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!