Monday, March 30, 2009

A Gluten-Free Casein-Free Wedding Shower

How cute is that centerpiece? It's three Corningware-type dishes stacked on top of one another and placed on a cake stand. Two white doves top the "cake"and navy and white ribbons surround it. My crafty mom made it for my wedding shower which took place two weekends ago.
I just got done writing my thank you notes to all of the wonderful women in attendance; I felt so lucky to be surrounded by such strong and wonderful women during the shower, but it got me thinking that I needed to thank the food vendors who made this happen as well.

I'll start off with the caterer - Terrie Stone Catering out of Easton, MA employs the nicest group of women I have ever encountered in the food business. My mother who planned the shower with my sister dealt with the menu planning and from what I understand, Terrie Stone, the owner, couldn't have been more accommodating when creating a gluten-free, dairy-free luncheon. I apologize that the pictures aren't great (I tried to take quick snapshots between spending time with the lovely ladies in attendance) but each dish was not only beautifully presented, but delicious and fresh to boot.

The veggie platter was crisp and served with a spicy black bean dip and the shrimp cocktail was fresh with a great cocktail sauce that everyone raved about (the caterer even gave me a copy of the cocktail sauce recipe which can be found here, via Gluten-Free Girl). The main dishes were tasty as well, and I ate them so quickly that I failed to take a photo, they included sweet and sour chicken with apricots and short grain brown rice (a new favorite) and tender steak tips with a great mesclun salad with beets. Terrie, thank you for being so accommodating and for feeding the flock some great tasting food!
Favors for the party were created by the locally owned Pinches and Pounds in Whitman, MA. Annette Harnett, the owner, researched and researched to find gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate that she could use to specially make chocolate dipped dried apricots, pineapple and marshmallows as favors. You can tell that each confection was made with great patience and they turned out beautifully, wrapped in a pretty navy blue ribbon. Pinches and Pounds is one of those great community stores, aiming to help the local community and do whatever they can for their customers. Annette, thank you so much for specially making these delicious treats! People are still talking about how great they were.

And how could I not leave out Cal. You've read what I have to say about Cal's Cupcakes before -- the Hingham, MA based company that makes gluten-free, dairy-free cupcakes that are to die for. Well, Cal is so awesome that she delivered five dozen of her chocolate and vanilla cupcakes to my mother's house for the shower. They tasted even better than I remember (and I didn't think that was possible). Along with the chocolate cake/vanilla frosting combo, she also made a vanilla cake/chocolate frosting combo that was delicious. I'd have more photos, but they were all eaten so quickly that I didn't have a chance to take any more! Thank you, thank you, thank you Cal!
So, fellow GFers, I know what a pain it is to find gluten-free vendors -- those that won't act like you're a complete pain or charge you more for special requests, so I end this post with the optimistic thought that they're out there and I was lucky enough to find three.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Photo Phriday: Get Me Out of Here!

That's a photo of my niece at my wedding shower. She was trying to get the attention of some outside cats at my parents house (this moment was accompanied by some high-pitched screaming) so I got on the other side of the door to get her reaction on film (er, digitally).

And on that note, gluten-free vendor reviews from the wedding shower will be coming soon!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kudos to Another GF Restaurant

I am going to write every single combination of words that people might type into Google when searching for gluten-free Chinese food options in Massachusetts: gluten free Chinese food in MA, GF Chinese food, gluten free Chinese food menu, gluten free Chinese restaurant...

It could go on, but that would be annoying, so I'm hoping that those phrases will bring people to this post and in turn to Alice's Mandarin Taste in Sharon, Massachusetts. Sorry for the photo -- it was taken on my brother-in-law's camera phone. It doesn't really do the food justice, but it does portray the Chinese food staples that I grew up with that I miss so much: fried rice, General Tso's Chicken, spicy broccoli and chicken wings. It also turned me on to a few new dishes, like pineapple rice and chicken with honey glazed walnuts. Here, check out their gluten free menu and decide for yourself.

The folks working there were SO nice. The woman who I am assuming is Alice had a smile on her face the entire time and I thanked her for having a gluten-free menu. I recommend you do so too by taking a visit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Family Tradition: Caterpillar Cake

I have a lot to post about: this past weekend was my bridal shower and I have some awesome gluten-free vendors to write about. Also, on Friday night my family and I went to a local Chinese food restaurant that has a large and extensive gluten-free menu with food that was quite tasty. But first, I have to get to a family tradition: the caterpillar cake we made for my niece's first birthday, made gluten-free of course.

I'm now going to share with you all an embarassing photo, but one that proves the legitimacy of the caterpillar cake:

That's me on the left, looking like a complete punk. Notice the popped collar under my awesome sweatsuit? The pursed lips? The "yeah, I made this cake -- so what" look that I'm giving? Of course you do, but don't let it distract you from the cake that my sister and I are holding. Many, many years ago, in the mid nineteen eighties a tradition was born in my family: the caterpillar cake. I have no idea where my mother got the idea, but basically you bake a cake in a bunt pan and cut it in half to make a "S" shape, then you decorate it to look like a caterpillar. It was a fun, simple baking project that my sister and I loved to partake in, until we became bratty teenagers and were too cool for it. But now, with a new generation in our family, we decided to bring it back, gluten-free, dairy-free style. And so I present you the caterpillar cake of 2009:

We attempted to replicate the photo: me looking like a punk, Kate looking like the older sister that was forced to hang out with her younger sister, except this time Kate's smiling and has a baby snuggled up to her (notice the legs hanging near her hips). The caterpillar legs are made from swedish fish and the cake is decorated in M&M's (which contain dairy, so I just didn't eat them). And my niece, the Birthday girl, had a field day with the frosting:

Caterpillar Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves 6 for dessert

for the cake (adapted from Annelise Roberts Cookbook: Gluten Free Baking Classics):

1/2 cup Earth Balance
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 cups brown rice flour mix (1 cup brown rice flour/1/2 cup tapioca starch/1/2 potato starch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup rice milk

Preheat oven to 350 and grease and flour a bundt pan. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then, add the flour, salt, vanilla, rice milk and baking powder and mix until combined. Pour evenly in bundt pan and cook for 25-30 minutes until a knife comes out clean when piercing the cake. Let cool and take out of pan and cut in half. Place the two pieces of cake on a platter to create and "S."

for the frosting:

1 cup of shortening
1 box of confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rice milk (or more if needed)

In a stand mixer, beat the shortening until creamy and slowly add in half of the confectioners sugar. Then add the vanilla and rice milk until combined. Add the rest of the sugar until the mixture has a frosting like texture, adjust with more rice milk if too dry.

to frost the cake:

24 swedish fish
other colorful candies of your choice

Take one tablespoon of the frosting and frost the cut halves of the cake, sticking the cake together. Then frost the entire cake and decorate as you please: giving the "caterpillar" eyes, legs and spots.

Next time I think I'll try making avocado frosting (you simply use avocado in place of the shortening in the frosting recipe) to make the caterpillar green.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day & A Red Lentil Butternut Squash Curry

Orange and green: how's that for a St. Patrick's Day lunch? If you haven't met me, you might not know I'm Irish, but after one look: freckles, pale skin, and a last name that screams it, it's pretty clear that I've got some Irish blood. Though, I've never been to the place -- only dreamt of it and attempted to live my Irish fantasy through friends that have been there. One friend -- my dear friend (and bridesmaid) Sheila, studied abroad in Gallway, Ireland and had wonderful tales of friendly locals, packed pubs and curry to share. Seems strange, right? Curry? In Ireland? Sure, it's not Irish food, but Ireland has really become quite multi-cultural: with ethnic sections of major cities, much like the Little Italy's and Chinatowns in the U.S. So, in honor of St. Patrick's Day I give you a curry dish: red lentil and butternut squash curry to be exact.

I've been hearing a lot about red lentils lately. They're cheap, tasty, high in fiber and folate and when mixed with rice become a complete protein. I chose to skip the rice this time and go with some kale under my lentils, making for hearty "Erin Go Bragh" lunch.

I adapted this recipe from one found on epicurious for Coconut Red-Lentil Curry with Zucchini

Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Curry (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

serves 4 for dinner

1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 1/2 teaspoon curry
dash nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk (if you want it creamier, use more coconut milk, less water)
1 1/2 cups dried red lentil
2 cups butternut squash, diced into cubes
fresh cilantro to garnish
coconut milk yogurt to garnish

In a deep skillet, add the oil and onion and saute for at least five minutes until fragrant. Then add the ginger and garlic and saute for one minute. Then add all of the spices and saute for another minute. Next add the water, coconut milk and lentils and bring to a boil. Immediately, turn down to a simmer and cook for another five minutes. Then add the squash and cover and simmer for another fifteen minutes until the lentils and squash are tender. Serve and garnish with fresh cilantro and coconut milk yogurt.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Photo Phriday: Reader Edition

LinkMy friend and co-worker (and reader of this blog) Carol recently made some fish stew from a recipe I posted about a year ago. She made my day when she took a photo of her soup with her lovable pooch Lydia in the background. She is quite possibly the best behaved dog in the world (Henry could learn a few things)

And the soup turned out great! She added a bit of kale to it to up the veggies and used fresh tomatoes which I highly recommend.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Food for Friends

I had a ridiculously busy week last week work-wise, with jobs that trickled into my real life, so that's reason number one for not posting much. The second reason is that I realized I am three months away from getting married: there's no problem in the man department, he's one-in-a-billion, but the planning stuff -- the invitations, the color schemes, the centerpieces, well I'm not too good at figuring everything out. So once I realized that my "to do" list was significantly longer than my "done" list I got a wee-bit stressed. So, this weekend I still had work to do, but I also made time to do some yoga, take a bootcamp workout class (I'm still sore) and have some friends over. Nothing relieves stress for me more than cooking and friends, so I'm feeling back to my old self. On the menu for my pals was marinated flank steak (I was able to grill is because it was actually warm out!), bacon and spinach salad, grilled asparagus and roasted red potatoes. Oh, and chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. The flank steak and salad require actual recipes, but the grilled asparagus was simply that (grilled on a panini press for about three minutes with fresh lemon squeezed on top) and the roasted potatoes were red potatoes, cut into small wedges, drizzled with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted at 375 for thirty minutes, turning once mid-way. The photos taken are of the leftovers; I failed to take photos during the actual meal.

Marinated Flank Steak (gluten-free, dairy-free)

(serves four)

1 large flank steak
1/2 cup Worcestershire Sauce (Lea and Perrins is gluten-free)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper

Place the worcestershire sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper in a large zip-loc bag, add the flank steak and marinate for one and a half hours (the longer, the better). Grill the steak, about five minutes on each side over medium heat. Let rest before serving and cut against the grain into slices.

Warm Bacon and Spinach Salad (gluten-free, dairy-free)

(serves four)

1 bag of baby spinach
1/3 of a red onion
6 pieces of bacon, fried with bacon fat reserved
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar (or sugar)
freshly cracked salt and pepper

Place the bacon fat in a small saucepan on low heat, whisk in the vinegar, mustard, and agave. Toss in a large bowl with the spinach, onion and crumbled bacon and add freshly ground salt and pepper.

This is a rare moment: Henry is not at all interested in the steak near him. I'm guessing there was a squirrel outside.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Kath Eats Good Food

I'm guessing that the majority of food bloggers have come across Kath Eats Real Food, a great inspirational, informative and entertaining look at what blogger and student of nutrition, Kath eats each meal. She has an affinity for kale much like mine, so I was excited to see her recently post a soup recipe that involved the all-mighty leafy green and quite a few other ingredients that I happen to love: sweet potato, coconut and peanuts. She said the soup was good -- that it was the best soup she's made, and while I can't attest to that; it's certainly become the best soup I've ever made. Kath, you are a genius of soup!

To make mine vegan and to use what I had on hand, I had to change things up slightly. To read Kath's original recipe, click here.

But here's what I did:

Kath's Nutty Vanilla Sweet Potato Soup (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves 4 for dinner

2 lbs of sweet potato peeled and cooked in the microwave until tender (about 7 minutes)
1 tbs olive oil
1 can of coconut milk
2 cups of water
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups of kale, trimmed and chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
salted peanuts (I used the delicious BBQ ones pictured below) for garnish (optional)
unsweetened shredded coconut for garnish (optional)

After microwaving the potatoes, place a large saucepan over medium heat and coat bottom lightly with olive oil. Add potatoes and cook until lightly browned. Add the coconut milk, water, curry, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Then, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for thirty minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture to desired consistency (be careful because the soup will be hot and can splatter). Then add the kale, raisins, and vanilla and let simmer another ten minutes before serving. Garnish with coconut and peanuts and you'll find yourself in soup heaven.

That furry, blurry thing to the right of the peanuts is Henry's snoopy nose.