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Archive for February, 2012

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge

Pete Bronski, founder with wife Kelli of the blog No Gluten No Problem, is an endurance athlete, friend, colleague, and co-author of our new book (May release date), The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Check here for pre-order details. And when we say, an Active Gluten-Free Life, we mean everyone on the planet, not just super-heros.

After long hours (days, weeks, months) of researching, writing, rewriting, and interviewing gluten-free athletes and athletes who choose to be gluten-free, Pete is back logging long hours trail running and I’m back at Mary Jane telemark skiing. I’m also in the process of losing the 5 pounds I gained while writing and creating high-octane recipes for the book. Aahh, the irony of writing a book on sports nutrition (weight gain and a slide in fitness).

It was worth it and I’m incredibly grateful for the experience, but now I’m on a mission to revive myself. My eating habits weren’t bad while writing the book, but I sat on my bum for way too many hours and my exercise routine, active lifestyle, and yoga practice suffered. That’s not something I want to make a habit of.

I’ve found that the best way to kick-start my day and boost my energy levels is to eat a power-packed breakfast. That means a combination of high-quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing healthy, gluten-free breakfast ideas for an active lifestyle. All will be vegetarian, nutrient-dense, and delicious.

First up: gluten-free power porridge with whole-grain oats and teff—perfect before heading out for a day of skiing or hiking (or in Pete’s case, mega-distance trail running).

But before I get to the recipe, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a little “compare and contrast” of oats. Oats are not all the same, as fast-food, mega-giant McDonald’s demonstrated last year with the unveiling of their “Oats with the Most” fruit and maple oatmeal bowl. After reading the ingredient label and nutrition information, I’m thinking the tag line should read, “Oats with the Most additional and unnecessary low-quality, junk-food additives.”

McDonald’s Oatmeal Bowl contains the following ingredients: Oatmeal—whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, modified food starch, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color; Diced Apples—apples, calcium ascorbate; Cranberry Raisin Blend—Sweetened dried cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California rasins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide as a preservative (contains sulfites); Light Cream—milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

What the heck is datem?

I’m so glad you asked.

DATEM (directly from Wikipedia): Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Ester of Mono- and Diglycerides is an emulsifier used to strengthen dough by building a strong gluten network. It is also known as E472e and is often derived from genetically modified soya bean oil.

First off, if it’s called E472e, it’s not food (not to mention its other name). Really? We need a dough strengthener in our oatmeal?

Aside from the fact that this oatmeal is contaminated with gluten, it’s filled with a boat-load of unhealthy ingredients. Leave it to McDonald’s to completely ruin what should be a healthy breakfast.

Now, let’s take a look at the ingredient list on my bag of Montana Gluten-Free OatmealIngredients: whole grain rolled oats. Period. Wow, the oats are the ingredient. It’s the same thing with my bag of teff. Ingredients: whole grain teff. What a concept. The food is also the ingredient.

To be fair, the McDonald’s ingredient label included everything in the pre-made bowl of oatmeal. Yes it comes with the apples, cranberry raisin blend, and light cream infused into the oatmeal (don’t even ask). Unfortunately, you can’t pull through the drive-up window, order the Oatmeal Bowl and say, “Hold the  E472e, the barley malt extract, the caramel color, the multiple sugars, the modified food starch, the calcium ascorbate, the sulfur dioxide, the sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, and the carrageenan.”

To insure that my “compare and contrast” playing field is level, I’ll include the same detailed nutrition information on my porridge at the end of the recipe.

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge
(photo above–Montana GF Processor’s raw oats and Bob’s Red Mill raw teff)

what you need
1 and 1/4 cup water
dash of salt
1/2 cup certified gluten-free whole grain rolled oats
2 tablespoons whole grain teff
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon raisins (or a mix of raisins and dried cranberries)
honey or maple syrup (to make it vegan, used maple syrup)
coconut milk or other milk

what you do
1. Bring water and salt to a boil.
2. Slowly add oats and teff, stir well, and turn heat to low. Add vanilla, cinnamon, apples, raisins, and cranberries (if using).
3. Cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat when liquid is absorbed and serve with a drizzle of honey (or maple syrup) and milk of choice. I like light coconut milk with it, but any nut milk will do.

PER SERVING (Oatmeal Teff Porridge): 3.2 g fat; 78 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 10 g fiber
Nutrition Bonus: excellent source of iron

PER SERVING (McDonald’s Oatmeal): 4.5 g fat; 57 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 5 g fiber
Nutrition Time Bomb: additives, preservatives, dyes

Note: Some people with gluten intolerance have an immune response to oats, even certified gluten-free oats. If you choose to try oats, start slowly (1/3 cup) to see if you react. Oats also contain a lot of fiber, which is a good thing, but may cause gastrointestinal stress if you’re not used to it. Check with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about adding oats to your diet.

Peace, love, and power porridge. Stay tuned for more healthy breakfast ideas for an active gluten-free life!


Love is in the air (along with a zillion cold and flu cooties)

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m guessing you were expecting dark chocolate, candy hearts, and frilly cupcakes—not shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and spinach. I’m compelled to skip the sugar-laden Valentine goodies this year and go the medicinal mushroom route instead. It seems half the people I know are sniffling, sneezing, and coughing and although it’s hard to avoid being exposed, nourishing food gives your body the ammunition it needs to stay healthy in the midst of cold and flu season.

You want to be able to share the LOVE, not the flu cooties, right? That takes a powerful immune system. Shiitake mushrooms will help you boost your endurance in that department. I’m lucky to have a local source in Hazel Dell’s fresh organic mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms have a long and colorful history as cold and flu fighters. They’re a symbol of longevity in Asian cultures and there’s research to back up the claim. What is interesting about these mushrooms is the unique way they work in contrast. Let thy food be thy medicine. These little gems stimulate the immune system in a magical way, enhancing the beneficial aspects of immunity while suppressing the negative aspects. Perfect for those of us with misdirected immunity (think celiac disease).

Having said all that, I’m not a fan of the texture of mushrooms, but love the taste. I don’t like slimy foods like mushrooms or oysters. I can watch open heart surgery up close and personal, but can’t tolerate a runny nose. Mushrooms are plant boogers and they give me the willies. So, in order to take advantage of the medicinal attributes and wonderful earthy flavor of shiitake mushrooms, I cook them up and blend them with broth and a small amount of organic tomato sauce to make the most divine soup base you can imagine. I use this base for all kinds of soups and stews. It’s a cooking/health trick worth adding to your arsenal of radiant living tips.

Immune boosting shiitake mushroom soup

What you need (see fresh ingredients above) 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 eight-ounce can organic tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced in rounds (into the green section)
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, about 1 cup chopped (leaves included)
2 carrots, about 1 cup chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken (option)

* Note that the total amount of broth should be 8 cups. You can substitute vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian soup.

What you do
1. Place chopped mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat when finished cooking so it can cool slightly.
2. While mushrooms are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot on low-medium. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add 4 cups broth to large soup pot with the leeks and garlic mixture. Add celery, carrots, chopped tomato, chicken if using, and seasonings. Turn heat to low.
4. In the meantime, pour mushroom and chicken broth mixture into a blender. Be careful—hot liquids can blow the top off your blender. Let the mixture cool before blending. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups of room-temperature chicken broth to the blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into stock pot.
5. Simmer soup over low heat until vegetables are cooked, but still crisp (about 1 to 2 hours).
6. Add a handful of fresh, raw spinach to the bottom of a large soup mug or bowl. Ladle soup over spinach and give it a stir. The heat of the soup will wilt the spinach to perfection without overcooking it.

Options: add cooked brown rice, quinoa, or Tinkyada brown rice noodles.

For sweet treats to go with your immune boosting soup, check out these recipes.

Double chocolate, double walnut, double heart cookies from Gluten Free Easily
Mexican chocolate brownies from The Book of Yum
Chocolate souffle from Celiacs in the House
How to choose gluten-free chocolate for baking (part 1) from No Gluten No Problem
Pecan and chocolate pie from The WHOLE Gang
Chocolate fondue from Cook It Allergy Free
No bake cookies and creme cheesecakes from Simply Gluten-Free

Peace, joy, and immune-boosting love!

Are you a supertaster?

What’s a Supertaster, you ask?

Well, I hate to brag, but that would be me. I’m a supertaster. It’s kind of like being Wonder Woman without the warrior princess gadgets. My super powers are in my taste buds, not in indestructible click-click bracelets or projectile tiaras.

Okay, I’ll be honest. It’s not that big of a deal—25% of us are supertasters. We’ve inherited a higher-than-normal number of taste buds and are typically more sensitive to strong, bitter foods. Think raw broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, grapefruit juice, whiskey, wine, dark chocolate, coffee. We don’t like those foods.

Although I have the supertaster genotype, I do like (have come to like) all those choices with the exception of whiskey. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, let’s take a brief look at the genetics behind food dislikes—or variations of that theme. Maybe your kid is a “picky eater” for a reason.

Supertaster’s have cell proteins on their tongues that detect intense, bitter flavors. All genes encode proteins with information from our DNA. I happen to have the gene that is the protein blueprint for an overwhelmingly bitter taste. But what makes all this interesting is the mix of our genes and our personal and environmental variations. I’ve managed to override some of my genetically predisposed, taste quirkiness by tweaking the quality of the food. That, and my willingness to experiment. Some of these bitter foods are incredibly healthy and contain cancer-protective substances, so broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts have become favorites of mine. That’s my phenotype at work. I haven’t turned the gene off, I’ve simply tweaked the stimulus (my food environment) in a positive way to pull a fast one on my supertaster gene.

Let’s take this one step further. By purchasing high quality versions of these foods (fresh, organic) and taking the time to prepare them in a way that accentuates the flavors I that I do like, I end up supplying my body with phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that promote good health. That way, I can get my foot (phytonutrient) in the door (cell) to turn certain other genes off or on. I can discourage disease-promoting genes and encourage health-warrior genes. We have the power to do that.

Back to supertaster foods. I don’t like raw broccoli, cabbage, or cauliflower, but I do like all those vegetables drizzled with a small amount of olive oil, dusted with Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and lightly roasted. I don’t like most types of coffee (Starbucks is over-the-top bitter to me) or most types of wine, but I do like my mellow, organic, breakfast blend coffee mixed with a little coconut milk and I love having a glass of nice, smooth red wine. But, a lot of wine does taste bitter and acidic to me, to the point that I literally turn up my nose and shiver. There are only a few dark chocolates that I like and I much prefer them topped with a little sea salt. Grapefruit juice I can totally do without. I’m also a salt-aholic, but only with good quality sea salt. Salt masks bitterness, so it makes sense that supertasters are heavy-handed with the salt grinder.

Are you wondering how I know I’m a supertaster?

I took the test. Researchers have discovered a chemical that, when applied to a strip of paper and placed on the tongue, distinguishes between non-tasters, medium-tasters, and super-tasters. I ordered the test strips and was overwhelmed by the bitter taste. Seriously bitter. I actually thought I’d be a non- or medium-taster because I like most of the foods on the list, but after the test and some thought, I realized that I’ve simply adjusted to being a supertaster. I had a couple of other people take the test and they had absolutely no reaction. None. They didn’t taste anything. I couldn’t believe it as I could hardly stand the taste. Apparently supertasters experience flavors with about three times the intensity of others.

Why do you think some people are supertasters? Is that an evolutionary advantage or a disadvantage?

Say you’re out doing some gathering during the Paleolithic era and you grab a handful of leaves. You take a bite, find the leaves extremely unpleasant, nasty-tasting and bitter, so you spit them out. Maybe you just saved yourself from an untimely death due to ingesting toxic plant chemicals. Good one. I’m glad I’m a supertaster.

But wait, food was scarce back then. You can’t be picky. My non-taster neighbor will eat anything, therefore having more chance of survival when times are tough.

What’s your theory? Are you a supertaster? Is that good or bad?

While you think about it, here’s a recipe for roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

Roasted broccoli and cauliflower
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning (I have nothing to do with this company, I just love this seasoning and use it on everything.)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Place florets in a medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to cover. Sprinkle with herb seasoning, sea salt, and pepper. Toss again.
3. Place florets in a shallow baking dish and sprinkled with garlic.
4. Place baking dish on the center rack of oven and roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir occasionally to insure even browning.

Note: Broccoli stalks are wonderful roasted. All these foods are almost undetectable used raw in small amounts blended into smoothies.

Okay, what do you think? I’m curious. What’s the point of the supertaster gene? Did it evolve as a protective mechanism or was it a detriment to survival?

Peace, love and the wonderful world of genetics!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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