Archive for January, 2011

Quinoa – Learning to Love It

    Quinoa (kee-nwa) was an ancient food of the Incas – it was considered sacred and referred to as ‘mother of all grains’. Although no longer widely known or used it is gaining in popularity due to its nutritional qualities and versatility.

    Unlike most other grains and seeds quinoa contains all of the amino acids needed for humans to assimilate as a high-value protein. In addition to being gluten-free and easy to digest it is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.

    The quinoa seeds, as harvested, have a somewhat soapy and slightly bitter coating of saponins that discourage birds from consuming the seeds. Most quinoa available at your local grocers has been pre-soaked and rinsed to remove this coating. I always soak and rinse my quinoa whether it is presented in bulk or packaged and labeled as pre-rinsed. This insures that the seeds are clean, tender, and ready to accept the seasonings in your recipes be they sweet or savory.  Evidently a short-lived experiment in raising quinoa without the saponins coating resulted in birds consuming most of the harvest. And so I soak  . . . .

1) Measure out the quinoa and add enough water so that the mixture is slushy when stirred.

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

Quinoa Seeds Soaking

2) Pour the slush into a mesh strainer and thoroughly rinse. If the soaking water is only slightly hazy when stirring then 15-20 minutes is probably enough. These pictures are of bulk quinoa that needed about an hour of soaking and a change of water to clear.

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

Draining the Soaked Quinoa

3) Dump the soaked quinoa into your pan and cover with water. Turn the heat on medium until the mixture starts to bubble. Then turn the heat down low and put on the lid. Watch it very carefully until it settles down to a steady simmer because like oatmeal or pasta it will make fierce bubbles that climb the pot walls and boil over onto the stove.

Turning Up the Heat

Turning Up the Heat

4) The quinoa is done when it looks something like a sand dune on top with minor dips and valleys that are no longer moving. There should be no liquid visible when you take a spoon and check the bottom of the pot.

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

This Batch Is Fully Cooked

    Cooking quinoa is similar to cooking pasta in that you may prefer it very tender or ‘al dente’. You may pre-cook it for a recipe or add it directly to liquids in the recipe. It has the capacity to absorb an amazing amount of flavor from added ingredients. I pre-cook it over low heat for 15-45 minutes; then turn off the heat and let it cool slowly on the burner. The longer it was soaked the shorter the cooking time. Also, if there is still water and it is cooked as long as you like then just drain of the excess water. If you cook it without salt or seasoning then you can use a portion of it in a sweet recipe and the remainder in a savory dish like this one.

    This basic recipe was served at a potluck lunch meeting and received very favorable comments. It was prepared with a large, sweet onion and two fresh tomatoes. I included some ground turkey breast to make it a main dish meal.

    When I make it for Rita, who is currently avoiding nightshade plants I use washed and chopped zucchini in place of the tomatoes. The resulting texture is very similar. I also add a small carrot cut in bits to provide some color,

Savory Quinoa Casserole
1 cup of dry quinoa cooked with 2 total cups of liquid = 2-2.5 cups cooked quinoa
(If a can of organic diced tomatoes is used for part of the liquid then omit the fresh, sliced tomatoes.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard (French’s yellow mustard works – it is gluten-free)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional, see above, or zucchini))
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

    Heat the oil on medium or medium high  in a large skillet that has a lid.  Add your mustard and bay leaf to the oil and let it sizzle. Stir while adding your cumin and wait a few seconds before adding the onion.
    Sauté the onion until it starts to soften and turn brown. Add ginger, tomatoes (or zucchini/carrot), and turmeric. Let soften and then add your quinoa, stirring it in gently and sprinkling with salt. Reduce heat and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir once, sprinkle with cilantro, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.
    If you add meat, tofu, or beans then include it already prepared along with the quinoa. This is a good recipe to extend leftovers from another meal. And any local vegetables in season are excellent options.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita


Comments (1)

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Chef Alain Braux

Press Release:
    Edible Austin presents author Alain Braux talking about his new book, Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food at  BookPeople on Monday, February 14, from 7–9 pm. Treat yourself (and perhaps a loved one) to an evening of conversation with Chef Braux (recently named in the Top 10 Food Celebrity list as well as a Best Sweet Bites of 2010 by the Austin Chronicle), who will prepare his bliss-inducing Flourless Chocolate Torte for us. Also meet Sarah Bartholow from Hail Merry, who will be sampling a selection of their scrumptious gluten-free and vegan products. We’ll also have a selection of celebratory beverages on hand. Free!

    Alain’s comment `gluten-free junk food is still junk food’ is such an astute observation. He believes we should eat thoughtfully, be aware, and indulge joyfully on special occasions. Enjoy dessert on Valentine’s Day at Book People and chat with Alain – he loves to talk about food!

For those of you who live in Georgetown you can find a copy of Alain’s book at the Georgetown Public Library – NBNF 641.563 BRAU.

    Alain is also the author of How to Lower your Cholesterol with French Food. Both books are available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle editions.

Features found in his book aside from the wonderful recipes:
1) Narratives from people about their journey of GFCF discovery – one of these stories might be your `aha!’ trigger
2) Sympathy for the many reasons you may be attempting to self medicate and suggestions on how to find the right doctor
3) Why keeping a food journal is so very important (there may be additional sensitivities)
4) Setting yourself up for gluten-free and casein-free success
5) A comprehensive list of resources for Celiac Disease and Autism including books, magazines, organizations, and online support
6) Those mysterious food additives that could indicate `hidden’ gluten – pages of them
7) `Safe’ and `not safe’; in medication, vitamins, toiletries, household cleaners

    Rita and I visited with Alain recently at People’s RX at the Westlake location where you will find an extensive gluten-free grocery section and gluten-free options in the deli. The North Lamar and South Lamar locations also have gluten-free options in the deli.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

Leave a Comment

Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce

    Rita is a full-time student this semester and Mom is in the background supporting her efforts as best I can. It is most important these days to keep up the nutrition and avoid the gluten. Many of the new gluten-free products becoming available are still in the fast-food, empty-calorie, snack-food category that we try to avoid. And so we cook.

    This started out as a hearty chili recipe tailored to eliminate some of the elements that Rita is trying to avoid in addition to the gluten. One of those is all nightshade foods, especially tomatoes. The initial recipe caught my eye because the tomato in the recipe was replaced by pumpkin. We are both fans of all things pumpkin so we were very enthusiastic about the possibilities. The lean white pork also met with our approval although it can be substituted with a vegan option or eliminated entirely.

    I printed out a starter recipe and carefully noted every little change as I went along. The seasoning changes strayed so far from the original recipe that it had me quite anxious about the final result. Toward the end I emailed Rita what I had done so far and asked for her input on the choice of beans to be added. She chose navy beans but any favorite bean can be substituted.

    The result is something that I think is very tasty. Rita admitted to me that she liked it so well that she was having a bowl for breakfast as well as for dinner. So I am hoping that this is useful for all the nightshade-challenged individuals trying to stay healthy!

Pork & Beans in Pumpkin Sauce
1/2 pound navy beans, soaked overnight, and cooked until tender
1 pound lean white pork, bite-size diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 cup celery, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
14 oz. water
1 15 oz. can pumpkin

1/3-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Fresh cilantro (optional)

    Put the beans on to soak a day ahead of time so they can be cooking while you prepare the sauce. Drain, rinse and add enough water to cover and cook the beans in a 2-quart saucepan. Do not add salt as this can cause the beans to be tough. Cook gently on the lowest heat necessary to keep the water bubbling. When they are tender remove the lid and leave on low heat. Reduce the liquid to retain the nutrients without excess liquid when you add the beans to the remainder of the recipe.

    Use a 4-quart, heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven to prepare the sauce. Add the olive oil to the pan and sauté the pork (or substitute) over medium high heat until it is lightly browned. Stir in the onion and celery. Cook and stir for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

    Stir in the cumin, coriander, garlic powder, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, savory, and marjoram. Also add the water and pumpkin. Bring the heat up slowly and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes or until the pork is tender.

    When you taste the sauce it will seem very flat. This is where the cider vinegar comes in. It adds the sweetness and tang that you are looking for in a chili. Start with 1/3 cup and taste to see if you want a bit more. The difference is quite amazing. Add the beans. Simmer for another few minutes. Top with the fresh cilantro if you are using it.

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

PS – There were no pictures. I was too anxious to remember while in process and it went directly into the freezer until I was able to get it to Rita.

    However, here is a picture of my breakfast this morning. Ricki Heller at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs  is writing a new cookbook centered on gluten-free breakfast dishes for those battling Candida infections. This was SO yummy – flavor, texture, and nutrition all wrapped up in one bowl of hot cereal!

Blended Cereal with a Boost

Blended Cereal with a Boost

Comments (3)

SO Cultured Coconut Milk

    Rita first became interested in the probiotic qualities of fermented foods during her studies in Virginia. And when Chef Alain Braux, Austin-based nutritherapist, spoke about how fermented foods can promote intestinal healing in people with damage from gluten intolerance I determined it was time to give them a try. For the past two months I have used some of the recommended products.

    We were on my first shopping trip to Natural Grocers when Rita introduced me to this tangy, creamy SO Cultured Coconut Milk product (also known as SO Coconut Milk Kefir). And how strong could it be after appreciating the very strong taste of fermented daikon radishes? So I came home with a bottle.

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

SO Cultured Coconut Milk Beverage

    Several bottles later, it reminds me of the cultured buttermilk that I used to mix with pineapple juice and no-cal sweetener to create a beverage that tastes like pineapple sherbet. And I plan to try that mixture again especially after discovering that this beverage is so very thick. In the meantime I mix it half & half with water, add a few drops of stevia and enjoy a tangy, refreshing drink that feels really good in the tummy. I am definitely hooked on this.

    Right now it makes a nice bedtime treat but come summertime I am already thinking of tall, frosty, fruity drinks.

Gretchen (Mom)

Comments (5)

Gluten Reactions – Delayed and Otherwise

    On Friday, December 17, 2010 I inadvertently consumed a significant amount of gluten – it was totally my fault for not asking. A week later I assumed that I was home free and blogged about the measures that I took to lessen the impact and how pleased I was at my apparent success.

    Three weeks later, I woke up with ‘gluten face’; all swollen, red-rimmed bloodshot eyes, bright red nose, splitting headache. Since the allergen levels in Central Texas were at a record high, I had attributed my previous day’s misery to simple allergies. I took a good dose of antihistamine and went to bed early on New Year’s Eve.

    When I woke up early I remembered that we did not have enough rice to make our traditional good-luck dish of stuffed cabbage. I threw on some clothes in near darkness and quietly drove to our local H-E-B. Returning home I happened to glance in the mirror. Good Grief! And worse, did I look hung-over or what on the morning after New Years?

    It had been three weeks – was this even possible? Yes, it seems that it is entirely possible.  An excerpt:
      Reactions to ingestion of gluten can be immediate, or delayed for weeks or even months.

         The amazing thing about celiac disease is that no two individuals who have it seem to have the same set of symptoms or reactions. A person might have several of the symptoms listed above, a few of them, one, or none. There are even cases in which obesity turned out to be a symptom of celiac disease.

         People do become more sensitive to gluten once it’s been removed. Smaller amounts will set off reactions, than before (e.g., before going completely Gluten Free with your diet). Many have noticed this effect.

    Rita ate lunch out one day this week and had an immediate gluten reaction that sent her to bed in misery. We are mother and daughter with two entirely different reactions. Just when you think you may have come to terms with gluten issues you end up right back over the edge; which is where we derived the name for ‘The Gluten-Free Edge’.

    Also, back in November I posted a really whiny missive about discovering that the red and white can of tomato soup that we previously used as sauce for our New Years stuffed cabbage contained wheat flour as a thickener. Don used plain old tomato sauce for this batch – no wheat involved – and after spending most of New Year’s day in bed I was able to enjoy a small helping and we agreed that it was not very different and every bit as tasty.

All is well for now – until the next gluten/celiac surprise.
Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

Leave a Comment

Natural Grocers in Austin and Pamela’s Cheesecake

    Don’t you just love finding new gluten-free products and places to shop that are within modest driving range? Especially a store that has a staff so knowledgeable, helpful, and personable that shopping is an adventure rather than a chore?

    When Rita first discovered a local Natural Grocers she was so excited. “Mom, the first thing I saw when I walked in was a whole rack of food labeled gluten-free. It was right at the front of the store. I didn’t have to hunt or ask; it was RIGHT THERE.”

Natural Grocers Storefront

Natural Grocers Storefront

The Natural Grocers monthly advertising flyer is here . Their business philosophy is explained on page 4. Next time we shop there I need to bring bags and a cooler to bring home some of their beautiful fresh, organic produce.

    As I peered into Rita’s car I saw that she had a couple of cardboard boxes full of grocery items. Was she so excited that she bought cases? No, it seems that Natural Grocers is totally green, ‘bring your own bag(s)’. They have their discarded cardboard boxes available for reuse if you forgot to bring bags but they do not have any plastic or paper bags.

    Rita was so excited about the new products that she found. One of them was a miniature cheesecake made by Pamela’s – yes, Pamela’s of the baking mixes that first eased our transition into the gluten-free world. (Hmmm, now I am thinking about those biscotti that I haven’t made in quite a while from the Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix.)

    An Agave Sweetened New York Cheesecake – this is classic Sara Lee’s gluten-free cousin. OMG, three times we have purchased one of these 3 inch little jewels and they have yet to make it out of the parking lot! Like mother, like daughter, the two of us are “have fork, will travel” food adventurers.

Rita (with cheesecake), Joel, and Nate

Rita (with cheesecake), Joel, and Nate

    There are currently three locations in the Austin and Cedar Park area. The one that Rita first discovered was at Arbor Walk. We don’t know if the one in Cedar Park is open yet but the website says February so we will be checking it out. And there is one more to the South in Austin on Guadalupe.

Austin – Arbor Walk Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
10515 N. Mopac Expressway, Bldg. L
Austin, TX 78759
Hours: M-S 8:56-8:04 Sun 8:56-6:06
Phone: (512) 231 9200
(P.S. It doesn’t hurt our feelings that DSW Shoes is there at Arbor Walk also)

Austin Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
3901 Guadalupe St.
Austin, TX 78751-4522
Hours: M-Sat 8:56-8:04 Sun 8:56-6:06
Phone: (512) 323-5100

Cedar Park – Opening February 2011! Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
1335 Whitestone Blvd Bldg G-17
Cedar Park, TX 80104
(Half Price Books, another of our favorites, is in the same shopping center)

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

Leave a Comment

Udi’s Bread Arrives at H-E-B Georgetown!

Udi's Bread
Udi’s Bread


After a long wait and checking back week after week it really is here!

Georgetown 2 – Williams Drive
4500 Williams Drive
Georgetown, TX 78633

    Yesterday, Friday, 01-07-2011, I picked up a few items on the way to my volunteer shift at the local food pantry. I cruised by the frozen bread section just in case and there it was! Udi’s white bread, whole grain bread, and bagels all lined up on the top shelf, left hand corner of the frozen bread section.

    I immediately notified Clara. There is real bread, good bread, when we want it and when we need it. Don can cook French toast for our breakfast without a long lead time and sometimes complex planning.

    Yeah H-E-B and thank you ever so much for following through and making it happen!! 🙂

Gretchen (Mom)

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »