Wednesday, June 29, 2011

almond flour, yes!

It's truly hard to believe that another June is ending. I'm a bit embarrassed that I think of days and dates in terms of occasions, events, and meals. Yes, I'm obsessed with food. That obsession got a little easier to mesh with my annoying dietary limitations today. I started reading Elana Amsterdam's (Elana's Pantry) The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, and I have her cupcake book on my bedside table.

I love everything I've read, so far. I've seen Elana's name, read her blog, noticed others' comments, but this is the first time I actually sat down with the books. And I fell in love. Who knew? All right, a lot of you knew, but I guess I'm slow on the uptake. I've known for some time that I can't handle grains well. I had toyed with the idea of almond flour and just let it go. As any of you who are exploring gluten-free eating know, there are just SO many flours and starches and grains and gums and, and, and. It gets crazy and many of us give up. We buy ready-made if we can tolerate it, or we do without. I've been doing without. I am not a big cake, pie, bread, pastry fanatic. But you know, every-once-in-awhile it would be fun to indulge. For me, it's mostly been in my imagination because eating the wrong thing scares me beyond words. Yep, I'm a coward.

About this cowardice thing, probably the most unnerving aspect of finding my way through the food maze is eating what I think is perfectly fine only to have my body tell me in no uncertain terms that I was quite mistaken. My coworkers know the look well. The bewildered, what the hell, I did everything right---I thought, look. So I've given up virtually all grains and sweeteners, on a regular basis anyway. I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to try a bit of foods I love but no longer eat. My true fantasy is Point Reyes Blue or even Humboldt Fog with a bit of crusty bread. Gluten-free of course, I'm dreaming not crazy!

But for now, thank you Ms. Amsterdam. I have a plethora of outstanding recipes to try, and I will report back. This weekend I'm starting with lemon bars (yes!) and working my way through as many as I can. Right now for me anyway, it almost doesn't matter if the recipes work, though they look quite workable, it's a great adventure unfolding. And as always, if need be and in a pinch, the wine cabinet is stocked, and wine is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free.....

cooking for the pup

As if food preparation around our house wasn't complicated enough, we've decided to start making all the food for our four-year-old Frenchie, Coco. Coco has several allergies, and it seems every time we find a workable, albeit expensive, dog food, the company discontinues making it. 

I am surprised at how easy it may actually be. She's eating darned well, I might add. Recipes abound online and in books. We purchased organic supplements from our favorite high-end pet supply and service store in town and ordered what they didn't have from Amazon.

While Coco has several allergies, she doesn't seem to have a gluten problem. Since I do, she is gluten-free as well. I get welts just handling wheat. She is allergic to dairy products, so that was simple. What has surprised me is all the literature I've seen saying that variety is fine. I've heard for years and believed that she needed to eat the same food day in, day out. Not so, I'm now seeing from multiple reputable sources. Now, that makes my job easier.

Her first meals have been fun. She's eating Hearst Ranch grass-fed ground beef cooked with organic carrots and celery. I added some Lundberg organic brown rice to the second day's meals. We're taking it slow,  but so far, so good. She's cleaning her bowl and seems quite happy with my cooking. Updates to follow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

{Gluten Free Review} Sof'ella Chocolate Cake Mix

Check out this review from Ginger Lemon Girl. This mix would probably be great in Felicity's Cake Pops.
{Gluten Free Review} Sof'ella Chocolate Cake Mix

Friday, June 24, 2011


I have been reading posts from a Facebook friend today that have me thinking about rather odd things. Her son, who is gluten-free, has decided to have a gluten-eating day, kind of a trial, I think. My stomach started hurting when I read it. Sometimes you just have to try it for yourself, and he, of course, is not an infant. Brave child, braver mom. Hope it works out well for them today.

Nothing seems quite the norm this week. My granddaughter, Felicity, who has never cared much for the kitchen---go figure!---has been baking absolutely adorable cake pops. And not just once. One day it's German Chocolate, the next it's glistening dark chocolate over white cake with colorful sprinkles. I think I saw some chocolate on chocolate in there.

Last night I abandoned plans for a fancy dinner and left beautiful wild salmon filets sitting in my refrigerator and made bean salad, beet salad, and oven fries for dinner. They looked really weird on the plate, not bad, really, just weird. The beet salad was left-over from a day or so ago, probably our Summer Solstice dinner. For the bean salad, since I broke my own rule and had run out of canned green beans (I know, canned green beans=yuck, but I love them for salad), I had to clean, snap, and cook fresh green beans. It is no longer a quick and easy salad when you're standing in the kitchen cleaning and cutting one bean at a time.

I must say, the potatoes were beautiful. I simply peeled russets because that's what was in the house, sliced them into irregular chunks resembling steak fries, and tossed them onto a heavy stoneware baking sheet with good olive oil and a generous sprinkling of sea salt. They baked---roasted, I don't know---at about 450 for half an hour or so. I turned them once or twice as they baked, making sure they stayed in one layer. By the time they were tender inside, they were also golden and crisp on the outside. And they are so easy, also gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free, soy-free, etc, etc. Most people seem to have no problem digesting them, and they sure taste good.

I can't eat like that often; my body simply revolts. Routinely, I plan to rid the house of potatoes and other temptations. (The gluten and dairy are long-gone, of course.) At least weekly I declare that not another gram of simple carbohydrate will pass my lips. I've started to wonder if my subconscious takes this as a challenge. On a conscious level I tend to give in a bit because they aren't made of gluten or cream or cheese, but I really know better. I don't get along much better with potatoes than I do with wheat. Oh, maybe just a little better. It's just that sometimes I really want a stupid French fry, even if I know it may not turn out so well.

And it didn't. Today, I think, why didn't I sautee the salmon? I hope it turns out lots better for Luke and his doughnuts and cheez-its.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

summer solstice

What can I say? We love celebrations. Crowds not so much, so we usually celebrate at home. Once upon another life-time that meant a bottle of good wine, beautiful cheeses, crusty fresh bread, and strongly flavored olives. On days like today, I miss those quasi-meals. I can still enjoy some olives and, most definitely, the wine, but cheese and bread are but distant memories. Celebrations, happily, remain!

We have parties for the Night of the Shooting Stars in August, a huge egg hunt at Easter, birthday bashes, and really go all out for Thanksgiving, and there's no way we're passing up celebrating the beginning of summer with all its symbolism and history. This will be a small celebration, a fancy-shmancy dinner at home, but a celebration none-the-less.

I just received an email from Opolo winery announcing that one of their newer reds, Montagna Mare, has just been awarded a gold medal as Best in Class at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. Since we have a couple of bottles in the wine rack, it's become my new inspiration for tonight's dinner. That means the wild salmon filets thawing right now in the refrigerator will have to wait. I'm thinking Hearst Ranch filet mignon, instead. The beet salad I've already started should still work, along with a nice green salad, and a potato dish of some kind, which I don't eat but it wouldn't be much of a celebration for GK without potatoes. And we have to have fresh mushrooms sauteed with shallots and fresh tarragon, either on or along side the steaks. I'm inclined toward smothering them with mushrooms at the moment. A well stocked freezer and pantry, along with a backyard herb garden,  mean I get to do this without stopping by the store on my way home from work. Yay!

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I would have equated sauteed mushrooms with piles of fresh butter. Mushrooms and eggs, I've since discovered, are wonderful---even better---cooked in olive or coconut oil. Olive oil is my current personal favorite, but you should try both and decide.

The recipe here is more like a template than a recipe. Neither quantities nor cooking times are exact because I really don't believe there is only one way to prepare it. It's a personal preference thing, and it's so darned easy to make that it's worth playing with a bit. These mushrooms may become a staple, and if that is the case, just remember not to tell everyone how easy it is to make them.

sauteed mushrooms

I'm not including quantities here because sometimes we make two servings and sometimes we're serving a small army. Adjust each amount as you need using this guideline. For one pound of mushrooms, you'll need about 3 ounces of good olive oil, one shallot, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh herbs.

  • good olive oil
  • fresh, firm mushrooms, brown or white, sliced 1/8 to 1/4" thick.
  • shallots, sliced or diced
  • fresh French tarragon, thyme, parsley, or a combination
  • dry white wine, Champagne vinegar, or fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
preparing the dish
Heat large, shallow pan on burner set to medium heat.
Carefully pour in olive oil to barely cover bottom of pan.
Quickly add sliced mushrooms. As mushrooms begin to brown, add shallots.
Continue cooking, stirring or turning occasionally, until browned to your preference. Some like them golden, others a rich dark, toasty brown. When you like the color, stir in the fresh herbs and wine.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Some people like to salt earlier in the process. Since salt draws moisture from the mushrooms, I prefer to wait until the end on this dish.
Be sure to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, and stir in a bit of your best olive oil.

notes and comments
I love this dish and use variations of it often. Most tender, green herbs do very well with mushrooms, in my opinion. I like dill, chives, parsley, or whatever is pretty and fresh in the garden or on the window sill. Thyme and mushrooms are really nice together.
This works really well served over steaks, chicken, rice, or quinoa. It also makes a delicious omelet filling.
Mushrooms can be quartered instead of sliced and prepared the same way. They're great in chunks for an appetizer or a side dish.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

pay more, eat less

I don't expect a lot of agreement with this philosophy, but I'd like to make my case. At the same time many of us pour over labels and lists of ingredients for foods our bodies don't tolerate, we often bemoan the loss of easy-access processed foods and, let's call it what it really is, junk food. We complain about both the cost of food and our waistlines. Often people insist that organic produce and eggs, wild-caught sustainable seafood, or grass-fed meats are too expensive. They are expensive, though usually far less so than medical care. Bottom line for us---we're buying the best we can find; it's going in our bodies.

I buy organic, local produce. It costs a little more, sometimes, but not all the time. In fact, if you focus on what's in season and only buy that, it can cost much less. Even so, mass-produced, fruits and vegetables out of season from half-way around the globe are available all year, are often quite attractive, are equally as often genetically modified, and can be darned tempting. But let's be honest and realistic with ourselves; grapes and watermelon in February make no sense. Same with tomatoes. If you've ever gardened, you know how much sustained heat and sunlight it takes to grow them. If you can't imagine growing them in your yard right now (weather-wise), it might be a safer choice to leave them on the shelf.

Wild-caught, cold-water fish does cost more, so does organically raised, grass-fed beef and lamb. Again, it's going into your body---for nourishment, not just tasty entertainment.

One thing we can do is use this to our advantage. Simply don't buy as much, use everything you buy, and eat less. I am not advocating starving yourself. I'm not recommending never eating the foods you love, and I'm not suggesting a bank loan to buy your groceries. At our house, we spend more on individual ingredients than we used to. Sometimes I have to look away from the price in order to put something in my shopping cart. We shop at a local natural foods store and farmers' market, order fish from Vital Choice and beef from Hearst Ranch. And we spend less on meals than most people I know. We eat almost all our meals at home, and we eat well.

High quality protein will fill you up faster and leave you more satisfied longer than processed, bulk food, even if that food is gluten-free. I make every attempt to cultivate a taste for only those foods that are really good for me. Oh, I'm not saying that I'm 100% successful at that, but I continue moving in that direction. Some gluten-free pastas are really good, and many people can eat and enjoy them. I am not one of them. So I choose to by-pass the gluten-free pasta, and eat brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat where I might have used pasta in the past. Any of these grains are far less expensive than heavily processed pasta.

One other way to off-set the cost of quality, of course, is to eat a little less. I can remember times when I ate as quickly as I could just to finish my food before it got cold. (I have this thing about really hot food.) Problem was I didn't really enjoy the experience and stopped being hungry long before I stopped eating. And it was definitely not a boon to healthy eating or a healthy weight.

I'll get off my soapbox for now and share a dish that follows this philosophy. The ingredients are organic, simple, and accessible this time of the year, at least in California. It's cute. too.

stuffed squash

My heritage, in part, is Lebanese, and this dish, while not authentic, is reminiscent of food my mother and grandmother cooked as far back as I can remember.

    Lundberg, Short Grain Brown Rice, Gluten Free, 32 oz (907 g)
  • 10 to 12 round squash
  • 2/3 cup brown rice, I use Lundberg organic
  • 1/2 pound ground beef, preferably organic, grass-fed
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 ounce olive oil
  • 15 ounce can organic tomato sauce
  • salt and black pepper
Simmer rice in 11 ounces of water and 1 teaspoon salt for about 45 minutes. You can also use left-over, precooked rice, about 1 cup.

Cut off top of squash and cut a small sliver off the bottoms, so they will stand easily. Using a small spoon, a measuring spoon or melon-baller works well, removed the seeds and inner portion of each squash, leaving about 3/8" of flesh all around. Sprinkle inside generously with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked rice, meat,  and onion, stirring well to mix.

Loosely stuff each squash with the meat and rice mixture.

In a Dutch oven or deep pan, pour olive oil and about 3 ounces of tomato sauce. Place stuffed squash on top. Carefully pour remaining tomato sauce over the tops. Add one cup water.

Simmer for one hour or until tender.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

temperatures rising

It's finally getting hot here, not nearly as hot as it will get this summer, but hot. So why I am I thinking about chili and soups and braised dishes of all sorts? This makes no sense. We need salads, lots of salads; I have wonderfully fresh, organic greens of all sorts in the fridge, and yet cold food does not sound appealing this week. Go figure.

It's not just me, either. GK still wants hot oatmeal for breakfast, so I make enough for several meals, and he reheats whatever he wants each day. My breakfasts, as is often the case, don't look like breakfast at all. In another life, it might have been cold pizza---okay, rewarmed pizza, it needed to ooze a bit. Now, breakfast is leftover steak or chili or sauteed squash with onions. Occasionally, I throw an egg on the top, only occasionally. Yesterday I nibbled on strips of rare steak at my desk all morning. The day before it seared ahi, again at my desk. Of course, this I have to do between students. Not everyone is so excited about almost raw flesh. Today, I'm thinking last night's stuffed squash will make a nice breakfast.

Speaking of the stuffed squash, my intention was to post pics and a recipe right away. I have, unfortunately, gotten a bit lazy. I'm blaming it on the heat. I'll get the recipe up this week. Just remember, if you decide to try this, it will heat up the kitchen and you a bit. But then that's what air conditioning is for.

Friday, June 10, 2011

beans in the pantry

Eden Organic Garbanzo Beans, No Salt Added, 15-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)
one of my favorites
One of the most versatile and accessible items to keep in the pantry is a can of beans. Actually, that should read many cans of many types of beans. The possibilities are almost endless. Beans can be added to breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus easily. They can be quickly turned into a snack or appetizer. They can be casual or dressed up as much as the occasion demands.

And, of course, most are gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free. Be careful when reading the labels; many canned beans are prepared with sugar or even starches. The sugar can be rinsed off, mostly anyway, in a pinch, but it's best to stick to brands that don't use it in the first place.

Right now in my pantry, you will find garbabzo beans, kidney beans, tiny white beans, pintos, limas, green beans, black beans, wax beans, and a few odd-ball varieties. And those are only the cans. I'll talk much more about dried and fresh beans soon. All it takes to turn these into creative additions to any table is a can opener and a little, very little,  imagination.

For years when I've needed a quick dish for a spur-of-the-moment potluck or  bbq,  I've turned to this bean salad. It's a standard at summer dinners and lunches at our house, travels well, can be made ahead with ease, and is really tasty. We are not fans at our house of the savory-sweet combo that so many love, so this is not an overly sweet salad. It has a hint of sweetness from the dressing that works beautifully with the beans. The quantities can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, depending on the size group you're serving. Since this salad lasts so well, I often make a really large batch just to have in the refrigerator for snacking or to use as a quick meal.

almost-too-easy-to-admit bean salad
Newman's Own Salad Dressing, Balsamic Vinaigrette, 16-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 6)

1 can cut green beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 TBS dried onion flakes
4 to 6 ounces Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette

Rinse beans lightly and combine in bowl. Stir in onion flakes and dressing. Refrigerate for a few hours and serve. Gets even better as it sits.

You can, of course, make your own vinaigrette and chop fresh onions. I do so often, but make just as it is here, this is a very good dressing. This is what I've been serving family and friends for many years now, and I promise you, it has quite the following.

I'd love to hear ways each of you use beans from the pantry.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

wait! this wasn't in the agreement

May I whine a bit? Okay, I know sometimes I'm inclined to whine quite a bit, but today has been exceptionally stressful. I am not unused to limitation, some of it has even been self-imposed as cautionary measure.

I've given up cream in my coffee. I really like cream, real heavy organic whipping cream, drizzled into hot, strong, dark-roasted and freshly ground coffee. I've given up incredible cheeses, sour cream, and creme fresh. (Sorry, I'm too stressed to use the French spelling.) I don't eat whole-grain sour dough bread, or even think of freshly glazed maple bars from our famed local bakery, Smith's. No ice cream, no ravioli, no lasagne. But, but, I got a new "no."

I don't like going to doctors. Doctors are just fine; I just don't like being a patient. But things with my body have just not been responding s they should, so...I've been doing the consults, exams, tests, etc. and today, well sort of last night, I got the news that my blood sugar is too high. I'm not diabetic, just something they call pre-diabetic---a dumb term if there ever was one. My instructions are to watch my carbohydrates. Damn, I thought I'd made an art form out of watching my carbohydrates, but this is a bit different. The few I could eat, or thought I could eat, safely are now off the table. Even cherries, and cherries are only here for about one month a year. I'd like to live on them.

I know it's not horrible. There is much worse going on all around us, but today, this is my day and my focus. Tomorrow I will, hopefully, be able to think of something else---like the pantry post and the bean salad recipe I promised. But for today, I'm stuck in this yucky mental place thinking about the additional foods that are now out of play for me.

I wanted a bottle of wine and a rare steak for dinner, but we're having heirloom squash with grass-fed beef, onions, and tomatoes. It'll be good. Another day I would have thought it great, but today is my whiny day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What's in the pantry?

A restricted diet can be hard. It can also be invigorating, exciting, seriously tasty, and creative, but hard still plays a part.

One of the most productive things I have discovered, along with developing as large a support group as is humanly possible, is to clear out the food that I shouldn't eat and replace it with foods that don't bite back. It's big job and a scary one to some degree, especially if you're a bit of a foodie at heart. There really was not a lot in my pantry that I didn't like or didn't want. I'm guessing that's the same for most of us. We don't bring food into the house because it grosses us out. Even though I knew it had to be done, I whined a bit as I removed every Barefoot Contessa mix from the freezer. The flour, about 40 pounds of it, mostly organic, was easier. (And where in the world did the Kraft mac and cheese come from anyway?) It's funny though, most of the specifics have faded. It had to go. If you can do as we did and bite the bullet, life will be so much easier. Any contraband you keep in the house is like leaving the stove on when you go to the store. It may not result in catastrophe, but there's sure as heck a possibility. And there's just no really good reason I can think of to take that chance.

That said, I must admit it was months before I gave away all of the cheese stored carefully in the refrigerator. When I say cheese, I'm not talking sliced American. We had Point Reyes Blue, my all time favorite, 3 or 4 goat cheeses, French and Greek feta, a couple of types of Swiss. I am, sadly "was", a cheese fanatic. For awhile I said GK could eat it, so I needn't dispose of it all, but that just doesn't work. The only exceptions in our house now are organic whipping cream for his coffee and one loaf of organic sprouted bread in the freezer. There's no way I will accidentally pick up either of those and eat them. (I may like to but I won't.)

So then, what do you put in all that space? Lots of amazingly good ingredients! A word of caution, be a bit leery of mixes. Read the labels. Just because they're gluten-free or dairy-free doesn't mean they're good to put in your body. I'm not saying never buy them, just be careful. The first thing I did was to buy an organic cornbread mix. I was hoping maybe if it were gluten-free, I could eat cornbread. And no, I can't, not without a whole lot of pain!

Bob's Red Mill has some really good products and some really great products. I love many of their flours. Their sweet rice flour is one of my favorite thickeners and it's also good as a starch portion in a flour mix. Amazon is a good source, if you know you like something or can't get it locally. I love having hard-to-find items shipped directly to my door. Your local grocery or natural foods store is a better choice to try a product first to be sure you like it. As you know if you're eating gluten-free, it can get a bit pricey at first, and I'm not sure that's necessary. I suggest one or two products at a time. Try them a few times to see what you think.

More about what's in my pantry to come. In the meantime, my all-time favorite advice is to focus on what you can eat safely, the foods you love that are kind to your body, and enjoy the heck out of those. Tomorrow our favorite quick bean salad that comes straight from the pantry.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

a chile verde kind of day

This has been the craziest year where weather is concerned. It's hard to complain here in California, since our weather has been pretty darned mild by comparison with the rest of the world. Still, it's June and cloudy. The temperatures are up one day and down the next. Is it a good day for salad or a hearty soup? Who knows till you get half-way through it.

Today, though, the cloudy skies and lazy Saturday feel are turning my mind and my appetite toward chile verde. The way I make chile verde is neither quick nor simple, and I will not claim that is traditional. It is, however, seriously satisfying and always draws rave reviews. It's something I created in a trial and error process over years, rarely following a recipe but consulting magazines, books,
cooking shows, and the internet intermittently. Most, though, it's been taste and adjust, looking for the right combination of flavors and textures. I hope you'll try it.

I eat pork, GK does not, and we often serve vegetarians, so I've worked for some time to develop ways to accommodate us all, though not necessarily at the same time. I contend that chile verde is best with pork, fatty pork like country style ribs. Avoid the lean stuff, or you'll end up with some pretty tough, dry chile verde. Chicken is probably a good second choice, especially if you'd like to avoid pork and do eat poultry. Here again, it can't be too lean. Chicken, or turkey for that matter, thighs work well. Breasts do not. I don't use tofu at all, but it can be simmered in the sauce, as can beans, or vegetables like cauliflower that absorb the distinct flavors of your sauce.

This can be made as an almost one-pot meal all at once, or components can be prepared separately. It's fun to play with the variations.

Chile Verde with Pork

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, medium to large, sliced or chopped
  • 6 to 8 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 to 1 pound whole or diced mild green chiles, such as Anaheim or New Mexico--canned or fresh
  • 2 to 4 fresh, or one small can, hot peppers like jalapenos or serranos
  • 2 28-ounce cans tomatillos
  • 1 to 2 cups chicken broth (I use Pacific or homemade)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • about 4 to 5 pounds pork country style ribs or shoulder, not too lean, cut into approximately 2" chunks. 
Season meat lightly with salt and pepper. You will add seasonings along the way, so a light hand is good at this point. Brown chunks of pork on medium heat with a very small amount of olive oil, if needed. Remove and set aside.

In the same pan, brown onions, adding garlic and about 1 teaspoon salt as the onions begin to brown. When medium brown, you don't want to burn them, stir in rice flour. 
Next add chiles, tomatillos, cumin, and oregano. Stir well and add 1 cup chicken broth.
Simmer for about 30 minutes, then combine with meat in a large pot or crockpot. 
Slowly cook the meat in the sauce for several hours, until the meat is fork-tender. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cooks. It remains somewhat brothy.
Taste for seasoning, and adjust as needed for your personal tastes.

Serve with rice and tortillas. It's also great with scrambled eggs or as an omelet filling.

Prepared as written, this is a spicy, maybe very spicy dish. Be sure to taste it with rice or gluten-free bread if you're sensitive to heat.

Notes and options
  • This tastes even better if made a day ahead and reheated.
  • If you add the browned meat and onions to the sauce ingredients without the first simmering step, it does not make a significant difference in flavor or texture. I really like playing with my food, and that can translate into steps that are mostly for fun. Please feel free to experiment.
  • To make with chicken, use whole or quartered thighs, with or without skin and bones. The skin and bones add to the flavor but are a bit of a pain to remove at the end of cooking. I usually use thighs with them and then grumble at myself when picking through a large pot of hot meat and sauce for bones and skin. You be the judge.
  • For a vegetarian option, use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. It works best to complete the sauce separately and then add the vegetables of your choice. The sauce is also great over rice or noodles by itself.

Friday, June 3, 2011

I didn't get sick

Life has gotten crazy, I'm afraid. We almost never go out to restaurants, fast food doesn't exist as an option for me, ordering in is just as impossible. If I don't cook it for the most part, I don't eat. It wasn't always this way, of course. Choosing to eat my own cooking was a matter of pride for quite some time. Then the world got crazy, or more likely, I just started noticing what was happening in my body.

Earlier tonight I was longing for those times. Times when we could open a bottle of wine, choose a few good cheeses and a crusty loaf of whole-grain bread and call it dinner. I can still drink the wine, probably shouldn't, but I'll go down that road kicking and screaming. But tonight, I was tired. Okay, tired and a little whiny. Those seem to go together a lot for me these days. I didn't want to plan. I didn't want to cook, and more than anything else, I didn't want dietary restrictions. I can almost feel the universe laughing at me, except, of course, the universe has no sense of humor.

I did cook, and we had a nice dinner. Still, the nagging feeling remains. I don't want to have to think so very much about every bite I put in my mouth. I, of course, am not alone. I'm sure every one of us who deal with these issues feels the same way, at least some of the time.

And the bottom line is "so what?" So what if it makes me cranky, so what if I get a little whiny, so what is I never again feel the creaminess of Point Reyes blue? So what? So I whine. I dream. Still, all in all, I am so very lucky to not be in constant pain. It's only when we're away from that agony for awhile that the thought of limitation arises.

I rarely go to restaurants for the reasons I've mentioned. This past Monday, though, was an exception. Following a weekend of Basque celebrations, Wool Grower's, a local Basque restaurant, held their annual breakfast. The menu is set: several meats, including blood sausage, eggs over easy, potatoes, cheese, salsa, French bread, and, of course, red wine. Obviously, the bread and cheese were not foods I could choose, but the rest I tried and (mostly) enjoyed. And, yes, we had wine at 9 am. We had to; it was on the table. I might have been rude to leave it. The eggs were cooked in oil, probably olive oil, I was told. Yay! I could eat them. I forgot to ask about the potatoes. I must have gotten lucky. Bottom line for me, and I know this sounds absurd, but I didn't get sick. This is a restaurant first for me. I am always as careful as I know how to be. I ask so many questions that it must embarrass those with me, and I still get sick. So all I can say now is thank you Wool Grower's. Oh! Do you think it was the wine?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

breakfast for dinner

Truth be known, I'm not really a great breakfast food fan. I enjoy well-cooked eggs, preferably poached and soft, an unusual omelet, perfectly cooked crispy hash browns, even home style potatoes sauteed with onions and peppers, but I can't really get excited about them. And cereals are something else again; they will never excite or attract me short of an alien invasion or alternate universe sort of experience. Still, GK is a breakfast nut. I mean REALLY a breakfast nut. So I do breakfasts. I do breakfasts pretty well.

Weekend mornings and some weekdays, as well, I make serious breakfasts. Once a week at least, I make a large pot of organic oatmeal with raisins for him. He eats it for days while I'm at work. But, other than the joy of making food someone else enjoys, it doesn't do much for me. I've tried gluten-free oats and they taste great. They just don't get along too well with my body.

But I digress. Today, I was inspired by Carrie Forbes,, she seems to love breakfasts. So tonight we had breakfast for dinner.

Even with inspiration, I'm still not a cereal fan, so our "breakfast" was the eggs and potatoes variety. I started with organically grown potatoes from, our local produce coop. After peeling and dicing them, I browned them in olive oil in a cast iron pan, adding red onion and green pepper, all from abundant harvest organics.

When it comes to eggs, we always go with organically raised eggs. It's going into your body. Don't count pennies here.

My eggs tonight were over easy, his were more playful. He can eat dairy, and I love to cook with it occasionally at least, so his was an omelet with mushrooms, shallots, and havarti cheese. It looked pretty good if I do say so myself.
 So what's the difference in breakfast and breakfast for dinner, not much. Well, maybe the choice of beverage.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

try these beans

 I know many people feel that baking is all-important in gluten-free cooking. I am not one of them. It's not that I don't enjoy a good cookie or cake or pie, but they are rare treats for me. I rarely eat bread, though a sandwich sounds good every once in awhile. So you will find some recipes of this nature here, but not a lot. 

The same holds true for dairy products. I definitely use substitutes for milk, butter, and cheese, but these products do not try to mimic dairy. I have yet to find a cheese substitute that I am willing to eat, and most contain casein, which is definitely on my "avoid at all costs" list.

Try these links for some baked treats:
glutenfreegirl gluten-free-ice-cream-sandwiches

I find real inspiration in those foods which are primarily gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free to begin with. Some need no changes, some just minor tweaks to make them safe and still seriously delectable. All, I believe, are not just acceptable, but a delight to eat.

One of my favorite side dishes can do double duty as a main course. This version is vegetarian, vegan actually, and it is full of flavor. Those who wish to add meat to this dish can do so with ease, but try it this way first. This is so easy to prepare that I would say it needs no recipe were it not for the number of times I've been asked for a recipe.

Quick and Easy Beans
  • 5 cups dried beans, picked over and rinsed well, my current favorite is organic cranberry beans, pinto or pink beans are fine
  • water to cover by at least 3"
  • 2 or 3 whole serrano chiles, jalapeno will do if serranos are unavailable
  • one onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 to 6 cloves of garlic, whole or coarsely chopped
  • one 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, I use Muir Glen organic, or 5 or 6 fresh tomateos, chopped
  • salt and ground pepper to taste

Combine first 5 ingredients in crockpot or large dutch oven. Beans need not be soaked unless you want to shorten the cooking time. I usually start them early in the day for that evening or the night before for an afternoon meal. Simmer or cook on low until beans swell and are becoming tender. Check one or two with a spoon to determine. How quickly beans cook and soften depends on many factor including the type of bean, how long they've been on the shelf, and whether or not they've been soaked. Check occassionally, stir and add extra water if needed.

After beans are somewhat tender, and only then, add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Acid, as in the tomatoes, and salt will toughen the beans if added before that.

Continue to cook until fully done. Taste again for seasoning. Beans tend to need a lot of salt, but it's much easier to add it than try to take it away.

As they cook, the beans will develop a rich, creamy sauce, much like a bean gravy, and will be less firm and separated than, say, canned beans. They are great served alone, with avocado slices, minced onion, over rice or quinoa, or with meat. Cheese or sour cream can be added if you choose; obviously they are no longer vegan with this option.