Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blueberry Yum Yum

Alcohol is a tricky thing to figure out as a new Celiac. Most people who are going gluten free for the first time assume that they cannot have rye whisky, gin, vodka or scotch whiskey because they are all made from grains such as barley, rye and wheat. Of course it is good to be on the safe side and assume such things, but you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you can actually have all of those types of alcohol.  According to the Canadian Celiac Association tests have proven that the distillation process used in making both alcohol and vinegar (except malted vinegar) removes all of the gluten proteins (prolamin) from the beverage. As a result hard alcohol is back on the menu for some! Wines are also safe, however traditional beer is not as it is not distilled and therefore the gluten proteins are not removed. So no beer, but a lot of options do remain.

Just remember to keep an eye on those mixed drinks that are out there. Caesars’ are a very popular drink in Canada that is almost unheard of elsewhere. It’s a spicy tomato based drink and is quite delicious. However, it uses Worcestershire sauce that has wheat in it (in Canada) and sometimes the pickled vegetables that accompany the drink may not be safe either. I learned that one the hard way.

Some liquors may also contain wheat, but because the industry isn’t really sure on whether or not the distillation process removes prolamins’, they may say that a product is unsafe when it really is. For instance if you try to find out if Bailey’s is okay to drink you will find many people saying that it isn’t and then one letter out there saying that they thought they weren’t safe but have since realized it is gluten free.  I’m quite sensitive when it comes to gluten and haven’t had any troubles with Bailey’s but I actually prefer Amarula that is cheaper and made from the Marula fruit in South Africa.  However, always trust your gut and check with the manufacturer in case they change their recipe. Some Celiac’s are more sensitive than others and may not be able to tolerate what the general Celiac population can.

In fact, even though wine is technically okay for us I’ve noticed that I get quite stuffed up when I drink it. My reaction to it has been getting progressively worse. I am guessing I’ve developed an allergy to Sulphites, which wouldn’t be unheard of considering my background of sensitivities.  Since wine is off the menu and so is beer I was trying to find a new drink to consume. I found it the other day at Hecklers Bar and Grill in Victoria. The drink is called Blueberry Yum Yum and is exactly that. Yum, yum! It just has a nice aftertaste of blueberry without being overpowering or sickly sweet. It is perfect and so simple to make. Try it out the next time you are looking for a signature drink!

Blueberry Yum Yum

1 can of Strongbow cider
1 oz or shot glass of Blueberry Vodka

Mix and serve cold!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nut Butter Balls

Happy New Year everyone! I’m a little late in saying it, but I have my reasons. Although I feel like every time I post I’m making excuses for not posting as much as I’d like to, I have completely valid reasons this time. This time I haven’t been living at home for a few weeks and am not around my gluten free staples to create wonderful new recipes for you.

I rang in the New Year out of town with friends and then four days later waited for my Mom to have surgery for Colon Cancer.  She was diagnosed a few months ago and had surgery booked immediately after the Christmas/New Years holidays.  I’ve been staying home with my parents ever since to help out making low fiber meals, as well as helping with any task that requires lifting more than 5 lbs (my Mom’s allowed limit). Thankfully she appears to be doing superbly well, but as you can imagine it’s been a worrying time for us all.  I think it’s a pretty good reason for not posting.

However, I did promise you a recipe for Peanut Butter Balls back in December, so that’s what this post will be about. My Nana (on my Mom’s side) has made peanut butter balls as Christmas treats for years.  I used to be pretty lazy though … ah who am I kidding I still am lazy. Any ways, in my laziness I made her recipe in the form of bars. Who had the time to dip each ball of peanut butter and into hot melted chocolate and transfer it to a baking sheet while not putting fingerprints all over the place in the chocolate? Too much effort for me! Now I can’t have them because I’d have to read the ingredients on the chocolate and other ingredients and really I’m not supposed to have chocolate, but I cheat a bit on that one.  I’d never cheat with gluten though. Also, my brother has now developed food allergies including peanut butter. So as a result, my Nana stopped making these delicious treats for us, because we just don’t make it easy.

When I first met my boyfriend (of 3 years now) it was just before Christmas. What are you supposed to give someone you just met a few days ago for Christmas? I couldn’t not get him something, but I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on someone I barely knew. What to do, what to do? Well I made him my Nana’s peanut butter balls in bar (actually pie) form and gave it to him for Christmas. Apparently it was quite intimidating as it took him about 4 weeks before he even tried a piece, but when he did it went quickly. This year he reminded me of my first gift to him so I decided to make some again. This time I made both the traditional version and a sunflower seed butter (sun butter) version for my brother. I also got fancy new quiche tins that I used as chocolate molds, so although they aren’t the traditional ‘ball’ I keep mentioning, they do the trick.

Nut Butter Balls

¾ cup Peanut Butter or Sun Butter (or any other nut butter)
1 cup Icing Sugar
½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 or 3 tablespoons Margarine, melted
¾ cup Nuts, Dates or Maraschino Fruit

2/3 cups gluten free chocolate chips
1 tablespoon Margarine
1 tablespoon Paraffin Wax, food grade (optional)

Place the nut butter and icing sugar in a bowl and blend. Next add vanilla and melted margarine and mix. Then add fruit (or nuts or dates).  Form into 1-inch balls. Meanwhile, in a double boiler melt chocolate and butter together and stir. If you wish you may add a small piece of wax. Stir in until well mixed. Wax simply gives your chocolate a nice shine. Dip balls into the chocolate and place on wax paper and freeze until solid.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like doing balls you can place the nut butter mixture in a baking dish then top with melted chocolate and freeze to form bars.  Or, as I did, paint the inside of a chocolate mold freeze, fill with nut butter, top with more chocolate and freeze again.  Chocolates should be store in refrigerator as they can be quite melty if un-tempered or follow this link and learn how to temper chocolate so that it will be stable at room temperature!

*Note: the peanut butter version is similar to reese's peanut butter cups in flavour. Other nut butters will give different and intriguing flavours. Sun butter is tasty and I have a feeling hazelnut butter would be pretty good (and rich) too!