Thursday, January 31, 2013

Q & A With Nicole Hunn, Gluten Free on a Shoestring






January's featured cookbook was Nicole Hunn's latest: Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy.

She was gracious enough to agree to answer a few questions about gluten free living. 









Q. What piece of advice would you give to the parent of a child who has recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease to help make the transition to gluten free easier?

A. My son was so small when he was diagnosed that he didn't know the difference, but for a child old enough to know that his diet is changing, I'd pick his favorite food, and make it gluten-free. Part of the reason I do a lot of clone-type recipes on my blog is so that parents can change as little as possible about their children's diets, at least at first. And when I get emails about kids dancing around the kitchen as their mom makes their favorite food, safely gluten free, I get all choked up!

Q.  What made you decide to adopt a gluten free household, rather than only cooking gluten free for your son? 
 
A. Three reasons (the last doesn't scale): 1. It's so much easier! If I were making separate meals, I'd feel like a martyr. 2. This is my son's home, and his kinship with his two sisters means everything to me. A lot of that happens around food, quite naturally. I want to enhance that whenever possible. 3. I eat gluten free, too, because if I'm going to talk the talk, I've gotta walk to walk. And it makes it easier for me to develop recipes, too. Adversity leads to creativity.

Q. Your blog and cook books focus on how to make delicious, gluten free recipes that don’t cost a fortune. What are some tips for saving money when going gluten free?
 
A. I would suggest picking the one store-bought gluten-free item that you buy most often and is most expensive, and make it at home instead. That - and don't make impulse purchases of the latest and greatest gluten free packaged products. Do your research first - there's usually a blogger or other author who has done the homework for you.

Q. On the other hand, sometimes a splurge is worth it. Which gluten free ingredient do you never skimp on, and why?
 
A. Well, I'm not sure if it's a splurge, but I always have more than enough gluten-free flour on hand. For me, it's obviously a necessity, but I recommend that to my readers, too. When you have just a wee bit of flour, it's impossible to try new things. When you have enough, you can be open to new possibilities, new favorites.


Q.  What was the most difficult recipe to adapt to gluten free? Is there something you still haven’t been able to adapt to your satisfaction?
 
A. Well, I'm writing Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread, which will be out December 2013, so at any given moment, I'm struggling with one yeasted bread recipe or another. And when I'm in the trenches, and it's failing 5 and 6 times, I'm fit to be tied! Every recipe I publish, in any form, has to succeed at least 2 times, or it isn't going to be shared. That means that I make most bread recipes at least 8 times before I even think about finalizing them. But in the end, it's so much fun. Except when I'm terribly frustrated. But immediately after the frustration, it's the time of my life!
 

Q.  For someone picking up one of your cookbooks for the first time, which recipe would you suggest they try first? Why?
 
A. I always recommend the White Sandwich Bread on page 104 of my first cookbook to readers who are hesitant to bake gluten-free bread. I've made it nearly 1,000 times myself over the years, and it's a consistent reader favorite because it's a very forgiving recipe and can make a big difference in your everyday gluten free life.  
 
I want to thank Nicole Hunn for this chance to gain some insight into who she is and what she does. 
Want to know more? Her website is www.glutenfreeonashoestring.com
She has two cookbooks available for purchase: Gluten Free on a Shoestring: 125 Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap, and Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy
 
My review of her latest cookbook, Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy will posted soon!
 
Disclaimer: I purchased my copy of this cookbook, and am writing an unsolicited review. Ms. Hunn was kind enough to answer my questions with no strings attached.  The opinions in my review are mine alone.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gluten Free Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna

Sometimes a vegetarian lasagna is exactly what's needed for a meatless Monday, or when the thought of all that ground beef is just too much.  I know that lasagna is often considered a complicated dish to make, but this is seriously a pretty foolproof, quick recipe.  There are ways to make it more complicated, but when I'm in a rush, I keep it simple.

A few things first.  I don't precook the lasagna noodles.  I lay them in dry, breaking them to fit as necessary.  They still cook, and don't go all sticky the way GF pasta can sometimes get.  Also, I don't have a fancy lasagna pan.  I use an oval roasting pan, the way my Grandma used to do it.  It takes about 15 minutes to prepare & assemble, and the rest is just cooking time.

Ingredients
(Serves 6)

1 box gluten free lasagna noodles (I use Rizopia)
2 jars gluten free tomato sauce. (I like to have a 3rd jar on hand, just in case.)
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
2 containers (475g each) ricotta cheese
1 cup (plus more for sprinkling) good quality Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
Dried basil and parsley, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil


Directions
Preheat oven to 350F

1- Mince garlic and place in pot with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Heat on medium for 1-2 minutes, then add sauce.  Season sauce with some basil and lower to a simmer.  The hot sauce helps soften the lasagna noodles.

2- In a frying pan, add another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and add the baby spinach, cooking over medium heat until spinach wilts.  Stir continuously to ensure even heat.  Season with basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.

3- Add ricotta and 1 cup parmesan cheese to frying pan with spinach, stirring to combine.

4- Assemble lasagna. In a lasagna pan, or a roasting pan, ladle a little of the tomato sauce on the bottom.  Lay down a layer of uncooked noodles.  Top with the spinach mixture, and add more sauce.  Continue layering until complete.  Top lasagna with a layer of tomato sauce and sprinkle liberally with extra parmesan cheese.

5- Cook with lid on or covered with tented aluminum foil in a 350F oven until noodles are soft.  I check after 30 min., and then every 10 min. after.  It generally takes between 30-45 minutes.  If you want a browned top, allow to cook uncovered for the last few minutes. 

Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.  This lasagna freezes well.

If you want a more melted cheese type of lasagna, add a bit of shredded mozzarella cheese to each layer, and top with mozzarella as well. 

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Gluten Free Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna (Recipe)

















Tuesday: Asian Style Salad with Chicken Yakitori Skewers


















Wednesday: Braised Tofu in a Mushroom Sauce w/Green Beans & Mushrooms













Thursday: White Turkey Chili 











Friday: Oven Fried Chicken & Sweet Potato Fries  (This is currently in the oven, so I'll update with photos when done.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

 
Since we're in  the middle of a deep freeze here in Canada, let's turn our thoughts to warmer places, shall we?
 
 


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gluten Free Options in Elementary School

Last night was the open house for the elementary school we're planning on enrolling our son in for September.  It's attached to the daycare he currently attends, which is great because the transition will hopefully be a little bit easier.  It's also a French school, so he'll get the chance to study in French, which means a lot to me.  He's picked it up really quickly at the daycare, and likes it, so going to school in French will hopefully be no big deal. 

After attending the information session last night, I love it even more.  I've mentioned before on this blog that one of the reasons we took my son out of his previous daycare was that he was constantly being fed food with gluten in it, even when I was providing his lunch on a daily basis.  Click HERE for that post.  The last straw was when a daycare worker accidentally fed him a slice of bread before realising that he couldn't have it.  Needless to say, I was livid, particularly since it wasn't the first time something like that had happened.  The aftermath of being "glutened" isn't pretty.  click HERE to read about what it looks like for my son.

At his current daycare, the food is catered by an outside company that has a separate kitchen the is free from the top allergens.  He gets a gluten and dairy free meal provided to him, often one that looks almost identical to what the other children are eating.  We have never had an issue with him being cross-contaminated or given food that made him sick.  We learned last night that the same company provides school lunches to the students at the elementary school 3 days a week, and that my son's gluten and dairy free option should continue to be available.  There is also a pizza lunch day, and we can order him a gluten free option then, as well.  Basically, we only have to send a lunch from home one day a week. 

I think this is great.  I never went to a school where lunch was provided, and I never really thought about it before.  However, having catered lunches means that every kid will be eating the same thing, making the temptation to trade or eat something from another child unnecessary.  This can go a long way toward protecting my son from accidentally accepting something from another child that will make him sick.  The meals this service provides are balanced and healthy.  He eats vegetables, chicken, pasta, beef and even fish.  He points out food in the supermarket that he recognizes from his meals, like peas and squash and eggplant.  I love the idea of my son getting a healthy, hot meal, that looks and tastes like what everyone else is eating, but that is free from the foods that he can't have. 

Registration is in February.  I'm crossing my fingers that there's a space for him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan








Monday: Creamy Gluten Free Pasta with Campbell's Cream Stock





Tuesday: Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes (from cookbook of the month) on Gluten Free Pasta in a White Wine Sauce 
















Wednesday: Cream of Mushroom Soup and Sandwiches on Gluten Free Bread 










Thursday: Pork and Vegetable Stir Fry on a Bed of Rice 




















Friday: Chicken Fajitas on Homemade Flour Tortillas (from cookbook of the month) 










Friday, January 18, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with Feta and Spinach

This recipe is one of my favourites.  I'll be honest, I modify it frequently depending on the ingredients I have on hand, but the base remains the same.  Feel free to substitute goat cheese for feta, or leave out the walnuts, but the sun dried tomatoes are the base that makes this pasta dish so yummy.

Ingredients

1  (450g) bag gluten free pasta (I prefer short pastas like penne, but spaghetti would work too)
1 clove garlic, mined
1 jar (250g) sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil (drained, with oil reserved)
1/2 bag pre-washed baby spinach
2 handfuls chopped walnuts
150 g (or more, to taste) feta cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

1- Cook pasta according to package instructions
2- While pasta is cooking, drain sun dried tomatoes, capturing oil in a bowl and putting it aside.  The oil is seasoned and adds flavour to the pasta.  If sun dried tomatoes are whole, slice into strips.
3- Heat 2 tablespoons of the sun dried tomato oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and tomatoes.  Heat through (1-2 min.) and add walnuts, toasting for another 1-2 minutes.
4- Add spinach in handfuls and stir to wilt, adding more when there is room in the pan.  If ingredients are too dry, add more reserved oil, as necessary.
5- When pasta is finished cooking, drain and toss with cooked ingredients.  Crumble the feta cheese and mix well.  Adjust seasonings and serve immediately. 



Sunday, January 13, 2013

Easy Quinoa Vegetable Soup

Quinoa is one of my new favourite foods.  Since my son will eat anything if it's put in a soup, I often throw together this soup for his lunch or dinner when I'm running out of ingredients in the fridge and can't think of anything else to make.  It's one of his favourites, and it takes very little time to put together, making it one of my favourites as well.   This recipe is free from gluten, dairy and meat, making it great for vegans or vegetarians. 

Quinoa is high in protein, and one of the only vegetarian foods to provide all essential amino acids.  It is also a pretty good source of fibre while being low in fat and calories. 

The United Nations has declared 2013 the Year of the Quinoa, so why not start it off with an easy, healthy quinoa soup? 

Ingredients

8 cups vegetable broth (Campbell's is Gluten Free)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (I use the blend with peas, carrots, corn and beans, but any mix with bite sized pieces will do)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained.  Quinoa is bitter if you don't rinse it first, so it's an important step.
1 tsp. dried thyme.  Substitute any herb you like if you don't like thyme.  Parsley or basil would be good.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Olive Oil

Directions

1- In a soup pot over medium heat, pour enough olive oil to just barely coat the bottom.  Add onion and sautee until soft, approx. 3-5 min.  Add garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.

2- Add vegetable broth, dried thyme and frozen vegetables.  Increase heat to maximum and cover. 

3- When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and add quinoa.  Cover and allow to cook until quinoa is soft and cooked, approx. 10-15 min.  Adjust seasonings and serve.

Keep in mind that quinoa will continue to absorb water, so if you aren't planning to eat it immediately you may have to add a bit more liquid when time to serve.  Additionally, you can cook the quinoa separately and add to the soup when serving. 


Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan





Monday: Masa Stuffed Chicken Breasts & Grilled Zucchini (From Cookbook of the Month) 











Tuesday: Beef, Bean and Cheese Burritos with Homemade GF Flour Tortillas (From Cookbook of the Month) 










Wednesday: Quinoa & Vegetable Soup & Salad 






Thursday: Sundried Tomato, Walnut & Spinach GF Pasta with Feta Cheese










Friday: Shaking Beef (Seasoned Sautéed Beef Cubes on a Bed of Arugula) 

Friday, January 11, 2013

President's Choice Gluten Free Line of Products

In last week's grocery flyer, there was a one page ad for the President's Choice new line of gluten free bakery items.  The line is currently limited, but includes bread, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, muffins and a few other items.  Everything has the same price, $5.99.  I was happy to finally see these products available at a store near me, since they were launched a while ago, and immediately went out and picked up a couple of items. 

In regards to the pricing, it's an interesting strategy to price everything the same.  On some items, like the bread or the cookies, $5.99 is about on par with other brands.  For muffins, it's actually less expensive than most gluten free muffins, so that's encouraging.  It would be nice to see more selection, but I suppose if these products sell well, more will be introduced down the line. 

I bought the White Sandwich Bread, and the Chocolate Chip Cookies

White Sandwich Bread:  This product was actually a bit disappointing.  The main positive is that it doesn't need to be kept frozen, which is nice.  However, the slices are tiny, making it difficult to make a proper sandwich for anyone but a child.  Also, the texture is really dense and dry.  The flavour isn't too bad, but I couldn't get past the texture, even when toasted.  For the same price point, I'll stick with Udi's, Glutino or Kinnikinick. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies:  There are ten cookies in a package for $5.99.  On price alone, that's pretty expensive, even for gluten free products.  Price aside, these cookies are good.  They are large, bakery style chocolate chip cookies.  The cookies are soft and chewy, although a bit dense in the middle.  The flavour is good and they could pass for a regular cookie.  These cookies went quickly at my house.  for the quality, I can ignore the price point since they will only be an occasional addition to my grocery list.



 
 
 


So far, these are the only two items I've tried, but tonight's grocery night, so maybe I'll pick up something else and give it a go.  I'll be passing on the bread, but the cookies may have a spot in our home from time to time. 

Interested in another review? My friend over at Gluten Free Doll posted THIS review of their Gluten Free Banana Loaf.

I've been waiting a long time for President's Choice to step up to the plate with gluten free offerings, and although the line is currently limited, it's a welcome addition to the usual offerings. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday



I can't help but love this photo.  It's the middle of winter.  It's cold and there's snow on the ground.  No matter.  My son asks to eat his lunch outside at least once a week.  So he suits up, and sits on the front porch with his meal. It makes me smile every time.





Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hotel Review: Sheraton Presidente, El Salvador


Over the Christmas holidays we went to visit my husband's family in San Salvador, El Salvador.  Usually, we stay with his parents, but this time was different.  Not only did my immediate family go, but my parents, my sister and my niece went too.  Too many people to bunk with the in-laws.  Instead, we decided to stay at the hotel where my brother-in-law was having his wedding reception. 

The Sheraton Presidente is a well known hotel in the country, from an internationally respected chain of hotels.  This particular hotel is the go-to for visiting Heads of State, government officials and other notable guests.  Even so, the room rates were reasonable, starting at $99 US per night. 

The building is a little bit older, but much of it has been remodeled.  The lobby, restaurant and grounds are beautiful, with a large pool located in the heart of the grounds, surrounded by the hotel, a mini golf area, and conference facilities.  This sets it away from the main road, and makes it feel as though you are on a resort.  There is also a shallow kid pool right off the main one, where our kids spent their time.


Just one small part of the pool
Part of hotel lobby


The building itself is made of concrete, as are most buildings in El Salvador, since wood is expensive and buildings need to be earthquake safe.  This can give the inner hallways the feel of being in a compound, but that changes once in the lobby area or the guest rooms.  Our room was a standard room with two queen beds.  The hotel advised us that at Christmas, there are many events held out by the pool area, which could be too noisy if we were trying to put young children to bed early.  Instead, they suggested a room with a back patio that led to a terrace, with a walkway down and around to the pool.  We accepted, and I'm glad we did.  We would open up our wall of sliding doors and let the kids run around outside, where they weren't bothering anyone.  The view was a city one, but it was never loud.

View from our hotel room


What really stood out for us at this hotel were the service, and the food.  Let me begin with the service.  Yes, it's a big hotel, so good service is to be expected.  Having travelled quite a bit, I know that it's not always the case.  I have no complaints about the service we received at the hotel.  Everyone was courteous and polite, and employees went out of their way to help us when we needed it.  An example of this was during the wedding we attended.  My son can't have anything with gluten, and my brother in law hadn't ordered him a special meal for the dinner.  My husband asked one of the servers if he could order him a plate of something that my son could eat, and he did that for us immediately, no questions asked, rather than tell us that they could only provide what was already on the menu. 

Another example that comes to mind is the last night we were there.  Members of my husband's family were dropping by the hotel to say goodbye.  We were having coffee and dessert at one of the on site cafes, which closed at 9pm.  The employee offered to stay open later for us, even though not everyone stopping by was ordering anything, and even though we told her we would leave so she could close up.

In case you're wondering, tip is included on bills.  No one asked for a tip, and there weren't any tip jars to be seen.  Everyone on staff was courteous and professional, clearly well trained in the hospitality industry.  All staff we spoke with had a working knowledge of more than one language, as well.

Finally, let's discuss food.  This blog revolves around my son's inability to eat anything containing gluten.  That often makes traveling difficult.  We did get a room with a mini fridge, so that we could keep some food on hand for him, but we were surprised to find items that he could eat on the menu.  The room service menu is available 24 hours a day, for reasonable prices.  The prices are higher than if you bought the food at a regular restaurant in the city, but that's pretty standard of every room service menu.  Still, for $10, sometimes less, you could get a meal delivered to your door, and the food was incredible.  There were a few items that were safe for my son, and after a few questions of the kitchen staff, we were comfortable ordering him food.  He didn't get sick once.

We added on the $10 breakfast buffet to our room.  Children eat free, so it was just the extra for my husband and I.  I was a bit wary at first, because most breakfast buffets at hotels are pretty limited, especially for my son, but this one was incredible. It had:
1- Pupusa Station: Pupusas are kind of the national food in El Salvador.  They're a soft corn tortilla filled with meat, beans or cheese, served with a type of coleslaw and tomato sauce.  I love them.  They were made fresh every morning.

2- Fruit, Cheese and Meat: There were platters of fresh fruit every morning.  Strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, oranges, papaya etc.  Alongside the fruit were platters of sliced meat and cheese.

3- Cereal: A variety of cereals were available next to the fresh juices and yogurt.

4- Omelette Station: A cook stood waiting to prepare your eggs however you liked them. 

5- Prepared dishes: Pancakes, bacon, potatoes, plantains, beans, hash browns.  The dishes offered changed a little everyday, but they were a mix of traditional Salvadoran breakfast items and more American items as well.

6- Pastries: In addition to various breads and rolls, there was an entire table filled with pastries of all kinds.

Needless to say, for $10, the daily breakfast was definitely worth our while.  Our son could eat something different everyday if he wanted.  We were generally so full that we didn't bother with lunch.  The breakfast hours were from 6-11 am, so no one was rushing to get down before it closed. 

Like every place, I'm sure I could find something to complain about if I wanted to, but honestly, I don't feel like being nitpicky.  The hotel was clean & comfortable with good amenities and great service.  Wireless internet was included in the price.  It was well located within the city, served good food and offered enough entertainment for the kids that they didn't get bored.  All for a great price.

I recommend it to anyone looking to stay in San Salvador, El Salvador.

Hotel Sheraton Presidente
Av. La Revolucion, Col. San Benito
San Salvador, El Salvador


A Few More Hotel Photos:



Hotel grounds

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gluten Free Weekly Menu Plan

Welcome to the first menu plan of 2013!  This will be the third year of providing a week's worth of weeknight dinner ideas, all gluten free.  If you're looking for more meal inspiration, take a look back through the 2011 and 2012 menu plans found under the Menu Plan tab. 

Here's what we're eating at our house this week:





Monday: Albondigas (Meatballs) One Pot Meal (from cookbook of the month)












Tuesday: Gluten Free Spaghetti Carbonara (in my house it's known simply as Pasta in White)











Wednesday: Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie (from cookbook of the month)










Thursday: Spinach, Chickpea and Roasted Vegetables on a Bed of Quinoa












Friday:  Cabbage Rolls

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January's Cookbook: Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick & Easy

Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, Quick and Easy: 100 Recipes for the Food You Love--Fast!People who follow a gluten-free diet—avoiding all foods with even a trace of wheat, barley, and rye in their ingredients—don’t always have the quick and cheap food options that their friends do…until now.

Gluten-free guru Nicole Hunn is back with 100 new quick-prep and make-ahead recipes for dinners, yeast-free breads, baked goods, snacks, breakfasts, and more. These unique timesaving recipes take advantage of readily available gluten-free ingredients and kitchen shortcuts. Created with the busy family in mind, Hunn shares her secrets to getting a complete meal, including bread, on the table in no time flat – all without breaking the bank.

Recipes include Super-Quick Cinnamon Rolls, Yeast-Free English Muffins, Easy Veggie Burgers, Weeknight Chicken Soup, Cheesecake Cookies, Make-Your-Own Yellow Cake Mix, and more. (Photo & Description from Goodreads. Source)


So this is it! The first cookbook of 2013.  First, a little about why I chose it and how I plan to test it out.

I wanted a cookbook that was recently released, both so that I could see what was new on the market, but also so that I wouldn't be reviewing something that most of you have already bought and are using.  This particular one caught my eye because a) it was written by a fellow blogger, who already published one successful cookbook, b) on a shoestring implies to me that the recipes are not going to cost a fortune in ingredients, and c) quick & easy when it comes to cooking is exactly my style.  Not to mention the cover photo is gorgeous, and I'm a sucker for great images in my cookbooks.  I want to know what the dish should look like when it's done.  If I ever make donuts that look like the ones on the cover of this book, I will change my name the The Domestic Goddess.

I will be testing this book out over the course of the month, and writing my review for the last week of January.  I will make at least one recipe from each section (Breakfast & Brunch, Breads, Meatless Mondays, Weekday Work Dinners, Shortcut Desserts.) There is a make your own mixes section too, and if I have time I'll also make one, but no promises.  I'll be evaluating just how inexpensive, quick and easy they really are, as well as how good they taste.

Here's to a delicious month!

Cookbook of the Month Program

One of the new features on Celiac Baby! in 2013 is the monthly gluten free cookbook review.  Here's how it will work:

Each month I'll choose a cookbook to review.  The book will be a dedicated gluten free or allergy cookbook.  I'm not particularly interested in books that are written for those looking to go gluten free for weight loss.  I cook GF in my house because of my son's gluten intolerance, nothing more, nothing less, and so I will try and choose books that have a variety of recipes, all gluten free.

I'll announce the book of the month sometime during the first week.  Then, I'll incorporate recipes from the book into the weekly menu plan, or as part of our breakfasts, lunches and snacks.  I'll try to test a minimum of one recipe from each section.  For example, an appetizer, a main course, a dessert, etc.

The last week of the month I'll post my review.  Reviews will be based partly on how I found the book itself to work for me (layout, images, directions), as well as how me and my family found the recipes.  I'll include a cover photo, recipe photos, publication and author info, and price. 

Have a cookbook you would like reviewed?  Suggestions?  Leave a comment or contact me at celiacbaby@hotmail.com

January's book announcement will come shortly!

Friday, January 4, 2013

10 Tips for Avoiding Cross-Contamination in the Home

If you, like so many, are sharing a kitchen with others who are not gluten free, then cross-contamination is always a real possibility.  The following tips and tricks can help minimize this risk and make sticking to a gluten free diet a little bit easier.


1- Separate toasters:  The littlest bit of gluten can be damaging, and that includes the crumbs that gather at the bottom of a toaster.  Gluten free bread should always be toasted in a separate, dedicated toaster that is not located where the crumbs from regular toast may fall in.

2- Condiments and Spreads: Peanut butter, butter, jams, mayonnaise...any jar or container that knives get dipped into are potential breeding grounds for cross-contamination.  One person uses a clean knife to get peanut butter out of the jar and spreads it on a regular piece of bread.  Then they stick the knife back in the jar to butter another piece of bread, and there you have it: cross-contamination.  Purchase dedicated spreads and condiments and label them clearly. 

3-Avoid shared utensils: One of the first things we did when we went gluten free for our son was to get new utensils, particularly serving spoons, spatulas, and cutting boards.  Gluten can hide in the grooves and crevices of utensils, especially wooden ones.  If others are preparing food that is off limits with those utensils, you shouldn't be using them.

4- Separate prep. and storage area: In addition to cutting boards and utensils, having a separate place to prepare food can save headaches down the road.  Knowing where your utensils are and here your food will be prepped makes it less likely that someone will accidentally use your cutting board to cut their sandwich in half.

5- Clean surfaces frequently: Crumbs and other traces of gluten can linger on surfaces long after the food they came from have been consumed.  Always wipe down surfaces before and after prepping food.  If baking, remember that flour can nestle into tiny cracks and crevices, and also remain airborne for long periods of time.

6- Baking: Don't use the same sifter for regular and gluten free flour.  Baking with regular flour is tricky enough; flour can remain airborne and settle on surfaces and food, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.  Having separate mixers and baking pans is also important.  Separate storage of regular baking items and ingredients with GF ones is essential.  Air tight containers are better than bags.

7- Beware the microwave: Microwaves can harbour crumbs as well, and it's easy for cross-contamination to happen.  Wipe the inside of the microwave down before heating gluten free food.

8- Practice Good Hygiene: Hands that have held a regular sandwich and then go on to touch multiple surfaces can spread gluten around and increase the risk of cross-contamination.  Have everyone wash hands after preparing and eating regular food.  Hands should also be washed before preparing gluten free food, to wash any traces of gluten away.

9- Prepare Gluten Free Food First: Whenever possible, prepare gluten free food first to avoid contamination.  This is especially important when baking, so that GF baked goods can be wrapped and put away before anything else is prepared.  If making GF food first isn't possible, keep food separated and always use separate utensils.

10- Serve Yourself First: When eating a meal that has some shared gluten free dishes, like a salad or a side dish, prepare a plate for the gluten free person first.  Often people will contaminate a gluten free dish accidentally, by using the same utensil to serve two different dishes, or by allowing a utensil to touch a gluten filled item on their plate. 

Have a tip you want to share?  Leave a comment below!


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Three Quick and Delicious Smoothie Recipes

I've decided to make two lifestyle changes this January, both ones that I think will be reasonably easy to accomplish.  The first is to drink more water.  I've got my 1.5 L bottle, and the aim is to drink at least one full bottle per day, preferably more. 

The second is to drink a smoothie a day.  Breakfast is one of those meals that I often replace with coffee, so this year I want to make having a nutritious breakfast a priority.  Smoothies are a simple way to make this happen.  Here are three smoothie recipes I'll be using again and again.

Pineapple Banana Smoothie

2 cups chopped pineapple
1 banana
1/2 cup yogurt
2 ice cubes
1/2cup water or orange juice

Combine all ingredients in blender and serve. Makes 2 servings.




Pineapple Mango Smoothie

1 cup chopped pineapple
1 chopped mango
1 cup water
2 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in blender.  Thin with more water, if desired.  Makes 2 servings




Chocolate Peach

1 cup frozen peach slices
1 scoop chocolate greens or smoothie powder (I use VEGA because it is gluten free)
1 cup milk (or dairy free substitute)

Combine ingredients in blender, thinning with more milk if desired.  Makes 1 large serving or 2 smaller servings.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

 
 
Some Memories From Our Christmas in El Salvador
 
 
 
My husband's Grandparents

My husband, his parents and his brothers


Xavier & his Tio Juan

90 years old and looking great!

Nothing like Christmas day at the beach

The crater of the very active San Salvador volcano

View of the volcano.  My dad, feeding the baby

My mother-in-law & my mom

At Beto's seafood restaurant. Great food, great views

The yard of my husband's Aunt's beach house.

The gate to the beach

My mother-in-law and Xavier