Gluten Free At the Beach

TrishGetting away from the city and spending some time at the beach is a welcome break from all the hustle and bustle.  The problem is that most beach food is packed-full of gluten, battered and deep fried or served on a bun.  My sister lives near the beach community of Port Dover and recently started working at Trish’s gluten free bakery and café in Port Dover, so I decided to try it out.  Port Dover is a small beach community on Lake Erie and is about an hour and twenty minute drive from Mississauga, so perfect for a day trip.  Trish’s Bakery Café is just a few blocks from the beach on Main Street.

I wondered down to Trish’s to take a mid-afternoon break from the sun, and was I glad I did!  I had a cappuccino along with an ultimate butter tart – it was awesome!  Light, flaky and not overly sweet like a lot of gluten free treats.  I picked-up a chocolate zucchini loaf to take home and some gluten free wraps.  The zucchini loaf was moist, chocolaty, and light and fluffy, it melts in your mouth.  I really liked the light, fluffy texture.  A lot of gluten free baking is very dense and heavy, but not at Trish’s.  Next time I go down, I’m taking a cooler and stocking up.  If you’re staying for dinner, the gastro pub TwoEleven Main (just down the street), offers Trish’s gluten free multigrain flat buns.

Favorite Quick Dinner Fix – Veggie PadThai

Pad Thai Kit 4I’ve always loved Thai food.  Pad Thai and mango salad are my top picks in restaurants. Thanks to a Taste of Thai, I also add Pad Thai as a quick weekday dinner.    The nutritional facts on the packaging state the products are gluten free and list all the ingredients.  There is soy in the product.   Although I’m sensitive to soy, it does not irritate me, but as always know your tolerances.

I’ll pick up five items at lunch if I don’t have them at home — Taste of Thai rice noodles, two packs of Pad Thai sauce, bean sprouts and a pack of green onions.  There is also a kit with noodles and sauce as shown in the photo, but I like to double up on the sauce so I buy the items separately.   Soak the noodle in hot water as soon as you get home.  The noodles need about 30 minutes to soak.  While the noodles soften, get changed, wash and cut the onions, wash the sprouts. By then, you are ready to cook, heat the pan, cook the onion, then add noodles and cook for a few minutes, then add the sprouts and sauce. The boxes have more specific cooking instructions, but basically in 10 to 15 minutes of cook time you have a great tasting gluten-free dinner.

Food Review: Domino’s Pizza

DominosAt the suggestion of Jilly, who left a comment on this blog suggesting Domino’s, I decided to try them out. I tested my usual veggie selection of mushrooms, pineapple and green olives. Domino’s offers the gluten free in their standard small size, 10” round. The size was actually very good – larger then Boston Pizza offering (individual pizza size, 8” square). Domino’s also provided an ample amount of toppings as well. The crust was thin, but moist and tasty.
I’ve tried the Domino’s a couple times in Mississauga, as well once in Brantford, and it’s a consistently good product – good size, good toppings, good taste. Having multiple food sensitivities, I’m a person who likes to know what I’m eating; I always look for the ingredients list and Domino’s posts theirs online. As with many pizza establishments, there’s always the risk of cross contamination, so please know your tolerance. For those who can handle cross contamination, the Domino’s gluten free pizza is good value for money – thanks Jilly!

Catelli Gluten Free Macaroni Launch

0005Last week I was invited to a food blogger event sponsored by Catelli for the launch of their gluten free macaroni.  The event was held at George Brown College Chef School, and was hosted by Chef John Higgins, Director of the school, and former personal chef to the Queen Mother.

Chef Higgins opened the evening with a tasting of Catelli’s elbow macaroni prepared at 3 different cook times.  The pasta was beautifully plated with three different sauces and other accompaniments.  While we sampled the pasta Chef Higgins entertained with a mix of cooking tips, as well as tales of his travels and cooking experiences.  He moved next to a demonstration of proper techniques for preparing pasta for a salad.  Chef Higgins recommended cooking the pasta a little on the tough side for a pasta salad, thus he cooked the macaroni for only 3.5 minutes.  We then moved over to the school’s student kitchens were we all had the opportunity to prepare the recipe under Chef Higgins’ supervision.

According to Cate0156lli, the pasta is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility and is
certified by the Canadian Celiac Association’s Gluten-Free Certification Program.  The pasta is a mix of corn, white rice, brown rice, and quinoa, but they don’t state the percentage of each in the mix.   Unfortunately for me, I have sensitivities to corn and soy in addition to gluten.   I was hoping that that the pasta was low in corn, but no luck for me, my sinuses started to flare-up soon after the event.  For those who are fine with corn, the pasta and the salad were quite good.  The texture
was much like traditional wheat pasta with similar colouration, compared to brown rice pasta.   For families who need to modify their families’ diet for one or two members, this may be a good option.  The recipe we prepared follows, I made mine sans soy sauce and edamame and was very good, except for the sinus headache that followed.  For limited time, Catelli is offering a coupon for $1 off a box.

Catelli Gluten Free, Edamame Macaroni SaladGinger Edamame Macaroni Salad
Prep Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 5 – 6 min
Servings: 8

 

Ingredients:
1 pkg (340 g) CATELLI® Gluten Free Macaroni
2 cups (500 mL) frozen edamame
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 mL) each granulated sugar and water
4 tsp (20 mL) gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil
1 cup (250 mL) each diced red pepper and cucumber
1 cup (250 mL) each shredded Napa or Chinese cabbage and carrot
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped green onions

  1. Cook macaroni according for 3 to 3½ minutes. Drain in colander, then place pasta on a flat tray to cool. Once cooled, sprinkle with 1 tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil and mix gently with fingers.
  2. Blanche edamame in 2 cups (500 mL) of salted water for about 2 minutes and drain.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar with sugar, water, soy sauce, ginger, salt and pepper until sugar is dissolved; whisk in oil. Add cooked edamame to mixture.
  4. Toss macaroni and edamame mixture with red pepper, cucumber, cabbage, carrot and green onion to combine. Serve immediately.

Kind Bars, My New Favorite Snack!

kind barRecently, I was on a five hour Air Canada flight from Toronto to San Diego for a trade show.  While at the airport, I was looking for something to grab as a snack for later in the flight, so I decided to try a Kind bar.  I’ve seen the Kind bars frequently as I’ve noticed the unique name and attractive packaging in stores but not tired them until recently.  I have to say this Kind bar was great! Chewy, crunchy and sweet, but not too sweet, which is often the case with gluten-free snacks.

I now buy them in bulk as they are a satisfying snack for my 3:00 p.m. cravings or as a breakfast on the run!  My favorite combination is the dark chocolate with nuts and sea salt.  This bar turned out to be a hunger-saver on the flight as all the gluten-free food was sold out before the attendants even got to the middle of the plane (where I was sitting). Kind bars are now a permanent part of my packing list everywhere I go.  The best part is they are available in most grocery and drug stores.

Gluten Free at the Farmer’s Market

gluten free farmsYou’re probably saying to yourself, isn’t everything at the farmers market gluten free?  For the most part you would be right.  The majority of products at a farmers market are gluten free except for a couple bakers.  But small cottage industries are now starting to pop-up at farmers markets with speciality foods.  This is great news for those living gluten free.  It keeps costs down for businesses that don’t have to pay for expensive store fronts but still provides a bit of commercial flexibility to those buying the products as you don’t really have to go out of your way to pick them up.

I was recently at the Burlington Farmer’s Market at the Burlington Mall just south of the QEW and Guelph line and was pleasantly surprised with the offerings.  The speciality merchants included – From the Wild Mountain, gluten free bakery, as well as Saigon Soul Foods (Vietnamese), and Sabores Latinos (Latin American) all with gluten free selections.  From the  Wild Mountain had some of the lightest, airiest gluten free breads I’ve had.  Saigon Soul Foods offers gluten free spring rolls – yum!  Many fresh salsa and guacamoles are available from Sabores Latinos.

It is hard to find this many gluten free offerings in one place.  So if you’re eating gluten free and visiting a farmers market, don’t walk past those non-produce vendors as I used to do – they have a lot to offer everyone and a lot fresher than what you would get anywhere else.

The Beer Controversy

messagereThere’s a lot of disagreement over beer containing gluten.  Some beer producers claim that all beer is gluten free because the hordein protein (gluten) found in the barley is destroyed in the brewing process.  The problem is that there is no commercially available lab test for hordein protein, only for gliadin protein found in wheat.  So there is no way to test to find out if beer contains gluten and/or if the gluten in eliminated in the brewing process.

Personally I have never been able to drink beer.  In university people were always amazed at how I could nurse one beer the entire night.  Beer always made me feel overfull.  All it took was a couple sips and I really couldn’t drink more.  I literally had to force it down.

There are several gluten free beers available in Canada.  There’s only one option at the Beer Store, La Messagere, it’s from Quebec. There are three varieties and they are brewed using gluten free products: rice, buckwheat and millet.  Several varieties are offered by the LCBO: Bards, LaMessagere, Lakefront, Nickel Brook, and St. Peter’s.  Not all varieties are available at all locations so you’ll need to check online for a store near you.

This past weekend I tried the La Messagere Blonde.  This one is made from rice and buckwheat, it was the only offering at the LCBO I visited.  It’s a very light tasting beer with 4.7 % alc. so a little less than regular beer.  The taste was fine by me, although I’d much prefer a glass of wine.  I guess I’ve been drinking wine for so long it’s hard to change my habits.  I asked a friend to try it and she said it smelled like OV (Old Vienna) and was a bit bland.

Since I’m not much of an expert on beer, I have a real treat — an expert review!   Mark Darovny, who blogs about beer on The Mashed Wort (and is also in a class with me) has reviewed Nickel Brook gluten free beer on his page.   here is what he wrote:

When she says not all varieties are available at all locations she’s not kidding — on my last trip to the LCBO I could only find one from the UK, and the offering from Nickel Brook that is brewed right here in Burlington. I haven’t seen many on other trips either, but I haven’t looked very hard. I tried the Nickel Brook.

Nickel Brook’s beer is not actually labelled as one, but as an “alcoholic beverage”. The website notes it is “brewed in the style of a classic Pale Ale” and that it’s made from “a blend of Sorghum, Demerara Sugar and Pear Juice, which is then balanced with classic Pale Ale hoping” (typo there; it should probably say “hopping” though they’re no doubt “hoping” people will enjoy it)

It has a pale golden colour, without a very thick head though it bubbles nicely from the bottom of the glass. It does have a beer aroma, but only vaguely; to me the scent is more fruity, a mix of honeydew melon and citrus fruit, and after reading that pear juice is used I can detect that too.

The first sip? It tastes like, well, beer. But, it also doesn’t… it’s hard to explain but it’s just different to me. I find it fairly bitter and hoppy, and the aftertaste is strong and a little tart but passes quickly. While I have a hard time defining the flavour it does match up with some pale ales, and to my palate there is a bit of a grapefruit flavouring to it. I’m not sure I’ll buy this again for myself, but bear in mind I’m not a fan of very hoppy pale ales (Nickel Brook makes quite a variety of beers though so I will be trying more of their products)

Note that it is stronger than average, at 5.8% alcohol content. I bought it in a 473ml can for $2.95 at the LCBO.

While I won’t be buying gluten-free beer very often, I will have to try the one that Jeanette did at some point, and perhaps other brands. I would hope there are a number of delicious options for those who cannot tolerate gluten, but would really enjoy a beer if they could drink it.

Reference
Photo courtesy: http://www.lesbieresnouvellefrance.com/messagere-en
http://www.celiac.com/articles/798/1/A-Word-on-Gluten-and-Beer/Page1.html

Is Gluten Intolerance Inherited?

grandmotherGluten intolerance is a genetically inherited predisposition.  If someone in your family is gluten intolerance, then about 1 out of every 10 family members will be gluten intolerant.  I really didn’t think about this until I went to a family wedding shortly after being diagnosed.  I was talking to my cousin, Barb, who is a year younger than me and she was telling me how she was just recently diagnosed as gluten intolerant.  Surprisingly she went to a naturopath as well.

Then I started looking at other family members.  I suspect my grandmother (on my father’s side), who passed away years ago, was also gluten intolerant.  As a child I remember she was always sick and for the last ten years of her life bedridden.  She always complained about headaches, just like me.  I remember when she was sick all she would eat was pasta – the absolute wrong food to eat, just making her sicker.

To give you an idea of exactly how debilitating this condition can be I’d like to tell you what an incredibly strong and resilient woman she was.  My grandmother was originally from the south eastern part of Poland (now Ukraine).  With the outbreak of WWII she and her family were forced by the Soviet Union into work camps in Siberia where they worked unbelievably hard and were fed nothing for two years.  Many people in the camps died of starvation and many suffered from malnutrition.  Following the “amnesty” she and her two youngest children were sent to displacement camps in the Middle East and later Africa, while her husband and eldest child enlisted in the military.  From there she and family lived in the UK for a couple years, later coming to Canada.  These were difficult years to survive and yet she kept her family together.   Stories family members tell are always of a lady who was tough as nails, so it’s hard to imagine such a strong person surviving work camps and refugee camps but being incapacitated by gluten.  But it’s a condition people really didn’t consider twenty years ago.

The photo is of my grandmother in Africa with my aunt and uncle.

References
http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/causes-risk-factors.html

Food Review: Pizzaiolo

pizzaioloI decided to try a smaller pizza chain next.  Pizzaiolo is a small chain, mainly in Toronto with one location in Mississauga, along the lakeshore in Port Credit.  Pizzaiolo promotes themselves as “gourmet pizza”, and mentions this throughout their website.  What I liked about the site was that they listed the ingredients of their dough on the website and state that the gluten free dough is made fresh, never frozen, and it’s made in house.  I was really looking forward to trying this one.  As they are in Port Credit and I live in Clarkson, I was out of the delivery zone, so I made the effort to pick-it-up.  Unfortunately is was another thin crust pizza, not my favourite.   I ordered my usual veggie pizza with mushrooms, pineapple and green olives. I have to say it was the hardest crust thus far.  I put a couple pieces in the fridge for a couple days to see if it would soften up — no luck.  All in all I would have to put this pizza at the bottom of the list thus far as I did not like the crust at all.  My husband has a regular pizza and said he really liked his, but not me.  Oh well, the search continues.

Gluten Free When the Power Goes Out

wendysFor those who don’t live is Mississauga, the power went down last night at about 6:15 p.m. for about 80% of the city due to all the rain and flooding.  Mine didn’t come back until about 3:00 a.m.

This was my first blackout living gluten free, and of course I was totally unprepared.  As we did not know how long the blackout was going to last, we did not want to open the fridge and have everything go bad, so I grabbed a banana and one slice of gluten free banana bread (all that was left).   At about 8:00 p.m. news came in that power would not be back up until midnight.  Living near the Mississauga/Oakville boarder, I though let’s take a walk and see what Oakville has to offer for food.

Fortunately there was a Wendy’s only a couple blocks away.  It appears the power was out in sections of Oakville as well, but this Wendy’s was running on back-up generators.  While the lines were long and the poor staff overwhelmed, we all waited patiently.  I ordered the half size almond berry chicken salad and small fries.  What I like about Wendy’s, compared to other fast food restaurants, is that their salads have grilled chicken rather than breaded.  And, although a lot of commercially prepared salad dressings have gluten in them, Wendy’s has many dressings that are gluten free and they list them on their gluten free menu.

Thanks Wendy’s for having back-up power and a gluten free menu!