Happy “Gluten Free” Easter 2014

I said it last year and I’ll say it again….chocolate just tastes better in Easter Egg form!

There’s nothing better than experiencing peppermint Easter egg overload!

Its time again to give you some tips to really enjoy a gluten free Easter. Thankfully these days a lot of chocolate is gluten free. However, there are some chocolate products which are not.  By letting others know about some of the pitfalls we hope this will guarantee a safe and enjoyable Easter for everyone.

We still find one of the most common gluten free misconceptions is the ingredient wheat glucose syrup. Only a few years ago, wheat glucose syrup was excluded from gluten free diets. Further research into the processing of wheat glucose syrup has shown that it is actually gluten free. This also applies to colours including those with (wheat) in the ingredient list e.g. caramel colour (wheat).

This means there are now many food products that are safe for those following a gluten free diet. A useful tip when reading ingredient labels is that things ending in ‘ose’ such as glucose syrup, dextrose and glucose are safe and things ending in ‘arch’ (and derived from gluten sources) such as wheat starch are unsafe.

Coeliac Australia says a “Gluten Free” statement on a product label overrides the ingredient listing and is safe to eat  http://www.coeliac.org.au/ .  I have challenged a few products in my time based on my own suspicions of the ingredients listed or whether I’ve experienced a reaction so I will still always double check the ingredient list.  To make things easier, most labels now bold or underline allergens.

There are so many choices on the shelves this year. Several companies are now labelling their chocolate products ‘gluten free’.  However, if you’re okay with a ‘may contain’ statement you don’t need to buy chocolate products with a ‘gluten free’ label.  The tips below will help you when deciding what chocolate products to buy:

  1. Check all labels even if the product was previously safe in case the ingredients have changed.
  2. Wheat Glucose Syrup is safe for gluten free diets.
  3. The most common unsafe ingredients are Barley Malt Extract e.g. Lindt Milk, Mini Crunchie Eggs and Malteser eggs and Thickener 1400-1450 (wheat).  Other more obvious unsafe sources include biscuit crumbs and wheat semolina.

Those preferring a 100% gluten free certified Easter goodies can visit speciality stores such as Go Vita stores, Mrs Flannery’s Health Foods stores and online stores such as www.aussiehealthproducts.com.au , http://www.absolutelyglutenfree.com.au and  www.glutenfreeshop.com.au.  Make sure you allow enough time for postage to get the eggs in time!

Think about your Easter entertaining now. If you’re travelling don’t forget gluten free snacks and your emergency kit. If you’re visiting family or friends for celebration meals don’t forget to:

  1. Advise them of your needs in advance.
  2. Offer to bring parts of the meal you know will be hard for them to cater.
  3. Pack some back-up gluten free snacks in the event they accidently forget and add normal flour to the Easter cake!

If it all seems a bit much then luckily Coeliac NSW/ACT have been hard at work and hopefully tasting to create a list of safe and unsafe Easter eggs for 2014.  Check out the list here: http://bit.ly/1dPl94D

Hoppy Easter

Melinda

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What does gluten free really mean?

It seems that more and more people I meet are embarking on a gluten free diet.  They may have done so on the advice of their medical practitioner, dietitian, naturopath or they have self-diagnosed. Eating gluten free is no mean feat and can have long term health consequences. It is really important that you get the best advice possible.

Melindas Brownies for blog

Approximately 1 in 100 Australians have coeliac disease but 75% do not know they have it. There may be many more who experience gastro intestinal problems as a result of gluten. These problems may be caused by other foods and ingredients such as fructose and lactose. In some people food is not the issue so it is critical you consult your health professional first.

It is important not to ignore the symptoms of any gastro intestinal complaint. These may include bloating, diarrhoea, or constipation (or a combination of both), flatulence, abdominal pain and nausea. These symptoms can make you feel lousy and generally really unwell.

As a nutritionist, I know how important it is to get your diet right. Any significant changes to you or your family’s diet need to be monitored over time by your chosen health professional to check you are all keeping healthy.

Have a look at our June 2011 blog where we talked about diagnosing food allergies and included good links to helpful websites.

A gluten free diet means avoiding any gluten in your diet and this also includes avoiding cross contamination in food preparation and cooking as the smallest amount of gluten can have dire consequences. We’ve also talked about this in our previous blogs.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and derivatives of these products, for example, malt. Many processed foods contain gluten as grain products are used as thickening or stabilizing agents.

Members of Coeliac Australia can get a good summary of the foods that should be avoided on a gluten free diet and more importantly what foods can be eaten. www.coeliac.org.au

Dr Sue Shepherd also provides a good summary on her website http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/gluten-free-diet

When is gluten dangerous?

For those of us diagnosed with coeliac disease, eating gluten can have immediate and long term serious consequences. If you have coeliac disease, your immune system reacts abnormally to gluten and this causes small bowel damage. The surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption is markedly reduced which can lead to various gastrointestinal and malabsorptive symptoms. In my case I can be really ill with nausea and diarrhoea for several days after eating even a small amount of gluten.

Dangerous Foods

If undiagnosed, coeliac disease can mean chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression and dental enamel defects. There is also a small, but real, increased risk of certain forms of cancer such as lymphoma of the small bowel. In children, undiagnosed coeliac disease can cause lack of proper development, short stature and behavioural problems. For more information go to www.coeliac.org.au

Coeliac disease is a genetic condition and at present the only known cure is to follow a gluten free diet for life. A gluten free diet will prevent further damage to the intestinal lining and will mean that nutrients from food can be properly absorbed.  Fortunately there are many more dietary options available these days and means you can now enjoy a healthy and varied diet.

There are also many online tools to help you identify gluten and other allergens in processed foods. Our Facebook page has some great recipe ideas and tips on eating gluten free. Join us at https://www.facebook.com/MelindasGFG. You can also download our allergy free entertaining app, a great tool if you need to cater allergy free.

For more information go to www.melindasgfg.com 

Happy cooking

Mel

 

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Gluten Free Challenge Wrap-up

We have just closed our most recent competition and were thrilled with the number of entries and information sharing between our Facebook page members. A full account of the conversations can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/MelindasGFG

Below are the details of the competition

Facebook-Timeline_GF3_F copy

Gluten Free Challenge – Can you do it?

The Melinda’s team want your family, friends and colleagues to experience what it’s like to shop, eat out, cook and eat completely gluten free for one day or one week and they want to hear about it! We want people to find out for a short time what it’s like to avoid gluten in their diet. We’re also keen to hear about new recipes and great places to eat out gluten free.

The gluten free challenge is open from 5 March to 5 April 2013 and the best four entries will win:

A $50 grocery voucher for www.groceryrun.com.au, a $50 restaurant voucher for www.eatnow.com.au and a $100 Melinda’s hamper delivered to your door.

Simply post your challenge experiences and tell us;

1. What recipes did you need to adapt to avoid gluten?
2. What food product were you surprised contained gluten?
3. What main challenge did you experience eating gluten free?
4. Did you find any restaurants who catered happily for your gluten free requests?

You can also email us at enquiries@melindasgfg.com.

Remember if you have any concerns about changing your diet talk to your healthcare professional.

For more information on coeliac disease and gluten free foods go to www.coeliac.org.au.

If you’re stuck for ideas, more than 120 gluten free recipes can be found on our Allergy Free Entertaining app. You can download the app from the iTunes app store. It is also available in an Android version. For more information go to www.melindasgfg.com.

Below are the winning entries which created some great conversation on Facebook between members and assisted many people just starting out on a gluten free life:

Submission from Tara about her 2-yr old Poppy!

So this challenge came at the totally right time for me!, my little 2 yr old has been asked to go on GF diet to see if it calms her down as they think she has ADHD.

OMG! i was so worried. not only because of finding all the gluten free stuff but would she eat it???

First up was bread and bikkies!!!! Poppy LOVES bread and bikkies. and at the cost for bread that is GF i did not want to waste it! well all poppy did was pull off the ham and cheese and eat that! oh and the ham!!! I had to find a gluten free ham which apparently they are not all gluten free! that totally shocked me!

Pasta was fine but then i had to make cheese sauce from scratch as pops loves mac and cheese and the mixes had anti caking agent.

The little bikkies: Pops only likes tiny teddies so we had to find something similar. it was hard. the whole thing was really hard

I did notice a huge gap in the market for children friendly gluten free products. there was very little to give a child that was fun and like “normal food” and at 2 years old poppy just wanted nuggets chips and other what i would call crap food!

What surprised me the most though was McDonald’s. We went there and i had food in a bag for pops. i figured i could pop it in a happy meal box and she would never know the difference. McDonald’s were great they told me their fries were fine and made a new batch for her with no salt and even cleaned all the surfaces etc. they also said the meat in the burger was ok so she had that too and then gave her the apples in her happy meal as well as she was not having the bun.! how awesome was that!

The other place which was good was our local cafe in Winmalee. they have a gluten free range and menu and can offer a few kiddie style meals . Though most of them are tomato based which my pops is allergic too but apart from that great range of GF options!

I have to say i found your range of products great though i had to improvise on some of them to make them more child appealing.

The brownies i made really thin and cut out shapes using cookie cutters and then decorated them with faces!!

Thanks for the opportunity to share with you our experiences. pops had been on the gluten free diet for to weeks now…as we all have it is getting a little easier and pops is learning to eat what we give her without so much of a fight as before. but time will tell.

Another winning entry:

Hi there,

Thanks for this great challenge and giveaway to help promote coeliac disease awareness and of course your wonderful Melinda’s gluten free brand.

I have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and for that reason have decided to avoid gluten in my diet to help reduce some of those symptoms.

I have also encouraged my family to participate along with me, and for Easter i hosted a family BBQ which was completely gluten free, and everyone really enjoyed all the food.

1. What recipes did you need to adapt to avoid gluten?
Baking required me to change to gluten free flour.
Crumbing schnitzels i changed to gluten free breadcrumbs.
I make my own tomato sauce to avoid gluten and preservatives, i’ve switched to gluten free gravy and use tamari instead of normal soy sauce now.

2. What food product were you surprised contained gluten?
Couscous – I always thought it was gluten free. I use organic Quinoa instead now.
Also, the myriad of gravies and bottled sauces at the supermarket.

3. What main challenge did you experience eating gluten free?
More time researching where to eat out. Having to make sure all ingredients in take away meals are gluten free, including the sauces. Sometimes having to go without sauces because there may not be any gluten free options.

4. Did you find any restaurants who catered happily for your gluten free requests?
Yes, after researching i found many cafe’s and restaurants in my area of North-West Melbourne offer gluten free options on their menu’s.
My favourites are: Urban Burger in Niddrie, Mister Nice Guy’s Vegan Bakeshop in Ascot Vale & Little Byrd cafe in Ascot Vale.

Thank you!

Louise Stewart

Another winning entry:
GLUTEN FREE CHALLENGE!

1. What recipes did you need to adapt to avoid gluten?
We had friends over for a ‘schnitzel night’. Everyone knows myself and two daughters are coeliac so they expected to eat gluten free, when i told them they just had gluten free home made chicken schnitzels they were surprised but more amazed at how yummy they were. My husband and oldest daughter prefer the gluten free crumbs, they crisp up nicer!

2. What food product were you surprised contained gluten?
Hollonsaide sauce! I have previously worked in a restaurant and had the head chefs always confirm with me my meal was gluten free before eating, always being told hollondaise sauce was gluten free. When preparing our gluten free schnitzel night and wanting hollondaise as a topping to choose from, i couldn’t find a gluten free sauce!

3. What main challenge did you experience eating gluten free? My two year old is constantly invited to birthday parties for her little friends and it was a challenge at first to teach her that there are some foods that will make her tummy sore. It was a constant fight to make sure she didn’t sneak a chip or two (or a cupcake) while we were at a party that contained gluten. Now however she is really good, and will say “Gluten free Mummy?” But as a mum im also more prepared and always take a dozen gluten free cupcakes along with us.

4. Did you find any restaurants who catered happily for your gluten free requests?
Being from a small country town (Whyalla, SA) it once was difficult to eat out, but now gluten free eating is more talked about, we enjoy a meal out with no hassel. The Westland Hotel Motel, especially make our experience easy when it comes to the children’s meals (a lot of places on their kids menu only offer standard crumbed meals or pastas, non gluten free), so its always nice to have the choice for your children aswell.

Love this challenge and the awareness it is giving to people who dont need to constantly be aware of their eating habits.

Thankyou 😀

Entry from Cassandra Mills

 

I hope some of the above has sparked some questions and answers for you. Many other friends provided feedback and answers for the above entries.

Until next month,

Happy cooking

Melinda

 

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Spring Carnival Entertaining Time

And they’re racing…..

The Melbourne Cup is one of Australia’s main events celebrated throughout the country and is a great opportunity to put on an allergy free spread for your family, friends or work collegues. Catering for allergy free events and particularly large functions requires some extra planning. Here are some of our tips to make sure your event is successful and memorable for all the right reasons;

  1.  Include in your invitation and event organising a question about any food allergies or intolerances to assist in your menu planning.
  2. Plan your menu well by providing a range of savoury and sweet allergy free menu options. For example, you may wish to have some menu options or products that can be quickly prepared if you need to cater for someone with multiple food allergies or with an allergy not catered for already.
  3. Cook any allergy free food items, especially gluten free food, before cooking other menu items and thoroughly clean utensils and surfaces to avoid cross contamination before preparation and cooking. Better still invest in a separate set of utensils and chopping boards.
  4. Store gluten free ingredients and food separately, in air tight containers above other food items. Also clearly label all your allergy free ingredients.
  5. Educate your helpers about the importance of avoiding cross contamination and particularly about washing hands before and while preparing food.
  6. Clearly label platters or separate menu items to show which ones are allergy free and what ingredients were used to avoid confusion.
  7. For large functions use disposable tongs, cutlery, plates and napkins to avoid cross-contamination.
  8. Make sure all your helpers know which items are allergy free and are able to correctly answer guest enquiries.
  9. A beautiful display of allergy free food will mean all your guests will want to enjoy what is on offer. Just make sure you have enough for everyone!

Some great allergy free ideas from Melinda’s for your events

 There are many great allergy free food products available meaning you can cater for functions and events of all sizes and dietary needs.

Melinda's Crunchy Water Crackers

 Melinda’s cracker range adds sophistication to any event and allows everyone to enjoy their favourite foods safely. The range includes Natural (with a hint of sesame) and Pepper & Chives. Light and crisp, the crackers are ideal for your favourite cheeses, dips or as a canapé base.

Available from Woolworths/Safeway, selected Independent stores, speciality and online stores. 

 Melinda’s savoury and sweet premixes premix products can be prepared in varying sizes and quantities to suit your catering requirements and there are many taste variations you can create by adding in extra ingredients. Just make sure that any additional ingredients meet the dietary requirements of your guest. The last thing you would want is a guest having an adverse reaction to a menu item you’ve listed as free from allergens. Our website www.melindasgfg.com provides ideas for each of our products.

Our premix products are also freezer stable allowing you to prepare ahead of time and make your events run more smoothly. You can also be prepared for any unexpected requests.

Melinda’s gluten free Self Raising flour actually works and will give you creamy soups, smooth gravies and sauces, a fine texture in biscuits, cakes, muffins and slices, and superior dough texture.

 Catering allergy free

 Our aim at Melinda’s is to make it easy for you to cater to those wanting and needing gluten and allergy free menu options.  With more than 120 recipes, our ‘Allergy Free Entertaining’ app provides for every allergy free diet including gluten, wheat, dairy, nut, soy and egg free as well as vegetarian, vegan, low sugar and child friendly options. You can download the app from the iTunes app store. It is also available in an Android version. For more information go to www.melindasgfg.com.

Our Facebook page has regular recipes and ideas so join us and share your ideas as well! https://www.facebook.com/MelindasGFG

Enjoy the spring racing carnivals with delicious gluten free food!! 

Happy cooking!

The Melinda’s Team

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Labeling for Food Allergies

Hi everyone,

I want to provide you all with the current state of play In Australia for labelling of food allergies. Labelling can be complex and confusing so the information below gives a good overview of what your rights are as a consumer. Knowing how to read food labels and ask the right questions can go a long way to avoid having a reaction and getting sick. Food producers and caterers realise how important it is to provide the right information about possible allergens in their products especially as more and more people are finding out who caters for their needs well and are spreading the news!

To label or not to label

The demand for gluten and allergy free food is growing rapidly especially in Australia. Food producers and caterers who provide allergy free food products, must label their products correctly to meet Australian food standards and avoid their customers falling ill.

Caterers must make sure that they and their catering and wait staff know what gluten and allergy free really means. As a customer you have the right to know what you are eating and how your meal was prepared.

What are the rules?

Australia has some of the most stringent allergy free labelling laws in the world. The legislation for labelling of products in Australia is set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). The Code is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). The Code is enforced by State and Territory Departments and Food Agencies within Australia and New Zealand. If you want more detailed information, the code is updated regularly (www.foodstandards.gov.au/foodstandards/foodstandardscode.cfm).

In general, all ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight and this includes any added water. An ingredient does not have to be listed if it makes up less than 5% of the food. However, this does not apply to any additive or allergen as these must be listed no matter how small the amount.

According to FSANZ, most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat, and these must be declared on the food label however small the amount added. Gluten needs to be declared on the label so people with Coeliac Disease or gluten allergy can identify these products. Sulphite preservatives must also be declared on the label if added at 10 (or more) milligrams per kilogram of food.

A food must have a warning statement when people may be unaware of a severe health risk posed by an allergen. Some food labels say ‘may contain’ certain allergens, such as ‘may contain nuts’. This is because the manufacturer is concerned that traces of nuts might be present in the food unintentionally, if, for example, the food is prepared on the same equipment as products that contain nuts. Sometimes ingredients derived from known allergenic foods are not clearly identified in the ingredients list, for example soy might be listed as ‘textured vegetable protein’.

Where the food is for retail or catering purposes and is exempt from labelling, the required allergen information must either be displayed on, or in connection with the display of the food, or provided to the purchaser upon request.

 

 Lots of resources

The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) have produced an Allergen Management and Labelling Guide that provides an overview of the regulatory requirements in Australia and New Zealand for the mandatory declaration of food allergens, guidance on good manufacturing practice and recommended labelling formats.

The Allergen Bureau is a voluntary membership organisation of food industry representatives providing advice on food allergen issues and in 2011 released a document titled Unexpected Allergens in Food.

Coeliac Australia provides a good summary of the Australian requirements for gluten free labelling (http://coeliac.org.au/professionals/food-manufacturer.html). They also have a great app listing more than 800 ingredients and 300 additives used in Australian and New Zealand foods, advising whether they’re safe to include in a gluten-free diet.

 

Better Health Victoria have a good fact sheet on food labelling generally http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Food_labels_explained

Also have a look at http://www.measureup.gov.au/internet/abhi/publishing.nsf/Content/How+to+read+food+labels-lp for a good summary.

The Melinda’s Team

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Allergy free is here to stay

Hi everyone,

I began my quest to find gluten free food products and recipes when I was diagnosed with Coeliac disease over sixteen years ago. Since my diagnosis there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people being diagnosed with Coeliac disease or wanting a gluten free diet for other health and lifestyle reasons. More broadly, the numbers of young children diagnosed with food allergies has gone sky high. For example, in the past decade there has been a five-fold increase in serious food reactions amongst pre-schoolers.

I developed my range of gluten free food products after providing baked goods to cafes and restaurants. I wanted to provide good quality and easy to make products that anyone could make at home. I also wanted them to taste great and this has driven me to constantly improve and develop new products. While my products are aimed at the gluten free market, they can be adapted to suit many diets and help those wanting to avoid certain food allergens.

Food allergies – what you need to know

Food allergies in the general community are rising rapidly. Food allergies are abnormal immune reactions to certain foods, are real and can be life-threatening. According to the Anaphylaxis Australia organisation, 1 in 10 children now have food allergy and those with peanut and tree nut allergy, often have it for life. This means the incidence of adults with food allergies is also rising. Go to http://www.allergyfacts.org.au/ for more information.

Although any food can cause an allergic reaction, the most common allergens are: egg; cow’s milk; peanuts; tree nuts (e.g. walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans); fish; shellfish (prawns, lobster, crab, etc); sesame; wheat and soy. These nine foods account for 90% of food allergic reactions in Australia.

Importantly most people who have severe food allergic reactions in Australia have them when eating food prepared by another person. Many reported reactions occur in cafes, restaurants and clubs. In recent years fatalities as a result of food purchased in a restaurant have been reported. Most times the trigger food was an actual ingredient in the food eaten and not a cross contaminant.

 

Allergy free makes good business sense

With the growing numbers of customers needing and wanting allergy free menu options, it makes good business sense for restaurants, cafes and canteens to cater to this growing market. The huge number of online reviews and resources available means that the businesses that cater for allergy free diets well are quickly known and recommended.

There are nearly 4 billion Australians eating out each year and so there is a real need for chefs, cooks and wait staff to really know their stuff about food allergies. Their customers’ lives could be put at risk by eating hidden ingredients that could trigger a severe allergic reaction.

If you feel understood and adequately cared for as a customer with food allergies, you will become their most loyal customer. Happy customers spread the word quickly.

I know firsthand what it feels like to go to a new restaurant and have nothing available to eat or drink. The other scenario is to get reassurances from the wait staff or chef that a particular menu item does not contain certain allergens and then find out after experiencing an adverse reaction to the food that the wait staff/chef were not fully aware of all the ingredients in a meal, did not understand how serious a food allergy can be and/or had not prepared the food safely.

It is critical that your requests and questions are taken seriously. In some Australian states, restaurant and cafe owners and caterers may be legally required to provide accurate information about any possible allergens in foods they are serving.

What can you do?

I’ve talked about what to do when eating out in previous posts and here again are my top tips:

  1. Always ask. Each time you ask for gluten free or allergy free food it reinforces the growing demand.
  2. Research restaurants in the area and check their websites or call to discuss your needs. This will also give you an idea of their level of understanding of gluten and allergy free dietary needs.
  3. Take the lead when going out in a group and ask the organiser if you can be involved in selecting where to eat. This will make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone on the night.
  4. Book a table in advance specifying how many gluten or allergy free guests so they can prepare for your arrival.
  5. Always pack your emergency medication or ‘kit’ in the event of contamination.
  6. Share your good experiences with friends so they know where to eat OR where to met their gluten or allergy free friends.
  7. Address contamination issues with the manager or owner only.

There are a range of resources available to the foodservice industry and you may want to share them. Anaphylaxis Australia and the NSW Food Authority have provided a guide for preparing allergy free foods, http://www.allergyfacts.org.au/images/pdf/be%20prepared.pdf. This guide was developed under NSW legislation so it’s worth checking with your own food authorities.

Some key points to remember in managing safe food preparation systems are:

  1. Develop a process for preparing foods for customers and ensure it is followed.
  2. Train your staff so they understand their obligation to declare certain allergens and other substances in food if the customer asks.
  3. Only use ingredients that are clearly and correctly labelled.
  4. Ask suppliers about their allergen management policy and ask for a Product Information Form (PIF).
  5. Establish clear procedures for rework.

Consider providing allergen information on your menu to help customers easily determine what foods they should avoid.

The guide is also very helpful if you’re preparing food for friends and family and need to cater for specific dietary needs. My previous blog on preparing food gluten free will also help here.

If you’re stuck for recipe ideas have a look at my other posts and check out my ‘Allergy Free Entertaining App’. The app provides for every allergy free diet including gluten, wheat, dairy, nut, soy and egg free as well as vegetarian, vegan, low sugar and child friendly options. You can download the app from the iTunes app store. It is also available in an Android version. For more information go to www.melindasgfg.com

Happy cooking! Melinda

3 Responses

  1. Olivia Pattison Says:

    Hi Melinda,
    I have tryed most of your products and loved every single one especially you choc brownie!! (my fave)Hope you have fun testing and finging more and more yummy products!

  2. Melinda Says:

    Thanks for your support Olivia and happy cooking!

  3. InTolerantChef Says:

    I never eat at an establishment if they can’t answer a simple ‘is this gluten free?’ If they have to go ask someone else, then there is no education going on in the kitchen and just not worth the risk!

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Melinda’s top ten tips for gluten free cooking

We’re celebrating Coeliac Awareness Week, 13 to 20 March 2012. It’s wonderful to see the growth in gluten free products available in shops, online and when eating out. I’m often asked about how to cook gluten free food and how to prepare our delicious Melinda’s goodies safely. This is a big issue for many families, including mine, especially if only one or two people in your household follow a gluten free diet.

In my home mealtimes can be frantic. Checking labels and knowing ingredients is critical but the way you cook is equally important. Even a small amount of gluten contaminating your food can have a big impact on your well-being. By following a few simple rules you can avoid cross contamination and show other family members, including your children, how to prepare and cook gluten free.

watch for cross contamination

watch for cross contamination

1. Make sure all boards, spoons and other cooking utensils are clean before preparing gluten free meals. Many families with gluten and non-gluten eaters often have two sets of commonly used items such as chopping boards, baking trays and knives. If buying a separate set of baking tins isn’t an option, try using cupcake papers or tin liners. Colour coding your kitchen items is a great way to separate them.

2. Protect against cross contamination by paying particular attention to your work surfaces and food preparation areas. Make sure there are no stray crumbs lying about.

3. Any utensils or appliances that may have come into contact with wheat sourced foods or any other gluten containing grains may be contaminated. Try to keep a separate bowl for your mixer or food processor, otherwise make sure you clean them thoroughly between uses.

4. Buy a second toaster just for gluten free bread or use the special toasty bags. It is almost impossible to clean toasters thoroughly.

5. Store gluten free items in sealed containers. Flour is so fine and can easily contaminate other food. It is best to keep your gluten free products in a different section of the cupboard.

6. Make sure all your gluten free products are clearly labelled in the fridge. Store them above any other food items so that they can’t be contaminated by stray crumbs or other contaminants falling onto them.

Melindas Sweet Premix Range

Melindas Sweet Premix Range

7. Cook our goodies first thing each day while the kitchen is clean. It will also be quieter at this point so hopefully there will be fewer mistakes such as using the same spoon (or a little person constantly requesting to lick the spoons!).

8. Invest in a set of squeeze bottles for tomato and other sauces, jam and mayonnaise. This will stop ‘double dipping’ and getting bread crumbs into the jars.

9. If you’re working with both gluten free and wheat breads (e.g. making the kids’ sandwiches in the morning), it is often better to prep the gluten free products first, then have them all finished and packed away before starting the others.

10. This one goes without saying: wash your hands thoroughly before and while preparing foods.

During Coeliac Awareness Week we’ve got some great specials on our premix and cracker range. Our fabulous luxury holiday competition runs out at the end of this month so don’t miss out!  More details about the specials and the competition are available on our website at www.melindasgfg.com.

Enjoy Coeliac Awareness Week this year and ensure you get along to one of your local coeliac events so you can enjoy some delicious goodies and conversation with likeminded friends! Go to www.coeliacawareness.org for more information.

Happy cooking

Mel

 

2 Responses

  1. InTolerantChef Says:

    Great tips indeed! I follow the colour coding idea at work. I also keep most of my gluten free bits and piesces in different pantry to avoid cross cantamination.
    Happy CA week to you!

  2. Gourmet Says:

    We use a green colour for all gluten free product preparation too.

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Any excuse for chocolate!

Love is in the air…. well this is what I’m promoting at my place!

Cherubs the world over are now busy tuning harp strings in preparation for the world’s greatest love fest – St Valentine’s Day.

Certainly there are many ways to show that special someone you care, like breakfast in bed or a surprise weekend away. But as a very wise person once said, “Flowers and champagne may set the stage, but its chocolate that steals the show.”

I love chocolate and just because you follow a gluten free diet doesn’t mean you can’t be pampered with the works.

Whether your preference be hard centres, liqueur truffles or a block of something dark and bittersweet, there are many chocolates that are gluten free to choose from. But with often unclear labelling, choosing correctly can often become a navigational minefield.

While, you don’t need to buy chocolate products with a specific ‘gluten free’ label, there are some ingredients to watch out for. The tips below will help you when deciding what chocolate products to buy:

  1. Wheat Glucose Syrup is safe for gluten free diets. A useful tip that I use when reading ingredient labels is that things ending in ‘ose’ such as glucose syrup are safe and things ending in ‘arch’ (and derived from gluten sources) such as wheat starch are unsafe.
  2. The most common unsafe ingredient is Barley Malt Extract often found in milk chocolate and is present in some brands milk chocolate product but not in their other dark or white chocolate products.
  3. Other more obvious unsafe sources include biscuit crumbs and wheat semolina, so watch out for add-ins.
  4. Finally, check all labels, even if it was safe last year (in case the ingredients have changed).

My two favourite chocolates at the moment are peppermint in any form and those delicious praline shells. My friends and I managed to devour a few boxes under the pretence of ‘coffee time’ at dinner parties over the past month.

But to be a true romantic, why not get into the kitchen and bake a gift from the heart. Our Choc Fudge Brownie mix is not only gluten free, but can also be made free from any dairy or eggs so it’s great for those with different food allergies.

And to really add the love, why not use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to create little individual treats choc-full of affection, then sandwich two halves together with a little chocolate ganache. Simply melt 150ml cream and 300g gluten free chocolate together slowly then rest until thickened.

You could create a dairy free ganache option as well using soy cream and dairy free chocolate.

Another great idea is to use our Choc Fudge Brownie mix as a base, then add just a few twists and tweaks to come up with two entirely new indulgences and chop into little bite sized bits.

To finish off our chocolate special this month have a look at some delicious variations of our favourite premix below.

Choc Fudge Brownie Pudding

A delicious chocolately fudgy pudding rich and luscious enough to warm any heart. Throw in some raspberries, serve it with cream – and you have the perfect end to a romantic gluten free dinner.

Choc Fudge Brownie & Raspberry Pudding
Choc Fudge Brownie & Raspberry Pudding  


Recipe

1 x Melinda’s Choc Fudge Brownie Premix
125ml milk
120g butter
2 x extra large eggs
1 cup fresh or frozen berries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees fan forced. Combine premix sachet one and two (choc pieces) together in a bowl. Melt butter and milk together until steaming. Lightly beat eggs with a fork. Pour steaming milk & butter into bowl and stir until combined, add eggs and stir.  Pour into medium sized casserole dish and sprinkle with berries or raspberries. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just cooked and gooey in the centre.

Choc Fudge Brownie Sprinkle Bikkies

These choc fudge brownie biscuits are so deliciously moreish it’s impossible to stop at one! Bake in the love then decorate for a fun and playful way to show you care.

Choc Fudge Brownie Sprinkle Bikkies
Choc Fudge Brownie Sprinkle Bikkies


Recipe

1 x Melinda’s Choc Fudge Brownie Premix
1 cup dessicated coconut
90g butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 packet freckle chocolates

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees fan forced. Combine premix sachet one and two (choc pieces) together in a bowl, add coconut, melted butter, milk and beaten egg (add a little more milk if needed) Roll dessertspoonfuls of mixture into balls, place on lined trays and press a freckle on top. Bake for 10 -15 minutes until cooked. Cool on trays.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day this year and even if you don’t believe in this event you can still make it an excuse to eat chocolate all month long!

Happy cooking

Mel

9 Responses

  1. InTolerantChef Says:

    Chocolate and raspberries are a match made in heaven! Perfect for Valentines day indeed!

  2. Wendy Joyce Says:

    Thankyou for your ‘blog’ – I love it, and have made quite a few of your dishes. Will be trying the chocolate bikkies, but am wondering about your comment about the ‘chocolate shells’ you ate with a friend. Could you perhaps tell me which chocolates they are ‘cos I once loved them but haven’t eaten them for years. I wanted to use them on top of your Brownie I thought to make it lovely and goey and drippy. Would appreciate to know. Wendy Joyce

  3. Melinda Says:

    Hi Wendy, thanks for your comments. My friends purchased Guylian brand. I checked their website and they have a ‘contains traces’ gluten statement but nothing in the ingredients. They confirmed shared equipment was the reason behind their statement so I was happy enough to eat and didn’t have any reaction. If you decide to try them I would love to see a photo of your praline brownie on our Facebook page when they are ready…sounds divine! Haighs make a gorgeous Hazelnut Praline Truffle with a ‘may contain traces’ statement due to processing. It’s worth a try too.

  4. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Melinda, I was just wondering why you would eat foods that have a may contain statement? As a coeliac, I would never risk eating any products that are not 100% gluten free.

  5. Melinda Says:

    Hi Jacqueline, thanks for your comment. As mentioned I contacted Guylian to investigate the ‘contains traces’ statement and was advised it was due to shared equipment. Basically the product has no glutinous ingredients but the manufacturer will not go to the level of cleaning down machines and perhaps lab testing the product like we do. My feeling is if I ruled out every food item with a ‘may contain’ or ‘contains traces’ I would be limiting my options severely. I haven’t seen any chocolate in the confectionary aisle marked gluten free but companies like Cadbury have a list on their website with products they claim as gluten free by ingredient so perhaps go for this option. Thanks Melinda

  6. Helen Says:

    OMG…our family had our first batch of Choc Fudge Brownies today. How awesome are they!!! My poor son who has the food intolerance issues will be fighting me for them, what’s left of them, lol. Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to purchase a box. Have bought the risotto cakes and muffins before but never the brownies. Definately a convert now. Thanks Melinda, off to brag about them on facebook now.

  7. Melinda Says:

    Great news Helen, you better hide some in the cupboard!

  8. Lone Says:

    Try the brand Gran’s, they make delicious creamy completely gluten free chocolate. I found it at Coles, Woolworths and Big W. Just divine. Enjoy!!

  9. Lone Says:

    Oops I forgot to mention that Toblerone (yellow pack) is gluten free also. Don’t forget to check label as I believe the new version could have gluten in it.

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Merry ‘gluten free’ Christmas

 

I wish you a merry ‘gluten free’ Christmas

The merry season is fast approaching and I know how
challenging this time can be if you need to cater for family and friends who
need an allergy free diet.

In my previous blogs I’ve talked about;

  1. The need to plan your events and to find out beforehand
    whether any of your guests have dietary needs. Include in your invitations a
    question about any food allergies or intolerances.
  2. To provide a range of food options.
  3. To label any platters/foods to avoid confusion.
  4. To have some handy recipes or easy to make allergy free products available just in case you need to provide some additional options at the last minute.
  5. If you’re a guest with food allergies or
    intolerances, let your host know ahead of time.
  6. To bring your own ‘emergency’ food supplies.

There are many more allergy free food options available now
because of the growing awareness of the prevalence of food allergies. It’s
important that guests with dietary needs don’t feel that they are a nuisance
and can enjoy themselves. With enough planning, the Christmas season can be
stress and allergy free!

 

Announcing our new luxury competition

Commencing 1 December 2011

We are very excited to announce our latest luxury competition to
thank you for supporting us.  We have teamed up with Spicers Group Luxury Retreats
http://bit.ly/hV9WLr to offer a wonderful prize to the glorious Queensland mountains.

Winner 2010 Best Luxury Accommodation in Queensland.

Spicers Peak Ridge Pool

Spicers Peak Ridge Pool

Simply purchase any two (2) Melinda’s products from any outlet
(supermarkets, independents, online or speciality retailers) and visit www.melindasgfg.com to enter.
The first prize is an all-inclusive weekend for two at Spicers Peak Lodge,
located in the Scenic Rim and only 2 hours drive from Brisbane.

Our second and third prizes are an iPad2 containing our allergy free entertaining app.

Stock up for Christmas and enter as many times as you like during
the competition.

 


My Gluten Free Pastry Quest

The merry season means lots of delicious pies, tarts and pastries.

I have loved pastry ever since I was a child and I remember vividly
my pastry distress after my diagnosis around 16 years ago. There was no
commercial gluten free pastry available and all attempts at creating a pastry
were nothing like the real thing. My Mum had my Grandma’s famous shortcrust
sweet pastry recipe which worked okay with a variety of flours. I developed my
own ‘blended’ flour six years ago and the results were very good. In my
experience blended flour mixes work much better than straight flour like rice
or potato flour products.  I particularly like soy flour as it adds a lovely texture
and non-grittiness to my baked products.

Melinda's Basic Sweet Pastry Tart Shell
Melinda’s Sweet Pastry Tart Shell

Mel’s Sweet Pastry

125g butter*
40g caster sugar
250g Melinda’s Gluten-Free Self Raising Flour
1 egg yolk
40ml milk*


Method

1. In a mixer, cream softened butter & sugar. Add yolk, milk &
flour in turns until combined. Place onto floured surface. Lightly knead &
roll out as required.

2. Blind bake in a pie dish for 5 mins. Remove
weights, continue baking for 10 mins. Fill with preferred filling.

*Use soy milk and margarine if you’re dairy free.

 

My top tips for baking gluten free pastry are:

  1. If your time poor or couldn’t be bothered trial
    the variety of pre-made brands available on the market and pick a favourite.
  2. Using our base sweet pastry recipe, trial your
    favourite flours to get the best consistency once cooked.
  3. Give the pre-made sheets and extra roll with a
    rolling pin or large glass jar as they can be too thick once cooked.
  4. Always blind bake or egg wash the pastry (shell)
    to ensure moisture doesn’t seep into the pastry and make it soggy.
  5. Use two pieces of baking paper to roll the
    pastry to as thin as you like. Gently transfer the pastry to your pie dish or
    prep board.
  6. Always use cold ingredients for home made gluten
    free pastry (butter, eggs and milk).

There are also a range of new gluten free pastry products.  I’ve included some of
them below. Some will home deliver.

The Gluten Free Bakery: http://www.glutenfreebakery.net/

Choices Bakery: http://www.choicesglutenfree.com.au/

The Pastry Pantry: http://www.thepastrypantry.com/

You can also check our online stores listed on our website for other brands available:

http://bit.ly/tGqRCL

 

More Recipes

When developing our allergy free entertaining app for the iPhone and Android I used several different
pastries to create some of our family favourite recipes.  For the festive season I’ve included my Mum’s
very popular Fruit Mince Tarts and our Traditional Meat Pie.  For all of our vegetarian friends you can
substitute the meat for more vegetables with no problems. I’ve also included my Mum’s rum balls recipe,
no pastry needed but a great Christmas treat.

Fruity Mince Tarts
Fruity Mince Tarts

Fruit Mince Tarts

1 quantity of Mel’s Sweet Pastry
180g sultanas
180g raisins, chopped
125g currants
125g seedless dates, chopped
125g seedless prunes, chopped
100g apple, peeled & grated
50g brown sugar
30g plum jam
90ml brandy or fresh orange juice

Method

 Place all mince ingredients into a kitchen whizz and pulse
blend for 30 seconds to assist in chopping. Cover tightly with wrap and store
in a cool, dark place or refrigerate for at least three (3) days before using.
Store for up to six (6) months stirring every few days.

Prepare the pastry and sit for one hour in the fridge to
rest. Roll out pastry and use a cutter to line patty tins. Cover with a small
piece of bake paper and fill with rice or baking weights and bake for 5
minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for another 5 minutes until sealed.
Fill with fruit mince and stars of pastry and bake in 170 degree oven for 15-20
minutes until slightly browned. Cool and sift with icing sugar to serve.

 

Traditional Meat Pie
Traditional Meat Pie

Traditional Meat Pie

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pieces gluten-free shortcut bacon (Hans)
1 onion
750g premium beef mince
2 tablespoons Melinda’s Gluten-Free Self Raising flour
1 1/2 cups gluten-free beef stock (Massell)
1/2 cup gluten-free tomato paste (Homebrand)
2 tablespoons gluten-free Worcestershire sauce  (Homebrand)
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 sheets gluten-free savoury pastry (Gluten Free Bakery)
Milk for glazing

Method

1. Dice bacon & onion. Heat oil in a frypan, add bacon & onion, cooking until browned.
Add beef, cook for 5 mins until well-browned & liquid evaporated. Add flour, stir for 1 min.

2. Add stock, tomato paste, sauce, herbs & mustard. Bring to the boil, reduce heat.
Cook uncovered for 10 mins or until all liquid has evaporated.  Cool.

3. Prepare pastry sheets according to packet instructions.  Press sheet in glass pie dish.
Spoon in cooked mince. Moisten edge of shell with a little milk, top with second sheet.
Trim to fit. Make four cuts around the top of the pie to allow steam to escape.
Brush with more milk.  Cook for 30-35 mins or until browned.

 

Creamy Rum Balls
Creamy Rum Balls

Creamy Rum Balls

 420g gluten free plain biscuits (crushed)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup coconut
½ cup cherries, chopped
1 tin condensed milk
½ cup powdered milk
2-3 tablespoons rum
1 ½ cups coconut (extra)

Method

Mix all ingredients into stiff dough. Chill for
1 hour. Roll spoonfuls in extra coconut.
Makes approximately 70 rum balls.
Enjoy!

 

These recipes should keep you busy for the next month so Merry Christmas, have a safe and happy break with your family and friends.

Melinda and the Melinda’s team.

3 Responses

  1. Kim Cass Says:

    wow that pastry reciepe looks easy enough for even me!! Definately going to give it a try Melinda!

    Thanks
    Kim
    Totally Gluten Free Toowoomba

  2. Cath Says:

    Thanks for this Melinda … I love your blog and products I have always been a bake from scratch girl but with our son’s coeliac dx that has changed so many things … So your products have helped when I don’t have the time to find all the ingredients for a bake from scratch!

    Thanks

  3. Helen Says:

    Going to give your pastry recipe a go for sure. Thank you for creating such a wonderful blog.

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Gluten free in the USA

I went to Orlando, Florida in July.  This was my first trip to the United States
and I was really looking forward to experiencing the culture and the food. I
packed some of my favourite gluten free bread and packets of Melinda’s gluten
free water crackers as my emergency pack and just as well I did.

Continue reading Gluten free in the USA

6 Responses

  1. Eileen Killoran Says:

    Hi Melinda,
    Firstly I have to thank you for your wonderful range of Gluten free foods. I love them.
    I know the hassles you go through when travelling. I am also lactose intolerant and so the problem is more than doubled. Some places will do one or the other but not both.
    I agree that we are quite spoilt for choice in Australia. Overseas can be a problem. In non-english speaking countries I have laminated cards that I make up on the computer in their language to explain the situation. The chefs, cooks etc are always very appreciative.
    Thanks again,
    Eileen

  2. Michele Says:

    We do tend to take our local restaurants and cafes for granted in their offering of gluten free options. It often takes travel to less “enlightened” places to remind us. It also comes back to all of us coeliacs to educate food providers(politely, of course!).

  3. Mike Says:

    Hi Melinda!

    Sorry you had some issues here. There are large chains in the US that have jumped on the GF bandwagon, but it sounds like you missed them.

    I would recommend the following the next time you come here:
    Outback Steakhouse: you do get a steak and veggies… but hey, it’s a steakhouse. 😉 They have a rice flour brownie for dessert, that is ginormous.

    PF Changs China Bistro: upscale ‘fusion’ Chinese food, with extensive offerings.

    Red Robin: A gourmet burger chain. they offer lettuce wrapped burgers and train their staff extensively on GF food handling.

    Chevy’s Mexican Restaurant. A personal favorite. The manager at our local Chevy’s not only vets the ingrediants, he looks into the ingrediants that are used in other ingrediants. They have a yummy flan (A Mexican sweet custard topped with caramlized sugar) for dessert.

    Depending on where you are, there are also regional offerings. I know of a number of places here in Portland, OR that have GF menus, and there are even some places that are entirely GF. If you’re ever here, be sure to check out either the Corbett’s or Hawthorne Fish house: their menu is almost entirely GF except for bread for non-GF sandwiches. They have an extensive GF dessert menu as well.

  4. Melinda Says:

    Thanks Mike, that will really help for my next trip. I researched before I left but I think it takes a local to know!
    Multiple allergies or intolerances would be a nightmare!

  5. Josie Says:

    I just made Melinda’s gluten free Chocolate Fudge Brownies and I must say they are the best I have ever tasted! Moist, chocolatey and soooo moorish!
    While I am not coelic, I do avoid gluten foods as I am gluten intolerant so in the health food aisle at my local Coles supermarket I often search for gluten free products that I can try out. I am so glad I stumbled across these as I will keep making them!
    Thanks Melinda!

  6. Melinda Says:

    Thanks Josie, we love our brownies too, especially with a little Toberlone sprinkled over the top before cooking!

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