Spaghetti Memoirs

Life Is All About Balance

Spaghetti Memoirs is a blog about my efforts to balance good/healthy foods, great drinks, work and exercise. All the recipes are gluten free and all the cocktails are amazing. 

Ahi Tuna Poke

While I do not shop at Costco a ton, there is one thing that I will give them credit for...their ahi tuna. At all the Costco's i've been to they have packages of sushi grade ahi tuna for a reasonable price. Whenever I get it I end up making poke with it and it's a hit. 

Super simple, super fresh, and tasty.  It's great on crackers as a snack, on a bed of fresh rice as more of an entree.

Since there are so few ingredients, and it's not cooked, you REALLY need fresh ingredients to enjoy this. The fish needs to be fresh and GREAT quality as well as any veggies you put in it. I gave the basic recipe below but experiment with it and give it your own twist. 

Ingredients:

1 lb (approx) ahi tuna

1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce if you don't have to worry about gluten)

1 tbl toasted sesame oil

sesame seeds (preferably toasted)

2 green onions chopped

1 avocado (skip if not in season)

red chili pepper flakes

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Cut up the tuna into small cubes and place in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold gently to stir. Taste and adjust for what you'd like. 

Enjoy!

 

Spinach Casserole

2 cups milk

2 cups veggie broth

bag of fresh spinach

2 cups frozen or fresh peas

3 medium sized carrots -cut up into pea sized bites

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

3 tbl arrowroot/tapioca startch

1 medium head cauliflower (steamed)

2 large florets Broccoli (steamed)- or 3 cups of bite size pieces

cheddar

Parmesan cheese

GF bread crumbs -optional

 

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degree.

Cut the cauliflower and broccoli into bite size pieces and steam them for approximately 15 minutes. You want them al dente to serve as a platform for the spinach sauce. Once they are done, remove from heat and wash with cold water to stop the cooking. 

Put a little bit of oil in a pan with the onion and carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are softer but not mushy. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes to just get a slight cook on the garlic but not burn it. Add the arrowroot to the mixture and stir until it coats the veggies and garlic. Add the broth and milk to the pot and get it to a low boil. Add the spinach to the pot and move it around to that all the spinach has liquid on it. Stir periodically until the spinach has wilted and is in the broth mixture. Leave on a low to medium boil and let the mixture cook down - approximately 15-20 minutes. Once it has cooked down and thickened a little, add 2 cups of shredded cheese (I used cheddar) and continue to stir. Once all the cheese has melted and the mixture is a little thicker turn off the heat.

Use a 13 X 9 inch pan. Put the cauliflower and broccoli in the bottom of the pan. Gently pour the cheese and spinach sauce over the top making sure to get it all over the veggies. Sprinkle with parmesean cheese and place in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture bubbles and the cheese on top is melted. 

Variations:

Put gluten free bread crumbs (or just regular bread crumbs if you aren't gluten free) on top of the casserole before placing it in the oven for a nice crunch.

If you aren't vegetarian tuna could be added for a very familiar tuna casserole flavor. Leftover ham that has been slightly pan fried - to heat it up and caramelize the sides- would also be a wonderful addition.

 

Sweet Potato and Tilapia Soup

Recently I had to bring something to share at a pot-luck style dinner during a cold and snowy weekend. We were going to be up in Park City, UT -a big ski town- and I figured many people, including our hosts, would have taken advantage of the fresh powder and gone skiing or snowboarding during the day. Because of this I decided to bring a warm soup to share. I must admit that it was kind of thrown together but that is not always a bad thing. What came out was this warm, flavorful, almost rich soup that seemed to be a hit. To top it off, it's gluten free, dairy free and easy on the blood sugar since no potatoes were used (see note below). I have even included some variations for those that don't like fish, want more fish, are vegan, or just want a little more meat in their meal.

I hope you enjoy.

Before slow cooking

Before slow cooking

Sweet Potato and Talapia Soup

2 sweet potatoes -cubed

1 red onion- rough chop

1 shallow- rough chop

3 cloves garlic- peeled and cut in half

8 cups of veggie broth - feel free to use beef broth for a heartier flavor

3 hand fulls chopped kale (about 1 in thick slices)- or 1 big bunch. 

1/2 cup coconut creme -not coconut milk. The cream gives it a richness. You can substitute with a heavy cream but the coconut gives it a unique flavor.

1 lb talapia- cut into bite sizes. Think of something that will easily fit on your spoon- make sure there are not bones. See below for vegetarian and vegan options

2 tbl fresh rosemary- optional

2 tbl fresh thyme- optional

Instructions

Put the sweet potatoes, red onion, shallot, garlic, and veggie broth in a crockpot and let it cook overnight. When you wake up it will be all set for the next step...and your kitchen will smell amazing first thing in the morning. If you do not have a crock pot, or don't want to make this the day of, get the ingredients to come to a boil then turn on medium to low heat and cook until the sweet potatoes are mushy (i.e., when you pick them up they just smoosh apart). When those are cooked blend it all together to make your soups broth. I used a hand blender but a regular blender works just fine. You really don't want to skip this step because it incorporates all of the flavors together smoothly and creates a wonderful base for your fish and kale.  Once you have your broth add the coconut cream and stir until incorporated. Add the kale in the pot and stir until it starts to wilt. Next add your chopped fish. Stir to get everything mixed up and then place on a LOW heat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes but the more time the fish sits in the broth the more flavor from the broth it will pick up. You can also make this ahead of time and then easily re-heat right before serving. 

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Variations

Fish Heaven- I just used talapia but this soup would also taste great with muscles, shrimp, calamari, and any other white fish. When adding muscles, shrimp, or calamari add these before serving- rather than letting it sit in the broth- to prevent over cooking. When these types of seafood overcook their flavor and texture gets bad. 

Vegan/Vegetarian- Omit the fish and add any meat substitute you would like. Marinated and baked tofu would be great in this recipe but play around with it. You can also omit that all together and just add several different types of mushrooms for that great flavor.

Meat Eaters- I have a few variations for this. If you want a spicy kick, cook up a few sliced andouille sausages in a pan and then add them to the soup. It will give a really nice layer to the flavors of the fish and sweet potato. 


*Potato- Sweet potato and Blood Sugar

Many people that have issues with blood sugar know they are supposed to steer clear of startch foods like potatoes. Something you may not know is that regardless of their name, sweet potatoes -or yams- are not related to potatoes and therefore do not have the same effect on blood sugar. Because of this, I use sweet potatoes a lot. I also think they add a really great and unique flavor.

Spiced Coconut and Chocolate Cookies

After a day of relaxing and watching cooking shows online I had a hankering for cookies. I didn't have any around the house, and was feeling a little experimental, so I decided to start with butter and see where it went. What came out were these awesome cookies! The use of the palm sugar -instead of cane sugar- coconut extract and coconut flour give the cookie a nice flavor that isn't overwhelming coconut. With the addition of the nutmeg and cinnamon they taste reminiscent of a warm gingerbread but are nice and moist. You could hardly even tell they were gluten free! I hope you enjoy them as well. 

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Spiced Coconut and Chocolate Cookies- GF

1 cup butter -room temp

1 1/2 cups palm sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

1 tsp coconut extract

2 eggs

1/2 cup almond meal

1 1/2 cups coconut flour

2 tbl arrowroot powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp nutmeg-freshly ground is best but use whatever you have

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chocolate chip cookies- i used dark

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup walnuts cut up

Pre-heat your oven to 350 and make sure that you can place your cookies on a center rack. Using a standing mixer (I used my KitchenAid) or a hand mixer beat the butter until it's a little lighter in color and slightly fluffy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and coconut extract and continue beating for 3-5 minutes. Add both eggs and beat until incorporated. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl before each step. In another bowl mix the almond meal, coconut flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add this mixture to your wet mixture in 2 to 3 batches until it's all gone. Finally, remove the bowl from the mixer and using a wooden spoon- or spatula or whatever you want- mix/fold in the chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts until they are relatively even in the batter. 

To cook, place a piece of parchment paper on your baking sheet- trust me this makes clean up SUPER easy and they come off the sheet with no fuss. Put about a golf ball sized portion of dough onto the sheet. Don't worry about spacing them too far apart. They don't spread very much. Cook each batch for 11-13 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them. When they are done they will still seem slightly over soft. Let them cool for 2-5 minutes of the sheet before removing them to a cooling rack. If you try to move them immediately they will fall apart.

If you are looking for a little more sweetness, you could make a frosting -similar to a cinnamon bun frosting- and drizzle it on them while they are still warm. :)

Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Crepes

Crepes are amazing and there is no reason that being gluten free means you have to forgo these. I got a hankering for a good crepe the other day and started searching the internet for a good recipe- work smarter not harder right. After about 10 different sites I couldn't find anything that didn't use potato starch and/or some form of rice flour. Since I steer clear of both potatoes and rice to keep my blood sugar down, I decided to find a simple recipe and experiment. It took a few experiments- some not so successful- before I finally got an amazing crepe. I tested it on 2 gluten eaters- one being a crepe fan- and they both loved them. The texture is smooth and gummy like a crepe rather than a pancake. Also small variations to this foundation set of ingredients can take these super savory or sweet. 

Enjoy!

Stacked Gluten Free, Dairy Free Crepes

Stacked Gluten Free, Dairy Free Crepes

Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Crepe Recipe

Makes Approx 20 medium sized crepes

1 1/2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup arrowroot powder

1/4 cup tapioca starch

1 pinch salt

4 eggs

4 tbl coconut cream- NOT milk. You can substitute this with pumpkin puree or squash puree.

3 cups almond milk

Ingredients

Whisk together the coconut cream and eggs together to incorporate. Add milk and continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and salt. Whisk together until it's incorporated. Don't over mix. 

This next part is very important....LET IT SIT IN THE FRIDGE FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR. It can sit in there overnight as well. One of my failed experiments happened when I decided that I didn't need to let this sit in the fridge. It does not work. When you put it in the pan it just immediately breaks apart under the heat. 

----Time has passed ;)-----

Take your mixture out of the fridge and grab a 1/3 measuring cup. Heat up your crepe pan to a medium heat, brush with a little melted coconut oil (you can use melted butter) and put a little less than your measuring scoop onto your pan. Don't push the crepe around but ideas move it by moving the pan. Don't worry. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle. 

Cooking my gluten free, crepe.

Cooking my gluten free, crepe.

Let it cook on the first side for 1 to 2 minutes or until the top isn't glossy anymore (i.e., it's set). Make sure none of it is stuck and then flip. Let cook for another minute or so and tada! Place on a plate and put parchment paper between each to keep them from getting soggy while waiting. It may take a few crepes before you get the right heat on your pan. Don't worry.

Brush oil on your pan in between each crepe and continue until the batter is gone. :) Enjoy!

Variations

- Use some juiced spinach in place of some almond milk for a savory crepe

- Add 2 tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tsp of cinnamon for a crepe better with sweeter meals. 

I made a Lime and the Coconut Crepe Cake. Delicious! #glutenfree 

I made a Lime and the Coconut Crepe Cake. Delicious! #glutenfree 

Stir Fried Brussel Sprout Salad

I really love a good bowl of fried rice but rice really doesn't agree with me- or more specifically my blood sugar. The other day I got a bag of shredded brussel sprouts from Trader Joes thinking "i'm sure i'll think of something to make." At dinner that night, one thing lead to another and this salad was born. 

It is a warm salad and honestly hearty enough for an entree. If you aren't vegetarian i'm sure it would be good with some bacon, chicken or steak on top. I have made it for several people since that first meal and it seems to be a hit across all types of palettes. 

I hope you enjoy as well and please tweak to your taste! :)

Cooking up some tasty dinner!

Cooking up some tasty dinner!

 

Shredded Brussel Sprouts

3 medium sized carrots- diced

1/2 onion- diced

1/4 cup peas- frozen or fresh

1 clove garlic- minced

soy sauce - to taste

2 eggs

2 tbl rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbl sesame oil

Instructions:

Heat up a wok or large pan. Place a little oil in the pan. Once it's heated up put the onions peas, carrots, and any other veggies you wish to add in there (not the brussel sprouts). Cook until the onion are translucent and the carrots are al dente. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes being carful not the burn the garlic. Crack two eggs in a bowl and mix like you were making scrambled eggs. Pour this mixture into the pan and stir around as the eggs start to cook. You don't want to stir too vigorously otherwise the egg pieces will be small and almost imperceptible. Think of it like fried rice. Add more eggs if you'd like.

Once that is cooked through, add soy sauce and sesame oil. Put brussel sprouts in the pan and sprinkle more soy sauce. Add the rice vinegar and a little bit of oil. Stir and toss the salad as the brussel sprouts start to cook. Once they have cooked and the veggie/egg mixture is throughout. Let it sit in the pan for a few minutes at a time before stirring to get a nice caramelization on the brussel spouts. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Add some hot sauce as well for a kick!

UPDATE:

A friend of mine over at the newly created blog 'Adventures In Culinary Therapy' was nice enough to take this recipe and add a meat eaters flair. Ian is a professional chef and also an amazing creator of charcuterie and other culinary experiments. He took my original recipe, added some things and served it up to his family. Here are his thoughts. :)

Ok, we had a modified version for dinner and the kids destroyed it.

Changes:

Substitute peas with snow peas

Soy sauce with ponzu sauce

Add 1 oz lemon grass

Add 6 oz grass fed organic home dried beef - i'm sure some dried beef from your local grocer works as well if you don't have some drying in your house already ;)- KR

I would definitely make this again. Sorry to meat up your dish, but it was hand crafted so i'm only a little sorry.

There you go meat eaters. An awesome variation from Ian! Enjoy!

What Are Common Myths Associated with Veggie Eaters?

In an attempt to reduce judgement, and help inform others, I have decided to post the top three myths/arguments i've seen posed again being a vegan/vegetarian. 

I would love for this to be a conversation and NOT a forum for judgement. I am sure that many of you meat and veggie eaters have come across many more arguments so please feel free to share them in the comments section!

Vitamin Deficiency-

One of the top questions/arguments posed to me when I say "I eat Vegan/Vegetarian" deals with vitamins. For example:

How do you get enough calcium if you can't drink milk?
You only get B12 from animal products right?
If you have to take a pill to get all your vitamins you aren't eating a well balanced diet

Forgive me, but this is ridiculous. First, soy, tofu, some green veggies (i.e., collards), and even molasses are all good -non animal- sources of calcium. Furthermore, doctors, vitamin companies and commercials all state how women need more calcium -regardless of their diet. Second, while B12 is only present in animal products most multi vitamins -taken by veggie and meat eaters alike- contain B12. Problem solved. Finally, if the final argument had ANY standing then the only people that need to take daily vitamins are those that are not healthy eaters (e.g., looking at you daily McD's eater). This is clearly not the case. It's good to be aware of vitamin deficiency but even meat eaters need to take vitamins to stay healthy.

It's Too Expensive

Lets think about this for a moment. What is more expensive, a set of portabello mushrooms or an 8oz steak from the butcher? Right, the steak. While many animal free versions of food (e.g., dairy free cheese, cream-cheese, sour cream, soy/almond/coconut milk) may be more expensive than their bargin animal-based counterparts, these are not REQUIRED to be a veggie eater. As a matter of fact, I know several people that were vegetarian while in college purely for financial reasons. If you try to be a veggie-eater but want to still eat the same foods (mac and cheese, stroganoff, pizza) then yes, you will come across some expensive items. If you instead embrace the diet, get a cookbook and see the really simply and cheap ways to prepare veggies this myth will quickly become debunked for you as well. 

For example, a great meal for me, that is filling, is the following: 

Portabello burger (the mushroom grilled + tomato, lettuce, bread [gf for me] + condiments) 

Grilled Salvadorian Corn (corn on the cob + mayo +mustard + ketchup + chili powder + cheese)

Grocery Total no more than $20...that's assuming i have to buy the condiments and that i'm feeding me + 1.  

All You Can Eat Are Salads and Raw Veggies

This one -for me- is one of the saddest of them all and just reflects a lack of exposure. The veggie diet (vegan/vegetarian) has come SOO far both in-home and in restaurants. Most places have vegetarian menues and some places are completely tailored to veggie eaters. While the quality of veggie foods may have been sub-par 10 years ago, SO much has progressed- similar to the GF world. I have had meals that I would have NEVER known were vegan and I can't remember the last time I went into a restaurant that didn't have a 'vegetarian meals' section. The only time I find myself with a lack of options is when people insist on going to a steak house or something similar. But I can't really fault the restaurant for that. It would be like going to a vegan restaurant and being upset that they don't have meat. 

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This awesome video was also recently released that outlines how to get protein in a veggie diet! Totally awesome!

Top 3 Reasons Why People Choose Vegan or Vegetarian

Recently, I engaged my friends on the internet in a conversation about judging other for what they eat. While this conversation was both frustrating as well as heart warming, it really opened my eyes on how many people judge dietary  decisions due to a lack of understanding. Rather than stomp my feet and get pissed off, I decided to do what any well intentioned- commonly judged- person would do: inform. Over the next few blogs I will go over the common reasons for different dietary decisions and de-bunk some popular myths. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a world expert on ALL the reasons and ALL the myths so if I miss something PLEASE add to the conversation in the comments. I would love to make this a place for those with questions to find answers. Less of a lecture and more of a conversations.  

With that said, lets dive in. Here are the top three reasons that I have heard of people deciding to be vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian/gluten-free/local only/<insert yours here>. 

I'd love to hear what you think.  

Environmental Reasons

There are several good books, articles, movies and documentaries on the environmental impacts of mass production of animal/animal products/fish (asked a group of people for a few suggestions).

foodispower.org

Fork Over Knives

Omnivores Dilema

SuperSize Me

Some quote the methane gas contribution of large dairy farms, cutting down rain forest sections to make way for grazing pastures, over-fishing -almost to extinction, and the harm done by certain fishing techniques to other marine life (e.g., sea turtles dying in fishing net) as reasons for deciding to not eat fish, not to eat meat, or even stop eating animal products all together. Many veggie-eaters worry for the future of the earth and thereby don't support that industry in an attempt to reduce the impact on the environment. Similarly, some still see the value of animal/fishing products but at smaller levels and therefore only support local farmers. These people tend to eat much less meat/fish and all of it comes from small local farms- usually with free-range animals. While some may respond with 'one vegan doesn't save the ozone' the same argument can be made for not voting. Don't use this as a reason to belittle or put down others please. 

Ethical Reasons  

I just can't harm another innocent life and therefore don't feel right with other people doing it for me instead.

Basically, several veggie-eaters that I have talked to can not stomach the bad treatment of another animal (i.e., small confined quarters, poor treatment through life, in-humane killing, etc)  at the same time they don't feel comfortable buying it already killed and processed for them. Even though they don't have to kill the animal themselves they don't feel comfortable with others doing it either. Because of this they decide not to eat animal products. On the other hand, some are ok with the natural processes (i.e., milking a cow, using the milk to make cheese, using eggs). and therefore choose vegetarian rather than vegan.  

Health Reasons

Just like other types of diets (gluten free, sugar-free, etc.) some people simply have an intolerance for animal products. Some can't eat dairy (lactose intolerance) or red meat (meat-intolerance). Some people with blood sugar issues have a spike in blood sugar reaction when eating meat/animal products. Some simply feel better (body) with an all veggie diet. Some emotionally feel better. Regardless, for these people it's a health reason.

Even thought I presented each of these as three separate reasons, many people fall into several- if not all- of the categories. I have met many people that stopped eating read meat for environmental reasons and soon started to see a health benefit. A big take away for anyone that is on the fence is 'do it for your own reasons.' If you decide you just like the taste of veggies more than meat focused meals, that's all that matters. Also, you don't have to go full-boar to support any of these causes/reasons. 

For anyone who felt veggie-eaters were simply following a fad diet, being a hipster, were 'scared of food',  or any other mis-informed judgement, I hope this helped to clear things up a little. :) Information is always the first step in tolerance and acceptance of things/decisions that are not like you/yours. 

 

Do You Judge People For What They Eat?

Very recently I was on a social media site, procrastinating by scrolling through the comments/photos, and came across an interesting post. A vegan on my feed stated that they (1) harshly judge all people who are not vegan, (2) have no respect for them and  (3) judge other vegans/vegetarian who do NOT judge meat/animal product eaters. They simply couldn't see the argument for how you could eat one way and not judge those that did not eat the same....so I gave my opinion. 

 My reason “I can’t help what you think." I expect them not to judge me for my decisions so I don’t judge them for theirs. It’s like religion. I respect those that have faith and don't condemn others who aren't religious. :) Hope this helps

Well it didn't. Soon the rest of their social media friends jumped in and I was suddenly being equated to supporting -and I quote- rapists and murders. 

I was judged for not judging.....does this seem historically similar to anything else???

At a younger age this would have sent me into a tizzy asking questions like:

Is the bleach you use in your hair vegan? What about the bright blue eye shadow I see? Body wash? Conditioner? Clothes? Do you have any jewelry that you don't know where it came from/what had to be hurt to get it? Do you require your dog or cat to be vegan? If the answer to ANY of these is NO then YOU SUPPORT RAPISTS AND MURDERERS TOO!

But, I have grown/matured and learned not to -as a friend says- 'feed the trolls' but it did get me wondering. 

Who judges and why?

As someone with dietary needs (I am gluten free, and cook a vegan...if not vegetarian...diet while i'm home) I do find myself judged when I go out and try to maintain the same standards. It's hard to ignore the look on a waiter/waitresses face when you say "do you have a gf menu" or "what on your menu is vegan?" As a matter of fact, this judgement influences my eating experience so much that tolerance/acceptance/knowledge at a restaurant has gotten me to look past mediocre food and have a truly great overall experience. While I expect this judgement from the wait staff (not that I think it's ok), have I missed being judged by my eating companions? Do they roll their eyes when I ask for a GF menu, or spend minutes of questions to the waiter/waitress trying to find out what I can eat? Do they dread going out with me knowing I will suggest a place with vegan/gf options - or as some say 'hippie/rabbit food? Do they dread eating at my house for fear of what gf/vegan food I will serve? Basically,

Do people judge me for what I eat? 

Rather than drive myself crazy, I decided to ask the internet:

To all my vegan/vegatarian/pescetarian/<insert dietary needs here> friends:
Do you judge people who do not eat the way you do?

Here is what I got.  

Yes

The number of people that admitted to judging others was actually quite small. I'll be the first to admit that it might be a sample bias on my part but the message is still the same (a.k.a., I only asked people I talk to or people who follow me). Regardless, judgement still was reported- by meat eaters AND veggie eaters- but it was mainly judgement they had experienced rather then them judging others.  

Veggie-Eaters Judging Meat-Eaters

One group of people confided that they actually had lost vegan friends because the vegans loudly and continually proclaimed that their vegan children were superior in all ways to other non-vegan children. That's a way to keep cohesion at the park and teach tolerance to the next generation eh? :p   

Another form of judgement was toward meat-eaters making a transition to vegetarian or vegan but hadn't yet 'taken the plung' (a.k.a., would still eat meat products periodically). I see this judgement equivalent to punishing a smoker that uses a nicotine patch to ween themselves off of smoking- rather than going cold turkey. The only thing you're punishing is the choice to change but more on that another day.  

Meat-Eaters Judging Veggie-Eaters

Most confirmations of judgement toward veggies-eaters seemed to stem from...quite frankly...ignorance. A lack of understanding on WHY a person chooses to eat the way they eat seemed to feed comments like: 

you're just following a fad diet/are you done doing that yet
why do you have a phobia of food/an eating disorder 
vegans/vegetarians are stupid because meat has needed nutrients you can't get anywhere else
animals were made to be eaten

The list goes on and on causing people to say: 

...it can be quite discouraging and exhausting constantly being talked down to

No

Even though the stories, and experience, of judgement were upsetting to me, it was encouraging and amazing to see the majority of people responding with 'absolutely not!' So many said things like:

live and let live
guide, don't dictate
In the end do whatever makes you happy...
If I judged and fought every person...about their choices that are different than the choices I'm passionate about-- I'd lose my effing mind.
There are pros and cons to almost everything in life and I only judge child molesters and oil men (<--vegan).

This support came from meat-eaters, vegetarians, pescetarians and vegans a-like. As the comments rolled in, it was like watching a group of people come together at a table with all types of food and say: 

I don't care what you eat, i'd just love to eat a meal with you.

It warmed my heart and made me want to have a party. :) 

THIS is what food and the eating experience is about! 

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From the conversations I had, I saw judgement break friendships, create awkward family gatherings, and even made some people completely terrified to go out to eat with others who don't eat like them. This is NOT a good way to have to live meat-eater OR veggie-eater. 

Regardless if this, I heard from so many people that had walked many paths of life, had many different REASONS for their dietary decisions and did not judge others. I met many mixed households with one partner being vegan and the other a meat-eater...and no battles were waged. I met patient veggie-eaters that had influenced the diet of SOOO many of their friends without their knowledge just by sharing meals with them and answering any questions that came their way (I have S.B., M.L., M.B., and M.W-L to thanks for that for this myself) . I even met meat-eaters that were highly supportive of their partners/friends veggies diets and would -from time to time- eat the same way.

THIS is what a dinner table is for. All judgement dropped, you come with an open mind and an empty stomach. Judgement doesn't seem to do anything but label a group as mean (e.g., "Beware. There are some pretty mean vegans out there"), and put others off from understanding why  anyone would choose that diet- let alone adopt it. If you truly want to change the dietary world don't punish people who interact with you. It's like over-zealous women that end up giving feminists a bad name. Be patient. Be understanding and share your table with them. You may be surprised at how much influence you would have by simply giving someone a great vegan/vegatarian/pescetarian/gluten-free/<insert diet here> eating experience. 

 

Montreal: De Ja Dinner

It is crazy how so many things come full circle. How you find out that one of your boyfriends work buddies –who does real estate on the side and helps you find a house- is the nephew of you fathers new wife’s mother….and they all live in completely different states. While some people seem pretty accustomed to this phenomena, it still ceases to amaze me when things come full circle- especially when it happens in a city I have only been to once –now twice- in my life. 

Let me explain.

On a recent trip to Montreal I found a place that was all gluten free with vegan options. They even had gf poutine!!! With that said I headed over.

Caipirinha

While the meal was ok, and the experience/atmosphere was 'meh' I was happy, full and had a few of these so I decided to walk back to my hotel. 
As I walked I past I saw locals eating outside, enjoying the weather and a cocktail. It was how I always love to explore a city ...until...I got that strange de-ja-vu feeling. Like i wasn't exploring anything. Like i'd been there before. I kept walking and the feeling was not going away. 

To the passer by I probably looked paranoid and weird while I looked around for something I recognized.

Right as I was about to give up I came upon it.. Juliette et Chocolat! I had been to Montreal once before while I was in college. In a similar fashion to now, I decided one day to explore the city and got lost. After a few attempts to figure out where I was going I decided to sit down at a quaint little place, order hot chocolate (adult style) and some chocolate fondu. It was here that I decided I would move to Montreal...or maybe even France. I loved the atmosphere and the experience. It was intimate even when I was sitting alone. I felt like I was part of the fabric of the city even though I didn't understand a word of French. 

As I walked by, the memories and feelings rushed back to me. I never thought I would see the place again -because quite frankly i had no idea where it was- but I happened to stumble upon it while wandering for only a few hours in Montreal. :) I suddenly recognized the whole street and everything came full circle. 

 

Montreal: Wandering to My Lunch

Im going to be completely honest with you. I have tried to write this blog entry about four times and each time I have hit Ctl+A and delete. Every time I got about three paragraphs in and wasn't satisfied. I was trying to describe a day where instead of making my 11:30 lunch reservation, I wandered- with little direction- until I found some food and along the way I stumbled upon a new yoga studio, an available apartment, and a lot of tourist attire. Was it too many words? Was I not giving enough background? Did I wander into an irrelevant tangent?

No. I realized that that my day was the exact opposite of paragraphs of words. I was wandering around simply taking everything in. There were few words spoken but many pictures taken. So I have decided to share my lunch wanderings through Montreal, Canada through pictures accompanied by brief narratives.  

Hope you enjoy.  

------ 

I had traveled to Montreal for a work trip but was not going to squander the oppotunity to explore the city. When my search for Le Quartier Genearl brought me to Gilford St. - rather than Gosford St- I decided to just walk around.

Champ de Mards

Since I was in the middle of high rises and large glass building I was pleasantly surprised to come across this.  Perfectly perched atop a hill, looking out over the city. So I decided to turn right.

Wandering down Notre Dam St. I found an alley that looked promising.

This is where I went from downtown building to Old Montreal. Nothing but shops, menus, and cafes. 

For the next 2 hours I zig zagged along going in shops, and looking at menus. So much fish tar tar, so much variety, so much fun. 

I even came across a little girl making a wish in a well. Well maybe not one wish, more like five. 

The first wish

The fifth wish.

The scenery.

Finally, I realized that I needed to eat and when I passed by an open court yard, packed with tons of people and a light breeze, I decided to walk in. Without even taking a glance at the menu outside I was pleasantly surprised with a glass of rose and their vegan, gluten free special.  

My Rose

My lunch

The perfect way to start my wanderings through Montreal. Now back to the hotel until it's time for dinner. 

'It's All Good' Review

About a month ago my blog feed inundated me with stories and critiques of Gwenyth Paltrows new cookbook "It's All Good." At first I ignored it as hype due to celebrity status but eventually I read an article by Rebecca Harrington in NYMags- The Cut and decided to check it out. 

Before I bought it I went through article reviews (most were just bashing or praising the author with no mention of the recipes)  and amazon reviews to get an overall feel for the book. These were the recurring points I found:

Pros

  • "I LOVE GWENYTH PALTROW/GOOP/GP...etc <--very helpful :p
  • I never knew how to cook this way
  • I feel so good after eating this way
  • The recipes are so easy 

Cons

  • Gwenyth Paltrow has a phobia of food (i'll get to that in a later post)
  • The ingredients were hard to find
  • The ingredients were really expensive
  • The ingredients were strange, unknown things that no one could find
  • The recipes were too simple (e.g., "she taught me how to boil an egg' was a popular complaint). 

The reviews left me a little confused. They either liked the author or complained because they had to find ingredients like raw honey - is raw honey and quinoa really that exotic? None of the reviews really seemed to be done from a 'how are the recipes' POV. Even more, no one that has actually done an elimination diet, or been vegan, seemed to be putting in their two sense.

This is where I come in.  

I ordered the book, flipped through from cover to cover, and let my review begin. I made 26 total recipes -over 6 days- that ranged from breakfast to dinner, entree to side, savory to sweet. Here are my overall thoughts (I also did a more specific review of the elimination recipes and the vegan recipes in previous posts).  

Pros

  • A good kick start to healthier living. This book seems to be more for the general population rather than the specific group of clean, allergic or vegan eaters -I have many more books I would recommend for these groups instead of this one. With that in mind, it is always good to have a celebrity support any sort of healthy cooking movement. It gets the ball rolling. "It's All Good" really does cover a really wide range of recipes (soups, veggies, fish, pountry, kids cooking, sweets) supplying a lot of options. In the same vein it introduces different types of cooking that many new-to-healthy-cooking home cooks don't do (i.e., salt roasting a whole fish). 
  • Many people complained about the fact the ingredients were hard to find- or 'bankrupt' expensive. I did not have this issue. I live in a relatively small farming town- and dont' make a six figure salary- and I was able to find/buy EVERYTHING except sweet white miso paste- and for that I just drove about an hour to Whole Foods. Not a big deal. If you are used to cruising the processed food section- and don't want to leave your comfort zone- then don't pick up a book for clean and healthy living. I cook and eat clean/vegan/vegetarian/gluten free constantly and I never left my comfort zone or price range.
  • Simple is not always bad. Yes there are recipes for how to boil an egg but many people have NO idea how to do that. (Hint- if your yolk is green you cooked it too long). The section of simple recipes is in the back and just covers some real basic, staple recipes. I find NO fault with these. Thomas Keller has how to roast a chicken in his French Laundry cookbook and no one freaked out about that. Everyone has to walk before they can run and I found these recipes to be helpful and a good addition to the book.

Cons

  • Lack of flavor. As stated in the specific reviews, many of the recipes served as a 'good start' to a meal but required much more flavor/seasoning to be satisfying. While I have no issue doing this -as I usually don't follow a recipe to the 't' anyway- this can be a bad start for someone either (1) new to home cooking or (2) new to elimination/vegan cooking. It will give the sense that to eat healthy -and be as 'youthful looking' as Gwenyth Paltrow- you have to eat bland, sometimes boring food. I am here to tell you that this is NOT the case
  • Lack of options. While the recipes do cover a wide range of areas, if you decided to follow the cult of GP and just  use this book then you will have very few breakfast options (elimination) or entree options (vegan). 
  • Elimination Diet does NOT equal FAD diet. I am not sure if this is Gwenyth Paltrows doing or the media (since the book is subtitled 'Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look and Feel Great' I will put at least some  of the blame on the author) but the book frames an elimination diet as the newest fad diet. This is NOT the case (stay tuned for a post on what as elimination diet actually  is). If you really think you have a food allergy, do some research and do it the right way. This is NOT the book for that. 

So there you have it. Overall, the book was 'ok.' I am not clamoring to use to again, but I'm not going to burn it. There were a few recipes that I may reference in the future as a starting point and then season/modify to my own taste. 

One thing it did do was inspire my next review. After eating so many 'blah' vegan recipes I'm going to review a book I know and love: Veganomicon!  Im pretty excited!

'It's All Good'- Vegan Recipes

Overall:

My adventures into Gwenyths vegan-ville did not have a good start but progressed into something better. While there were a few recipes that I liked, and would even go back to and modify to my taste- I would not really recommend someone use this as an introduction to vegan cooking. Too many of the recipes would give a first time vegan- or their dinner guests- the idea that vegan-food is bland- which it is not. For food allergies, this book is a good start, for veganism i'd recommend Veganomicon

One major downside is that there are very few vegan entrees in this book that are not soups. If it's summer you would just get to eat a bunch of sides. 

First Meal

Japanese Style Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing

Scallion Pancakes with Brown Rice Flour

Grilled Corn: Korean Style

Flourless 'Anything' Crumble

Meal 1

Notes: The carrot ginger dressing had promise but when the recipe was followed it came up short in flavor. More vinegar, more honey and more miso would have helped up the flavor. Maybe even some peanut butter -still vegan. I had high hopes for the pancakes because i'm usually a big fan but they were very doughy and had almost no flavor. I recommend thinning out the batter a lot more so that you can get a good cook on them and not just dough with scallions in it (update- I tried this and it still was doughy). I also added some vegan sour cream and hot sauce to give them more flavor because alone they were pretty bland. I loved the Korean style corn. It caramelizes the sugar in the corn and tops it with spice. Always a hit at my house. The crumble was really good and really easy. I liked the surprising crunch that the quinoa gave the top but I would have doubled the batch to give more coverage. Make sure to use in season berries/fruit since the recipe really empahasizes the natural flavor and sweetness of the fruit you use rather than overpowering it with sugar. Overall the meal was nothing terribly exciting. Based on this collection of recipes, if someone used this book as an introduction to vegan cooking they would leave thinking that it was overall boring and lacking in flavor- a common misnomer already. Giving Gwenyth Paltrow some credit, I may have picked recipes that were blander so I still charged on into the next day.

Second Meal/Day

 (I just cooked recipes all through the day)

Sweet Potato 5 Spice Muffins (Breakfast) 

Arugula Salad + Shallots with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Risotto  with Peas + Greens

Darleens Cheesecake

Notes: These recipes were MUCH better than the first when it came to flavor and spice. With that said, several did still serve better as a 'start'- like with the elimination diet recipes. The apple cider vinaigrette was a really good light, yet tangy dressing and paired really well with a peppery arugula. The bestie and I made this during that really hot spell in the west so light and refreshing was GOOD. I liked the lemon and peas in the risotto - I was worried about the lack of cheese- but it could have done with a little more depth of flavor. Darleens cheesecake did not taste like cheesecake, didn't have much depth of flavor, but it did taste good. More like a custard cake than cheesecake (do NOT attempt if you are looking for vegan cheesecake. just appreciate it for what it is). The sweet potato muffins were dense, but moist and tasted good with coffee the next morning. I would want to look at way to make them fluffier. Overall, I enoyed the food - and so did the bestie- and it all came together really quickly.

Third Meal/Day 

Scrambled Tofu (breakfast)

Arugula Salad + Green Goddess Dressing

Easiest Posole

Charred Corn with Sage

Banana 'Ice Cream' with Sweet & Salty Roasted Almonds

Almond Butter Cookies with Salt

Notes:  I really like scrambled tofu as it serves as an amazing medium for anything you put in it. Because of that, I was a little surprised at how bland and one note the recipe was. I added some shitake mushrooms, garlic, scallions and it upped the flavor. Sprinkle with a little hot sauce and you're off to a good start. :) I know so many people that are obsessed with green goddess dressing (thank you Trader Joes) and this recipe seemed to work well. It had good flavor, was creamy, and was jam packed with herbs. Even my meat loving boyfriend liked it and put it on his juicy lucy hamburger. I was really looking forward to the posole- I am a big fan usually. While it had some flavor from the roasted veggies (I did them on the BBQ) I still found myself wanting more depth of flavor in the broth itself. The sides that it recommends (radish, avocado, cilantro, limes, onions) in the recipe are a good pair and give it a unique dynamic overall. Charred corn is charred corn. She really talks up the influence that sage has on it and I didn't really see it doing too much. Next time i'll add more. The cookies were simple and great! Be careful not to cook them too long otherwise they will just dry out your mouth. Cooked right and they offer a really gentle 'peanut butter' cookie flavor. Pairs well with coffee in the morning. I have made banana ice cream before and I did not really like the addition of so much liquid. It made the bananas liquidy and mucous-like in texture. Don't add so much liquid (or no liquid at all) and banana 'ice cream' rocks. 

 

 

Elimination Diet: Not The Next Fad Diet

This year Gwenyth Paltrow put out a new cookbook called "It's All Good" that centered around the idea of an 'elimination diet.' Apparently, Gwenyth Paltrow had an anxiety attack -followed by a migrane- one day and decided to go to the doctor. This resulted in them telling her that she, and her family, are allergic to a wide range of food (wheat, all things in the nightshade family, some fruits, some animal products, etc). Like any celebrity, she hired a personal chef to cook for her and her family and another cookbook was formed. 

While I do not judge her, or doubt the situation she went through, I was/am bothered by the message the book has started to perpetuate and I would like to set it straight. If you just read "It's All Good" you would think that an elimination diet means you have to cut out ALL foods that anyon e  could be allergic to forever. Also, by doing this you will loose weight, look great, and have clear skin like Gwenyth Paltrow (introduce new fad diet here). As someone that has actually  done several elimination diets -for the purpose of seeing if I have a food allergy/intolerance- I wanted to give a little more information and hopefully set the record straight. 

Here goes. 

What is an elimination diet? 

An elimination diet is 

  • NOT a new fad diet
  • NOT a way to loose weight
  • NOT synonymous with words like gluten free, lactose intolerant, meat intolerant, vegan, or cutting carbs.  

An elimination diet is a method by which to determine if your body has trouble digesting, or is allergic to certain foods. A common reason is to determine if you are allergic or intolerant of wheat, dairy, red meat, etc. By eliminating the foods from your diet, the inflammation caused by eating the food subsides therefore allowing your body to balance out and process what you eat better/more efficiently. After eliminating the food for a specific period of time  (e.g., wheat) , you reintroduce it to see if your body reacts (e.g, digestive reaction, skin reaction, etc.). This method makes the signs of adverse reactions to the food much easier to identify when they are re-introduced -if they are there at all. 

One of the common side effects of eliminating a food that you are allergic to, or intolerant of, is weight loss (if you were overweight) or weight gain (if you were underweight). When you do not, or can not digest a certain food the common side effect is that your body either stores it all or purges it all. Once you eliminate that food from your diet, inflammation reduces and/or your body can properly digest what you eat, and you start to gain needed weight or loose unnecessary weight.

This should NOT be twisted into a weight loss program. 

How do you do it? 

Step 1: You figure out what food(s) may be the culprit. 
Step 2: You eliminate ALL forms of it for anywhere from 1-4 weeks.
Step 3: Reintroduce the food and see how you feel.
-extended version
Step 4: Eliminate the food again.
Step 5: Reintroduce to see if you get the same reaction.

Lets go through an example. I'll go through the process of the elimination diet I did for gluten.

Step 1: Gluten is the possible culprit so I did some research to figure out what exactly gluten is. Some think it's just bread but I found out that flour is used as a binding agent in many foods, is almost always present at fast food restaurants, can be cross contaminated in fryers, is in barley, etc. etc....you get the idea. 
Step 2: This is where that research is really helpful. Not only do you drop the breads, barley, flours, etc., you have to read labels (it's actually conveniently placed at the bottom of the ingredients list 'Contains: WHEAT') and ask for gluten free menus when you go out.  To be honest, whenever I do an elimination diet I try to eat at home the whole time. Makes it much easier to know/control what i'm eating and reduces the wide range of questions I have to ask. 
Step 3: After about a week (sometimes I go 2 weeks) I will have a piece of bread. Less is better. If you really have an allergy then suddenly giving your body a burger (gluten in bun and possibly patty), pasta, and bread pudding is going to be PAINFUL! Depending on your body you will see a reaction minutes to hours later. For me it's within the hour. I have digestive issues, get bloated and feel sick for a few days after. At this point I see no need to do steps 4 & 5 but some do if their reaction isn't as extreme. A good researcher does repeat their results after all. :)

A couple things to keep in mind. If you do the elimination diet and your body doesn't react, but you still feel sick, think of the foods that may be paired with what you thought was the problem. For example, maybe you're not allergic to wheat but instead the dairy that is usually present in pasta sauces, cookies, etc. Another thing is that if you think you have several issues with food (i.e., lactose and red meat) be sure that you control for ALL of those when doing an elimination diet. 

What's next? 

Ok. Lets say that you did the elimination diet and found out that you have a pretty bad reaction to a certain food. What is the next step?

It's up to you. Some have such an extreme reaction to the food that they completely cut it out forever (as was my case). For some it is such a mild reaction that they will 'splurge' from time to time.

Regardless of your decision the main thing to remember is: DO NOT BE ASHAMED. Just like vegetarians and vegans you have decided not to eat something and there is NOTHING wrong with that. One of the biggest issues I even have is 'inconveniencing' someone whether that be at a restaurant (i.e., asking what is GF) or at someones house. I have had to work -and still work- on getting over that because adhering to a certain diet is not a crime. If your server acts annoyed they will get over it. Your friends and family with understand.

Also, do some research. The culinary industry is coming so far and there are so many resources out there. Blogs, cookbooks, websites, restaurants have all started to focus on certain dietary needs, allergies, etc. I even go to bakeries that have an entire oven devoted to GF prodcuts.  

So there you have it. An elimination diet is not a fad weight loss program and does not require you to eliminate EVERYTHING that ANYONE may be allergic to FOREVER.  

Hope this helps. :) 


 

Happy 'Merica day

Some quotes from the day....
-'happy birthday America. Back to back world war champions!
- I love how green onions are ombre'
- that drink is strong... It's American!


More to follow I'm sure. We haven't even really started drinking!

Have fun... Be safe.... Drink lots... And eat good food.

Gluten Free Cupcakes. You've Come So Far

One of my favorite ways to become acquainted with a neighborhood is to wake up, walk around with my morning coffee, and explore. I like the morning because you get to see the ‘normal’ people, the locals. The people going to work, taking their daily puppy walk around the block, or getting in line at their favorite place - before it opens- to get a cupcake. It is these people that tell you what is good in the neighborhood.


Lock I found on the bridge

The other day I decided to explore Georgetown, DC. I got a grande soy latte- one pump of vanilla- and walked across the bridge from Arlington. I was joined by morning runners, people riding their bike to work/school and all of them looked at me with a smile. I felt accepted into the morning crowd. I felt relaxed. As I walked past closed boutiques and just opened coffee shops I stumbled upon a line at Georgetown Cupcakes. Without a second thought, almost like I had been walking there all along, I turned the corner and took my place in line. As I sat there sipping my coffee a voice inside my head suddenly said ‘you are in line at a BAKERY! They probably don’t even have gluten free cupcakes.’ As I stood there I got worried that  I would have to walk away empty handed.

Who are we kidding? I was more concerned they would not have GF cupcakes and i’d get something anyway. Self restraint isn’t really my thing at times when cupcakes are involved.  Gluten or no gluten, these locals say this is good so I am not missing out. 



Waiting for Georgetown Cupcakes

Luckily for me they DID have gluten free cupcakes- and even offered to change their gloves to box my salted caramel cupcake. As I walked away I felt like it was my lucky day! I found a cupcake place and they had something I could eat! Wow! In my daze I suddenly looked up past the Lululemon and Kate Spade sign to see Sprinkles Cupcakes. I stopped short in my tracks- in sheer amazement- right in front of the store. 

‘Should I go in with a competing bakeries box in my hand?’

‘Can I eat that many cupcakes gf or not?’

‘Do they ALSO have gf cupcakes? They didn’t when I went in LA.’

The answer was yes, yes and yes! Not only did they have gluten free cupcakes but they were red velvet! I was in pure heaven!

Once I found another coffee shop and proceeded to pig out, I suddenly realized that the gluten free industry has come so far. Only a few years back finding gf goods was a miracle and when you did they were either amazing or better used as a brick- the latter being the majority of the cases. Most cupcakes were the density of a pound cake coming in only chocolate or vanilla. But here I was, in Georgetown, eating a moist flavorful salted caramel cupcake from Georgetown cupcakes and a Red Velvet one from Sprinkles. Both within a mile of each other. I wasn’t missing out on any eating experience!

 My have we come so far!!!

 

Salted Caramel!

'It's All Good'- Elimination Recipes

A few weeks ago I opened my news feed during my morning coffee and suddenly Gwenyth Paltrow had taken over. Her new cookbook "It's All Good" had hit the stores and had mixed reviews. Some loved it, some didn't understand it, some hated it. So I decided to try it. In it she has a coding system with (1) elimination diet, (2) vegan, and (3) protein-packed recipes. I decided to go through these and see what it was all about. At end i'll give an overall review. :)

Elimination Diet Overall Review: 

I started with 'elimination diet' 

DISCLAIMER- If you are not seeking to do an elimination diet, this book is not for you. If you don't think you have any food allergies, or are not looking to eat a 'cleaner' diet, this book is not for you. If you are still looking to eat McDonald and fried chicken, this book is not for you. 

Several of the recipes I tried served as a good 'starting point' -therefore requiring more flavor and tweaking after- but overall the recipes were ok. For those looking to get ideas on how to cook for an elimination diet, it is definitely a helpful book to show you a world outside of steamed veggies and salad. But after you have gotten a few ideas I would start experimenting yourself.  Not a staple in an allergy prone house, but still a good book to have on the shelf. 

One definite downside, there is very few breakfast recipes on the elimination diet. Life would get very boring if you only used this book. 

First Meal: 

Cucumber + Avocado Soup

Mango + Avocado Salad (with vinaigrette) 

Turkey Meatballs

Baked Apple

Notes: The soup was nice and creamy but slightly citrusy. I put the turkey meatballs in it (since i couldn't make tomato sauce for the elimination recipe) and it seemed to balance better. I'll try the soup again in the future but tweak the ratio for a little less citrus. The turkey meatballs were good and flavorful. The next take day I took them- tossed a cabbage salad with the remaining vinaigrette- and ate them together. It was good. The baked apple did not turn out as planned. It mentions juices but there was no juice to be found. The flavor and mushyness did go good with icecream- admitingly NOT on the elimination diet but hey it was dessert. :) 

Second Meal: 

Many Mushroom Soup

Anchovy + Lemon Salad Dressing

Salmon Burgers

Korean Slaw

Meal 2

Notes:  The soup was a good start but felt like it needed something to give it more depth of flavor. For an elimination diet it did do a good job but the addition of some more spices allowed in the elimination diet would have been helpful. The salad dressing was very simple to make and tasted great on arugula - even better the next day when the flavors had combined more and the dressing was colder. Perfect for a summer dinner. The salmon burgers had a great taste. I let them sit in the fridge for a while, as suggested, and the flavor came out well. I decided to put them on the grill and unfortunately it does not execute as well as the book would suggest. Just put down some tinfoil first and it works fine. I ended up putting it on top of the salad and it went wonderfully. The next day it tasted great as well. Korean Slaw was tasty. The original recipe was a little citrusy/lacked depth of flavor so I added more salt. 

Third Meal:

Perfect Herbed Grilled Chicken

Spicy Brussel Sprouts

Frankies-esque beet salad

Roasted cauliflower + chickpeas with mustard + parsley

Meal 3

Notes: This entire meal was great. I am always apprehensive about the 'perfect' chicken. I have had too many 'perfect' chickens that are merely slathered in sweet sauce, or have an incredible flavor that doesn't permeate a millimeter below the surface. This was different. The marinate had a wonderfully fresh smell and letting the chicken sit in that for a while was worth the wait. It grilled up flavorful and juicy. The spicy brussel spouts were intriguing and did not disappoint. I never would have mixed sriacha sauce and brussel sprouts but it turned out well. My friend is not as tolerant of spicy food so it was great that all spicy sauce is added at the end. I put a dash in for flavor to the overall dish but then added as much as I wanted after. The beet salad looked and tasted amazing. The sweetness of the beets was balanced well with the acidity of the dressing and it all finished with creamy avocado bites. Do not spill it unless you want to realize why they used beat juice to dye clothing. Roasting cauliflower and chickpeas was something I have never done but it was amazing. :) The mustard sauce bite played wonderfully with the nutty flavor of the roasted cauliflower. All in all it was an easy meal. I made it all slowly through the day in a leisurely pace -drinking and reading as I went along- but this meal could totally be made in the normal dinner time (except for roasting the beets). All made great leftovers.

 

To Eat or Not to Eat Gluten

"The true baguette is thin, between about 24 to 28 inches long, slightly flattened, weighs nine to ten ounces, and has five or seven oblique slashes along the top surface, made just before baking, to allow the dough to expand before the crust has set. The crust itself is toasty, tight, and crackling, and the insides...are creamy- nearly golden- never bone white......It's most elusive qualities are the strong simple sweetness of the crumb, though absolutely no sugar can be added, and a nearly paradoxical quartet of textures- around the air bubles, the crumb is dense, moist, stretchy, and extremely tender, all at the same time, with no hint of rubberiness, no dry tough sheets or filaments of gluten."
                                 -Jeffrey Steingarten 'It Must've Been Something I Ate' pg 116

As you can tell, I have been reading Jeffrey Steingartens most recent book (2003) 'It Must've Been Something I Ate.' I am attracted to him and his writing style because it is ALL about his experience. Traveling overseas to see if all salt truly does taste the same. Cooking stews for his dog SkyKing - a chapter that cemented his place in my heart. And traveling the country, and world, to experience good food. Through it all he does an amazing job of describing the foods he eats with just enough detail to implore you to travel to France for things like real  camembert, but not enough detail to where you feel like you already have. This is where we get to my problem. As I read about his experience judging baguettes in France -the gooey bubbles, the perfectly flakey crunch of the crust- I could not help but think that I had to have that experience as well. Almost like a severe injustice would be done to me if I do not experienced a real  French baguette at some point in my life

Problem: 

I can't eat gluten. 

Let me clarify what I mean by "I can't eat gluten." When I eat gluten I get sick for 2-7 days after -that is assuming that I do a detox of some sort that wont further exaggerate the problem. This isn't minor discomfort, or something a Tums could handle. This is genuine sickness that encompasses my inner body, outer body and even emotional health. For example, if I were to eat ONE piece of bread, within 30 minutes my body will decide to get rid of everything else it had ingested up to that point. After that, it starts to store/not digest every single thing I eat from that point on -meaning I have zero appetite- leading to 'regularity' issues that not even Jamie Lee Curtis' Activia commercials can resolve. I gain anywhere from 5-10 pounds over this time- blimping me up to a size only stretch pants can accomodate. My face starts to break out in blemishes and rashes. My upper arms start to develop a mild form of eczema and my attitude goes from relatively chill to short tempered and irritable. All-in-all not a great experience. It is also worth noting that cross contamination is a problem. I had some corn tortilla chips that were made on sight, at the restaurant, in the frier that just HAPPENS to be the same one that fries breaded fish and flour tortillas. I got sick within 60 minutes and was so noticeably bloated that my boyfriend told me I looked like I had gained weight since the day before.

Question:

Is any culinary experience worth  getting sick? Is there any food out there that is so amazing and unique to eat that I would never regret eating it while dealing with being sick for up to 7 days?

Lets go over a few options.  

Option #1: Yes!

One of the obvious answers is yes. There may just be certain foods out there that will never taste the same without gluten. These foods may be so amazing and simplistically perfect that not experiencing them would be like never having authentic an authentic ragu -just the bottled stuff-, or camembert . You may just have to try it, at least once, so you know. 

Option #2: No!

With so many amazing bakeries, pasta makers, and progressive chefs out there this option is becoming more and more endorsed. Ten years ago gluten free cupcakes tasted dry, and dense paling in comparison to their moist and fluffy counterparts. Furthermore, finding these options was a battle within itself. Going out and asking 'what is gluten free on the menu' once got you a very confused look- like you asked which vegetables were harvested on the moon- and limiting your options to a salad with no dressing. Now, even places like Per Se are very farmiliar with this and have even gone so far as to bake gluten free breads in house, and put together entire tasting menus, just for those who are gluten free. It's truly awesome but still begs the question: are any foods out there - with gluten in them - so unique and amazing that our progressive culinary world still has not captured them yet and never will.

My Answer:

I would love to finish this blog with an answer, but I don't have one. Some days I feel like 'YES! If I were in France I would eat a baguette and not regret a moment of it" or "I'm in New Orleans. How can I leave without an authentic beignet?" It is usually after days of watching my menu options dwindle down to 'a side of broccoli', or hanging around watching people eat pizza while I have to eat salad that I really start to ponder this option.  Other days I experience a meal(s) so amazing -that is completely gluten free- that I feel no need to compromise and experience sickness for my food. Seeing so much progress and openness I wonder do I just need to be patient?

I'd really like to know what you think. Not just for those who are gluten free but anyone (lactose intolerant, food allergies, etc) that experience discomfort or sickness through certain foods. Is anything worth it?

 

Sweet Potatoes Two Ways

Side Dish

Have you ever had real sweet potatoes? The kind that are seasoned with the slightest bit of sugar, to bring out the root vegetables natural sweetness, enough butter to provide creaminess, and toasted pecans that provide a hint of nuttiness and texture? I have. I was in New Orleans at Muriel’s Jackson Square. They immediately transported me back to dinner with my Gram. She knew how to make this little girl eat her vegetables. Make them taste like heaven but not like dessert.

That night at Muriel’s I had an amazing piece of fish in front of me, escargot to my left and I ignored them both to scarf down sweet potatoes. My friend was eating with me and probably felt like his life would be in danger if he attempted to eat any. He was right. Get your own f***ing sweet potatoes. In all fairness to me, after my gram died I had tried other recipes but almost all of them called for mounds of marshmallows burnt- I mean melted- on top to provide the ‘subtle sweetness’. Yuck. The sweet potatoes at Muriel’s were different. Not a marshmallow in sight and I even got the added bonus of toasted pecans. While I am sure many will tell me better places to get sweet potatoes in New Orleans (I’m always down to taste test on that one) I fell in love with that smelly town that night. Any town that proudly serves that as a side dish has a vote from me.

On my walk from sweet potatoes to prah-leens

Dessert

The next experience I had that made me want to set up shop in New Orleans and perform a six month culinary crawl through the French Quarter was at Southern Candy Makers. I walked in and was promptly asked, “Would you like to try a prah-leen?”For a moment I thought I might have misheard him so I cocked my head to the side and gave pause. When the nice gentleman behind the counter did not repeat himself I started to rapidly go through my memory banks in search of something that ‘prah-leen’ sounded like. As I write this I realize that it’s much easier to identify ‘prah-leen’ as a praline when written rather than heard by my naive west coast ears. Please forgive me native New Orleaneans. Regardless of my blank stare, the gentleman behind the counter at Southern Candy Makers in New Orleans, Louisiana handed me a light brown piece of candy and said “it’s our creamy original.” It was good. Again, my previous experience was with factory made pralines that were basically a shit ton of sugar with some pecans in it. The thought alone give me that ‘I ate too much sugar’ sick to my stomach feeling. This was different. It was a great balance. What came next I was not expecting. The same friend that ate dinner with me at Muriel’s was with me again. He had been given another variation of ‘prah-leen’ to try and looked at me, almost with a look of dread, when saying “try this one. You’ll love it.

All I have to say is that I did. They were sweet potatoe. I will make no attempt to string 80 adjectives together to describe how creamy the sugar was, or how the toasted pecans elevated the candy to a new level, just as it had in the sweet potatoes the night before. They simply took the dish I had forsaken all others for the night before and given it to me in a bite size treat. It was amazing. I left the store with a box of them and ate them before departing Louisiana 3 days later.

And I have another box on the way.