Monday, April 14, 2014

A Welcoming Gluten Free and Vegan Weekend in DC

This past weekend a group of my friends and myself traveled down to DC for the last weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was not only beautiful weather but the blossoms were in full bloom, so it was simply magical (although packed). See?:

We walked almost 16 miles admiring the blossoms, taking in the sites and attractions of DC, seeing the parade Saturday and attending the Japanese Street fair. Our group not only contained myself and my husband who are gluten free and pescatarian, but also another friend who is vegan. You might think this would make things complicated, right? I mean what could a group like that realistically do for food? Well, let's take a brief recap of the weekend in general for an idea:

Friday Lunch: We grabbed tacos at District Taco. They were quickly made, very yummy (they had two tortillas each which made for extra tacos!), and gluten free was in big letters on the ordering screen and receipt.

Friday Dinner: We grabbed three gluten free and vegan Mellow Mushroom pies; White, Veggie, and Kosmic Karma. I might have an obsession with Mellow Mushroom, a 'southern' pizza chain that I've had 4 times in 2014 and I live in NY! We paired that with an organic and vegan wine from a liquor store around the block, and winded down the night with these at a couple's house who knew my husband and another friend.

Saturday Breakfast: Breakfast on the go included bars and fruit!

Saturday Lunch: Lunch was at the Japanese Street Fair. Those of us with dietary needs had a bit of a difficult time finding something to eat among the various vendors as many things sold out early. Eventually the vegan among us settled on a vegetable noodle dish, and the husband and I ate some onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice stuffed with salmon). Always a safe choice when available.

Saturday Dinner: Dinner was made by the friend's whose house we stayed at the night before, and was 100% vegan and gluten free (with the exception of non gluten free flat bread). They made us Red lentil soup and Eggplant curry, both of which were fantastic. It was wonderful to see people I hadn't met so considerate of my, and other's, needs. They went through so much effort to find great recipes and show me their ingredients to ensure I would be safe.

Honestly, I am truly lucky to have friends, new and old, that are willing to not only accommodate my needs but continue to do so when the options are even more restricted by the combined needs of the group. What I loved about this weekend food wise was that not only were we accommodated for in respect to choosing where to eat, but both dinners were 100% gluten free and vegan. We were PART of that meal, not a side, and that was total great. Our needs were considered without any hint of malice or frustration, and everyone was able to eat the same delicious food together! So awesome.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Product Review: Cucina Antica's Gluten Free Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

It may be spring but my tastebuds last week were still craving Autumn and winter, particularly spaghetti squash. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but I knew I wanted it so it was on my mind as I shopped. Then I came across a sale on Cucina Antica's Sauces at Best Market. I'd never heard of them before but the rustic packaging caught my eye, specifically the one with the big giant pumpkin on the front: Tuscany Pumpkin Pasta Sauce. Totally different right? AND perfect for Spaghetti squash, so I purchased a jar. 

I am so glad I did. This sauce is a vibrant orange color similar to vodka sauce but a bit lighter. Flavor wise and scent wise you get a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Hints of pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, rosemary, and garlic make for a great but subtle flavor. All around it was quite good, great for someone looking for a lighter flavor than tomato sauce. It seems like it would be very versatile too, I honestly would eat it as a soup and their website even suggests how to use it in a soup! And the pairing with spaghetti squash? It was a great combo paired with some sauteed kale, garlic, and mushrooms: 

So good, and almost exclusively vegetables!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Product Review: Enjoy Life's Gluten Free Sunbutter Crunch Chewy Bar

Enjoy Life's Gluten Free Sunbutter Crunch Chewy Bars were one of those on a whim purchases from me. See, I've always loved sunflower seeds. I grew up the youngest girl, with only older brothers to shape my tastes and idea of what was 'cool'. So, from a young age chewing sunflower seeds and spitting out the shells was a thing for me.  Not that glamorous, but certainly fun and somewhat healthy. 

I graduated to eating them shelled in salads and covered in chocolate. So, when I saw these in the store I just had to purchase. Obviously I love the taste of sunflower seeds, so sun butter has to be one of my favorite additions to the nut butter realm. Nutty and sweet, with a hint of salty goodness, these bars take sunbutter to a new level. They are super delicious, if not a bit dry. Although small, they are dense and jam packed with nutrients such as dietary fiber and iron so you aren't left hungry or full of unwanted ingredients like some bars. I highly recommend them, and they'll be on my shopping list for sure in the future! 

**Note: Sometimes I fail as a blogger, and in this case the end result is the small picture. I have a phone with a small memory, and deleted the photo before this post. End Lessons: I like that Instagram has copyright features so you cannot save photos in good quality. Also, I need a new phone.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April: A Lesson in Mindfulness

Yesterday here in Long Island it hailed, snowed, rained, and then the sun came out. The temperature ranged from around 30 to the low 50s within hours. Clearly mother nature cannot make up her mind about whether spring is a real thing this year, but one this is for sure: April, if not spring, is here.

April is my birth month, so for me it is a month of new beginnings and remembrance of past wins and losses. It is a time for reassessment, and it is also a time when things seem overpoweringly vibrant. After a harsh winter life cannot help but try to jump the gun and rush right into spring. With that comes the mud season, the raging winds, the struggle to rebalance our energies, a sense of uneasiness as we realize we've been living even during the winter (and really, did we make the most of it or did we just long for warmth?) and the growth of new life. Easter comes around usually in this month too, with it's pastel hues that strain to ween us back into reality in baby steps littered with chocolate bunnies and Jelly Bellies (Hey they're gluten free). But, the sugar high leaves us shaking and thirsty. It's a month where life's ups and downs are condensed to an almost explosive level. 

Sometimes I find this April World so in my face that I cannot help but take a break from the chaos. Just like our half ready garden I've always felt a little uprooted in this month. I've been known to turn off my phone frequently in April, and get lost in the woods for extended periods of time. In April I am both excited for my birthday and the coming of spring and summer, and have the desire to hide away from my own reality. My own mortality really, because what makes us realize this more than the passing of a birthday (especially when that birthday is surrounded by new life all around)? April leaves me equally thrilled and terrified. 

This year is no exception. I've started a new season without my brother, and soon I'll celebrate my 29th Birthday without him. How odd, to realize this is my last year in my 20s and he will not be a player in this year's adventures... I've needed the little things lately to keep my focus and prevent me from floating off in the confusion that is everything, and that's where I am trying to focus my attention as April starts and I feel that old restlessness seeping in. I need some fixation point to keep me on this tightrope. What gets me most about the season this year is the food; it has taste again! 

My summer and autumn months in 2013 were augmented with the full flavor of local produce and goods. During the winter a combination of a lengthy head cold, and the bitter chill of what became a tundra, left me yearning for those flavors. My taste buds stretched out for that flavor, just as my arms stretched out towards the sky at the slightest hint of warm sunlight, but were only met with dullness. Now? Strawberries, although still not locally grown because those come later in the year, fill my mouth with sunshine again, where as less than a month ago they tasted like disgusting sugar water. Tomatoes are a more vibrant red and really bring a caprese salad alive. And these are true things of beauty, a less in your face indication of time passing. 

We often get lost in this world because of our penchant for wanting to get the most out of life. We over burden our bodies to feel something, to sense something, while in the same respect deny ourselves the reality to REALLY feel. Although an evolutionary advantage that made us human's survive, we take too much in at once rather than focusing on one thing at a time. We neglect sensory quality for sensory quantity if we don't stop and think. So, as I keep pushing along as April wears on, I turn 29, and then it becomes May and life keeps at it's steady pace I'll focus on those senses of taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing. I'll make things simple and take them bite by bite, small meaningful and mindful bites. Because if I've learned anything recently, it's that mindfullness is the only way we keep from getting lost. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spicy Eggplant and Quinoa Patties: An Adventure in Patty Making

On Saturday I went on a cooking adventure and tried my hand at making a new recipe for Spicy Qunioa Patties. I had some eggplant, but wanted to do something different. Something less Italian in flavor, and less 'grilled vegetable in nature'. So, I played around with some ingredients I had at home and made some Spicy Quinoa and Eggplant Patties. The recipe is less formulated than some, as I was playing around with it as I was cooking. You see, making patties requires the exact right consistency and cooking time or else the finished product doesn't stay together. This has always been my down fall, so I was trying my best to get it right this time with the correct mixture of binders but I found the consistency of the mixture can vary.

Spicy Eggplant and Qunioa Patties

Left: Smaller Patty with bread crumbs,
Right: Bigger patty with no bread crumbs 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 medium eggplants, skinned and cubed (small)
1 habanero pepper, deseeded and minced
1 cup quinoa (toasted, cooked, and drained)
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil x2
2 eggs
4 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour (I used rice flour)

Optional, and recommended: 
1/4 cup bread crumbs **
(I added this for my second batch) 

1. In a medium frying pan heat up 2 tablespoons of Olive oil over medium high. 

2. Add the prepared onion and garlic. Cook until pungent and onion becomes translucent, about 4 minutes.Add the habanero and cook an additional minute or two. 

3. Add the prepared eggplant and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, covered, until the eggplant is soft, about 7 minutes. Mix occasionally.

4. In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together.  

5. In the same pan as before heat another 3 tablespoons of oil. By the spoonful, scoop the mixture into the frying pan and flatten lightly. 

6. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes, and flip to cook on the other side for the same time. 

7. Eat and Enjoy!

Now, here are some pointers. 
  1. I recommend cooking the quinoa in only one cup water, not in the typical 2:1 water/quinoa ratio. This helps make it drier, which keeps the mixture together better. 
  2. If the mixture appears too moist, or the patties fall apart easily, add a bit more flour or eggplant as needed. 
  3. If the patties seems to fall apart when you are starting to flip let them cook a bit more on that side. 
  4. Alternatively, make smaller patties when all else fails. 
Honestly, patties are still an adventure to me and I feel like they are for most people. Hence the playing around and the 'pointers'. But, it makes cooking fun and even if they aren't pretty they are still delicious!

**Note: The breadcrumbs I used were specifically Tall Papa's Cajun Spice Bread Crumbs, for an added kick.**

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Next up on my Gluten Free Reading List: Gluten Freedom by Dr. Fasano

You all know I'm a researcher, and with that comes a thirst for science and hard evidence. That is why I am thrilled to have been sent an advanced reading copy of Gluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. Here is a snipit from their press release:

Distinguishing scientific fact from myth, Gluten Freedom explains the latest research, diagnostic procedures, and treatment/diet recommendations, helping consumers make the best choices for themselves and their families. Gluten Freedom also discusses important nutritional implications for behavior-related diagnoses such as autism and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and “foggy mind.” Other highlights include: 
  • The differences between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy
  • Current best practices for gluten-related disorders at any age
  • Practical information on setting up a gluten-free kitchen, reading labels, and staying safe and healthy in a world filled with hidden sources of gluten
  • The psychological impact of a diagnosis and its effect on a family
  • Groundbreaking research for prevention and therapy
  • Reliable and accurate resources for patients, parents, and physicians
  • And even recipes for an authentic gluten-free Italian dinner from Dr. Fasano’s home kitchen!

With chapters such as "New Clinical faces of Gluten Freedom", "Dinner with Dr. Fasano", and "Gluten in Your Golden Years" this book is sure to be jam packed with helpful information. And lucky you! While the hard copy is not set to be released for a month, you can now grab an E-Copy on Amazon or Apple iBooks. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Product Review: Glutino's New Gluten Free White Sandwich and Multigrain Breads

Holy hell...Okay, I wanted to start this off on a better note than that but that is the best way I can find to describe my first reaction to Glutino's New White Sandwich and Multigrain breads.

Usually, I have a gluten eater taste my products with me when I take the first bite. The response is usually 'it's good but it tastes gluten free'. Thanks... Oddly this somewhat put down of a response is what most of us expect, and strangely it makes us (or at least me) comfortable to taste the difference between what is gluten free and what is not. But, it gets dull having food that is always described as 'different' Sometimes it is good to have food that is the envy of everyone, right? The reaction when I had my gluten eaters taste this bread though?: "wow, it's so good!" And my reaction, as I started this post, was: "HOLY HELL!"

Just look at this deliciousness! So pillowy and tasty!
After that taste test I had the grand idea of a good old untoasted salmon sandwich for lunch with the new Multigrain bread but got side tracked when I opened the bag to take out the slices. So... Fluffy... I instantly started chowing down on the bread. So moist, so fluffy, so good! The slices are big and thick, great for sandwiches, and great untoasted. Needless to say that sandwich was satisfying and fulfilling, with no hint of dryness or severe crumbling. I also tried this bread and their white sandwich bread as a grilled cheese, and general morning toast. They were also great this way, maintaining a pillowy texture underneath the toasted crunchy outside.

This bread will surely have you asking to see the bag if you were to encounter it in a restaurant. HOLY HELL, it is so freaking good. I mean really. Seriously, go try them out for yourself once they are released in stores!

**Please Note: This product was provided to me by Glutino as part of their Very Important Gluten-Free Blogging Community (VIGFB) Campaign. However, the review reflects my own thoughts and tastes and was in no way influenced by this partnership.**
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