Tag Archives: food

Being Gluten-Free in Brazil

5 Mar

I arrived to the Rio de Janeiro airport in the wee hours of the morning. I quickly saw that the city was already hustling and bustling about. I expected the airport to be a bit of a mad house: people coming up to you, offering you a hostel, taxi, tour, hotel, ride to wherever you would want to go. That was what I encountered in Mumbai, India, and for some reason, I thought Rio would be just as overwhelmingly. Surprisingly, there were the usual smatterings of people holding signs with foreign names, or signs touting the name of their tour companies, but there were not many people. Which was a relief!

I stopped at the tourist information desk before leaving the airport, armed with a map and a booklet of which airport bus to take. It was quite easy to find the stop for the blue airport “omnibus,” although none of the operators seemed to know exactly which bus we should get on. After about half an hour, I asked the operators again, then checked with the bus driver (in Espanol rather than Portuguese) to verify he could take me to Copacabana. Next thing I knew, we were rolling down the busy highway towards Rio’s city center!

I hadn’t done any research on the food in Brazil prior to going. From the bus, I saw bakeries (padarias) filled with gluten-free pastries, some fancy restaurants, a few standard cafeterias, but no supermarkets. I was a bit afraid of what I would find waiting for me. After checking into our hostel, we headed out to the beach. Little did I know that Brazil has a plethora of choices when it comes to beverages. My three favorite ones are:

– coco gelado (ice cold coconut water that the servers hatch into with a machete and stick a straw into)

coco gelado

– acai (yes, the superfood berry is blended up into a smoothie…and it is to die for! this got me through the ultra-humid days and hikes around the city. You can order it just as a “bebida” and it will come as a smoothie. If that is too thick, you can find acai juice in the markets)

acai smoothie

– caipirinha (the national cocktail of Brazil, made with its famous alcohol, cachaça, sugar, and lime)

caipirinha

Out of all of the South American countries, Brazil is among the most expensive ones in which to travel–and, I quickly realized,  to eat out. One main entree can run between 50 and 100 Brazilian reais, about $25-$50 USD. We could not afford to do the tours we wanted and eat out once a day for that price. Instead, we opted for the local supermarket. Most Brazilian supermercados offer a good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. My husband and I love to eat meat (we still try to make protein a large part of our diet, despite neither currently lifting weights nor engaging in high-intensity interval training). We were delighted to find steak in the supermarkets for around $5 USD for 300-400 grams. Of course the price varied depending on the cut of meat, but we ate well with what we purchased. We got into a routine of purchasing most of our food at a supermarket and making one big meal (usually dinner) per day back at the shared kitchen in our hostel.

As far as vegetables, good, fresh lettuce was hard to come by. Most of what we found was wilted and undesirable. We opted for bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and carrots. The fruit in Brazil was amazing! We ate a fresh mango–purchased for $1-2 USD–every night. They were better-tasting to me than the ones we had in Thailand. The meat we got was not excellent quality, but it was tasty for its extremely affordable price. We squeezed lime and sprinkled pepper over it as it was cooking, and it was filling after a long day out and about. During the day, we ate small meals and/or snacks frequently. These little guys saved me:

povilho snacks

They are “polvinho” cookies or “polvinho biscuits,” although they do not taste like cookies or biscuits. They are light, airy snacks that come in a few different flavors (traditional (which is just lightly salted), cheese, salsa and onion, and sweet). I think I tried each flavor, and all of them were good! They aren’t the most nutritious, but when a Celiac is in a bind and/or on a 22-hour bus ride, these snacks sure do taste good. Other than these, I mostly ate fruit, veggies, and lunch meat. DO NOT eat the canned tuna. It is fishy and cannot be compared to anything other than cat food. I also found meringues in the supermarkets, which were nice to curb my sweet tooth.

Breakfast in Brazil is not easy. Every morning in each hostel we stayed in, we were served small French bread loaves either with cold cuts (processed meat and cheese) or hot dogs that had been cut up and cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onions. Luckily, I can tolerate oats. I just carried plain instant oatmeal (which I found in the supermarkets, labeled “flocos de aveia” or “aveia com flocos”) with me to each hostel and asked for a bowl. Depending on what the hostel offered, I’d either add fruit or a bit of jam to the oatmeal for flavor. For those true Celiacs that cannot tolerate oats, it would be best to make your own breakfast or bring something that you can eat. You can easily find eggs in the supermarkets, although Brazilians usually eat them for lunch or dinner with rice or on a sandwich.

Of course, you have to try some dishes to better understand the culture and country you are visiting. My good Brazilian friend lives in Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais. I informed her of my allergy prior to visiting her. She took my husband and me out to a Bahian restaurant and ordered moqueca, a seafood stew with a thick yellow-orangeish broth that reminded me of yellow curry. The taste, however, was far different from curry and had a hint of cilantro. Accompanying the moqueca was a bright orange powder that my friend encouraged me to put with  the stew and rice. I was hesitant because it looked like a flour of some kind. After verifying with our server that there was no wheat and/or gluten in it, I tried it. Boy, was it delicious! We stuffed ourselves.

SAM_0615

Here is the “flour” we added to our stew:

manioc flour

I researched what moqueca was made out of because my friend kept telling me the Brazilian word. It translated as “manioc,” and I had absolutely no idea what that was! Turns out that manioc, along with polvinho, come from the same root: the cassava plant.

Because my friend is from Minas Gerais, she wanted to share some local food with me. I hesitated because its name was pao de  queijo, literally “cheese bread.” We checked the back of all of the packages, and they proudly announced, “NAO CONTEM GLUTEN!” After double-checking each ingredient in the pao, I ate four of five of these rolls to my heart’s content.  My friend informed me that pao de queijo is a typical breakfast food. Many Brazilians tear the little rolls in half and spread butter or marmalade on them–or even a slice of cheese! To me, they were perfect right out the oven without anything added. It was such a treat to eat gluten-free bread that could be found in any supermarket! Here they are:

pao de queijo

©Lucia Adverse 2009

The moral of this long post: in Brazil, the cassava root, shown below, is your best gluten-free friend!

Here is the root in its natural form, then the flour produced from it:

cassava root

cassava flour

Enjoy your visit to Brazil and please share any gluten-free treasures you found and/or know of for other travelers to try. ;D

I’m currently in Peru and am taking notes of what to eat–and what to avoid–and will update with a Gluten-Free Peru edition within the next few weeks. Please check back!

Revised Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Brownies

3 Nov

 

 

 

I decided to make these brownies again, coming up with a more accurate, delicious recipe of my own. I incorporated coconut flour this time. It was my first time using it, and now I see what everyone was talking about! It adds a sweet, light flavor to gluten-free baked goods and makes the consistency a bit smoother. Again I used agave instead of refined sugar. My toppings this time were chocolate chips on one side and a cut-up Snickers bar on the other (a straggler leftover from Halloween). I used more chocolate powder for an intense flavor. Although I liked this recipe better, the only thing I would change are the sweet potatoes used. I only hand the ones with the yellow inside; I think the ones with the orange flesh would make the consistency smoother. I’ve found they’re a bit sweeter as well. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

**Revised Recipe:

– 1 1/2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled

– 1 large egg and 2 large egg whites

– 2-3 oz. dark chocolate   (I made my own with unsweetened cocoa powder – see below)

– 1/4 c. agave

– 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil

– 1 tbsp. vanilla

– 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

– 3 tbsp. coconut flour

– 1/2 tsp. baking soda

To Make:

1) Peel the boiled sweet potatoes. Mash, mix, or puree them together. After sweet potatoes are mashed, start concocting your dark chocolate (alternatively, you can use chocolate chips and/or baking chocolate and melt it down).

* If you do not have baking chocolate, you can use the unsweetened cocoa powder. To make your own dark chocolate like I did, mix 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder with 1 tbsp. of grapeseed oil. Melt them together in a double-boiler, then add the dark chocolate to the mashed potatoes.

2) After the potatoes and dark chocolate are combined, add in the wet ingredients: egg and egg whites, agave or honey, vanilla, and grapeseed oil. Mix by hand or with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended.

3) Now add the dry ingredients: unsweetened cocoa powder, coconut flour, and baking soda. Mix well.

4) This batter was less lumpy than the first batch I made. It was sweeter and more consistent than the first one–the batter even tasted better! Add any toppings you want, sugar-free or not. ;p

5) Bake at 350 Fahrenheit / 175 Celsius for about 25-30 minutes. Check the center of the brownies by putting a clean knife in the middle. Mine cooked a bit faster than the first batch. Enjoy! Super yummy…

I’d love to hear your feedback if you try it.

Gluten-Free Sugar-Free Sweet Potato Brownies

18 Oct

What?!

That title is a mouthful!

Tonight I experimented a little more with my new sugar-free ingredients. A good friend and fellow competitor of mine posted a picture of paleo brownies she made with sweet potatoes. Having just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving with my friends (I’m not a native Canadian–just an honorary one who happens to work with a lot of Canucks), I had half a bag of sweet potatoes left after making sweet potato casserole. (Sweet potato casserole was not a diet- or competition-friendly dish: it was loaded with brown sugar and marshmallows. CHEAT MEAL, BABY!!!) The chocolate craving hit me pretty hard today (stressful day at work, that time of the month, had an intense workout this morning), so I decided to test the recipe out. The brownies are not overly sweet. They are subtly sweet but have a good consistency. I found a recipe online but adapted it (as always) to the ingredients I had on hand.

Here’s what I used:

– 2 medium sweet potatoes, boiled

– 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (can substitute with unsweetened/dark baker’s chocolate)

– 1 tbsp almond flour

– 1 tsp baking soda

– 1/3 cup agave

– 1 tbsp vanilla extract

– about 1 tbsp grapeseed oil

– 2 eggs

To bake,

1) Mash the sweet potatoes, either with a fork, mixer, or by pureeing them in a food processor. I used the bullet that I make my protein shakes in. As long as the potatoes are still warm after boiling, they should mash up nicely. I took the thicker parts of the skin off to make pureeing easier.

2) I transferred the sweet potato puree to a mixing bowl, then added the dry ingredients first (cocoa powder, almond flour, baking soda).

3) Next, I added the wet ingredients (eggs, agave, vanilla, and grapeseed oil). I stirred everything together until it had a somewhat smooth consistency. There were a few lumps and uneven spots in the batter. I hand-mixed the ingredients, alternating between a fork (to mash big lumps) and a rubber spatula. Don’t worry if there are still small lumps remaining; they’ll bake out.

4) Add any other ingredients that you want. You can see from the picture that I didn’t stick to an entirely sugar-free brownie: I added dark chocolate chips to the top. The coconut is unsweetened, however. To keep it sugar-free, you could substitute carob chips for chocolate chips–or just leave them out.

Transfer the brownie batter to an oiled baking dish (I used a small square 6×6 glass dish–this recipe only makes about 12 brownies). Pop it in the oven at about 350 Fahrenheit (I did almost 200 Celsius, which is a bit hotter). Bake for about 30 minutes or until the middle is cooked. I knew mine were done when the cocoa smell filled the house!

My brownies finished about an hour ago. I sampled them before remembering to document what I had baked, as you can see in the picture. They’re not bad for my first experience baking with sweet potatoes. The brownies could stand to be a bit sweeter, but they are very moist! I’m happy to have found an alternative to using gluten-free flour mixes.

Let me know if you try them out and what you think!

Flourless Spinach Quiche

3 Oct

While preparing food for my competition, I came across a few really great resources that helped me do things with chicken and egg whites other than just simply boil them. Now that I’m no longer dieting and it’s after the competition, I have been experimenting with cooking new dishes and baking different cookies and cakes. One website that has been a wonderful, helpful resource both on and off the competition diet has been Chelle’s Fitness Recipes, found here: http://billandchelle.com/fitness/recipes.html. For those of you on a figure competition diet, I recommend clicking on the “View Figure Competition Friendly Recipes Here” link just under the page’s header.

I adapted Chelle’s “Crustless Spinach Quiche” slightly, using what I had in my refrigerator. Here is what I used:

1 tbsp olive oil

5 garlic cloves, minced

3-4 cooked chicken tenderloins, flavored with basil (1-2 chicken breasts could be used instead)

1/2 package of fresh lettuce (about 6 small spinach plants)

12 egg whites

1/2 cup shredded Formaggio al Tartulo (a mild-flavored Italian sheep cheese; could probably substitute Parmesan for a stronger taste or cheddar for a milder taste)

Pepper

Basil

Preparation:

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 180 Celsius. Mince all of the garlic cloves, chop onion (if you want to add it), and cut chicken tenderloins or breasts into chunks or strips.

*Chelle’s original recipe only calls for two cloves of garlic ; I love garlic and its healthful properties, so I always use more. The original recipe also has one small onion, which I was out of. I had chicken tenderloins left over from a previous meal. I sprinkled basil on them, then cut them into chunks. You could use any kind of chicken; the original recipe has chicken sausage. I had tofu in the fridge and considered using that as an alternative to chicken.

1) Put olive oil in a skillet and saute garlic and onion for a few minutes. Add in the chicken to warm it up; saute all three together until onion and garlic are browned. Rinse spinach leaves and cut up if necessary while food is sauteing.

2) Using a fork, whisk 12 egg whites in a large bowl. I whisked them as the recipe said for a couple of minutes, or until the whites started to bubble a bit.

3) Add all ingredients: sauteed chicken, garlic, onion, spinach, and cheese. Mix together with the egg whites until all ingredients are moistened. Depending on how much spinach you use, you may want to add another egg white. Add seasonings to the mixture. I only used pepper and basil.

4) Coat a glass or metal dish with non-stick cooking spray or oil. Pour the mixture into the dish and pop it into the oven.

5) Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the center is cooked.

I served this dish with some steaming fresh green beans. It was a delicious, healthy, satisfying meal! Gluten-free and yummy. I was quite happy with the taste, as it was my first time making quiche. I usually avoid quiche because of the crust. Now I will try my own versions. The best part of a meal like this is you can eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day!

Healthy Gluten-Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

27 Sep

During my figure competition diet, all I could think about was how I couldn’t wait to go back to gluten-free baking. I really don’t eat that poorly in the “off season”–being gluten-free keeps me in check. I do, however, looooove gluten-free brownies and cookies. I always keep my favorite Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix on hand for baking emergencies. Because of the competition diet, I’d consumed zero processed or refined sugar for 12 weeks. During the last two weeks before competition, I even cut out fruit because of its high sugar and carbohydrate content to lean up. Coming off of an extremely restrictive diet, I wanted to use as close to natural sugar as possible to not shock my body.

Oatmeal was one of the three main sources of carbohydrates in my diet. One might think I wouldn’t want to eat oatmeal after the diet, but all I could think of was how delicious oatmeal raisin cookies would be after the competition! So, here it is, the week after the competition, and I found a great recipe from a fellow English teacher in Korea that cooks wonderful vegan and gluten-free foods. The site is great–it’s called “Wayfaring Teacher”. I encourage you to check it out for some great recipes, or just a bit of insight of what it is like for those with food restrictions living in Korea. I adapted that recipe to what I had in my cupboard. Here’s what I used:

1 3/4 cup quick-cooking old-fashioned oats (I used the Quaker ones because I’m not super sensitive to oats; if you are, I would Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free quick-cooking or rolled oats)

1 cup Pamela’s Baking & Pancake mix (*original recipe calls for 1/2 cup oatmeal ground into flour plus 1/2 cup almond flour, which I didn’t have)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup raisins

1 banana

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp honey (*optional – or substitute your choice of sweetener)

1/4 cup nonfat milk

2 tsp cinnamon

1. Mix oatmeal, Pamela’s, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl.

2. Mash the banana, then add vanilla.

3. Combine wet ingredients to dry mixture.

4. Start mixing, then add in honey. Use more or less, depending on personal preference.

5. Pour in raisins.

6. Add milk to get a lighter, thinner consistency.

As the original post says, add more milk if the mixture is too dry; if it is too wet, adjust with oats.

Bake at 350 degrees (about 175 Celsius in my lil’ Korean toaster oven) for 12-15 minutes. When mixing the cookie batter, I used my hands. Depending on how many oats you use, the batter can be a bit crumbly. I wanted “mini-bites”, so I rolled the cookies into small balls and flattened them down a bit. Cookies were ready when the edges started to brown.

I ate them without taking a picture. No worries; I’ll make them again and post. This was my first time using honey in place of sugar. These cookies didn’t need any additional sweetener, but I had to satiate my craving, and honey did the trick! I personally love extra raisins and cinnamon in mine, but this recipe can be easily tweaked.

Happy Baking!