Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gluten-Free Cookie Dough Ice Cream really is Purely Decadent

I have been wanting to try Soy Delicious' Purely Decadent Gluten-Free Cookie Dough Ice Cream for months, but as much as I was interested, I couldn't justify the expense, or the calories. 

At 230 calories a half cup, its significantly higher calorie than ice cream I generally allow myself. After all, with the extra caloric value of gluten-free products, I try to stick with sorbets or chemical free, low calorie ice creams like Bryer's. And while I can walk past favored Ben and Jerry's flavors with hardly a turn of my head, there's something about the words "gluten free cookie dough" that stops me in my moose tracks. 

Yes, I've resisted temptation time and time again. But after munching on a salad while my boyfriend and his family ate the most amazing smelling pizza - the kind that makes the smell of oregano and garlic linger in the air for hours after the last piece had been gobbled up - I decided enough was enough. I deserved a treat too, darn it. 

Okay, okay, but how was it? 

My first few bites were... admittedly a little disappointing. Between the soy base of the ice cream and the rice base of the cookie dough, there was a distinct "this is fake" taste that I didn't immediately care for.
As I pondered how those gluten-free cookie dough balls would taste in regular ice cream, something funny started to happen. Within a few spoonfuls, my taste buds had realigned to the soy taste and I soon found I was enjoying the product; without a doubt, it really did taste like ice cream. 

A fantastic gluten free treat, the cookie dough pieces are nestled in vanilla ice cream with generous flakes of chocolate mixed in. Soy Delicious calls its new line of premium dairy free ice cream "Purely Decadent" and indeed it is.  While it's certainly not an everyday treat (says the girl who had a bowl two days in a row...), the website is quick to point out that it has 65% of the calories of premium dairy ice creams - a serving of Hagan Daaz, for example, hovers around 400 calories - and is cholesterol free, free of trans fats, made with certified organic ingredients, and is certified vegan. 

The Turtle Mountain website - the makers of soy delicious and other fine dairy free products - offers a table that clearly marks off the allergens in their products and makes finding great gluten free, non dairy ice creams and yogurts a breeze. 

That in and of itself is "purely decedent", the great flavor and the advent of gluten free cookie dough is a pretty fantastic added bonus, though. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Patriotic prObama Cupcakes

In the past few years, there have been a great number of pivotal days. Days that you know you'll forever be trading stories about "remember where you where when...." Often, it's somber, if not horrific events burn our time and place into our memories. Thankfully, not all days to be remembered are so tragic. 

In the future, I imagine my children or grandchildren will ask me "Where were you when America saw it's first black president was sworn in, when yes we can changed to yes we did, when a new generation of Americans came into their own in understanding their personal and political power, when regardless of political party or personal belief, the country came together with a collective sigh of relief and a hope for change?" 

When that happens, I'll be able to answer that I watched the momentous event at Cuyahoga Community College (where my mother is a teacher), among people of all ages, races, and nationalities all of whom were moved, cheering and crying, at the prospect of something new and better. 

After the viewing, the hugging, and waving goodbye to former (former!) President Bush, us Americans hungry for change also found ourselves hungry for lunch. And what provides a better sweet ending to any Inauguration Day lunch than Patriotic prObama Cupcakes?

In the spirit of unity (and because my mother's coworker has a nut allergy), I tried the Cherrybrook Kitchen wheat/gluten free, egg free, and nut free chocolate cake mix and vanilla icing mix. (The mixes themselves were dairy free, too, but I put real milk and butter into the icing. A personal choice, but they're more than easily made using dairy substitutes for the lactose free and vegan among you.)

Talk about witnessing the impossible! While I think I'm still a Pamela's fan as far as mixes are concerned (I still dream about that birthday chocolate cake...), the completely allergy friendly Cherrybook Kitchen mixes were GOOD. I'd make it again good. Even the those without food issues agreed, the cupcakes were rich, perfectly textured, and utterly craveable. 

Best of all, they were easy, easy, easy to make. - A welcome surprise to me, as I'd made four failed batches of meringue cookies before finally turning to a mix. No matter how I whipped, my meringue would merely stare back at me glossy, thick, but peakless. It was only after batch four that I realized it was my regular table sugar weighing the mixture down. Sigh. - The cake mix required only 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 1 cup of cold water (I used 2/3rd cup cold coffee and 1/3 cup cold water, it makes for a richer, deeper taste).

The icing, too, was so very simple, just the mix plus 2 tablespoons of milk and 2 and 1/2 sticks of butter. The icing box says it makes enough icing for only 12 cupcakes, but I found I was able to frost 21 of my 24 cupcakes (made from 2 boxes of mix). 

Dividing the icing into three bowls, I added a few drops of McCormick food coloring and quickly found myself with red, white, and blue icing. I frosted my cupcakes and served up a delicious, equal opportunity treat for this sweet, historic day. 

A final note - and I hope you'll oblige me this political moment in a space whose primary concern is reserved for food - it was a welcome release of cynicism to frost my cupcakes in such a patriotic fashion. Over a third of my 22 years have been spent under a government who's legacy includes such low points as Abu Grahaib and Guantanamo Bay, a depressed, recessed economy,  and the horrific mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina. I cannot say that four years ago, much less last year, I would've ever imagined doing anything so openly patriotic, so celebratory of my country and it's government. 

But today I passed out my Patriotic prObama cupcakes with pride. I guess that's another thing I can remember about today. What about you? What will you remember? 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nicole's Italian Restaurant - Albany, New York

I've been a a gluten-free on the go girl for a while now. 

If I'm not in Cleveland, I'm probably traveling to Ann Arbor to visit the boyfriend, or if I'm really lucky, I'm in or around my real love, New York City (...and won't the boyfriend be thrilled to read that! hah!) I know these two cities well. I rarely get lost, I know what's fun to do, and I know what to eat. I'm comfortable in these places, but as far as going somewhere new? Well, that always brings about some trouble. 

I wasn't just going somewhere new, I was going to Albany, New York - not exactly a strong hold of alternative eating. And as we tried to coordinate with my family there on finding a gluten free restaurant, I remembered why I so like having my own kitchen and my own familiar places to eat. (Not to say my family was anything less than stellar in trying to find a place, it's just, you know hard to be the new gluten-free kid in town.)

But it was worth the frustration. Why? Because this man, my Grandpa Norman, was celebrating his 85th birthday, and I was determined to be there. Norman is fairly particular about food himself - in a good way. Few people his age are as educated about what they put in their bodies and I for one think it's pretty cool that he shops at health food stores and makes all sorts of health food soups, not to mention the fact that he works out at the YMCA several times a week and has a job, too. My grandpa could totally beat up your grandpa - but he keeps his power in check. A pretty cool guy, right?  

Anyhow, while it was tough to find a restaurant that could satisfy all of our needs (my uncle suffers from a major fish allergy, and he and my cousin are also vegetarians...we're a fun bunch for any waitress, I'm sure) we did finally agree on a lovely place called Nicole's. A charming Italian bistro serving Northern and Southern Italian cuisine, Nicole's is the kind of darkly lit, beautifully decorated restaurant that special evenings were made for. And what's more special than an 85th birthday?

While we'd called ahead so they were ready for my gluten-free needs, I was pleased to find that not only could I order directly off the menu, but I had options! They nicely offered to oblige any off menurequest if nothing on the menu really suited me, but really, who could refuse a Grilled Portabella Napoleon with a side of fluffy rice in olive oil? (I picked that over the Grilled Stuffed Mushroom, or any of the meat dishes I could've chosen, were I a meat eater.)

The waitress was knowledgeable about Celiac and I really felt safe eating there. Everything delivered to us - gluten free or not - was absolutely beautiful. Take these pats of butter for example, who knew sat fat could be that darling? 

They say we eat with our eyes first, and Nicole's really knew how to make food look delicious. My grilled portabella napoleon came to me as two stacks of perfectly grilled vegetables - eggplant, red peppers, spinach, yellow squash, and of course, portabellas - each topped with a thick slice of buffalo mozzarella cheese and drizzled with the thickest balsamic reduction. Perfect. Simple. And something I hope to be able to recreate at home. 

Admittedly, I was jealous while I watched my family enjoy appetizers of hazelnut encrusted brie and fresh tomato topped bruchetta, but once my gorgeous plate arrived, I could hardly remember any of those pesky Ugh, why must I eat gluten free! feelings. 

So if you're gluten free in Albany - either by actually living there or if you're there visiting family and friends - remember to stop by Nicole's for a special occasion or just a treat for yourself. 

Nicole's Restaurant & Catering on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Baked Vegetables to Beat the Winter Blues

Brrr! Is it ever cold in Cleveland, Ohio!

To be fair, it's not just here. I don't know if you've stepped outside to check - and if you haven't, I couldn't blame you - but there's this horrible cold front sweeping over the whole Midwest and East Coast. With the wind chill, the forecast estimates tomorrow will be negative twenty-five degrees (Fahrenheit). That kind of number doesn't even make sense in my brain. 

As we inch closer and closer to absolute zero on the Kelvin scale, it's clear that a good meal is in order to keep our spirits up lest we fall victim to some serious winter weather blues. Something comforting, something well balanced, something to warm you from the inside out. They say if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, and if mother nature isn't going to provide the warmth, a homemade dinner will have to do. 

With the chill in mind, my boyfriend and I were trying to figure out a high veggie count dinner on our low budget. Potatoes, of course, were on the menu but what to go with them? He likes his potatoes mashed - I rejected, too fatty. Next he suggested stir fried - I rejected, takes far too long and the idea of a potato stir fry has never really sat well with my Asian cooking sensibilities. I suggest we shred them into that kugel - he rejected, he didn't want me to spend our evening hunched over in the kitchen, not to mention how I tend to smell like an onion for days after kugel baking. Finally he suggested we just plain bake the potatoes. 

Baked! A quick, warm, easy, cheap. Perfect. And while the cooking wheels in my head started to turn - I could top the potato with sauteed spinach, and red pepper, and garlic, oh and some goat cheese! - I began to worry that this potato meal was more of an overgrown side dish than something that would satisfy hungry tummys on a cold winter's night. 

As I milled about the market, worrying that this meal was going to leave us hungrily raiding the freezer by 9pm, I turned to see my boyfriend picking up a package of two precut portabella mushroom tops. Think you can do something with these, babe? 

Oh yes I could, and far far better than that rotten place we went to for New Year's. This dinner was nutritious, filling, warming, and oh so cheap (cost about $12.00 for all ingredients involved). Take that, winter weather blues. 

Spinach & Red Pepper Saute over Baked Potato
As remembered with the help

2 potatoes

1 bag of spinach - washed, and trimmed if needed 
1 red pepper - diced into bite sized pieces 
5 -6 cloves of garlic - minced 
1/4 - 1/2  teaspoon of nutmeg
2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 Table spoons of herbed Goat Cheese (check to make sure the added herbs haven't added any gluten, if not regular goat cheese and add any herbs you like - rosemary, thyme, etc - or none at all!)

Really, this is a method and a semi obvious one at that. Any veggies you have on hand, or ones you love, will do. Zucchini and yellow squashed sliced long and thin, a melange of peppers, broccoli florets, strips of mushrooms, really the list goes on and on. Garlic spinach is a favored dish of mine, but this simple food pairing - of potato meets sauteed veggie - welcomes innovation. 

Bake your potato as desired - in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about an hour (check it after 45 minutes, but ours took 75 minutes to cook!) or in the microwave for an easy-peasy 8 minute potato. 

When your potato is closed to being done, grab a small frying pan and either the largest frying pan you have or a large pot and heat the oil (2 T in the large one, the 2 ts in the small one) and garlic (4 minced cloves in the large pan, 2 minced cloves in the small one). Stir, and after a minute or so, add the diced red pepper to the small pan. Add about 1/3rd of the spinach to the large pan / bowl. (Rachel Ray tells you to remove the garlic before adding the other vegetables. I'm far less fussy and don't like to potential burn myself with hot oil, so I leave mine in.) 

Let the peppers cook about 5 minutes, or until done. 

Turn the spinach gently in the pan and as it wilts and reduces, add another 1/3rd in. Turn and add the last of the spinach. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. 

Grab your potato, cut in half and top with wilted spinach, red peppers, and goat cheese. So very good. 

Oven Baked Portabella Tops  
as found on  and then halved for our 2 person meal purpose

2 Portabella mushroom tops (cleaned and stemmed) 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar 
1 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Score the tops of the mushroom with a diamond shaped pattern, flip over, and on the gill side, cut a shallow "X" where the stem was once attached. Place - gill side down - on an oiled baking pan.  

In a small pan heat garlic and olive oil for about two minutes - until the oil has been infused with the garlic - and the remove from heat. Remove a good deal of the garlic (you can use it in the spinach above!) and let the oil cool. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, thyme, olive oil, and a dash of salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the mushroom tops and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, until tender. 

Simple. Easy. Filling. Unexpectedly amazing. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gluten Free PSA #8: Whole Foods GF Tour....and More Pizza in Ann Arbor

Doesn't that look amazing? But business before pizza pleasure. Just a little, I swear. 

I'm apparently on the email list from the good people at my local Whole Foods. I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm not complaining. Especially when I get to pass information like this on to you: 

You are cordially invited to attend our upcoming FREE Gluten-Free Tour at Whole Foods Market in University Heights,  for an opportunity to learn about our store and enjoy delightful gluten-free samples!

Wednesday, January 14th, 7:00-8:00 p.m. (Free - registration is required)

Learn about the extensive array of gluten-free products that Whole Foods Market offers, from meals and menus to snacking and desserts! Let us guide you through the many options for gluten-free cooking and entertaining, as well as yummy sides and desserts to accent your meal. Attendees are invited to sample gluten-free nibbles, and will even be sent home with a free goodie bag! Space is limited - please visit customer service or call 216-932-3918 before January 13th to reserve your spot. Gluten-Free Tours are conducted on the 2nd Wednesday of every month. (Tour departs from Café)

Be honest, they had you at goodie bag.

A final note of PSA business. I certainly hope anyone who made it out through the snow thoroughly enjoyed this months Greater Cleveland Celiac Association's meeting - especially since the theme was bread. Oh how jealous I am that I missed out on a fresh baked bread competition - but between the snow and my bum ankle (yes, a new injury - I seem to collect them like gluten free recipes it seems), it just wasn't feasible.  

But injuries and snow aside, I recently revisited Ann Arbor. Going gluten free on the road is journey often fraught with great failures and moderate successes. Yes gluten free traveling is difficult, but on my past trip I experienced the near unbelievable; I was actually lied to by the restaurant with whom I booked my New Years Eve reservations. I spoke to the chef on the phone and he personally told me he had a roommate with Celiac, that it would be no problem. ...But when I arrived, I found complete lack of understanding about the issues Celiacs have to deal with, from cross contamination disasters to providing one of the 5 promised courses - a soggy portabello mushroom top as an entree - and was actually charged $50.00 for the "meal". 

Yes, it's amazing what people will do when it comes to providing - or not providing - for the gluten free. 

Take Stadium Market for example.... 

I'd heard about this place online and even had some nice Ann Arborite email me about it. Great gluten free pizza? Deli style sandwiches on gluten free bread? I absolutely had to try it. 

Located in a strip mall of sorts, Stadium Market is beyond unassuming. A warehouse of imported liquors, wines, beers, and jarred foods, I had to wonder if we were in the right place. All the way in the back sat a deli counter, display filled with sandwiches sitting abandoned for lack of buyers, and we approached it, hoping for the best but me a little wary of expecting it. 

But, the best is what we got. While we had to wait about 30 minutes, my pizza was made to order specifically for me. And I mean the crust itself was prepared while we waited. And while I had options to add a myriad of toppings, I stuck with plain cheese this time and was glad I did. I got real, pure, perfect pizza - pizza with herbed crust, pizza covered in a cheese blend, pizza in a box, pizza that tasted like pizza. 

Don't believe me? Think I'm just a pizza crazy girl? Well maybe I am, but besides the fact that my gluten-loving boyfriend ate multiple pieces himself, Stadium Market has thank you letters from their loyal pizza loving patrons - children no less, because who knows good pizza better than kids? - tacked upon their wall. 

This pizza is good. Great. I've said it before, Ann Arbor is just 3 hours from Cleveland - two and a half if you're a Westsider - and really, if you're going to take a day trip, its great to know you can go somewhere to get something to eat. (Of course, you can actually eat in Stadium Market, but there's no reason you can't eat it in your car. I certainly wanted to.) While you're there, you can check out the pizza at Silvio's Organic Pizza and indulge in your own gluten free pizza taste-off. 

...And if you're really just going up North for a gluten free pizza tour? Ann Arbor has enough points of interest to fake your gluten-eating friends - the ones who just don't get the allure of a fresh baked pizza pie - into taking a road trip with you. 

Stadium Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 2, 2009

Christmas Dinner - (Secret!) Mac & Cheese and Berry Chocolate Pie

Did you know Irving Berlin of “White Christmas” fame was Jewish?

You can’t really be surprised, can you? Who has a bigger mythos about the ideal Christmas than people who've never participated? Christmas is like this big crazy part of social consciousness that I have no part of, and no idea what it’s actually like – that is unless Norman Rockwell paintings, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, and The Santa Clause are accurate representations of the holiday, at which point I’ve got it covered.

In any event, introducing my boyfriend to Jewish holidays, traditions, and foods – or forcibly hoisting them upon him, as the case may be –means that I have to participate in his holidays, too. Namely, football Sundays and Christmas. My first Christmas with his family, I made a chickpea and roasted vegetable salad with olive oil and lemon dressing.

Before you laugh, it actually was delicious and everyone did eat it. But yes, it did look just a little out of place along side the honey baked ham and deviled eggs.

This year, I opted for more family friendly, less out there vegetarian foods. In addition to what has apparently become my signature holiday dish, the oven roasted Brussels Sprouts that are requested time and again (I thought a signature dish was supposed to be a casserole or a pie! Who’s known for their sprouts?!), I made one of my boyfriend’s favored dishes when it comes to my cooking. My (Secret!) Mac & Cheese.

There are two secrets when it comes to this dish. The first is its secretly low fat...okay, lower fat. It’s probably the lowest fat that mac & cheese can be. But the second secret blows the first out of the water; this is an adapted Paula Deen recipe. That’s right – a low fat adaptation of the first lady of buttery Southern cooking herself. But since you absolutely can't tell that this mac & cheese is low fat or  gluten free, these are the kinds of secrets you can keep to yourself while making the kind of dish you love to share.  

Of course, low fat adaptations aside, mac & cheese is still a dish comprised of cheese and milk and thus still kinda heavy. And, while it just wouldn’t be Christmas with out a pie (so says my Christmas education via Norman Rockwell), I thought it best to keep dessert as light as possible while still being memorable.

I made the pie recipe on the fly, and spent a lot of my day obsessing about how it would turn out. (I'm a rather nervous baker.) Inspired by a craving for this amazing raspberry tart I enjoyed in my gluten eating days - (from the best Chinese vegetarian restaurant, Peking Gourmet, that is before it got torn down in the name of Cedar Road progress), I grabbed up frozen berries, chocolate, and pecan pieces and set to work. But in trying to recreate it, I discovered the tart had a secret of its own: the layer of melted chocolate between the berries and crust in Peking’s tart served the double purpose of not only being delicious and chocolatey, but also protecting the pie crust from almost certain sogginess that the pie frozen berries would’ve caused. This pie turned out fantastically and is further proof you can adapt almost anything to great gluten-free fare. 

I had a frozen Whole Foods gluten-free pie crust left in the freezer from Thanksgiving (how great is it that they come two to a pack?) which made my pie baking – or rather, not baking – even easier. If you don’t have a gluten free pie crust, you can use a pie mix like I did when I made my amaretto apple pie or, if you’re particularly daring, making one from scratch.

So while it might not have been Charlie Brown and Sally or Tim Allen in a fat suit, but I’m coming to really enjoy Christmas. And holidays or not, these are recipes make for a great meal to share with those you love.

(Secret!) Mac & Cheese

1 16oz bag of Tinkyada penne or fusilli pasta (or favored bag of pasta)
1 cup of skim milk
1/2 cup of reduced fat sour cream
2 cups of low fat cheese (Trader Joe's has a great light cheese blend, but 2% sharp cheddar Kraft will absolutely do the job)
3 tablespoons smart balance / earth balance or regular butter 
2 eggs 
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta to just this side of done and drain but do not run water over it. Place pasta in a large bowl (or just back in the pot) and quickly mix in the cheese and butter. They will melt as they combine with the hot pasta. 

In a separate bowl, beat two eggs and combine them with the milk, sour cream, and spices. Add the milk mixture to the pasta and stir thoroughly. (It's important to do this separately fro
m the pasta or else the eggs will curdle and you'll end up with scrambled eggs and pasta.) 

Pour the mac & cheese into an 8 x 8 casserole pan (or a larger pan for a thinner dish) and bake at 350 for about an hour, or until the top gets crispy. 

If you have a little extra cheese on hand, sprinkle it over the top after 45 minutes. 

(No Bake) Berry Chocolate Pie

1 large bag of frozen mixed berries - or 1 -2 bags of preferred frozen berry
scant 1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 of a lemon
2 squares of Bakers' semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of cornstarch 
1/2 cup of pecans pieces 

1 gluten free pie crust, baked and ready to go 
(the whole foods pie crust bakes for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees and worked great)

The night before, place frozen berries in a strainer - and place the strainer in a larger bowl - to thaw them in the refrigerator (that is, please don't leave them out overnight). 

On pie day - and your pie crust has already been baked and is ready for filling! - melt the two squares of chocolate in the microwave. First, for 45 seconds, giving it a stir, and then again until melted (about 25 more seconds). Stir the chocolate until its completely smooth and the spoon it on to the pie crust. With the back of your spoon, sweep the melted chocolate evenly over the bottom and about half way up the side of the pie. Place the chocolate covered crust in the the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is no longer wet and cooled. 

When you're ready to assemble the pie, gently give your berries a final little push in the strainer, so as to remove any lingering juice from them without crushing them, and spoon them into your pie crust. --- Do not throw the berry juice away! Set it aside for the time being, please! --- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the berries and give it all a gentle stir in the pie crust. Set aside.

In a pot on the stove, combine the berry juice, water, the sugar, and the cornstarch, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes, letting the mixture thicken.

Pour the liquid over the pie. Dot with pecan pieces and refrigerate - uncovered - for at least an hour. 

*Note: If your pie seems to full of liquid, its really easy to spoon some of the extra juices out and you wont be disturbing the taste at all, promise. 

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