four snacks that are grain-free and sugar-free

If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that I recently gave up sugar and am avoiding carbs in my snacks. So I’m here today with four of the snacks that have been keeping me going over these past few weeks without grains or sugar.

First for a substantial snack, I’ve been reaching for hummus and bell pepper. Instead of chips/crackers, I have been chopping red bell pepper and stashing it in the fridge (convenience is an important part of healthy snacking, having some pre-chopped is key). Then, I dip them in the excellent hummus that I found at our natural foods store (way better than sabra, though that would do) and enjoy.

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Next, a replacement of a usual go-to for a rushed morning at work, individual yogurt cups. Instead of the sugar-laden yogurts that we used to keep our fridge stocked with, I have been mixing frozen fruit, plain yogurt, and a little shredded coconut (optional) in small mason jars at the beginning of the week. You could also add a little honey for extra sweetness, but I’m being especially careful about my sugar intake and find that the fruit offers enough sweetness for me.

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Third, something that helps me with my sweet-tooth / sugar cravings. Frozen berries, shredded coconut, and whole milk. It’s like ice cream because the berries freeze the milk. There’s a lot of sweetness in all three of the ingredients (if you can’t taste that, your tastebuds are still numb from refined sugar). This one’s kind of weird, but I really like it.

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Finally, a snack for those times when there’s snacks out somewhere and you can’t eat any of them because those things are all full of sugar: mixed raw nuts. I have been keeping a small jar of nuts in my purse at all times. At work there are often sweet treats for all of the staff, and when I’m at a party there’s rarely anything with substance that I can eat. So these are a helpful backup.

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Any other snack recommendations? I’m still exploring, and will keep you updated with what works!

no gluten, no sugar, no snack time carbs.

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Feb. 1st marked my 3 year anniversary of eating a gluten free diet. I do not have celiac disease, so not eating gluten is a choice for me. I do however, have a thyroid disorder called Hashimoto’s. Strangely, eating gluten makes my arms break out in weird little dry patches. Three years ago, I read that there may be a link between that skin allergy, Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, and gluten intolerance. So that’s where going gluten free started for me – I thought, “why not try and see if the arm thing goes away.” It worked, and here I am three years later, still avoiding gluten – for the most part.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have celiac disease, and can eat gluten when I really want to or feel like it’s worth it. For instance, at the Indian place down the street, they serve the most amazing naan with garlic on it that I always have at least a bite of. Or when I’m out somewhere and get caught at a meal time with no gluten free options, I can eat what’s available to me. And, as a result, my arms will break out a day or two later with a weird little dry sore or two. If I’m really heavy on the gluten, my stomach gets upset – but I suppose that’s just from not having eaten it and not being acclimated to it anymore. Does kind of make you think though, maybe we’re not meant to eat something if we have to acclimate to it? That’s a whole rabbit hole school of thought that I try to avoid though.

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Now I’m trying something new. I am pregnant, and so I had a routine test for gestational diabetes that I did not pass. When I got the call with those results, I was extremely upset. I felt like I had let my baby, and his father down. I wasn’t the epitome of health that I was supposed to be. I read a little bit about gestational diabetes from some reliable sources, and learned a lot. It’s something that usually goes away when your baby is born, and can be treated with a careful diet and exercise regimen. So I read about what that diet looks like, and decided to make some changes. The next day I gave up refined sugar, and decided to avoid carbs as snacks. I had two weeks before I went in for the follow up test to ensure that I did indeed have gestational diabetes, but I didn’t feel like with just months left in the pregnancy, I could spare two weeks risking my baby’s and my health. The follow up test is a more fail-safe test that involves fasting and getting your blood tested four times over the course of three hours. Luckily, I passed that test. Am I sticking with the new diet anyway? Absolutely.

Until this time I had never really confronted my sugar intake, and it was high. I was eating a bowl of sugary cereal (usually Lucky Charms – damn that gluten free seal on the box) at least once a day. And I tended to have a consume all of the chips in the bag or no chips at all problem. Hence the new, no carbs for snacks rule. I have a family with a history of diabetes, and have just watched my mom make some major changes in her diet (she eats no grains and no refined sugar) for preventative reasons over the past 6+ months. So, I feel good about sticking with these choices for the long run.

The crazy big takeaway that I have from these new dietary changes though? It’s that sugar is absolutely, without question, a drug. And that I was addicted to it. Giving up gluten was hard, but as it became trendier, more alternative options appeared and now I can eat pretty much anywhere with all of the gluten free options that are available in not just grocery stores but also in restaurants. Giving up sugar was completely different. I absolutely felt like an addict coming off of some kind of hard drug. I craved lucky charms, and sugary treats in a way that I had never craved food before. I went through withdrawals that made me a crazy person for at least two or three days. One night I couldn’t sleep because I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. (Just ask my boyfriend who got to have a screaming fight with me in public because of it. He’ll tell you, it was bad.) I would attribute the craziness to having reached the notoriously hormonal third trimester of my pregnancy, except that it leveled out after about five days and I feel totally better now. I wholly believe that it was the sugar, or lack thereof.

If you’re still with me, either you’re oddly curious about my personal diet – or you are relating in some way. If the later’s the case, stay tuned tomorrow for some excellent tips on gluten free, sugar free snacks that I’ve been enjoying over the past several weeks.

I don’t really get on the everyone should avoid gluten bandwagon, it works for me but I think that’s because of some really specific stuff about my makeup. Sugar though? I believe it’s poison. You should stop eating it. Just try giving it up for a week. See how that makes you feel, I think you’ll be shocked to find that you were addicted. Then stick with it because you’ll be better for it. And really, if you make it through the withdrawals, you might as well stick with it!

What Going Gluten Free Has Done for Me

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It’s been just over a year since I stopped eating gluten. The original reason I made the switch from wheat based flour to rice based flour was an article about the ways in which gluten can negatively impact someone with a thyroid disorder – which is something I have. I’ll leave the details of my personal health issues aside, except to mention briefly that going gluten free also cleared up a rash I had on my arms. That’s a little irrelevant to most people, so I’ll focus more on the overall benefits that I have discovered instead. There are two big reasons why I’ve stuck with it for so long and why I won’t be switching back.

The first reason is that I feel healthier. I don’t feel as sluggish and I’ve lost weight. My metabolism has sped up and it feels great. I can eat all day and never feel bloated. Wheat is a filler food, in large quantities it can be really bad for you. Brooke is a great example too because while she still eats gluten, she eats a lot less of it than she used to. We buy gluten free pastas, breads, and flours. She still eats gluten when she brings something home from the restaurant, buys something like granola bars with wheat in them, or of course, when she drinks a beer. She’s living the happy-medium lifestyle and has also lost a lot of weight. It may be lacking specificity, but all I can say is that I really and truly do feel healthier. There’s a lot of science behind it, and you can read books like Wheat Belly to find out more. Really though, I encourage you to give it a try. Don’t eat gluten for just two weeks and you’ll start to feel better, I promise.

The second thing that I really love about being gluten free is something that I thought I would hate. I finally conceded to my parents’ urging me to try giving up gluten in February of 2013. I had just received a whole slew of baking supplies for Christmas including the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook and a brand new Fiestaware pie pan. I was so terrified that being gluten free would mean giving up baking. Or baking gross cardboard-ish deserts. Instead, I learned a lot. I started making my own flour blend and baking right from that book with it. Pie crusts turned out to be just as good gluten-free. Instead of baking less I started baking more because old favorites were new experiments. Almost everything turned out just as good and some things were even better. So if the fear of losing cookies, brownies, and pies is holding you back – you’ve lost your excuse. Remember how I said I lost a lot of weight? Well it certainly isn’t because I cut these things out, I eat them all the time. It’s the gluten guys.

Are you gluten free? I’d love to hear why! Leave a comment, share your story or fears or tell me why you’d never do it! I want to know!

gluten free chocolate chip cookie mix

chocolate chip cookieschocolate chip cookiesI finally found a chocolate chip cookie mix that fits in a mason jar and is not overly complicated.

Adapted from our 13 year old Betty Crocker cookbook.

Dry Mix:
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup +2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1  1/4 cups gluten free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips

Mix sugars together and place in a BNTO. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips in a bowl and funnel into a pint and a half size mason jar. Set the sugars in and close. Write the instructions as seen above on a card and tie or tape it to the jar and you’re good to go! The sugars can be mixed in with the rest of the ingredients, but creaming the butter with them will yeild a better cookie.

gluten free orange cake

orange sweetbreadOne of my most used pins on pinterest is this orange cake recipe. I’ve probaby made it at least a dozen times. I’ve since adapted it to be gluten free. Here’s my recipe:

½ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon caster sugar (sugar between the texture of granulated and powdered, can be made from granulated sugar pulsed in a coffee grinder or blender)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups + 2 ½ tablespoons gluten free flour mix
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
4 tablespoons orange juice

Orange icing:
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (it’s important to sift the sugar so you don’t get a clumpy icing)
2 tablespoons orange juice
zest of 1 orange, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 8″x4″ loaf pan with parchment paper and grease.
Beat the butter and sugar for 8-10 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the milk, orange juice and zest and mix until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes or until golden and cooked when tested with a fork. Cool completely on a wire rack, then carefully unmold.
To make the icing: combine the sugar and orange juice in a small bowl and mix to form a smooth paste. Use a palette knife to spread the orange icing over the cake and top with the zest.

gluten free pantry chocolate cake

As I’ve mentioned before my parents have recruited me to make them gluten free cookie mixes like the dry mixes that you can buy. You know, just add an egg and some water and you’re good to go. Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds to make such a simple mix. I’ve been trying all kinds of cookies and haven’t exactly had smashing success (they are never simple enough, and they never fit in the jar). However, that’s not why we’re all here today – enough complaining and on to the good news.

The ever so simple “Pantry Chocolate Cake” from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, aka: my bible, fits in a jar! I’ve adapted the recipe a bit in order for it to be gluten free, but you can use all purpose wheat flour too.

6a00d83427794753ef019affc6bed6970d-800wicakeAll you’ll need is:
1  1/2 cups gluten free flour mix
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder

1) Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.

2) Carefully funnel into a quart size mason jar. Measure the cocoa powder into a BNTO (a zip lock bag tucked in the top of the jar will work too).

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3) Add a cute label and some instructions and give it away or stash in your own cupboard!

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home made gluten free dry mixes

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My parents have requested that I make them a variety of gluten free cookie mixes. I started with a layered oatmeal raisin mix that fit well into a large jar, but only when the recipe was halved. My next attempt was chocolate chip, and the above is what happened.. I had to use two jars.

So, I seem to be having trouble getting any of my mixes to fit into my mason jars. My frustration is that I want to use my own recipes, not those designed to fit into a jar.

I think perhaps I should just invest in some bigger jars.muffins

Until then… Here is my oat bran muffin mix not fitting in a jar.

Do you make these jar mixes? How do you get them to fit? Help!

gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies

As you probably know, we’re hosting a pie bake-along on twitter this Sunday. You can bake this month’s pie, chocolate cream, right along with us using the hashtag #piealong. The crust of a chocolate cream pie is made with oreos, so it’s not gluten free. I’m on a mission to figure out how to make a gluten free chocolate pie crust so, today I’m going to talk a little bit about the pie crust for a chocolate cream pie and homemade oreos.

The last time I made a successful chocolate cream pie was probably pretty close to exactly a year ago. I stopped eating gluten in February of last year and the chocolate pie I had made was the last exception I made to eating gluten. (It’s oreo crust makes it glutenous.) I attempted (some time between that pie and now) to make a gluten-free one using Glutino gluten-free oreos. But the crust became a kind of hardened candy or toffee like thing. We think it was because the recipe requires single stuff oreos and the Glutino oreos seem to fall somewhere between the single and double stuffed icing level.

So my thought for attempt #2 at a gluten free chocolate cookie crust is, why can’t it be like a graham cracker crust that uses crackers (or cookies) and butter. Forget the icing, which I think is what causing so many problems with our last crust. Strangely, my America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book has a recipe for “Chocolate Sandwich Cookies,” meant to replicate Oreos. The cookies are a chocolate icebox cookie; the kind you shape into a roll, refrigerate, and cut off to bake. We made a batch and I want to share it with you in case you want to give this method a try too.

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We won’t be making these cookies as a part of the #piealong, so if you want to use them for your crust you’ll want to make them ahead of time. They take a few hours because the dough has to chill, so you’ll want to make them Sunday morning at the latest. Keep in mind, we haven’t tested them as a crust yet, so you’ll be experimenting right along with us on that portion.

I’m also going to share the icing filling part of these in case you’re making them for just plain eating. We made a half-batch of the filling and put half of the chocolate cookies aside for our crust. We’ve since eaten most of the other half that have icing in them.

Ok, enough of the longest preface ever, totally one of my recipe blog post pet peeves, but I just had a lot to say today! Sorry! On to the recipe:

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Ingredients:Cookies:
2  1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup black cocoa powder (if you can’t find this you can use regular cocoa powder, as we did)
1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso or instant coffee (we just ground some regular coffee up really fine)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2  1/4 cups flour (we used our gluten free flour blend, any all-purpose flour will do whether gluten free or not)
Filling:
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2  1/2 tablespoons water

For the Cookies:    Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter, then combine with the cocoa and espresso powders in a small bowl to form a smooth paste. Set aside to cool, about 15 minutes. Look, I took pictures of this step:

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oreoIn a large bowl, beat the cooled cocoa mixture, remaining 16 tablespoons butter, granulated sugar, and salt together using an electric mixer on medium-high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute (or much longer with a fork if you don’t have an electric mixer like us). Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla until coombined, about 30 seconds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour in 3 batches, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until the dough forms a cohesive ball, about 10 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a clean counter and divide into 2 equal pieces. Following the photos, roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch log, about 2 inches thick. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the dough into 1/8-inch-thick cookies. Lay the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 3/4 inch apart. Bake the cookies until the edges begin to brown and firm, 10 to 12 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway trhough baking.Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough using freshly lined baking sheets.

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For the Filling:    Again, we halved the filling just to try it out on half of the cookies. But this is the full recipe, so you’ll have to do some math if you want to do the same, but I promise it’s easy.
In a large bowl, beat the confectioners’ sugar and salt together with an electric mixer on low speed, slowly adding the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the water until the filling is uniform and malleable, about 1 minute. If the filling is dry and crumbly, like ours was, beat in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of water. Transfer the filling to a clean counter and roll into a log slightly smaller than the cookie dough (about 1  2/3 inches wide). Wrap the filling in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
Slice the filling about 1/8 inch thick. Pinch each slice of filling between your fingertips to soften it, then sandwich it firmly between 2 cookies and serve.

If you’d like to join us in our pie baking adventure this Sunday, just take a glance at the recipe so you can be sure to have all of the ingredients you’ll need.