Saturday, February 28, 2009

Free Beer and Pizza!

It's hard to imagine getting up on purpose on a weekend, but this time was really worth it.  I went to the Jules Shepard baking demo at Earth Fare, organized by Zach who writes the Gluten Free Raleigh blog.

I got to meet some new people, and reacquaint with other nice people I'd already met from the Raleigh Celiac Support Group.  It's so fun to talk with people who are all in the same boat.

Jules was nice and gave a well-informed presentation.  She is the real deal--nice to hear from someone who is walking the walk.  She said she's been GF since 1999.  I especially liked how she said she takes her baked goods to share with health care providers, so they can be aware that eating GF foods can be just as good, or better than, evil-wheat-containing foods.  I was appalled when she mentioned that she's heard doctors tell their patients they "don't want to know" if they're Celiac, because they think the diet is awful.  A doctor like that might try to convince the patient to not get tested.   Unbelievable.

She baked us some bread, oatmeal scones, berry scones, and chocolate chip cookies.  It was all pretty good.  I would want to try the bread machine recipe at home before I weigh in with an opinion on it.  You don't know how bread really turns out until it cools, and she sliced it before then.  It seemed a little on the moist side, and it was still warm, so it's hard to tell.  I will continue to experiment with the man in my life--Breadman, that is--and let you know if and when I find the holy grail of bread recipes.  I am still searching.

Trevor from Bella Monica was there to promote his flatbreads, and give samples!  It is really good.  I read the box, it seems like a lot of calories are packed into the portion size (1/3 flatbread--had about 450 calories, 7.4g saturated fat).  I really try to shy away from high calories and fat, but it has very good quality ingredients like olive oil, so maybe it's not as bad as it sounds to me?  And a treat once in a while is a good thing!

They also had Green's Gluten Free Beer, an amber and a dark variety.  I liked the dark one, to me it was robust and flavorful.  The amber was OK.  But all of this was sampled with scones and bread, so hard to give a thorough review of those.  

It was a fun day for me. Earth Fare also gave us a tour, but the real value of the day was hearing what Jules had to say, and talking with the other participants.  I thought it was really cool how Jules said that she was a gluten free consumer too, and wanted to find quality products and ingredients.   She also wasn't pushy with us to buy her products (which I didn't buy).  She even encouraged us to look up her flour blend and make it ourselves if we were so inclined.  I appreciated that a lot.

Hope everyone has a great GF weekend!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GF Breakfast at the Motor Inn

When on a road trip, staying at any hotel or motel, this is an easy GF breakfast:

  1. Take a cooler.
  2. Load it up with waters, sodas, whatever drinks you like.
  3. Add one or two yogurt cups, depending on your meals you are planning. (breakfast only = one cup.  Breakfast and lunch = 2 cups).
  4. Before check-in, stop at a SHEETZ gas station.  Go to menu screen.  Order 2-pack hard boiled eggs.  Get one orange juice bottle, if needed.

Keep in hotel room fridge overnight.  If fridge is unavailable, take gallon ziplock bags to the ice maker and fill one or two.  Add ice bags to cooler--voila  (and surprise)--you have made your own fridge.

Wake up tomorrow, and enjoy: Yogurt, 2 eggs, orange juice, bad hotel coffee, and a feeling of complete GF independence and joy.

Underground tip:  Actually, you can put anything you want in your cooler (but you already knew that).  These are just some ideas that work well for me.  When I found out I could get hard-boiled eggs at a gas station I was awestruck.  WAY better for you than a candy bar, overall!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Perfect Nacho Bean Dip

  • 1 can refried beans
  • about 1 cup Medium or Hot salsa
  • shredded co-jack cheese (optional)
  • 1 bag corn chips
Empty can of beans into microwave safe dish, pour salsa on top.
Cover. Cook in microwave 2 mins, stir.
Continue cooking until heated through in 30 second intervals, stirring between.

When this is hot, sprinkle cheese on top and melt in microwave (about 30 seconds).

Serve immediately w/corn chips, or keep warm in the (regular) oven @ 200 until your guests arrive.

Underground tip: Seriously, do not even consider using mild salsa. The beans really take the edge off the spices in the salsa. Whenever I've used mild salsa, the dip winds up tasting bland. The above recipe, made with Medium salsa, does not seem spicy at all (so don't worry if you don't like spicy food), but instead it tastes flavorful and delicious!


This is great for parties, because it's fast, easy, and there's a lot to go around. But--this travels well for road trips (no cooler needed), and after say, a 7:30 to 10pm rehearsal, it's a substantial snack/mini-meal that you can make, which many of my friends have enjoyed sharing with me!

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bagel, please!

I haven't had a chance to write much lately, but I will now report the thing I'm most excited about this week: Whole Foods in Cary has started carrying Glutino PLAIN Bagels again! I haven't been able to find these for years, and I went yesterday and found them, on sale, for 5.39 for the 5-pack! (or was it 5.69?). No matter.

What is great, is that a plain bagel is just that--PLAIN. They have been stocking Glutino Cinnimon Raisin Bagels, but there are some people who like fruit in their baked goods, and then there are the rest of us.

I am so excited about this I can't even put it into words.

The size and texture of these bagels are amazing. Honestly, I feel like the Glutino bagels are to Kinnickinick's bagels, what Panera Bagels are to Lender's. I just love 'em, and am so glad they are back! I was so excited, I went out and bought a toaster!

So you can either have a bagel with butter or cream cheese, of any savory or sweet flavor. Everybody wins. This is the magic of a plain bagel. You just can't put a lox on a raisin bagel! You just can't turn a raisin bagel into a bagel-pizza!

So, this week, it's kudos to the freezer guy at WF in Cary for re-stocking this magical product!

Monday, February 16, 2009

One fine weekend out

Hello GF friends!

I had a great GF valentine's weekend, hope the same for you all. I had a concert Sat. evening, then met up afterward with some friends at The Village Draft House in Raleigh. Because this is a great (quieter) hang out in a great central location, I often find myself there surrounded with wonderful company.

And what is newsworthy about this trip: after a good 6 months of asking them (every single time): "Don't you have any gluten free beer?" --and adding, "Hey, if you guys just had a 6-pack on hand, I definitely would buy one every time I came in here..."

So what happened Saturday? This time--"Yeah, actually we do have a GF beer. I think it's called 'Lakefront.' We just got it in."

I said, "Alright," I would have one of those, "thanks!"

The server brought me a cool, crisp bottle of New Grist. She asked me how it was. (I have not had any gluten-containing beverages since 2005. I am not really sure why she asked me this...just to say something, or be nice?)

Whether you drink beer or not is not the issue. The point is that, little by little, our specialty dietary needs continue to slowly creep into the mainstream, one Draft House at a time (and after we ask, ask, ask and ask).


The next day, I made it out to Zpizza in North Raleigh. I convinced two wheat-eatin' friends of mine to split two kinds of GF pizza with me. When I thought about it, I hadn't been out for pizza in over 3 years. Which is kinda funny to think about, because with being able to make it at home, I don't feel particularly deprived.

We had the American and the Provence. The taste was amazing. Even the wheaties agreed.

Also, the staff was extremely conscientious about cross-contamination.
It was a great experience, and you all should go when you get a chance.

(My favorite moment was the moment after the cashier took our order, we went to get our fountain drinks, and her voice rang out like a bell, "Gluten Free Alert!" I thought, if I could save that soundbyte and have it as a ringtone. If only....)


Best wishes for a happy and safe week for everyone!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

South of the Border Grilled Cheez

A recipe for you:

Heat skillet, spray lightly with Pam.

  • add 1 soft corn tortilla
  • sprinkle with cheese (I use co-jack shredded cheese)
  • add 1 soft corn tortilla

heat through, and flip, once the first side is crisp.
then crisp the 2nd side.

Possible names for this recipe: Corn Quesadilla, Tex-Mex Grilled Cheese, Mexican Grilled Cheese, South of the Border Grilled Cheese, etc. (Or, if you have another idea for a name, post it in a comment! Maybe it would be a fun contest--name the recipe?).

I garnish with and/or dip this in:
  • salsa
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • enchilada or mole sauce.
Can be served with a mexican lettuce salad, tomatoes, etc. Or refried beans and mexican rice (I will post a great recipe for that soon). Or just plain.

A package of 36 tortillas (33oz): 2.49

Shredded cheese: 2.89

15 cheap, easy, delicious snacks or meals in about 5 minutes: Priceless.


Other underground happenings:

Been inspired by Celiacs in the House to make pizelles! I used her recipe: 2/3 cup GF cake mix, 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp Oil, 1 Tbsp Vanilla--and they came out amazing!

I have been thinking a lot about eating GF easily, inexpensively, and our current economy. We all really should be thinking about ways to save...we just never know what's around the corner...I keep hearing of more and more family, friends and people in the community who are without work. So I hope I can provide a few good ideas...while at the same time, don't get me wrong--I do feel it is important to support quality products that we want to keep available on the market.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Souper Duper Alphabet Soup!

Check out this savory edible delight!
This vegetarian vegetable soup will warm your soul from the inside out.

Oh, did I mention it tastes great? And it's not that hard to make, either.

This is one of my favorite things to make, and it can either feed a lot of people (e.g. family, army, etc), or you can freeze portions for later. More to come on that.

First things first. What do you need and what do you do?

Exact quantities will vary depending on the size of your soup pan. Pretty much, whatever fills up the pan, or however much you want to make. When I make this, I use a 6-qt pot.


2-3 medium onions
2 Tbsp oil, or so

3-4 potatoes
2 small (14.5 oz) cans or 1 large can stewed tomatoes
4 to 6 cups of water
2 cans of beans (garbanzo, kidney, etc.)
1 bag frozen mixed soup vegetables

2 Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon cubes
Salt, to taste
1/3 package Mrs Leeper's Alphabet Pasta (about 2/3 cup) (or any other pasta)


Cut up onions and saute in the oil over medium-low heat. When onions are clear, add the cans of tomatoes, bouillon, and add just enough water to fill the pot just a little over 1/2 full (4-6 cups?). Turn up the burner to medium high.

Wash potatoes and cut into about 1/2" pieces (I cut the potatoes while the onions cook). Add the potatoes. Add the frozen vegetables. Open the cans of beans and rinse in a collander. Add the beans to the pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer on medium-low about 30-45 minutes until vegetables look tender. Taste the broth and add salt if needed.

When the soup looks and tastes like soup, add pasta. Cook until tender (12-15 min). I love this with Mrs. Leepers Alphabets. It's just like being a kid all over again. Hooray!


Underground tip: When I finish cooking this, I divide up into individual servings in containers. I reuse containers from the store, which is FREE, and saves the environment by reusing instead of discarding or even using energy to recycle. Usually just a little over a cupful in each container is about the right portion for a meal for me.

Then I freeze the containers, and voila! I have 9 lunches (and two other large containers for the fridge). So over the next few weeks, one choice for lunch at work is soup, or any time for dinner at home. I cook one evening, and get nine other meals I can make in about 3 minutes in the microwave. This thinking ahead saves me time and money, and it's been working for me for years. So that $12.95 on lunch becomes 12.95 in my retirement account or rainy day fund. Surprise, you're gluten free, and saving money! Who knew?

Oh, and for those of you wary of using plastic containers. I live my life on the edge, so I just cook these right in the plastic container in the microwave. BUT you can allow soup to thaw slightly and then you can just pop it out of the container into a glass bowl, or pan on the stove.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Boxed Mac 'n' Cheese

I promised some product reviews, so here ya go.

If you are like me (and everyone else who grew up in America since about 1937) sodium-rich boxed macaroni and cheese is probably one of the first solid foods you knew on a first-name basis.

So here are the best GF products that I've found: DeBoles 7.25oz Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheese (2.19 at Kroger), and Trader Joe's 6oz Gluten Free Rice Pasta & Cheddar (1.99 at Trader Joe's). Both are great tasting, but slightly different.


DeBoles: Elbow style pasta (rice flour and rice bran extract) and Cheese Sauce Mix (Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese [Milk, Salt, and Enzymes], and Dry Buttermilk). 100mg sodium per 1/2 cup serving

Trader Joe's: Rice Pasta (rice flour), Cheddar cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzymes), whey, buttermilk, butter, salt, natural flavor, sodium phosphate, annato extract (color). 390mg sodium per 1 cup serving

Underground thoughts:
The box of Deboles seems like a lot more macaroni looking into the pan. I also had forgotten that it is white cheddar, which even if it's just psychological, I think caters to a more sophisticated palate. The orange-ness of the Trader Joe's makes me think of screaming kids, who deserve food that they can enjoy too. So everyone wins if you keep a box of each of these in the cupboard.

I don't know how the sodium compares with kraft, you know the one we grew up on that was apparently a celiac killer. Probabaly a lot better for you.

Speaking of Kraft, I had a real hankerin' for some Mac 'n' Cheese and wrote to them, to ask if they could sell the sauce mix independently of the pasta, or offer a gluten-free version of their product (something like, "Can you either make available your cheese sauce alone-without noodles-so we can make our own rice noodle mac 'n' cheese..." etc.). They told me about this product: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Topping

So, there is life after wheatey-mac. If you want it. Or just that occasional hankerin'. I find that it's probably a lot better to look for less starch in my diet, e.g. more fiber and fruits and vegetables. But it sure is nice to know that you aren't denied any particular foods, we really do have everything we need...GF Life is Good!

P.S. You probably want to avoid Annie's GF mac 'n' cheese in the blue box. The bunny on the box is cute. It's been a few years since I tried it, but I remember that the cheese was OK, but the pasta was your money on that one.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Good Restaurant Bad Restaurant

I'm catching up on my Gluten Free log of events. I'll start with last weekend. I ate out in Raleigh on both Saturday and Sunday. I had two very different experiences.


Lunch with a violinist friend, to catch up on things and enjoy hanging out. We went to Noodles & Company at Cameron Village, and I thought I could try it out because a few of their dishes are made with rice noodles. I was fairly confident and didn't check their website before going, we just went!

When I asked the cashier about gluten free options, I was delighted when she went under the counter and brought out a large laminated paper with graphs that had checkmarks corresponding to allergens in their foods. They could tell me for sure!

The only gluten free option was: PAD THAI, and a tomato/cucumber vinegar salad. So I ordered them both, and they were delicious! It's funny that their Pad Thai was GF, because at a lot of Thai Restaurants, that is one that is pre-made with soy sauce that can't be served gluten free, I have found. So now I know where to go get some GF Pad Thai, right in my neighborhood! They were fast, and reasonably priced.



I played in two matinee concerts on Sunday and went to lunch with two orchestra colleagues in between. We went to Greek Fiesta in Raleigh, on Western Blvd. I thought, this could work fine. They have lots of kabobs, hummus, salad, etc.

So I asked the cashier if the chicken/steak for kabobs was marinated in something. He said, "yes." So I asked if he would be so kind to please check the ingredients to see if they were gluten free, for example, did they have any soy sauce, modified food starch, carmel color, etc.?

He said that one man makes the marinade, and brings it to their 5 locations, and he is the only person who knows what is in it.

I said, "you are serving something and you don't know what it is?" The guy just looked at me like I was a complete jerk for asking any kinds of damn questions and I should shut up and order. I told him I didn't mean to be a pest, it's just that I could become sick if I ate any wheat or gluten. We went back and forth for a minute or two; I guess I'm just getting really used to places being cool.

So I ordered the Greek Veggie platter, hold the pita bread.

What did I get?

Iceberg lettuce salad with cucumbers, yellow peppers, feta cheese, one purple olive (yes, just one olive!), with Cucumber Sauce, 3 small grape leaf wraps--with 6 pita wedges sitting on top. Yeah, thanks, guys. This cost 7.99.

What could I do for 7.99 in my kitchen at home? At the very least, one box of GF mac 'n' cheese (Trader Joe's or DeBoles) is about $2, a bag of salad is $2-3, a yogurt is .75 cents. None of these things will make me sweat, fog up my brain, or break out a dermatitis herpetiformis rash all over my body.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be going back over there.

Epilogue: And what happened with the pita wedges? When I told them I didn't ask for them and didn't want them, they brought a plate out to the counter and took them back into the kitchen. Do you think they'd re-use them? They had that ikky cuke sauce on them. Did they give them to the next people who came in?

Gluten Free, (can be Casein Free) Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Hey, some of the packaged GF cookies are really great, such as PAMELA's, in the box or in the bag. I especially like the Lemon Shortbread cookies from Pamela's, which I keep in the freezer for a crisp, cool treat.

But here is the recipe for the cookies I pictured in the last blog. I was on the road literally every day last week and just didn't have the time to type it up. These might be some of the best cookies you ever eat, gluten or not. And they take only a little time, and minimal effort.

In addition to being cheaper than store-bought GF cookies, doesn't homemade always taste better?? I think even my grandmother would have approved of these.

Chocolate Chip Cookies (like Tollhouse)

  • 2-1/4 cups flour (1 cup Rice, 3/4 cup Corn, 1/2 cup Millet)
  • 1 tsp. Xantham Gum
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
mix the above dry ingredients. Then, in another bowl, combine:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter or margarine (I used Vegan Buttery Sticks)
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
Mix the two bowls together. Add one 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, bake 8-10 minutes. These came out awesome. I don't think I'll ever need another recipe.

Underground tip: When you bake cookies, remember that because they are so hot in the oven they continue "baking" after you take them out. I take the cookies out once I notice the top appears dry all across but not any later. This way they do not overbake and dry out. They are soft and delicious.