Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gluten free pizza... and lifestyle

Gluten Free pizza doesn't have to taste like cardboard!

I haven't been updating much. Normally I have excuses like “I am so busy with school” but I've been graduated for a while, and won't be doing grad school for at least a year. I have been working, but normally that doesn't get in the way during the summer. So, what is my excuse this time?

Well, like millions of other people, it turns out that I should not be eating gluten. I was diagnosed a few weeks ago as having Celiac disease. This has changed our eating habits around here considerably, and I am trying to navigate the world of gluten-free cooking and baking. I'm not going to try and sugar-coat this and pretend that it hasn't sucked considerably to have to try and adjust to these strange new foods and cooking methods, but it hasn't been nearly as bad as a lot of people assume when they have heard about this diagnosis. I do miss whole-wheat bread and beer, but the thing I miss most is convenience.

I've managed not to dwell too much on what I miss. Mostly it just means we are eating a lot of naturally gluten-free foods, like rice and beans, beef, vegetables, quinoa, and so on. Also, we are searching for a tasty GF sandwich bread, but we will be making our own once I optimize a recipe. We have been trying out packaged foods and mixes that are new to us, like the dinner I made tonight. And so life goes on, with some adjustments.

Things will be looking a bit different around here, mostly in that you will not be seeing recipes with wheat flour in them anymore. Otherwise, the recipes will be pretty similar. I am also toying with changing the name of this blog to “The Gluten-free Radical” but we'll see. After all, I am not a different person just because of my diagnosis.

I used to love the goat cheese and roasted pepper pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. This was discontinued in my area a while ago, and I can't eat eat there now anyway. So, this is my gluten-free knock-off! I am lucky enough to live within driving distance to Bob's Red Mill, so we picked up several things there a few weeks ago, including this pizza mix. It is quite good, though I will probably start making my pizzas completely from scratch soon. But if you are looking for convenience, this is a great crust!

Gluten-Free Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Pizza

1 package of gluten-free pizza mix (Bob's Red Mill was good)

2 TBS olive oil

2 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)

1 tsp sea salt

3 slices of bacon (I only had two, three would have been better)

6 mini-peppers, or 1.5 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow)

8 oz of mozzarella, thinly sliced

2 oz of goat cheese (add more or less depending on what you like)

6 leaves of basil, chiffonaded (optional)

Prepare the crust according to the package directions. I let my dough rise for about 3 hours, before (sort of) rolling it out. I tried to roll the dough between two pieces of oiled plastic wrap, but the dough isn't at all stretchy like dough with gluten, so it fell apart when I plopped the dough onto my pizza pan. I ended up spreading out the dough with my hands onto the pan.

This was my grandmother's bowl. It is awesome for mixing dough.

The dough isn't stretchy at all, so it fell apart, but you can just stretch out the dough with your hands.

Let the dough sit for 20-30 minutes (while you are preparing the other ingredients) and then poke the dough all over with a fork, which will help steam escape and make the dough crispier.

Drizzle the olive oil all over the crust. Sprinkle Italian seasoning and sea salt on the crust. This step is optional, but makes the finished product taste awesome.

Preheat the oven to 550 degrees F.

After the oil, salt, and seasoning is on the dough. I love the brand in the photo.

Most of the ingredients you need for the toppings.

While the dough is resting, get the other ingredients ready. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Meanwhile, slice the peppers into thin strips. Once the bacon is done, transfer it to a plate, and chop roughly once it has cooled sufficiently. Fry the peppers in the same pan with a bit of the bacon grease. Fry them for ten to fifteen minutes, until they are well-cooked.

Meanwhile, slice the mozzarella in 1/8” slices, and chiffonade the fresh basil, if you have it.

Fun fact: I used to work at a sandwich shop and was regularly assigned to the slicing machine because I was good at slicing mozzarella. Throw the block in the freezer for ten minutes to make it slice easier.

More bacon would have been better, but this was enough to get the flavor.

Well-cooked peppers!

When the oven is preheated, bake the dough for 5-7 minutes, or until lightly brown. At this heat, the dough will burn very easily, so watch closely.

After the initial baking of the crust.

Remove the dough, and start assembling the toppings. Lay the mozzarella evenly over the dough.

Add the peppers, bacon, basil, and sprinkle on the goat cheese. Bake the pizza for 2-4 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

After all of the toppings have been added.

Melted cheese!

Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Farm vs. factory farm eggs

I tend to be suspicious of claims about food. For instance, I understand that high-fructose corn syrup is not a good thing to be pumping our bodies full of, but I am skeptical of drinks and snacks that claim "no HFCS! Real Sugar!" like that in and of itself is a health claim. If it has 45 grams of sugar, HFCS or cane sugar, it still isn't good for you. I am also a bit dubious about if organic food actually has more nutrients like some sources say. I figured the benefit was more that it didn't have pesticides.

I was also pretty suspicious about eggs. That is, people say that eggs not grown on a factory farm have much yellower yolks. I was like "pff, I think they are exaggerating."

Nope, that particular claim is true, it turns out.

Factory farm eggs on the left, eggs from my aunt's chickens on the right.

I would say they are noticeable different colors...

Actually there is some science behind this. To paraphrase what I learned in developmental biology, chickens make "white" (I think it is actually pale yellow) and orange yolk. They make layers of the white yolk while it is day time, or while it is light out. They make layers of the orange yolk at night, when it is dark. Because factory-farmed chickens live in buildings with perpetual artificial day, very little of the orange is made.

Is it weird that I think about developmental biology almost every time I crack open an egg? Probably.

The real reason why I try to get eggs from farms is because I am trying to be ethically and environmentally responsible, but the farm eggs are quite pretty.