Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide 5th Edition

About a month or two ago I received a free copy of the new Triumph Dining The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide, 5th Edition. I have been sitting on doing a review for that long. Mainly I haven't used it enough to give a fair review (I don't have the funds to be going out a ton) and the places I want to go out to eat are smaller places that are not in the guide. That said, I have used it more than I expected, mainly because I am in a new city and its been helpful to find new places and be reminded of old standbys that are close by.

The book is structured into three sections:
-general information about gluten-free dining out 
-state-by-state listing of restaurants that offer gluten-free menus or are able to provide gluten free meals
-alphabetical list of chain restaurants that have gluten-free menus or gluten-free options

General Information
This section was surprisingly awesome. It provided really good, honest information about going out to eat and how to successfully and appropriately convey what one can or cannot eat. The author discussed his first-hand problems and issues in the opening - a nice personal touch. The book clearly is meant to work with Triumph Dining Cards, which is a logical pairing for the company, but its not overly pushy.

State-by-State Listings
I have actually used this more than I first thought I would. Being new to the D.C. area it has been a great way to become a bit more familiar with some options. On more than one occassion I have thought about just storing it in the car rather than on my bookshelf because I think it would be a lot more useful there.

Alphabetical List of Chain Restaurants
This is helpful for getting a lay of the corporate food land in terms of gluten free options. Probably not my first choice, but again really helpful when traveling.

Other helpful bits
The symbols and short hand notations about price and gluten free accommodating restaurants vs. ones with gluten free menus is really helpful. As is the information about remembering that businesses and restaurant practices can and do change and its important to always ask and check ahead by calling and then re-asking servers about dietary concerns.

Overall, I probably would not have purchased this book for myself. When I go out to eat I am mostly looking for cheap, local eats. Chain restaurants tend to be more expensive and not what I am interested it. That said, This book will be with me for road trips. I will pack it with my car maps for certain. It probably falls under the good-gift-category for someone newly diagnosed, a person that just moved to a new part of the U.S. or someone who travels a lot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Day 7

Breakfast -  apple and coffee

Lunch - meatballs, kale, sweet potatoes and caramelized onions
(I should have been reading, but I NEEDED to cook. You know that feeling of needing to get an idea out of your body - some people need to write, paint, draw, sing... I sometimes get it for cooking. I had this idea for baked meatballs with kale. I dreamt about it. I needed to making it. So I stopped fighting it and did. It turned out better than I thought it would have.)

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, chopped
~1/4 lb. kale, washed, destemmed and finely chopped
1 tsp zatar spice
1 tbsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp ground garlic
1 tbsp allepo chili flakes
salt - be generous
1 egg, beaten

1. Saute the onion in the oil till it begins to soften.
2. Add in the chopped kale.
3. Cook till the kale starts to wilt. Pull of the heat.
4. Combine all other ingredients and mix well.
5. Add in the onions and the kale.
6. Form in to meatballs and place on a baking dish/jelly roll pan (something with sides).
7. Bake at 400F till meat is cooked through - flip once during cooking so you get delicious brown crusts on at least two sides.

While the meatballs are baking...

Sweet potato and kale (its not pasta, but it goes well with meatballs)
1lb kale, cleaned and chopped
1/2 onion sliced
1 sweet potato diced
1tbsp oil

1. In a skillet, saute the onion in the oil till it begins to caramelize.
2. Add in the sweet potato and cook over high heat, charring the edges.
3. When the sweet potato becomes soft, add in the kale and stir over high heat till the kale wilts.
4. Season with salt.

Serve meatballs atop kale and sweet potatoes.
Enjoy the fact that hodge-podge last minute, lets-use-up-food cooking turned out something decent.
Go speed read before class.

Afternoon Snack - coffee and half an apple

Dinner - left over chili and first batch of cornbread (I froze it)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Day 6

Breakfast - coffee, chili and cornbread (cats attacked the cornbread, removed it from the chili and ate it when I went in the other room)

Snack - apple

Dinner - social gathering cheating
I broke.
I have been trying to get together with two friends for almost two months and this was the weekend it could happen. We met up for dinner and I ate non local food. It was too much ___ effort to find something that was local and gluten free. I had a horribly mediocre burger, sans bun and side salad.

Snack at home - leftover homemade apple sauce
See I am not "that" bad.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Day 5 potluck

I braved the Whole Foods on a Saturday just to make chili. I must have lost a bit of my mind, but I really wanted to make chili. So 1 hour, 3 ingredients and about $11 later, I headed home to chop and cook my butt off.

Local hodgepodge chili
1 lb of ground beef
1 lb of chuck steak, cut into cubes
1 large onion, chopped
ground cumin
ground allspice
ground cinnamon
granulated garlic
4 cascabell chilies
chili flakes
2 bay leaves
ground cayanne pepper
ground ginger
smoked paprika
dried Mexican oregano
1/2 lb mushroom, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken stock (probably too much, but I needed to use it - I made it last Sunday)
2 pints of homemade pureed tomatoes

1. Brown the chuck. Remove from pan then brown the ground beef. Remove that from the pan.
2. Toast the spices (add more oil if you don't have enough from the beef renderings)
3. Throw in the onions and allow them to sizzle on HIGH.
4. Throw in the mushrooms. Let them cook a bit too.
5. Add the beef back into the pot.
6. Throw in the garlic, stock and tomato puree.
7. Stir, let simmer and the cover and PRESSURE COOK for 2 hours.
Cool, taste, re-season - mostly for salt and add hot sauce if you feel daring. YOU FEEL DARING

This might be the best chili I have ever made. I am not joking. Better than my 2nd place chili at the Abbey Lounge's Chili Cook-Off of 2008.
Normally I throw in a beer, or cocoa, but I don't think it needs it.
I through in the mushrooms as a stretcher - instead of beans - and they seam to work out nicely.

I don't think this could be easier, well if you owned a food mill it would be faster.
Quarter and remove the seeds of apples (as many as you like) leave the peels on, it will give a pink hue to your sauce
1-2 tbsp water

1. Put the apples and the water into a sauce pan.
2. Cover and cook over high heat until the apples become soft.
3. Mash with the back of a spoon or fork.
4. Remove the apple peels.

Applesauce Cornbread
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup apple sauce (see recipe)
1/4 cup oil
1 - 1 1/2 cup water

1/4-1/2 tsp salt
3 medium eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350F
1. Combine the corn meal, apple sauce, oil, water, salt and egg yolks in one bowl. Stir to combine - you are looking for a thick cornbread batter. If you scoop it up it should fall in plops off your spoon - not wet enough to form ribbons. The applesauce is going to make it chunkier than normal - fret not.
2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to a soft peak. (If you have farm fresh eggs this is going to take a lot of muscle.)
3. In three additions, add the egg whites into the cornmeal batter, by folding them in.
4. Pour into a greased baking dish. (I used and 8x8 but that was really tight. I would use a bigger one next time so it has some room to rise on the sides more)
5. Put in the oven, lower the temp to 325F. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. This took about an hour for me, but the oven couldn't keep a temp and I had to futze a bunch. 

Disclaimer - if I was able to use a leavener I would have. Whipping egg whites brought me back to my day's working in kitchens and realizing how much arm strength I have loss. I laughed at the thought of pulling out a mixer to whip 3 medium egg whites, but oh I thought about it, twice.

The cornbread was a little sweet-tart. On its own it was ok, but it was fantastic with the chili. It really helped to balance out the heat. It was appreciated at the pot luck and no one missed the non-local nor the gluten.

Locavore Challenge - Day 5 breakfast

Spicy potatoes, coffee.

More coffee and pondering how to make cornbread lighter sans leavener.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Day 4 second dinner

Because I am a hobbit, I ate more.
I had some Cherry Glen goat cheese - I have had their silver and ash before, so I tried out there Monocacy Gold. I feel it is a solid cheese, but not really up my alley.
More collards, rice and caramelized onions.

I sort of want dessert, but I am all appled out.

Locavore Challenge - Day 4 dinner

Congee with the last of the apple chutney. So sad to see you go you delicious beast you.

Locavore Day 4

My grand plan of photographing and posting about everything I am eating has gone by the wayside. There are several reasons for it, but lets just hold on to the fact that "constraints" have messed with my goals.

Tuesday night I made some cornbread: 2 cups local cornmeal, 2 farm eggs, water, oil (freebie) and salt (freebie). I started it in a hot cast iron skillet, finished it in the oven. It turned out pretty well.
I am a northerner, so I did miss the sugar.

Since then I have been eating pretty much left overs: cauliflower and potato curry, collards, some of the chicken, some of the chicken stock, apple chutney. That has been my world. I have augmented it with some local cheese I found at the whole foods, and some congee I made with some of the rice. I had soup on Tuesday night - broth, collards, rice and chicken. Breakfast has mainly been the cornbread and chutney - which I finished this morning.

A few coffee shops have local milk, so that has added a new zest to my routine. (I normally avoid milk, but without almond or coconut milk I realized I don't like cheap coffee black.)

Realizations - I eat a lot more sugar than I was aware of.
Cravings - hummus, almonds, popcorn, toast, tea, sugar in coffee, BUTTER, potato chips (though I did have a few made with local potatoes, and it was great)

Overall, I find myself angry.
-I am frustrated that the refrigerator in the graduate lounge is disgusting and not useable for my lunch.
-I found myself eying a croissant with loathing and desire. Its something I haven't done in a long time. Its bringing back the feelings of first going gluten free. Seeing so many things that I cannot eat.

-I also realized that I overbought on certain things. I am used to shopping for two, and I feel that I could have better spent some money, but the week is not over.

For the record - I am eating aloo gobi and chicken and some coffee

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Day 1 Breakfast

Breakfast - black coffee; sweet potato, potato, salt, garlic powder and a scrambled egg

I don't normally eat many eggs because they make me feel sick, but these eggs were small and I thought I would give them a try.

I forgot about sugar and tea.
I also found the crock pot overflowed and most of the chicken fat was all over the counter. I was really looking forward to using that chicken fat. Grrrr.
Partner in crime assisted in pulling out the chicken, throwing the meat back in to let it simmer for the remainder of the day.

I packed up lunch and snacks and I feel pretty good about having enough noms for school. 
I arrived on campus, and the fridge in the grad lounge is foul, foul squared.
This is the place I hope to house my dinner. I am thinking it will last 4 hour sans refrigeration, but I am none too happy. I usually bring frozen food to school, so it thaws in my backpack and I don't worry about refrigeration. I might freeze the rest of my packed meals to avoid the nastiness that is inside that white box.
I ended up eating during class, which is not my favorite thing, but the food was good.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Locavore Challenge - Prep 2

I made the following things for the future of me:

modified aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato curry)
collards with onions
apple, smoked cinnamon, sumac chutney (I wanted to have something sour)
sweet potato hash (for tomorrow breakfast)
chicken backs are simmering in the crock pot - this will hopefully result in some meat and some awesome stock
rice - its my 4th freebie

I did not measure anything.
I am weeping from the onions, but that's never stopped me before.

Locavore Challenge - Prep

Here is my non-local last supper, pre-challenge:

Homemade baked beans and a German weiner, whole grain mustard on the side.

I enjoy eating, I enjoy cooking, I am not enjoying this adventure.
It hasn't started yet. 
Yes, I know, but it has.

Sunday was the farmers market in Takoma Park.
$2.50 on 2.5lbs of chicken backs (they were out of stew hens and everything else was too pricey)
$13 on a half bushel of apples
$4.50 on a dozen eggs
$7.50 on potatoes and onions
$13.50 for collards, kale, sweet potatoes and one of the largest heads of cauliflower I have ever seen

Even before this weekend, I have been planning, scheming and thinking about ways to cut corners and costs. Buy in bulk; swap meals; think creatively about my 4 "freebies"... this has been a process.

So tonight I sit here realizing I have made a quick dinner and need to read, grade papers, watch a movie, fold laundry, shower, and make food for tomorrow. Yes, this is me bitching. This is me realizing I need to figure out what my last freebie is (coffee, spices, cooking oil are the 3) and get crackin.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Locavore Challenge

I have been keeping a lot of my "school life" pretty separate from this space. I am not sure if that has been super intentional, or the fact that 1000+ pages of reading a week has kept my time and mental space for writing about food to a minimum. This is my attempt to merge the two.

Next week, I am participating in a class project, a locavore challenge.

November 16 - 23
Eat only items grown/produced within 100 miles of College Park, MD
4 personal, food "exceptions" are allowed
I believe mine are going to be:
1. coffee (seriously do you think this was even a thing that could be negotiated?)
2. spices (oh yes, this is a giant, all encompassing thing and it is approved)
3. ?
4. ?

I am going to photo-document everything I eat and blog it, right here on NGR. I will do my best to post every recipe, craving and I promise to be honest about if I cheat. Right now I am realizing that I rely a lot of almonds as a quick, simple snack food that is pretty energy-dense. I can foresee this as being a problem (or maybe almonds are going to be my freebee #3)

I am also sort of wondering about starches. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are all over the farmers markets, but I sort of wondering if I am going to be missing rice, gf bread, beans, rice noodles, or something else.

Thoughts, comments, suggestions, recommendations?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Modern Times Coffeehouse @ Politics and Prose

I am currently noming the quinoa salad at Modern Times Coffeehouse located inside Politics and Prose. It is the best quinoa I have ever had. Carrots, cashews, sun-dried tomatoes and lightly dressed with balsamic and oil; it rules! Yes Rena and Sarah, better than Passover 2008 quinoa, that good.

Summer in a jar - Canning Tomtatoes

I made a giant mess, and it was awesome.

I haven't done jarring or canning in a while, it might actually be a few years since I attempted the Mr. Wizard science experiment of creating vacuums to preserve foods. I have done myer lemon curd, tomato sauce and maybe one other thing - mostly as holiday presents. Its amazing how people oooh and ahhh over a ball jar filled with simple food tied off with a ribbon.

So I have been eying the tomatoes at the farmers market for a while now. I have seen prices pretty much stay the same. I have also noticed that if you go towards the end of the market time, one can get a better deal. (Who honestly wants to pack up more than they need to to go home?)
So I have been plotting and scheming and two or three weeks ago I struck. I waited till 1:40 and went in. I asked what the price would be if I wanted to get "a lot of tomatoes." The gentleman said that normally there is a price break where a box is $40, but its the end of the day and he will give it to me for $20. (I did the math, if I paid the listed per pound price, the box of tomatoes would have set me back $60).

I came home the the idea of making stewed tomatoes, but they were really watery, so I changed the game plan and these ended up being pureed tomatoes, with the help of a strainer turned food mill.

I had a little left over, not enough to can... hopefully it will be pasta sauce later this week. I used a few of the extra tomatoes to make some sopes (recipe on the side of the bag of masa harina).  Sides were leftover carnitas from taco night, purple cabbage, greens and some white rice. It was a well earned feast after several hours in the kitchen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shagga Coffee - relearning how to go out to eat

Originally written in September
College town and coffee shops are usually rather synonymous, not so in College Park. There are a few of those round, green signed shops, but with a campus of 40,000+ I assumed that there would be at least one independent coffee place on or near campus. No dice.

The closest is Shagga Coffee & Restaurant on Route 1.

The coffee is good; probably the best I have had in Maryland thus far. The atmosphere is extremely laid back (read: no one kicked me out while I sat there for 4 hours reading) and the food, the food blew me away. I have never had Ethiopian food before (yes there are two places in Boston, and no, I was never adventurous enough to dare). But the prevalence of Ethiopian food - you can find injera bread at some gas stations - coupled with the lack of coffee shops and places to read for hours, won me over.

A lengthy discussion about bread - mainly the fact that there isn't a place in the D.C. area that makes a teff-only injera (teff is the grain that injera is typically made from, its a thin, crepe-like bread that is made from fermented teff flour). Acknowledging that all the bread was cut with wheat flour, the kind staff woman informed me that I could just order food and it would come not on the bread, but on a plate and she would bring utensil for me to be able to eat with. (Ethiopian food is usually eaten with the injera bread as the plate and utensil).

So here is where I feel like its important to note that a lot of my first-diagnosed-with-celiac-disease-panic came back. Moving to a new place, I didn't have any safe foods or safe places to eat. I got nervous a lot. There is not a lot of Thai food, nor Mexican restaurants. I felt like my go-to safety net of dining out options were gone. I got neverous at the idea of going out to eat. Would it be safe? Would I be able to explain what gluten is? Would I just give up and not eat and just get coffee or tea?

I say this because as I type it I know it sounds childish, but I truly got physically uncomfortable about many steps of the process. My hands sometime shook; my underarms sweat. I was almost in disbelief that it was happening. I AM ALMOST 30 YEARS OLD AND I AM AFRAID OF ORDERING LUNCH?!
It sounds nuts, but its very true. I felt like I was regressing back to the days where I would rather be hungry, deal with the pain that I knew, rather than risk the pain of being sick.

Transitioning to a new place is hard and it made me very aware of how careless or risky my dining habits had become. I became comfortable in Boston and didn't self-identify every time I went out to eat. I didn't want to; I still don't want to. I just want to be able to get food. I don't want to be "that person" who "makes a big deal" about ordering. Even though I know its not true, I KNOW that I am not being "finicky" it still feels that way. I miss being able to mindlessly order and eat food. And sometimes I get mad at old me for not taking advantage of it.

In other ways I recognize that I am a lot more aware of certain sensory experiences. I smell things much differently than ever before. If I cannot eat it, I usually smell it, and not a casual huff, no I am talking about a good, long inhalation and then I go back for a follow-up. I smell with a purpose, with the intention of knowing what something might taste like. Its weird, and I don't do it in front of everyone, but if we have gone out to a bar, there is a good chance I consider you a friend if I ask to smell your beer.

I miss beer.

Injera bread reminds me of beer, because its fermented and has a sourdough/beer smell to it. But I order the vegetarian tasting dish sans bread at Shagga Coffee and had a feast. It was far too much food, there were 11 different small dishes, and it took me over 1.5 hours to finish, but I did. There were 4 different lentil dishes, all with very different flavors and textures - there was a light tan, creamy lentil mash with crisp jalapenos throughout that was sour, spicy, addictive  and delicious. The meal reminded me a lot of the small dishes that come out before the main dishes at Korean restaurants - many little portions of spicy and cooling dishes. The collards were some of the most delicious greens I have ever eaten.

Its going to take a while to not get lost every time I leave the house, to explore beyond the 1/4 mile strip of dining options around College Park and take full advantage of D.C., but I am really exited to have found good coffee and new-to-me-food to try.

Best yet banana muffins

This recipe isn't that different from my past attempts at banana bread and muffins. This time, more banana equaled a near perfect recipe. I am not sure there is much I would change. They came out moist, with a slight crunch to the edges. They kept well, though didn't last long. In the past I have added dates, which were wonderful, but not necessary. This recipe is the closest to perfect gf baking I have come thus far.

1 Stick Butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
7 tbsp white sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas
1/2 c. Sweet Rice Flour
1/4 c. Almond Meal
1/4 c. Corn Starch
1/4 c. Sorghum flour
1/4 c. Millet flour
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 350F
  1. Cream together the butter and sugars. 
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined.
  3. Add in the bananas, mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, mix well.
  5. In 3 additions, add the dry ingredients into the wet. 
  6. Scoop into lined muffin tins. (It makes approximately 1 tray worth)
  7. Bake at 350F for ~30 minutes, but check on them at 20 or so. They are done when you can insert a toothpick into the center and it comes out clean.