Sunday, November 17, 2013

Green beans still routine

Funyans and GF cream of mushroom soup
put green bean casserole back on the table.
Green bean casserole is about as pedestrian as a recipe can be. For sure, there is nothing classy about it. But a few years back, the casserole was about the only way I could poke anything resembling a green vegetable down my children’s throats—and my family still loves it. The classic dish, I must admit, has long been a staple of our Thanksgiving table.

After celiac disease became a factor in my cooking style, I tried making the old standard using gluten-free cream of mushroom soup and without the gluten-laden Durkee or French's French Fried Onions. Meh! “Bland” is the word I’d use to describe the result.

At HyVee’s Gluten-Free Holiday Tasting Fair a few weeks ago, the chef served samples of several gluten-free Thanksgiving dishes, including a green bean casserole, which was pretty delicious. The secret is using Frito-Lay Funyuns in place of the French fried onions.

They shared this recipe, which I made just last evening, with the fair-goers:

Classic Green Bean Casserole (Serves 6)

  • 1 can Health Valley or Gluten-Free CafĂ© Cream of Mushroom Soup (or General Mills Progresso cream of mushroom soup)*
  • 1 tsp. San J or gluten-free Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 4 cups cooked fresh or canned green beans (I used 4 cans of French style beans)
  • 1 1/3 cups of crushed Funyuns

Stir the soup, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup of onions in a 1 ½-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

*I actually made this with Pacific brand, which is my personal favorite, because it has a similar consistency to the now-banned Campbell’s brand. Pacific also has a nice GF cream of chicken soup, which works perfectly in my casseroles calling for cream of chicken soup. The Pacific soups come in little boxes rather than cans, but they are thicker and have better color than some of the other gluten-free brands.

Before I discovered using Funyans, I’d pretty much despaired of making green bean casserole ever again. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful that the beans are back in the holiday routine!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nightmare on South Street

Many of my recurring nightmares
involve flights of stairs ...
Since my diagnosis of celiac disease, my recurring nightmares have changed.

I used to have two frequent dreams that caused me to sit straight up in my bed in the middle of the night, which I’m sure are directly related to the stress I was feeling in my life. In one of my nightmares, I am in an upstairs bedroom at my grandparents’ house (Lockwood, MO). It is pouring rain, and the roof is leaking. In the dream I am scrambling around the room trying to catch the leaks in one of those white ceramic basins with a red rim.

In the second dream, I am climbing up a flight of stairs and several of the steps are missing.  I am desperately trying to figure out how to bridge the gap. This dream takes place in many different settings, from one of my childhood homes (Hartville, MO) to the Polk County Courthouse (Bolivar, MO), where there are some pretty scary stairs leading to the clock tower. (A county employee took me up there one time when I was working the “courthouse beat” for the Bolivar Herald-Free Press.)

While I still have those dreams on rare occasions, my new recurring nightmare is directly related to celiac disease. As innocent as it may seem, I always wake up in a sweat, hoping it is a dream. In that nightmare, I am enjoying a warm piece of homemade bread slathered in butter and apple butter, when I suddenly remember that I have celiac disease and that I am now doomed to days of illness.

For most people, dreaming of warm bread and apple butter would be anything but a nightmare. For those of us to whom gluten equals poison, that third dream takes on feelings of Hitchcockian horror. While bread-eating terror may seem trivial to wheat-eaters, many of us with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, especially those of us who have been lifelong bread-eaters, can understand the trauma.

With patience and persistence, though, people with celiac disease can find reasonable substitutes for Grandma’s homemade bread. Here are a few tips for obtaining your daily ration:

Not bad for gluten-free!
  • Use a Bread Machine. Shortly after I learned my plight, I bought a Cuisinart bread machine with a gluten-free setting and figured out how to use several of the available gluten-free bread mixes to concoct a pretty decent loaf of bread. A few of the mixes I’ve tried with success include those from Gluten Free Pantry, Namaste, Pamela’s, and Bob’s Red Mill. These mixes taste good enough for the wheat-eaters in my family to enjoy (but, in all honesty, they aren’t as good as Grandma’s). 
  • Find a Good Cookbook. If you’re into baking, you can find many, many cookbooks on the market that will instruct you on baking wonderful gluten-free bread. Two such cookbooks in my library are Carol Fenster’s Gluten-Free Quick & Easy and Richard J. Coppedge’s Gluten-Free Baking. Those books contain recipes for flour blends that work well in bread baking and pastry making. And there are a host of other books on the market that will walk you through the process. I admit that I haven’t made the effort to try much bread-baking from scratch myself. While that’s not a hill I’m going to die on, many people find the challenge fun and energizing. 
  • Visit Bakeries and Farmers Markets. Another way to find good gluten-free bread is by visiting your local bakeries and farmers markets and purchasing from the gluten-free bakers you find there. I blogged a while back about Scotty’s Biscotti, a booth at the farmers market in Springfield, MO, that I frequent. I buy loaves of Scotty’s gluten-free bread, bring it home and slice it up, package it into individual servings, and freeze it until I’m ready to toast it or make paninis. 
  • Check out blogs and websites. Yet another source for advice on gluten-free bread is the Internet. Many, many wonderful bakers have blogs and newsletters with such information. Click on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness link ( on this website to find an unlimited number of free gluten-free bread and other recipes. The Gluten-Free Global Community ( is also made up of many interesting blogs with recipes and advice about gluten-free living. 
  • Search the shelves of your favorite stores. Of course, you can always buy one of the many varieties of gluten-free bread found at your health food or even your local grocery store. Udi’s, Kinnikinnick, Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse, EnerG, Food for Life, Glutino, and Rudi’s are among the most popular brands. To be perfectly honest, your gluten-eating family members probably aren’t going to like these products very much, but they taste pretty good, (especially if you haven’t had the real thing for a while).

Until recently, finding any decent gluten-free bread was mostly a bad dream. As producers, grocers, and restaurateurs are becoming more and more aware of celiac disease and gluten intolerance in their customers, however, we can now find fairly easy solutions to curtail those nightmares.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

(P)raising the bar ...

Yes, please! These Primal Coconut Nut Bars
are sure to become one of my favorite treats!

I shared today’s recipe on the Celiyak Facebook page a few days ago. It appeared on my timeline as a post by the Gluten-Free Resource Directory, whose page I would definitely recommend for anyone with gluten issues. The GFRD puts up lots of great recipes and advice for those of us who shun gluten.

Anyway, I gathered my ingredients and followed this recipe to the letter for this wonderful refrigerator bar. I think it bears repeating, in case you missed it. I believe it works for the Paleo diet as well, if you are allowing yourself to eat raw honey.

Here is this clever recipe from creator Carly Shankman as she wrote it:

Primal Coconut Nut Bars

1 C. slivered almonds
1 C. pecans
½ C. nut flour (The author used Bob’s Red Mill hazelnut flour; I used almond flour.)
½ C. unsweetened dried coconut
½ C. almond butter
½ C. coconut oil
¼ C. honey
2 tsp. pure vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 C. dried fruit, like cranberries

Preheat the primal cooking fire (oven) to 350 degrees and toast the nuts until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Watch them carefully; they’ll go from golden to black fast! Once they are toasted nicely, toss them in the stone grinder (the food processor or blender), and give them a few pulses until they are a coarse meal. Stir into the nut flour in a medium bowl and add the dried coconut and mix well.

On the stovetop, melt the coconut oil and almond butter; stir them together well. Remove from heat and add the honey, vanilla, and salt, and then mix until creamy. Fold the nut mix into the honey mix and add the dried fruit. Pat into an 8x8 baking dish (coated with coconut oil) and stick it in the ice cave (fridge) for 1 hour or more until nice and solid. I like to top mine with a little extra dried coconut before placing in the fridge. Cut into squares and try not to grunt when eating. Keep in the ice cave to store.

I love raw, nutty bars and butters. And speaking of raw, I recently discovered that HyVee carries Bob’s Gluten-Free Muesli. If you can tolerate gluten-free oats, I highly recommend it. I can’t comfortably eat gluten-free oatmeal every day, but I seem to do fine eating them once or twice a week. I learned to love muesli on my travels to Germany, where most German Youth Hostels serve muesli every morning. I like to soak the muesli in almond milk overnight and eat it uncooked. Yum!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hold the croutons ...

The Bay City Salad at The Grotto. Oh, my!
And the Bleu Cheese Chips are GF, too!

I haven’t always been a huge fan of salad, but since my celiac disease diagnosis, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy it. People with CD or gluten intolerance are frequently forced to choose salad when dining out with friends, because nothing else on the menu is safe for them. (And beware! Even salads can be dangerous. I must nearly always have them modified in some way: no croutons, no Caesar dressing, no breaded chicken, etc.)

While some restaurants serve bagged salad mix—meh!—I am always excited to find places that serve new and interesting combinations, especially if they are accompanied by safe house made salad dressings. I could eat any one of my current favorites any day of the week. Here are some of my favorites, which can be found right here in Springfield, MO:

1.     The Grotto: (Located at 301 E. Battlefield Rd.) I have had the Bay City Salad several times with no problems. It consists of mixed greens, balsamic, sun dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, red onion and walnuts. Amazing! They have several other salads, too, but I can’t resist this one, so I haven’t tried them yet.

2.     Big Whiskey’s: (Located at 311 Park Central East; 1440 W. Republic Rd.; and 1550 E. Battlefield Rd.) I almost always choose the Maple Apple Salad, which consists of fresh sliced apples, sun-dried craisins, toasted walnuts, sunflower seeds, and Gorgonzola cheese over fresh salad greens and served with a maple vinaigrette. They also serve a wonderful salad called Strawberry Hill: Sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, craisins, and sunflower seeds over fresh salad greens topped with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

3.     The Aviary: (Located at 400 E. Walnut) The Aviary Maison is so wonderful: young field greens, apple rounds, chevre, and toasted pignoles, dressed with apple rosmary balsamic vinaigrette. (You’ll have to tell them to hold the croutons.) The Aviary also has gluten-free crepes, and if it’s fries you’re craving, their Pommes Frites can be made gluten-free, and they’re served with a safe garlic aioli.)

4.     Panera Bread Company: (Located at 2535 N. Kansas Expressway; 500 S. National; 2924 E. Sunshine in Springfield, MO, with many locations elsewhere) Their Fuji Apple Chicken is my favorite, consisting of chicken, field greens, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips and white balsamic apple vinaigrette. You can get it with a fresh apple or GF potato chips on the side. I also order their Greek Salad, which contains romaine lettuce, tomatoes, feta, pepperoncini, Kalamata olives, pepper, and Greek dressing. They have several other salads that sound equally yummy, but that may require some modification. The problem with Panera is the danger of cross-contamination from all the bread, which is their specialty, so if you are super sensitive, you might need to skip this one.

If you don’t have easy access to these restaurants, throw these salads together at home, using the items listed above. You can easily find recipes for homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressings. Browse such websites as Allrecipes or Epicurious to discover interesting recipes that reflect your own taste. Since my taste runs to the sweet side, I’ve found a couple of wonderful dressings that I whip up all the time.

Maple-Balsamic Viniagrette

½ C. balsamic vinegar
¼ C. maple syrup
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 C. extra-virgin olive oil

Place vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a blender. Pulse to combine, and then add the olive oil in a steady stream with the motor running.

Honey-Mustard Viniagrette

1 T. honey
2 T. Dijon mustard
4 T. red or white wine vinegar
Carry serving-sized
dressings with you!
½ C. canola oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a blender. Pulse to combine, and then add the canola oil in a steady stream with the motor running.

One other note about salad dressing:  If you eat out frequently, you might want to purchase your favorite salad dressings in serving-sized packets. (Or save the extra packets they give you at fast food restaurants!) You can almost always order a plain salad, and having your dressing with you will ensure that you don’t have to eat it undressed. Yuk!