Saturday, April 26, 2014

SPAIN: Sin Gluten, Sans Gluten, Sense Gluten (in Basque)

Traveling in Spain, sin gluten

            After navigating 6 cities in Spain I am happy to report that our traveling family of 3 is still alive and well.   Actually, the good news is that we didn’t get sick once and that is a blessing.  Almost everyone we talked to, save for a Chinese restaurant knew in a blink what gluten free was and gave us an honest assessment of what was in the delicacies they had prepared. There was even an organic market that made homemade bread and although they made one kind of gluten free bread, the owner was careful to tell me in Spanish that she bakes everything in the same pans and that there was likely to be cross contaminación, which brings me to another important point…. a very small portion of the people in Spain spoke English (not even those at the bus station or airport) so I don’t recommend venturing to Spain unless one in your party has a good command of the Spanish language.  Navigating everything in Spain was stressful enough and I don’t know how we would have survived without me knowing Spanish. I won’t go into detail about my husband’s stolen phone, his lost luggage, needing to change lodging at a moments notice due to cockroaches and unbearable mold, having to call apartment managers about broken toilets, and navigating wiggly roads with no signs, because this post is about eating gluten free but trust me, knowing Spanish is highly recommended.
            I can’t tell you how excited I was the first time I saw a loaf of bread sin gluten in a Madrid supermercado or a sign on a store-front in Seville that said “Pan Sin Gluten,” or in Barcelona ”Sans Gluten” and in San Sebastian “Sense Gluten” but unless you like eating gluten free bread with little more than corn starch and potato starch, that is all you will find in Spain.

Basque for GF (San Sebastian)
Notice the circle with the wheat sprig and a slash. That’s the official gluten free stamp in Spain.

As a matter of fact, all the gluten free food (bread, crackers, pasta) was made with cornstarch and potato starch. We traveled in Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Cádiz, Barcelona, and San Sebastian and the options for bread, cookies, and pasta were the same almidón de maiz y almidón de patata. I saw a few bags of whole brown rice here and there, but it was not an ingredient that was used in their GF products. I did see tapioca and white rice flour in some ingredient lists but nothing whole grain. 

One of the better tasting massed produced loaves Spain offers, according to Sarah McAtee.
Bimbos was the only other option of GF bread sold in a market but had an unacceptable taste.
This large-looking loaf weighed 13 ounces, about what a loaf of Udi's weighs
Baguette Style - Looks good, tastes mealy

            Gratefully, we stayed in apartments with kitchens and refrigerators so we were able to prepare most of our own meals. The food items I brought with me from home for our two week trip that were most helpful was two packages of Trader Joes brown rice pasta, packets of GF oatmeal, one package of Arnel’s Originals Pancake and Waffle Mix , one frozen loaf of my yummy buckwheat bread, and one package of Arnel’s Originals Buckwheat Bread Mix with a packet of yeast. Believe it or not, it was EASY to bake the bread using a fork to mix the dough and baking it at 176º C. for the usual 30 minutes. I did forget to bring a loaf pan but luckily there was a “Chino” store where I bought one for 3 euros (about $4).

Arnels Originals Organic Buckwheat Bread mixed with a fork

            What we bought there was fresh chicken (super fresh and absolutely delish!) fresh eggs, tomato sauce, brown rice, olive oil, salt, fresh fruit and vegies that were really tasty, juice, and peach marmalade.
            Generally speaking, food in Spain is expensive and the exchange rate for the dollar to euros is not in our favor (for $1 you get  .7 euros and for 1 euro it costs you $1.40). We ate out 4 times and each time it was disappointing. Even the healthy restaurant in Seville whose owner had celiac disease was unsatisfying. I ordered a “cod salad” which cost $25. I got one cut up orange with slivers of paper-thin cod draped over the orange slices and a drizzle of oil and vinegar sauce that tasted delicious. With it came two little thin GF crackers, which were on a separate plate and after consuming my meal, I was still starving. No veggies, no rice, no other food. My husband ordered a steak and there it was…a steak with the same two GF crackers. No veggies, no potatoes, no other food. We walked home $75 poorer and made ourselves dinner.
The traditional food in Spain is paella, which consists of yellow rice, shellfish, chunks of chicken, and sautéed vegies.  We hunted for GF paella only to find out that they put wheat in the sauce and they use artificial coloring to make the rice yellow, which is supposed to get its yellow hue from very expensive saffron.

Paella, which I dared not to eat.

There is, however, another traditional food, which was happily on my thumbs up list and that is called tortilla patata. A yummy mixture of potatoes and onions and egg baked like a quiche without a crust. Thank goodness for this because if you go into a bar that serves little appetizers called tapas or pintxos, it is a safe choice.
One place in San Sebastian (Basque country) called Gandaria luckily had pintxos with GF options and for 2.50 euros each; we got fish, cheese and paté on tiny slices of GF white bread. I asked the waiter to choose 6 varieties of what he liked best and the three of us shared. (See photo below). Most of them were pretty tasty so we wound up ordering 6 more, for a cost of 30 euros ($42), which just took the edge off of our hunger.

All Gluten Free

Although the primary purpose of our trip was to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, and our secondary purpose was to pick-up our daughter from her 3-month stay in Spain, I was eager to explore exporting possibilities.  Hopefully, that will come to fruition.

We started and ended our trip in Madrid, where I knew of a gluten free bakery called Celicioso located a half a block from the Gran Via metro station.  They served the most delicious gluten free pastries but their bread was….well let’s just say that although it was fresh and the best Spain had to offer it needed to be toasted and eaten right away. During the first part of the trip, I brought the owner, Santi, two lightly toasted slices of my bread that I had made 4 days earlier, which had been frozen and defrosted.  Even at that he was so amazed at the taste, texture and nutritional value, that we talked briefly about the possibilities of delivering the bread mix to his door.  I wound up leaving him a buckwheat bread mix to bake up and went on to explore other Spanish cities.   On the last day of our travels, we were back in Madrid and Santi and met I talked extensively about our importing/exporting desires and possible limitations. Santi has Celiac Disease and when he was diagnosed, he immediately thought of how he could turn lemons into lemonade and that is how Celicioso was born. The bakery is doing so well that he has plans of expanding. Currently, he and I are still ironing out the details, which are now in the hands of freight-forwarders and the exporting/importing experts.  Spain has had a tight door policy on importing from the US and although you see Starbucks, MacDonald’s, Dunkin' Donuts, and Bimbo bread, not much healthy American food has passed through their gates….up until now ; > )  All I can say is, if I can change that, I will.
Gulas with garlic, bought at the San Gabriel Market in Madrid; an Alaskan fish that is cut up in strips. GF and delicious.

Eating gluten free in Spain is definitely not trendy. It seems like the Spanish people with Celiac Disease get diagnosed quickly, and the rest of the population is knowledgeable, helpful, and respectful of their dietary needs.  You never feel like you are putting them out and that was the biggest blessing, that, and of course the strong possibility of importing my bread mix in 1000 to 10,000 pound pallets to españa.
The highlight of our trip was meeting so many delightful people. Although experiencing this historic country was amazing, we are very glad to be home.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Delicious CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES by Arnel's Originals

(Pre-heat oven o 350º and bake for 15 minutes)
(Makes 35 oz of dough or approx. 2 dozen medium sized cookies)

2 cups Arnel's Originals APFlour
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Sugar

1 x-large egg
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
3/4 cup softened Salted Butter or Earth Balance Margarine (Dairy Free)

1 cup (or more) Chocolate Chips
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients and then combine wet and dry with a fork until a smooth paste.
Add chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spoon onto an oiled cookie sheet and press cookie until about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake 15 min. in a 350º oven and place cookies on a cooling rack when edges are slightly browned.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Outrageous OATMEAL COOKIES by Arnel's Originals

Pre-heat oven to 350º
Bake for 15 minutes. Makes 40 oz of dough or 24 to 30 medium sized cookies

3 cups (gluten free) oats 
1 cup Arnel's Originals All Purpose Flour/Pie Crust Mix (there are 3 cups in the 16 oz mix)
1 cup sugar (slightly less than 1 cup)
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup oil
1 Tablespoon Molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Mix dry ingredients; mix wet ingredients, and combine them. Put spoonfuls of cookie dough on a cookie sheet, sprayed with oil. Compress and form each cookie into circles with your hand.
Bake 350º for 15 min. The edges will be slightly browned.
As soon as you take them out of the oven, transfer them gingerly onto a cooling rack. They will be very fragile when they are warm but they hold together nicely when they are cooled. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

MAKE-a-CAKE your way

FLAVOR IDEAS - See below for ideas
This is the most amazing gluten free cake mix you will ever come across. It's not only moist, but you can easily make it into any flavor (Vanilla, Chocolate, Lemon, Spice, Carrot, Marble, Chili Chocolate, Mocha, Red Velvet, etc) with a few added ingredients.

SWEETENING SUGGESTIONS -(See below for specific ideas) Did you know that about 50% of all cake mixes is made of sugar? 
For that reason, when a sweetener is added to this 16 oz mix, it can make a large 2 layer cake.       In case cane sugar does not agree with you, you have other alternatives. Below are some guidelines about the behaviors of granulated sweeteners (cane sugar, date sugar, maple sugar, etc) liquid sweeteners (agave, honey, maple syrup, etc.) and non-caloric sweeteners (Turvia, Splenda, Xylitol).

FILLING IDEAS - See below for ideas
I've also included some easy wholesome filling ideas for between the two cake layers.

MAKE-a-CAKE your way Ingredients: Brown Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour, Cassava Flour, Baking Soda, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum.

Before we begin, notice that the package contains 16 oz. of flour and calls for 4 eggs. Therefore it can make a large 2 layer cake or you can easily divide this mix into 4 parts and make 4 different cakes (6" round or 5" x 6" rectangular cakes.) The entire package can make a total of 30 - 32 cupcakes.
Exception: The chocolate cake makes a 3 layer cake or 45 cupcakes.
READY? Let's get creative ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

FLAVORS (The following proportions use the entire 16 oz package.)

VANILLA CAKE - 2 cups sugar • 4 large eggs • 1/2 cup oil • 1 cup milk • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

LEMON CAKE - 2 cups sugar • 4 large eggs • 1/2 cup oil • 1 cup liquid (juice from 4 lemons + milk = 1 cup)zest from 4 lemons   
(Variations...add some mint extract, use limes instead)

BROWNIES - 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder • 2 cups sugar • 2 eggs • 2/3 cup water • 1 cup oil (1 cup walnuts)

CHOCOLATE CAKE - 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder • 2-1/2 cups sugar • 4 large eggs • • 2/3 cup oil • 1-1/3 cups milk    
(Variations...for mocha add instant coffee, for chili chocolate add 1/2 teaspn cayenne pepper, for marble gently swirl half vanilla and half chocolate cake batter)
*The chocolate version will actually make more than a 2 layer cake.

RED VELVET CAKE - (A red velvet cake is actually made with red food coloring, vinegar, and 1/4 the amount of chocolate you'd put in a chocolate cake. Since I don't use artificial colorings, I tried making it with pomegranate juice and natural beet color. The flavor was delicious but it didn't retain its red color once baked.) Here are some general red velvet guidelines:
1 cup sugar • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder • 4 large eggs •  1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon oil • 1 cup pomegranate juice  
1 cup sugar • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder • 4 large eggs •  1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon oil • 1 cup milk • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar • red food dye

CARROT CAKE / SPICE 2 cups sugar • 4 large eggs • 1/2 cup oil • 1 cup milk •  teaspoons cinnamon  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves  • 4 cups grated raw carrots • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
(Variations... 4 cups raw grated zucchini)

Line cake pans with waxed paper and/or cooking spray and pre-heat oven to 350º
Beat wet ingredients for one minute and add to the dry. Beat everything together for one more minute. Pour batter into cake pans and bake...30 to 35 minutes (chocolate cake needs 40 minutes) or scoop batter into muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick come out clean. Cool completely before filling or frosting.

FILLINGS (between the layers of cake)

Here are a few quick/easy fillings you can use between the layers of your cake.

Fresh Fruit - 1 cup of mashed or finely chopped fruit (berries, mango, banana, etc.) + 1 Tablespoon agave syrup + 1 Tablespoon non dairy gluten free margarine (like Earth Balance) or coconut oil + a dash of sea salt to taste.

Nut Butter - 1/2 cup nut butter + 2 Tablespoons agave syrup + 1 Tablespoon Margarine

Lemon Curd - Heat the following in a pan, stirring constantly until thickened: 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup cane sugar, zest from 1 lemon, 1/4 cup lemon juice (from one lemon,) 2 Tablespoons shortening (coconut oil or margarine) Let it cool before spreading between layers or over the top of a bundt cake.

Jelly or Jam - There are deliciously natural jellies and jams that can be used right out of the jar.


Cane sugar does more than just sweeten. It helps baked goods rise with the perfect amount of air, obtain that beautiful golden crispness, and retain its moisture. Nothing else quite compares but if you are one of those people who do not handle cane sugar well, there are good alternatives but knowing how each sweetener behaves is paramount to a successful cake. Although I have given you some general guidelines, I encourage you to do your own  experimentation, and try combining cane sugar with no more than half of other sweeteners to get the benefits of both. Generally speaking, test with a toothpick about 5 to 10 minutes before the listed time for doneness.

*The sweetening amounts below are being compared to 1 cup of sugar. Please note that if you make the entire mix, you'll need 2 cups of sugar (so double what is listed.)

        In any event, here's the low-down on granulated sweeteners, liquid sweeteners, and non-caloric sweeteners.


Cane Sugar - (see paragraph above)

Date Sugar (unrefined, unprocessed, and raw) Does not melt, has a tendency to clump, sweeter than cane sugar so use 3/4 cup date sugar for one cup of cane sugar

Coconut Sugar -High in nutrients, melts easily in liquids, and has a low glycemic index (about half of what cane sugar has.) With that said, it tends to dry out your cake and adds a strong flavor of its own to your baked goods. Substitute 1 cup coconut sugar for 1 cup cane sugar.


Honey - Honey is very acidic and when cooked, it burns easily so lower the temperature to 325º and cook for about 40 minutes. Use 3/4 cup honey instead of 1 cup cane sugar and reduce the milk by 1/4 cup.

Maple syrup - use 3/4cup maple syrup + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to substitute for 1 cup cane sugar. Reduce milk by 1/4 cup. Baked goods will be denser and have a pronounced maple flavor. Reduce heat to 325º and bake 40 minutes.

Agave Syrup - Agave is a liquid sweetener from the cactus plant and has a low glycemic index (about half of what cane sugar has.) The best property of this sweetener, however, is that it helps baked goods brown, and retain its moisture. It is sweeter than cane sugar so you can use 2/3 cup agave to 1 cup sugar. Lower temperature to 325º, cook a bit longer (40 minutes) and reduce milk by 1/4 cup.

NON-CALORIC SWEETENERS - The reason why you don't find many baked goods with artificial (or non-caloric) sweeteners is because most of them either give you a foul after-taste, strong digestive upsets, or result in loosing its sweetness when heated. Because I firmly believe that most sweeteners in this category do more harm for the body than they are worth, I only experimented with the two I thought would be the gentlest: Stevia and Truvia. I will, however, give you the results of my research and experimentation:

Stevia - Most people agree that stevia, although very natural, has an strong unpleasant after taste. None the less I baked a chocolate cake with it. It turned out dry, dense, and worst of all, not sweet. Although it is the most "natural" sweetening substitute in this category, it didn't work well in baked goods.

Truvia - This is actually a combination of stevia and erythitol (which is a sugar alcohol) and although the chocolate cake I made was moister than the one with just the stevia, it still had that unpleasant after taste and questionable properties of a sugar alcohol (see below.)

Sugar Alcohols - (Xylitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol, Erythitol) Although these have no strong after tastes, these sugar substitutes tend to ferment in the intestines and cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea. If you are one of the people who have no adverse reactions to sugar alcohols, this is a great alternative. I've baked these cakes with XYLITOL and had excellent results.

Equal (asparatame) Looses sweetness when heated
Sweet One (acesulfame,) Use 12 packets = 1 cup cane sugar
Splenda (sucralose,) Use 1 cup to 1 cup,
Sweet N Low (saccharine,) 12 packets = 1 cup cane sugar

If you use these, you probably know which ones loose their sweetness when cooked, and which ones have more of a tendency to cause cancer. Before you resort to the artificial sweeteners in this category, I'd suggest you use a combination of agave syrup and coconut sugar, which both have a relatively low glycemic index.

Monday, July 30, 2012


As is with all of my recipes, this is free of gluten, dairy, corn, and soy. By using Arnel's Originals Pancake Mix for the flour, you get a marvelously moist and hardy texture which makes the zucchini bread incredibly satisfying. This recipe makes two medium sized loaves which allows you to freeze one for another day. Note: You can easily make this bread savory without SUGAR, adding onions and/or garlic. 

One package of Arnel's Originals Pancake Mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1 cup oil
3 cups grated zucchini or yellow squash
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the forst 5 dry ingredients together and set aside
In another bowl, mix the next 6 ingredients and add to the dry.

*add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts if you'd like

Pour half the mixture into two oiled or sprayed medium sized loaf pans and bake 350º for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


This deliciously decadent pie has four distinct layers  (crust, chocolate pudding, vanilla custard, and whipped topping). Because each layer is separate, it takes several hours to make but, if you are looking for a WOW after the first bite, this is the ticket. Before you begin, get a package of Arnel's Originals All Purpose Flour/Pie Crust Mix and a package of non-dairy Healthy Top whipped topping by Mimic Creme. It serves 8 to 12 people.
Allergens:  eggs, tree nuts (Healthy Top of make with almonds and cashews.)

• Prepare a gluten free dairy free crust according to Arnel's Originals directions. Bake in a 350º oven for 12 minutes. Cool

• Prepare a chocolate pudding layer as follows:
    Melt:  4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Stir in: 6 Tablespoons coconut oil or shortening
               1/2 cup fine sugar (NOT confec. sugar)
               4 egg whites, slightly beaten
               1 teaspoon vanilla extract
               1 Tablespoon sweet liquor (Amaretto, Kahlua,)
    Pour into crust and refrigerate

• Prepare custard as follows:
    Heat and stir: 1 cup of Healthy Top whipped topping
                         1/2 cup sugar
    Mix items below and then add to the above mixture, stirring constantly until thickened:
               4 egg yolks beaten
               1/4 cup Healthy Top whipped topping
               1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    Pour custard mixture into glass pie plate, set in hot water, and bake 45 minutes on 325º           until it sets. Cool and refrigerate. Loosen custard and slide on top of chocolate layer.
• Whip 3/4 cup of Healthy Top according to directions and spread onto of custard mixture. Garnish with chopped up walnuts.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gluten Free MATZO

1/3 cup flour (half potato starch, half buckwheat flour)

1/3 cup almond meal

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

1 Tablespoon flaxmeal and 3 Tablespoons hot water

(Combine the flax meal and water, and let it sit until it looks like the texture of an egg.)

3 Tablespoons margarine or shortening (Earth Balance Margarine is both GF and dairy free)

Feel free to experiment with flours, thinness of the dough, and baking methods. I use a tortilla press (a rolling pin works as well) with a golf-ball-sized dough sandwiched between waxed paper. I prefer to bake the matzoh on a cookie sheet for 10 min. on a 400* oven but putting the flattened matzoh on the griddle is another option. This recipe makes six 5" round pieces of, crunchy, dark (because of the buckwheat,) pieces of matzoh with just the right flavor and texture.