Tuesday, October 27, 2009

apples to apples

Crisp autumn afternoon, where its a little cool in the shade and warm in the sun; it was the quintessential New England Sunday. Some of the leaves are letting go of their branches and swirling colors across the windshield as we head to Sudbury for our bounty. Spencers, Empires, Macoun and Cortlands filled the awkwardly sized bags.

Apple picking at the Honey Pot Hill Orchards, was more than I expected. I grew up visiting Apple Acres in Windham, NH; an orchard that feels like a back yard garden in comparison. With a gathering of barnyard creatures, pumpkin patches, plus fields and fields of hilly orchards, Honey Pot is almost overwhelming. One fellow picker aptly named it "the Disneyland of apple picking."

While it will never be the apple picking of my youth, they do sell unpasteurized cider - which is amazing, delicious and so hard to find. I started getting excited, plotting the dishes and recipes for all of my apples. Then came the smell of the cider donuts. It was like walking into an invisible cloud of amazing. And all of a sudden I started to tear up. I felt foolish, who cries over donuts?!

To be honest, I even hesitated posting about it, but the feelings are real, true and something that even seasoned ____-free eaters face now and again. Giving up on special, seasonal and holiday foods is given up on some parts of the shared experiences of making, sharing and eating them.

In the midst of my missing chomping down on a crisp and delicate donut, I popped inside the shop and grabbed a honey stick. A few moments later, a friend emerged through the same door with an apple for me. We had just spent over an hour picking over 40lbs pounds of apples, but there were no Mutsus - my favorite pomme - to pluck. By the time I realized that the over sized, green and gold gem was too big to fit in my pocket, I was smiling again. Good friends rule.

Once home I became really excited about making a crisp in my newly acquired old Pyrex. (I love old Pyrex!) I was slightly sidetracked till last night, but here she is:

The crumble topping needs some work. I have been trying out a new blend of flours: sweet rice, millet, corn starch, potato starch and tapioca starch. The flours are going well, but the crisp itself was too sweet and the apples were cut too small and half of them turned mushy. (I like a crisp crisp with chunks of apples.) So, its a bit of an experiment, but I am excited to have gluten free oats at my disposal - I am storing those bad boys in a zip-top bag in the freezer to help prevent them from going rancid. The combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice is great, but I think it needs a small hint of cloves, less sugar and more apples. Its a work in progress. (Yes, I ate apple crisp for breakfast and I don't care who knows about it.)

Be sure, that my autumnal goal of perfecting gf cider donuts has only been strengthened! I am pretty excited about having to get my hands, specifically my fingers, dirty to perfect a batch of fried-to-perfection, crispy, soft, fluffy and delicious donuts. I can almost smell them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the best kind of surprise

Every once in a while there is that moment when I am so full of excitement that I cannot contain it. My eyes widen, my lips curl up, my jaw drops slightly and inevitably my voice goes up an octave as I utter something with childish glee.

Server: "I will be right back. I just had them put some gluten free rolls in the oven for you."
Me stupefied: "REALLY?!"

I was so excited I think I might have actually squeaked.

I was at Legal Seafood in Copley. They have one of the first gluten-free menus that I have come across and a pretty impressive kitchen protocol to ensure things stay gluten-free. I had heard rumors about gluten free croutons, but nothing about rolls - hot fluffy rolls. They arrived at the table warm and with butter, and with the accolades of the server who described them as "like a Bisquick biscuit."

They were better.

Not only did they have a good crumb, it withheld man handling and butter and didn't result in a sand pit at the bottom of the dish. They did have a strong onion flavor, but in a good way. The rest of the meal was ok - calamari with chick pea flour was tender but not cripsy, but the rolls - man, I could eat a million of them.

Celiac Survey

There is a student at Columbia conducting a survey about Celiac Disease. Its open to anyone who knows about Celiac Disease. Its a quick 20 question online thing, go ahead, you want to click it.

The last question is:
Tell me one thing that the [Celiac] Center [at Columbia University] could do better.

Perhaps I am feeling a bit sassy today. Here is my response:

Its medically irresponsible to diagnose a patient and not offer him/her and family members the necessary tools to learn and cope with the disease. No one diagnosis someone with diabetes and says "you are diabetic, go google 'sugar' and don't eat it." But that is exactly what my doctor did - over the phone. He told me I had Celiac Disease and go to on line and find out what gluten was and to not eat it.
Patients are responsible for their own health, but having free time and access to the internet should not be mandatory to not be sick.

Doctors need to be educated on celiac disease and gluten. They need to work to council patients on what does and doesn't contain gluten - especially hidden gluten in rx drugs, envelope glue and other unexpected non-food locations. They need to have follow-ups with their patients to monitor their condition and gluten intake. The Center should reach out to doctors to inform them as well as provide them with information on recently published relevant studies as well as ways to help them provide adequate care for their patients.

Centers need to provide better information to schools, teachers and school lunch programs to help accommodate or exempt students from programs.

Centers need to raise awareness and lobby for better and ACCURATE food labeling laws. The fact that gluten does not need to be disclosed, on US food labels, hinders the success and health of patients with celiac disease, gluten allergies and gluten intolerance.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Millet Krispies

After the Fluff Festival last month I got the insatiable craving for Rice Krispie Treats. Traditional Rice Krispies contain barley malt and while I do really like Erewhon's Twice Rice and Crispy Brown Rice with Mixed Berries cereals, I got inspired when I saw Puffed Millet at the store. They are puffed and way cheaper than the rice cereals so I thought I would give it a go.

Working off of the standard Rice Krispie Treat recipe, I browned the butter and added pecans and dried tart cherries for extra flavor. The resulting treat tasted good, but the texture was a little off. The millet is puffed, but not coated in any sugar or malt so it had a softer more Styrofoam feel rather than a satisfying crunch. For all the feed back the lack of crunch, at the end of the night, there were none left.

Millet Krispies
4 tbsp butter
1 cup pecan pieces
1 10oz. bag marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
4 cups puffed millet
vegetable spray
aluminum foil or wax paper

1. In a large pot melt the butter.
2. Once it begins to brown, throw in the pecans.
3. Just when the pecans begin to become fragrant, add in the marshmallows and stir. (If you are aren't using a silicon spatula here, its a good idea to spray your wooden spoon with veggie spray to help keep the marshmallow from sticking)
4. Once the marshmallows are almost completely melted, stir in the vanilla extract, then stir in the cherries and millet.
5. Spread the mixture into a well greased baking pan/dish (or onto greased foil if you are lacking appropriate cookware) and allow to cool fully before cutting.

I cut these puppies on the bias (hard to tell here) so they were small 2-bite diamond shapes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blog redesign

For all who have been dropping gentle hints like: "A black background doesn't make anyone excited about food," and "oh your blog, the one with your giant red face?!" this is my attempt at a compromise.

(If you are reading this through and RSS, you gotta hop on over to the blog to see what I am talking about.)

For now, I am going to retire my Phil Collins album reference header.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Huffington Post getting it right

Dr. John LaPook's article "Why Common Foods May Hurt Your Health" is one of the most informative general pieces on Celiac Disease I have seen in a long time.

PS - three cheers for the take-a-pill-and-eat-gluten-dream!!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meat CSA

Today is the deadline for signing up for the first round of Austin Brothers Valley Farm's meat CSA and I was sort of on the fence about doing it. While I was hemming and hawing over the matter, I came across this article and filled out my application for pork and beef that is raised by people who I get to talk to about their animals, weekly at the farmers market.

I am going to be splitting a 10lb. a month share with neighbors, for 3 months, to see how it goes. I am excited about eating some of the best beef and pork I have ever had and putting my crock pot to good use!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Art & Duckfat in Portland, ME

My friend Dace, of repeat press, had a solo art show at Corduroy in Portland, ME. When there was word of a road trip to check out the opening, I immediately said that there was a need to stop at Duckfat in Portland. This is the place that deep fat fries their french fries. Rules of etiquette demand art first, then greasy fingers.

Corduroy is part surf and part art gallery. I don't surf, I cannot even swim, but the boards they sold were beautiful and made me wish I could be a fish.

So the show had a few different pieces, but the largest was an instillation. He made a cave out of wood and tape:

I went in it.
I also admired his letterpress work.

And then, it was time for food!

Its not the greatest picture, but I was overcome with the fact that I was about to enjoy FRENCH FRIES FRIED IN DUCK FAT! (I got the duck confit salad too!)

Yes, that was Magnetic Poetry on the wall. (It is still fun)
Overall, the fries were too salty, but the condiments were nice. The truffle ketchup far out shined the aioli, but in the best way possible. The salad was ok, nice poached egg on top of mixed greens and a more than generous portion of duck. My fellow diners and I noticed that everyone that came in after us was ordering milkshakes, not fries and we wondered what they knew that we didn't. (The menu sports a $7 Tahitian vanilla bean milkshake - we were too stuffed to even give it a try.)

Oh, I almost forgot to mention...
When I sat down to order and do my little "are the french fries coated or dredged in flour" spiel, the waiter cut me of (in a polite way) and said there is no gluten on the fries or in the fryer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gluten Free Cosmetics & Soaps

Its not food, but if it goes on your lips - its gotta be gluten free. (If you are wrangling youngsters who put things, like their hair, in their mouths, its pretty important that all hair and body products are gluten free too.)

Chock this one up to a hard lesson learned; I was gluten-free for 3 months before I realized my "all natural" lip balm was full of wheat-products. Since then, I have learned and have switched over my most of my bath and body products. Here are some of my new(er) favorites:

Dr. Bronner's - super gentle and if you can find a place that sells it in bulk, you can mix and match to create your own scent. (In the summer I love half peppermint/citrus; the rest of the year I love the almond.)

Burt's Bees - I like their lip balm and face scrub. Both are a little more expensive than some brands, but they last a long time and sometimes go on-sale.

NARS, bareMinerals and Smashbox are three of my favorite make-up companies that have some gluten-free products. (All three also happen to be cruetly-free too.)

As with everything, you have to double check ingredient lists. Products can and do change, and often its not listed on the front.

Here are some other great resources:

Gluten Free Cosmetic Counter - catch all blog for gf products
Naturally Dah'ling - has a list of favorite gf cosmetics
Gluten Free Hub - they have a gf cosmetic list, for sale
Clan Thompson Celiac Pocket Guide to Everything Else 2009 (Gluten-Free Cosmetics) - for sale