As my fingers rapidly race over my keyboard, I'm reminded of that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, wherein after having all the kids and their parents sign the "you've entered at your own risk" (to put it mildly) waiver, he tries to get them to hurry along, announcing "So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. "
Spring is springing all over Northeast, Ohio. It's beautiful, sunny, and on a few days, even warm. (And though, we Clevelanders know that this likely means tomorrow the temperature will likely lurk near freezing, we're made of a heartier stock then most, and can tough out the most ridiculous spring season - heck, even our flowers blossom under these conditions!) While I'd love to say I've been neglecting my gluten-free duties for the sunshine, I've actually been buried under various projects, including creating a slide show for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless' annual benefit on May 1st. (NEOCH is one of those great organizations who work behind the scenes to revive Cleveland. The $50 ticket includes dinner - though questionable one as far as gluten is concerned - an open bar, a keynote speaker, and a silent auction. Please contact me if you're at all interested in attending or donating.)
And that's a shame, as I have so much information on gluten free events, great gluten free finds in our very own Cleveland, and delicious spring recipes that I'm practically bursting at my celiac seems. Though it's perpetually on my to-do list, I'm continually shocked to find another jam packed day has gone by without finding the time to share recipes, food finds, and some of the great info so many of you have emailed to me.
On that note, to those who've sent emails - both of their gluten-free finds and just of appreciation - thank you. Even if I don't respond right away (or for weeks) I read every one and I'm so happy that Cleveland's celiac community is growing stronger everyday as it makes itself vi sable on our culinary landscape.
Speaking of speaking out, have you heard the best news to come out of Starbucks since the return of the pumpkin spice latte (seriously, those things might just have liquid cocaine in them, they're that addictive) - that's right, following in the trailblazing footsteps of General Mills' Chex and Betty Crocker, Starbucks will soon be offering a GLUTEN-FREE VALENCIA ORANGE CAKE.
Starbucks says the decision was made based on the numerous phone calls, letters, and emails they've been fielding over the years from gluten free customers. This isn't just a quality of life increase for us folks, this is putting celiac disease center stage as well as proving to all of those who know they need to eat gluten-free but are dragging their feet that it IS possible to live happy, healthy, and DELICIOUSLY, gluten-free. (Granted, I say this without having eaten this cake, but I can't imagine Starbuck's putting a shotty cake out - at least not when they have all the time in the world they want to perfect it. )
These pastries are expected to hit stores in May and will cost $2.25. You can read more about it in the Forbes article here. And if all this talk of orange cake has set off a craving you just can't control, why not whip up an Amazing Almond Orange Vanilla Pound Cake - a mouthwatering gluten-free version of Starbucks' lemon loaf cake (and my mom's favorite thing for me to make ever).
There's oh so much more happening in the gluten-free world (and isn't that an exciting sentence all on it's own?) but reading about it all at once - or writing about it for that matter - would be fully overwhelming. For now, I leave you with an impromptu dinner that turned out to be one of the best gluten-free meals I ever made.
First things first, I love pasta. Since I was little, I have filled my plate and my tummy with sticky, starchy semolina flour that tasted so very good going in but ended up being so very bad to my poor little body. And though my tastes have widened considerably since childhood, and though I've thankfully traded in semolina for gluten-free alternatives, I still very much doubt there's any dish better than a hearty vegetable and (gluten-free!) pasta bake. There's something positively magical about a drippy, creamy sauce that fills each and every nook and cranny of elbow pasta. If casseroles are comfort food, then pasta casseroles are the biggest, warmest, hug from your grandmother that you can imagine.
Trouble is, eat foods like that every day and you'll have far more health problems than just celiac disease. But be honest, you don't really like those greasy, heavy meals that sit in your stomach for hours. No, with skim milk, vegetable oil butter,bright, vitamin rich vegetables, and protein and fiber packed quinoa pasta, a perfect, delicious dinner, a classic comfort food, really is within your gluten-free reach.
(Note: this recipe uses a tablespoon of Gluten-Free Pantry's Quick Mix, an all purpose blend of flours that contains xanthum gum, 4 types of GF flours, and is considerably thicker than regular GF flour. If you really want a great mac & cheese but don't have GF Pantry's Quick Mix, or don't want to fuss with the flour, you might want to check out my (Secret!) Mac and Cheese ... I told you, I love baked pastas. I might even have a problem. Think there's a twelve step program?)
Light, Bright, Mac & Cheese Primavera
based in part on Alton Brown's baked mac & cheese recipe
1 box Quinoa Pasta (I like Ancient Grains)
3/4 cup sliced White Mushrooms
1 cup Frozen Peas (microwaved for 2 minutes, so they are pert but still cold)
1 cup Baby Spinach
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance
1 Tablespoon Gluten-Free Pantries' Quick Mix
1 3/4 cups Skim Milk
1 1/2 - 2 cups Shredded Cheese (I used Kraft Natural's Colby and Monetary Jack Blend as well as a little Cheddar)
1 generous squirt of Mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
Black Pepper to taste
Cook the pasta for about 7 minutes, drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small sauce pan, whisk together flour and butter over medium high heat. Stir in milk and nutmeg and let simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spray GF cooking spray over a medium sized pan and saute mushrooms and for 5-6 minutes over medium heat. Set the mostly cooked vegetables aside and toss the spinach into pan, turning heat to low, and stirring occasionally, making sure the spinach wilts, but doesn't burn. Temper an egg into the sauce mixture (for directions on tempering, click here, don't worry, I had to look it up, too) and then stir in the cheeses, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Gently fold the cheese mixture into the pasta. Once the pasta is thoroughly covered in ooey-gooey cheese (truly, this is an intoxicating smell), fold in the vegetables. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish and bake for 30 -35 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving with a dash of nutmeg sprinkled over the top.
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!