Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cafe Tandoor

Sometimes menus speak louder than words. From type face, to clip art, to price, what a restaurateur prints on a menu tells you a lot about what kind of restaurant you've walked into. I like menus with inventive dishes. I like menus kitchy sandwich names. I love menus that star the gluten free options. 

But sadly, here in Cleveland, the menus that provide such food allergy friendly service are few and far between. Even mentioning special requests to a waiter can be met with some kind of make-you-feel-small gesture, the kind that makes you wish you hadn't bothered to try to be normal and eat out at all. 

I think that's why one of my new favorite menus is from Cafe Tandoor. Not just because it's full of delicious Indian fare. Not just because the price is right. But because at the bottom of every page of the menu, written in bold, capital letters is written the following invitation: WHEN PLACING YOUR ORDERS, PLEASE INFORM US OF ANY FOOD ALLERGIES. 

It's the yummiest looking thing I've seen on a menu in months. 

But do they come through? I've been to Cafe Tandoor several times and the wait staff is fairly knowledgeable about which dishes have wheat in them. As is the adage "when in doubt, go without", but even if your first choice is questionable, this menu gives you a variety of backups.  (I can't bring myself to say second choice; no dish really comes in second to another.) A word to the wise though, in order to be sure that your waiter or waitress is really listening to your food allergy needs, you ought to avoid Saturday nights, their busiest evening, 

There's lots to try here, but as for my personal favorite? Navaratana Curry with Saffron Rice. A colorful, delicious dish, with it's vibrant green peas, fresh mushrooms, and crisp red and green peppers smothered in a pink tomato sauce served up next to dandellion yellow rice, I keep coming back to Navaratana Curry, time and again. But hey, don't let me stop you from finding your own go-to dish. Experiment. Explore. 

With three Cleveland area locations - one in Westlake, one in Aurora, and one in Cleveland Heights - Cafe Tandoor makes sure a good Indian meal is never far off. 

Cafe Tandoor on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 25, 2008

News! News! News! ...And Apple Pie

Having a blog, a fully functioning blog, requires a lot of work. And updates. And promoting. And cross promoting. And...and...It's enough to make a girl curl up on her couch with a cup of coffee and a gluten free cookie, hiding from her laptop by watching endless marathons of House. 

But hard work pays off, in the kitchen and on the Internet. So I'm pleased to announce the following:

1) Some how the good, good people at got a hold of my lowly domain and decided to invite me to be a featured publisher. I'm honored. Foodbuzz is this really awesome clearinghouse of the best food blogs on the web. Whether you're looking for great pictures, searching for food events and restaurants in your area, or trying to find a great recipe, is where you need to be. And the fact that being a foodbuzz publisher will give me the opportunity to have my gluten free adventures featured on their front page at times or included in their newsletters is really, really cool. So check the website out, buzz Dana is Gluten Free In Cleveland, be my friend, vote for the this website...and really do checkout the rest of the site, though it's best viewed on a full stomach, lest you get intense cravings for gourmet cuisine. 

2) In addition to the new layout (new banner, new lefty layout, like it? hate it? let me know), you may have noticed the email subscription button. That's right, you can now get updates on all the Gluten Free goings on of Cleveland straight in your inbox. It's never been so easy to stay up to date. 

3) The North East Ohio Celiac Support Group has finalized a date for their Holiday Cookie Exchange. It will be November 30th from 2-4 PM, with the location still TBA. But do pencil it in to your datebook, I know I am. 

Okay, new business aside, I promised Apple Pie and gosh darn it, I will deliver. 

As far as the pie crust goes, I used Gluten Free Pantry's Perfect Pie Crust mix. I really like it. Flakey and light, it's got just the right pie crust texture. Each box makes enough dough for two pies, and the unused dough freezer really well. Not only do I recommend it, I have pumpkin pie plans in my future. 

There are two downsides to the mix. The first is it doesn't quite brown well. It tastes great, but it might not reach that golden brown pie glow. Secondly, it requires a lot of shortening. ...To be fair though, almost all pie crust requires shortening. If you're a trans-fat-a-phobe, like me...and like anyone with heart should be, shortening is not a word you want to hear. Enter the good people at Beyond Organic's Jungle Product's, Inc. and their Jungle Shortening (not listed anywhere one the website, but available in Whole Foods, I swear). Jungle Shortening is non hydrogenated palm oil and, though still fat, is a far, far better option for you and your pie. 

If you don't want to use a mix (and you don't want to buy a premade one from Whole Foods), there's been lots of buzz on gluten free pie crusts in the gluten-free-blogosphere and I encourage you to check it out. Find your favorite completely from scratch pie crust recipe or get inspired and make your own! Ginger Lemon Girl's looks particularly yummy, I must say. 

A final note about the pie. I don't say this a lot, but this is the BEST apple pie filling I have ever made in my life. My taste testers agreed. The. Best. 

Double Crust Amaretto Apple Pie

2 balls of GF pie dough, or a pre made gluten free pie (though, unless you have pie dough lying around, this means you'll end up with a single crust pie) 

6 apples, peeled and sliced - I used three MacIntosh and three JonaMacs
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/3rd cup of white sugar
1/3rd cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla
2 tablespoons of amaretto liquor 
2 tablespoons of all purpose GF flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon 
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of cream (or half and half or milk)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 

Roll out one of the balls of pie dough and evenly cover an 8 or 9 inch pie pan with it. 

Combine apples with all of the above ingredients and mix well until all apples are covered in a sticky, cinnamon-y, sugary syrup. Transfer the apple mixture to the pie pan. Roll out the the second ball of pie dough and cover the apples with the dough, pinching the two crusts together where they meet along the edge. 

Beat the egg yolk with the cream and brush (or pour and use your fingers) the mixture over the top pie crust. Vent the top by slitting the top crust in several places. Bake for 50 - 60 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. 

Final note, though when I took the pie out of the oven, and cut into it's apple goodness, I discovered there was about an inch of sugary liquid sitting at the bottom. I don't know why, I don't know how, but it was there. I ended up using a ladle to get some of the liquid out before very carefully pouring some of it out over the sink. And as frustrating as it was, it meant that the cinnamon, amaretto, and sugar soaked through to the bottom crust, making it particularly delicious. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apple Picking in Chesterland - Acorn Squash & Apples with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I admit it I've been a celiac slacker. A celiac-er. Celi-slacker. Whatever. The point is, I've been lazing on the job. I've been having gluten free adventures out in the world and in my kitchen and I've been keeping them to myself. Not cool. I'm working on catching up as fast as my little fingers can carry me, but in the mean time, I give you...


Yes apples. I've written about these crisp fall delicacies before, but one article simply won't do. They're iconic. From their biblical symbolism in the Garden of Eden, to their part in William Tell's daring attempt to save his son's life by shooting one off the boy's head, to the their surprising role in Sir Issac Newton's discovery of gravity, apples have infiltrated our cultural lives. 

But for me, above all else, apples mean autumn. The fruit shares the warm hues of the season, it's crunch is reflected in brittle leaves that scatter on the ground. From cool apple cider to warm apple pies, this versatile fruit personifies all things fall. Maybe that's why people in this area love to go apple picking, to get a part of apple season first hand. Ohio is farming country after all, and from Cleveland, you'll find yourself in the thick of it if you drive about 45 minutes in any direction. 

We decided to go apple picking on what was sure to be the last warm Sunday of the year. In the 80 degree heat and beating sun, we pulled up to Patterson's Fruit Farm and we're pretty surprised to find hundreds upon hundreds of other cars doing the same. As it turns out, it was one of their Family Fun Fest Weekends, complete with a pick- your-own pumpkin patch, made before your eyes kettle corn, face painting, and hayrides. Great for the kids. Not so great if you just want to pick some apples or buy some apple products. 

We headed over to Eddy's Fruit Farm, where, with a much more manageable crowd of about ten people, we opted against picking our own and perused the bushels of pre-picked apples. From golden delicious to empire, the dozens of tempting varieties stared back at me with all their red and gold glory, daring me to choose one over another. In the end, we settled on macintosh. And galas. And jonahmacs. And apple butter. And kettle corn. And a farm grown, freshly picked eggplant. 

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I shouldn't have to see the inside of a hospital 'til June. (Sadly, this has not been the case - but who cares, I have farm fresh apples.) Next came the difficult task on just what was to be done with these apples. So far...

I've dipped slices in crunchy, organic peanut butter. 
I've quartered them, spreading creamy marscapone cheese over the pieces, sprinkling them with cinnamon. 
I've added them to gluten free oatmeal. 
I've eaten them plain and simple. 

But most deliciously, I've baked them. Once for dinner - with acorn squash with a side of roasted Brussels Sprouts, as inspired by Ina Garten's salty Brussels Sprouts (two dishes that were naturally gluten free and vegan, too!) - and a second time, as a desert, a really good gluten free apple pie. 

I've probably got over fifteen apples left. I was thinking of making some applesauce - so I could experiment with it in my own baking as a substitute for oils. So what about you? What are you favorite apple dishes? Your favorite things to dip apples into? Or even just your favorite types of apple? 

These recipes turned out great. And I got good reviews from the family. I wouldn't be surprised it they made an appearance at my Thanksgiving table. The apple pie recipe will follow soon, once I take better pictures. Besides, dessert is always worth the wait. 

Acorn Squash & Apples 

2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 acorn squash, cut into chunks*

2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of butter **
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup of water  

*Those more into cooking than prep work, like me, will be please to know you can get precut, pre chunk-ed acorn squash at Trader Joe's. And at a really reasonable price, too. 
**As always, I use smart balance in my recipe - no trans-fats, less calories, omega 3s, and vegan to boot.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In an oven safe casserole dish, spread the squash and apples in one layer. Dot the squash and apples with butter evenly, using a little more than a tablespoon if need be. Combine the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice (if you don't have any, you can use another 1/4 teaspoon or cinnamon...and a 1/4 of nutmeg if you have it). Sprinkle the sugar and spices over the top. Drizzle the maple syrup over the top and add the half cup of water before sticking it in the oven. 

Bake, uncovered, for 45 - 50 minutes. Serve warm. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

1 bag of Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
2 - 3 tablespoons of Parmesan or Romano cheese 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

To prepare the Brussels Sprouts, rinse them, cut of the ends, and cut them in half. You'll loose a few of the top layers of leaves, but that's okay. Place them in a large bowl and add the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Give everything a good toss to make sure the Sprouts are thoroughly coated. Let marinate at least 5 - 10 minutes. 

Spray a sheet pan or large casserole dish with GF cooking spray and place the Sprouts flat side down. Sprinkle the cheese over top. Bake for 25 - 35 minutes depending on your desire of roasting. 

Serve straight from the oven to your mouth. Okay, you can put them on a plate if you must.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Taj India Palace Restaurant

Living the celiac lifestyle includes a lot of reflecting on what you used to eat. These thoughts can generally be divided into two subsections: 1) grumbling over things you can't eat anymore or 2) puzzling over how - or if - you can recreate these foods in your kitchen. 

But what about foods you've discovered since your diagnosis? 

For me, it's been Indian Food. Yes, I discovered the food of an entire culture. Had it not been for celiac disease, I doubt I would know of the spicy offerings of the near east. As for the reason it took me over twenty years to eat saffron flavored things? Embarrassing as it is, I've got to come clean. It was fear. 

That's right, I was afraid of Indian food. 

Like most fears, this one is deeply rooted in childhood. I was about seven when I was dragged to one of my dad's mediation meetings. This one was some kind of party, held in Beaumont Catholic School for Girls, of all religiously ill fitting places, and I remember a long buffet of foreign foods I'd never encountered before. As I sat down with a plate of suspiciously neon yellow potatoes, equally bright rice, and vegetables smothered in salmon colored sauce, my nose wrinkled. 

Ugh. What IS this? 

"It's just vegetables. Besides, you're a vegetarian. This is vegetarian. You're supposed to like it."

Here's the thing about seven-year-old vegetarians: they're still seven-year-olds. Like most kids, they pretty much only like pizza and peanut butter. And what they don't like is super spicy Indian food. One bite and I was done.

The memory of that day glow food stuck with me for years. And years. It wasn't until I read books on celiac disease where authors touted the nearly completely open menu of Indian restaurants that I even thought about trying Indian food again. I dismissed the notion a few times, but a girl can only live on Tinkyada pasta and scrambled eggs for so long...

I'm glad I gave Indian food a try, since as it turns out, it's really good. 

I recently had dinner at Taj India Palace on Wilson Mills Road, across from Richmond mall. It's a small, unassuming place in a strip mall and you might miss it if you didn't know it was there. But that would be a mistake. Good food and good service, Taj India Palace offers a variety of options at reasonable prices. 

I settled on the Baingan Bharta - mashed roasted eggplant with peas and onions. While I had a hard time communicating with my waitress, she brought another waitress over to help talk over the whole gluten free thing. I felt confident that my food would come to me safely. And it did, both spicy and cinnamon-y, I really enjoyed my Baingan Bharata - and definitely had enough for left overs the next day. Dishes are served with complementary basmati rice, and if you're a real carbohydrate hound, you might like to know that they refill your rice at no extra charge. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Taj India Palace has a grand buffet brunch from 11:00 - 3:oo, and while buffets offer up the chance of cross contamination, it also affords you the chance to try a lot of things at once - and with the exception of Naan (bread), most Indian food doesn't have wheat in it anyway. As always, the choice is yours on how much risk you're willing to assume. 

I love to experiment in my kitchen, but I have yet to attempt Indian food. It seems like a pretty big undertaking and I'm not sure I have the experience or the palate to know how to spice the food right yet. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, so I'm working on it, but until then, I'll have to settle on going to restaurants like Taj India Palace. Oh darn. 

So how about you? What foods have you discovered since your diagnosis? 

Taj India Palace on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tommy's Pizza and Chicken

I've seen a lot of boxes in my day. They've held everything from new shoes and jewelery to grade school diorama projects. Yes, I've liked these boxes a great deal.

For us gluten free-ers, pizza may come from the freezer section, it may come from a dry mix, it might be an "imitation pizza" on a rice cake (as if the word 'rice cake' should even share the same sentence with pizza), but it never, ever comes to us piping hot in a delivery box. 

And so with great pleasure, gluten free Clevelanders, I give you Tommy's Pizza and Chicken:

Gluten free pizza. In a box. From a pizza place. An actually pizza place. In a box. Gluten free pizza. Seriously. 

This pizza is, in a word, fantastic. Be warned though, once you start eating, it will take will power to stop. A second warning: like real pizza, there is nothing healthy food-y about this cheese smothered goodness. If you want good for you pizza, make your own. But when's the last time your gluten eating friends ate pizza for their health? Sometimes, you just want ooey-gooey, salty, crunchy, saucy pizza - and that is exactly what Tommy's provides. 

I think what sets a Tommy's pizza apart from it's homemade and frozen peers is the sauce. It's real, fresh pizza sauce. Then again, it might be the crust. It's not cake-y, it's not potato-y, it doesn't taste like rice. At once fluffy and crunchy, it tastes like real pizza crust. 

But don't forget the cheese. Or the fact that it's cooked in a real pizza oven. Okay, I give up, it's the whole package, box included.  

If you're not a straight up cheese kind of pizza eater,  you can add traditional pizza topics (olives, pepperoni, peppers, mushrooms, extra cheese, etc) for an additional $1.59 per item. The gluten free pizza come in one size - a medium, a 12 inch cut into 8 pieces. If the pizza doesn't do it for you, (and if you're some kind of pizza hating crazy person, can I have your slice?), Tommy's gluten free menu also offers breadsticks, cheesy breadsticks, and corn spaghetti with marinara sauce. 

There is a catch. Okay, there are two catches. The first is that Tommy's Pizza and Chicken is in the far away land of Strongsville, Ohio. And there's an even farther away branch in North Royalton. The Strongsville location is a good 45 minutes away from me (and the rest of the Cleveland East Side suburbs - a little closer for you West Siders) and with today's gas prices, making the decision to go out on such a trip for pizza is a little indulgent, and quite a commitment. ...But is it worth it? Without question. 

This brings us to catch number two. Tommy's Pizza and Chicken is carryout only. That's right, you may well drive 45 minutes to get your pizza...but you're going to have to drive an additional 45 to get home and eat it. Or you could make good friends with Strongsville locals and invite yourself over for dinner. Or you could eat it in the car. I won't tell anyone. 

(Of course if you happen to live in Brunswick of Strongsville, or parts of North Royalton, Hinckley, Columbia Station, berea, Middleberg, or Valley City you could get your gluten free pizza delivered right to your door. It's enough to make a girl consider moving.) 

Over all, the drive and the carrying-out is SO WORTH IT for this amazing pizza. Tommy's also offers a "take and bake" gluten free pizza, so you can stock up while your there, limiting your trips to only once a month, instead of say once a week. Or day. 

Tommy's Pizza & Chicken on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gluten Free PSA #4: Gluten Free Cupcake Party!!

When I decided to start writing these PSAs in early October, I never dreamed I'd have four - yes four - PSAs two weeks later. In my two and a half years of living gluten free, I don't think I'd heard of or attended more than a handful of events dedicated to celiac disease. Sure, there were support group meetings, but talking about the activities of my innards really doesn't sound like my ideal afternoon. Where was a girl to go for some gluten free fun? But I didn't need to worry. It seems that gluten free events are sprouting up everywhere, in my corner of Ohio and beyond.

We're up and coming. We're trendy. We're eating cupcakes. 

Cup...wha? That's right, I said it. Cupcakes. 

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is inviting YOU to host a Gluten Free Cupcake Party to raise celiac awareness, raise money for celiac research, and generally have great gluten free cupcake filled afternoon - or evening - or breakfast. 

How does it work?

First, click on the cupcake link above and set your party date. You need to pick a date at least 3 weeks from now. Then you're on easy street to a FREE Cupcake Party Kit care of Pamela's Products. This kit contains the Classic Vanilla Cake Mix, the Luscious Chocolate Cake Mix, and three types of frosting. 

I know what you're thinking...what's the catch? You can't possibly be telling me I can get all of that for free. 

Well, sadly, the catch is you have to share. In order to get your Cupcake Party, call up 12 of your closest friends, explain to them that celiac is an insidious disease that affected thousands upon thousands of people - one particular that they know and love - and that if they'd provide you with a $15 donation for Celiac Disease Research they will join you for a gluten free cupcake party not to be missed. (Your guests will also get a free gift like a spatula or a frosting spreader. You, the super cool gluten free host or hostess, gets a free apron. You know, in addition to the free cupcakes.)

So invite friends over for decorating cupcakes, make them bake 'em with you, or simply provide the cupcakes and enjoy - and see if you can slip in a little celiac awareness along the way. But whatever you do, take lots of pictures because the NFCA wants to put pictures of you and your friends ENJOYING BEING GLUTEN FREE in their newsletter. How cool! 

I know, eating free gluten free cupcakes with your closest friends can be quite a hardship, but us celiacs gotta do what we gotta do. (tee hee) 

Image above is from and I originally came across the gluten free cupcake party at -- credit where credit's due! 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gluten Free PSA # 3 - Planning Your Fall Celiac Activities: Information from the Gluten Free Taste Fair

Holy Moly

If you've ever wondered why you had to be the one with celiac, then you've certainly never been to a gluten free event. Yes, I got handouts, yes I got great information, and yes I got great food - but what I really got out of the Mustard Seed's Gluten Free Taste Fair was the realization that there are SO MANY people with celiac disease just in my little corner of Ohio. 

Community is an awesome thing. 

This was the third annual Gluten Free Taste Fair, and if you missed it, they've been such a success I was told they will almost certainly be another next year. It might even become a bi-annual event. 

In brief, here's what I learned about the Ohio - Celiac going ons of the next few weeks...

- "Learn what you can eat on a Gluten - Free Diet: Discussion & Store Tour" will be held at the Solon Mustard Seed Market on Saturday, November 15th from 10:00 am - 12:00 noon. There's no charge for the tour. Call 440-519-3663 to register. And while you're there, be sure to stop at the Mustard Seed Market's Cafe, as it now provides gluten free menu upon request with lots of options, vegan and vegetarian gluten free offerings, too. 

 - Loretta Paganini, long time favorite Cleveland chef and proprietor of the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking  is having a Gluten Free Dinner at Sapore Restaurant . The dinner / class lasts 2 hours and is $45 a person. The next one is this Thursday, October 16th, but on the website, they're already advertising the next dinner on Thursday, January 15th, 2009. Click the links above to register. 

- Both the North East Ohio Celiac Support Group and the Greater Cleveland Celiac Association have upcoming meetings.  The GCCA meets alternately on the east side (in Solon) and the west side (in Parma). They're next meeting is this  Saturday, October 18th at 2pm at Parma Community Hospital.  The NEOCSG meets in Independence, Ohio at the Independence Public Library and will be having a holiday cookie exchange in late November. Please click on the links for more information. 

- The Celiac Conference will be held at the Columbus Children's Hospital Saturday, November 8th. Registration is required. 

- Families with Food Allergies is having its Spooky Ooky 2008 party on Sunday, October 19th from 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Wickliffe, Ohio. It's a Halloween party with allergy safe foods and activities (and some guest speakers) that's great for kids, teens, and their parents, too. Please click on the link for RSVP information. 

If that doesn't keep your gluten free calender as well stocked as your gluten free pantry, I don't know what will.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Birthday Dinner for the Boyfriend: Cheesy Potato Bake and Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and Coconut

Food is meant to be shared. 

It's why dinners for one comes in frozen plastic containers. It's why you don't buy a single slice of bread.  It's why we always want our gluten eating friends and family to try our latest gluten free creations. 

If there ever was a food that was indisputably meant to be shared, it is birthday cake. Perhaps that's why the seemingly simple request overwhelmed me so. "What I want for my birthday," my boyfriend said, "is a cake I can eat with you." 

I was determined to make a good, no great, gluten free cake for my gluten eating guy. He's a real meat and potatoes, beer and football kind of guy. The type who thinks owning anything pink is be an affront to his masculinity and that popcorn might as well be a food group. How he ended up with a vegetarian - much less this gluten free, vegetarian city girl - is somewhat a mystery to us both at times. 

In the beginning, he didn't understand celiac. The first time I came to stay with him, we had to go to the grocery store practically the moment I stepped off the plane. But with a little gluten free education and a lot of practice, we've learned to love to cook together. Over the past year, we've made everything from Asian inspired stir-fries to gluten free spinach and ricotta cannelloni. When eating with me, he's learned to forgo the meat and the wheat and embrace chickpeas and lentils. I, meanwhile, have learned to be a little more lenient on the subject of floury, white potatoes (which, no matter what he says, are not vegetables...well okay they ARE, but they're the starchy variety of vegetable, the kind in league with pastas and rices). It's been an experience for us both, but I think we'd both agree it's been fun. 

But birthday cake soon blossomed into birthday dinner. And with the focus shifted from one dish to two, my desire to create the perfect gluten free confection turned into a much less selfish desire to make sure the chocolate-on-chocolate cake requested actually tasted good. 

In the end, I used a mix. 

I figured it was safer that way, a guarantee no one would have to smile though a chocolate cake with a distinct potato flour undertone.  He'll be 40 next year; hopefully by then I'll have learned to perfect my own cake recipe and make something really special. The mix turned out to be a good choice, though, everyone loved it. It had the consistency and flavor of a regular chocolate cake. No. Not regular cake - a good chocolate cake. And yes, while I tweaked the recipe with some of my own ingredients, I can't claim the cake as my own. 

But I should never have thought of it as my own anyway, food is meant to be shared. 

Cheesy Potato Birthday Bake 

6 small potatoes
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 leeks, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped (more or less to your liking)
3/4 cup of broccoli florets  

1/2 cup 1% milk
3/4 cup vegetable broth or stock
dab of butter, perhaps 1/2 tablespoon 
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/2 - 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (we like a mixture of monterrey jack and cheddar)

additional cheese to sprinkle over the top
chopped parsley 
salt and pepper to your taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Peel and slice the potatoes in to thin slices, no more than 1/3rd of an inch. Slice the zucchini and yellow squash to roughly the same size, though they can be at a somewhat heartier thickness. 

(The following sauce is an adaptation of Ginger Lemon Girl's recent blog post on Cream Soup. I'd remembered reading about this base on her blog a few days earlier and it served as the inspiration for my casserole. Thanks, Ginger Lemon Girl, the birthday boy loved it.)

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the milk, vegetable stock, and stir in the cornstarch. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Next, add in the shredded cheese. Give it a good stir and watch as the cheese dissolves almost instantly - it's a pretty cool trick. Season with salt and pepper as desired.  

Combine the potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, leeks, and garlic, and broccoli in a casserole pan, and giving them a good toss together. Sprinkle salt and pepper to your liking over the top and toss it once more. Pour the cheese mixture evenly over the vegetables and bake in the oven - covered with tin foil - for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, remove the tin foil and add the remaining cheese and parsley (if desired) to the top of the casserole. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. 

Side note: This casserole reheated be-autifully the next day when I put it next too some scrambled eggs at breakfast. Yum. 

Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and Coconut 
(lactose free & nut free, too)
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup strong brewed coffee

1 large container of strawberries, sliced very thin
1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Spread evenly between two cake pans and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Take out and let cool. (This is a great time to slice the strawberries, a surprisingly time consuming task.)

Once the cakes have cooled, ice one of the layers and cover it with most of the sliced strawberries. Place the second layer above it and continue icing the cake. Place the rest of the strawberries on the center of the top layer and sprinkle the shredded coconut around them. 

Share. And Enjoy. 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gluten Free PSA #2 - Gluten Free Taste Fair at Mustard Seed Market

Sorry for the late notice, but tomorrow - October 11th - the Mustard Seed Market is having a Gluten-Free Taste Fair. From 12:00 - 4:00 pm, you can sample gluten free foods, meet representatives from local support groups, and hear guest speakers talking about the gluten free diet and gluten free cooking. 

Pretty cool, huh? So swing by the Mustard Seed for some gluten free food and fun. The event will be going on simultaneously at both the Solon (6025 Kruse Drive) and the Akron (3885 West Market Street) locations. 

The Original Pancake House

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. No matter how hectic the attempt to get to work on time is, there's always a momentary reprieve when you pause to sip your coffee or bite into a banana. It's the eye of any chaotic morning storm. 

But that's the work week life. On the weekends, breakfast comes at a much more leisurely pace. Didn't wake up until 11? Fluffy scrambled eggs will taste pretty great then...and even better later on, should you manage to sleep on through to the mid afternoon. You can't say that about most foods. After all, when's the last time you craved stir-fry at 9 am? 

The novelty of breakfast for dinner puts a smile on most people's faces. And if you're a traditionalist, relax , a whole meal - brunch - was created just to accommodate you sticklers who can't conceive of eating an omelet after 10:30. (I've heard the fast food giants have a similar issue. Perhaps someone ought to lobby for a McDonald's brunch menu.) 

Yes, yes, breakfast is good, breakfast is great. But the thing is, breakfast is also a celiac minefield. Most yogurt contains gluten. Cereals that aren't made in dedicated facilities are streamed along on conveyor belts dusted with flour. Granola bars, oatmeal, bagels, the list goes on and on. And sadly, gluten-free breakfast products are among the most expensive out there. Ever thought about buying Glutino gluten-free breakfast bars? A box of six bars will run you $7.50. A bag of five bagels costs $6.00. A package of Van's frozen waffles is in the neighborhood of $6.00...and then you best make sure your toaster hasn't accidentally been shared with a stray piece of regular bread. 

And sure, you can buy a Pamela's mix and make your own, but hasn't there been a Sunday morning where you just want to sit back, relax, and have a warm plate of pancakes placed in front of you? 

When The Original Pancake House opened a few years ago, I remember thinking, no, wishing, that it had opened before I'd been diagnosed. Alas, it did not, and I knew better, so there was no pancake house for me. However, about 2 years after The Original Pancake House came to Cleveland, someone in the business had it in their heads - or more likely, hearts - that they needed to cater to the gluten-free community and they decided to provide gluten free pancakes. But they more than provide them.  They have a dedicated cooking stations. They're staff understands the need for separate cooking utensils. Every waiter and waitress knows what gluten free means. How cool is that? 

Given the lengths the company has gone to serve the celiac community, its a complete mystery to me why they don't advertise that they provide gluten free pancakes on their menu. But don't let this scare you off from mentioning your gluten free needs to waitress! In fact, most of the nearly 20 types of pancakes can be made gluten free. All of the fruit ones are served with an accompanying fruit flavored syrups - and if you're as easily amused as I am, you'll appreciate discovering you can cover your blueberry pancakes with drippy blue goo. 

The pancakes are very good - so far, the strawberry ones are my favorite - but like most gluten free products can be a little dry, and definitely require some syrup action. And as it is with most gluten free foods, they're surprisingly heavy. After eating two or three of the fluffy cakes, you'll feel like you've eaten at least twice that - but that's okay, take the rest home and enjoy pancakes for tomorrow's breakfast, too. 

The price is absolutely right for the food - which is something you seldom get to say about anything gluten free. I remember the manager of the Woodmere restaurant balking when I asked how much extra celiac safe pancakes were. There is no charge extra charge for eating gluten free. Most menu items are under $9.00. In fact, for $7.00 you can get a gigantic omelet, 3 gluten free pancakes, and most likely a stomach ache, if you managed to eat it all. Admit it, leaving a restaurant with an oh-man-I'm-so-full stomach ache sounds like a lovely change from the old gluten eating days of stumbling out of restaurant, stomach churning and head spinning. You'll choose gluten free pancakes every time. 

The Orginal Pancake House is located on the East Side at 28700 Chagrin Blvd. in Woodmere and at 3000 Westgate in Fairview Park on the West Side.  But there's more good news:  The Original Pancake House is a nationwide chain, with six locations in Ohio alone. So worry not pancake eating celiacs with wanderlust, a good breakfast - be it be at breakfast, at lunch, or at dinner - is never too far off. 

Original Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I came. I saw. I kugeled.

About a week and a half ago, I was at my local Whole Foods shopping for my usual gluten free suspects - peaches, greek yogurt, gluten free bread, ice cream, the building blocks of my life - when I spotted a flyer advertising a cooking contest. Not just any cooking contest, but a kugel contest. I picked up the flyer, and as I read the name of the contest I couldn't help but ask myself the same question: So You Think You Can Kugel? In the new tradition of making verbs out of nouns (ie, facebooked, friended) I couldn't help but wonder, could I kugel? And if I could, would anyone want to kugel - that is, gluten free style - along with me?

 A tiny bit of kugel background before we proceed. Pronounced "koogel", kugel is a favored traditional Jewish dish. There are two types, a potato variety and the the type in question, the lochshen kugel, or dairy noodle kugel, which is a kind of noodle pudding that can be made savory or sweet.  The sweet version, the one that classically springs to mind when someone says kugel, is made with egg noodles and baked in a bed of custard comprised of  sugar, cottage cheese, eggs, and milk with golden raisins mixed through. 

As with all traditional foods, lochshen kugel has a taste, a texture, and a consistency everyone is familiar with. Sure, you can make changes, personal touches, but adding something as unfamiliar as rice noodles? It was a gamble. But it's also the only way I can make or enjoy the dish. I decided to enter the contest, not caring if I won, but just hoping to make something that could pass for normal under intense kugel scrutiny. 

So for the next ten days, I researched kugels, wrote and rewrote my recipe, and turned my kitchen into full on  kugel-mania. My first kugel was made with de boles rice spirals and golden raisins. It good, but not great, I tried again. The next kugel incarnation involved more sugar, pumpkin pie spice, a medley of dried fruit, Tinkyada fusilli noodles, and a wider test audience: my mom's book club. Imagine my elation to come home to giant pan of half eaten kugel, consumed by a group of women who'd never heard of such a dish before, much less eaten rice noodles.  I'd passed my kugel off as normal, I'd been a success. Still adjustments were needed and with no more time to test, I hoped for the best.

With kugel day upon me, I made my casserole a final time. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I wasn't able to deliver my dish in person - competing autoimmune conditions can be such a drag! - and my mom had to bring my kugel over to the contest. She spoke to the judges, explained my  celiac situation,  and the use of rice noodles.  

If your celiac, you can probably guess what happened. One judge was curious about the whole gluten free thing while the other wrinkled her nose before even trying it. Though we brought our own spatula, people put their forks right into my dish and other kugel bits found their way on top of mine; it was a cross contamination mess. And, unsurprisingly, I didn't win. 

But I didn't care. I made the kugel to share my gluten-freeness, to spread awareness. By the time I got there, I was able to see my submission to the contest being eaten by lots of people. People who didn't even know it was gluten free or what that meant. Silly as it sounds, every time someone put their fork back into my kugel for more, I celebrated a small victory. 

As I waited for the judging, I ended up sharing a table with a dietitian student and a girl with crohn's disease.  With more talking of being gluten free, more celiac awareness was spread. The whole exercise was worth it, regardless of where I placed in the competition. On the whole, I'm glad I entered the contest. I created a great kugel recipe, I spread some celiac awareness, and I passed as normal. In answer to the question,  "So you think you can kugel?", the answer is a resounding yes, yes I can. 

Mixed Berry Gluten Free Noodle Kugel

1 bag Tinkyada fusilli pasta 
3 cups cottage cheese - 1% milkfat is fine
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups sour cream - lowfat is fine
3 heaping table spoons of whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup of softened butter - or smart balance in my case
1/3rd cup lowfat milk 
4 eggs
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla 
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon 
3/4 cup of mixed dried fruit - cranberries, blueberries, cherries, and golden raisins

1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
2 -3 teaspoons of white sugar
2 -3 tablespoons of almond meal

Cook pasta for about 7 and a half minutes, leaving it a little al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, milk, and softened butter. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Combine the eggs with the brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. 

Pour the egg mixture into the large bowl and stir all of the ingredients together. Stir in the dried fruit. Transfer the pasta into a greased casserole dish, spreading them out evenly. Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and mix it through until all the ingredients are combined evenly.

Place the dish in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Opening the oven (and turning down the heat!), sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice over the top. Then spread the almond meal over the top as desired for optimum crunchy topping. 

Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until the top is beginning to brown. Let cool, share with friends, and enjoy. 

(Note: if you like a creamier kugel, only use 3/4 of the pasta. I'm sure you can figure out something good for the left overs! )

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gluten Free PSA # 1: October is Celiac Awareness Month

Though it seems like everyday of my life is Celiac Awareness Day...I'm pleased to pass along the information that October is officially Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Awareness is all about information, and knowledge is power. With these sentiments in mind, I present my top five important things to know about Celiac Disease: 

1. 1 in 133 Americans has Celiac Disease yet only 3% of them know they have it. That means a whopping 97% of celiac patients are not diagnosed and thus are still eating gluten, still damaging their bodies, and still getting sick. 

2. Though there are the hallmark celiac symptoms - the stomach distress and all the grossness and weight loss  - approximately 50% of adults present with "atypical" symptoms. As the picture to the right (the one that is, I believe from the celiac disease center) shows, celiac disease has many symptoms. This includes everything from weight gain, to headaches, to depression, to anemias and vitamin deficiencies, to joint pain, and so on and so on and so on....

3. On average, a celiac patient suffers with the disease nine years before their diagnosis. 

4. Celiac disease can lead to a number of other diseases, including but not limited to: infertility, premature births, osteopenia, osteoporosis, neurological diseases and disorders, malignancies such as adenocarcinoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and a host of autoimmune disorders such as insulin dependent diabetes, thyroid disease, Hashimoto's disease, Sjogren's syndrome, Addison's disease, Psoriasis, autoimmune liver disease, cardiomyopathy...just to name a few. (as stated on

5. All of the above, and more, can be avoided simply by adherence to a gluten free diet. 

Seriously. Would you trade your health, your chance to not have lymphoma, cardiomyopathy, a miscarriage, or lupus for a piece of pizza? 

It's up to those of us who know to get the word out. Tell your friends, your friends' friends, your friends' friends' friends. Make this celiac awareness month a gluten free revolution. Get your friends to get tested...or at the very least share your favorite gluten free recipes with your favorite people. Invite someone over for a gluten free meal. Make celiac a group activity, rather than a socially isolating experience. 

Before I step down from my gluten-free-soapbox, I'm going to make a Celiac Awareness Month pledge. I'm going to try out new recipes and share them with the celiac community, I'm going to talk to more restaurant owners, and I'm going to educate more people. 

Let's make this Celiac Awareness Month count. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Apples and Tom's Honey

If you're Jewish, then you already know, our holidays revolve around food. From matzo and charoset at Passover, to latkes and jelly donuts at Hanukkah, to well, nothing at Yom Kippur...that is until the traditional lox and bagel break-fast (what? is that just my family?), food is a very important part of our religion and our holidays. 

This isn't to say that the holiday meal isn't a facet of other religions, but the Jews have managed to pump symbolism into nearly everything that's placed at the dinner table. I suppose 5769 years gives you time to think about these things. 

Sundown on Monday night marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As far as food symbols go, I've always liked the Rosh Hashanah ones: a round challah to symbolize the perfect new year to come, apples dipped in honey and honey cake to symbolize a sweet new year. For a people who's holidays generally recount the tales of people trying to kill them, these traditions are, for lack of a better word, kind of sweet, right? 

Often times, holidays, and their associated food, remind me of what I can't have, keeping me - and my separate plate - at a noticeable distance from everyone else. No matzoball soup, no challah, no latkes (unless they're home made and maztomeal free). Though I'm not particularly (okay... at all) religious, the cultural traditions of my religion are important to me and it's frustrating that now, as a celiac, my ability to participate is compromised. (...Anyone who scoffs that I'm being melodramatic only needs to be reminded of the Jewish mother stereotype, and her insistence that everyone needs to be eating more, to realize just how important food is to our nearly 6000 year old people. )

But apples and honey are naturally gluten free. And delicious. And I think of any symbolic act, its nice to participate in one that ensures a sweet new year. 

For our mini holiday meal, we used the local honey bought at the Tremont Art and Cultural Fair. Tom keeps his own bees and has honey collected from each season. The fall honey is particularly dark while the spring honey (the one we got) tastes sweet, like really good honey you'd buy in the store - for like triple the price (our jar cost only $4). We also bought something called creamed honey. Spreadable with a butter like consistency, creamed honey is not a dairy product - its just very fine honey crystals blended together. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It was totally new to me, but I'm glad we tried something different. It's good too. 

If you didn't make it over to Tom Roth's stand at the Tremont Fair, you can get honey from him all year round at 709 N. Main Street in Amherst, Ohio or call 440-988-2725. Whether you use this cool local honey or not, why not try out this tradition, dip one of falls favorite fruits in some golden, syrupy honey, and hope for a sweet new year! 
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