Breads and Desserts: A Gluten-Free Gal’s Guide to Keeping the Faith!

The conversation with my doctor the day I was told “No More Gluten” went like this:

Awesome Doc: “We have to stop your body from throwing itself into Celiac’s.”

Me: “Ok…What does that mean? Do I get a pill?”

Awesome Doc: “No, not really. You just have to stop eating gluten.”

Me: “That’s all? Ok. How hard can that be?”

About ten minutes later I found out gluten was in pizza and beer – two “comfort” foods that have made me a happy girl for years.  I’m still positive my cry of “Noooooooo!!!” was heard ‘round the world.

Anyway, you move on and you figure it out, right? I immediately turned to friends, nutritionists, amateur cooks and professional chefs who I know for advice. I rolled up my sleeves and started to do my own research on the internet. There was good news in the midst of my break up with gluten, as there seemed to be a fair amount of “gluten-free” items popping up in grocery stores already and all over online retail stores as well.

Insert sigh of relief here.

At this point, I began to approach shopping with a new excitement, almost an unsettled fervor and with such confidence! I would head to my local grocery stores and farmer’s markets armed with a list of “must have’s” for my pantry. I’d allow myself extra time to peruse the aisles in search of items I could add to my repertoire. I managed to find most things I needed and some I didn’t. Then, the taste-tests began.

And the taste tests sometimes just…sucked.

I can’t to lie to you – I love my carbs. While I do believe watching carbs is good for the waistline, I also believe hell hath no fury like that of a girl who loves bread and sweets and is told it they have to go away.

I’ve taste-tested my fair share of bread options. While some are …well, chewable, I’m still on the hunt for bread that will be soft on the roof of my mouth again or that will not be as thick as a brick. I’m sure they are out there, but this girl is still in search. Bread bowls at dinners out are sadly off my radar now, and one of my favorite items was gone forever. Focaccia bread.

Or, so I thought.

For anyone else out there that loves bread and would like to be able to break off a piece of focaccia and run it through some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I have the best news ever.

You can! Best part? My taste testers didn’t know this recipe was gluten free when I had them sample it.

Along with the help of my good friend Mimi Germaine, and based on a recipe from the cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, I’ve found a focaccia recipe that will make folks at your Thanksgiving table come back for thirds and fourths!

Ingredients:

2 tsp active dry yeast

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

2 ½ -3 cups of Gluten Free Flour  (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 ½ tsp coarse sea salt

  1. In ¼ warm water, dissolve yeast and sugar. Set this mixture aside for up to 20 minutes. Some recipes suggest 10, BUT Mimi (aka my “Kitchen Guru”) suggested I let it dissolve longer to “add air” since my issue with most bread was the denseness.
  2. Prep a mixing bowl for the dough by oiling it thoroughly.
  3. Using a separate mixing bowl, mix together 1-cup warm water, salt, oil and flour. Add yeast mixture to this concoction and lightly knead. After flour ingredients are all mixed together, turn out ingredients on to a floured surface to lightly knead, no longer than 2 minutes or 3.
  4. Place the dough inside the oiled bowl, covering top with a damp cloth. Place bowl in a warm spot for dough to rise for the next hour. Again, as with the yeast, some recipes suggest letting the dough rise for 45 minutes. Go longer, add air. It’s the Germaine way!
  5. After the dough has risen, you can put it in a bread pan or shape it into a circle and use a pizza stone for baking or do what I did: I spilt the dough in half, dividing it into two different sized Le Creuset bakeware dishes.  This way I could also make one loaf of plain focaccia loaf and one loaf with some pizzazz!
  6. After the dough has been placed in the bakeware, pinch it or poke small holes in the top with fingertips to make a decorative top to the bread.  Cover again and let rise in a warm place for the next 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Top with anything from Rosemary to pre-roasted garlic or you can even add some onions (I used fried onions leftover from making the Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole). Bake for 30 minutes.

While it’s cooling off, get a plate and pour some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it for your dipping pleasure.

Trust me – this bread is going to be a hit on your Thanksgiving table!

Besides bread, there is always the small issue of ….do I dare say it?

Desserts. Delicious, sweet, gooey, yummy, decadent desserts!

Cookies, cakes, pies…you name it. Most of the baked goods we gluten-free-peeps have loved or indulged in for past holidays are now off limits.

Well, kind of.

Thankfully companies like Betty Crocker have stepped up to the plate. I’ve mentioned my love of Betty’s gluten-free cookies in the past – I make them for almost every dinner party I’m invited to or any BBQ I’m attending. You know what’s funny? No one can ever tell the difference between my cookies and “normal” ones. In fact, at most parties? My cookies – well, Betty’s – are the first to go! Her cakes are just as amazing and can be topped with almost any icing in the Betty Crocker line as well, just read the labels.

Besides Betty, there are so many other options out there. You just have to hit the internet and do some research.

So here you are – thank me later: I’ve found some naturally gluten-free desserts (these I found in the Huffington Post) and a Pumpkin Pie recipe from the Gluten-Free Goddess. If you have time, take a look at the Betty Crocker website. They’ve created a ton of amazing desserts that can be made from their mixes. Trust me, my Christmas baking is going to include some of my own recipes mixed with a few of Betty’s suggestions!

Eat, enjoy and love…and don’t forget to get outside and move to work off your holiday meal! I know I’ll be stealing some time for myself this holiday weekend to fit in a run or some kind of pilates workout.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Guess Who’s Gonna Be Gluten Free Travel Bloggin’?

I’m excited to share with you that I’ll be doing a series of blogs in association with FlipKey, an offshoot of Tripadvisor, starting in the next few weeks!

I’ve learned so much about how to travel while being gluten-free, not to mention keeping up on your health and fitness activities while on the road. It can be hectic enough trying to get from Point A to Point B, but when we figure in outside issues – watching our diets for low-fat or diabetic needs, trimming calories for our heart or other health reasons or cutting out gluten, it’s no wonder thinking about food can be taxing.

Let’s make it easier…Shall we?

And that is what I intend to do. I want to help you – and me – figure out the best way to watch our diets, no matter what they are and why we do them, so we can feel good about ourselves. Let’s also find time to sneak in a workout, shall we? Whether you are on the road for business or pleasure, we’ll find a way to keep your goals visible in front of you –  no matter what city, town or providence you may be passing through.

While prepping for my own trip, I found this fun little nugget of info for anyone traveling who is gluten-free: It’s a  list of restaurants from different airports across the country, and these particular spots either have items that can be reworked so the gluten free can enjoy them or they have options for you that are pre-made & gluten-free.

I know it’s easy to just get something at the airport, but I also want to suggest that you consider doing what I do: Pack your own food. For. Real. I’m a snacker, and when I travel I’d rather have some goodies to pull out during my travels than to take a chance at an airport diner where honestly, you could end up getting an item that is cross-contaminated by accident.

Sometimes we take our chances. For instance, show me a Wendy’s and I’ll show you a girl who loves a baked potato! Add a side salad and I can usually stop the hungries from hitting. Totally GF.

However, today I’m climbing on a red-eye and want to make sure I don’t get hit with an accidental dose of gluten – and the following gluten attack – while in the air. What’s in my bag? Well, a small baggie of gluten-free Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins, two small packets of Justin’s Almond Butter (easy to open and easy to use!), and two Luna Protein Bars flavored with cookie dough and mint-chocolate chip (the mint chip are amazing!). I’m planning on grabbing an apple or a banana once I’m past security to add to the mix. Looking over my little bag o’treasures, I’m feeling pretty good.

Are you traveling this week for the holidays? If so, get to your local grocery or health-food store and start your travel bag of snacks for the trip. An hour two of preparation before you get to the airport will save you and hour or two of pain and misery if you get “glutened.”

Trust me.

Anyone else want to go to Italy? Costa Rica? BALI???

Free things are awesome.

I can’t always say no, so when someone offers me something free I tend to say yes then figure out if I can make it work or trash it. From clothes to pillows, I’m the “one man” they speak of  in “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure…” Replace man with Anne, and well….you get it.

Come on! I love free stuff, don’t you?

When people are giving away free things – I’m sorry “gratis” if you want to be classy – most of the time we hem and haw and don’t want to sign up for something like a “sweepstakes” or a giveaway.

Not this time, my friends. Not this time.

I’ve been turned on to a sweepstakes that can benefit you AND your friends! Seriously – what else could be more fun than winning a trip to a vacation home in Bali, Costa Rica or Italy? As much as I’m dying to go to Italy, I’m now daydreaming about Bali!

FlipKey, a blog associated with TripAdvisor.com, is sponsoring their “FlipKey’s Flippin’ Awesome Vacation Giveaway” which can be entered either using the link I’ve provided or through their Facebook page.

FlipKey even has a bonus for signing up via Facebook: Get your friends on Facebook to sign up and you get an extra chance to enter for each person who also signs up! Get a group of people and invite each other and enter – the more chances the better, I say!

It’s easy, quick and what is the worst that could happen?

You could win a trip for you and up to 10 of your friends to an amazing destination… That’s terrible, right?

Yep. Terrible. So, go ahead and enter and get your friends to enter, too!!

What’s stopping you?

***Contest is running until January 10, 2012!!***

Gluten Free Thanksgiving? You Betcha!

It’s been a productive few weeks as I’ve been prepping a gluten-free menu to follow through the holidays. I’ve been posting my recipes on the Frederick News-Post website, but wanted to share the goodies here with you as well!

I got started on my plan the end of October – being gluten-free, this is the best course for action. Sometimes you can’t always find what you need in the “regular” grocery store, and no one wants to be on a mad hunt for a needed ingredient a few days before the holiday, right?

So get to stepping and let’s start preppin’!

(Yes, I went there…)

Going gluten-free was not a choice for me, but we’ll get into that later 😉 Right now I want to share with you the best Thanksgiving menu that will knock out taste-buds and excite family members, just like mine were as I ran these test on them – yes, family makes the best taste-testers! Especially the hungry college-types that HAVE to eat. They are a captive audience…

The main dish, the turkey, is a naturally gluten-free guy. Yet sometimes companies will sneak in an ingredient or two that might borderline gluten. Always check HERE to see if you’re turkey is a-ok.

Gravy: This recipe will insure a gluten-free sauce for all of your pouring needs this season!

Mashed Potatoes: These guys are always gluten-free when you make them! Add a little milk and butter (if you are not dairy-free) and throw in some roasted garlic and cheese (my mouth. it’s watering!) and you have the best side dish ever! Well, besides my next recipe…

This dish is my masterpiece this year: The Gluten Free Green Bean Casserole. There were three of us here when it was made and it was devoured in less than 15 minutes. You heard me. Try this dish and tell me your thoughts. It is bound to be a favorite at your T-Day meal!

Start here with your basics, then check back Friday for these last few recipes:

  • Homemade applesauce in less than ten minutes – YOU HEARD ME!!!
  • Foccacia Bread – Yes, GLUTEN FREE AND AMAZING!!
  • My surprise dessert suggestion – It’s a surprise cause I’m still deciding what to make
As always, please send any questions in and I’ll be glad to help out…Now, go get some shopping done!