Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mailbag: Glutinous rice

I love receiving mail from my readers! One of my readers sent me the following message:
I figure you probably already know, but I did read somewhere that Japanese "Glutenous" rice is actually low in gluten or free of it... you may want to double check, but its supposedly unlike other rice in that way.
I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about rice in general, and glutinous rice in more detail.

"Glutinous rice," otherwise known as "sweet rice," is a special type of rice that sticks together when it's cooked. (Unlike, say, long grain instance rice in which there's pretty much no hope of it sticking together). Like other types of rice, it doesn't actually contain gluten, but it's called "glutinous" because well, it acts a lot like gluten does. It's sticky and binding, which makes it great for things like sushi (when you really want the rice to stick together in a ball and not fall apart when it touches soy sauce).

In the same, glutinous spirit, sweet rice flour is often used to hold things together. The sweet rice flour that I buy has a consistency very similar to corn starch. I'll keep a bag of sweet rice flour on hand, for the following uses:
  • Gluten free roux
  • Add a tablespoon or two when your dough has too much moisture
  • I've heard it's good in cakes and pie crusts, but I haven't tried this so far.
You can pick up sweet rice flour locally at the Green Grocer, and I'd imagine many of the other natural food stores in the area, or Asian supermarkets.

What do you use glutinous rice/sweet rice flour for?

PS -- If you want to send me a message, please feel free to comment on my blog, or look up Kat's GF Kitchen on Facebook, or follow katsgfkitchen on Twitter! :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Starfish Gluten Free Frozen Fish - Review

I look through the Price Chopper ad every week before I go grocery shopping, and last week (the 2/7 ad) there was a large section about a new product: Starfish brand gluten free fish. They carry three types of breaded frozen fish: Cod, Haddock and Halibut. (There is a difference in price -- last week Price Chopper had an AdvantEDGE sale on these fish: Cod was $3.99, Haddock was $4.99, and Halibut was $7.99). Well, not only are my husband and I always interested in trying new products, but convenience foods are a must in our household. On the nights I have class, my husband's either on his own or we're throwing something together with five minutes to spare -- and trust me, the limited gluten free fast food options we do have tend to get old pretty quickly.

So anyway, we picked up two boxes of the Starfish fish - we decided to try the Cod and the Haddock (figuring that if we liked them, we'd try the Halibut at a later time, just based on the expense). This evening we tried the first box, the Cod. And I have to say, it was pretty darn good! When I bought the boxes I was assuming the fillets would be larger -- kind of like what you'd see on a fish sandwich -- but they were a little smaller than that. (I suppose they'd make good sliders, if you want a frame of reference). I baked them -- alongside, we whipped up some tartar sauce to go with the fish and had fries and peas.

The batter was really good -- crunchy, but not overdone, and definitely not soggy. You definitely needed tartar sauce with it for flavor, but they're more satisfying than Ian's fish sticks (which have been our only option for quite some time). I'm looking forward to trying the Haddock next time, and when I go back to Price Chopper I'll definitely be picking up more of their fish and trying the Halibut as well!

Let's just hope that the Starfish fish sticks around and doesn't suffer the same fate as Bell & Evans gluten free chicken (which we still dearly miss).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

B&G Foods Gluten Free list!

My husband and I were at Price Chopper this afternoon picking up food for this weekend and the rest of this week. We haven't done tacos in a while and figured that would be good to do tonight... I picked up some 93% lean ground beef, iceberg lettuce, cheese, black olives, and went to the international aisle to pick up some taco shells and seasoning. In the past, we've usually bought Old El Paso taco shells -- since they're owned by General Mills and I know their labelling practices. Unfortunately, it's been our experience that sometimes they're not that great. I don't know if it's the brand, the stores we buy them in or what, but they're usually a little on the stale side.

Today, we decided to do something a little different. I looked at the Mission corn tortillas, but my husband was in the mood for hard-shell tacos. I picked up a box of Ortega yellow corn taco shells and was pleasantly surprised to see a "Gluten free" label in the bottom right corner of the box. (Plus the box had an attached coupon for $1 off 2 Ortega products - sweet!) I picked them up and we were very happy with the shells. They were crunchy, tasty, and overall better than the shells we've bought in the past.

That got me thinking though -- what other products might be gluten free? Ortega is owned by B&G foods, who now provide an online gluten free list. You can access B&G's list of gluten free products here.

We already use several of these products -- like B&M beans and Grandma's molasses -- which have been labelled gluten free for some time. Still, this is great information to have and I'm glad to see more companies providing this information!

Now if only Price Chopper had gotten back to me when I'd asked if their dip was gluten free! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax and Rice Cereals

My husband and I are always on the lookout for new gluten free products. When Enjoy Life contacted me and asked me if I would like to try and review two of their new cereals, I figured why not? The two cereals in question are Perky's Crunchy Flax and Perky's Crunchy Rice cereal.

According to their promotional e-mail:

Crunchy Flax is 100% natural, sweetened with fruit juice and honey, has 50g of whole grain, 425 mg of Omega-3's and 6g of fiber per serving. It's not only a delicious, but nutritious start to your day!

Crunchy Rice is 100% natural, sweetened with fruit juice and honey and is low fat and low sodium. Enjoy with milk or yogurt (including your favorite non-dairy alternatives), or throw in your trail mix for an extra crunch.

Well, I'll be honest. Before trying either of these cereals, I liked the fact that they were naturally sweetened and have completely pronounceable ingredients.

The Crunchy Flax cereal contains: Whole sorghum flour, ground flax seed, honey, raisin juice concentrate, and salt. A 3/4 cup serving boasts 200 calories, 3g fat, and 6g fiber. (3 WW points, not including milk or other additives).

The Crunchy Rice cereal contains: Rice flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey, and salt. A 3/4 cup serving contains 210 calories, 1g fat, and 2g fiber. (4 WW points, not including milk or other additives).

(Weight Watchers Points calculated from the online calculator located here).

Overall, not a bad start to the day, right?

I'll admit that I was hoping more for a puffed-rice type cereal similar to Rice Krispies, and when I saw the package I was afraid the texture would be too much like Grape Nuts. It wasn't though -- the texture wasn't bad at all. However, our household usually eats more sugared cereals so the subtle honey flavoring tasted extremely plain to us by itself. If you intend to eat a bowl of this cereal for breakfast, skim milk and a lot of fruit are an absolute must. (Still doesn't make it too unhealthy, at least).

They're also decent when mixed into (flavored!) yogurt, and add a bit more substance. (When I eat yogurt by itself for breakfast I tend to be hungry by 10 AM -- I think this is where the higher-fiber Flax cereal comes in handy).

Overall, while the Flax is definitely better for you, the rice was the one I preferred. It was slightly sweeter tasting and the Flax leaves a slight aftertaste when eaten dry (which is how I first tried it). I probably wouldn't buy the Flax again, but I might buy the Rice to mix with fruit and yogurt for a quick breakfast.