Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vegetarian Irish stew w/ parsnip and cauliflower mash

This is something I used to make in my pre-gluten-free life, and since Guinness is now out, I didn't think I would be able to make it properly anymore. But last week, I met up with some dark gluten-free beer by Green's, which is made in Belgium, and it immediately gave me visions of Irish stew!

I kind of just use whatever veggies I have on hand, but I think it works well with root and/or winter vegtables. And I love Irish stew with mashed potatoes, but since I am trying to be a bit healthier and stay away from evil white carbs, I decided to do a mash of parsnips and cauliflower, and it was delicious, and potatoes to peel, just a couple of parsnips.

This was a huge hit, and even my daughter who likes to pretend she is becoming picky, gobbled it up!

Irish stew

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons flour (I used garbanzo bean flour, but I think brown rice flour would work well too)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 cups dark beer, I used
28-oz. of vegetable broth
(I used 2 Celifibr bouillon cubes)
1 cup chopped sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
12 roasted brussels sprouts, cut in quarters


1 head of cauliflower, cut into large pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
fresh-ground salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of butter and a touch of cream, optional

Heat the oven to 400'F

1. Toss cleaned and quartered brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and fresh-ground salt and pepper. Roast these for about 20 min or until done, but still a bit crisp (no one likes soggy brussels). Stir about half-way through.

2. While the brussels are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 more minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook another 2 minutes.

2. Pour in beer, and bring mixture to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, stirring and scraping any bits that may be stuck to bottom. Add vegetable broth, sweet potato and parsnips, and bring to a simmer. Readuce heat to a medium-low and cook 20 minutes.

3. Add edamame and cook 10 minutes more.

4. Add the brussels sprouts and combine.

While the stew is cooking, boil water and throw in your cauliflower and parsnips and prepare as you would mashed potatoes. My veggies were ready to mash after boiling about 20 min. I added a bit of butter and touch of cream, 1/4-teaspoon nutmeg, salt and fresh-ground pepper.

Serve the stew next to, or on the mash in a shallow bowl.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

I just don't buy it....

It is crazy how common having celiac is, and I feel like I meet people with it everyday. And usually it is a passing encounter like in the gluten-free section of the grocery store, so I don't have time to talk about specifics, just kind of say, "what is your favorite pasta?" and really that is it.

But the other day I met with someone who had it too, and we had some time to spend together so we got a little bit more into it. She has had it for 10 years, so I felt like I was up against a pro. We talked about the obligatory, how long have you had it, what were your symptoms, etc.. But since I had a few hours to sit there, we got a little more into it.

We were talking about what foods we missed, and I said something like it was still possible to make most of those foods with GF flours, and she shocked me by saying that she just gives in and will eat some of her missed items once a week. I was in shock. I was thinking, maybe she is not diagnosed celiac, but she was, 100% celiac with a family history of colon cancer. She went on to tell me how once she got gluten out of her system, she was "able" to reintroduce a little bit at a time. "That is all about reintroduction," she said she will have regular pasta once a week and still buys "whole grain" bread, because at least it is better for her than cheap white bread. I was completely flabbergasted. And it made me feel like a gluten nazi, when I said how I won't even touch the stuff. I asked her if she worried about gluten in shampoos, lotions and soaps and she said that she didn't because she buys organic...what???!!! Organic does ≠ GF, if anything there is probably more gluten in some of those products, because that is what is making it "natural". I was at a loss for words.

Now, some people who know me will think that every time someone tells me they have a symptom I will immediately diagnose them with celiac, that I just think everyone has it these days - ha! And while I know the facts and just how common it is, I am also not going to preach to someone about it. It was interesting, because she was pregnant, and she also told me how she gets really bad eczema...I wanted to be like, "duh, you don't say??!!" But, I kept my mouth shut for the most part.

The only thing I did say was, "you know it still does damage to your body when you don't feel the effects". She answered that she knew, but she just doesn't want to get "all crazy" about it, she doesn't read all labels or use vitamins. But then she went on to say, she has even had to go to the ER because of had bad she has felt when she has had it, but it still doesn't deter her from continuing to eat it.

I was just so in shock with the different outlooks we have. Me, who avoids it like poison down to what shampoo and lotion I use, to this woman who still buys whole grain bread because she feels it is better. I definitely don't want to be in pain or cut my life short because of some easy changes that could be made. I would hate to look back and see how I could have easily changed things. This was honestly my first time meeting another celiac with this laid-back attitude.

In the end, I guess it is not my place to say anything. But wow, it just blew me away!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flat Top Grill feast and Wild Beasts

Eating at restaurants and being gluten-free is one of the more stressful situations, especially when going somewhere you have never been before. Once you find places that can reliably prepare a gluten-free meal, it is easy to stick to them and not stray too much for fear of eating somewhere and getting ‘glutened’. Fortunately, Flat Top Grill is one place that is not only allergy-aware, they even have it written, literally, on their walls! Last week before heading to Schubas to see the Wild Beasts, we went to Flat Top Grill for dinner.

For those who have not had a chance to visit Flat Top Grill, it is a create-you-own stir-fry restaurant. Basically, you take a bowl, pile it high with a starch and veggies, add a protein, a sauce and hand it off to be cooked, and you have your meal!

I visited their web site beforehand and was pleased to see they have an entire pagededicated to allergens as well as a page for vegetarian/vegans and another with nutritional information.

We went to the location across from Schubas at Belmont and Southport. For a weekday night they were pretty crowded, which could sometimes be a deterrent to someone with gluten-free needs, but they took care of me. Once we were seated, I told them I was gluten-free and they handed me a sheet that listed what sauces were safe for a gluten- and wheat-free diet. In addition to the allergen safe list, it was also clearly written on the wall behind the food stations. For those with specific allergies, you can place a stick in, or next to your bowl to alert the staff and they will cook your meal in a separate wok that has not been used for any of the allergens listed. You can create your dish to be a rice bowl, or used in lettuce wraps. They also serve gluten-free beer.

I started off by choosing brown rice from a rice steamer and adding veggies to my bowl. I could clearly see which sauces were safe for me, as everything is labeled, but was a bit nervous to take one, because they are placed right next to gluten containing sauces, and who knows what has dripped in what, or spoons have been shared, so I asked the manager if he could get me some sauce from an unused container in the back, and he was more than happy to do so. I am not regularly a meat eater, so I stuck with the tofu, but there were plenty of meats and seafood options that are safe. There is also a bottle of wheat-free tamari to use as extra seasoning.

The end result was delicious, warm and satisfying, and I will definitely go back again. I love the variety of fresh veggies and the quick service. For a couple more bucks you can make yours an unlimited bowl, but one bowl seemed to be completely sufficient. This would also be a great place for kids.

Our server and the manager went out of their way to make sure I felt comfortable and had a safe and delicious experience.

After this yummy meal we headed across the street to Schubas and enjoyed the unique sounds of British indie rock band, the Wild Beasts. The music was amazing and tight. The lead singer, Hayden Thorpe’s voice was absolutely beautiful and kept me completely mesmerized during their set. Thorpe’s sound reminded me a bit of Sigur Rós, and had such a wide range from operetta to pop. If you are unable to see them live, check out their latest album, Two Dancers and their previous albumLimbo, Panto, both on Domino Records. You can check out a few of their tracks on their web site. Be sure not to miss "We Still Got the Taste of Dancin’ on Our Tongues" and "The Devil’s Crayon". Schubas did not have gluten-free beer, but they have plenty of liquor and I enjoyed the music with a side of Magners Irish cider.

Flat Top Grill has 14 locations around the Chicago area including Champaign and Normal, Illinois, with two in Wisconsin (Madison and Wauwatosa), and one in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Monday, February 22, 2010

GFIW (Gluten-free item of the week): Peeps, February 22

I am going to start something new here, where I am going to post a mainstream product, every week, that is gluten-free, called Gluten-free Item of the Week, or GFIW.

This week, is the ever-popular Peeps. Even though the photo is of Valentine Day Peeps, Easter is just around the corner, and all Peeps are gluten-free. This package of Peeps even says so right on the back.


Why all the music references?

I figured I would explain my reasoning behind my music references with food posts. Like why am I randomly putting in what I am listening to...what the heck is that all about?

Simply, I like music. It seems to be a part of my daily life, as well as cooking, so it makes sense they should go together.

Food. I have loved everything about food from when I was little. I absolutely love cooking and baking and then seeing people enjoy my efforts.

I have also enjoyed music from my early years from when I was obsessed with Rick Springfield and then progressed to Men at Work and Duran Duran. But once I started listening to INXS' Listen Like Thieves in the 80s, I was hooked, and my bedroom walls were wall-papered with INXS members, specifically Michael Hutchence (rip). That first time I saw him in concert, in the 80s, I was even more in love, and it started the beginning of long relationship with music.

I never got into the top 40 music or the big hair bands of the 80s, I never listened to metal, it was the indie alternative music that tempted me, and still does.

In my 20s and early 30s I was going to 2-3 gigs a week. I loved checking out the newest music and seeing a band play at a small venue before they broke out and became trendy.

I married a musician, a former drummer from England, M, who had toured throughout England and Europe in the 90s. After having our daughter, Z, it was definitely more difficult for me to find the time to keep up with what was new, and I was definitely no longer going to 2-3 gigs a week, I was lucky if I was doing that a year! And let's not talk about the drinking...that decreased in mass quantities as well!

We quickly learned that with the warmer weather we could take Z with us to outdoor venues. She went to her first Lollapalooza in 2005 at 4 months old, and since then she has been to countless festivals and concerts, complete with her ear muffs, to protect her young ears. She has seen more bands than most adult, at 4-years old. She has danced to over 40 bands from The Thermals, to Aimee Mann, Broken Social Scene, Fiest, Elvis Costello, Jarvis Cocker, Kaiser Chiefs, Rufus Wainwright, The Stills, Magic Numbers, Shellac, The Streets, The Klaxons, Gogol Bordello, Radiohead and I could go on and on. Once the warmer weather hits, we are ready to check out the schedules to see what we can take her to.

M keeps BBC 6 Music on the radio daily, and issues of NME in stock so I am able to keep current.

It is great to cook to music, or to take a break out of the day and dance to Scissor Sisters with Z. Though, now that she is getting older, she is having more of an opinion as to what she wants to listen or dance to...I am not sure this is a good thing, especially when she has me watching Hannah Montana.

One subject that has really fascinated me since becoming gluten-free and being married to someone who used to tour for a living, is how someone with celiac or a gluten intolerance handles it in such a hectic lifestyle. Being that celiac is so prevalent, it is a no brainer that musicians and the crew that support them would be included in this large how do they deal with it? I have been lucky to be able to talk to several people in the industry to learn more*.

Until then....turn the tunes up and get cooking. Tonight on our menu we are having roasted salmon and asparagus risotto, the ultimate comfort food. I think it is time for some Muse and a chilled bottle of cider and to get myself in the kitchen.

*Here is a recent interview with British production manager, Richard 'Wez' Wearing, and what it is like on the road with celiac. Keep an eye out, I have more coming!

Friday, February 19, 2010


I just wanted to say congratulations to the Noodles & Co winners, Kim and Bunny! If you haven't yet, please send me your address, so I can mail out your free bowl coupon.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Curry un-chicken salad with a side of M.I.A.

Craving chicken salad, but not the chicken part of the equation, I decided to make a few changes to an 'un-chicken' salad idea I got from a friend last year. I love the idea of chicken salad...if I could take away the chicken and the mayo. I don't care how disguised the mayo taste is, I can always taste it, and it is a huge turn-off. When recipes call for mayo, I will replace it with sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt. Chicken is one meat, I will never eat so for the chicken in this recipe, I used mashed chick peas, and honestly, it is difficult to tell the difference, but at least you know your beans never had wings!

I decided to put an Indian twist to it, which automatically puts M.I.A. tunes in my head, such as "Paper Planes" from Slumdog Millionaire. Though she has lots of fun music that precedes this great film.

This receipt has a yummy mixture of sweet and savory with a crunch. I enjoyed mine on a toasted piece of Udi's bread.


2 cans of chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cups seedless grapes


1 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon wheat-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon mango chutney (I use Patak....all of their products are gluten-free!)

- First, prepare the dressing by combing all ingredients and setting aside

- For the "chicken", place the drained and rinsed chick peas in a large mixing bowl and use a potato masher to mash down. This can take some muscle, and can also be achieved by a few pulses in a blender or food processor, but then you take away the work-out and have more things to clean

- Mix in the grapes and celery

- Stir in the dressing and combine well

You can serve this as a sandwich, or just start eating it up with a spoon. Enjoy!

What I found in my red lentils!

**updated with call to Bob's Red Mill**

I spoke with customer service this morning. Their response was that their beans are not processed in their gluten-free facility and run on equipment that will process wheat and barely on an "as needed" basis. There is no schedule. The process includes cleaning lines in between runs and then discarding the first 30 lbs processed to use as feed, but not to be sold in retail. Hmm...well, that process didn't work with my bag of red lentils! They said they record all complaints, so if you have found unwanted gluten in your Bob's Red Mill dried beans, call them at 800.349.2173.

Original post --

I use red lentils on a weekly basis, I love them! And being a vegetarian 99.9% of the time I rely on my beans. So when I found several of these in my Bob's Red Mill red lentils Saturday night, I was extremely disappointed. I was all ready to make veggie tacos, and had to scratch that whole idea and move to plan b.

I have never seen this in my beans before, but have read about it happening to other people. At first I wasn't even sure what it was, so I took this photo. But a visit yesterday to Whole Foods looking at the dried beans confirmed this is indeed an offending grain of barely. And there was more where that one grain came from.

I was so hungry, I was about to just eat the lentils anyway, but then I used the rational part of my brain and decided that was not a good idea at all. I ended up buying some organic lentils from Whole Foods yesterday, but I did not see red lentils favorite.

I am actually going to be driving past the Gluten-Free Trading Company today, so I thought I would check and see if they sell any, otherwise....I need to find a reliable brand.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Noodles & Company giveaway!

I have 2 free bowl coupons to give away! Each can be used for a free noodle or salad bowl. The soups are not gluten-free.

I have always been a huge fan of Noodles & Company, even more so now because I can easily eat there gluten-free. It seems odd, be able to eat at a noodle place, but may of their dishes can be made substituting rice noodles. It is also an easy place to eat vegetarian, which is also great for me...well when I decide to stay on the vegetarian wagon, which is really 99% of the time. As long as some grass-fed filet mignon is not put in front of me!

The Noodles & Company web site clearly lists gluten and all of the major allergens in an easy to read chart. When you order your meal, simply tell them you can't have gluten, or have a wheat allergy and they will mark it on your order to be "Allergy Aware" and take extra precaution when cooking it. Personally, I find it easier, sometimes, to say I have a wheat allergy, because people will start having visions of anaphylaxis and take it seriously. No one wants that to happen on their watch! Sometimes when I say 'gluten' people just look at me like I have a third eye.

Of course you don't have to eat vegetarian, as the sautéed shrimp, sautéed beef and braised beef are gluten-free.

The following sauces can be made with the rice noodles for a gluten-free noodle dish:
  • Pad Thai
  • Rosa
  • Pasta Fresca
  • Pesto
  • Tuscan
  • Marinara
  • Buttered noodles
The following salads are also gluten-free:
  • Chinese chop salad (no wontons)
  • Med salad (no cavatappi noodles)
  • Caesar salad (no croutons)
  • Tossed green side salad
  • Cucumber tomato side salad
My favorite dish is the Pasta Fresca with feta cheese and extra veggies.

So let's get down to the nitty gritty....the giveaway. It is simple, all you have to do is two things, 1) subscribe to my blog (in the upper right-hand corner of the page); and 2) leave a comment to this post of your favorite gluten-free noodle dish that you make at home. My daughter will choose 2 winners, at random, a week from today, on Wednesday, February 17th after 5pm central time.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

White velvet cutout cookies

I saw this recipe floating around during the holidays, and knew I had to try it. This recipe was originally a gluten recipe, but with changing the flour it become perfect!! These cookies were a huge hit! Not only did I love them (and I am pretty picky), but so did all of the gluten-eaters that I gave them to. They disappeared quickly! We did this on xmas eve and decorated them with frosting, green and red M&Ms, shredded coconut and sprinkles.

With Valentine's Day here in less than a week, these are great to cutout as hearts and decorate with your kids, or just for a loved one. We decorated ours with red frosting and red and pink glitter sprinkles. We also made some butterflies and flowers.

We will definitely make this recipe a tradition for years to come!

I think the secret is the cream cheese, it creates such a rich flavor that becomes downright addicting. This will make A LOT of cookies, so you may want to do only half if you don't want to be tempted and eat a dozen in one sitting, or feed the entire neighborhood.


2 cups butter, softened
1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
(use the bar, not the whipped kind)
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4-1/2 cups GF flour mix
(I use Whole Food's 365 GF All Purpose Baking Mix)

- In a mixing bowl cream the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy

- Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour.

- Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm.

- Roll out onto a floured surface to 1/4" thickness. I rolled mine between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap. Because this makes such a large amount of batter, you may want to keep what you are not rolling in the fridge to keep cool until you are ready to roll.

- Cut with cookie cutters.

- Place on cookie sheets about 1" apart, these should not have much spread.

- Bake at 350'F for 10 minutes or until set (barely browned...these will mostly
still look white).

- Cool 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then place on wire rack.

And decorate!

For the frosting, I did a simple buttercream frosting:

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons milk
food coloring as desired

- Combine 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, vanilla and 3 tablespoons of milk in a bowl and blend until smooth.

- Gradually add the remaining sugar and blend until light and fluffy. Add the remaining milk if you would like it thinner.

- Separate into different bowls for different colors of frosting, and add food coloring.


Gluten-free dining at Chicago's Glen Prairie

Enjoying a meal that is not presented in a plastic basket is an amazing treat, but going out these days has become few and far between because of a combination of details, including finding a babysitter. Fortunately, everything seemed to fall into place last week, and we were able to enjoy a lovely meal at Glen Prairie, voted one of Chicago Magazine’s ‘Best New Restaurants of 2009’. Glen Prairie is located just outside the city in the western suburb of Glen Ellyn.

Having celiac and needing to eat gluten-free, I did a little reading on Glen Prairie beforehand. It is a huge relief when I saw they actually have a gluten-free menu. Many times going to a restaurant requires asking many questions to the server and sometimes the chef before I can feel comfortable with a meal, but knowing that they are knowledgeable on gluten-free eating put my mind at ease before we even walked through the door.

In addition to the gluten-free menu, I was impressed with the fact that Glen Prairie’s Executive Chef Daniel Ovanin focuses on contemporary American cuisine and sources many of their ingredients locally, as well as having a wine list that includes organic and sustainably-farmed wines. In addition to providing “green-farmed foods”, they used environmentally friendly products in creating the restaurant down to their recycled paper menus.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I must admit, I was bit taken aback that it is attached to a Crowne Plaza hotel chain, but decided that with all of the excellent reviews I had read on various reviewer-run web sites, I would put my snobbery aside and location did not matter. The exterior of the restaurant had a prairie-style feel, which I love, and made me quickly forget it was located next to a hotel.

As soon as we walked inside it was immediately warm and inviting. The décor was beautifully minimal, with dark warm woods and colors. The staff was instantly welcoming.

I was given a gluten-free menu as I took my seat, which made me particularly happy and comfortable. I ordered a mojito and examined my choices. Our server was extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable and really made our evening. I asked him many questions from how they prepare their gluten-free dishes in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination to what types of juices they use for their signature drinks. I was assured that the kitchen was trained and extremely careful in preparing gluten-free dishes and that the juices they use in their signature drinks are all 100% juice.

One thing, that left me slightly disappointed in the beginning of our experience was that I was eyeing, with envy, the neighboring tables as they enjoyed their warm homemade bread with butter while awaiting their meal. I had hoped since Glen Prairie caters so well to the gluten-free community that they would also serve gluten-free bread, but sadly this is not the case. In the end, I was grateful because I would not have been able to have room for all of the delicious food that was to follow. My husband was my partner for the night, and also ordered from the gluten-free menu.

I started my meal with the heirloom beet salad served with baby greens, goat cheese, toasted pine nuts and a balsamic truffle vinaigrette ($7). My husband ordered the farmers garden salad with was served with baby greens, shaved winter vegetables and a champagne-cider vinaigrette ($6). The beets were delicious and a great combination with the goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. My husband’s salad was equally enjoyable, especially the shaved parsnips, which I have never had in a salad, but quite enjoyed. I must say that I was a bit unimpressed with the dressing on the beet salad as it tasted a little too creamy, and much more favored the champagne-cider vinaigrette on my husband’s salad.

For our main course I once again, fell off the vegetarian wagon, and ordered the Iowa-farmed filet mignon, served with herb whipped potatoes and green beans ($32). I rarely eat meat, but came to the conclusion that if I am going to eat meat, this is the kind place where I want to eat it. My husband ordered the Atlantic salmon with whole grain mustard, fennel and blood orange salad served with fingerling potatoes ($19).

I took one bite of my filet and I was in love and couldn’t remember why I had stopped eating meat in the first place, it melted in my mouth. The herb whipped potatoes were the perfect consistency and flavor and the green beans were cooked flawlessly with just enough crunch. The flavors blended really well with each other, and I wanted to savor each forkful. My husband’s salmon was also cooked to perfection, and worked incredibly well with the combination of the shaved fennel and blood orange. The roasted fingerling potatoes were also just the right amount of flavorful, and the perfect accompaniment to the salmon. I couldn’t decide which meal I liked better and kept stealing bites from the salmon dish.

During our main course we enjoyed a glass of Monterra Merlot, from California, which was very rich and smooth, and a great pairing for the meal ($8 a glass). I wanted to take the bottle home with me. I am not even much of a wine drinker, more of a liquor girl, so this means something!

When we thought we could eat no more, we saw the dessert menu and had to indulge, especially when there was more for a gluten-free eater than just ice cream. We ordered two desserts to share, and decided on the vanilla bean crème brulee served with raspberries ($6) and the fallen chocolate soufflé with gelato ($6). The crème brulee was perfectly crispy and richly flavored. But I think the fallen chocolate soufflé was the star of the dessert show at our table. The soufflé is served in a large mug, warm from the oven, next to a shot glass-sized helping of gelato. The server immediately placed the gelato into the soufflé to create an amazing combination of textures and temperatures. It was such a rich and fabulous dessert and was difficult to imagine it was gluten-free.

As we concluded our evening out, I felt extremely satisfied and for that meal, I forgot I was someone who had to eat “differently” from the average diner. I was able to enjoy my food, stress-free like everyone else in the restaurant. It is such a great feeling to know that restaurants are becoming more aware of gluten-free eating and offering us to the opportunity to eat in an environment where the staff is knowledgeable and we can feel comfortable. I realize that anytime we eat in a facility that also handles gluten, there is possibility, even if small, of cross-contamination, but I can say when I left here I felt great, and I will definitely be coming back. Chef Ovanin has given the gluten-free community a great gift.

This is definitely a place to go on nice occasions as the average main course is about $22, however, they do offer a prix fixe menu that includes 3 courses of an appetizer, main course and dessert for $20, which makes it much more affordable in these tough times.

Glen Prairie is located at 1250 Roosevelt Road in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Reservations are encouraged; you may call them at 630.613.1250. In addition to their dining room, they also have a lounge area, with plenty of seating, adjacent to the bar, and a private dining area that can seat up to 40 people.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Gluten-free, almost egg-free tiramisu

Tiramisu has always been one of my favorite indulgences since my first trip to Italy, in the late 80s, and trying the real thing. The key is having the right cream, because without that, it just tastes like something from a grocery store bakery section packaged in plastic - blech! Of course the lady fingers are a main ingredient as well, and being gluten-free, that become a new challenge. Luckily, I had a box of Shabtai lady fingers on hand, so I was good to go! I say almost egg-free, because the lady fingers do contain egg, yet I decided to forgo the usual raw egg in the cream.....that just doesn't sound appetizing the more I learn about food. The whipped heavy cream takes the place of the raw eggs in this recipe. I never said it was healthy!

The recipe is incredibly simple, and easy to prepare ahead of time. The best part of all, it requires no cooking, baking or heating.

I will say this, I enjoyed the flavor of the Shabtai cookies, but I felt they were a bit too small and thin in comparison to traditional lady fingers. I think next time I will go with Schar.


1 package ladyfingers
1 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, I used BelGioioso - all of their cheeses are gluten-free!
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups espresso or strong coffee, chilled
100% cocoa to sprinkle on top

Using an electronic hand-mixer, blend the heavy cream and vanilla until it becomes whipped cream with stiff peaks.

In another bowl, using a rubber scraper, combine the mascarpone with the sugar and blend well. Next, add the whipped cream, using the rubber scraper, until it is well blended. Taste it now, and you won't be able to stop!

At this time, dip one side of the lady fingers carefully into the chilled coffee. Don't dip too long or they will fall apart. Once they are dipped, place them into a 8x8 baking dish, or something similar in size and pretty, and line the bottom with the cookies.

Top the layer of cookies with half of the cream mixture, sprinkle with the cocoa and then repeat the 3 layers so you end with the cocoa on top.

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Serve with fresh fruit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Caramelized tomato pasta and La Roux

Is it just me, or is it just impossible to cook dinner without having some good music in the background. It just makes the whole food creativity process so much more fun, especially when M always does the dishes. I do try to keep the kitchen clean as I go, but once the meal hits the dining room table, the mess in the kitchen is no longer mine. Thank you M!! I am so lucky but then he gets great food.

This pasta recipe has a great flavor. This was my first time caramelizing anyting, and now I feel I want to go on a caramelizing rampage....I want to caramelize everything! Next I will try caramelized onions, artichokes and blue cheese on our next Friday Udi's pizza night! Our family is a huge fan of Udi's crust, sorry for the tangent....but it is just ohhhh, so good!

This pasta dish is topped with garlic bread crumbs, which are gluten-free, of course, but I imagine it will taste just as delicious without, if you don't have any bread crumbs on hand.

Back to the delicious pasta...

bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup bread crumbs (I use Schär breadcrumbs, or you can make your own)
1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup thinly sliced white onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup broth (I use Celifibr bouillon cubes)
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
12 oz. spaghetti (I use Tinkyada or Le Veneziane)
salt and pepper to taste

For the bread crumbs, heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium with the garlic; add crumbs, and toast until golden, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Then set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add tomatoes and sugar. Cook until tomatoes start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and saute until wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

In the meantime, bring salted water to a boil, and cook spaghetti.

Deglaze saucepan with wine, simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add the broth, vinegar and pepper flakes. Simmer until liquid is reduced by a third, about 5 minutes.

Add spinach and thyme to sauce.

Drain pasta and add to sauce, and toss to coat.

Serve pasta sprinkled with the garlic bread crumbs. Enjoy!

*The caramelized tomato and onion sauce would also taste great mixed into a risotto right before serving.