Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Other People's Recipes

I've come to realize that I'm more creative in the kitchen during the winter months. When it's cold out and I don't want to venture to the grocery store I'll turn to my cabinet and whip up something on a whim. But summertime, full of BBQ's and good weather makes me want to use my time in the kitchen efficiently, which means I turn to other people's tried and true recipes.

That Henry's a smart dog; there's bacon in that broccoli salad. And mayonnaise. The recipe is from the ever-popular site Simply Recipes and it really is tasty. I love broccoli already, but this will turn any broccoli hater into a lover. I was going to bring this to a BBQ I'm going to tonight, but I'm saving it all for myself (and telling myself it's because there will be vegetarian's at the party). Henry will be happy.

Potato salad -- another one from Elise at Simply Recipes. This is her Dad's recipe for potato salad and the secret ingredient is pickle juice. It's simply awesome. This is the dish that will make it to the party tonight. Henry likes anything covered in mayonaise.

And cake. Delicious, gluten-free coconut cake (the link goes to a gluten-free forum post where the recipe is listed) care of my favorite gluten-free cookbook, Annalise Robert's Baking Classics. If you ever need to make a cake for company, this is the one to try. The recipes calls for coconut milk in the batter so it is super moist. I made it for my mom's birthday cake and it was a hit.

Oh, and quinoa too! I didn't make this dish, my sister did. It's become quite the family favorite. I don't have the recipe for it, but posting this picture might get my sister to post her recipe (but I understand if that might take a few days -- she's in the process of moving to the mid-west... and breaking my heart....) . It is packed with flavor and overall, just delicious.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Clean Plate Club Approved: Flatbread Pizza

I thought this day would never come; surely I wouldn't ever be able to order a pizza again. No, not when you have a gluten and dairy intolerance. Those days are gonzo. You're stuck with being the pain-in-the-ass one who has to discuss everything on the menu with the waitress, send her to the kitchen and back and then modify whatever dish you do choose and make sure the chef doesn't cross contaminate. I hate that feeling. I used to be the girl who would order right off the menu. I used to be the one who would scoff at my friends who were picky eaters. I used to eat anything, really -- anything.

But things change and intolerance's catch up with you, leaving you with a stomach that looks three months pregnant and pain that I wouldn't wish on anyone. So almost a year and a half ago, I had a choice between being a pain-in-the-ass when going out to eat, or feeling eternally sick. I chose the former.

But at a select few restaurants I don't have to be that girl. I don't have to feel the anxiety I sometimes get when visiting new restaurants. Some places I can order off the menu and feel good and confident that my food will fill my belly happily and keep me healthy. New England and Hawaii gluten-free peeps, I introduce to you: Flatbread. With six locations in New England and one in Hawaii, this chain of restaurants doesn't have the chain feel; it feels local, and taken care of -- like this was once just a dream for the owners that has now come to fruition -- there's a lot of love here. Allie, over at "Sorry I can't eat that" is another local GF blogger, and Jenny, of Sugar and Spice and My Gluten Free Life, who happens to live in the same city as me, told me about Flatbread; an awesome restaurant that really thinks about their food. They put effort into making their foods organic, using free range and nitrate free meats, vegetables from local farmers and educating themselves on different food intolerance's. In other words, this is my type of restaurant. The photo above is from the page in their menu where they talk about their gluten-free pizza crust.

And the photo below is of my gluten-free, vegan pizza and it was goooooooooooooooooooood: slightly crispy crust, perfectly flavored sauce with just enough vegetables in each bite.

I visited the restaurant on a Friday night. They don't take reservations for less than ten people, so we did "call ahead" seating. About a half hour before we arrived, I called and put our name in and we waited less than five minutes for a table once we got there. The waitress was super pleasant and happily answered our questions even though it was a really busy night. We all shared salads and ordered our pizzas. The one unfortunate thing was that our pizzas all came out at different times, and my bro-in-law got his pizza after we all finished ours, but the waitress was extremely apologetic and gave us a coupon for a free pizza on our next visit.

It truly was a great experience. I really like to support restaurants like this one, their purpose and values are clearly stated on their website and clearly seen in their restaurants. Flatbread -- thanks for doing what you're doing.

Oh, P.S. They had gluten-free beer and gluten-free whoopie pies when I was there too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zucchini Fries Make You Feel Better

I'm feeling pretty drained. In the past twenty-four hours I have: found out that the A-man will be deployed to the Middle East next week, played one ninety-minute outdoor soccer game, one fifty-minute indoor soccer game, went on a run in the woods with Henry and got lost (making our run one hour longer than it was supposed to be while losing my keys, then finding my keys in the woods) and I hosted and produced a live, half-hour show at work. Luckily, today is not terribly busy so I have a chance to re-charge, but also a chance to soak in the fact that the rest of my summer is going to be completely different than I thought it was going to be.

There are a lot of emotions that come about when you learn your love is going to a war zone again. Emotions that my dear family and friends accept when they listen (and I mean really listen -- without them I wouldn't be able to deal) to the brunt of my frustrations. There's anger that he's leaving again. There's worry of his safety. There's frustration at the military -- he was just there -- for seven months! There's pain, hurt, disappointment and loneliness. We just got engaged! Then there's the realization these emotions don't depict our relationship or our love for one another -- a realization that has kept me going for the past six years. In all of those years, we have actually lived together for a little over two months. The rest have been spent with a minimum of five hundred miles between us. There must be something wrong with me I often think. That, or I just really love this man.

But, a girl's got to eat and there's no better way to distract yourself from your emotions than to mix up some food. And a day like yesterday needed something substantial. Something that's going to put a smile on my face and remind me of the simpler things in life, like fries, well fries and ketchup. But not your typical potato fries; I needed some green, so zucchini fries it is.

Zucchini Fries (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

serves 2 as a side dish

2 zucchini, cut into "fries"
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
just under 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (I pulsed Kinnikinick Brown Bread in a food processor)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (I use Salt-Free)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Season breadcrumbs with Italian herbs and place on a large plate. Pour olive oil on a cookie sheet and coat zucchini "fries" in olive oil. Coat each piece of zucchini with breadcrumb mixture and place back on cookie sheet. Once they are all coated put in oven and bake for fifteen minutes. Serve with ketchup if you'd like.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Woodman's of Essex -- So Good I Didn't Notice the View

One way to tell if someone is a true New Englander is to see if they know how to eat a lobster. My mother, for instance, born and raised on the South Shore, can pick one dry. My dad -- a native upstate New Yorker? He hates the stuff. Me? I'll do damage to any size lobster. But there's another way to tell if someone is from New England: they know a good clam shack. They could hate fried clams, but if they know of that little restaurant on the shore whose line is out the door -- then they know New England.

Eating fried clams here is a summertime tradition, one that I thought I would never be able to partake in again since discovering my gluten-intolerance. Whenever I drive by local beaches I don't stare at the shirtless men, I longingly gaze at the people enjoying their fried clams. After all, the A-man has wondered aloud a few times whether there is a fat kid hiding somewhere inside me. I'm going somewhere with this I promise.

I present to you: GLUTEN-FREE FRIED CLAMS!!!!


About six months ago I read on a gluten-free forum that Woodman's in Essex, MA uses only corn flour in their batter for their fried foods (only their onion rings and crab cakes are not gluten free). And since they have a family member with Celiac disease, they "get" the whole gluten-free thing, meaning they understand that gluten-free food and gluten-laden food cannot go in the same fryer. They get that even a speck of wheat flour cannot touch food for a Celiac. They just plain get it. So, after talking up Woodman's for months, and finally arrainging a trip up there for my family to take (my sister and father are gluten-free too) I was blown away by how good the food was. So blown away in fact, that I didn't even notice the gorgeous view outside of the restaurant until I finished eating.

Woodman's, along with being gluten-free, is very well known for having the best seafood in America, so even if you're not gluten-free -- this is the place to go. We got there around three in the afternoon and there was a line, but it moved quickly. We placed our order, asked about it being gluten-free and were pleased to hear the cashier totally understand what we were talking about and make note of it on the order (side note: drinks are ordered in a separate line). Our food took about ten or fifteen minutes and we brought it outside to enjoy on a picnic table under a tent. If there is a heaven, this would be the setting: sitting on a picnic table next to a marsh with my loved ones, eating fried clams and enjoying each other's company.

I think we have a new family tradition.

And a Happy Birthday to my sister Kate! This photo was taken at Woodman's of her giving La Dudarina a little belly nuzzle.

Monday, July 14, 2008

One of Those Meals

Last Friday night I made a conscious effort to make no plans: I wanted to go for an evening run with Henry, cook myself a mean dinner and watch a movie. I got two out of the three done -- and the fact that I made plans to make no plans tells you a little bit about how much of a control freak I can be. On a normal weeknight I'm either coming back from a soccer game and it's after 8:30 at night before I eat dinner, or eating dinner at 5pm on my hour break from work because I work strange hours. So, that usually means that I often don't have a lot of time to put together dinner. But it was Friday night and I did have time: time to heat up the grill, time to whip up some pesto, and time to enjoy it. So that's what I did. It was one of those meals.

The entire meal was made up entirely based on what I had handy: a bunch of cilantro, a defrosted pork chop, zucchini and corn. I seasoned the pork with some paprika and grilled it, then topped it with my cilantro and macadamia nut pesto and put together a quick succotash-like-side dish -- which I will call Green Chile and Zucchini Succotash.

Cilantro & Macadamia Nut Pesto (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
1/4 cup olive oil (might need more or less depending on how much cilantro)
1 clove or garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a small food processor or blender and pulse. Drizzle in the olive oil into you have a pesto-like consistency.

Green Chile and Zucchini Succotash (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

2 grilled corn on the cob (corn trimmed off of the cob)
2 zucchini, sliced
1 canned, chopped green chile and 1 tablespoon of "juice" from can
1 tablespoon olive oil

Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat and add the zucchini. Stir for a few minutes and then add the green chile and "juice." Next, add the grilled corn and saute for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper if you'd like and serve room temperature.

I grilled my corn because I like the smoky flavor with the spice of the green chile. You can certainly use frozen or fresh corn instead.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Photo Phriday: In the Dog House

It's not a coincidence that the leash in this photo looks like an umbilical cord -- it's symbolic of the "tight leash" that I have been using with Henry since this past weekend.

When I was in Maine for the 4th of July weekend, my wonderful, supportive parents agreed to watch Henry while I was away. On Sunday, the day I was coming back, I got a call from my Dad that Henry got loose. This has happened before as the area surrounding my parents house is full of wildlife, so it's like heaven for this hound dog, but this time he was gone for over six hours. Six hours! My poor family spent their entire Sunday searching and stressing out about his whereabouts. Meanwhile, Henry would tease them and sprint away -- just thinking it was a game.

Obviously this has a happy ending -- he eventually showed up and my awesome brother-in-law scooped him up (he also saved Henry during an attack from a large Rotweiller at one point), but he was scraped up like you wouldn't believe with many, many ticks on him. The day after he was still a little shaken, but he's back to normal -- the scrapes are healing and the ticks are gone; we even went on a run on Thursday -- but his leash was shorter than usual.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Clean Plate Club Approved: Maya Kaimal & Akara

One of these days I am going to get around to labeling my posts with categories, like most good bloggers do. I'd have a dessert section, a vegan section, and a entree section all to make browsing for recipes that much easier. Another label that I would use would be one for the Clean Plate Club, a term that me and my friends (and I'm sure many other people in the world) use when we, well, clean our plates -- in the sense that that meal was so delicious I cleaned every last bit of food off of my plate and am therefore now a member of the Clean Plate Club. And since life doesn't always allow me to cook from scratch -- I'll post about some tried and true gluten-free, dairy-free products that I love.

This should be a lesson to all food manufacturers out there: list every single, specific thing you put in your products on the product's label. Pretty simple, huh? Well, not too many companies actually do that. I see way too many "natural and artificial flavorings" listed which, when you have a serious food intolerance, means there's no way in hell I am going to buy that. Natural flavoring could easily mean barley -- "caramel color" in fact, is often made with barley and "maltodextrin" can be made with wheat. So, if any food manufacturer happens to be reading this someday, please, I beg you, take note from Maya Kaimal and Akara (and many more products out there) and clearly list what your products are made of. The millions of vegans and food allgergy and intolerance sufferes out there will thank you ( and buy your products).

Now on to how delicious the above (and below) simmer sauce is. Think of your very favorite Indian restaurant. Now think of your very favorite curry dish from your very favorite Indian restaurant. Mmmm.... I'm thinking of mine. Well, this is like that -- but better. Better in the sense that you get to cook it yourself and it only take ten minutes. The Maya Kaimal Tamarind Curry fresh simmer sauce was located in the refridgerated section of my local supermarket, right next to the hummus and tapenades and what really stuck out to me was that it was clearly labeled, right on the side of the packaging in clear, bold letters VEGAN AND FREE OF ALL ALLERGENS was written. Hallelulah -- this simmer sauce was made with coconut milk! In a large pan, over medium high heat I added a pound of cubed chicken, the simmer sauce, and about ten minutes into the cooking -- some fresh kale. Delicious gluten-free, dairy-free curry ready to be eaten.

I don't think I've ever eaten an African beancake prior to my first purchase of these little gems, but I'm glad I tried them. I found them in the freezer, gluten-free section of my local health food store (The Good Health Store in Quincy, MA has the most amazing selection of gluten-free goods). Always open to try new things I popped two of the beancakes into the oven (they have to be defrosted first) and baked for about seven minutes. They came out delicious and slightly crispy without any "weird" bean taste (I usually don't care for bean flours in baking, so I was slightly worried I wouldn't like these) The most wonderful thing about these beancakes is that they remind me of corn fritters that I've had in the south. Corn fritters are deep fat fried and horrible for you and usually loaded with gluten, but are quite delicious. These are a much healthier (only 110 calories for two of them), gluten-free, vegan version. They'd make awesome appetizers for a party or as an entree with a salad. Akara -- the brandname is a local company, based out of Sunderland, MA which makes me like them even more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Simple Summer Side

There are a lot of things that my Dad does well: he's the best Dad ever (and proving to be a great Grandpa as well), he's one helluva storyteller, a great athlete and the man can grill. My Mom takes the cake in the kitchen (her dishes and memories of cooking at home are what inspire me to cook -- and write this blog), but Dad's got the magic touch with the grill. I'm guessing there's some man gene that makes the open flame appealing to the male gender (my testosterone-laiden fiance loves to man the grill as well), but not all do it with the impeccable timing of my Dad. The side dishes will be ready in fifteen minutes? He'll wait three more to put the steak on. Along with meats, he grills a mean vegetable, but my favorite thing that he grills? A little tuber named: the sweet potato.

There's nothing fancy about this dish -- slice your sweet potato, lightly cover it in olive oil and coat with seasoning. Since I was recently told that I have borderline high blood-pressure -- I'm 25, workout six times a week and never salt my food -- I use a salt-free all-purpose herb blend as my seasoning. I have a sneaking suspicion that my blood pressure number has a lot to do with the amount of coffee that I drink -- but I'm waiting for someone to tell me that to snap me out of denial.

Grilled Sweet Potato (or yam!) gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan

Will feed two for a side dish.

One large sweet potato, washed and thinly sliced (I usually don't peel mine -- gotta love that fiber!)
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons salt-free seasoning

The easiest way to do this is to create a little assembly line: place your olive oil in a shallow dish, your seasoning on a plate and dip and dip. Place on a pre-heated grill at medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes on both sides. They're delicious plain, or dipped in ketchup or BBQ sauce. Now that's a lot of dipping.