Apparently You Cannot Have Your Pie and Eat it Too.

29 Nov

I know Thanksgiving is probably a distant memory for most of you. Visions of sugar plums are replacing sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, but I’m still processing Thanksgiving, or at least my intestines are. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my gluten-free friend, Enid (hey I think I just invented “GFF” or maybe it’s ” GFFF”) Any who, I’m hoping that her gluten-free pies were better than my homemade pie fillings contained in store-bought gluten-free frozen pie crusts, which I actually put in pretty pie plates to make it look like I made them myself (big mistake). Yes, in a moment of weakness, I decided to forgo repeating the agony of trying to make a gluten-free pie crust from scratch. Truth be told I was never good at the pie crusts with gluten. But the gluten-free involved a lot of patchwork and recalibrating. They were ok, but the filling stole the show and any flaws in the crust were forgiven. This year I decided to “go for it” and ALL the pies were gluten-free. I have apologized to all my guests, but I still don’t have closure. If I could remember the name of the company who produces this product, I would send them a letter that would just say “why?”  It was too good to be true of course, and it was my own fault for falling for the perfect frozen texture, the glossy packaging promising me a regular, normal, easy-breezy Thanksgiving. In the end it was my own fault. I should have known better, but I let myself believe that I could have my pie and eat it too. I wish I had taken a picture of it, the pie shell that could not be cut with the sharpest knife in the house; the pie shell with all of the filling scooped out of it; the children  bending it this way and that. It never broke. Then there were the comments…”on the bright side you’ve discovered a new roofing material.”

Three Guys and a Gluten-Free Girl

13 Nov

Two weeks ago in Oakland, California I had a fabulous gluten-free dining experience. It went something like this:

My husband , myself and another couple were in Oakland to see Grace Potter and The Nocturnals at the Fox Theater (which was amazing, by the way). We had dinner reservations at Pican, a Southern inspired restaurant. I had mentioned that I was gluten-free  when I made the reservation.

Our waiter, Trevor began the evening by asking which one of us was gluten-free.

“Me,” I replied, proudly.

“Gluten- intolerant or celiac?” Trevor asked, looking at me as if he really cared.

“Celiac.” I replied, practically giddy.

“I’m gluten intolerant.” He said, in a tone that made it  clear he understood that I outranked him. Then he went on to  say, “We are not a gluten-free kitchen, we do clean all surfaces and utensils when preparing gluten-free dishes, but there could be some cross-contamination.”

“You had me at ‘Celiac,’  I thought to myself, still taking in the conversation. In all my gluten-free years, I have never had an experience like this at a restaurant. He asked the others if they had any questions about the menu but it was really just an after thought.

We all proceeded to order drinks, The bourbons of Kentucky and Tennessee were well represented. I ordered the Pican Old Fashioned. An Old Fashion with a new twist. The twist involved bacon and maple syrup. I know what your thinking, but you’re wrong. George Dickle No. 8, bacon infused bourbon, is quite tasty it turns out. Trevor and I shared a joke or too regarding our love of bacon and thank God, it’s gluten-free.

My dinner was tasty. Dessert was the only disappointment. Buttermilk ice cream being the only GF option. I could tell Trevor was embarrassed by the situation. But I told him not to worry and ordered a coffee with alcohol in it. And a bowl of buttermilk ice cream.

Once home, I could not get Trevor or the bacon infused bourbon out of my head, and having never heard of George Dickle No. 8, I decided to google him.  This is what I found in bold letters at the top of the website. If you only know Jack, you don’t know dickle.  I searched the website for bacon infused Dickle No. 8 but there is no such thing. I would have to make it myself. It turns out there are hundreds of search results for how to infuse bourbon with bacon. What on earth did we do before the internet? The recipe follows, but I should warn you that, like sausage and laws, you may not want to know how it’s made.

  • Cook a pound of bacon.
  • Pour .33 cups of hot fat into a jar and fill the rest with bourbon George Dickle No. 8, or similar (They don’t specify the size of the jar, which seems important, but just use your best judgment on the bacon to bourbon ratio).
  • Seal and let stand until the mixture reaches room temperature.
  • Freeze for 24 hours. The fat will solidify. The bourbon will not.
  • Pour off the bourbon and strain through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to remove any lose fat particles. (yum)

To make the Pican Old Fashion, mix bacon Bourbon with maple syrup, orange (not sure what kind as I just copied this from the Pican menu) cherries (the cherries appeared to be a darker version of the maraschino variety) and bitters. I have no idea what the proportions are but I’m pretty sure no one is going make this drink, so I’m not going to worry my pretty little head about it.)

In case you’re wondering who the three guys are:

  1. Trevor
  2. George Dickle
  3. Jack  Daniels

A Piece of Cake

31 Oct

The last thing I want to do is to start posting yummy gluten -free recipes. That’s just not me. Complaining about the gluten-free lifestyle is much more me. But once in a while a really good recipe comes along. And even more rare, a really good recipe with a story.  I have made this cake three times. I remember each time I’ve made it because it’s so good!  But before I give you the recipe, I must give you some important information.

  • The recipe is from a retreat center in Santa Barbara, CA, called Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal. They have a great recipe book, called A Place at the Table that you should buy. (You are probably wondering what a bitch like me was doing at a spiritual retreat center, but I’ll never tell.)
  • If you make this cake for yourself you will want to eat it at every meal (see my previous post)
  • If you make this cake for a group of people, there will not be any left, so make two.
  • If you do not have a heavy-duty food processor, you may not want to make this recipe.
  • I suggest you invest in a heavy-duty food processor just so you can make this recipe.

A Cake Story

My daughter just returned from a cross-country road trip with her friend. I made a delicious dinner, pork tenderloin with fig sauce (also from A Place at the Table) mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. Yum! And flourless chocolate cake with goat cheese-whipped cream on the side. Double yum!

The recipe calls for 8 oz of dark chocolate, which you break up into littleish pieces and process in the food processor with some of the sugar. What they don’t tell you is that your food processor will shake violently as it tries to pulse that chocolate into a semi-fine powder. I was a little a worried about the shaking but I kept on with the processing, and turned out the most delicious cake. There were only two pieces left in the morning. I was tempted to eat a piece for breakfast but decided to practice restraint and ate it an hour later when I got to work.

When I came home there was a note from my daughter, with a tiny screw next to it, explaining that the screw was in the piece of cake. I checked the mixer, no missing screws. Then I remembered the shaking food processor. I checked the blade. Sure enough, two little screws missing. My first thought, who ate the other screw?

The moral of this story: THIS CAKE IS DANGEROUS

Flourless Chocolate Cake

For Cake

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cup whole raw almonds

8 oz. dark chocolate

5 eggs separated

1/2 tsp. orange or lemon zest

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

6 oz. butter, melted

powered cocoa or sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the sides.

In a food processor; process about 1/3 cup sugar with the almonds, pulsing until fine. Remove to a medium bowl. Process about another 1/3 cup of the sugar with the chocolate, pulsing until fine. Check for screws.  Add to the bowl of almonds, mix, and  set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix egg yolks with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar for a few minutes, until thick and pale. Mix in zest and extracts. Fold in almond/chocolate mixture and melted butter.

Whip eggs (with clean dry beaters) until they hold stiff peaks. Gently and completely fold egg whites into cake mixture (this takes patience as the dough may be quite stiff). My dough was not that stiff, so patience was not an issue, but I appreciated the warning.

Pour mixture into prepared cake pan, leveling the top. Back until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist bits, 45-55 minutes.

Let rest on cooling rack for a few minutes; then remove from pan and cool completely. Dust with sugar or cocoa and serve with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

3-5 Tbls fresh goat cheese (chevre)

1-3 tsp sugar

1/2-1 cup whipping cream

You can experiment with the proportions on this. I like it more goaty so I use more goat cheese and less whipped cream. You can sweeten to taste, but remember the cake is already sweet.

The Ugly Truth

27 Sep

I recently overheard a woman telling another woman that she had lost a lot of weight by eliminating gluten from her diet. I am skeptical about such claims and I wanted to set the record straight. Also I am jealous and annoyed by people who lose weight easily by eliminating anything. And it appears that I have become the kind of person who enjoys bursting people’s bubbles. That’s what celiac disease has done to me. So here it is, the ugly truth: The gluten-free diet that people lose weight on is simply a no or low carb diet. I know I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. To illustrate my point I present you with two meal plans. The first plan is for someone (me) who can never again eat gluten anything, ever; the second is for someone (not me) who wants to lose weight, and be cool ( gluten-free is a lot hipper than weight watchers).

my gluten-free diet plan:

The basis of my plan is this flourless chocolate cake. I made enough so that I could incorporate it into my meals during the week.

Breakfast: 2 pieces of flourless chocolate cake and on cup of strong black tea with lots of milk and honey

Lunch: 1 piece of flourless chocolate  cake and a V-8 juice

Dinner:  hashbrowns and a half a bottle of white wine (because it was the only GF thing around) and for dessert, you guessed it, flourless chocolate cake

Bed time snack: flourless chocolate cake

Someone else’s gluten-free diet plan:

The basis of this plan is eliminating all carbohydrates.

Breakfast: fruit and yogurt, instead of the usual bagel with cream cheese.

Lunch: A gigantic salad, instead of the usual Panini

Dinner: Chicken, asparagus and greens with lemon water, instead of the usual large pepperoni pizza

Dessert: ice chips

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

10 May

As a person with celiac disease I find that there is a fine line between things I want to know and things I don’t want to know. For example: I frequently eat at a local restaurant whose menu consists of paninis, soup and salad. They have a very yummy, naturally gluten-free tomato red pepper soup that I always order, but it’s still feels like a consolation prize when I look around at the buttery sandwiches oozing with cheese, onions and turkey.  One day when I couldn’t take it anymore I casually asked the chef if he would consider a gluten-free panini option. He replied that they could make any of the sandwiches with gluten- free bread. I asked him if this was something new. “No”, he said, “We’ve been doing it for several years”. “Does the menu say anything about this option?” I asked. The answer was no.  I don’t know why it took me so long to ask but why should I have to? Gluten-free, as far as know, and especially in Santa Cruz, is not on the down low. It seems like a small thing, but I find many of life’s greatest pleasures are simple; like the joy of looking at a menu and ordering from it without having to ask a zillion questions.

On the other hand, I was at another local restaurant where I asked if the French fries were gluten-free (I’ve taken to ordering fries before I even sit down so that I don’t have to watch my dining companions tear apart soft pieces of bread and dip them in oil or generously slather them in butter while I patiently wait for the main course. Maybe this is why I’ve also recently gained five pounds.) Anyway, the waitress went to check with the cook and came back to cheerfully tell me YES, they’re gluten-free…but they are fried in the same oil that we fry our breaded calamari in.  Here’s the thing, if I am going to eat at a restaurant I know there is a chance of “cross contamination” a fancy term for getting unintentionally “glutened”, a made up term, for accidentally eating gluten. The only way around this is not to think about it, because if I think about the fact that even one crumb of gluten that comes in contact with my small intestine will set off an auto-immune reaction in my body that may take weeks to repair, I will go crazy. Not the kind of crazy that I already am, the real kind of crazy.

Like She Said.

13 Mar

I just read a great article on about eating gluten-free for fun (don’t you just love those people?).  It is called “Dilemmas of a Gluten-Free Convert” — you should check it out.  The author may be a symbol of everything I hate about, well, everyone who doesn’t have a celiac diagnosis, but I still loved her article.  I especially appreciate her observation about sticking to wine and dodging the appetizers at cocktail parties.

Ruth Reichl, you are my hero.

Daily Treat: A great, grown-up, spicy crispy chocolate thing, with pistachio nuts. Which I baked (even though ever since The Diagnosis I don’t tend to bake very much).  I would show you a photo of the crisps, except my family ate every single crumb and all I had left was the plate, which isn’t picturesque.  So instead I will (1) give you the recipe, and (2) provide you some visuals of the book (since as we know every blog post requires a photo, QED.)

The recipe is called Pistachio-Dark Chocolate Crisps, and it comes from the Gourmet Today cookbook (page 686), which to my surprise contains a luxurious selection of naturally gluten-free cookies and desserts.  I am looking forward to trying the Fruit and Nut Chocolate Chunks and the Crispy Chocolate Marshmallow Squares just as soon as my body stops gaining weight on water and roasted fennel (since that is all I eat).

If you looked, you would find  that the crisp recipe as it appears in the book is not completely, totally gluten-free, but it only calls for six tablespoons of flour, and that is close enough for me.  I just substituted gf flour, and then I doubled the curry powder…  If you read this blog for long, you will discover I fiddle with almost all my recipes.  No apologies; it’s my way.

Pistachio-Dark Chocolate Crisps   –   converted to gluten-free by ME!

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark, because that was all I had)

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used Terry’s gluten-free flour mix)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon curry powder (I used 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg white

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used double that, of course)

1/2 cup cup roasted  shelled pistachios, chopped

I wasn't sure if this would work with GF flour, but it did!

1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Combine butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, curry powder, vanilla, and egg white in food processor and blend until smooth.

3.  Glue parchment to baking sheet with a dab of batter in each corner.

4. Spread remaining batter evenly into a 10 by 14 inch rectangle on parchment paper (yes, I did measure!), then scatter chocolate and nuts on top.

5.  Bake until firm and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

6.  Transfer crisp, still on parchment, to a rack to cool completely.

7.  Remove crisp from paper, breaking into pieces.  Good for dessert.  Or breakfast.

Sushi, What’s the Point?

6 Mar

I used to love sushi. Not the raw fish sushi.  The kind that comes in a roll  covered in rice and avocado and macadamia nuts and tempura anything and sweet sauce.

Last night we ordered in from our favorite Japanese restaurant. At this point I would like to remind you (and myself) that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. “I’d like a nutty shrimp” I said to the man on the other end of the phone, my voice full of regret. “But instead of tempura shrimp I will just have ebi (steamed shrimp) and a yummy yam, but instead of the tempura yam, just steamed yam, oh, and can I have those made with brown rice?”

Thirty minutes later I was dipping rolls of sticky brown rice into my wheat-free tamari and wasabi mixture, coveting the eel soaked in a sweet gluteny sauce that my husband was enjoying.  My shrimp was chewy. Have you ever noticed that shrimp on its own as no flavor whatsoever? The yam was yummy, naturally sweet. And who doesn’t love a yam wrapped in brown rice?

This morning I woke up feeling nauseous. Maybe I was unintentionally glutened.  Or maybe it was intentional.  Either way it wasn’t worth it. I’m thinking of giving up on food all together.  Can’t I just take a pill for that? I would happily go for weekly intravenous meals.

When I’m feeling blue, I sometimes call a friend, or buy a lot of shoes, or search the internet. It was too early to call anyone and my bank account is on empty so I googled.  I searched gluten-free sushi just to see what somebody else had to say on the subject.

I found one blogger extolling the virtues of sushi when dinning with friends, “… I didn’t need to do as much research upfront and I knew there would be SOMETHING I could eat (even if it was just steamed edamam). ” . This made me realize I have been setting the bar a little too high. If I only had her glass-half-full attitude why I could go to any restaurant knowing that at the very least I could have a plate of lettuce.

And then this from Gluten Free: The Celiac Site

“Every celiac should develop a taste for Sushi. Consider one blogger’s  suggestion:  “Once I was diagnosed with Celiac, sushi restaurants became a haven for my gluten free dining. It’s so much easier to ask someone if they want to go for sushi than look for other gluten free friendly dining establishments. I can just grab my bottle or packets of gluten free soy sauce and head to the restaurant.”

Wow, you make it sound so fun! But wait, there’s a catch…

“Sushi is gluten free, but (as always) there are cross contamination issues. This same blogger continues: “Unfortunately eating sushi gluten free is not completely care-free and there are still things you need to be wary of in order to eat safely. Ask for your fish to be cut with clean utensils on a clean surface. The rising popularity of tempura rolls has increased the chances for cross-contamination here. Tell your server no crab unless they can assure you it’s real, most fake crab meat used in sushi rolls is made with wheat. Most roe (fish eggs) used to top sushi has wheat as an ingredient. Also, ask for no sauce, albacore sashimi usually comes with a forbidden sauce and many white fish are sprinkled with a gluten containing culprit. Eel (unagi) comes soaked in a sweet sauce that is a definite no-no. Double-check the wasabi, ginger and rice to make sure that there are no suspect ingredients.”







Then more joyous news:

  • Even the sesame seeds that sometimes coat sushi rolls may be mixed with a wheat product. (WTF!)
  • And the sticky rice is sometimes soaked in vinegar containing gluten.  (now that’s just mean)

First, can we just all agree that gluten-free and carefree should not be used in the same paragraph?

Second, I am never going to utter these words in a restaurant, “please make sure my fish is cut with clean utensils on a clean surface” . It’s just not going to happen.

Third, I’ll just have a large sake.

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