Sunday, December 12, 2010


Due to a recent move to St Andrews, Scotland, I am putting this blog on a short hiatus to concentrate for a while on a new blog, From Salem to St Andrews. While it won't be as well-written as the other American transplant blog, From Fergie to Fife, folks at home have requested a record of our highland misadventures.

I will return to Celiac by Marriage eventually. In the meantime, I appreciate your patience and attention.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guilt, capitulation and a weekend with wheat

I visited my parents in Arizona again this weekend, this time without JFG. It was an interesting opportunity to experience non-celiacs eating wheat without guilt, and if I learned anything it was that my fright or flight response to wheat products has become instinctual and reflexive.

My mother always keeps baked goods next to the refrigerator, and when she expects a full house (like this weekend) to say that she overstocks is like saying that Stalin held a grudge. Literally, piles of bread, cookies, cake and pie teeter crazily in big gluteny heaps on the counter. She's even purchased a special shelf so that she can build a two-floor townhouse of sugar, flour and chocolate to feed her family.

Don't get me wrong. While she tends to overcook the sugar cookies I love her pumpkin bread, scones and Texas sheet cake -- all of which were in attendance this weekend.

But I spent the entire weekend like a sleeper who is afraid she'll miss an early-morning interview, drowsing but waking up suddenly every fifteen seconds. I was truly slightly terrified to see all of that wheat, undifferentiated and exposed to air. I almost stopped people from using one knife on all breads. I almost scrubbed down counters when someone cut bread on the granite itself (without a specific gluten cutting board). I almost read the nutrition label on everything we bought. I almost refused to share plates of crackers and cheese.

It was lovely to eat wheat without constant analysis and suspicion. But it taught me two things:

1. It's not a bad thing to think deeply about your food. Without that kind of reflection, you swallow meals without appreciation for the time and effort that went into creating them, and without considering whether or not you actually need the nutrition. Result: 2.5 lbs.

2. The guilt is overwhelming. When JFG picked me up at the airport, I felt like I needed to confess. He laughed but had to be disappointed, especially since he'd DVRed Glee and saved it so we could watch together. Can you sweat gluten in your sleep?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fear not the albino asparagus

Ten years ago, a supervisor took me to the Havana Cafe in Phoenix, AZ where I ordered a salad containing white asparagus. I'd never really thought about colorless vegetables before, but the asparagus reminded me of the children's book series Bunnicula, where a vampire bunny drains carrots and cucumbers of color and terrifies the household. Anyway, I assume that Havana Cafe is not a lair for blood-sucking pets and yet the asparagus terrified me nonetheless.

So this weekend, when my parents took JFG and me on a return trip to the Havana Cafe, I carefully avoided anything with white asparagus in the dish title. However, we were very pleasantly surprised to learn that Havana Cafe has an extensive gluten-free menu (this is the second Cuban restaurant we've encountered with a gluten-free menu . . . if anyone understands the connection please let me know!) which ranges from salads to paella.

JFG ordered a terrific ceviche, sauteed chorizo and an arroz con pollo with plantains, chicken and chorizo that we had to polish off the next day.

He rounded the whole meal off with "Mango, Mango, Mango" -- mango ice cream, mango sauce and mango itself. It looked like an orange traffic light but he and my dad adored it.

I must warn you -- despite its attempt to define itself as "Phoenix's premier destination for Latin cuisine" (an ambitious claim in a city dominated by thousands of Mexican and South American restaurants) it's a hole-in-the-wall in a Phoenix strip mall with fake trees painted on the walls and a tiny, moody bar in a corner.

But in addition to a great gluten-free menu and excellent empanadas, the Spanish torte and ensaladas are divine and the server was sincere and compassionate.

They serve a Latin gluten-free Thanksgiving -- and you can get it to go if you feel freaked out by the weird plastic sheet over the door. Go. I don't think there's any albino asparagus involved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's the end

The end of the bread, that is.

Crusty bread is the holy grail, North Pole, the comfortable 4-inch heel, the low-calorie cheesecake (that doesn't taste like cottage cheese), the Design Within Reach that really is within reach of the gluten-free food world. I don't know if Shackleton or Hillary welcomed other explorers into their quests, but I certainly can't be . . . well . . . that picky. First, I don't have the patience. Second, I don't have million-dollar backers.

So I was glad to hear that a local company was taking a stab at the quandary of crusty gluten-free bread. The company's still nameless, but Lacy Gillham and Jan Taborsky gave JFG a loaf to try.

I'll be honest. That loaf, while a little less crumbly and stiff than most gluten-free bread and with slightly more taste, didn't really represent much of a break-through for the celiac world.

Then one Sunday afternoon, while we were napping, a second loaf came flying through Murray's doggy door and landed on the kitchen floor. An unconventional method of delivery, yes. But you know what? It was fairly crusty. It had a taste of its own, and it held together for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a little spongy, as bread should be and, while it still wasn't "tearable," I was able to feed JFG bread and Nutella for the first time in several years.

I would love to tell you what the bread is called and where to get it. I can't -- although from their promotional materials it looks like we can expect to see them at Salem Saturday Market sometime soon. I can post a couple of photos, left (as you can see, we've reached the end of the bread), and give you an email address: I'm not suggesting that evolution of gluten-free bread should stop -- this version is still pretty dense and, um, durable. But I can certainly respect and recommend a very worthy fellow traveler.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Utter failure

I admit it. After a fairly good run of focaccia and some decent raspberry brownies, I got a little ahead of myself and decided to try pita.

When JFG and I were first married, I learned how to make pita. I can't remember precisely why, but it seems like we made pita every week for months and months at a time. In fact, it's one of only two recipes I have completely memorized.

Last night, I tried to make Moosewood Cookbook (circa 1992) pita using Gluten-Free Creations Basic Flour Mix.

First of all, the dough didn't rise. Always a bad sign, especially when I'm using brand new yeast.

Second, it was as tough as old chewing gum -- the kind of dough that wears your arms out to roll. I actually abandoned rolling after a couple of goes and simply beat the dough to death with the palm of my hand.

Finally, it didn't puff up. Now, I can be flexible. I have often made un-puffy pitas by accident and simply announced that were having flatbread instead. Flatbread or pitas -- they're both really just sauce and meat vehicles anyway, hmmm?

But these were really flat. They had the consistency of dried-out, cracked old leather on the outside and were underbaked on the inside. JFG ate them anyway, bless him, but I think that's just because it was the only way to get the lamb and cucumber-dill sauce to his mouth.

Fear not! I have identified a new recipe and shall try again soon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Not because it is easy, but because it is hard

Bread fascinates me. Not only did the ability to produce bread play a role in separating successful from unsucessful cultures (see Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), bread -- or lack thereof -- has incited populous riots and measured the competency of governments. No wonder I believe that my ability to produce the humble substance somewhat also indicates my qualifications as food provisioner.

Believe me, after a few tries at bread made with grains other than wheat, I can see why producing wheat made or broke societies. Non-wheat bread requires at least air-tight packaging, access to several types of flours at once, and cold storage to stabilize the prepared bread. Difficult now, impossible 5,000 years ago.

Unable to consign myself to failure, however, I've continued my search for decent gluten-free bread. This week, I tried Gluten-Free Pantry's French Bread & Pizza. I basically followed the "oven method" instructions on the back of the box, using milk and vegetable oil. But I added about about a tablespoon and a half of crushed rosemary and about two tablespoons of garlic.

I spread the dough in a pie plate to make focaccia (instead of proper french bread or pizza crust), left it to rise for 40 minutes in a warm oven, and based it for 45 minutes. In the end, I had steamy, fairly crusty bread that sounded hollow when tapped.

In fairness, it maintained many of the qualities of other types of gluten-free bread. It was more crumbly than chewy, impossible to tear and it dried out fairly quickly, although it tasted great and, if consumed in the first 24 hours, would have made good sandwich bread. Next time, I'll add more rosemary, garlic and possibly some parmesan cheese -- like most gluten-free foods, the taste has to come from the added ingredients and not from the bread itself. But I'll give it points for ease and a slightly softer texture than other products.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cracking the German (chocolate) code

Several years ago, my aunt who doesn't really cook bought me a cookbook for Christmas. I love cookbooks. I have dozens, most of which I use for only one or two fantastic recipes -- but I love the sheer clutter and weight they bring to my kitchen. And the more dilapidated the better, as it suggests that I am such a good and prolific cook that I cannot be bothered with cleanliness.

Back to the book, Betty Crocker's Ultimate Cake Mix Cook Book. The premise is that it's possible to make a cake mix (good heavens) into a dessert that appears to require actual skill. Having it on my shelves is almost as humiliating as setting out a coffee table book of pornography.

But you cannot beat the German Chocolate Bars. Not only are they terrific, they're easy, successful every time, store well and almost never stick to the pan. They're my go-to dessert in a pinch, and only require chocolate cake mix, German chocolate frosting, chocolate chips, butter and milk.

Naturally, JFG loves them. But until Betty Crocker starting producing gluten-free mixes, it was impossible to get the algorithm right. It still takes some fiddling, as the gluten-free chocolate cake mix only makes an 8x8 inch (thick) or 9x9 inch (thin) cake. So, use the recipe at the link but make the following substitutions:

-- Use half a cup of butter instead of 2/3
-- Use 1/8 of a cup of milk
-- Use 3/4 of the container of coconut pecan frosting (and only use Betty Crocker frosting -- it's gluten-free)

And to spread the cake batter, do it with very wet hands. Keep a close eye on the pan in the oven and remove it as soon as the top is dry to the touch. Also note that, like most other gluten-free desserts, this needs to stay in the fridge.

But make sure you keep this our secret. I'd rather people think that the bars are some mysterious form of alchemy that only I know.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not quite egg-foo-young, but not far from it

Say what you will about Disneyland Chinese food, but you have to appreciate P.F. Chang's ubiquitous and reliable gluten-free menu. Eugene, Portland, Sacramento -- when in doubt and exhausted by the gluten negotiation we usually experience in other restaurant, P.F. Changs provides unimaginative and geographically non-specific but safe gluten-free food. And the serving staff is almost always reasonably knowledgeable about food preparation precautions, to the point of bringing a separate plate of sauces for the celiac at the table.

I must especially praise the flourless chocolate dome (or, as our most recent waiter termed it, the "big ball of chocolate"). Dense, deep and covered with berries, it was delicious. Yes, it was just about the only gluten-free dessert option, but it was really the only one we needed!

Adventurous? No. Sophisticated? Only to people who buy faux-aged Chinese statues at Pier One Imports. Comfortable? You bet.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chewing on disappointment just like it was chewy, chewy bread

Strangely, I'm disappointed. But I shouldn't be surprised.

The Great Harvest Bread Company near my office sent an email out on Monday announcing that it was now serving gluten-free white bread and gluten-free cheddar and garlic bread. I was thrilled. To date they've only made gluten-free versions of their really seedy breads like Dakota, which JFG will not eat. As a result, my family's one option for really good gluten-free bread vanished like, well, the loaf of Great Harvest Bread we donated to the women's softball team last year.

But white bread? And -- even better -- cheddar garlic bread? Now, I thought, we're in business. I had visions of sandwiches. And bread with salads. And toast. How beautiful.

Today, I returned to the email to find out the baking schedule for these luxuries, and happened to scroll to the bottom of the page. That's where I saw it.

"Please note that we are a whole wheat bakery, therefore; this product is not recommended for customers with the serious autoimmune disorder, Celiac Disease, as it may contain trace amounts of whole wheat flour."

I shouldn't be surprised. But I am. And disappointed -- this announcement, if it is true and justified, should be on all nutritional information, not at the end of an occasional email. Shame, Great Harvest.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gone fishin'

No, seriously, I would never go fishing. Why would I get up voluntarily at 4:00 a.m. to stand in rubber pants in a frozen lake, being eaten by mosquitoes, for the opportunity to injure and abandon fish when I can go to my local grocery store and buy Starfish Gluten Free Crispy Battered Cod?

JFG likes fish and chips, and while we can get great gluten-free versions at the Hawthorn Fish House in Portland (yum -- almost everything on the menu is gluten-free) it's a pain to have to drive 60 miles for fairly simple food.

And then a colleague told me about Starfish products -- namely the cod, although it comes in two other fish, like haddock as well -- which are stocked by my local grocery store. I finally talked JFG into frozen fish last night, namely by letting us run out of every other food except cereal and then discouraging his attempts to go out.

Admittedly my expectations were low. However, the fish was pretty good! We baked it for 13 minutes in the oven as recommended on the packaging, and then JFG ate it with about a cup of tarter sauce for garnish. You won't shut your eyes and imagine you're eating fish out of newspaper in the middle of a road at midnight in London, mind you, but I think we'd eat it again. And it would be great for fish tacos. If ONE of us ate fish tacos.

And so, three rice flours. Hawthorn's does better, but minus the sixty miles Starfish works in a pinch.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If music be the food of love, leave off the rye chorus, would you?

Google "food" and "Shakespeare" and you get a lot of references to eggs, beer and bread. But, since my goal here is to talk about gluten-free options in Ashland, Oregon, where JFG and I attended the 75th annual Shakespeare Festival, let's use a more appropriate literary reference -- one that's actually from one of this season's productions.

"Do you think because you are virtuous, that there shall be no more cakes and ale?" Twelfth Night: act 2, scene 3

In fact, there shall be both cakes and ale in Ashland for celiac patients, even though many options do not surface in Google searches.

First, our lovely B & B, managed by a delightful Irish couple. Every morning, Mrs. Bayberry Inn explained to JFG what was for breakfast for everyone else and outlined what she had prepared for him. We had a little confusion -- "No, there's no flour in that, but there is a little milk" -- but in the end JFG had the best kind of breakfast for him -- fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs. In truth, he had a better breakfast than the gluten-tolerant among us, as Mr. and Mrs. Bayberry Inn were partial to eggy quiche-like dishes with no crust and no taste. Even the 15-year-old boy also staying there, clearly capable of consuming large pizzas between eye blinks, insisted to Mrs. BI that he never really ate much for breakfast. But the banana bread was fantastic.

Second, the Peerless Restaurant and Bar. We mentioned when we made reservations that we needed gluten-free food. When we arrived, the maitre d' confirmed with us that the server knew about JFG's dietary needs. She did -- and sat with us reviewing every item on the menu, clarifying the ways each item could be cooked safely. We had antipasta (JFG was basically on his own -- olives pervaded), lamb, sweet potatoes and yams, seasonal vegetables and duck confit. For dessert, Grand Marnier souffle (the "cake"). Not my favorite, but JFG loved it.

Third, and possibly best, Agave, a Mexican restaurant where all but two dishes on the entire menu were gluten-free. They served the best chips we've ever had (although not gratis), fantastic tilapia ceviche, beautiful tamales and, my favorite, fish tacos. No, we did not eat all that at one sitting. Yes, I gained three pounds in three days.

I won't mention the sushi place, because a) the service wasn't very good, b) the edamame was lukewarm and c) it doesn't take a genius to make sushi gluten-free. It just takes a run to the grocery store for wheat-free soy sauce and about $2.50. I will mention Zoey's Cafe and Natural Ice Cream, because even without cones JFG is an ice cream fiend. Can't comment on the cafe food (heavily, heavily glutenized) but try the Oregon Trail ice cream.

Oh, the ale. Okay, I misled you a bit. There was no ale -- at least, no gluten-free ale. What there was was a tall, cold pint of draft Strongbow cider, which we'd take over ale any day of the week. I should note that not all cider is gluten-free, so do your research.

In sum, here is my assessment. We -- and, indeed, Ashland -- are virtuous. And yet, cakes and ale can always be located, my friends.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Not as hard as it looks

I just received my new, glossy ULTA advertisement . . . er, I mean my semi-annual makeover edition of InStyle. Among the myriad "articles" (indeed, the stories in the magazine are "articles" in the same way all of the Cadillacs in the FX show Damages are just modes of transportation) is a column suggesting ways to jumpstart your diet, based on approaches celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow have used.

Naturally, most of the diets recommended require a lot of free time and access to complex food products -- raw "cleansing" soups, juices delivered by specialty companies, coconut water -- albeit apparently with successful if not sustainable outcomes.

All of that is to talk to you about Oprah's diet, which allows all foods as long as they're vegan and without sugar, alcohol, caffeine -- and gluten! In previous posts I've challenges the myth that gluten-free diets cause weight loss, but must admit that if you took out all of the other fun food ingredients it would probably work.

It's the one and only quote from the magazine's guinea pig that bothers me. "I read labels zealously and even bought gluten-free bread. But who cares? In just five days my stomach pooch deflated." YOU BOUGHT GLUTEN-FREE BREAD? Good for you. Wow. How did you survive? It must have been a struggle, since Safeway, Roth's, Target and Whole Foods all carry many, many varieties of gluten-free bread. Thousands of people -- even fat, ugly people wearing last year's lipstick -- each day figure this out. I'm glad that with the support of a multi-million dollar media conglomeration backing you, you managed this outrageous task.

A Thai-Turkish friend once clued me on that calling Gauguin's Polynesian paintings "exotic" effectively othered the non-white people he featured. Truthfully, by suggesting that gluten-free foods are part of strange and elite diets, that they require special resources and perform some kind of figure-fixing magic, actually others the millions of celiac patients in this country. Isn't it bad enough that celiacs have to question every item on menus, refuse birthday cake at office parties and wear buttons directing, "Please don't feed me unless you ask my mommy first"? Do skinny wealthy white women really have to pretend that this disease is harder than it actually is?

And, by the way, I'll believe that, ". . . in just five days my stomach pooch deflated" when my skinny jeans fit again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We interrupt this famine to bring you intestinal peace

As some of you know, I'm a world war II history buff. However, until I read one of Bette Hagman's books, I had no idea how centrally WWII -- and the post-war European food crises -- figured into the diagnosis of celiac disease.

As paraphrased on

"Another important marker in the history of celiac disease were the findings by Dutch pediatrician, Dr. Willem Karel Dicke. In 1953 Dr. Dicke wrote his doctoral thesis for the University of Utrecht based on his observations that the ingestion of wheat proteins specifically, and not carbohydrates in general, were the cause of celiac disease. He was able to exemplify his findings based on bread shortages in the Netherlands during World War II. During the bread shortages, he found that the health of children with celiac improved tremendously. However, when the allied planes began dropping bread to the Netherlands, the same children quickly deteriorated."

A miracle, really -- first, that anyone was paying attention to the stomachs of small Dutch children while Europe was in chaos and denial; second, that someone realized that the problem was wheat protein and not one of the myriad other food storage problems that existed at the time.

Dank je!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ten things to be happy about

Inspired by my godson, recently diagnosed with celiac disease, and my family, who has been incredibly supportive of JFG, and a recent posting on my favorite blog (Postcards from the Edge), here is a list of ten things to be happy about regarding this pesky condition:

10. Gluten-Free Pantry Pie Crust -- any company that allows you to make gluten-free pie crust without crazy flour purchases should be on this list.

9. Zydeco (in Bend, OR), PF Chang's, Kwan's, Andina, and all of the other restaurants with separate and generous gluten-free menus.

8. Bette Hagman and those of her generation who made food safe for future celiac sufferers before it was sexy. Or even normal.

7. Chex mix.

6. Betty Crocker's gluten-free yellow and chocolate cake and brownie mixes, available not in the special gluten-free section of the grocery store but right in the baking aisle.

5. Gluten-Free Girl and Mag's Sentence, and every other blogger who realizes that celiac disease, once properly treated, is funny.

4. Family members willing -- and even eager -- to make entire Thanksgiving dinners gluten-free.

3. Physicians who can identify celiac disease quickly and relatively painlessly.

2. My husband's health.

1. Your family's health.

Thanks to everyone for giving us so much to be happy about. I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A gluten-free Camelot -- still a fantasy

In an earlier post I lauded King Arthur Flour for finally introducing gluten-free products. My enthusiasm has been slightly dampened with the arrival of the first catalog highlighting their new product line. Let me tell you why.

I think of King Arthur Flour as the Frederick's of Hollywood of flour. They provide fairly vanilla forms of flour -- although at crazy prices -- but also carry flours and related products you don't recognize, don't know how to use and fear, a little. A brief journey through the recent catalog uncovers Italian-style flour (Italians have special flour?), dried buttermilk powder, cake enhancer, french lames (you use them to score bread because, as you know, a knife is useless in those critical situations) and some kind of liquid that you add to cookies to make them taste like cookies. See? Just like adding garter belts as complicated as suspension bridges to already undressed people makes them sexier.

In other words, King Arthur Flour, already credible in the exotic baking products racket, should carry gluten-free products. I was very excited when the catalog arrived today.

And I'm disappointed. Oh, sure -- the catalog lists all of the standard flours and mixes, from tapioca starch to chocolate cake mix. That's the problem! In terms of standard gluten-free products, Bob's Red Mill has that market wrapped up. I don't need a vendor for standard stuff. I expect a company that sells lilac sugar pearls (you use them to decorate cupcakes, in case that wasn't self-evident in the description) to move beyond gluten-free pancake mix.

KAF deepened my disappointment on page 6. And 7. And 8. In the two-page gluten-free spread, there's a recipe for white sandwich bread (the very food used to illustrate ubiquity). There's a sweet column by the product development manager, and a promise that everyone -- gluten-free diet or no -- will enjoy the products. But when you turn the page, it's as if the gluten-free section never existed. The very next recipe in the catalog calls for hi-gluten flours, in fact, and none of the other recipes or columns suggest ways to substitute gluten-free flour in your baking.

Pages 4 and 5. The gluten-free ghetto. Nice try, King Arthur. I expect more, and I think you're missing a market -- gluten-free bakers (especially those that have already demonstrated their willingness to purchase expensive baking supplies) are childishly excited to be able to use conventional baking recipes. They're willing to experiment and try new products. And yet there's nothing in your catalog I can't find at the local health food store. Why pay $6.50 (that's minimum, by the way) in shipping for the same supplies?

My final assessment? I appreciate the effort, KAF, but I need a better reason to weed through the elephant-face underwear and fuzzy handcuffs when I can shop at Target for less money and in broad daylight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Happy Celiac Awareness month!

Apparently Celiac Awareness month had to fight it out with Sandwich month, or Toenail Awareness month, or Grass Seed month, or something along those lines. However, it is now official. Hug your local celiac patient (gently).

And to celebrate, here's a wonderful recipe for a flourless cake from the Oregonian, passed to me by a compassionate colleague. It's the kind of cake that is so dense that, if you bake it in a round pan, it's a cake. Bake it in a square pan, it's brownies. Either way, fantastic with gluten-free ice cream. And it doesn't require any crazy ingredients. I had everything at home already.

I would have included a picture, but it barely made it out of the springform pan before it was consumed. Yum.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Magic Card

We recently took a vacation in Istanbul. And despite the stunning mosques, the ancient town wall, the beautiful minarets, and deafening call to prayer (which seemed to initiate very little prayer and woke us up at 5:30 am) the most spell-binding thing we saw happened at dinner each night, when JFG would hand the waiter a small piece of paper, after which the waiter would produce gluten-free food.

It wasn't money he was handing over -- it was a document we began to refer to as the Magic Card. It was a print-out from Celiac Travel, a blog that provides information on safe traveling for people with celiac disease, and explained in detail (and in Turkish!) what foods JFG could and could not eat. Even better, the card was emphatic -- perhaps slightly hyperbolicly -- about the implications if safe food was not served.

At each restaurant, the waiter would carefully read the card, nod his head slowly, and lean over JFG to scan the menu. He'd point to items, turn to JFG, and say, "This? Not for you. This? Not for you. This? For you." Every single restaurant, every single time. Occasionally the waiter would take the card to the chef and come out with recommendations. But perhaps the most amazing moment was when we handed a card to a restaurant owner who said, "Oh! You're the second person today to come in with this card! Other lady -- we fix her vegetables and meat and rice, she love it." And JFG did too. And he made it seven days in Turkey without once, to our knowledge, being glutenized. We certainly don't have that track record in the U.S.

Celiac Travel makes these cards available for free on its website in 49 different languages, including Estonian, Urdu and Basque. You can buy similar laminated cards from Triumph Dining, but in limited languages. If you're traveling, especially to some where exotic, printing cards from Celiac Travel gets the job done.

Monday, April 26, 2010

1,000-year-old Chinese chef breaks the gluten-free world open wide

Kwan's of Salem is very unassuming. From the outside, it looks like a run-down version of Disneyland's interpretation of a Chinese temple, like one that would be located in Yuma, AZ. On the inside, it looks like the kind of generic Asian restaurant Lucy and Desi would have gone to, where Lucy would have loudly mangled dishes' names and spoken in exaggerated fake Chinese to the server. Lucy and Desi when they lived in 1950s Hollywood, not Lucy and Desi in New York. Got the picture? Lots of Chinese jade souvenirs, plastic swords, faded red- and gold- lacquered tables, servers in cheap tuxes, etc.

But we were desperate for vegetables and rice, and had developed a deep suspicion of past go-tos. We pulled out the iPhones, searched the GlutenFreed app, and found one option, Kwans. Kwans opened in Salem, OR 33 years ago after the chef came to America sponsored by Gerry Frank's family.

We called. After a year of this life, we can tell the safety of the food by the tone of voice on the phone.

Kwan himself answered. When JFG asked about GF food, Kwan assured us that his staff understood both wheat allergies and celiac disease (the mere comprehension of the difference is a positive sign!), and that they had more the forty dishes they could prepare safely.

When we arrived, Kwan met us at the door. He led us to the table, handed us menus, explained at length his culinary philosophy (we couldn't really understand it but he seemed very sincere). JFG explained what he'd like to order and Kwan made it immediately, making sure we understood the changes in the dish that would be required to make the food GF. He also asked about every other possible food issue -- water purity, eggs, yeast, meat, shellfish, dairy. Not sure this was necessary but it certainly was thorough.

Here's how you know your restaurant understands celiac disease (see right). The check is itemized by the ingredients the food does not contain, and he was even more conservative then we might have been in our own kitchen.

So here's my review. The food was fairly conventional Chinese, the kind you'd get at a restaurant that also serves french fries and hamburgers for the kiddos. But the vegetables were fresh -- he even substituted green beans for peas in one dish because he'd just gotten the beans that morning -- and most importantly, JFG could eat anything on the menu including the ginger-chocolate ice cream sundae. We showed Kwan the app we used on the phone to find him, and while I'm sure that he can survive another 33 years without the celiacs of mid-Oregon, I hope others use it too.

Old school Chinese cooked by a restaurateur who really cares that it's safe. Tell him you read about him on a blog -- it will blow his mind. Be prepared to have him sit down at your booth to see it on your iPhone.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

King Arthur Flour introduces gluten-free mixes!

As you know, I feel like a failed housewife when I use mixes -- like I might as well stop vaccuuming and grocery shopping and just smoke long cigarettes and pet the dog all day.

But when I contemplate gluten-free baking recipes, which frequently call for several kinds of flour and strange chemical substances I cave to a few tried-and-true mixes.

Finally, King Arthur Flour (definitely the go-to company for advanced bakers, the kind of place that understands the need for -- and sells -- 14 kinds of salt) has released new gluten-free baking mixes. They've also greatly enhanced their gluten-free website, with new recipes, advice and information about cooking for folks with allergies.

Interestingly, as a side note, they advocate baking gluten-free food in a separate oven from glutenized food. Sigh. Thank goodness I have two ovens.

Anyway, thanks, King Arthur Flour. I'll post "Celiac-by-Marriage approved" recipes as I try 'em!

Monday, February 22, 2010

And the gold medal for gluten-free dining goes to . . .

. . . Andina Restaurant on Glisan in Portland. Two friends recommended it as a gluten-free friendly establishment, and I must say that the experience went WELL beyond the server's ability to understand what it means to provide GF food. In order of astonishingness:

1. The server was able to find the GF menu right away (seriously, sometimes they have to go print it off from the corporate website).

2. A second server noticed JFG's shirt ("Save the wheat -- Eat gluten-free!") and brought over a second gluten-free menu, just in case the first server had not. The second server also assured us that his mom had celiac disease and that the restaurant was very knowledgeable about how to keep food safe. He actually stopped by again a couple of times to make sure everything was okay.

3. After we ordered from the fantastic, tapas-heavy menu, the server brought bread with several dipping sauces, and then brought GF fried yucca and sauce in a separate dish for JFG. I ended up mostly eating friend yucca, which is a lot like really robust french fries. Yum. Whose going to eat bread with purple stuff on it when you have huge french fries?

4. The food we ordered was delicious -- roasted asparagus, bay scallops in parmesan, cheeses with quince paste, potato with fresh corn salsa and a chocolate meringue mousse -- and the servers were so thorough and so knowledgeable that we didn't even wonder about cross contamination. JFG also had squash soup with pork belly, but I agreed to stay married to him nonetheless. You have to make exceptions for the sick and fragile.

5. The price was actually pretty reasonable for tapas, especially with fantastic service.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Wow -- I can hear their arteries slamming shut!" In our defense, to not order everything on the menu would have been like going to Paris and shopping at H&M. I love H&M like I love eating healthy, but I'm not insane. Plus we didn't eat dinner.

So, thanks very much David and the rest of the fantastic staff at Andina. It's such a great experience to be able to order from an adequate menu, feel safe that the food is being prepared correctly and not have to reluctantly cross another restaurant off our list when we discover, four hours later, that the food was indeed glutenized.

Shhhh . . . this is a special moment for me. It's the first time I've given five rice flours to anything.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to upgrade gluten-free bread

Almond-flax gluten free bread is better heated up with peanut butter and Nutella. Just an observation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

There's a first time for everything, including pot roast

I tried my first baklava at 22, and my first pie at 23. I started making meringues at 28.

With flour, sugar and butter I have no fear. But this weekend was my very first time making a large chunk of meat. In fact, it was really my first time buying a huge chunk of meat -- or really anything with the word "shoulder" or "loin" in the title. For some reason, meat is intimidating.

But this weekend I was thumbing through Living Gluten-Free for Dummies searching for the correct amount of xanthum gum per cup of gluten-free flour for cookies and found a recipe for pulled pork. We just happen to have some gluten-free rolls from Gluten-Free Creations, and on a whim I thought I'd give it a try.

Yum -- and simple. The only problem was that my crock pot is too cheap to have a timer and my kitchen timer refuses to recognize lengths of time greater than 60 minutes, which required a great amount of concentration for five hours to remember how long the meat had been in.

Pulled pork:

2 lbs pork roast
1 cup chicken broth
1 large onion (the recipe calls for two, but one is enough even for serious onion lovers)
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp each coriander, cumin, oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Place the meat in the slow cooker. Add everything else (you know how much I love that!). Cook for four to five hours and then pull apart with two forks. I added a little of Annie's Naturals Organic Raspberry Mustard, and JFG added some GF BBQ sauce.

We also made apple turnovers from the Culinary Institute of America's gluten-free cookbook. The Culinary Institute of America would have denied ownership of the recipe if they saw how the turnovers turned out (see before and after pictures below) but they tasted great. JFG ate them all. In one night.

The CIA cookbook provides a recipe for pie crust, for which I cannot vouch. I am a committed fan of Pamela's Gluten-Free pie crust mix, and happen to have some frozen. It worked great although, as always, it had to be rolled out between sheets of parchment paper and handled very carefully. For five turnovers about the size of your palm, I used the equivalent of a pie-crust-and-a-half worth of dough. I also cut the recipe in half, since we didn't really need five pounds of apple turnovers.

Apple turnovers:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup gluten-free flour mixture (I used a mixture of sorghum flour, white rice flour and tapioca starch)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2-1/2 cups tart apples (I used Braeburn), diced into teenty-tiny pieces
1/2 cup pastry cream (recipe below)
1 egg for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Roll out pie dough. Using a bowl with a diameter of about four inches, cut out five circles of dough and place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper (actually use parchment paper -- brown sugar and apple juice turns into cement)

3. Combine apples, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add pastry cream.

4. Divide the filling among the dough circles. Each will take about 1/3 cup. If you have filling left over, spoon it into a ramekin and bake it with the turnovers -- it's great to eat with a fork.

5. Brush egg wash on the outer edge of each dough circle. Fold the circles in half and seal the edges. Brush egg wash on the top side of the turnovers.

6. Vent each turnover with a knife or fork.

7. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool and eat!

Pastry cream:

1-1/2 eggs (use the other half an egg for the egg wash above)
1 cup milk, divided
1/4 cup sugar, divided
2-1/5 tbs cornstarch
1-1/2 tbs butter
1/4 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk together egg, 1/4 cup milk, 1/8 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine remaining milk and remaining sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil over moderate heat.

3. Add about 1/4 of the milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine.

4. Add the egg-milk mixture to the remaining simmering milk mixture in the saucepan on the stove all at once; continue whisking until it comes to a boil and begins to thicken; remove from heat.

5. Stir in the butter and vanilla.

6. Spoon pastry cream into a wide shallow dish and allow to cool completely.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Good cookies, and good news

First, the good news. According to Living Gluten-Free for Dummies, there's actually a tax deduction for people with celiac disease! Apparently, you can deduct the difference between the cost of gluten-free versions of food and the cost of the regular, glutenized version of the food. The example in the book is a loaf of bread -- a gluten-free loaf is around $5.00, the glutenized loaf is around $2.00, the difference is $3.00.

I've commented before that celiac disease is a wealthy person's disease, but this tax deduction underlines it. As it turns out, you can only take advantage of this tax deduction if your gluten-free products absorb 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. Wow. And, in addition that you need a note from your doctor. Consult your tax advisor, and look into buying bulk.

Now, good cookies! This is a recipe I've made for JFG for years, but have recently started adapting it for gluten-free flour. Be very careful if you make these; we've plowed through twenty cookies in two days.

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup gluten-free flour (I use a blend of tapioca starch, sorghum flour and white rice flour)
1/4 cup xanthum gum (if you're making these with gluten flour, skip the gum)
3/4 cup gluten-free oats (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 cup coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups butterscotch chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, xanthum gum and salt (always add the gum to dry ingredients; it gets gooey when added to wet ingredients). Combine wet and dry mixtures, add butterscotch chips and coconut.

3. Drop by tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes.

One warning. In my oven, for some reason, the cookies don't flatten out properly. I have to spray a spatula with cooking spray and flatten them after about three minutes in the oven. Yes, it is cheating. No, I don't care. If Julia Childs can mush an omelet back together, I can surreptitiously flatten some cookies and credit gravity.

I don't know that these deserve any rice flours, since I had to adapt them myself. But they're pretty darn good cookies, and double as nutritional supplements for JFG in an emergency.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Celiac haiku

One very small grain
Turns guts into waterslides
Pancakes, I miss you

Sunday, February 7, 2010

It breaks your heart

JFG is on a diet. I don't just mean the diet he's been on for the past year -- the one that keeps his insides from turning to mush -- but a lose-weight-before-the-racing-season-starts diet. Remember when Kate Moss got into trouble by repeating the old anorexic saw, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels?" JFG's declared instead that nothing tastes as good as fast -- on the bike -- feels.

He's been on diets before, but never has he been so systematic about it. The fine people at Livestrong have created an app that lets you do what used to require paper, a pencil and a book -- you can track your food intake each day, and the app automatically calculates your protein, sugar, carbs and so forth. This is not an app for people with an artistic or interpretive approach to weight control; this is for people with rigid food sensibilities who are not afraid to overthink their food. The funny thing is, of course, that Lance Armstrong, the philandering yet noble icon behind Livestrong, eats 10,000 calories on the mornings of the Tour de France. He probably pays someone to track it, though.

In other words, "There's an app -- and paid help -- for that."

Like many men, JFG has never really paid much attention to nutritional labels, and therefore to calories, before. So he's constantly making discoveries I made in the 7th grade (which, of course, is the age when most women started their first diet). We have several conversations each day that go like this:

"Oh my god!"

"What?? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

"Did you know that cheese has 110 calories per ounce?"

"Well, yes, honey. Cheese isn't a diet food."

"Why did you let me eat it?"

And to that I really don't have an answer, except that he's older than a toddler and I assume that he's grown-up enough to make his own culinary decisions. Plus, I can't even conceive how someone could get to 33 and not know that cheese is the diet equivalent of the Titanic --luxurious but tragically doomed.

Anyway, as a result of this culinary adventure he's been on, we've eliminated still further categories of food from his diet. Even though I can now produce them gluten-free, he's cut out pie, cookies, cake, chips and salsa (man cannot live on bread alone, but JFG has done his damnedest to give it a shot with only chips and salsa), brownies and cobbler.

And this time of year, that leaves candy hearts, which have very few calories per handful. He loves candy hearts and always has. We scanned the nutritional information last year and declared them gluten-free (heck, they're basically sugar and corn starch and about fifteen kinds of dye). This year, though, so that he could enter them in his app, we read the nutritional information again very carefully. And in the same small text that kamikazied so, so many other foods, there were the fateful words: Made in a facility that also processes wheat.

It really breaks your heart.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Croutons part II -- they're still around!

Yep, still eating the croutons, although now by handfuls to avoid contaminating the counters or utensils. Nutritional value? Fear not! There are small dried green specs on the croutons, which I choose to believe are some kind of vegetable.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And so it came to pass . . .

I always liked that phrase in old fairy tales, "And so it came to pass . . ." It suggests timelessness, inevitability, destiny. A sense of history repeating itself as it always does; somehow, as a child this made an unknown world less scary. Precisely what a fairy tale is meant to do.

And, in the same inevitable way, it came to pass that JFG was glutenized in Texas. It wasn't an ugly stepsister or a bridge-bound troll. It was probably a gluten-free chicken breast prepared on a grill that also cooked chicken-fried steak. It wouldn't be so frustrating if serving staff didn't always insist that all precautions were taken to keep his food safe.

In an effort to heal traumatized organs, we ate Saturday at Cafe Yumm in Eugene. Cafe Yumm advertises as an allergy-friendly restaurant, although they do not have a specialized gluten-free menu.

Unlike other restaurants, they don't need to seem one. Their food is based on the concept of rice bowls, covered with meat, tofu, vegetables and sauce -- very plain and incremental, and therefore very easy to control. JFG had a rice bowl with beans, avocado, salsa, sour cream and olives (thereby ensuring that he could eat without sharing). He also ordered a chicken skewer, since we're trying to ensure he gets sufficient protein; unfortunately, the chicken was covered with teriyaki sauce, probably containing soy sauce and therefore gluten. The server very pleasantly took the chicken back to the kitchen, replaced it with a gluten-free tofu skewer and refunded the difference in cost in cash. Without being asked.

Excellent experience, good food (although a little pricey for simple ingredients and the opportunity to stand in line for food). Three rice flours for peace of mind.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Starbucks (sort of) redeems itself

I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. When I have to wait in line, I ogle the display cases with coffee cakes, bagels, scones and pastries, all beautiful and glowing. And, of course, full of gluten.

About six months ago, Starbucks -- which, according to its website, supports healthy eating -- introduced a gluten-free pastry, a lemony-berry-cake-thing. It came carefully wrapped in plastic to avoid cross contamination. It wasn't cooked fresh at the store, but it was moist and gooey and very good. And safe. It wasn't quite the chocolate old-fashioned JFG adores at Starbucks but certainly a good replacement.

And then it was gone. Poof. Experiment over and apparently failed.

Starbucks continues to feature a few fruit/nut bars and chocolate bars that are gluten-free, but nothing replaces gluten-free baked goods. And when you google "gluten" on the Starbucks website, a list of coffees comes up. Duh.

The other day, however, I went into Starbucks and was standing in line for my coffee (I firmly believe, by the way, that there should be a "plain coffee" line and a "crazy, not really ordering coffee but actually ordering a coffee-flavored milkshake" line for those of us willing to drink caffeinated beverages like grown-ups). I noticed a small brochure sitting next to a basket of interesting-looking chips. I picked it up.

As it turns out, Starbucks has started to prominently carry a line of gluten-free chips from a company called Food Should Taste Good. The chips come in a range of flavors, from olive to lime to potato & chive to chocolate, and are clearly marked "gluten-free." Excellent, especially since -- if you start with the yellow corn tortilla chips, move to the buffalo chips with a side of 'the works' chips and finish with the chocolate chips -- you have a complete meal.

A friend whose family has gluten issues correctly commented that, "chips are easy. Anyone can do gluten-free chips. Baked goods are the problem," and she's right. I choose, however, to see the chips as a peace offering as well as a good business decision for Starbucks.

After all, the number of celiacs in our population continues to increase, at least theoretically because we're stuffing ourselves with food made from highly-processed flour. Staring glassily at the squishy, crumbly, chocolaty pastries in the Starbucks display case, I realize that Starbucks itself is poisoning the American population with sugar and flour disguised as breakfast. They just want to make sure they don't lose the demographic they create.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pret-a-carne asada

You are what you eat. You eat what you wear. You wear what you eat?

Celiac disease can really take over your life. JFG, like many men in their early 30s, uses his body as a billboard. By organizing his t-shirt collection chronologically, it's possible to map the evolution of his education, political philosophies, music tastes, marital status and sense of humor. And now, you can also trace the evolution of his diet! So I give you -- gluten fashion. Try to ignore the fact that the mannequin has boobs.

No, he never went to Wharton. Nor did Wharton pay him to wear this shirt. I think it was conference swag.

A little bit tougher now. Or grainier. Who knew we'd rely so much on Iowa's key export?

Can you say intergalactic planetary? Yes, folks, I got these from his closet. LAST NIGHT.

And dealing with disease has made JFG a kinder, gentler person. By all means, save the wheat.

F--- "save" the wheat. Confront the wheat! Blame it for your problems!

If you're interested and believe in dealing with your issues through by displaying through the art of t-shirt propaganda, be sure to visit CafePress where they have a huge variety of celiac- and gluten-related products (search on "celiac" or "gluten"). By far the saddest is a child's t-shirt that says, much like a sign at a zoo, "Please don't feed me anything without asking my mommy." How sad classroom birthday parties must be for this child.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh, croutons, croutons, how I've missed thee . . .

That's right. I admit it. I brought croutons into the house while JFG was away. No, not GF croutons. Not croutons made out of sorghum flour and guar gum. Not even croutons made of that mysterious product, "defatted soy flour."

Nope, these are croutons made from WHEAT flour, fried no doubt in contaminated fat. Yum.

I feel like a recovered heroin addict sneaking drugs into the house for just ONE hit with the intention of tossing the stuff afterward.

Not to worry, however. My husband's health means more to me than hero -- I mean, flour. Croutons are safely contained on the non-gluten-free shelf in my pantry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Have chewy brownies, will travel into the heart of darkness (e.g. Texas)

JFG had to fly to San Antonio this week. In general, I am not a fan of Texas. I stick out there, and the abundance of confederate flags scares me. But I understand from friends that San Antonio, next to possibly Austin, is the least heart-of-darknessy part of Texas. Hopefully my liberal and tolerant husband will be returned eventually.

As you know, flying poses particular threats to celiacs. Fast food, unreliable in any context, abounds, and the servers at the few restaurants in airports are clearly hired for their skill in moving customers in and out as quickly as possible. This atmosphere does not lend itself to long discussions about gluten intolerance and culinary options. So, as usual, I packed JFG off to the airport with a bag of food, much like I imagine Little Red Ridinghood's mom would have done if she had really loved her daughter.

This time, I included brownies made from (shutter, horror) a mix. Hey -- sometimes I have the patience for 14 flours in one pot, sometimes I don't. I've got things to do.

This mix was from Gluten-Free Creations, a GF store in Phoenix (see previous posts for more info). I added a bag of GF chocolate chips because more chocolate never hurt anybody. The brownies turned out great. Be warned, though -- I had to cook them for 15 minutes longer and at 50 degrees higher temperature than the package warned. After an evening in the fridge to toughen them up for travel, they were perfect. For $4.99, quite a bargain.

P.S. In fairness to readers from Texas, I have known a number of lovely people, including my sister, who have lived there. I just assume they survive by living underground in tunnels.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Celibacy by marriage?

Why does everybody think the name of this blog is Celibacy by Marriage? I will admit that there were some nights in the early days of undiagnosed celiac disease when JFG almost had to sleep on the couch, when sleeping next to him was virtually a case of biological warfare (those of you married to celiacs will understand whereof I speak), but other than complaining about food porn I have never mentioned anything about celibacy.

Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Get your own blog. :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gluten-free AND vegetarian dinner for seven? Bring it on.

We threw a dinner party last night for five friends. I love dinner parties (as opposed to standing-around cocktail parties) because people tend to sit and relax, and there's always something to do . . . appetizers, then dinner, then dessert, then clean-up. I like gatherings with purpose and flow.

Dinner parties present quite a challenge. What's enough food? What's too much food? How long do you really want to stare at the leftovers in the fridge? And this time, one additional challenge -- a vegetarian. Since JFG's go-to GF food is charred meat, we had to think outside the BBQ. Here's what we made, from a variety of GF recipe sources.

Broiled figs and brie, courtesy of Gluten-Free Girl's wonderful blog. We couldn't find fresh figs, only discovering after four stops that figs aren't readily available in Oregon until March. So, we re-hydrated some white figs, which worked perfectly. If we did figs and cheese again, I would probably make sure the cheese was room temperature before we started. Regardless, yum. Excellent appetizer, especially with wine.

Sweet potato hash, courtesy of the Big Book of Vegetarian. I apparently look vegetarian, because semi-close relatives are constantly buying me vegetarian cookbooks. To be fair, I was vegetarian for a couple of years -- more than a decade ago! -- but got sick of salads. Anyway, a couple of years ago when my mom made sweet potato french fries, JFG got hooked on the things. And, as I've mentioned before, I'm a BIG fan of foods that are all cooked at once in one big pot. Sweet potato hash from the Big Book fit all criteria and is charmingly low-brow. Recipe below.

We tried to make Bob's Red Mill cornbread (the only Bob's Red Mill pre-packaged mix I like), but I discovered too late that our milk had gone bad quite a long time ago. Ugh. In a pinch, I turned to Gluten-Free Baking with the Culinary Institute of America, a book that has not steered me wrong regarding gluten-free baking, and tried the focaccia recipe (honestly, without much hope). I didn't have the time or wherewithal to create the flour mixes, a combination of white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, brown rice flour, guar gum, albumen, soy flour (defatted, however that is possible), and whey powder, that the recipe calls for. Instead, I tried "Basic Baking Flour Mix 3" from Gluten-Free Creations, a GF baking company in Phoenix, AZ. The package suggested that I should "Use cup for cup in [my] recipes" and claimed that "[the store] use[s] this mix in [their] bakery for pizza, baguettes [and] focaccia." It contains white rice flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot, xanthan gum and gelatin. What the heck! Can't be worse than rotten-milk cornbread, I thought.

It worked. The focaccia, featuring a combination of rosemary, oregano, basil and salt, was lovely. It rose, contained pockets of air, and held together beautifully. In fact, it would make excellent sandwich bread. Recipe below.

Friends brought the perfect kind of salad -- spinach, apples, walnuts, blue cheese and maple-flavored vinaigrette -- and we finished with with a blackberry pie, made with driveway blackberries we froze back in August.

I must close, however, with a review of the wine. A friend brought a bottle of Riunite, almost legendary for its appallingness. It foamed when we poured it, and then bubbled, I imagine quite like cyanide must. It was like wine made from Hawaiian Punch. Fortunately, we had excellent back-up wine.

Sweet Potato Hash
1 tbs canola oil
2 medium onions
1 small bell pepper
1 large sweet potato
2 cloves garlic
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
.5 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup corn kernels
1 15oz can black beans
black pepper

In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and chopped bell pepper and stir until brown, about 4 minutes. Add chopped sweet potato and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder and salt and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the broth and cook until almost absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn and black beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Season with pepper and serve hot.

1.25 tsp yeast
.5 tsp dried rosemary
.5 tsp dried basil
.5 tsp dried oregano
.5 tsp salt
2.5 cups Gluten-Free Creations' Basic Baking Flour Mix #3
1.25 cups water (it actually called for sparkling water; I'm not enough of a foodie to have that on-hand)
.3 cup olive oil
.25 cup white vinegar (I used tarragon vinegar; apparently I'm enough of a foodie to have that on-hand)
1.75 tbs coarse salt
1 egg

Blend dry ingredients and herbs in bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix with a paddle for 5 minutes on medium.
Place dough in one 9-inch pan brushed with olive oil and salt. Cover and allow to raise in warm area for 30 to 40 minutes.
Bake in preheated oven (385 degrees) for 30 to 35 minutes. After fifteen minutes, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt.
Remove from pan and place on cooling rack. Serve with oil and balsamic vinegar, if desired.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Local and gluten-free

In the past six months, I have been really excited to see gluten-free food booths appear at local farmer's and Saturday markets. We saw the first one at the Salem Farmer's Market (Saturdays during the spring, summer and fall), followed by one at the McMinnville Farmer's Market (Thursday afternoons from May through October) and finally one at the McMinnville Market in the Granary District (Saturdays 9-3).

Surprisingly, these booths seem to be run by three separate businesses. All three provide some traditional baked goods, with an emphasis on cookies and small pies. The gluten-free booth at the Salem Farmer's Market frequently sells trail mix and some non-gluten-free products. The GF booth at the McMinnville Farmer's Market makes some lovely quickbreads and yeast breads.

Katie's GF Home Baking LLC at the McMinnville Saturday Market (I know the name of the business because a colleague's wife kindly picked up the brochure for me) also sells baked goods, selection very limited, to Harvest Fresh in downtown McMinnville. But her stock at the Saturday Market is excellent, dominately largely by sweets. When I visited her booth at the Saturday Market before the holidays, she commented to me that she would make a million dollars if she could only figure out a way to make a GF artisan loaf of bread.

Alas, such a feat is currently out of her extensive range. What she can do, though, is make a mean chocolate-caramel shortbread cookie. Shortbread is one of those foods that, due to a simple list of ingredients, relies on ingredient quality and richness for taste. I would think that the weirdness of GF flour would compromise the cookie -- but no! Katie's shortbread is tasty on its own but especially rich with caramel and chocolate. It doesn't crumble or sag, occasional properties of GF cookies. I was even able to cut a teeny-tiny piece off for me with a knife before I turned it over to JFG.

Based on her shortbread cookie, I'm sure Katie's other products are excellent. And I hold my breath for the day she makes that GF artisan loaf. Four rice flours for one fantastic cookie. You can place orders at

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Am I one of the "frozen meal lunch" ladies?

I have worked at a number of offices that smelled like the Lean Cuisine factory every day from 12:00-1:00. I used to pride myself on bringing fresh and original food.

Lately, though, JFG and I have been eating frozen lunches alot lately for a couple of reasons. 1) gluten-free food goes bad faster than glutenized food unless it's frozen, and 2) neither of us have time to cook for the future (as in, for lunch the next day).

Amy's Kitchen has been a godsend. According to the box, after Amy's daughter was born in 1987, Amy and her husband started looking for easy organic meals. When they couldn't find them, they created a company that specialized in organic, vegetarian frozen food. They also happen to have a line of gluten-free frozen meals, primarily Mexican and Indian food. Fairly low in calorie and reasonably high in protein, these have become our lunch-time way of life.

Today I'm eating an enchilada with Spanish rice and beans. It contains zucchini, unfortunately, but if I eat fast and swallow fairly whole, I can forget that minor short-coming. JFG likes the "bowls" (Santa Fe Bowl, enchilada bowl, etc.). They have more calories but are pretty satisfying, along with his daily yogurt and banana. Amy's gets four rice flours for simplicity and tastiness.