The Peaceful Feast


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.

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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.