Thursday, July 5, 2012

Several years ago, in an attempt to uncover the cause of Taylor's persistent psoriasis, we went gluten free. We have since learned that gluten wasn't the culprit, and yet we continue quite happily with our gluten free lifestyle. As with most all of our food choices it isn't a matter of we can't eat it... we simply don't want to. 

Why? Did you know that gluten cannot be properly digested by humans? This, of course causes a host a persistent problems, the most common being embarrassing, stinky... gas. ;) Other symptoms of gluten intolerance can include bloating, diarrhea, migraines, abdominal pain, lethargy, ADD, muscle pain, joint pain, seizures, thyroid problems and even schizophrenia. The National Institute of Health estimates that over 2 million Americans suffer from gluten intolerance and I'm guessing that many aren't even aware of it. 

As Americans we are so used to feeling less than our best that we accept these symptoms as "normal" and work our lives around them. Suffering has become our norm. I decided years back that I won't settle for anything less than perfect health. As part of my journey I came to realize that each ache, pain or symptom is my body's attempt at communication. As with all "foreign" languages it has taken some effort to translate, but each day brings better, clearer understanding between us. What does this mean for me? No headaches, no aches or pains, no intestinal issues, clear and healthy skin/nails/hair, undisturbed sleep, high energy and a general sense of well being. Lovely. Settle for less? Not me. 

I'll admit that learning to cook gluten free was a challenge. While there are many boxed mixes available today they most always contain ingredients that I refuse to use. So, once again, I was left to my own devices. I don't use (or need) xanthan gum or guar gum to bind my breads and cookies any longer, instead I've found the perfect alternative... golden flaxseed. It isn't only super healthy, it was the secret weapon I needed to create the foods I was craving. I won't lie and say it didn't take tons and tons of trial and error. One of the first breads I made was a complete and utter disaster, I threw it all away with relief. Ugh, and my first loaf of pumpkin bread? Disgusting. I've come a long way since those initial attempts though, and today I'd like to share a gluten free recipe I've perfected. One of my family's favorites...bagels. Yum. Yum. :)

Ingredients for Onion and Garlic Sourdough, Gluten free Bagels

1 1/2 cups ground organic flaxseed 
1 cup organic brown rice flour
1 1/4 cup organic millet flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sourdough culture
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup flaxseed gel
1 onion, diced and sauteed in organic olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced and lightly sauteed

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil

Add all dry ingredients to a mixing bowl (including onion and garlic) and mix well. When working with ground flaxseed you'll find that if you slowly add the wet to the dry as you go along you'll end up with a sticky, thick mess that is very hard to mix. Instead, combine all of the dry, gather your wet and add them quickly, stirring well. The flax is a great binder, but it begins working very quickly so you don't want to dilly-dally!

Flaxseed gel with sourdough in the background
Notes : As vegans we don't eat eggs and this is a wonderful replacement ~ flaxseed gel. It has much the same consistency as eggs, foods rise beautifully and it provides many of the same healthy fats. Flax Gel ~Add 1/2 cup flaxseed flour (1/3 cup whole flaxseeds equals 1/2 cup flaxseed flour once ground) and 2 cups of water to the blender. Mix for about 2 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and gooey. Store unused portion in the refrigerator, good for up to one week. 1/4 cup of flaxseed gel is equal to one egg.

I grind my own flaxseeds freshly as I need it in a small coffee grinder. They retain more of their health benefits this way, but if you feel you won't want to be bothered with this step you can buy the flaxseeds already ground. I prefer the golden flaxseeds over the brown, they seem to make baking lighter (both in color and consistency)

Dough ready to form into balls

With wet hands form dough into balls. Using a wet finger poke a hole into each ball to create a bagel shape. Don't bother trying to shape these the old fashioned way, the lack of gluten makes that impossible. And messy.

Once you've got your bagels ready, let them sit. The longer they sit out at room temperature, the denser and more sourdoughy the flavor (also the most health benefits). However, Scott doesn't love the strong sourdough flavor, so I usually let my bagels sit for about 4 hours. The shorter rising time makes for softer and lighter bagels. They will rise slightly as they sit but will actually compact if left to rise overnight.

When ready to cook, first bring a pot of water to a strong boil. Add in several of the bagels using a spatula or slotted spoon, but not too many at a time, they need room to bob and swim. ;) 

Boil for two minutes. Initially they will sink, but within a minute will pop up to the surface and stay there. 

Remove from water and place on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture. I usually let them sit for 10 minutes or so. This is a good time to preheat the oven.

Remove the paper towels and bake at 450 for 17 minutes. We love to eat ours fresh, split with a fork to create tasty little nooks and crannies. Grilled up slightly in some coconut oil with a light sprinkling of sea salt... amazingly delicious. Of course Onion/Garlic is only our current favorite, Cinnamon Raisin have always been a hit and Italian Herb were also delish. I'm sure the flavor variations are endless. :)

And this was supposed to be a super short recipe blog post today... ;)

Have a wonderful day friends. :)