Tag Archives: Gluten-Free

E is For Eggs (AtoZChallenge2018)

 

Beuckelaer_Girl_with_a_basket_of_eggs

Girl with a Basket of Eggs, by Joachim Beuckelaer, early 17th Century

The egg is the perfect physical embodiment of the concept of transformation in one, neat package of potential. Back in my farm days I never tired of tending an incubator full of eggs, monitoring temperature and humidity, tracking every time I turned the eggs (2-4 times per day) on a spreadsheet, counting down the days until the hatch began. The eggs didn’t change in appearance, but inside, miracles were occurring.

x marks the eggs

By marking one side of each egg (these are turkey eggs) with an X I knew which side was up.

After 3-4 weeks (exactly how long depends on what kind of poultry I was hatching), the eggs began to twitch and vibrate as the inhabitants started plotting their escapes. Soon, muffled peeping began to emanate from the incubator. Using a knobby bit on the tops of their beaks (called an egg tooth), the hatchlings hammered upward, piercing the shells and not stopping until tiny cracks and holes formed a ring around the fatter end of the shell. The following two videos show the final step in this process when the little one would crack off the lid of the egg and splurt out (these are turkey poults).

During the days of rapid growth and change during incubation, the yolk provided all the energy needed to transform the fertilized egg into a fully formed creature capable of escaping from a claustrophobic prison. After a short rest during which they dried off and fluffed up, they were ready to eat, drink, and run about with surprising enthusiasm.

 

Farm Fresh Eggs

We kept a mixed flock of hens, in part because we enjoyed the range of colours and textures they produced in their egg shells. Depending on what the hens were eating, the yolks ranged in colour from canary yellow to deep, dark orange. 

 

 

DCC Love My Chicken!

One of the hatchlings, all grown up. And, yes, the fact my beak was beginning to match the chicken’s is not lost on me. It’s a good thing I left farming when I did or I might have started sprouting feathers. 

It’s hardly surprising that eggs, being of a particularly satisfying shape and containing, as they do, the cosmically mysterious beginnings of life have made many appearances in art.

 

1366px-Roger_Fry_-_Still_life-_jug_and_eggs_-_Google_Art_Project

Still Life: Jug and Eggs by Roger Fry

They are also a familiar sight in most kitchens. Every morning I make gluten free muffin-esque bun thingies, each of which contains an egg. They are substantial enough that having one with cheese or nut butter sustains me through a morning of writing. Here’s the recipe:

Nikki’s Gluten Free Breakfast Bun Thingies

1 egg

1 T olive oil

1/2 mashed banana

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 T ground flax seed

1 T almond flour

1/2 T coconut flour

1 T shredded coconut (optional)

1 T finely chopped walnuts (optional)

 

Mix together the egg, oil and banana. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Spray a 2 c-size ramekin with olive oil-based cooking spray (I’ve also used olive oil to grease the ramekin, but don’t find that works quite as well). 

Pour the mix into the ramekin and microwave for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. 

You can either eat these hot and soft or cut in half (or thirds, if yours rises a lot – this varies a bit) and toast before serving with your choice of butter, cheese, nut butter, honey, or jam. 

 

Bosch,_Hieronymus_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights,_central_panel_-_Detail_Egg

There is so much going on in The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch it’s hardly surprising I didn’t remember this detail until I went looking for examples of eggs in art… 

What’s your favourite way to prepare eggs? I like them pretty much any way they can be served except, weirdly enough, Eggs Benedict. Keep that in mind should you ever have me over for brunch…

 

Hendrick_Bloemaert_001

Did you know it takes a hen 24 – 26 hours to make a single egg? Old Woman Selling Eggs, by Hendrick Bloemaert (1632)

 

 

 

Blue Ribbon Bread Baker Goes Gluten Free – for now, at least

blue ribbon bread sandy grayson

Sandy Grayson snapped this photo of my prize-winning bread at the local fall fair a few years ago. Go gluten-free? Me? No bloody way.

OK, there’s a blog post title I never thought I’d write! There’s nothing like convincing yourself you have cancer of the lower realm to spur a person to action. Granted, I have an active imagination and have no problem at all conjuring all kinds of worst-case scenario stories for myself, but still – I had my reasons for being worried. Why my symptoms decided to become more pronounced about three years ago after a lifetime of scarfing back bread, bagels, cookies, pancakes, muffins and more is a mystery, but that’s exactly what happened.

Of course, two-and-a-half years ago was also about the time when I met my future fiancé (that was a long-distance relationship for ages), started doing a lot of travelling (including three months in Paris where I have to say, the ever-present baguette would have made making dietary changes excruciating), and didn’t have a good family doctor. The past few years have been nothing if not disruptive and, because symptoms initially would come and go, I put off doing anything about them.

Finally, I arrived properly here in my new hometown, found a great family doctor, and during my first intake meeting with her requested some screening tests. My doctor agreed and then suggested I look at my diet – how many carbs do I eat each day? What about gluten? I held back a snort – after all, I bake bread every other day and my go-to treat foods are all laden with sugar, chocolate, and flour. Yum!

All tests came back just fine – and, predictably, my doctor asked again about my diet and referred me to Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain. “Have a read” she said.

grain brain cover

There’s nothing like a doctor who makes you look hard at your habits, do a bit of reading, and come to your own conclusions.

Reluctantly, I decided to see if I could find some good baking recipes that eliminate not only wheat but replacement carbs like rice and potato flour as well (as per Dr. Perlmutter’s – and my doctor’s – recommendations). To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. But I was motivated – not only by my grumbling tummy but also by the thought that I am willing to do pretty much anything to help prevent brain deterioration later in life. I watched my mother succumb to Pick’s Disease (a frontotemporal lobe dementia) at an early age and if there’s any way I can spare my nearest and dearest the misery of watching me head off down that same path… Getting rid of bread products suddenly seemed like not so bad a way to take one for the team.

wheat belly cover

On the negative side, replacement bread recipes like the ones I found in the Wheat Belly Cookbook really can’t be considered true breads. They are some other kind of food, much denser and totally lacking in that light, airy texture I am so in love with in my home-baked breads of yesteryear. To his credit, Dr. Perlmutter doesn’t get your hopes up with claims of bread replacement recipes and, as a result, I found his suggestions less disappointing.

grain brain cookbook coverOn the plus side, though, wow. Within 24-hours I had complete relief from my symptoms. Ten days in, I am frankly shocked at the fact I am still alive without having consumed a crumb of bread (or other wheat-containing product). The baking experiments I’ve done have resulted in scones that resemble hockey pucks, bread that’s more like a dense I’m-not-sure-what, and pizza crusts that were more like… I have no idea. Which makes sense. I am baking with ground up nuts and not flour, so it’s more like I have moved to a different country with totally different staple foods.

Also on the plus side, I haven’t felt hungry at any point. There’s plenty of protein in this diet (eggs, cheese, meat, and more nuts and seeds than I can count) as well as unlimited amounts of veggies and salads. The smoothies are delish and I’ve been lucky enough not to suffer any carb withdrawal or any real cravings (which is nothing short of miraculous, given my high carb intake before this experiment began). If only it had been so easy to give up caffeine (which I did last summer and which, really, deserves a blog post all its own because that was a truly miserable experience).

I’m about ten days into this eating revolution and I am somewhat shocked to say that I think I’ll keep going for a while. I’m curious if there will be other changes (in the ability to focus, for example, and improvement in the quality of my sleep – which has been terrible for the past few years). In a subsequent visit to my doctor, she said she recommends patients try the gluten-free thing for 30 days, then let loose and have a carb-crazy weekend – pizza, beer, waffles with loads of syrup. Then, she says, they should take note of how they feel on Monday morning. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try that, but so far anyway, I am feeling pretty good about this weird new way of eating.

And, as a footnote to all the above, I am really, really sorry for all the snotty things I have thought and said about people who have tried some version of the gluten-free, paleo diet, reduced carb way of life.  There may just be something to all this after all…