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Tuesday Tips – Preserving Your Gluten-Free Flours

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Preserve those pricey flours in the freezer.Did you know that flour can go bad? Whole grain flours are especially at risk, as they contain more natural oils and fats that can become rancid. And any flour is at risk of getting small bugs in it, as it is impossible to completely remove the insect eggs from the flour. Ew. You already know that it’s cheaper to buy flour in bulk, and if you’re making your own gluten-free flour mix, you’ll end up with several pounds each of a bunch of different flours. (I counted one time and discovered that I had eleven different kinds of flour in my house at one time. I may have an obsession with collecting gluten-free flours.) That’s a lot of flour to use up, and the likelihood of it going bad in my house is pretty high. It’s no savings to buy in bulk if you have to throw half of it away due to an invasion of pantry moths.

The quick tip for this Tuesday is to freeze your flours. Yes, our favorite kitchen tool here at Food Allergies on Ice is the solution once again! Keeping the flour very cold helps to keep the oils from becoming rancid, and keeps those tiny insect eggs from hatching. It’s also a dry, airtight space which helps the flour stay dry (obviously important!) and prevents bug invasions. (You know, in case the kids leave the back door open and a bunch of flies come in. Again.) Of course, you can use this trick to preserve gluten-containing flours as well.

One caveat to the freezer trick, though: make sure your flours come up to room temperature before baking with them or your recipes may not turn out as well. Here’s what I do: my bulk flours are in a box in the freezer. I pull out the box and mix up 2 kg of my All-Purpose GF flour mix at a time. That’s enough for a week or two of baking and it stays in an airtight container on my kitchen counter. The box of bulk flours is returned to the freezer for safe keeping until the next time.

Pretty simple, but this simple trick will help you save money and make tastier food. I call that a win!

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Produce – Preserving the Harvest

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It’s a busy season for our food-allergic household. While fruits and veggies are naturally free of gluten and most allergens, we find that much of the grocery store produce is contaminated with corn*. So, we try to purchase as much as possible from our local farmers’ market, in addition to growing our own fruits and vegetables. That means, of course, that we need to preserve the fresh food now so we’ll have it over the winter.

The best website I’ve found to help with this is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. This comprehensive website is hosted by the University of Georgia, and is a collaborative project between universities in the Cooperative Extension System. I’ve found their information to be far more reliable and trustworthy than just reading a random blog that looks like it was made in 1980 and purports to have the secret to making apple jelly just like Grandma used to do. Those websites are fun to read for the folk wisdom they contain, but when it comes to food safety, I’ll trust Cooperative Extension instead, thank you very much.

So far this year, I’ve frozen peaches, grape juice, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and chard. I’ve canned grape jelly and applesauce, and dried tomatoes and some fruit leather, too. As the season moves on, I’ll be working on squash, more apples, and rose hips. Because this is all locally grown produce, I’m able to ask the growers directly about their food, ensuring that it is is allergen-free for my family.

Not everyone has time to grow and preserve large quantities of food like we do, but nearly everyone can take advantage of the great prices on in-season produce and put up a batch of something. Check with gardening friends, too. Someone may be more than willing to share their abundance with you. Last year, I had baskets of squash to give away. This year, I have way too much broccoli, and I’m so sick of it, I’ll give it to whomever wants it! Friends of mine had so many apples, the weight of the fruit was breaking the branches, so they were more than happy to share with us, to the tune of nearly 200 pounds of apples! (There were still many more apples on the tree!)

So if you’ve noticed that things are a little slow at the blog lately, rest assured that I haven’t been slacking. I’ll be back to posting more allergy-friendly recipes just as soon as the frosts hit, and this year’s harvest is safely stashed away.

* Produce is often coated in corn-based wax to preserve it or sprayed with corn-derived ethylene gas to help ripen it.

Squash-Tastic

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This lovely blossom will be a yummy squash in a couple weeks!

It’s that time of year again when the garden is yielding up more squash than you can shake a stick at. Squash is pretty easy to grow, and produces a lot of food, so it’s a good crop for the novice gardener.  Last year, I was given nearly 50 yellow squash starts for my garden, and as a result, I had an abundance of yellow squash for much of last summer. By the end of summer, I had mastered the art of hiding squash in a number of creative recipes.

  • Sliced thin, lightly salted, and dehydrated into squash chips (a tasty low-carb snack!)
  • Dredged in a mixture of flour, salt and herbs and fried
  • Sautéed in oil with tomatoes, white beans, caramelized onions, garlic, bell pepper, etc.
  • Steamed with broccoli and lightly seasoned with herbs for a side dish with grilled chicken
  • Boiled with potatoes and cauliflower and mashed into “mashed potatoes”
  • Roasted with potatoes, carrots and bell pepper
  • Lightly brushed with olive oil and grilled
  • Julienned into a squash/carrot/radish coleslaw-like salad
  • Chopped into lettuce salad
  • Shredded and in baked into muffins and pancakes
  • Added to soup
  • Mashed and added to spaghetti sauce
  • Lacto-fermented (aka pickled) in brine
  • Peeled into thin strips as a low-carb, grain-free pasta substitute
  • Shredded and mixed into meatloaf and chicken patties

I think the only thing I didn’t do is stuff them, and that was only because I didn’t let them get that big. I also sliced and shredded a bunch for the freezer so we could enjoy squash all year long.

This year’s garden has less squash, but overflows with broccoli instead. I’m sad to say that it is not proving to be nearly as versatile.  I’d be happy to hear your suggestions for using up broccoli or squash in the comments!

Tuesday Tips – Homemade Sausage Patties

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We have started making our own homemade chicken sausage patties, since the ones in the store are so stinkin’ expensive, and likely to be contaminated with one of our many allergens. It turns out that it’s really easy to make allergen-free sausage – just mix ground meat with seasonings, and voila! Bulk sausage.

There are a bunch of homemade sausage recipes on the web. We don’t really have a favorite to recommend. Sometimes we make Italian sausage for pizza, sometimes spicy sausage (for Hubby), or sometimes a sweet breakfast-y maple sausage for, well, breakfast.

Maybe someday I’ll get ambitious and figure out how to stuff casings and all that. In the meantime, I figured out an easy way to make easy sausage patties. After mixing the raw meat and seasonings together, I just form it into a log, roll it up in freezer paper, and freeze it solid. Then, I unwrap it and simply slice off little patties – much like those slice-and-bake cookies I used to make as a teenager. You’ll need a really super sharp chef’s knife for this. I found that a serrated knife left little sausage sawdust bits everywhere, so I use a flat blade instead.

I pop the frozen patties straight into the frying pan to cook. They hold their shape that way while they cook. Extra patties go back into the freezer, safely sealed in a labeled baggie for another meal. Simple as that!

Tuesday Tips – Salvaging Leftover Produce

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I like to get my produce through a co-op. It’s fresh, less expensive and there’s always a lot of variety.  The cost is the same each time, which makes budgeting easier, too. The challenge, of course, is that I never know what I’m going to get. Right now I have fennel, beets, kiwi and pears in my fridge – all foods that I would not typically buy. I have several tools that are really helpful for making sure the food doesn’t go to waste.

Supercook.com

Have you seen this handy little tool yet? It allows you to list what ingredients you have on hand, and the site will search for recipes with those ingredients. Even better, you can easily make exclusions like no dairy or no nuts – awesome for those of us with food allergies! The only drawback is that the search engine only seems to search through a handful of recipe sites, and doesn’t look at the numerous blogs that host recipes, like Food Allergies On Ice, for example.

But hey – I just found a recipe through there for beet and fennel soup. Who knew?

Stir-Fry

When I have a bunch of random veggies on hand, it frequently ends up in a stir-fry. As it turns out, the mix of veggies in a stir-fry isn’t nearly as important as the sauce on top. Put a little effort into a decent Chinese-style sauce, and all those veggies will be just wonderful. FYI – Coconut Aminos are an awesome replacement for soy sauce for the soy-free among us.

Soups

My other solution for odds and ends of vegetables is to put it all in a soup. This is one of those frugal things our grandmothers knew how to do, but we seem to have lost the art while in pursuit of the can opener. Well, when you have multiple food allergies, Campbell’s isn’t exactly an option anymore.

The secret to soup is in making a really flavorful broth. Don’t be afraid to use some herbs and spices! And you can throw all sorts of stuff in a soup, from last night’s salad (I saw that on a TV cooking show once)  to that random quarter-cup of broccoli that no one ate for dinner the other day. If you like, put some (or all) of the cooked soup into the blender or food processor to create a thick, cream-like soup.  This also has the advantage of hiding offending vegetables from picky eaters. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

The different kinds of juices separated into layers making these neat striped popsicles.

If I have a lot of fruit on hand, I’ll run it through the juicer and make popsicles. Apple, carrot and kale is a decent recipe that my kiddo will actually eat if I call it a popsicle! Along the same lines, you could make a smoothie. Just freeze chunks of fruits and veggies and throw them in the blender to make a nice, thick beverage.  Delicious!

So there you go. No more excuses, ok? Go make fruits and veggies taste awesome!

 

 

 

 

Also shared at: frugallysustainable.com

Tuesday Tips – Making a Plan

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My family has recently moved.  A pack-all-your-things-and-move-across-the-country type of move.  There are several things that happen when you move: You lose all your good hunting grounds for allergen-free foods, your kitchen gadgets end up in boxes marked “office supplies – storage room”, and your routine is lost.  It’s like discovering food allergies all over again!

One thing I have neglected on working on is The Meal Plan.

I have a love-hate relationship with plans in general, but I grudgingly admit that The Meal Plan has helped simplify dinner for me.  When I don’t work on The Meal Plan, my days are filled with unpacking, trying to start up a business, juggling appointments of all kinds, playing with my toddler, getting the bigger kids to and from school and suddenly … the witching hour hits where everyone is hungry and cranky and I’m looking at my kitchen in amazement because there is nothing ready to eat.

The Meal Plan.   The Forgetful Professor

There are many great things about having one. You know in advance what ingredients you need.  You can buy in bulk to cook (or freeze) ahead which can save you money.  You can start your dinner in the crockpot in the morning and let it simmer all day and be ready when you are.  You can post it prominently so complainers can get it over with, and all others can eagerly anticipate the glorious mouthwatering food that you can create.

But seriously.  The Meal Plan helps me because I am more like an absent-minded professor working on the big ideas of life, and having The Meal Plan charted out and in place is like having someone follow me around reminding me to pick up my socks.

Now I have many grand ideas about how to meal plan.  Right now I’m working for a 2 week rotation.  I’d love to expand it a little further, and possibly rotate seasonal meals through as well (potato salad in the summer time, for instance.)

I would love to hear what works for other people though.  Especially in attempting to tame food allergy cooking.  What works for bulk and batch cooking?  Do you have a month’s worth of meals you can work with?  Have you tried once-a-month cooking?  Do tell!

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep looking for my crockpot.  Maybe it’s in that box labeled “shed – tools”…

Homemade Pancake Mix

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pancakesI love pancakes. I really do. Pancakes are one of the easiest gluten-free bread products to make. You can make them free of any and all allergens, hide fruits and veggies in them, and add in supplements like protein powder or extra calcium. What’s not to love about that?

But Wait, There’s More!

Pancakes are a big time-saver for me because once a week or so I make a big batch of pancakes, then save the leftovers in the fridge for quick breakfasts later. When I’m really on my game, I even remember to flash freeze some for the future. It takes the same amount of time to mix up and clean up after a single or a triple batch of pancakes; the only difference is the actual cooking time, so I might as well cook big batches to save time in the long run.

Can It Get Any Better?

YES! Of course, using a pancake mix speeds the process up even more. But rather than purchasing a pricy ready-made Gluten-Free Pancake mix, I make my own. I’ve adapted the pancake recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook to create an allergen-free pancake mix. (The recipe is on p. 126 in my copy. Yes, I do have that fact memorized. Why do you ask?)

Homemade Everything-Free Pancake Mix

12 Cups Gluten-Free, Corn-Free Flour Mix (right now my mix is 3 Cups Tapioca Starch, 3 Cups Buckwheat Flour, 3 Cups Bean Flour, and 3 Cups Amaranth Flour.)

¾ Cup Sugar

½ Cup Baking Powder (make your own if you’re avoiding corn or other grains)

1 Tablespoon Salt

¾ Cup Flax Seed Meal (optional, but helpful if you’re omitting the egg)

¼ Cup Guar Gum (optional)

Mix together thoroughly. Or in my case, put it in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake it up, baby!

To make a single batch of pancakes, mix together:

1 Cup of Homemade Pancake Mix

2 Tablespoons Oil (we prefer Olive Oil)

1 egg (optional)

1 Cup Liquid (this could be Water, Juice, Non-Dairy Milk, etc.)

Adjust the consistency for your preferred pancake thickness and fry on a medium-hot griddle.

I usually sprinkle in some hemp-based protein powder as well as some calcium powder. If you want to add supplements, just be sure to adjust the liquid in the recipe accordingly. If you want to sneak some fruits and veggies in there, just finely grate or puree your addition, mix in ¼ cup of fruit or vegetable per cup of flour, and adjust the liquid in the recipe as needed. Play spy music in the background while mixing and make sure none of the little people are watching for the full effect!

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