Saturday, June 30, 2012

Apple-Rhubarb Healthy Crumble

A few months ago, I discovered that I have a gluten sensitivity. Nothing like celiac disease but enough to make me feel uncomfortable after eating gluten-based pasta or bread. And enough to make me want to avoid any gluten-loaded food to avoid the unpleasant days that follow such food intake.
So no gluten? What it really means is no food that has wheat, oat, barley and rye... so yes, no bread, no wheat-pasta, no pastry made with wheat flour...  Pff!! "How limitative!!", might you say? 
After a few weeks, I can tell you that this is absolutely not limitative as long as, comme toujours,  you are willing to adapt. When you cook for yourself eating gluten-free is not an issue at all, especially if you live in the US where most supermarkets now carry gluten-free options. When you think about it you can choose from: rice, wild rice, buckwheat (which despite its name does not contain wheat), millet, corn, quinoa, lentils, dry beans, potatoes and all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables you want. Nothing to make you go hungry!
It becomes tricky when you eat out or are invited over: your traditional American-Italian restaurant is a poor option but Japanese restaurants are a good one! Worse comes to worse, you eat the filling of a sandwich and not the bread or you settle on a salad without the croutons!
The hardest to give up at this stage? Bread, definitively! I did try to start a new gluten-free starter but my two tentatives with buckwheat flour failed; I have read that some people have been successful with brown rice flour, which is what I will try once temperatures are lower (too much heat killed my starter last Summer). I am also working on a decent crust recipe that could be good enough to make quiches.
As for dessert? Sorbets are always a good option; so are French macarons or crèmes brûlées when available (if they put anything to artificially thicken the custard, it is corn starch)...  So nothing to feel deprived of! Honestly! It's just hard to explain to people who are not aware of what gluten is but once you give them alternative options, then they are generally OK. The worst are the people who doubt that you can have a sensitivity! I just wished them not to have any!! 
I was lucky to find gluten-free oats in a Natural Store close to us in Philadelphia. That way, I am able to eat gluten-free oatmeal in the morning and to make my granola recipe gluten-free... or to use gluten-free oats in this crumble recipe. Unlike other crumble recipes that call on butter and wheat flour, oats and oil are used in this recipe instead (hence the "healthier" title). You don't have to make it with gluten-free oats if you and your family have no gluten sensitivity but if you do (or want to experiment something different ), this is a very good recipe for dessert which you can use all year round. Bon appétit!
Ingredients (inspired from Chocolate & Zucchini)
For the topping:
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) rolled oats
- 100 grams (3.5oz) brown rice flour (or 100 grams AP flour)
- 100 grams (3.5 oz) cane brown sugar
-  80 ml (2.7 Floz or 1/3 cup) neutral oil (I generally use canola)
- 1/2 ts cinnamon
- 1/2 ts salt
- Another spice of your choice (I generally use cardamon or just lemon zest)

For the filling:
- 4/5 medium apples
-  2 stalks of rhubarb, cleaned and cut into small pieces
- 100 gr (3.5 oz) Brown cane sugar
  • Prepare the topping and let it cool in the fridge for about 2-3 hours (I generally make it the day before)
  • Preheat oven to 360F
  • Cut all the fruits in small pieces and mix them with the sugar.
  • Put in invidual dish or in a deep dish
  • Cover with the topping
  • Bake in the oven for about 40 mns

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Cumulative Effect of Summer...

Although French people get more vacations days than Americans (the minimum is 5 weeks with most employees having up to 7 or 8 (ouch, I know!)), French people's "Summers" do not stretch from Memorial Day (last Monday in May) to Labor Day (first Monday in Sept.)!
French Summer really coincides with the French school calendar: that is from the first week of July to the third week of August.  My friends are therefore shocked to read that our children are already off school and won't go back until after Labor Day. (That's about 12 weeks of time-off! How could it possibly be manageable for working parents who, if lucky, get 4 weeks off? The American dilemna!)

Although French Summers are "shorter" than American ones, you would not believe so if you were to read French women's magazines that get women ready for their beach vacation as soon as Spring shows up! As Summer gets closer, most magazines start highlighting the "dangers" of Summer time when it comes to keeping a healthy diet. Next to the obviously beneficial seasonal fruits and salads, lay the traditional apéritifs (read: alcohol, chips, and other munchies), daily icecreams, gauffre ou crêpes au Nutella sur la plage, in addition to regular BBQs or outings to restaurants (pizzeria being a favorite!).

I had never thought about it as a "danger" to our children's diet until one of my husband's cousin related how sending her children off to spend time with their relatives (grand-parents, great aunt, etc.) for an extended period of time became an issue one Summer. Her children were to spend two weeks with their grand-parents in the South of France, then another week with a great-aunt and then another week with other relatives. Grand-parents wanting to indulge on their grand-children started feeding them icecream or waffle or crêpes everyday in addition to taking them out for a pizza or fast-food. Same with the other sets of relatives. As she related it, "it would not kill my children to eat that diet; it would not have affected their diet too much if it had happened for one week or two. The problem was that it lasted for 4 weeks. When I got them back, even though they got some excercise during their vacation, they had put on weight!" She felt bad but the following year she explained to her relatives, that they would have to watch what they feed her children because the cumulative effect was an issue.

Our children just left for France last Wednesday! We are lucky that they are able to spend time with their grand-parents and aunts/uncles in France before my husband and I go over and spend some time off with them (they will go to camps in the US when we return.) Do I worry about their diet? No. Do I worry about the cumulative effect? Hmmm....

As I keep saying, you and your children can have everything as long as it is with moderation (in size and frequency!).. Bon Appetit!