1 large green bell pepper, sliced

1 small onion, cut into wedges

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed

2 cups water or reduced-sodium (and gluten-free) chicken broth

Method for Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables:

Line a large jelly-roll pan with foil; coat with cooking spray. Arrange sweet potatoes, eggplant, tomato, bell pepper and onion on pan; coat lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt, black pepper and ground red pepper; toss to coat. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are browned and tender.

Meanwhile, place quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer; rinse well. Coat medium saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add garlic, thyme and marjoram; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add quinoa; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in water or chicken broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. (Quinoa will appear somewhat translucent.) Transfer quinoa to a large bowl; gently mix in vegetables. Yield: 6 servings.

Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing is a slow-cook recipe and makes a lovely presentation. I use my 3-quart oval slow cooker for this recipe.

Slow-Cooked Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing

Ingredients:

1 fresh or frozen boneless turkey breast (about 3 to 4 pounds)

2 cups cooked rice

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/4 cup peach, apricot or plum preserves

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (such as gluten-free Lea & Perrins)

Slow-Cooker Method for
Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing:

Thaw turkey breast, if frozen. Remove and discard skin. Cut slices three fourths of the way through turkey at 1-inch intervals.

Stir together cooked rice, pecans, cherries and poultry seasoning in large bowl. Stuff rice mixture between slices. If needed, skewer turkey lengthwise to hold it together.

Place turkey in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low heat for 5 to 6 hours or until turkey registers 165 degrees F. on meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast, not touching stuffing.

Stir together preserves and Worcestershire sauce; spoon over turkey. Cover; let stand 5 minutes. Yield: 8 servings.

For a gluten-free fruit dessert, a crisp is considerably easier than a pie, since you don’t need to bother with making a special crust. This recipe uses quick-cooking tapioca as a thickening agent, but you could also use cornstarch or arrowroot.

Mixed Berry Crisp

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Ingredients:

6 cups mixed berries, thawed if frozen

3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup rice flour

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Method for Mixed Berry Crisp:

Grease sides and bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Place berries in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and cinnamon; stir until well combined. Let stand while preparing topping.

Place butter, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and rice flour in a food processor bowl. Pulse until coarse crumbs form. Add almonds; pulse until combined. (Leave some large pieces of almonds.)

Transfer berry mixture to prepared pan. Sprinkle topping over berries. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until topping is browned and filling is bubbly. Yield: About 9 servings.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)