March 27, 2008

Gluten Free Travelogue, Home at Last

I actually got home to New York, via my parents in Ann Arbor, MI, on Sunday night. But then I was lazy on Monday, spending time with my boyfriend and his family, only venturing out to go to the gym and get some groceries in the Afternoon.Coming out of the mountains on Saturday I took a number of pictures from the car window. We stopped in Golden, CO to visit the new Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum
with Geege. She brought me a fantastic brownie from a local Denver gluten free bakery, Deby's. After a crash spending spree at the Eddie Bauer outlet we were on our way to the airport.

Right now things are crazy busy at work, getting my boss ready for a big jewelry show in Switzerland. Until I have a chance to post again, I'll leave you with more pictures of the Rockies

March 20, 2008

Gluten Free Travelogue, Day 6

So far we’re still having lots of fun. The snow and skiing conditions have been great. It’s time to post some pictures from Winter Park. The view last night was just spectacular! Aside from skiing, we went into ‘town’ to window shop and see the sights. My mom got new ski boots and I’ve been exhausted every night. I’m so glad that we rented the studio with a kitchenette. There’s nothing better than getting back from a hard day of skiing then cooking a delicious healthy meal. (More on that later)

So I will devote the rest of the post to beautiful pictures of Winter Park, CO.View of the Rockies from the hotel parking lot

The hotel we're staying in, to the left you can see some of the runs on the mountain

Me, freezing in the parking lot as my mom takes the requisite picture for posterity

March 17, 2008

Gluten Free Travelogue: Day 3

Yesterday was another day full of travel. I really don’t like airplanes. After leaving my parents house at 5:45 in the morning, well fortified with gluten free foods for the flight, our flight went smoothly and we landed in Denver.

We were greeted by my mom’s friend at the baggage claim and preceded to pick up our rental car. Geege had planned out a little itinerary for us; an organic grocery to stock up on gluten free supplies and lunch at a gluten free deli. Unfortunately, the deli was closed on Sunday, so when we got to the grocery, we settled on Chipotle instead. I was far to hungry to wait, and I knew that I would be able to get good, edible food there. The young woman who served me was nice enough to change her gloves before preparing my salad, and the woman in line in front of me said: “oh, my boss has to do that too.”

The Sunflower Farmer’s Market left much to be desired in the gluten free department. The produce and other product selection was great. They have an extensive bulk food department, although you never know whose touched those items. In the freezer case we were directed to there were about 3 types of gluten free breads. I did find some EnviroKids gluten free cereals and cereal bars along with some really good corn thins; something I’ve never seen before but is like a skinny rice cake made from corn.

After stocking up on what we were able to find we headed out to the ski resort, checked in and went to get fitted for our rental skis. After drama in the rental shop, apparently our reservation wasn’t booked into the computer yet; we headed to get the rest of our supplies. My mom got us a room with a little kitchenette so that we (I) could prepare all the meals and wouldn’t have to worry about eating out. I really appreciate this because it takes a lot of stress out of the trip. And seriously, people in Manhattan would kill for a studio as nice as this hotel room.

Today we skied. And skied. And skied some more. What else is there to say? The conditions were good and had fun even though I wasn’t satisfied with my skis. I’ve got new pair to demo tomorrow.

See's St. Patrick's Day Potato

In honor of St. Patrick's Day one of the jewelry contractors my company works with sent us a big box of chocolate. See's chocolate to be precise. Lucky gold coins and St. Patrick's Day Potatoes. Everyone else's first response is to rip open the box and start stuffing their faces. My first response is to go on the website and look for nutritional information.

Tired of waiting for a response to my email, I called costumer service directly. I was transferred once, to a woman who was very helpful. She told me that all of the candy and chocolates that See's manufactures themselves are gluten free and produced in a gluten free facility. The only exceptions are the decorated items; Easter Eggs, St. Patrick's Day and other decorated Candy Canes and decorated candies. She said that they do not make the decoration materials and cannot guarantee that they are gluten free, she believes that the facility they are made in is not gluten free. It was nice to talk to someone informed, she said that they have been receiving more and more calls on this matter in particular and she had a ready, educated answer for me.

And so we come to the much-anticipated St. Patrick's Day Potato. The girls in the office were agog when they arrived, almost fighting over them even though there were more than enough. I was told that, despite its humble appearance, this is a phenomenal treat. And it really does look like a potato, dirty and dusty, it even has 'eyes'.

The 'skin' is a packed mixture of cocoa and cinnamon and the inside is soft nougat with walnuts and pine nuts for 'eyes'. This tastes nothing like a potato. Good thing too. It's creamy and luscious and indulgent. I was afraid it would be too sweet, but the outer layer of cocoa and the walnuts inside balanced out the nougat and the cinnamon adds bite. Because I'm one of those 'healthy' girls, I got my spud in half and then cut a quarter and that was chocolaty sweet, satisfying enough that I don't feel like I have to eat the whole thing (which often happens with lower quality sweets). I packed this one up to enjoy for another day or two or three (I hope).

As much as I love chocolate I'm not a big indulger, especially since I had problems with so many that have 'malt flavoring' or it's kin. Being from the Mid-west, I don't have much experience with See's, although I see their chocolates in the Detroit airport now. If this is any indication of the rest of their chocolates, I'd say See's is an excellent choice for gluten free, delicious chocolate confections.

Full email response*

March 15, 2008

Gluten Free Travelogue; Day 1

My Office is closed next week; this means a vacation for me! Today I embarked on the first leg of my weeklong ski trip in Colorado with my mother. Flying form New York to Michigan isn’t usually too bad. I packed last night, and only forgot a few things.

Along with my ski boots and clothes I probably have more gluten free protein bars than the two of us can eat in 5 days. Protein powders, vitamins, prednisone, creams and other emergency supplies. I packed gluten free food for the time I’d be stuck in the airport; my experience with LaGuardia is that it’s no great shakes, gluten free or otherwise.

Spending the night at home in Ann Arbor I was less worried about gluten than I was about maintaining my normal diet. I’m not quite sure how to explain this; the term carb addict comes to mind. Whenever I eat bread or pasta, even gluten free ones, for a meal I am never satisfied, I keep going back and eating more and more until I feel sick and disgusted with myself. A slice of bread or a little rice is one thing, but a sandwich is never satisfactory.

I was worried because earlier this week my mom told me that she had prepared gluten free lasagna for us to eat. She made one earlier in the week, which my parents sampled and them froze for me dad to eat while my mom and I are away. She said that the Tinkyada whole grain rice pasta she used turned out really well. She said she preferred it to standard pasta.

I was afraid it was going to be a fatty, cheesy mess that would ruin my diet, but then I remembered that my dad is on a heart healthy diet. She used low fat mozzarella, fat free ricotta and a mixture of beef, veal and bison. And it was really good, except for all those noodles. The noodles themselves were great, maybe a little over cooked, but she made the lasagna itself several days ago and only baked it today. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right balance of foods that I needed after a day of upheaval and travel. I kept going back for more without satisfaction.

I’m reminded that I really need to pay attention to my body and head it’s signals, I would have been much happier with a simple piece of fish or cottage cheese and granola. I must remember to emphasize this when we shop for supplies in Colorado. At least we’re staying in a joint with a kitchen, and we’ll be able to cook for ourselves this coming week. The challenge may be finding supplies.

March 14, 2008

Bakery on Main Apple Raisin Walnut Granola

This morning with my yogurt I tried a new gluten free granola from the Bakery on Main. The Apple Raisin Walnut Granola is exactly that. The first bite was a burst of apple cinnamon flavor. I love cinnamon, and this had enough, even for me.

The granola is a mix of seeds, nuts, fruits, crisp rice and cereal like pieces. These cereal things are like concave discs that seem to collect all the flax and sesame seeds. This makes for a great crunchy-chewy combination. The walnuts, raisins and dried apple pieces are very visible; whole walnuts and large pieces of apple.

As she tapped away on her computer my coworker absently tried them when I put them in front of her. She stopped and declared them delicious. I had visitors in my office throughout the day; I could hardly keep the bag closed.

The Bakery on Main makes these granolas in small batches, and they’re right: great things come in small batches.

****A special thanks to the Bakery on Main for providing these samples****

March 13, 2008

Musings on the F Train

As much as New Yorkers love to gripe about the subway, it really is a remarkable system. It moves I don’t know how many people all around the city everyday. Where else can you see so many different kinds of people all in one place, united in the same pursuit: trying to get ‘there’. So many cultures merge, and sometimes collide. I marvel at the diversity.

Today, as I stood in the F train surveying my fellow riders I saw nothing unusual. Two teenage boys sharing headphones, an elderly man with can and newspaper, a can of soda here, a bottle of juice there. One woman eating licorice and reading a gossip mag, another with her Starbucks yogurt parfait. Empty calories, Mindless eating.

For a moment I was struck with how jealous I was of them, able to pick up whatever the feel like without a second thought. I missed that, not readying every label with eagle eyes before a purchase.

And then I took another bite of my celery and was reminded of what I do have: my health. And mindful eating. Being gluten free has made me so aware of my body. What it needs, what it doesn’t need, and how it reacts to different things.

I think to myself: if I have to stop to read the labels, why not smell the proverbial roses while I’m there? Take this opportunity to be conscious of everything I eat, even, especially, the things I know are gluten free.

March 12, 2008

Gluten-Free Pantry Old Fashioned Cake and Cookie Mix

Since it was my first time preparing the Gluten-Free Pantry’s Old Fashioned Cake & Cookies Mix I decided to follow the directions on the box, as written. Since I don’t have a cookie sheet I made it as a cake, besides the one on the box looked so good, and it’s been a long time since I’ve had real cake.

The directions were easy enough to follow; I guess that’s the point of a cake mix to begin with. I am a chronic batter taster and an unabashed bowl liker, and this batter looked and tasted delicious. I managed to leave enough to fill my spring form pan and put it in the oven to bake.

Now, my oven is a little shifty, it doesn’t have any numbers on the dial and I have to rely on an oven thermometer and monitor it constantly. Even with the temperature variations the cake baked beautifully. I think it rose in the middle a little more than it was supposed to, but who cares? It looked so good I had trouble leaving it to cool over night.

Soft and moist this cake tasted like heaven to me. My memory may be a bit foggy but I would say this is one of the best cakes I’ve had, gluten free or not. It was a big hit in this house; always curious of my cooking my boyfriend’s mother tried a sliver. She declared she liked it, “mas rico” and not to sweet. Since everything in this household is share and share alike, she gave our two gerbils some of the treat as well.

My boyfriend and his brother and father are planning to have some for breakfast tomorrow. I don’t know if cake for breakfast is such a good idea, but this one is so good I just might have some too. If I don’t, I might not get another piece!

I prepared a sugar free chai spiced glaze for the cake, but it didn’t need it. I think it would also go very well with a cream cheese frosting or a chocolate glaze. This is a great base for whenever you need a yellow cake, it can stand up to some spice or to fruit, like a coffee cake or an upside down cake.

***I would like to give special thanks to Glutino and the Gluten-Free Mall for providing samples for me to try***

March 10, 2008

Brown Cow Yogurt

I’m always eager to find anything that is labeled gluten free. It’s surprising how many yogurts I’ve had problems with. One doesn’t usually think yogurt would contain gluten, but many of us know better.

When I found out that Brown Cow yogurts are gluten free, I was excited. They sent me some coupons and I rushed out to get some. All I could find was the cream top version, which has more fat that I would normally choose to have, but I was so eager I got it.

I selected three flavors for my taste testing, raspberry, cherry vanilla and plain. I was surprised at how much sugar there was in the two with fruit on the bottom. The first one I tried, raspberry, was so thick and creamy it felt like I was eating melted ice cream. The fruit tasted like raspberries, but it was more of a syrup than fruit. Altogether too rich and too sweet.

After the raspberry I was prepared for the texture of the cherry vanilla which was also thick and rich. This one was not as sweet, and I think I tasted a small piece of cherry in the fruit syrup on the bottom. Neither of these was really a satisfactory breakfast, but with the amount of calories and sugar in each I didn’t want to have anything else.

The last one I tried was the plain, this one was just as rich and creamy, but it didn’t have the bite I have come to expect from the fresh yogurts I have now. I mixed it with gluten free granola and it was pretty good. Not like the first two, which reminded me of eating melted ice cream. The one nice thing about the more mellow taste is that I didn’t feel the need to add any sweetness when I mixed it with my granola.

I’m very pleased that Brown Cow is making all of their yogurts, with the exception of the Fruit & Whole Grains, gluten free. I’m certainly not giving up on Brown Cow, it’s great to know that there’s a yogurt out there that I can safely eat, especially when I’m traveling. Next time I’m going to hold out and try the low fat or fat free version.

March 7, 2008

Bakery on Main Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

“Healthy Living Through Happy Tastes Buds.”

This Bakery on Main granola bar is chewy and a little but crunchy – what my Nonna would have called toothsome. With crisp rice and nuts I taste all the flavors; sunflower seeds, peanut butter, those little chocolate chips.

It’s just sweet enough for a mid-morning snack with coffee, but not overpoweringly sugary, the way I remember commercial granola bars to be. (Think Quaker or Kudos)

This little gem’s not only gluten, it’s trans fat free, cholesterol free, dairy free, casein free and non GMO.

The last thing I tasted as I savored this bar, trying to find a moment of peace in my hectic workday was a hint of sunflower and chocolate. I’m ready to face another few hours in this office

March 6, 2008

Beth's Farm Kitchen, Mighty Hot Pepper Jelly

At the Union Square Greenmarket there’s a jam and chutney vendor called Beth’s Farm Kitchen. I always pass by, as much as I love jam, and samples, they have a plate of bread and little wooden tongue depressors to serve the jams on the bread.

The women who work the table, one of whom I believe to be Beth herself, are always very nice to their customers so one day when I was there and the table was quite I stopped to take a look at the jams. They have lots of yummy looking flavors, with very simple recipes; fruit, sugar, pectin, vinegar.

I asked if they knew if the vinegar they used was gluten free, and although she wasn’t sure Beth (I think it was Beth) took my card and said she would check when she got home and emails me. And she did. As it turns out the vinegars that they use are gluten free.

The next weekend I went back and sampled some of the jams, the ladies were kind enough to open fresh bottle of jam so that I could taste without fear of contamination. I have been fixated on getting jalapeño jelly ever since I had some at a Mexican fusion place several years ago and Beth’s has two; Mighty Hot Pepper Jelly and Habañero Jelly. I decided to start with the hot pepper jelly, which I pair with my evening slice of cheesecake and cup of tea. The sweetness of the cake cuts the heat of the jalapeños.

All the jams and chutneys have little bits of fruit and seeds, so you know they’re the real things. I’ll have to try some of my other favorite flavors when I finish this jar. Perhaps I’ll make jam filled cookies.

March 5, 2008

Colada de Arroz

When I got home from running errands the other day I got to share a rare moment with my boyfriends mother. She was working over the a large pot on the stove, and after greeting each other she showed me her Colada de Arroz and told be what was in it. “Solo arroz, azucar, leche, canela, y pimienta de dulce.” We filled bowls of the steaming colada and put them to cool by the open window. As we ate our treat we looked through the newspaper coupon circular and conversed as best we could.

Our best moments are when we’re alone in the kitchen, working together or learning together. We two women, neither of who speak much of the other’s language, can bond and communicate over the simple task of preparing food. I learn the most Spanish when we’re working with food; it’s our common ground. Often we find that an hour or more has passed and we’ve understood each for most of that time.

Colada de Arroz is such a simple, comforting food. It’s the closest I’ve been to that oatmeal on a winter morning feeling. In America we would call this Rice Pudding, but this is nothing like the rice puddings never liked before, it’s not sticky sweet or gelatinous. It’s like warm, spiced, slightly sweet rice soup. It’s easy and gluten free.

After some cross communication and being translated through my boyfriend, here is the recipe, as I understand it.

1 cup White Rice
½ cup Sugar
3 Cinnamon Sticks
10 pieces Whole Allspice
Whole Milk

Cook rice according to directions with the sugar and cinnamon. When it has 15 minutes left to cook, add the Allspice. When the rice is finished cooking, add enough milk to cover the rice. Stir the mixture until the milk boils. Cool and serve.

I am already imagining endless possibilities for this recipe: brown rice, skim milk, honey, maple syrup, more cinnamon, nutmeg, the list goes one. This could be a filling breakfast before a cold hard day or a warm comforting treat after a long day playing in the snow.

March 3, 2008


New York, meet Yolato. As far as I am concerned the gelato craze has reached its apex. Yolato is gelato made from yogurt.

After seeing this new store open on Park Avenue I became curious and I emailed the company to find out more about this yogurt gelato, ingredients and specifically if it was gluten free. Not only did I get an informative response, I was offered a tour of one the facilities.

On Saturday the lovely and knowledgeable Joanne, manager of the Upper West Side location, educated me about Yolato. They make three very healthy and delectable products; sorbet, yogurt gelato and soft serve Yolato. All of the products are made from gluten free base mixes to which the flavors are added.

Each flavor is made in individual small batches and all the equipment is washed and sterilized between flavors to prevent any type of cross contamination. The base mixes are stored separately and the flavors are pre-packaged for individual batches, again, to prevent contamination.

The sorbets are made from a water-based mixture that is dairy free and fat free. Sorbet flavors include: Lychee, Kiwi, Raspberry, Pineapple, Pink Grapefruit, Watermelon, Pomegranate, Piña Colada, Mixed Berry, Mango, Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry, and Aloe Vera. The flavors change on a daily or weekly basis. I tried the Lychee, Pomegranate, and in the spirit of exploration, Aloe Vera. It was good! It reminded me of something from my childhood, although I can’t quite put my finger on what. Both sorbets and gelatos are served with flavor specific paddles that are exchanged or washed every hour or so.

The gelatos are made from a base of milk, fat free milk and fat free yogurt. The natural yogurt is called Yoggi, it’s sharp and yogurty (go figure), very refreshing. Other flavors include: Mint Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Coconut, Chocolate, Carmel, Ferrero Rocher, Pistachio, Birthday Cake, Nutella, Peanut Butter, Tiramisu Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Vanilla. These flavors, too, are rotated. From my original inquiry I learned that the Cookies & Cream and Tiramisu flavors contain gluten.

Of the gluten free flavors Vanilla and Nutella have wafer cookies used as decorations, but not mixed in. I think that I sampled, and approve of, every single gluten free flavor. They were as rich, creamy and flavorful as Roman gelato.

The soft serve Yolato is made from a base of fat free milk and fat free yogurt. Each location has two flavors at a time, plain (Yoggi), and a fruit flavor that changes weekly. I got to try Strawberry, and that tasted like fresh yogurt and fresh fruit.

If anything can taste sinful and healthful at the same time, this succeeds. There are lots of fresh toppings to go on the Yolato, including; Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Kiwi, Pineapple, Mango, Cap’n Crunch, Granola, Coconut, Mixed Nuts, Fruit Loops, Chocolate Chips, Rainbow Sprinkles, Cheerios, Peanuts, Chocolate Jimmies and Oreo’s. Obviously, not all of these are gluten free, but I asked about spoon cross contamination and I was told that spoons are only used for each specific topping.

Yolato’s goal is to create a healthy, fresh, guilt free desert. They advertise being carb smart and having less sugar than most other brands of ice cream, and they do offer sugar free varieties. The sorbet and soft serve are fat free, where their gelato contains 0-8% fat depending on the flavor. This may be the healthiest way to enjoy Nutella!

Yolato is currently a local phenomenon, with five locations in New York City and two in New Jersey. They even deliver if you’re close enough, and I think my office is, just barely.

I loved how clean the store was. Both the front and back were spotless. The gelato and sorbet were carefully sculpted to look… windswept. The nutritional information is boldly posted to the left of the door, and along the wall opposite the gelato there is a long diner style counter with stools.

After this tour I am confident in eating here and recommending Yolato to anyone and everyone, gluten free or not. I wonder if the can make a wedding cake? I also whole-heartedly support this local company and its commitment to health, allergy awareness and general food safety.

I really can’t say enough good things about Yolato. You'd better check it out for yourself!

***I would like to thank all the staff of Yolato for being so helpful and friendly!**

March 2, 2008

Mi-del Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Oh Sweet Oreos! Those tasty treats that we all love. Chocolaty cookies, sweet cream center, dunk able goodness. All of that, this cookie's is not. I must say that I had higher expectations from something that was supposed to taste like an Oreo.

The Mi-del Chocolate sandwich cookie was not what I had hoped for. The cookies are hard and dry, not very chocolaty and hard to bite. The ‘cream’ tastes something like marzipan, but the too was dry and hard. After the first bite the whole sandwich fell apart. After being soaked in milk the cookie was a little softer, but still didn’t stay together, and certainly didn’t taste anything like an Oreo.

I suppose this would still be considered a sweet treat, but I’d rather miss Oreo’s than eat these again.

March 1, 2008

Breakfast: Sunnyside Up

So this one wasn’t very difficult, and it’s not specially gluten free, but just looking at it on my plate made my morning. After toying with various versions of the egg sandwich with Glutino Fiber Bread.

I took one slice of bread out of the freezer and toasted one side of it in a pan. I flipped it over and put ¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese on it, making a bit of a hole in the center. I cracked an egg into the cheese, turned down the heat and put a cover over it.

When I lifted the lid, the cheese was all melted and the egg was cooked. With the second bit I broke the yolk, which was warm and runny. The yolk soaked into the bread and I had a delicious, heart-warming breakfast. I haven’t had eggs like that since I was about 7 years old, sitting in my fathers lap.