Posts Tagged ‘dietary issues’

Life Is Short. Eat The Damn Cookies

December 2, 2018

These chocolate chippers were a winner with chunks of hand-cut chocolate and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt

This week, I devoted a few days to recipe development for cookies and muffins that did not contain any refined sugars or gluten. After spending a full day baking, tasting and tweaking, I stumbled upon a few conclusions.

Although it is possible to create really good items despite the restrictions, I’m not sure they are actually healthier than their conventional alternatives. Although I only used natural ingredients and avoided artificial sweeteners, including Stevia ( which is naturally derived and then processed making its purity questionable) my stomach has been bloated and gurgling ever since.

Gluten-free flour blends are high in carbs. Most include various rice flours, tapioca flour, sorghum, and potato starch, and require something binding to replace the gluten. This is usually the addition of Xanthan gum, which is derived from a fermented, inactive bacteria. For those looking to follow a low-carb lifestyle for weight loss and energy, removing the gluten doesn’t lower the carb count.

These cinnamon streusel muffins could be a good base for add-ins and held moisture better than the loaf cake version

Store-bought gluten-free flour blends have varied calorie counts, ranging from 400 calories to 587 calories per cup depending on the contents. White, all-purpose wheat flour comes in at about 455 calories per cup.

Coconut nectar sugar is the sweetener of choice. Purported to have a lower glycemic index than white or brown sugars, it still is loaded with fructose and is similar in calories to refined white sugar. Honey and pure maple syrup have more nutritional value, but also are high in fructose, and can weigh in at a greater calorie count than conventional sugar.

Maybe some apples would help these keep moist and fresh for a longer period of time

While many people have health issues that prevent them from enjoying foods containing gluten, for the rest of us, there may be no value in avoiding it. I am guilty of eliminating foods from my diet, whether for vanity or perceived good health, but I try not to replace them with faux versions. Diet soda is actually worse for your health than the real deal, although I would strongly advocate for passing up soda in general. If you are eliminating food groups ( i.e. gluten or refined sugar) and eating a lot of replacement foods, especially those with processed and fabricated ingredients, it might be affecting your health in a negative way. In my case, too many cookies were simply too many cookies, regardless of what might be in them.

These were a winner. RIch and fudgy!

The moral of the story: Life is short. Eat the damn cookies.

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Diet Riot

November 2, 2015

 

1039100045_compDietary issues have become the norm these days. Whether food aversions, part of a health plan, fads or actual allergies, it seems everyone has something they want to avoid. In order to ensure compliance to their various and sundry food schticks, people are telling restaurant servers that they are highly allergic to whatever they don’t wish to eat. While that seems like a worthy plan, it turns the kitchen upside down.

When someone says they have a food allergy, the kitchen must stop everything and create an area that is 100% contaminent free. This means clearing and cleaning a special work area to prepare that single meal, sterilizing all of the cutting boards, knives, tongs pans and other equipment that might be used to prepare the food. Once the food has been prepared in this special environment, it is often brought to the patron by a hostess or manager, who has not touched any other dishes. They use a clean towel, or disinfectant wipe to touch the plate. This is mandatory practice to ensure that the food is free of anything that might make it’s recipient sick.
When we say we have an allergy when in reality we simply are trying to avoid a certain ingredient, we are causing the kitchen to undergo extreme and unnecessary measures.

When I was in the throes of my highly restrictive Whole 3o diet plan, I had the occassion to eat out a few times. I selected the menu item that was closest to being compliant, and asked for a few simple modifications. I remember distinctly telling the server that I was on a restricted diet and could not eat certain foods, but was not allergic and did not require them to clean the kitchen or make special provisions for me. I am sure it was appreciated, and my meal seemed to come out in perfect compliance to my requests, even if it may have been cooked in a pan that formerly held butter, or was touched by someone who had cooked a legume for someone else.

I recently read an article about a young women who never considered asking if the chili had nuts, and died before discovering that the secret ingredient to the famous chili she ate was in fact, peanut butter.
If you have a food allergy, it is important to let your server know so that they can be sure that there are no suprise ingredients in your food that might make you ill. If you are simply trying to avoid a certain food, it is prudent to tell them that as well. They can steer you to dishes that are closer to meeting your dietary needs, and can request that the chef alters your order to suit you, without wrecking havoc in the kitchen. And please, don’t be the boy who cried wolf. Servers report frustration in seeing the person who had just inflicted turmoil in the kitchen eating a bite of someone else’s food riddled with the ingredient they worked so hard to eliminate. If you can’t have gluten in your entree, please don’t order cake for dessert.
When dining out, be aware of your food issues, and choose a place that can easily accommodate them. Don’t go to a seafood shack with a shellfish allergy, a pizza place with a gluten sensitivity, or a fondue shop with lactose intolerence. If you have an allergy, make it known, but don’t abuse that option if in fact you just don’t like something. Everyone will benefit in the long run.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Diet Riot

December 26, 2012

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I am planning a small holiday soiree and want to include a variety of foods that suit a variety of dietary choices.

There are the vegetarians, the gluten free, the lactose intolerant, and the just plain fussy.

Some won’t eat fish, some won’t eat red meat, and some won’t eat chicken. One guest has a shellfish allergy.  A few won’t eat vegetables. There are the carb restrictors, and the sugar- free. There are the adventurous gourmets, and the no sauce types.

Sound like an impossible to please group? Not really.

These days, everyone has a dietary issue, due to allergies, or just personal taste. A good host can plan around that, and make sure that everyone has something to eat that they (hopefully) will enjoy. It’s not necessary to adapt recipes to cater to dietary preferences, but it is important to offer a selection of foods to suit everyone.

I have stated my distaste for serving too many hors d’oeuvres, which in my opinion just fill everyone up before the main meal. I tend to opt for a few simple “nibbles” that won’t wreck anyone’s appetite before the big event, but will tide my guests over while they are gathering with cocktails before dinner.

Tangy dips or spreads, made without mayonnaise, sour cream or cheese, are good options. Put out crackers or chips, as well as baby carrots to cater to the gluten free crowd. I love Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips, which are gluten free, lactose free and whole grain. Spiced nuts, or a selection of olives are easy ideas.

As long as everyone has something they can snack on, feel free to offer a cheese plate or meat based hors d’oeuvre for the others.

Variety is the spice of life, and when possible, it’s nice to have choices. Few people will love everything, but as long as everyone has a few things they can enjoy, the menu is a success.

An interesting salad, made with vinaigrette rather than a creamy dressing is a nice way to start the meal. Skip the cheese, so that the lactose free guests can partake.

For a buffet, it is easy to make a few different types of protein, such as fish, chicken, pork or beef. Make sure that at least one of them can have the sauce served on the side, to accommodate someone with a simpler palette. If it is a sit down dinner, with only one main course, be sure that the sides are ample enough to please anyone who doesn’t care for it.  Be sure that the dishes don’t all contain sugar, cream, or tons of butter, as many holiday sides do.

Dessert can get a bit trickier, as flour, butter and sugar are the mainstays of most pies, cakes and cookies. If you can’t include at least one gluten free option, and at least one lactose free option, have some fresh fruit so that all of your guests can enjoy a final course.

At the end of it all, the act of getting together and sharing a meal is the most important part of holiday entertaining. Enjoying time spent with family and friends trumps sticking to a rigid diet any day!

photo: Glasshouse Images


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