Archive for February, 2011

ATX Austin Gluten-Free Pizza Fest

ATX Austin GF Pizza Fest

ATX Austin GF Pizza Fest

    Pizza celebrations have been going on for almost two weeks now. ATX Austin Gluten-Free Pizza Fest is sponsored by Jessica Meyer. She keeps us informed about all of the gluten-free options in this part of Texas. I missed the first part while out of town but Don and I finally had our home grown pizza fest.

    During the last year I have tried numerous recipes trying to come up with the optimum nutritious pizza recipe for gluten-free and otherwise allergic and digestive challenged family and friends.

    We had a crust that Don liked but it did not meet the allergy friendly criteria. In the interim he has gone back to making his own glutinous crust while I experiment with the gluten-free versions. For the sake of consistency Don then adds identical toppings to both pizza crusts.

    I think I finally have the amounts of flours and binders along with seasoning, oil, and leavening. It makes up into dough that handles well and is sturdy enough to support the toppings. But I am still tweaking the taste component of the flour blend. This time the texture was excellent but the coconut flour made it too sweet. So I am posting the amounts until such time as we together bake pizza and Don declares it a winner.

Hers (GF) and His (not GF) Pizzas

Hers (GF) and His (not GF) Pizzas

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon oregano, marjoram, or basil (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cups of water (will vary with the flour blend)

    Oil a 12” pizza pan and set it aside. Set the oven for 425*F.

    Measure the dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. The seasonings are optional but some of the denser, high nutrition flours have stronger flavors that need a little help to bring the crust over to the Italian side.

    Add a cup of the water and then the oil to the flour mixture. Stir well for at least a minute to see how much of the flour does not blend into the dough. Add the remaining water a little at a time until all of the flour is incorporated and you have a lump of dough that is resilient and very hard to stir. Dump it out on your work space and knead it until all traces of flour blend in. Form it into a flattened ball and move it to your prepared pizza pan.

    Continue to flatten the dough while rotating the pan. The two cups of flour makes enough dough that it should generously cover the bottom of the pan and have plenty to build up a nice edge to hold your sauce and toppings. Slide the pan into the oven for a 6-7 minute pre-bake.

    At this point I turn the gluten-free pizza crust over to Don and he adds toppings to both pizzas, puts them in the oven to bake, and calls me when dinner is ready.



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Gluten-Free Princess Cruise to Panama

    Once again Don and I were off on a cruise. Don’s sister, Pat, flew in from Maine to meet us at the ship terminal in Fort Lauderdale where we were to board the Island Princess for our ten day trip. This meant airline travel and it was my first experience in coach on a 737 with seats jammed six across each row. I am not a large person but this experience was extremely claustrophobic. We are strategizing for our trip to visit Pat and other family in New England later this year. So far it will involve a Kindle pre-loaded with a lot of books and Dramamine which will give me several hours of total unconsciousness.

    Again I tried to prepare for gluten-free travel. It was not one of my better efforts. Success on previous travel left me overly confidant. Basically I had a Larabar for every day of travel plus some of my flax meal biscuits for bread-type carbs. I started the trip with a hearty breakfast of Giant Upside-Down Apple Pancake  that I had saved from recipe testing for Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs plus an almond milk latte and that sustained me all through the morning.

   A surprise dining bright spot was the one hour layover at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. At the Au Bon Pain Deli I found a nice little boxed salad with ultra-fresh veggies and four small rolls of ham with a savory cheese filling plus a Black Cherry Dragonfruit SOBE life water beverage. It was satisfying without bogging down the digestive system.

   We met up with Pat at the ship terminal and once aboard we all headed to the Horizon buffet for a snack. Fruit and a slice of cheese would get me through safety drills, setting sail and planning our activities. It was at dinner and asking questions of the Horizon staff that I discovered that gluten-free was only guaranteed in the Bordeaux dining room. Line server asked someone else who fetched the chef who called his supervisor. No one spoke fluent gluten-free.

   We tried the Bordeaux at noon the following day. The menu is published each afternoon at four o’clock for the next day. You are supposed to negotiate your gluten-free meals for the next day from that menu. While the impromptu meal they served me was totally delicious and artistically presented I was not pleased and neither was Don. Pat was OK with the dining room option. She is such a happy person by nature that there is not much that she cannot deal with. While ‘anytime’ dining was the option in that dining room it was much more formal, white tablecloths, ordering from a menu selection (the day before for me), someone else putting your food on your plate and then several waiters hovering, refilling your beverage every few sips, and asking ‘is everything is all right?’. We did not plan to do that.

   Ships that traverse the Panama Canal have a size restriction. Most of them squeak by with only inches to spare. The ship sides are constantly repainted to repair the damage caused by scraping the canal walls while passing through. With a smaller ship there are fewer facilities and amenities as well as passengers. And so it was with the galleys and chefs.

   And then there was the weather. In Costa Rico we were advised that they do not have seasons as we know them but there are seasonal variations in wind and rainfall. The Caribbean was smooth by most standards except that of my own personal gyroscope. Most of the time it was marginally queasy but a couple of days were mostly sea sick. This limited my interest in eating at all and when I did it was mostly the very plainest and safest options. Fried rice with steamed vegetables with small selections of anything that was plainly prepared sustained me. Some prepared salads met that criterion as did the build-it-yourself salad bar. The vinaigrette dressings were creamy in appearance so I avoided them and chose a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and Pepitas to add flavor. For dessert I tried an individual baked flan that was not at all tender with a thin syrup layer on the bottom. Everything else was cookies, cakes, pies, and tortes.

   All-in-all the buffet food on this trip was disappointing for me after last year’s trip on the Ruby Princess. Don and Pat enjoyed themselves and by walking the decks for several miles every day managed to only gain a couple of pounds. I was a bed and/or balcony slug and lost a pound.

   On the balcony we read, planned excursions, and chatted while watching for flying fish. During one of those times we spotted a sea turtle swimming off to the side of the ship. We were not quick enough to get a picture. Instead we came home with a sea turtle image from the clay works in Jamaica as one of our trip souvenirs.

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

   We managed several shore excursions and several of those were outstanding. The butterfly farm in Aruba is simply a delight. Don and Pat were all over taking pictures while I wandered around in awe at the beautiful butterflies everywhere. The banana plantation tour in Costa Rico was a university level education in local topography, wildlife, vegetation, transportation, business planning and earth friendly processes thought out in detail. All of that was packed into a 3.5 hour excursion by bus. In Jamaica we visited at Wassi Arts pottery works where nothing is automated. Their clay is delivered as burlap sacks of dry stick and rock contaminated clods about the size of softballs. Outside on a terrace the clods are soaked, pounded in barrels, strained through about a 15” sieve, and poured into cement troughs for evaporation to reach a workable consistency. The troughs must be covered when it rains.

   It really was a wonder filled getaway in spite of my grumpy comments. Don and Pat are great companions for me and each other. And I do look forward to visiting with Pat as well as my family later this year. At least it will be on land once we arrive.


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Ricki Heller’s Recipe Books

    Can you imagine ‘tastes great’ and ‘healthy’ as describing the same recipe? Ricki Heller with her PhD in nutrition and love of good food manages to create recipes that do just that. Living in Toronto and backed by years of experience teaching, running a bakery, and veteran of  television demos, she uses her imagination to create new and innovative recipes to nourish the body and delight the spirit.

    As I began to follow Ricki’s blog ‘Diet, Dessert, and Dogs’ I drooled over the recipes, admired the photography, and enjoyed the saucy comments allegedly from said dogs, Elsie and Chaser. I decided ‘what the heck’ I’ll just sub in some gluten-free flours and see what happens. Somehow that first attempt was a winner and I began cooking more and more recipes from Ricki’s blog. Before long I was following along the trail that Ricki was blazing and gluten-free wasn’t so bland anymore. 

    Ricki’s first recipe book, Sweet Freedom, was published in 2009 and in April 2010 made it to Ellen DeGeneres ‘bookshelf’.  This recipe book is filled with wonderful healthy vegan dessert treats. Vegan? I never thought to go that way until I realized that when family and friends mentioned egg and/or dairy allergy that the vegan recipes automatically cover those conditions.

    When Ricki began designing gluten-free, vegan breakfast dishes for those battling Candida infections I knew that those were automatically good for folks dealing with diabetes. It has been pointed out to me that you cannot cover ALL dietary constraints with one recipe and I agree. However it is possible to share delicious food with people and cover many issues without treating them as a big deal.

     That is why when Ricki announced her new recipe ebook in development and put out a request for recipe testers I jumped right in there. ‘Blended Cereal with a Boost’ was pictured in The Gluten-Free Edge on January 20th right after my Pork and Beans in Pumpkin Sauce recipe. ‘Blended Cereal with a Boost’ is the best hot cereal I have ever tasted!

     The latest test recipe was the multi-serving baked pancake pictured below. I loved it because this is real fuel that kept me going for hours and it was light and luscious. Ricki hopes to have her new eBook, Top of the Morning: ACD Recipes without Sugar, Gluten, Eggs or Dairy, published sometime in March so stay tuned!

Giant Upside-Down Apple Pancake

Giant Upside-Down Apple Pancake

Doesn’t that look delicious?

Gretchen (Mom)

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hCG Experience – Week 1

I haven’t written a post in a while…not that Mom hasn’t been on my case to do so. She is on vacation so I thought I would surprise her and hop back in here again.

I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in Austin, Texas. Yes, I am very busy but I am learning so much about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that I do eventually want to share it all. I just have to learn how to communicate it!

Yin Yang Symbol

Yin and Yang

I had written before about my journey in trying to regain my health. I moved to Austin last summer and found access to alternative healthcare resources here. I had continued to experience fatigue and anxiety…tried some acupuncture at the AOMA student clinic and had a blood test with follow-up herbal treatment for my liver at a local chiropractor…but these have still continued.

I experimented in November with homeopathic HCG (very diluted version of hormone) as I also wrestle with my weight. The scale creeps up if I don’t watch it. I was on the diet and drops for 18 days and lost 10 pounds, mainly around my torso. But monthly hormones stopped me cold as I was supposed to continue on the drops for a minimum of 21 days to maximum of 41 days. I loved how I looked but could not go the distance or maintain the loss.

During the holidays, I got searching on the Internet and found a clinic that provides the hCG shots (actual hormone) within a comprehensive 12-week wellness program. Well, of course that costs more than just buying the homeopathic version and doing it on your own…but since I had obstacles I could not overcome on my own, I signed up. I was curious when I first started researching HCG weight loss information and I figure I can at least provide others with what actually happens to me. I am excited.

Week 1

The program begins with a four-week cleanse. I am on a restricted diet as to choices, but for most of the time I can eat any amount I want. Highlights of what I cannot have: red or deli meats, eggs, dairy or milk products, gluten or corn products, nuts or seeds and dried fruits. I also drink a powered functional food supplement (chocolate) that I whip up in the blender to make sure it mixes well. I completed this and had a 4.5 loss on the scale for the week. I know, mainly water! I also found out through blood and saliva tests taken at the initial visit that I need some hormone and thyroid prescriptions and Vitamin D3 and Iron Glycinate supplements.

I am happy to have the additional support resulting from these tests. But what also has me thinking is that except for the dairy and gluten, I eat most of the eliminated food items I listed all the time. When I go on maintenance, I am definitely rethinking what comes back in my diet. It is funny how old habits take new forms…so even though eating gluten-free and more simply, I am highly motivated to evolve yet again to eat the kind of fuel that would maintain my now older body, but hopefully lower body weight.

Good to be back and more to come!

Rita 🙂

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