The Heritage Cook is Now Gluten-Free Friendly!
Don’t worry, The Heritage Cook will not fundamentally change, many of the existing recipes on the blog, especially the savory ones, are already naturally gluten-free. But moving forward, whenever possible I will include gluten-free alternatives to recipes. I encourage you to give it a try and see how delicious gluten-free cooking can be! Making this change will hopefully offer everyone even more options for getting into the kitchen and exploring the incredible world of cooking from scratch!
I do not normally talk about my personal challenges, but since they are influencing the content of my blog, I wanted you to understand the reasons behind the upcoming changes. You may have noticed that I have not been as active on Social Media and cut back my posting at The Heritage Cook in the past year. My chronic fatigue has been getting worse and I have had to compensate for my escalating lack of energy. I have struggled with declining health for many years, going from doctor to doctor, each treating my symptoms but never searching for the cause(s). I have tried both Western and Eastern medical therapies, but have never gotten to the real reason for my ailing health.
Recently I found my own version of Doctor House, a medical diagnostician who is a puzzle solver. He loves taking the most baffling cases and figuring them out. I may well be one of his more challenging patients due to my complicated medical history, but I am also hoping to finally get some answers. The first results that came back were a shock to me – I am gluten-intolerant and have malabsorption issues as a result, which we are addressing with diet and supplements. More testing and hopefully additional diagnoses lie ahead.
When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, a chronic intestinal disease. At that time the doctors tested me for celiac sprue. When that came back negative, I was told that I could eat wheat without any complications and I was thrilled. At 14, I could not fathom giving up sandwiches, pizza, doughnuts, flavored chips, onion rings, spaghetti, Oreos and all the other gluten-laden foods teenagers live on. Apparently over the intervening years the tests have become more specific and when tested last month, it came back positive. Since then I have been studying everything I can find on how to live a gluten-free life and what it takes to cook and bake gluten-free.
Now I am beginning the next chapter in my life.
Thank goodness I am already comfortable in the kitchen so some aspects of living gluten-free are easier for me than for others. You have a choice; you can wean yourself off or go cold turkey. Look to your doctor for their recommendation. I chose to go cold turkey and it is hard, but it is working for me. The first week I was hungry all the time because I couldn’t figure out what to eat. Thank goodness for bags of nuts and rice!
I have discovered some really great gluten-free food products thanks to the wonderful people at Whole Foods Markets (see my page on gluten- free products, websites, and resources). These products are helping bridge the time between diagnosis and when I can make anything I want for myself. If you are newly diagnosed, head straight to your nearest Whole Foods (or other health food store) and ask for their assistance. Their knowledgeable staff will walk you through all the available options. It may be more expensive than you are used to spending initially, but you can quickly learn to make many of the foods yourself at home to save money!
It will be helpful to know that there may be mental and physical withdrawals involved in giving up many foods you had been taught were “healthy.” In some people gluten may affect the brain in ways similar to opiates. Some are physical symptoms are similar to what you would experience if you gave up cigarettes or caffeine, including diarrhea, cramping and nausea. The psychological effects may include anger, depression, and brain fog or concentration issues. Be aware that you may have some of these issues, and with that knowledge, you can be prepared. Also, stay focused on how much better you will feel when the inflammation that your body has been fighting is gone and you can regain your health!
Getting in the Kitchen
First things first, clear out your pantry and cupboards of all products containing gluten. Check the Nutrition Facts lable and look for the following ingredients: wheat, wheat flour, barley, rye, malt, triticum, semolina, seitan, beer, flours (bleached, bread, brown, enriched, graham, durum, granary, malted barley, strong, wheat, unbleached, etc.), bran, Brewer’s yeast, bulgur/bulgar, couscous, emmer, farina, farro, wheat germ, soy, teriyaki, kamut, macha, matzah/matzo, orzo, pasta, spelt, and udon, etc. Celiac.com has an extensive list of ingredients you need to be careful to avoid. But remember, each person is unique and may have reactions to more items than are on the list. Also, not everything on the list will affect everyone. Watch your reactions (or those of your child) to see which ones are safe for you.
The second thing you need to do is restock with gluten-free options. You can eat anything made from these grains and flours: rice, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, garfava, sorghum, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, teff, Montina and nut flours. Don’t forget that organic meats, seafood and poultry are naturally gluten-free along with all the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables. In the prepared G-F items, I really like Udi’s bread products, Mary’s Crackers and Blue Diamond Nut Thins Crackers. Lundberg family brown rice pastas and Asian rice noodles are good substitutes for regular pasta.
The biggest challenge in my opinion is learning to bake. It is like being a rookie all over again, because all the rules have changed. Everything I knew about baking is pretty much thrown out the window because without the gluten protein in baked goods, nothing is the same. I have to admit I hate not having my usual confidence, but I’m sure I will figure it out. I am still working my way through this maze of information and I welcome you to join me on my new journey, to share my successes and learn from my failures. It is bound to be one heck of a ride!
I want to thank The Artist for his support during this transition. He has helped me maintain my sense of humor and supported me through my down times. He brings home new gluten-free treats for us to try whenever he finds them and gently reminds me when I unconsciously reach for the bread basket when we eat out. Without his love and kindness, this would be a much more difficult trial for me.
So, for my first gluten-free Chocolate Monday, I am happy to share my favorite recipe for chocolate mousse. It is naturally gluten-free so I didn’t have to make any adjustments … Whew! This is The Artist’s favorite dessert, so I thought it was especially appropriate given what a blessing he has been in my life.
Thank you for joining me on this journey!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Using espresso in chocolate desserts intensifies the flavor of the chocolate without leaving any real coffee flavor. It makes chocolate taste even more chocolatey. If you don’t have it on hand, you can leave it out. You can also use any liqueur that you like. You could try Kahlua for the coffee flavor without the espresso, Grand Marnier for a lovely orange essence, Framboise if you like raspberry, or Creme de Menthe for a wonderful chocolate mint combination.
Kitchen Skill: How to Make Chocolate Shavings and Curls
For chocolate shavings, drag a vegetable peeler across the surface of a cold block of chocolate. Chocolate will shatter and break into shards.
For easy chocolate curls, microwave a block of chocolate for 5 seconds. Using a vegetable peeler, pull across the block in one smooth stroke. Chocolate will curl around peeler. Gently set aside on a parchment-covered baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to garnish your dessert.
You can also use the edge of a sharp knife, angled away from you to drag across the surface. Holding the knife by the handle with one hand and at the tip with the other hand, with the knife at about a 30° angle, pull it toward you. The chocolate will curl under the blade as you drag it forward.
- 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4-1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 tbsp strongly-brewed espresso (or other flavoring, see Hints above)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
- Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish (see Kitchen Skill above)
- White chocolate shavings, for garnish, optional
- Additional lightly sweetened whipped cream, for garnish optional
- In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine the chocolate, butter and espresso and cook over simmering water over moderately low heat, stirring, until the chocolate is mostly melted. Remove from the heat and let cool until it reaches 75°F on an instant-read thermometer, stirring occasionally to finish melting and blending. Beat in the egg yolks until incorporated.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until very soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and beat until the whites are slightly firm and glossy.
- In another bowl, beat the cream until firm. Gently fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, and then fold in half of the beaten whites until no streaks remain. Repeat with the remaining whites and whipped cream.
- Spoon the chocolate mousse into glasses or bowls, I like to serve this in wine or martini glasses for a little extra dazzle, press plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours.
- When ready to serve, garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings and serve chilled. You can also garnish these with orange wedges, fresh berries, or additional whipped cream if you prefer to match your flavoring choices.
- Make Ahead: The mousse can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mousse to keep a skin from forming. Do not garnish with whipped cream and shavings until just before serving.