18 August 2007

Eating in Poland

Just a quick note to say that the Polish restaurant card was extremely helpful. The waiters all seemed to recognize the problem. I received some sad meals (dried chicken breast and limp vegetables) and some curiously delicious meals (moist chicken breast topped with pineapple and strawberry preserves!) and I watched my husband and cousins eat some very tempting breads and cakes. But I got to try some of the local diary favorites (I love cheese and sour cream!) and I have survived Poland with my appetite in tact.

On to Austria tonight!

11 August 2007

celiac travel

We're preparing for a 3-week jaunt through Europe (leaving in 2 days!) and while I'm very excited, naturally I'm a tad apprehensive about the gluten-free situation. I've stocked up on breakfast bars and hot cereals. I'm confident I'll be able to find plain fruits and vegetables wherever I go. I'll be relieved to get to the UK, where I'll be able to read the food menues and labels. (I've heard of a pizza place in Edinburgh that serves gluten-free pizza and beer!)

But for Poland, Austria, and Germany, I've turned to the help of Celiac Travel.com. While the website itself isn't terribly impressive or informational, there is one gem there. Restaurant cards in over 30 languages that you can download for free. I sent the Polish one to the cousin we're staying with in Poland and he said it's an excellent explanation that makes it very clear. So I'm hoping that I won't have any more trouble than I would in an English-speaking restaurant. My cousin also gave me the words for some foods I definitely can eat and some I definitely cannot. (PANIEROWANY means "breaded," for instance.) Mike speaks German and is familiar with a lot of the food we'll find in Germany and Austria, so with him plus my restaurant card I should be in good shape. (I've also already learned that reformhaus mean health food store in German, and if I see one I should be able to find gluten-free food there, just like a health food store in the U.S.)

Now as long as the airline got my gluten-free meals right, there should be no problem. Right?

08 August 2007


This is a good "junk food" meal, when you need to take a break from low-fat and salads. I use Chebe bread and wrap the dough around hot dogs*. Easy, right? It's a comfort food that will make you feel like a kid again.

Comfort foods are important on this diet because you can't just run into a 7-11 and tear into anything you want to eat. I think we all spend a lot of time dreaming about our former favorite foods and the best ways to recreate them. And that's where the Chebe bread mix comes in. I love it. I mix garlic and herbs into it for pizza crust, parmesian cheese for breadsticks, chopped sausage or bacon for cheese-puff type things, and cheddar cheese for my pigs-in-a-blanket. It's been unusually chilly for the last few days and my mind has turned to all these cool-weather treats. (I think I've mentioned that recently.)

*Be responsible for your own hot dogs. I like Hebrew National, but they do not guarantee 100% gluten-free. They label wheat on their ingredients but not gluten and do not test for it in the "flavorings." From the ConAgra website: We are sorry to inform you that we do not have a source that lists the gluten content of our products. However, our product labels list common allergens, such as wheat, for those allergic to wheat gluten.
Hebrew National beef franks: INGREDIENTS: Beef, water, salt, contains 2% or less of spice, paprika, hydrolyzed soy protein, garlic powder, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, flavorings.

I've never had a problem with their hot dogs, but I can eat trace amounts of gluten and be okay. I know I should avoid it entirely and not take risks, but I'm a grown-up who can make her own decisions about eating something or not. When I have kids I'll probably change my tune.

07 August 2007

cornish hens with lemon and herbs

My little hens* are in the oven right now. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart, Cornish hens with lemon and herbs, and have made just a few tweaks.

Before starting the hens, I prepare some fingerling potatoes. Cut up the larger ones, then tossed with herbs de provence and olive oil. They can sit in the glass baking dish on the counter and go in the oven with the hens.

My ingredients:
2 hens (for us that's one per person; Martha calls for cutting them in half to serve 4)
bunch of thyme
2 lemons
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper

Martha's instructions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place hens in a roasting pan, breast sides up. Place 2 thyme sprigs and 1 lemon half in cavity of each hen. Loosen skin from breast, and place remaining thyme and the parsley underneath. Squeeze remaining lemon halves over hens. Rub butter all over hens. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Roast hens, rotating pan halfway through, until skin turns golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise. Garnish with thyme sprigs, and serve with lemon wedges.

I prepare my hens in the styrofoam tray they come in to keep the lemon juice from getting all over the countertop. Instead of a roasting pan I use a rimmed baking sheet. I use just thyme because we're not huge parsely fans. Martha calls for 3 tablespoons of butter but my hens have been just fine with 1. To keep raw hen juice from getting all over the kitchen I slice the lemons and put them and the thyme and butter on one plate before I start handling the hens.

The potatoes can roast at the same temperature as the hens, so depending on how much you're making and how crispy you like them, put them in the oven for the appropriate amount of time while the hens are in.

This is quite a meat and potatoes meal for us.

*Make sure the hens you get aren't injected with anything containing gluten. Today I used Foster Farms, but I get whatever looks good or is on sale.

06 August 2007

stuffed peppers

We wanted a light dinner tonight, made from things we already had in the cupboard and fridge, and something warm since it's unusually chilly today. I came up with stuffed peppers. I made rice in the rice maker and for the last few minutes it was cooking I added some frozen shelled edammame. I halved a red bell pepper and filled the halves with the rice and edammame. For a crispy topping I sprinkled some shredded parmesian cheese* and Gluten-Free Pantry Herbed Crumb Coating. Placed in a glass baking dish and baked at 350 for 20 minutes. Yummy.

I love the herbed crumb coating. It's a great ingredient for some of the comfort foods you miss on a gluten-free diet. I use it for breading pork chops and eggplant before baking. I bread little cheese balls for frying. Mike uses it for weinerschnitzel. I sprinkle it on baked mac-n-cheese and stuffed peppers. I always have some in my cupboard, especially once it gets chilly enough for all these baked and fried comfort foods. You can also use it in meatballs and meatloaf in place of bread crumbs, so I've heard. I don't really like meatballs and meatloaf so I haven't tried it.

*Omit the cheese to make this vegan, obviously.

05 August 2007

indian spice rub

This is a recipe I snagged from the Everyday Food magazine: all-purpose spice rub. Online they don't give the suggestions for making different varieties, but the print magazine does. In order to make this more Indian-inspired, replace the oregano and thyme with cardamom, ground ginger, curry powder, and tumeric.

Indian Spice Rub
1/3 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cardammom
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon tumeric

Put everything in a jar and shake it. Spoon out as much as you'll use for whatever you're coating, then put the jar away in the cupboard. Keeps for about 6 months.

I like to use this on chicken breasts, but you could use it for anything. (I'd like to try tofu cubes some day.) Per Martha's instructions, coat the chicken breasts in a little vegetable oil, then coat them with the spice rub, 2 to 3 tablespoons per pound of meat (measure out the spice rub beforehand and put what you'll need on a separate plate so as not to contaminate your whole jar). Let it sit for awhile to soak in the flavors or throw it on the grill right away.

In order to cool down the spiciness I pair this chicken with an apple slaw inspired by an episode of Everyday Food on PBS. Their full recipe is here, Tandoori chicken with yogurt sauce. It's really good and pretty easy, but sometimes on a hot summer evening you want something even easier that you don't have to light the oven for. To make the apple slaw I grate an apple or two, mix in some plain, nonfat yogurt, some lime juice, and some chopped fresh cilantro. Everything is "to taste" and dependent upon how much I want to make.

Make some rice and this meal is complete. And completely tasty and quick.

03 August 2007

millet bread

Yeast breads and I don't have a good relationship, but I continue to try making them. A few weeks ago I tried making millet bread from a recipe I found on Recipe Source. I put off posting about it because I ate about 2 slices of it, it tasted bad, and then it went bad after only 3 days. So it was thrown out and forgotten about. But I felt it was time to finally spread the word.

The first sign of something going wrong should have been when I noticed my soy flour was a few months past the expiration date. It smelled okay so I used it anyway. Note that I have no idea what expired soy flour smells like, so it could have smelled rancid, but not bad, if you know what I mean.

I mixed everything together successfully and it rose during the 45 minutes just like it was supposed to, so I was feeling better. I put it in the oven, using my 5 x 9 loaf pan instead of the 4 x 8 pan the recipe suggests. After 30 minutes I peeked at it, and it had sunk! No more rising. Thin brick of bread. At 40 minutes it had started to brown on top so I took it out of the oven.

When it was cool I sliced into it. Yuck. Is it possible I don't like millet flour? Was my soy flour really expired? I won't know either of these answers until I make something else with millet flour. I've tossed the soy flour just to be safe.

The next day I wanted to give the bread another try, maybe I could salvage it. So I made French toast. Not a bad way to use dense, weird tasting bread. Still yuck.

On the third day I was taking stock of the kitchen contents, throwing old foods out of the fridge and pantry, and I saw mold starting to appear on the bread. So away it went. And I'm hesitant to try a third millet recipe (it's used in the zucchini bread) right now, but I want to use the package I have before moving on to a new flour.

Full recipe:
Millet Bread from Recipe Source
1 cup Plain yogurt or buttermilk (I used nonfat plain yogurt)
1/4 cup Butter
1 Tb Honey
1 package Dry yeast (I took this to mean the 1/4 oz. packs)
1/4 cup Warm water
2 Eggs
2 cups AM Millet Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup AM Soy Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)

Combine yogurt and butter in saucepan, heating slowly to melt butter. Dissolve yeast and honey in the warm water; add yogurt mixture and blend. Beat in eggs; add flours and beat well. Pour into well-oiled 4″ x 8″ loaf pan and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 375 F. for 40-45 minutes or until done. Cool before cutting.
Source: Arrowhead Mills “Recipes for Special Dietary Needs” tri-fold Reprinted by permission of Arrowhead Mills, Inc. Electronic format courtesy of: Karen Mintzias

tabouli and grilled veggies

For awhile I've been thinking I should try making tabouli with quinoa grain instead of wheat and I finally got around to it yesterday. It was amazingly delicious! We gorged ourselves on it and my mouth is watering, thinking ahead to lunchtime today. I used the recipe in Moosewood. I'm not good at deciphering tastes in things, so I need recipes for guidance. Salt? Lemon? Garlic? Something else? Obviously I exchanged the bulgar wheat for quinoa. I steamed it early in the afternoon and by dinner-making time it was cool. I eyeballed the ingredients amounts and added them to taste. Garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsely, scallions, mint, tomato--mostly stuff we have on hand regularly.

Mike put veggies on skewers and I brushed them with herbed olive oil (dried herbs de provence and fresh garlic added to the oil about an hour beforehand to steep), then he grilled. Mike heated up some pita for himself, and voila. Fantastic meal.

food in general

I've been trying to reduce the amount of food we waste. Buy and cook smaller portions. Eat the leftovers. Just be plain old economical. We got take-out chinese food last weekend and most of it is still sitting in the fridge. The leftover rice was pretty good... but our entrees weren't that great the first time around and we've been avoiding reheating them. I think they've reached expiration but I feel sad about throwing out so much food.

Last night, for the first time ever I think, I made just enough stir-fry. We had plenty to eat and there wasn't any leftover except for the rice. I'd already planned to reheat the rice for tonight (which I'll be doing shortly.)

I made bread on Saturday so my focus is on sandwiches for lunch this week. Tuna salad, veggie, if there's leftover chicken tonight, then chicken. I'm anxious to use up my bread so I can try a homemade pita recipe. For some reason it's something I've been missing more than usual lately.

Today I bought just enough fresh produce to last for my lunch today, our dinner tonight, and lunch and dinner tomorrow. I like shopping for fruit and veggies every few days.

One of our wedding presents was a fantastic blender and I've been using it to make smoothies for afternoons snacks. Mangoes and peaches have been delicious lately in smoothies. And it's a good way to use up the fruit when it's at the point where it's almost too ripe to eat and if it sits for one more day it will definitely go bad.

Dinner tonight: Indian spice-rubbed chicken breasts on the grill, apple slaw (plain nonfat yogurt, grated apple, lime juice, cilantro), and the leftover rice. Easy, gluten-free, and Mike gets to grill.

Once I get myself in the practice of meal planning and smart shopping, then I'll be able to concentrate on Mike taking lunches to work. I can only eat so many leftovers myself. Mike has to eat up some of the slack.

travel snacks

Packing for Europe includes me needing to bring some food. There will be delicious pastries and breads that I'll have to pass by. There will be flour hidden secretly in sauces and sausages. I have restaurant cards in Polish and German for giving to waiters to explain what gluten-free means. The breakfasts at our hotels will likely include some fruit or yogurt or cheese. But I'll need snacks, and I don't want every meal to be a chore. So I've been test-tasting some convenient foods to bring along.

Recently I ordered some stuff from gluten-free.com. First up, Glutino Breakfast Bars in cranberry. At first I didn't like these. I had been eating crackers with garlic cheese when the UPS guy delivered my gluten-free goodies, and I tore into the box and ate one of these bars right away. Mixing with the taste of the garlic cheese was not good. I had an awful taste in my mouth. I chased it with one of the Glutino organic chocolate and peanut bars and that made the taste in my mouth even worse. I was totally turned off by both bars, and very disappointed.

The next day, with a more hospitable pallate, I decided to give them both another try. I had my usual first few cups of coffee. Then I wanted a snack before heading out to the grocery store. I figured this sort of mimicked my coffee and light breakfast before going out for a few hours of sight-seeing. Even if the bars tasted terrible, would they be filling enough to sustain me for a few hours? I ate one of the cranberry bars. It tasted better, but not delicious. There's not a huge amount of cranberry flavor in the filling. But whatever they use for the outside is very heavy with something cinnamonny. (Maybe to cover up something less-tasty?) Several hours later, after grocery shopping, I noticed that I wasn't hungry. Yay! I got properly hungry at lunch time. As a pre-lunch snack I ate a chocolate-peanut bar. It still tasted awful. The chocolate is low-quality and I just didn't taste any peanuts. I tasted plastic.

The taste of the cranberry cereal bars grew on me, and I ordered another box plus the same kind in different flavors to bring with me. A couple bars, some fruit, some yogurt, not a bad breakfast or lunch.

I've also been trying hot cereals. I can tolerate oatmeal most of the time. Being on the road is not when I want to chance the 1 time out of 10 I might not tolerate it. So I ordered Alti Plano Quinoa Hot Cereal, the variety pack. I'd tried their chocolate cereal several years ago and didn't like it, but that was before I'd started eating quinoa regularly, and I think it's a taste that takes some getting used to. The variety pack comes with orange spice, chai spice, and apple spice flavors. They definitely overpower you with spice flavors to cover up the fact that you're eating quinoa, not the oatmeal you grew up with as a kid. They taste okay and they are filling. At the hotels that offer a cold breakfast, I'll be able have hot cereal (since they'll have hot water or milk for tea and coffee) and sometimes that comforting hot cereal mentality is what gets you going in the morning.

I'm mostly worried about Poland and Austria. From what I've heard the UK is pretty gluten-free friendly, plus I know the language. I fear that for the first 2 weeks of the trip I'll be living on coffee and my cereal bars until I get into the UK and can read the menus and labels.

How am I going to get all this stuff to Europe? I'm going to stash bars and packets in my backpack, my day pack, and my purse and pray they don't get too crushed.

zucchini quick bread

A couple days ago, before it got too hot to light the oven, I baked zucchini bread. I slightly modified the recipe from The Best-Ever Wheat- and Gluten-Free Baking Book. (Hate that title; love the book as a reference.) The recipe called for zucchini (obviously), eggs, melted butter (I used canola oil), honey, rice flour, millet flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum, vanilla, an envelope of gelatin, raisins, and plain nuts. I don't know what "plain" nuts are so I used pecans. And I don't love raisins so I chopped some dried apricots.

Notice it doesn't say "quick zucchini bread". It took me awhile to chop and grate everything.

The recipe calls for two 8 x 4 loaf pans. I figured I'd fill one loaf pan and use the rest of the batter for muffins, then freeze either the loaf or the muffins for later. I emptied out my cupboards to discover that all 4 of the loaf pans I own are 9 x 5 pans. So, okay, I'll make a 9 x 5 loaf and use the rest for muffins. I decided to try my new silicone loaf pan--first time with silicone baking "dishes".

The batter came together just fine, until I started folding in the flour mixture. This was my first use of gelatin in baking and I wasn't sure what would happen with it but I decided to trust the recipe-writer. The batter was an elasticky lump. I thought maybe I had used too much xanthan gum. It plopped into my loaf pan and I knew it would be too much trouble and mess to scoop some out for making muffins. So I just put my 9 x 5 loaf in the oven.

The recipe said to bake for about 25 minutes. In my mind I was factoring in using a larger loaf pan, which might require longer cooking time, but using silicone is supposed to reduce cooking time because it distributes the heat better or something. After 25 minutes, I still had a gooey mass. After 30 minutes, the same. 40 turned out to be the magic number. Browning on top, clean toothpick from the middle. Quick, take it out before it gets too dry!

Dryness turned out not to be a problem here. Between the honey, zucchini, apricots, xanthan, and gelatin, there was enough moisture and stickiness in this batter. And it didn't turn out gooey, like some other GF quick breads I've tried. It's a nicely held-together moist quick bread. And tasty! Not too sweet, perfect for breakfast or snacktime with a cup of coffee or tea. And very filling. With the nuts and millet flour and apricots and zucchini there's a lot of protein and fiber in this bread.

Wet vegetables in breads tend to get moldy, quickly. After 3 days I had eaten about half the loaf, and was completely full and ready to eat something else for breakfast. I knew I'd never eat the rest before it went bad. So it's in the freezer now. We'll see how it comes out after freezing.

blueberry pie

I have a blueberry pie in the oven, made with Gluten-Free Pantry's Perfect Pie Crust Mix.

I don't believe it is "perfect"; maybe "good enough" is more accurate. Right now the top is falling apart around the blueberries, looking more like a weird, thin cobbler topping.

Also, it calls for butter-flavored shortening. I had never even heard of that before today. And I didn't have enough butter, so I used the dairy-free modification, which means using double the amount of shortening. (Also, you can make it vegan if you use an egg replacer.) I wonder if I should have used regular shortening in place of the butter, instead of twice the amound of butter-flavored shortening? I'm thinking next time I'll make sure I have plenty of regular butter and shortening on hand.

The pie crust is yellow. They add yellow coloring to the shortening to make it look more buttery-licious. And I nibbled on a little bit of it of the raw dough. You know that fake movie-theater popcorn butter flavor? Butter-flavored shortening kinda tastes like that.

The dough handles well. I chilled the shortening and my rolling pin and used cold water. I left the dough in the fridge until the absolute last minute. It tears a little bit, but in a way expected from GF pie crust dough. It will take a little more practice before I can do an attractive top, like a lattice or cut-outs. For the time being, tasty but unattractive will have to do.

As it's been baking, it's starting to smell more like blueberries and less like fake butter. I think that's a good sign.

The finished product:

The baked crust is less yellow than the raw dough, so that's good. It seems pretty delicate, though. Maybe it will harden a bit as it cools. As for the taste, I don't know yet. I'm saving it for dessert tonight. The taste is in the hands of the blueberries now.



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