Quinoa Corn Tortillas & My Gluten Free Experiment

I’ve been meaning to post these quinoa corn tortillas for what seems like forever now. This is a recipe I first made in January and they have become quite the staple at our house.

Why add quinoa to corn tortillas? For me, the motivation was two fold. First, I’ve found the addition of quinoa makes them a little more pliable and moist. Second, (and what motivated me in the first place) is that both the boys will happily eat nothing but tortillas (with Earth Balance) and fruit and call it a meal. Obviously this is less than ideal, but the addition of quinoa makes me feel a teeny bit better about it when it does happen.

In the last week, other than recovering from being sick, I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment. I read the book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health in December and it really captured my interest. Basically, the book talks about how the wheat that we eat today is very different from what people ate even 100 years ago and this difference is causing problems for many people. (I’ll try to talk more about the book in a future post for those who are interested.)

Although I have no known gluten intolerance, I had to wonder – would I feel better eating gluten free?  Would it help me lose weight?

As interesting as the idea was, I have been a bit of a non-starter with testing the theory until the last week.  Why?  Frankly, I love my bread and the idea of giving it (along with the occasional Gardein product) up was overwhelming.

As in more overwhelming than going vegan ever was. 

Finally, after feeling like crap for the better half of a month, I got into the “I’ll do anything to feel better” mode and decided to give it a try!

You know what?  It hasn’t been half bad and I haven’t felt a bit deprived.  I’ve made regular (not corn) tortillas, gluten free pizza crust, garlic bread sticks, two different kinds of cookies for the boys and of course these quinoa corn tortillas!

So – going GF hasn’t meant giving up bread at all.  (In fact – I may be eating more – I’ll have to watch that!)

And, its all been surprisingly good! Does this look like deprivation to you?

Super Yummy Recipe…Made with these Quinoa Corn Tortillas!

Do I feel better gluten free?

I think it is too soon to tell especially given how sick I’ve been.

First, its only been a week and most experts say that it can take up to a month for someone who is merely gluten sensitive to start to tell a difference in how they feel.  I will say that I haven’t had any cravings of any kind and its been very easy to eat clean the last week.

Secondly, I’m feeling a lot better right now but it could be that I’m just returning to normal.  Oh, and the hubby insisted I take the week off and recuperate so I have really been taking it easy, reading books and enjoying the boys.

So, the jury is still out but I’m planning on sticking with it for at least another month.  If nothing else, I’m becoming a half decent gluten free baker. :)

Something interesting did happen a couple of days ago and I’m not sure what to make of it. Maybe you can help me!

I was making cookies for the boys and using a recipe that called for Almond Meal and ended up being short by about 1/4 cup.  The easy solution was just to substitute wheat flour.  The kitchen was a mess at the time because I’d been cooking half the day and I ended up knocking the open bag of flour onto the counter, spilling it everywhere.  Luckily it was right next to the sink, so I just used my hand to scoop the flour into the skin.  About that time, I started sneezing so my floured covered hand went up to my face in a natural reaction.

About 30 minutes later, I was sitting outside with my husband and he asked me if I was feeling ok.  At first I wasn’t sure why he was asking but then I noticed my face was hot and my hand was itchy.  Both my face and the hand I used to clean up the flour were bright red, a little swollen and itchy.  My other hand was not effected.

An hour later I was just fine.

I have no clue if this had anything to do with the flour contact or if it was something else all together…but it did make me wonder if maybe I’m more sensitive than I thought.  Of course, I’m sure it could have been a number of other things.

Has this ever happened to anyone else and if so was it an allergic reaction to gluten or something else?

Quinoa Corn Tortilla

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12

Serving Size: 1 6-inch tortilla

Calories per serving: 82

Fat per serving: .9

Quinoa Corn Tortilla

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Masa Harina*** if you are gluten free, see note below
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 3/4 - 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pure Himalayan Salt
  • zest of 1 lime (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, combine masa harina, quinoa, salt, 1 3/4 cup warm water and lime zest. Mix well and knead with your hands until a Play-Dough like texture is achieved. Add water as needed 2 tablespoons at a time. If you get cracks in the dough when you flatten it you need to add more water.
  2. Shape dough into golf ball sized balls and cover with a damp towel while you are working.
  3. Heat a griddle, cast iron skillet or other large skillet to medium.
  4. Flatten tortillas using a tortilla press, heavy pot or rolling pin.
  5. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until the surface appears dry. Place on a plate and cover with a clean damp dish cloth and foil to keep warm. Store leftovers in a sip lock back and the refrigerator and reheat prior to serving. (Tortillas will be most pliable when fresh.)
  6. If you don't want to use all of the dough at once, it can be refrigerated for up to five days. Simply add a bit of additional water (1/4 cup) to the mixture and cover.

Notes

Carbohydrates 16.6 g, Protein 2.2 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 1 mg, Fiber 2.1 g

If using a tortilla press, I recommend cutting circles from a large plastic zip lock bag and lining your press with that.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are gluten free, please do make sure that you buy gluten free masa harina. Although the product itself is naturally gluten free, many companies (like Bob's Red Mill) process their standard masa harina in the same facilities in which they process wheat. Obviously if you are highly sensitive this is something you need to avoid. Luckily, they do offer a gluten free option which specifically states "Gluten Free Masa Harina".

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  • Mama J

    What a wonderful idea. I'm going to have to try this!

    • Wendy Polisi

      Hope you enjoy!

  • Kery

    Hi Wendy, as some one who HAD to go gluten free ( back in 1999 ) May I please give my humble advice….. it took me about 3 months to really really feel better. I would encourage you to give it at LEAST 90 days. My gastroenterologist told me that it takes that long and for some more like 6 months on a gluten free diet before they start feeling better…it takes more than 30 days to "heal the gut" At any rate, a lot of what you make is already gluten free ( and VERY yummy ! ) so I don't think it will be hard for you ;-)

    • Wendy Polisi

      Kery – That is great advice. I started out not really thinking I needed to be GF and thinking it was simply on my radar because so many of my readers are gluten free. Like maybe I was psyching myself out that I seemed to not feel good when I had a lot of gluten in my diet. But now I'm not so sure – maybe there is something to it. (Obviously I know for MANY people its a very serious issue but I guess I always assumed that it didn't impact me!) I will take your advice and give it 90 days. To be honest, I'm having a good bit of fun cooking and the only real challenge is when I find myself unprepared!

  • Tanis Gray

    It might be the flour? I know that my daughter who used to have awful migraines, and pain in her joints and back before going gluten free now has trouble at work (Dairy Queen) when she opens up the ice cream cones box and she breathes in the dust from the cones. She gets hives and feels awful, so it could be a reaction to the flour or something else, you may want to get tested for an allergy, or at least talk to your doctor.

    • Wendy Polisi

      It may be! I just didn't really think I had any type of issue but hives describes it perfectly! Sorry to hear your daughter is having issues…it is crazy just how much food impacts us all!

  • Kirsten

    I was just thinking about putting quinoa in tortillas the other day–now I can stop thinking:).

    • Wendy Polisi

      I thought about it forever…then messed it up a couple of times…but it all worked out :). Hope you enjoy!

  • Susan

    Here is a GREAT Gluten-Free Soft White Bread recipe: http://www.celiac.com/articles/455/1/Soft-White-B

    That's the ONLY bread we use. However, you have to bake it 30-35 minutes or until golden brown, not like recipe calls for. Also, if you are wanting to lose weight and/or eliminate sugar, I use honey in the yeast part of the recipe and baking Stevia or Splenda in the dry ingredients part.

    WARNING: If you EVER toast it in a skillet…you will be hooked! It is TOOOOO good that way.

    If I eat gluten products for 3 days in a row, I can hardly move because of joint pain. WHEAT IS AN INFLAMMATORY to the body, from what I have read. Especially bad if you already have arthritis.

    • Wendy Polisi

      Thanks so much for sharing Susan…I will definitely check it out!

  • Colleen

    The reaction to the flour happens to me every time I bake. But i havent been smart enough to eliminate flour from my diet. I am a private care home for seniors, butting out flour won't happen. I therefore put up with the swelling and itching etc. Hopefully it won't continue to bother you.
    Todays recipe looks great and has gone on next weeks menu.

    Thanks

    • Wendy Polisi

      Colleen – I agree the decision to staying away from flour is a tough one – especially when I haven't had a doctor suggest I do it. (Mostly because its been forever since I've been to the DR.) As far as exposure, I guess if the reactions continue I will have to either take the the whole family GF or deal with it!

  • Marie

    Hi Wendy, what tortilla press would you recommend?

  • TheBookGirl

    I am happy to see this tortilla recipe :)
    I love quinoa and like to incorporate it whenever I can.

    I am a vegetarian and at various times eaten gluten free. I find that I do feel better when I do it.

    • Wendy Polisi

      It always amazes me all the different ways I can use quinoa! Sneaking it into bread (especially for my boys) is my latest obsession. I'm hoping I find that I feel better gluten free as well! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Amy

    Hi Wendy! I just found your blog from a link a friend posted on facebook. I'm gluten, soy, and dairy intollerant, and I'm also vegan. I will definitely be trying these tortillas since the crumbliness of corn tortillas makes me sad :( _As for the reaction from cleaning up the flour…definitely possible. I make "real" bread for my husband, and while I touch/breathe the wheat flour minimally, I get a bit of a reaction afterwards. I kneed it with the kitchenaid, but I still have to divide and form the loaves with my hands, and of course their's always flour dust. _Personally it's sometimes exhausting keeping food seperate, making sure something doesn't have this ingredient or that in it…but when I get lazy I sure as heck feel the effects :(

    • Wendy Polisi

      Wow! No gluten or soy in addition to be vegan! I'm laughing because at one time I would have been one of those annoying people who said "But what do you eat" but now I'm only one step from that. I do still eat organic soy but only on occasion. One thing I've found is that when a batch of corn tortillas is a little more crumbly than normal, If I wet my hands as I'm forming them it seems to help things. Oh, and make sure that your pan is hot enough to cook them in just a minute or two a side because if you cook them too long they dry out. (Although all is not lost because you can still make chips to use with hummus and such even if they are too dry!) I know what you mean about keeping food separate- if it does turn out that I do have some sort of allergy I'm not sure how I will handle it. My boys are doing fine with the GF cookies I've made, they like the pizza crust, bread sticks and these tortillas. BUT – I've yet to find a vegan GF sandwich bread they will eat. Most recipes that people send to me and say taste good have either eggs or dehydrated milk. I've tried two recipes and both have ended up being used for breadcrumbs.

  • Nanci

    Wendy- your recipes are always a hit. I have tried to make corn tortillas before, and they always came out too dry (but I had given up because I can never get them not to stick). I love the addition of quinoa.
    My problem, however, is that they are sticking to the press (I have a similar one to yours). I tried the plastic zip bags, then I tried putting oil on the bags, then I tried white freezer paper (it's like wax paper on one side), then tried oiling the freezer paper. I even tried rolling them between 2 pieces of the freezer paper Nothing is working and I'm so frustrated because they taste so good (I am cooking the broken up ones anyway). How did you get yours to look so perfect? I followed your directions to the letter.

    • Wendy Polisi

      Nanci – It sounds like one of two things could be the issue.

      First, I have a hard time with any tortillas sticking when I try to press them too thin.  I find that I when I try to get them near the size of the press that they are so thin I can't get them off the plastic.  When they are moderately thin I sometimes will find an opening and loosen the center first and then the remainder will come off easily but to be honest I like these just fine a little thicker so I don't bother with that any more.

      The other issue could be that you need to add a little more masa harina.  The reason that there is a range of water to add is that numerous things can impact the texture of your dough.  Among them is the humidity in your home.  If you have already added the liquid an easy fix is just to add a little more masa harina.  I've even sprinkled it on the plastic (before I realized that the thickness was the problem) and had decent results.

      Hope this helps!

    • Susan

      Another thing to consider is how you are cooking your quinoa. The standard way, promoted by the manufacturer and many web sites, is to cook it like rice…2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, simmer 15 minutes and steam for 10. I find that that method often yields sticky, gummy results. Wendy's method, using much less water and cooking for longer is pure genious. I get loose, chewy but cooked quinoa that is a much better texture, and not gummy at all. If I want it even more brown rice-like, I only simmer it for 25 minutes and turn it out immediately into a sheet to cool (no steaming step. I will never go back to the old way!

  • Sarah

    My Brother-in-law read wheat belly recently and has been encouraging all of us to give wheat free a try. I have been pretty consistent for the last three months (aside from the occasional soy sauce) and have not eaten bread. I feel better – my boyfriend joined in as well and he feels better. I'm not sure if it's psychosomatic or not but I'm doing my best to keep doing it. I live in a place where the gluten free options are just so-so, I look forward to testing out this recipe. Thanks so much!

    • Wendy Polisi

      Wow – three months without bread! Not sure I could do that one :). I hear what you are saying about wondering if it is psychosomatic. I have had those thoughts as well.

    • Sharon

      Sarah..I also read a book by Dr Davis named " Loose the Wheat, Loose the Weight". I myself recently started on a wheat free journey and started a blog at http:// wheatfreelivingandme.blogspot.com where I share my weight and inch loss as I follow this lifestyle. I DO however finally eat wheat free bread (took me weeks to find a decent tasting one). There ARE wheat free bread alternatives out there. I have reviewed a few on my site where I also review other wheat free and gluten-free products that I have tried personally as well. I wish your Brother in law and all who follow him on this journey the best of luck!
      My recent post Wheat free stuffing…

  • Carla

    I heard it explained once this way: When smokers start smoking they are putting a toxin into their system and so you have a strong reaction when you start such as nasea, itching, headache, etc. After a while, the boday "adjusts" to ingesting the toxin and the symptoms of poisoning seem to go away. (Really, the toxins are still putting a huge strain on the body and the effects are either internal – not easily noticed as a direct result of smoking, or manifest themselves differently – such as a reduced immune system, fatigue, etc.)
    I think many of us who are wheat sensitive or even allergic have had this happen: Our bodies are being taxed by eating wheat and our intestines are a mess but how would we know? We seem to have had seasonal allergies or achiness or every flu and cold bug that goes around for years and years. Yet who would attribute these symptoms to eating wheat if we always have eaten wheat?And maybe there are even No symptoms at all! Once you go off wheat, you body cleanes from the allergen and heals. Then when you expose yourself to it again (like you did with the flour) you get a toxic reaction to it because it is foreign once again to the body and it reacts accordingly. (That is if you are sensitive or allergic to it, THEN you will see the reaction.) I would guess you are allergic from the reaction you got from the flour for sure!

    • Wendy Polisi

      Carla – That is such a great explanation! I never really thought of it like that but it does make perfect sense. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

  • Susan

    Several years ago, I developed palpitations and irregular heart rates, which was quite disconcerting to say the least. Doctors told me it was anxiety disorder or peri-menopause and kept trying to give me anti-depressants, which invariably made it worse. Finally, after years of frustration, I noticed that the symptoms were much worse when I had been eating lots of simple, high-glycemic carb meals. By then the palpitations happened so often that it was unbearable. I went on a low-carb diet and almost overnight the palpitations disappeared! I was delighted to discover a cause that I could actually control. However, since then I have a pretty strong reaction when I eat even a little wheat, usually in the form of a rapid hear rate and a tight chest. I’ve read that people who are allergic to wheat and didn’t know it tend to have a more violent reaction when re-exposed after abstinence. Allergic reactions manifest themselves differently in different people. Some people even yawn uncontrollably with food allergies, if you can imagine! It has something do with with inflamed air passages, I guess. Anyway, maybe we are both allergic to wheat and never knew it before giving it up! What I do know for certain is that since switching to a low-carb, healthy diet, I feel better than I have in many years. Like seriously better! Whether it’s just wheat or any grains/processed carbs, I don’t know yet. More self-testing in the works.

    Another thing to consider, and this would be highly coincidental, is whether you take iron supplements or not. Overdose of iron can cause transient facial flushing. I had that problem and when I cut back on my supplements, the hot flushing calmed right down.

    Food for though, so to speak. Good luck!

    • Wendy Polisi

      Hi Susan! It is CRAZY how we are for the most part unaware as to just how much food and food allergies can impact us. I am so glad you figured out what was causing your irregular heart rate. It makes me wonder too. In my 20s I was fit but ate what I now consider a very unhealthy diet – all carbs & wheat and not a veggie in sight. Despite being a size 6/8 I developed extreme high blood pressure (200/120) and was put on heavy duty medication. During my second pregnancy I cleaned up my diet and though I was heavier by then the high blood pressure went away. I'm not saying I think it was 100% wheat…but it is food for though as you say.

      I actually don't take iron supplements put my husband had a similar thought when it happened – he was wondering if I was taking something with Niacin.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

  • Johane

    Hi Wendy,

    Your reaction sounds like an allergic reaction. Redness, mild swelling, respiratory illness (hay fever type reaction) are typical allergic reactions. The thing you have to be careful of is anaphylactic shock, which is very rare with wheat allergies, but can occur in those who are particularly sensitive and allergic. In some, just breathing in the "flour dust" can cause a reaction known as "baker's asthma".

    There are three things that people should know about gluten related illness. First, prior to going GF, they should be tested for Celiac Disease. Although rare, it can only be properly diagnosed while on a typical gluten "rich" diet. Celiac Diesease is dangerous and can have severe consequences – severe digestive issues, cancer, infertility, to name but three of the nearly 300 diseases and disorders associated with Celiac Disease. Secondly, gluten-sensitivity (or more properly known Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance) is a medically separate and different illness when compared to Celiac Disease. Currently, there is no diagnostic test for NCGI, and only very little is known about this disease. Third, wheat/gluten allergy is more common in childhood, and children who have this allergy will often outgrow it. Wheat/gluten allergy in adults is life-long. Thankfully, one does not need to be eating gluten to have an allergy test, however it can be difficult to accurately diagnose. At least two of these (CD and wheat/gluten allergy) are immune responses to gluten. Too little is known about NCGI to know for sure if it is also an immune response at this time, although there seems to be evidence that it might well also be an immunological response.

    Hope you found this helpful. I look forward to trying your recipe.
    My recent post Comment on Thankful Thursday by Johane

    • Wendy Polisi

      Great information!  Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us!  I do wish I had been tested before I cut gluten out of my diet.

  • Gerry

    I was just looking at the Bob's Red Mill website, and it doesn't look like the Masa Harina made there is made from organic corn. If you're going to go to the trouble of going gluten free just so you can feel better, it might be a good idea to switch to organic corn as well. About 80 to 90 percent of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified, and what that means is that the corn grows with its own pesticide, BT toxin, grown right into it. This has led to gut problems in most animals that are fed with it, and, supposedly, can lead to "leaky gut syndrome" in people too. I first became aware of the issue when a sausage maker appeared on a local radio food show, and in the course of the conversation, mentioned that he can't use sausage casings from animals fed with GM grains, because they destroy the animals' intestines.

    • Wendy Polisi

      I agree completely that it would be ill advised to give up gluten and then consume GMO's. Our family consumes a 90% organic diet and I do everything I possibility can to avoid GMO's. There is no doubt in my mind that they are the cause of many of today's health problems. I actually choose Bob's Red Mill because they have a strict non-GMO policy on all of their products. You can see a statement from them here:
      http://momsvegankitchen.files.wordpress.com/2010/

      • Gerry

        Wow, that's great! I'm happy to see that. Thanks Wendy.