Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gluten-Free Gravy

If I could cover everything I ever ate in gravy, I would. Gravy is just that good. It's my favorite part of Thanksgiving, as it's basically the glue that holds the entire meal together. I pour it over everything I possibly can, and it makes me sad that I can't have it in restaurants anymore (for the most part... Liberty Tree Tavern in Disney does have a gluten-free gravy). So I now make my own! This is something that's super simple and super delicious, and way better than what you can get in a can. 

Simple Thanksgiving Gravy

2 tbsp brown rice flour
Drippings from the roasted turkey (use butter or olive oil for a vegetarian/vegan version)
1 box of turkey broth
Salt and pepper
Gluten-free soy sauce

Pour the drippings from the roasted turkey into a clear pitcher or glass. Wait until the liquid and the fat separates, then use a spoon to scoop out the fat (or pour it off). Put the fat into a saucepan over medium heat, and add the flour.

Stir the flour until it forms a paste (also known as a roux), and add salt and pepper. Once the paste begins to brown, add a small amount of what’s left of thr turkey drippings, a half of a cup at a time. Whisk the roux into the broth until fully mixed, then add more broth. If you run out, use the boxed broth. Repeat until the gravy has reached your desired consistency. Add a splash of gluten-free soy sauce to boost the flavor. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Risotto

For some people, pumpkin season is a lot like this:
I am generally not one of those people. I don't get behind all of the pumpkin flavored items you'll see at Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, etc. But I do love a good pumpkin dish, homemade. Here is one of my favorites. 
Pumpkin Risotto
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups of chicken broth, heated on the stovetop
1 onion, chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 can of pumpkin puree (or 2 cups roasted pumpkin, pureed)
Fresh sage, chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup
½ cup of parmesan cheese, shredded (optional)
Start a tbsp of butter in a large pan, then add the onions. Add a pinch of salt and stir until translucent. Add the garlic and the rice. Continue stirring until the rice begins to toast (this step adds a nice nutty flavor).
Use a ladle to add some chicken broth, and stir the risotto until it is absorbed. Continue until risotto reaches its desired consistency (this will take about 20-25 minutes). While stirring, put the pumpkin in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for a minute. The idea is to get the pumpkin hot enough so that it doesn’t stop the risotto from cooking when you add it.
Add the can of pumpkin, dash of salt and pepper, and a ¼ tsp of nutmeg. Stir until fully incorporated. Add ½ tsp of cinnamon and a handful of chopped sage. Add the maple syrup, then stir. Taste and season the risotto with salt and pepper accordingly.
Garnish with the parmesan cheese and serve hot! For some added crunch, sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin Chili -- Tastes Like Fall

Oh, how I love pumpkin. While I'm not a fan of fall's chilly weather, I love the food that comes with it. Autumnal flavors are by far my favorite, with lots of cinnamon and other warm spices. Roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are just so good, and I would eat it every day if I could. 
Luckily, canned pumpkin is also delicious (just make sure you don't accidentally buy pumpkin pie filling... that stuff is gross and basically diabetes in a can). I've crafted the recipe below for canned pumpkin. I've also done a less liquidy version of this and used it over gluten-free pasta! This is gluten, dairy, egg, and nut-free.
Comforting Pumpkin Chili
1 small onion, diced
1 large can of pumpkin puree 
1 large can of pureed tomatoes
2 cups of carrots, sliced or cubed
1 cup frozen kale or collard greens, defrosted
1 lb of ground beef (can be replaced with black beans for a vegetarian version)
1 can kidney beans, drained.
1 green onion, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Brown the ground beef in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add a tbsp of cumin and a pinch of salt and pepper to the beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Once the beef is browned, scoop out the meat and put into a separate bowl. Add a dash of olive oil to the rendered beef fat. (If making a vegetarian version, skip the beef and use 1 tbsp of olive oil here instead.)
Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and carrots. Stir and add salt to draw moisture out of the vegetables. When they’ve softened, add the beef back in, as well as a palmful of cumin and a dash of cinnamon (adjust based on your tastes). Add the tomatoes, kale, and pumpkin, and stir until fully mixed.
Let it continue to cook until bubbling, then turn the heat to low. Add the can of kidney beans. Let it simmer for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick, add some chicken or vegetable stock.
After an hour, taste and adjust salt and pepper accordingly. Garnish with green onion slices (add a little sour cream or Greek yogurt if you want), and enjoy the fall flavors!

Friday, October 3, 2014

False Negative Celiac Blood Tests: They Do Happen

When my brother was first diagnosed with celiac disease, the rest of the family had to be tested. I was terrified and convinced that I was going to have it, and when the blood test came back negative, I was thrilled. But my problems continued happening, so I was tested again. Negative.

A few years later, my gastroenterologist decided to try again, as I continued to have progressively worse symptoms. Lo and behold, it was positive, and the biopsy showed significant damage, visible to the naked eye.

What does this mean? I have no idea. All I know is that I had two separate blood tests (during which I consumed gluten regularly) and they both came back negative.

The takeaway from this is do NOT stop testing. Anytime you get your blood drawn for a physical, it doesn't hurt to say, "hey, would you mind testing for celiac again?"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Gluten Free at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge

I recently traveled to Disney for a wedding, and we made sure to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge while there. We can't actually afford to stay there, so visiting and eating there is as close as we could get! The space is comfortable and warm, but the wait can be quite long. Make sure you have a reservation!

Many, many of the items on the buffet were gluten free. There were plenty of vegetable and meat options, too many to list here. The carving station was delicious, and the salmon and roast chicken were also fantastic. Highlights include all different kinds of stewed vegetables (the African cuisines have really nailed this).

Not so remarkable were the salads. I was so excited to try the papaya, grapefruit, and avocado salad, and I found it to be watery, mushy, with no particular flavor. The orange, olive, fennel, and arugula salad was a bit more successful. The best side was the mashed sweet and regular potatoes, flavored with a bit of cinnamon. My husband loved this.

What IS out of this world is the level of attention paid by the chefs and the servers to the gluten allergy. I was able to walk through the buffet and have dishes brought from the back that were completely safe and gluten free. I tasted almost everything that was available for me to taste, and as far as this buffet went, the options were more extensive than others (except maybe Tusker House). The fresh fruit options were great (best strawberries I've ever had, not sure how they got them so perfectly ripe!)

I felt well-taken care of. Was it the best meal I've ever had at Disney? No. Not even the top five. But would I go back? Yes, especially if I was on the dining plan. It seemed a bit expensive at nearly $40 per person otherwise, but it's such a novelty to be able to taste and try so many different items.

The best part of the meal was my dessert. LOOK AT THIS MAGIC.
Those striped beauties are Zebra Domes, which are one of the top desserts in all of Disney. They have this blend of coffee/Kahlua flavor and are super delicious. I also had strawberry panna cotta, little brownie bites from Babycakes, sugar cookies, and berries. They really took care to make sure that this was a special experience for me, and I was incredibly grateful.

As far as buffets go, I'd still rank Tusker House above this. But this was a fun meal and I'd go back again!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Best Gluten Free Birthday Cake Ever -- Giant Oreo

For my birthday last year, my husband baked an amazing cake. He bought chocolate cake mix, ingredients for a cheesecake, and combined the two into this magical ginormous Oreo.

 Yes, it tasted every bit as delicious as it looks. Simply buy any chocolate cake mix, and bake it according to instructions. Cut it in half lengthwise when it's cooled down. Using the same size pan, make a cheesecake with no crust (you may need to really grease the bottom so that it doesn't stick). Stick it in the middle, and you get this sheer awesomeness.
Don't have time to bake a cheesecake? Even Cool Whip would go well here, or ready-made cheesecake mix. You could get creative and add a layer of chocolate chips, or crumbled gluten-free Oreos. Or add a caramel drizzle on top! Yum. My husband is the best.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Gluten Free Review: Pica Pica Maize Kitchen in San Francisco -- Must Do for Celiacs

I find it difficult to travel, thanks to my debilitating celiac disease. The last thing I want to happen is to be in a strange city and suddenly black out and go into painful convulsions because I got contaminated by gluten. Recently, I traveled to San Francisco for a friend's wedding (which, p.s., was full of gluten free options and amazing, so thanks for that, Pat and Molly). I knew that I needed to do a ton of research on gluten free options before I left.

Most people have said to me "why would you need to do that? It's San Francisco, the land of gluten free trendiness!" Yes, this is true. However, because most places are catering to those who are gluten free out of sensitivity or trendy fad diet, they're not equipped or trained in dealing with severe allergies or celiac disease. This makes me very nervous when traveling -- it's a scary prospect to go to a restaurant that assures you it can handle gluten free but doesn't wash the pans or change their gloves. So I needed to make sure that I was safe.

I discovered that there was a restaurant that didn't even have regular flour or wheat in its kitchen -- Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, located in the Mission district. An authentic Venezuelan restaurant, it keeps only masa and corn flour on hand. The restaurant is completely gluten free, though not for the sake of celiacs. It does it for the sake of authenticity, which means the chefs are really intent on making sure the food is delicious. And they achieve this.

We went straight to Pica Pica from the airport, and we were on a plane for 7 hours, so we were starving. They had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and I was intent on trying it. I also love Venezuelan food, as does my husband, so we knew this was a must-do while in San Francisco.

The menu is cheap, and the portions are big. This is the kind of place where you order at the counter, then they bring it to you, so it can be hard to get a table. Over the course of three days, we went back twice and tried everything on their menu.

My favorite was the pulled pork pernil on the white arepa. It had this spicy aioli that burned just right, plus very tender pulled pork. They also had extra sauce in squeeze bottles at the table, in case you wanted more sauce love. The arepas are freshly made, so they crumbled perfectly and also held up to the filling. Most arepas I've had have been fork dishes, but this was something you could pick up with your hands and eat.

The cachapas and sweet yellow arepas had the perfect balance of sweetness without being cloying. We had the beef pabillon cachapa and it was the perfect vehicle for the shredded beef and queso fresco. Everything else was just perfect -- the yucca fries, the nachos, the desserts (beignets!!). Look at this photo! Yes, this is professional photography from the restaurant, but it really did look like that when it arrived at our table.

Like I said, we went back twice. We tried everything and were blown away by the quality of the food and the prices. If you are in the San Francisco area and need a place to eat, run, don't walk, here. This is not just for celiacs -- this goes for anyone who just likes delicious food.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gluten Free at Yak and Yeti in Disney's Animal Kingdom

I love all things Disney, and I've tried to keep up on blogging about everything I've eaten there. The problem is that it would require me to take photos of my food, and I simply refuse to be that tourist who takes a photo of everything she eats. Also, I usually end up digging in before I remember that I should be taking a photo for my blog. But I'll do my best to relay the information and help other celiacs feel comfortable about the menu choices in Disney World.

Yak and Yeti is a beautiful Nepalese inspired restaurant located in the Asia section (makes sense, right?) of Animal Kingdom. Though the outside looks like a reject gingerbread house, the inside is warm and inviting with authentic Nepalese d├ęcor.

I've now eaten here three times since being diagnosed with celiac, and it has never failed me. This is a unique experience in that the restaurant itself is NOT owned by Disney -- however, they are just as strict and careful about allergies. You still meet with the chef, they still go over all of your options and are very accommodating. The only difference is that the food doesn't come out with a little flag that says "allergy" on it. 

The Yak and Yeti menu is a generic Asian menu. I grew up Chinese, so this is nothing particularly authentic or edgy in its flavors. As would be expected, everything fried carries the risk of cross contamination. But they carry gluten-free soy sauce, so anything saucy is pretty much safe (except for the wheat noodle dishes).

The only safe appetizer was the lettuce cups. I was disappointed when I heard this, because I normally consider lettuce cups to be super bland and boring. But these were delicious! The chicken was well-seasoned, and I found myself licking my fingers after. The only thing is that if you're on the dining plan, this counts as two appetizers because it's meant for two. 

The star of the menu is the Malaysian Seafood Curry, which is completely gluten free and safe. I dream about this curry. I have searched (in vain) for a similar product in the Boston area, and have yet to find anything that is quite as tasty.

The sauce is coconutty and creamy but not overly rich. It's tangy and sweet and slightly spicy, and there's a ton of seafood in here -- scallops, fish, clams, shrimp, and mussels. Everything is perfectly cooked and tender, and the squeeze of lime adds a mouth puckering note that is so pleasing. This is Asian comfort food at its best. Most people would crave mac 'n cheese or pizza for comfort food, but I dream of white rice soaked in this sauce as my comfort food. If you love spice, you can add sriracha, which blends beautifully in this sauce. There are also veggies in here -- zucchini and tomatoes to round out the dish. It's a satisfying dish that keeps me going back to Yak and Yeti every single time that I visit Disney.

This is my thumbs up review of the dish, plus the sriracha bottle in full display.

There aren't a ton of dessert options aside from the sorbet, but honestly, I am always so full and the seafood curry is so satisfying that a decadent dessert would be overkill. My husband loves the mango pie (clearly not gluten free).

As far as gluten-free restaurants go, yes, this is not the best option in all of Disney. The menu isn't that expansive, and they don't have gluten-free bread or anything. But the dishes that they do have are so well-executed that this is high on my list of must-do's for every Disney trip. If you are looking for a place to eat in Animal Kingdom, this is it, especially if you are on the dining plan.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Twist Bakery and Cafe: Dinner and Dessert

I know I've talked about Twist before, but it's so good that it warrants several blog posts. Today, my friend Steve is coming over, and we're going to eat lots of food, which is sort of our thing. Last night, my husband and I stopped at Twist to get dinner and treats.

It's located in Millis, MA, just a stone's throw from Boston. It looks rather unassuming, wedged in between a Hallmark and a Chinese place in a plaza, but this is not a place that you want to pass up. We stop in as often as we can, and when we go, we get everything. Literally.

I wish I had taken pictures of our sandwiches, but quite frankly, I refuse to be THAT guy who holds up the meal because he/she wants to take photos of the food and post them on Instagram. Especially in a restaurant setting. Also, I was hungry and was not interested in taking precious seconds to take pictures of the food. But I got the hot roast beef sandwich with Swiss cheese (I am lactose intolerant and need to stick to lactose-free cheeses), and Brian got the Cuban sandwich. The hot roast beef is magic on two slices of bread.. hot and melty with sweet peppers and onions. The bread itself is so good -- they bake it all on premises. I also love their vinaigrette on their salad, tangy and sweet but you can still taste the olive oil.

We also got fries on the side. Hot and crispy, they're baked instead of fried. I overheard the server explaining to someone else that they blanch the fries, then leave them in the fridge to let the starch develop. Then, every time someone orders them, they're tossed in olive oil with salt and rosemary and put into an oven at 500 degrees. They were fantastic! And at only $2, a total steal.

For dessert, we had mini cinnamon buns ($1 each). I've been craving cinnamon buns ever since our trip to IKEA (how they manage to permeate the entire store with that smell is remarkable), and the frozen Udi's ones that I got last week just don't cut it. They're super dry and don't even have white icing. But the ones from Twist are moist and chewy, exactly what you want in a cinnamon bun.

My favorite thing about Twist is that it's an entirely gluten-free environment, and they are also very conscious of other food allergies. Anything with dairy or egg is clearly marked, and they are a peanut and tree nut free zone. They even mark items with coconut and soy, and offer coconut and soy milk with their coffee.

Here are the magnificent desserts that we picked up:

clockwise from top left: Chocolate chip whoopie pie, lemon bar, chocolate chip scone, oatmeal glazed cookie, lemon pound cake, and lemon truffle in the center. The lemon truffle was not dairy free, but the others were.

My only complaint about Twist is the hours. They're true bakery hours, so they tend to close around 5 pm. This summer, they opened late on Fridays and Saturdays (until 8) and are planning to revert back to their regular hours. This breaks my heart and makes me sad. I love that Brian and I can go out for dinner and have a date like real people. Rumor has it that they will continue to stay open late on one weekend night, so fingers crossed.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Immaculate Gluten Free and Dairy Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I consider myself to be a pretty decent cook. I'm no chef, but I am pretty adept in the kitchen and I know a lot about different techniques and replacements. I am the world's worst baker. Not in the sense that I'm terrible at it, but that I hate it because I can't taste while it's cooking. I'm a control freak and the fact that I can't control its progress drives me bonkers. I'm also not the biggest fan of following recipes -- who are you to tell me what to do, recipe?

So basically, I appreciate anything that makes baking easier on me. I am all about slice and bake, or break and bake. I'm not going to make a better cookie than Pillsbury, so why try? But alas, those are not exactly safe for me to eat.

Then I discovered Immaculate brand cookies. They're a little more expensive than the usual break and bake cookies (at $4.99 a pack at my Stop and Shop), but they're gluten free AND dairy free. This has been particularly useful when it comes to baking for work, because one of my coworkers is very lactose intolerant, and I am also lactose intolerant.

They are gooey, chewy, and taste just like the real thing. You will not be disappointed in these. My only recommendation is to make sure you flatten the block of dough with the heel of your hand (you might need to put a little oomph into this) a little. Otherwise, they bake a little tall and are too gooey in the middle. But these are really fantastic. I would love to use these to make ice cream sandwiches.

Five stars!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gluten Free Quinoa with Spinach Pesto

Quinoa is one of those superfoods that everyone raves about, but many people are afraid to try it. They shouldn't be! It's delicious, and yes, it's vogue, but it's an ancient food that's been around for a really long time. It's similar to couscous, but with a heftier mouthfeel (heh heh). It can be a little bland on its own, so this (as well as my gluten-free quinoa "mac" 'n cheese) is a good introduction to this trendy South American staple.

This is a great light dish that can serve as the main meal or as a side dish. It can be served warm or cold, but I love it cold as a pasta salad alternative. The quinoa is packed with protein, and the spinach adds fiber plus a whole ton of nutrients like calcium and folate. You can also customize the pesto and add other vegetables to round out the flavors, or keep it simple. This pesto can be used on pasta or on top of meats, too.

2 cups quinoa
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 6-oz bag of baby spinach
1/4 cup olive oil
the juice of one lemon
1 cup carrots
2 cloves garlic, whole
6 basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

I use a rice cooker to make my quinoa. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve, then dump it into the rice cooker. Add the broth, a dash of salt, and the garlic cloves. Push the button and sit back and relax. (This can be done ahead of time or the night before). Once it's done, scoop into a big mixing bowl (preferably metal) and let sit in the fridge.

In a food processor, add the baby spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, and carrots. Pulse until blended, then add the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add tomatoes at this point, if you'd like. If the consistency is not to your liking, you can add more spinach to thicken or lemon juice to thin it out.

Once the quinoa is completely cooled, you can mix in the pesto. You want to make sure it is completely cool or else the pesto can turn brown, and we're all about eating brightly colored pretty things. Once it is mixed completely, you can top with shavings of parmesan cheese. Whether you serve it warm or cold, this is a crowd-pleasing dish that travels well.

This pairs really nicely with a delicious medium-rare steak, or a chicken breast. You can get creative with your mix-ins, like tomatoes as I previously mentioned, or go Mediterranean and add sun-dried tomatoes and olives.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Breakfast Tacos with Steak and Eggs

I often have a hard time figuring out how to reuse leftovers. I struggle especially with steak or other red meat, as I like it medium rare and reheating it ends up cooking it beyond that.

While at home last week, my mom made a delicious roast and sent me home with lots of leftovers. I also made a stop at Watch Hill Farms, a local farm with a stand at the end of my parents' street. I picked up farm fresh eggs picked that morning, plus some gorgeous tomatoes.

So when it came time to figure out how to put all of these items together, all I could think was some sort of steak and eggs. I took corn tortillas and sprinkled them with cheddar cheese.

I soft scrambled two eggs in a cast iron skillet, and then turned off the stove. I popped the tortillas in the microwave for 30 seconds (note: I have a very weak microwave), then topped them with the eggs.
I sliced the cold leftover roast on a bias and put a few slivers on each taco. These were topped with the fresh tomatoes, slices of avocado, grated carrots, and cilantro. With a squeeze of lime over each taco, they were ready to go and very delicious! The flavors were fresh, bright, and perfect on a hot summer's day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Should I Eat Here? Dealing with Food Anxiety and Eating in Restaurants

It's a hard thing to decide when and where to eat when you have celiac disease. I have a reaction to gluten so severe that I've had to leave restaurants in an ambulance. People often say to me "well, why bother going out to eat?" To them, it's not worth the risk.

I've had a hard time reconciling this. Sure, common sense dictates that I should just avoid going out. But I refuse to be a slave to my disease. For one, it would mean shutting myself off to many social events. Whenever setting up a date with friends or family, the first thought is "so do you want to grab dinner/lunch/brunch?" Our culture and socialization revolve around food.

I also just love food. Sure, I consider myself to be a good cook. But I can't cook a lot of stuff, and I want to eat what I want to eat. Most restaurants can offer at least one gluten free option -- in fact, catering to food allergies is the law in Massachusetts. Restaurants must provide allergen awareness training here, and I love that.

More than anything else, what kind of life is it to live in fear the whole time? Obviously, I exercise common sense and don't take risks. But I'm not going to live as a shut-in, not when there are so many restaurants that really get it. There are some restaurants where I KNOW I'll be safe, and if I'm feeling nervous. I will eat here:
It's hard not to have anxiety about food when a mistake or carelessness can land you in the hospital. This happened to me at Rancho Chico in Plainville, MA. Despite their insistence that they understood celiac disease, I was clearly exposed and had a seizure at the table. They put me in the hospital, and the manager insisted that I must have brought outside food in, and forced my party to pay for my food (I was in the ambulance so I couldn't pay), saying that if they didn't cough up, the server would have to cover the cost. 

I didn't eat solid food for a few weeks after this incident, because I was just so afraid and I'd start to panic whenever I looked at food. But I came to realize that this was no way to live -- food is amazing! It's just about going to places that aren't run by megalomaniac douchebags who still won't own up to it. So do your research! Be educated, and don't be afraid to ask for the manager or to speak to the chef. It's your body and you are the consumer -- be your own advocate and don't eat anything you're not comfortable eating. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gluten-Free Chinese Food: Uncle Cheung's in Framingham

I love Uncle Cheung's. We eat here at least once a month, and as someone who is Chinese, finding gluten-free Chinese food is a big deal. I miss being able to go out for dim sum or to meet my family in Chinatown for a big feast, but this is as close as I can get, and it's pretty damn close.

The day I found out there was gluten in soy sauce, I died a little inside. I am CHINESE, people. We live on soy sauce, and it's everywhere in a Chinese kitchen. This is also why I'm afraid to eat at a Chinese restaurant. The prep areas, the woks.. soy sauce everywhere! I'm also hesitant to trust a restaurant like this, because when there's a language barrier, I don't feel confident in my safety.

Then I discovered Uncle Cheung's. From what I understand, the owner's family has celiac, so they take it very seriously. They can make most of the items on their menu gluten free! As an extra bonus to me, they have an authentic Shanghai menu for Chinese people, with all of the classics that I grew up and love, like beef tendons, pea shoots, rice cakes, and steamed whole fish in ginger and scallions. They use water chestnut flour for frying, and they also use gluten-free soy sauce.

I've never gotten sick from eating at Uncle Cheung's, not once. I am VERY sensitive, so even the slightest error would send my stomach into a conniption fit, and that has never happened here. Is the food the best Chinese food in the world? No. But it's pretty solid, and I feel completely safe eating here, which is worth every penny. It's a little bit expensive compared to most Chinese joints in the area, but it's very tasty and the safety is well-worth the extra money.

Items to try:

  • Garlic spareribs. Fried with hot peppers and super delicious. They also do fried calamari in a similar manner.
  • Sauteed pea shoots. Delicate and flavorful.
  • Shredded beef and leeks. Sweet and pungent, this is fantastic over rice. 
  • Steamed whole fish with ginger and scallions. This tastes like my childhood!
If you're in the Boston area and are looking for a safe place to eat Chinese food, run, don't walk, to Uncle Cheung's. Even better, they're open on Christmas! My family and I did Christmas here last year, and it was wonderful. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Boom Chicka Pop White Cheddar Popcorn Review

I am a snacker. I can't go more than three hours without eating something, so I always have two KIND bars in my purse, or a banana (is that a banana in your purse or are you just happy to see me?). My cubicle at work is lined with gluten-free snacks, so much so that it has been dubbed the "snack corner" of my office. Everybody is clearly jealous.

I recently discovered Angie's Boom Chicka Pop, as it was on sale at my local grocery store. It's certified gluten free and though not dairy free, it doesn't seem to affect my lactose-intolerant belly. There are only 60 calories per cup, but really, who only eats a cup of this stuff at a time?

It's really tasty. It reminds me of Smartfood, but not nearly as intense in flavor. On sale, I've gotten it for $2.50 a bag, so it's not terribly expensive either. The other flavors didn't interest me as much, but I'd be willing to try them. I'm guessing this would be delicious tossed with M&Ms or chocolate chips! The only warning I will throw out there is that the powdered cheese gets all over your face, and I gave myself a minor heart attack when I looked in the mirror and thought I had face dandruff.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Zucchini Boats with Ground Beef

Summer is underway and my garden is out of control! In the second week of July, we ended up picking close to 10 lbs of raspberries. Seriously.

Another common overgrowth item is zucchini or yellow squash. The problem with overgrown zucchini is that once it reaches a certain point, sauteing or grilling isn't really optimal -- the seeds are too big and tough. What I like to do is make cute little zucchini boats! Here's what you need and what you need to do for a yummy trip for your taste buds (get it? because they're boats?).

2 large zucchini
1 lb ground beef
2 cups pre-cooked rice or quinoa
1 large tomato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup baby spinach, fresh and raw
1 can of cooking spray
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 a lemon

Preheat the oven to 375, then line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Halve the zucchini, then use a spoon to hollow it out, removing the seeds, until the desired shape of a boat. Spray with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt, and put in the oven for 12 minutes. You can start the next step while the zucchini are in the oven -- remove when the 12 minutes are up or the zucchini begins to brown.

In a cast iron skillet, start the olive oil on medium heat, then add the onions. Sprinkle with salt and stir until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds. Add the beef, plus salt, pepper, and paprika. When the beef is browned, add the tomatoes. Continue to stir until tomatoes soften, then add the rice or quinoa. When the mixture is thoroughly mixed, taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Add the juice of half of a lemon.

Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into the boats, making as high as you want. Pop into the oven for 10 minutes, then remove. Sprinkle with cheese. Put back in the oven for another five minutes or until the cheese melts. For extra flourish, you can top with chopped basil or parsley.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gluten Free Review of El Pelon Taqueria: The Best Mexican Food in Boston

I don't just mean gluten-free Mexican food, too. I mean of all time. Ever. Famed statistician Nate Silver analyzed Yelp reviews of burrito joints across the U.S., and using some sort of metric that I will never understand (though I got an A in Statistics 115 back at BU!), calculated that El Pelon has the fourth best burrito in the country. Yup, sounds about right.

I've been eating at El Pelon (two locations: one in Brighton near Boston College and one in Boston proper near BU) since college, long before I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I was so sad that I would never be able to eat it again. To my surprise, much of what I love at El Pelon is gluten free! The only thing I can't eat are the burritos (cruel, considering the statistic above). However, the rest of the food is phenomenal and I don't feel like I'm missing a damn thing.

First off, the chips and guacamole (which is amazeballs) are gluten free. The limited menu means that they don't fry anything else in the fryer (except for some select other items that are also gluten free, and I'll get to that in a minute). The plantains are gluten free and perfect. They're not crispy, but they're the soft squishy fried ones that I believe are green, because they are not that sweet. They're served with a smoky red salsa, perfect for dipping.

My other favorite appetizer is the taquitos -- corn tortillas rolled up with shredded beef inside, served with a pico de gallo and the same intoxicating guacamole. These are a real treat -- perfectly fried and crisp.

But the piece de resistance is the fish tacos. Cornmeal-crusted whitefish in a corn tortilla, topped with limed onions and pickled cabbage with a squirt of arbor chile mayo and cucumbers. Absolute heaven, and by far the best fish taco I've ever had. The fish is fried, but as previously mentioned, there is no contamination in the fryer. Everything that's fried is corn-based!
Here is a picture of Brian's birthday meal this past weekend at El Pelon. The best part? All of this was less than $30.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gluten-free Rice Cooker Pancake

Gluten free bisquick + a handful of blueberries + a rice cooker = deliciousness!

We decided to do breakfast for dinner the other day, and I've seen the rice cooker pancake going around on Buzzfeed. It looked too good to be true, but I figured I'd give it a shot. I don't have a fancy rice cooker (it's literally 15 years old), all it has is a single button that pops up when the rice is ready.

I have to say, I was really impressed with how it turned out. All I did was spray the rice cooker with cooking spray, pour the batter in, throw a handful of blueberries on top, and push the button. The top of it was not as cooked as I would have liked, so I transferred it to a baking sheet and popped it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes. But otherwise, it was a rousing success.

My only suggestion would be to use a little more oil in the batter than the recipe calls for. I had a slightly difficult time getting the pancake out, as I do not have a nonstick rice cooker. Next time, I'm going to add chocolate chips!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

BEST Gluten Free Treat in RI

Hands down, Del's wins. This goes for all treats, gluten free or not. When I take a sip/bite, I can close my eyes and feel all of my happy childhood memories coming back.   It is the perfect treat on a hot day! Gluten, dairy, fat free, what's not to love? Anyone who grew up in RI or in the area knows how amazing it is.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pineapple and Beef Skewers

I made these beauties a few weeks ago, and Brian couldn't get enough of them. The pineapple juice with the tamari makes for a sweet and tangy marinade that I love.

Grilled Pineapple and Beef Skewers
½ a pineapple, cut into inch chunks
1 lb steak tips, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
1 onion, cut into inch chunks
¼ cup tamari or other gluten-free soy sauce
1/8 cup rice vinegar or lime (if using vinegar, be sure to check there's no malt or extra flavorings that could contain gluten)
1/8 cup fish sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Canola oil
Wooden skewers
In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and fish sauce. Add a drizzle of oil and continue to whisk. A dash of Worcestershire and a squeeze of sriracha (the amount depends on how spicy you like it) should then be added. If there is any pineapple juice left on the board from cutting it, add it in.
Pour mixture over cut up steak tips, then place in a zippered bag and let marinate for at least two hours, or overnight. Soak the wooden skewers in water an hour before the grilling. Put the marinated beef in a bowl and dispose of the bag and used marinade.
When ready to grill, make a skewer of beef, pineapple, and onion, in whatever order you prefer. Grill on high heat for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is and what temperature you like your beef. Garnish with cilantro, serve immediately. For a complete meal, add brown rice.