Posted on Leave a comment

The Two Ways Gluten Sneaks In

So I had this great plan in my head of a list of 5 sneaky ways that gluten finds its way into our food. As I was thinking I realized there really is only 2 ways gluten sneaks in. I know a list of 2 is not much fun but it’s what we have! If you have another way you can think of please let me know in the comments!

This discussion is especially important for those of you who are new to eating gluten or grain free. The concepts are essential for anyone with food allergies or anyone simply trying to avoid one particular food.

Sadly it’s not an odd experience to go out to eat and think you have been super careful about your food and restaurant choices. Low and behold 2 hours later you find out you were so wrong. Maybe you just forgot to actually ask because you figured it would be alright. I did that to myself recently on vacation.

The French Fry Debacle of 2019

As I mentioned elsewhere fries are my weakness, and they are typically ok if you look for the right key words on menus. We were in a little town and it’s hard enough to be sure about making sure the food is safe for me to eat at a place like that. I did not want to ask if their fries were battered or not. I felt fairly sure from previous visits that they were ok. Well, I was completely wrong. Thankfully I know what to look for and I know the battering is typically made from wheat. Battering is a frequent place where gluten sneaks in. That way I did not make a 2nd fateful assumption about the safety of the food.

I made another assumption later in the week though what I felt was on more reliable information. I was wrong, again. The menu stated “Oven Baked” or some similar verbiage about their fries. It made me feel fairly ok about them. So I ordered them, and of course they were also battered.

Now you may be saying “Hey, just because they are cooked in the oven does not make them GF!” That is totally true, come to find out though when I asked later, they don’t even cook them in the oven anymore anyway. They just have not changed their menu.

What’s the point?

Fine, so you may be asking “Other than to depress us, what’s the point of this discussion? How does this help us find where gluten sneaks into our food?” The point is we have to be vigilant at all times about what we are eating. Thank the Lord we live in a country where 98% of the time we don’t have to worry about the safety of our food supply. Certainly there are quality issues in it, and yes occasionally there is some sort of contaminated food. Yet, anyone can basically walk into any restaurant and grocery store in the US and buy food and not get sick. That is a HUGE anomaly in the history of the world (even in the US) and in most of the world right now as well. The safety of food is something that has always been questionable.

Thankfully in the US we have basically been inoculated against those concerns. To the point where many people walk into a place and have little real concern where the food came from, how it was processed, or what it contains.

The Restaurant Reality

So back to “what’s the point?”. The point is that as people with food allergies, we have to ask the questions. Yes, depending on where exactly you live there are certain laws in place to help lay out what allergens are in food, does it contains GMOs, etc. We cannot rely on those things to be accurate, though. Human beings are fallible. Gluten sneaks in the smallest places.

Especially if you are eating in a restaurant, you are dealing with, typically, high school and college age kids who should care, but frequently do not. If nothing else you are their 20th party of the night. They have already been on their feet 6 hours and they are tired, and have 3 more hours to go by the time everyone leaves and they get the restaurant clean and closed. They also don’t really know what gluten is, other than when their manager gave them in a training manual and said “hey some people can’t eat this gluten thing. This logo on our menu means its Gluten Free, Ok?”

The manager should also care and be knowledgeable, but your food allergy is one of the 250 small things they have to worry about on their 12 hour shift. Not that he or she won’t care and want to help, but that if we assume that it’s a perfect kitchen in the back with everything perfectly clean and partitioned and best set up for allergen free cooking, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

Ask the Questions

Ask the questions when you go in. I know I like to go out when I am tired, so I just want to be able to order and eat. I don’t want to have to expend the mental energy to think through the potentials of where on the menu gluten has snuck in. It is that or risk getting sick for me, though. I for one would rather ask the questions.

Ask the questions when you go to a grocery store as well. Granted, this is not typically actually asking a real person. “Ask the questions” of the box – read the ingredients. More and more people are getting used to this just in general, but if you haven’t needed to before, why would you? Even “healthy food” items such as Organic baked goods or even supplements can have gluten “hidden” in the ingredients. Remember the companies are not maniacally trying to find where they can sneak gluten in the ingredients to make you sick. They are doing their best to provide the best tasting, most effective and economical product available. This frequently ends up meaning they are using wheat or wheat based products to do that.

The 2 ways

I just said a lot of words without actually telling you the two ways, isn’t that fancy? The 2 most frequent ways gluten sneaks in our food relatively unintentionally are:
1. Cross Contamination
2. Minor Ingredients that are derived from Wheat
We will cover these more in detail in the next couple of days. Stay tuned and if you have any questions about this or anything else please comment below!

Make it a tasty day,
Chris

Posted on 2 Comments

I Am a Failure.

I am a failure. It’s true. For what feels like the 87th time my test batch of caramel pecan brownies did not turn out the way I intended.

I Am A Failure

I experienced that when I was developing our vegan brownies as well. Literally the cocoa, flour and sugar would separate out from the oil. It would turn into this crazy, weird puddle of chocolate goo in a lake of fat. You can see below.  It was very much terrible. I tried every egg replacement that I could come up with, time and time again, until I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and moved on. It wasn’t until several years later when I reformulated our brownie recipe to be grain free as well as gluten free that I was able to hit on the key to making it work without eggs.

The Definition

So let’s talk about failure a minute. What is failure really? When I say “I am a failure” is that true? On the other hand did one instance of failure happen? Let’s look at what Merriam Webster has to say.

1aomission of occurrence or performance, specifically: failing to perform a duty or expected action

 2alack of success”

According to their standards, it is correct to say I am a failure. My recipes trials were not a success. In my case taste or appearance issues and not at all the result I want or need. I believe failure is much more highly nuanced than that, though.

What Do Others Say?

I looked for specifics authors for these 2 quotes but either there are non-existent or they have been lost. Two statements that I believe help us have a correct view of failure are below.

            “Failure is only failure if you give up”

            “Failure is only failure if you do not learn anything”

I think the more important of the two statements is the 2nd one, “Failure is only failure if you do not learn anything”. When something goes wrong we have the great opportunity to examine what happened and to see what went wrong and how we can improve next time. Maybe that’s my case with the brownies. I have learned that cooking the caramel into the brownies is tasty but ugly. It also masks the flavor of the caramel to some degree. If I simply give up out of frustration or keep doing the same basic thing, that would be failure.  I have learned from it, though, so I am trying new and different ways to make it work.

What about the first statement? “Failure is only failure if you give up”. I totally agree. Is that what I did quite a few years when I was first working on my recipe? I would argue I did not just simply give up. There is such a thing as a strategic retreat. Giving up I would argue is when we quite out of frustration and discouragement.

On the other hand we can look at a situation and recognize this is causing me to exhaust so much time and resources for so little return we need to move on. I tried every egg replacer I knew, the ones you can buy premade, chia eggs, flax eggs, apple sauce. If it existed and I could find it I tried it. In the end I decided it was not really worth pursuing at the time. I did not get many requests for it, and I was literally throwing batch after batch of brownies in the trash. I did learn from it though! Those lessons helped me figure out how to make our Vegan Brownie mix successful now though.

Moving Forward

I do want to add one thing – not to discourage you but to prepare you. You will experience things going wrong in life, what lots of people call “failures”. Things go terrible at work, kids wreak havoc at home, a recipe goes horribly wrong, maybe many times over!  These will happen; they are a part of life. Here is a great quote from one of my favorite authors Zig Ziglar.

“Make Failure your teacher, not your undertaker”

When something goes wrong, remember, it’s only truly a failure if we don’t learn from it and we give up in despair. When you are tempted to say “I am a failure”, say “No! Sure this did not go as planned but I will learn something from this and move on and make it better.” On occasion that may even be realizing you have spent so much time and effort on something that it’s just not working and it’s not worth it in the end. So be it. Take the lessons you learned from it and make other things in the future better for it.

Will I be giving up on Caramel Pecan Brownies? No! I certainly am not doing the same thing again though!

Chris

Posted on Leave a comment

Why Can People Eat Some Grains But Not Others?

Off Kilter Brownies Market Booth at the Memorial Village Farmers' Market

Good Morning! You may be wondering why some people can eat some grains but not others. That is a fantastic question, lets dive into that.  There are several aspects that cause people to be able to tolerate one grain over another. That is the genetics of the specific grain, processing of the product itself, and how it is grown.

The Genetics of the Grain

As I mentioned yesterday there is one variety of wheat that I can actually tolerate, that is called Einkorn. It is a very ancient variety so the genetic makeup is totally different from most of today’s modern wheat. I have also heard from some people who are able to eat Kamut (another ancient variety of wheat), though I myself have not tried it. Some people can have spelt or barley but not wheat. The list goes on! I hate to go back to the reason of “the body is weird”, but each and every person is different. I have a friend who is specifically allergic to wheat, not gluten in particular. So she can eat barley, but anything with wheat in particular causes issues. The human body is so specific that you really have to listen to your body and find out what works for you.

How the Grain is Processed

Processing can affect the digestibility of the grain as well. Until recent years most all wheat flour found in the store was both bleached and bromated. The bleaching was simply to get that pure white appearance, and faster, that so many have come to expect and desire out of a grocery store loaf. Think about what a typical loaf of sandwich bread looks like. The bleaching caused a weakening of the gluten structure, though.  So processors also started “bromating” the flour, or adding potassium bromate. This was to counteract that and just help the flour stand up better to processing and give it a better gluten structure. For a further short read on bromated flour check out this article by King Arthur Flour.

Obviously as with any additive or chemical there are always concerns. I for one am not a fan of bleach in my food to begin with, even if they say it’s all been processed out.  As I’m sure you can imagine some people’s bodies are not the most happy with chemical residue left behind. So once again there are people who are able to eat regular wheat flour so long as it is unbleached and unbromated. While processing is not as clear when it comes to other grains such as corn or rice, this can certainly hold true for these as well. If you are looking for a new product it will never hurt to find the highest quality processor possible to get your food from.

How the grain was grown and harvested

The final aspect we will look at today that could affect the digestibility of the grain is how its grown. Most of this (as I’m sure you can imagine) relates to the use of herbicides used in the growth and harvesting of the grain. I’m not going to dig too deep into this because many arguments arise over the exact uses, quantities and time when herbicides such as glyphosate are applied. Glyphosate (better known as Roundup) is approved for use on various grains (wheat, corn, soy) for various applications. One use for Roundup is as a weed killer. It’s specifically used in conjunction with varieties of grains that have been bred or genetically modified to resist being killed by roundup. The farmer sprays for weeds without being concerned about killing his crop. Roundup kills off the crop and allows it to dry out some before harvest. Other herbicides are used this way.

As I mentioned there is much argument over exactly how this is done. Herbicides are always used, though in differing amounts and at different times during the growing process.  I do know people who, if they consume cheap supermarket wheat that has been processed in “normal” ways, they have fairly major issues. King Arthur, or other high quality brands, doesn’t cause the same issues.

Hopefully that answers some of your questions about why some people can eat some grains but not others. Remember at the end of the day each person is different. Take the time to learn your body and find out what does and does not work for you. Maybe you don’t need to go totally grain free, and you can have something that’s processed better. Maybe it’s just easier to go whole hog and get rid of it all so you don’t have to worry about the intricacies of things. Remember: food is to be enjoyed, so eat well, be healthy, and have fun with it!

Have a tasty day,

Chris

 

Posted on Leave a comment

What is Gluten and what does it do?

Gluten Free Deliciousness

Hello! You may be wondering what is gluten, or why people want to avoid it. If you have never felt poorly after eating a particular food, then I can totally understand your confusion! I sometimes wish I was in the group of people that could eat anything that’s available and move on with life, but alas.

What Is Gluten?

So that being said, gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, and actually most grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc). Gluten gives structure and texture. In wheat, with the correct amount of water and the right amount of work, gluten turns a pile of flour and water into the best, most tender cake you’ve tasted or the wonderfully chewy, holey, enjoyable loaf of bread that’s great when topped with good quality butter. I’m sure you noticed that I said the RIGHT amount of work. Most of us have had that slice of bread that is so chewy you spend 6 hours just trying to get it so you can swallow it, or that muffin that is so tough that no amount of blueberries in it or sugar sprinkled on top will ever make it enjoyable. That is the joy of gluten!

What Does Gluten Do?

Gluten is actually a really cool thing. If you knead it just right, it becomes cohesive strands that will hold the gasses that yeast releases and turn into the beautiful loaves of bread you see in artisan shops, with lots of holes to hold tasty butter. Gluten can also give that structure that enables those hundreds of buttery layers in a croissant. Like many things, the good side also has a terrible side. If you overwork gluten those strands tighten down and turn your tender cake into something to make the birthday boy cry. That’s why you see in many cake and muffin recipes (where you are looking for tenderness) where it says to stir *just* until combined.

Grain Free or Just Gluten Free?

Ok ok, so I made you hungry and sad that you can’t eat gluten. Sorry! Let’s move on – so you know how I mentioned that gluten is in a lot of grains? Some people can eat other grains or varieties of wheat, and others cannot. You might say “Wait! That does not make sense, why can someone have one gluten and not another?!” Well thanks for asking! So here is the thing,

  1. The human body is super weird. That’s a lame answer, though.
  2. Gluten is actually made up of several parts, Gliadin and Glutenin. Gliadin is frequently the offending part. It is what helps make all the magic of bread happen, but in many people, myself included, it causes inflammation and irritation in the GI tract or in your joints and makes life miserable.

Since gliadin is typically the issue, many people are able to eat some other grains than wheat and not have any issues. Corn and rice are safe options for these people, whereas others may need to avoid all grains entirely. (We will talk about why going totally grain free might be the answer for those people soon.)

Have a tasty day,

Chris

Posted on Leave a comment

Why do I eat gluten-free?

Good morning everyone! I wanted to explain a bit more about why I eat gluten free. We do talk about it a bit in our about page but I wanted to go more in depth.

I eat gluten free because my body reacts highly unkindly to gluten found in basically all wheat. (In the future I will talk about the one wheat I can eat.) I have been eating gluten free for over 11 years now. It has certainly not always been a fun journey. I would say the learning curve was rather steep. In the beginning there were quite a few less products, and most of them were very bad. Heck, most of them still are not very good! It was also rather frustrating learning to properly read labels and find out what was ok to eat and what was not. We could certainly go down paranoia lane and talk about how the big corporations are trying to hide all sorts of things in our foods under fancy names. Lets not go there right now though, but even things as straight forward as realizing you need to be careful of “Modified Food Starch” if it doesn’t say what it’s made from can easily put you down the wrong path in the beginning.

I have adjusted some things since the beginning. I have learned what my body seems to care about, and what it does not, or simply what I can get away with… I no longer care about what is fried in a mixed fryer with gluten containing foods, (Hint: If you are just starting out or are EXTREMELY sensitive, DO NOT do this) and I do have a tendency to fudge on the whole food starch thing. I like French fries too much!

Making sure you don’t eat things that will make you sick is important, we should also enjoy life though. Eating gluten can literally immobilize me, or at least make life highly unpleasant. I’ve also found that enjoying French fries does not expose me to enough risk to worry about cutting them out of my diet and it makes me happy to eat them! Food should make us happy. Sure, it’s about giving our bodies the fuel and nutrients we need to survive and do what we need to do, but we should enjoy it. Certainly if you knowing eating a certain thing will make you sick (hello loaf of bread) avoid that, but if you get super stressed out over the more minor ingredients like food starch that don’t really bother you don’t worry about it too much. If you know you are sensitive enough you have to avoid food cooked in a mixed fryer then please do avoid those French fries. The stress from being highly paranoid will do you far greater harm though frequently than fudging on the food starch. I know stress causes my stomach to get messed up and the negative effects of stress are well documented.

So back to the beginning, I eat gluten free because gluten makes me sick, I also want to avoid the stress of being so paranoid I can’t enjoy my food and thinking I’m going to get sick at every turn. That is why we did create our brownies, so that you can enjoy the best food, but also not have to worry about getting sick! So get out there, pay attention to what you eat, but also enjoy life!

Make it a tasty day,

Chris

Posted on Leave a comment

Gluten-free is a fad (well, somewhat)

 

“Gluten free is a fad.”

“Most people who are gluten-free don’t really NEED to be and are just following the fad.”

 

Have you heard these statements before? Or said them yourself? I hear these all of the time. Often with a tone of disapproval. Some people agree; I don’t and think it should change.

When Chris was first diagnosed, it was hard to find gluten-free products. Most of them were terrible. Imagine poorly flavored cardboard, cat litter, and sand. Basically, not good. (One of the reasons why we started this bakery.) The gluten free movement was young. There were few products on the market and few of them were good. People only ate these gluten-free products if they had to.

About 1 on 100 people suffer from celiac, and there are others who must eat gluten-free for other health reasons, like Chris. Even the smallest amount would cause him excruciating pain for days. It took months of testing to figure out the cause. He is not gluten-free for a fad, but for necessity.

However, some people eat gluten-free because that is what other people are doing.  They hear about gluten-free in the news; or a friend is talking about “going gluten free”. This might be called a fad. But you know what? I’m good with that.

Remember supply and demand from your economics? Back then, few people wanted gluten-free products; the demand was small so the supply was small. Now, a ton of people want gluten free; the demand has grown and so the supply has grown. Many companies create gluten free products to meet this demand. Demand regardless of the “why”: for health, for celiac, for necessity, for fun, or YES, for fad.

I am grateful for anyone who is gluten-free for fad. If those consumers didn’t buy gluten-free, the demand would be much smaller. If it was smaller, there would be less options and the options would not be as good.

Therefore, today in 2019, I am glad for anyone who eats gluten free for fad reasons. With them, we all have more, better options. Thankfully, Chris was able to make dietary changes and work on getting better.

So if you see someone who eats gluten-free because everyone else is, thank them for me.

(But guess what? There are great reasons to eat gluten-free. So even if you started this because you were curious, keep enjoying gluten-free living!)

 

~Nathan