Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blackberries

Where I grew up, in northern BC, blueberries were everywhere. Anywhere you hiked it was inevitable that you would run into blueberries and it was always a nice surprise. Stopping by a bush added such a brief moment of flavour and relaxation to an arduous hike ... to take that moment to pick and eat and relish in the fresh berry flavour before continuing on.


Here in Victoria blackberries are everywhere. In much the same way, these berries still provide that wonderful moment while hiking in the wilderness. Where blueberries are sweet and sugary, blackberries have a bite. The perfect blend of sweet and sour.



There is a nice little park only a few blocks away from my place and all year long I keep an eye on those blackberry bushes that grow in abundance there. Even though I know they won't form berries or ripen until sometime in August, I keep checking. Last week I walked down to that park with a big bowl in hand, a pair of sturdy jeans, long sleeves and some rubberized garden gloves. Blueberry bushes never required this type of get up, but in order to get the blackberry goodness you have to get passed the thorns first. So jeans are a must, even if it's 20 degrees out. Bowl in hand, I made it to the fertile picking grounds and began to pick. Slowly, efficiently pulling down ripe vines and plucking the full berries. It is quite a peaceful experience. Even with little children running around claiming that lots of people must know about their secret place.

Once I had these berries I returned home and filled the bowl with water to chase away any bugs. It's a risk you run for picking such fresh fruit. I didn't actually have time to do much more than that so I had to freeze them for later. The proper way to freeze them is to lay them out on a cookie sheet and wax or parchment paper in a thin layer and set them in your freezer. Then you can put them all in a zip lock bag and leave them in the freezer without them clumping together. I didn't have room for this, so they got dumped in a Tupperware container and frozen immediately.

Later on when I did have time to do something with them, I made a blackberry pie and damn was it good ... if I do say so myself. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do it justice as the lighting wasn't very good, but I'll work on that. In the meantime, here is the recipe for a delicious blackberry pie (which was made with my frozen blackberries).



Rice and Almond Pastry
(slightly modified and I mean very slightly from the Readers Digest Food Allergy Cookbook)

2 cups Rice Flour (Sweet white)
1 cup of Cornstarch
1 cup of ground Almonds
1 tsp. of Salt
1 cup of cold Butter or Margarine
2 large Eggs
2 Tbsp. Water


Mix flour, cornstarch, almonds and salt together in a large bowl. Next cut cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the eggs and water. Slowly add this liquid mixture to the flour until it clumps together. Add more water if it is still too dry, but be careful not to add too much. Bring the dough together in two small balls, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, you can start working on the pie filling.

Blackberry Pie Filling

5 cups of Blackberries (frozen or fresh)
1 cup of White Sugar
1/4 cup of Brown Sugar
1/4 cup of White Rice Flour
1/4 cup of quick cooking Tapioca Pearls
1 tsp. Lemon Zest (optional)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg








  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh (hulled and rinsed) or frozen (see above)



























  • 1 cup white sugar



























  • 1/4 cup brown sugar



























  • 1/4 cup flour



























  • 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca pearls



























  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest



























  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, more or less to taste




























  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh (hulled and rinsed) or frozen (see above)



























  • 1 cup white sugar



























  • 1/4 cup brown sugar



























  • 1/4 cup flour



























  • 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca pearls



























  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest



























  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, more or less to taste




















  • In a large bowl stir all ingredients together until well combined.

    Now you are ready to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and roll out your pie shells.

    Gluten free pastry dough is known for being very crumbly and not easy to work with. To help in this process, place a piece of wax paper down on the counter first. Sprinkle it with rice flour and place one dough ball on top. Next cover the dough ball in more rice flour and top it with another piece of wax paper. Roll the dough between the two sheets of wax paper. Once it is the size and shape you want it, remove the top layer of wax paper. Use the bottom layer of wax paper to help you transfer the shell into the pie pan and remove it once the transfer is complete. If any parts of the pie shell fall off or crumble away, just remember that even though the stuff is hard to work with it is very forgiving. You can play patch work with your pie shell and no one will be the wiser.

    Place the blackberry filling in the the pie shell and the top with the second rolled out dough ball. Sprinkle the top with sugar and place in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Sometimes fruit pies can boil over and make a big mess, so place a cookie sheet or aluminum foil under the plate to catch any spills and save you the huge clean up after wards.


    Once the pie is finished allow it to cool slightly so that the flour and tapioca can thicken up the juices. Then cut and serve with frozen yogurt, ice cream, whipping cream or whatever your little heart desires.

    Eat and enjoy!

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Sweet and Tangy Basil

    Summer is here and everyone's gardens are ripe with bounty. Except mine that is. I don't really have a garden but I do have some potted plants, which the deer keep coming by and eating up for me. For some reason they do not want to eat my pot full of herbs. Something in there must not smell appealing to them. The pot is alive with dill, chives, parsley, basil, rosemary and sage. I think basil is my favorite herb to cook with, as it adds such a fresh flavor to everything. You can't really go wrong with adding basil.



    Most people assoc
    iate basil with pesto sauce, which is gingerly spread over pasta. Well we can certainly do the same by switching the regular pasta for rice or corn, among others. Or you can add it to a sandwich! I discovered this idea from a gluten free bakery located in Vancouver, BC called Panne Rizo. It's one of their specials that I've recreated at home and will now share with you. It's warm, sweet, tangy and delicious.

    I've started to figure out that the more I make from scratch, the less likely I am to get contaminated. Even though I'm still trying to work on the baking side of things, I'm trying to start cooking more foods from scratch. For inst
    ance, instead of buying store bought pesto, I made it from the basil in my potted garden outside. Yum.

    Basic Basil Pesto

    2 cups Fresh Basil
    3 tablespoons Pine Nuts

    1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese*
    2 cloves minced Garlic
    1/2 cup Olive Oil


    In a food processor or blender add all ingredients except oil in small batches (1/3 at a time) and process. Add oil last and process further until you have a smooth consistency.

    *It's best to buy whole Parmesan and grate it yourself as pre-grated cheeses may be coated in flour to keep them from clumping. A food processor makes this process quick and easy.




    Pesto and Goat Cheese Open Face Sandwich

    Serves 1

    1 Gluten Free Bun, cut in half
    4 Tablespoons of Basil Pesto Sauce
    2 Tablespoons of toasted Pine Nuts**
    2 Tablespoons of soft Goat Cheese

    Lay the GF bun halves on a cookie sheet, cut side facing up. On each half place 2 tablespoons of Pesto. Top that with soft Goat Cheese and toasted Pine Nuts. Place in the oven on the top rack and set to grill for approximately 4 or 5 minutes. Watch carefully as not to burn.

    **To toast pine nuts, coat them in olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet. Grill them until lightly golden brown.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Scientific American Article

    I was stuck on the ferry with nothing to do, so I decided to check out the ferry store and purchase some magazines. Who knew I would be leaving with Scientific American (August 2009) under my arms? Well the reason I left with this

    JupiterImages (photograph); Jen Christiansen (photoillustration)

    particular magazine is because on the top right corner it said that it had an article entitled "Celiac Disease Insights: Clues to Solving Autoimmunity."

    As this is from a very scientific magazine the article is of course quite technical, but if you can handle reading that type of article I highly recommend it. It comes with very useful diagrams and goes quite in depth into the science of how Celiac Disease works. Now when your friends ask you why you can eat Wheat, but you could frolic in a field of it with no ill effects you will be able to explain why.

    Another bonus is that it talks about the future of Celiac Disease and up and coming therapies that are showing promise for Celiac Suffers. One day soon (next few years hopefully) we might be able to take a pill that completely breaks down gluten for us so that it doesn't harm our system, or take a medicine that stops our guts from being so leaky.

    I had the pleasure of actually listening to the author of this article, Alessio Fasano, speak at The Gluten Intolerance Festival in Victoria, BC in 2008, where he also discussed the history and future of Celiac Disease. He was inspiring to listen to and gives hope to all Celiacs.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    How it all started ...

    After finding out about Gluten Free Girl and becoming a regular reader of her blog, I have decided to try a hand at a gluten free blog as well. This and perhaps a few other entries are more background information to start the flow … but I hope to focus on food that inspires and have tips, tricks and recipes that I’ve begun to gather over the few years I’ve been diagnosed. I found reading other peoples stories of the trials and tribulations of living and eating gluten free helped me start on my path. I would like to do the same for you.

    *************************

    The story of how I ended up living gluten free is a bit of a long one, as I suspect it is for most of you, who had their lives changed forever. Today, forever doesn’t feel so bad … but it was a scary thought initially.

    It all started about 15-20 years ago, when I was still in high school. I remember clearly reading my Moms Readers Digest on the couch with the sun filtering through the windows. There was an article in it about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) … something about suffering diarrhea any time you get stressed out. I told my Mom that I thought I had IBS because many of the symptoms fit me. Any time I was nervous or excited about something I either got a huge migraine or was sitting on the toilet all day. With the article in hand, I went to the doctors.

    Mind you, this was a small town doctor’s office and I was young enough to take the word of a doctor as the word of a God. When I talked to the doctor about the article I had read and the symptoms I shared, he said that I probably did have IBS and to drink lots of fluids. Then he sent me home. That was it … no tests, no questions, just yes and drink. Well what could I do, doctors know everything so I guess I just have to live with it.

    Live with it I did, for about 10 more years. They say people who are diagnosed with Celiac Disease later in life have some sort of external trigger. The year I was diagnosed was a rough one for me. I had a promising relationship end abruptly, I was then in a car accident and finally I was falsely diagnosed with a tumor in my chest that would have required thoracic surgery with a 3 month recovery estimate. Luckily, they discovered before surgery was scheduled that what they thought was a tumor was actually just a dilated vein and nothing to worry about. As you can imagine, each of these in there own way is quiet stressful and add them all together, I think it was enough to trigger my semi-latent disease.

    I say semi, because I had been having symptoms for 10 plus years, but it wasn’t until this series of events that the symptoms got a million times worse. For three weeks straight, any time I ate anything I got bloated …and not just a little bit bloated, but I looked 5 months pregnant. Having my stomach push itself out, hard as a rock like that was very painful. So were the following morning, afternoon and evening visits to the washroom. I knew it must be something I was eating but I couldn’t pin it down. I had no idea that one piece of toast was making everything worse.

    With all the pain came this strange hungry/full dance that my stomach was doing. I would eat and before I was finished my meal or snack I would be so full (followed by bloating) but 30 minutes later I was starving again. But now I was starving with my stomach trying to expand three fold and the last thing I wanted to do was eat. After three weeks I had enough … really I should say after 10 plus years I had enough, but it was those last three weeks that pushed me into doing something about it. Luckily, for me there is the internet. I searched IBS and Chrones Disease and everything in between. Then I stumbled across an article that said “Celiac Disease is often misdiagnosed as IBS.” After reading up a bit on Celiac Disease I phoned my Mom and asked “What is it that Grandpa has? Why can’t he eat bread?” To which she replied, “Oh, he has Celiac Sprue.” It was at that moment I thought I knew what was wrong. Armed with my new found knowledge, I went to the doctor again … this time a big city doctor and told him my symptoms of recent and past and my family history. He put me on a series of diet trials and sent me for a blood test. Then the doctor called me back.

    Being called back by the doctor is never fun and it’s rarely good news. I didn’t want to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease as it meant giving up my bread. I was the biggest carbohydrate fan out there. Some days I ate nothing but carbs. What was I going to do if I had to cut out wheat, rye, barley, malt and oats? On the other hand if I knew what was causing me so much pain and misery I could make it go away. It was a bitter sweet day when I walked out of the doctor’s office knowing that my life had changed forever … starting now, not a week from now. The blood test came back saying that I had 95 per cent chance that I had Celiac Disease and with my Grandpa having it, the doctor didn’t think there was a need for me to get the biopsy to prove it 100 per cent (this was not the best advice to give me in regards to not getting a biopsy, but that’s a whole other story).

    Shortly after, I asked my Mom why she had never thought that any of my symptoms might have been related to Celiac Sprue like Dad had. She said that it was because I wasn’t loosing weight. It’s true, I probably looked like I was gaining weight because of my tummy and my weight was always steady during previous years. Although I had some symptoms they weren’t amped up enough to scream Celiac. Had I not started with a little of my own research my symptoms probably would have lead to rapid weight loss quite shortly as I was already not wanting to eat anything.

    Most people look back on days where they were diagnosed with a disease with anger, sadness, and loss. The day I was diagnosed was a happy one. I finally knew what I had and that I could fix it. I didn’t have to take pills or injections and I didn’t have to just live with it. I could change how I felt for good. It would be a scary path to take at first, but a good one.

    Months later when my intestines were really starting to heal, I noticed that a lot of things I had been dealing with separately were fading away because of my new diet. In the past I had suffered chronic fatigue, chronic diarrhea, chronic headaches with the occasional migraine (yes, they are different), itchy scalp, weak fingernails, etc. All of a sudden, I had more energy, was more regular, has less headaches, my scalp wasn’t itchy and my nails were getting stronger. Who knew cutting out a few grains would be both the hardest thing in the world to do and the best thing in the world to do?

    Overall it took about 11 years for me to get diagnosed. How long did it take you? What are your stories?