Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

Sea Monsters March 16, 2013

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In the depths of the Pacific ocean…

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There live horrifying, many-tentacled creatures

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That are just chock-full of iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc

and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K!  And fiber!

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I feel like seaweed is rather underrated, just because of its odd appearance, and the fact that it is indeed called “sea-weed“.  I think they should be called “sea-greens“.  Because nutritionally, eating seaweed is very much like eating greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, collards, turnip and mustard greens.  And depending on the type of seaweed, it can often be cooked like our better-known western greens.  Soups, salads, stir-fried or sauteed, mixed with grains, beans, and other proteins…

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Such as a multi-grain tempeh.

I’ve tried a few different types of seaweed– kombu, kelp, dulse, hijiki, laver, and of course, nori, the type that is used for sushi rolling.  When it comes to preparing seaweed at home, wakame– what you see in my photos here– is my favorite so far.  It’s got a mild flavor and melds well with different condiments and spices.  And at least with the packages I’ve found, it’s hardly salty at all.  I don’t feel like I’m eating the ocean when I eat wakame.  Many seaweeds need to be boiled, rinsed, boiled again, rinsed again…  With this stuff, I just rehydrate with cool water, and drain.  Bam.  I also like that a small amount when dried yields quite a bit once rehydrated and ready to eat.  So a few bucks for a big package means a long-lasting source of a nutritious vegetable.  Rather convenient in case of emergency budgeting, or the wrath of a hurricane.

Simple Tempeh & Wakame

Ingredients:

a handful of dried wakame (you may need scissors to cut off the desired amount from the rest of the package)

1 8-oz package of tempeh*

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 an onion, thinly sliced

about 1/4 cup rice wine (or any white cooking wine)

2-3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari

2-3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

Optional: Schichimi spice blend, or a dash of cayenne and ginger

*You can also use extra firm tofu, and/or a cup or two of some cooked grain or noodles

1) In a large bowl, cover the wakame with cool water and let sit for 5-6 minutes, or until soft.  Drain, and chop into bite-size pieces.  Slice the tempeh into bite-size pieces as well.  Set aside.

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2) In a large pan or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and onion, and lower the heat to medium.  When the onion begins to soften and caramelize a bit, add the wakame and tempeh.  Cook for a few minutes, until the tempeh starts to brown.

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3) Add the wine, and allow that to simmer to a reduction.  Then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices if using.  Taste and adjust.  If the soy sauce is too strong, add more rice vinegar.  If the flavor is dull, add more soy sauce, extra spices, or some salt and pepper.

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And people think I don’t eat seafood anymore… :p

 

Down with Ketchup…? October 25, 2011

Filed under: Random — rabbit @ 9:02 pm
Tags: ,

Last night, I wore to bed a sweater, long pants, and socks.  I had two blankets, one of which is Mexican Indian style, so it’s knit super tight and does a good job keeping you warm.  But for the life of me, no matter how many buckets I was sweating, both in reality and in my dreams, I could not. Get. Warm!

Yeah, I caught something.  Something evil.  It made me partially bloaty and partially nauseous.  It made me weak, foggy, and obviously, really freakin’ cold.  You know when people in the movies are all pale and shivery and about to die, and they say, “S-so c-cold… So very, v-very cold…”?

I barely had it in me to talk.  Even text messages were pushing it.  It’s subsiding now.  I have the energy to type this, I’ve been able to eat a bit of soup, thanks to my pops.  I’m not quite so cold.  Must be one of those 24 hour things, because I started to feel the stomach discomfort around this time last night.

Stupid body.  You never get sick and suddenly last night you pull this crap?  This is not a good time to get sick!  You totally threw a wrench in my schedule! >:{

^Me, not happy.^

Anyway, in my daze of internet stumbling this evening I found an article that, more than anything, struck me as cute.  The French are rationing ketchup in schools.  I can’t help but hear a snooty little Frenchman with his nose up say that it’s  to “ensure the French children remain French” (yep, that’s an actual quote).  Granted, it’s not just a national pride thing.  According to the article it has more to do with the junk-food factor of ketchup, as well as other school lunch items- fried and salty foods, overly processed condiments, etc.  These will also be limited, while a more balanced plate will be made over to include fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  The dairy part I kinda disagree with, but because it is France… as we should all know, the French are pretty OCD compared to Americans when it comes to quality of ingredients.  Never have I seen recipes like “Frito Pie” on a French food blog.  After noticing the soaring rates of obesity and other diet-related disease in the states, I imagine the French government just winced and started examining their own public diet.  I mean, how long have American fast food chains been invading Europe?

Good thing they’re being proactive now… God forbid they come asking us for dietary help later ;)

As for American school lunches… maybe it’s just because I don’t really like the holy trinity of American condiments: ketchup, “mayo” and ranch dressing… but I don’t think it would be a bad idea to follow suit.  I remember school lunches.  Lots of rubbery textures, glue-cheese, tator-whats?  You could never seem to get enough ketchup to make up for the lack of flavor.  I think deep down, even the most gullible kids know it’s not food.  I don’t really understand how the government expects little brains to grow on plastic and MSG.  Stewpit Amaireecahns!

Anyway.  I’m still tired and my butt is sweaty.  Later.

 

My Hypothetical Argument. Part II June 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — rabbit @ 10:56 am
Tags: ,

So back to Steakerella and her predicament with cutting down on the red meat.  My first point was overall personal health.  You gotta be a little selfish with your health, right?  I mean, what good are you to others if you’re just in no good shape?  So I can’t understand why some people, despite knowing better, will neglect their health.  But I ain’t no psychologist.

Maybe we should look away from personal health, look at something that has an effect on everyone.

First off, when we see steak on the plate, we actually have very little context for it.  We’re unaware of how it got there, where it came from.  Then if we think about it, we may picture a field of cows or bulls, doin’ their thang, chewin’ their cud, and playing poker.  Alright, maybe nix the poker, but you see what I’m saying.

Then again, nix the field.  How about a gated vicinity of cows, with barely inches to move.  Hoards of them.  They’re standing around in their own waste.  The air is heavy with the stench of manure, disease, artificial hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals, which are used to combat the filth.  It’s dangerous just to stand by and breath.  And it all permeates the ground, gets into the water, even the steak on the plate.  Sure, the manure can be used as fertilizer.  Problem is, there’s so much of it (about 500 million tons a year) that the amount that’s applied often exceeds the soil’s ability to use it up.  So then it seeps into groundwater, streams, residential drinking sources, etc.  Cheers.  Then, as the truck that transports the cattle (or carcasses) burns up fossil fuels, it passes by the ever-growing “lagoon” where a slurry of farm waste resides.  The slurry is a concoction of what the animals produce, as well as the aforementioned hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, etc.  First, the slurry will release noxious gasses into the air and contribute to acid rain, as well as pollute the the surrounding earth and water.  Then, it will be used to fertilize the corn and soy that is grown strictly for feeding cows, chickens, and pigs.  And then we are supposed to eat those cows, chickens, and pigs.  Circle of life!

That’s factory farming, folks.  To keep up with the demand for meat and other animal products, the agriculture system has mutated into something far from organic or real.  In turn, it’s pretty much killing the little ecosystem we have left, as well as poisoning our food.  Natural habitats like the Amazon are slowly disappearing to accommodate factory farming.  And much of the earth’s water is used towards it as well.  Either that, or it’s as polluted as a filet mignon.  More than two thirds of the earth is dedicated to livestock and genetically modified crops for feeding that livestock, even though the livestock would never eat that stuff in nature.  Cows eat grass, not corn and soy.  But growing feed crop is cheaper and faster than the natural way.  And it certainly doesn’t matter that antibiotics, genetic modification and pesticides are encouraging the growth of resistant bacteria and cancer.

Bottom line.  The insanely excessive consumption of meat and the efforts to sustain it have contributed to: air pollution, water pollution, loss of natural habitats, and food that’s tainted with hormones/antibiotics/bacterial disease…  The earth can’t keep up with this.  When we choose to eat excessive amounts of meat (or poultry, eggs, dairy), the same thing that happens to our bodies happens to the land and water.  Natural balances and cycles are thrown out of whack.  Good organisms that perpetuate growth and health disappear, and the bad ones take over.  Things become sick and die.  The difference is that humans adapt way more quickly than the environment.  We can figure out how to deal with illness in a snap, even if it’s not good for us in the long run.  But it takes a hell of a lot longer for a forest to grow, or a river to run clean again.

Even if you don’t care about your own health, isn’t it kind of a big deal for future generations to have clean land, air and water?  Or to eat food that’s not contaminated?  Food is not just food these days.  Food has consequences.  I know it’s not easily reversible, but it’s not a lost cause.  The farmers who are doing things right– raising livestock naturally, avoiding hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, working in sync with nature to perpetuate organic cycles– they need to be supported.  I think it’s totally worth it to track down sources that sell pasture-raised animal products.  And yes, they will be more expensive.  But not only are you paying for something that’s healthier and tastes better, you’re paying for sustainability.  And yes, you will probably have to cut back your consumption of these foods due to the cost.  But that’s what I was getting at anyway…

Here, I’ll make it easier for you to track down a sustainable burger.

Also, if you’d like to see my sources for this information, and read up further, here you go.

 

My Hypothetical Argument. Part I June 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — rabbit @ 12:02 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m not into arguments.  I usually find them counterproductive, unnecessary, dumb, etc.  Magically, in the three-plus years my boyfriend and I have been together, the only thing we’ve argued about is directions, and that’s because I apparently can’t tell left from right, and he doesn’t know cardinal directions.  What’re ya gonna do?  Anyway, those arguments don’t last long.

Now, debates I like.  Anytime, anywhere.  A debate requires thought and reason, and you have to push aside your own biases the best you can.  You’re also required not to be a bitch about whatever the subject is.  That’s a good thing.

So le boyfriend was telling me a story about one of his co-workers, who we shall call… Steakerella.  Yeah, that’ll do.  Okay, so Steakerella apparently eats a lot of red meat.  Like a steak for dinner every night.  Her doctor told her that she needs to cut back to about once a week so that she can lose some weight, and of course, improve her health.  Sound advice, I’d say.

Steakerella, however, is not happy.  Understandable.  You’re used to having something all the time, it probably helps your day feel complete, and duh, it tastes delish.  She seems to feel though, that her right to happiness is being taken away when her doctor tells her, that for the sake of her health, she should cut back.  He’s not putting her on a strict diet.  He’s just saying, ration your red meat.  Still, she says, No one can take away my red meat.  When another co-worker tried to give her advice on how to make a hearty salad, she called him a hippie.

It’s probably better that I don’t know this girl.  When someone has an attitude like that towards common-sense dietary advice, it makes me feel defensive.  When I see my dad, a colon and lung cancer survivor, often make less-than-stellar food choices, I keep my mouth shut for two reasons: a) he’s not a child, and after all the books he’s read and my brother nagging him, he still doesn’t seem to want to really try, and b) I don’t want to get heated up about it and start preaching– I don’t agree with that.  So if I was in my boyfriend’s shoes, talking to Steakerella, I know I’d get unnecessarily pissed.  But I still feel it’s important to somehow, somewhere, lay out the reasons why we need to reconfigure our food system.  So I’ll do that here, in a hypothetical argument against Steakerella’s dilemma.

Point one.  If you could only see the inside of your body.  If you could talk to your arteries, your colon, your lungs, your pancreas, your stomach, and various other organs, they’d probably tell you that they often feel tired, or sick, or both.  It’s not just about losing weight.  There are plenty of hefty vegetarians out there, whether that’s their natural build, or they are also eating junk.  Red meat may be a good source of iron, B12, and some other minerals, but it also contains carcinogens.  It can also trigger our own bodies to actually produce carcinogens.  Colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer.  And yes, there are more cancers that are correlated with high consumption of red meat.  Not to mention arthritis, and various heart problems due to the saturated fat and cholesterol hanging out in the arteries.  And diabetes.

I shouldn’t have to go on about the health risks, I think the news can do that for you.  You might also want to look at the older people around you who have the same beefy diet.  How many are there?  How many have an abundance of medications in their cabinet?  How many complain about their joints, their digestion, or being tired?  Just as an example, there are reasons that traditional Asian and Mediterranean diets are associated with longer lifespans.  One of them is not the elimination of red meat, simply less.  And word on the street is that they’re generally happy.  But if you’d rather pay for your happiness through arthritis and heart meds, maybe even chemotherapy, or losing a section of your colon, then I’ll just stop here with the health reasons.

 

Mr. Peanut, the Hangman June 13, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 12:14 pm
Tags: , ,

My boyfriend just shook his head at me.

As far as I’m concerned, peanut butter goes with almost anything.  Chocolate, honey, apples, bananas, grapefruit, blackberries, strawberries, celery, tomatoes, pickles, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, chipotle hot sauce, coconut, curry…  Don’t judge me.  I just… I really love peanut butter.  I want to hug it.  (Actually, I’d like to hug the voice of Mr. Peanut, but that’s irrelevant.  Look it up if you don’t know who it is.)

I would die for peanut butter, but I know some people would die because of peanut butter.  How sad.

The causes of peanut allergies, whether mild or severe, are still pretty mysterious.  They could be due to genetic disposition, early exposure or lack-there-of to peanuts, growing up in a rather sterile environment, or perhaps even the roasting process, which strengthens the allergen(s) in peanuts.

Back in 2007, a technique of inactivating the allergens in peanuts was developed at a North Carolina university.  Whatever happened to that progress, I don’t know.  It seems to be a slow ride to get to an allergen-reduced or allergen-free peanut.  The latest news comes from the University of Florida, where a researcher has been using concentrated bursts of ultraviolet light to drastically reduce the allergens in peanut extracts and peanut butter.  Pretty neat, though I wonder if the UV light would have any other effect on the peanut?  Either way, I think it’s still gonna be a while until the peanut-sensitive can savor a Reese’s.

What I find most interesting about the article is another one of UF’s doctors indicates that “epidemiological data show an increase in food allergies over the last 20 years”.  From what I’ve seen around me, no kidding.  Between friends, family, and customers I’ve had at past jobs, it seems like everyone develops something, even if it’s just temporary.  Gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy.  What in the world?  I thought people used to eat these things with no problem.  My suspicious side thinks it has to do with the way foods are being processed. I think more global studies need to be done, comparing the types and rates of allergies, diets, food processing, and organic production versus “conventional”.  I know.  That would take forever.

But maybe it is indeed genetics, or exposure-related.  I’ve had my share, too.  As far back as I can remember, I always had an odd feeling in the back of my throat whenever I ate shrimp.  And then, before I finally gave up seafood, there was the lobster incident.  I had only eaten lobster a couple times in my life, and decided to indulge since I certainly wasn’t paying for it (monetarily, at least).  I felt feverish, itchy, nauseous, my hands felt swollen even though they appeared not to be…  I thought that maybe I was feeling similar to what the lobster felt when it was cooked.  Anywho, I took an anti-histamine and that was that, fortunately.  But yeah, no more lobster for me.  I would’ve given it up eventually anyway.

So I’m looking forward to hearing about new food allergy progress, to see if one day, the peanut no longer holds a noose over some people’s heads.  In the meantime, I going back to my jar of peanut butter.  And Mr. Peanut…

 

What’s in a name? June 6, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 11:21 am
Tags: , ,

Perhaps a lot of lies.  At least when it comes to the fish on your plate.

When you go to Bonefish Grill, can you tell if your grouper is really grouper?  I mean, it’s just white fish.  There’s lots of white fish out there.  When you order salmon because it’s wild-caught, can you taste if it’s actually farm-raised?  And what exactly is the difference between the red snapper in your sushi and perch or tilapia?

It’s okay, I wouldn’t know either.  I feel that perhaps I’m late in stumbling upon this news, probably because I haven’t eaten seafood in… I can’t even remember.  But I had no idea that there was so much seafood misnaming going on.  I mean, I expect the fast food industry to lie to us.  I’m sure we all knew before that silly lawsuit that Taco Bell does not serve straight-up beef.  And if you didn’t well… a reality check is needed.  But seafood seems like a pretty important thing to be truthful about.  I mean, at least we know when it’s real crab, and when it’s “krab”, right?  Right?

If you’re a seafood fanatic, and care about what you eat, I think it’d be a good idea to read this article.  (Actually, just read it anyway.)  It is three years old, granted, but thoroughly explains what has been going on for over thirty years, and yes, it’s still a problem.  It comes as no surprise that the FDA laws for seafood labeling are flexible, and apparently easy to walk under.  Umbrella terms and euphemisms are used to label all sorts of fish caught around the world.  Most of our seafood comes from outside the country, which allows for a lot of leeway between what the fish really is and what it’s called.  And legal or not, fisheries make way too much profit to quit.  Being fined is no big deal when the penalty is merely a fraction of what you make in a year.  It’s very possible and likely for consumers to be unknowingly eating fish that are endangered, toxic, and/or produced to us in a way that is detrimental to the environment.  Terms like “frozen fish fillet”, “cod”, and “orange roughy” mean nothing and everything– nothing in terms of standards, and everything in terms of what it really could be.  The product itself doesn’t matter, it’s the name that will sell it, because we don’t know any better.  In fact, there’s no such fish as pacific red snapper.  The FDA allows for thirteen different species of rockfish along the west coast to be sold under that name.  Even if the imposter is not harmful to you or the environment, what are you paying for?

A more recent article from Oceana breaks down the harmful effects of seafood mislabeling.  I feel it’s a slap in the face, both to honest fishermen, and to consumers who are trying to make conscious decisions, people who want to choose fish that is healthy, abundant, and has a low environmental impact.  And for those who can’t afford much of a choice in fish, it’s more like shoving their faces in the mud.  It’s amazing that people get away with this.  And if it’s happening with seafood, where else is it happening?

You wanna hear some good news, now?  It’s the reason I found the first article.  Because once that fish is beheaded, scaled, gutted, and fileted, you can’t really tell, right?  Except for DNA testing.  That’s how the fraudulence had been discovered in the first place, in university science labs.  Now, assuming the FDA follows through, routine DNA testing will be implemented, using technology that can quickly identify the genetic sequences of thousands of species.  Whoa.  That means it will be easier to target fisheries who are committing fraud, allow legitimate ones to have their honesty rewarded, and bring more product transparency to the consumer.

So the next time you open up a can of tuna… hopefully it’s really tuna, and not the Little Mermaid.

 

Mom? Where’s gluten going? May 27, 2011

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info — rabbit @ 10:19 am
Tags: , , ,

Did  you like those brownies?  Yeeesss you diiiiiid.

Were you wondering about the gluten-free thing going on with them?  Maybe.  I’ll tell you about it anyway.

I started learning about gluten a year or so ago because it seemed a lot of people were suddenly being diagnosed as gluten-intolerant or celiacs.  The gluten-intolerance is like an allergy, similar to people who are lactose-intolerant.  Eating things that contain gluten may make them bloated, give them headaches, diarrhea, affect their nutrition, etc.  Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder and has more detrimental effects on those who have it; malnutrition, weight loss, anemia, growth stunts, even miscarriage.  The whole issue of gluten sensitivities is very biologically and chemically complex, so I won’t get into that because I can’t pronounce half the terms.  There’s a lot of research still being done also, both in regards to those who are sensitive to gluten and those who can still eat it.  There’s a blip in the book Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard that talks about gluten having an opiate effect on us, which may partially explain a lot of people’s worship of breads and other baked goods.  Mmm, breeaaad…

So I decided to not only get my learn on, but also be able to provide delicious things to people who don’t get along with gluten.  I figured I veganize just about everything, so why not take it a step further and take the gluten out?

The funny thing about the pop-up occurrence of gluten-free labels is that suddenly, people who are capable of eating gluten started to think that gluten is a bad thing.  Most didn’t or don’t even know what it is.  Gluten is a naturally occurring protein in wheat, and a few other grains that are related to wheat.  Think of it as the muscle of these grains.  It’s what gives bread elasticity, like when you tear off a piece of French bread and it has that stretch.  It also lends that satisfying chew, and binds everything together.  And when you prepare foods with gluten, the more you work that muscle, the stronger it becomes.  Bread dough usually has to be kneaded for a certain amount of time so that the gluten develops properly.  Whereas if you did that to pie crust, it would come out tough, and not flaky-goodness.

So gluten is not bad, per se.  But it is rather unique.  It can be hard to replace in recipes.  Depending on what you’re making, you have to have the right proportions of protein, starch, absorption properties… oy.  I found it fortunate that I had been baking for so long and had ideas of what textures I was looking for in a final product.  After that, it’s figuring out what among your options is going to yield closest to the traditional wheat flour version.  I had to read about the different types of gluten-free flours.  I found out about their protein and starch content, the flavors they give off, etc.  Yeah, flavor is an issue.  With bean flours more than anything.  And yes, they do make flour out of beans.  Dried beans, not cooked.  Bean flours are definitely good for soft cohesion, like in a cake.  Think about their texture when cooked and mashed; they’re absorbent, have a creamy feel, and a good bind to them.  But too much bean flour and the cake will taste… beany.  And no matter how much you love beans, it’s gonna be a weird kind of beany.  But anywho, let’s look at those brownies for now.

I discovered amaranth flour a little while ago.  Faaaantastic, that amaranth flour.  It has a good amount of protein, and a soft, slightly nutty flavor which will do well with almost any baked good.  The sorghum flour is new to me, but I’ve seen a lot of gluten-free baking mixes use it.  I read that it’s nutritious and gives good flavor.  It’s also used to make syrup and beer.  I thought perhaps, that if like wheat and barley, a grain can be used to brew beer (and hopefully a decent beer), then maybe it will do well with general baking.  Plus, it’s relatively cheap.  So far, so good in brownies.  We’ll see what happens with other baked goods when the chocolate is not there to interfere with the flavor of the grain.  Tapioca starch is another commonly used ingredient with gluten-free items.  It’s made from cassava root, aka yuca, manioc, and a whole lot of other names around the world.  It has a starchy elasticity to it, and rather light flavor.  If you’ve had tapioca pearls in pudding or bubble tea (or even the cooked root itself), that may give you a little idea of why it’s ideal.  But most important in gluten-free baking are the gum powders.  In this case, guar and xanthan.  Both act as thickeners and binders.  They help to stabilize the cohesion of flours that normally wouldn’t stick together the way wheat flour can (because of the gluten, of course).  A little of both go a long way, especially xanthan.  The xanthan is super vital because of it’s elasticity.  See what happens when it’s mixed with water…

I know, crazy.  And gross-looking.  But it mimics the structure of gluten, and without it, the brownies would be crumbly and sad.  And so would I.

And that’s the story behind the brownies and their success in the absence of gluten.  If you make them and want to try other flours, DO IT.  See if you can find even better substitutes.  Let me know.  Share the love.

Personally, I have no health issues with gluten.  I can have a happy relationship with breads, pizza, pasta, pastries, and all the other foods where gluten is obvious and not-so-obvious.  But I actually have reduced my intake of gluten, to see how I feel.  And there is a difference.  My metabolism feels more efficient, my mid-section has seen a bit of a trim.  Of course, the lack of bread and other carbohydrates will do that, but it I’ve also substituted those products with more beans, nuts, seeds, fruit, and vegetables.  I really should be eating more grains like quinoa, rice, millet and oats, but I’m lazy.  I can attest, however, that when I bake something gluten-free, it feels lighter on my digestion.  My vegan treats already make a world of difference in their after-effects, but it’s great to know that there’s a way to make them even more digestible.  Big motivation to test other gluten-free recipes.  And to play with xanthan gum.