Saturday, December 31, 2011

fusian sushi

For lunch earlier this week, I decided to give FUSIAN in Downtown Cincinnati a try.  It had been highly recommended by one of my interns over the summer, but with my gluten and ginger issues, I was more than a little nervous to try this Chipotle-style sushi restaurant. Before the gluten intolerance was identified, my favorite rolls all included tempura and/or crab stick.  I've also learned that oftentimes vegetables (such as carrots) are soaked in a ginger solution before being added to a sushi roll. 

I'd skeptically checked out the menu online before going to the restaurant, a bright spot in Tower Place Mall.  Upon entering the location, I was quickly greeted by a staff member who came to greet me and explain the process.  I told him that I'd seen FUSIAN on Urbanspoon's handy list of Best Cincinnati Gluten Free Friendly Restaurants.  I informed him of my dietary restrictions, and he immediately went back on the line to have everyone change their gloves.  As soon as I said, "I'd like to try a chicken roll," Dave yelled back for some chicken with no marinade.  I didn't have to say anything!  In allergy world, that's a big deal.  Sure, it's how it ideally should be, but it's rare enough that it's quite impressive when it happens.

My meal was made carefully, and the roll was even cut with a separate knife in the back to prevent cross-contamination.  Again, I didn't have to feel like a pain.

My meal - a chicken, carrot, cucumber, & avocado roll; edamame; and a Sprite - was delicious, Jessi-friendly, fresh, and easy on the budget.  Mmm...
I also loved that their chosen containers are environmentally friendly and biodegradable.  The decor is also serene, with a pretty waterfall wall

I was even more impressed when the initial staffer came out once I was finished to tell me that they have a number of gluten free customers and to go over my menu choices for the future:
  • chicken
  • salmon
  • smoked salmon
  • tuna
  • any veggies
  • Avoid: steak (marinated), shrimp (tempura-battered), crab mix, crab stick, freshwater eel, sauces
My only recommendation: take some San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce, now available from some locations in handy single use packets

Yep, I'll definitely eat there a lot in 2012 and recommend that you do, too, when you're in the area.  For more information on FUSIAN, check them out on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for reading.  Here's to a safe, happy, and healthy New Year! :)

Update 1/5/12:
They have Kikkoman Gluten-Free Soy Sauce and get a fresh rolling mat for food allergy folks. They're gooooood.

Update 11/30/12:
FUSIAN relocated in October about a block from their previous location to 600 Vine Street, next to Tazza Mia.  (This explains the crossed-out text.)  The new interior has a separate line for fax/catering orders, and it has a more open feel.
The staff still rocks with handling allergies. 
They also have a stand at Bengals home games and can accommodate gluten free foodies.

Fusian on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 29, 2011

finding a niche to call my own

Late last night, I was perusing Twitter.  One link, then another, and I landed on Gluten Free Foodie's blog post: Five Tips on Writing a Better Blog (and why I've been a terrible blogger).  (The blog's author also is a founding member of a growing online gluten free resource called Stuffed Pepper.)  I shared the post with my mom and haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

My takeaway: a niche.  I need a niche in the gluten free blogging world.  I've had online journals on Xanga before -years ago- but never a blog.  I need to define my voice.

Is it that I'm gluten intolerant and passionate about nutrition, hunger, and poverty?  On a weekly (if not daily) basis, I wonder what happens when a food allergy sufferer needs to visit a food bank.  I feel personally compelled to donate more, especially as the need for donations has grown during the ongoing economic crisis.  (Wondering how to help?  Check out the Freestore Foodbank, which covers 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.)  I'm also bothered that gluten intolerance may inhibit military service and other career choices our kids would like to pursue.  It's a shame when anything hinders people's dreams, but especially something as simple and life-sustaining as food.

Sidenote: regarding military service, here is the relevant Standards of Medical Fitness statement:
Chapter 2 Physical Standards for Enlistment, Appointment, and Induction
Section 3 Abdominal organs and gastrointestinal system 
Part c Small and large intestine
(1) Current or history of inflammatory bowel disease, including, but not limited to unspecified (558.9), regional enteritis or Crohn’s disease (555), ulcerative colitis (556), or ulcerative proctitis (556), does not meet the standard.
(2) Current or history of intestinal malabsorption syndromes, including, but not limited to post-surgical and idiopathic (579), does not meet the standard.

Is it that I have dietary restrictions with gluten, ginger, onion, and mushrooms?  That seems like a pretty small market.  I've only ever met a couple people with an onion issue, and just one other person with a ginger issue.

Is it that I have a strong interest in medicine?  There are already nutritionists and doctors with gluten free blogs; I'm no expert.  Yet...  I've been strongly considering a graduate program in nutrition science for a few years now, and as a child I always saw myself going into medicine, until my dad's (very successful but still traumatic) cancer treatment threw me onto another path.  I'm planning my graduate studies and have been pushed by the gluten intolerance and the thrill of helping others.  Recently I was able to share tips with a cancer patient who had been told that week to avoid gluten.  It was one of the best, most heart-warming moments of 2011.

(If you're a medical professional or in the food service industry and would like improve your gluten intolerance knowledge, I strongly urge you to check out the Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Celiac Learning Center, an initiative of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).)

Is it that I (try to) do gluten free on the cheap?  Nah, there are college student gluten free bloggers like The Blue Table and culinary arts students like Creative Cooking Gluten Free.  I'm not yet in any culinary courses (yet), so I couldn't write on that knowledgeably anyway.

I could do a Julie & Julia style project, making Julia Child's beloved, classic dishes in a gluten free manner?  But.....the croissants, French bread, and boeuf bourguignon have been done, and, as noted on Living Gluten Free, most of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking are gluten free without my intervention.

Is it that I'm a gluten free country girl living in the big city?  Nothing really comes up when one Googles gluten free country cooking, but what does even mean?! 

Maybe it's just providing a plethora of information on all these topics with lots of links.

Hmm.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I've added my blog to the Celiac Disease and Gluten Free Forum Community Blog List.  Thanks so much for joining the journey as I figure out my blogging voice.  As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome :)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

final winner & chicken dinner

The time has come.  It's the final drawing.  Since Christmas was on Sunday and very busy, spending time with my parents at home 2 hours away, seeing my boyfriend's parents, & hanging out at a friend's annual get together, the drawing waited until today. 

The prize:

Here's a close-up of the packaging on the only fortune cookies I've found thus far:
There's a fun story behind the mini bag of Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks.  The Kroger near our place had carried them late this summer.  I was so excited!  I have this bad habit of snacking on something then getting caught up in a project & leaving the bag open, so these snack size bags are ideal for me.  But when I went back, expecting them there, they were suddenly gone without warning.  Even the price tag was gone!  A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend ran into the Snyder's employee responsible for stocking the product.  He asked the representative to look into bringing them back.  When we went in Kroger for a few staples, Scott snuck away to grab two bags and surprise me with them.  It's amazing what can happen if you're willing to take a minute, use a little charm, and ask :D 

The names were drawn from my pretty new purple cloche hat.
 And the winner of the fourth and final drawing is.....Galina!  Congratulations!!  Please email me your information (which I won't keep, store, or share), and I'll send it your way!

Many thanks to my followers - old and new - for making this December to Remember a success :)  Sending you happy thoughts & warm wishes for the New Year!!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Tonight I decided to try something easy and new: chicken-in-a-packet.  Admittedly, I need a creative name for it.  Ideas are welcome!

I started with 7 defrosted chicken tenders.
Ideally, you have aluminum foil on hand.  However, from cookie-baking, there wasn't much to be found!  I made what I had on hand work for me.  
I poured a small amount of vegetable oil on the aluminum foil, which sat on a baking sheet.
I placed the chicken tenders on the foil.  Knowing my boyfriend would want his different than mine, his was separate from mine.
I kept it simple, sprinkling the tenders with Italian seasoning and salt.  On mine, I added diced tomatoes, shredded carrots, and broccoli.
They baked at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, at which point I added shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheeses.

Another ten minutes, and the cheese was gooey gorgeous! 

My boyfriend's wasn't as pretty or succulent as mine, and I felt bad because he's trying to avoid carbs at night, but it paired well with marinara sauce and his favorite green beans.

I also gave Lundberg Family Farms Creamy Parmesan Risotto a try.
It was incredibly easy!
  • Put 1/2 tablespoon butter (or olive oil) in a heavy nonstick 2 quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Add rice and saute until grains are coated with oil. 
  • Stir in contents of seasoning pouch and 2-1/2 cups water. Mix well to dissolve seasonings. 
  • Bring to a boil. reduce heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
The flavors went quite well with the chicken-in-a-packet, and I'll definitely buy it again soon!  

Have a great day, and happy eating!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

last minute gifts

Scrambling for a last-minute items for a gluten free (or other allergy-friendly) foodie?  Here are a few ideas...

If your loved one is a reader, Sloane Miller's Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies and Sandra Beasley's Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life are two of the best finds published in 2011.  They're each available in electronic and traditional formats. Don't Kill the Birthday Girl was (appropriately) a birthday present from my boyfriend's parents, and I bought myself the Kindle edition of Allergic Girl's book.  (She can be followed on Twitter @AllergicGirl.)

If you're fully aware of cross-contamination concerns, you might fix an allergy-friendly meal.

Before jumping into such a daunting task, you might want to get yourself and/or your lucky foodie Gluten Free Cooking for Dummies.  The series has books available on other special diets as well, including but not limited to diabetes, IBS, vegan, and vegetarian cooking.  I was fortunate to find a couple used copies on Amazon - one for myself, one for my mom.  (Tip: be sure that the recipient doesn't find the "for dummies" language to be disparaging.  Some folks do!)

Does your foodie blog?  My boyfriend gave me some awesome business cards & an engraved business card holder from Vista Print.

Two upbeat magazines are now available for gluten free foodies: Easy Eats and Gluten Free LivingLiving Without is a magazine for those with food allergies and sensitivities in general.  Personally I like to play around with recipes in Food Network Magazine and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Another idea for the budding chef: gluten free cooking classes.  Some chefs will do home parties, and occasionally classes are available at Jungle Jim's Cooking School, Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, or Party Source in the Greater Cincinnati area.  (Unfortunately I couldn't find any coming up at any of these locations, but it's great for future reference!)  That's definitely one gift I would love when another class is available, so I'm sure others would too. 

Some restaurants are particularly adept at fixing allergy-friendly meals, and at this time of year, you're likely to find some great gift card deals.  In the continuing economic crisis, you might as well get your money's worth, and these locations allow a safe environment for a shared meal with friends and family.

Is your foodie big-hearted?  You might consider donating to send a child to a gluten-free summer camp.  For more, see this post on Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom.  

While, of course, you don't want your foodie to be defined by their special diet, these ideas should let them know you're an ally on their journey :)

I'm hoping that I may be able to share the recipe for my new favorite Christmas cookie in the coming days:
cheesecake with a gluten free Honey Nut Chex crust!  My boyfriend's mom made them, and they're absolutely delightful.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

december to remember 3rd winner!

Today is the third drawing!  The prize:

    I've made equally-sized entries for each follower and comment made since the drawing began on December 1.  The hat used in tonight's drawing:

    And the winner is...Stephen Groves!  Email me your address, and the goodies will be on their way to you!

    The freebies in the fourth and final giveaway have yet to be determined, but it will definitely include 2 free passes to the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum ($20 value).  Follow and/or comment to win!  Each comment is another entry!

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    gopicnic turkey pepperoni, turkey stick, sunbutter, & salmon

    This week I tried the Turkey Stick + Crunch on Tuesday at lunch, Turkey Pepperoni + Cheese meal on Tuesday after work & before a meeting with the Young Professionals of the American Cancer Society, and Sunbutter + Crackers on Wednesday night.

    Here are the contents of the Turkey Stick + Crunch meal:
    The whole thing was delicioso.  I'd love to name my favorite part.  The, the fruit snacks...wait, the cookie!  I don't know!!  I'd seen the package at Jungle Jim's one day a few months ago and was so excited about Old Wisconsin Turkey Snack Sticks being gluten free, I bought a tray of them.  It's the closest to a Slim Jim stick I've found.  According to the FAQs section on their website, all meats (with the exception of beef jerky) are gluten free.

    A plus: the crunchy cookie had a 75 cent coupon for an Enjoy Life Crunchy Cookie Box, 6.3 oz or more.   Woohoo!

    Because I ate the Turkey Pepperoni + Cheese meal in the car before my meeting, I couldn't get any decent pics with my Blackberry.  (How dare I not have my camera!)  But the fact that I don't have a picture also means I devoured the whole thing.  Mmm.

    It included:
    The Almond Roca Buttercrunch Toffee was definitely my favorite part.  Inside this pink wrapper is a golden nugget, enclosing the yumminess.  I've never been that into Heath bars, despite them being one of my parents' favorites.  If they tasted like this, oooooooooh.

    On Wednesday night, I broke out the Sunbutter + Crackers.  Whoa - yum!!


    This particular meal is all-natural, gluten free, vegan, and free of 7 of the 8 common allergens - not to mention fantastic!  I'm thinking I might need to buy a six-pack of just these!!

    I saved what I expected to be the best for last: Salmon + Crackers.

    For those without food allergies and other sensitivities, those of us with them become very accustomed to inspecting everything we eat for our enemies.  For me: gluten, ginger, and onion.  Out of habit, I read over the label on the salmon.  When I came across both ginger and onion, I let out an audible sigh of dismay.  I already knew the fruit and nut mix was out of the question for me, but the salmon?!  :(  

    Sooooo...the Sweet Perry Orchards Ginger Zip Fruit & Nut Mix, GoPicnic Chili Lime Salmon Spread, and Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers (because it's just not right to give a spread without some crackers!) will be part of the December to Remember giveaway on Sunday.  Comment and/or follow to enter to win!!

    I'd tried the other 2 items - Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted Edamame and Brown & Haley Almond Roca Buttercrunch Toffee Candy - in previous GoPicnic meals.  They were as tasty today as they were earlier this week.  I ate the candy for dessert (after reheating some leftover simple, homemade chicken parmesan I just happened to have in the work fridge) and stuffed the edamame in my coat pocket for the Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo tonight.

    Again, be sure to comment and/or follow to enter to win!

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    peanut noodles & gopicnic tuna+crackers

    I've been a busy little eater.  It's what I do best.  On Monday I taste-tested two items: peanut noodles and a dolphin-safe tuna spread.

    For lunch, I decided to try A Taste of Thai Peanut Noodles.  According to their site, it's their most popular Quick Meal.  I can say one thing for sure - it gave my intern a strong craving for some Thai!  
    It was really quick, but the directions were a bit unclear.  The numbers go 1 - 3 - 2 - 4.  My mom (who's big in literacy and following directions) will be disappointed to know that I didn't read the numbers.  I ended up needing to stick the carton in the microwave a little longer, at which point it sprung a leak and had to be transferred to a bowl. 
    Although tasty (and spicier than it appears!) it didn't quite match the packaging.  It looked all brown and saucy, but mine was anything but.  It was yummy and filling, regardless.  I can't remember where I picked this up - either Kroger or Jungle Jim's.  There's a handy Find Item in a Store button.  However, it says they aren't within 50 miles of my zip code.  Odd.

    I haven't really been eating quite enough.  I know, you probably hate me for that.  I have an overactive thyroid but a fast metabolism.  It's confusing and means I need to eat lots of little meals (which I hear is healthier for folks anyway).  If I don't eat enough, I get a low blood pressure issue and, oftentimes, a migraine.  So these GoPicnic meals might be just what I needed!

    So after work (for second lunch), I decided to try another GoPicnic meal from their new gluten free variety pack (YUM!) I'd ordered on Amazon's Gluten Free zone.

    I'm not usually much on tuna.  I flipped a mental coin.  After all, I've got other meals I could pick.  But I want to like tuna.  It's cheap, healthy, and so many people go ga-ga for tuna salad!  OK.  Side A: give the Tuna + Crackers a shot.  Side B: give it away this Sunday.  The imaginary coin spun.  A won.

    The travel spork is my favorite!! 

    I'm sure the tuna is fabulous for those who enjoy tuna in the first place.  It was a spread with little tuna chunks, and the lemon & pepper flavors were not overwhelming.  They mixed well with the multi-seed crackers.  But I still wasn't feeling it.  I kicked myself a little for not just knowing & giving it away instead.  At least I tried.  The remainder of the meal was delicious!  The applesauce is very similar to Mott's Healthy Harvest Sauce...or maybe homemade without the chunks and sugar. 
    That's it for now, but look for my reviews of Turkey Pepperoni + Cheese, Turkey Stick + Crunch, and Sunbutter + Crackers - coming soon!!  I haven't yet tried the Salmon + Crackers and plan to do so tomorrow. 

    Convenience isn't so easy when you're gluten free.  It's immensely better now than just two years ago, let alone 10!  What's your favorite go-to snack?  Is there anything you miss and haven't yet found a suitable replacement?  For gluten-eater readers, what would you long for?

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    lazy gluten free chex mix

    With the holiday season upon us, I have been craving Chex Mix.  There are lots of varieties now, but I wanted the kind I was used to growing up, the original.  I couldn't find a plain old gluten free recipe, although the Chex website has a number of recipes available.  So I adapted the original, non-gluten free recipe. 

    The original:
    • 3 cups Corn Chex
    • 3 cups Rice Chex
    • 3 cups Wheat Chex*
    • 1 cup nuts*
    • 1 cup bite size pretzels
    • 1 cup bagel chips*
    • 6 tablespoons butter
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce**
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt***
    • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    *Omitted in my version tonight

    I lack gluten free Worcestershire sauce, although options are available.  I just don't use enough to justify buying a whole bottle.  The same can be said about seasoned salt; some has unnamed gluten as an ingredient.  I love the pretzels in Chex mix, so I replaced the nuts and bagel chips with more pretzels.  (In the past, I've added Kix-type cereals [the gluten status of Kix is debated] or popcorn.)  Tonight simplicity was my best friend.

    For the mix, I used:
    • 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex
    • 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex
    • 3 cups Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks

    **In place of Worcestershire:
    • 3 tablespoons San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce (a staple in the gluten free kitchen)
    • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    I use an extra tablespoon because the flavors tend to be a little less intense than traditional Worcestershire sauce.

    ***Instead of seasoned salt, I played around with spices.  I encourage you to use what smells & tastes best to you.  My mix:
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

    I've never before microwaved my Chex mix, but tonight (as I was cooking dinner) I decided to give it a shot.  
    • Mix the desired crunchies in a large microwavable bowl.  
    • In a separate smaller microwavable bowl, nuke the butter.  (I used 7 tablespoons instead of 6 because I love butter.)
    • Mix the seasonings into the butter bowl and stir well.  Pour onto the crunchies gradually, stirring as you pour.
    • Microwave for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring well every 2 minutes.  I emphasize this because I stirred, but not well.  When I pulled the Chex mix from the microwave, I had some stuck together in the center and smoking...  It made all the yummy kitchen smells absolutely dissipate. 
    • Spread onto paper towels to cool and keep in an airtight container.  

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    second winner & gopicnic's hummus + crackers

    This week I had 14 entries for the giveaway - 8 from last week and 6 new followers/comments.  Thanks for the love!
    All 14 entries in my Bengals hat from today's game

    The lucky winner: AlliesCreativeDesigns!  Congratulations!  Please email me your address to win your prize:
    For my gluten free followers (and those who'd like to check it out), I have a HUGE stack of Udi's Gluten Free coupons.  If you'd like some, please email me your address.  No, your information absolutely will not be sold, given away, or otherwise used.  (...unless you'd like personal Christmas and other special event cards from yours truly.)

    Also, a quick product review...  Last night before a delightful Christmas party, I was a little hungry and decided to try one of the 6 gluten free GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals I recently ordered via Amazon.  (Amazon has an excellent selection of gluten free items.)

    I received 6 meals directly from GoPicnic:
    • Hummus + Crackers
    • Sunbutter + Crackers
    • Tuna + Crackers 
    • Salmon + Crackers
    • Turkey Pepperoni + Cheese
    • Turkey Stick + Crunch (which I tried & reviewed in October when I first discovered these treats at Jungle Jim's)
    My meal of choice last night was Hummus + Crackers.  This particular meal is gluten free, vegan, and kosher.  The packaging is fun, with a Sudoku game inside the box.  The items included:

    The meal was delicious and filling, and I can't wait to try the next one!  The hardest part will be deciding which one.  Stay tuned for the review, and keep those comments coming for the next giveaway on Sunday!!

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    shortbread: the most frustrating cookie i've met

    Today was the annual gluten free cookie exchange with the Cincinnati Celiac Support Group.  Unfortunately Scott & I arrived terribly late due to the frustration of shortbread cookies.  A few months ago, I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill GF Shortbread Cookie Mix.  It happened to be 40% off but didn't expire until June 2012 or so.  When I thought of today's exchange, I thought this would be perfect.  Simple, Christmas-y, and traditional without being overdone, especially in the gluten free world.  The words "easy to prepare" definitely caught my eye.

    The ingredients were simple - the mix, 1 1/2 sticks of butter, and 2 tablespoons of water.  The directions said it would look dry and crumbly.  Oh, it was:

    I followed the next instructions and rolled it into a ball & smoothed it over, then tried to roll half of the dough out.  It's supposed to be rolled onto parchment paper and covered in plastic wrap, but that didn't work so well for me.  I tossed the dough back in the mixing bowl and added not 2 but 4 more tablespoons of water.  Repeat.  This worked much better.  I grabbed a star-shaped cookie cutter and tried to cut through the plastic wrap.  I got it, but they looked more like Patrick the Star than stars.  Eventually (realizing that it was already 3:15 and the exchange started 30 minutes away at 3:30) I rolled out the rest of the first half and threw it onto a cookie sheet.  (The second half is still in the fridge, awaiting further attention.  Tomorrow.)  I tossed my 12 stars and the circle of dough into the oven.  375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
    Not exactly my prettiest cookies (and they could use more butter for a taste that's more like Walker's, which I miss so much), but they were pretty popular at the exchange.

    When we arrived at the exchange, this was the pretty spread of cookies.  (Like I said, we were late...)

    I also took Rice Krispie treats, made with peppermint marshmallows.  Soon I'll post the recipes that folks brought: caramels, chocolate chip cookies with marshmallows, coconut macaroons.  Mmm.  

    While I was cooking my cookies, Scott grabbed the mail.  One of my Christmas presents had arrived.  He wrapped it and insisted that I open it.  As soon as the shortbread went in the oven, I did.  He got me business cards (with cute little owls) & a business card holder for my blog and had created an email address specifically for it.  Love it!!

    After the Bengals/Texans game, there will be the second drawing for December to Remember.  Here's the giveaway:
    Comment and/or follow to be entered to win!!  If you're reeeeally lucky, you might also get a selection of cookies.  :)

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    when butter was a food group

    Within an hour of getting home most days after work, I have popcorn.  By have I mean devour.  It's a good source of fiber (something important for everyone but especially gluten-free foodies), 100% whole grain, and an excellent vehicle for butter. 

    When I was little, my dad pointed out that neither my mom nor I can say butter without smiling.  Even our eyes smile! So I laughed out loud when I saw this early depiction of the 7 recommended food groups in the December issue of ShopSmart:

    I'm pretty sure these are the guidelines I follow, despite wanting to be a good little eater and abide by the new My Plate design:

    If you're heading to DC for the holidays (before January 3rd), What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government's Effects on the American Diet is on display at the National Archives and includes the first poster, which is from the 1940s.  Allergy folks couldn't agree more with the exhibit's tagline:

    Food.  We love it, fear it, and obsess about it.

    Which brings me back to popcorn...  Now, not all popcorn is gluten-free, although many varieties are, and some folks suggest just skipping the confusion and making your own with an air popper.  I have one and love it, but sometimes - at work, for example - it's a little cumbersome.  A lot of microwave popcorn is safe, but not all.  Personally, I trust Orville Redenbacher and love their Tender White.  I add freshly melted butter, as much as I'm in the mood for.  I've read that most microwave popcorn is safe, as are most movie theater options.  Best bet: check with the manufacturer. 

    Pure butter is gluten free, but spread, margarine, and butter sauce sometimes need a second look.

    Not much causes as much fear in my bones as crumbs in the butter dish.  For those in a shared house like me, be sure you have separate butters (as well as peanut butters, jars of mayonnaise, jelly, other condiments, and toasters).  It's also taken some training to stop myself from using the 5 second rule.  I feel wasteful if I drop something & don't eat it, but it's just not worth it. 

    For more information on popcorn, here are some links:
    Is Movie Theater Popcorn Gluten Free?
    Is Popcorn Gluten Free?
    Gluten Free Living: On Your Plate

    Remember: the second drawing will be this Sunday!  Follow and/or comment to enter these items!

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    december to remember 1st winner!

    For my first December to Remember giveaway, here is the prize:
    • Special Diet Solutions: Healthy Cooking Without Wheat, Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Yeast, or Refined Sugar by Carol Fenster, PhD
    • One $1 coupon for Udi's Gluten Free Foods (available at Kroger) 
    • One bag of PopCorners Popped Corn Chips in Kettle flavor
    Below are the 8 entries in my pink Santa hat:

    And my first winner is............robinlt_64!  Congratulations!  Amazing, the last to enter is the first to win!  Robin, please email me (or Facebook direct message) your address, and this will be shipped your way!  Best of luck with those gluten free cookies!

    Thanks to my 7 contestants and their 8 entries!  More to come next Sunday!  Keep those follows and comments coming!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    december to remember & gluten-free cookie exchange

    I'm getting in the Christmas spirit and have decided to join Granny Sue's News and Reviews & The Pauley Principle and host a December to Remember Giveaway.   'Tis the season of merriment and gift-giving. In that spirit, I will have at least 4 giveaways this month, maybe more.  Most but not all will be gluten-free themed; they'll also be useful.  This seemed a wonderful way to thank loyal followers and welcome new ones as we enter the chilly, stay-cozy-at-home months.

    To enter:
    Become a follower and comment on posts.  One comment = one entry. The names will be tossed in a Santa hat.  I'll draw a name on Sundays and notify winners in a post (so everyone knows).  The winner will need to email me their snail mail address or make arrangements for in-person delivery.  Since it's on Sundays, the contest will run from today until Christmas Day.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

    I won't share, sell, or otherwise misuse your information, and the giveaway costs you nothing!  And I get wonderful new readers & friendies :)

    In other news:  
    The Cincinnati Celiac Support Group is holding the 2011 Gluten-Free Holiday Cookie Exchange and kid's cookie decorating meeting on Saturday, December 10 from 3:30 to 6 pm at: 
    500 Springfield Pike
    Cincinnati, Ohio 45215

    All you need to do is bring gluten free cookies of your choice to share and trade with the rest of the group.  About 2 dozen cookies should be plenty, but you're welcome to bring more or fewer.  It's up to you!  But the more you bring, the more you can take home.  If you would like to share your recipes, bring multiple copies with you.

    Newly diagnosed?  Not a cook?  No worries! Check your local grocer (Kroger, Meijer, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Susan's Natural World, Jungle Jim's, etc.) for pre-made cookies. 

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    gluten-free noodles, pumpkin & squash pie, and dressing

    Yesterday my mom and I had a cooking extravaganza for our family's Thanksgiving dinner. My uncle & I are both gluten intolerant, so I had the pleasure of tending to our dishes and watching for opportunities for cross-contamination in the shared kitchen. Everything I had any interest in devouring was Jessi-friendly -- free of gluten, onion, ginger, and mushrooms!

    In preparation, I had picked up a few necessities at Jungle Jim's International Market and excitedly picked up a gluten-free pumpkin pie. I didn't realize until I was on the 2 hour journey to my parents' that the pie was gluten-free but not ginger-free. These pies definitely more than made up for that disappointment.

    Gluten-Free Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Pies
    Crust (yields 1 9-inch crust)
    1 1/4 c. King Arthur Flour gluten-free multi-purpose flour
    1 T sugar
    1/2 tsp xanthan gum
    6 T cold butter
    1 duck egg (or large egg)
    2 tsp lemon juice (or vinegar)

    Pie Filling (yields plenty of filling for 2 pies)
    1 small pumpkin (if using canned pumpkin, add 1 c. milk)
    1 small butternut squash (this gives a richer orange color without noticeably impacting the pumpkin taste)
    1 1/2 c. sugar
    2 tsps ground cinnamon
    1 tsp ground nutmeg
    1 tsp salt
    5 duck eggs (or 6 chicken eggs)
    2 cans (1 1/3 c.) evaporated milk

    Gluten Free Pie Crust (adapted from King Arthur's website)
    1. Grease pie plate.
    2. Whisk the flour, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.
    3. Cut butter into pats, then work into the mixture until it's crumbly with some larger, pea-sized chunks remaining.
    4. Whisk the egg and lemon juice until very foamy. Mix into the dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture holds together, adding 1-3 additional teaspoons cold water if necessary.
    5. Shape into a ball and chill for one hour (up to overnight).
    6. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before rolling.
    7. Roll out onto a piece of plastic wrap (or a silicone rolling mat or pie bag) that has been heavily sprinkled with flour. Invert the crust into the pie plate.
    8. Fill and bake per your recipe. It is a crumbly but yummy crust.
    9. To pre-bake without filling, preheat the oven to 375. Add pie weights and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the weights and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
    Ginger-Free Pie Filing:
    1. Halve the pumpkin and squash, remove seeds, and place in a baking pan in the oven face-down in 1 inch of water. Cook for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, squash, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
    3. Add eggs and lightly beat into the pumpkin mixture using a fork.
    4. Add the evaporated milk (and milk if not using fresh pumpkin). Mix well.
    5. Place two pastry-lined 9-inch pie plates on oven rack and pour in the pumpkin mixture.
    6. Shield the edges of the pie with foil, because the egg/lemon juice mix makes the pie vulnerable to burned edges.
    7. Bake in 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, until a knife inserted off-center comes out clean. Cool.
    8. Cover and chill to serve.

    Gluten-Free Noodles

    This family recipe from my great grandmother, Lily Rodgers Householder,has been adapted to be gluten-free.

    1 1/2 c. King Arthur Flour gluten-free multi-purpose flour (Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour will also work, but I've found that King Arthur works better, and both are preferable to soy flour. If making your own flour, a blend is best.)
    2 tsp. xanthan gum
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 T olive oil (approximately)
    3 duck eggs, lightly beaten
    6 c. chicken broth (approximately)
    Desired seasonings
    1. Pour the flour in a medium-sized bowl, creating a well in the center.
    2. Add salt to the well. Put the eggs in the well. Stir with a fork until, ideally, it becomes thick to stir. Don't become discouraged if it looks too crumbly to stick together. The initial recipe called for fewer eggs. I added an egg and a touch more olive oil when this happened:
    3. Knead and form a ball. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place. My warm place: atop the coffee pot.
    4. Roll out thin (1/8 inch thick) on a cutting board that has been generously sprinkled with flour. Cut into long noodles using a pizza wheel or knife.
    5. Thoroughly cover the noodles with flour and allow them to rest on a baking sheet to dry somewhat.
    6. Bring the broth to a boil and season to taste. We rendered broth from one of our own rainbow ranger chickens, but gluten-free broth from the store is perfectly fine as well. I seasoned with poultry seasoning, some salt, and fresh sage then strained into a separate pan.
    7. Slowly stir in the noodles and the extra flour sprinklings. This will thicken the broth.
    8. Cook 20 minutes or until the noodles are pliable, stirring frequently. These noodles love to stick to the bottom of the pan.
    9. Move to your desired serving dish and ENJOY!

    Gluten-Free Stuffing

    8 slices Udi's Gluten Free White Sandwich Bread (or your preferred bread)
    4 T butter
    1 stalk celery, sliced
    Poultry seasoning
    3 c. broth
    1. Toast and break up the bread. Set aside.
    2. Melt the butter and add sliced celery.
    3. Season with poultry seasoning, sage, and salt to taste.
    4. Pour onto the bread and stir.
    5. Add broth and continue to season, until the bread is the desired taste.
    6. Cook at 325 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the stuffing is browned.

    Other sides included in our meal:
    • Green olives
    • Black olives
    • Veggie plate
    • Chebe breadsticks from Jungle Jim's
    • Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (not GF)
    • Chex mix (not GF)
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Gravy (gluteny and gluten-free versions)
    • Gluteny noodles
    • Gluteny stuffing
    • Cranberry jelly
    • Date pudding (gluteny and gluten-free versions)

    Our meal included 9 items that were homegrown:
    • 1 rainbow ranger chicken (for broth and as a meat choice)
    • 1 butternut squash
    • 1 pumpkin
    • Numerous duck eggs
    • Sage
    • Green beans
    • Corn
    • Persimmon (used in our family-recipe date pudding)
    • Potatoes
    We normally would have had our own sweet potatoes with some homemade maple syrup, but the sweet potato crop was dismal this year.

    Mom & I had a blast and certainly learned a lot about cooking simultaneously in a shared kitchen and how to avoid the many risks of cross-contamination!

    If there's anything in particular you'd like to fix for a gluten-free loved one, I'd be happy to play around in the kitchen until we've got something that works for you - hopefully before the big day!