Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apple pie and BBQ

Apple pie. I actually have never had apple pie (that I can remember). So making a gf version sounded daunting. I don't think I have ever even made a traditional pie. I got more than a dozen apples the other day and have been trying to figure out what to do with them. I attempted homemade apple juice/slush. It was not good even though I wanted it to be chunky and not a pure liquid. I ate a few with peanut butter which got rid of a few more. But even after the pie I have like 6-8 more. I'm not a big fruit person. What can you do with an apple?

For the pie I made a crust (top and bottom) from Carol Fenster's 1000 GF Recipes and followed a basic apple pie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It is cooling on the table now. To be honest though, it took me all afternoon and into the evening. The reason is mostly due to watching two movies while cooking and not just because I had no idea what I was doing in trying to attempt gf pastries. My timing wasn't the greatest either because I was hoping to have it ready by the time dinner was ready and then eaten. I threw a pork butt chunk, some bbq sauce and some gf beer into the crock pot this morning and put it on low. Later on I cooked up some potatoes, split them open and put TONS of ghee on them with salt. Served the pork and spooned the sauce over it all. The melted ghee mixed with the sauce really well and it was all very delicious. And now I have apple pie for dessert! Albeit a bit later. But, YAY!

I am proud of myself that I went thoroughly American, which is unusual for me. It is Memorial Day weekend. First of all... I'm international at heart and just like ethnic food and languages and cultures. But also because American food is difficult to convert gluten free and dairy free and soy free!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

GF in San Diego

Ok, there a lot of gluten free restaurants in San Diego. We are lucky that we have a very up-to-date GF San Diego website and also Scripps Hospital has an outstanding list as well. But those only cover the places you can eat or get a GF drink at that are really popular. There are a TON of hole in the wall places, especially in the Uptown districts that don't make those lists. Many of them unfortunately didn't make it through the recession but a lot of new ones are opening up!

Now, I live in Uptown. I don't get out to North County often, which is where most of the active online San Diego gluten free people live. So, I want to point out some of the places around me that I frequent or have passed my very very thorough test of being "safe" yet easy to visit. I'm afraid to try new restaurants mostly because I don't like the hassle nor do I like getting sick. I'm kinda really poor right now and don't have someone to try new places with either, so I feel like my list is kinda spotty. If I do get back into my restaurant reviews before the year is out, I'll be covering everything from Coronado to Mission Valley, and everything up along the 5 until Encinitas. I love going to LA occasionally, so I might blog a bit about GF stuff there too (maybe, who knows).

This list is not complete, as until 6 months ago, my dinner dinning options were limited to the weekends or anything open past 10pm. I have for the most part omitted all Thai, Mexican, or Indian restaurants, Steakhouses and Sushi places because most of them are easy to navigate and are friendly to the gluten free diet. I want to highlight restaurants that go above and beyond. I only mentioned a few Thai, Mexican, and sushi places that are especially notable for their GF options.

North Park
Ritual Tavern
Crazee Burger (German-American)
Urban Solace
lots of good gf vegetarian places that use soy, so I can't go to them (but my veggie gf friends love them!- like Rebecca's Cafe and Veg-N-Out). a lot of new places too I haven't checked out

University Heights/Normal Heights/Kensington
Muzita Bistro (Ethiopian)
Pomegranate (Russian-Georgian)
Soltan Banoo (Persian)
Burger Lounge
Jaynes Gastro Pub
Cafe 2121
lots and lots of new cafes and restaurants opening

El Cuervo (Mexican)
Kyber Pass (Afghani)
Gossip Girl
Whole Foods
The Prado
Peace Pies (at the Farmers Market--- sometimes there is a good Ethiopian stand nearby too)
The Wine Encounter
Evolution Fast Food
several good mexican, thai, indian, greek, and sushi places
*** Pizza Fusion has cross-contamination issues, so I go to Whole Foods instead! But if you aren't overly gluten sensitive, its a great place for a gf pizza.

Mission Hills
Gelatos (Italian Ice cream & more)
Masa Japanese Restaurant (A lot more than just a sushi place, this is more like a full Japanese restaurant)
Luche Libre Taco Shop (Mexican)
Shakespeare's- (the Tea Room which is upstairs in the gift shop, not the pub)
Saffron (authentic Thai)
several fancy upscale steakhouses
** Non-Restaurant but good picnic food items: Sausage King (German Deli) and Ibis Market (North Iraqi Market)

Point Loma
Tender Greens
good seafood places on the marina
mostly a chain food restaurant area like Chipotle and various other mainstream Mexican joints, steakhouses, and In-N-Out Burger (too many soy issues for me). There are also a few shopping plazas like Liberty Station that have Greek, sushi, Thai, and other Asian (or Asian fusions), and I heard Sammy's Woodfired Pizza has gf crusts too. I find non-chain restaurants are easier to navigate, so I avoid this area usually.

Ocean Beach
Cupcakes Squared
OB Noodlehouse
People's Co-op
a few really good sushi and Mexican places on Newport Ave, a few hole in the wall hidden places scattered around the area that I haven't tried yet. Great place for a BBQ or picnic (or at Mission Bay or PB too)

Then there is always the classics like PF Changs, Pei Wei, Buca di Beppo, the Yard House, Hornblower cruises, Z-pizza, and Mexican or sushi in Old Town. Sardina's in Linda Vista is great and I heard Andre's Restaurant is too. If you are in the shadier parts of downtown, the corner taco stands run by non-english speaking mexicans are usually safe and KILLER good. There are dozens of places in La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Cardiff, and Encinitas that have gf options, gf menus, and even gf dedicated facilities too. I love San Diego.

Yeast-Free bread and Tea

I got my yeast free, gluten free, dairy free, soy free bread mix in the mail this week. It is a Breads from Anna bread mix. I gotta say, it is a WHOLE lot better than my versions. In fact, its better then most yeast versions I've made from a mix.

The $10 shipping costs are not conducive to regular eating of this mix. So, I don't think this yeast-free bread battle is over yet. OMG I hate baking. Why can't someone just blog a bread recipe that is not super complicated that I don't have to modify. I CAN bake... just not creatively. I need to follow the instructions. If I figured out how to bake gluten free, then I could manage with recipes that I have to modify. AAARRRG.

I take solace that I managed to make green smoothies and smoothies are is becoming a regular part of my diet. To boot, the East Frisian Tea set that I brought home from Ostfriesland may start getting some regular use soon. I managed to accidentally get my roommate hooked on tea. It has been more than three years since I had to stop eating sugar and watching my carbs, and 1.5 years since I had to stop eating/drinking dairy. Because of this, I could not use my tea pot/set in a traditional ostfrisian tea ceremony. There is good news! About a month ago I managed to stabilize my sugar metabolism enough so that I can have pure sugar again!!! AND, a few months ago I started using a coconut milk-drink creamer by SO Delicious. Unfortunately, I found out a few months back that my traditional east frisian tea is contaminated with gluten. BUT, today I had my first traditional tea ceremony with klunje (sugar rocks) and sahne (cream)! I nearly died with happiness.

I've had a couple of these moments in the past week. Its the little things in life that make it all worth it. :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

My first smoothie

I am drinking my first green juice smoothie as I type. This may actually be the first smoothie I have ever drank in my life.... other than the sugar and ice concoctions that have a strawberry in them if you are lucky.

My bread adventure has so far been a literal flop. I tried yet again on Sunday, figuring if I cooked it longer it would cook in the middle. Nope. Apparently gluten free bread always gets more gummier if you cook it longer, not less. This is a recurring theme with me for 2 years now. I am temporarily giving up in the name of needing to eat food and the fact that I have not eaten anything but salad and rice for almost a week. I found a mix that I ordered online and paid $25 for it and a box of cereal... which is all my food money for the rest of the month! I can't subside off of salad alone though. Especially for breakfast. I need something to eat in the morning so that I can at least take vitamins to supplement the fact that I'm not able to eat enough food and therefore nutrients. The problem is not having enough food. My cupboards, fridge and freezer are full. The problem is that I get hypoglycemia so if I don't have something quick and easy to eat if I have lost track of time (I need to eat every 3 hours, exactly) then I don't have the time or energy or creativity it takes to cook up something that is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, yeast free, and has the right balance of protein, carbs, and vegetables to keep me from crashing 30 min later again. There are some prepared foods.... but I'm WAY too poor to afford them. The lack of food is impacting my sleep. With messed up sleep it has decreased my immunity. And the yeast infection that i'm trying to get rid, hence the point of making yeast free bread, is getting WORSE for some reason, not better. Even though I'm on meds for it. WTF? I think I've managed to create drug resistant yeast in me. Great.

So, in comes the smoothie. I need nutrients in me. Its mango season. My roommate bought TONS of mangoes. We somehow managed to get 5 heads of lettuce and a box of baby lettuce in the fridge. I found a green smoothie recipe for mangoes and lettuce and i threw in an apple, two carrots, and a half a cucumber with coconut milk beverage and water. After mixing in everything but the lettuce. It didn't taste good. I honestly didn't think the lettuce would improve things. I added in only the green leafy part of a romaine head, more water, and somehow ended up with something that is REALLY GOOD! I have the feeling that this has the potential to impact my entire diet. If I can do this daily, especially for breakfast and in the middle of the night since I am not fond of eating hard to digest nuts and stuff when I'm groggy from sleep, I might be able to finally get nutrients in me that I need! Coping with Celiac and having my intestines so destroyed means I don't absorb much of what I need, so I have to eat way more than normally necessary.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mediterranean Girls Night

Last night I was supposed to host "Girls Night" (I know, those of you that know me will be thinking... girls night? I'm not a girly-girly. I'm a trigendered transgender) I have been going to Girls Night for 5 months now. It was my turn to host last night but as it turns out, everyone had to cancel. My theme was Mediterranean.

Now, I've experimented quite a bit with Turkish Mediterranean. There is also an amazing little ethic north-Iraqi grocery not far from my apartment (right in the middle of a very affluent white neighborhood). But for some reason I have been anti-Greece. Probably because when everyone thinks Mediterranean they think Greece. Um.... there are over 10, probably 15 Mediterranean countries! That just gets my dander up.

I decided out of lack of funds and time, to make a Greek Salad and a rice dish. Oh my god it was Amazing!


Romaine Lettuce
Seasonal Baby lettuces and Arugulas (from Whole Foods)
Tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
Cucumber, sliced into thin waffers
Leftover crockpot chicken, marinated in Italian Dressing until absorbed.
Black Olives, canned & sliced
Red Bell Pepper, diced
Green Bell Pepper, diced
Red Onion, diced and microwaved for 10-25 sec
Ground flaxseeds (optional)
Sundried Tomatoes, sliced
Croutons, homemade from my collapsed Mashed Potato bread


Olive Oil, 6 parts
Red Wine vinegar, 2 parts
Lemon juice, 1 part
Oregano, to taste
Black pepper (preferably hand ground), to taste
Parsley, to taste- usually about twice as much as the oregano

Mix together salad in a large bowl except flaxseed, sundried tomatoes, and croutons so that if you don't eat it all, the salad doesn't get soggy and messy. Mix Dressing. Serve dressing, flaxseed, sundried tomatoes, and croutons separately to be mixed in with the salad by those at the table. For fun, put the tomatoes on a plate in the middle and surround by dried fruit such as apricots, plums, dates, or figs.

The rice dish was to die for too. I've never managed to use the bottle of sage in my spice cupboard except for making tea. This recipe used up the sage and chives I have been trying to get rid of! Its so good though, I might have to go out and get more sage and chives! I slightly modified the original recipe.

"Mediterranean Rice with toasted nuts and cranberries"

1 T olive oil
1 lg onion, finely chopped
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups vegetable broth, homemade
handful walnuts, chopped fine
handful dried cranberries
chives, to taste

Warm up a saucepan, then put oil in. When heated, add onions and turn heat down. Cook until translucent. Add rice, sage, coriander, cinnamon, and salt. Stir over medium until slightly browned.

Take the pan off the heat and add broth slowly to rice, much like you would a risotto. Return to burner, bring to a boil. Then put the lid on and wait 20 minutes (or run around trying not to burn croutons in the oven when you forget about them because you are doing dishes). Put chopped nuts in a hot frying pan and lower heat to medium-high. Keep an eye on them and give the pan a good shake often until they look toasted. When the rice is done (liquid is all absorbed and fluffy.... add a bit of water if stuck to bottom or cook longer if it is still a bit soggy) throw in toasted walnuts, the cranberries, and chives to taste. Try not to get too excited about it because if you ate your (normal! sized) bowl of salad, you will probably already be too full.

YAY Mediterranean food! I love mediterranean food because it is all about small little tasty dishes that you constantly nibble on and mix and match. Its easy, quick, flavorful, and incredibly nutritious.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yeast-Free bread

My new challenge this month is learning how to bake yeast-free (gluten free, dairy free, & soy free) bread. I've been trying to come up with some options. It is important to me that I master a few breads, because at the moment, I am having trouble feeding myself lunch otherwise.

- Skillet cornbread
- Corn tortillas & Gorditas
- Potato bread
- Potato pancakes
- Teff bread
- South Indian chickpea & rice flat breads
- Sourdough bread
- Muffins
- Crepes
- Quick Breads
- Something creative

I used to make cornbread in my (now ex) boyfriends skillet all the time. When he left, I couldn't find another 6" skillet. I still can't. So, unfortunately even though that is my best option, its not one at all.

I have made indian bread before, but mostly pre-gluten free days. My only experiment with chickpea & rice breads ended terribly. It is pan-fried and ended stuck to the pan & partialy burnt and undercooked. Most of my experiments with chickpea flour has not been pleasant (other than an odd cranberry-orange muffin I made with chickpea flour). I feel this is my second best option, even for lack of my experience with Indian culiary arts. I might be able to track down my good friend from South India for help..... hmmmm.

So far, every attempt (and there have been several) with masa harina has not been palatable. This is frustrating since I live on the Mexican boarder. I live in Uptown though, so ironically my mexican food options are not as authentic as downtown (only 10 min). The lady at the deli counter at whole foods today said she would look into getting the store to contract with someone to make giant corn tortillas for me! That would be sweet! I'm sure it can't be too hard to find someone to show me.

Teff (flat) bread is the most amazing spongy stuff ever. Unfortunately, commercial bread is mixed with wheat flour because teff (its grain from Ethiopia) is so expensive. I tried to make it once. Its kinda like making pancakes. Teff is very much like a glue if you cook it. I'm sure your imagination can go from there....

Muffins. OMG muffins. I LOVE muffins. Somehow.... its the IDEA of muffins that makes me love them. I have yet to find a gluten free muffin, homemade or commercial, that doesn't make me gag. Somehow cupcakes do the same thing to me.

Potato pancakes and latkes have started becoming pretty regular in my kitchen. I can make pancakes (they are actually more like patties) from leftover mashed potatoes or a box. Latkes are so far a box only creation. They don't keep well and get kinda soggy, so not very functional for lunches or leftovers.

Potato bread has been my current conquest. I found a mashed-potato bread recipe. General Mills (the most AMAZING! company ever) has been converting much of their inventory into gluten free and labeling everything when it is not. They just converted their Potato Buds into a dedicated gf facility. So, I can make quick mashed potatoes, combine it with gf flour (I mix my own and have a store bought mix) and a few other ingredients and throw it in the oven. My first attempt several months ago was amazing. My next attempt, last week collapsed on me into a solid uncooked brick. Right now, instead of putting it into a loaf pan (I think the baking soda is making it rise faster than I can work with and I am beating it down too much) I threw it onto my pizza stone. It is in the oven now.

I've worked with quick breads in the past from Carol Fensters 1000 Gluten Free Recipes. I consistently have a "not cooked in the middle" problem with all my loaf breads.

I'm sure crepes might work in some capacity. I've seen recipes floating around in my cookbooks from the Pre-mainstream Gluten Free time. Crepes were used for wraps.

Sourdough. I was given this as a suggestion by a reader on my main blog. Thanks Sharon! Will definitely try this out.

I plan on trying some creative options that I occasionally see online, too.

It is frustrating since I consider myself a good cook that I am so TERRIBLE at baking. I've been trying for two years. It seems they have been getting worse instead of better. I have been buying store bought gf bread for the past few months because I just didn't want to be disappointed again by another failure. But the only gf yeast free loaf of bread at Whole Foods that I saw today looked like a brick. No thank you. I think my homemade collapsed in the middle and therefore uncooked Frankenstein creation might be more palatable. .... at least I have incentive now to get over this baking hump.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What do I eat?

I have been trying to think about my diet in a more comprehensive way; not just a list of "can't haves"

I follow a strict gluten free diet
I am intolerant of soy, dairy & kidney beans
I eat a low sugar diet which means I also avoid tropical fruits
I choose to avoid yeast, MSG, high fructose corn syrup
I prefer organic & local
I enjoy vegetarian & vegan meals and raw meat/seafood
I think the paleo-diet is something to aspire to
I have trouble getting enough salt, essential vitamins & minerals, and protein in my diet

So, what do I eat?

I eat lots of vegetables and salad (not as much as I want to)
I eat bean sprouts (I want to learn how to grow a variety of kinds)

I eat corn, rice & potatoes as my main starch
I eat quinoa, teff, sorghum, chickpeas, & buckwheat as supplementary starches/grains (I want to also use tapioca, amaranth, millet, bean flour, & mung bean)

I eat citrus, berries, apples & pears, and small fruits like plums & nectarines
I eat dried berries & small fruits

I eat black beans, chickpeas, white beans, italian beans (I want to explore more kinds)
I eat nuts and seeds both whole and in butters, as well as flaxseed
I eat nut/rice milks, cheese, cream, ice cream, etc (only store bought. I want to learn homemade versions)
I eat pork, fish, beef, chicken, buffalo, ostrich (I want to eat lamb & goat more)

I use canola oil, olive oil, & palm oil (want to use coconut oil, peanut oil, & other "fancy" oils and learn how to make flavored oils)
I use ghee as butter (would like to learn a safe way to make this casein free, or find store bought margarine that is gluten free, dairy/casein free/soy free)
I use fermented foods such as vinegars, kimchee, sauerkraut, pickles, mustard, tamari (soy sauce) (I want to explore other kinds!)

So... all in all, I have a very natural diet. My biggest challenge is making bread and other flour based items (without yeast and gluten), making dairy products (without dairy and soy), safely making fermented items and raw meat/seafood dishes, eating MORE processed food (it seems to be the only way to get enough sodium), eating enough vegetables to get minerals and vitamins, and enough protein.

There is definitely easy room for more raw and paleo foods/diet options. I have noticed that the raw diet has "mastered" alternative dairy.... in my opinion it is WAY better than real dairy. Everything from cheesecake, to cheese, to milks. They also have a whole set of tasty "breads" and crackers. Learning how to make smoothies would help increase my vitamin & mineral intake.

Another inspiration of mine is international cuisines. You can find all sorts of things such as bread made from chickpeas or potatoes, noodles made from rice or sweet potatoes or mun beens, or breakfast patties and elegant dinner ideas from cornmeal. These are all dishes that are normal and don't need changed in order to fit my diet.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spread the word about unsafe food - CALPIRG

CalPIRG is one of my favorite non-profits. I worked for them for almost 2 years. They are starting a new division on food safety. Please sign this petition! It goes along well with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Thanks! :-)

Spread the word about unsafe food - CALPIRG