Review: Healthier Gluten-Free

healthier-gluten-free-sLisa Howard recently sent me an early copy of her new book, Healthier Gluten-Free to have a look at – and it does look delicious!

And: it’s finally out here in the UK – published today.

It’s aimed at anyone interested in healthier eating and/or avoiding gluten, and is in three parts:

  • the first discusses going gluten-free, with a useful list of wheat variants to look out for (something people sometimes find confusing).
  • the second discusses the importance of ‘whole-grain’ to a healthy diet, and includes:
    • a fascinating discussion of flours: their taste, and their best use. This includes a whole range of flours I’ve never thought of using, such as poppy seed, acorn or coconut flour – interesting.
    • discussion of different milks and dairy products, and of eggs, oils and sweeteners (again, including unusual ones such as yacon syrup and sucanat – I’m going to have to hunt some of these fascinating ingredients down…)
    • advice on which flours would work well in various dishes: for example, she advises using a mild medium-starch flour such as brown rice flour in shortbread, or starchy flours such as potato or sticky rice flour in dumplings.
  • and the third part is six chapters of recipes: breakfast, hand-held meals, salads and pilafs, appetizers and snacks, and finally baking.

    Some of these are twists on classic recipes, and many are definitely going to be on my list to try out, starting with:

    • goats cheese & walnut scones with pears
    • goats cheese, fig and caramelised onion pizza
    • pear, walnut and gorgonzola salad
    • halloumi & grape salad
    • parmesan-battered fish and chips
    • almond-dusted crab cakes
    • cumin-scented guacamole
    • baked brie with homemade berry jam

    Theres more, much more: these were just the ones that caught my eye and made me peckish – and now that I look at the list, I’m obviously craving some cheese!

It’s written in a light and friendly tone, full of sidebars and summaries, with good explanation of technical matters – the section about leavening agents is excellent.

gfreefrittata-healthier-gfNote that it is written for an American audience, so ingredients (such as types of cream) and brands (such as Grainaissance or Aunt Jemima’s) may not be the same as in your country, and do check everything you buy – for example, tortillas almost inevitably contain wheat flour here in the UK unless you make your own or buy from a specialist.

The book is dedicated to Lisa’s mother, and there are many elements in the book that remind me of my own, sadly missed, mother, who also kept every butter-wrapper for greasing cake tins, and who once memorably repurposed one of my childhood baking disasters as Resurrection Cake.

Eating Gluten Free and Rule 17b

rule-17bEvery family has its own traditions and in-jokes. One of ours is Rule 17b.

When my children were little, and we were trying to teach them acceptable table manners, the number of rules about what they should/shouldn’t do at the table seemed to get ever longer.

Rule 17b came about as a joke rule—something to do with not-deliberately-humming-in-a-way-that-annoys-your-sister-at-the-table—and is now used as a general hint about behaviour.

One of the rules that my sister has is that no-one should be rude about anyone else’s food. As an experienced foster-mother, she’s dealt with a lot of children with a variety of food-related and behavioural issues, and I was impressed by this rule when I first heard her invoke it.

I wished I could have used it the other day. My coeliac daughter—a Young Leader at Guides—was eating, picnic style, with her group of Guides, and one of them commented on her food:

“Oh yes, I used to have to eat gluten-free. It’s disgusting, isn’t it?”

Hmm. My daughter has a core of steel, and wasn’t affected – but someone younger, more recently diagnosed, or struggling with the diet might have found this kind of comment very hard to deal with. Especially from someone who presumably has experienced the difficulties of a special diet – and who was certainly old enough to know better.

Definitely a call for Rule 17b, which may need to be rewritten:

“No-one should be rude about anyone else’s food.”

Coeliac Disease: from Child to Adult

We recently got involved in a clinical research study that researchers at Birmingham University are carrying out, looking at the transition from Child to Adult Services in the NHS.

My daughter and I were interviewed for about an hour each (separately) about everything from her diagnosis all those years ago, through the care provided by Child Services, all the way to how we thought the transition to Adult Services had been handled. The researchers will compile the results from a whole series of paired interviews – we were one of the early pairs.

It was a very interesting process; while living with coeliac disease, in our experience at least, we just get on with life, and don’t really think about or discuss CD very much. It was good to sit down with somebody and go through it all, how we manage it, and how we feel about it.

It was also surprisingly emotional – for me at least – remembering how I felt when my one-year-old switched to a gluten free diet and started eating again.

It was also interesting to think through the transition process, and to realise that my daughter didn’t, in fact, get what we were told would happen – a referral to an adult gastroenterology clinic – and that there had been some communication failures. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the study.

Of course, as we all know, the way the NHS functions is not consistent across the country, and each coeliac’s experience is different. If you are a young person diagnosed before you were 14 and who has recently been moved from Child Services to Adult Services, the research team are still recruiting volunteers, and may be interested in hearing your story. You can find out more on the Coeliac UK site

Asda and Amy’s Kitchen: Gluten free at the supermarket cafe

amys-kitchen-macThis is good news: Asda will be offering gluten free meals by Amy’s Kitchen in their supermarket cafes from the end of this month (April 2014).

Coeliacs will be able to have tomato soup with gluten free oatcakes, or gluten free rice mac and cheese.

Although we don’t eat in supermarket cafes very much, now that I don’t have to trail tiny children around with me, I welcome anything that makes life easier for coeliacs. There’s only so often you want to eat a baked potato.

And my daughter likes the Amy’s Kitchen rice mac and cheese; we tasted it at the London Allergy and Free From Fair last summer, and I’ve bought it several times since then. We haven’t tried Amy’s tomato soup yet.

Curiously, we did eat out in cafes a lot more frequently when the children were small – probably because they needed to be fed more regularly than they do now they’re teens. In any case, both these meals will stave off those hunger pangs whether you’re feeding a tot or a teen.

Going for Gold: Gluten-Free Expedition Food

duke of edinburgh gold expedition

Another year, another expedition…

I’ve talked before about our coeliac daughter’s Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and had a very interesting email conversation afterwards with another mother about her own daughter’s expeditions.

As you may know, the DofE expeditions require that the young people carry everything they need (except water): tents, maps, food, sleeping bags, fuel, cooking equipment… and that there is a weight limit on what each person can carry. In our experience, the team of girls have split the tent and cooking gear between them, to spread the load, and so we’ve relied on sharing pans (though not crockery, cutlery or utensils). Naturally, this involves cook-in-the-bag type supplies and/or VERY good cleaning between uses. But the other family I was discussing this with needed dedicated pans, thereby increasing the weight that had to be carried. Difficult indeed!

My own daughter’s final Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition is coming up, involving 4 days of hiking and 3 nights camping.

Since my last post on this, we’ve found a couple more options for gluten-free expedition food:

  • Expedition Foods offer a range of gluten-free foods. The company was set up to serve the DofE market, and has grown to serve all kinds of outdoor explorers and enthusiasts from Ranulph Fiennes to those taking part in the Marathon des Sables. These are freeze-dried meals – so don’t need refrigeration, and are very light to carry – and to cook them you add boiling water to the bag (avoiding the cross-contamination risk).
  • Ilumi seem to add to their range all the time, and often have very good offers. Their products are all gluten-free, nut-free and milk-free, and some of them are vegetarian or vegan. The food can be stored at room temperature (or in a rucksack!) and can be heated by putting the bags in boiling water (avoiding the cross-contamination risk)
  • And we were sent some of the new, organic and gluten-free Nature’s Path granola bars to try (chocolate chip, and trail mix). We haven’t found many gluten-free granola bars, so these could prove useful. They’re of the soft and chewy variety, rather than the crisp and crunchy – at least, the trail mix ones are, I didn’t get to try any of the choc chip variety – and they are quite sweet. I can see that they might give a weary walker something to keep them going for another few miles.

And once this Duke of Edinburgh Gold expedition is done, her next challenge is an expedition to Nepal, next summer. Being gluten-free doesn’t seem to hold her back at all.