Dedicated joy: On sugar, cold & cravings

No, I don't mean eating gluten. Abstaining from gluten is an absolute--we needn't mention it again.

I'm talking about sugar.

You may notice the sidebar's admonition cane sugar never. Occasionally I do eat sugar. There are a few things I literally never voluntarily ingest. I never eat hydrogenated oils for example. But generally unnatural oils are in processed foods which I have no craving for or enjoyment in eating.

Sugar is different--it's sugar. It's the cultural proxy for love (see: most terms of affection, Godiva advertisements, Tori Amos, et al) and it's in many foodstuffs I find appealing. Now with the increasing number of gluten-free products on the market it's easier to find sugary treats and to make them at home. Mostly I don't, though. The desire arises in the presence of the sugary things and so I avoid looking at them. I walk past the cases on my way to the real food toward the back of the co-op. I distract myself with full-leaf tea and fancy barley-free miso.

When caught before the gluten-free chocolate sugar-dusted insulin bombs, I have a kind internal voice only heard in grocery stores. Here's what she sounds like: Oh yeah Honey. Sweetie, you want to eat that pretty yummy, don't you? It's okay to want that. Wow that is really really pretty. I wonder how they made that. But, Darling, it's only going to taste good while you're eating it and you're probably going to feel cranky or shaky afterward. It's pretty expensive and it's not going to make you strong, is it? Let's go get some cheese, huh? Or some dark dark dark chocolate. How about pecans? You know you love pecans. C'mon, Baby, just turn around and go get some pecans...Wow! Way to go! Check it out, you are the best. How many pecans are we getting?

I treat my desire like a toddler (remove and distract). That's how I usually operate.

Usually I'm not in Maine.

When I go to Maine though I make a conscious decision and I go to Wildflours in Brunswick where I exalt in front of the counter of delectables. Wildflours is a lovely, dedicated, gluten-free emporium, a destination for the celiacs of Northern New England. People drive for hundreds of miles for their fresh-baked pastries and muffins. The first time I returned to Maine after they opened, I walked into Wildflours and began to weep.

Suddenly I felt the years of grief for every pastry shop and bakery suffusing sugary perfumes into the cobbled streets of Salamanca and Barcelona, for my conviction that I can never go back to Paris & its forbidden pain chocolat, all the intoxicating baked offerings I smiled at and handed to someone else. Finally a place that was mine, filled with fresh delicious sugar love for me, for celiacs. I remember the same depth of emotion when I first entered the enormous glorious Gothic library of my all-women's college: they built this for me, for us! They didn't make it for my father and now they let me come here.

Wildflours' fresh pastries bear none of those infuriating labels made on shared machinery used to make wheat products. I love that the word for true gluten-free bakeries is dedicated. It sounds like devotion and I feel the love--and I eat the sugar.

Friday before last, I procured:

Two blueberry muffins
One cranberry walnut muffin
Two sesame bagels
One Twinkle

A Twinkle is Wildflours' homemade cream-filled gluten-free pastry modeled on, but far far exceeding, the Twinkie. One Twinkle must contain a hundred and fifty grams of sugar. Lightly crunchy on the outside, soft and cream-filled on the inside, I ate it blissfully.

That night, I cut a muffin in half and fried it in butter like my beloved Texan taught me in college.

Saturday morning I toasted a bagel, covered it in butter and melted slabs of Humbolt Fog on it.

The simplest dinner

I meant to post this a month ago when it was less likely that you'd be surrounded by armies of tempting poisonous holiday treats. Consider this a yummy antidote to holiday excess that takes approximately five minutes to assemble if you already have your quinoa cooked.

Mixed greens & Red quinoa base underneath, then:

Chunks of red pear
Cultured Kitchari Kraut
Slivers of date

If you need more fat, add tahini and/or pecans.


On Gluten-Free Holidays

The holidays can be particularly challenging for people with special dietary needs. It can seem as if 'tis the season of social gatherings focused on food you can't eat!

How to find graceful ways with the many well-intentioned people who want to share the delicious spread? How to go to a party without feeling left-out, neurotic, or just plain hungry?

But it's made with organic whole wheat--you can eat that right? It's organic!

Gluten? Oh you're, like, vegan? This pie/brownie/crepe/cookie/cake is vegan!

There's only a little wheat in the crust.

That's a wheat allergy right--this is wheat free!

The best defense is a good offense. In the coming weeks I'll try to post some ideas for easy elegant yummies you can bring to festive gatherings so that there's always something you can eat.

My own plan for the next two social events in my life: I'll bring a quinoa, pecan, baby spinach, and pomegranate salad to the annual holiday party with my work team next Friday.

For Thanksgiving with my housemates, I'll make some kind of kale side dish and a baked apple dessert (stuff the baked apples with minced dates, nuts and I'm not sure what else) with coconut or vanilla ice cream. They're making GF mashed potatoes. I bought lots of mushrooms at the farmer's market so I think I'll make some kind of croquettes with mushroom sauce.

If you're not already hungry, it's always easier to say no to foods with questionable ingredients. Eat something before you arrive. When faced with a delectable dish of unknown provenance or cheese that's likely already contaminated by crumbs, I ask myself, would I rather eat this or ride my bike tomorrow? Would I prefer to be able to work tomorrow or to taste this food? The knowledge that I have a good bar of dark chocolate in my bag and a glorious cheese at home, helps me step away from unsafe temptations.

Guest entry from Arizona

After locating and cooking the most perfect aubergine, Jennifer Lowe writes from her academic exile in Tempe, AZ. Jen is a celiac sympathizer who made this gorgeous gluten-free stir-fry last night. I was taken with the beauty of J.'s wooden bowl and spoon. Note the gaze of black feline companion Pyewacket.

Farmer's market cipollini onions, white eggplant and turnip slices (sauteed until the sugar comes out/caramelizes), plus snow pea shoots from the Vietnamese market on, of course, red quinoa and brown short-grain rice.

No need for tamari or even sea salt or sesame seeds--so good just by itself that it was hard to leave leftovers for P.

Behold how Pye also is interested; but mostly in the wooden bowl/cedar spoon, which for some reason smells good to her.

Plus, for no reason, a funny thing that was on/in the trunk of our rental car this summer in Philly/NY.


Question of the Day: Quinoa!

A friend from long ago and far away writes to me on Facebook. She's not celiac but is raising a vegetarian family and is interested in recipes with quinoa.

I have to confess I am not too good with actual recipes. I have tendencies or patterns of combining foods, textures and flavors, so I'll share some of those.

I love quinoa. It tastes good, cooks fast, and seems to be more nutritionally dense than other grains.

I buy three different colors of quinoa -pale, red, and black- mostly for visual variety though I think they taste slightly different from each other.

I cook quinoa, sometimes using two or three different colors, in my rice cooker.

Sometimes I'll cook brown rice and quinoa or amaranth and quinoa together.

*Cook quinoa with brown sushi rice, make into patties with hijiki and minced ginger. In blender, puree almond butter and frozen mango chunks for a sauce to put on top, garnish with minced green onions.

*Toss cooked quinoa with chives, toasted pine nuts, and chevre. Maybe a tiny bit of truffle oil at the end.

*Sauté cooked quinoa with cashews, kale, and shiitake mushrooms.

*Bake cremini or white mushrooms: stuff with quinoa & oyster mushrooms and little spritz of wheat-free tamari. Make tahini lemon black pepper sauce to drizzle on top.

*Make quinoa salad with chopped pears, chives, balsamic vinegar, and chopped walnuts.

Smart Treats are yummy

I first discovered Smart Treats at Whole Foods four years ago when I was in graduate school in Western Massachusetts. I introduced them to a sweet-tooth Beloved then.

Day before yesterday a precious box arrived from Smart Treat. That Beloved sent our house a gift containing nearly every yummy in the treat range. The macaroons and peanut butter cups are especially delicious.

It has been week of sweets for me--starting up in Mendocino--see Red Bananas Foster below. I notice that having a large amount of novel sweet things to eat increases my overall consumption of food. When I have a stack of identical 85% cacao chocolate bars in the cupboard I nibble occasionally eating about three squares a day, treating chocolate as a medicinal pleasure. A plethora of new and exotic sweets is very seductive by comparison.

Yesterday's lunch

In the tiffin:

Raw lacinated (dinosaur) kale strips
Dark baby greens (Fifth Crow Farm, Soquel)
Red quinoa
Hemp seeds
One diced heirloom tomato (Serenity Farms, Carmel)
Pink salt from Utah
Raw Cultured Sea Kraut (Brand name is Cultured they're in Berkeley and Rainbow & Whole Foods sell it)
Two chopped dates
Raw tahini drizzled over top

Celiac Heaven found in Mendocino

The Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino, Mendocino is a pricey treat but was fantastic value for money for me last week. I spent two nights in Room 205. The room was incredibly clean and featured a working fireplace which I used in the evenings. The deck had a lovely view of gardens trees and sea, and the hotel is home to many creatures including cats, horses and llamas. This was all very fine but the gluten free menu offerings in the stellar restaurant were truly fantastic. A sumptuous gluten-free breakfast comes with the room. After my first meal in the restaurant all the staff remembered that I was gluten-free and brought me gluten free extras and goodies. I could hear a cry go up in the kitchen, GLUTEN FREE! GLUTEN FREE!

The Inn has extensive gardens on the grounds and grows the vegetables and fruits prepared at the restaurant. It was glorious safe eating all trimmed with edible flowers.

What I ate:

Sunday Night

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Grilled watermelon atop spinach and basil chiffanade and heirloom tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette

Glazed Tofu and Croquettes
Tamari maple glazed tofu cutlets and baked hijiki seaweed - potato croquettes accompanied by steamed cauliflower and carrot-ginger coconut cream sauce

Live Peach Cobbler
Fresh summer cinnamon spiced peaches blended with dates an finished with a walnut-date crumble

Monday Morning

Stanford Ranchero
Two corn tortillas with black beans, your choice of tofu or braised tempeh, with or without vegan cheese, topped with our chipotle sauce and salsa cruda. Served with russet and sweet potato hash browns (I had this with eggs instead of tofu.)

Monday Dinner

Amuse Bouche was a chickpea paté with herbed flax crackers. Also an avocado lime purée.

Sushi Plate
Three pieces: Hand rolled nori with seasoned tofu, daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, sushi rice and almond butter. Sesame roasted bell pepper nigiri. Grilled trumpet royale sushi. Served with wasabi, pickled ginger and Nama Shoyu dipping sauce. (Without my prompting, the server stated the kitchen would swap wheat-free tamari for Nama Shoyu.)

WIld Mushroom Crepe
Local chanterelles sautéed over a puttanesca sauce with deep green greens. (Minus the crepe.)

Red Bananas Foster
Strawberry, Cashew-Vanilla, Coconut-Chocolate ice cream atop red bananas caramelized with Flor de Cana Rum and brown sugar.

Above, Tuesday morning breakfast: The signature brunch entree created with grilled citrus polenta covered with fresh garden greens sauteed in Stanford braising and served with creamy cashew sauce. Note that southwest corner of polenta and a nasturtium petal were nibbled before the Joyful Celiac remembered to document breakfast.

I also photographed Monday night dinner, but I abstained from flashing other diners with my camera and the pictures are dark and fail to capture the food's presentation and appeal. Below, the dining room at dinner time.

I met five felines on the property. Only this one consented to be photographed. She was extremely affectionate and soft. And lucky. As a stray she was welcomed into a vegetarian hotel which was already home to a large posse of four-legged rescued beings of many species.

The dawn view from the porch of my room.

The Big River from the outrigger canoe I rented from Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, too! which is on the edge of the Stanford Inn property.

While I've sailed and rowed, I had never canoed before. The handbuilt solo outrigger was light, stable and responsive. Though I'd been warned it was unlikely, I did get to watch a family of river otters playing in the shallows near the mouth of the river. I didn't want to startle them so there are no pictures.


Brief responses to specific questions & issues

*What About Traveling?

Yes, I can wander. Europe was pretty easy, especially when staying in places with kitchens or with friends (who fed me so generously & carefully). Some hotels are fantastic for celiacs. (I never wanted to leave Casa Camper in Barcelona.) I went to the farmer's markets and bought local ingredients. With the exception of Barcelona, I almost never ate in restaurants due to healthy suspicion.

I hear Japan and China are really, really hard and I haven't tried yet.

My advice to others--If you haven't really become adept with spotting gluten in all its guises and feeding yourself well, consider waiting until you've mastered basic celiac skills. For most of us, being diagnosed brings up all kinds of emotional history related to love, grief, and, obviously, food. Finding oneself lost and hungry in a foreign place is one of the harder ways of encountering one's psychic wounds. Emotions like sadness, shame, anger or self-doubt can make it complicated to explain what one needs in a foreign tongue or make it difficult to say no to questionable foods. If possible, give yourself some time to experience and adjust to a new emotional landscape before venturing into unknown lands.

*Does the Joyful Celiac eat at restaurants?

Rarely and with research, communication, & great care. I will eat at restaurants that have no gluten on their entire menu. There is a local raw chain that does not use gluten in their food at all. It is a blessing to be able to walk into restaurant and to be able to eat everything on the menu without anxiety or negotiation with the staff. And the food is rich in taste & nutrition. Wallow in the desserts.

I will also eat at places that source their ingredients carefully and have a separate gluten-free menu. (In the Bay Area Dosa & Millennium.) These are pricey places to eat, and for me getting sick is far more expensive. Missed work, missed life. Recently Samovar opened in a place very convenient to me and after checking on their tamari and miso, I began eating there three times a month. (Jook with tofu or the tea soup with tofu.) I realized last week that I haven't asked them recently whether their ingredients have changed. I haven't had symptoms associated with meals there, but I also haven't been antibody tested in a while.

*How do you eat with other people?

I make something they'll eat with me or we choose to eat different things. Maybe we go to restaurant on the list above. If someone wants to meet somewhere I can't eat & I feel like doing that, then I eat very well before I go and then I have San Pellagrino. (Italian mineral water feels festive to me.) My dearest friends eat gluten-free when they're with me and are vigilant about feeding me. I am moved by their devotion.

*You're so disciplined--Real people can't eat the way you do.

I'm a grateful real person. I spent more than thirty years being ill and I won't willingly give up one minute of feeling fabulous. When I am locked in the loo, exhausted, anxious, and mentally foggy, I don't feel very available to others. For me, eating a high-nutrient, no-gluten diet is loving my life and by extension serving others.

Let's also be clear: celiac disease is a disease and it can be lethal. My maternal grandmother died before she was seventy, of complications related to treating a celiac-related colon cancer after a sixty years of eating wheat.

I'm not disciplined--I am motivated, organized and willing to prioritize time and money on eating well.

*You're so slender--Is that because you can't eat anything?

No. I eat lots of things--just not the same things that gluten-eaters eat. I eat calorie dense foods many times a day including cheese, chocolate, and nuts. My body size is a genetic fluke, possibly the result of being celiac. I could probably live on coconut milk ice cream and remain thin. My father's side of the family is tall and skinny and my mother's side is celiac.

*You're so slender--I wish I had celiac disease.

No, you don't.


During the week I usually eat homemade cereal and cashew milk.

Happy Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Granola-ish Cereal

I make this with my dehydrator. I usually end up with enough for ten breakfasts. All ingredients are raw and unprocessed. It's not that I'm particularly into raw foods (though there are many good raw recipes which are gluten-free, yummy, and nutrient dense) but rather processed nuts are often rancid, have canola oil on them and are salted. I think all that tastes bad so I don't use them.

6 to 8 Apples and/or pears
3 or 4 figs or dates (pit your dates)
1 cup sunflower seeds (raw, unsalted)
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped some other nut
fresh nutmeg (with one of those metal grater thingies, like you see in cafés)
fresh cinnamon (grind in the coffee grinder dedicated for spices)
1/3 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup raw cacao nibs or powder
1/2 cup goji berries or golden inca berries
2 handfuls raw coconut shavings
1 vanilla bean (grind it)

Put all your dry ingredients in a big bowl and mix them thoroughly

Take your figs and/or dates and whirl them in your food processor or blender until they're smooth-ish. Remove what you can from the blender in put into big bowl with the dry ingredients.

Chop up your apples and/or pears and then blend/process in small batches. Don't turn them liquid--just blend until the chunks aren't too big--until it's like a slurry. Put the slurry in the big bowl, too.

Mix everything up together. If the mixture is runny add some more dry stuff--chopped nuts and seeds--until it's a bit chunkier. Then spread the mixture on paraflex sheets on the dehydrator trays. Spread it out to the edges of the trays.

Dehydrate at about 150 degrees for five or seven hours. Your house will begin to smell of warm cinnamon and pears. When the cereal is dry enough, take it off the paraflex sheets and put it onto the mesh trays to dry faster. Dehydrate at about 130 for another five to seven hours. The granola chunks may still seem a bit moist while they're warm. They should be crunchy when they cool down.

Cashew Milk

One cup raw cashews
Three cups water

If you like add a dash of salt or some fresh vanilla

Put into highspeed blender and blender on high for about two minutes. Keep in a mason jar in the fridge and drink with three days.

Quick treat with cashew milk:

In a big mug, brew strong black (con caffeine) or red (sin caffeine) chai from Zhena's Gypsy Tea bags leaving half an inch or more of room at the top of your mug. Add a splosh maple syrup and finish with cashew milk to the top. Happily, Ms. Zhena certifies her teas are GF!

Another Breakfast

One and half cups of full-fat Strauss yogurt, generous smattering of frozen blueberries, small handful raw nuts, garnish of raw cacao nibs. If really craving sweets add a dash maple syrup.

How to make lunch

I have a To-Go Ware tiffin. I just use one tier of a two-tier tiffin most days.

I cook red quinoa & medium length rose rice together in a rice cooker and keep left-overs in the fridge for use at any time. I put about a cup of the grains in the bottom of the tiffin.

Then I put in about two handfuls of dark green leafy vegetables. (Spin the leaves dry before putting them in.) It may look as if your tiffin is now overloaded but the greenleafies will tamp down as you add more things.

I cut up a tomato and/or an apple (or pear) and add that. Then I sprinkle pink salt lightly over everything. (I know--salt is bad for you! Actually, it's not. High quality salt has nice trace minerals in it and the body needs some dietary salt. Yes, food naturally has salt in it but you can add some too. If you're not eating manufactured or restaurant food or pre-made sauces then you can salt your food and still eat less than the RDA's maximum.) Put some freshly cracked pepper in.

Now put about two tablespoons of raw hempseeds over everything. Hempseed is nutty and has lots of good, brain-loving fats (EFAs) in it. Keep your hempseeds in the fridge.

That's the base for almost all my lunches.

On top of that I might put:

*chevre, walnuts, and slivers of fig
*raw sauerkraut, seaweeds, and walnuts
*cheddar chunks and pecans
*goat's cheese, date slivers, and rosemary
*roasted eggplant chunks and mushroom slices

Everything is made in advance so I just assemble lunch in my tiffin before I go work in the morning. It takes about ten minutes. I carry a wooden spoon and hashi (chop-sticks) with me. Eating off of metal with metal utensils is noisy and gives me a nails-on-chalkboard shiver.

Today at the farmer's market

One box of figs from Capay Valley
Various baby bitter greens from Fifth Crow Farm
Three kinds of heirloom apples from Sabastopol--last week of Mutsu apples this season

All of these will become sumptuous lunches for the week.


Dedicated gluten-free kitchen tools

*Coffee grinder just for grinding spices
*Mortar & pestle
*High speed blender
*Bamboo cutting boards
*Sharp Japanese vegetable cleaver
*Rice cooker (for quinoa, amaranth & rice)
*Two iron skillets (one eight inch, and one 12 or 14 inch) Yes they are heavy! Lift with with your core muscles and get some iron with all your meals! Plus, if you take basic care of them the don't stick at all. Non-stick cookware coating doesn't seem too safe to me. There's been lots of mainstream press about the dangers of Teflon.

Microwaves seem creepy to me and I don't use them ever. I have a superstition that they destroy nutrients by cooking food from the inside out. Smart people tell me this is the opposite of true, but I don't seem to believe them. I like toaster ovens--just be careful not to share crumbs with your beloved gluten-eaters.

The Weekly Grocery List

At the farmer's market:

*Ten to fourteen servings of something dark green and leafy [spinach, various kales, even purpley-dark lettuce]
*Seven to fourteen servings of one or two in-season vegetables [eggplants, tomatoes, radishes]
*Something else that would be good in salad [figs, apples, pears]
*Five servings of two kinds of mushrooms [usually shiitakes and oysters--sometimes the mushroom man offers me free samples of lion's mane or enokis]
*Pound or two of fruit
*Sometimes potatos

At the Co-op:

Frozen Oregon blueberries, plus cranberries or blackberries
Cashews for making cashew milk
Pecans and walnuts
Green onions
Raw Sauerkraut with sea vegetables
Fancy cheeses (preferably raw milk, sheep, and/or goat)
Lightly salted butter

In the cupboard already:

Grey, pink, and brown salt
Whole black and white peppercorns
Many spices
Extra virgin olive oil
Four or five kinds of rice
Five kinds of seaweed
Mary's Gone Crackers

In the fridge:

Three kinds of miso*
Bee pollen
Hemp seeds
Sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds

*Make sure to get gluten-free miso. Some miso is made with barley.

Gluten Free Products

I am frequently asked for information about gluten-free products. I am not too interested products because I'm really into food which happens to be by its very nature gluten-free. But when I thought a little more I realized that I do eat a few things which are gluten-free versions of foods traditionally made with wheat.

I guess I evaluate food on a kind of pleasure-to-nutrient-density x/y axis. Gluten free copies of product foods tend to be high-pleasure/low-nutrient foods (for example, crackers, cookies, pancakes, biscuits) and I minimize those kinds of foods. There are delicious high-nutrient foods out there and I build my eating around combining those. I believe eating this improves way my overall sense of energy and vibrancy.

Also, I have Type II diabetes on both sides of my family so why tempt fate?

Costs $8-9 a loaf. This is not that sad rice "bread" that crumbles into tasteless bits of disappointment. This is bread like my Scots peasant grandmothers would have relished. Nutritionally dense (high ratio of good stuff to weight/calories) and yummy. Toasts well. Tastes almost like German Rye.

Eat smothered with: Humboldt Fog, and/or Strauss salted butter. If you're dairy-free, make a sundried tomato spread or za'taar.*

Tastes good, not sticky, and can tolerate over-cooking. Makes good lasagna noodles and the shells and spirals that hold lots of sauce.

I am not a frequent eater of pasta. I minimize simple carbohydrates most of the time. That means I don't often eat sugars and refined flours. Rice flour hikes the blood sugar so I eat Tinkyada pasta when I am making a simple meal with my housemates. I combine it with a nice portion of fat (e.g. olive oil, pine nuts and/or cheese) to buffer the glycemic rise.

[Note this mix contains dairy.] This is a reliable tool for making all-pleasure treats. I make blueberry corn bread, blueberry pancakes, and blueberry muffins from this mix. The blueberries are to provide some kind of nutritional value as well as yumminess.

2 tsps dried thyme
1 tsp ground sumac
1 tbsp sesame seeds
4-6 tbsps olive oil
a pinch of salt

Grind all ingredients together.