Friday, June 8, 2012

Traveling Gluten Free and Homemade Jerky Recipes

Eating gluten free is so easy at home that I do not even have to think about it. We just do not buy any gluten-containing foods. No worries about cross-contamination. Until I step outside.

One of the downers about celiac disease is that it appears to be permanent. Mr. D and I wonder if we will ever be able to travel without my food being more hassle than it is worth. Yes, I hear that Italy is the best place in the world to eat gluten free, but the language barriers freak me out. If I cannot get waiters in the U.S. to understand what I mean by taking whatever steps are necessary to prevent cross-contamination, am I likely to fare better by presenting a card with instructions in their language to that effect? Plus, there are places other than Italy where we would like to visit eventually.

Theoretical woes aside, this is a very practical conundrum. What does one eat on a road trip? Some restaurants - mostly ones called Chipotle, where all the food is gluten free except the tortillas - are OK for a filling, tasty meal without being too expensive. Alas, along the 500 miles between our home and where I grew up and the rest of my family lives, there are no Chipotle locations to be found. Even if there were, snacks help make a long drive more bearable.

To drink, we enjoy bringing along a jug of kombucha or some chilled brewed herbal tea lightly sweetened with a touch of honey - it's like juice, but without the truckload of fructose to poison you along the way. It's most refreshing. Oh, and stainless steel bottles of well-iced water, because most snack foods are salty enough that you will want it!

Food just takes some thinking ahead, and this goes for any healthy or reasonably frugal food on the road.

Honestly, the most difficult part is getting enough healthy fats. Excellent ideas include starchy fruits (think bananas and berries), store-bought gluten free crackers, grass-fed whole milk cheese, and Mr. D's favorite, homemade grass-fed beef jerky. Avocados would be a fabulous snack, too.

Oh, did I say homemade jerky from grass-fed beef? Yep. Healthy jerky in any flavor you can manage to put together, and even $5/lb. ground beef will end up making fantastic jerky for less money, probably, than cruddy jerky. It was my husband who made the jerky for a recent weekend trip, and his ideas were so delicious I just had to share. He invented all four of the combinations suggested below.

for each pound of ground beef:
1 T. unrefined salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
lots of freshly ground black pepper

plus one of the following combinations, or invent your own:
- 2 T. gluten free soy sauce, 2 T. raw honey (warmed a little to facilitate mixing), a few pinches of ground cloves, and 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- an additional 1/2 t. garlic powder, plus up to 1 T. each of dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil; do not be shy with these!
- 1 1/2 T. gluten free soy sauce, even more black pepper, 1 t. paprika, and 1/2 t. red wine vinegar
- up to 1 T. ground cumin, 1 t. paprika, 1/4 t. mustard powder, and a little or a lot of chili powder

Mix ground beef and your flavor ingredients together thoroughly.

To make in a dehydrator: Spread no more than 1/4" thick on solid insert trays or parchment paper cut in the shape of your dehydrator trays. Using a dull utensil such as a butter knife, so as not to tear paper or damage trays, cut jerky into strips before it all hardens and becomes more difficult to cut. Dehydrate for at least six hours, but do check on it every hour after that and remove it as soon as it is not at all pink anymore but still soft. It will harden considerably as it cools.

To make in an oven: Spread no more than 1/4" thick on parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Cut with a dull utensil. Put in the oven and turn it on to the lowest setting, ideally 150°F, and no greater than 200°. Check after 4-6 hours and take out while still soft.

Theoretically jerky does not need to be stored in the fridge, but I put it in there anyway just in case enough moisture might remain to make spoilage feasible. An airtight container is recommended as well.

While all of Mr. D's jerky was enjoyable, my favorite was definitely the version with Italian herbs that made the jerky taste like pizza. I was eating bite-size jerky atop crackers with bits of cheese, having what fun one can during a nine-hour drive. My least favorite was the cumin version, but I dislike almost anything spicy, and if you like spicy then you stand a good chance of enjoying it mightily.

What travel snacks do you like?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

White Rolls...for a Health Nut?

If you saw my pie crust recipe, it may have struck you as odd that a self-confessed nutrition geek is advocating the use of white rice flour. Does not everybody know that refined grains are empty calories? Don't those aware of the harmful effects of whole grains just turn to healthier processing techniques or leave grains behind?

Sure. However, rice is a bit of an exception. Soaking and sprouting don't help much to mitigate the damaging effects of brown rice, but on the other hand, rice is relatively low in anti-nutrients to begin with when compared to other grains. Refining brown rice into white actually does a pretty good job of removing anti-nutrients. Now, it's true that this also takes away most of what nutrients were there in the first place. I am not advocating that anybody rely on white rice as more than a source of clean-burning glucose, and exactly what role if any rice should play in your diet depends upon what else you eat, but it generally is healthier than brown rice because brown rice removes nutrients from your body.

Thus, we use white rice flour along with pure starches such as potato starch and tapioca starch/flour on a semi-regular basis. The primary objection to these seems to be the claim that because of their high glycemic index as individual ingredients, consuming them in any context will cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes. I have known people with severe blood sugar problems to refuse white rice but eat moderate helpings of brown rice, apparently unaware that the difference in glycemic index is only one point (56 vs. 55) and the glycemic index of brown rice is the same as that of a Snickers bar! No, I do not recommend that anybody chow down on pure flour as a snack, but who would? To the extent that glycemic index matters (and that extent is scientifically controversial), what matters is the meal you actually put into your mouth. A high-glycemic meal is sometimes more accurately termed a fat-deficient meal. So loading your dinner rolls with grass-fed butter, pâté, real cheese, or herb-infused olive oil is entirely different from chowing them down naked.

So yes, we do eat white rolls, and I do consider a warm roll with my soup a non-compromise health food. They go perfectly with many meals and, reheated in the toaster oven from the freezer, contribute to a quick snack.

2 t. active yeast
1 t. sugar
1 cup warm (not hot) water or milk
1 egg
2 T. honey
2 T. melted butter or coconut oil
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. guar gum or xanthan gum
1 t. unrefined salt
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch, potato starch, arrowroot starch, or non-GMO cornstarch
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/2 t. vinegar

In a mixing bowl, whisk yeast, sugar, and warm water or milk. Let sit for ten minutes or so to proof.

Whisk in egg, honey, and melted fat. Add dry ingredients, stirring between additions, and mix until thoroughly combined.

Scoop into silicone or paper-lined muffin cups. Let rise in a warm, moist place. Tip: Place unrisen rolls into a cool oven, place a wide baking pan at least 1" deep on the bottom rack, and pour boiling water into the pan right before you shut the oven door. This creates the ideal rise environment. With this technique, my rolls rise more than enough in 45 minutes.

Bake at 350
°F for 20 minutes.

These keep on the counter for about a day and freeze excellently.

Note: Mr. D made these the other day using coconut flour instead of tapioca starch and skipping the rise time. They were totally different but quite delicious!

This post is part of Monday Mania.