Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Posts tagged ‘gluten free’

Fine Dining – Sans the Gluten

When you go to a really nice restaurant, you can usually expect that the food isn’t all going to be deep fried and off limits for Celiacs. But that doesn’t mean they won’t use flour to beef up their sauces or garnish their food with gourmet fried onions. So it’s nice to be able to go to a high-end restaurant, like Roy’s, and be presented with the prettiest gluten-free menu I’ve ever seen.

Naturally I expected a place like Roy’s, which I went to and loved prior to my dietary awakening, to hyper aware of the needs of its food-restricted patrons, regardless of whether the food on the menu is naturally gluten-free.  Roy’s takes steps to make parts of its kitchen completely free of the risks of cross-contamination, and knowing that makes a huge difference in the dining experience.

Another great aspect of the GF menu was that it was available in prix fixe format, so I got an appetizer, an entree and a dessert at a slightly reduced price from what it would be if ordered separately, and  I got to choose from anything on the gluten-free menu.

Roy’s is known for its pacific rim-style fare, so or my appetizer I ordered their version of a California roll, which I was delighted to have because cali rolls (one of my favorites) are usually off limits due to the fake crab (krab) used at many sushi restaurants. No filler here! Just sweet, succulent crab complemented by delicious and creamy avocado.

I stuck with the theme for my entree, ordering pan seared mahi mahi  with sweet corn, shiitakes, English peas, cherry tomatoes, and a Dijon lemon sauce.  It was light, summery, perfect.

Last was a fresh-from-the-oven chocolate souffle that burnt off the top of my mouth as I dug into its molten center with my spoon. It was a little rich compare to the rest of the meal, but I’ll take souffle any day.

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Roy’s has many locations throughout the country now, and you can find out on the website if the one nearest you offers the GF menu. I would highly recommend it for any special occasion.

Happy eating!

 

-Taylor

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Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Veggies and (you guessed it!) Bacon

Squashghetti Carbonara

If you follow this blog at all, you  may know that I’ve become a big proponent of bacon lately.  This is largely due to my friend Dennis, who bought bacon for a seafood dish a few weeks ago and has been striving to use it up ever since.  The other night he hit a home run in bacon and gluten-free pasta alternatives in his creation of spaghetti squash carbonara, which I gobbled up, the butter and egg and bacon filling my tummy faster than you can say Alex Trebek.

(We often watch Jeopardy during dinner like septogenarians).

And it only took about 5 ingredients.

What you’ll need:

-1 spaghetti squash

– 3-4 strips of bacon

-assorted vegetables of your choice (we used broccoli)

– 1 egg, beaten with a whisk or fork

-2 tbsp. butter

What you’ll do:

Preheat your oven to 375

-Poke holes into the spaghetti squash all around so it doesn’t burst while baking.  You need only to make little notches in the skin of the squash to accomplish this.

-Bake the spaghetti squash for 1 hour.

-Remove spaghetti squash from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Gently cut the squash in half and scoop the seeds out with a spoon.  Use a fork to to remove the spaghetti-like flesh and set aside.

For the carbonara:

-Crisp up the bacon to your liking, and remove excess grease (as much or as little as you want . The rest of this dish is all veggie so live a little!).

– Steam the veggies any way you like (if you’re like me,  and by that I mean cheap and resourceful,  you put it in a saute pan with a little  bit of water and slap a pot cover on top of it)

– Add the spaghetti and veggies to the bacon and stir it around, making sure to coat that stuff with bacon grease. Go ahead and add a tbsp. of butter and salt/pepper to taste.

– Then, when everything is done, turn off the heat and stir the beaten egg quickly as you pour it slowly.  The residual heat will cook it some, so no need to worry about raw egg issues.  But if you are worried, you can put it on low head and leave it on after stirring for a little while.  The egg, along with a little EVOO and butter, serves as the sauce for this dish, and boy is it tasty.

-Taylor

Paul Seelig’s Shady Dealings Represent a Big Problem

Yesterday, the News Observer reported that Paul Seelig, the Durham man who sold glutenous bread labeled “gluten-free” to hundreds of customers at street fairs and online was sentenced to 11 years in prison for 23 counts of obtaining property by false pretense.

Seven of the reported two dozen customers who were sickened by Seelig’s goods, which were tested and found to contain high amounts of gluten, testified against him at the trial.

According to the News Observer,

Seelig’s company, Great Specialty Products, sold baked items that he claimed were homemade. Instead, witnesses including a former employee testified, he bought bread from a commercial baker in New Jersey and bagels from retailers such as Costco. He then repackaged them in his home kitchen and sold them at the State Fair, street fairs and by home delivery.

The compassionate person in me hears 11 years and thinks of that as an awfully long time for a man who sickened 24 customers that may well have been sickened any night of the week at any restaurant in town.  If we’re being honest, we all know we get sick more than we need to by taking chances.  But then I read the report that he just bought the stuff at Costco and repackaged it and I think, “That’s a crime whether you’re sickening people or not.”

It kind of reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where they refuse to believe the delicious frozen yogurt restaurant doesn’t serve fat free fro-yo like they advertise and they go to a bunch of trouble to have it tested because they’ve all gained weight.  Remember?

Anyway, the thing I think we should all take from this is that it might have been prevented had there been federal laws in place to further prevent Seelig from printing “gluten-free” on his entirely glutenful products. Does Man Who Sold Fake Gluten-free Bread Deserve 11 Years Time?

Gluten-free products sell at premium prices, but there is no federal standard for them, so Seelig’s conviction was an unusual courtroom victory for celiac sufferers, who have to rely on the honesty of food companies and restaurants that claim to produce products without gluten.

 

Would that have stopped him? Maybe not. But it might have made him think twice.

Having said that, please remember to support the 1 in 133 campaign so things like this can hopefully stop happening.

-Taylor

My Growing Love of Bacon, Seafood and Life: Gluten-free Seafood Chowder

Okay, it turns out I’m just as busy now that I’ve defended my project. It’s just that by “busy” I mean I spend more time dressing my cats up as hipsters:

I’ve also been re-discovering a couple of naturally gluten-free foods that I’ve neglected for a long time.  In the past 3 or 4 years I’ve expanded my seafood palate to include more than just fried crabcakes. But a few friends and I have recently begun a tradition, Seafood Saturdays, wherein I’ve expanded my ability to cook seafood in myriad gluten-free ways.  Because of the taste preferences of one particular friend, these meals often include bacon.

I am currently obsessed with bacon.

I don’t know what I was thinking before.  I tolerated bacon, but I never ordered or cooked it myself.  Maybe I always equated “bacon” with the soggy, syrup-drenched strips that accompanied hastily thrown together breakfasts when I had friends sleep over as a youngster.  But I’ve seen the light.  Give me bacon or give me death.

Now, I was always under the impression that chowder had to include some kind of roux, but this recipe (which I have tweaked a little), simply uses the potatoes to thicken it.  Genius.

I don’t have great pictures of this wonderous chowder because we devoured it and by the time I thought to we had to combine all of our bowls just to get one decent picture.

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What you’ll use:

-5 slices good bacon, finely chopped

-3 tablespoons butter

-1 large onion, finely chopped

-1 stalk celery, finely chopped

-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

-3-4 Yukon Gold (or other high starch potato such as Idaho or Russet) potatoes, peeled and chopped into small dice

-250 ml bottle of clam juice (pretty much the only bottle of clam juice at the store)

-3 cups water

-4 bay leaves (don’t forget to remove these guys before serving)

-1 1/2 lbs mixed seafood, de-boned and cut into small bits.  Here we used one tilapia fillet, 1/2 pound of bay scallops (no cutting necessary!) and 1/2 pound of deveined, peeled shrimp, chopped up

-1 cup heavy cream

-pinch of thyme

-generous pinches of salt and pepper to taste during cooking and before serving

What you’ll do:

-Heat a large soup pot, preferably stainless steel (not non-stick) over medium high heat.

-Add the bacon.  Stir and fry the bacon until it’s browned, then pour off as much of the accumulated fat as you want.

-Reduce heat to medium and add the butter.

-Add the onion and celery and saute gently for about five minutes until the onion is nice and soft.

-Add one (just one!)  clove of the garlic and stir for a few seconds.

Add in the potato, the clam juice, water and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a rapid boil over high heat.

-Keep the heat at medium-high and boil it hard for 10 minutes.  This helps to release starch from the potato which helps to thicken the chowder later.

-Reduce heat to medium-low and add in the seafood. Simmer very gently for five to eight minutes.

-Add in the cream, a pinch of dried thyme, avery finely minced clove of garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

-Bring the pot just to a steaming hot (don’t let it boil) temperature over medium-low heat, about ten minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaves.

We served with this incredibly satisfying chowder some  homemade sangria and a dessert of vanilla ice cream with berry compote (add a tbsp. or two of water and some sugar to some blueberries and strawberries, heat it up and serve).  It turns the ice cream into that perfect soupy texture we all love ice cream to have.

-Taylor

Food Labels Clearer but not Standardized

I haven’t forgotten about you, I promise.  I defended my Master’s Project (which involves this very blog!) on Monday, meaning I get to graduate from J-School here at UF in just a few short weeks. It’s amazing how an event like that can suck the motivation out of you right quick and replace it with an acute but bearable sense of panic.

Aaaanyway, after a couple days of relaxing and job searching and seemingly endless grading, I’m back in happy blogger mode.

First, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out the 1 in 133 campaign – aiming to standardize food labels once and for all. And since we’re on the subject of food labels, I thought I’d share an article I read from the Bellingham Herald in Bellingham, Wash. (home of the formerly fantastic indie band Death Cab for Cutie).  The original article ran in the Detroit Free Press, which I actually thought had folded. More good news!

The article approaches the topic of labeling laws in a way that we haven’t seen a lot lately, reminding us that labels are actually a lot clearer than  they used to be.

Food labeling is becoming more understandable, partly because federal law now mandates that the most common allergens be clearly listed.

The reporter, Robin Erb brings up the point that such clear labels are good for business, essentially saying, the bigger the “Gluten-free” banner, the more likely we are to buy. I can’t tell you how many friends and family members have called or texted to tell me they saw the big “gluten-free” wordage on the front of a box of Chex. On one hand it’d be great if all gluten-free foods were so loud because I (more importantly, anyone cooking for me) wouldn’t have to peer so closely down the aisles to find them. On the other hand, I’d be getting a lot more calls and texts.

But if only good comes out of these clear labels,  then why the snail’s pace when it comes to standardizing them? A string of instances in the news recently about bakers falsely labeling their products as gluten-free as me on edge as to who I can trust. Even Chex accidentally sneaks in a “Wheat” morsel from time to time.

So yes, it’s great that so many products are clearly labeled as gluten-free or, more importantly, not.  Now we need the legislation to ensure that what claims to be safe for Celiacs actually is.

-Taylor

Easy Poached Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary and Quinoa

I learned something this week, guys.  Poaching meat is easy!  I almost used the phrase “easy as pie,” but I never really understood that phrase because pie is kind of a pain to make.  This was way easier than pie.  And fun, in a way.  Served with quinoa and some summer squash with the reduced poaching liquid poured over the top, it was an elegant week night meal that took about 40 minutes.

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What you’ll use:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth (you could also skip the wine and use a flavor infused broth like i did.)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp cold butter
  • lemon wedges to garnish

This recipe makes 4 chicken breasts, but I only made two and used the same amount of poaching liquid, onion, etc. and it was fine.

What you’ll do:

-Add the wine, chicken broth, rosemary sprigs, onion, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, cayenne, and lemon to a  skillet (pan should be just large enough to fit the 4 chicken breasts if you’re making that many, and deep enough to partially submerge the chicken.  Mine was not fully submerged).

-Bring to a simmer over high heat, and add chicken breasts. Turn the heat down to very low, and simmer the chicken breasts gently for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. The chicken breast will spring back lightly when poked. Internal temp should be 160-165 degrees F.  I was a little worried about knowing when the chicken was done, but after a solid 15 minutes of poaching the chicken was no longer pink.

-When done, remove the breasts to a plate and cover with foil. Turn the heat up to the highest setting and boil the liquid for 5 minutes to reduce. Toss in the cold butter and whisk until gone. Boil for 2 more minutes and turn off heat.  Use this as a sauce for your chicken and sides.  It really packs in the flavor.

And in three steps you’re done! Quinoa is just like rice – when the liquid’s absorbed it’s done.  Topped with the sauce, it was an earthy but pleasant contrast.

Now that I can add poaching to my arsenal, I think I’ll go for braising next.  Short ribs anyone?

-Taylor

“Chef” Damian Cardone Likes Poisoning His Patrons with Gluten?

I woke up this morning to find the gluten-free world in an outrage over a 40-word Facebook update a chef had posted about gluten-free patrons.   Then I actually read the update:

Gluten free is bullshit!! Flour and bread have been a staple of life for thousands, THOUSANDS of years. People who claim to be gluten intolorent dont realize that its all in there disturbed liitle heads. People ask me for gluten free pasta in my restaurant all the time, I tell em sure, Then I serve serve em our pasta, Which I make from scratch with high gluten flour. And you know what? nothing, NOTHING! ever happens! People leave talking about how good they feel gluten free and guess what, They just had a full dose! Idiots!

Pretty sickening, yeah?  I don’t want to imagine how those people felt later that night or the next day, and for days after that.

The Gluten Free Life has written an open letter to Cardone, which he probably won’t read since he considers the gluten-free diet to be a passing fad diet, but it’s a lot nicer than anything I’d probably say to him right now.

I just can’t imagine what would possess a chef – who has cooked for celebrities and worked at the now-defunct but once-famous Tavern on the Green – to not only take such derisive action against these patrons, but to also brag about it openly on the biggest social networking site in the world.   Has he ever heard of a lawsuit?  A simple, “We don’t have gluten-free pasta” would suffice.

Cardone has claimed that he understands there are “a few” people with a legitimate disorder, but “most people are jumping on the bandwagon.” How does he tell the difference between these so-called bandwagoners?

I’d hate to think that he’s not the only chef out there who takes joy in essentially poisoning the people who pay to taste his food.  But that would certainly explain how crappy I felt after trying “gluten-free” pasta at Olive Garden.

-Taylor

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