Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back to Baking: Cupcakes

The last time I made cupcakes, I opened a box. Now, I turn to Silvana Nardone's Cooking for Isaiah and scoop out some of my flour mixture. Oh. My. GOD!

Her "chocolate birthday cake" recipe is AMAZING! I made it without instant espresso powder because I hate all things coffee-flavored. Still amazing! Cakes are hard to share, so I took out my cupcake tins and lined them with my dwindling supply of cupcake papers and got to work. Last time I made a cake, I had lumps in the batter, which contrary to my wishful thinking, did not disappear in the baking process. I encouraged my poor taste test subject to "eat around the lumps" and I did the same. This time, I whisked together the dry ingredients THEN I took out my handy five-cup flour sifter and sifted out every blessed lump. I had perfectly smooth batter that lead to the greatest cupcakes ever! Silvana's recipe is for making a cake and I am trying to hold myself to following recipes to the letter for my first attempt, but I cross-referenced with a box of cupcakes and changed my baking time to 19 minutes and had a delicious, moist chocolate dessert. I'm pretty sure this is one of the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had and I know my cupcakes!

I did not feel like making frosting as well, since I was baking after work and my time was precious (translation: I had too many dishes to do already), so I decided to sift some powdered sugar onto the cupcakes. The result? Picture-perfect cupcakes that had the powdered sugar disappear an hour later. Note to self: do not add powdered sugar to a warm baked good.

And then the ultimate test came the next morning: bringing the cupcakes to work. I only brought 10 cupcakes into the office (enough for half of the people since I figured people might be scared to try gluten and lactose free cupcakes; many people were weirded out by the soy ice cream bars one girl brought in for my birthday the year prior) so did not bother with the office-wide e-mailed invitation to try my baked goods. I set them on the empty desk next to me and let people grab them if they liked. Everyone who tried one said they were delicious and really good. I asked one guy what he thought and if he could honestly tell me if they tasted like real cupcakes to him. He said he had no idea that they were special cupcakes and asked if he could have another. Three different people all went back for seconds! Now if that doesn't boost my baking confidence, I don't know what will!

Recovery and Grilled Cheese

Being gluten-ized sucks. I was sick with Friday's dinner, had the leftovers for Saturday and had some more for lunch on Sunday (after removing the larger pieces of meat). I was stupid to keep eating the food that made me sick, but the meal itself was so good, it was disappointing that the Italian sausage ruined it. By Sunday afternoon, I felt so horrible. I was so nauseous and was having crazy "bathroom problems", my stomach ached, my headaches worsened, the swelling on the right side of my abdomen grew, I could barely think, I wanted to crawl into bed by 6pm, and I could not eat. I cut my losses and just stopped eating for the day.
The next morning I went to Jamba Juice and started my stomach recovery. By Monday evening, I was almost back to normal. What a crazy detour! I made an easy dinner of grilled cheese.

Grilled cheese? It's on my list. When I realized I was going to be gluten-free for life, I opened up one of my basic cookbooks and made a list of everything I wanted to eat - including all of the ones I had ruled out because they would be "too hard." I used Udi's Whole Grain bread and freshly sliced goat cheese with some fresh chopped basil in between the cheese slices. I should have let the cheese melt a little more, but I have been horribly out of practice. It has probably been over two years since I stood at the stove making grilled cheese. It was really nice to be able to turn back to traditional comfort food as my stomach started healing and I began crossing items off of my food wish list.

WARNING: not everyone who is lactose intolerant can have goat cheese. I can't have any butter (which is really low in lactose levels), but I can eat as much goat cheese as I want. Here's some additional information:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Italian Sausage and Tomatoes over Noodles

Cooking with Eliot is such a joy.
“Can you cut up these tomatoes?”
“Sure. Dice them?”

I continue working on cutting about a 1/3 cup of peas from their pods. I turn around. He’s done. The tomatoes are beautiful. And I’m insanely jealous.
We were having a gluten and lactose free dinner after a busy week. We subconsciously switch who is going to plan the meal and this time it was my turn. I decided earlier in the week to just “be inspired” by whatever I saw at the Famer’s Market on Thursday in front of Daley Plaza. It was a risky move since my supply of fresh protein has been eaten and I would need to supplement whatever I bought with something from the grocery store that night…without stopping home and searching my cookbooks for the perfect recipe.
I met my cousin Rachel at the market and we went shopping! We bought rosemary plants (my rosemary never grew past ½” tall, despite being planted twice) and basil and I was still stumped over my upcoming dinner. We wandered over to the Amish vendors and Rachel started looking at their cheeses. Normally, when my shopping partner looks at breads and cheeses, I take a step back so I’m not in the way of any potential customers. This time, I looked at their selection. They had goat cheese. I bought two squares. Yay! We continued our shopping and I bought small yellow and red tomatoes, some peas, and a small bouquet flowers to decorate my table. Rachel and I talked through the menu and decided that adding Italian sausage (cooked without the casing) would be delicious – and we were right!

For this meal, it involves cooking the sausage and once the meat is done, tossing with whole small tomatoes, diced tomatoes, a few peas, and chopped fresh basil and cooked noodles over a low heat for about two minutes. We had freshly shredded goat cheese on the table to top the dish off with some needed calcium. The noodles we used were Hodgson Mill's Brown Rice Pasta - Elbow - with Golden Milled Flax Seed. They were very tasty and I recommend trying them! I also made bread that was rather meh. I added fresh rosemary to some of the bread and sprinkled some dried basil over the others to help continue the Italian flair of the meal. Eliot and I ended our meal with warm chocolate chip cookies.
And now for the warning that comes with this dish to my gluten-free friends: BUY GLUTEN FREE MEAT. Seriously. I got sick from the sausage (I ate it again the next day…just to make sure. Yup. Felt like vomiting, had too many “bathroom” issues, my energy level dropped, I was having a wave of anxiety, the next time I put food in my mouth I nearly vomit, and generally felt horrible.) I thought I could save money with grocery-store brand cheap sausage that was incidentally gluten-free based on the declared ingredients, but I was wrong. There’s a lot of meat that now comes with the gluten-free label. I’m going to switch over to organic meats when I want things like sausage that may not be labeled gluten-free (but have 6 or 8 ingredients) and see if that helps. The good news is that my reactions were rather mild and only lasted a day instead of the traditional two or three day recovery, so not all is lost. This is rather disappointing – especially since our meal was so delicious and had a really flavorful profile – both in taste and texture!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cooking for Isiah

My rule when purchasing a cookbook is I need to be able to make (or have the desire to learn to make) at least three recipes. I have started checking out cookbooks from the library first to make sure that the recipes match my cooking style and eating habits. The latest find is Silvana Nardone's Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals.

I'm ordering my own copy on amazon before the book is even due.

Most of her recipes include her flour-blend so I bought another bag of rice flour and bought a container large enough to hold her just-over-ten-cup mixture and dove right in. A flour mixture of that size is quite the investment, especially since I have only worked with smaller mixtures for individual recipes. I went in completely trusting Silvana and it was worth it.

Last Saturday, I bought some ribs (conveniently labeled gluten-free on the back of the packaging - thank you, Hormel!) I made her delicious pineapple-brown sugar barbecue sauce (omitting the hot sauce since my taste buds are not a fan) and made ribs. I have always loved ribs - they are very easy to make. At their simplest, you pour bottled sauce over the ribs on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil. But these were amazing! Once cooked, the barbecue sauce just exploded with flavor and richness.

For my side, I made double corn cornbread and hit another home run. This bread tastes like normal bread!!! My recommendation is to make sure that the corn kernels are fully cooked because otherwise they can be a bit chewy while eating. I was particularly excited by this recipe because now I have a bread to eat for Thanksgiving.
And since no meal is complete without dessert, I kept my All-American Traditional theme going with her chocolate chip cookies. When I opened the oven door, I loudly swore in complete shock: the cookies came out of the oven just like cookies are supposed to!! They rose and grew and were everything a chocolate chip cookie should be. When I gave one to Eliot, he proclaimed, "This is how a cookie is supposed to taste." This could easily be passed off as a traditional cookie.

This book is hands down the one book any lactose and gluten free cook NEEDS propped up on their counter. The book is one giant YES! If I ever have the Julie and Julia goal to work my way through an entire cookbook, this would be chosen with no other book even coming in second. Every recipe already takes into consideration the different types of milk and shortenings for cooking. The recipes are all kid tested (her son Isaiah is gluten and dairy-free) and range from traditional favorites to delicious splurges, such as s'mores pancakes. And honestly, only a mom would think to use Fritos to coat chicken tenders. Brilliant!!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pork chop, onion and green beans over noodles

After cooking all weekend (and leaving me with a backlog of posts and pictures to share), I still feel the need to cook myself a quickly and easy dinner after work. I headed to Dominicks and was going to buy whatever meat was on sale and go from there. Today, pork chops won and I grabbed about a pound of green beans.

This recipe is really easy to make - about fifteen to twenty minutes start to finish. It does dirty two pots, a pan, a cutting board, and a George Foreman grill. It has a lot of "mean whiles..." so I'll separate them by pot.

Small pot - bring to boil. Rinse your green beans and chop off the ends. Add the green beans and cook until they reach your preferred tenderness. Drain. Set aside to place in your pan.

Larger pot - bring to boil with Kosher salt. Add noodles. Follow the directions, including rinsing gluten-free pasta. Drain. Set aside.

Larger pan - chop one medium sized onion and smash two cloves of garlic. Add olive oil to pan and then onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Remove the garlic. Add the cooked green beans and about one to two tablespoons of soy sauce. Cook for another two minutes on low.

George Foreman - lightly oil the warmed plates by wiping it with olive oil on a paper towel. Add pork chop(s). Cook for a few minutes. Remove from grill and cut into smaller pieces.

Bring all the ingredients together in a perfectly plated bowl! Enjoy! And don't forget to clean your George Foreman once you are done eating! The sooner you clean it, the happier you will be.

I used La Choy Soy Sauce (some people have a gluten reaction from it - I don't) and thin rice noodles from the Asian section of the grocery store.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chili (with noodles)

Warning: this is not a purist’s version of chili.

Growing up, chili meant the meat and bean combo poured over a generous portion of elbow macaroni topped with oyster crackers. A few months ago, Eliot and I were going to make chili to ward off the cold of the Chicago winter. At the store, I asked if he had noodles. “Why?” “You need noodles for chili.” And then my worldview changed when he said that chili doesn’t have noodles. Apparently, this was a Midwestern (or at least – my family) tradition – much like putting butter on rice. I said that I still needed a starch, so picked up a loaf of bread. I was still sick at that point, so Eliot made the chili and I pretended to help. My memory of what went into his chili is sketchy (as are most of my memories from January through mid-June when my gluten intolerance reached its peak) so I turned to my cookbooks for this meal so I knew what ingredients to add.

I cooked a pound of ground sirloin, a chopped onion, two chopped cloves of garlic, and a sliced celery stalk for about 10 minutes and then drained. Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce and then some spices (I used paprika, salt, and pepper). Bring to boil and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Then add a can of beans, bring to boil, reduce to simmer for another ten minutes. Easy! The paprika substitution was because I did not have any chili powder at the time. Thanks to a Target trip today, I have remedied that situation for future dishes.

Since I was making chili MY way, I decided to try rice macaroni from the Asian grocery store. There was no gluten-free label on it, so I was hoping that the product was incidentally gluten-free thanks to the ingredient list: rice flour, water, salt. The instructions were difficult to read since they look like they were imported into a free translation website, but ultimately they had the two key pieces of information I needed: the cooking time and draining the noodles. I was originally baffled by rice noodles continually instructing to rinse in cold water after cooking, but after looking at the murky white water, I am more than happy to complete this extra step.

The chili was great – I still have not figured out an oyster cracker substitution. I have a feeling that this dish will become a fine-tuned dish with an exact recipe over the coming winter months.

Sweet Potato Fries

During my traditional Thursday lunch hour visit to the Farmers' Market at Daley Plaza, I was pleasantly surprised to find some of the first sweet potatoes this year. I bought three without any specific plans for them. I went home and searched for some ideas. There are more than plenty!

The most difficult part about making these fries was slicing the potatoes. My knife skills improved by the time I was done cutting the second potato, but I think I nearly chopped off a finger a few times! I've seen a gadget that cuts your potato for you in french fry slices, but I don't have the space (in my small studio apartment) or eat enough fries to justify that purchase...yet. For the seasoning, I did not want to commit to the House Seasoning, so I mixed much smaller portions in one of my tiny prep bowls and used that. I love reading comments about the recipe - someone mentioned using her pre-heated stoneware to cook the fries! Perfect - I've been trying to season my new Pampered Chef pizza stoneware. With an adventurous spirit, I split my fries between the stoneware (first lightly covered in oil since it is not seasoned yet) and parchment paper on a cookie sheet. I made all other variables the same and wanted to see which way had a tastier fry. The result? Exactly the same.

Oh well, at least I have some restaurant quality fries without using a deep fryer!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Three months of gluten FREE

Yesterday was my three month anniversary of regaining my health and living gluten free. I prefer to say that I am gluten free rather than gluten intolerant (my official medical diagnosis) because it puts a positive spin on my relationship with gluten – I am free from the pain that it caused and the damage it was doing on my body.

I had my colonoscopy and upper endoscopy on June 3. Once I woke up from the procedure, the doctor mentioned that my colon was normal but my stomach was red. She collected samples to biopsy me for Celiac Disease. My mom was with me and we were both hoping that her suggestion was not the answer, because another food allergy would make my life extra challenging. I went home not knowing if gluten was the culprit, so just in case, I resumed my normal diet and had two pieces of whole wheat bread as my first food in two days. I went through my cabinets and pulled out everything with wheat and started eating through gluten. After all, I was still really sick and another week of gluten could not do much more damage.

A week later, my doctor’s office called with the great news – I did not have Celiac Disease! I was actually disappointed, that meant that this was not a black and white diagnosis. I was just as sick as I was before the tests, even with the doctor prescribed antibiotic and probiotics. I did additional research on Celiac Disease and came across research about the lesser known gluten intolerance. I decided I had nothing else to lose and I was two and a half weeks away from my follow up appointment with the gastroenterologist: I was going to do an elimination and an addition diet. One week will be gluten free and the next week will be a normal amount of gluten and then I will see the doctor. I was putting off this experiment, but ultimately, the day after a large family party, I needed to call it quits. Parties are always anxiety-filled situations for me – I need to ask everyone what they added. No assumptions can be made – we are an American family who loves our butter. My mom and I made a lactose-free pasta salad and I made my always popular Crisco crinkle cookies, so I would at least have one option while everyone else had a handful. My uncle is famous for making large amounts of delicious meat and I helped myself to some amazing selection of meat on extra large rolls.

After being unbelievably sick and barely able to move the next day, I decided enough was enough: I was going to try this gluten free thing starting with dinner. By Friday I was on top of the world. I had my strength back, I was hungry, I was happy, I was full of life! These were all feelings I was missing for most of the year. I was terrified to return to the eating-gluten part of my experiment since I did not want to knowingly harm myself. To bribe myself, I went to Whole Foods and bought a package of their one ravioli that is dairy-free (I believe it was the Mediterranean herbs) – at around $5.00 it was a splurge for me. On the dreaded back to gluten day, I crashed after I ate my lunch. I did not want to go back to eating gluten if only a little amount ruined all of the progress I made that week. I ate my ravioli and had a soy-ice cream sandwich and said goodbye to gluten. That night, I had a hard time sleeping since my chest pains returned and breathing was painful. My stomach ached and I was an emotional mess. For the last time.

When I had my follow-up appointment with my doctor, there was a noticeable change in me. I was filled with questions and also bursting with excitement over the results of my experiment. My doctor agreed with my self-diagnosis and wrote in my chart “gluten intolerant” and circled it. Simple.

I am grateful to be gluten free. Food can either destroy or save me. And it has been doing a wonderful job at saving me these past few months.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy National Celiac Awareness Day!

Thanks to the many listserves I receive and the facebook pages I like, I found out that today is National Celiac Awareness Day!
My e-mail from Gluten-Free Faces advises, So enjoy the rest of your day, and maybe treat yourself to a gluten-free cupcake or other delectable in honor of National Celiac Awareness Day!
So I went home and baked a whole cake. I made Red Velvet Cake (potato-based) and half the recipe for Traditional Icing, Vanilla from Roben Ryberg's You Won't Believe It's Gluten-Free! I substituted rice milk for traditional milk with good results (I needed a little more rice milk in the icing however.) In hindsight, I think this was my first cake with icing I have ever made from scratch by myself (I'm ignoring the times I helped my mom bake - she was the driving force in the kitchen - I was merely sous chef.) The cake is very delicious and moist and does not taste gluten-free at all! My impatience got the best of me and I put the frosting on the cake before it cooled completely, but I think it adds for an artistic flair. I've always loved eating warm cake and I wanted frosting, so there you have the melted frosting look! My baking confidence is finally rising and I am no longer terrified of bad results. After all, if one recipe fails, there's always more!

For more information on Celiac disease, check out

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Basil Chicken with Italian Vinaigrette

Here's an easy and quick dinner recipe for Basil Chicken with Italian Vinaigrette - all gluten and lactose free!

2 chicken breasts
1/2 package of Oriental Style Noodles - rice noodles
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
Several fresh basil leaves
8 small tomatoes
1/2 cup of Kraft Italian Vinaigrette with Extra Virgin Olive Oil - NOTE: this lacks gluten based on my reading of their ingredient list but it is NOT labeled as gluten free.

Oil for cooking
Kosher salt
Ground pepper

For this recipe, you will need two pans and one pot going simultaneously. I've listed the steps per pan since everyone's timing will be slightly different.

Boil water with a pinch of Kosher salt for the noodles. Add the noodles and cook until softened, using the time recommendations from the packaging. Drain. Rinse in cold water if recommended by packaging.

Chop the chicken into bite size chunks. Heat oil in a pan and add chicken. Cook thoroughly.

Slice an onion and smash two garlic cloves. Heat oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic, stirring frequently. Slice small tomatoes and finely chop the basil leaves. Once the onions are translucent, remove the garlic and add the tomatoes, basil, cooked chicken, and vinaigrette. Stir. Add the cooked pasta and toss. Salt and pepper to taste.

This makes three generous servings.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tai Nam Food Market and My Asian Dinner

This morning, I continued reading "Cleaving" by Julie Powell (of "Julie and Julia" fame), which got me thinking: where is MY nearest butcher? The last time I was at a butcher was with my mom in suburbia when I was really young (ten?) to get meat for our family party. There have to be butchers in Chicago, especially some in my neighborhood, right?
So I turned to yelp.

There's quite a few butchers in Chicago and I am excited to go to a place that is exclusively a butcher (when I know exactly what I want to make before arriving - going to a butcher doesn't strike me as a I'll-decide-when-I-get-there kind of deal.) But today, I was intrigued by an Asian grocery store that I always see at the Argyle Red Line stop: Tai Nam Food Market. The yelp reviews were overwhelmingly positive and mentioned that there is a butcher, so I grabbed my shopping bag and headed there. I always forget just how close Argyle is to where I live - it seems like a whole different world - but is a two or three minute train ride. In the store, I was one of five non-Asians. I wandered up and down every aisle perusing the products. My eyes lit up when I saw their wide variety of rice noodles. I knew to be careful when buying non-American products because of allergen declaration differences (or lack of) in other countries, but I was excited to see so many noodles saying "Ingredients: Rice Flour." There were also a good number of "Ingredients: Wheat Flour" noodles, so I reassured myself that my choices were safe. I bought a few different varieties including dried tapioca slices, rice macaroni in twist and elbow varieties, and yellow rice noodles. The most expensive one was $1.25!!! Talk about a savings - I have only ever seen gf pasta for $2.00 on a super sale, it is normally +$3.00 a box or bag! I bought one of a few different varieties to make sure that I do not get sick from them before stocking up.

I bought some fresh produce and headed over to the butcher section of the store. I grabbed a chicken in a bag and as soon as I lifted it up, I saw the chicken staring back at me. No thanks. I don't like my meat to still have a face I can see. I instead got .75 pounds of pork tenderloin for $1.81 and decided I would have to stop somewhere else for a whole chicken because when I want a whole chicken, I do not really want A Whole Chicken.

Proud of myself for saving so much money by shopping at this grocery store, I detoured to their cookware section. (This is a HUGE store.) They had a really nice selection of plates, soup bowls, rice bowls and soup spoons. So I bought two of a few different things. I splurged. But the prices were right and I love the design. Besides, I am cooking a lot more Asian dishes, so I should have the appropriate dishware, right? This was the part of my shopping trip where a really sweet elderly lady came up to me and asked if I knew how to use chopsticks. I let her know that I did and she proudly told me that her grandchildren ("Who are American!") already knew how to! Seriously, did my whiteness stick out that badly? It was a really pleasant encounter - this lady probably thinks that I know nothing about Asian cooking. I'll put myself as an advanced beginner. ;-)

I headed home and began cooking my three-course dinner: appetizer, soup and main dish. All of the recipes came from "400 Thai and Chinese Delicious Recipes for Healthy Living." This was a Borders bargain section find for $7.99 (the price tag is still on it.) It's a great book with a wide variety of recipes, but my main problem with the book is that healthy living means low fat/calories (which is true for most Asian dishes). So I need to figure out ways to sneak extra calories into some of these dishes because they are really tasty and easy to cook.

I began with the Crunchy Summer Rolls using round rice papers (the ingredient that started this whole dinner.) I shredded some lettuce, julienned some carrots (my knife skills got better with each one), cooked my cubed pork tenderloin and washed some bean sprouts. I was planning on also adding mint and coriander leaves, but the flavor was a little too overwhelming for me. Rolling the wrappers was really easy after I figured out the best way to soak the rice papers. Rather than having 2-3 soak at a time, soak them individually. They really only need 30-60 seconds to soak before they are pliable and ready to use. Every time I took one out of the water to roll, I added a dry one to my bowl. Once I made a few, I placed a damp paper towel over my rolls, wrapped the plate in saran wrap and stuck them in the fridge and started the next dish.

Sometimes when I'm cooking nowadays, I choose a recipe and am about to start cooking and then really read the recipe and get stumped. I've never worked with lemon grass (or even recall eating it) before, but I found some on my shopping trip and was about to rinse them off when I realized I had no idea how to make my lemon grass "lightly bruised," let alone which parts were edible. Some quick Internet searching later, I was able to resume cooking. The soup took over three hours to make - the inital simmering takes two hours. I made a more Americanized version of the soup (sans coriander, fish sauce, and chilies) but the lemon grass still gave it a really rich texture. This was a really great tasting soup and I foresee making Chicken Rice Soup with Lemon Grass more in the future. I think I ended up with six generous servings - I love frozen leftovers!

The last thing I cooked was Chicken with Mushrooms. When I was telling my mom about the dinner I was making, she responded with "But you don't eat mushrooms." I said that "I do now." Granted, I used probably a quarter of a cup of mushrooms with three chicken breasts... This was really easy to make - it was a simple stir fry with a sherry, soy sauce and sugar mixture with chicken broth (scooped directly out of the stock pot that was sitting inches away - you don't get much fresher than that!).

Overall, I had a great dinner with recipes that I can use again - probably on their own next time because I had a LOT of food leftover! (Not to mention the amount of dishes!)

Labor Day - Brats and Breakfast

My internet has returned! So I'll be playing catch-up for a bit...Here's my Labor Day blog:

Memorial Day kicks off the start of summer and Labor Day brings it to a close.
On Memorial Day, a friend invited me to a picnic and I was going to bring beer brats. With the location just outside my building, I decided I was going to muster up the energy to attend. At that point, I was turning down almost every social activity. After working at the day job, I was too exhausted to do anything else since I was still mysteriously sick. With my day off, I was going to sauté a few onions and marinate the brats in beer to bring to the party. (Side note: I keep beer in my fridge exclusively for making beer brats – I have never been a fan of beer but love beer brats.) When the weather took a turn for the worse and started raining, the picnic was in limbo. I decided to not let the food go to waste and started up my George Foreman grill and cook some brats indoors. After my two beer brats with really good rolls, I was so sick I could not make it to the relocated indoor party. I curled up in my chair and watched TV for the rest of the day while in a lot of pain and went to bed early that night, miserable.

On Labor Day, I cooked brats on my George Foreman. This time, I halved a green pepper and cooked it for a few minutes before swapping out the peppers with the brats and cooked for six minutes. I was debating between eating the brat over a bed of the peppers and making the peppers into a “bun.” After eating sausage-crust pizza, I am willing to entertain completely non-traditional substitutes for bread. I went with the later option and cut the brat in half and had corn tortilla chips on the side.

I feel much better this holiday. I was able to get the nutrients from the food and have the energy to continue on with the rest of my day. I am grateful for my gluten intolerant diagnosis. My world has changed since the start of summer and I am back to being healthy after an almost two-year detour!

For breakfast this morning (with the day off and energy to dirty three pans, one pot, two bowls and a grater), I made French Toast, hash browns and a sautéed tomato. I used the recipes for the first two items from Cooking: A Common Sense Guide, published by Murdoch Books. The book was a $3.00 find from a bookstore in an outlet mall. I bought it a few years ago because the back of the book promised “a no-nonsense approach to creating great food”…and honestly, the pictures looked cool. I pulled the book off my shelf and laid in bed finding recipes for breakfast. I bought Udi’s Whole Grain Bread yesterday and wanted to try my hand at French Toast. Lo and behold, there was a recipe for hash browns on the same page. I love hash browns, but I consistently screw up whenever I try to make them. I’ve tried following the step-by-step recipes with pictures geared towards college boys (literally) and watching online videos, but every time, my hash browns ended up a jumbled mess of potatoes and I ate them in a bowl while dreading scraping the bottom of the pan to clear off the other half of the potatoes I grated. (My mom likely identified my recurring problem – not letting the oil get hot enough before adding the potatoes – I’m impatient.) The hash browns in this cookbook did not look like anything I have seen: they looked almost like sausage or thin hamburger patties. You halve two potatoes and cook them in boiling water for 10 minutes before grating and forming into the patty (mixed with salt and pepper) and cooking in oil for a few minutes. These were unbelievably perfect and so easy to flip. The cleanup was much easier than normal, but the pan still needed some TLC. I used a trick my friend Zac shared with me: add soapy water to the pan and let it sit on the stove on a low temperature before brushing the food away! This trick has saved my pans many times!
The French Toast was a walk in the park compared to the anticipation of the hash browns. They were made with eggs, (rice) milk, vanilla, (dairy free) butter and (gluten and dairy free) bread and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar after they were done cooking. This was my first time ever making French Toast; normally I watched as my mom cooked them for breakfast. I did quite a good job with them. On the facing page of the cookbook was a halved tomato on the side. The restaurant on the cruise ship did the same thing for breakfast and I had a bunch of tomatoes sitting on my kitchen table so with only a picture and a memory of the taste to guide me, I heated up some olive oil and sautéed the tomato, which I cut in half. I poured a glass of juice and marveled at my beautifully plated gluten-free breakfast. (I normally eat Rice Chex out of a plastic bag to kick off my morning at the day job.) This breakfast was such a treat and all of the recipes are easy to make again – especially the hash browns! The success of the hash browns overrules everything else at this point!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

(gluten free) Dijon and Tarragon Chicken

My herb garden has been growing taller than ever lately! My tarragon plant was probably 18” tall and was toppling over against the windowpane. I needed to remedy that situation so I turned towards Food Network’s recipe search and found a tarragon chicken recipe! I already had cooked chicken, so I greatly modified the steps and essentially melted (dairy-free butter) and added some cornstarch (rather than flour) before adding chicken stock, Dijon mustard, and fresh chopped tarragon with salt and pepper to taste. Then I added the precooked chicken from the microwave and stirred over medium heat until the chicken was warm. This was REALLY good and a recipe that I will be recreating a lot in the future!
When I was buying Dijon mustard, I was shocked to see how Mustard Girl’s American Dijon was labeled. The words “All Natural” are on one side of the girl and “Gluten Free” on the other. My mom was surprised because she thought Dijon mustard always WAS gluten free. All but one of the varieties from that company said “gluten free.” If I spend a few more cents on a product that takes the time to label something as gluten free, I’m sold. I even bought gluten free bacon, which invoked a similar shocked reaction from my mom since bacon is essentially bacon and salt. Is this a sign of the times? As more people are going gluten free for health reasons (Celiac disease, gluten intolerance) or for diets, food processors are paying attention. I’m excited to see how many things I can purchase in the next few years by reading the front label alone rather than dissecting the small print ingredient list on the bottom of my potential purchase!

Noodles - Two Ways

Sorry, I've been having Internet AND Jump Drive problems! Don't worry - I have been eating and cooking.

In an attempt to get better service while talking to Eliot on my cell phone, I moved to my window. The reception quickly became clear as I told him my new location. He asked about my herb garden and I responded and included a throw away comment about how I also have two tomatoes. Tomatoes? Those were not there when he was watering my plants while I was on vacation! Those came from my mom’s garden and I needed to cook with them soon before they go bad. Instantly, Eliot suggested to dice them and cook them in olive oil with garlic and some of my fresh basil and put that over pasta. Brilliant! His suggestion was MUCH better than my simple idea of diced tomatoes over pasta. This was very easy to throw together as a quick dinner – and very tasty as well! I was able to create this dinner in about fifteen minutes – from rinsing off the tomatoes to taking my first bite!
Here’s how I did it:
Dice two tomatoes (there are great instructional videos and images on the Internet – or open a can)
Slice 4 cloves of garlic
Thinly chop about 10 medium sized basil leaves
Put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the warm oil. Cook. Add the tomatoes and stir for a few minutes. Add the basil. Add some (kosher) salt and fresh ground pepper. Toss with (preheated in microwave) noodles for a minute. Serve in a bowl with grated (goat) cheese on top.

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The last time I had macaroni and cheese was probably from a blue box over two years ago. It was one of the foods I ruled out of my diet completely after becoming lactose intolerant. I never thought of doing a substitution, even though the food was a staple in my diet my first year out of college. Then Eliot dreamed up a version of the popular dish using hard goat cheese. He researched the different types of noodles and found that Tinkyada is really popular. At the time, since I was only gluten free for about a week, those were my only noodles I tried. They were good when making them with Kosher salt, but when I was doing my sous chef duties of checking on the noodles, I took one bite and asked him how me made them taste SO good! They were bursting with flavor! His secret (which I guess is no longer a secret thanks to the Internet – sorry, Eliot) was adding some olive oil to the water. I’m going to have to have him make this macaroni and cheese again so I can properly record his instructions since my attempt at recreating it based on my memory was rather meh. When I made this over the weekend, I added some pre-packaged sliced ham to help give the food some additional nutrients. I have had bad luck with deli-sliced meats, but if I buy pre-packaged lunch meats, I have no cross-contamination issues.
Once again, I love Tinkyada noodles.