How things have changed.
Six years ago, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Both treatment and cure were to purge my diet of all gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and contaminated oats, and many foods in which these grains are present as thickeners and binders. It was a harrowing renegotiation of the food world.
At the time, supermarkets either carried no gluten-free products, or mixed the few they had with regular products, making finding them difficult and time-consuming. Baking required hand-blending flour ingredients to make mixes. Eating out was dicey.
Today, it’s a whole new world for gluten-free eating, which has even become popular with those wanting to eat more healthfully.
In America, approximately one in 133 people have celiac disease, with 97 percent as yet undiagnosed, according to the Living Gluten-Free Answer Book by Suzanne Bowland. This number doesn’t include those with a gluten sensitivity. With physicians and the public becoming more informed, the rates of diagnosis in the U.S., and here in the Inland Northwest, are accelerating, but not fast enough.
For those who are newly diagnosed, there’s help readily available. Our local support group, Celiac Disease Foundation, North Idaho/Eastern Washington Chapter (see box), meets monthly at the Argonne Library in Spokane Valley, with a roundtable forum; there are quarterly meetings in North Idaho. The group provides information, resources, recipes, nutritional and lifestyle information and mentoring. I serve as a resource adviser for the group, providing information on shopping, restaurants, recipes, bread machine tips and other tricks I’ve learned since I was diagnosed.
Several supermarkets and specialty stores now have dedicated shelves and freezer sections for great-tasting gluten-free items such as pasta, soups, bagels, pizza crusts, entrees, baking mixes and desserts. Huckleberry’s Natural Markets (including their sections in some Rosauers), Fresh Abundance, Yoke’s Foods with Nature’s Corner sections, Pilgrim’s Nutrition in Spokane Valley and Pilgrim’s Market in Coeur d’Alene have excellent selections.
While wheat is now listed as an allergen on foods, gluten information has yet to be mandated, so the gluten-intolerant must still carefully read ingredients. Some manufacturers now label their products as gluten-free; others provide information by phone or online. A few companies now offer certified gluten-free oats as well.
There are fantastic prepared baking mixes such as Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix, Gluten Free Mama, and Bob’s Red Mill (all have additional recipes online) to easily turn out delicious baked goods, which even my wheat-eating friends adore. One enthused, “It’s enough to make you want to have to eat gluten-free.”
With my Breadman Ultimate Plus bread machine, I have learned to make moist, tasty breads which turn out perfect every time after making some adjustments for our area. Other members of the celiac support group create shaped breads and rolls.
Gluten-free cookbooks abound, including a new one from BabycakesNYC, the famous cupcake bakery.
Eating out is much easier; some local restaurants can provide a gluten-free meal. The Mustard Seed at Northtown Mall and Bonsai Bistro in Coeur d’Alene have gluten-free sauces and preparation. Twig’s Bistro and Ivano’s Ristorante and Café in Sandpoint, have gluten-free menus, and so do chain restaurants Red Robin, Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, Chili’s, and Garlic Jim’s in Coeur d’Alene.
Click on “local resources” under “files” on the Web site for the local chapter of the Celiac Disease Foundation for comprehensive lists of stores carrying gluten-free items, gluten-free-friendly restaurants, and bread machine information and recipes.
In June, I visited two wonderful gluten-free bakeries on the West Side – Haley’s Corner Bakery in Kent and Sunny Valley Wheat-Free in Maple Valley. We returned loaded down with goodies from both. I’m still hoping for something like that in this area.
It’s never been easier to be gluten-free and I’m sure there will be more products and resources for us as time goes by. I’m looking forward to it.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Here is the original recipe for Pamela’s Chocolate Chip cookies, using Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix. The adaptations Deborah Chan has discovered for perfect cookies for our altitude and climate are in the notes that follow. “These cookies are fabulous,” Chan says.
½ cup unsalted butter (don’t use margarine, see note)
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (see note)
½ cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In stand mixer, cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla and beat together. Add baking mix, chips and nuts and mix thoroughly. Place tablespoon-sized scoops (Chan uses a 1 ½-inch cookie scoop) dough on parchment-lined or lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with dampened fingers. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly and remove to rack.
Notes: Chan uses 7 tablespoons of butter or the cookies spread too much. Also, she likes to add 1 ½ cups chocolate chips. Sometimes, she leaves the chocolate chips at 1 cup and adds 1/2 cup golden raisins or dried sweetened cranberries to the batter.
Yield: About 24 cookies.
Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted by Deborah Chan. “Oh, you’re going to love ’em!” she says.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (don’t use margarine)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
1/3 cup cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
11/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla and beat together. Add baking mix, cocoa and chocolate chips and nuts and mix thoroughly. Place tablespoon-sized scoops (Chan uses a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop) on a parchment lined or lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes. Let cookies cool slightly and remove from cookie sheet with spatula to a cooling rack.
Note: Chan says these cookies come out of the oven perfect at her house in 13 minutes.
Yield: About 24 cookies.
Creamy Double Corn Bread
Adapted by Deborah Chan. She says: “This cornbread is moist and yummy. I always double the recipe, slice and freeze the remainder.”
1/2 cup sour cream (see note)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
1/2 teaspoon salt (see note)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free cornmeal
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round pan (or use waxed or parchment paper). Combine the first four ingredients and beat to mix well. Combine the dry ingredients and stir into the egg mixture. Scrape mixture into the prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until well-browned.
Cut into serving pieces and serve warm.
Notes: Plain yogurt can be substituted for the sour cream, or use half sour cream and half yogurt. If you use yogurt, decrease the salt. Chan says she prefers an insulated 9-inch round pan for even baking and a flat top.
Yield: 8 servings
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Bread and Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix
Adapted for this area by Deborah Chan using the Breadman Ultimate Plus bread machine. Do not use the GF setting, she says. Other machines may need different settings. The Breadman Ultimate Plus is available at Target stores or online.
1 package Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Bread Mix or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten- Free Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix
1 2/3 cups milk
1 whole large egg, plus enough egg whites to fill 3/4 cup (about five egg whites)
¼ cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Sesame seeds (optional)
Remove pan from machine. Mix eggs and milk in a 4-cup measure until smooth, heat very low in microwave to room temperature. Add butter and vinegar and whisk all together until smooth.
Pour liquids into the bread pan. Remove yeast packet and pour dry mix evenly into pan; sprinkle yeast on top. Carefully place pan into bread machine and lock into place. Set machine on: White Bread, Medium Crust and 11/2 pound loaf. Press START and close lid. Set separate timer for 24 minutes.
Once kneading begins, use a silicone/rubber spatula to scrape down sides and corners a few times to fully incorporate mix. Partly refill measuring cup with water; set aside.
When separate timer goes off, press PAUSE. Wash hands. With moistened spatula, gently pull aside dough from the paddle enough to see it. Wet hand and reach down to pull up the paddle from underneath and remove; scrape excess dough off paddle and hand (see note).With moistened spatula, gently tuck dough around spindle, spread and smooth dough evenly, creating a domed top. Sprinkle sesame seeds generously on top. Press START to resume and close lid.
When bread machine timer goes off, remove the bread pan immediately with well-padded gloves. Holding bottom and handle to one side, gently slide out bread onto a cooling rack; turn right side up. Cool completely and slice. You can wrap a few slices together in plastic wrap, place those packets in a freezer bag or plastic container, and freeze (thaw naturally or in microwave).
Gluten-free breads are best toasted, but when fresh, they’re great as is.
Note: By removing paddle, you only have a spindle hole in the bottom of the bread.
Yield: 1 loaf bread.
From Gluten Free Mama
2 cups Gluten Free Mama Rice Almond Blend Flour (see note)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ cup salted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Lightly whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and xanthan gum in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix for 30 seconds on low speed, and then slowly add flour mixture, one cup at a time until all flour is combined. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least one hour. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With lightly gluten-free-floured hands, pinch off enough dough to roll into 1-inch balls. Gently roll balls into cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 12-14 minutes. Tops will be slightly brown for a soft, chewy cookie and golden brown for a crisper cookie. Leave on cookie sheet one minute, then remove to wire cooling rack. Store in airtight container.
Note: This recipe also works well with Gluten Free Mama Rice Coconut Blend. If using this flour, add 1 tablespoon milk to the batter.
Yield: 36-40 cookies.