I’ve been eating a lot of oats lately. Not just oatmeal, either, or even just oatmeal cookies (yum). It started out that way, though: a nice bowl of hot oatmeal, graduating from instant to quick rolled to quick Irish to steel cuts. Using some in our cookies, scones, crisps. Without yeast, I was still making flatbreads and quick breads with traditional wheat flours. Without wheat now, too, though, oats have become much more important in our house.
In the past 2 months, I’ve experimented with home-ground oat flour, certified gluten-free oat flours, whole oats, toasted oats, overnight oats. You name it. I’m just diving into this wheat-free world, and I’d like to hang onto as many other grains and proteins as I can. That means I’ve also been trying rice flours, corn flours, bean flours, and more. Oats are a personal favorite, but even I can get sick of them.
For now, I hope that some examples of how we’ve played around with oats in new recipes will help others out there who might be trying to eat fewer wheat-type products, or who are looking for variety in their whole grains, or who just like oats more than for breakfast alone. Enjoy!
The (very short) making-flour learning curve:
Homemade ground flour: I tried my blender/processor instead of a coffee grinder. Not bad. Gritty, too coarse, though. Also dusty. And I have more to clean afterward. With prepacked flour widely available (and certified GF for any of my baking adventures for friends with celiac), I’m not doing this again unless I run out unexpectedly for personal baking!
Bob’s Red Mill: NOW I understand how important this company’s products are. We liked them before as a family without nuts, eggs, dairy, seeds. Without wheat, though, I’m turning to Bob’s oat flour or steel cut oats every single day. Their blog and podcast are particularly fun for bakers and cooks of any kind, custom eater or not. Plus, he and his team are just nice.
McCann's Irish oats, quick cooking: These have become our new kitchen staple. I can make my own basic oatmeal for morning customization in a jiffy, and I can tweak the recipe on the back of the box to make without any of our allergens. Win, win. I just wish the boxes were bigger.
My First Wheat-Free Recipe
It’s really not a long weekend without pancakes. My husband would say waffles. But I make the food, and pancakes are easier without eggs. Plus, I can make enough to freeze some for later, which is a nice surprise for everybody. Waffles seem to disappear in this house before the iron is cool.
Anyway, I found myself newly wheat free and facing a morning of making pancakes for my family and going without. I’m quickly prone to become a martyr in such circumstances, but I’m working hard at self care equal to what I’d do if my kids went wheat free (or at least close). They’re great at reminding me to do that, too. 😊
So, Google. I came across a lot of great research about wheat replacement, and I’m still trying to gauge all of it and sort it in my brain and on paper. But I saw very early on a recipe by a chef, Dana Slatkin in 2012 for vegan almond pancakes. We can have almonds, now (mostly), and the eggs and butter were already replaced for me, so I was in.
I learned a lot about going gluten free from just this recipe. And it took a few tries to get the right texture, consistency, aftertaste, and more. Just a few tries---basically, the definition of deceptively simple. I'm still pretty sure this is my biggest wheat-free success to date, 4 months in, and it's the one I started with.
Here you go, inline for now with a pretty basic PDF to download if that's easier. It's still only the first full week of school here (read about how we missed a day of school for food allergies already), so nothing is pretty or organized or otherwise ready to go yet.
1-1/2 cups oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp psyllium
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1/2 Tbsp water
1-1/2 cups water (divided in half)
Preheat a griddle (check for readiness: a drop a water should sizzle).
In a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine all dry ingredients.
Make a well, and add the first four wet ingredients.
Then add 3/4 cup water and stir to mix to a batter consistency. Slowly add in the remaining 3/4 cup water to the thickness you desire.
Let the batter rest for a few minutes while you check the griddle.
Make your pancakes as you usually would with wheat versions. For us, that means starting with a thicker batter and thinning it with water as we go along to make a spreadable, but not watery, round cake (two to a pan).
Enjoy what you can, and then freeze the rest between layers of wax paper. Toast or microwave to reheat.
My next go or two:
I also decided that, just because I’m wheat free doesn’t mean we have to be chocolate free. Dessert is essential. We figured out brownies without eggs, which sounds unreal. I was sure I could figure out brownies without wheat, too.
I tried three different varieties: rye was my absolute favorite, of course. I’m tweaking it with oats or sweet rice instead for those GF friends and hope to have both versions on the blog this fall.
Another oat inspiration wagon we're jumping on is overnights oats. My oldest daughter and I are making a sporadic tradition of evening oat creations to replace our old favorite morning cereals. Look for that post this fall, too, with some of our oat toasting/type comparisons.
Do you have any other outside-the-box ideas for oats or oat flours for us to try? Any tips on cups versus grams (I'm diving into that GF topic, too, while I'm at this.)?
It's the first week of school here, and a short week to boot. So, another photo collage blog instead of actual writing. Plenty of time for writing and recipes in the coming weeks (I hope!).
Until then, enjoy pics of what's to come, and please send in any ideas you have for me as I go wheat free (not all-gluten free). You can find me here, of course, and on Twitter, Instagram, Freedible, or FaceBook.
Oh, our happy start to summer! We perfected wheat-filled fruit breads galore and shared recipes and treats with people dear to our hearts. We made chocolate cookie cake---a long-time goal of mine---for birthdays. We even used some of our fresh strawberries for bread and even for barbecue sauce gifts! I thought that I was finally "done" figuring out allergy baking and could put all of our new family recipes together in a collection for good. Then, removing chicken started me on another round of adaptations, starting with pasta bowls of lean veal, fresh carrots, and herbs from our own pots. Tasty...but not the end of the big changes in our kitchen.
Last year, I was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis, or EoE. Looking back, I've had some symptoms since college, at least. I've briefly characterized the emotional impact of different types of allergies before, and I hope to write more about the different types of food reactions, including EoE in adults and older children, in the coming months.
Diagnosis of EoE triggers is trickier than diagnosis of the disease itself. My testing and experiences clearly identified three culprits and suggested a handful of others, including wheat. My first wheat-free attempts weren't bad. They weren't great, either, though!
No poultry. And wheat free. For an Italian cook in a house that already avoids eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds. And saturated fats. And added salt. Oh my. The summer started out with basics: lean crumbed sausage and brown rice, roasted trimmed pork loin. Salmon, peppers, and crumbled rice crackers salad. Sweet potato fries in olive oil. And, lest we forget, the first attempt at a wheat-free cake: easiest pineapple cake ever (apparently still not on this blog), with Bob's 1:1 GF flour instead of all-purpose...which was alright, but I'm too much of an experimenter to be content with it yet.
My entire family got a break from my grouchiness and had fun outdoors and in the kitchen together when we renewed our summer berrypicking trips. I think we might have enough jam in our freezers to last us until next summer!
Ah, summer. From (not pictured) strawberries through mid-summer blueberries and ending with blackberries and raspberries, we had plenty of fruit to enjoy and experiment with. Everyone preferred Pomona's blueberry-cherry freezer jam; Pomona's cooked raspberry and blackberry jams and the traditional SureJell versions were tasty, too. Pomona's was thick enough to top an oatmeal scone, and the thinner raspberry version was perfect as a wheat-free cobbler filling (only crumbs remained!). To get my crunchy fix, I've resorted to rye crackers (Wasa brand) spread with anything that has more flavor than the crackers alone!
With some help from my girls, we figured out a few recipes that worked for everyone in the house. And a few that made enough leftovers for me to eat happily while everyone else had chicken, sandwiches, and traditional pastas.
Some happy successes so far: Rye flour brownies, Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix cupcakes, black bean sheet-pan brownies, gluten-free oat-almond mini brownies for friends with celiac, first-try corn fritters, warmed fresh local veggies, baked fresh sweet potato fries, and slow-cooker potato & pepper base for a roast.
Now, my least-favorite, but arguably the most important, part of developing safe recipes: trying them again and again to see if they hold up---and knowing when to stop tweaking and be content.
In a spiral, we're enjoying these repeat successes so far: Corn fritters and sauteed bok choy, squash and black bean salad, wheat-free scones (still crumbly though!), more fresh goodness from Washington Green Grocer, plenty of oat-almond pancakes for protein and whole-grain fiber in the mornings, chocolate coconut macaroon balls with defatted coconut flour, even more fresh veggies in olive oil, and steamed local apples with cinnamon (to avoid itchiness from oral allergy syndrome and keep kitchen time low during vacation).
From my spring testing for food triggers of EoE until now, I've gone through anger, shock, frustration, sadness, more frustration, more anger, etc etc. But with a lot of humor thrown in, and a great amount of family support. Life never stands still, and this is apparently my new adventure!
Today is the 1-year anniversary of my open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve and check out a growing aneurysm (left that one in there, unfortunately). Looking back, it's been the most amazing year! I knew surgery was needed, but I didn't realize how much I'd slid and given up until I had a healthy heart again---healthier than it ever was, actually, since I was born with a bad valve.
I still have over a week with my family before we all return to Fall routines of school, orchestra, work travel, softball, and more. This week, instead of a proper blog post, here's a collage of all of the fun places and experiences we had this summer---actually, these are JUST in August!
Photos are from hikes along Bluemont Junction, Potomac Overlook, and the C&O Great Falls trails, the National Zoo, swim days and berry picking days with friends, and a weekend in the Shenandoah.
I'm so very glad to be here, and I'm even glad to be reworking our foods yet again as allergies in our house change. I've learned a lot from being a heart patient and from having OHS. One thing I'm going to remember to hold on to:
Always say yes to (allergy-safe) cake.
As we (okay, I) accept more and more that we live an urban lifestyle---one of my choosing, in fact!---we have moved from growing our own items (darn those squirrels) to shopping the weekly farmer’s market to considering support of one of the many local CSA options. But, in a family with dozens (at least) of food allergies between us, is a CSA really the right move?
CSA, if you don’t yet know, stands for community-supported agriculture. Where I grew up, this was just called shopping. The groceries were filled with local items (especially the smaller grocers, Italian or otherwise), and sometimes neighbors swapped foods for others that they didn’t grow themselves. One of my early memories in our “new” house when I was 10 was giving peppers from our garden to other people and getting brown bags of fresh-picked corn from a local friend/colleague of my parents.
In cities, CSAs are the organized move to support the nearby farming communities and to show them that we city folk still appreciate them and want to rely on them, not global preserved shipments, for good food.
I’ll be honest: I’m a tough mom who makes my kids eat foods that aren’t their favorites at the dinner table. So the variety of foods, and the lack of well-in-advance notice about the box contents, was not ideal for planner-me, but it was not a large barrier.
The bigger problem really was the cost. I like to plan my budget, so having a weekly payment was nice on one hand. On the other, though, was that I was locked into a weekly payment. In a house with a government salary (read: not going up or getting bonuses anytime soon) and a freelance “salary” of mine that varied by the day, months of a weekly payment for anything is something I like to avoid.
Even if the CSA cost is less than I might possibly spend at the farmer’s market or grocery, I like the idea of being able to spend at those places and support those businesses more when I am earning more, but less when it doesn’t work for us that week.
We’ve considered splitting a CSA, because I really do think it’s cost effective in the long run, and having a partner to swap with seemed like a good compromise to the cost, frequency, and quantities. But we never really found an ideal partnership for that.
Now that we’re removing wheat from my diet, and our dishes are starting to center more on the veggie and less on the grain, I decided to give CSAs another hard look. It’s almost the end of summer here in the DC metro area, and our local market will wind down soon. Having fresh options to pick up or be delivered to our door would be a wonderful self-birthday gift to last all winter, and it would be a great way to celebrate my 1-year anniversary of heart surgery, too, to keep a healthy diet going when it’s just too darn cold to go out!
Locally, the CSA options are varied enough to make your head spin, though. All, or at least most, seemed reliable, often organic, and principled. As far as convenience to us, I wanted, at the very least
I used localharvest.org as well as good old Google searches to determine what fit our needs. From options like Kuhn’s order-as-you-go to Groundworks' on-farm membership, I got down to these few that met our needs:
What we ended up with, though, was none of these, at least not this year. Instead, we’re trying Washington Green Grocer, a CSA collaborative, so to speak. Washington Green Grocer delivers products from different local farmers in a single box right to your door. Choices include a vegetable-only box, a standard fruit and veg option, an organic-only box, and small-business add-ons like eggs or vegan waffles. At least two box sizes are offered, each at a flat fee.
Unlike a CSA, there is no member enrollment in WGG; instead, you pay weekly when you order a delivery. There’s no requirement to order each week, either. So far, the only downside from my point of view was that all items appear packed in a shared box, so allergic foods could be jostled with safe ones.
So what convinced me to give this a go? WGG orders are set online, within 1-2 weeks ahead of delivery, and the site offers a detailed “never order” and “always order” page. Yep—I can never get those highly allergenic bananas, even if they’re scheduled to be in the box. Never and always selections can be entire food groups or just single items.
And it gets better: If you don't want the planned box that week but don't want to skip it entirely, you can opt for a different size or type of box, or you can even build your own custom box! When I sent a question about my first order to their email address, I received a text response directly from Zeke within the hour. So I already feel like my family is in good hands, before we even get our first delivery.
This somewhat personalized CSA-like option sounds too good to be true for food allergy families. We’re trying our first box on August 16th, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Look for an update here this fall!
Update 1: August 26, 2017
Oh my, is everyone in the house awfully happy with our CSA pick. For week 2, we opted for a small box custom-revised to include only a handful of food types instead of the usual variety. We got extra romaine lettuce, extra ginger gold apples, and some beautiful orange tomatoes---and we're packing it all for our beach vacation!
Also included, sweet potatoes and fresh green beans. Check out the lovely heart-healthy fries we had for our dinner side last night:
Update 2: September 7, 2017
To start off the school year, after a couple of weeks of low work on my end, we stuck with a small farm box from WGG. I definitely feel like we get more bang for our buck with the larger boxes, but I love the chance to downgrade when I don't want all that's offered or I only have a few days' need before our own local market comes.
Our new favorite safe-for-everyone dinner for the fall seems clear already AND relies on this week's fruits, veggies, and starches from WGG: Lean pork loin roasted with diced sweet potatoes and apples, crusted with fennel and sprinkled with cloves, cinnamon, and coriander. Fresh green beans sauteed for the side. It's already gone, so there's not even a photo to show it off!
This spring, I tried to get out of my safe-recipe rut (you know, when you just keep making the same old stuff that is good, and allergy-friendly, but you could do it blindfolded by now?) by seeking out new recipes to convert. I could browse food magazines for hours, and I hit upon a zucchini bread recipe and a cookie cake recipe that each had very little egg in the originals. At the time, I gave a quick mention on the blog and promised a recipe. Finally delivering (this is about my normal timeline for such things these days)!
I've been changing a lot of my diet to wheat-free/yeast-free products this month. Oddly, that gave me the push I needed to really wrap up my collection of quick breads (with all-purpose wheat flours). Knowing that I have to tackle more kitchen experiments with alternative flours was the kick in the pants to get me to write down my traditional (for us: still egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and seed-free) versions.
This zucchini bread is light and moist on its own, but a spread of homemade jam wouldn't hurt a bit!
I was inspired to make and actually finish this recipe by my allergy shot nurses. I rely on them a lot to keep me healthy, and I tend to show my love and appreciation for others through food. They were a great help in settling on a strawberry bread recipe, and I got particularly good feedback about this mild zucchini bread, too.
Click on the image below to open or pin the zucchini bread recipe!
Just a few days after my standard jam making (with Sure-Jell pectin), I gave Pomona's Pectin a try with the leftover berries. The difference was really remarkable. Check it out:
Instead of following the Sure-Jell directions for a single-berry jam, I decided to combine our picked, washed, and frozen blueberries and cherries this summer. My Sure-Jell adapted recipe set up nicely and made at least 5 pints of spreadable jam. I'd heard so many good things about Pomona's, though, that I had to give it a go.
The Pomona's pectin box touts lower (and different kinds of) sugar, a variety of batch sizes, instructions to adapt to different fruits, and more. It comes with a packet of pectin just like Sure-Jell, but it also has a packet of calcium powder. I followed the directions for freezer jam for each type. They differed all around---in method, setting, taste, texture, storage, and maybe even cost.
Taste and texture
Have you ever made jam? What pectin do you like, and will you ever experiment with another method?
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy