If you watch television, you watch commercials; it is unavoidable. As we watch commercials, we see products that are marketed to us. We also see some messages that are supposed to move us to action. And frequently there are advertisements for medicines and medical procedures that end with the prompt to " talk to your doctor about..." whatever it is.
So perhaps you suspect, or know, that you have a food intolerance. They range from the relatively-benign allergies like lactose, all the way to life-threatening reactions to peanuts or nuts in general. Food products now advise the consumer if they are manufactured in a facility that processes nuts.
I suppose there are at least two ways to react to the discovery that you are intolerant, or allergic, to a food substance. You can ignore it and go right on eating what you like, or you can reduce or eliminate your consumption of it. I have just been faced with this choice recently, when I discovered as a side effect of my trip to Costa Rica that I react adversely to bread products--the vehicle through which we consume gluten, through wheat. The situation is compounded nowadays by hybrid wheat strains that have been created to contain more and more gluten, which is the protein component of wheat.
This is why there is a difference between "hard" wheat flour, such as bread flour, and "soft" flour, typically described as pastry flour. The difference is gluten content. The high-gluten, or high-protein bread flour rises higher and faster than relatively low-gluten flour such as whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour, with pastry flour having almost no ability to rise in a yeast-powered bread recipe.
So if you are a lover of all things baked, as I am, what do you do when you have to face the fact that gluten disagrees with you? Like the typical "bad patient," you can certainly ignore it and go on eating what you like, similar to the diabetic who won't stop putting sugar in their coffee, eating doughnuts or drinking. And the results will be pretty much the same for the gluten-intolerant, although it isn't likely that they will develop Type II Diabetes.
If you continue to ignore the gastric distress that is commonly associated with eating gluten, you can drive the allergy all the way to Celiac Disease, which is a serious medical condition. You might also develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or possibly Crohn's Disease. Both these conditions are a sort of severe indigestion that requires medical treatment and day-to-day coping.
There is also Colitis, which is sometimes associated with stress, and involves inflammation that can climax with hemorrhage in the digestive tract. I once knew a young woman who dealt with stress-induced Colitis, and who once was found to have a quart of blood in her colon after she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital in severe pain. No one wants to deal with this kind of trouble, but we can bring it on ourselves if we ignore the knowledge that there is a food that causes our digestive tract to inflame upon exposure to them. I know that I ignored the symptoms of milk allergy for years until I had to do something, consulted a doctor, and got the bad news.
To me this is a no-brainer. I don't want anything worse than the digestive issues I went through years ago before I found out that I was allergic to milk. And that was in addition to years of ear infections. Neither do I intend to go back to the bloating and gas I was trying to alleviate before the trip to Costa Rica put fruit and vegetables in the place of the baked goods that I previously snacked on. So we must ask ourselves: if you have persistent digestive distress, how far are you going to go before you find out where it is coming from?
I think I can safely say that no one wants Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis or Crohn's Disease. But once you are sure that dairy or gluten, overexposure to sugar or a nut allergy is going to be part of your life, it only makes sense to change your diet. To this end, I am contributing a recipe that I have just revised in response to the immediate need to lower the gluten factor in what I eat. My go-to recipe for breakfast muffins has now been rewritten, and tested, with the goal of producing muffins that cannot be distinguished from those that contain conventional ingredients.
I have been baking with reduced sugar for years now, so that was not even a factor. Splenda Bake is one of my best friends, whether white or brown. I also use a small amount of powdered milk in these muffins, because there is no substitute for it, although powdered soy is an option that you could experiment with.
One essential substitute flour that saves a lot of GF recipes is oat flour, which tastes better than GF baking mixes and is very available. I get it at Sprouts in Tucson, but it is available in many other places, like Whole Foods and Safeway. Oat flour can be purchased in larger containers if you look for the Arrowhead Mills line of grains and flours.
PERFECT GLUTEN FREE OAT BRAN MUFFINS
1-1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup oat bran
3/4 cup oat flour
1/2 cup GF baking mix such as Bob's Red Mill
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, or Splenda Brown
1/2 cup granulated sugar or Splenda Bake
2 teaspoons powdered milk
1 large egg at room temperature
1/3 cup walnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 cup raisins
Combine the water, oatmeal and oat bran in a small mixing bowl and let them soak for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the oat flour, baking mix, salt, sugars and powdered milk. Set them aside.
At the end of the 20 minutes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir in the egg, the oil, the walnuts and the raisins.
Transfer the batter to muffin tins and bake for 17 minutes before checking to see if the muffins are firm on top and slightly browned. A few more minutes might be necessary.
Remove the muffin tins from the oven and let the muffins cool in the tins until they are no longer dangerous. Serve them fresh and warm, or freeze in an airtight container until serving time.
I found that grinding up the walnuts (or pecans if you prefer) gives the muffins more flavor than just adding chopped nuts to them. If you want to add pecans, any cooking oil such as safflower can be used in the recipe.
I stress that even with the Splenda and the GF ingredients, these muffins are every bit as good as they ever were when I made them with sugar and wheat flour. I wouldn't have it any other way.