Friday, January 20, 2012

Turning over a new (grain-free, GAPS friendly) pancake...

Zucchini Pancakes
(Grain-free, GAPS friendly)


It has been a while since I've posted, and I wasn't sure where to start... but pancakes seemed like a good segue, I mean, food is always a good icebreaker, right? As I've struggled to regain my health after living with undiagnosed Celiac Disease long enough for it to really take a toll on my body, I've experimented with a few dietary changes to see what I can eat or not eat to feel better (be in less pain, have more energy). I need to add here, figure this out with very little real help from my medical doctors. Not for my lack of asking, though. Some of the gems from them:

"At this point, you really know more about Celiac Disease than I do."
"I don't know what to tell you. I'm happy to keep running tests, though."
"Still can't gain weight? Isn't there, like, a cake or something you can eat?"
"My supervisor says you can't have any more physical therapy sessions - we're way over the allowance."
"Probiotics? Why would you take those?"

Those of you that are in the same boat as me are likely nodding in understanding. Those of you that haven't experienced this, well, it's pretty common.

I am fortunate in so many ways. One of those is the support of my family. My parents are great (anyone that knows me or knows them would agree)! My mom should probably receive an honorary science degree at this point. She has spent much of her free time researching how to get me healthy. If you were to add up the combined hours she and I have spent on research, it would be pretty impressive. I still have some Celiac brain-fog, so her brain-power is invaluable!

It is pretty clear, after thousands of hours of looking that unless your disease can be fixed with a pill, it's under-researched. Fortunately, people are figuring out how to get healthy anyway. There is more and more information out there, but it takes weeding through the bad stuff to find the relevant and useful information.

It is also pretty clear that there is a pretty large percentage of people with Celiac Disease who are not getting healthy with simply eating gluten-free.

Enter the GAPS diet.

First created for children with behavioral and learning disabilities, and modeled after the Specific Carbohydrate Diet , it seems that quite a few Celiac patients have had success with this diet (so have people with schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, rheumatoid arthritis and ADHD to name a few others). After much research and deliberation, we decided this was the next thing I would try. I ordered the book and recipe book, retreated to my parents house for a long Christmas break, and jumpstarted the diet there with the help of all hands on deck. More on my experiences with that later!

Fast forward one month. I'm on the last stages of the "introduction diet" and finally feeling ready to start experimenting with food and sharing my successes (well, and maybe some failures, too).

We've been making these primarily with almond butter, but if you're avoiding nuts, sunbutter works as well. Expect more in my pancake series soon. These pancakes make good plain slabs of bread for many uses: we've made mini roast beef sandwiches or added cinnamon, baked apples and kefir or yogurt for a sweeter treat. For mini PB&J type sandwiches, slather with your favorite nut butter and thin-sliced (or smashed) fruit of choice.

Zucchini Pancakes

1 small zucchini
1 egg
1 heaping tbsp almond butter
salt to taste

Mix ingredients in a blender or food processor. Spoon or pour small circles (slightly bigger than silver dollars) into medium hot nonstick pan. Turn when edges dry and a few bubbles rise.

Easy enough, right? Now some explanation on the cooking - this will likely take you a few trial pancakes. My gas stove needs to be just under medium heat - make sure the pan is hot before spooning in the batter. They turn out best in the Scanpan with no grease, however in a stainless pan or griddle I need to use lots of butter, ghee or coconut oil. They won't bubble like gluten-y pancakes, but they should form some bubbles. After you get the hang of it, it will be easy!

We tend to make big batches and keep them in the refrigerator.  Wrap in a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture before putting them in a ziplock. They re-warm well. They're decent cold, and good grab and go food when you can't just stop at a 7-11 for a bag of chips and a slurpee. In fact, I need to go package some up for tonight's chorus rehearsal!




Monday, September 26, 2011

Banana Almond Butter Pancakes


I have to admit - stopping long enough to take
this picture was difficult!
I've already explained this little thing I have with Sunday nights. I always get a burst of energy that comes with a creative urge to do something that is probably a much larger endeavor than I should attempt. Maybe it's a sad attempt to prolong the inevitable Monday morning. This website is actually the fault of a Sunday night...but I digress. Yesterday was a lovely Sunday: the weather was finally showing signs of fall, I had some minor successes in the kitchen (quick bratwurst recipe coming soon!), and we had come from the farmers market with some great finds.

As I stood in the kitchen with restless energy, knowing very well that my hunger was going to drive my evening late night activities, I looked around to see what was available. Sadly, while we had bought some beautiful dino egg pluots and fresh apples, that certainly wasn't going to be enough to fill the giant void in my stomach nor sooth my creative impulse. It occurred to me that we hadn't done the "regular" shopping, so I'd have to improvise.

Two of the pluots from the market needed to be eaten right away. More on that later. With that in mind, I gathered these rather pathetic looking ingredients (including my very last and seriously overripe banana) and preheated the oven. 

almond butter, spice (coffee) grinder, egg, banana, dried coconut
Had I known this creation would turn out so well, I would've done it much sooner. 

Banana Almond Butter Pancakes
with Sweet Roasted Pluots

Pancakes



1 tbsp almond butter
1 egg
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp coconut flour*
pinch of cinnamon, optional
Butter or coconut oil (for cooking)

*I generally don't have coconut flour on hand, so I throw dried, shredded (unsweetened!) coconut into the spice grinder (which is a coffee grinder we don't use for coffee) for 20-30 seconds. Works great, although it's best to do more than 2 tbsp at a time, so I put what's left in a baggie and save it for next time. 

Serves one hungry person or two less hungry people!

Directions (this is pretty darn easy)

1. Combine almond butter, egg, banana, coconut flour (and cinnamon) with a fork until blended, smashing and stirring until most or all of the banana lumps are gone.
2. Heat oil/butter in your favorite frying pan over medium-low heat (we used a non-stick for this)
3. Cook on medium-low (or low) until golden brown on each side. These do not bubble the same way "regular pancakes" do - watch for the edges to start to cook, and just a few bubbles to form before flipping them.

I found that these pancakes cook best in oil/butter so they will brown well rather than burn.

I'm sure this would work with a hand blender, but it was fast this way
...and that's one less thing to drag out/clean/put away!
Ready to flip!

Sweet Roasted Pluots

pluots (we used two)
sugar (if they need sweetening)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Wash and cut pluots into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with sugar (brown or white). I'm sure honey would be a great sweetener (let me know how they turn out if you try it).
Roast 10-15 minutes until soft. We used a glass baking dish.
If you want the sugar to caramelize, place it under the broiler.

We started the pluots and put them in the oven before cooking the pancakes. The timing seemed just right.
Pluots just out of the oven
Enjoy! I ate this with a large dollop of whipped cream because I had some cream in the fridge. It would  be fabulous with some coconut whipped cream or just some straight coconut cream drizzled over it. 

Our lazy kitchen hack for the whipping cream was to pour it into a short glass and use a milk frother. It worked! The poor frother thought it was a bit much, but it was easier than dragging out the big guns!

Note the cute little heart on the bottom right! I did that on purpose.
Actually, I didn't, but I learned that wherever there was no butter, the pancake got darker.
Pretty cool if you ask me. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mmmmmm...Meatballs!

Italian Meatballs with awesome sauce - a very geometric dinner.
(Yes, slangsters, I just said "awesome sauce")
What's for dinner? It seems to be the forever unresolved question, since I'm not exactly the queen of planning ahead, and well...I'm always hungry. While a bit more than a 30 minute meal, these meatballs are versatile, make excellent left overs (if you can keep any that long), and make use of things you likely have in the fridge already. This meal actually came about from a conversation that started something like, "what am I supposed to do with all of this left over pulp from juicing?"
Juice = meatballs. Yep, makes sense to me.

This recipe can easily be doubled if you'd like to have more left over, or maybe freeze some for next week.

Italian Meatballs


1 pound ground meat (I used beef this time. Beef/pork is a great combination)
1 egg
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
Juicer pulp from 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery (with leaves) and 1 apple (gala or fuji)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayanne pepper
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped


Preheat oven to 350. Mix all meatball ingredients (by hand is best!) in a large bowl.
If you don't have carrot/celery/apple pulp - you can use the same ingredients grated or chopped, but use half of the original amount. The apple is optional, but does provide a very subtle mouthwatering sweetness.
Shape meat into golf ball sized balls. Arrange in mini-muffin tins for great browning, or just put them all in a square glass baking pan.
Bake until lightly browned, 30-35 minutes.

What's the white stuff? Salt. Yeah, I forgot to mix it in, so I just
sprinkledit on top before cooking. Turned out really well!
The verdict around the table was that it was plenty salty.
Not that I'd generally recommend forgetting the salt...
(Awesome) Sauce


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
4 tomatoes, diced (I used two romas and two small dark heirlooms from the garden)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
sea salt (to taste)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan or saute pan on medium high. Add all ingredients except fresh herbs (If you have the patience to saute the onions and garlic first, go for it, but I threw everything in tonight and it was great!). Add fresh rosemary (to be removed later!). If you don't have fresh rosemary, use 1/4 tsp dried. Cover and cook on medium heat until tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes.
Remove lid and cook out excess moisture. Remove rosemary. Add fresh basil, stir and serve!

Need I say it again? Sauce. Awesome.



Meatballs can be elegant - just add soft lighting and fresh rosemary.

Variations, thoughts, improvements


-The meatballs would be great with all kinds of different herbs - some fresh parsley or sage would be fabulous. I take it kind of easy on seasonings, so dump 'em on in if you feel like it.
-If you want saucier meatballs, cook them in the sauce. You may want to add a little tomato paste with a touch of water.
-This would be a great pot luck dish out of a crock pot - needs some extra sauce to wade in and some toothpicks for serving.
-This would taste amazing on or with my new favorite rosemary almond bread (recipe forthcoming)
-If you want spaghetti and meatballs, serve on cooked spaghetti squash or grated zucchini

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tasty Grain-Free Almond Meal Cheese Crackers


I have gone grain-free. Grain. Free. Why, oh, why would I do that to myself? Well, in short, I'm not healthy yet. I'm not totally recovered from my standing-too-close-to-the-Grimm-Reaper experience a couple years back. Going gluten-free helped... I was able to do some work, and limited socializing, but I'm not all the way back to me yet. Frankly, that sucks. So, willing to do anything that's fairly low risk, and after reading a bunch on cross-contamination and cross-reactivity, I decided to give it a shot. It's only been two weeks, but I already have more energy and am sleeping better. My appetite is more normal, too. The side-effect is that I think about food. A lot. Especially the new list of things I can't have! I'd finally adjusted, and now this?

There's good news though! Shopping is easier! There is very little label reading, because I'm not buying many things in packages. The other thing? I love the internet. I mean, seriously... we can share ideas and successes and failures. And, of course -- ingredients and recipes. I've gotten a ton of inspiration from the Paleo/Caveman Diet people and the Raw Foodists. I've found some wonderful and naturally gluten-free ideas from those communities!

So, these little crackers were such a welcome addition to my grain-free world. I was amazed how much they look like Wh*** Thins (bad word!), and how much better (and more versatile) they are! Last night, I toasted them and make mini-pizzas. But that's a story for another time.

Let's talk about almonds and almond meal for a moment. This is one of the areas that the world hasn't quite come to an agreement on. For our purposes, however, some definitions:

Almond Meal: A more coarse version of almond flour that generally keeps the skins on the almonds
Almond Flour: Made from either blanched ground almonds or fine powdery remnants of cutting almonds.

Both types can be purchased, and not all brands are equal. Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour is rather coarse while Honeyville Blanched Almond Meal Flour is a much finer flour.

Whatever you get, store it in the freezer. All of the yummy nut oils can go rancid, so unless you're using it fairly quickly, keep it sealed up and cold. It's a good idea to let it warm to room temperature before baking with it. If you use it frequently, store a week's worth in your pantry.

For this recipe, I prefer a coarser Almond Meal. And, if you're feeling spunky, you can make your own (it's truly not that hard, and I love the fresh taste). I buy raw almonds from my local farmers' market.

Homemade Almond Meal

Place raw almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet or pie pan
Roast in the oven at 375° for 7-9 minutes

Almonds are done when they are fragrant and slightly less soft. They will become more crisp as they cool. The inside should just be starting to change to a more golden color. If they turn brown, they will taste burnt or toasty. Don't throw those away... chop them up and serve them on ice-cream!

Remove from pan (almonds will keep cooking slightly)
Allow to cool before processing (I make a big batch to snack on days in advance)
Pulse almonds in the food processor until they are a rough meal. If it starts to turn into almond butter, you've gone too far!

Tasty Grain-Free Almond Meal Cheese Crackers

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup grated cheese (I prefer Sharp Cheddar)
1 egg white
Salt to taste (1/4 tsp or so)
Baking Soda (optional - I put in about 1/6 tsp)

Pre-heat oven to 350°
Cut two pieces of parchment paper the size of a cookie sheet (the parchment is important!)

Mix almond meal, cheese, salt and baking soda thoroughly. I pulse it in the food processor for fast and easy mixing.
Add egg white and mix thoroughly. This will turn it into dough.
Place dough between the two sheets of parchment and roll thin. Try to cover as much of the baking sheet as possible - rolling dough very thin. Thin = crispy!
Cut to desired cracker size (1-2 inch squares) with a pizza cutter

Bake at 350 for 10-13 minutes. It should be brown around the edges.
Cool and enjoy!

Roasted Almonds

Rolling out the dough

Cut before cooking

I stayed up late snacking on these crackers and deciding my next use for them. I think next time I'll add garlic and herbs. Mmmm. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fried Bananas with Cinnamon and Maple Syrup


I spent this last weekend in beautiful Primm, NV. Yup. Have you ever been to Primm? Heard of it?It's the place with three casinos and a roller coaster right on the border of Nevada and California. Don't be too overwhelmed with excitement, now, but did you know Buffalo Bill's Resort and Casino has a buffalo shaped swimming pool? No, seriously....

(Note the lack of people. The water was freezing...and pretty dirty).

The good news is that the weekend was filled with music. There were singers from CA, Nevada and Southern Utah. We all performed, then stayed up 'til 2am singing and carrying on, and fortunately, the management was insightful enough to give us a suite at the very end of the hallway to use just for that purpose. Didn't even get one noise complaint (unlike *cough* some events *cough*).

The bad news is there was really nothing for me to eat there. I mean, I could've probably wrestled with some manager somewhere and ended up with a dry piece of plain chicken or a salad, but seriously, in the crowded land of cheap buffets and booze, I really didn't want to take that risk. Fortunately, we've upgraded our road-trip travel kitchen to include a hotplate, GREATLY expanding the menu choices from just the rice cooker. (Shhh! Don't tell management!)


Ok, that's the last unrelated picture for the day, I promise =)

So, here's the thing... unless I want to bring the ENTIRE kitchen to an event like this, food gets a little repetitive. So, when I get home and am cranky, sleepy, and exhausted, I really crave something new. So, tonight, while staring blankly at the pile of accumulated mail, I noticed the over-stock of bananas left over from the trip.

So, fried bananas it was.

It's a good thing I have a man that enables allows me indulge in these late night impulse-cooking sessions. =)

So, we fired up the stove. It was easy and tasty. We came up with a great, simple dessert that would also be great with ice cream or french toast.

Fried Bananas with Cinnamon and Maple Syrup

Ingredients

Bananas, 1 per person, quartered
Butter (salted), 1 tbsp per banana
Sugar, 1 tbsp per banana
Maple syrup to taste
Cinnamon to taste

Directions

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat
Sprinkle sugar on a small saucer or plate
Place flat side of each banana into the sugar, then place in pan
Cook for 6-8 minutes, until banana is golden brown
Drizzle maple syrup over each banana piece, then turn over
Cook 3-5 more minutes until bananas are cooked through

Remove from heat and sprinkle with cinnamon
Enjoy the gooey, warm, caramelized tasty goodness with fresh berries or ice cream!

Here are some photos from the process. Perfect golden brown. That's a scan pan in case you were wondering:

For our first batch, we didn't add the maple syrup. Still tasty. Have I mentioned I love blackberry season?

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celiac Disease Awareness Month

Welcome to May. On the heels of headline-worthy world-wide news lurks some of the lesser-known observances in May. The National Health information center at healthfinder.gov lists over 33 health-related observances this month. Why do we need to know about Toxic Encephalopathy or Cornelia de Lange Syndrome? I say, it is precisely for the same reason many of you just made a face, raised an eyebrow, or stumbled over those few words: because we don’t know much about them, and they affect people on a daily basis. I’ll save my soapbox lecture about health research and pharmaceutical companies, but I will state that the less well-known a disease is, the harder it is to find good information and care. Some conditions make day-to-day living an obvious chore, while others silently cripple with very little notice from the outside world.

I urge you to learn about something new. Find out about Sj√∂gren’s Syndrome, Type 1 Diabetes or Hashimoto’s Disease. Statistically, you’ll know someone with one of these, and might not know it. Understand thy neighbor; walk a mile in their shoes. You’ll probably get along a lot better if you do. I’ll get you started.

May is Celiac Disease awareness month.

If you know me, if you know someone that has Celiac, you know of the existence of this condition. You may not know what each day is like. I’ll do my best to explain. It’s a long post... but you get a gold star if you make it all the way to the end. If you are gluten-free, there’s nothing new here, but do feel free to share this link if you don’t want to write your own explanation.

I don’t write to receive pity or sympathy. I simply want to share in the hope that I can help even one person understand. Statistically, it is projected that 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease. Only about 3% of those are diagnosed. I’d venture to say you know at least one person that is affected... whether or not you (or they) know it.

I’ll start out by acknowledging that each person with Celiac has a unique experience. Some have an easy time of it and never become ill. Some have to quit their jobs, change their lives, and take years to regain their health. All need to avoid gluten (wheat, rye, barley and contaminated grains like most oats). Celiac not only destroys the lining of the small intestine (the villi, actually), it can also keep the body from getting the vital nutrients it needs. I could write pages on what that can do, but suffice it to say, it can effect every system in the body.

I happen to be one of the lucky few that had a health crisis in order to come to my diagnosis. I say “lucky” only sort of in jest. I am motivated to never “cheat” on my “diet”. When you are faced with eating a certain way as the only way to help you stay functional, it doesn’t even cross your mind to knowingly consume something you shouldn’t. It’s not a preference, it’s a need. In that, I am indeed lucky.

Just Don’t Eat It

It sounds fairly easy to avoid gluten. Don’t eat bread. Eat fruits, veggies, meat, and legumes. Even rice and buckwheat are ok! But it’s not that simple. How were they processed? Were they prepared on a surface where there was bread or flour? Did the meat get a drop of soy sauce (most has wheat) on it from the pre-marinated chicken that can be purchased at most supermarkets? Were the chickpeas hauled in a truck or stored in a silo that previously held wheat? I found a piece of wheat (might have been barley) in my minute rice once (no, it wasn’t un-hulled rice, verified by a farmer). Consider that for a moment. I look at every grain of rice that I am going to eat.

Here’s a fun fact: Wheat flour can stay airborne for 24 hours. Think of the implications: eating at friends' houses, walking past the bakery in the grocery store, eating at a pizza place that proudly advertises gluten-free pizza. Q: If I breathe wheat flour, will I get sick? A: Depends. How much? For how long? How sensitive am I that day?

I have indeed been “glutened” in a similar way. High school kids stepping on Cheerios made a huge mess outside my classroom. When I went out to tell them to clean it up, a big gust of wind came up - Cheerio dust in my eyes and nose found its way in, even though I immediately washed out every crevice in my face and mouth. It was not a good afternoon.

For the record, it is a big argument even in the medical community how much gluten will cause a reaction. Ask any sensitive Celiac and they will tell you, it really only takes a a speck or crumb.

Each Day

On a “regular” day, food is very much the center of attention. I have to plan every bit of food I consume. Personally, my system is so sensitive that I’ve had to eliminate not just gluten, but caffeine, corn, and much processed food. I’m also on a high calorie diet. So, someone has to prepare five meals a day for me. Hint: that someone does not make minimum wage, wear a paper hat or a green apron. All of that food is prepared at home.

Even products at the store marked “gluten-free” aren’t always safe. There are more rules about catching trout than there are about labeling foods. Sometimes they are processed on lines that have processed wheat. Some products (like a certain rice milk) were processed with barley enzymes - a process that does not need to be labeled. The standard is anything with “less than 20 parts per million” can be labeled GF and are “generally recognized as safe”. Studies have shown some Celiacs can react to less than that.

Aside from food, any product that might possibly make its way to any mucous membrane needs to be free of gluten. Yes, some Celiacs still use shampoo with wheat germ oil. I’m not interested in taking that risk, thank you. Everything that comes into my house gets screened. And by everything, I mean everything, including: soap, lotion, cat food (she likes to lick my face...it’s weird), vitamins, feminine hygiene products (yes, I found one that has wheat in it), toothpaste, dental floss, makeup, etc. I even throw away the first paper towel because some adhesives contain gluten, and the manufacturer states that it might. Might be excessive, but I’m not taking that risk.

Even kisses are screened. When he gets a brownie, so do I, whether I want one or not.

Interacting With People

I am a people person. My career and personal life put me in a position where I am with people a lot. Whenever there are groups of people, there will be food. An example: I sing in a chorus with some wonderful, amazing women. At an all day rehearsal, invariably these lovely ladies will bring food to share. Therefore, lined up at the entrance of the room is a table full of pizza, crumb cake, bagels, cake and donuts. I love that about them - a wonderful gesture, right? It’s not a problem for me to smile and walk past the table. I’ve even learned to be happy for everyone else that they can eat cake. BUT... picture THAT many crumbs on hands, tables, chairs, and my favorite: if you speak while eating, food WILL come out of your mouth. It might land on my food, it might land in my eye, or in my mouth. Yes it’s disgusting, but for me it’s also dangerous. That happened to me at a funeral once. No kidding. Someone was eating a chocolate-chip cookie and sprayed cookie crumbs directly into my face. Talk about a bad day made worse.

If someone refuses your handshake, don’t take it personally. Maybe they have a life-threatening peanut allergy and just saw you eating mixed nuts. Maybe they are immunocompromised (like me) and don’t want to catch a bug that you just picked up from the doorknob on the way out of the bathroom after washing your hands.

Eating Out

There are very, very few restaurants that can accommodate me. Even if it says “gluten-free” on the menu, it doesn’t mean it can be prepared safely. Have you even been served water at a restaurant and seen a crumb floating in it? Have you ever ordered your dressing on the side, yet there was a drip of it on your salad? Or a stray spaghetti noodle? Seen a waiter accidentally stick his thumb in food before serving it to you?

Last time I went to PF Chang’s (they are usually VERY good), it took them three tries to get my order right. By that time I was so anxious about whether or not what they gave me was safe that I could hardly eat it. Happy Birthday to me. Next year, I’ll eat at home.

In my kitchen at home I’ve replaced most of my cookware. I can’t expect most places to have safe cookware. I got sick once when I make my GF rice pasta at a friend’s house - in retrospect, it was probably a little gluten hiding under the little rivets that hold the handle on. Or maybe the lid. I wouldn’t dream of sharing a colander with “regular” pasta.

At another local restaurant, after reviewing their GF menu, speaking with the manager,
being assured that they use safe practices in the kitchen, I still got hit hard. I spent the next eight hours curled up on my bathroom floor writhing in pain. When that happens, it usually takes a couple weeks to feel normal again.

Socializing and Holidays

Much of our social life really does revolve around food. How often have you been at the “main event” (movie, ball game, work, rehearsal), and someone wants to hang out longer, so they suggest going out to eat? Happens all the time. Girls night/boys night out almost always starts with dinner. Then the question becomes - should we invite the one with the “weird food issues”? And if we do, does that mean we can’t go out to our favorite place with those great desserts?

Just about any holiday brings with it its own set of food traditions. When I’m at home in the safety of my own kitchen, I can make anything gluten-free. Cake, stuffing, casseroles, pasta...done! When heading elsewhere, I don’t count on it. I’m ok with bringing my own food. But I admit it’s hard. When everyone else is sampling the turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits, cookies and cakes, it is difficult. Even harder when the person sitting next to you is getting biscuit crumbs everywhere and keeps reaching over your plate. Oh, and then takes his apple-pie laden fork and points at something in the middle of your plate (I’m not making this stuff up, folks!). It's hard to not feel assaulted sometimes.

Turkey is gluten-free, isn’t it?

Well, naturally, yes. But the illusion of being able to eat one somewhere else was thrown right out the window at my first gluten-free Thanksgiving with friends. It was a gorgeous, huge bird. Perfectly browned. It was pulled out of the oven and straight on to the cutting board. The wooden cutting board... where bread is routinely cut. If that weren’t enough, the electric knife that cut the turkey was serrated, and who knows what it had cut a few minutes before. Oh, and there was stuffing in the bird.

That turkey was very much not gluten-free.

How about ground beef on the BBQ, that’s a no-brainer, right? Well, what else are you cooking? Did you have something marinated next to it? Did you (or have you ever) toast(ed) your bun on that grill? Because if so, no, it’s not ok. Not to mention the beer you’re drinking that dribbles down the bottle and lands on the surface where you have been resting your spatula.

I could go on, but I’m hoping you get the idea. On the way out, I’ll spark your interest with a few more considerations that I’ll let you explore in your own mind: work luncheons, dating, raising little kids, parties, sharing drinks, business lunches, travel, long flights, travel to foreign countries where they do not speak the language, work/hobby weekend retreats, emergencies, and seminars with tight schedules. It’s an adventure!

I’ve been gluten-free for two years. I really don’t miss the gluten that much. I miss the convenience and the social aspect more than anything. The next time you’re with a friend that has unique needs, whether a food allergy/intolerance, wheelchair/mobility issues, silent disease or anything else, take the time to understand their needs. Get out of the box and your own comfort zone... a world of possibility awaits, it just may be a little different than the one you're accustomed to.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gluten-Free Beer-Battered Fish Tacos


When I moved to San Diego for school, the locals set out to quickly indoctrinate me show me around and share all of their unique Southern CA favorites. The site-seeing was fun, but the food? ...it was...different. I mean, seriously, they put french fries in burritos here. Strange people! Enter the fish taco.

I sat at an outdoor table at the local Rubio's staring at my first fish taco while a small crew of miscreants cheered me on. They instructed me in the proper preparation (lime, salsa), and eagerly awaited my first taste because they knew what would happen. I honestly can't remember if I liked it. What I can tell you is (as they expected) it became a pretty serious addiction - or at very least a dietary staple that I craved multiple times per week. Since then, I've eaten hundreds of these warm crisp battered fish stuffed into soft corn tortillas dressed with cool cabbage, sauces, and a splash of lime.

It was definitely one of the foods (along with Cheerios and pot stickers) that I would truly mourn the loss of.

So, last time my parents visited, we (mom, dad, myself and Brad) rolled up our sleeves and set off to create the perfect gluten-free beer battered fish taco. They turned out wonderfully! I'm sure you'll know exactly what I mean when I said the first bite was so good I cried.

Amazing Gluten-Free Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Ingredients

Oil for deep frying (we used sunflower oil)
2 lbs fish fillet (any white fish, but cod is best), cut to approx 1"x1"x5"
1 cup rice flour (plus about 3/4 cups for dredging)
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup cold gluten-free beer (or carbonated water)
2 eggs
1 tsp seasoning (choose from the following *recommended always)
*salt and pepper
*garlic powder
onion powder
paprika
mexican oregano
cayanne
ancho

Instructions

I recommend preparing condiments and side dishes first, since once the fish frying process is started, it is hard to multi-task.

Optional: Preheat oven to 250° to keep fish warm after it is fried
1. Gently wash fish in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
2. Preheat oil for deep frying (350°)
3. Spread approx 3/4 cup rice flour on plate or pie tin for dredging fish
4. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl
5. Whisk together eggs and beer, then add to dry ingredients and mix until smooth
(Beer will result in a much tastier fish taco than soda water will. We've used both New Planet and Redbridge successfully.)
6. Roll fish pieces in rice flour, then drop in batter. Coat thoroughly.
7. Carefully drop fish into the hot oil. Cook in small batches (2-3 pieces), turning frequently. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the batter is golden brown and the fish is cooked thoroughly.
8. Drain on paper towel, then transfer to oven to keep warm.

Assemble and enjoy!

Dredging the fish

Frying

This particular day, we had many hands to do the work, so we created a true feast. White sauce, lime, and cabbage are the most important ingredients, but for the ultimate meal, I recommend serving with:

-white sauce: sour cream thinned with lime
-chopped cabbage (for an extra kick, squeeze lime on the chopped cabbage before returning it to the refrigerator)
-Salsa Fresca
-more lime (squeeze over finished taco)
-avocado
-cilantro
-seasoned pinto beans (powdered spices: onion, garlic, cumin, salt)
-tortilla of choice (warmed)

Since I can't tolerate corn, we cut up some rice tortillas into a more usable size for a taco

And turned the trimmings into chips (coated with oil/salt and baked at 450° for 5 minutes)

Happy Eating!