July 25, 2008

GF Restaurant Review: The Big Easy Saloon

My close friend Dana found this little gem.  She and I are both fans of jazz music.  Since I organized our last jazz outing, it was her turn to do the research.  The Big Easy Saloon is located at 128 Paoli Pike, PA 19301.  Besides offering great food, The Big Easy has live music every night of the week.  Monday nights are hosted by the Dueling Pianos, followed by free live jazz every night, and a brunch-time show on Sunday.  Dana had called days ahead and reserved us a table closest to the musicians.  The band consisted of 4 individuals: Bassist, Saxophone, Drums, and Lead Guitar.  The lead guitarist also covered vocals, while his brother (the bassist) occasionally provided back up.  They played some original pieces, a few classic jazz ensembles, and a lot of motown and smooth pop.  I was tapping my feet and playing back-up drums on the table the whole time.

Being that it was my first time at The Big Easy, I had no idea what I could or couldn't eat.  I chose a few possibilities, with Jambalaya at the top of the list and talked with your server.  She came back and let me know that most menu items could be made GF within reason, and that the Jambalaya was gluten free.  I ordered the smaller portion of the Chicken Jambalaya ($10.99). The server assured me that it was plenty enough food to fill up on.  She wasn't lying. After the first big bite, I sat there slightly dazed, staring off through the wall in front of me, my mind trying to make sense of the countless tastebuds being stimulated.  The jambalaya was perfect! It had just the right combination of spices and ingredients.  Although I wanted to save some to savor later, I couldn't stop eating till my plate was completely clean.  I actually had to stop myself from licking the plate!  This place is definitely a hidden gem, th
e food is great and you can tell that attention is payed to "presentation," the music is free, and the staff are understanding of people with gluten issues. If you are in the area, you need to check The Big Easy out!  

July 21, 2008

Beans & Rice Soft Tacos

Here's an example of one of my typical weeknight meals.  The only part of this meal that takes any real time is the rice.  Initially, one of the hardest parts of dealing with Celiac disease is learning to create easy meals, made with basic ingredients.  I quickly learned how useful corn products were and found ways to eat polenta and tortillas in as many ways as possible. Rice-based meals were also high on my list.  Although research has helped me become very creative in making gluten free meals, I've rely a lot on easy meals like the one below.

On this particular occasion, I was looking for something to create with a pot of leftover rice I had. I rummaged through the cabinets and decided to pull out a can of black beans, and another of refried beans.  I also found a half-used jar of Mexican Red Sauce from Trader Joe's. In about 15 minutes my meal was prepared, and I was digging in.  Meals like this one are great for anyone, but especially for parents of kids with Celiac disease.  It's easy, fast, and healthy. Plus, it's vegetarian, and lactose free as well.  

  • 1 can  Refried Beans (read the label for gluten. Old El Paso brand are GF)
  • 1 can Black Beans
  • 2 cups Rice
  • 1 tblsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 jar Mexican Red Sauce (or Enchilada Sauce)
  • 2 tblsp. Dried Oregano
  • Pure Corn Tortillas
  • Salt & Pepper

  • Drain the black beans but don't rinse them off.  You want some of the liquid to make it a bit saucy.  Throw them in a saucepan on medium-low heat.  Add the garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper (to taste).  Cover the saucepan and stir occasionally for 5-10 minutes. 
  • In a small pot on medium-low heat, mix the rice and red sauce until it is as soupy as you'd like.  I think the soupier the better, but some people like it drier.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • Open up the can of refried beans, which usually looks like cat food, and either put it into a bowl and microwave it, or into a pan on the stove to heat up (5-10 minutes).  
  • Use a frying pan to heat up the tortillas.  Just spray a little cooking oil on the pan and throw the tortillas on until bubbles start forming. Then flip them over for a minute. You just want to make them soft and pliable, not hard and crispy.  
  • That's it, you're done! Just spoon each ingredient into the center of the tortillas and fold together. You can also add some sour cream, some shredded cheese, or pretty much anything you can think of. Enjoy:)

July 13, 2008

Chocolate Emergency Cake

If you love chocolate, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Sometimes you get this deep, almost painful hunger for chocolate.  Sometimes it's related to stress, other times not.  All you know is that when you start feeling it, a feeling I can only describe as a "longing", you must fully satiate your need. This recipe does just that and then some.  With this cake, not only do you get to enjoy moist, fluffy, chocolate Nirvana, it only requires about 15-20 minutes of prep time.  After about 50 minutes of bake time, it's just a short wait before you can top your cake with more chocolate-yumminess, and finally knock that pesky coco-monkey off your back.

I made this cake for my good friend Erika on her 28th Birthday.  She has a problem... it's pretty bad, and fortunately I share her affliction.  She should really join chocoholics anonymous at some point, but until then I guess I'll be a real friend and completely enable her.  When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she said chocolate, moist, but not too dense, fluffy, but not to fluffy, and of course, topped with chocolate frosting.  I found the following recipe and used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour.  I also used light mayo.  This is my new favorite cake recipe, and probably will be for a long time.  It's just soooo good, and so easy to make! You'll love it!

Cake Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose GF flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (make sure it's GF)
Frosting Ingredients
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tblsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar 
  • 1 tblsp. instant coffee (optional)
Cake Baking Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (f). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Lightly coat an 8-inch square pan/dish with cooking spray (GF of course).
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vanilla and water together. Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, while scraping the sides of the bowl.  You don't want any chocolate to get away do you?  No, of course you don't.  Smooth the top and bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs attached (about 40 minutes).  
  4. Cook the cake in the pan on a wire rack for about an hour.  Now it's time to add the frosting!
Chocolate Icing Directions
  1. Cut 5 ounces of chocolate up into chunks.  Using a cheese-grater, grate up the remaining 3 ounces onto wax paper (or a plate).
  2. Throw the chocolate chunks, butter chunks, salt and instant coffee into a small pot on low heat. Stir regularly as it slowly melts.
  3. In the meantime, prepare an electric mixer.  Whisk the two cups of confectioners' sugar with the cocoa powder in a medium bowl.
  4. Set the electric mixer on low and combine the melted chocolate with the sugar.  Once combined, increase the speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).
Final Directions
  • Using a spatula or a spoon, spread the icing onto the cooled cake.  Once your satisfied with your paint job, take the chocolate shavings and sprinkle over the cake.  I kind of made a chute with wax paper and slowly poured the shavings, like chocolate rain, onto the cake.
  • Get a tall glass of milk (or soy milk) and get ready for a little slice of heaven...

July 7, 2008

GF Restaurant Review: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

I've been to Iron Hill many times before.  Although, each time is a bit of torture due to the towering copper vats of glutenous beer that are displayed near the bar. Mindy and I were visiting our good friends John and Chris, and decided to have lunch at the West Chester Iron Hill location.  As usual, the waitstaff were very friendly and accommodating.  They new exactly what I was talking about when I told them I could not eat gluten, and quickly retrieved their gluten free menu.  I ordered the Southwestern Turkey Burger, which comes with guacamole, bacon, tomato, pepper-jack cheese and ancho-honey mayonnaise.  The French dressing and ancho-honey mayonnaise were really good.  Although I couldn't order any fries, due to the high risk of cross-contamination, this was a great lunch.  I haven't had a bad experience or a bad meal yet at Iron Hill. I'd give them an "A".

I was told by our waiter that Iron Hill's  gluten free list will soon be posted on their website. But until then, here is what they offer:

Gluten Free Items

Soups - 
French Onion (no croutons)
Roasted Carrot Soup
Salads - 
All our salads are fine. You would need to specify that you do not want a bread stick, or croutons on the caesar, and pita on the greek salad, and make certain that you clarify that you have a gluten allergy. All dressings are safe.
Appetizers - 
Caribbean Garlic Shrimp Skewers (ask for no yucca sticks, since they're fried with breaded products)
English Cheese Plate (ask for no multi grain bread)
Hummus (ask for no pita bread)
Entrees -
Hawaiian Spiced Tuna (gluten free if wasabi vinaigrette is omitted)
Cajun Fried Catfish (need to eliminate the coating mix and bake the fish)
Pan Seared Sea Scallops and Shrimp
North Atlantic Salmon (changes daily, but can always be made GF)
New York Strip Steak (ask to omit the sauce)
Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts (GF without the onion rings)
Jamaican Jerk Pork Loin Chop (GF without the sweet potato fries)
Iron Hill Meatloaf
Grilled Chicken Breast (no bread and no fries)
Southwest Turkey Burger (no bread and no fries)
Carolina Pork BBQ (no bread and no fries)
Brewski Burger (no bread and no fries)
Roasted Portobello (no bread and not fries)
Waldorf Chicken Salad (no bread and no fries)
Roasted Turkey (no bread and no fries)
Fresh Mozzarella (no bread and no fries)


Just So You Know...

The information presented in this blog is intended to educate and entertainment. However, I'm not a medical expert.  I also do not know absolutely everything about Celiac Disease.  What I do know has been learned through trial and error, research, and what has been taught to me by friends who also share my food-related affliction.  Please take the time to do your own research about Celiac Disease and gluten-related issues.  I have a list of links to useful resources along the left-side of this blog. Also, feel free to cross-check my statements. If you find contrary information, please let me know. Thanks so much for visiting Trav's Gone Gluten Free!