What is Gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins found combined with starch in the endosperm of some cereal grains. In particular, the Wheat, Rye, and Barley grains. Gluten comprises approximately 80% of the proteins found in these grains. The gluten in the grains gives the dough made from those grains their elasticity, allow for leavening (rising), and the chewiness in some baked goods. Gluten that has been extracted from the grains is commonly used as a thickening agent in many foods, particularly vegetarian dishes where a protein supplement is needed.
Why Gluten Free?
In some people, an intolerance or sensitivity to Gluten exists. The most common of the Gluten in tolerances is Celiac Disease. Celiac affects an estimated 1 in 133. For many with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, the only treatment is the complete removal of gluten from the diet, and in some cases, from the persons immediate environment as well. Gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose and in many cases is diagnosed by removing gluten from the diet and observing the results. If the results are favorable, then the permanent removal from the diet is often recommended.
Others remove gluten from their diet as part of a diet called the “Gluten Free Diet.” While these people generally do not have an intolerance to gluten, they receive a positive effect from the removal of processed flours that are common in many breads as well as a reduction of carbohydrate intake.
Every once in a while, I stumble upon something in the crowd funding sites. This time, it’s on the IndieGoGo site. It’s a campaign for something called the TellSpec. That doesn’t really tell you much. Especially anything about why it might be revolutionary for Celiacs.
Try this on for size:
You want to know what’s in your food before you buy it, before you order it, and before you eat it – because your health depends on what you eat.
Many foods contain chemicals and allergens that we want to avoid. But it can be difficult to know whether these chemicals and allergens are in your food or not. How can you tell if your food contains the nutrients you need? What about things like sodium, gluten or trans fats that you might be trying to avoid? Food labels can give us some information if they’re available, but they are not always intelligible and some ingredients may not even be reported.
We have invented a system called TellSpec combining a spectrometer and a unique algorithm to tell you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food.
It’s small enough to fit on a keyring. It communicates with your cell phone. You push a button, it uses it’s spectrometer to get a reading off of the food, then sends that reading to a server. That server puts the reading through it’s database, and returns a list of ingredients based on that reading.
Potentially, you could take a reading off of the food you’re about to eat at a restaurant, and know, nearly instantaneously, whether it contains any gluten. If it delivers on that, it really would be revolutionary for anyone with Celiac Disease.
Of course, it will depend on just how sensitive it really is. It can find the gluten in a slice of whole wheat bread, but can it find the gluten from a cross contamination? Can it determine if the soup you’re about to eat was thickened with flour? Can it tell you whether the seasoning on your steak contains gluten? If it’s sensitive enough to do those things, it will truly be one of the most revolutionary things to happen for Celiacs in years.
Right now, you can contribute to the campaign and receive a TellSpec before they’re made available to the public. It requires a $200 contribution, and only until about 195 more of the $200 contributions are made, then it will be going up to $250. I didn’t see anything that indicated how much the price would be once it was available to the public.
With Halloween less than a week away, you’ve likely started thinking about all the candy your kids are going to get and how to sneak some of the gluten free halloween candy out of their pile and into yours. What you also are starting to think about is the tasty desserts that will abound after dinner, and how you’ll make them gluten free.
Our friends over at Udi’s Gluten Free (and really, any Celiac sufferer’s friend) were thinking the same thing. So they sent us over a little care package of gluten free goodies to see what we’d come up with for great tasting desserts. Unfortunately, the stuff was just too tasty and none of the items lasted long enough to become desserts, but we had some great ideas anyways!
The treats in our Udi’s Halloween Treats package
As you can see on the right, we got pretty spoiled with good stuff. There’s a loaf of Udi’s Cinnamon Raisin bread, a box of Udi’s Chocolate Chia Muffin Tops, a bag of Udi’s Vanilla Granola, a box of Udi’s Snicker Doodle cookies, and a box of Udi’s Dark Chocolate Brownie Bites.
Some of our favorite ideas were to make a nice bread pudding out of the bread. Cinnamon and raisins are staples in bread pudding, so that was the first idea that popped into my head. Udi’s has a nice recipe for a Maple Raisin Bread Pudding on their site. It’s not commonly thought of as a dessert, but I think you could make some very good french toast dipping sticks with these. A nice dusting of powdered sugar, and some syrup or sweet whipped cream to dip them in.
Udi’s granola is a pretty versatile staple in our house. We use it all the time mixed into a cup of yogurt, but I think it would make an excellent topping for a fruit crumble. A little brown sugar, melted butter, and some Udi’s granola sprinkled liberally over your favorite crumble recipe. Yum. A simpler use might be just putting it directly onto ice cream or frozen yogurt.
The dark chocolate brownie bites are a pretty tasty dessert by themselves, but I really want to try them warmed up at the bottom of a bowl of ice cream with some fudge drizzled over the top. They’re just the right size for making the popular cake pops with as well.
Snicker Doodle cookies are a pretty universal treat. They’re good as is, but they can be used in all kinds of desserts. Crumbled, they make a great crust for a cheesecake, or pumpkin pie. They go well with ice cream and are one of the key ingredients, along with the Chocolate Chia muffin tops, in Udi’s recipe for Snickerdoodle Ice Cream Chocolate Whoopie Sandwiches. Which brings us to the muffin tops. As I just mentioned, they lend themselves really well to whoopie pie sandwiches. Frosted orange, they become pumpkins.
With the abundance of gluten free products on the market now, eating gluten free isn’t the bland wasteland that it used to be. Companies like Udi’s are pioneers in making gluten free food that tastes as good, or better, than it’s wheat based brethren. Whatever your plans for Halloween, make it a safe one. Not only on the streets, but in the kitchen as well.