The Peaceful Feast


Feel the ‘Booch — Keep Kombucha Wild
January 12, 2010, 10:51 am
Filed under: food sensitivities, IBS, irritable bowel syndrome, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Yesterday, I participated in a kombucha taste test panel. Kombucha (or ‘booch as I call it), is fermented tea. Uh … yum? Not. It actually tastes like carbonated vinegar. So why drink it? There’s only one reason that I can see, and that’s for the digestive benefits. Kombucha is teeming with prebiotics, probiotics, active enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. It’s a superfood.

I got hooked on the ‘booch last summer when I was undergoing a course of some gnarly antibiotics to get rid of the h. pylori bacteria that was found in my small intestine during an endoscopy. The gastro said this was causing inflammation of my stomach lining that could lead to stomach cancer down the road. The course included high dosages of two antibiotics and prevacid for acid reflux — the condition which had led me to the gastro in the first place. The antibiotics were hardcore, much stronger than any antibiotic regimen I had ever tried — even for pneumonia. The first few days on it, I couldn’t eat at all, even after adding some megadosages of probiotics to my diet.

One day about a month after finishing the course of antibiotics for h. pylori, I was at my sister’s place and plopping down on her couch announced that I was feeling “dyspeptic”. She had just finished handcrafting kombucha and offered me some. My initial response was fermented tea? No way, ick. She urged me to give it a try and so I had a couple tentative sips of the tea, making sucking-on-a-lemon faces all the while. A few minutes later my dyspepsia was gone and I felt okay again. I went out and bought a bottle of kombucha that day and ever since then I’ve kept it on hand to help me out of gastrointenstinal distress. I drink a swig or two a day, mainly before bedtime, and find that it gets rid of upset stomach and bloating better than most anything. It even helps a little with the IBS, although not so much with symptoms of the colon.

My reliance on kombucha for stomach health is how I ended up taste testing a local beverage company’s upcoming kombucha line. The company making the kombucha is very respected in middle America and if anybody can make Kombucha popular nationwide it is this company. There were about a dozen of us in a little classroom tasting the products. Based on looks alone, I’d say we represented a wide cross-section of Boulder — students, Latinos, working professionals, hippies. The woman sitting next to me was dressed in casually expensive clothing. Very Boulder chic. As I said, the beverage company is very respected across the nation. But how do you make kombucha palatable to Middle America without losing it’s boochiness? Is kombucha still boochy once you get rid of it’s wild culture?

With us were two harried beverage company employees running back and forth providing 2 oz samples of each of the five kombucha flavors in development. Without giving too much away, let me just say some flavors were better than others but that there were some good products in that mix. And the stuff that was not so great tasting the company can easily tweak for better flavor. What I found particularly interesting is the company’s addition of a particular set of vitamin/pre or pro biotic/anti-oxidant supplements to each kombucha flavor without a corresponding increase in price. The company is clearly trying to differentiate its product from those currently on the shelves while opening the market up to those who would never consider drinking kombucha.

The company wanted to know what were the top 3 priorities I need for a good kombucha experience, and I listed digestive health, organic, and natural ingredients. The casually-expensive looking woman sitting next to me asked me during a brief break in between sampling why I drink kombucha and I told her for my stomach. She nodded and said that is why she drinks it, too. I like kombucha because I need it. But would I drink it if I didn’t need it? No.

The question I was left with after the taste test is this: Would adding a lot of flavorings and supplements to this new line of kombucha be enough to appeal to those who would not normally drink it? I’m not sure. In fact, I was a little suspicious of whether, after all of its tweaking and tinkering, this company had left enough of the beneficial stuff in the tea to make it worthwhile to drink for digestive health.

For instance, I noticed that each sample was fizzy but not too fizzy the way kombucha usually is. Oxygen from the live bacteria give kombucha its crazy over carbonation. The live bacteria is what makes kombucha good for the stomach. You take away that, you take away the digestive benefits of kombucha, benefits that supplements don’t provide, no matter how much you add back in. I’m very interested in how this will pan out for the beverage company. But I wonder if the finished product will appeal to anyone. Can kombucha be made palatable enough for the non belly-achers, while keep the medicinal benefits that we need? I doubt it.

As for me, I love my ‘booch as is and the thought of some big beverage corp. smoothing out its rough edges makes me cranky. In fact, I am toying with making my own kombucha. You’ve seen the bumper stickers that say “Keep Boulder weird?” Well, my bumper sticker slogan would be “Keep Kombucha wild.”



Peaceful Feasting in the New Year

My favorite response to questions concerning what resolutions I might make for the coming year is this: Try not to set myself up for failure by making unrealistic promises to change. But I have to change. Why change? Because change brings growth, and if I decide not to grow, I might as well just die.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 resolutions for peaceful feasting in 2010.

10. Give up dairy: According to the Shari Lieberman’s indispensable book, The Gluten Connection, people with gluten sensitivity often suffer from cross-reactivity with the proteins in dairy. I experienced some symptoms today and realized that I’ve been eating a lot more cow products than usual. Never been a big lover of milk yet I can’t seem to cut the remaining ties. This year, I will. Starting now.

9. Stay gluten-free: I had two mishaps related to receiving Holy Communion due to my inability to remember to bring my low-gluten hosts. Both incidents ended in hangover-like symptoms: headache, metallic taste in mouth, nausea, bed spins, and me sleeping for like 15 hours. In each case, it took me 5 days to recover. No need to put myself through that. I keep my hosts at the church now but if it ever happens again that I forget, I’ll just receive from the chalice or not at all.

8. Stop eating gluten-free junk: My first month gluten-free, I ate just about every processed, carb-ridden, sugar laden “gluten-free” item that I could get my chubby hands on. It’s gotten better since then but I found myself indulging more than I should over the holidays. Some of this stuff is really delicious! Some people can eat gluten-free snacks regularly and still feel ok. But I can’t expect to regain my health if what I’m eating is largely empty calories + fat.

7. Lose weight: Since I can’t have wheat or gluten, I might as well try to limit my carb intake. I’ve been really doing a good job at staying away from wheat, however, I’ve been substituting starches like crazy: oatmeal for breakfast, rice or potatoes for lunch/dinner, gluten-free treats as snacks. I will restrict myself to one portion of starch a day. Plus walking 15 mins. a day.

6. Avoid processed food: Pre-fabbed food is way more expensive and not as healthy as just making it yourself. For Christmas, a friend gave me The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by local chef blogger titan Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry. The book is visually attractive with some tasty-looking recipes. I’ll be sure to let you all know how my almond flour (low carb, by the way) creations turn out.

5. Don’t be intimidated by the ignorant: So this guy butted into my conversation and said of a 3rd party with gluten sensitivity: Seriously, how can you be that sensitive and live???
Seriously, I just wanted to slap his face but acting violently towards him would blow my oft-used strategy to just ignore him to death. The sad part is, this guy has IBS.

4. Learn how to cook with quinoa: Not only did my boss buy me a 5lb. bag of gluten-free flour for Christmas, but a friend got the same idea and decided to gift me with another 5lb. bag of flour, plus a 5lb. bag of quinoa. Now, this friend is a sweet lady but also stubborn. The quinoa was inspired by an ongoing conversation/argument.
She: Quinoa is great once you learn how to cook with it.
Me: But I don’t like quinoa, plus it turns out bitter when I make it.
She: Quinoa is great once you learn how to cook with it.

Whatever. The point is: I need, need, need quinoa recipes. A little help anyone?

3. Take care of myself: I learned with the bladder cancer scare last year to pay attention to the small still voice inside that says, I need to pull back and just rest, and This. Is. Okay. I don’t have to be around people all the time to have a good life. I don’t have to make myself noticed to be important. I can just be quiet and this is good.

2. Fast: It’s good to take a day off once a week or so and just not eat for 24 hours. It’s good not to think about what I’m going to have for meals or whether the food is gluten-free, or if something about it will make me sick. I’ve found when I’ve done this kind of fasting that I become lighter, empty, freer from attachments to this life. Less prone to gossip and criticism. More inner directed. More prone to prayer and praise. Which leads me to the number one resolution.

1. Be grateful: Today, I heard someone say regarding this new year, How often do people look back on the previous year and thank the Lord for everything they have received. Thank you Lord for the sickness. Thank you for the abundance I enjoy. I am sorry to say I didn’t look back on 2009 with this expansive attitude at all. A lot of self-pitying as a matter of fact. But he is right and I can see that without thanksgiving, I will remain stuck in my little selfish world forever. My hell. May all of us live 2010 in such a way that this time next year we can look back and feel only gratitude for the life that we have been given.



Product Review: Outside the Breadbox’s Jalapeno-Cheddar Crackers
December 27, 2009, 1:50 pm
Filed under: gluten-free, Uncategorized, wheat-free | Tags:

I had heard of a gluten-free bakery called Outside The Breadbox but didn’t get a chance to try any of their products until last week, when I found the Jalapeno-Cheddar Crackers at Vitamin Cottage.

Oh! Was I ever surprised at how delicious they are! Each cracker so fresh and crunchy. The first thing you taste is cheddary goodness, and then the jalapenos which tingled in my mouth so delightfully afterward. These little babies not only hold their own against the typical supermarket gluteny fare, they far exceed any snack cracker I have ever tried.

Gluten-free crackers from southern Colorado



Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

This week, my boss bought me a 5 lb. bag of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour from Costco just … because. She’s a lovely person, and I thought I should repay her generosity by baking a treat.

Since she and I share a love of bananas combined with chocolate, and there just so happened to be a banana bread recipe on the back of the bag of flour, I decided to bake up a loaf of bannana-chocolate chip bread.

I’m still quite new to the gluten-free lifestyle and baking was never really my thing even when I ate wheat. Did I mention I live at a high altitude? Can you see where I am going with this? In other words, there was not much of a chance the evening would end with a decent loaf of banana bread. So my plan was not to say a word to anyone and just quietly throw the loaf away if my attempt to repay the boss-lady’s generosity turned out poorly.

The evening’s baking started inauspiciously when the pecans I was roasted to add to the batter ended up charred in the oven. Sorry, no pictures. :)

Things got better though. I followed the recipe on the back of the bag, except in one step where I substituted arrowroot for xanthan gum, which effectively replaces wheat gluten as a thickening agent in baked goods. Given my lack of high-altitude, gluten-free baking no-how, you may be wondering, “Peaceful, why go and complicate things?” And that’s a good question. Short answer: Xanthan gum has a laxative effect which I don’t need.

But, the main reason I went for the arrowroot is aesthetic: You know that black slimey goo that forms on vegetables when they start to go bad? That’s caused by the same bacterium that makes xanthan. Ick. No thanks.

On the other hand, arrowroot is a starch derived from a tropical tuber plant that is way thicker than wheat flour. No germs and no reported irritants to the bowel system here.

So how did my banana chocolate-chip bread turn out? Quite well, thank you! The recipe made one large loaf of bread that was quite dense yet somehow airy (i.e., did not resemble a brick). The bread was only slightly dryer and more crumbly than its wheat/gluten-full counterpart.

Next time, I’ll use real butter instead of oil and maybe add another mashed bannana to the mix. After eating a slice this morning, I decided that my banana chocolate-chip bread was good enough to bring to work. I’ll let y’all know what the boss-lady thinks! ;) UPDATE: She liked it and was surprised at its moistness. :)

No Hassle Banana Bread
Contributed by Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods
Adapted from Special Diet Solutions by Carol Fenster, PhD.
Ingredients

* 1/3 cup Canola Oil
* 2/3 cup Brown Sugar, packed
* 2 large Eggs
* 1 tsp. Vanilla
* 1-3/4 cups Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
* 2 tsp. Baking Powder
* 1-1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
* 1 tsp. Xanthan Gum
* 1/2 tsp. Salt
* 1-1/2 cups Banana, mashed
* 1/2 cup Pecans or Walnuts, chopped
* 1/2 cup Raisins (Unsulfured)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350�F. Grease 9×5-inch non-stick loaf pan. Cream together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl with eletric mixer. Add flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and cinnamon to egg mixture, alternating with bananas. Beat until smooth. Stir in nuts and raisins. Batter will be somewhat soft. Transfer to pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Serves 10.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:
(per serving)

Calories 310, Calories from Fat 120, Total Fat 13g, Saturated Fat 1.5g, Cholesterol 40mg, Sodium 230mg, Total Carbohydrate 46g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Sugars 19g, Protein 5g.



Peaceful Eating in and around Boulder

In addition to being cruelty free, VG Burgers offers gluten-free options on its vegan menu. I’ve been dining here for about 6 months and it’s definitely got a peaceful vibe going one. Matter of fact, on one wall is a drawing by a local school kid of a VG Burgers factory pumping out peace symbols and hearts. Peace and love factory indeed! VG Burgers is the most peaceful feasting establishment in Boulder!

Last week I was pouting because I couldn’t have some hand crafted Christmas cookies that were going around the office. This week, I’ve got a big grin on my face because Helping Hands Bakery put together some lovely gluten-free sugar cookies for the holidays. Did I mention that I love sugar cookies? Helping Hands is a non-profit organization aiming to “to help enhance the lives of children and adults with special needs in the greater Boulder and Denver communities.” Good cookies for a good cause. Helping Hands cookies are available at Whole Foods.



Tastes Great! What’s In There? Really? You Can’t Tell!

Yesterday, one of my wonderful co-workers sashayed around the office with a red tray in hand, offering each of us a homemade, fresh baked sugar cookie. One glance of the beautifully decorated (she’s one of those perfect people that is great at everything) creations was about all I could take. I quickly averted my gaze, feeling almost a little guilty for even thinking about consuming something so pretty and deadly. I’m sorry, I can’t, I said. Co-worker stared but then recovered, “Wow,” she said, “you are really good at resisting temptation.” She moved on to the next cubicle where her cookies were received with joy.

By the way, I’m not at all good at resisting temptation. In fact, for the rest of the day, all I wanted was one of those cookies.

Later, I explained to her that I can’t have gluten for health reasons in order to alleviate any hurt feelings. I felt good about my decision, but the desire for cookies lingered and so I went to my local Vitamin Cottage and grabbed a bag of gluten-free cookie dough by IMO the best grain company in the world, Bob’s Red Mill. Unfortunately, the cookie dough mix is not featured on its website, but that doesn’t mean you can’t order it online. Go for it!

The mix looked authentic but was a little short on chocolate chips so I added some gluten-free chips that I had on hand. I mixed up the dough according to the directions on the back of the bag but things looked a little dry so I added a sprinkle of almond milk to get things sticking.

I plopped the cookie batter down in rounded lumps on a greased cookie sheet and they turned out great. In fact, better than great! They were actually cookies. Like, real cookies. Like the ones I grew up baking and eating. Oh yum.

(This would be a good place to insert a photo of the finished product, however, I am image-free until Christmas when one of santa’s elves will bring me a digital camera, according to sources.)

The cookies were still soft the next day when I brought them into work. I passed them around to my colleagues: Gluten-free cookie? It was funny to see the way their faces initially pinched up as they politely took the smallest piece possible. Moments later they would be singing praises.

Wow! What did you put in here?

Really? You can’t tell it’s gluten-free!

These are fantastic.


MMMMMMMMMMMMM!!



Gluten-Free First Fruits At A Food Bank
December 3, 2009, 12:07 pm
Filed under: food allergies, food allergy, food sensitivities, gluten-free, wheat-free | Tags: ,

This morning on my way in to work, I was listening to an interview on a local NPR station with the founder of a company that aims to promote urban farming. The interviewee spoke repeatedly about the need to make urban farming — including fish farms — profitable.

I wasn’t listening closely to the interview, so I am not sure if I am describing the company or the interviewee accurately, but bothered by all the talk of business, I turned to my car pool companion and said that urban farming should help the poor as part of its mission. In my church, I said, there used to be boxes and boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables dropped off by food producers at the church office for the hungry to take as needed. I don’t know what happened to these boxes. For all I know, since I don’t go to the church during the week, these fresh fruit and vegetable offerings to the poor, first fruits, may still be around.

Now that the whole nation has been hit by a recession, this compassionate sense of mission is needed especially now. A bad economy coupled with needing to follow a gluten-free diet for health reasons takes a massive toll on one’s budget. I’ve seen my food bill shoot up dramatically since adopting a gluten-free diet two months ago. Luckily, I have a job and with a little simplicity I can afford this diet.

But not everybody can. There’s a lot of hungry people out there who can’t have gluten. Which is why I am really thrilled to learn that a food bank not too far from me is collecting gluten-free food for needy families. Which leads me to wondering if there’s some room at the pantry for boxes of fresh produce for an urban farmer to donate. No need to label these fruits and vegetables. After all, they’re naturally gluten-free!*

*Thanks to Gluten Free Dee for taking the initiative on this and tweeting it. :)




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.