June 29, 2008

Glutino Lemon Wafer Cookies

On Friday we had a birthday in the office. Since the VP was turning 40 she had been dropping not very subtle hints that she wanted something nice. So we had a catered lunch.

When I received the food from the delivery guy and started to set it up in the lunch room I was struck that the woman who ordered the food had actually made an effort to order food that I could eat. The receipt read: Mozzarella tomato plate, cold cut sandwich plate, fruit and chocolate plate, salad. This looked promising.

It wasn't. Well, the mozzarella tomato plate was great. The cold cut plate was really sandwiches and the chocolate plate was cookies and brownies with fruit sprinkled around it. I was glad that I had brought my own lunch, not wanting to take any chances. I had a nice slice of tomato and really good mozzarella with my turkey burger.

But it was so nice to see that they had really tried to accommodate my needs, just not knowing what questions to ask to ensure a safe meal for me. But I must remind myself that they tried.

Not being able to join in the fruit and chocolate plate, I delved into my store of samples for something to share.
I came up with these Glutino Lemon Wafer cookies.

Lately, here in New York the weather and calendar both say it's summer. It's almost to hot to do anything. Almost to hot to think even.

And the cookies were light and refreshing. Everyone agreed that they were a great summer desert. Sweet and tart with a great crisp bite.

(and they went pretty well with the champaign we were having. In the middle of the day, of course.)

June 26, 2008

Trader Joe's

I seem to be doing a lot of trekking these days. Not out in the wilderness, but in the wilds of New York city. Often times I have to hit two or more stores to get all the things I need. I try to go to one store a day, or do a continuous trip, getting the heavy things last. I do all of my shopping on foot.

Today was my Treader Joe's trek. I take the train from work and then walk a mile to the store to load up on as much as I can. I love Trader Joe's because they have great prices on unique things. I can pay the same price for organic and free trade foods as I would at the standard grocery store.

The other great thing about Trader Joe's is their gluten free list. They have a list of all the products in the store that are gluten free. You can download the list on your desk top, or, if you're like me, you can grab on from the customer service desk and take it around the store with you as you shop. I wanted to try a few new things for next week and I made about three trips back to check the list.
Today they had Beef Jerky, which reads 'gluten free' right on the label. All you herbivores, look away. This jerky is great! I like things to be spiced, but I wouldn't call this 'spicy'. It's sweet and smoky and not too dry. I had some of it on the walk back to the subway and it really sut my tummy up.

My other find today was Trader Joe's Chocolate Pudding. When something says chocolate and gluten free right on the label I feel that it is my duty to sample, for your benefit. Into my shopping bag in went.

I had to wait to get home to try this one.

After putting away my groceries and washing my lunch dishes I decided I could treat myself to a little chocolate pudding.

As a I only got to have Jello-type puddings at friends houses, so any kind of creamy, chocolaty snack is a real treat and this exceeded my expectations. It's thick and rich without the artificial aftertaste I always associated with pudding cups.

Plus: it's got a cute little cow on the label!

June 25, 2008


Yesterday I was finally galvanized into action.

New York may very well be the only city in this country that can support a restaurant devoted to macaroni and cheese. And not just one, either, I know of at least three.

I heard the chatter that S'MAC had introduced gluten free macaroni and cheese, but for some reason I just couldn't get my but over there.

Yesterday was the day of no more excuses, in honor of their 2nd anniversary S'MAC was offering $1 mac-n-cheese, $2 for gluten free. The allure of inexpensive, gluten free food finally pulled me in.

After working up my appetite by walking all the way downtown to 12th Street from my office at 49th Street, and a minor detour and call to 411 to verify the address, I found this hole-in-the-wall joint hopping with people. All of them loving their mac-n-cheese.

I stepped up the counter, paid my $2, and fought my way to a counter seat. It no time my cute little skillet of All American mac-n-cheese arrived. And it was good.

I grew up with Kraft in the blue box and a distinct aversion for anything Velveeta. After trying mac-n-cheese at picnics and food service offers in cafeterias I was bewildered as to why so many people consider this a comfort food.

Now I know. This warm, cheesy, gooey skillet of goodness could just about cure all ills as far as I'm concerned. I can tell you how great it was, and how I want to go back and try all the different combinations. I can't really make educated comparisons, but I can say that this is the best mac-n-cheese I've ever had.

Appearantly, they have created all their recipes to be gluten free, even the bread crumbs, and only the noodles are gluten. There is an additional $1 charge for gluten free noodles in any style or any size. So if you're ever in New York City I will be overjoyed to take you to S'MAC!

The Last Bite

June 19, 2008

Purely Decadent

I think that adults often forget that each days is an adventure waiting to happen. Especially so in New York City. Some days I shuffle to my job in the Diamond District and shuffle back home home to my Latin neighborhood. Some days I make my own adventure.

Walking downtown, or uptown, one travels through a cross section of New Yorks neighborhoods. As I walked my Whole Foods circuit I traveled from the suited business world through the city strata like a many-layered cake. Clothing changes, speech patterns change and the make-up of couple becomes more diverse.

I saw a well dressed young man walking down the street, and then noticed that he was wearing catholic school-style short pants with shiny black shoes and black socks pulled all the way up, and he was perfectly confident that he looked better than anyone else. I love to see the diversity around my adopted city, it reminds me why I moved here in the first place.

I made another wonderful discovery at the Whole Foods in Chelsea. I stopped by for bread for my boyfriend and raw cacao for myself, but every once in a while I wistfully peruse the frozen dessert case. As far as I'm concerned, most of those selections are off limits because of questionable flavoring ingredients. But what did I see? I saw Purely Decadent dairy free frozen desserts, and three flavor said gluten free. Snickerdoodle, Key Lime Pie and Blueberry Cheesecake.

I had to get one. After trekking to two more Whole Foods to get everything on my list I finally got a seat on the F train home to Queens. I pulled out my flimsy plastic spoon and opened my new find. I have never had a soy based frozen dessert, but I am always curious. Gelatos are often gluten free, and they are rich and creamy. Low calorie options are often a lot like iced milk or have weird flavors. I was trying not to get my hopes too high.

What I got was a cool, delicious, light, smooth cinnamon ice cream with real big chunks of gluten free snickerdoodle dough. It was great. It didn't taste like dairy ice cream, but it didn't need to. It was over all a little lighter and the snickerdoodle pieces tasted just as good as any snickerdoodle dough I've ever made.

I was reading the ingredients and although the packaging says that it is both dairy free and gluten free it also appears to be egg free as well.

Really, the best endorsement I can give is to say that, without a doubt, next time I go to Whole Foods I am going to try one of the other flavors.

June 18, 2008

Happy Father's Day

A belated Happy Father's Day to all you dad's out there. Although this post is late, I did call mine on time, and I also wished it to the three father's that I live with. My boyfriend and I had a very nice day together, although his son did not come to visit or call. I'll keep my mouth shut about that since it's really not my place.

For breakfast I made a new pancake recipe that I've been experimenting with. Ever since I first intorduced my boyfriend to pancakes he's had a growing appreciation for them. He even started having one for breakfast every morning. Since he was eating them and I wasn't it seemed sorta silly to spend so much money on a GF pancake mix. I got him a whole grain oat bran mix and made him those. Actually, I mixed the batter and taught him how to cook one for himself each morning.

Then, watching him enjoy his pancakes, sorta wishing I could at least have a bite, I had a little scare. I cooked his pancake for him, and then on a whim and without thinking a tossed a Van's toaster waffle into the same pan to toast. I didn't realize what I had done until after I'd eaten most of the waffle. Luckily, if I had a reaction it wasn't bad enough for me to really notice.

Between that and our mutual search for lower carb, higher protein, whole grain options I decided that my best bet was to try to make my own pancake concoction, where I had complete control over the ingredients. All the gluten free mixes had far to many carbs for his taste, and were too refined for mine. After several batches, which weren't bad at all I came up with these. Saturday morning I was told not to change this recipe, they were just right. He couldn't even wait to let me take a picture.

Without further ado, let me present the Teff Quinoa Pancake.
low in carbs, high in protein, and super yummy.

1/2c. Quinoa flour
1/2c. Teff flour
1 Tbsp. Flaxseed meal
1 tsp. baking soda
2Tbsp. NutriBiotic ruice protien powder
2 egg whites
1c. Milk

June 13, 2008

ValpiForm Chocolate Chip Cookies

This review is long over due. I received two boxes of these ValpiForm cookies in my goody bag from the first Worry Free Dinner and I was trying to save them, for what, I’m not sure.

The last two weeks were incredibly stressful, between my aunts memorial, my boss getting back to the office and the ensuing drama, having these cookies in my office was a mistake.

I’m not sure what they’re actually called, but they ought to be called Way, Way, Way Too Good Chocolate Chip Cookies. They come in three packs of three in each box and despite all my best intentions I didn’t even have the willpower to save one for photography. These are seriously too good. I managed to eat both boxes in four days. Which might have had something to do with the amount of stress I was under.

But I digress. These cookies have a fantastic; they have a light crispy texture and smooth taste. They crumble a little but crumbs are the best part, right? And the chocolate chips are soft and sweet.

Not only are they gluten free they are also milk free and nut free.

The only reason I wouldn’t buy these cookies would be because I was afraid that I would eat them all at one time.

June 12, 2008

Worry Free Dinner: Craftbar

I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve been remiss in my posting. On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the third Worry Free Dinner. The wonderful staff at Craftbar worked with the wonderful Allergic Girl to create a special menu for us Special Diners where we could eat good food with out worries.

Craftbar created a wonderful menu that was gluten free, as well as being free of many other allergens. I chose to start with the mixed greens salad, followed by the dry-aged sirloin. We each had out own menus, on which we circled our selections and were able to write any other instructions, requests or concerns we might have. The chef and waiter were great, one of my fellow diners made mention of a caffeine intolerance and the waiter returned to tell her that the lentils in her selection were soaked in coffee. Now that’s paying attention.

The online health news network HealthCentral Network sponsored the event. A representative, Joy Buchanan came to speak with us and ask us questions. The network is interested in being of more use to celiacs and other gluten free folk. It was very nice to speak to someone so interested in our experiences, and to hear what we need or would like to be able to find on the internet as well.

As I have said before, it’s so nice to go out and get together with like-minded people. The company was fantastic, I met some very interesting people, and the food was superb. I don’t usually to get to indulge in meals this fancy. My budget is a little tight, and although my parents taught me to enjoy good food my boyfriend does not have such a discerning palette . . . yet. Even though the do not have a special gluten free menu I would feel absolutely confident dinning at Craftbar again. I know that the staff would listen and honor my needs.

We also got a great goodie bag of certified asthma and allergy friendly goodies. A pillow, pillow covers, a stuffed animal and teddy bear, a T-shirt and a Fast & Fit cook book, published by none other than Hatherleigh press where my friend used to work. Funny how everything comes around in a circle.

So a great big thank you to Allergic Girl and Craftbar for a great Worry Free Dinner!

June 8, 2008

First BBQ of the Season

Featuring Pamela’s Products Cake and Frosting Mixes

Yesterday Alyssa hosted a long overdue apartment warming BBQ with her new roommate. She was with me as I was being diagnosed and she helped me through my recovery and did a lot of research with me when we lived together. She used to work for a publishing house that did health and fitness books, and she even worked on a few early gluten free cookbooks. I had really felt lucky knowing that I wouldn’t really have to worry about the food being served, or at lest the items that they were providing.

But, I had several packages of Pamela’s cake mixes that were sent to me for sampling and I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to share them, so I offered to bring a cake to the BBQ.

Now, as hard as I try, it seems that nothing I do is ever simple and this cake was no exception. It was a three-day ordeal that began on Thursday with baking the cake layers and ended Saturday, with me hand carrying an enormous cake on the subway to the gym and then on the New Jersey Transit bus to her apartment.

The BBQ was great. Alyssa and Deb had a cheese plate, home made gazpacho, fruit and meat ready to be grilled. It seems that Alyssa talks about me quite a bit and everyone knew I was the Girl Who Can’t Eat Bread. They all had questions, but they were all also very good about not contaminating the cheese knives with cracker crumbs. Each new person who arrived was quickly apprised of the situation by the other guests. It was wonderful to meet such considerate and interesting new people.

It turns out that Deb, and others there were already interested or aware of the gluten free lifestyle. It was really hard to see Deb, who admits to having a minor gluten intolerance herself, eating bread and crackers. One of Deb’s past jobs included designing the logo and website for GlutenFree Passport, a website resource for dinning out gluten free in the US and also all around the world.

All in all I had a great time. I hope Alyssa and Deb have a few more BBQs this summer. My cake was a big hit. Everyone liked it and said they would never have guessed that it was anything other than a regular cake if no one had told them. Deb said it was the best gluten free cake she had ever had. The general consensus was that over all the chocolate cake layer was a little bit better than the yellow layer, which I thought was a tad dry. The chocolate frosting was amazing and the fruit added that extra touch.

The Cake Odyssey

I started with a bag each of Pamela’s Classic Vanilla Cake, Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Frosting and Dark Chocolate Frosting mixes. My first idea was to make two marbled layers, but the cooking times and temperatures are different for the two cake mixes, so it became a two flavor, two-layer cake.

I unloaded all the pots and pans and started the oven. The yellow cake came first, in my 10” spring form pan. When that one was finished I slipped the chocolate cake, in the 9” spring form pan in. I followed the bag recipes in each case, not wanting to experiment too much the first time.

The batter tasted good, since I had to lick the bowl, and both cakes came out looking delicious. When my boyfriend got home, he looked at them and made devouring noises and motions. The cakes got covered up and packed away in our bedroom, to keep them away from the mice.

Friday was assembly day. I picked up some fresh fruits on the way home from work. I decide to put the yellow cake on the bottom, since it was bigger and it would be easier to trim that way, using the chocolate cake as a guide.

I mixed up the chocolate frosting, again following the directions on the bag, and ended up with a very thick fudgy frosting that didn’t spread very well. I managed to coax it out to the edges of the first layer; it was just enough to cover the top.

I covered that with halved raspberries and blueberries, trying to be as artistically random as I could.

While taking the chocolate cake off of its pan and placing it on top of the fruit layer, I succeeded in getting a very delicious handprint. The cake was, I hope, baked for the proper amount of time, but the top was nice and moist. The chocolate layer fit perfectly on top of the yellow, so at least I trimmed well.

I mixed up the vanilla frosting, adding about 2 additional tablespoons of water than the recipe on the bag called for. This gave me a softer, more spreadable frosting for the top of the cake. I think, perhaps I should have added even more water, since I didn’t have quite enough frosting to completely cover the sides of the cake. As it turned out, in transporting the cake most of the side frosting got stuck to the foil and I had to ‘reapply’ it when I got to New Jersey.

As an artist, I simply cannot pass up a blank canvass like the top of this cake. Along with the berries I got for the purpose I pilfered two strawberries from the refrigerator and used them to decorate the top. The end result looked pretty good, if home made, and I’m glad that no one in our house decided to sample it Friday night.

*****A special thank you to Alyssa and Deb for having this BBQ and the Pamela's Products for the cake and frosting mixes*****

June 7, 2008

One Pot (or Pan) Tilapia

This month's Go Ahead Honey it’s Gluten Free event is being hosted my Carrie, of Ginger Lemon Girl and this month’s theme is One Pot Meals.

I’ve been blogging for a while, but now I’m really starting to feel plugged into the community. This months Go Ahead Honey theme really works for me. Since, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m sure, I live in slightly crowded circumstances. My boyfriend’s mother does the family cooking, and I cook for myself and sometimes my boyfriend too.

So, when I get home from work all the burners on the stove are usually full. I try to do our weekly food preparation during the week, making morning muffins and mixed meat burgers for us to take to work. On the rare evenings that we get to have dinner together I have to keep it simple, and in one pan.

Now, I must point out that my boyfriend’s mother is also a master of one-pot meals, coming from a country with so little, but this is the one that I fix at least once a week.

My boyfriend is a personal trainer and he read in one of his magazines that some body builders rely on tilapia as a low calorie, high protein, and low fat fish. His first question was: “Mija! Can you cook Tilapia?” and after the first time I threw this together it’s been the same every week. As long as we eat together, I don’t even care what we eat; it’s just nice to have him home for a meal.

Now, Carrie has suggested that we post kid friendly one pot recipes, and I think my boyfriends picky eating habits; i.e. “I don’t eat green food” qualifies his favorite dish as kid friendly.

So, after stopping at, on average, three grocery stores on the way home in an attempt to find fresh tilapia, I get home. I take the Big Pan out of the cupboard and set it on the stove.

I crush, peel and chop about three cloves of garlic, peel and slice one yellow onion and dump those into the pan. Turn the heat up to medium and add a dollop of olive oil and some of whatever spices I have on hand.

While the onions and garlic are cooking I wash the tilapia and salt both sides with a sea salt, dulce and kelp mixture and slice about two large tomatoes.

When the onions are translucent, I push them to the middle of the pan, lay the tilapia on top and then layer the tomato slices over the top of the fish. I put the cover on the pan, turn the heat to low and let it cook until the fish is 1) cooked through 2) it falls apart or 3) my boyfriend gets home.

It’s simple, gluten free and delicious. It’s a staple in our “household” such as it is.

June 4, 2008

Mister Softee, My Summer Lover

See that? Across the busy street?

Nearing the corner?

For a New Yorker, even a transplanted one, it’s not the weather or a date on the calendar, but the arrival Mister Softee that marks the beginning of summer. Trucks spring up overnight on almost every street corner. Cruising through neighborhoods playing that distinctive song.

You know the one. In true Pavlovian response our eyes glaze over and an innocent, child hood need for ice cream, right now! awakens. When you hear that music, or see those trucks, you know summer is here to stay.

Summer has arrived and Mister Softee is my summer fling.

Isn’t he handsome?

And his soft serve ice creames and toppings are gluten free. Everything except the cones.

Ask just about any New Yorker and they’ll be happy to tell you where their favorite Mister Softee truck hangs out. Some swear by the one at the south east corner of Union Square. Others, Broadway and 50th.

Yesterday after work, filled with youthful glee, I ran to the corner of 49th and 6th for my first Mister Softee of the season. My Mister Softee will make me my favorite, no questions asked, and no extra charge: small vanilla, cherry dip, with rainbow sprinkles, in a cup. (Not all of them have the skills to do a dip in a cup, other don’t have the language facility to understand No Cone)

When the heat is on, and all you want is cool, smooth, luscious ice cream on a bright sunny day, have no fear: Mister Softee is here, or there, or pretty much wherever you are in the city, ready with a safe, gluten free treat to satisfy.

*I make no statement that Mister Softee is in any other way ‘healthy’ and I am fully aware that I ought to put an extra few hour at the gym after my splurge of yesterday. But hey, it’s summer! And I didn’t get sick!

June 3, 2008

Family History

This past weekend my family again gathered to celebrate my great aunt’s life. This time we were joined at the retirement community where she spent the last years of her life by many more friends. Those who couldn’t join us sent their love.

We laughed and cried and shared our best memories of her. After the memorial we adjourned to my cousin’s home to share stories that we had heard from her or about her. Everyone remembers things differently. She doled out information to each of us, almost as if she knew we wouldn’t put the whole puzzle together unless we were all together in one place. We celebrated her the way she would have wanted: as a family, around a loaded table, with full wine glasses. She will be greatly missed.

One special treat for me was to see a friend of my mother’s from the Old Neighborhood. As he noted, my great aunt was the last of a generation. But generations overlap, and Richard is old enough to remember her as a young woman, as well as her parents, and the vitality of that old Italian immigrant community. My aunt was accompanied his mother to the hospital when he was born.

He and my mother shared memories of my great grandparents, stories I’ve never heard or only vaguely remember. My great grandfather owned an apartment building on Seaman Avenue and Richard’s father was the super. He remembers spending summer days on the roof with his father and my great grandfather, keeping it wet so that my great grandmother could stay cool. They lugged up the radio and listened to Italian opera, if Richard behaved, they let him listen to The Lone Ranger or another of ‘his’ programs afterwards. It’s wonderful to hear these tales. My mother doesn’t know these stories; the roof was a Man’s Place.

Besides being one of the last people to have known my great grandparents, Richard was great friends with my uncle when they were growing up. I remember my uncle, known in those circles as Kenny, fondly. He embarrassed me at times, but he was the best uncle a tom-boy like me could have asked for. I didn’t see him often since he had fallen out with my grandmother early in his life and he didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Saturday night Richard and his wife Linda told me, for the first time, just how important I was to him. They said I was his world. I can easily believe that.

And over the veggie tray, I learned some other information about my uncle. His myriad health problems may have been the result of undiagnosed celiac as well.

The origin of my gluten intolerance has been a bit of a mystery to the family. I suffered severe skin reactions and deep depression along with bloating and general severe stomach pains. No one on either side of my family has ever manifested symptoms like this. I am an anomaly.

The huge missing link in our health history has always been my mother’s father. He was adopted at a young age and knew very little about his own parents, he abandoned the family when my mother was 7. Stories always seem to point to the likelihood that he suffered from depression, and possibly heart trouble. No one believes that he survives, although we have no way of knowing.

My memories of my uncle are of a vigorous, tall lanky man with a large pot belly (and an embarrassingly hairy chest). By the age of 55 my uncle had suffered at least one heart attack and one stroke. He also had severe hypothyroidism and refused to accept a diagnosis of depression. This combination proved to be lethal.

When I was first diagnosed with depression, my senior year of college, I was paralyzed by the idea that I would end up like him. Feeling too poorly to be out in public, even to go to the doctor, who might be able to help. After describing my own symptoms of celiac, the ones I suffer now if I get glutened and those leading up to my ‘diagnosis’, a light dawned for all of us. Linda said that for years Kenny had complained of skin ailments, he even described them similarly to how I described mine. The worse his skin got, the more he stayed inside and lived off of processed meat, canned vegetables and bread.

That night we started putting all these pieces together. With Linda, my mother and my own experience I feel confidant that he had celiac as well. It makes me so sad to think that he could have lived a better life, been spared much of his suffering had he known. But knowing that I have found a solution, that I won’t travel the same downward spiraling road is a relief.