We all know how "gluten-free" is a buzz word now. It seems it is easier than ever to find "gluten-free" labeled packaging at the local grocery store chain. Restaurants are labeling more food "gf" to try and attract more customers. But is this helping us? Or is it making more people just roll their eyes?
I get so excited when I see places near me offering "gluten-free" donuts, or "gluten-free" fries, or "gluten-free" pizza, and when anything on their menu is specifically labeled gluten-free. It gets me giddy with excitement, even if I wouldn't normally eat a donut, or fries. I like to know if I want them, I can have them. But then when it comes down to it, and I am at the restaurant and I ask if their menu items are really gluten-free, and fried in a dedicated fryer, I get a response that is more and more common lately: "No, we do not use a dedicated fryer. Our gluten-free items are not appropriate for people who must be gluten-free, or who have celiac." I want to say a big...What the F*&k!!??? Seriously??????!!!!
Yes, you heard that correctly...I am told, they are not for people who actually *need* to be gluten-free. Well, wow. So, basically, these places are printing up these menus, putting efforts into social media and marketing for those that are gluten-free by choice, not those of us who are gluten-free because it is medically necessary. And apparently, these restaurant owners don't mind. So, when I go to a restaurant now and see the lovely "gf" or whatever symbol they are using to denote a dish is gluten-free, do I believe it?
I mean really, people who are gluten-free because it is the "in" thing, because they want to stay away from carbs....are they the ones who are really ordering donuts and fries?? I can't imagine someone who is gluten-free because it is trendy eating food like this. They would be ordering a salad, and grilled fish....gluten-free, maybe, but not ordering some item using replacement flours.
And because of so many people wanting to eat gluten-free, when I am ordering at a restaurant, how do I know people will take me seriously when I say I need to eat gluten-free. Maybe they will roll their eyes and think I am like all the other people doing it for fun. Now, I feel I must say I have an allergy, so it is taken seriously. Do servers need to think we will go into shock when ingesting gluten to be taken seriously, and that we are not just following some fad because it is fashionable?
Is it fair that anyone can slap a gluten-free label on their menu?
When you see a menu item labeled as gluten-free, do you feel safe, or do you feel you need to investigate just a little bit more?
Do you think the gluten-free craze it helping to bring awareness, or do you think it is a hinderance on the people who really need to be gluten-free to be healthy?
Monday, June 17, 2013
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
We all like French fries, who are we trying to kid, but sometimes it is nice to mix it up a bit, and maybe be a bit healthier. Sure, we miss the days when we could go through the drive-thru and eat our favorite fast food fries, but really, homemade is so much tastier. These are baked and not fried.
If you have never had a parsnip before, think a carrot on steroids. They are a root vegetable, and located near the carrots or the turnips in the produce section. They look like a bigger carrot, but they are white, and a little tougher to cut. They have a nice sweet, earthly flavor. In addition to making parsnip fries, I also like mashing them with some potatoes for some extra pizazz!
I use parsley in this version, but feel free to play around, and add whatever you have around or in your garden. You can also leave off the parmesan for a vegan version.
These are pretty easy to pull together, and make a great side dish with just about anything. Last night, I served this with our Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs.
Parmesan Parsnip Fries
2 lbs of parsnips, cleaned, peeled and sliced into "fries" (see photo above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground sea salt (regular salt will do too)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
Pre-heat oven to 425'
In a large mixing bowl, toss the sliced parsnips with the olive oil, salt and pepper;
Place parsnips in a roasting pan, in a single layer;
Cook for 20 minutes;
Sprinkle the parmesan on the parsnips, toss the parsnips and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until done;
Take roasting pan from oven and sprinkle parsnips with chopped parsley, toss again;
Eat while warm. You won't even need ketchup!
Monday, June 10, 2013
I love soup, and I might be able to eat it 24/7/365! Usually, when I think of pea soup I think of heavy, chilly weather worthy split pea soup. I will be first to say, I love split pea soup as much as the next person, but Atlanta, in the summer, isn't the time to have rib-sticking split pea soup, so I thought it would be fun to have a lighter version for summer.
The first thing Z said when she sat down for dinner, "it's green." You betcha' it's green, it's full of peas and fresh herbs! I will admit, I used frozen peas. Because while I am all for shelling peas and using super fresh ingredients, I just didn't have the time. If you do, great, if not, frozen peas will be just as delightful.
This is a pretty simple and quick dinner to put together, and I am already looking forward to having leftovers tomorrow.
You may be scared to use so much mint and cilantro, but don't. Trust me, it will not taste like candy cane soup. The herbs help create the summery, refreshing feel of the soup. If you do not have mint or cilantro on hand, you can be creative and use basil, or whatever you are feeling like at the moment.
This recipe can also be easily be converted to vegan, just omit the step with the cream. The potatoes will thicken the soup enough without it.
Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
5 cups broth (my favorite is "chicken bouillon" by Celifbr - gluten-free and vegetarian)
2 packages 10-oz frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 small red potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/8 cup heavy cream, could also use sour cream, or Greek yogurt (these are all optional)
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in your favorite soup pot on medium heat;
Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes;
In the meantime, boil the potatoes in a saucepan for 12 minutes or until tender;
Add the broth to the onions and heat to a boil. Add the frozen peas and cook for 4 minutes;
Turn off the heat and add the chopped herbs;
When potatoes are finished, use a slotted spoon and add the potatoes to the soup;
Using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a traditional blender, blend the soup until smooth on slow speed (be careful not to fill the blender too much, or you will have hot green soup all over your kitchen and you);
Return the soup to your soup pot. Stir in the cream/sour cream/yogurt if you are using.
May be served very warm, or can sit for a bit and served at room temperature.
I served this soup with Parmesan Parsnip Fries.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
(I am going to ask for comments at the end, so please be prepared to write something)
We watched the 80s classic, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which Z got a real kick out of. She loved the clothes and the hair. And I will admit I loved it as much as I did when I saw it in the cinema in 1985, Z saw it as an old-fashioned version of the series Shake it Up! After the fun 80s nostalgia, I decided to watch something a bit more "educational", and put on the documentary Vegucated, which promotes a vegan lifestyle.
Vegucated is like many other documentaries I have seen before on the benefits of being meat-free and the atrocious treatment of animals. I assume it is kind of preaching to the choir, because die hard meat and potato eaters will probably not be swayed. I love it, but I am sure there are many who would not consider to watch it as they are flipping through Netflix.
I was a vegetarian for almost 5 years after I had my daughter, though I did eat fish once in a while, so technically, I guess you can say I was a pescatarian. After I was diagnosed with celiac, I gradually started eating bits of meat here and there. It started because I would be at parties and BBQs, and there was very little to eat unless I brought my own food, so I ate a bratwurst here, some smoked turkey there. From then on out, I probably eat meat about once every two weeks. So compared to people who can't fathom a meatless meal, it is still relatively little, but I am still eating it. Z likes meat and sees it as a treat, so about once a month I will make pork carnitas, meatballs, tacos or chili.
I try to stay on the periphery of the grocery store, and try to limit the buying of processed food items. When Z asks for a snack, I give her fresh cut fruit, or yogurt. Though, she won't refuse cheddar bunnies (who would?) I try to visit farmers markets as much as I can, and I buy my meat at Whole Foods, which makes me feel like I am getting "happy" meat, but really, how "happy" and humane is it?
In the documentary Vegucated, what stuck with me most was a a scene where someone called an organic meat company asking how the animals were treated, how the cows were castrated, what happened to animals who were sick, how they killed animals...and guess what?? It wasn't much different that conventional methods!! Animals are not given painkillers, they are killed with metal rods through their brain, baby boy chicks are killed alive, because they are not needed, chickens beaks are burned down, and I could go on and on...but you get the point.
Many of us have seen something like this before, and we know in our subconscious what really happens, but we try and push it out of our minds, because hey...we like bacon, we like pot roast, we like our Thanksgiving turkey. And I do too! I am not trying to pretend I don't.
So, how do we know if a small, organic farm is actually small enough that they treat the animals humanely?
I don't think I could be completely vegan, I do love yogurt and eggs, and while I know these animals are also included in the group above, I am just not sure it is realistic for me to think I could cut out all animal-based foods. But, I have cut out meat before, so I know I could do it.
I know if I could go completely gluten-free there is really no other eating habit I could not accomplish. In the past couple of months, I have cut out many of the processed foods I was still holding onto. I have cut out pasta, bread, crackers, chips (of course I may have an occasional chip at a party), cut down on tofu to once a week, even rice, which I love! I always say I could live on rice and cheese, risotto is my favorite all time food, but I have stayed away from rice since March. And just a side note..cutting out these foods, finally allowed me to shed some pounds! Whoo hoo!
I am still baking...but I am giving it away, and not eating it. I realized, I just love the act of baking. And I am holding onto our traditional of Sunday pancakes.
But the focus of this post is meat, and how I really want to cut it out. I don't think I would have a problem with it if I know it is form a humane, local farm, but I don't want to eat it otherwise. I feel I am already very conscious about the food I buy (I try not to buy conventional veggies from outside the US), but I am going to be even more so (and buy more organic veggies/fruit that are from Georgia and the Southeast).
Please don't think I wrote this post to be preachy, it is just really a stream of consciousness about my own thoughts about meat and cheese. I feel I have lots of research I need to do, before I know what really is "happy" meat, and does it even exist outside of me hunting and killing it myself?
I am very curious to know the thoughts of others? How do you feel about meat? What is most important to you regarding what you eat? Please post your honest comments. Thanks!!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Cooking vegetarian, with an occasional fish dish, can sometimes wear me out. I love getting creative with vegetables and legumes, but some days, I just want it over and done with, and put on a plate in front of me. So, it was nice this weekend when I got the spark back to experiment, and wow, this was a sinfully delicious experiment. I was feeling caramel, I was feeling cookie bar....after looking up several ideas, I took inspiration from many different recipes, and created my own gluten-free version.
BEWARE...these are ridiculously addictive. Seriously, you need to make them to bring somewhere, because if you leave them in your own kitchen, you will not be able to resist.
The pictures may not be super pretty, and a little too "organic", but don't let the pictures fool you. No one will be complaining about how they look.
Salted Caramel Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 t vanilla
2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix)
1 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 t fresh ground sea salt
1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 325'
Combine the butter, sugars and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and use a hand mixer until smooth, fluffy and well blended;
Add the flour until combined;
Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper;
Add half of the dough to the baking dish and use fingers to flatten and smooth to edges;
Bake for 30 minutes or until edges start to brown, place the remaining 1/2 of the dough in the fridge.
In the meantime, add the sugar, corn syrup and water to a sauce pan, stir to combine and let sit on medium-high heat;
It will start bubbling, watch closely and when it starts to turn amber (about 8 minutes), turn off the heat, add the cream, and stir to combine;
Add the sour cream, and stir to combine;
Let sauce sit until the crust is ready.
When the crust is finished, spoon the caramel sauce on the baked crust (you will have lots left over - put in a jar and store in the fridge until you want a spoonful, or to put it on ice cream);
Sprinkle the sea salt over the caramel;
Crumble the remaining cooled dough on top of the caramel;
Bake for another 30 minutes, or until top crust starts to brown;
Let cool completely (at least an hour), and cut into squares.
Enjoy! Don't say I didn't warn you.