Monday, June 29, 2009

Naturally GF: Cowboy Caviar

This recipe comes from my pals Marla and Sam (who are wonderful cooks, they make the most amazing meatballs) and is posted in honors of Stephani (I only promised you this recipe eight months ago!). It's a dish that doesn't look particularly appetizing, but the combination of all the flavors is delicious. Perfect for a party, this is a considerate choice since it's both GF and vegetarian.

My cat wasn't involved in making this dish (for anyone who feels a little nervous they may have ingested large quantities of cat hair, she just watches. Promise.), but I'm two days away from a Madison reunion and couldn't resist posting a picture of my kitchen helper!

Cowboy Caviar

  • 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped ripe black olives, drained
  • small onion finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (if you aren't a huge garlic fan, one clove would be fine)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • the juice from one lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 package tortilla chips (I recommend Tositio's crispy rounds)
This is really easy. Mix together all the ingredients except the cream cheese, eggs, green onion and chips at least two hours ahead, but the night before is really better- gives the flavors more time to meld. Spread the cream cheese on the serving plate, try for an even layer. Spoon bean mixture over cream cheese. Sprinkle the eggs and green onions over the bean mixture, you could make a pattern, but I prefer a light sprinkling all over. Serve with tortilla chips. Have copies of the recipe handy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Product Review: Let's Do Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cones

Rapture! Ice cream is my favorite food and while eating it from a bowl is just fine, I've missed enjoying ice cream from a cone. For me, it just doesn't feel like summer until I've had an ice cream cone. So, to say I was very, very excited when I discovered Let's Do Gluten-Free Ice Cream Cones is something of an understatement. My Mom secured a box from Whole Foods (also available via Amazon) and this weekend on our way to the theater we stopped for some Round Top Ice Cream (definitely the best around) and to test the GF cones. I asked for a bowl because I had doubts about the stability of a GF cone, but I was proven wrong. The cone had a light texture and a slightly sweet taste, somewhat reminiscent of a DQ cone. Not as good as a sugar cone, but a worthy substitute. I'm looking forward to many more ice cream runs this summer!

Usually, I opt for black raspberry or something chocolate, but I was feeling experimental and selected Almond Joy.

A celebration, of GF cones and my recent mastery of the timer function!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Making GF Easier

Whole Foods is my favorite place for stocking up on gluten-free staples like pasta and flour, but also trying new goodies like scones and cookies. I'm also a big fan of their GF breads. Sadly, the closest Whole Foods is several hours away in Portland. While I can still place orders with my Mom, I don't get the pleasure of wandering the aisles and discovering exciting new products. Such as this new iPhone app, which wins the award for being the sweetest new thing I've found this week (sorry, GF Betty Crocker mixes- you're awesome, but not that awesome). Anyway, the Whole Foods Market Recipes App will let you search Whole Foods for recipes, you can filter the recipes into categories like "Cooking with Kids" or "Quick and Easy" or, best of all, "Special Diets"- including gluten-free! Giving you easy access to recipes like Rosemary-Lime Wild Alaska Salmon Kabobs or Quinoa Salad with Chicken, Grapes, and Almonds and helping you locate ingredients- in the store and in your pantry. So, if you wanted to make your shopping trips quicker, although I don't know why you would want to, this would be the perfect tool. And it's free. It makes me wish all over again that I was responsible enough to own an iPhone, but clumsy people who constantly drop things cannot own expensive phones!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gluten-Free Travels

The official first day of summer may be a few more days away, but I'm ready to start thinking about summer adventures now. Lucky girl that I am, I have the entire month of July off to visit friends, relax, hang-out with the family and write a paper- but that's another story. Last year's big adventure was Spain and Germany with Sarah, Mom and Gramps (here's Mom and me in Biarritz) and I wish I had known about these resources beforehand. I was still able to find delicious, GF meals, but these websites might have made things a little easier.

The first is Gluten-Free Guidebook, a blog written by travel writer Hilary Davidson. Hilary has great tips, for travel in general, but especially for celiac travelers. Philadelphia and Toronto have just been moved to the top of my "Places to Visit" list.

Secondly (and I'm really excited about this one), is Gluten Free Maps. This site is user generated and tracks gluten-free restaurants by location. There's currently nothing listed in Maine (which means I have some submissions to make) or Europe, but it has great listings for major U.S. cities. As a test, I searched Washington, D.C. and discovered Hello Cupcake, a bakery in Dupont Circle that serves gluten-free cupcakes! In fact, they have a different gluten-free selection every day! October and the Honors College trip to D.C. can't come soon enough!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Product Review: Lundberg Family Farms Risotto

Lundberg Family Farm's variety of organic and/or eco-farmed risottos are perfect for nights when I don't feel like cooking, but can handle opening a box and a little light stirring. As the package clearly states, all Lundberg's risottos are GF (as is most of their rice-based product line), but I'm especially partial to the Creamy Parmesan flavor because I find it to be a satisfying mac and cheese substitute. It's quick, it's easy and the Lundberg family practices sustainable agriculture - what's not to like?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kitchen Experiments: Peanut Chicken Stir-Fry

This recipe comes from my sister. She's not known within our family for being an accomplished chef (she probably won't like my leaking that information to the internet) and has ensured a lot of teasing over the years- remember those brownies? Anyway, I really enjoyed this recipe when she very kindly made it GF for me.

It's another quick and easy recipe, perfect for busy nights. The chicken can be omitted in favor of more vegetables for those vegetarians out there. I enjoy the stir-fry over rice noodles, but Sarah prefers ramen noodles (minus the flavor packet, of course). There are no measurements, just use what looks good to you.

Peanut Chicken Stir-fry
  • Chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Diced Carrot, onion, green pepper, red pepper, celery, etc.
  • San-J Peanut Sauce
  • Olive oil
  • One clove garlic
  • Fresh ginger root
  • Handful peanuts
  • Sliced scallions
Cook the chicken over medium heat in a small amount of olive oil until golden brown, remove and set aside. Saute the vegetables add freshly grated garlic and ginger. When the vegetables are almost cooked add the chicken, peanuts, peanut sauce and scallions. Stir until heated through. Serve over noodles or rice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dining-Out 101: Kennebec Tavern

This weekend has been a cause for great celebration in my family: my youngest brother graduated first in his class from high school! To celebrate we made a reservation at a popular local eatery, the Kennebec Tavern. I was pleasantly surprised by the gluten-free options available, especially since I completely forgot to call ahead and quiz the staff about their menu. On the appetizers menu, we quickly discovered calamari with a rice flour coating and opted to order those with the usual safe-bet, nachos. I used to really love calamari, but there was this unfortunate dissection incident and I just don't care for it anymore. But, I sampled a few pieces and didn't notice any difference between Kennebec Tavern's rice flour coating and more traditional calamari preparation.

Growing up in coastal Maine, enjoying lobster is practically mandatory and while I'm happy to pick a lobster at home, I prefer to order a lobster roll minus the bun when I'm in a restaurant- anything to avoid wearing a plastic bib in public, plus it's easier. The Kennebec Tavern had just the right amount of mayonnaise (just a light coating) mixed with a substantial portion of lobster meat and no added crunch (personally, I feel celery or onion mixed with lobster is just so very, very wrong).

Quite possibly the best part of the meal was dessert- Flourless Chocolate Torte! With chocolate mousse, whipped cream and a strawberry.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Gluten in Pop Culture: National Public Radio

My boss, who is a much more avid NPR listener than I am, mentioned to me a lunch today that he heard a short segment on NPR this morning about celiac disease. A quick trip to NPR's website turned up this interview with the Rosenblum family. Their 13-year-old son, Jacob, was diagnosed with celiac's disease last year and in the interview the Rosenblum's discuss Jacob's symptoms, diagnosis and the ways they're all now living gluten-free (a transcript of the interview and two free recipes are also available). Robin Rosenblum, Jacob's mom, makes an important point in the interview I know personally I'm guilty of forgetting, "'I was elated,' says Robin. 'There's no medicine, no surgery.' She said it was such a relief to know he could get better by changing his diet." Jacob's mom is right, it really could be so much worse. I know I can sometimes get wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself that I can't enjoy the foods I used to love, but this interview made me pause for a moment and appreciate that I don't have a more serious condition (Crohn's Disease, lupus, etc), that I can relatively easily control my celiac disease through diet and all the fantastic gluten-free alternatives. Plus, I truly enjoy the challenge of creating gluten-free versions of my former gluten-full favorites. So, if you haven't been, trying taking a glass-half-full approach to your GF lifestyle.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Product Review: Bionaturæ Pasta

One food item with few satisfactory GF options is pasta. Often GF pastas are mushy, have no taste or taste too much like corn. With a combination of rice, potato and soy flours, Bionaturæ has largely combated the three major vices of GF pasta and created a delicious substitute. It really does have the flavor and texture of regular pasta. Sometimes, when I'm feeling sneaky, I'll serve this pasta with the "it's gluten-free, try to make the best of it" preface and haven't yet heard a complaint. It comes in a variety of pasta shapes/types including the classic spaghetti, but also penne, fusili and shells. The shells are great for macaroni and cheese. I used some of the penne rigate I had on hand to create a filling and delicious shrimp scampi. Shrimp scampi is a favorite dish I can rarely order in restaurants and so, therefore, have learned to make at home. It's a perfect weeknight recipe because it's easy, fast and, most importantly, yummy.

Shrimp Scampi

  • One cup or so Bionaturæ penne rigate
  • One cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
  • Chopped onion, whatever amount looks good
  • At least one clove garlic, chopped
  • 5 or so deveined, detailed shrimp
  • White wine, maybe 1/3 cup
  • One tablespoon butter
  • Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
This recipe is so easy! Just cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Saute together the onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil with the butter, add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Add the spinach, shrimp and white wine. Let everything hang out over low heat until the pasta is cooked and drained. Add pasta to mixture, stir well and serve with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Product Review: Van's All Natural Wheat Free Waffles

Waffles are, perhaps, one of the most delicious breakfast foods and frozen waffles are at once delicious and wonderfully convenient, truly a rare combination. Van's Natural Foods makes a variety of gluten, dairy and egg-free breakfast options that for all their "free-ness" are remarkably yummy. Bonus points for being readily available and often on sale in major grocery chains including Shaw's and Hannaford's. My personal favorite flavor is blueberry followed closely by apple cinnamon. A few words of advice: like all GF foods, make sure your waffles are well toasted! And plan to eat them quickly, I find them especially susceptible to freezer burn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Naturally GF: Chicken Stuffed with Gouda and Spinach

I have been terribly neglectful of my blogging duties, but I think I have some pretty good excuses. There's the whole work thing, moving (as you can see, Madison was invaluable in the packing process), the living in a new kitchen where I can't find anything (there must be a strainer around here somewhere!) and a graduate course/conference that required I devote my life to reading for a week. Plus, Madison is living with my parents for the month and I just don't feel inspired without my kitty muse.
Fortunately, we have a backlog of post topics and today I decided to post about a favorite naturally gluten-free recipe. Once again, credit for this recipe must go to Betty and my sister who discovered this recipe that was GF as is and insisted we try it because she is addicted to cheese. We were both very pleased with the results, the stuffing made the chicken more interesting and my enthusiastic chicken pounding seemed to result in tender meat. Now we're constantly on the lookout for sales on Gouda and an excuse to make this meal. Anyway, here's

Chicken Stuffed with Gouda and Spinach

  • Two chicken breasts, flattened
  • Baby spinach chopped
  • Smoked Gouda cut into small pieces
  • 1 ounce cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
This is a perfect recipe for anyone who wants a delicious dinner and an opportunity to release some aggression. I usually place each chicken breast between two slices of plastic wrap and give it a few good whacks with the rolling pin to flatten. Next coat a cookie sheet with a thinner layer of olive oil. Salt and pepper each side of chicken and place on the cookie sheet. Next combine the cream cheese, nutmeg, cheese and spinach (whatever amounts look good to you for the cheese and spinach), fingers will definitely be involved. Place about half the resulting mixture in the center of one of the flattened chicken breasts and fold the chicken up around it. Secure with toothpicks. Repeat with second chicken breast. Cook at 350 for about twenty minutes.
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