Aug 1, 2010

gluten-free thoughts, and recipes.

hello friends! happy august :)

i've been a bit preoccupied recently, mentally and physically, so my blog-thoughts have been limited. but you guys are wonderful, though, and really important to me!

as far as my chronic lack of comments, i'm going to attack my google reader today... seeing as how it crossed 1,000 unread posts day before yesterday (EEK!).

but more importantly, to the kitchen!

i'm always on the prowl for a good, hearty gluten-free recipe to bake for my little sister, but recently i've been trying to mix up my grains a bit, too. i think it's much healthier for our bodies to get a mix of grains, not only so we don't O.D. on wheat, but also to reap the nutritional benefits that each unique grain has to offer.

and if you're somebody like me who gets food boredom, mixing it up is crucial!

so all this lead to a freakin' amazing muffin recipe. naturally.

even if you aren't gluten-free, you should experiment with some of the amazing grains god has made! there are so many different ones, so why limit yourself to just wheat?

i took pictures, but for some reason, they won't load!
here's one of hers.

GF banana cinnamon raisin muffins
adapted from this saintly woman

combine wet:
- 1 c banana puree (2-3 big bananas)
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp maple agave, agave, or honey (thanks kelli!)
- 1/2 c canola oil
- 2/3 c brown sugar (1 1/3 c if you like really sweet things, 1/3 c if you want it barely sweet)

add in dry:
- 1 c buckwheat flour (so good with bananas!)
- 1 c sorghum flour
- 1/2 c tapioca starch
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp nutmeg

stir in:
- 1 c raisins
optional: 1 c chopped walnuts or pecans

- at 375 for about 15 minutes.

- cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan, and cool on rack until room temp.
- i wrap these individually in plastic wrap and throw them in a freezer bag.

what else do you need to make?

the easiest cracker recipe known to man... these were absolutely delicious! i'm still tinkering with the proportions, but here's my adaptation of the original.

quick "mary's" crackers:
from beautiful miss averie
- 1/3 c chia seeds
- 1/3 c sunflower seeds (i did half pumpkin, half sunflower)
- 1/3 c flax seeds
- pinch of salt

- pulse in food processor until you have coarse crumbs, not nut butter... although that's not a bad idea, really! i used pre-ground flax and added it after i mixed the first two.

add your flavorings:
- for sweet, try: agave, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, carob powder, etc.
- for savory, try: nutritional yeast, cumin, fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes, garlic and onion powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, etc.

add water:
- i think averie suggestes 2-4 tablespoons, but i used much more... maybe 1/2 a cup or so?
- my suggestion?: start with 1/4 a cup, and increase as need be. it should be loose, not like cookie dough or peanut butter, but also not like soup.

- the recipe says bake 30 mins on each side at 300 degrees.
- my suggestion?: i baked mine longer, on a lower temp. i baked mine at 250 for about 40 minutes on each side, and they were still a bit soft. it's a learning process!

i think i might add even more water next time to make them a bit thinner, and more like mary's crack(ers). i love realllllly thin crackers, though. if you like them heartier like pita chips, by all means follow the recipe!

these are also way more nutritionally dense than your normal, flimsy cracker. real women (and men!) need real food, y'all!

gluten-free cooking tips:

this week, i had the pleasure of catching up with christie from honoring health (one of the very best blogs out there!). she's been gluten-free for about a year, i believe, and just started tackling the intimidating job of baking bread for herself and her lovely husband. naturally, she came up against some difficulties!

the trouble with baking gluten-free is, not only are we not used to working with it, but that gluten is a tricky (but helpful!) little bugger.

wheat flour has two properies in baking: structure, and binding. when you bake GF, you have to get those properties from two separate elements. it's not difficult, but you have to know what to combine to get the texture you want.

i thought i'd give you guys a little run-down of my favorite gluten-free flours, and then tell you how to combine the different parts to make some truly bangin' bread.


millet: one of my favorites. physically similar to rice, but nutritionally similar to oats. mild.

teff, quinoa, and amaranth: high protein flours that work well in combination with other flours. have nutritional stats similar to cooked quinoa (obviously). strong tastes.

rice: one of the most popular GF flours. i only use brown rice flour because of the nutritients, but most frozen breads you buy use white rice flour. think of brown rice flour = whole wheat bread, and white rice flour = wonderbread. one of the most neutral tasting flours.

buckwheat: another of my favorites. ignore the name - it's not wheat! has a strong, nutty taste (similar to rye bread), and tons of nutrients (it's related to rhubarb!).

sorgum: a great neutral grain. good to combine with the stronger tasting flours.

chickpea/garbanzo: a new-to-me flour, i see this one a lot in ethnic recipes. has a great earthy taste, like hummus!

corn/tapioca/potato/arrowroot starches: sticky grains that act like glue in bread. most store-bought GF products will be based off of these, which is a shame because they aren't nutritionally solid by themselves. they are meant to be combined.

xanthan/guar gum: not flours, but what helps GF bread "set." if you've ever had a cake fall in or a bread recipe go flat, you know what i'm talking about!

there are other grains you can use, of course! these are just a few that are easy to find and i'm most comfortable with. 

now what?

now you know what some GF flours are, but what do you do with them? most recipes are written with the protein/starch combinations in mind, but just so you know, the "science" behind it usually combines:

a protein (structure) + a starch (binding) + a gum.

my point? to teach you what you can and can't substitute. if you don't have all the flours called for in a recipe, that's ok!

good protein subsitutions: buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, teff, chickpea, and sometimes brown rice. these are usually about 50% of the flour in the recipe. play around and see what flavor combo you like!

ok all-purpose flour substitutions: sometimes you can sub in a mix of 50% rice flour, 50% starch, and a tiny bit of xanthan gum if the recipe doesn't call for that much all-purpose. i wouldn't try this in a bread recipe, though.

good starch substitutions: arrowroot, potato starch, corn starch, tapioca starch. all starches are pretty much interchangable!

other tips:

- try to find gluten-free versions of your favorite recipes. instead of trying to substitute GF flours in a pound cake, for example, look for a GF pound cake recipe!

- check out the library and barnes & nobles for GF cookbooks. they help you learn so much!

- make a list of your favorite foods, and see what you'd miss going gluten-free. instead of shelling out $10 for GF crackers, try to make your own. who knows - you might like your version better!

- scour GF blogs for their "tip" sections. many GF bloggers have been baking for years and have lots of helpful pieces of knowledge to make your food taste better.

- practice, practice, practice. the more you bake GF, the more you know what to look for and expect, and the better your food will be!

- adjust your seasonsings. GF flours often taste strong or "off" to those of us used to wheat, so it helps to really flavor your recipes. swap in stock for water, double your herbs, increase your cinnamon, add dried fruit, etc.

honestly, re-learning how to eat and bake can be scary! it's a life change, but you can do it. take baby steps. it taste different, but sometimes different can open us up to a whole new world of flavors.

i learned most of what i know today from shauna, karina, and bette hagman - stay curious, ask questions, and respect your resources, y'all!

i hope this helps. i'm certainly no expert, but if you need help, shoot me an email or twitter me!

tips? thoughts? questions?


  1. all great tips :) i tend to like my homemade version of just about everything even better than the store bought version.
    My fave kind of flour to bake with is Bobs Red Mill GF all-purpose. It's a mix of:
    Garbanzo bean flour
    Potato starch
    white sorghum flour
    fava bean flour.
    It rocks!
    I use it for pancakes,muffins,breads,cupcakes, etc.
    As for a binder I use flaxmeal "eggs".

    Keep up the great posting :)

  2. I <3 you and can't wait to see you again this week. We have much to talk about.

  3. Cannotttt believe it is August already! Wow! But that cracker recipe looks awesome, I just bought raw sunflower seeds so that would be perfect!

  4. Eep! Reader reaching 1000? I would probably faint. I hate tackling really high numbers, so I definitely feel for you.

    Love your post, though :) I don't need to be gluten-free, but I really like experimenting with different flours. Spelt and oat flour are actually my favorites, but I've dabbled with buckwheat, rice, quinoa, coconut, and soy flours as well. I love seeing how different flours affect the taste and texture of recipes... there are like a neverending combination of flavors to try out.

  5. I have yet to learn what this Google reader is, haha :D It sounds practical, though.

    Thank you for this post, I know that it will be helpful for those of your readers who suffer from intolerance.
    My mother is allergic to wheat and she has a real hard time finding food that is safe to eat. It suddenly seemed like everything had wheat as an ingredient. She is getting better, and is starting to have fun preparing food again. She even made waffles, which turned out absolutely fabolous :)

    PS : Just wanted you to know that I read and appreciate all of your posts, even though I do not comment on every one. Hope you are doing good, my dear.

  6. I just started trying to use chickpea flour in recipes, because its better nutritionally than regular flour! It doesn't work everywhere, but it worked well in some mocha muffins I made on my blog not too long ago!

  7. love this!! I have beene trying to experiment lately, I have been LOVING millet<3<3 and buckwheat!! I want to make a millet cornbread with freh corn this week, it sounds like astellar combo....and minus the banana those muffins sound delish..gotta get on that train love cinna-raisin. A week without a kitchen has my mind racing with ideas!! and love your last post, I really want to read thrive, have to check my library...which never has any books I want at the moment hahahhaha. I made a great millet granola like a week ago...If anything I make this week comes out good and its gf I should send some for you and your familia :) I made some banging "grandaddy greens" basically like typical southern collard greens but vegan and made with kale and olive oil...It was so good and different than my normal kale chips. This post is long, as I said my mind is all racy ahah. I hope everything with your madre is going stellar, she sounds like my mom up and goinggoinggoing right away!!

  8. That cracker recipe sounds AWESOME! I was just thinking today that I would like to make my own chips/crackers but wasn't quite sure where to start. So thank you for this. :D It looks so easy!

    I've been experimenting with GF products for a little while now and while I'm not 100% GF, I have really cut down on the wheat I consume. In fact, I go most days without eating any gluten at all. :)

  9. Question! And sorry if you answered this in the post and I missed it- is there any benefit for someone to eat gluten-free or generally avoid gluten if that don't have a gluten intolerance? Thanks Rebekah!

  10. So true about trying some GF recipes, even if Gluten isn't your enemy. It makes cooking more fun, trying new grains that you can't even pronounce! Same with non-dairy milks, or a vegetarian/vegan diet, even if you aren't necesarily an animal activist. It forces you to be creative at the grocery store and meals are fantastic! & our bodies don't NEED animal milk to survive - GOOO almond milk/rice milk/soy milks! On top of all that, our saturated fat intake shoots down from slim to almost none. Lovely.

    Love God's gift of edible creation :D
    I want more plants.


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