May 30, 2008

Pamela’s Products Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix

As you may have picked up, my office was open over Memorial Day weekend; we worked both Saturday and Monday. With out disclosing too much information, we received new goods that needed to be catalogued and entered in our computer system in time to be shipped on Tuesday afternoon.

Who am I kidding? My bosses had an opportunity to purchase cultured pearls from Fiji and we are now the only company in the US that deals directly in Fiji pearls. These are amazing! The colors are fantastic! It was a lot of work, but we were successful and I got to play with lots of pretty pearls.

As a way to help buck-up my coworkers I promised to make cookies. It’s amazing how many ills a fresh baked cookie can cure. Pamela’s Chocolate Chunk Cookie mix was easy to prepare, as are most mixes. I was worried when I tasted the batter because it was very salty. I decided to bake the cookies anyway and hope for the best.

The box says that the mix, prepared as directed, makes 18-20 cookies but I got almost 30 since I made them small. I only cooked them for 9 minutes rather than 15 and they turned out just fine. Nice and moist and chewy. Not salty at all.

The cookie mix itself has cocoa in it, so they’re darker then straight chocolate chip cookies and they have nice big chunks of chocolate. I’m glad I made more, smaller cookies since every one wanted some; from the bookkeeper to the jewelry contractors to the security officer at the front desk. Everyone who got to try one said they were great.

I like baking from scratch, but sometimes that’s not feasible. Especially when a recipe requires a small amount of special ingredient. These were quick, easy and super tasty.

May 29, 2008

Glutino Vanilla Wafer Cookies

I finally got home from my trek to Trader Joe’s. It’s a 3+ mile round trip from the Subway station to my closes store. All that for 1 pound of raisins, two pounds of walnuts and a jar of sea salt. The things I’ll do for good food and a good deal, not to mention a little extra exercise on a beautiful spring/summer afternoon. My legs felt like pendulums, pumping away, even though I’m sitting now, they still want to keep going.

I guess that hike balances out my splurge of last week. In the middle of a very busy, very stressful week I had a moment of weakness. Well, really, the weakness lasted more than a moment, but it only took a moment to open the box of Glutino Vanilla Wafer Cookies. Luckily my office mates are adept chocolate scavengers and they handily helped me polish of this box of cookies. And let me tell you, we NEEDED chocolate last week.

These are vanilla wafer cookies with vanilla cream, coated in chocolate, and they are divine. The cookies are light and crispy and the vanilla cream really is creamy. The chocolate coating is just a bonus. As a youngster I used the deconstruct wafer cookies, for some reason I liked they way they came apart. These were so good, I wanted to eat them just the way the were. My memory may be a little fuzzy, but to me, these were much better than the wafer cookies I remember getting in bulk from the local Meijer store that were always dry and saw dusty tasting.

May 28, 2008

Two Surprises: The Metro and Wine Cellar Sorbet

Some of you in big cities may be familiar with the Metro. It’s a free daily paper that’s published and distributed in cities around the country. If I can, always try to get a copy, I enjoy doing the crossword puzzle at the end of the day.

Recently, our Metro started publishing a Daily Word on the opinion page. I was flabbergasted by today’s word: Allergy bullying.

Allergy bullying: noun: intimidating a person, particularly a schoolmate, by threatening exposure to a food that the person is allergic to. "call it allergy bullying. ... kids are increasingly facing threats of being ... forced to eat food the have spent their lives avoiding."
I guess I knew that children take every opportunity to tease and torment each other, but I am shocked that this seems to be so prevalent that there is now a word for it. I was the butt of much teasing when I was in school, although I did not know of my food issues at the time. I am not yet a mother, although I hope to be, and this gives me pause. I am very worried about the ramifications of this.

To me, this highlights the need for more education about food allergies and intolerances. Not only with restaurants and other food providers, but also with teachers, other parents, and most importantly the classmates of children with food allergies and intolerances. There must be some way to impress upon them at a young age how severe these issues can be, and the need to be sensitive of them.

On a brighter note: I love when I go to Whole Foods and they have samples. I like it even more when there are samples I can actually try. As I cruised through the aisles looking for a very specific bread I saw samples of something frozen. I asked the young woman behind the Wine Cellar Sorbet table if the product was gluten free. She said she thought so and we checked the label, then we saw that the information sheet does indeed list it as dairy free, soy free, trans-fat and gluten free. So I tried all three available flavors.

Now, this is an adult dessert, it really does contain alcohol and I could definitely taste it. A few little tastes didn’t give me a buzz, but I’m sure one could be achieved if you set your mind to it. I am not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I tried the Rose, Sangria and Riesling flavors, all of which were quite refreshing. I didn’t have the capacity to take some home with me today, but this would be a fantastic treat to have after a long, though day. Something that happens to me all too often.

May 27, 2008

Blood Type Diet and Hamburgeusas de Tres Carnes

I have been gluten free for two years now and almost all of my symptoms have dissipated. Recently some of my skin issues began to reappear and despite all my time at the gym I was not seeing results. I began researching additional food intolerances and diets. While at Barnes & Noble with my boyfriend doing research into books of exercises for women and he found the Blood Type Diet by Dr. Peter D’Adamo and he decided to get it for me.

After reading the book, almost cover to cover, I found that a lot of what Dr. D’Adamo proposes makes an awful lot of sense to me, especially in terms of things that I have already figured out about my system and it’s reactions. The premise of the book, and the diets that are outlined in it, is that each blood type developed among a group of people that were living in a certain way; hunter gatherer, agricultural society, etc and that each blood type has certain needs. Foods that are beneficial and foods that are not meant to be eaten.

Dr. D’Adamo proposes diets; food plans designed for optimal health of each blood type rather than the four letter word ‘diet’ which usually outlines a weight loss plan. He posits that when you are fuelling your body with the correct foods in the correct amounts, and participating in an exercise regimen that is recommended for your blood type, your body will rid itself of toxins stored in the fat and you will ultimately reach your own body’s ideal weight, and be healthier overall.

As I said, this makes a lot of sense to me. I know some people would think this is just a bunch of hogwash, but really, I don’t see how eating lots of lean protein, fruits and veggies and cutting back on grains is really going to hurt me. I’m not into fad diets, most of which strike me as being extremely unhealthy in the long run.

One thing that really caught my attention was that Dr. D’Adamo marks gluten as a food (well really an component present in foods) as being highly detrimental to type O systems, such as myself. He also points out that grains and simple carbohydrates in general are not recommended, something else that I had noticed in myself when eating gluten free breads ad bread products.

Dr. D’Adamo outlines each blood type and explains in what kind of environment each one evolved. Type O evolved as hunter-gatherers, Type A evolved in agricultural areas, and type B evolved much later than that in city dwellers, type AB comes from a blending of the two. He highlights foods that are beneficial, neutral, and detrimental for each blood type and how often they should be eaten. He also recommends various exercise and exercise plan designed for each blood type

I plan to follow this diet in a sensible manner for a few months and see what happens. After two weeks I already feel better in general, in my mind and the way I feel in my body. I’ve really stepped up in preparing more of my own foods, and more food for my boyfriend too. I’m trying to designs meals and snacks, especially things that travel well to be eaten on the go, for the both of us, around the highly beneficial foods for type O.

Last week I wanted to fix something that I could take to work for lunch everyday that would be healthy, satisfying and used a number of items from the type O beneficial foods list. I created this three-meat burger mixture that turned out really well, eaten with a salad or wrapped in lettuce.

Hamburgeusas de Tres Carnes

½ Lb. lean ground beef
¼ Lb. veal
¼ Lb. lamb
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
¼ bunch parsley
½ c. fresh spinach
1 egg white
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sea salt with kelp and dulce

Finely chop onion, garlic, parsley and spinach; either by hand or in a food processor. Mix veggies, ground meat, spices and egg white until well mixed. Form into patties and grill.

May 25, 2008

Citrus Soy Sea Bass and a Pamelo

It’s been quite a buys week for me. It’s been a busy week, between work and home; I’ve hardly had a minute to relax. Our company is going to be showing at trade show in Las Vegas, and it’s me job to get all the goods ready for it. Throw in a last minute buying trip and you’ve got chaos, as well as me working both the Saturday before and Memorial Day. (Don’t worry; I’ll be getting well compensated in July)

I did some cooking and baking this week, as well as fitting in a few reviews, which I have yet to write. I’ll start with the Citrus Soy Sea Bass that I made last Sunday and I’ll try to follow up quickly with Glutino’s wafer cookies and Pamela’s chocolate chunk cookies.

Last week Whole Foods had a special on Chilean Sea Bass, intrigued, I ran a little search on Epicurious and found an interesting cirtusy ginger marinade for sea bass. It sounded great to me, although I wasn’t sure how my boyfriend would like it. So, after my trip to the Green Market I got down to business, making the marinade and then preparing his turkey burgers and my hamburguesas de tres carnes.

Rather than spending more money on ingredients that I didn’t have I decided to substitute a pamelo that one of our contractors had given me to try. He claims that they are the original grapefruit, and opening this thing up was an adventure. The skin is super thick, and the fruit itself was about the size of a softball. One section alone was bigger than my ear. Opening it was exciting but the fruit itself was a little disappointing; it was dried out and crumbly and not very good eating. It did however serve very well in the recipe, where I substituted it for orange.

The bass turned out wonderfully, soft and flaky, almost as though I had cooked it in butter. I loved the bold, spicy, ginger pineapple sauce. My boyfriend ate the fish but proclaimed the sauce “too spicy”. I had suspected he might, but he told me to fix what I wanted, so I did. I’ll just have to save this recipe for folk with less delicate tastes. However, if you choose to accept the challenge, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Citrus Soy Sea Bass

½ c. pineapple chunks
½ c. grapefruit sections
¼ c. soy sauce, gluten free of course
3 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame or other oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1- large bass steak, or other cut of bass

Put all ingredients, except bass, in the blender and puree. Place bass and marinade in a glass container, make sure the fish is covered, stir occasionally, let sit for at least two hours.

Heat a pan, cover the bottom with marinade, put in fish and cover with the rest of the marinade. Cover and steam until the bass is white and cooked all the way through. Time depends on how thick the bass cut is.

Remove the fish when it’s done. Cook down the marinade until it is caramelized.

Serve and enjoy.

May 19, 2008

Macbeth Goes Gluten Free

Every once in a while I get fed up with the hustle of New York and I’m ready to throw in the towel, pack up and move to a small South American country, leaving no forwarding address and not looking back. And then I get an opportunity like I did this past Sunday. My best girlfriend managed to get us tickets to see Patrick Stewart in Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre.*

To truly appreciate this event you have to understand Alyssa and I. We met in college and took British literature together. She LOVES Patrick Stewart and has been raving about a performance of Othello that she saw him in 10+ years ago. Me, I’ve seen Macbeth four times already. We know what we’re talking about. We were geeks in paradise last night.

Set in Stalinist Russia this is by far the sexiest, bloodiest Macbeth I have ever seen. Stewart made an amazing, introspective, tortured Macbeth, much more depth and emotion than I’ve ever seen portrayed before. And no Macbeth can live up to his potential with out a strong Lady Macbeth; Kate Fleetwood’s young wife brought a May-December aspect to their relationship that was phenomenal.

As always, ultimately it’s the director’s vision that makes or breaks any performance. Rupert Goold’s use of the stark stage and projected images allowed the acting to shine through, no fancy props aside from a refrigerator, two gurneys and a sink that ran water from one tap and blood from the other. His insertion of the Weird Sisters into scenes where they have no lines was impressive. If you’re in New York in the near future and you have a chance to see this production, we highly recommend it.

After the show I took Alyssa to Lilli and Loo, site of the first Worry Free Dinner, to share my find with her. Since it was our evening out we decided to splurge and share an appetizer and two meals, thinking we’d have plenty of leftovers. They have a whole separate gluten free menu so we didn’t need to worry about picking items out of the main menu.

The food was so good, there was nothing left to take home. Obviously we were in the mood for shrimp. We ordered Shrimp Tempura, Masaman Shrimp Curry and Saigon Shrimp. It’s so nice to eat with someone who understands and accommodates your dietary restrictions and is game to try whatever you want to. I love tempura, and this one wasn’t quite as light and crispy as I remember the very best being, it was definitley equal to most tempura that I’ve had, and the citrus mayo was a nice touch. It’s hard to go wrong with a curry, sweet, creamy and rich, Alyssa would have liked it to be a little spicier. The Saigon shrimp was covered in a richly textured, spicier glaze that really hit the spot. We topped that with a gluten free blueberry cake and left with full tummies and sated taste buds.

An evening of great theatre, great food and fellowship was just what the doctor ordered. By the end of the evening, I felt like I was completely over my cold.

*note that Alyssa's apple martini is not gluten free, but she insisted it appear in at least one picture.

May 18, 2008

Turkey Burgers, or How to Hide Vegetable Where They’re Least Expected

I started today with a little bit of a cold and a mission. Stepping out into the chilly air, I hoped I would be warm enough. After doing my homework on the web and studying mapquest I felt like I had a pretty good handle on where I would find our ‘local’ green market.

New York has a number of green markets around the city and in the boroughs. I’ve been to the one in Union Square and the one in Brooklyn is close to where I used to live. But up until today I had been unable to locate either of Queen’s two elusive markets. Armed with my shopping bag and list I struck out for the subway station.

As in turns out, the green market is not far from one of the stops on the #7 train and the NYSC gym that my boyfriend and I work out at in Sunnyside, so I didn’t have too much trouble finding it. It’s not a large market, not like the others I’ve been to, but the food was fresh and local and the people were very friendly. It’s still early in the season and I’m sure they’ll have more in the coming weeks.

I was able to get all the fresh veggies in my list. Just look at this bounty of baby greens. I even got red spinach, which I’ve never heard of before, it’s supposed to be a little sweeter than green spinach, I’ll find out soon enough. Now that I’ve found it, and since it’s so close to the gym, I’m adding the green market to my list of errands.

All the goodies I got lead me to my recipe of today: Turkey Burgers. Since the first meatloaf I made my boyfriend has been requesting different variations. First it was a beef and turkey meatloaf for the whole family and then it was an all turkey meatloaf for him to take for lunch at work. Now, the last turkey meatloaf I made he sliced up and took in sandwiches, but each slice was much smaller than the bread and I suggested that I could make turkey burgers that would fill out a sandwich better. Ever since then he’s been asking for turkey burgers.

Since I’m cooking for him, I feel partially responsible for his nutrition. He’s a personal trainer and really wants to take care of his body. But the food his mother cooks, traditional Ecuadorian fare doused in corn oil, is pretty light on the dark green leafy veggies and he has some inbred aversion to eating greens. Their idea of a salad is few pieces of iceberg lettuce along with a meal. So I formulated these turkey burgers to be very similar to the meat loaf and I tried to sneak in some dark greens. Hopefully he won’t notice. As long as it’s high protein, low fat and low carb he should be happy.

Turkey Burgers
1 ¼ Lb. ground light meat turkey
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ c. fresh baby spinach, chopped
½ c. fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. poultry seasoning mix
1 egg or egg white
salt and pepper to taste

mix everything together with your hands until well mixed. Form into 4 or 5 patties and grill or pan-fry.

May 15, 2008

Mother’s Day…and a Gluten Free Stuffing Idea

This is a few days late, but I’ve been busy and things needed to swish around in my head for a few days. Like many people I know in this crazy-busy world I had a non-traditional Mother’s Day. My mother lives in Michigan and I live in New York, she was here a few weeks ago to visit right before my great aunt passed away, so I got to spend a little time with her.

For the past 8 years since I moved away from home I’ve always schemed with my father to make sure that she has flowers, and I send her small gifts and I always call. This year, as I was on my phone getting the news about my aunt I saw that Barnes & Noble was going to have a book signing for Jimmy Carter’s new book that night. I waited almost two hours in the almost rain and was able to get her a signed copy of A Remarkable Mother and managed to get it to her in time for Mother’s Day.

But that’s not the end of it. This is the first Mother’s Day I’ve spent living with my boyfriend and his family and his mother is so sweet to me. We don’t speak the same language, but we care very much for each other. When we were first introduced it was hard going, but I’ve developed a real soft spot for her, and she takes care of me. Since she’s the ‘mother’ I live with I wanted to make sure she had a special day too.

My boyfriend’s family are not big into celebrations or gift giving, they come from an impoverished background in South America, family time and actions are much more valuable currency in this house. The family usually takes her out to dinner on Mother’s Day, but this year my boyfriend thought she’d appreciate a home cooked meal more. When he asked her, she requested that I make a roast turkey.

The family had their first ever, after 13+ years in America, traditional Thanksgiving dinner last year and loved it. Of course I made all the ‘traditional’ fixings gluten free; turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. They liked it so much that I made another turkey for New Year’s Day. Since no one ate very much of my cornbread stuffing, despite saying they liked it, I tried to think of something to put inside the turkey to keep it moist. Something that they would eat, and if they didn’t, something I would be happy to eat a lot of.

Sometimes ideas rattle around in your head, waiting for the right time to emerge. Apparently, some of my post-Thanksgiving ideas came to fruition now, in the spring, for Mother’s Day. This is by no means a spring meal, but what I cam up with was this: 1 large sweet potato, 2 gala apples, 1 white onion, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon. I chopped up the apples and sweet potato and the onions, tossed it in the maple syrup and cinnamon and stuffed the turkey with this.

What I ended up with was a deliciously moist turkey, with dessert right inside. (unfortunately, everyone was so hungry I wasn't given the opportunity to take any pictures) It was delicious and again, everybody loved it. Two hours after we ate I went back into the kitchen I found his mother sitting at the table eating all the little bits of meat off the bones, completely happy. It was so wonderful to see her have the day off from taking care of her husband and sons (and me) and really enjoy the turkey I made for her.

May 14, 2008

Celestial Seasonings

Some of my daily rituals revolve around tea. When I come to work in the morning, I make myself a cup of green tea. When I get home at night I have a sweet snack and a cup of tea.

I like Celestial Seasonings for several reasons, the biggest of which is probably sentimental, since my mother always kept their teas, and Sleepytime in particular, in our pantry. The artwork on the old boxes was really exceptional, like opening the cupboard to find an art gallery.

As I was making my tea and idly examining the box I noticed, in tiny print at the bottom of the box, under the nutrition, these words: Gluten Free. I had thought that gluten free tea was a no-brainer, but it’s still nice to see that label popping up on more and more places.
And somehow, every night since then, I’ve slept a little better. Maybe it’s the tea, maybe it’s the words on the box that remind me, my favorite tea cares about me too.

Warm fuzzies all around

May 12, 2008

Garrett Popcorn Shops

One Friday my boss ran to Staples to get some mailing labels and returned with a giant bag of Garrett Popcorn Shops' CaramelCrisp popcorn (and the mailing labels). She felt that we all needed a treat, and hoped that the popcorn was something that I could share too, since I never join them when they order food out. While this popcorn is so amazingly, decadently, addictingly delicious that it can’t possibly be good for you it is a treat that everyone in the office can share, even me!

I must admit that I have thrown caution to the wind and sampled their products before, but after a bit of hunting on their website I discovered the well-hidden nutrition page. In the allergy information for each flavor of popcorn it clearly states that none of their products use products that contain gluten. The actual nutrition was not as bad as I expected, either.

So, back to the popcorn; it’s just about all that I ate all day. It’s so sweet and buttery and crunchy and good. I couldn’t stay out of the kitchen; every time I passed by I had to make a detour to grab another handful. When it comes to treats that I can actually eat I tend to lose my self-control. Which is probably a good thing to be able to indulge in something that I can share with my coworkers once in a while.

Garrett Popcorn Shops have locations in New York and Chicago as well as offering their popcorns online. As I understand it, their popcorns have been endorsed by Oprah and Halle Berry among others. I first got to try it when the shop on the corner of 46th and 5th Ave opened and I became addicted to their abundant samples. For a while I stopped eating them, afraid that I might be getting contaminated, but now that I know it’s gluten free it’s going to be a lot harder to control my sweet tooth; hopefully my wallet will be able to help with that.

It must be noted that most of Garrett’s various flavors contain milk, coconut, soy products, and nuts.

May 10, 2008

Grain Free Sweet Potato Almond Butter Bread

A few weeks ago Simply…Gluten Free posted a recipe for grain free muffins, and then grain free zucchini bread. Then I was bopping around and I found Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried’s recipe for sweet potato pitas. My boyfriend and I are both trying to cut carbs and I thought the idea of a grain free bread-type product sounded really interesting.

I’ve been wanting to try to grain-free peanut butter banana muffins, but I’m still not sure if I’m really allergic to them, and I’m not ready to try just yet, I was looking for an alternative fruit. The grain-free zucchini bread looked great until I ran the nutrition: with the almond butter and almond meal it ended up being pretty high calorie and fat. A comment on the muffin post made me think of pumpkin, but since it’s not pumpkin season, that was out. After seeing the sweet potato pitas, a plan began to form in my mind.

When I was at Trader Joe’s, deliberating in the nut aisle, I opted for almond butter because no one else in my house will use it and contaminate the rest of the jar with bread knives and such. With these recipes all open in my Firefox tabs and with my previous meringue research in mind, I created this Grain Free Sweet Potato Almond Butter Bread.

4 eggs- separated
1tsp cream of tartar
¾ creamy almond butter
2 small sweet potatoes, steamed and skinned
1 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp NutriBiotic rice protein powder (optional)*

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Prepare a loaf pan with greased parchment paper or wax paper.

In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form

In a second bowl beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Add almond butter, sliced sweet potato, agave syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix until well blended.

Take a spoonful of egg whites and mix into sweet potato mixture. Mix sweet potato mixture into the egg whites and fold in well, until there are no white streaks.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until slightly brown on the sides and puffy on top. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and paper and let cool on a rack.

So far everybody in my house has liked it, and they’re a hard crowd to please when it comes to trying new foods. And it’s a really pretty color!

*I added this to add a little extra nutrition.

†A special thanks to Simply…Gluten Free and Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried. You ladies are great!

May 8, 2008

Arico Cassava Chips

When I received the mail at work this morning there was a package in it for me. Everyone gets excited when I get packages. It means we all get a treat.

As soon as I opened my box from Arico (it wasn’t allowed to sit on my desk for long) the bookkeeper, Armi, spotted the Cassava Chips, she wanted to try them. I told her we’d open the bag at lunchtime. Armi was almost bouncing up and down with excitement. Very cute.

These are called Barbecue Bliss for a reason. The first bite was amazing! I haven’ had anything barbecue since I went gluten free nearly 3 years ago, with the exception of a very bad episode at B.B. Kings. Armi said, “At first you think it’s salty, then it’s sweet, and spicy. Just the right balance. It tastes healthy – organic – not like regular potato chips” and I think that sums it up.

Needless to say, these were a big hit. The Peruvian woman who works with us was so impressed that we ‘Americans’ are eating food from “my country.”

Terra Chips these are not, they are crispy and tasty and not at all greasy. They have 40% less fat than regular potato chips, with twice the fiber.

Arico is all about “living free”, as in free of allergens, not going without tasty treats. “Once you’ve been enlightened as to what your diet can do without, we invite you to trust us, to enjoy yourself, to live free.”

Arico also plants a tree for each new store that carries their Cassava Chips; so if they’re not by you, petition your local go to store to carry them!

****I would like to thank Arico for sending me these samples***

May 7, 2008

Trattoria Vivolo, Harrison, NY

In Loving Memory of Lilian Shreve

My great aunt’s viewing was held last Saturday. Afterwards we did exactly as she would have wanted: we celebrated her life with a raucous family dinner at her favorite little Italian restaurant, Trattoria Vivolo.

We have eaten at Trattoria Vivolo many times and no one has ever had a bad experience. As soon as we were seated I spoke to our waitress and explained my restrictions. She asked intelligent questions to make sure she understood me.

When she brought the bruschetta to the table, I saw a light go off above her head. She hurried back with a small dish of the fresh tomato topping for me. I ordered the Salmone con Carciofi- Roasted salmon, artichokes, Gaeta olives, lemon, herbs, olive oil, white wine and it arrived sans croquet, which she told me was potato rolled in bread crumbs. Along with our coffee we ordered several cannolis to share, and the waitress brought me a plate with just a little bit of the cheese filling.

Now, I realize that it sounds silly to go to an Italian restaurant, but at the good ones there are many pasta/gluten free options. And in this case, circumstances called for a visit to The Little Italian Restaurant.

The staff of Trattoria Vivolo are very friendly, thoughtful and helpful. The chef is willing to make modifications to recipes when it’s practical. Next time I go, I’m going to see if the can prepare gluten free pasta for me. I will of course call ahead and speak to the chef.

If you’re in the area and have a hankering for Italian, there are many worse places to go.

May 6, 2008

Tilapia on a Whim

Last weekend, while watching TV, my boyfriend asked me what tilapia was. He had read in his Flex magazine that some professional body builder was helping to train another and he recommended eating lots of tilapia. So naturally, my boyfriend wants to try tilapia too.

I did a little web research and learned that tilapia is not only on the “safe” list, it’s low calorie, high in protein and low in fat compared to, say, sea bass or tuna.

Never one to turn down a challenge I decided to give it a shot. I thought about what would be fairly fool proof, in terms of my boyfriend trying new foods: nothing fancy or spicy, and what ingredients I already had at home: the end of a bottle of white wine from my last seafood project.

On the way home I stopped at the local grocery, grabbed what looked good and threw this together.

2 fillets Tilapia
1 medium Vidalia or yellow Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
1 Tomato, diced
3 sprigs fresh Rosemary, partially chopped
White Whine
Olive Oil
Salt and Fresh Pepper

Wash the tilapia and lay on a plate. Sprinkle salt, fresh ground pepper and chopped rosemary over fish. Clean and slice garlic and onions. Sautee garlic, onions and rosemary with salt and pepper until onions are translucent. Push onions to sides of pan, lay tilapia fillets in pan to sear on one side. After 3 minutes flip fillets and cover with onions. Add diced tomato and enough white wine to cover bottom of pan. Cover and cooked until fish is cooked through, about 7 minutes.

We had this with brown rice. I started the rice before I started to prepare the fish and they were done at just about the same time.

My boyfriend really liked it, the only thing that slipped my mind in the mad-dash for groceries was the lemon, luckily we always have limes in the refrigerator. I expect I’ll be making tilapia in ever more creative ways in the future.

May 2, 2008


When I first tried sweetriot I was at Whole Foods. There was a good-looking guy behind a table with three giant martini glasses overflowing with little chocolate pieces. I can’t pass up chocolate (and the good looking guy didn’t hurt either), so I tried them. These tiny little guys pack a huge burst of chocolaty goodness.

sweetriot ‘peaces’, as they call them, are cacao nibs coated in chocolate. They come in three flavors; cacao nibs dunked in 50% dark chocolate, cacao nibs dunked in 65% dark chocolate and cacao nibs dunked in 70% dark chocolate with espresso. All of them are great! The espresso ones are really good for right around 3 o’clock when everything gets hard at the end of the day.

These ‘peaces’ come in really cool reusable, recyclable and collectible tins that feature art from emerging artists *. They’re just the right size to hide in your purse or pocket. I’ve got quite a collection now, and I use the empty ones for all sorts of things. Inside each tin you also get a ‘fortune’ with facts about the countries in which cacao is grown. I was especially excited to see one about Ecuador (where my boyfriend is from).

sweetriot is a product and company with a conscience. They see these all-natural healthy treats as an alternative to products in the candy world. When you add the company’s mission: to create a "sweet" movement to fix the world, setting an example of the future of socially responsible business where the focus is on one unit and one individual at a time. You’ve got a real winner.

sweetriot supports the farmers who help grow the cacao for their product through enlightened trade practices and the chocolate-covered cacao nibs are made in Latin America where we engage with farmers and workers directly. For more information please visit them on the web

May 1, 2008

Sift Bakery

I realize that it’s been a few weeks, but I’m finally back in the swing of things. Work in on an even keel and I have had time to write about all the great stuff I got to try while in Colorado with my mom.

I took a few cookies from Sift Bakery with me to Colorado, with the intention of sharing them with my mother, Dana of Sift Bakery sent me samples of four flavors of her Coffee Haus cookies: Double Chocolate, Almond Poppy Seed, Cashew Cranberry and Coconut Raisin Spice.

Sift cookies are gluten free and vegan, packaged in 100% biodegradable wrappers. And they’re huge. The perfect size for a long lazy afternoon, a steaming mug of tea and a really good book. They were equally great for an evening in front of the fire after a long day of skiing.

My mother was dubious when I told her they were vegan, but I knew better. Those of us on restricted diets can be very creative and resourceful, and we won’t sacrifice taste. I was right; all four flavors were delicious, with the crunch and texture of biscotti.

The Double Chocolate cookie was so intense, I had every intention of saving half of it for my mom when she got back from the hot tub, but that just didn’t happen. As I drank my tea I kept grabbing “one more piece”

I did manage to share the Almond Poppy Seed and Cashew Cranberry cookies, which we both enjoyed. The Almond Poppy Seed was a new variation from the lemon poppy seed I grew up with. The almond wasn’t as sharp as the lemon and gave the poppy seeds a slightly different flavor.

I’ll admit that I was a little dubious about the Cashew Cranberry. I’m not a big fan of cashews and usually avoid them in nut mixes and foods. I find the flavor to intense, but the flavor in the cookie was subtle, smooth and a little sweet. The cashew undertone set of the tartness of the cranberries wonderfully.

Where the Double Chocolate cookie was decadent, the Coconut Raisin Spice cookie was rich and earthy, tropical. It’s amazing how one bite can bring to mind images so vivid. Between the cookies and the fire, in my happily exhausted state, I almost felt myself in the rain forest, connected to the heat of the earth. That is truly a cookie experience.

I know that Dana created these recipes herself. I can only imagine how many “duds” she got to eat before she arrived at these. We are all indebted to her for her fantastic gluten free vegan cookie delights.

*****A special thank you to Dana at Sift Bakery for her sponsorship!*****