Monday, November 30, 2009

When brown sugar bites you in the ***

So many things to report from our first gluten-free Thanksgiving. We had a lovely meal, and managed to overeat as usual despite the range of new food options. Successes include a lovely stuffing made of cornbread, apples and bacon (recipe in last post; double the bacon and toast the bread first), a wonderful southwest-style quiche from the Culinary Institute of America's gluten-free cookbook with a crust from Glutino Pantry, and a green bean dish made with butter, spices and dijon mustard (instead of green-bean casserole, which calls for glutenized French's onions).

Disappointments include having to throw out all of my brown sugar. As it turns out, many brands of brown sugar include invert sugar as one of the ingredients. Invert sugar can contain gluten. Other brands just list "brown sugar" as the only ingredient. I'm going to have to research which brands of brown sugar are reliably safe and stick to those. The really bad news? JFG had just consumed a pear pie that contained about three pounds of questionable brown sugar. $%$!.

Mom also brought some wonderful gluten-free chocolate donuts from a gluten-free store in Phoenix, mentioned in previous posts, along with several kinds of hamburger buns! Yummy!

So in all, a successful feast. But we forgot to watch the Macy's parade.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Alternative recipe for stuffing

My mother makes stuffing with white bread. My mother-in-law makes it with a mixture of white bread and stuffing mix. JFG used to refuse to let me experiment with stuffing recipes -- once I made stuffing with dried cranberries that was great, and I had to eat it all by myself. This Thanksgiving, our first with celiac, all bets are off. Jesse won't even consider some of the gluten-free white bread alternatives, like rice flour or flax or tapioca flour breads, but he really likes Bob's Red Mill cornbread mix. It actually tastes like glutenized cornbread (which is amazing because I think the rest of Bob's Red Mill mixes taste like garbanzo beans, even the brownies. That's a nasty shock, let me tell you).

So, we're going to make cornbread-bacon stuffing. It seems to me that, since the average American eats 3,000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner, an extra six ounces of pork fat won't kill you any faster.

Here are some of the recipes I'm considering:

Herb and Bacon Cornbread Stuffing

Apple and Bacon Cornbread Stuffing (using gluten-free cornbread, of course)

Cornbread and Proscuitto Stuffing

I thought about a Rachel Ray recipe, but her face on the website just makes me slightly nauseous, like staring into fun-house lights.

For pie, we'll just make regular pie with a gluten-free crust (I like Pamela's Gluten-Free pie crust mix, although you need to add a little extra sugar) but for the courageous, gluten-free girl's pie crust is pretty good. Just cut the amount of apple cider vinegar you use to keep it from tasting really apple-y.

I'd also like to try two recipes I saw in Cooking Light (a magazine that is not always celiac-friendly):

Pumpkin Flan

Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Tart

But JFG wants pumpkin pie and, even for a pie-lover like him, three pies might be too much.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Marco Polo is not the only option, people!

I've opined about restaurants that don't take the gluten-free needs of their patrons seriously. But I'm equally annoyed by people who suggest that the only safe dining choice for someone with celiac disease is a restuarant that advertises a gluten-free menu. It suggests that gluten-free food is special, magical food that can only be prepared by the annointed ones.

In Salem, the only restuarant that advertises a gluten-free menu is Marco Polo. Marco Polo serves a weird, kind of continental menu, a combination of traditional American meals and Chinese food. The atmosphere to me feels like a revamped 1950s hotel-food restaurant, and it's kind of expensive. I know devotees; after one meal we are unlikely to go back.

Here's what Marco Polo has done very well. They've identified items on their menu that are naturally gluten-free -- rice dishes, for example -- and then marketed those dishes. If you examine their "gluten-free" menu you'll discover that most dishes already appear on the "non-gluten-free" menu. Genius.

However, there are other options in Salem if you know where to look. Here are the ones we've found:

La Perla -- we've checked the packaging on the corn tortillas. No flour, so if you just order chips and tacos you're safe.

La Margarita Company Restaurant -- ditto, plus the tamales are safe too.

India Palace -- naan and samosas are out, unfortunately, but the papdam is made of lentil flour and the tandoor, jalfrezies, curries and masalas are all okay.

Ventis -- the yellow curry is gluten-free. We checked the box. Ask them to prepare on a clean grill.

Thai Beer -- the curries and peanut sauce have regular soy sauce in them, so they're out. But you can ask the server to have any stir-fries made with gluten-free soy sauce. We particularly like the mango chicken and the cashew chicken. Bring gluten-free peanut sauce for the salad rolls.

Thai Lotus (actually in Keizer) -- the curries and stir-fries have regular soy sauce in them, but the peanut sauce is safe because they make it themselves. Try the pra ram with tofu or chicken.

Momiji's -- Surprisingly, not every sushi restaurant has gluten-free soy sauce. One place actually tried to tell us it was hard to find, even though they sell it at Roth's. Momiji's on Commercial is always extremely helpful about gluten-free soy sauce, and the sushi's pretty good.

Take that, overly-expensive and kind-of-depressing Marco Polo!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Swine flu? Chicken noodle soup!

Many years ago when I read Shape Magazine (a magazine that actually makes me feel worse about myself than Vogue or Glamour), I found two recipes that I've kept and made enough times that the paper on which the recipes are printed is kind of gross. No bother -- both are "heat up the pot and start tossing stuff in" kind of recipes, haphazard collections of food heated and then garlicked to death.

One, a chicken chili, we've made many times since the diagnosis. It's blessedly easy, looks complicated enough for guests, and keeps for days.

The other is chicken noodle soup. Considering my mixed success with rice noodles, I lacked faith in how the noodles would behave while being boiled with chicken broth for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. I assumed they would dissolve.

Not so! Here's the trick. Cook everything else (broth, onion, carrots, cilantro, thyme, corn, chicken). Turn the pot up to boiling and toss in the noodles (once again, I'd steer clear of De Boles). Boil for two minutes. Try to keep your husband from interfering with your plan by turning the heat up or down, trying to take the pot off the burner, re-setting the timer, etc.

Turn the heat off but leave the pot on the burner for twenty minutes. Eureka! Perfect chicken noodle soup. You're now swine-flu proof without Zycam (ick) or E-mergency (yuck). Now, if only you can avoid fans of either, who are worse than drug pushers.