robin hood gluten free flour

Product Review – Robin Hood GF Flour

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Product Review – Robin Hood GF Flour

robin hood gluten free flour

Ahhh, baking.  As the world gradually moves towards providing celiacs with acceptable and eventually delicious alternatives to the foods missed the most (pasta and real sandwich bread topping this list), there’s the final frontier – how to find a good GF flour that comes as close as possible to behaving, and tasting, like the muffins, cakes and pies you used to know and love, even if they didn’t love you.  Unfortunately, the key to almost all delicious baked goods appears to be gluten, that sticky, stretchy protein that makes bread springy, cakes moist, and celiacs sick.  Is there a GF flour that can step up to this plate?

I’ve written in previous recipes (including an early banana chocolate chip muffin recipe available earlier on this page) about my undying love of Cup4cup brand all-purpose GF flour.  After starting the celiac way in our house with what we thought was the obligatory and budget-busting 14 kinds of starches and flours needed to make an array of recipes for homemade baking mixes that “taste just like the real thing”, it was a massive relief to discover this amazing product.  It really does perform like it’s supposed to, in all kinds of baking, and because of its remarkable ability to do that without the annoying aftertaste of xanthan gum – Cup4cup is still the standard against which all GF flour gets measured, at least in our kitchen.

Problem is, it ain’t cheap.  Yeah, you can get it on sale occasionally at Save-On Foods in Calgary, where they have an impressive array of GF options, even in the flour section, but in general, the price for a 1-kilo bag of this magic powder is a hefty $22-$26, depending on where you find it – and it isn’t available at Safeway or Co-op or Superstore yet.  So – when I ran out of the last bag we had in the pantry, and I found myself at Safeway for all my other grocery needs, not really wanting to drive way the heck out to Save-On for one thing – I took a good, hard look at a new bag of Robin Hood GF Flour nestled on the shelf among the decidedly paltry selection of GF offerings.

You see – Robin Hood was one of the early bandwagon-jumpers among the major flour producers to get into the market with their GF blend of flour.  We bought a bag, because it was reasonably priced.  But the taste and texture left way too much to be desired – gritty, metallic and heavy, to put it kindly.  We didn’t finish that bag.  So -what was different about this one?  Well – Robin Hood apparently decided that a HUGE selling point was to proudly proclaim in big letters that this was a New Formulation With XANTHAN GUM.  (Perhaps nobody there yet knows that xanthan gum is nothing more than a necessary and expensive evil, not a seductive lure).  But what you couldn’t argue with was the price.  Safeway was offering this 2-lb. (907 gram) bag for a mere $6.59.  OK – fine.  We’ll give it a try.  If it tastes lousy, not too much harm done.

Since banana chocolate chip muffins are a staple in our house, and have been made with everything from old Robin Hood to XO Bakeries to Cup4cup and a range of homemade flour recipes, we had a pretty good benchmark against which we could test this stuff.

Test number one – mixability.  OK, this passed easily.  Stirred right in, no talcum-like clouds of starch billowing forth.  Test number two – how does it rise?  Again, peering in through the oven door, everything puffed up very uniformly, with a smooth texture between the chocolate chips and oatmeal and craisins, and finally, right at the end, cracked open fetchingly just like a perfectly-baked muffin should.  Test number three – how’s the crumb?  (That’s the springiness and airiness of the finished product).  This passed, too – no leaden mass here.  Nice and springy.  But then there’s the ultimate test – how does it taste?  And I confess – I jadedly thought the first three tests were that way just because of the much touted xanthan gum.

So I took a bite.  Actually, I ate the whole muffin immediately.  The very pleasant surprise here is that Robin Hood has gotten it right.  I have to say that there was the faintest – and I mean very faintest – aftertaste of xanthan, but there’s no more grit or artificial metallic tang.  In short – this GF flour is really very good indeed – and maybe heralds a new beachhead in the battle to get GF products at a much more affordable price.   You can get away with making muffins with this, not only for yourself, but for the gluten-eaters you know and love, without them making a face.

I wonder if it would make good bread.  The nice thing is, you can now afford to experiment wildly.

 

gluten free Mixed Grill with Pineapple

Mixed Grill with Pineapple

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Mixed Grill with Pineapple

There’s a (very) short time between the last chill rains of May and the hatching of the mosquitoes in Calgary where it’s possible to sit out on the back deck for hours at a time, drinking in the late Spring sunshine without being worried about flying insects and excessive heat.  That time of year is also perfect for cleaning out the firepit and putting in some well-seasoned wood for that most timeless of ancient rituals – grilling meats over an open flame.  Any combination of meats will do for a Mixed Grill with Pineapple dinner – especially if you let them marinate in some kind of savory, sweet or spicy sauce for a few hours while you’re out there reading or dozing.  And the pineapple – skewered, dusted with sugar for a nice caramel crunch – makes a perfect, sunny dessert.  Here’s how ours turned out:

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 pork rib-end chops (these have a nice marbling of fat in them, which always lends to delicious tenderness when you grill)
  • 4 souvlaki chicken sausages (Spolumbos makes amazing sausages, of several different flavors, right here in Calgary – and they’re all Gluten Free – but use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3-4 cups of fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized chunks, and skewered.
  • 2-4 tsp white granulated sugar

Marinade for the Pork Chops:

  • 2 tbsp Thai red chili paste (Thai Kitchen makes a nice GF version)
  • 4 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 2 tbsp nuoc mam or Thai fish sauce

Marinade for the Sausage:

  • Half a bottle of Kraft Calorie-wise Balsamic Salad Dressing

Instructions:

  • Earlier in the day, blend the ingredients for the Pork Chop marinade in a glass bowl that can be covered.  Put the pork chops in there, turning them over and pressing them into the marinade so that they are well-covered.  Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for as many hours as you can before grilling.
  • Put the balsamic dressing into a glass, coverable bowl.  Make diagonal slices in the skins of the sausage, and put them into the marinade, turning them and pressing them down to get maximum coverage.  Cover and put into the fridge with the pork chops.

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  • Light a fire in the fire pit, and allow it to burn down to hot coals.
  • Cover a grill with heavy-duty foil.  You could do this over an open flame, but if you prefer a less charred supper, do it this way.

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  • Place the grill over top of the coals (when you’re ready to grill)
  • While the fire is burning down to coals, skewer the pineapple onto long skewers.  Place on a long piece of foil, and sprinkle with sugar.  Fold the foil to cover the skewers.

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  • When the fire is ready, place the meat and pineapple skewers on the foil-covered grill.  Grill both sides of the meat and pineapple until done and golden brown – approximately 6-8 minutes per side.

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Serve with steamed rice, or a baked potato.  Mixed Grill with Pineapple works with just about any combination of meat and sausage, with any marinade you can imagine.  Enjoy insect-free summer while it lasts…

gluten free Mixed Grill with Pineapple

gluten free BLT Salad

Deluxe BLT Salad

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Deluxe BLT Salad

Severe Thunderstorm Watch – three little words all Calgarians know, and which signal an important truth:  It’s finally summer, and probably too hot to cook!  One could break out the traditional suppertime cereal (again), but why not make something which hits all the flavour buttons, and calls to mind that quintessentially summery sandwich – the BLT.  Make up a Deluxe BLT Salad – by which I mean add other ingredients that may not be as sandwich-friendly (like hardboiled eggs and fresh avocado), and you’ve got a cool, delicious, filling summer dinner, while waiting for the crashing and flashing to approach from the west.

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Gluten-Free Barbecue – Big T’s BBQ, Calgary

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Let me tell you about Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse’s brisket – not even the merest hint of dryness about this notoriously lean and obstinate cut of beef. Whoever smoked this knew what they were doing (look at that pink smoke ring!). Every bite was juicy, tender, and with such a complex layer of flavors running over your tongue – that subtle, unmistakable smoke signature (sweet, because they use applewood from the Okanagan here), and the signature rub that sinks its roots deep into the meat over the 6-hour journey in their onsite smoker.

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gluten free Lemon-Dijon Chicken Pasta

Lemon-Dijon Chicken Pasta

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Now that the world is finally waking up to the fact that gluten is dangerous for a significant portion of the population, noodle makers have come around. There’s a lot of choice out there for celiacs, when it comes to pasta – but since we can afford to be picky, let’s just say it had better stand on its own merits – it HAS to be as close as possible to what you remember from your pre-celiac childhood days. Barilla Pasta thinks they have that challenge licked – let’s try a Lemon-Dijon Chicken Pasta to see if they’re right.

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Gluten Free Deli – Grumans in Calgary

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Did you know – Calgary has its very own Jewish delicatessen – and apparently, according to the reviews, one that is every bit as authentic to Bubby’s recipes as the most famous of any of them in New York City are. But is Grumans Catering and Delicatessen really celiac-friendly? You bet – everything on the menu (except the potato salad and regular bread) can be made GF – so imagine our delight in getting our hands on some real Montreal Smoked Meat!

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Gluten Free Honey-Lime Chicken Thighs

Honey-Lime Chicken Thighs

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There’s something delightfully fresh about lime in savory dishes – it’t the crowning glory of many a Mexican dish, and both Thai and Vietnamese cuisine feature this unique, sharp citrus addition. When you combine it with honey, though, it creates a whole new fresh-caramelly taste sensation – like in this simple but very satisfying Honey-Lime Chicken Thighs recipe.

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Braised Pork Mirepoix

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Today’s recipe is one of those with a fancy name, but which actually takes us back to a time and place where time, heat, and the natural goodness of vegetables and humble cuts of meat blend together and make magic in a single, sealed cast iron pot over a long, slow heat. Braised Pork Mirepoix – cook it slowly, savour it deeply, and know you’ve got what it takes, Ms. or Mr. Home Cook.

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Gluten Free Tuna Melt

Big Red Tuna Melt

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Have you noticed that the tuna part of the traditional tuna melt always seems to leave something to be desired? Today’s lunch recipe for Big Red Tuna Melt addresses that age-old problem – how to make a tuna melt that actually packs a zingy flavor punch, and powers you through your afternoon till suppertime. There’s a lunch option worth repeating!

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gluten free Romano Caprese Salad

Romano Caprese Salad

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As much as tradition might suggest that a day is not complete without meat, there are definitely both options and science that prove that you can exist quite well without eating meat every day. And if those options are exceptionally delicious and easy to prepare, like this Romano Caprese Salad, you might well find yourself indulging in a meatless Monday more often than your traditional heart might dictate.

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gluten free Chicken and Potatoes Dauphinoise

Chicken and Potatoes Dauphinoise

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Chicken and Potatoes Dauphinoise – a jazzed up, decidedly restaurant-quality take on the best blend of grainy mustard and white wine and what they do to chicken, and good old scalloped potatoes taken up a notch, and made in way, WAY under four hours like they’d normally take.

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gluten free thai beef stir-fry noodles

Thai Beef Stir-Fry Noodles

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Thai Beef Stir-Fry Noodles

I love it when I can find a cuisine that is naturally gluten-free – some part of the world that has gotten along very well, thank you, without using wheat or its gluten cousins.  What’s especially nice is when that cuisine is so varied and flavourful and ancient and highly developed that you cannot possibly become any kind of an expert at making its dishes.  Thai cuisine is that way, for me.  I am happy just to be able to find flavours that are close or reminiscent of the fantastic food I have had at Thai restaurants right here in Calgary.  What helps a great deal in this quest to make something fresh and new and vibrant for dinner is that you can count on several manufacturers to provide some of the real essential flavours in a jar or bottle, taking the load off and letting you create something delicious by adding your own vegetables, meat, and even some shortcuts.  Today we made Thai Beef Stir-Fry Noodles – with the help of good old GF-dependable McCormick – whose Thai Kitchen line of seasonings and sauces make this dish taste better than having to guess at how to copy its great flavours.

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gluten free spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs

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The next time a friend or family member gets diagnosed with celiac disease, make them spaghetti and meatballs using Gogo Quinoa brand spaghetti, and these great, delicious herb-and-garlicky behemoth meatballs. It will restore hope and reassurance that celiac is not a life sentence to mediocre food.

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gluten free stuffed bell peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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A rich, sweet bell pepper, full of crunch, meat filling that evokes the unrestrained joy of a sloppy joe, cheese to excess, (the way cheese should almost always be enjoyed), and the remarkable unforgettable riot of flavors that authentic Mexican spices impart to any dish, when applied with proper restraint… You, too, can make Stuffed Bell Peppers worth serving to people you like!

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Plantains, Gizzards and Greens

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in addition to Thai, Vietnamese and Ethiopian, there’s another set of countries that feature very tasty and nutritious dishes, also naturally gluten-free, that are just waiting their turn to burst onto the North American dining scene – and that’s the cuisine that spreads across the length of West Africa. If you’ve never had anything cooked in a bit of redolent, brilliantly orange palm oil, let me introduce you to a new dinner idea – West African Plantains, Gizzards and Greens, from Cameroon, where I grew up.

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