Sunday, December 23, 2007

Super easy Quinoa cookies

So I headed out to my parents' house for a day of holiday baking...and I made one cookie. Mom kind of took over the kitchen, making gluten-y baked good. Ah well. These are pretty darn good, and really, how many cookies can one Diva eat?


I have been wanting to try baking with quinoa. I love cooking with quinoa, and what a great way to inject some healthiness into your dessert? This recipe is actually off the back of the box of Quinoa Flakes. I figured I would try it as written since this was my first foray into quinoa baking. The verdict: Yum-o (to quote the cooking lady on my TV right now.) So here you go...



Crispy Quinoa Cookies

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 t vanilla
1 cup rice flour
3/4 cup Quinoa Flakes
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt (optional)
1/2 cup nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat honey, brown sugar, margarine, peanut butter, and vanilla in medium bowl until creamy. Combine rice flour, quinoa flakes, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl (or just dump it all on top of the wet mixture like I did!) Add to mixture and beat until well blended. If desired add nuts and/or chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool one minute before removing from cookie sheet.


I found that they seemed to bake much faster that the time given. Then again, that could have been due to my parents' old, wacky oven. While these are not a real holiday cookie, it is still a fantastic addition to our gluten free baking repertoire. If you miss oatmeal cookies and don't want to risk a reaction to oats, this is the way to go. They are not exactly the same, but are pretty darn close. Enjoy!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday comfort


There is nothing that is more indicative of the holiday season than the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove. The aroma permeating the air, wafting from a freshly baked pie or loaf of bread. The scents wrap themselves around you like a thick down blanket. Warmth, security, contentment.

At this moment my kitchen is a mess. It is in a bad way. I was sick for nearly two weeks. This is the fallout that occurs: too much garbage, piles of unwashed dishes, lots of yuck. But my appetite has returned with a vengeance. What to do? Slow cooker! Someone over on livejournal posted a rough sketch of a recipe the other day that had snagged my interest. Yesterday I wiped out the slow cooker and dug out the Pumpkin Pie Spice. Mmmmmm... Pumpkin Pie Spice. After playing around with seasoning amounts, here is the result:

(Picture coming soon...as soon as blogger quits being a punk!)

Pumpkin Rice Porridge

8-9 cups milk
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
3 T pumpkin pie spice
1 can pumpkin puree
3 cups rice

Put the first 4 ingredients in your slow cooker. Mix to blend completely. Add in the rice. Cover and cook. (I set it on high for 6 hours.) Occasionally mix to ensure even cooking.

Hint: I used a Reynold's Slow Cooker Liner. These things are lifesavers! Cleanup is a breeze. I can't imagine how horrible it would have been without the liner. Some much scraping! Instead you just lift it out and throw it away.

This is truly a porridge. Thick, dense, slightly sweet. Yum! It has a consistency similar to a bread pudding. The only problem is that it makes a HUGE batch. I am going to have to try making it much smaller. I may try it with a slightly higher ratio of wet ingredients. If you play around with it, please let me know the results. Hmmm...I wonder how it would taste warm and topped with maple syrup?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kick start

Well...I've sure been a slacker here. I have definitely fallen down on the job in terms of posting recipes and such. It's not that I have not been cooking (I have, just not much.) I have just been busy and stressed and slightly uninspired. I need to get back in the swing of things.

In an effort to get the ball rolling I am asking for your help. We are well and truly into the holiday season. I am planning on doing some holiday baking with Mom tomorrow. Since I intend to share the cookies with you all (um, the recipes), I thought I would expand this a bit. If you have posted or are planning to post any holiday baking recipes, please let me know. Drop me a comment and include a link. I will put them all into one post. Kind of a round up, but more like a really convenient place to look for a bunch of gluten free holiday goodies. Cookies, cakes, candies, whatever sweet stuff you are concocting to celebrate the holiday (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.)

Now to pick out the recipes I plan to make. And I think I need to play with my dog. He has been trying to snag my attention at the most inopportune times: while I'm on the phone, as I try to do work, as pictures are being taken...



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I recieved a response

I was quite surprised this evening when I checked my email and saw that the editor from the Seattle Times responded to my email regarding their article (see my last post.) Here is what she said:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the recent "Survival Guide for
Holiday Hosting" story. We realize now that we should not have included
"gluten-free" as an example in the "Diva" category, as a gluten-free diet
often is a medically diagnosed need, not a choice. On our website, we have
changed that sentence to say: “The Diva has driven us crazy with high-maintenance demands like special diets and fresh towels every day.” In past articles, we have taken great care to address the importance of gluten-free diets, and have even printed recipes for those needing alternatives. That said, your note
is a good reminder that we need to stay mindful of this issue.

Thanks again.
Colleen McBrinn
The Seattle Times
Weekend Living Editor
206/515-5655

While this does not completely make me happy ("special diets" can still be medical necessities), it is nice to have what I said recognized.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Please send a response!

I haven't poked around yet to see if any of you have posted this as well. Just in case, everyone needs to read this article and respond to the journalist (and even her editor.) She wrote an article printed in the Seattle Times about "Surviving the Holidays". She labeled different kinds of guests. One, "The Diva", included guests who eat vegan and gluten free diets. Yes. Because we have a choice. Her ignorance astounds me. That fact that her editor let this be published is even worse. Both the journalist and the newspaper need to be made aware that this attitude is unacceptable. Perhaps it is a matter of not being properly informed. But if that is the case, they have committed a major journalistic faux pas.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/living/2004018439_guestetiquette17.html

I just sent off this email:

Dear Ms. Tsong,

I was rather disturbed after reading your article regarding house guests and surviving the holidays. In the article you listed a handful of guest stereotypes. One in particular, The Diva, is grossly unfair and inaccurate. You have lumped together individuals who make excessive personal requests (fresh towels) with people who are on specialized medical diets. I can understand your frustration over a guest whose requests inconvenience you for no other reason than that they prefer things done a certain way. However, I cannot understand or accept that you would open your home to someone and then begrudge them that fact that, if they were to eat a certain kind of food, would be ill for the remainder of their visit.

The Gluten Free diet is not a fad diet. It is not something a person adopts by choice, but as a matter of medical necessity. For those of us who live with Celiac Disease (a genetic auto-immune disease that attacks the small intestines) a gluten free diet is THE ONLY course of treatment. We cannot pop a pill and eat your stuffing and pies. Would you vilify a guest who lives with peanut or lactose allergies? While they may have more immediate and outwardly visible reactions (vomiting, anaphylactic shock, etc.), a person with Celiac can have intestinal damage that may take 3-6 months to heal. This can occur from just one mouthful of gluten-filled food. This damage (and the resulting mal-absorption of nutrients) can lead to such long-term problems as bone density loss (osteopenia and osteoporosis) and lymphoma. Please do not diminish such serious health issue by referring to them as Diva tendencies. Not only is it rude, but it illuminates your ignorance on the topic.

Shannon Mueller
Celiac Disease
Gluten Free since Oct. '06

The journalist's contact information is listed at the bottom of the article. Let's see how large of a presesence we can make known!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In love with Joe

I am in love. With Joe. He has everything I want and need. He provides for me. He fills me up. He makes me feel as though I am unique, not weird. I am in love with Joe. Trader Joe.

It seems that, more and more, Trader Joe's is becoming the leader in gluten free retail marketing. Every time I walk in that store I see new products. Products proudly displaying the label "gluten free". Here is a list of some new faves:

Gluten Free Granola
Gluten Free Black Forest Cake (freezer section)
Gluten Ginger Snaps (OMG, so good!!!)
Chicken Gorgonzola (freezer section)
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus


I also bought the Gluten Free tiramisu. I am saving for this weekend. I am hosting an Urban Family Thanksgiving. Eeek! I will be cooking a turkey by myself FOR THE FIRST TIME!!! I am planning on making gf stuffing out of Kinnikinnick bread. Anyone use that bread for stuffing a bird before? How did that work for you?

Friday, November 09, 2007

It has been so long and so much has happened in the past month that I won't even try to fill you in on all of it. I will, however, try to hit the high points.

- Today I made a long overdue stop at Trader Joe's. All month I have been hearing great things about their new gluten free granola. I bought one bag (they have three flavors) and the verdict? OMG fantastic!!! Crunchy, great texture, slightly sweet. I can't wait to try it over yogurt.

- A couple of weeks ago I attended a gluten free and food allergy fair at a local hospital. There were so many great vendors. I had the opportunity to try so many gf products. Here is a list of some must-buy treats I tried: Pamela's Chocolate Cake mix, 123 Gluten Free pound cake mix (it tasted better than most "regular" pound cake), chocolate K-Toos, some local gf bakeries, gf Full Flavor cheese sauce (for fast mac & cheese) and turkey gravy, and some spice and dip mixes from a company called Cali. There was an amazing biscotti, but I can not remember the name of the company. Oh! Also, I tried Pamela's PB Chocolate Chip cookies. So delicious!

- I am really starting to get into wine. My friends and I have been trying new wines each month during my movie nights. I went to Sam's (a HUGE wine and liquor store near my place). There are so many wines there that it is a bit overwhelming. Luckily, there were some reps available conducting tastings. I have never really done a side-by-side-by-side tasting before. It was really neat to taste a variety of wines and to be able recognize differences between them. I'm looking forward to the next movies and wine night.

- Speaking of the next movies and wine night...it is a week away. I am hosting an Urban Family Thanksgiving Feast. For the first time ever, I will be making the holiday turkey. EeeeeKkkKKk!!! I'm so nervous about this. I want it to turn out juicy and tasty (duh). I want to succeed at making gf stuffing. I am thinking of using Kinnikinnick bread and my mom's stuffing recipe. Have any of you used that beard for stuffing? How did it turn out?

- I got glutened earlier in the week. My poor tummy has been sensitive ever since. Even food that I know is completely safe has been bothering me. Hopefully this won't last much longer.

- I will be trying some chicken mango sausages this weekend. I bought them at Trader Joe's. GF is right there on the label. They sounds interesting. I need to think about how and with what I will serve them.


I think that covers quite a bit for now. Hope all of you are doing well. Hugs and GF kisses!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

huh

When a person is told that they have Celiac Disease and that henceforth they are no longer allowed to eat any of their favorite foods, their life can feel as though it has been thrown into turmoil. It was an adjustment for me, a fairly big lifestyle change. I went from being the girl who would eat anything, to being the "challenging" one when we go out to eat. The first holiday meals are a disaster and no one quite understands.

That being said, you would think I would have been much more aware of what this weekend was: my one year anniversary. I was sitting here about to crawl into bed when I realized (belatedly) that the anniversary of the day I started my gluten free lifestyle had come and passed. It is almost an afterthought. Strange. Also strange that I am sitting here thinking about being GF for a year while all bloaty and with a big case or gurgly tummy. Can't imagine what I ate. Nothing should have had gluten. It could just be too much fat or dairy. Cheese, pasta with a heavy cream sauce, and...oh. duh. White Chili. Sometimes I am quite dumb.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A fun find

I have started cooking again a bit. Stress seems to wipe out any desire to cook, but lately I have been having fun with it again. Meals have been made, food pics have been taken, no posts have been written. I promise to fix that in the near future. A few of the meals actually turned out quite good.

The reason for my writing today is food related, but not cooking related.

A little over a year ago, after a relationship I quite enjoyed came (sadly) to an end, I decided I needed to focus more on my friends. I always seem to feel that way after a breakup. While I may not have been smart about the dating decisions I made after that, I did make a smart decision by starting what has become a bit of a tradition. Once a month I host a movie night. I cook an entree (usually something big and meaty) and everyone else brings a side dish, dessert, appetizer, etc. It is a big old potluck. I baked my first ham, made chili, created a taco bar...among other themes. A few moths back I added a new element to our monthly gathering: wine. There was usually at least one person who would bring a bottle along. Month after month I would hear people say "I wish I knew more about wine." So why not? Movie Night became Monthly Movies & Wine. I try to pick a theme for each gathering: West Coast Wines, US Wines (not West coast), and College Wines (nothing over $5). It has been fun and interesting. Perhaps not educational yet, but that may change.

Last week I was watching Nightline. Why? I never watch Nightline. It usually depresses me with all of their child predator stories. I teach children all day, that topic just depresses the hell out of me. For whatever reason, the show was on. They featured a segment about a gentleman on the east coast and his web site. Gary Vaynerchuk owns and runs a wine store that his parents started when they moved here from (I believe) Russia. It is now a monstrous wine superstore. About a year or so ago he started video blogging about wine. The result is Wine TV. He is crazy. A huge football fan, he often talks about the Jets and how terrible they are doing. He is not a wine snob, sounds like your average Joe. He presents wine in a way that is entertaining and approachable for the average person. If you want to learn about wine, whether you are a newbie or a seasoned wine connoisseur, this is the place to go. Check it out. Nd if you have any wine suggestions of your own, pass them my way. I am always looking for a good wine to share with friends.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sweet tooth takes over!

My stomach is back to normal. It was back to normal very quickly. I'm still mystified. Now I am super leery about eating foods that could contain gluten. Will I have the same reaction next time? Was it a fluke? Was it food poisoning? Let's just hope there is never a repeat.

Moving on.

So I will be the first to admit I have a sweet tooth. On occasion it will rear it's head. "Feed me!" I dip into my candy reserves. As I have gotten older it seems to take smaller and smaller portions to satiate the beast. Usually. Sometimes I can ignore the monster. Other times it is more insistent. "FEED me!!" And into the freezer I dive for some ice cream. A couple of candies. An extra scoop of ice cream. The creature is more adamant. Then there are the days that my sweet tooth roars. "FEED ME!!!!!" Lord help me on those days. No matter what I put in my mouth it does not seem enough. Chocolate, ice cream, sweet tea, bakery goods. I need more! Today is one of those days. I am sure in a few days I will have a hormonal...visitor that will explain this intense craving, but for now there is no reasoning with the beast.

The beautiful thing is that in the (almost) year since going gluten free, I have found many safe options for feeding the cravings. On my way home from getting my hair cut (it's so cute!) I passed by the Vosges store. Yes, a store completely devoted to amazing, decadent chocolate. Amazing, decadent, expensive chocolate. Nearly all of it is gluten free! (I'm telling you, my sweet tooth is developing expensive tastes.) I sampled three "exotic candy bars" (remember my post about the Naga Bar?) One was white chocolate with kalamata olives, another with dark chocolate and Mexican peppers. The third was one I had already tried and LOVED. It is going to sound gross, but you must try it: milk chocolate, smoked salt and bacon. Heaven!

So there I was, looking all cute fresh from the salon, and surrounded by chocolate. What a blissful morning. :) By the time I walked out of there I had also tried a white chocolate-olive oil-kalamata olive truffle. Amazing. It should be for $3 a piece. The very nice (cute) boy working there gave me a free sample. Oh, and it pays to chat up the employees. He gave me a 10% "teacher" discount on my purchase of a Naga truffle and two candy bars. I have not yet tried these bars, but don't worry, I'll let you know how they taste. I anticipate more ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

Since I was in the neighborhood I also swung by Swirlz (the cupcake bakery that has GF offerings every day.) I had a coupon for a free cupcake. Which one should I get? Grasshopper mint-chocolate? Vanilla-chocolate? Cinnamon-chocolate? I asked the employee for his opinion. Mint-chocolate it was. Oh my! The cake is great, but the frosting is amazing! Light, creamy, slightly sweet. Perfect. Is my craving fulfilled? Well, it has quieted down for the moment. Although it does seem to be eyeing that Naga truffle with undue interest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ugh. (Warning: grossness ahead!)

School is crazy. I don't have reliable Internet at home. Yesterday I was sick.

I can't wait for October. I am done with September.

So here's the thing. Yesterday I went to our annual full-day meeting downtown. Usually this is a great day: no kids, no driving (I get to take the train), a room full of fine arts teachers and principals, and it is held at the Cultural Center. And they always provide food. Up till this year I have loved that last part. This year I could not partake. Actually, I should have risked the salad. Here's why...I went down to the local Thai restaurant. I have eaten there before. The Panang Curry is to die for. SO GOOD. Yesterday it tasted amazing. I ate way too much. About two hours after eating I started feeling icky. Damn, gluten...or so I thought. I left at the end of the meeting and started feeling worse. By the time I got off the train out by my apartment I felt horrible. I thought I was going to faint. Super queasy. Bad deal. I had to nearly push a guy out of my way on the stairs so I could get to the top and not risk passing out on the stairs. I got through the turnstiles and that was it. My lunch made a reappearance. Ew. The only times I have puked in the past 15-20 years have been due to reactions to anesthesia. This was not cool. Very embarrassing! People just stood and stared. Anyhoo, the reason I am sharing this is that I have a question. This could definitely be food poisoning. My body made sure there was not a single bit of lunch in my belly. I felt a bit queasy and shaky afterwards, but 100 times better. I was even able to eat a light meal last night. Today I am fine. I would have thought there would be lingering effects with food poisoning. As for gluten, I have never reacted this way. My symptoms are rather mild by comparison to other Celiacs. Have you ever (after going GF) had symptoms that were exponentially worse? Could it be the amount of gluten consumed? I normally just bloat and feel some heartburn and such. This was WAY worse. Any input?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Choclolagasm

OH. MY. GOD.

That is all I can really say. Seriously. OK, I am a typical girl. I love chocolate in nearly every form (although not chocolate ice cream so much.) About a week ago (during a fairly emotionally trying time) my best friend and I got together for some girl time. We ran over to Whole Foods to pick up some munchies that I could partake of. I bought many treats. Many. I finally got around to trying one of them today. Again, an emotionally draining day. (I swear my fellow teachers are worse than the students!) Anyhow, I busted into my emergency chocolate supply. OH MY GOD! Vosges Haut-Chocolate. I love it. It is one of their exotic candy bars: Naga Bar. "Sweet Indian curry powder, coconut flakes, deep milk chocolate". It is heaven. It melts on your tongue. Smooth, creamy, decadent. The chocolate itself is divine, the "exotic" ingredients put it over the top. They have a bunch of different flavors (all gluten free!) I can't wait to try more!

Now, I go eat more chocolate.

Monday, August 27, 2007

8 random things meme

Cindy tagged me for that "8 Random Things" meme that has been going around the food blog verse. Just call me a lemming as I cave to peer pressure.


1) I have the worst eating habits ever. One day I will eat non-stop, shoving food (really unhealthy food) into my mouth at an ever increasing rate. The higher in fat and lower in nutritional value, the better. The next day I will wake up, have a glass of oj, and then not eat anything until 4:30. I either don't feel hungry or I get so busy that I lose track of time. It's bad.

2) I am a music teacher who has a weakness for pop music. It doesn't even have to be good pop music. I will listen to the Pussy Cat Dolls. Horrible! Although, I draw the line at Beyonce. NO!

3) We moved around a bunch while I was growing up. Once we lived in Colorado for only 10 months before moving. Due to this I get "itchy feet" if I live in one place for too long. I have been in my current apartment for three years. The feet are itching pretty bad.

4) When we lived in Colorado I attended Columbine High School. It was nice. Good school, nice teachers. Pretty average. That was years before the shootings. For me the school is still that place where I spent freshman year.

5) I have never been out of the country. Not really. No offense, but I don't count trips to Canada and the Cayman Islands as "out of the country".

6) I feel like a grown up more often than not. This is a new development. I have felt for a while as though I was straddling the line between post-college-20's and adulthood. Maybe it was turning 30 that did it. Maybe I have reached a new phase of my life. Instead of feeling like I should know what I am doing, I actually feel as though I do know what I am doing...most of the time.

7) Adulthood scares me. I've reached it, but feel as though there is so much I didn't do before getting here. Life rarely turns out how you think it will, but my 21-year-old self would cringe to see which milestones I haven't reached. At the same time, I think she would be proud of some of the ones I have unexpectedly reached (I am getting a student teacher this fall!!!)

8) I have two main guilty pleasures: stinky cheese and bad sci-fi. My perfect Sunday afternoon would be spent in front of the TV watching Star Trek the Next Generation or Quantum Leap and eating brie on crackers. Oh yes.

OK, who to tag? I'm not sure who all has done this. If you already have, ignore my tag.
Sheri
Lynn Barry
Mike
Elise

I think everyone else has done this meme. If you haven't and I didn't list you, consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gluten Free Tears

Yesterday I almost started crying in the grocery store. It has almost been a year since going gluten free (where has the time gone?) I have been close to tears more times than I care to admit. Frustration. Annoyance. Anger. It doesn't even take one hand to count the number of times the tears have been brought on for a positive reason. Yesterday was one of those days. My first stop was at our old favorite, Trader Joe's. Bless them and their gluten free shopping list. The difference this visit was that they are now carrying the Gluten Free Black Forrest Torte. I want to eat the whole thing now!!! Instead, I will be sensible and save it for Saturday when I have friends over for dinner. But no worries! I have so much more to nosh on.

My second stop was a long time coming. A new grocery store had opened up in my neighborhood a few months back. I ignored it, figuring it was just another Whole Paycheck... I mean Foods. My landlords told me otherwise. So off to Sunflower I went. THANK GOD!!! (This is where I nearly wept.) They have your typical selection of Amy's frozen foods, soy and rice milk products, etc. What did they have that threatened to activate the tear ducts? Glutino cereals and cookies, GF protein powders, a whole section of frozen Kinnikinnick foods, and a line of products from a company called World Foods. I actually had to make a choice between two types of bagels, three types of bread, and two types of donuts. Heaven!!! World Foods almost made me cry because right there on the label it states (not just that it is gluten free) that it is "suitable for Celiacs". They give us a shout out! And OOOH Baby! The yummy stuff they have. Salad dressings and stir fry sauces from numerous cultures. I purchased the Coconut Lime dressing and Lemon Grass Pineapple stir fry sauce. They had over a dozen products. I think I may have fallen in love with this store. They carry my new favorite yogurt, Cascade Fresh (also labeled GF) in about 6 flavors and the yogurt smoothies. I could go on and on listing the great foods I bought...or I could go eat some of it. Sorry y'all, but you lose out to my appetite. :) But if you live in Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio you can enjoy the wonder of Sunflower for yourself. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We're feeling hot hot hot!!!

It is officially hot. Dang hot! How hot you, you ask? 90 degrees, 100 degree heat index, dew point at 73. Hot and humid. Now, despite living in Arizona for a large chunk of my childhood, I am not a hot weather girl. For me the perfect day would be between 75 and 82 with low humidity and scattered clouds. Ah. Heaven. Unfortunately, I live in Chicago where we have two seasons: winter and road construction...I mean summer. My two poor little window ac units are chugging away, but it is still uncomfortably warm indoors. It probably doesn’t help that I spent four hours this afternoon at a workshop held in a studio with NO AC! ehem.
That being said, there was no way my stove or oven was going to be turned on. Nuh-uh. I could order some Thai food, but my favorite place (that does not make me sick) has moved and not yet reopened. I am in desperate need of going to the grocery store. I am out of the staples in a big way. Well, I could microwave something. Or...I could eat a meal that does not require cooking. OR...rice cooker to the rescue! Thai food ala rice cooker:


Quick Curry Shrimp and Rice

1 cup white rice
1 can coconut milk
½ cup milk
2 t Silk Road Spice Blend or Curry Powder
1/4 cup diced sweet onion
1-2 dashes/splashes fish sauce
pre-cooked, tail-off defrosted shrimp
peanuts
salt to taste

Combine in a rice cooker the first 6 ingredients. Press cook or white rice button. When the rice is done mix in shrimp and peanuts. Salt to taste. (You could even garnish with cilantro!)

Easy. Rich and creamy. No impact on the temperature on your apartment. Fast prep with no need to hover over the cooking meal. What could be better?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Salmon Salad, Cheater Style

Today I am too drained, physically and emotionally, to do much writing here. The witty commentary will just have to wait for another day. Alas, I am nearly too drained to cook, as well. "But I'm HUNGRY!!!" screamed my stomach. Gah! Fine. McDonalds, pizza delivery, and frozen ravioli are no longer options. What to make? Cheater's style salmon salad. I saw a very delish looking recipe for a salmon salad over at Simply Recipes. It doesn't look too complicated, but I just didn't feel like running to the store for the missing ingredients. Instead I improvised with what I already had in my fridge and spice cupboard. Costco once again comes to the rescue, this time with some lovely salmon burgers they carry that are gluten free (says so right on the box!) This is so easy, but actually tastes quite good. I know there are many other ingredients I could add to this salad. Consider this the base, or foundation, upon which to add your own finishing touches:



Salmon Salad (Cheater's Style) for One

2 Omega Foods Wild Salmon Burgers, frozen
oil for your pan
1/3 cup sour cream
juice of one lemon (I used about 3/4 of the juice)
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1/4 cup vidallia onion, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste

Place the frozen salmon burgers in a lightly oiled small frying pan. Pan fry for 2 1/2- 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl combine sour cream, lemon juice, herbs, and onion. Flake the salmon burgers and mix into the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes enough for one person as an entree, or two as a side salad.



I toyed with the idea of adding diced red bell peppers to this salad. You could double the dressing and mix in 1-2 cups of brown rice. Hmmm... What would you add to this salad to make it your own?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

My new toy

I am a gadget person. I love gadgets and electronic toys. Music gadgets, PDAs, kitchen gadgets, schools organizing tools...they all make me a bit giddy. They don't have to be high tech. I don't own a video game system like Wii. Low tech is fun, too. For example, a new microplane grater or a candy thermometer. The big, hefty gadget are a blast, as well. I love my Kitchenaid stand mixer (goodness the thing is heavy!). But right now the gadget that I completely adore is my brand new rice cooker.

I have been cooking my rice on the stove. The stove method works just fine, but it does require a certain amount of attention. My new Aroma rice cooker is wonderful. I am sure most of you have owned a rice cooker for years, but this great machine is still a novelty to me. I love that you can just put everything into it, push a button and walk away. I suppose it is a bit like a slow cooker in that way...except much faster. So far I have made plain white rice and a rather tasty Cherry-Pomegranate Rice. I need more ideas! Those of you veteran rice cooker users who are out there, I implore you! What are your favorite rice cooker recipes? Either post it here or give me the link. I can put it all together in a "Rice Cooker Round Up" (totally stealing the idea from ByTheBay.)

In the mean time, here is my first installment. I use the measuring cup that came with the machine and the fill lines marked on the inside of the pot:


Cherry-Pomegranate Sticky Rice

In your rice cooker combine:
2 level cups (the cup that came with your machine) sushi rice
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cherries, diced
pomegranate juice (fill to the 2 line for a drier rice, to the 4 line for a more saucy rice)

Close the lid of your rice cooker. Press start. If you have different settings on your machine you can press "white rice" or "steam cook". (I used "steam cook".) When your rice cooker indicates it is done cooking, open the lid and stir the rice. You may need to taste the rice to determine if it is finished cooking. (I find that some rice takes longer if you use juice instead of water or stock. The sugar content perhaps?) You can eat as is or sprinkle with a bit of sugar.

My rice came out slightly tart and sticky. I was very pleased. It is best right out of the cooker, freshly made. Leftovers aren't too shabby, though. I need to experiment a bit more. I want to make sure I used this gadget often. I have to say, Costco is becoming my go to place to purchase small kitchen appliances: stand mixer, blender, rice cooker. I think next on the list to purchase will be a food processor. Hmmm...soup anyone?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Rhapsody On Zucchini

During the summer between 6th and 7th grades, my family moved into a new house. We were living in Oregon at the time. My parents had rented a house upon first moving to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. But that summer we moved into our brand new, custom built home. Our house was one of the first in the subdivision. It was so new that the forest grew right up against the neighboring lots. There was many an occasion when a mama deer and her babies would take a stroll down our cul-de-sac. This house will live forever in my mind as "the best house ever!" It was the first time I could remember living in a house with two floors. I had a HUGE bedroom. We could see Mt Hood from our front step. The kitchen was spacious with a beautiful butcher block island. Then...there was the garden. While gardens may not be rare to some of you, this was special for us. You see, we had moved to Oregon from Arizona. Aside from the grapefruit tree in our backyard there was no garden. The climate was not hospitable enough. At the new house Dad created this amazing multi-tiered garden. We grew everything (it seemed). Potatoes, swiss chard, green beans, snap peas, tomatoes, onions, and (best of all) zucchini. Ah, that zucchini. How I loved that zucchini. We would have tiny baby zucchini and great big giant overgrown zucchini. My dad and brother had this idea that they were going to let one of the green buggers grow for as long as possible to see if they could beat the Guinness Book of World Records. Alas, the final fruit fell short. That being said, we had to find a variety of ways to cook all the zucchini. We cooked it in casseroles and roasts. We sauteed and grilled it. I wish we had known about this fantastic recipe for stuffed zucchini that Mom and I made for the first time last night (with zucchini from their current garden). Now, while I have only tried a few recipe's from Elise's site, they have all been winners.

I have to say, though, that my absolute favorite is still zucchini bread. What??!!?!? You say you have never had it? That you think it sounds icky? Scandalous!!! Never speak ill of my beloved 'chini! Zucchini bread does not, in fact, taste like zucchini. The shredded green stuff gives the bread a great moist texture, and some wonderful healthy vitamins. (Makes it easy to justify eating an entire mini loaf by yourself in 24 hours.) We have been using the same recipe for my whole life. After doing a bit of research it looks as though most of the recipes out there are variations of the same one. So with four ginormous zuchs sitting on the counter, Mom and I began the Zucchini Cooking Royale. Ok, maybe it wasn't so grand as all that, but it sure turned out tasty. We started with the Zucchini Stuffed with Ham and Cheese (the recipe linked above.) I used Ener-G Bread Crumbs for the first time and thought they were pretty good. Even Dad thought they were the real thing. Next we tackled zucchini bread with Kinnikinnick flour. I only had the Pastry and Pie crust flour mix at my parents' house. It turned out fine, I just omitted the salt (since it is in the mix.) Mom then made a "regular" batch so that I could have the GF loaves all to myself. Yay Mom! Sadly, I do not have my camera with me. No pictures for you! But I do have the recipe. Enjoy!

Pineapple-Zucchini Loaf
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 T vanilla (yes it calls for 3 T, but you can use far less)
2 cups peeled, grated and well drained zucchini
3 cups Kinnikinnick GF Pastry and Pie Crust Mix
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x5" loaf pans. Beat eggs until fluffy. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla and blend well. Add zucchini. Sift together flour, baking powder, and soda and add to batter. Stir in pineapple and nuts and mix well. Turn into pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack before removing from pans. Wrap and store overnight to develop flavors before slicing. (Note: If using another GF flour mix, add 1 t of salt with flour.)

If you are like me and my father you will love topping this bread with butter or, better yet, cream cheese.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Finally getting somewhere

I went to the GI today in response to my 6 month follow-up blood work. As I had mentioned in the past, I was not thrilled with my doctor. Absolutely no communication. I went to a new GI today at Rush Hospital. He works with the dietitian I have been seeing. I am kicking myself for not going to see him in the first place. All of my other specialists are located at Rush. I had to break the mold once and go to Northwestern. (OK, it is a wonderful facility, as well. I just had no luck.)

Anyhow, Dr. Demeo is great. He took him time, talked through everything. He actually read my chart and referred back to items in it. While he never flat out said it, based on his reaction to the fact that I was severely anemic in college and I was diagnosed with an IgA deficiency when I was 8 years old (although that went away), he feels that I have probably had Celiac far longer than I have had GI symptoms.

I finally got a bit of a translation of my blood work. The normal range is a ratio of 1:10. My level is 1:160. I would say that is a bit high. Unfortunately, he does not use the same blood test as my previous doctor. Dr. Demeo uses the TTG. While he is not going to run that one right away, I had blood drawn to check my folate and B12. I need to schedule a DXA scan. He is requesting the results of my last CBC, and he is asking for copies of the slides from my endoscopy. I will probably be going in for a follow up in a few months.

He has a strong belief that the GI system, and especially Celiac, effects more than just stomach and bowels. I believe he referred to Celiac as being a multi-system disorder. Just by touching my shoulder he was able to tell me I have allergies (if you scratch your skin and the color changes to super pale, that is an indicator.) He also knew that I would get cramps (sorry guys) mid-cycle during ovulation and was able to point out exactly where I felt the cramping. Incidentally, the pain is not located near the ovaries. This is apparently connected to Celiac. Eh? Not sure if it is 100% true, but the man knew these things before asking me.

He said in all likelihood that I have been eating fine, but the extent of the damage is probably severe enough that it is taking a while to heal. The long and short of it is that I need to continue the diet and food journal (possibly adding symptoms to the journal), do the tests, pray I do not have osteopenia or (worse) osteoporosis. The strongest order from both the doctor and the dietitian (who came in and spoke with me again) is ti eat more and gain weight. When was the last time you heard a doctor tell a patient to gain weight?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

2 new finds!

Well, on Tuesday I had a meeting at school with our new principal. I had to get up early during summer vacation...no fair! After peeking in at the disaster that is my classroom, I decided I was starving. A quick phone call and I was off to the burbs. I met up with my boy at a little cafe I have been hearing about for a while called Joyful's Cafe. Apparently it used to be more like a small market with tons of gluten free products. Unfortunately it did not make enough money. On the up side, the owner (Mark, I believe) turned it into a cafe/deli. Very cute. Great decor. Sandwiches and salads make up the bilk of the menu. All items on the menu can be made GF. I think the owner's son has Celiac and that was why he has this business. It makes me trust them more with the preparation of my food. I ordered the California Turkey sandwich. Oh yum! Good, moist bread. Turkey, avocado, bacon, cheddar, onion, and lettuce. I had almost forgotten how good a huge deli sandwich could be. It was heavenly. So, of course, I had to ask if they sell the bread by the loaf. The gentleman I spoke with said they had Kinnikinnik white, another sandwich bread, cinnamon-raisin millet, and banana-nut millet. The cinnamon-raisin was sadly sold out. I went home with a loaf od banana- nut millet bread. I had never had bread made with millet flour. The verdict? Very good! This was not homemade. It was a frozen loaf from a place called Sami's Bakery based in Tampa, FL. This bread, while made with banana, is not your typical sweet dessert bread. There was the subtle flavor of banana, but it is almost neutral. I don't think I could use it with coldcuts for a sandwich, but perhaps grilled cheese made with munster and/or a mild swiss. It is fantastic fresh out of the bag or toasted and topped with cream cheese. Oh yeah. I am definitely going to check out more of the products from this bakery!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer "cooking"

Cooking. It is such a wonderful thing. The fact that a person can combine a few ingredients and create a whole new dish is amazing. Usually, when I think of cooking a stove or oven come to mind. In the summer (or year round if you are my dad) this extends to the grill. I compensate by owning a George Foreman. (Don't knock it till you try one!) For some reason I just can't call it cooking if there is not some sort of heat source. Silly, I know, but there you have it. I can prepare a meal/food without heat, but it is not cooking.

This afternoon I prepared a meal for lunch. It is hot here in Chicago. There was absolutely no way I was going to turn on my stove or (worse yet) oven. Heck no. What to do? Well, I would have just noshed on rice cakes, cheese and apples, and Gatorade. Appetizing, I know. For some reason, though, I was inspired to hit the veggie market on my way home for the Capoeira workshop I attended this morning. (Good lord, my legs hurt!) At the market I bought so much lovely produce: cherries, strawberries, bananas, plums, red bell peppers, endive, eggplant, vadallia onions, basil, chives...the list goes on. In the fridge section they had a small selection of prepared salads. Almost all of them were off limits (couscous and tabbouleh). There was a tasty looking chickpea salad nestled amongst the verboten items. Hmmmm...interesting. Sadly, the salad was from the same company as the others and I did not want to take the chance. What to do? Make my own!!! OK, so I don't have any chickpeas, but I do have white beans. A little modification and this is what I made:


1 can white beans
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4-1/3 vidallia onion, diced (these suckers are BIG!)
2 T chopped fresh basil
olive oil (I like one with a strong flavor)
red wine vinegar
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper

Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl. Toss together gently. Drizzle the salad with olive and vinegar, lightly season with salt and pepper. Mix. Taste. Add additional oil/vinegar/salt/pepper to taste. (I like to add a generous portion of pepper.)


It is the ultimate in summer "cooking", that non-cooking in which no heating element is involved. Yet the end result...a healthy, flavorful meal that will definitely go in the repeat file.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back from Atlanta

I have to start by saying that Atlanta is such a beautiful city. Really very lovely. If ever you have to opportunity to go there, do. I am partial to Chicago, it is my home, but Atlanta is now in my top five. A great mix of old and new architecture. Warm. (OK, a bit humid.) Very green. Lots of large hills (not sure I can really call them mountains since I spent most of my childhood living in the Rocky Mountains.) Compared to Chicago, the city has very little traffic, foot or automotive. I look forward to going back.

I you do ever happen to head to that fair city, you MUST try a restaurant we went to. It is called The Real Chow Baby. It is one of those make-your-own-stir-fry places. The wonderful thing is that, on their regular menu, each sauce is labeled if it is sugar-free, low-sugar, vegetarian, vegan, or... gluten free! My boyfriend, who has no dietary restrictions, loved the place. You can be as creative or conservative with your ingredients as you want. All of the rice noodles are cooked separately from the wheat-filled ones. If you indicate that you have a food allergy/are gluten free, they cook your food on a separate wok. All you can eat for $12.99. A great place to take someone who has a hearty appetite. Avoid the mojitos, though. Among the worst I have had. (Very disappointing.) Oh, and do not go there if you are in a hurry.

In my effort to make sure I had gluten free options for the trip I over packed a bit. We brought along a cooler that we filled with cold cuts (Applegate Farms has the best turkey ever!), cheese, drinks, mayo, etc. I baked some Chebe flatbread to use for sandwiches. Chebe is officially my favorite GF quickbread. So tasty and easy. Even the boyfriend liked it. The only problem is that I now have more trail mix than I could ever possibly eat. What was I thinking? It is rather good. Cashews, hazelnuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dried cherries and dried blueberries. Mmmmmm... Because of all the food we brought along, and the free continental breakfast at the hotel, we only had to buy one meal a day. We saved a ton of money that way and I did not have to worry about finding tons of places to eat that could accommodate my diet. For my first vacation since going GF, it was a resounding culinary success. Oh, and the city was pretty darn great, too. ;)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Growin' up greens


There are so many things that I love about summer: the warm weather, the days off (it is good to be a teacher), iced tea, grilling on the patio, and fresh produce. Not the pale, plastic-y imitations of produce that you find in the winter, but the off the vine/plant, fragrant, flavorful summer variety. This is when I am happy I live in a big city. Huh? What? Fresh grown veggies in the city? How does that work? Easy! There are over a dozen farmers' markets that I can frequent every week. This past Sunday I checked out two markets close to my apartment. The first was small. Super small. I did pick up some lovely greens. While a pain to prep them for cooking, they were worth it. After cooking they still had body, didn't turn to mush. I sauteed the stems with olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. After 5-10 minutes I tossed in the leaves, garlic, and some frozen cooked shrimp. At the very end I added a splash of balsamic and it was done. So good.


Yes, the city is a fabulous place during the summer. My favorite culinary experience of late, though, has occurred out in the burbs. A year or so ago my parents transplanted some raspberry clippings from my aunt's garden. For the first time they have berries. Sun warmed, ripe, juicy berries. I love standing in the garden in bare feet picking berries. Eat them alone, with cream, or atop a Van's GF waffle. So lovely. My taste buds rejoice at the explosion of summer flavor. Now I just have to figure out how to convince me parents to let me pick all of the ripe berries on Sunday to take on the road to Atlanta. Mmmm...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Crap

Crap crap crapity CRAP!!!

I have cut out all commercially available baked goods, I read labels, my grocery bills have skyrocketed. All for what? To be gluten free, to be healthy, because I have Celiac. It takes thought and attention to detail. You can't slack, you can't cheat. I thought I had been doing pretty good. Sure the last month and a half have been less than healthy. I'm an emotional eater. When life gets stressful I eat whatever I crave. Ice cream. Cheese and crackers (GF, of course). Candy. See! I keep telling people that you can eat super unhealthy on a GF diet. I am proof. My diet has been wretched. Balanced nutrition? Heck no. BUT, I thought I was being careful about gluten. Apparently not. My doctor's office called me yesterday. I had my 6 (ok, really 7 or 8) month blood work done. My Dr. just got back from vacation and discovered that my blood levels HAVE NOT CHANGED. What the..??!!?!!??! But I have been eating GF! I swear!!! Crap! I knew I had been having tummy issues again, but they felt different. I thought it was strictly IBS problems. Damn. So now I have to keep a food diary again (for real this time). 6-8 weeks. Yikes. Then I go back to the doctor. The thing is, I was not happy with my doctor. He is very old school. Does not communicate well. What are my blood levels? "Abnormal" What number is it and what is the range it should fall into? "It is abnormal." uh-huh. So I called the office where my dietitian is located and made an appointment with the GI she works with for Celiac.

It just figures that I need to start this food diary just as I am about to leave for vacation. Grrr! So now I am brainstorming a list of items to bring along for the drive (11 hours!) and for lunches during the week. I am planning to make some Chebe flatbread for sandwiches. Cheese, cold cuts, fruit, veggies, hummus, lots of Larabars and ThinkThin and ThinkOrganic bars. (Those things are CRACK!) What else should I bring along? What do you have to bring with whenever you travel?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Finally!

School! Is!! Over!!!!!

Summer break has officially begun. Thank God! It has been a...stressful two months. It felt as though the end was never going to arrive. What now? Relaxation. Some organizational stuff (yes, this requires going in to school, but no kids.) Summer book club. More cooking! Job interviews (hopefully). And vacation. An actual trip! In about a week I will be hopping in the car and driving to Atlanta. I'm pretty excited about this. I have never been to Georgia. I have heard wonderful things. The only anxiety inducing thing is that this is my first real trip since going GF. Where will I eat? Eek! Have any of you been to Atlanta? Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Humph.

There is something not right with my stomach. I don't think this is gluten. It doesn't feel like gluten. This is weird. For the past 4 days I have felt bloated (not entirely new) with a kind of burning nausea. Not full blown heartburn. Not the threat of praying to the porcelain god. Just uncomfortable. When I am not feeling like that I am absolutely starving. I will eat, and in half an hour I am starving again. The only time my stomach does not feel off is while I am eating. Maybe I ate something a few days ago and am having long lasting low-grade symptoms. It just does not feel like glutening. Last night I ate a TON of red meat. This is very strange for me. As a former vegetarian I am not a huge meat eater. This was the first thing I have eaten that seemed to stave off the discomfort and hunger for at least a couple of hours. Maybe I am lacking protein or iron? Eh? Any suggestions?

I think I am going to start logging my food again. I haven't done that in a very long time. Time to start paying close attention again.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A big impression

Ah, holiday food traditions. Turkey at Thanksgiving, cookies at Christmas, the Easter ham. And for Memorial Day? The family and/or friend BBQ. There is nothing like lighting a big fire and roasting meat. Now in my family, grilling has taken on new meaning over the last 5 years. Long gone are the days of hot dogs and burgers. Oh no. We grill veggie kabobs, pineapple, salmon, bananas, pizza, shrimp, rosemary chicken...you name it. We like to experiment, try new things. We watch a lot of Bobby Flay. (Dad is addicted to the Food Network.)

So it was quite the nostalgic treat this past Monday when I attended a burger and brat BBQ. No, my family was not revisiting the past. It was someone else's family. The new boy's family. (I don't want to say much about him. Don't want to jinx things. Let's just say he is interested, he's sticking around and I have met his whole family. It is good.) He knows about and understands my dietary needs. Monday was a big deal. Not only was I seeing his whole family congregated in one place, but they were cooking. I was eating. A bit nerve wracking.

Now, my momma taught me that you bring food to a party. It is polite and you just do it. These days I make sure to bring a couple of dishes so that I know I can eat food and the host does not feel the full burden of making a GF meal. Anyhow, they kindly set aside a brat for me (did not soak it in beer.) There were potato chips. I brought along a large fruit salad. Watermelon, grapes, raspberries, pineapple, and bananas. Yum! While the fruit salad is nice, it is the dressing I want to share.

I'm not sure when I started doing this, but if I make a fruit salad there must be a yogurt or sour cream dressing. Put it on the side, mix it in...I don't care. It began as sour cream and powdered sugar. Simple and tasty. This has since evolved. I have realized, though, that I have a bad habit of cooking and not measuring my ingredients. I mix things together and adjust to taste. For those of you interested, here is a rough sketch of what I made:

Ginger Lime Fruit Salad

plain yogurt
juice of one lime
honey
ginger (powdered, paste, or a combination of both)
a mix of fresh seasonal fruits

Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl. Start with a little bit of the honey (1 T) and ginger (1 t), adding more to taste. Serve with salad.

Wow, not exactly specific. Mainly I just wanted to share the ingredients/flavor combination. Unfortunately, I do not have a photo. I assembled some of the fruit at their house. They might have thought it a bit strange if I started photographing the food the first time I ate with them.

The cool thing is that nearly every person in his family had a friend or co-worker who is gluten free. We are everywhere! After tasting the salad and (later) the GF cookies I baked, I was told I was invited back for dinner again since I brought such wonderful dishes. Yay! Don't worry I will share the GF cookies soon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ummm...you want me to eat what?

Often times, in an effort to make a spectacular amount of money in a very short amount of time, schools will plan fundraiser that contains an element of…shall we say, shock value. Earlier this morning as I was getting ready to go to school (to teach children who are READY for summer break…OY!) I was watching the news. This is my normal daily routine. I only keep half an ear open to the weather and traffic reports. Occasionally there will be a local or human-interest piece that snags my attention. This morning was a doozy. I swear I will quit on the spot if my school proposes this. A school in the Chicago area had a fundraiser in which the teacher would eat…cicadas. UGH!!! Gross!!! “They taste like chicken nuggets.” Yeah, right. I’ve heard of teachers getting their heads shaved or pies thrown at them, but this? No Way! I mentioned this to a friend and his response: well, they are gluten free. Umm…I suppose.
While completely repugnant, it got me to thinking about all those foods I had never eaten before or would have sworn I had hated prior to going gluten free. I always have thought of myself as an open-minded diner. But let’s look this over.

Newly discovered:
Flax
Quinoa (LOVE it!)
The Spice House
Cinnamon Dulce ice cream (OK, it’s new and I would have discovered it anyways)
Squash enchiladas
Pumpkin soup
Coconut flour (I'll have to share a recipe soon!)

Re-discovered/Gained a greater love for:
Sushi (it is now a dietary must-have)
Brussel sprouts
Polenta
Coconut milk
Tofu
Baking bread

Not an extensive list, but one that is sure to grow by leaps and bounds since I am only seven months gluten free. So I ask you, what new dish or ingredient have you tried as a result of going gluten free?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Say it ain't so!

So I tend to lurk in a gluten free forum over on live journal. It is often interesting and entertaining to see what people are posting about. Sometimes I am skeptical about the information that is posted on there. Some of it seems pretty extreme. Perhaps my Celiac is just not as sensitive as other folks. Recently, there was a topic that made me pause. I was wondering if any of you have had experience with this:

Have you ever been glutened by kissing a loved one who is not GF?

Do we really have to be that careful?

Is it more theoretical that you could be glutened?

Have any of you experienced this?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Diva is dazzled

Once again, school life has taken over. The fourth and final quarter of the year has truly arrived. The students are getting buggy with Spring fever. The eighth graders are restless, yearning for graduation day (yes, here in the Midwest we do 8th grade graduation.) My dance club is performing in two weeks. The school play is the week after that. The chorus concert another week later. OMG!STRESS!!!

So in the battle against stress, I took off on a small road trip with the girls this past weekend. We were girlie and geeky. We were on the road longer than we were awake at our destination, but that was ok. You see, we had a purpose. This was not some idle trip. We were on a mission. We had a date with destiny. Robbie Williams was in Iowa. Who is Robbie Williams, you ask? Why only the biggest pop star in the world. You have never heard of him? Sure you have, you just don't realize it. See, he never really cracked the American market, despite signing a recording contract in England for 80 million pounds. Not dollars my friends...pounds. That is a hell of alot of money. Damn! Anyhow, I have loved him since his one and only US hit back in '99 called Millennium. I have all his music, both pop music and his swing CD (Swing While You're Winning. Go buy it!!!) He is am amazing musician and is SUPER SEXY!!! He absolutely never performs in the US. He lives in LA because he can be a nobody there. He is part owner of a soccer team over in England and has an LA version of the team that he plays on. So, long story short-ish, the LA Vale were playing an exhibition game in Des Moines. A six hour drive to see a musician I adore who will never perform live in the US? Hell yeah! Not only did I see him, but I got his autograph, talked to him, and HE TOUCHED ME!!! ehem. I was dazzled. I lost my cool. I giggled at him. oh lord. I acted like a little teenager. It was sad. Then again, I have an autograph and lots of pictures. If I was in England, this would never have happened. His concerts draw monstrous crowds of people who pay hundreds of dollars per ticket. You couldn't get within 20 feet of him. On Saturday I stood next to him. If I had been very brave (and wanted to risk the wrath of his security guys) I could have grabbed his ass. Oh yeah. Good times.

So yes. That is why I have been absent. I have been in a post-Robbie haze. It is a good thing. Cooking? Not done much of it. I baked some bread that I will share with you all later. It is tasty, but (typical) has almost zero shelf life. But that is for later.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy tummy = Yummy food

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A cup of probiotic kefir and a Bentyl before meals keeps the bloating away.

Knock on wood, but it seems that those tiny blue pills my doctor gave me are actually working. For the past few days my belly has been feeling better. Not perfect (although that may have something to do with the fact I have been eating foods a bit high in fat) but scads better. Even while my body is reminding me that I am female I have very little bloating. (Hmmm...where is my heating pad?) This gives me hope. This gives me energy. This gives me the urge to cook! It is amazing how, when my belly is being friendly, I want to cook up a storm. I want to bake, broil, grill, saute, and slow cook. The only problem is that I have no one to share these recipes with. No one to help eat up the leftovers. No one to wash all the dishes for me. I love to cook, I hate to clean. Sadly, they go hand in hand. This is the down side to living alone. Never mind needing a boy around for love and comfort, I need one to help eat food and hand wash dishes!

Luckily, I have been out at my parents' house alot lately. Their big, beautiful kitchen inspires me. All those bare granite counter tops just beg to be used for food prep. One of these days I shall post a pic of my sad little kitchen so you can see the challenge I face when it comes to cooking. My next apartment WILL have a better kitchen: more counters, more cupboards, a dish washer, laundry, a/c... Ehem, sorry. Kitchens. That's right. So I was at mom and dad's using their kitchen. The time their was fruitful. So much so, that I have a gift for you: product reviews!

Namaste Pizza Dough Mix: I must say that I was leery about trying this. I have had two GF pizzas in the past 5-6 months. Not good. I am sorry to those of you who like Amy's gf frozen pizza. I just did not like it. Da Lucianos (an incredibly GF friendly restaurant in the Chicago-land area) offers GF pizza on their menu. Four of the owners children have Celiac, so they have developed an extensive GF menu. Their pasta dishes are divine. Their pizza is not. I did not like the texture of the crust. Ew. So I did not have much hope for the mix from Namaste, but figured it was worth a try. Dad has been on a homemade pizza kick lately. Well, semi-homemade (dough purchased from Trader Joes). So I mixed up a batch of Namaste dough. Since Dad was making grilled pizza I shaped my dough and slapped it on the grill (they left an area just for me so there would be no cross-contamination). We topped the pizza with grilled eggplant, onion, zucchini, roasted garlic, cheese....Yum! And you know what? Best GF pizza I have had. No, it was not quite like the pizzas of my past, but it was darn good. Crusty, chewy, not that crumbly, grainy texture so many GF products can get. It may not look like the prettiest pizza around, but it was tasty! I am going to make some more later. A bit of a warning, though. Use your Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, this dough is thick! A hand mixer barely gets the job done and you may burn out the motor on it.

Breads From Anna: While at Fruitful Yield I picked up a package of banana bread mix. I miss bread liek whoa! Sweet, savory, yeasty, you name it. I am a bread girl. There was many a night that Dad and I polished off a loaf of crusty french bread topped with olive oil and parm, a good stinky brie, or smothered with Nutella. I was a breadaholic. Sometimes I could not wait until arriving home from the store before tearing into a warm, fresh loaf. Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other breaking off hunks of french bread is a tricky maneuver. Hmmm...perhaps Chicago drivers are safer now that I am GF. I eagerly mixed up a batch of banana bread. My bananas were not as ripe as I wished, but they were good enough. Super quick and easy to make the batter, much longer to bake. One hour!!! So long to wait. I wasn't sure how well the bread would raise up, but boy howdy! did it look good. The pan was full to the top with a nicely browned, fragrant loaf. Fast forward to the taste test (it was still piping hot from the oven, I could not wait). Lightly sweet, moist, yum! I will definitely get this again. Two days later the bread is still good, but (typical) is better when toasted and buttered. I am at this moment enjoying two slices with a cup of peppermint tea. The perfect Sunday morning nosh.

One last quick review: Mrs Leeper's Tuna Noodle...thing (can't remember the exact name.) This is one of those tuna mac/hamburger helper type deals. I have to say, not bad. With the added tomato and green onion I threw in I was actually quite good. Easy, too. It made enough for me to have dinner (and Dad to try it), lunch and dinner the next day. Basically, it would make enough for a family meal if you had a veggie on the side. If you need a quick, easy, tasty, low fuss meal...this is it.

OK, now that I have gone on and on about food...I want to cook more. Menu planning time, then grocery shopping. I'm on Spring Break, baby! I actually have the time to cook, bake, broil, and slow cook. Oh yeah!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Recipe help!

I am out in the suburbs tonight at my parents' house. Every time I come out here I cook. Their kitchen is WAY bigger than mine. Also, they have a dishwasher. (Have I even mentioned how much I loathe hand washing dishes?) Well, I ran a few errands before arriving at their house. I bought a new comforter, some window hangings, king size pillow cases. I has found everything I needed. Time to head home. Then I noticed the store next to Marshal's: Fruitful Yield. Woo hoo! I have been wanting to check that place out for months. Oh my darlings, there was much GF shopping to be had. I was a good girl and only bought a few things. I did find two items I have been dying to try for a while, but can not find near my apartment. Coconut flour and Quinoa flour. Yes!!! I must bake!

Here's the problem, I bought the coconut flour because I remember someone posting a recipe for coconut cupcakes that called for this special flour. Problem is...I can't remember who posted the darn thing. Help!!!Do any of you remember seeing this elusive recipe? Can you point me towards it? If not, do you have any suggestions on how I can best utilize said coconut flour?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What the...?

For the last month or two I have not been being very healthy. Yes, I have been eating gluten free, to the best of my knowledge. The truth is, I have not been eating good food. Eating out alot, high fat, unbalanced diet. Not good. This is typical, though. Whenever I get stressed out I eat junk. Just because it is gluten free does not mean it isn't junk food. Yes, overall the GF diet is healthier, but mango or dulce de leche ice cream is just as fatty as cookies n' cream.

In an effort to get back on the wagon of good healthful eating I have agreed to be part of a research study that Rush Hospital is conducting. They are investigating the economic impact of the GF diet. I need to keep a food diary for 28 days. In addition, I need to collect all food receipts for the same duration. I think writing down all of my food intake will make me eat better, if for no other reason than not wanting the doctors at Rush seeing how gross my eating habits have become.

The real reason I should be more conscious of what I am eating is that I am still having symptoms. The pain is gone. I don't have upper belly bloating. Lower bloating and a few other symptoms are still hanging around (I won't mention those in detail...ew.) The thing is, before changing my diet, the symptoms were chronic, constant. Now it is intermittent. Sometimes it flares up, other times I am fine. I started considering the possibility of Candida. I have heard from many folks online that individuals with Celiac often have a Candida overgrowth. No thank you! Talk about not being able to eat anything. I contacted my dietitian to inquire about this. Good news, bad news. She doesn't believe in the connection between Celiac and Candida. She did, however, say that 25% of females diagnosed with Celiac have residual IBS. This does not shock me. Stress related IBS is somewhat common in my family. The past 2-3 weeks have certainly been stressful: National Kodaly Conference (for which I was on the planning committee), grades coming up, grant deadline, project deadline...to name a few. Once my dietitian mentioned IBS I called and refilled the prescription for the pills my GI prescribed when I first went to see him. I remember that they had helped at the time (my GI was surprised they had worked since my tests came back positive for Celiac.) Well, when I make sure to take them 5-15 minutes before I eat a meal...little or no problems! So I think I am going to keep taking the pills, try a fiber supplement, and start exercising again (all recommended for individuals with IBS.) I have also heard good things mentioned about taking probiotics. Have any of you tried these? What do you think of them?

So yes, the journey to a healthy gut continues. Hopefully more successfully in the next few months. Months...wow, it has nearly been 6 months since my diagnosis. Nearly 6 months gluten free. Bot, time sure does fly.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fabulous friends

For so many people with Celiac, that hardest thing to deal with is friends and family who "just don't get it". The folks who are supposed to be your support network can be the same ones who unintentionally throw up road blocks to healthy living.

"You can just pick off the croutons."
"It only has a little bit of flour to thicken it."
"You can cheat every once in a while."
"But Grandma made this cake for you. Do you want to hurt her feelings?"
"Well, it is just soy sauce!"

They mean well, really they do. It can be difficult to understand the effect of glutening on the body if you yourself don't have Celiac. So often it is associated with allergies, where there are short-term issues, but in the long run no damage is done. It can be easy to believe that, too. You see that hot, steaming slice of pizza. It tantalizes you with it's oozing cheese, sweet-savory sauce, and delicious toppings (of your choice.) Why not? Sure your gut will be painfully bloated for 24-48 hours. And no, there are no pills you can take. But it is worth it, right? WRONG!!! While the obvious effects are "short lived", the damage done to the small intestines can take 6 months to heal. That is six months of decreased nutrient absorption. We Celiacs have first hand experience with "brain fog", mood swings, and skin sensitivities. Really, not worth it.

Most friends and family are well meaning. They try so hard. They purchase foods labeled GF, get the GF shopping lists from local stores (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods), and look online for GF recipes. It is sweet and wonderful and loving. It almost makes you feel not so bad if they accidentally cross-contaminate your food. Hey! No one told them that their wood spoons could make you sick.

Then there are those people in your life who go above and beyond. At my parents house I have my own shelf in the pantry. Dad makes homemade salad dressing every time I come over. My best friend is getting married in a year and has already started asking the reception hall about making my food GF. She even has mentioned getting a super fancy GF cupcake from Swirlz so that I can have wedding cake. (Love ya, hon!) And then there is the friend who, whenever we go out to dinner, goes online to find a restaurant with a GF menu. Being able to choose from an entire menu of safe dishes is fantastic. (The ironic thing is that we have eaten out many times. When I choose the restaurants they have no GF menu. When he has chosen the restaurant they always do.)

What have the people in your life done to make living with Celiac a less challenging experience?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Help a Diva out! :)

Dearest readers, I have not forsaken you!!! Do not fear, I am still alive and kicking.

There are those times when life seems to take over. Busy does not even begin to explain it. Crazed, perhaps? I have been going non-stop for the past couple of weeks. This week starts the beginning of the Diva Stress Fest: full-time teaching, chorus rehearsals, dance club rehearsals, and play practice. Oh yeah, and attempting to have a normal social life. I am supposed to cook during all of this? My energy to experiment in the kitchen has vanished. I feel no inspiration. This saddens me. I love to cook! I love trying new flavors! I hate doing dishes. There are just so many piling up. Tonight I must wash some of those bad boys and work on a grant application (the life blood of a fine arts program.) I need to figure out some kind of easy, tasty dish to eat. I shudder to think of how many meals I have had lately consisting of apples, cheese, chips, and salsa. BAD Diva!!! Save me from unhealthy, if GF, dining.

So what quick and easy dishes do you make when feeling low on inspiration and energy?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Two Valentine's treats

It started like any other day. Well, maybe not any other day. I mean, how many days do you walk out to your car and the snow is piled so high that you have to shovel to get the door open? I have to give much MUCH love to my neighbor. He was out clearing the sidewalk in front of his building. He came to my rescue. He completely cleared away the snow so that I could actually drive to work. I owe him big time! I think I shall pick up a Starbucks card for him tomorrow. He earned it!

Now back to my normal day. I drove to school. It really took no longer than normal. Thank god they got the main roads cleared! I left early, so I had enough time to quickly stop at Starbucks for a chai (why didn't I think to pick up the giftcard then??!?!?!) Normal kids, although fewer of them since the school buses were not running. They were not too crazy considering. Lunch: leftovers. Yum! I taught fifth grade. Fine (even if it took them forever to do one of the activities. Think kids, think!) Then the fifth graders were lining up and I was paged to come to the office. I sent a student. As my kindergarten babies were lining up to enter my room she returned...with a florist box. What the what???!?!!?!?! Flowers? Surely not for me. I'm not in a serious relationship. I can't even say that I am in any relationship. A few dates, but dating? Nope. Hhhmmmm? I open the box and see a beautiful bouquet of tulips. ::sigh:: I adore tulips. I check the card. Well, bowl me over! How sweet and unexpected. How slightly odd. A boy I know, and have been out on two dates with, sent me flowers. Two dates does not a relationship make, but I guess this means he really likes me. Wow. Hrm... I need to think about this. Am I interested? Not so sure. Must consider carefully.

That was treat number one. Number two was one I gave to myself. Tonight's dinner: fancy mac n' cheese. But I did not want to make a huge meal. Too tired to do any "real" cooking. What is in my fridge? Ah ha!

Make Tinkyada pasta, drain
mix in three slices (minus a chunk for the dog) of gross Borden's singles
half of a package of goat cheese
great mounds of fresh grated parm
a good splash or three of milk
a couple good spoonfuls of pesto.

Eat.

Yum.

(I know, not very scientific, but what can I say?)

Monday, February 12, 2007

King of the cupboard

While the lion is the king of the jungle, and Prince Charles will someday be the King of England, coconut milk reigns supreme as the king of my cupboard. I know I have posted in the past about my love of coconut milk. I have slowly begun to discover the depth of that love. In particular, how much I love utilizing it for quick, easy seafood dishes. Used as a sauce base you can make so many flavorful meals. Want something thick and creamy? Regular coconut milk. Want the flavor, but a little less rich? Lite coconut milk. The flavor is not overwhelmingly strong and blends beautifully with spices from the far east. You can create luxurious meals with very few ingredients.

Tonight I needed to cook up some salmon that was sitting in my fridge. I hate to see a good piece of salmon go to waste. We had reached the moment of cook it or get rid of it. What to make? I have never poached salmon before. I'm not entirely sure tonight's meal would qualify as such, but that is where my idea came from. Take the salmon (two "portions"), a can of coconut milk, can of tomatoes, onion and spice. Simmer. You are done. So easy! The most time consuming part was slicing the onion.

Coconut Poached Salmon
2-3 salmon portions
olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1-2 T Asian spice blend (I used the Silk Road blend from The Spice House)
1 can lite coconut milk
1 can diced tomatoes (drained)
In a large saute pan, saute the sliced onions in enough olive oil to coat the pan. When the onions begin to become transparent add the spice blend, toasting the spices (approx. 1-3 minutes). Pour in the coconut milk and tomatoes, mixing thoroughly. Bring sauce to a simmer. Place the salmon portions in the sauce, submerging completely. Cover the pan and simmer until salmon is cooked through. Serve over rice or rice noodles.


Sadly (for you), it was so yummy that I forgot to take a photo before devouring it all. Try flaking the salmon once it is cooked. You can get a wonderful mouthful of salmon, sauce, and veggies every time. I will definitely be repeating this recipe. Next time, red bell peppers!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Gluten Free Product Review

One of the items that I have missed the most since going gluten free would have to be cookies. Sure I could bake some, but I don't always have the time or energy. Sometimes I just want to open a box or bag and start munching. Oh lord, the oreo cravings are bad! I tried some Glutino chocolate sandwich cookies, but that are just not the same. I suppose they are fine cookies, but...where is the crunch? Where is that indefinable quality that makes you eat half the package of oreos with a tall glass of milk even though you know you will be queasy in an hour? Sadly, I fear I will never find it in a gluten free cookie.

As for chocolate chip...homemade is still best. A couple of weeks ago I tried the Enjoy Life Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were ok. Completely soft. Iffy texture. Passable flavor. I have to admit to being a Toll House girl.

Today I decided to brave the Enjoy Life and their cookies again. This time I tried their snickerdoodles. Now these are tasty. They probably have the same texture, but I am used to my snickerdoodles being soft. The flavor is sweet and strong. Yum! I finished the two-cookie snack pack and wished I had more. My only beef is that they are tiny! Tiny, I say! But oh so good.