Healthy living in 2013

So, back last year when I had surgery for Endometriosis, my doctor told me I should cut gluten and sugar out of my diet.  I tried to reduce… I even tried going gluten free for a bit, but I found life without cake was unbearable!

After speaking with one of my colleagues at Vic, I decided I would start out the New Year with a 14-day challenge – to go gluten, sugar, and alcohol free for 2 weeks!

The weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years involved a lot of over-indulging, on food and drink, and so the 1st of January seemed like a good time to start.  Today is January 14th, and I have mostly successfully met the personal challenge I set out for myself!  My only misstep was eating a Strepsil a few days ago, which at the time tasted like the most delicious thing I had ever put into my mouth.

I realised around day 2 that I have a serious sugar addiction.  I have been dreaming about candy.  I have candy stashed all around my house.  I am a candy addict.  Giving up sugar has been the hardest part of this challenge for me.  I think partly this is because there aren’t really any good substitutes for sugar.  I haven’t allowed myself to have honey or maple syrup, though I have been eating a lot of fruit.  Other sweeteners (aspertame, sucralose) are basically just chemicals and not good for your body (though I did have a diet Pepsi once last week when I was seriously craving something sweet).  Otherwise, my diet has been sadly lacking sweetness.  Sometimes the cravings would be so strong I could physically feel my body yearning for sugar and it actually frightened me.  So, here I am on day 14, trying to decide if tomorrow I will allow myself to binge on all the sweets hidden around my house, or if I should try to continue my sugar-free life style?

I missed the alcohol in social settings.  And on warm Sunday afternoons where it would have been lovely to sip a beer or a gin and tonic on my balcony.  What do you do when you don’t drink and can’t have sugar?  I have been having a lot of tea.  My favourite is Stir Tea’s Rose Early Grey.  Maybe because it vaguely reminds me to Turkish Delight?!

Gluten free hasn’t really been such a challenge.  I have been enjoying rice and experimenting with polenta and other non-wheat based carbohydrates.  I made Bahn Xeo the day before yesterday.

I have also been having fun trying out various gluten-free bread recipes.  Here are the two loaves I made recently:

SONY DSC

On the left is the yeast-free easy gluten free bread, and on the right is the gluten free sandwich bread.

The yeast-free easy loaf I adapted from Elena’s Pantry.

  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup chick pea flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey (yes, I did use a tiny bit of honey in the bread)
  • ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  1. Blanch almonds by adding boiling water to your natural almonds, then pulverise them in a food processor.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flours, salt and baking soda
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add honey and vinegar
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry
  5. Scoop batter into a well greased 6.5 x 4 inch baby loaf pan
  6. Bake at 300° for 45-55 minutes on bottom rack of oven; until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool and serve.

This loaf is nice, but a bit crumbly.  You can do it without the xanthan gum, which was $10.99 at Common Sense for a small bag, if you don’t mind the crumblyness.

My gluten free sandwich loaf turned out really awesome.

I adapted it from the Gluten Free Cooking School’s sandwich bread recipe, and used my bread machine to do the mixing,, but baked it in the oven.

1 tablespoon bread machine yeast
1 teaspoon sugar (needed to activate the yeast!)
1 ½ cup warm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)

1½ cup rice flour

½ cup soy flour

½ corn meal

½ corn starch
2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt

3 free range eggs
1 ½ tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

  1. Start by combining the yeast and sugar in a small bowl.  Add the water while gently stirring the yeast and sugar. Let this mixture sit while you mix the rest of the ingredients – bubbles and foam should form if the yeast is happy.
  2. Combine the flour mix, xanthan gum and salt in the largest mixing bowl and stir well.
  3. In a third bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vinegar until the eggs are a bit frothy.
  4. By this point the yeast mixture should be foamy, so you can pour the two liquid mixtures into the flour mixture. Put it all in your bread machine and let it knead for a few minutes.  It doesn’t have gluten so it doesn’t need to be kneaded for a particularly long time.
  5. Let the dough rise in the machine or a warm place for a while (I gave it 30 minutes).
  6. Scrape it into your loaf pan and let it rise for another little while (I only gave it 5 minutes because I was running late for work, but 20 would have been better!)
  7. Bake it in a hottish oven (190 C, 375 F) for about 45 minutes.
  8. Let cool, enjoy a delicious ham sandwich or grilled cheese! SONY DSC

Overall lessons learnt about gluten free bread:

  1. Don’t be scared to try making gluten free bread.  Just because it’s $8 a loaf at the supermarket doesn’t mean it’s really difficult to make.
  2. Look at  few recipes and then experiment with what you have on hand.  If a recipe calls for some kind of flour you don’t have, substitute it with something similar.   I don’t have potato starch or tapioca starch on hand, so I used corn starch.  I don’t have brown rice flour, so I used white rice flour.  All the bread I baked still turned out great!
  3. Don’t be intimidated by strange ingredients.  Xanthan gum, guar gum, agave nectar etc. make the bread nice, but aren’t essential.  Just use what you have available.
  4. No matter what you do, if you know how to make regular bread, you’ll probably be bale to make a decent gluten free loaf!

Good luck!

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