June 28, 2009

Gluten Free Wedding Tasting


My wedding day is two weeks away now.  Most everything is ready to go and the buzz of excitement among family and friends is palpable. Not long ago Winterthur Estates, the location of our reception, invited us in for a tasting of the gluten free options they came up with.  The people at Winterthur have been great. They were very accommodating regarding my food restrictions. However, they did make a pretty big mistake, but I'll get to that in a moment.  What I knew for certain was that this would be their first gluten free reception menu.
First they gave us some appetizers to test out.  They included beef on potato cakes, strawberries topped with goat cheese and grilled pancetta, leek cakes, and teriyaki chicken skewers with peanut sauce.  My favorites were the beef on GF potato cakes, strawberries with goat cheese and the teriyaki chicken.
Next they brought out the soup, which was a simple but delicious tomato-basil soup. As they set it down in front of me I started to examine the pyramid shaped topping that was floating on the thick soup.  It had chopped herbs, and what looked like puffed rice.  When I looked closer I realized it was a pile of steamed barley.  I let them know that barley was one of the three main sources of gluten. The woman's face that set the soup in front of me, turned bright red and she quickly carried it back to the kitchen. Another bowl of soup came out and it was definitely less spectacular looking.  
The main entree I chose to sample was the Mediterranean Grilled Chicken.  I loved the presentation and it smelled wonderful.  It had a topping that included capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta, drizzled with a creamy pesto sauce. It was sided with broccoli rabe.  It was absolutely delicious!  After the tasting was over we continued to talk with the Winterthur people about the wedding cake.  We decided to have them only make the top cake gluten free, which would give us plenty of cake for us at the reception, and to save in the freezer for our next anniversary. It will be served with homemade vanilla-bean ice cream with fresh berries and a berry-sauce. 

Later that night I didn't feel very well.  The next day I was foggy and bloated.  Now I'm not sure of it, but it felt like I may have come into contact with gluten during the tasting.  Perhaps they used barely broth for the soup, or the potato cake wasn't completely potato?  Whatever the case, I was definitely feeling the tell-tale signs of a gluten encounter.  We later called to make sure they completely understood exactly what gluten was in.  They assured us that everything would be completely gluten free for the reception and I believe them.  What can you do? Everybody makes mistakes.  I'm just happy that I'm able to have a gluten free reception party.  I have a few friends with Celiac Disease, so this is going to be food-eating heaven for them and me:)

June 23, 2009

Chongqing Flashback - Part 1

I really miss China:(  I lived in Dalian, China for a year with my partner Mindy, and it was one of the best years of my life.  There's a special feeling you get when you spend a substantial amount of time in China immersing yourself in the culture.  It's a sense of belonging. A sense of timelessness. A sense of connection.  My partner told me she also felt that sense of homecoming while in India and in Tanzania; two of the places I can't wait to explore.  But it's also more than that.  Witnessing people in true financial poverty, who have very little in the way of material belongings, but who are happy, and unbelievably wealthy in the realm of human relationships, really helps to put life into perspective.
I spent most of last month in Chongqing Technical and Business University; teaching a Clinical Social Work class, spending time at an elderly community, and conducting cross-cultural research with students regarding sexual anxiety, the fear of intimacy, and body image issues.  I also spent a great deal of time simply exploring and making human connections.  It was the first time ever visiting that particular area of China, and I loved it!  By far, it was the best experience I've had in China thus far.  It had all the historical and cultural enticements of the North, but also a sense of ease and contentment unknown to me throughout my adventures in this "Middle Kingdom."  Describing the food as "spicy" would be an understatement, and when I happened to sample a "typical" Sichuan dish found my eyes and nose watering, and my lips burnt and tingling. But it was GOOOOD!!  
Eating gluten-free in Chongqing was only slightly challenging, due to my GF-Awareness dining statements I carried around with me.  The biggest challenge was when we were taken out by our hosts to huge pre-ordered meals at nice restaurants.  It was pure torture to sit in front of a banquet of amazing looking and smelling food, watching everyone gorge themselves with beaming smiles on their faces, only to know that even a single bite may lead to sickness. However, for the most part, and with the help of our hosts, GF dishes were eventually brought out for myself and my friend with the same dietary affliction. We didn't have the array of choices that everyone else enjoyed, but we enjoyed every single gluten-free chop-stick-full!
Eventually I found a handful of canteens (what the Chinese students called their cafeterias) and a Dalian-Food restaurant outside of campus, that became familiar with my face, and my unique dietary restriction.  I would frequent the same places to eat every day, bringing with me a list of dishes written in Chinese Characters with English translations, and asking if they could prepare them without gluten.  Most of the time they could with no problem, and if they couldn't, I'd just go down the list until I found something.  Life with Celiac Disease, at least for me, involves being much less picky about what you eat, just as long as it doesn't poison you!

Every day I started off by walking out of the International Dormitory, half a block down the street to a little shop that sold Dzonza and vacuum-sealed cups of sweet and light, instant-coffee.  Dzonza are rice-triangles steamed in Banana leaves.  I had to order a variety before finding out which ones I could eat.  Each kind was wrapped in a different color string to indicate the filling.  I ended up sticking to the green-string dzonza, which were filled with sweet bean paste.  For lunch I would hit up the one of three student cafeterias where I'd order Dan-Chow Fan/Ji Ro (Fried eggs, chicken, and greens with rice), Chinese cabbage with beef or pork, Tang-cu Jia Pianr (sweet & sour chicken), and whatever else they could make GF.  I also brought a small bottle of gluten free soy sauce with me wherever I went.  It ended up being a wonderful culinary experience.  I ate well (and cheaply) every single day.  Man do I miss the food!!!

Well, that's it for this flashback:)




video

June 16, 2009

Gluten Free Hulled Hemp Seed Crisps

Every so often I get a package in the mail, chock-full of gluten free goodies to test out.  For example, I recently received an array of GF snacks from Kays Naturals.  I had a great time testing their products out, and discovered a few favorites (I'll be posting a product review on Kays soon). If you've been reading this blog, then you know how often I use Bob's Red Mill products.  It's no secret that I love their products.  Once they realized what a big fan I am, they began sending me goodies to try and experiment with.

One day I received a bag of Hulled Hemp Seeds.  At first, I had no idea how I was going to use them, but after doing a couple of Google searches, I had a few ideas.  This following recipe is my first experiment using Hemp Seeds in a recipe.  Hemp seeds are actually really good for you.  As stated on the Bob's Red Mill website, "Hulled hemp seed is high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, and an excellent source of protein containing all of the essential amino acids."  Of course, being the sweet-tooth that I am, I had to begin my hemp seed experimentation by whipping up some cookies.  However, in the future I plan to incorporate them in breads, muffins, and possibly as a crunchy breading for fish or chicken.

These cookies were super-yummy!  They were a bit crumbly, but melt-in-your mouth delicious. Enjoy!

Next post: Chongqing Flashback Part 1

Prep Time: 5-ish minutes
Baking Time: 10-15 minutes depending on your oven

Ingredients:

Baking Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet and set aside (I used cooking spray)
  3. Mix together the brown sugar, large egg and butter in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the GF flour, cinnamon, and shelled hemp seeds.
  5. Mix together the dry and wet ingredients until fully incorporated.
  6. Spoon mixture onto cookies sheets.  Leave about 3 inches between each drop since they spread out!
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are crispy. Cooking time depends on the oven being used, so keep an eye on them.  You don't want to burn these sweet treats!
  8. Grab a mug of soy, rice or cow milk and chow down:)

June 9, 2009

Chinese Flashback!


Now that I'm officially back into the swing of things, a lot of people have been asking me what my favorite part of being in China was.  I have a few favorites... The people come first.  My favorite part of my trip was definitely the great people I met while staying in Chongqing.  I never felt more welcomed in my life!  My second favorite part was definitely the food! I LOVE authentic Chinese cuisine.  Not the overly-breaded, fried crap they typically serve here in the States, but the fresh, multi-colored, multi-dimensional taste explosions they serve up throughout China.  Not one Chinese person I asked knew what Kung-Pao or General Tsao's chicken was!  Chinese fortune cookies?  Nope, not from China.  Our version of Chinese food sucks!

The last time I went to China (last year) I was ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of eating gluten-free in the Middle Kingdom.  I didn't think about soy sauce, or MSG (which doesn't always have gluten in it, but is an overall caustic substance), and wasn't yet aware that McDonald's fries have wheat in them!  I know, it sounds crazy but it's true!  Look up the ingredients on their website if you don't believe me.  Anyways... since I wasn't prepared I got sick.  Actually real sick, with blood in the toilet and two migraines before I boarded the plane to go home. I know I know, TMI.

However, this time with a little help from my good friend Shen Xu, I was ready.  Shen typed up a statement that lets Chinese cooks know exactly what gluten is, why people with Celiac Disease can't have it, and some common hidden sources of gluten (i.e., soy sauce and MSG).  She also typed up a statement for our friend Melanie who not only has to avoid gluten but also pork, eggplant, dairy and strawberries. I published them both on Scribed so if you're going to China or know anyone with gluten issues that is, make sure to take these: Chinese Gluten Warning / Multiple Allergy Warnings. 

With a bottle of Braggs Liquid Aminos (a tasty and super healthy alternative to commercial soy sauce), multiple copies of my gluten-warning statement, a couple of bottles of Gluten-Zyme, an Activated Charcoal Tablets, I had a much better go at eating well in China this time around.  I ate a lot of great food, and didn't become glutenated once:)  At least not bad enough for me to notice.

My plane ride there was pure hell.  As luck would have it, I sat a few rows behind three sick and miserable newborns that cried the entire 13 hours to Beijing.  I didn't sleep at all the entire flight, and ended up catching whatever those kids had.  My two days in Beijing were physically miserable, but experientially awesome! The very first night I wandered alleyways filled with food vendors selling every kind of living creature skewered on a stick, fried in boiling oil, and doused with hot pepper sauce.  I ordered a few servings of squid on a stick, some spicy chicken, and whole mini-fish, eyeballs and all:)  Although it was hard to do, I passed on the secada bugs and squirming scorpions.  Maybe next time.
The next day, after a large buffet of "Western Breakfast Food," we went to the Great Wall.  This was my third climb on the Wall, and each time was a different section.  I've loved them all!  I don't think I'll ever get bored of scaling those countless steps snaking their way across treacherous terrain like the spine of a water-dragon.  The Great Wall of China is truly an awesome sight to behold:) If you haven't been there yet, you are seriously missing out.  Do it!!!

Once again, here's my gift to you: Chinese Gluten/Allergy Warning Statements


June 3, 2009

Gluten Free Shrimptastic Potato Salad

Sorry! No pic for this one. I did take a pic before I left for China, but must have accidently erased it:(

My plan was to spend my time in Chongqing, China, documenting my experiences trying to eat gluten-free while avoiding "Western" food.  However, things don't always go according to plan. After arriving at the dormitory and setting up my internet connection, I tried to visit my blog...  DENIED!  I tried accessing it through various search engine with no luck.  Apparently, China isn't too keen on people blogging.  So I spent the entire month wishing I could update this blog:(  Oh well, what can you do.

Now I have a lot to say about my experience, but I want to share this potato salad recipe before I get into my trip.  Before leaving I attended a pot-luck and brought this salad.  I loved it, and so did everyone else.  Since its the season for outdoor picnics and pot-lucks, this one's a must-have for the recipe box!  I like the amount of shrimp in the following recipe, but could see adding more than is called for. Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • 10-ish large baking potatoes (scrubbed)
  • 12 eggs
  • 3 green onion bunches (chopped)
  • 6 dill pickles (chopped)
  • 8 oz. small shrimp (frozen or canned)
  • 2 cups low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tblsp. celery salt
  • 1 tblsp. paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic (diced)
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions
  1. Put potatoes in a large pot of water, cover and bring to boil.  Boil until soft. Remove potatoes from water and set aside to cool.  Peel them and then chop them up into bite-size pieces (if you like skins like I do, feel free to leave a few in).
  2. Place the eggs in a pot and completely cover with cold water. Bring the water to boil for one minute. Cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for about 12 minutes. Remove from water and cool. Peel and chop em up.
  3. In a large bowl, mix up the potatoes, eggs, green onions, dill pickles and shrimp. Add the mayonnaise, celery salt and paprika and mix. Season with S&P.  
  4. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours to let the tastes settle in.
  5. Chow down and love it!

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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!