Saturday, May 2, 2009

A pause for reflection

I have been a bad blogger. I haven’t posted anything in a number of weeks. My little baby chicks are pretty much chickens. I wish I could tell you it’s because I have been scurrying around my gluten-free kitchen, producing wonderful treats- but I haven’t.

In the six weeks since I last blogged, I have baked a grand total of two cakes. I have eaten simple, basic gluten-free food. Pretty  stuff though: nothing that would make you want to fire up your computer to see what I’m up to.

I will continue to blog. I leave for France soon, and that will generate some wonderful things to share. I heard a story on NPR a few weeks ago talking about how I-Phones and digital cameras have changed the way the chefs look at food. We see a cool plate presentation or an interesting combination of textures, and out come the cameras. It’s sort of a have-my-(photo of)- my-cake-and-eat-it-too. When I flipped open my phone to look, and guess what- yup- over a dozen photos of plates of food.

I hope to be inspired and to share it with you soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

First Signs of Spring

Hold tight! Spring will be here soon. We saw a newly emerged Robin yesterday. And my hubby went to the feed store on Monday- and brought home some babies (Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rock pullets).

We already have seven hens- Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Rhode Island Reds and an Aracana, a Rooster (who was supposed to be Buff Orpington Hen) and a Guinea Hen. The RI Reds are my favorites- the hens are friendly enough to eat out of your hand. All of our critters will be brown egg layers- except the Araucana, who lays blue eggs.
What to do with all of those eggs? Well, GF baking takes lots of eggs. Omelets, of course, but also wraps (thin omelet wrapped around a filling), frittatas, and egg cups. I got an off-blog question from Dianne wondering about the egg cups on my lunch menu last week. They are easy, reheat well and fit in a lunch box. 

In Spain and Italy, eggs like this are more likely to show up as a lunch box item than a breakfast one. It's also a great way to use up bits and pieces of leftover rice, pasta or veggies.

Portable Egg Cups
Makes about 12 muffin-sized cups

1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 Tablespoon salsa
1/4 cup ham, turkey or salmon (leftovers are great here- and meat is optional)
3/4 cup shredded cheese (any variety)
1/2 cup "starchy" cooked leftover (dice potato, cooked pasta or cooked rice)
1/2 cooked, frozen spinach (or other green veggie, cooked and drained, if necessary)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup (or two 6-cup) silicon muffin pan, teflon coated muffin pan or regular muffin pan lined with foil muffin papers.

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. All of the vegetables and starches are interchangeable- use what your family likes or what you have on hand. I have actually used 1 1/4 cups of frozen mixed veggies, thawed in the microwave, in place of the assorted vegetables in the recipe

You may sub reduced fat cheese, soy cheese, or if you prefer, no cheese.  You may want an extra egg if you opt to go cheeseless.

Divide all of the mixture evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes until set in the middle. You can freeze or refrigerate them, and re-heat in the microwave, if you wish.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Gluten Free CIA Book

Oh my, have I been out of the loop! I received my Alumni Magazine from the Culinary Institute of America today- and Chef Richard Coppedge (all around nice guy and Certified Master Chef) has a gluten free cookbook. My things are a changin' since I was a student there. 

I will be placing my order tomorrow. Has anybody seen it? Used it?! Tell me all.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I adopted Simply Gluten-Free

This week, I am participating in the “Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger” event hosted by Book of Yum. I adopted Simply Gluten Free, and did her Spoon Salad and Lemon Tahini Dressing.

Simply Gluten Free is a very visually attractive site with recipes that appeal to my food philosophy; good quality fresh food, simply prepared.

I chose the spoon salad because I just love my food processor, and to get to shred pounds of vegetables? How fun! 

Her idea of doing enough for four or five days of salad eating is brilliant: my kitchen looked like I had been mulching garden leftovers by the time I was done. But a crunchy, fresh salad base is there, in my fridge, just waiting for me to finish however I want. I have been known to just skip salad rather than hauling out the cutting board and the knife, especially at lunch.

I’m glad she considered the recipe to be a guide, because despite my good intentions, the vegetables listed on the recipe weren’t the best that my supermarket had to offer. I ended up using swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower and a little basil.

For the dressing, the only substitution I made was using gluten free soy sauce rather than tamari. Tamari has sweeter undertones and less harshness, and I think that would have made a difference in this recipe. I liked the brightness of the dressing, but felt that it needed a touch more sweetness in the overall balance- but that was likely my soy sauce. I will add this to my regular recipes that I use, it is a good break from the vingairette rut that I get into. My hubby suggested a touch of grated fresh ginger as well.

This was a wonderful salad for the kids- I treated it like a green salad, letting everyone put on whatever dressing they liked. The kids added shredded mozzarella cheese and ranch, my hubby did the tahini dressing with some toasted sunflower seeds, and I had just a little dressing and the salad. Even my most veggie adverse teenaged boy had seconds.

Great blog, good recipes, lots of fun- thanks Simply Gluten Free!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What's for Lunch?

I was talking with someone who is just starting out on a gluten-free diet. Aside from the shear overwhelming nature of the change, the whole idea of breakfast and lunch without bread really had her stumped.

Lunch is really tough for gluten-free folks. The most American of lunch items, a sandwich, is challenging with gluten free bread. GF breads just don’t travel as easily as their wheat containing cousins.

It’s easier if you have access to a kitchen, or at least a microwave. For those looking for some ideas, I have added a “Lunch this Week” feature.

My lunch schedule varies quite a bit during the week- since I am an Instructor, I have a couple of days a week where I eat on the run out of a cooler, a couple of days where I have access to a kitchen and one or two days a week that I am never sure about. I have  one day a week where I often eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on the road. Three days a week, the preschooler and I are home (or on the road) together at lunch time, and she eats what I do. 

When I have it “together” I prep a couple of days worth of quick eats into storage containers and freeze or refrigerate them. This is really helpful because I have a hubby and teenager who pack lunch most week days as well. 

I really am flexible about what I will eat for lunch: I can eat a cold bean salad or leftover chicken leg and be perfectly happy. I know that some people (my lunch-packing teenager, for example) who cannot deal with last night’s leftovers in a storage container without a microwave to heat it up.

My food choices are usually pretty simple at lunch, and I don’t rely on many gluten-free products.  I don’t often run into monotony problems, because I use lunch to rework leftovers when I can. 

What are your favorite lunches? What packs well and is easy, tastes good, and contains at least a little nutrition?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nothing Noodles aka Shirataki

Shirataki is Japanese yam noodle. It’s a little weird- it seems to have nothing in it if you look at the nutrition facts. 

This is good news! It is a blank canvas waiting for the cook to add any assortment of flavors and textures.

The low carb count is good for dieters and for people, like me, who do not tolerate the massive amount of refined carbs that can creep into a gluten free diet.

There are two kinds of Shirataki; the one pictured (JFC) is the variety most readily available to me. I get it at an Oriental Grocery Store. It contains water, yam flour and hydrated lime.

The other variety, “House Foods” is actually labeled “Gluten Free” on the package, and has more specific cooking instructions. Both varieties are vegan.

I avoided trying these for a while. I am suspicious of anything having an Internet advertising link to it titled something like “Miracle Noodle”. Being the geek-chef that I am, however, curiosity eventually won out and I researched them a little bit. That, and they looked pretty benign sitting next to the tofu at the Whole Foods Market.

There is a process to handling these- otherwise they smell like garbage can after you left a tuna can in it overnight. I have no idea why. When you open the package, rinse them thoroughly, then blanch them for 2-3 minutes in boiling, salted water. Drain the water off, and continue as you would with any noodle. At this point, they really have no flavor or odor. Strangely, these do not easily get mushy, especially the House Foods variety.

These are great for making a noodle salad to pack in a lunch box. The recipe I have below is actually leftover curried chickpeas and tofu that had lots of “sauce”. I tossed the saucy curry with the blanched and cooled noodles, and topped with chopped cilantro.

Curry Noodle Salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side

Coconut milk- (1) standard can. You can use “lite”, but your sauce might curdle

Beans- your choice- if you use canned, rinse first- 1 cup

Tofu- firm or extra firm- 1 cup, diced (or cooked, diced chicken or shrimp)

Fish Sauce- check label for gluten- 1 teaspoon or to taste

Sugar- 1 tablespoon

Ginger, fresh, grated, 2 teaspoons

Green Curry Paste, 1 teaspoon, or to taste

Cilantro, fresh, chopped, 2 tablespoons, divided use

Shirataki Noodles (spaghetti shaped), 8 oz, rinsed, blanched and drained

Combine all ingredients except the noodles, scallions and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro in a large saute pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Taste and adjust flavor. Add noodles, scallions and rest of cilantro. This is best at room temperature or cool.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lovely Lunch and Field Trip to Ann Arbor

My hubby and I decided to get out of town a few days ago, and went to Ann Arbor, MI. While it is not the hottest of vacation destinations, it is a pretty cool town. It also has the all-important combo of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. 

Even though I was pretty much out of all of my “staples” (we live in a fairly rural area, so I do stock up on some of my favorites when I can), we really weren’t sure we wanted to do the two-hour drive. I’m glad we did.

Some chef friends of mine had raved about a restaurant called “Paesano’s”. I’m always excited to try a new place (chef side of me) but also leery (the celiac side- who hasn’t been glutened since last December!) As a last minute thought, I checked Paesano’s website. Guess what? They do gluten free. So off we went.

We had a knowledgeable server who was attentive and accommodating. The food was nice presented and full-flavored.  The pre-schooler was happy and well taken care of. I would definitely go again. When I do, I will order more food- I think portion sizes take into account the bread basket, which was off limits too me. It’s too bad I was going shopping for food afterwards...

Check out their website- and support your local independent restaurants. If we want choices, we need to work with local chefs when we can. As the slogan at one of my county’s indy restaurant goes, “Friends don’t let friends eat at chains!”