Gluten Free News

As someone with celiac disease, I always take particular notice of gluten-free and celiac news when I find it. Recently, there have been a number of new articles about the world of the wheat-less.

– Dunkin’ Donuts going gluten free?? It’s true. As someone raised in the spiritual home of Dunks, I’m excited to see that one of it’s testing grounds is in Boston. Each of the donuts and muffins seems to be individually wrapped (smart) and labelled “GF.” Although initially enchanted by the idea of strolling into a Dunkin’ Donuts and picking up coffee and a donut like a normal Bostonian, I’m curious about how they actually taste. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discovered gluten-free products where I didn’t expect them and been really disappointed by their texture. Too many bakers/restauranteurs/etc. see the potential revenue in attracting gluten intolerant customers and aren’t too discerning in their recipes, resulting in an all-rice-flour, crumbly mess.

This well-written piece by Mother Jones does a great job of synthesizing recent studies and scholarship on whether the gluten-free diet is actually good for anyone who is not “officially” celiac or gluten intolerant. It also just does a nice job of explaining how celiac disease works beyond the “wheat=bad things” synopsis offered by some less detailed articles.

– A New York Times article also discussing the rising prevalence of both celiac and non-celiac gluten intolerance, as well as why the rise is occurring (lack of “good” gut bacteria? higher gluten levels in wheat? who knows).

Another New York Times article discusses the potential link between gluten intolerance and other inflammatory diseases. Celiac is an inflammatory auto-immune disease and those who have it are more likely to have other inflammatory auto-immune diseases – lupus, diabetes, and arthritis, to name a few. The author of the article tells the story of how her son, suffering from a juvenile form of arthritis, experienced a dramatic improvement after going gluten- and dairy-free.

– Unless you are gluten intolerant yourself, you’ve never had to read ingredient labels of strange things and learned even stranger. Like finding out that the new conditioner you were about to buy had wheat germ protein in it. Or that the main ingredient of Twizzlers is wheat. You might also not have known that Play-Doh is mainly composed of wheat, which means that young gluten-intolerant children can’t play with it. According to a recent Market Watch article,Play-Doh competitors are realizing the potential and creating wheat-free alternatives.

Happy Holidays!

To celebrate the holidays and thank some of the special people in my life, I made my own candy for the first time. I’m not filing this under “Cooking for the Fearful” because, frankly, I was a little fearful going into this. Making candy has always struck me as too precise and precarious an enterprise for my less-than-exact ways in the kitchen. However, the bark recipe in particular is pretty foolproof, and mouse assembly is a breeze.

Orange Coconut Creams (from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 package (2 pounds) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons orange extract
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate
  • 8 ounces German sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until the butter is melted. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Add milk mixture; beat until smooth. Add the coconut and orange extract; mix well. Roll into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  • In a microwave, melt the chips, chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip balls into chocolate; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper; let stand until set. Yield: 9 dozen.

Chocolate Cherry Mice (adapted from FamilyFun Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 24 maraschino cherries with stems
  • Waxed paper
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 24 milk chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped
  • 48 almond slices

Directions:

  • Drain the cherries and pat them dry with paper towels. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.
  • Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat them until smooth, working in 15-second intervals, stirring between each.
  • Holding a cherry by its stem, dip it into the chocolate and swirl it around to completely cover the fruit. Set it on its side on the waxed paper and immediately press a Hershey’s Kiss onto the cherry for the head. For the ears, gently wedge two almond slices between the Kiss and the cherry. Repeat to make 24 mice.

This next one’s a recipe of my own creation…

White Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb white chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried mango
  • ~1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Directions:

  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Melt the white chocolate, either in the microwave or in a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, spread it over the aluminum foil until it’s about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Sprinkle chopped up mango and ground fresh cardamom all over the chocolate.
  • Let the chocolate cool, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Once cool, break the chocolate apart into big chunks.