Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 the best of

Happy Holidays!

This has been a weird year.
5 jobs and 3 moves latter, I am still not sure how to think about 2011. There are few things I can be more certain of than knowing I have the best friends. They truly are! Do you have someone in your life you can call or text with urgent chocolate questions? Know a pal who will drop everything and help you move, again? Is anyone on speed dial who can find the episode of Dr. Who that you are missing and just "have to see"? This is what I am talking about! Oh and did I mention that several have reserved special "gluten-free" space in their kitchens so that I will not only feel welcome but safe to eat and cook in their homes?! I am telling you, I am super lucky.

So without further ado, a year in review...

I had an amazing time branching out from blogging to teaching coffee & chocolate classes at Qualia Coffee in D.C.

No Gluten Required business cards came into existence.

I got to test recipes for an amazing new book: Caseus Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook: Every Cheese Has a Story, created by a friend and fellow BU Gastronomy student, Jason Sobosinski. Why yes, he is the man you have seen on the Cooking Channel.

I still get excited when someone emails me or comments on a post. I like using this space as a way to force me to write down what I am cooking, and I often refer to it when I am in the kitchen. But I truly feel that both my writing and my cooking get better when there are people to eat and read with me. This year, people have emailed and commented more than ever! So thanks readers for listening, tasting, and chatting along with me.
When I was first diagnosed, it was great to not feel alone. Now, its something more special.

NGR has always been a little rant-filled, but this year things got revved up a bit:
Sex and the celiac
Thomas Keller's C4C
Occupy NGR

Superlatives were not allowed in my high school yearbook - and yes, I know because I worked on it. So to make up for lost time, here are mine for gluten free products for 2011:

Favorite snack food - Oven-fried chick peas (recipe forthcoming)

Second favorite snack - crackers

Favorite alcoholic beverage - Clos Normand Cider

Best new packaged food - Trader Joe's Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I haven't written about these because I just just recently discovered them. They are truly fantastic. A group of us were eating them and someone uttered, "finally someone harnessed the crunchiness of rice flour and used it for something its good at". These are truly the best packaged gluten free cookies I have eaten. They remind me a lot of my memory of Tate's cookies. Very crispy and buttery. They rule. (Why they have a medieval-style etching of bakers on the package is beyond me. Just trust me to look past this, judge little, and eat liberally.)

Favorite kitchen experiment - Homemade Tonic Water
From running around Chinatown with phonetic translations of cinchonia bark, to impromptu filtering systems, this was hands down the most delicious idea.

Second favorite kitchen experiment - rugelach

Third favorite kitchen experiment - injera

A safe and happy New Year's celebration to all!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Open Clinical Drug Study

There is a clinical trial accepting new persons with Celiac Disease who follow a gluten free diet and are still symptomatic. It appears to be a single or double-blind study for Larazotide Acetate. Here is a write about about the drug. I would still like to see a clearer explanation of what reactions it causes or prevents in T-cells, but it is interesting non the less! Anyone have any more info?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phase 2

Here is a tiny bit of exciting news... funds have been raised for a phase 2 clinical trial of a celiac "vaccine". It will be interesting to see the results of the T-cell responses and efficacy. I am cautiously optimistic.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten Free Travel

Traveling gluten-free in a gluten-filled world can be tricky. Where are your favorite spots? Where have you had excellent options and service? Where would you like to go or go again?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mass Market - Sunday 11 December

I am going to be running a table at Mass Market on Sunday, December 11th from 12-6 at Mass Art in Boston. I will be selling copies of Cook Food Every Day, which has over 40 gluten free recipes, and ALL proceeds go to the Greater Boston Food Bank. There will also be treats from the cookbook for sale to help tide you over till you get to make them yourself.

Come down and grab a gluten free snack, cookbook, chat, support local arts, knock out your winter shopping list, or some or all of the above!


Mass Market is a DIY (do it yourself) flea market where artists, crafters, clothing designers, jewelry designers, photographers, record sellers, local bands, button makers, bookbinders, DJs, vegan and vegetarian bakers, and many others come together for a day of swapping, sharing, selling and buying art.
Presented by Lindsay Metivier, co-produced by Brian Butler/The Upper Hand Art

Mass Market is held at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the Pozen Center, at 621 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115
The Pozen Center is in the North Building, located at the intersection of Tetlow St. and Evans Way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

NYT Magazine article, and what's missing

This Sunday's New York Times Magazine included an interesting piece: Should We All Go Gluten Free?

You might be surprised to hear that I have some opinions about said article. Since this post does not come with photos, you might be tempted to ignore it, so I shall employ the power of the bulleted list to pull you back in. 
  • The article is mis-titled (Note that article writers almost never write article titles, its up to the editor. Here we have another stunning example why "snappy titles" that have nothing to do with the content irritate people who care about the article)
  • There is a complete omission of the large price difference between gluten filled and gluten-free replacement foods
  • The author ignores the many people, companies, support groups, and facilities that have and DO support people with Celiac Disease, you know, before General Mills thought it a profitable idea.
  • There is no mention of access to care. This directly relates to the 11 year average diagnosis rate for Celiac Disease in the U.S.
  • There is a glossing over of what other "changes" occurred with the reformulation. 
  • Its hard to pick, but possibly the saddest part, is the lack of General Mills using its Big Food money to support and lobby for labeling laws that define "gluten free" in the United States. This would be an amazing way to actually allow people to know what food is and isn't safe.  
I don't not think that every article can do every thing for further the knowledge, understanding, compassion, and access to basic socially and culturally appropriate foods and healthcare, but ignoring half the story makes General Mills sound like a hero, rather than an opportunist.

And it ignores that the products that General Mills produce, benefit SOME people. Those with money, access to care and information, and who speak and read English, and who see gluten-free Bisquick as "food". It also ignores that there are a lot of strings attached to this offer of gluten-free replacement foods.

The reformulation of Chex came along with the addition of the preservative BHT. Trying their product, I found myself wondering, like many did, about its gluten-free nature because it caused digestive unrest. This, yet another omission, by Mr. O'Brien, gives me a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy-feeling about his proximity to General Mills. Maybe he is just a fan, a person who is excited to have more "normal" gluten free options on store shelves. Call me Pollyanna-ish, but I except a lot more from journalists.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving recipe round-up

Yeeeeeeeeeeee hawwwwwwwww

Planning ahead tips
Brining a turkey
Cooking a turkey
Brining and cooking a duck

cranberry orange sauce
cranberry apple sauce
stuffed mushrooms
buttermilk brioche (you could turn them into rolls by doling them out into muffin tins)
vegan sweet potato cornbread
homemade crackers
chex mix
scones (remove the sugar and you have biscuits!)
apple pie
vegan pumpkin custard
pumpkin pie
English toffee

I am working on some new fun ideas for this year. More squash and greens and cheeses for sure!

FCA receives an FDA grant

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, NFCA, has received an FDA grant to study gluten in medications.

This sort of begs the question why OTC and Rx drugs are allowed to not fully disclose ingredients... but that aside, I will be interested to see the findings.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pumpkin breakfast muffins

Its moving from smoothie to decidedly not-smoothie-for-breakfast weather and I have started up my quest for more interesting breakfast options. I have been throwing beets and carrots into breakfast bars, breads, and loafs as a way of upping the fiber and adding a little sweetness - not to mention terrifyingly awesome hues to my morning snack.

This batch was a little hodge-podgey. The batter was looking rather dry, so I added some applesauce last minute. It helped with the flavor and texture, but the final muffins took a long time to bake - though their centers remained very moist.

Pumpkin breakfast muffins

The wet team
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp psyllium husk (you could use flax seed meal if you like)
3/4 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup dates chopped
1 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup maple syrup

The dry team
1 cup almond meal
1 cup millet flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp coriander

The stir-ins
2 cups chopped fruits & veggies (beets, apples, oranges, cranberries)
1/2 nuts/seeds + 1/4 cup for topping the muffins (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

1. Combine the wet ingredients and mix well.
2. Slowly add in the dry ingredient in batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
3. With the mixer off, stir in the fruit and nuts.
4. Dish into muffin tins and top with additional nuts.
5. Bake at 350F for 45-1 hour.
6. Enjoy your super high fiber muffins that don't taste like cardboard!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New favorite hard cider - Clos Normand

This is my hands-down new favorite beverage. (That's right, its trumping all other gluten-free alcoholic beverages!)

Clos Normand Brut is now at the tippity-top of my favorites list.

It is everything I want an alcoholic cider to taste like. Dry, dry as a bone. If you have peeped my thoughts on gf beer, you know that my biggest complaint is that they are too sweet. They taste more like wine than beer, and often the carbonation is small and not really at full capacity.

It smells a bit smoky and of apple juice, not like floral apple orchards. The taste is much milder, mellow, and almost light. There is no hint of smoke in the flavor and the finish is very clean.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crunchmaster crackers

I received some Crunchmaster products free over a month ago. I have been late to the game in reviewing them, but here goes. The 7 Ancient Grains were solid snacking crackers. They claimed 7 grains, though I think flax and sesame are categorized as "seeds" not grains, but I digress. Their crunch is loud, and consistent with a rice cracker, but the flavor is slightly more complex, and the finish isn't as sweet as traditional rice-only rice crackers. My favorite part was that they were well balanced in the salt department, not too much, but not too bland either, thus escape the fate of many a dull gf cracker.

 The other package was of the Multi-Grain Crackers.
These contained oat flour. I do not eat oats, gluten-free or otherwise. So I handed them off to a gluten-eating mouth, which reported that they were good and not too-cheesy. (No Smartfood like white paws post snacking did appear)

Monday, October 24, 2011

I miss gluten

I am having one of those rare days, a day that I thought I was done with having. I miss gluten.

It is not so much that I miss a particular food, but I miss not being able to just grab something to eat without having to think, worry, check, and ask a zillion questions to make sure I CAN have it.

I know these days happen from time to time, I just sort of hate it, but I know there are a ton of others out there hating along with me. Our fingers (and the fingers of our friends) are crossed hoping for the day when going out to eat is a celebration rather than an ulcer-inducing stress-fest.

I have a giant list of places I would go to, things I would eat, a lot of street food for sure! I still have a lot of hope on this front. Hope for no weird stomachaches, hope for having my skin behave somewhat normally, hope for pizza and beer! There is a lot of hope in the mix of this sad, hissy-fit of a day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupy No Gluten Required

I got into one of those great conversations today that made me want to share it with the world. It was about the occupy movement, which as of this weekend, is now international.

It also got me thinking about the connections between Celiac Disease and the current conversations happening at and around Occupy

-Funding for disease research is dictated by drug companies. 
Disease research functions a lot like our currently lobbyist system, where the deepest pocket, or perceived deepest pockets drive what gets funded and researched. Barring a celebrity fund raising for a disease, only diseases with giant potential financial gains are focused on. There are lots of drug options for erectile dysfunction, not so much for hard to detect autoimmune diseases with actual co-morbidity, and life-threatening side-effect stats.

-In the United States, we treat the ability to have access to socially and culturally appropriate foods as a privilege, not a right.
In Italy, Ireland and Sweden, there are programs that enable people to purchase gluten-free substitute foods at a lower costs - comparable to gluten-filled products because eating what YOU deem food is important. Celiac Disease is treated like what it is, a disease, not a choice, where only wealthy persons with access to specialty grocers or the internet with a secure shipping address, have the ability to eat the foods that they feel are appropriate for them.

-Access to medical care is considered a privilege, not a right
11 years is still the average rate of diagnosis of Celiac Disease in the United States - this is IF you are so lucky to have health insurance, good health insurance, that will pay for the specialists and tests. Who is able to have care, and find out why they are in pain and often suffering from several of over 300 symptoms, is not in the control of us, the people.

-There is no legal definition or protection around the consumption of items labeled "gluten free"
There have been two federal-level attempts for a legal definition of "gluten free". Companies have highlighted the "____-free" marketplace as a trend that is bringing in a lot of money. This money is great for companies, but for those who MUST avoid certain foodstuffs, not having a consistent definition of what gluten-free is and is NOT, often means people are taking a risk with their health and well-being when purchasing a processed good. The USDA and FDA are not protecting us, the citizens who have a right to know what is and is not in our food.

If you are interested in learning more, continuing conversations, and getting involved, there are lots of ways to support the protesters and the idea(l)s of democracy.

A friend has created a website to collect demands and track popularity.
Occupy Against Big Food, which is happening 10/29.

Talking about it.
Talking about what is happening is making a difference. It is entering into discourse with friends, family members, co-workers and strangers, about what is going on and how you feel about your democracy. It is a huge step. By talking about it, I learned that the Occupy Boston, that I walk by every day, does not need food right now, but is in need of other supplies for the library they just started.

Let the occupying of comments commence!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gluten Free Awards

Its time for the second annual Gluten Free Awards.

Go forth and nominate my dear readers.

PS - I have been cooking up a storm. I have smoked cinnamon roasted celeriac, onions, and carrots over chicken polenta for lunch. I just haven't been so awesome at posting. In the true spirit of Columbus Day, I shall work hard to invade your home, call it mine, and plunder some great recipes. (Hopefully you have all had your smallpox vaccines)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gluten-free job posting

I received this pretty nifty job posting via Healthy Villi. I cannot speak to anything about the organization - but its founding member Melinda Dennis was my nutritionist when I was first diagnosed and she is awesome.

Paid Position Opening for the Healthy Villi
Looking for self-starting, highly organized person who works well with people, to serve as Program Manager working directly with the president. The following skills are necessary: computer & web skills, and some knowledge of Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance.

Specific areas of responsibility would include:
Meeting organization (including monthly Board meetings, thrice annual membership meetings, and biannual New England Celiac Conference)
Management of volunteer solicitation and placement
Membership updates
Newsletter creation oversight
Web updates (see our website at
Some bookkeeping (such as recording donations, bank deposits, etc)
Expectations are 12-15 hours per week for $25 per hour.  If interested in learning more or applying, please email your resume and introduction of yourself to .

Thursday, August 25, 2011

what is in a name, or a flour mix

Mr. Keller apparently has not been reading my rage as of late. Its cool, I can specialize my dislike for just him. Cup4Cup is the French Laundry papa's new retail market endeavor - a gluten-free flour blend for $19.95 for 3lbs. So let's see, where to start.

1. $6.65lb for ingredients that cost less if you purchase them individually
2. Not organic, local or special in any other than, LET ME SLAP A NAME ON IT AND UP-CHARGE
3. Contains dairy - which sucks if you are at all trying to figure out what your body is reacting to. And it also contains milk powder is nasty (its dried, soured milk. I have running water, refrigeration and am not camping, I desire this about as much as MREs).
4. Is a product that does not do anything "new" and is in no way more useful than any other bs, overpriced, packaged flour mix out there.
5. I firmly do not believe that one flour blend will/can replace all gluten-free substituting needs. Even if this one "could" can we discuss the gross lack of any form of fiber?!

I will continue to mix my own blend of flours, starches and gums, at more reasonable prices, thank you very much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

sometimes you feel like a nut

Today's Jezebel piece, When Everyone Things Your Deadly Allergy is Just a Fad is interesting, thought not surprising. Bullying people who are different? Who would have ever guessed?!

Let me just stop for a moment and point out that peanuts are not technically nuts, but legumes. I do this not to be snide, but as an interest counterpoint to some of the rather nasty commentators who are venting their frustrations about how they do not believe people should be able to use the word "allergy" if they need/want to avoid a food.

Those of us throwing around the American Standard English, engage in slang, abbreviations, slight-means and bastardizations all the time. We also change how we talk depending on who we are talking to/with.

I do not go around saying PEANUTS ARE LEGUMES, YOU ARE LYING, YOU ARE LEGUME-ALLERGIC! I know what people mean, and more importantly, food prepares, packagers and servers know the shorthand and common misnomers that people use to describe those who go into anaphylactic shock if they consume Arachis hypogaea.

I have mentioned before that I often will use "gluten allergic" to quickly expedite explanation and ordering at restaurants - especially now in Massachusetts, where the new allergy bill has passed. I have found that "I have celiac disease, an auto-immune disorder that makes me intolerant to gluten" is way too many words, confusing, and rarely gets the point across in a fast-paced restaurant and kitchen. Its also a lot easier to tell a friend without having to go into hand-puppetry of intestinal linings. (Oh you know I make villi with my fingers)

So, in light of the fact that even when people use the term "allergic" people still don't believe him/her, I think we have a bigger problem than who can or should be using the term. Why is the default response that people are lying, wanting attention or hypochondriacs?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gluten-free help

Friend, and fellow gluten-free feller, Aliza Shapiro is an amazing human and needs our help. As the owner/operator/creator of Truthserum Productions - and performer no less! - Aliza is a local institution. We met through mutual friends in Boston, and once I was diagnosed, we shared a new special bond over gluten-free faux oreos, good/safe places for cheap eats, and discussed doctors and medical care.

Last week, Aliza suffered a brain hemorrhage. The Aliza Brain Trust has been set up to collect at least 10 months of living expenses, to allow Aliza the time to heal, recover and return back to rocking everyone's socks.

If your life has been touched by Aliza, please consider giving whatever you are able. If you have yet to cross paths, I urge you to donate to a fellow gluten-free-er in need.

Please donate at: Aliza Brain Trust

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Better than your average post

I am temporarily in possession of a deep fat frier.

I am thinking churros, maybe fried chicken and something with chocolate.

Share what you would like to see enrobed in 375F oil, photographed, and consumed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday NGR

Oh happy birthday No Gluten Required! You are 3!
You are a rambunctious toddler who often throws fits and rages on in rant form. Though you have also accomplished many impressive feats.

NGR is 3, which means I have been sans gluten for 4 years. The internet informs me that:

Traditional Anniversary Gift: Leather
Modern Anniversary Gift: Crystal/Glass
Travel Anniversary Gift Ideas: Luggage
Traditional Anniversary Gift: Flowers
Modern Anniversary Gift: Linen/Silk
Travel Anniversary Gift Ideas: Lingerie, Hawaiian Vacation

So if we are nit-picking here, you should probably just send me to Hawaii. For those traditionalists, you can FabLab-etch some No Gluten Required luggage for the trip. It will be awesome. I promise to post a bit more, eat an unhealthy amount of poi, macacamia nuts and beverages from faux tiki heads.

In all seriousness, thank you to everyone who reads, comments and emails. I felt pretty alone when I was first diagnosed and kind of sick of many of the woe-is-me message boards, though I was grateful for them, especially on bad days. I feel particularly lucky to have access to the internet, online communities and friends and people willing to share recipes, thoughts, tips and ideas for free. Thanks for being awesome, fun, interesting, and being part of a Phil Collins spoof that actually turned into something more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Homemade tonic water

Several friends have invested in seltzer makers. They save money and make fun farting noises, what is not to love? The discussion about whether it was possible to make homemade tonic water arose. Always a fan of an overly complicated way to make something from scratch that is probably cheaper and easier to just purchase, I decided to research the project immediately.

Step 1 - find a recipe
There are several out there, but almost all point to Jeffrey Morgenthaler's How To Make Your Own Tonic Water. Other recipes offer more exotic mix-ins, and some offered sugar rather than agave nectar as sweeteners. 

Step 2 - find ingredients
I knew that citric acid was available at the co-op, but I could not find the cinchona bark - the ingredient that contains quinine - anywhere. I tried the health food store, the food co-op, spice shops; a friend even translated cinchona into pinyin and I attempted to find the bark at 3 pharmacies in Chinatown. No dice.

I finally broke down and purchased online from Penn Herb Co for $25/lb. plus shipping. I had to get a pound of the stuff, and the recipes only call for a quarter cup, so its safe to say that this is going to be one of many attempts at tonic water.

Step 3 - Making the goods

Tonic Water Syrup
4 cups water
1 cup chopped lemongrass
¼ cup cinchona bark
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 lime
zest and juice of 1 grapefruit
1 tsp whole allspice berries
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
¼ cup citric acid
¼ tsp Kosher salt

3 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

1. Combine the 4 cups of water, bark, zest, juice, spices, citric acid and salt into a sauce pan.
2. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Allow the mixture to cool, then strain through coffee filters - this takes a while.
4. In a clean sauce pan, combine the strained mixture with 1 cup of water and 3 cups of sugar. Bring to a low boil to disolve all the sugar.
5. Allow the mixture to cool.
6. Combine the mixture with seltzer and booze of your choice.
¾ ounce of syrup, 1½ ounces of gin and 2 ounces of soda water - is what Morgenthaler recommends. I prefer 1 part syrup to 2 parts soda water and 1 part vodka. But you have taste buds of your own, so do what feels right.
Lemongrass is a beast of a plant to cut. You will need a sharp knife, and probably 2 stalk = 1 cup chopped. Its worth it. Don't skip this step, plus the inside is PURPLE!

A rasp is key for this project - it will get the zest without the white pith.


Cool down...

The flavor is a lot more complex than the clear tonic water you can buy in the store. It is not nearly as sweet, and with the exception of the bitterness from the quinine, its hard to pick out each of the individual ingredients, but I mean that in a good way. The flavor is pretty complex, but it doesn't fight with the gin, if gin happens to be your mix-in of choice. I would say that if you have a soda-stream at home, to make the water extra farty, since stirring in the syrup does knock out some of the carbonation.

The final product is good, really good. Better than I expected and worth the effort.

Consider it summer and me tickled pink.

When traveling, pack extra snacks

Oats are not gluten-free. In the United States, oats are NOT gluten-free. I want to shout it from the rooftops - OATS ARE NOT GLUTEN FREE!

This is not because oats contain the proteins gliadin and glutenin - which together make up gluten - but all standard oats in the U.S. are grown, housed, and/or processed with gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley, etc.) that make oats NOT gluten-free.

I spent part of last week at the Association for the Study of Food and Society's annual conference in Missoula, Montana. I have never been to a conference with so many gluten-free labeled options. Buffet-style does not keep items safe for very long, but I was excited to see more than undressed salad as an option. There was at least two items I could eat at almost every meal.

Then there was the snack break on Saturday where the fruit and granola compote was labeled "dairy free" and "gluten free".

I subdued my rage and panic of "ohhhhh shit, was what I ate yesterday really safe?!??!!"

I quietly pulled aside one of the catering staff and explained that oats in the U.S. are not gluten free and that the sign was incorrect, and should be removed - if possible. (I quelled my desire to violently sharpie-out the inaccuracy. And note, I did not get angry at the staff member. It was not her fault, her call, nor could she do anything about it other than relay the info to the chef. Never yell at the in-between-staffer making minimum wage. You have all seen Fight Club, so I won't harp on this point.)

In all honesty, I had a great time and did not get sick. I did head over to the campus store and grab some extra Lara Bars and snacks so I could avoid the remainder of the catered foods.

Dining out was relatively easy in the city. I had a few killer meals... but I will post more about that later!

Monday, June 6, 2011


A friend handed me the Style section of this Sunday's New York Times. Smack, in color, in front of me, was the article "Looking for a Plan B? Make it Gluten-free". I wanted to like it... well I wanted to not hate it. What started as a medium irritation festered into a full-on yelling-at-the-newsprint swearing event. I was waving the paper back and forth, yelling quotes aloud, the full nine yards.

It began with:
Who even heard of gluten (or the lack thereof) a decade ago? The estimated 1.3 percent of the population who had celiac disease, which is basically an inability to digest gluten, did, but the general public awareness was minimal.

I realize it is the Style section, but that is no excuse. 

Celiac disease is NOT "basically an inability to digest gluten" it is an autoimmune disease. There is a big fucking difference.

Then there is Ms. Gillette, who allowed food-allergic FIVE-YEAR-OLDS to cook with items they are allergic to:
She found a startling number of them could not eat the treats they made because of allergies; the most common allergy was to gluten. “There’s nothing like seeing a five-year-old make a chocolate chip cookie and she can’t dive into it,” Ms. Gillette said. “It kind of broke my heart. I told myself I’m going to have to teach myself how to be a gluten-free chef.”"

Who the hell would ever EVER allow children to touch, never mind cook with ingredients that could make them violently ill? Even if the kids do not eat the final product or ingredients, there is a good chance they are going to get it on their clothing, hands, face and increase the risk that they could ingest some. This sounds like the most irresponsible educator ever.

Oh then there is this gem by Edie:
“I’d tasted a lot of gluten-free bread and thought, ‘Wow, this stuff is terrible,’ ” she said. “I thought I could do better and thought because I didn’t need to eat gluten-free, I could hold it to a higher standard.” 

Who the fuck do you think you are? Just because you have the luxury of not having to eat gluten free, you have a superior palate? Whether intention by the author or not, this made dear Edie sound like an asshat. First of all, taste is cultural and personal - so what is "good" is relative. Secondly, gluten-free substitute foods, like bread, have been around for decades and the demand for "better" has pushed many before Ms. Irwin to be creative in the kitchen and in professional bakeries alike.

There is also an undertone throughout the article that gluten-free bakeries are the "plan b" option for those looking for a life/career change and want to cash-in on a money-making trend. The last couple profiled are the Kings, who warn that:

“Anyone who thinks they’re going to start a food company as we did, with no money, better be passionate about it,” he said. “If you’re in it for the money, good luck to you.” 

While perhaps helpful advice to anyone thinking about starting any business venture, the article ignores that this possible "plan b", is cashing in on misfortune.
“There was a certain satisfaction in putting up a 10-story building,” Mr. King says of his old profession. “But it can’t be matched when someone thanks you for something you’ve given them that they haven’t been able to have.” 

No discussion about who gets to eat at these new bakeries, nor how much their gluten-free alternatives to gluten-filled standards cost. Us, dear readers, are also left wondering if these businesses are financially sound, never mind successful... though a fluffy write-up in the Times usually isn't bad for business. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Daikon salad

It has really warmed up in Boston, so the idea of turning on an oven, or even the stove has ranged from -234 to about 1. (I am visiting Boston for a bit, and apparently compared to the scorching weather in D.C. I should not be complaining.)

With bbqs slated for the long weekend, I wanted to bring something bright, fresh and requiring zero heat to prepare. I found some fresh daikon in Chinatown and decided on a vinegar-but-not-quite-pickled salad.

The ingredients: daikon radish, jicima (I decided to omit, so just admire it), scallions, kolrabi, carrots, nappa cabbage and a jalapeno

Wash and peel the daikon:

With a hand peeler, or mandolin, very thinly slice the daikon. (I split it in half when the slices got too big for the peeler, so there were rounds and half moon shapes.)
Peel and ribbon the carrot - basically keep peeling the carrot, rotating it around so you get thin slices.

Cut the ribbons into thirds:

Peel the kolrabi - you are going to need a knife for the peeling part because the outside is thick and fibrous, but the inside is AWESOME. It tastes a bit like sweet broccoli, mixed with turnip. After its peeled, you can treat it like the daikon, and thinly slice it with the peeler or mandolin.
Clean the scallions and separate the greens from the whites. Thinly slice the white ends vertically to create long, thin slices. Save the greens for another thing.

Put all the chopped and sliced veggies into a salad spinner and SPIN. Get them as dry as possible.
In a separate bowl, add the sliced jalepenos - as much as you like (this pepper was very mild, so I kept the seeds in). Add in a few tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, a few teaspoons of sugar and a few good pinches of salt. (This is going to vary depending on how many veggies you have, start with 2 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt, and add more if you need it.)
Once the sugar and salt are disolved in the mix, you can toss in your veggies.
I added a little bit of lime juice to up the tartness. The longer the veggies sit in the mix, the more they will wilt and take on the vinegar flavor. Its great to serve it chilled with hot items off the grill.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A needle for your dinner

A clinical trial of a celiac vaccine (think allergy shot, not polio) is getting a lot of buzz. I am not holding my breath, but my fingers are crossed. I would like to see more test results, and honestly the idea of intentionally noming some gluten seems both scary and exhilarating... but this probably has several more years before anything interesting happens.

Up the research!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dam good eats - Amsterdam Falafel

I have a thing for most things deep fried. Honestly, there are few items that I would refuse once they have taken a hot bubble bath in oil. (The list is short, if it contains fenugreek, juniper, pine nuts, canned water chestnuts, forget it.)

A lot of falafel is cut with bulgar - a type of cracked wheat - which saddens me. So when I was directed to Amsterdam Falafel  in Adams Morgan, I was skeptical. I was at first stupefied by their toppings bar. There were over 5 hot sauces, and 20 or so other pickles, salads, and sauces. The staff were able to quickly recite ingredients and once the balls were deemed gf, I was off to the races. At a place that only offers falafel and french fries, you order fries.

I topped my order of 3 golden orbs with pickled beets, tahini, hot sauce, one of three of the cucumber salads, cold chickpea salad and pickles. They do not have forks, but they do offer a device that looks like a split popsicle stick - with the end sharpened into two points, great for scooping and stabbing falafel balls into falafel pops. Genius. The balls were perfectly crisp and flavorful and the toppings were great compliments, none tried to steal the show.  The fries were ok, not great, but the offerings of ketchup, Dutch mayo, and garlic cream came to their aid.  

Oh yeah, there is an "Amsterdam theme" to the small, restaurant. There are no plates, everything is served in cone-shaped paper wrappers that easily sit on the tables with 3" holes gauged out of the top. The sign dons an XXX in the logo and there are posters and images - including a painting of a topless woman that greets eaters as you walk in. If a topless woman can be subtle, this one is, I honestly didn't notice her till after I was half done my meal.

I will most certainly dine here again, and maybe scope out more of the decor.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May is Celiac Awareness Month, let's discuss

So there is a lot of chit-chat, buzz, blogging, facebook-posting and I am sure tweeting about Celiac Awareness Month, you are apparently in it right now.

There is a little debate about is whether May or October is/should be the month, but how about we have a bit of a sit down and discuss what is and isn't going on.

Last week, at an event, someone offered me salad. I politely declined. Confused, she pressed why I brought my own snack when salad is gluten-free. I explained that the salad was from a pizza place - red flag #1, and with unknown ingredients - #2, people were sharing - #3, and the boxes of salad were set below the boxes of pizza - #4, and that I don't know where the food is coming from - #5, and it goes against my personal rules of not eating from any place new during the first two weeks of class or during finals.

I was then offered the salad again, by another event goer, but I did not feel the need to explain again.

Sometimes I just do not want to do the work of education via explanation. It is work. Even when its exciting, helpful, clarifying, justifying, and accepted, it is work.

I bring up this story, because I want to say that every day is Celiac Awareness Month, Day, Hour and Minute when you are interacting with other gluten-eating humans. I do not want to take away from what is going on in D.C. today, or all the work of gf and celiac groups, researchers, etc. But I do want to highlight the real-lived work that is advocacy and education in restaurants, kitchens, places of work, doctors offices, grocery stores, hallways, phone calls, and online forms. These moments connect many of us. The work that one person does, explaining or advocating for gluten-free options or safety measures, helps the next person that walks through the door.

I am grateful for those campaigning, advocating and lobbying congress for gluten-free labeling laws - I signed the 1in133 petition - I feel that the best way to celebrate celiac awareness month is perhaps to focus on the everyday. I am not sure how this should look. High-fives down grocery story isles for everyone with gf products in their carts? More information sharing?

I don't know. What would make your life - or the life of your loved ones - easier? Is it more writing, recipes? Better labels? More stories about what life gluten free is like?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"real" injera

Teff is a very tiny grain - in the grass family - that is the basis of Ethiopian injera. It is a thin bread, that is sour, with a soft, spongy texture. Its sometimes described as a thin pancake or a thick crepe, but it is much more. It functions as plate and utensil in Ethiopian cuisine.

My first visit to D.C. I saw injera at a gas station, and began my hunt for some "real injera", injera that is made with just teff. The D.C. metro area has the largest population of Ethiopians in the U.S., but all the injera - at restaurants, markets and gas stations - are cut with wheat and or barley flour. Teff, outside of Ethiopia is extremely expensive, around $10 a pound.

I decided to give it one more try, at Dashen Ehtiapain Grocery in Silver Spring. There were over 7 different types of injera, but all, even the darkest in color, were cut with barley or wheat. The clerk was very helpful, going through the bags of bread and then eventually given tips to making injera from scratch - he said it was key to mix the teff flour with water and let the larger particles settle to the bottom and discard them. 

‎This is my first attempt at injera, and while the recipe couldn't be simplier, I feel like I might be missing something. Maybe the dough needs to ferment longer. Maybe there needs to be more water? Perhaps I should have added oil to make it easier to handle. I am not sure. But the results, even though a little ugly at first, were delicious!

I have secretly thought that teff might taste like pumpernickel. This injera is very sour, more sour than sourdough - which makes sense, because you are basically cooking just the sourdough starter. There are hints of pumpernickel - aka rye - flavor, which leads me to think that a teff-based fauxpernickel is in my future. 

1/2 cup teff flour
3/4 cup water

1. Combine teff flour and water in a jar. Stir well.
2. Allow to sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 2-3 days, or until bubbles form.

Time to make the injera!
3. Stir up the starter.
4. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Stir again.
6. Pour onto a lightly greased, flat-bottom pan.
7. Cook only on one side, till bubbles form and the dough darkens.

The first batch stuck, so I switched to the caste iron skillet, which worked a lot better.

With pratice, the shapes improved and they stuck less!

Overall, I think the flavor was right, but they were not as supple and soft as I think they are suppose to be. They fell apart when I used them to pick up food. But they really were delicious with left over Peruvian chicken - with hot sauce, rice and beans and sauteed asparagus with caamelized onions. Not bad for a last-minute, late-night dinner.


I was messing around a bit with google/blogger applications and I came across some stats on how many pageviews NGR gets.

Today: 84 views

Last month: 3,262 views

All time history: 22,614 views

I find counters on webpages sort of annoying, but this is pretty cool!

Pi ... a little late

Pie is better than cake. I am not even going to entertain the idea that you are reading this and disagreeing with me. I have only once ever gestured towards a brawl over a difference of opinions, and let's not break my track record.*  Pie is glorious and should be celebrated weekly, if not daily, but alas, not all have realized the awesome potential of pie. I, like many others, see March 14 as a great day to celebrate the best dessert, the best dish ever created.

There was a point in my life when I was pretty good at math. I was "that girl" who took advanced calculus in college, for fun. (I know, my river of dork runs deep and has many unexpected turns.) Pi, the 3.14 variety, was something I was grateful became integrated into graphing calculators. I still sort of miss my TI-83, but mostly for the Tetris. 

Pie crust
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
2/3 cup potato starch
2./3 cup corn starch
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 eggs
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup half and half
ice water

1. Mix all dry ingredients together.
2. Cut cold butter in to pieces, cut into dry ingredients until the largest pieces of butter are about the size of peas.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and vinegar.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into butter mixture. Mix together.
5. Wrap in plastic or place in zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Apricot Filling
2 cups dried apricots (slab kind are tarter)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp corn starch

1. Combine the apricots, water, sugar, cider vinegar, and salt.
2. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook uncovered till the apricots plump and half the liquid is gone.
3. Remove the apricots, set aside, and reserve the liquid.
4. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining liquid.
5. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens.
6. Add the apricots back in and allow to cool.

Putting it all together
1. Divide dough in half. Roll dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Dust the dough first with tapioca starch if a bit sticky.
2. Add in the filling.
3. Roll the second piece of dough to form top crust.
4. Crimp edges and dock top (make steam vents, perhaps in a dorky math symbol)
5. Bake at 350F for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
7. Enjoy with strong coffee.

*I really should apologize to Marisa and our other guests that lovely evening at a piano bar, where we brought the average age of the audience down by 40. It was not appropriate for me to go to such extremes to explain my position that Frank Sinatra - womanizing aside - is far superior to Tony Bennett in every way possible. But honestly, I bet Marisa likes cake.