Friday, July 8, 2011

Once Upon a Dinner Party: Gluten-Free

Gluten-free is everywhere you look!  It is amazing how products that were virtually impossible to find years ago now take up whole aisles in today's grocery stores and are abundant enough to necessitate whole menus of their own at popular restaurants.

Although there are a lot more products out there for people with Celiac's Disease or Gluten intolerance there are still two big problems, 1.) They are usually more expensive and 2.) They sometimes lack the taste of the products they are trying to mimic.

In general when I counsel patients on medically necessary diets I try and emphasize the foods that they CAN have instead of focusing on what they can't.  A person with a sensitivity to gluten in most cases should focus on filling their plate with proteins, fruits, vegetable and dairy, for the most part there are 4 of the 5 main "food groups" that have virtually no restrictions!  The starch part of their diet can just as easily come from rice, potatoes, squash, etc.  Focusing on what you can eat is a great way to not feel deprived. 

I want to stress that in general special products are not always necessary, no matter what the diet try and focus on the positive and eat what you can, in most cases this will be easier and more satisfactory that always trying to find alternatives to the items that you can't have.

That being said there is room in any diet for treats.  While main meals can be easily satisfied with 4 of the 5 food groups in abundance desserts pose a special challenge.  Ice cream, fruit and flourless chocolate cake are good choices for someone whose diet cannot tolerate flour but sometimes nothing will satisfy like a baked good.

There are a lot of different types of flours that can be substituted cup for cup in everyday recipes, that is not a problem.  The problem is that these flours are often much more expensive.  The solution?  Make your own!

Yes, you heard right, make your own flour.  I promise you it is not as hard as it seems, I was a skeptic until I tried it and now I am hooked.

The first flour that I "made" was rice flour.  Pretty much any gluten-free starch item (rice, oats*, almonds, etc) can be made into a flour and used just like the old standby.

I started with plain white rice.  The only rice I had in my cabinet was short grain sushi rice, so that is what I used but any form of rice will work as well.

I then ground the rice (uncooked).  I have a magic bullet with the grinder attachment but you could also use a coffee grinder.  A regular blender or food processor will not work, it will not allow the grains to be ground small enough.  After several minutes of grinding my rice was now powder, just like flour!  To make sure that there were no lumps I sifted it before adding to my recipe.

The recipe?  I went to my trusty "betty crocker new picture cookbook", found a recipe for cupcakes and simply used my rice flour instead of wheat flour.

I mixed the batter

And popped it into my cupcake maker

Luckily frosting is usually gluten free since it is mainly butter and sugar!

I have to say that these were very good!  So good in fact that they never made it to my intended recipient. 

Not realising they were gluten free and knowing that I often keep baked good around the house these were eating by family members and friends before I got a chance to bring them to my friend Lauren.  Guess that means that they were good and looks like I will have the opportunity to keep experimenting and make more gluten free baked good with my own rice flour :)  The possibilities are endless!

* Note: Some people who are sensitive to wheat products may also be sensitive to oats since they are often produced in the same facility as wheat products and may experience cross contamination, check with your doctor before trying them if you aren't sure how sensitive your allergy is.

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