Friday, April 11, 2014

The Gluten Free Table on the Road

Kalimera my fellow travelers! The hardest part about eating gluten free on a vacation is dealing with cross contamination so I compiled a list of tips I picked up traveling in Greece. When I decided not to eat gluten in solidarity, I realized it's so easy to accidentally gluten other people's food. It's not just the knife that someone else used to butter their "regular" toast, it's the butter container which has the crumbs from the knife that went in for a second helping to cover the rest of the toast. It's seemingly impossible to keep your food gluten free when traveling with others who eat gluten. A few tips I found on my vacation help you keep your sanity and enjoy your trip:



1. Use disposable plates and utensils when possible. That way you avoid crusted on gluten remnants as well as any contamination that may be left behind on the sponge or in the dishwasher.


2. Keep your food in a small cooler in the fridge. If you have a refrigerator, keep a cooler full of gluten free cookies and bread in there. People will really have to go out of their way to put their gluten covered mitts into your bag of gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Also, keep one or two dips and spreads you want in the cooler.


3. Have your own bottle of a beverage. Who can resist the urge of drinking out of the bottle. Certainly not you, so you can understand when others do so without thinking of the gluten they contaminate the bottle with when they put their lips on the rim. Put aside a liter of your favorite and give people a heads up that it's yours by putting it in the cooler.


4. Bring along bars and meal replacement drinks. You don't have to be a wet blanket in the instance you can't find a dish at a restaurant that looks gluten free. These will tide you over and keep you from getting too hangry.


5. Learn to change the conversation quickly from gluten at restaurants. Keep it short and sweet, don't dwell on the details. When you have a chance to find a market, head to the gluten free section. A gluten free loaf of bread comes in handy at restaurants when they serve bread before the meal or as an accompaniment to a chicken salad.


6. Use your best judgment but remember that you are the keeper of your health and others may accidentally serve you something with gluten. While it my take a long time to cope with that fact, understanding that you are ultimately responsible for taking your health into your own hands, especially abroad, will make you a happy traveler!


7. Have fun and meet lots of new people. Remember that vacation is a time to relax even though it's hard to break out of the usual routine. Hopefully these tips will keep you from screaming at your fellow travelers and binge eating that baklava that everyone else in the car is swooning over. Cheers!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

EE-meh ah-ler-yee-KEE sti gloo-TEH-nee


Ee-meh ah-ler-yee-kee sti gloo-teh-nee, I think that's how you pronounce it. Hopefully people won't look at me like I'm an alien. It's bad enough I don't speak the language and can't read the alphabet. I guess I will have to rely on the kindness of Greeks to go out of their way to understand my "issue."






My grandmother's Greek cooking has influenced my cooking style to such an extent that I am hoping to enjoy the food in this country as a way of connecting her culture. Before I leave for my trip to Greece I am going to make sure I know Greek food back and forth so that I know what to avoid. After all, that is my responsibility. A lot of celiacs have this conversation: "I may not eat for two weeks. No, that's an over reaction. Sometimes I am sure that a food is gluten free but then it gets me. I can taste the gluten but its too late. That makes me never want to eat another bite of anything that doesn't come prepackaged. Maybe that's what I will do, I will buy a whole bunch of meal bars and bring them along. Or maybe a whole case of ensure. I haven't left yet but this trip is already making me exhausted." I am going to dedicated this trip to eating gluten free, though I am not gluten intolerant, to understand with and empathize with people who are gluten intolerant. I found these allergy translation cards that might be of help. I am going to order them so I have them for the trip!






I bought a bunch of mint stabilyze bars from Costco to stash in my backpack for the flight. They're a little small but since they're low glycemic they will keep me full for longer. They taste similar to the mint Genisoy bars that I used to love but with less of an overwhelming mint flavor. I will have them with me just in case I have a hard time finding gluten free food when I first arrive. When I'm on vacation I hope to challenge myself to embrace the food culture while staying away from gluten.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Spirited Thanksgiving

The flavors of autumn lend themselves so well to spirits. In this holiday of abundance, of coming to a new world full of promise, rich flavors enhanced by wine and cider make all the difference. To celebrate a melting pot where immigrants come to a new country in the hopes of sharing its bounty we set out to make a larger than life meal, with a larger than life bird. My mother in law is bringing the turkey and I'm making the rest. A word of caution, many people still put flour in their turkeys to keep them from bursting while cooking in a bag. If someone is bringing the turkey to your thanksgiving dinner, make sure to check they have not added some flour to the skin! I'm sharing some of the recipes with you that I am making this Thanksgiving because I love this holiday.

Bread Pudding Stuffing with Root Vegetables (2 days prep, 1 1/3 hours active)

This recipe includes a bottle of cider to the custard to imbue it with a lovely savory flavor. Prepare but do not bake the pudding the night before to assure that the bread has time to absorb all of the liquid before cooking. Otherwise, you will find yourself with a crouton stuffing. I went light on the onion to please my friends and family who hate onion, you can add more to your liking.

1 bottle of apple cider

Celery, onions, carrots, and apples give this dish the flavors of fall.
3 eggs
1 parsnip, diced to one inch cubes
3 carrots, diced to one inch cubes
1 granny smith apple
1/2 onion
1 large loaf of gluten free bread
1 small carton of cream
4 stalks of celery
1/2 stick of butter
1 bag of presilced mushrooms
10 fresh diced sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

One day before dice up the bread, I like to use Kinnikinnick bread since the folks at my local gluten free market recommended it for its great texture and the fact that its one of the only enriched gluten free breads. It's equivalent in size to a regular loaf of bread which makes it easier to substitute into a regular recipe. Dry the diced bread overnight so that it can readily absorb the custard and stay moist during baking.

Begin by dicing the onions and celery and tossing them in an ovenproof pan with the butter. Saute the aromatic vegetables until they reach a golden brown color. Add the carrots and parsnips and saute until coated. Move the pan into an oven and roast for 15 minutes at 350.

While the vegetables roast, prepare the wet ingredients by mixing the bottle of cider, the three eggs, and the cream. Pour the wet ingredients over the dried bread to ensure that the liquid gets absorbed.

Once the vegetables finish cooking, remove them from the oven and add salt, pepper, and the diced sage. Mix in the presliced mushrooms. Add the bread and the vegetables to a large casserole dish and gently mix them together. Let all the flavors set overnight in the refridgerator.

The next morning, remove the dish from the refridgerator and cook at 350 for 15 minutes.

My Mom's Grean Beans (15 minutes prep, 20 minutes active)

This dish is truly the easist dish in the world and everyone always loves it! My mom uses fresh grean beans but in the interest of saving time I used canned grean beans.

5 cans of green beans
4 cloves of garlic

These quick and easy green beans taste so good you won't have leftovers.
5 tablespoons flavorless oil such as vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add the oil to a pan. While the oil heats, crush and chop the onions. Once the oil reaches the right temperature, drop the garlic in and brown them. This will happen quickly so keep an eye on it. Drain the grean beans, rinse them, and drain again thoroughly.

Fry the grean beans for fifteen minutes. Flavor them with the salt and pepper. When they take on the consistency and flavor you like, they are ready to eat!

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Sweet Pototoes (10 minuts prep, 40 minutes active)

This dish takes a becomes a cinch with a jar of gluten free pumpkin butter. Muirhead Foods makes a great one that adds so much flavor. I like to add a jar to something new every thanksgiving to see what delicious creations I can make. It adds so much flavor that you won't feel that this dish does not have any real butter!

You don't have to add any butter but I like a little bit for flavor.

1 jar of pumpkin butter
7 sweet potatos
20 pecan halves for garnish

Boil sweet potatoes with the skin on for 30 minutes. Remove the potatoes and wait until they cool down so they retain their starch and don't leave you with sweet potato soup. Skin the potatos and puree them in a food processor.

Add the pumpkin butter and stir well until evenly mixed. Place in a casserole dish and top with the pecan halves. I like to put a few pats of butter on top of the pecans to help them crisp up while they bake. You can also saute the pecan halves in butter and apple brandy for an extra kick before topping the dish.

Spiced Apple Cider (5 minutes active)


Fill the dutch oven with mulling spices and oranges and let the aromas warm your home!
Make this the day of Thanksgiving. This will scent your kitchen so that guests feel warm and welcome in your home. I use applejack brandy for an American flair, but you can substitute French calvados apple wine.


1 gallon apple juice
1 sliced orange
1/4 cup mulling spices
brandy for mixing

Bring the apple juice to a boil in a large dutch oven with the mulling spices. Add the orange slices on top. Leave the pot on the stove to keep the house smelleing great


Malbec Cranberry Sauce (10 minutes prep, 20 minutes active)

The fruits have so much pectin that this sauce has a nice thick consistency. I like to use lingonberry jam for this sauce because it goes well with my potato pancakes.  I use agave nectar since I prefer alternative and nonsynthetic sugar products, but you can use sugar if your prefer the flavor.

1 jar of lingonberry jam
2 bags of cranberries
2/3 bottle of red wine
orange zest to garnish
1 cup of agave nectar

Boil the red wine in a large pot to steam out some of the wine. Mix in the jar of lingonberry jam. Once the mixture boils, add the cranberries and boil until they burst. Mix in a cup of agave nectar. Garnish the top with some orange zest. Enjoy!



Monday, August 5, 2013

Paleo Walnut Date Truffles

To celebrate the publication of the standards for gluten-free labeling I made some yummy paleo
Here are the truffles before the cocoa coating
style truffles. They remind me of my aunt’s chocolate truffles she always kept in the refrigerator in case she had company. Except the list of ingredients does not include chocolate cake.

My Persian friends always like snacking on walnuts and dates so I was inspired to use those flavors to make my truffle. Initially, I only used those two ingredients with a handful of macaroons tossed in to give the truffles a coconut flavor but the combination had a dry consistency when it went through the food processor. I then added two tablespoons of sunflower seed butter. When I pulsed the ingredients in the blender I had a sticky mess. So I grabbed gluten free cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips from the pantry. I mixed in the chocolate chips by hand, as I remembered they used to do at Cold Stone Creamery, and then rolled the truffles around in some cocoa powder to seal in the moisture, as I remembered they did with their truffles at Bottega Louie.

The outcome, a soft and fudgy filling with a powdery coating. Tastes just like a chocolate truffle! I finished them off with a pretty gold mini cupcake wrappers and put them away in my refrigerator for guests and unexpected visitors to enjoy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Milky! Update

A month ago I decided to stop nursing. My milk supply began to decrease and I was only pumping to relieve the pressure, not to keep up my supply. My daughter caught on to me and began rejecting formula. Where before she would take a bottle or two of formula a day, she now refused formula mixed with milk. I was in a bind! I had no milk and my daughter was not eating.

I increased my pumping to no avail. I kept getting frustrated, sitting there with barely any success. I had to do something but I didn't know what I could do. I felt like it was a hopeless cause.

That week I went on a walk around the mall and into my favorite store, Destination Maternity, where I met Jennifer. Jennifer was the first person I met in that store when I began showing my baby bump and she set me up with a great wardrobe that made me look and feel good when I was pregnant. Now, almost a year later, she introduced me to a product that changed my motherhood experience again. I had been following Tia Mowry and her gluten intolerant son Cree’s story and I found their new lactation increasing product exclusively sold at DM. I asked the store clerk Jennifer about it and she said Milky! was a new product they just got in. I figured, I had nothing to lose so I picked up a bottle.

That same day I saw a marked increase in my supply. Since then I have been using this product, which you drink twice daily. The gross flavor of other lactogenic teas is masked by a delicious strawberry flavor. This product contains natural herbs including fenugreek for increased milk production and fennel to improve milk let down. I am so happy with the results and am glad to say that Milky! Is now available through the Need products website. I recommend this product to moms who for any reasons have decreased her supply and need to get back her production. I will pick up another week supply to get back into pumping if I spend a weekend being lazy about pumping. Thanks Destination Maternity and Need Brands for creating such a great product!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lactogenic Tea

I keep reading about this miracle fenugreek in all of the mommy forums touting its ability to improve and increase milk supply. Thinking, I don’t have the time to go and find this weird sounding thing and learn how to prepare it so that this food becomes edible.


My attitude changed when I went to the mall and into one of my favorite stores, Destination Maternity. I almost left without buying anything when I began talking to the sweet girl at the front register who helped me with my first maternity clothes purchase. As I chatted with her I noticed what looked like an energy bottle called Milky with a picture of the Sister Sister girls, Tia and Tamara Mowry. Five months ago I did some research on Tia’s quest to find a gluten-free birthday cake for her son Cree’s first birthday, so I gave it a second look.  Milky claimed to increase milk supply, which I had been struggling with over the last couple months. What did I have to lose? Nothing!

I picked up a bottle and drank it down, right there in the store. The first time I pumped after I found no change. Later that night, I found that my milk production doubled. Magic!

I decided to revisit a recipe for palak paneer that I made last week that included fenugreek (which I previously excluded because I did not know where to find it). I picked up some fenugreek at the Indian spice market in Thousand Oaks.
 
I literally bought them out!

Friday, June 21, 2013

3 Great Grain Free Smoothies

Did you know that babies actually say “wah”?  I tried feeding my little one some rice cereal this week only to find that she got extremely frustrated with me, she wanted to eat the food but could only push the mash out when I put it in her mouth. Half of the food went on her bib, but the other half made it’s way into her mouth. 

I found that having an infant is similar to playing a video game, every time you master a level you are sent to a more difficult level with new challenges. Making good baby food and having her learn to eat it is my new challenge.

I plan on making my daughter’s baby food ahead and freezing it, so I have been experimenting with smoothies to get an idea of flavors and textures. Frozen fruits and vegetables store well, not to mention they make for a nice treat on a hot summer day. So far, these are my favorite adult versions. A friend recommended the Bassomatic  but I decided to use my Magic Bullet instead. This is nice because I can drink straight out of the machine or can be poured into a pretty glass.

Creamy Kale Shake
Combine one cup of frozen (chopped) kale tightly packed, a quarter cup of milk, a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter, and a scoop of chocolate mint chip ice cream (optional) in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Kale has become the new super food, high in iron and vitamin A and C. This smoothie has a nice creamy flavor and will give you a good dose of fiber!

Vitamin C Blend
All the fruits in this recipe are frozen. Blend pineapple, mango, orange juice, and cashews. Cashews give the drinks a creamy flavor but they are optional for a lower calorie version. This drink is so tasty and perfect for a summer day.

Cookie Dough
Add two tablespoons of almond butter to six dates (pitted) and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The outcome, a healthy smoothie that even the pickiest eaters will love (and it will actually be good for them too!).

I’m going back to the kitchen to come up with some new combinations. My daughter might not be ready for solid food yet but when she is, I will be ready for her.