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.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Celiac saves the day

Many of my posts have decried the amount of fat and calories available . . . nay, unavoidable! . . . in a gluten -free diet.

In fact, my mom recently found a way to bread and fry oysters without using panko or bread crumbs (both, of course, off the gluten-free menu). I daresay this would work for calamari, shrimp, or any other kind of light meat you might choose to fry. The secret was Arrowhead Mills Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Mix, made from brown rice flour. JFG loved it, as did my celiac-free parents. I was so excited that I turned the box around to see if the company provided additional recipes. They did (joy)! For biscuits and banana bread (yay)! Both recipes involve soy yogurt and rice drink. Screeching halt. Sorry, folks -- I really only have the bandwidth for one set of food issues at a time.

I digress. Here's how celiac disease saved the day.

On Saturday, JFG and I met some friends at Adam's Rib in downtown Salem, a rib place that smells absolutely divine inside, all smoked meat and fried potatoes. Two of JFG's colleagues and one of their friends had committed to taking on the Goliath, a food feat that required consumption of a three-pound burger with fixins and a pound of fries. As it turns out, they had invited JFG to join them in greased suicide. Fortunately, not only could you never make a gluten-free hamburger bun this size that would hold together, but the fries were prepared in grease also used for hush puppies (fried flour and cornmeal).

I was going to download some photos of the entire disgusting contest -- served on serving trays the size of a bicycle wheel -- but when I plug my phone in to transfer the image files, the phone seems to think it's charging. Perhaps it cannot bare to relive the event. Suffice to say, no one finished the meal and everyone had the wisdom the stop eating when defeat was inevitable.

Food won. Also, I think Jesse won. That platter contained enough food to instantly condemn at least a couple of arteries in your average 34 year old.

Oh, give me a home . . . where gluten-free is the norm . . .

Several weeks before Christmas, my parents took JFG and me to a veritable gluten-free wonderland in Phoenix. Gluten-Free Creations, located on Thomas Rd., bills itself as "your gourmet made-from-scratch" bakery specializing in gluten- and wheat-free baked goods, held an open-house where, for a set fee, we could sample almost all of their baked goods.

Here's what's amazing about Gluten-Free Creations. Their sale space is a brick hut, in a not-great-part-of-town, behind another business (I think it's a used car lot, or a tire store, or something along those lines). It's tiny, with a small staff, a small kitchen, and several teeny refrigerators. And yet, for this tasting, they managed to make almost a dozen kinds of cookies and bars, meatballs, sandwiches, pigs-in-a-blanket, cakes, pies and other holiday treats. At the end of the tasting, they sent us home with four packages of delicious cookies. I was completely stuffed and didn't even try everything.

For those of you with celiac disease or a wheat allergy, you know what a blessing it is to be able to eat everything on the table, with no fear. We, along with the other families at the event, were like grateful pilgrims experiencing a minor miracle. Maybe not like the healing of the lame, but perhaps like a crying statue.

JFG may have different preferences, but I recommend:

M&M cookies
mint chocolate chip cookies
chocolate donuts (yes, really!)
pumpkin bread
sandwich bread
hamburger buns (these made bacon blue-cheese hamburgers possible for JFG again -- not sure that's a good thing; they taste better toasted)
seven-layer bars
pecan oatmeal cranberry bars

But I would try anything they they made, honestly. I'm anxious to sample the angelfood cake mix, and have several bread mixes I haven't even cracked open yet! The website does not list all of their products, so if you're in Phoenix I really recommend driving ALL THE WAY downtown to check them out. They also provide food (mostly bread and pizza crust) to dozens of restaurants in town, as well as gift certificates.

You'll need the gift certificates, by the way. Although their products are almost as good and in some cases as good as glutenized equivalents, this is still a boutique grocery store. The food carries a hefty price tag -- buy only if you really intend to eat . . . or wait for another tasting event. Definitely worth it. Thanks, Mom!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You say Bombay curry salad, I say have you never taken post-colonial theory?

First, an apology. I just saw my last few posts in Google Reader and am appalled at my personal use of exclamation points in titles. As someone who almost literally had exclamation points (all hyperbole, really) beaten out of me in late undergrad/early grad school years, I feel shamed for having exposed you to that. Resolution #1 for 2010: no exclamation points, at least in titles.

And now, back to the serious purpose of this blog -- to review and rate celiac-safe foods and recipes. And what a great time to do it, right after our first holiday season with the disease.

First, again, my recent experience affirms the fact that celiac disease does not lead to automatic weight loss. JFG and I continue to fight pounds carefully acquired during Thanksgiving, following a week of stuffing and pumpkin pie. Christmas followed, with more stuffing, pie, cheesecake, tamales, cheese and cookies -- all gluten-free. Fear not -- fat is still available to you, my fellow celiacs-by-marriage.

Second, I am equally sure that it does take a little creativity and trial and error. In a later post I'll talk about the gluten-free tasting we experienced at Gluten-Free Creations in Phoenix. Today, I'd like to share a recipe from the back of a quinoa pasta box (after all, shouldn't the producers know best what to do with their product?).

I've reviewed gluten-free pasta before. By far, the best we've tried so far is Ancient Harvest Quinoa Supergrain (Super Grain? Can't really tell by the label -- it's all in capital letters) Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta. It's a robust pasta, holds up well in boiling water, and tastes great. All of these traits make it a wonderful gluten-free pasta for pasta salads, sometimes a challenge with rice pastas because the noodles frequently turn to mush.

On the back of the current pasta box is a recipe for Bombay Curry Salad. I am sad to report that the company seems undisturbed by their use of a colonial geographic label. This title is made even more ironic by the lengthy history of the quinoa grain that appears next to the recipe, highlighting its ancient Mayan roots.

'Nuf said. I shall instead use the post-colonial city name since I understand irony.

Mumbai curry salad
1 package supergrain gluten-free pasta
2 tbs butter or oil
1/2 cup sour cream (we used fat-free)
1/2 cup mayonnaise (fat-free)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic (what the heck, throw in three)
1 green pepper
1/2 cup celery (make the pieces big enough to pick out)
3 scallions
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 walnuts

It actually also called for pimentos, but I can't add those to anything without feeling like I should be vaccuuming in high heels and an apron.

Cook the pasta. Drain it, mix in the butter or oil and let it cool. While it cools, combine all ingredients (maybe my favorite three words), sour cream through walnuts. Mix into pasta and chill. Serves four.

It's a dish clearly nostalgic of the way America imagined Indian food in the 1950s. It wishes for a simpler time when white/brown dichotomies were clearer. But it's a really good pasta salad.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Michael Westen, boned duck and porn

I was watching the New Year's Eve Burn Notice marathon the other day, and it made me think of porn.

Now, normally, regardless of how attractive the exiled spy-nice-guy lead character is, dram-coms on the USA network don't usually make me think of porn. But I'm not talking about human porn -- I'm talking about food porn. Gratuitously drippy, candlelit, steamy tight shots of cakes, roasts, donuts, ice cream, french fries, etc. -- that's the porn of which I speak.

Burn Notice made me think about food porn because of the explicit lack of food usually involved in the plot. In fact, the lead character rarely eats more than yogurt (and those of you familiar with the show know that Gabrielle Anwar, who plays Fionna Glenanne, can't possibly eat anything more than cabbage and filtered water at every meal). At worst, Sam, the fat buddy, has a beer every now and then. But one episode ends with Michael and Fionna eating (ha!) at a restaurant and featured the same steamy, candlelit shots of food highlighted frequently in other shows, and that got me thinking.

Two recent films, Julie and Julia and It's Complicated, make my point precisely. Neither film contains any very explicit sexual scenes (although I must note that It's Complicated contains WAY too much footage of a wildly overweight and very furry Alec Baldwin); however, in both films, sexual relationships are insinuated through food. Meryl Streep, at the height of a nice date with Steve Martin, bakes chocolate croissants, which they eat slowly with entwined arms. Pre-sex, she and Alec Baldwin relive the early days of their relationship by eating croque monsieur (as near as I can tell, drippy fried cheese sandwiches), and then, post-sex, order room service. At best, food is stimulous.

In Julie and Julia, as if the analogy need be any clearer, Julia Childs refers to some very warm type of pasta or dumpling as . . . well . . . it's not really appropriate to repeat. And Julie often begs out of sex with her husband by asserting that she needs to cook something, as if food and sex are really interchangeable.

In exactly the way that throwing pots is not really about throwing pots in Ghost, with food porn the emphasis is not really on the food. And the reason that I mention this here is that these sensuous food-but-not-REALLY-food scenes almost always feature something made with wheat flour and dripping with butter.

It's no wonder that America's children, under assault from abstinence-only programs and pelted with food porn, fatten up!

Fortunately, that just means that those of us who are wheat-free can replace food porn with . . . ! (kidding, Mom).