Monday, August 31, 2009

Gluten Free Recall: Vans All Natural Wheat Free Homestyle Pancakes

Check your freezers! Vans All Natural has recalled a batch of their Wheat Free Homestyle Pancakes for undeclared gluten, wheat, egg and milk. I'm a fan of Vans' products (I just tried the french toast sticks and they were great), and I agree with others that it is very responsible of the company to announce this recall and offer customers a full refund, BUT I have to wonder: how did contaminated products get to consumers? This is what the company said:

“Our customers have trusted Van’s with their special dietary needs for more than 20 years, and their health and safety are our first priority,” said CEO of Van’s International Foods, Eric Kufel. “Van’s has immediately implemented advanced quality procedures above and beyond what we already have in place to ensure the continued safety of our products.”

The voluntary recall was initiated immediately after a packaging operator error, limited to one shift, was discovered. The company has immediately reinforced its Quality Assurance and Packaging procedures and believes that the problem was a one-time incident. Consumers who are allergic to or have sensitivity to wheat, gluten, milk or eggs, should not consume this product. Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund or send the box top with the printed lot number to the address below to receive five free coupons for any Van’s waffle, pancake, or French toast stick product 12.4 ounce or smaller.

I hope no one gets sick- getting gluten-ed is zero fun.

More information here: Philadelphia Gluten-Free Examiner and at the Vans All Natural Website

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kitchen Experiments: Shrimp with Grits

I was skeptical about grits. I was extra skeptical about the combination of shrimp and grits. But, my skeptical-ness was misplaced- this meal was delicious!

The first and only time I ate grits previous to this experiment was a family vacation to Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg, VA. Our hotel in VA served a continental breakfast and, ever the adventurous eater, I tried the grits. To say they were completely disgusting is putting it mildly. I also wasn't impressed with biscuits and gravy and decided to abandon Southern cooking. Then I started dating Joe, who grew up mostly in Georgia and enjoys things like sweet tea and grits. And since I was feeling more than a little guilty about disregarding foods disliked by Joe in other meals. So, I set out to learn how to make grits and when I stumbled across this recipe for shrimp and grits, I figured it was perfect. I made a few small alterations, but the recipe below mostly follows that printed in Duke Magazine.

I was surprised, but I actually really enjoyed this recipe. The shrimp mixture was deliciously flavorful and the grits, which mostly tasted like cheese, provided an excellent foil. One word of caution, make sure you use gluten-free grits. I accidentally grabbed a package of Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits and I have the rash to prove those were contaminated with gluten. It was a good lesson, I should know better than to grab without looking. And now Joe has a nearly full bag of grits all to himself!

Shrimp and Grits
(Serves 4)

  • Cheese grits (recipe below)
  • 1 lb fresh shrimp
  • 6 slices bacon
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Tabasco sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Prepare the grits and hold in a warm place.
Peel shrimp, rinse and pat dry.
Dice bacon and cook until barely crisp, set aside on paper towels.
Add 1/8 inch of olive oil to the pan. When hot, add shrimp in an even layer to the pan. Turn shrimp as they color, add mushrooms and saute, while stirring, for about four minutes.
Add scallions and garlic, heat and stir hot a minute more. Season with lemon juice, a dash or two of Tabasco, salt and pepper, and parsley - to taste.
Divide the grits among four plates. Spoon the shrimp on top, sprinkle with crumbled bacon, and serve immediately.*

Cheese Grits
  • 1 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Corn Grits
  • water and milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • dash or two of Tabasco
Cook grits according to package directions, subsitute half of the water for milk to make creamier grits. Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients to sauce pan. Stir until combined.

* To make this recipe Joe-friendly omit all but the shrimp, garlic, bacon, salt & pepper, parsley and lemon juice.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana

I'm especially proud of this one because I invented it all by myself. Not the concept of eggplant parmigiana of course, but this particular GF version was my brain child. And best of all: it was fairly easy! Especially when one has their own personal sous chef and dishwasher. Another plus, because the eggplant is baked in the oven instead of frying, it's a lot healthier than the typical restaurant version and completely gluten-free!

The bread crumbs were nice and crispy with a subtle garlic flavor and the eggplant was just the right consistency, although Joe doesn't recommend discussing the seeds.

Eggplant Parmigiana
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Gillian's Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs (Plain)
  • Tomato sauce (whatever you like and have on hand should work fine)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • two eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup milk
Once again, not really any measurements- I like to eyeball ingredient amounts when I'm cooking. Combine the garlic, one handful of chopped parsley and the bread crumbs on a plate. Beat together the egg, water, milk, salt and pepper. Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg mixture and then dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with all the eggplant. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, flip each eggplant slice and bake another 15 minutes. Layer the baked eggplant slices in a casserole dish, beginning with tomato sauce, then eggplant covered with tomato sauce and both cheese, more eggplant, more sauce, more cheese! Bake another 20 minutes at 350 degrees. In the meantime, prepare your pasta (remember the salt the water!). Serve the eggplant with pasta (here I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Spaghetti) more grated Parmesan and the rest of the parsley. Serves four.

Joe was skeptical about the eggplant (as this picture clearly demonstrates!), apparently eggplant is very popular in Iraq and it isn't always prepared very well. But, he said while he never enjoyed eggplant before, he did like this- until the seed discussion. Victory nonetheless! This will probably become a staple- easy and delicious. Next time we'll see how my recipe works with veal.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I might be crazy, but . . .

Well, I've done it. I've placed this monstrous tome in my Amazon shopping cart and, if I can ever convince the USPS to deliver mail to my new apartment, I will be the proud owner of Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Inspired by Julie Powell's book Julie and Julie: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and the subsequent movie, Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams- I have decided to master the art of gluten-free French cooking. Well, let me modify that statement, somewhat master the art of gluten-free French cooking. I have no intentions of preparing all 524 recipes (I, for one, am perfectly content to leave aspics alone) or limiting this experiment to one year (between work, classes, personal life and hobbies I'm unwilling to abandon, I don't have that kind of time on my hands. But I admire Julie Powell immensely for her dedication and perseverance). I plan to start with a naturally GF Julia Child recipe and see how things progress from there.

It will certainly be an interesting experiment. Joe says he's prepared for some kitchen meltdowns, but I believe this is partially because we're still new and he doesn't believe there will be meltdowns. There will definitely be meltdowns. I figure I have one advantage on Julie Powell- I've successfully killed many lobsters in my time. I grew up in Maine after all.

Because I was anxious to get started, I decided to begin with something relatively simple- hollandaise sauce. I was inspired to make this partially by Julie and Julia and partially by a package of gluten-free hollandaise sauce I saw in Hannaford last week (major props to Hannaford for their excellent GF selection). I thought to myself, "how ridiculous. Hollandaise is definitely GF and why would you ever make it from a packet? It's just three ingredients!" So, thus challenged, I set out to make hollandaise.

Hollandaise Sauce
  • three egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
I was absolutely right, hollandaise is super easy and an excellent opportunity to build your wrist muscles! Just wisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Heat over extremely low heat and stir constantly. Add the butter 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until the first butter addition is completely melted before adding the second. Keep wisking until the sauce thickens. We enjoyed it over asparagus on toast and with poached eggs and ham in an Eggs Benedict sort of thing. Yum!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A GF Surprise: Macaroni and Cheese

The three gluten-filled items I miss the most are: macaroni and cheese, beer and doughnuts. Apparently, it's a good thing I have celiac's- if I didn't, I'd be HUGE! This post is about macaroni and cheese. In one of our getting-to-know-you conversations I mentioned to Joe my gluten-filled trifecta, stipulating that I especially miss the Kraft version of mac and cheese. You know, the incredibly unhealthy one with tons of butter, fake cheese and scary chemicals? Delicious. Reminds me, somehow, of being a kid. I had a serious case of the "blue box blues," because while I could easily recreate homemade mac and cheese, this seemed outside the realm of possibilities.

But, then I started thinking out loud, which I am wont to do, and I wondered if the cheese sauce in the Kraft blue box was GF- because then you could recreate GF mac and cheese with gluten-free pasta! And, then I promptly forgot about this brilliant idea, as I am also wont to do, but Joe didn't.

Last Sunday, I returned from three days at my parent's to a surprise dinner consisting of Kraft mac and cheese prepared with GF pasta. Because, it turns out, the cheese sauce for Kraft macaroni and cheese is gluten-free! Joe made it with Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals and it was perfect.

He paired it with salad (we had to eat something healthy) and Redbridge beer, which I had tried before (see much earlier posts), but it tasted better this time. I don't know if it was fresher this time, they changed their formula or if it was because it was part of Joe's surprise. For those of you in the Bangor-Orono area, Redbridge can be easily found at Shaw's, Hannaford and Burby & Bates.

Finally, for dessert there was Pamela's Chocolate Truffle Brownies with blackraspberry ice cream - the very best ice cream flavor in my personal opinion.

It was absolutely wonderful. Thanks again, Joe!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Fun Discovery

What do I yap about the most? Look above and see!

From: Check it out!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Product Review: Pamela's Classic Vanilla Cake Mix

Recently, I needed to make cupcakes for a very special occasion: Joe's 28th birthday. This was a challenges for several reasons. First, Joe and I just started dating, so he's new to the whole GF-thing and I wanted his first gluten-free baked good experience to be a positive one. We were planning to climb Mount Katahdin in honor of the start of Joe's 28th year and I wanted the cupcakes to make it to the top. And I wanted them to be a surprise.

Since I didn't leave myself a lot of time to execute my super-secret cupcake mission, I decided to go with something tried-and-true rather than experimenting. Usually I would go for chocolate. But, Joe's favorite cake is confetti- which meant I needed to find a good vanilla cake mix. I opted for Pamela's Classic Vanilla Cake Mix because I've always had good luck with them in the past and they did not disappoint. They weren't an exact replica of a gluten-full cupcake, but they had a good flavor, texture and adapted well to the addition of sprinkle to make them confetti cupcakes.

Before pictures, just in case they didn't make it up the mountain looking pretty!

I think he liked them.

Katahdin got pushed back a few weeks, here we are on Cadillac Mountain in the fog.
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