Tuesday, January 22, 2013

in the land of gluten-free delights

I was eager to head to Little Rock this weekend, mostly to spend time with people we love to hang out with (and to meet a sharebro!), but also partly because I could check out the Dempsey Bakery. Specializing in gluten-free goodies (breads and baked goods of all kinds!), they also serve lunch.  We met up with some of the Dempseys while we were there, and we enjoyed sandwiches and samples of cookies and breads. We even got to take a little tour of the bakery.

It was fun. The sandwich I got (the Caprese) was delicious, and the bread was hearty and had a lovely texture. I've been avoiding most GF breads because a.) I feel uncomfortable eating something on a regular basis that's full of gums and starches and all other things, b.) I've found that tortillas are a good alternative, c.) it turns out that I do better eating fewer processed bread products, and d.) they are expensive.  And, oh yeah...picking up the loaves felt like picking up a stale hunk of stuff.

The Dempsey Bakery bread pretty well approximated a nice grainy wheat bread and had good flavor (disclosure: I haven't had a lot of GF bread, but the few times I've had it out, it's tasted a bit dry).  I brought a loaf home to keep in the freezer in case I get a hankering for some bread with some soup or something.

We tasted several flavors of cookies (lemon, snickerdoodle, chocolate, and chocolate chip) and cakes (chocolate chip pound cake, lemon blueberry, hot milk cake), and a bit of brownie and danish. All fabulous. We bought a chocolate espresso brownie to take home along with some cookies.  Yum.

At the end, though, I came to a realization: even though I delighted in the fact that I was freed from the horrible stomach ache and other reactions that come with eating wheat, I still can't have even gluten-free goodies in large doses. By the time we left the bakery, I'd had enough sweets and breads to leave me both groggy and flying high on sugar. I ended up taking a nap later that afternoon.

I've gotten used to eating relatively few processed carbs (tortillas here and there), and most of my carbohydrates have been from fruit and whole grains, so the starches and flours hit my system hard.  And I didn't enjoy the feeling too much.  As I continue to feel free from the cloud and various wheat reactions, I've been taking a lot of joy in a renewed ability to understand the way my body reacts to different things I eat, and it clearly does not appreciate being hit with all the sugar and starch and refined grains.

When I'm in Little Rock, I'll probably swing by the bakery to pick up a few treats, but I'll probably refrain from eating quite so many samples.  And I'll remember: even if it's gluten-free, it doesn't mean that I can eat more than a nibble.  However, if you're in Little Rock, you should check them out! Their stuff is among the best I've had so far in my gluten-free wanderings.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

GF Cooking/baking Experiments

I've been slowly venturing into the world of gluten free baking. Part of the problem is that I feel uncomfortable swapping wheat flour for the long list of flours/gums/starches that you have to use to replicate flour. And since I've been eating so many fewer sweets since cutting wheat out, I feel that perhaps it's for the best anyway.  (I'm also reluctant to use mixes or buy pre-made versions--if I didn't eat a lot of processed stuff before, why would I start now?)  I've also given away all of my beloved baking books (except for one--it's a handy reference guide).

No real recipes (yet), but a bunch of handy links to recipes for my GF/curious readers.

The recipes I have been seeking out, then, have been simple ones with few ingredients.  The first recipe I stumbled on inadvertently was this one for Tapioca Parmesan Rolls, which was super easy and super delicious. Since I forgot to take a baked picture (because they disappeared so fast, here's the dough:

If you've ever made cream puffs (or pate a choux), it's very similar, and the resulting roll is bready, cheesy, and light. They are a little eggy, but I like them that way. I halved the recipe, because it was hard to give up a full cup of the delicious (but pricey) Parmesan that I get from our co-op.

The next experiment was with a similar dough but slightly different ingredients. It turns out that these Parmesan rolls are actually a variation on a Brazilian cheese bread. Ooh, neat! I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site, and L made them the other day. They are a bit more dense (and we baked them in a muffin tin because the dough was a bit too wet, as the blog entry discussing this recipe mentions they might, depending on the type of tapioca flour/starch you use. Here's a picture of the rolls with the lovely dinner we had the other night: (spatchcocked Cornish game hens with cabbage and braised radishes).

Delightful. These were a bit less eggy, but were also delicious (I won't tell you how many I ate, especially after a few glasses of wine). The recipe is a keeper, though I won't make them super often because they do take a lot of cheese, but they're a good roll recipe to have on hand for get togethers or holidays.

I tried to make a GF banana bread, which was acceptable, but I'm not happy with the recipe yet. Part of it might be that I'm not so used to the grainer/grittier taste of gluten-free baked goods, part of it was that I forgot to add in delicious things like nuts and raisins to the bread. I'll share the recipe once I figure it out a bit better.

Finally, today I made these crackers from Oh She Glows--seedy crackers are lovely, and now that I've made them, super easy. The one adjustment I might make to her recipe is to make them a bit thinner--I like them less thick, I guess. But they are fabulous, especially with the hummus I made using Deb's technique that she shared over at Smitten Kitchen--peeling your chickpeas.

That's been about it for my cooking adventures. It's actually been a lot of fun navigating the different ways of eating, trying to recipes and foods, and it's pretty easy to not look back and what I have had to give up (especially now that I feel SO much better).  It was a little sad to be at Little Bread Co. today as L partook of their delightful scones--I will miss all of their wonderful baked treats. But not as much as I love the healthier me.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

a month without wheat

It's been over a bit over month since I've eaten wheat regularly, but it's been almost a month to the day that I first learned that wheat/gluten is what's been making me feel so bad. So what has changed since then?  So, so much.

After the initial shock (and with the support of my awesome friends), life has been good. I find myself not worrying about if what I eat is going to make me sick. I can tell my body is healing from the prolonged irritation that wheat was causing (I'm guessing about a year--that was when I first began having big issues, but there were signs of a sensitivity long before that).

In fact, now that my system isn't irritated, I can have more than one drink without feeling like I was clubbed over the head the next day. I can now eat bacon.  My body feels better, lighter, more satisfied. A lot of the issues I had with overeating? Waaaaay diminished. I notice when my body feels full, and I stop eating. I don't get crazy hungry anymore. And, best of all, very infrequent reflux issues!

With all these positive changes, it's hard to feel depressed about not eating gluten ever again. Yes, I'll miss all those delightful beers (though I may have a sip here and there--GF beer just isn't nearly as good or varied).  I'll miss making cupcakes and cookies and desserts and sharing and eating them.  But, I've been exploring new forms of cooking, which is fun. I've even figured out a decent (and simple!) roll recipe that I'll share soon.

I feel that if this had to happen to anyone, I was the best candidate. When people ask me what I can eat now, I want to laugh a little--I feel like I didn't really have to change too much in how I ate normally. I cut out bread and pastries and baked goods, but I already ate rice and quinoa and other tasty GF grains. I drink cider now instead of beer (or wine/champagne/martinis).  I end up eating tons more vegetables. Eating out is a little tricky, but I end up making better, more satisfying food choices. I cook more. I eat less. I read labels like crazy, then end up not buying the processed thing because I'm forced to determine if there's wheat hidden...then decide that I'm better off without it and its dozens of ingredients.  I feel free, freed from all that has plagued me, even things I didn't know were problems until they weren't.

Weirdly, I've even gotten a little more flexible (maybe because the inflammation in my system is going down?).

All this change in just a month--crazy! I know that my body is still healing, and I've been taking steps to remove other bad stuff from my diet and environment in order to continue to heal and unearth this happy, contented person (who feels good about food!) that I've been seeing in the mirror lately.  It might have been a big shock and a little upsetting, but it's actually been a huge gift.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

welcome to the new year

I love New Year's Resolutions. I know that everyone thinks you shouldn't really do them, they set you up for failure, blahblahblah...but the allure of being able to say, "this year, I have plans and goals" is pretty empowering. And usually, I don't pick anything too crazy or anything. I just enjoy having the ability to feel like I'm starting afresh, tackling a new challenge, and making my life a little bit more awesome than it already is.

My big goal for this year is to do something about my clothes buying habits. Despite my meager income, I love buying clothes I don't necessarily need. Maybe it's because I didn't get to buy pretty things or wear stylish clothes when I was a teenager, but since I've been out on my own, clothes are something I spend a lot of money on.

However, that's going to change. This year, I'm resolving to buy no new clothes. None at all. I did an inventory of my closet, and I have plenty of skirts, pants, tops, sweaters, and dresses, not to mention underthings and tights and socks. I'm good on running/workout clothes as well. So I can't imagine needing anything new for both casual or professional wear.

The few loopholes I'm allowing myself: I can make new clothes for myself (or refashion existing things in my wardrobe) if the materials I use are already in my possession. (Except for things like zippers...if I need small things to finish out a project, that's okay).  Basically, no new yarn or fabric buying either.

The other little loophole I'm allowing myself (to make this goal not unfeasible or impossible) involves thrift shops. If, once a month (or every other month), I start to get an itch to shop, I'll go to a thrift store with $10. And spend no more than that sum. Ideally, I'll take a friend and it'll be a time for bonding and fun times, not wanton consumerism.  I have so many lovely clothes that I can wear and my budget/pocketbook will thank me for saving the funds and putting it toward something else, like books or my savings account or a new kitten.

My other resolutions/goals are pretty mundane, really. Run another marathon this year, continue to run regularly, continue to eat healthfully, etc. (The eating has gotten a lot easier with the discovery that I can't eat wheat, which is pretty awesome. I'll post about how that's going soon).  They aren't really resolutions in that I've already been doing them.  The big one will be: take and pass my comps (written and oral) before the end of summer.  Duhduhduh!  Scary. But I can do it because if there's anything I'm good at, it's reading and writing about what I read.