Tuesday, February 28, 2012

new snacking crave: mischievous marshmallows

Part of the excitement of a gluten free diet is finding fun, new flavors and textures.  When I first switched to this diet, my initial experiences made me fear that everything would be bland and grainy.  If only I'd known about Marshmallow Mischief then! 

With a satisfying crunch and sweetness that isn't cloying, these bite-sized treats made with gourmet marshmallow and organic brown rice are delightful.  The day before the extraction of my wisdom teeth, I received this lovely Mischievous Sampler.  To me, it was perfect timing.  I tried a few that very night.  This little package was a great enticement during those chipmunk-cheek days as I longed for food with a crunch.
 Enclosed in the lovely box:
Top row from left to right:
  • The Big Kapuna  Macadamia + White Chocolate
    This one was eaten in my car after a long day at work, one of those Murphy's law days.  It was a terrific pick-me-up, and I loved the macadamia nut on top.  I'm not usually into white chocolate, but this was delightful.
  • Tall, Dark & Crispy  Organic Dark Chocolate
    This is ideal for chocolate lovers.  Mom, I'm sorry I didn't save you one.  I ate both - the second while writing this post!
  • Plain Jane  Natural Vanilla
    With its simplicity, this one might be my favorite go-to flavor.  It was the first I tried, and I shared it with my boyfriend's mom, who agreed. 
Middle Row:
  • Peace, Love & Peanut Butter  Cinnamon + Puree Peanut
    This was very tasty, but it was more cinnamon and less peanut butter than I expected. 
  • A second Tall, Dark & Crispy (in lieu of Gingerlicious due to my ginger allergy, which I thought was quite thoughtful)
  • Italian Kiss  Hazelnut + Milk Chocolate
Bottom Row:
  • One, Two, Chai! Chai! Chai!  Masala Spice Tea
    I'm not generally a fan of chai, although I love the smell of it.  For those like me, think of this flavor as pumpkin spice.  (I sampled a bite but overall avoided this one due to my ginger issue.) 
  • Lava Aloha  Coconut + Milk Chocolate
    I knew it would be my favorite flavor.  In the midst of Girl Scout cookie season, this was a dream.  It's like the cookie I miss most: the Samoa (formerly called a Caramel DeLight).  Mmm.  As soon as I finished it, I wanted another. 
  • A second Plain Jane
I forgot to mention the very best part - they're all gluten free!!  I'm a fan of Rice Krispie treats, but these are waaaaaaay better.  They knocked it out of the park.

Interested in trying some?  Check out Marshmallow Mischief's website to order.  Want to know more about the company?  The site has the company's back story, or you can check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy eating!  :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

the question of malt vinegar

I'm going into this post knowing it will be controversial.  Nevertheless, I'm writing it & littering it with disclaimers. 
I adore malt vinegar.  When I was little, vinegar would make my tummy feel better - whether via salt & vinegar chips, pickles, or chips dipped in mustard.  The smell of it takes me back to my grandmother making pickles in the basement.  The problem: malt vinegar is generally made from barley.  Barley has gluten. 

Before realizing that malt vinegar is on the not approved list for those with a gluten intolerance, I remember snacking on some delicious fair-style fries smothered in malt vinegar just over a year ago.  I'd already been diagnosed with my intolerance, but I didn't have a problem.  The necessary amount of time passed without a symptom.  Still, I stayed away from malt vinegar just in case.  No need to risk a good thing.

Until last week.  It was shortly before my wisdom teeth were removed.  I gave in to the craving for more fries with vinegar, knowing I would feel rough and be unable to eat for the next few days anyway.  I'd already noticed that I was unintentionally losing weight already, so any chance at extra calories is good.  I don't condone cheating on the diet, and trial by error (especially without medical supervision) is definitely not something I recommend.  But when it's a restriction diet and you're losing weight & hungry, facing down surgery that will prevent eating solid food for a few days, sometimes you just have to give in. 

I hadn't eaten anything else and doused the fries in the vinegar, so as to keep my variables controlled in the experiment.  A half hour passed.  45 minutes went by.  An hour and a half later, still no reaction.  I made it!  But that made me question the past two years.  If I can eat malt vinegar, have I not really needed this (expensive and sometimes hassling) gluten free diet for the past 2+ years?!?  (I've since had it again, and still no reaction.)

Upon some research, I found that malt vinegar is, indeed, made with barley, and barley does have gluten.  I'm not crazy or woefully misled.  I've read that malt vinegar is gluten free if distilled and isn't if brewed.  I have no independent verification of this. The first reading I came across and found credible was from Peter Bronski at No Gluten, No Problems

According to Coeliac UK:

Barley malt vinegar is made using a fermentation process. The end product only contains a trace amount of protein (and therefore gluten), which is well below the level which is safe for most people with coeliac disease. In addition, barley malt vinegar is only usually eaten in small amounts, for example, drained pickled vegetables, sauces with a meal, on chips.

Balsamic, cider, sherry, white wine and red wine vinegars are not made from barley and are also suitable for a gluten-free diet.

Nonetheless, it's still not on the approved list in the US.  If you or someone you love is gluten intolerant, I don't suggest chancing it.  Those of us with a gluten sensitivity - Celiac disease, intolerance, or a wheat allergy - are diverse with wide-ranging symptoms.  I'm not even a fraction of the percentage of folks in this country with a gluten issue, so I'm hardly a reliable sample size. 

But it did let me learn more about myself and this interesting condition.  I'm sensitive enough that I cannot eat toppings off of regular pizza crust or eat fries cooked with chicken nuggets (like my uncle can), but I'm not so sensitive that I have to avoid malt vinegar.  To me, that's a small victory.  Fries with vinegar were part of one of my first solid meals now that my soreness from the wisdom teeth extraction is subsiding.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

gluten free cajun in the queen city

Okay, gluten free foodies, you know that super cool restaurant you love to walk past & smell but are anxious to try?  I bit the bullet this month.  J. Gumbo's Cajun Joint is located in my building at work, and they have gluten free options!  (Just remember to order it without bread or cornbread!)
  • Voodoo chicken - Tender chicken cooked with garlic & olive oil in a SPICY tomato sauce. Served over rice.
  • Bourbon street chicken - Tender chicken glazed with a slightly sweet butter hoisin sauce. Served over rice.
  • Bumblebee stew - Yellow corn, stewed tomatoes, onions & black beans in a sweet & spicy cream sauce. Served over rice.
  • Jambalaya - Creole-style jambalaya with tender chicken, bell peppers, sausage, rice, celery, & onion.
  • Red beans & rice - Slow-cooked Camellia beans served with smoked sausage, onions & celery over rice.
  • White chili - Cajun white bean chili with stewed tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapeno peppers & a hint of dill. Served with rice.
When - not if - you go, you'll be invited to try a sample.  The portions are generous and delicious, and the prices are reasonable. 

Believe it or not, voodoo chicken and bourbon street chicken - the most popular options - are both onion- and gluten-free.  That means a happy Jessi.

Bourbon Street Chicken, which has a buttery sweetness that's delectable

Want to get to know J. Gumbo's?  Find them on Twitter and Facebook!

J. Gumbo's on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 17, 2012

gluten free cheesesticks

Hello, Gluten Free World!  I really haven't forgotten about you.  It's been quite a hectic month.  The boyfriend had a spot of skin cancer removed that ended up being a bit larger than anticipated, the family's 20-year-old cat had to be put to sleep due to malignant tumors, I started an anatomy & physiology course (while still working 45 hours a week), and my wisdom teeth were removed yesterday.  Woohoo!

For Valentine's Day, the boyfriend went all out.  I hadn't eaten a cheesestick in 2 1/2 years.  When I got home from work, he surprised me with some :)
 It was AWESOME!!  They were part of a wonderful dinner: mini salad bar, grilled steak, grilled asparagus, green beans, and tater tots.  Mmm.  That morning, he'd surprised me by decorating our bathroom:
So on Wednesday, he helped me make more cheesesticks.  This recipe is his own creation, so you're welcome to make variations as needed.

  • Udi's bread 
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T garlic powder
  • Mozzarella cheesesticks
  • 2 eggs 
  • Canola oil - about 3 inches deep in a saucepan
  • Spring roll wrappers - We found some that are gluten free in our neighborhood Kroger
Chop the bread in a food processor.  Add the parsley, salt, and garlic powder.
 Slice the cheesesticks in half.  With the first run, Scott froze the cheesesticks for about 45 minutes prior to cooking.  On Wednesday, he didn't.  They both turned out very well.
Heat the oil as you whisk the eggs together.

Here we used 1 of my parents' farm fresh Speckled Sussex eggs (top) and a store bought egg (bottom).  You can see the difference in color between the two.  The yolk of a farm-fresh egg is more firm and well-defined. 
Cut the spring roll wrappers in half, dip in water, and wrap a cheesestick in it.  
The spring roll wrappers will become soft and can be clipped to size.  Roll the wrapped cheesestick in the egg wash and cover - no, smother - in breadcrumbs.  Smoosh the breadcrumbs onto the cheesestick.

With the oil at about 365 degrees, drop in the cheesestick.  It will cook quickly, less than 2 minutes.  Judge it by the color & texture of the breadcrumbs.  (If the temperature is too high, the crumbs will cook but the cheese will remain room temperature.)
 Yummy!!!  This breading was absolutely terrific. 

Enjoy :)  And if you have a variation you'd suggest, please let me know!  Happy eating!