Learning to live with Celiac Disease one day at a time

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gluten Free Chips in Indonesia

Our school has just had a Christmas Bazaar, and I was pleasantly surprised to find not one, but TWO booths selling gluten free items.  If you live in a western country, this would probably be a shockingly low number, considering how the gluten-free craze is spreading.  However, that's not the case here in Indonesia.  Once in a while I run into someone who is familiar with the term gluten free, but it's usually an Ex-Patriate or someone who has lived overseas.  Usually.

One of these booths was selling Tinkada macaroni shells, and although it cost me over $8 for the bag, I reasoned myself into the sale, telling myself that I never really eat out, and non-mushy noodles would be such a treat!  It's easy to find the Australian Orgran's pasta here, but no matter which type of noodles I try, they all mush out on me.  I also treated myself to 2 bags of GF cheddar cheese powder, so I've got my weekend lunch ready and waiting:)

The one thing that I am absolutely thrilled about is the discovery of Wai Lana's cassava chips.  One of the parents in our school produces these GF snacks and exports them all over.  Sadly, they don't usually sell them in Indonesia, but I'm holding onto hope that one day they will be on the shelves.  Needless to say, I bought 10 bags of a variety of flavours, and these will be my Christmas party treats when I head out to any social events for this holiday season.  Thai Curry & Lime is my favourite, with Swiss Cheese holding a close second.  They also sell Salt and Vinegar, which I'm determined to get my hands on one day.

Thankfully, I did discover that the local grocery store does carry a similar chip, one that I have always thought was NOT gluten free, called Maxi Cassava Crackers (also sell chips, too).  Apparently these ARE gluten free, but Indonesian doesn't require the labeling and so us Celiacs would never know unless we talked to the owner herself.  They are tasty and great when you are looking for a crunchy snack.

I've read the nutritional information and neither chip/cracker is highly nutritious, but when you are looking for a snack and all that is out there is covered in gluten-based powders, these are a little piece of tasty heaven, with no MSG.  I can find them in our local HyperMart, and so I figure they should be available in other ones as well.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Go for the Gold: gluten free condensed milk and kecap manis

Sometimes I have to trust labels and know that even though they don't say 'gluten free,' without gluten-based ingredients on the list, I can eat the product.  That seems to be what I have to do here in Indonesia, and learn through trial and error.
Black Gold kecap manis:  
For the longest time I've been avoiding an Indonesian staple condiment, kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), because it contains gluten.  Just recently, after my patient husband spend a good amount of time reading the ingredient labels on every brand of kecap manis on the grocery store shelf, he discovered a wheat-free brand.  After a few trials, it seems that it is one more item that I can put on my "can eat" list.

Frisian Flag Susu Kental Manis (sweetened condensed milk) Gold:
One of my favourite sweet snacks is Granny Smith apple slices dipped in caramel sauce, and because it's such an easy recipe (see below), our family likes to eat it often.  Fortunately, after eating caramel dip and not knowing if I felt uneasy afterwards because of the unnamed stabilizers in the condensed milk, or because of the dairy, I no longer have to wonder.  If I take my lactose-intolerance tablet aids and eat caramel dip made from Frisian Flag susu kental manis, I have no symptoms.  After reading the labels of all other condensed milks, which contain a lot of unnamed stabilizers and emulsifiers, I've found that this particular brand doesn't have any stabilizers or emulsifiers to worry about.  

Easy Caramel Dip:
Buy at least three 385g cans of condensed milk, remove the labels, and place in a pot.  Cover the cans with water until the water sits just above the tops.  Boil the pot of water for at least 4 hours.  Remove the cans from the water, cool and open.   Serve with tart, sliced green Granny Smith apples.
You can also make this caramel dip in a crock pot using the same method, except boil for a bit longer than 4 hours.  I made some today in my crock pot and boiled the cans for 5 hours.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gluten Free in Nusa Dua, Bali

      Fancy a trip to Bali?  Fearful that you'll starve while you're there?  Not likely.  It's a great South East Asian destination if you plan on eating gluten free.  So many of the restaurants have an 'allergy awareness' that they don't necessarily advertise, but obviously are trained in when approached.  My husband and I took a spontaneous trip to Bali with another couple a few weeks ago, and although we were there less than 48 hours, we all returned relaxed and refreshed, and I felt "fed up" in the most absolutely wonderful way.
      Most of our eating adventures took place in the Nusa Dua NovaTel, but in the past I have had positive eating experiences elsewhere.  I always recommend taking along a few things to eat in case there's nothing available, but fresh fruit is never far away.  The first stop you want to make is the CarreFour.  I always thought that there was just one, in Denpasar, but when I googled the address, it seems that there are 2 more!  There you can find a whole variety of GF things to eat.  Another supermarket that we discovered on our last visit there with family is Hardy's, and again, it had GF goodies tucked all throughout the shelves.  It always pays to walk up and down the aisles and take a good look among all the forbidden foods.  Something good is bound to pop out!
     The inspiration to this post is my Nusa Dua NovaTel experience, where we took advantage of the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.  Of course, I brought my own bread and mostly ate fruit and salad (it's a breakfast option there...). I approached a number of people, asking if there were any small packages of jam, so that I didn't have to use the public spoon and jar option, but no one quite understood what I wanted.  Of course, I was speaking Indonesian, and that always confuses people, but I also was asking for something a little odd for this area.  At least I thought so, until the manager came up and asked me what it was I was looking for, and when I said what I wanted, he replied, "do you need gluten-free?"
Dumb me.  I should have just asked for that in the first place, considering this is a hotel that caters to expats.
      After a bit of a chat, I ordered gluten free muffins for the next morning's breakfast, and look what came to me the next day instead!  GF banana pancakes (just like Jack Johnson sings about on Curious George!), crepes, and 3 mini muffins.  Although it was quite a plate of beige, I felt very catered to, and was quite happy about the whole deal.  I would recommend a stay at the NovaTel Nusa Dua, Bali, if you are ever headed that way.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yorkshire Pudding

It's been an incredibly long time since I've written, and in that time I've been learning more about Gluten Free cooking/baking in my kitchen.  I haven't, thankfully, thrown out quite as much stuff as I did in my first year.  In fact, things are starting to taste pretty good!  Cooking/baking gluten free is not so much experimentation for me as it is elimination, because there are oodles of recipes out there to try, but not every one is worth trying a second time.  I love it when I try something from online or one of my cookbooks and it turns out lovely.  For example, tonight we had roast beef, gravy and yorkshire pudding.  It was my first attempt at the puddings, and I was thrilled.  They didn't look like the ones my mom makes, but they were fluffy on the inside, not too doughy and not too greasy.  If you're interested, check out this link on celiac.com.  I didn't have to alter anything, and they tasted like regular, wheat flour based yorkshire puddings.

Right now we're at the end of Ramadan, the month of praying and fasting for the Islamic world.  Today is the first day of Idul Fitri (our greeting for today is "Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri"), which is 2 days of celebrating the end of Ramadan (there's so much more to it...something to google!).  One of our employees brought us some traditional Indonesian foods to try, and it was a treat to be able to eat it.  We had steamed rice wrapped in banana leaf, rendang (spicy beef), and some very spicy, soupy veggies that I am not able to identify.  A super contrast to our traditional roast beef and yorkshire pudding dinner.  Right now our 14 year old daughter is in Kenya and she will be eating roast goat, with the option to drink it's blood as well.  Not my idea of the ideal meal, but hey, I just ate a hunk of beef with the fat poured all over it.  All a matter of perspective.

thanks for reading.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I'd heard rumours, and so imagine my delight when I saw it with my own eyes...Asian Home Gourmet really does make Gluten-free sauces!  It says so RIGHT ON THE PACKAGE! I can't say I jumped up and kicked my heels, but my whoop could probably be heard throughout the grocery store.  I could choose from so many Asian kinds of sauces...from Korean Bulgogi to Hainian rice, Tom Yum Soup to a variety of curries.  I've already tried the Indian butter chicken and loved it.

Making a recipe from scratch is one thing.  Usually it tastes pretty good, and it's a thrill when someone has no clue that it's the gluten-free version and loves it.  However, it's a real treat to get to open a package, add it to some cooked meat, and wah-lah, there you have your meal.  Around here, that's hard to find (ummm, unless you have a maid who whips something up from scratch...that's something that is a real treat too!).

After standing in front of the sauce package shelf for a while, I began to really check out the ingredients.  Butter chicken still passed.  Hainian rice passed.  Both said 'gluten-free' on the front...but so did the Korean bulgogi, and one of the ingredients listed on the back was "wheat flour."  Same on the majority of the other AHG packages labeled 'gluten-free.'  Unless I'm mistaken, gluten-free means no wheat, no gluten, no derivatives.  Talk about disappointing.  I was actually quite frustrated.  Why take the time to label something gluten-free when it isn't?  At least they have clearly labeled the ingredients on the back, and I didn't spend a bunch of time trying to figure out why I was hugging the toilet once again.

If you're reading this and you know something about AHG foods that I don't know, please enlighten me.  Until then, it's back to scratch for me.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just an update

I can't believe that my last post was about Christmas baking!  That's long gone, and we've been working our way through lots of cakes since.  Unfortunately, I haven't been baking as much this last month as I've started my Masters (teaching) and that's all I can wrap my head around.  However, when I procrastinate, it usually involved food, so there have been times when I've whipped up a soup, bread and baking all in the space of a few hours.  I think that all of the sitting conserves energy and then I put that into my food prep.

A wonderful friend returned from the USA the other day bearing gluten-free gifts of chocolate-covered mint Jelly Bellies, "Food Should Taste Good" tortilla crackers, and...o to fix a craving I've had for so long!...Bob's Red Mill Pizza Dough mix.  I haven't used the mix yet (the other things are almost gone...and I refuse to share these ones!) but it's on my list of 'things to procrastinate by."  The other day I tried sliced ham and didn't seem to have any kind of reaction that I know of, so I will be adding that periodically to my eating list.  There's a homemade Hawaiian pizza on my horizon!

My in-laws are coming for a 5 week visit at the end of March, and they're going to bring us some goodies.  I just need to send them a list and they'll haul it all halfway across the globe for us.  My problem is that I don't know what I should be asking for!  I would appreciate any suggestions for gluten-free mixes and crackers/cookies.  I do know that I have specifics, like more of those tortilla crackers, and some Kinnickinick pancake mix.  Delicious!

One thing I have discovered here is Orgran's gluten-free licorice.  It is really, really good black licorice, and the flavour lasts a long time.  Just finished my bag yesterday and am looking forward to the next time I head into Jakarta for a food shop.  The problem is that those kinds of things are sometimes just 'one time only' and then we never see them again.

Time to start my day.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Good Run on Recipes

Gong Xi Fa Chai..Happy (Chinese) New Year.  We have a day off of school today, and our family is spending a lot of time just relaxing.  It's been nice to have a long weekend, eating supper leftovers and the last of the Christmas baking.  Although we've had a lot of chocolate and Christmas treats, there's always room for just a little more.  We've also been finishing off some of the best recipes I've tried yet this last year.  Flourless chocolate cake is still on the top of my list, but there's a new topper that I found on another blog.  It's Fresh Cranberry Sour Cream Streusel Cake from justpinchme.com, and although that recipe uses wheat flour, I substituted a popular flour mix that I got from the "Cooking For Isaiah"cookbook. After following the very specific instructions for a "fluffy cake",  I ended up with a DELICIOUS cranberry cake that didn't even hint at gluten free.  Note:  what a treat it was to find a kilo of tiny, frozen cranberries at a grocery store in Jakarta.  I picked up some frozen raspberries, too, and we've been eating like it's summer in Canada almost every day since!

The other to-die-for recipe that doesn't taste at all like the dry, crumbly cookies I often end up with is Land O'Lakes gluten free chocolate chip cookies.  Another great treat that looks great in a glass cookie jar on the shelf, tastes great, and freezes well.  

Finally, hallelujah for a gluten free pie crust recipe that actually works.  All my life I have loved to make pies, starting with the little jam tarts that I'd make with my mom's pie crust remnants, to freezing up to 12 autumn apple pies for the winter months when my kids were little.  For months after my diagnosis, I put off trying to make a pie, and when I finally attempted it, my pie flopped.  Thankfully, since then I have found a recipe for Pie Crust on gfzing.com that has worked for me, and tastes wonderful.  It's flaky and isn't mushy on the bottom when I make a fruit pie.  I even tried it as a chicken pot pie crust and breathed a sigh of relief when it came out beautiful.  My greatest achievement was when I found some HUGE frozen blackberries (when I found the cranberries) in Jakarta, and made my husband his traditional blackberry pie for his 45th birthday.  We have had to settle for cake these last few years, and so the berry pie was a wonderful treat.  He was even able to perform our "only with blackberry pie" tradition of licking the dessert plate clean.

It's good to start the year with good news, and my good news is that I don't have to follow the advice of a well-meaning friend, who suggested I find a new hobby.  Instead, I've turned my hobby around and found a way to make it work.  I'm thankful for people who share their recipes online, and hopefully one day I'll have more delicious recipes of my own to pass on.

Thanks for reading.