Thursday, October 28, 2010


I tried Bob's Red Mill Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pancake Mix this morning - and these were some of the best pancakes I have had in a while! They were nice and fluffy. Growing up, our pancakes were pretty thin, but these gf pancakes had some body to them. I made them with rice milk. The recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup. Since I am slow going through rice milk, I have been buying juice-box size containers, which contain one cup, and are perfect for baking without wasting any milk!

Everyone has their own stylistic way of cooking. In our family, we were only allowed to put five chocolate chips per pancake. I am still in that habit (even though as kids we would "accidentally" dump a handful of chips on the pancake when mom or dad was not looking...) We also pour the mix in the pan from a 1/8 cup or 1/4 cup for uniform pancake size. Perfect pancakes every time!

Not Alone on this Journey: Rose's Wheatfree Bakery

Based on our bus ride down Central Street in Evanston, I think that Evanstonians love their baked goods. We passed bakery after bakery until we arrived at Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery at 2901 Central Street. It was very refreshing to walk into a bakery and have our pick of baked goods. The gentleman who greeted us could probably tell that we were first timers into their shop: we were staring at all of our different options in the display cases and written on the chalkboard. He asked which one of us was gluten-free. Eliot and I simultaneously responded “We both are.” The gentleman gave us small portions of their French bread and their multi-grain bread to sample. There were bagels, loaves of bread, bagged bread crumbs, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, and so much more! Shelves were labeled as dairy free and others were vegan.

I have been gluten free for over four months now. As soon as I went gluten free and was eating with Eliot, I gave him small test portions of my food. (I do the same thing with my mom when I dine with her. I think it helps demystify the gluten free diet and let the people I am close to know that the food I am eating is just as delicious, if not better, than gluten filled foods.) Just over a month ago, Eliot decided to see if a gluten-free diet would work for him and his symptoms. It did. Now when we go out to eat, assuming the food is dairy free or tree nut free, we can sample each other’s selection. Finding food that is gluten, dairy and tree nut free can be difficult. Eliot pointed out to the ingredient lists on the breads to me, “Look!” We found plenty of options to share at Rose’s.

When making my selection, I went with a vegan dessert that I did not think I could easily make at home: a carrot cupcake. It was a little crumbly, but overall, the cupcake was very good and full of fun textures and tastes that were perfect for a fall day. Eliot had a quiche and a piece of cheesecake. And for the first time in months, I could try someone else’s food while eating out. The cheesecake was dairy free and I realized that this was the first time ever I was eating cheesecake, let alone dairy free cheesecake. My palate is expanding one bite at a time.

I thanked Eliot for coming on this journey with me. And not just the Red Line, Purple Line, Central Bus journey to the bakery! When I first went gluten free, I thought it could be very isolating. My best friend has discovered for himself that the amazing healing effect the gluten free diet has. Now the two of us are learning how to eat on a gluten free diet and we are healthier than ever!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cooking Italian - No Substitutions

One of the great creative challenges of cooking gluten and dairy free is figuring out what to substitute in a mainstream recipe. And one of the greatest joys comes in finding a recipe that requires no substitutions.

I found the recipe for Sweet and Sticky Chicken Drumsticks in Giada De Laurentiis’s Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites. What an easy recipe! The chicken legs are marinated in the refrigerator in a bag prior to cooking in the oven. The marinade is super simple and uses balsamic vinegar, honey, light brown sugar, soy sauce, rosemary, and garlic. I loved her pictures of the plating, so I toasted some sesame seeds and chopped fresh parsley from my windowsill to garnish. As soon as the chicken went in the oven, I started my rice cooker. I tried to flavor it with some balsamic vinegar, but I did not use enough, so the rice was pretty standard. This was a winning marinade and tasted delicious!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Why do I love Chipotle?

Let me count the ways:

1.Flour Tortillas
3.Sour Cream

That is EVERY single item on their menu that is forbidden on a gluten and dairy free diet. If you have only one intolerance, I bet you can guess which food is still good for you! And I bet you can still create thousands of different satisfying meal combinations with those small restrictions!

Stolen from their website:

Gluten Intolerance/Celiac Disease
Most people wanting to avoid gluten can eat anything we serve except for our large and small flour tortillas, and possibly our red tomatillo salsa (there is a small amount of distilled vinegar in it which some gluten-oriented websites still say might be problematic, although most don’t).
Everything else is fine to eat for most people wanting to avoid gluten, including our crispy corn tacos and our corn chips.

However, you should know that it’s possible our corn may have a small amount of gluten from potentially co-mingling with gluten-containing grains in the field. If you are highly sensitive and would like us to change our gloves, we would be happy to do that at your request. Additionally, because our folks work with wheat tortillas all day long, there may be the possibility of cross-contact in our restaurants. We encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices.

Chipotle holds a special place in my heart and stomach. A year ago when my stomach was on the mend from going dairy free, I was able to eat three tacos, chips and a small drink. Around January, I was only able to have one and a half or two tacos as my appetite disappeared. Forget about those chips! And now, I can once again have three (crispy) tacos (with a bag of chips and guac when I am especially hungry). Soon after going gluten free, I wrote Chipotle an e-mail saying how much I love their food and how I appreciate their variety of full meals on an allergen restricted diet. At the time, I was accidentally glutenized, so I was nearly crying when I wrote my e-mail because I thought it was so beautiful that their menu naturally was so accommodating. Now, I’m just happy to go in and have safe food. I have never left a Chipotle hungry! (Except for when I take my food to go on nice summer days…)

My preferred way to order at Chipotle is to use their online ordering. It is pretty amazing to completely skip the fast-moving line during the lunch rush and just walking up to the counter to get your food. Now, I know both of the guys who work the fax and web orders at Chipotle, so at this point, all I have to do is add a note in the comment section to “change gloves” and they make sure that my food is safely prepared with fresh gloves! (If your Chipotle food makers do not know your order by heart, I recommend adding a note WHY you want them to change their gloves for a higher level of comfort.) I have also gone through the line and have had no issues when asking people to change their gloves – they are more than happy to do so!

The food there is pretty amazing. Their fan base is insane! In college, people drove over half an hour to get to Chipotle. On their facebook page, people are constantly suggesting that they open a Chipotle in their home town. I’m lucky that now I just need to walk to the other side of my block at work to eat healthy, naturally raised meats and super fresh vegetables in overflowing portions. Since I eat there once a week, my current challenge to myself is to keep trying new foods at Chipotle. As a picky eater, my first Chipotle order was flour tortillas with chicken and cheese. Nothing else. Clearly, that was years ago, but my loyalty to their chicken has stayed fairly constant. A standard order for me now is the crispy tacos with chicken, rice, fajita vegetables and salsa. Sometimes I’ll add beans or even go veggie for an order and have their freshly made guac on my tacos! I have yet to be disappointed with a meal from Chipotle.

And as if I didn’t love Chipotle enough, this Halloween, their promotion is for a $2.00 burrito, bowl, salad, or tacos if you come dressed as a horrifying processed food product. The proceeds go to help Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. The catch is that you have to go to Chipotle after 6pm on Halloween (and come in a costume). (Check store hours!) Both Chipotle and Jamie are committed to fresh ingredients and moving away from our society’s heavy consumption of horribly processed foods. I strongly believe in both of their missions. Now I just need to find a costume…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Spaghetti

Sunday lunches are the worst for me. By the time I get home from church, it is two o’clock and I am starving. My lunches tend to be small and uninspired, leaving me room to play and cook an amazing dinner or a loaf of bread. So here is proof that one can eat quickly with food allergies. My final time? Twenty minutes from walking in the door to sitting down with my camera in one hand and a fork in the other.

Boil water with Kosher salt and extra virgin olive oil. Turn the heat as high as it goes and add the lid to make it boil faster. Once boiling, add a box of De Boles Gluten Free Multi Grain Spaghetti Style Pasta made with Rice, Quinoa and Amaranth ($2.00 a box on sale at Whole Foods.)

Wait a little while after adding the pasta before opening a can of grocery store brand Italian Style diced tomatoes. Add to a pan and heat over medium for a few minutes.

The pasta should be done after 12-15 minutes. Then drain and rinse the pasta. Combine the pasta and tomatoes. Optional: add soft cheese (I used a goat cheese with sundried tomatoes and other herbs already added) and stir. Enjoy!

I was able to cheat and use tomatoes and goat cheese that were already flavored. Times like this are when I appreciate life’s little conveniences. I really need to start using my slow cooker more – I could have lunch ready to eat by the time church is over if I plan it well! (And wake up early enough to have lunch in the cooker before 8:45am…)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mashed Potatoes

Eliot is the one who called it: we save our Friday nights for leisurely cooking great food together. Last night’s meal was flank steak cooked on the George Foreman, steamed broccoli tossed with lemon juice and olive oil with a generous serving of mashed potatoes.

We started with the potatoes first: Eliot quickly chopped the potatoes. Now I’m the one who is going to call this tradition: the hungrier we are, the more we let Eliot use the knives. I’m still much slower than he is with cutting, but I take the opportunity to watch and learn. It is my own live cooking show in my kitchen! We turned to the creamed olive oil-mashed potatoes in Cooking for Isaiah for the recipe. Instead of walnut oil, we used additional extra virgin olive oil. I then stole a trick from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef and finally found a use for the chives I have been growing on my windowsill all summer long.

I’m excited to find great tasting and easy mashed potatoes. Lately, my extended family has been working around my food intolerances. When I was just dairy free, we always reserved some of the cooked potatoes before they went into the stand mixer with large amounts of milk and butter. I added a pat of dairy-free vegetable spread to my non-mashed potatoes instead while everyone else dug into their mashed potatoes – a huge family favorite. This year, my family should be prepared for mashed potatoes made with rice milk! The Cooking for Isaiah recipe was very delicious and bursting with flavor. I think it will be finding a way into our family parties soon…

I Can Have Candy! Smarties

Last year, I took being dairy free pretty hard. I was really upset that so much food contains milk. Especially sweets. Growing up, I would have about a pillowcase of candy from trick-or-treating and would only eat Hershey’s (plain) milk chocolate, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat bars, Rice Krispies, pretzels, Smarties, Sprees, pretzels and cookies. Everything else was “traded” with my brother and sister or “donated” to my mom. During Halloween time, I picked up bag after bag of treats only to find milk or “may contain traces of milk” plastered on everything. It did not help that I kept checking the chocolate sweets. And then I found Smarties. Finally, “normal” candy! As much as I was enjoying my very rich dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s, I was thrilled to buy a commercially available, recognizable treat.

I was cleaning my cabinets and checking expiration dates on my food when I came across a mostly empty Smarties bag:

Smarties contain none of the following common allergens: gluten (from wheat, barely, oats and rye), soybeans, milk, eggs, peanuts, nuts, seeds, fish, shellfish, or mollusks.

This was a very exciting find! (Even if my bag is a year old and the best by date is still another two years out…) When presented with a Halloween candy bowl, I can easily find this popular candy and enjoy!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eating in Season: Spaghetti Squash and Apples!

When I arrived at Eliot’s house with ingredients for our dinner, I proudly presented a spaghetti squash I bought from the Farmer’s Market. I had no idea what make WITH the dish, I merely focused on the squash aspect of our meal. I left that part of the meal in Eliot’s capable hands while I waited for my squash to finish cooking in the oven. Spaghetti squash does not have the familiar taste of spaghetti, but looks an awful lot like it (and when you do not cook it until tender, as I learned the week prior, it can have a crunch to it.) It really ought to be called Squash Spaghetti – it is first and foremost a squash, secondly a fun spaghetti alternative. If you have not tried spaghetti squash, you really should! It is now in season and you can get a good price on it – I’ve seen them for 99 cents a pound up to $1.99 a pound for organic.
After we devoured our spaghetti squash with his marinara, Eliot and I wanted dessert. Desserts can be tricky when trying to make them gluten, dairy, and tree nut free. We continued with our extremely healthy meal with more Famer’s Market finds: apples! And a fresh jar of peanut butter! (Side note: if you are gluten free or you are feeding someone who is gluten free, make sure to use a new or a dedicated peanut butter jar. Most people like to scoop peanut butter onto bread and then put that same knife into the jar – that now has bread crumbs!) Here are the recipes from our dinner:

Michelle’s Spaghetti Squash
One spaghetti squash (2.5-3 pounds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse and dry spaghetti squash. CAREFULLY slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Put aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Place the squash halves face down on the foil. Stab the outside of squash (about ten times?) with a fork. Cook for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is tender. Do not overcook. Let the squash cool for a few minutes before turning it into spaghetti. To turn it into spaghetti, take a fork and scrape the inside of the squash. Instant spaghetti! Serve with Eliot’s Garlic Tomato Oregano Rosemary Marinara.

Eliot’s Garlic Tomato Oregano Rosemary Marinara
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Minced Garlic
San Marzana Italian Peeled Tomatoes (one can)
Dried Oregano
Chopped Fresh Rosemary

With a high temperature stove, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a pan with a bit of Kosher salt. Once the oil is hot, add the fresh minced garlic. As soon as the garlic has a fragrant smell and is aromatic, add the peeled tomatoes and stir. Let the marinara bubble vigorously for a little while then reduce the heat to medium and then to simmer (the length of time for the drop in temperature depends on your stove – whether it is gas or electric). While this is simmering, stir in dried oregano and fresh rosemary (or another Italian blend of your choosing). You can always add more salt to taste as this point.

This really is one of those “to taste” recipes. Add as much or as little of the above ingredients as you prefer! Garnish with fresh herbs.

Micheliot’s Peanut Butter Apple Dessert

Peanut Butter
Dark Chocolate (really make sure to read the label on this one if you have food allergies or intolerances)
Dried Cranberries

Rinse and dry the apples. Cut the apples with one of those nifty apple slicers. Beautifully arrange on a plate or bowl. Drizzle peanut butter on top. Add freshly grated dark chocolate on top. Halfway through eating after Michelle puts her camera away, add dried cranberries to the remaining slices of apples.

Why yes, I DO love free food!

I went to the University of Chicago’s Celiac Screening and their Question and Answer session with the experts. I learned a lot more about Celiac disease and how people are eating on a gluten-free diet. My results from blood work in February and a biopsy in June were both negative for Celiac disease. I am, however, gluten intolerant. Was I on my way to developing Celiac disease? Did the biopsy miss it? I don’t know and at this point, it doesn’t matter: I’m gluten free. My body responds wonderfully to a gluten free diet. If I have something with trace amounts of gluten or was cross-contaminated (again – trace amounts), I get sick for two or three days before my body restores itself to normal. There are so many great resources for those who are gluten free. I feel bad for those people who were gluten free years ago – now we have the luxury of seeing “gluten free” on the front of packaging and the public is (slowly) becoming more informed and aware so dining out is easy (or easier). And the taste of the food? Absolutely amazing!!! As much as I love collecting papers and brochures (I can be a hoarder in that sense), I love tasting and trying so many new foods! There were a lot of different vendors at the Celiac event – Udi’s bread, General Mills, Enjoy Life, San-J, Bakery on Main, Apple’s Gluten Free Kitchen…the list goes on! I tried millet seed bread, whole grain bread, tomato soup, sausage patties, crackers, cookies, dipping sauces, No Oddles, (soy) buttered popcorn! People were walking around with plates full of food and most people were grabbing the pizza as soon as it came to the table)! It was a room full of people “yes” to food! Since I am gluten and dairy free, there were some no’s for me, but there almost always tended to be something dairy free from a vendor that I could try and things were either very clearly labeled or the people were extremely knowledgeable. It was so great to only need to ask about one allergen! I left the event with a full stomach, a purse nearly bursting with gluten-free information and snacks, and the comfort in knowing that I am not doing this alone. It’s a big gluten free world out there and I am always excited to meet new people! Especially when food is involved!

Hands down, the best thing I took away from the event was a Gluten/Casein Free grocery guide. I already have a gluten free version from a different company but I still needed to read labels to check for dairy. The book is $24.95 from – there are Gluten-Free, Gluten/Casein Free, and Gluten/Casein/Soy Free versions of the book available! There are eight different types of baking chips/chocolate chips. That’s huge for someone who cannot have milk chocolate and sees milk fat or whey listed in almost every bar of dark chocolate! This book has found a permanent home in my purse due to its compact size and its ease for use in the grocery stores!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Battle Tofu

If you are going to learn to love a new food, it is best to turn to an expert. I needed to introduce tofu into my repertoire of foods and there is no better person for the job than a vegetarian! We not-so-creatively dubbed our dinner: Battle Tofu. Tofu was our secret ingredient and we gave ourselves the luxury of a week to plan and shop before creating a leisurely three-course meal that was dairy, tree nut, gluten and meat product free.

When cooking tofu, it seems like “let marinate for x hours” is standard. And with only one kitchen and (more importantly) one food processor between four chefs, we became creative in our prepping order and cooking method – including grilling, baking, frying, and chilling! Grilling in a city apartment is surprisingly easy thanks to my George Foreman grill! This is the easiest way to get grilled foods indoors. We had our spicy grilled kabobs as one of our appetizers. The tofu was sandwiched among red onions, Japanese eggplant, and mushrooms.

The second appetizer was fried firm tofu with sesame seeds with two different dipping sauces. We decided that the sauces together (one was peanut based and the other was made with plums) on the tofu was extremely reminiscent of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a hot summer day. Tofu as bread? Who knew?

For the main course, we had oven baked tofu that was marinated with a peanut butter sauce. This was really good and the tofu was especially tender.
The first round of desert was served in old fashioned ice cream glasses – a food processor creation with silken tofu, mangos, fresh ginger, and egg whites. The recipe I followed called for crushed nuts on top, but this was a tree-nut-free day and I needed something with a crunch so I found an even more delicious alternative: crushed (gluten-free) ginger snaps!

One of the best parts was the final round of dessert: fudge. Vegan fudge. I had given up on fudge since I never thought I would be able to find it dairy-free since condensed milk is a pesky ingredient to substitute. But I should have known better: vegans would be the ones to creatively make fudge that can rival any traditionally made fudge. And it contains tofu! To all the vegans out there who create such delicious recipes: thank you!

This was an amazing meal with friends and I had a fantastic time creating and tasting tofu dishes. I did not even miss meat!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Celiac Disease: Ask the Experts

Sorry for the last minute notice, but tomorrow (Saturday, October 9, 2010) there is an Ask the Experts Panel at The University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center. Their free annual blood screening already has a waiting list!

The Q&A will be from 10:30-11:30am at the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine at 5758 S Maryland Ave in Chciago.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pie #1

Chicago has officially welcomed in fall and nothing says fall better than homemade apple pie.
Thursday lunch hours are almost always dedicated to the Daley Plaza Farmer’s Market. My cousin joined me and we browsed the finest in-season fruits and veggies. We both bought an acorn squash and I found myself intrigued by the variety and quantity of apples available. I bought a small basket and decided I was going to make apple pie that night. After arriving home, I opened up Cooking for Isaiah and went to work on making the pie crust. For the record, I’ve had this book for two weeks and made the 10 cup flour mixture right away. I now have about ½ cup left in my flour container.

Making pie is a bit challenging for me since my pie experience is really limited and is years old: apple pie at a friend’s house and an open-face shoo-fly pie. So I did not really know what to expect with making a gluten-free pie. Since the binding ingredient is shortening, whenever the dough broke apart, all I had to do was push it all back together and smooth it out with my fingers. I found it easiest to transport the dough into my pie tin by simply lifting it up while still on the parchment paper, turning it over and letting it fall. I had to do the same for the top crust of the pie. I still need to learn how to properly make a beautiful and delicious pie (my mom has since promised to let me come to her kitchen and make some with her), but for my first gf pie attempt, this was pretty good! I wish I had rolled the dough a bit thinner, but the filling was perfect and the apple mixture was sweet.
The biggest lesson with this pie is to not make it before eating dinner. (Note the time the pie finally came out of the oven.) By the time the pie was going into the oven, I was starving and I had dirty mixing bowls and dishes all over my stove and counter. Once I settled on a boxed risotto and cleaned off the stove enough to cook that and add some frozen homemade meatballs on top, I couldn’t even taste the food I was eating since I ate it so quickly. I was able to slow things down when I had my dessert and once again taste my delicious food.