Beef Stir Fry – urb inspired

I don’t often make recipes from use real butter, and I’m not sure why. But I do regularly check out her posts for inspiration, often times combine useful techniques or flavor combinations with what I have on hand, or what I know we like. This was the case with dinner tonight.

Beef stir fry – urb inspired
0. Set out a bag of stir fry veggies to thaw, ideally in a colander.
1. Chop up a bunch of garlic. I used probably 7 or 8 inner cloves. Set aside.
2. Slice a medium onion in half, and then slice it into thin half moons. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 T corn starch, 3 T sesame oil, 4 T soy sauce and about 2 t siracha.
4. Slice up the meat. I used about a pound of flat iron steaks, because they looked good when I was at the Butchery on Friday. Useful technique from urb: slice the meat when it is still mostly frozen-ish. You’ll get more even slices. You want them about a 1/4″ plus thick. Also very important, slice against the grain. Add the meat to the soy sauce mixture and mix around.
5. Heat your cooking fat of choice in an appropriately sized cooking vessel. I used coconut oil in one of our small stock pots.
6. Cook the stir fry veggies until they are hot. Set aside.
7. You might need to add more cooking fat. Saute the onion until it is done to your liking. Undercooked onions and I don’t agree, so I cooked mine until they were lightly caramelized.
8. Add the garlic and stir. Cook for maybe a minute.
9. Add the meat and sauce mixture. Stir and flip the meat until it is brown on the outside, and all the pieces are visibly no longer red on the outside. Cook longer if you don’t like your meat pink, cook less if you do like your meat pink.
10. Put the meat in the veggie bowl and then attempt to deglaze your pan with 1 T soy sauce, 1 T sherry and 1 T sesame oil. It won’t quite work, but you’ll at least get some of the flavorful stuff off the bottom of the pan. Put everything back in the pan and heat through. Serve and eat.


Jovial cookies – product review

I had time to kill Friday evening after finishing errands and before the ManBeast needed to be picked up from campus. As I am wont to do when I’ve got time to kill on the west side of town, I decided to wander around Whole Foods. I was fiending for something, but I didn’t really know what.

I found these cookies way down on the bottom shelf of the cookie section. They didn’t even have the ‘gluten free’ shelf tag that Madison’s Whole Foods seems to think belongs on a lot of products. But they did have a ‘certified gluten free’ stamp on the back, so I decided to go for it. In line with my mention the other day that I don’t actually care for chocolate cookies/cake, I picked up the vanilla cream filled version. I paid $4.39 for the box, which contains 6 packages of 2 cookies each.

The cookies, as you can see, aren’t very big. But they are tasty. I’d finished half the box by that night. And the rest were gone the next day. So much for low carb and avoiding sweets.

The cookies themselves are indeed crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, which is how they are described on the back of the box. And my sweet tooth didn’t feel assaulted by the cookies either. To me, they tasted nice and lightly sweet, unlike so many supermarket cookies that I remember eating. I didn’t feel like I was overloading on sugar by eating half the box (though, I’m sure I was). The cookie part itself had an almost spicy quality to it without me actually being able to identify any spices in it. It is definitely the filling that gives the cookie it’s sweetness. The filling isn’t exactly what I’d call creamy, but it had a reasonable texture that fit well with the cookie part.

Overall, I’d buy them again if I was looking to splurge.
Apparently, they’ve even got some information up about how the cookies are made! And I’ve got to say, I love a company that puts their ingredient list and nutritional information in an easy to find location on their web page.

Gluten free cake in a cup

I was at a meeting this evening were cupcakes were served afterwards in celebration. Of course they weren’t gluten free and of course I wanted some. So I looked up some cake in a cup recipes when I got home. I didn’t see any one recipe that struck me as being good, so I did my usual and combined a few. Now, if you’re like me, and like cake because you like the icing, then you’ll be slightly disappointed with this. I really wish I had bought home the left over chocolate buttercream I have at work from another baking experiment. That would have gone perfect with this. As it is, I don’t have the buttercream here, and I wasn’t in the mood to make whipped cream. So I did without. And there’s still about 1/3 of the cake still left in the cup, because, well, I need my icing. Perhaps I’ll put it in a plastic container and bring it to work with me tomorrow and have my chocolate buttercream with it :)

Gluten free cake in a cup
1. Melt 2.5 T butter in a large microwave save mug.
2. Stir in 4 T sugar, then 3 T cocoa. Mix in a large egg. Then stir 1 T each of sweet rice flour, brown rice flour, white rice flour, and potato starch. Stir in 2 T heavy cream (milk would probably suffice too). And last, but not least, 1/2 t vanilla. Make sure it’s all good and mixed.
3. Microwave. For my microwave it was 45 seconds, 45 seconds, 30 second. Stick a knife to the bottom to make sure it’s done.
4. Eat from cup.

I’ve made cake in a cup before, but whatever flour mixture I used, I wasn’t thrilled with it. This one seemed to work sell, as the flour flavors themselves aren’t overwhelming. Now to figure out white cake in a cup. It make shock people to know, that despite my obsession with chocolate, I actually don’t really like chocolate cake all that much. I prefer my chocolate dark, and that just doesn’t translate to cake for me. I’ll have to play around with recipes for other flavors of cake in a cup.

Broiled lamb arm chops

I know I’ve said it before, and I should say it again to remind myself, but I really shouldn’t buy lamb arm chops. The ones we got this time weren’t very fatty, but there just isn’t a lot of meat on them, and one of them, the center bone was huge. But at least they tasted good!

Broiled lamb arm chops
I served this with risotto that was less than average, so I won’t bother sharing that with you. About half way through making the risotto, I ‘marinated’ the arm chops, and then popped them in the broiler towards the end when the risotto was almost done.

1. Combine in a small bowl: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 T lemon juice, a few shaves of pepper, some estimation of 1/4 t salt, 1/2 t rosemary, and one clove of minced garlic. Honestly, I didn’t measure the salt, pepper or rosemary. I just went with what looked right. Mix these all together well.
2. Place two arm chops on a plate and slather with the oil mixture. Smear the chops around to cover well. Let them sit while you continue cooking whatever else you might be making. Every few minutes, smear the chops around and flip them over. This was my attempt to marinate them at least a little.
3. Turn on your oven to broil. Mine only has off or on, and you can only put the rack at one height. So if you have other variables, you’ll need to figure it out for yourself.
4. When the broiler is hot, and you’re ready, line a small broiler safe baking pan with aluminum foil, and place the arm chops on that. Pour any remaining marinade over the chops.
5. Broil for 5 minutes. Smear around and flip them, and broil for another 5 minutes.
6. Eat.

You’ll want to cook them a bit longer (or shorter) depending on thickness of the cut, how well done you like your meat, and how fully thawed out the chops are. Mine were still a little frozen-ish in the middle. They were about 1″ thick. And we’re not afraid of medium cooked meat. So ours came out pink, and slightly more pink near the bone. Tasty. Easy. And quick. I love broiling meat.

Do celiac patients die earlier than ‘regular’ people?

TL;DR: If you have celiac disease, and you continue to eat gluten, you have a significantly increased chance of dying at a younger age than someone from the general population.

Recently, particularly in r/glutenfree, I’ve run into a lot of people who either don’t understand why they should be gluten free if they have celiac disease, or who second guess why I wish I had an official diagnosis for celiac disease. To the first group, I always make the same comment: if you have celiac disease and you continue to consume gluten, you increase your odds of dieing sooner. To the second group, it really is the same answer as the first. If I had an official celiac disease diagnosis, then I’d know that I need to be gluten free for the rest of my life. The flip side is that if I’m not celiac, then my body -might- be okay with small quantities of gluten (ie, if I had a gluten/wheat allergy or intolerance); the research is still out on this, and I haven’t seen anything good recently on this topic.

So the other night, who knows what I was doing, but I stumbled across this paper:
Biagi F., and G. R. Corazza. 2010. Mortality in celiac disease. Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology. 7:158-62.

I always like reading primary literature, but as a graduate student in the sciences, I also know that I need to be mindful of what I spend my time reading. Needless to say, I find the Nature Reviews series helpful, especially when I’m reading for my own interests, versus what I read for my lab work. Generally, these style papers are easy for me to read, and the shorter ones often get the point across without being overly detailed. So while I know that reading the primary literature is important because review authors don’t always get the details right, for something like this, I’m grateful for reviews that give me the overall pictures in a concise easy to read manner.

This is my attempt to summarize what is contained in that review for a more general audience.

It has been postulated for years that celiac patients die at a higher rate than the general population. But the research done has been somewhat diffuse, with many inconsistencies, and no clear overarching story. It’s been known for well over 20 years that a celiac patient who adheres to a strict gluten free diet will increase their average life span. And all of this is about average life spans, or how often we die and at what age compared to the general population.

Lets start off with what celiac patients die of. The biggest killers are gastrointestinal malignancies such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and small bowel cancer. Also high on the list are other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ischemic heart disease, and oddly enough, violence. Location also seems to play a part. Celiac patients in Sicily die at a higher rate than those in Finland, for example.

So lets look at some of the nuances when asking how and when celiac patients die. For this, we need to consider that not all celiacs are equal, they can include: actual celiac diagnosis, suspected celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis, and refractory celiac disease. To further complicate the picture, we also need to consider if the patient is eating gluten and how well they adhere to being gluten free.

General studies have found that for diagnosed celiac patients, if they adhere strictly to a gluten free diet, they die at the same rate as the general population. This is great news. If you have celiac disease, and you are as gluten free as you can be, your risk of dying earlier is the same as any non-celiac person. BUT, if you are celiac, and you aren’t careful, your likelihood of dying earlier is nearly double. Know you have celiac disease and disregard it to eat gluten any way? Your risk of early death jumps up to six times the general population. While these numbers seem to hold up well, some studies have found that for some patients, even if they adhere strictly to a gluten free diet, they still seem to die at a higher rate than the general population. For those of you with celiac kids, or those of you who were diagnosed as a child, your odds are even better. All those years of NOT doing damage to your body puts your risk pretty damn close to the general population.

Eight of the papers in the review that looked at celiac patients over time found that patient mortality significantly decreases over even the first year. But three other papers found no effect. What gives? Well, if you include refractory celiac patients, they tend to skew the data towards early mortality. Oddly enough, one paper found that even over a 25 year span, celiac patients tended to die more often of things that aren’t as easy to tie to celiac disease: accidents, suicides and violence.

How about healthy individuals who test positive for celiac antibodies?
Two studies showed that mortality was not increased, a caveat though is that these two studies were done in countries (Finland and the UK) who have the lowest general deaths of diagnosed celiac patients. In two different studies in the US and Germany, they found significantly increased mortality of this population.

How about patients with dermatitis herpetiformis?
Four papers looked at death in this group, two from the UK and two from Finland. Mortality does not appear to be increased in this group.

How about patients with diagnosed celiac disease that does not respond to being on a gluten free diet (refractory celiac disease)?
There are two types, type I and type II, though I don’t really understand the difference between the two. The authors were clear though that Type II is more severe. For type I, the 5 year survival rate is 80-96%, but for type II it is 44-58%. And “The survival rate dropped to 8% in patients with refractory celiac disease type II who developed enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma.”

So why don’t we have a clear picture of mortality for compliant celiac patients, undiagnosed celiac patients, and refractory celiac patients?
Part of the problem is the different methods and assumptions of the different groups who did this work. The other problem seems to be the base these patients start at. The authors of this review hypothesize that the amount of gluten consumed prior to diagnosis is indicative of how much problems a celiac patient will have, even after going gluten free. “Indeed, there seems to be a relationship between standard mortality rate and pasta and bread consumption in the six countries where symptomatic celiac disease has been studied.” We know “The quantity of gluten that is sufficient to trigger celiac disease is known to be very small.” But it appears that there might be some sort of lifetime threshold for celiac patients where if they go gluten free before that amount, they will be relatively ‘fine’. But if they either get diagnosed too late, or continue to consume gluten, they are significantly more likely to die earlier of untreated celiac associated disease. The authors have coined it the ‘lymphoma triggering amount of gluten’ and define it as “the sum of gluten ingested before and after the diagnosis of celiac disease.”

For me, this confirms what I’ve thought, and how I’ve started to live my life the past two years or so. When I first went gluten free, I wasn’t incredibly strict, going so far as to eat gluten at weddings (that was my ‘cheat’). But about two years ago I put the pieces together: I am better on a gluten free diet and my dad is a diagnosed celiac. This likely means that I too have celiac disease. Maybe next summer I’ll be in a place where I can get an official diagnosis. It is something I would like to know at some point, it’s simply been a manner of having health insurance at the same time as being in a place to possibly be incapacitated and still be functional.

Braswell’s Raspberry vinaigrette – product review

I’m still eating salads every day for lunch. You can imagine that occasionally I need to change up the dominate flavors in that salad, and the easiest way for me to do that is to change the dressing I’m using. Last week, between trying to save a few bucks to avoid buying olive oil until I got paid, and needing a new dressing flavor, I scanned through the salad dressing aisle at the grocery store. You can imagine that between requiring a gluten product and my propensity to avoid ‘processed’ foods, it was a bit difficult to find a dressing that not only sounded good, but also fit my ingredients requirement.

Hidden on a bottom shelf, way off to the side of the massive quantities of salad dressing offerings at Woodmans, I found a few bottles of Braswell’s salad dressings. The raspberry vinaigrette sounded good, and seemed to fit my requirements. Home with me it came.

I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it while I was in the store, but this dressing has no oil in it. And well, the oil in my salad dressing is often the major source of fat for my daily salad. Something that I think is essential to my daily functioning. So I was a bit disappointed in this dressing. It was indeed raspberry flavored and it had a reasonable consistency. The poppy seeds in the dressing seemed to be merely decoration, as I never tasted anything poppy flavored. If I buy it again, I’ll definitely be cutting it with some olive oil to give it more dietary oomph. The higher likelihood is that I might try to figure out how to make more dressing flavors at home.

About midweek last week, I started experiencing severe acid reflux. Severe acid reflux is one of my primary symptoms of being glutened, but I had none of my other usual symptoms (migraine or stomach woes). I’m still not sure if I was glutened, but I emailed the company to double check that the salad dressing was indeed gluten free.

I sent them this kind email:

Good afternoon!
I recently found your line of salad dressings in my local grocery
store (Woodmans, Madison, WI). The ingredients list sounds,
particularly for your raspberry vinaigrette, like the kind of dressing
I would like. But as someone with celiac disease, I often like to
double check that prepackaged food items are indeed gluten free. I
see the ingredients for this product don’t list anything that should
have gluten, but is your dressing line indeed gluten free?
Many thanks!

Three days later I got this response:

The only dressings that do contain gluten are:
Ceasar Dressing
Ranch Lovers Dressing
VO Ranch Dressing

Thank you,
Kristen Boyett
Customer Service/Sales
Braswell Food Company

So if you are looking for a decent tasting, no oil vinaigrette that also needs to be gluten free, you might want to Braswell’s dressing line. I’m also oddly excited to have a reusable carafe too!