Saturday, September 11, 2010

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!

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