Friday, August 30, 2013

Daly Dogs - worth the drive

I couldn't believe it was true. Fried dough. Real, gluten free fried dough. Those words are like a unicorn, a mythical beast not to be found, only to be spoken of with yearning. Hold on friends, gluten free fried dough can be yours and it shall be delicious.

Daly Dogs, in Haverhill, MA does it and does it right.

I didn't expect to order a sandwich, but the Ruben was awesome. Overstuffed and messy, on buttered toasted bread - it was nearly perfect. The pizza is Sicilian style with a surprisingly sweet sauce - if I got it again I would cover it in chili flakes to help balance it out. The fried dough is really why I showed up. The texture isn't an exact replica of the gluteny kind, but there is a fantastic crunch and softer interior. The generous amount of cinnamon and sugar help to bring me back to summers on Hampton Beach.

The menu is about half gluten-free, half gluten-filled but the staff is really knowledgeable. The family that owns the restaurant also runs a small detached gluten-free store. They also have ice cream... which I foolishly did not leave enough room for. Who is up for a second trip road trip?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

double twist on summer favorites

This is less of a recipe and more of a eureka moment. Same friend who cannot eat any grains, and nearly no carbohydrates, was in town at the start of tomato season. I really love a fried green tomato blt. It is probably my favorite sandwich of all time. The combination of the crunchy fried green tomatoes, soft, sweet ripe tomatoes, plus well there is bacon, which rules in general... it is just prefect.

In attempts to make something similar, and use up stuff in the freezer, I began wondering about the possibility of hazelnuts. I had some left over hazelnut meal from a recipe I tried (hazelnut strawberry tart, pictured on the faceybook, that tasted good but didn't hold together well enough to share the test recipe.)

I combined about a cup of hazelnut meal, salt, ground coriander, ground celery seed, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, toasted onion powder, garlic powder, and ground black pepper. I dipped the slices of green tomato in an egg wash (egg, salt) and then into the hazelnut mix. Fried in bacon fat these rounds wouldn't fool a southerner, but they were tasty and satisfying.

The salad is a slight adaptation of my previous attempt at a blt salad. Instead of a mayo-based dressing I used avocado. Just a whole avocado, the juice of one lemon, and some salt proved to be a fantastic creamy dressing for some mixed greens. Adding chopped, ripe tomatoes and crumbled bacon just took this over the top.

 Be mindful. Bacon-laced foods will attract beasts.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boston Globe finally getting it right

I have complained about the Globe before, and even wrote a letter to the editor when they got it wrong.

I have to hand it to them, that years later, they finally got it right. Title aside, the April article finally highlighted the problem with contamination and need for dedicated equipment for gluten-free options. It feels like a giant relief to see Melinda's name in print next to accurate information. It is amazing the amount of work and time it takes to get a few hundred words to line up in a way that is truthful and engaging. Really excited to see more and more articles that I read with my head nodding in agreement... rather than shouting and ranting. (Though rants are still fun!)

understanding your intestines

"This is your gut on gluten" is one of my favorite articles I have read in a long time. It does a great job of explaining the autoimmune response to gluten exposure in those with gluten sensitives and celiac disease. It could only be better if it had some rad images to go with it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

satay you stay - very best Thai food

I was always fond of Thai cuisine. Sweet, spicy, sweet, tangy, what's there not to love? Since 2007 I have really ramped up my appreciation and consumption. I think I have unintentionally sought it out almost everywhere I have traveled.

Bloomington, Indiana - Esan Thai (best northnern Thai I have ever had)
Chicago, Illinois - Pho's Hot & Spicy Thai Cuisine (best green papaya salad I have ever had)
London, UK - Manorom Too Thai Restaurant (really knowledgeable staff that double checked everything)
Cambridge, MA - Pepper Sky (always a slam dunk, eat in or take out)
Smile Thai closed in Cambridge, which broke my heart. They actually brewed their own gluten-free soy sauce.
Boston, MA - Chili Duck

See what I am saying? And there are just my greatest hits.

It takes a lot for a place to nudge on my list. It takes even more for me to be surprised. Well Krua Thai blew my expectations out of the water. It is a tiny spot that would be easy to miss because there is a giant service bridge overshadowing this small 10 table restaurant. Photos of food don the walls, but don't let you think there is anything cliched about this find. Dishes are made to order, and before I could even snap pictures half of our meal was devoured. We expected greasy, overcooked pad thai, but could not be more wrong. The server was incredibly well versed in the entire menu and understood allergens and double checked ingredients. I don't have anything bad to say - nothing. The food was fresh, interesting, well prepared. I am not even a fan of eggplant and truly could not stop eating the basil eggplant special we ordered. The satay was truly the best I have ever had... and I sure do enjoy me some meat on a stick.

I didn't realize how much I liked this place until I was plotting how or why I needed to be back near Buzzards Bay just to get a chance to eat here again. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

arthroscopic knee surgery - making it gluten free

Ok so there is no real trick to making a surgery gluten free, it is surgery! But the recovery time can be tricky so here is my list of things I wish I knew before I had arthroscopic knee surgery. (This site is pretty great and has images that didn't make me want to throw up = I recommend.)

Pack your bag with all your identification cards, paperwork, doctors' names and contact info, and your allergy list. Pack one or two snacks - you might need to take a small amount of food with your medication when you wake up from surgery.

Wear very loose fitting shorts or pack them for the ride home. You aren't getting any form of pants on for a while.

Narcotics cause constipation - you should have a game plan for dealing with this and a back up plan for when that doesn't work.
Plan A - magnesium citrate. I really like NaturalCalm but found it wasn't enough
Plan B - senna tea. I like Smooth Move but usually don't drink it because it is strong for me. Well this is the time for that strength. A friend brewed up several cups and iced it down and kept it in the fridge. This was a huge lifesaver since I wasn't the most coordinated while on crutches.
Plan C - propylene glycol. I really hate this stuff, but it was useful to help get the wheel going again
Plan D - saline enema - this is not pleasant but some find it necessary

Yes, you read correctly, I had a 4 step poop game plan. It is far easier to plan ahead than have to phone a friend to get you supplies.

Other supplies to have on-hand
Aspirin - you may be put on an aspirin-a-day regiment for a few weeks post-op. I don't normally stock this in my home, so its good to ask and have some ready.

Compression socks - you will be given a set to wear home, and wear for 2 weeks. I am an avid supporter of support hose, but the hospital kind have openings at the foot, which I found itchy and uncomfortable when it was time to get back to work. A good friend went out and bought me a full-foot pair that were easier for me to use while walking. Warning - they don't hurt but are pretty much spanx for your feet and legs - aka will make your feet and legs incredibly toasty. Having a second pair was nice to be able to wash them and air them out.

Baby wipes are a nice-to-have extra. Since you can't shower for a few days post-op it is great to be able to "wash" your face without trying to close your eyes and balance over a sink. They also are pretty fantastic when you spill food down  your arm... not saying that will happen but juice is in general, juicy.

Totally not necessary, but I was pretty grateful for a grab-bar in the bathroom to help get on and off the toilet. It is harder to do with crutches than I thought and it was nice to be able to be able to steady myself and get the crutches up and under my pits. (They cost about $15 at Home Depot - make sure the bar is secured into a stud or you will rip it out.)

If you got some sleep, congrats. You are probably waking up to the desire to drink a large amount of water filtered through some delicious beans. Sorry. Grab you stuff, throw on your medical bracelet, and make the trek to the hospital.

After you check in, breathe. This is a great time to give your personal belongings to your designated ride home buddy.

Once you are called back to sport a fancy hospital gown, you will get asked a lot of questions. Your medical history will be gone over several times. If you get motion sickness you might get extra medication. You will be given a prescription for post-op pain meds. Really important to remind them that it needs to be gluten free. They will ask you a bunch of times what surgery you are having and even mark it with a pen on your body. Maybe you will freak out the night before and create your own body art.

After waking up your body might think "that's not so bad". You are on a lot of drugs - listen to the nurses. They are your best allies in getting everything accomplished like not falling down or successfully peeing in the toilet. Nurses are also the ones who tell you the absurd things you said in the operating room, like "I think we should all get donuts together". Nurses are awesome. Nurses will also try to feed you graham crackers. Stay vigilant and stick with your packed snacks.

I got sent home with a knee wrap that contained ice packs - which is probably my second favorite part of knee surgery. If  you can, ask for an extra set of ice packs. It is great to keep one in the freezer at all times.

You will get a take-home sheet of dos/don'ts post surgery. The nurses recommended keeping my knee elevated above my heart to help with the pressure/pain. This is pretty difficult to manage on your own. They suggested a pile of blankets/quilts but my favorite was a giant triangle pillow. It isn't the cheapest thing, but it stayed in one place - unlike the moving blankets - and I could easily adjust it for sitting and lying down.

As you can see, everyone loves geometry!

Since I had a back injury, I also used a cervical back roll for support. It ties around and helps keep the lower spine in a neutral S-curve to prevent further injuries to my less than happy slipped disks. It does make you look like a child in the shallow-end but it was totally worth having one less thing to worry about when slouching on the couch.

Hopefully you have gotten some sleep. You may be tempted to take a look-see at your wound. Don't. You might need a friend to remind you that that is a horrible idea.

It is really helpful to have paper or a chart so you can write down when you take medication. I found it really easy to forget time. It was also helpful to keep track of things since I needed to take an aspirin 1x a day, but was not allowed ibuprofen. It was the most useful when waking up in the middle of the night with pain to know if it was ok to take more medication or not.

This was the most painful day for me. I was pretty surprised.

If and when you are ready to head back to work, you are likely off of narcotics. Pain management is still going to be a pretty important part of your day. I chose to add tart cherries into my daily smoothies and/or taking additional tart cherry supplements. Why? Basically they are close or as effective as NSAIDS for inflammation. They also taste awesome, so it is hard to really complain about eating something that is delicious and helpful.

PT is not fun. PT is going to make you do unfun things so that in the future, you can do fun things again. Do your PT. Listen to your therapist and be honest about your pain. Just because you could do ____ before surgery does not mean you can do it now. You need to rebuild muscle and it takes weeks to gain back what you lost. Ice after PT is probably my favorite part of PT. Ice is your new best best friend.

You have stopped being able to do every form of exercise - congrats, you have loss muscle mass and gained weight. There is some of this that you can control and then there is the lure of potato chips. First off, cut yourself some slack. Then realize what you can and can't change. For me, I decided to make a few dietary changes and deal with the rest of the fall out.

- I cut out sugar and cream out of my coffee (hard at first)
- avoid foods that are easy for me to over eat (see potato chips). I asked for a house-wide ban.
- try to make sure there was green veggies at every meal
- breakfast became a green smoothie

None of this caused me to loose weight, but it did help prevent me from gaining more. Normally I don't talk about such things, but if you having surgery on a joint, the last thing you want to do is put more strain on it. Excess weight = strain.

The other great part of going to PT is that if you are anxious to get to exercise again, you can work with your therapist to be able to add more movement to your daily routine. I got really stoked to be able to do plank again so I could start rebuilding my back and core strength, but I only felt comfortable doing so after working with my therapist to make sure I could do it safely.

So there you have it, everything I wish someone told me ahead of time and then some. I hope you never need to use this info, but also feel free to ask more questions.

Monday, August 5, 2013

nearly carb free friendship - sugar free gluten free pudding

Friendship is weird. It is wonderfully complicated and gets better once you have gone through something really unpleasant together and come out the other side still wanting to talk to each other. So when a friend tells me I can't eat _____, I feel a special need to try to ease the transition. Us, those whom gluten cannot pass our lips, understand better than most, what it feels like when your food life is messed with.

That is how a nearly carb-free dessert was concocted. Count yourself among my pals, and a lover of sweets, well this is my best effort at a chocolate dessert for you. 

This recipe takes two days to make, which is ridiculous if you compared it to traditional pudding, but consider it like you would icebox pie, something that needs the power of the refrigerator and time to make delicious. 

There are three steps: creating the licorice syrup, soaking the chia seeds and cocoa powder, and then combining and cooking. Using both the licorice and stevia worked well together. Licorice has that sweetness that doesn't hit till your finished and your palate is nearly cleaned, and the stevia hits more up front at the start of the first bite - so together they work pretty well and don't test chemically or too weird.  (Surprisingly, the finished product does not taste like licorice at all!)

This isn't going to be a sweet dessert, it is going to end up tasting like a chocolate pudding like thing but its no pudding pop. You might be tempted to add more sweetener(s), don't. Adding more stevia or licorice results in a very off-putting mess that tastes more like you lost a dare and had to eat an entire packet of Equal. 

Licorice "syrup" 
3-4" piece of licorice root, bent into pieces if you can
1 1/2 cups of boiling water
1. In a heat safe bowl, pour the boiling water over the licorice root. 
2. Allow to steep for at least 2 hours, overnight if you can. 
The water will turn light yellow, then bright yellow.

Pudding base
1 cup coconut milk - the pour-able-when-cold kind from a tetra pack
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients - you are going to need a fork or whisk to break up the cocoa powder
2. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight

Finished product
1/4 cup of the licorice syrup
Pudding base
4 drops liquid stevia extract
1. In a saucepan, boil 1/4 cup of the licorice syrup. 
2. Once it has come to a boil, add in the pudding base, stirring constantly. The whole goal is to cook the mixture so it doesn't taste like raw cocoa powder. This will take about 10 minutes, or until the mixture darkens and no longer tastes chalky. 
3. Remove from the heat and add in the 4 drops of stevia. 
4. You can enjoy it warm, or return it to the fridge to chill. Using the pour-able coconut milk will help prevent the pudding from separating or hardening when cold. 

I couldn't pick a name - faux-pioca doesn't have quite the right ring to it. I am calling it pretty darn delicious. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

the big day is here

Guys... it is time to PARTY!

It has been 9 years, but finally the FDA has ruled on what "gluten free" can mean in the USA. The verdict, not surprisingly, is less than 20 parts per million - aka the same standards Europe recognizes.

This means that gluten-free actually now will mean something if you see it on packages. This isn't going to happen overnight, companies have a year, so please as always be careful.

This has the potential to make life a lot easier. I am hoping that full disclosure on binding ingredients in prescription drugs are next!

I am literally singing about this on the twitters.

UPDATE - more information about what this really means is available on the FDA page