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Well, just caught "French Food at Home" -- my fave cooking show -- on the Cooking Channel. French food -- because of the emphasis on fresh, local ingredients -- is often naturally gluten free. The show is hosted by Laura Calder. What's your favorite cooking show? Take this fun poll (with the palm tree theme) on the home page; click here! (photo to the left is a Creative Commons image; it is unrelated to "French Food at Home.")
Image, courtesy, Smart Flour Foods; Photo credit: Erin Peloquin
It's a typical day in the life of a gluten free foodie. It's almost time to get out the door -- where are the carbs to-go? Good ole' fashioned floury stuff that sticks to your ribs and energizes you through the day!
At times like these, using a pancake mix to get some quick pancakes on the griddle is a great bet! I won the gluten free Smart Flour Pancake Mix at an auction held by our local gluten free group. I plucked the mix out of the cupboard on a busy morning when I had just enough time to scamper around as the pancakes were cooking. As the hotcakes dutifully rose to just the right height and bubbled, prompting me to turn them, I took great comfort in the knowledge that the amaranth, sorghum, and teff included in the blend are generally healthier than the usual counterparts often found in gluten free mixes (white rice flour, potato starch, etc.).
Why is this? Generally -- after listening to presentations by nutritionists at conferences, perusing charts, and reading articles -- I can tell you that the B-vitamin profile as well as other nutrient levels are simply higher in grains such as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, and teff than in what I call the "first generation" gluten free grains. More detail in a future post!
But, for more information, I called Smart Flour Foods, and was relieved both to find a phone number listed on the website, and a real person (Operations Manager Lauren Rohr) answering the phone. Yeah!
Smart Flour supplies pizza crusts "all across the country," according to Rohr -- who eats gluten free herself. "Pizza crusts are our bread and butter -- we make pizza crusts day in and day out," Rohr notes. She said that nationwide, Smart Flour probably has about "five to ten competitors" in the gluten free pizza crust market.
In the last year, Smart Flour has been launching its flour blends -- and re-launching the online ordering site where consumers can buy the flour directly.
Where does Smart Flour buy its flour? The bulk of it comes from Dakota Prairie Organic Flour Company in North Dakota, she said, with some sourced from Bob's Red Mill.
Somehow flour sourced primarily from a company with "Prairie Organic" in its title sounds appropriate romantic (think, amber waves of grain) and homespun, that I felt even better as I turned flipped the golden brown pancakes onto a plate.
In the eating, the pancakes were perfectly fine, though I spiced them up by using pure organic maple syrup (purchased from Greenwood Market in Seattle, a great grocery in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood). Smart Flour Foods makes several other blends.
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A few days ago, NBC news reported that a Long Island mother and daughter -- frustrated that the daughter, who has celiac disease, cannot eat any of the Girl Scout cookies that she sells -- hit upon the idea of starting a petition to be presented to the Girl Scouts, asking them to provide gluten free cookies as an option. It's about time! Gluten causes health problems for about six percent of the population, according to a recent New York Times article (citing the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland). I'd love to interview the mother and daughter who started the petition; if any of you savvy gluten free readers have a connection in that regard, please contact me in a comment to this blog post or in a contact form on the site! Oh, yes. Picture above has nothing to do with the Girl Scouts or cookies -- but I thought these chairs looked a bit like those you'd find around a fancy campfire!
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The occasion? A special barbeque dinner we do occasionally with our neighbors. They provided the meat and veggies -- with a special "side order" for me prepared without soy sauce, but with some other "mystery sauce" which I've been assured is gluten free -- and we provided the strawberries. I'd hesitated not an instant before springing for organic: after all, strawberries are one of the fruits which gives the most benefit when purchased organic (in other words, conventionally-grown strawberries are one of the more pesticide-laden fruits).
This is one reason why I'm cheered that my small strawberry patch -- planted just a few years ago from a single Rainier plant at PCC (Puget Sound Consumer's Co-op) now boasts strawberries from plants rooting in several different spots (they send out runners). And, as the plants have grown larger, the berries are now higher off the ground -- so the slugs don't get them!
But I digress. What do strawberries and dinners with neighbors have to do with gluten in whipped cream, you may ask?
Well. I trotted over to my neighbors with a nice bowl of cut strawberries, and brought over a carton of heavy whipping cream that I'd just purchased, a small bottle of vanilla, a bowl, and a wire whip. Don't you just love freshly whipped cream on strawberries?
And, as it turned out, the whole process of whipping cream from scratch was new to my neighbor! The funny thing is, my neighbor kept asking, "How is this cream different from regular cream? Why does this cream turn in to whipping cream and regular cream doesn't?"
I had to admit that I didn't really know. However, I also happened to glance quickly at the side of the whipped cream carton, where it listed "Ingredients," expecting only to see cream. Instead, I saw "mono and di-glyercides." Mono and di-glyercides?! My old enemy! The reason I can't eat many different brands of ice cream!
So, I'm going to investigate this tomorrow; I mean, are the mono and di-glyercides the reason that the cream turns into whipped cream? Well, I don't think so, because Sunshine brand heavy whipping cream, which I bought at Trader Joe's, doesn't list these (whatever they are). More later . . . .
Update, several months later (April 29, 2012) Just bought whipping cream -- Darigold brand -- and I note that the carton says "Gluten free product." Yeah, because I'd already used it (on a gluten free apple pie that my boyfriend baked for me!) several times. The big news, however, is that although a label is obscuring many of the ingredients, it looks like it includes carrageenan and mono and di-glycerides, my old frenemy.
Now, what is carrageenan? According to a 2004 fact sheet provided by Eden Foods, it is a "natural polysaccharide (carbohydrate) extracted from red seaweed." Commonly, I believe it is a thickener. The idea, I'll bet, is that when enough air is whipped into the cream, the mono and di-glyercides and carrageenan cause the cream to become thicker and hold its shape. Eden Foods included an interesting note about carrageenan on its website on April 27, 2012; apparently, there is new information coming out and Eden will be updating visitors to its site. An article on Wisegeek (click here) goes into more detail about carrageenan and is worth a read.
Hi! it's Karen blogging, your friendly gluten-free resource!