Almost a forgotten crop the Amaranth plant was grown by the Mexican Aztecs as many as eight-thousand years ago and used to make tamales and tortillas. Today it is grown around the world including North and South America, Africa, China, India, and Russia. It is valued for it’s high protein and lysine and methionine amino acids. It is rich in micro and macro nutrients with medical and digestive benefits favored by the Celiac and Diabetic. John Cole from Rodale Institute has written a book called Amaranth: from the Past, for the Future, says “it is one of the plants that could solve world hunger.”
Amaranth is not a grain but its seeds are ground into a fine powder or flour. Very dense
Amaranth seeds (left), amaranth flour (right), above the final product, amaranth cookies. USDA Photo by Diejun Chen.
and heavy it is often used twenty-five to fifty-percent with other grains. Used for thickening soups, and sauces, it’s light and nutty flavor adds another flavor and texture profile. Commercially you can probably buy Amaranth flour at your local supermarket with brands like Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur’s. It’s very starchy when cooked.
It appears that today eating acorns is a trendy food source for not only squirrels, deer, chipmunks, wild turkeys, and other wild animals but for people too. Native Americans have used acorns as a food source for years. Although there are some varieties of the Oak Tree’s seed that contain marginal amounts of tannin you wouldn’t want to eat the acorns raw. You’ll want to remove the tannin by grinding the acorn and leaching out the tannin with multiple water rinses until it looses that bitter taste. It does not have gluten like wheat, rye and barley.
Bitter tasting tannin is the Oak tree’s way of protecting its seed and can cause “nausea, an irritated stomach, even a chance of throat and nose cancer” according to WebMD if eaten in large amounts. That said we find tannin in many foods including coffee, tea, bananas and herbal remedy’s.
Photo by Julia Kirschman, U.S. Forest Service
Where can we find Oak Trees and their acorns? The Oak tree or shrub belongs to the Beach tree family and is found in the northern hemisphere There are about six-hundred species including deciduous and evergreen varieties found in cool climates to tropical as far south as North Africa with North America having the most species. A large oak tree can produce 10,000 acorns in a productive or mast year. Sustainability seems to be the next question should humans choose to compete with wild life for this valuable food source.
If you don’t have access to acorns where you live you may be wondering where you can get some. You may want to get acquainted with someone like Acorno Acorns who sells handpicked from the ground acorns from Northern Vermont, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. They sell Northern Red Oak, White Oak Acorns, and Pin Oak Acorns by the pound, sun dried and pesticide free. You don’t have to eat them if you’re looking to used them in crafts and other displays.
Almond Flour and Almond Meal are both gluten free. Perhaps we need to know more about almonds to understand why this Mediterranean native and cousin of the Peach is so popular.
Sweet Almond production continues to increase in the United States, the world’s highest producer, with over 2.3 billion pounds forecast for the 2018 California crop. With more
Almond Board of California chart
than thirty varieties of almond trees about ten of them produce the majority of almonds in California. Sixty to seventy percent of the crop is exported the remainder is used in the United States. The journey of “Orchard to Table” has been nicely presented by the Almond Board of California. There are seven USDA Grades with California’s peak harvest in September. Almonds tree-ripen, and all almonds marketed in the United States are pasteurized because of the outbreak of Salmonella in 2001 and 2004. This includes both conventionally and organically grown nuts. Major almond producing countries in addition to the United States include Spain, Italy, Iran, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Australia, and Greece. The FDA reported that some bitter almonds were imported mixed in with sweet almonds causing some vertigo and cyanide poisoning concerns.
Almond flour and meal consist of 100% of nuts without gluten found in wheat, barley and rye, heavier than wheat flour and has more calories and fat. Unblanched retains the brown skin. Flour is finer than meal. Making it at home is simple and less expensive if you have a food processor. Simply add about a quarter cup at a time and pulse, work it through a fine sieve to make it finer in texture. If you are looking for inspiration Blue Diamond has put together a Almond Cookbook with over fifty-recipes breakfast to desert. Elana Amsterdam has a gluten free almond focused cookbook as well. One of my favorite places to use almond flour is to dust a pie pan when making quiche instead of using a gluten free crust. Almond flour can be used as a thickener for soups and like breadcrumbs on casseroles, vegetables, and meats.
There is some controversy surrounding allergy issues and digestion issues with PUFAS or polyunsaturated fatty acids when using allot of nuts and nut milk. You may want to try some to see if gas, bloating or other symptoms occur. Using almond flour and meal as a part of your meal planning can add some valuable health benefits.
banner photo shows Geneticist Craig Ledbetter examining the nuts of a self-pollinating almond selection in a California test plot. Photo by Peggy Greb. USDA Photo
There are a number of gluten free flours to consider if you are trying to be wheat free, or choose another flavor profile alphabetically listed. Drill down or click on flour of interest for more complete descriptions.
Almond flour: and meal consist of 100% of nuts without gluten found in wheat, barley and rye, heavier than wheat flour and has more calories and fat. Nut allergy caution. More information here. (Do it Yourself)
Acorn flour: Easy to make yourself. Peel the shells. Rinse away the tannic acid. Puree in a food processor. Rinse the meal using a cheesecloth until it tastes like almond flour. You can also buy it ready made. (Do it Yourself)
Amaranth flour. A nutritious ancient grain that includes the lysine protien and other minerals. You may have to do 50/50 or 25/75 ratios for best wheat substitution results. It can be purchased ready-made. (Do it Yourself)
Corn flour: Whole grain flour with high absorption rate and ground finer than corn meal. Not corn starch which is made from the endosperm. Can be hard to digest for some. Purchase ready-made. (Do it Yourself)
Tigernut flour does not come from a nut. High in natural sugars. Available in standard, fine, and extra fine grades. Available ready-made. (Do it Yourself)
Yucca or Cassava flour is a close replacement for wheat flour. Commercially available cassava have no harmful levels of cyanide. Available ready-made. (Do it Yourself)
White Rice flour also known as rice powder is often used with other flour combinations, neutral flavor. It’s estimated over 4-billion people eat white rice worldwide. Available ready-made. (Do it Yourself)
The question, is oats gluten free or not may come from the thought that it’s considered a cereal grain. The most recognized grains with gluten would be wheat varieties, along with rye, barley, and triticale. The difficulty in confirming oats as gluten free is a transportation and processing issue. There is a reaction to oats in less than one percent of Celiacs to avenin proteins. Let’s think a moment about the journey of oats to our tables.
Certified seed oats are most often planted today. Years ago, many farmers saved some oats from the previous crop to plant in the new year. Germination rates were often too low prompting them to buy certified seeds with growing characteristics for their area and growing season. Many of the Agricultural Colleges as well as commercial seed
-Photo Credits – Mark Casada-USDA ARS
producers have test plots and staff focused on seed production. Once the seed is purchased it’s delivered to the commercial farmer who then plants it and waits for the harvest. Neil Bromhall shows the germination cycle for oats and the Eat Happy Project does a nice video showing farm to fork for porridge in the United Kingdom.
USDA Jesse Gastelle, Agricultural Marketing Service February 2018
Here is where it gets difficult to manage for most. It’s not difficult to clean a combine to get ready to harvest oats but it takes a great amount of care to keep it completely separate from other crops as it’s poured into trucks, unloaded at a storage facility, sold to a mill to make into instant, steel-cut, rolled oats or oat flour.. General Mills for example has created a process that separates the grains and mills the oats into a flour to create Cheerios. Steel cut McCann’s Irish Oats is gluten-free and has their familiar nutty flavor.
The story about Quaker Oats reflects the savvy use of media to position themselves in the marketplace where they hold the top four positions in popularity for hot cereal. Even babies as early as six-months can enjoy rolled oatmeal. With National Oatmeal Day just around the corner you may be wondering how to celebrate. I would think enjoying a bowl of oatmeal and shouting out #NationalOatmealDay on your social media sites would be a good way to start. Then enjoy the benefits as it helps to lower your cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer, being rich in iron and fiber. The Donnelly family in Ireland who holds the
The Murtillo Mazzo (Italian for the “Blueberry Bunch”) won second place in Michigan Department of Education’s 2015 Junior Chef Breakfast Competition (Oatmeal Squares)
oldest family Guinness World Record attributes eating oatmeal in the morning and before bed as the reason for their longevity. Originally laughed at and compared to eating horse feed the soluble and insoluble fibers are part of what Dr Michael Greger who wrote How Not to Die claims could solve a nations health problem.
Physicians, Nutritionists, and of course health conscious Moms have all recognized the value of teaching the value of eating oats.
Did you eat your gluten free oatmeal or porridge today?
For some of us remembering the aroma and flavor of Mom or Grandma’s buttery cornbread hot off the stove or fresh out of the oven brings back memories of a simple life and less stressful days. With so few of us experiencing life on the farm or having a garden where we’ve grown fresh sweet corn, perhaps instead we’ve gone to a local farmers market or roadside vegetable stand searching for that amazing bursting-with-flavor just-picked corn for corn-on-the-cob and hopefully fresh corn bread too.
Just like pizza, areas of the country are used to and expect a different experience when talking about corn bread. Perhaps in Pennsylvania you’re looking for a sweet smooth corn muffin texture, with communities in the south demanding a more thin and crunchy biscuit.
For openers let’s consider cornbread that actually uses fresh corn in the recipe. I love the
Photo by Preston Keres
fact that corn starch can be a cornerstone ingredient for this delightful bread. You just might want to dust off that cast iron skillet for this recipe. If you’re using King Arthur’s measure-for-measure gluten free flour you may want to try Taste of the South’s fresh-corn recipe using a cup-and-a-half of corn kernels. The puréed fresh corn adds a flush of sweet flavor. Bon Appetite skips the buttermilk and uses sour cream in their fresh corn cornbread muffins. America’s Test Kitchen uses fresh corn to make a “corn butter” in their approach. Remember you’ll need to use a measure-for-measure flour substitute in these recipes.
Land O’Lakes has a recipe that includes their own blend of gluten free flour, sour cream and yellow cornmeal along with other ingredients. Betty Crocker also has their own gluten free flour blend that includes ghee butter.
Box mixes for gluten free corn bread are available as well. King Arthur has a box cornbread that is moist, not gritty and doesn’t fall apart available at your grocer and online. Bob’s Red Mill has a gluten free cornbread mix also available at most grocers and online in bags up to twenty pounds. Krusteaz uses white and yellow ground corn meal as well as sorghum and whole grain millet flour. I’m not sure what the modified food starch is but it is also available in stores and online.
If you’re looking to dive into over 200 mouthwatering recipes using corn meal for bread, Jonnycakes, fritters, hushpuppies, souffles and more Crescent Dragonwagon has written The Cornmeal Gospels, a comprehensive guide that you’ll thoroughly enjoy working through in your kitchen. Or you could watch Barbara Jean Bennett make Southern Style Hot Water Cornbread using white self-rising corn meal.
Perhaps you found yourself at one of your favorite Home and Hardware stores low on energy or needing to quench your thirst and wondering if there may be a solution to either or both for those who are gluten free or even a confirmed Celiac. You know they have appliances, kitchens, nuts, bolts, and screws, living plants, wheelbarrows and barbecue grills but do they have a pick me up snack and thirst quencher?
It turns out that Home Depot has chosen Frito-Lay as their vendor for snack solutions including snacks made with gluten-free ingredients. It may be different at a store in your location however here were some of the options I found on a rack shouting “ANSWER THE GROWL” by the main checkout.
If you’re like me I’m always looking for that Gluten Free logo on the front of the bag but as of this writing Santitas corn chips didn’t have the gluten free logo but they do make Frito-Lay’s gluten free list for schools. A simple ingredient list always helps. No MSG or yeast hiding MSG. Simply stone-ground corn, vegetable oil, and salt. Pretty simple. Perhaps the process described by the Science Channel is close to the way they are made.
Cheetos, those crunchy snacks that are so hard to say ENOUGH make Frito-Lay’s gluten free list too. TasteMade says “it takes 5,000 cows to make a year’s supply of Cheetos, about ten million pounds of cheese according to Kimberly Scott at PepsiCo.” Cheetos’ ingredient list shows Vegetable oil, cheese seasoning including whey, cheddar cheese, some corn maltodextrin, salt, MSG, flavors, lactic and citric acids, yellow 6 color and salt. Chester Cheetah replaced the original mouse that promoted Cheetos and has some pretty funny commercials you may remember. Gluten Free flavors include Cheese Puffs, Crunchy Flamin’ Hot, Limon Cheese Flavor Snacks, Crunch Cheddar Jalapeno, and Crunchy Salsa Con Queso. One taste and you get that “anyone looking … I need to lick my fingers feeling.”
Frito-Lay Original Sunflower Kernels contain sunflower seeds, sunflower or cottonseed oil, and salt a pretty safe bet and would meet most “good Mom lists”. However, the Ranch Flavored Sunflower Kernels has a long list of ingredients if you’re unsure of what the “flavors and spices” profiles may include. Ingredients include sunflower seeds of course, buttermilk, salt, sunflower oil, cheddar cheese, tomato powder, onion powder, cornstarch, MSG, sugar, spices, natural and artificial flavors, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.
Frito Lay Funyons are not onion rings with onions although they may look and taste like it. Gluten free ingredients include corn meal, vegetable oil, salt, corn starch, sugar, corn flour, buttermilk powder, maltodextrin, onion powder, MSG, hydrolyzed corn protein, dextrose, garlic powder, natural flavors, gum Arabic and milk ingredients.
The year 1966 marked the introduction nationwide for Doritos made from ground corn, vegetable oil, and salt. Gluten Free flavors include Blaze Flavored, Cool Ranch, Dinamita Chile Limon, Jacked Ranch, nacho Cheese, Salsa Verde, Simply Organic Spicy White Cheddar, Spicy nacho, Taco Flavored, and Tapatio Flavored tortilla chips.
Many people’s favorite in the Frito Lay family would have to include Fritos. Ingredients include corn, corn oil, and salt. You may have seen ingredients posted elsewhere that include wheat flour but check the label – no wheat flour listed. It’s such an American Favorite that recipes to include them as an ingredient have been created for like Galya Thomason’s Fritos Cook Booklet.
More than seventy-five years ago Lay’s Potato Chips were born. They were the first company to promote chips on television and today have almost sixty-percent of the potato chip market. Pretty amazing since there are more potato chip companies in Pennsylvania than any other state. Born in Ohio their “betcha you can’t just eat one” TV campaign was a major hit. Simple ingredients include potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt.
It may not have been Home Depot’s intention to choose a vendor that would support their primary “customer first” focus to include gluten free but their choice of Frito-Lay appears to be valued by many worldwide. Frito-Lay has over fifteen billion dollars of annual sales. Sister PepsiCo companies include Gatorade, Tropicana, and Quaker Foods. You may not choose to eat some of their snacks because of their ingredients but the choice is yours, even at Home Depot.
I was reminded today that I hadn’t mentioned the amazing hamburgers at the Saquella Café in Boca Raton and Prosecco’s Café in Palm Beach Gardens Forida both owed by the same folks. Their “Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shops” fit right into today’s FRESH and Healthy gluten-free lifestyle. Whether or not you choose to eat gluten free or are a celiac who needs to be purposeful about your eating habits these restaurants can be a great choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They opened initially as a way to get a good cup of Cappuccino using the coffee from Saquella Coffee Roasters in Italy who boast a 19 percent market share in Canada and the United States.
The Cafés have a Day menu filled with healthy alternatives including Buffalo burgers, chicken, turkey, and fish focused on grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free sources. They have amazing bakeries and gluten-free bread for any meal. Another customer raved that their Creekstone Farms blended beef hamburger had the best flavor of any they remember. Creekstone Farms provides natural Black Angus beef that has never been given hormones or antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet, raised and grazed in the United States. Perhaps your preference is Quiche or a Soup and Goat Cheese Salad, or an amazing Salmon Burger. The Dinner menu has some nice entrees including Scottish sourced Salmon, Risotto, Fork-tender Short Ribs, Chicken, and an Asian Stir Fry. Obviously, they serve gluten products so there is always a chance of contamination, but they do their best at preventing any cross contamination if you’re concerned about an allergic reaction. This is a good choice for any meal and has a pleasant atmosphere as well.
Of all places to go for a meal you would think it would be safe for a celiac or someone eating gluten-free to go to a steakhouse. But surprisingly enough depending on the seasonings and the side dishes it may be more of a challenge than you’d think. And let’s not even talk about the price.
One of my favorite steakhouses has been the Outback Steakhouse, known of course for their steak but also chicken, ribs, salads, and fresh – not canned vegetables, along with a gluten free desert called Thunder Down Under. And yes, their seasonings are gluten free. Their wait staff has been trained to provide gluten free options.
There is an entre for most appetites. One of my favorites is the wedge salad for starters, the Outback Center-Cut Sirloin, cooked medium with light seasoning. Pair it with their homestyle mashed or baked potato and double steamed broccoli. Good flavors! Perhaps you would rather have a porterhouse, fillet mignon, or a New York strip steak. Some in our family would prefer the shrimp, salmon, tilapia, or lobster tails. Whatever your preference Outback’s gluten-free menu is a complete offering not an off-the-cuff thought process. If you’re counting calories, they even give you the calorie count on the menu.
The Outback Steakhouse team has taken time to work with dieticians and has strong ties with the Gluten intolerance Group, a nonprofit that provides information and support for consumers and education and certification for the food service industry. Although the Outback kitchens are not gluten-free there may be some cross contamination which they strive to minimize. They open at 11 AM for Lunch. With a moderately price menu, the ambiance, and lively conversation make the Outback Steakhouse a great option. Join their reward program for additional reasons to return.
If you’re a race fan and not gluten free whenever Ford Fusion #4 driver, Kevin Harvick finishes a race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the Top Ten, on the following Monday mention Bloomin Monday to your server for a free Bloomin Onion appetizer.
Australian themed Outback Steakhouse serves casual-American food at almost a thousand restaurants in twenty-three countries with headquarters in Tampa Florida. They are a gluten-free favorite.
The celebration of Passover and the instructions of Jesus to commemorate his death using bread without yeast has been a dilemma for Celiac’s or those needing a low or gluten free communion bread to participate in the observance.
It’s not been a yeast or leavening issue as much needing a wheat free or gluten free communion bread. Over the years there have been various views of what’s acceptable; some believing that water could not be used to some believing that the bread that Jesus used at the Last Supper was a yeasted wheat bread. Today we are fortunate to have low and gluten free communion breads, low and gluten free communion wafers, and gluten free communion crackers, unheard of in previous generations.
Cavanagh Alter Breads make a Low Gluten communion wafer that consists of pure wheat flour and water. No additives and less than 20 parts per million of gluten. They also make a gluten free communion wafer with less than 6 ppm of gluten, however the gluten free wafer is not approved by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ener-G Foods makes a gluten free communion wafer using water, sweet rice and potato flour, potato starch, palm fruit oil, modified cellulose, and sunflower lecithin.
Yehuda makes a Matzo-Style Gluten Free Square that contains tapioca starch, water, potato starch and flakes, palm oil, maltodextrin, honey, egg yolks, vinegar, and salt. They do have a note on their package that says this is not to be used as a replacement for traditional Passover Matzo.
If you’re looking for a gluten free bread (containing yeast or leaven) to cube or use there are numerous companies to choose from.
Perhaps you’d rather make your own gluten free communion wafers. gfJules has a recipe you may like to try.
Whatever your beliefs, participation in Communion and the Passover traditions with low gluten and gluten free bread or wafers is achievable and those of us who are Celiac’s or gluten free are especially appreciative to be included in the community.