Considering the Gluten-Free...

Barring my possible allergy to oysters and raspberries, there are no food allergies in my family. As I lead a pretty gluten-full existence most of the time, I haven't really given much thought as to what it would be like not to eat any wheat. No wheat. Wow, just thinking about it makes me panic a little. Everything I know about baking depends on this staple, and the way that the unseen power of gluten works its magic of stability and structure in a baked good. I have never gone out of my way to think about gluten-free baking before, and since I'll be hosting a gluten-free guest tomorrow, I figured a bit of experimentation this past week was more than warranted.

Last year, Peef and Lo went gluten-free for a whole weekend. I remember reading and wondering why they would do that. Maybe I'm of the ideal that I don't adhere to any culinary abstinence unless I have to, or maybe I didn't really know anyone first hand to stand in solidarity with, but I now fully understand their empathy with gluten-free individuals. Gluten-free is a challenge, but it's also delicious!

When I shopped this week, I made a point to peruse the gluten-free aisle at the grocery stores. It seems that the food industry is fully aware of the problems associated with this type of baking, and adjusts their prices accordingly. 5 lbs. of GF baking mix was over $20! I actually considered for a brief moment getting a box mix for $5 or $6 just to try it out. Then I came to my senses. I didn't realize just how much gluten-free material I had to work with at home, and that thanks to the Vita-Mix, I could make all of it into flour.

That's why, at 5 PM on a Friday, I was hovering around my oven, watching crackers bake. I stumbled over these crackers from Gluten Free Goddess by accident, and began looking at the ingredients. I de-veganized them by using an egg and milk, and substituted buckwheat flour for the sorghum. Tapioca starch is the same thing as tapioca flour according to Google, so I used leftover polviho (manioc) flour from my pao de queijo escapades. The result was a sturdy cracker, that will be perfect for dipping into artichoke dip.

I ground the amounts of quinoa, millet and almond in the dry canister of my Vita-Mix. Almond meal and quinoa and millet flours can also be found at food co-ops, specialty stores or online. (I'm not sure how a food pro or a regular blender would do whipping those into flour.) I had no trouble with the mixture being too dry using the amounts below, but you could add a bit of water to make a roll-able dough consistency. Be sure to check out the source recipe for dairy-free (vegan) substitutions!

Gluten-Free Multigrain Crackers (adapted from Gluten Free Goddess)
  • 1/4 c. quinoa flour
  • 1/4 c. millet flour
  • 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 c. tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. milk
Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the flours/dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the egg, oil and milk in a measuring cup, beating the egg well. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon, and then your hands.

Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Roll the dough (I used a pastry roller) out into an even layer. (I liked the thicker consistency of my crackers, but you can easily use two pans, and spread the dough thinner. Just remember they will bake faster.) If you have trouble with sticking, you can use oiled hands, or put a piece of parchment over the top and roll on that.

Cut the crackers using a pizza roller or a fluted pastry wheel. I cut the edges even first, about 1/2 inch from the edge of the pan - the cutter won't reach all the way to the edge anyway, and this way, I got to eat all of the ragged ends! No need to try and separate them, they will bake up, and then break apart easily. Prick each cracker several times with a fork.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Eat right away, or store in the freezer.

I don't often "pretty-up" the baked goods, but these deserved it...

I think that gluten-free baking may be a challenge, but a rewarding one. Since I am already fond of alternative grains, putting them to good use instead of just having them on hand is good kitchen sense. Earlier in the week, I tested out some quinoa flatbreads, and quinoa in particular is something I'd never have though of using as a flour. If you love quinoa, and it's amazing protein profile, give them a try. I used chia seed and an egg (after reading the comments) and ate far too many hot out of the oven.

Now, off to the freezer with you so I don't eat you all up.

Unsure of breakfast, Lunch or Dinner? Try Quinoa Salad.

Maybe because I'm new to the whole idea of blogging, I don't know where to start. A recipe seems like the logical thing. As most people who know me would attest, I usually am obsessed with some kind of food and sometimes even get downright pushy about having you try something that I can't live without.

Such would be the case of Quinoa Salad.

Quinoa is one of the miracle grains. It is a complete protein, and has been cultivated for centuries in the Andes. I would say more, but click here to see what I would say had the information not already been compiled so neatly.

I have eaten Quinoa for a number of years, but just recently started noticing new varieties at my local food Co-Op. I recently tried the red and white mix shown above, although I didn't notice much flavor difference. I did enjoy the color contrast however.

My friend Ann gave me the book MOOSEWOOD RESTAURANT DAILY SPECIAL when I left the city to work at Gina's Pies are Square in Wilton, Wisconsin back in 2000. If I can't decide on a salad or need some inspiration on veg food, it is reliably my first grab on the shelf. Their recipe for Andean Quinoa and Corn Salad is a stable staple for me when I need lunches for the week or a side dish for the barbecue. Other than just eating it plain, (and you may see a recurring theme beginning here as I wrap most everything in a tortilla at some point...) it is great as a taco filling with cheese and/or eggs. Not to mention my non-health foodie husband will eat it too. The whole recipe makes a whole lot; I usually half everything if we don't have company.

Andean Quinoa & Corn Salad

serves 4-6

Grain Mixture:

  • 1 c. raw quinoa
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. paprika
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 t. salt

Salad Mixture:

  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernel
  • 2 T. olive or veg oil
  • 1 large onion finely chopped (about 2 c.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 2 red and/or green bell peppers, seeded and diced (try poblano here for extra heat!)
  • 1 fresh chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 2 T. fresh minced cilantro (LOTS more to taste...)
  • 1 large chopped tomato (I usually omit this in the winter)
  • 2 T. minced fresh parsley (I usually add more cilantro and skip this)
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a sieve, rinse the quinoa under running water and drain. Heat oil in a saucepan, add the paprika and stir constantly for about 1 minute. Add the quinoa, water and salt - cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender but still chewy.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in another pot, and cook corn until tender, drain well and set aside in the fridge. Heat oil and saute onions, garlic, cumin and coriander until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the bell peppers, chile and cilantro and saute another 3-5 minutes.

In a large serving bowl, combine cooked quinoa and sauteed veg and chill for 15 minutes. Stir in the corn, tomatoes, parsley (or MORE cilantro..) lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve now or stash in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.

The moral of this post is this: if you are hungry, craving veg food and even mostly broke, you can make this salad in less time than it takes to watch Ugly Betty - and be all the healthier for it.