Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Pal, Joey's

Okay, for starters. I eat more than pasta, really I do. 

A firm gluten-free veggie burger, a fluffy quiche, a crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a baked potato loaded with veggies, the perfect poached egg, or even simple oatmeal. These are great meals that I love and eat often, Scout's honor. Yet, of the last 8 posts, a full forth have been on pasta. 

But be honest, you love pasta, too. 

There are times though, times you don't feel like standing over a stove, times you loathe watching your pot with hawk-like attention, burning your tongue and your finger tips as you hastily test those blasted rice noodles that so easily over cook. On those day, your not pasta's biggest fan. But what's a celiac to do? If your craving pasta (and you've gone to Maggiano's so many times the wait staff notices when you get a new haircut), you've got not choice but to make it yourself. 

That is, unless you've forgotten about Joey's

Nestled away in quaint Chagrin Falls, Joey's doesn't look like the sort of place that would accommodate to your gluten-free needs, much less, know what gluten is. The place is small, made smaller by it's perennially darkened interior. In the summer, the outdoor tables that line the sidewalk in front of Joey's seem more like the little restaurant has spilt out onto Main Street, rather than purposefully set out for al fresco dining. If that sounds chaotic, then I've described it right. Reminiscent of tiny places with an occupancy max of 100, yet favorited by some 20,000 New Yorkers, so too is Joey's a Chagrin Falls eating icon. 

Of course, if they give you that dreaded hour wait, it's not like you'll be bored. You're in beautiful Chagrin Falls after all, and if staring at the majesty of Northeastern Ohio's best known waterfall doesn't do it for you, you'll absolutely want to browse someone the shops that sell everything from absurd old clocks to gorgeous vintage furniture.  There the kind of shops I for one want to live in and absolutely can't step into without my wallet held by someone else.

When you do get your table at Joey's, the menu itself can be deceiving, as it doesn't advertise it's ability to suit your gluten-free needs. The fact is, they don't have gluten-free pasta every night. It is (as it always is!) best to call ahead, to alert them that your coming, to ask for them to set a serving of GF pasta aside for you.  (I, myself, ended up with the last serving of the night. Getting gluten-free pasta is serious business and I don't mess round. ) Of course, if your a meat eater, then eating at Joey's will be all the more easier for you - your waitress can get great information from the kitchen on which sauces are safe and which had trace amounts of gluten - but for the vegetarians among you, well, you're going to want that pasta. 

I enjoyed a dish of pasta Aglio e Olio (kinda funny, since I'd just made some myself) and asked for mushrooms to be added. It was really very good, very garlicky, not too oily, and beautiful, as fresh parsley clung brightly to nearly every noodle. Accompanied by as salad, it was the kind of meal you'd never know was gluten-free. And that's what it's all about, isn't it? Absolutely delicious, completely normal dining?

While your not charged more for your gluten-free pasta (always another nice way to feel normal eating out) the plate was somewhat smaller than the monster-sized bowls of pasta set in front of gluten-eating patrons. Trust me though, what you get is enough, more than enough, and well worth your money.  And the next time you feel like treating yourself with a night out, a great meal is waiting for you at Joey's. 

Joey's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gluten Free PSA #11: June Celiac Events

Summer is meant for fun. 

Cookouts. Festivals. Picnics. Artwalks. Sports games. Parades. Crafts' Fairs. Concerts. 

Memorial day may signal the beginning of the carefree summer season, but I knew summer had arrived the moment the muzak tone of Yankee Doodle rose above the near constant din of landscapers' lawnmowers as the neighborhood ice cream truck rounded the corner and inched it's way down my street. (Suddenly, I find myself living in a neighborhood with an ice cream truck, how adorable is that?) 

But for official purposes, I ushered in summer by making my way out to Chagrin Falls for their Blossom Summer Festival that includes three days of hot air balloon launches. If there's one thing I love, it's people who are overly enthusiastic about their craft. And there's nothing more endearing that hear a really enthusiastic lifelong balloonist talk for forty minutes about the past 500 year history of hot air balloons to a crowd of people only half listening, his words merely background noise for their kettle corn munching or Frisbee throwing. I mean, that's full on dedication, no, love, for ballooning. How many people do you know who are that passionate about anything, much less something that requires sailing up into the sky in a gigantic balloon you painstakingly sewed yourself?

Sorry you missed out on ballooning? Worry not, there's another balloon festival in August. Not so interested in ballooning? Be sure to check out this list of Ohio Festivals to find something more suited to your interests.  

And speaking of your interests, time to get those datebooks out and flip ahead to June....

June 13th  - The Raisin Rack is having an huuuuge vendor's fair. Don't be worried about being stuck inside on a warm, sunny Saturday, this yummy event will be held outdoors (under a tent, in their parking lot) and will feature products from Celiac Specialties and Mr. Ritt's Bakery. As Denise wrote to me in her email, "Celiac Specialties is of course famous for their donut holes and Mr. Ritt's for their flour mix, Angel Food cakes, Bavarian butter cream cake...need I say more??" 

June 14th - All that gluten-free goodness got you wishing you could meet people with celiac disease and get advice on how to use all the cool gluten-free products you just picked up? Has actually shopping with other celiacs made you long for a sense of gluten-free community outside of cyberspace? Well then, you'll want to check out the Greater Cleveland Celiac Association's June meeting, held this month at the Parma Community Hospital. 

June 28th - Grab your mitts and your appetite because it's Gluten-Free Night at the Akron Aeros! Enjoy a gluten-free hot dog and a gluten-free hot dog bun and root for the home team! Please click here for more information on how to register. 

Happy June!! 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio with Broccoli

Do you want to know a secret? Doo-waaa-doo Let me whisper in you ear. Doo - waaa - dooo Oh, Oh Closer. Doo-waa-doo. Do you promise not to tell?

I have a secret. A fully awesome secret. I found the greatest gluten-free pasta in Cleveland, Ohio. And I found in the most unlikely, yet most likely of all places. An Italian grocery store. You know, the kind of place you wouldn't even think of going into because wall to wall pasta and cannolis are more than you can take. Yeah, that kind. 

Like most things in life, the simplest answer, the easiest solution to your problem is always right under your nose. Italians have the highest rate of celiac disease of any ethnic population. Italy is the home of great pasta. Ergo, Italians know how to make great gluten free pasta. Wonderful if your a celiac in Italy, lousy if your one in Ohio. it? 

Friends, I'm planning a full on reconnaissance mission to said grocery store tomorrow (as when I bought the pasta, I shrugged and said, eh, we'll see how this goes and neglected to talk to anyone or take pictures, foolish, foolish), so I don't want to spill the details yet. But I will leave you with the fruits of my perfect pasta labor, the best plate o'spaghetti I've had in a long, long time. 

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio with Broccoli 

1/4 cup of starchy cooking water (from cooking above spaghetti)
1/2 cup good olive oil (I had Greek on hand)
3-5 cloves of minced garlic (depending on your garlic taste)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (plus salt to salt the pasta water)
a dash of pepper
at least 2 Tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley 
zest of 1/2 a lemon
grated Parmesan cheese (optional, I mean, kinda optional, but when is cheese ever optional really? Unless you have a food allergy. Then it's forbidden.)
2 heads of broccoli

Bring a pot of well salted water to boil. Cook Scotti spaghetti (or other, lesser pasta) for amount of time directed to ensure al dente pasta, drain and reserve 1/4 starchy cooking liquid, setting it aside. Put another medium sized pot on a burner, bringing the water to a boil. 

Meanwhile, in a medium pan, heat the oil, garlic, and salt over a low / medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns and softens. 

As the water in your second pot boils, plunge a head of broccoli into the water, holding it there for 60 or so seconds (that is to say, blanch your broccoli). You will notice how the stalk and buds turn a lovely vibrant green and become considerably softer. After approximately 60 seconds, remove the broccoli, set it aside, and repeat with the other head. Pull apart (or chop if your not into using your fingers as kitchen tools) the heads into bite sized pieces. 

Mix the oil and garlic into the pasta, adding in the cooking liquid, and zest the lemon over top. Throw in broccoli pieces, parsley, dash of pepper, and salt to taste. Add cheese as desired. Enjoy your simple and simply delicious meal. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tales of Gluten Free In Cleveland Greatness, # 1

If you haven't heard - and hey, maybe you haven't because you're living under a rock or are a gluten-free blog lovin' shut in who wears giant soundproof headphones 24/7,  after all, readers get the benefit of the doubt around here - Cleveland is 2 games away from being thrust on the national stage. That is if our winning streak, MVP, and one man basketball magician hasn't already helped us sail through the air landing safely there, already. 

While Cleveland hasn't had any kind of national sports championship since 1964 (The Browns, and before that the only other one was The Indians in 1948), anyone who's come within 30 miles of the greater Cleveland area on game day (any sport, any game, even T-ball) knows that Cleveland sports fans are such rabid fans of their teams, and so very ravenous for a win ....and yet so very complacent with their losses.  We shrug, we get drunk  anyway, we go to work grumbling about Chicago, New York, Dallas, and how nice it would be to live in a city with a valid sports team (but backing up our statements with a host of reasons why we would never, could never, don't want to move there). The whole love / apathy involving sports around here is so curious it even sparked a 1994 movie, Major League, with Charlie Sheen.  But you already knew that, didn't you sports fan?

And yet, with Lebron bringing his city center stage, I think we'd all agree it's better to step up and meet the national spotlight, lest it shine on things we'd rather hide (the fact that we're actually moving the Inner Belt bridge 4 to 5 inches, anyone?), and with that in mind, let's use this opportunity to highlight some of the great gluten-free goings on right here in Cleveland, Ohio. 

A few months ago, a nice bride-to-be, Tonia, emailed me in hopes that I'd know someone who could make her a gluten-free wedding cake. More than ready to go the nontraditional route, Tonia had already decided to hedge her bets and go for a GF wedding cheesecake, figuring a suitable crust would be easier to prepare, rather than altering a whole towering cake. She signed on with a baker, went about attending to other pre-wedding details, and was utterly dismayed when her baker pulled out just a little over 3 months before the weddings, saying she just wasn't comfortable assuming the risk. 

Tonia and I brainstormed - tossing out ideas like contacting Kathy of Kathy's Creations for a small bride & groom's cake, perhaps trying an online bakery one, like A Bountiful Harvest, or working with her bridal party to create a GF cupcake tower instead of one massive cake - but in the end, I think the girl had her heart set on cheesecake. And who wouldn't? Though it maybe nontraditional, it's creamy, dreamy texture, luxurious flavor, and beautiful off white hue certainly says elegant wedding to me.  Lucky for her, a great cake was in reach, thanks to Lydia of Celene's Cuisine, to make the cake of her dreams a reality. Tonia says: 

"Lydia blew me away when she told me she bought new baking pans, utensils, a new mixer, and she is even planning to have her stove professionally cleaned, all to make sure there is no chance of cross-contamination. She's new to the GF world of baking, but her aunt has many food allergies so she's aware of how difficult it can be. The sample cheesecake she created for me was amazing! It is everything I told her I wanted - down to the hint of lemon and the almond crust!" 

So congratulations to you Tonia, on your wedding, on your great GF find, and on your determination to make sure celiac disease doesn't stand in your way, not now, not ever! Lydia bakes out of her home, conveniently centrally located for Eastsiders and Westsiders alike in Cleveland, by CSU.  You can contact Lydia, and drool over her beautiful cakes, through her lovely Celene's Cuisine website. 

Though some erroneous information led me to report this same news in October (oops!), May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. While it's nice to be recognized, let's not forget that for those of us who live the gluten-free life day in and day out, every day is a chance to spread some awareness and some gluten-free goodness. As Tonia's story proves, a little GF persistence pays off, and even more importantly, there are members of the gluten-eating population perfectly ready, willing and able to help us out - we just have to find them (or help them find themselves). 

If you've made it this far and a bit miffed to discover this post is recipe-less, worry not! Just in time for Celiac Awareness Month, an article I wrote on Celiac Disease was featured on the cover of the Cleveland Jewish News' health section in early May. (Page 2 here.) Along with general facts and figures, the article also features a recipe for gluten-free mandelbrot adapted from one of my favorite Jewish cookbooks. Mandel bread, Jewish biscotti like cookies, are a perfect not too heavy, not too sweet, crunchy summertime treat. Grad a glass of milk (or Manishevitz if that's more your speed) and check 'em out.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake, Made Fluffier with Expandex

I miss baking. 

I the very first book on the kitchen arts I owned - which was actually called "My First Baking Book" - and it overflowed with the magical secrets of sugary sweets, ones that didn't just spell out how half a teaspoon of this a a cup of that could so easily be transformed into crunchy cookies and moist cupcakes, but outlined how thoughtful decorating could turn already tempting treats into even more enticing cupcakes-shaped-like-kittens. (Or dragons.)

Like kids need any help wanting to devour baked goods. 

Now sure, over the past say fifteen years, I've gone hot and cold on my cooking and baking hobby, but it's always been on my terms. Like so many of you, I even relearned baking basics after getting the celiac diagnosis handed down to me, just to prove that a lack of gluten wasn't going to get me down. 

But for the past few months - as seen by a lack of updating 'round here - I haven't been able to cook, bake, broil, or saute much of anything. And it hasn't been my choice; in February, I developed cataracts. Given the kitchen accidents that could've befallen me do to limited vision range  - from the severe (cuts and burnings) to the comical (swapping in sugar for salt) - I found it best to hang up my apron, close my cookbooks, and get used to eating food from the freezer.  

All that is about to change, though. Tomorrow is my first surgery. By the first week in June, I should have normal vision in both eyes. It's a pretty exciting possibility for both my retinas and my tummy. A girl can't live on Amy's rice crust pizza, alone. 

Yet, I love cooking, and I miss it. And - call me Emily Post, or Bree Van De Kamp - but I can't stand the idea of attending a meeting without bringing along a freshly made dessert, cataracts or no. So not feeling comfortable enough to experiment with flavors and flours I can only somewhat see, I whipped up a variation of my favorite pound cake for a few ladies who worked so very hard planning and executing a fundraising benefit on behalf of Northeastern Ohio's Homeless

While I swapped out the orange zest and almond meal from the pound cake in favor of a lemon poppy seed (nut allergy friendly) version, the true exciting experimentation was the use of brand new gluten-free product Expandex - a modified tapioca starch that puffs up gluten free baked goods and imitates that gluteny texture you all know, love, and woefully miss. Currently, Expandex's only retail vendor in Ohio is the Raisin Rack, but do check their website for more information.  

My pound cake with Expandex didn't just have the light, airy taste a pound cake should, it actually looked more appetizing - more springy and bouncy - and that was only using half of the recommended amount! I'm honestly embarrassed to say that I had a dream about using it to make french bread last night, yet in the face of gluten-free honesty, who among us hasn't had a dream about bread? I thought so. 

Perfect Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake 
adapted from Ina Garten's Orange Pound Cake 

8 Tablespoons of Earth Balance Butter (or regular butter)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
the zest of 2 -3 large lemons
1 and 1/2 cup of GF flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 tablespoon Expandex (optional, if you can't find it)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 cup buttermilk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
scant 1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Juice of 1/4 of a lemon
3 tablespoons of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a loaf pan. 

Combine buttermilk, orange juice and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, xanthum gum, baking powder, baking soda, and Expandex. 

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter (beat with electric mixer about 3 minutes, until fluffy). Beat in eggs - one at a time - and chase it with the lemon zest and then the poppy seeds. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredient mixtures to the batter, starting and ending with the flour. 

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. 

Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes, then turn the pan upside down (over a plate!!) and tap on the bottom until the cake slides out. Continue to let another 5 minutes. 

When you're ready to serve, combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar, stirring it into a glaze, and top the cake as desired. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gluten Free in Quicheland

After you're first diagnosed, in that moment you realize things are about to change in a very real way, the whole of your dietary life flashes before your eyes. 

All those morning of pancake breakfasts, of Norman Rockwellesque lunches of grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's tomato soups, of fried chicken (if you ate that sort of thing...I guess it was tofu, for me) appear to you all at once, clouding your vision in a sea of surprisingly hungry despair. 

And when you try to think of what doesn't have gluten in it, some how all your mind can conjure up is a head of lettuce or some shriveled up, forgotten carrot in the back of the fridge. Prisoners get bread and water. But us celiacs? We only get the water. 

I find it truly amazing how deeply our minds choose to deceive us at that moment. It's as if celiac disease itself takes hold of our sense memory, purposefully blotting out images of wonderful, naturally gluten free foods we've enjoyed for years, as it desperately tries to keep it's cannibalistic stranglehold of our GI tracts. 

Admit it it. Among the joy of summer's first sweet, juicy peach, the refreshing power of a cold glass of milk, and the crunch of a good ear of Ohio corn, you've enjoyed some truly great, naturally gluten-free meals in your day. And haven't you always felt the better for it? Fresh whole foods, rich in vitamins and minerals (the kind you actually get to absorb into your body now that's your system's filled with gluten-free goodness), yes, with a meal like that, you hardly miss the gluten at all. 

After my diagnosis depression - you know, those first six months when I whined a lot and nothing but rice and fruit - I started to think about meals I ate as a kid and how I could adapt them. When I remembered how often we'd made a naturally gluten-free, crustless quiche, booked it to the grocery store, rolling my eyes all the while for how long wallowing in celiac self pity had kept me from eating delicious meals like this. While the traditional version involves heavy cream, cups and cups of cheese, and a buttery, flaky crust, with me and my tender tummy in the house, we always made a significantly pared down version of this rich dish. Who knew that with weekly dinners of crustless quiche and salad, I'd been eating gluten-free for years? And why my memory chose not to offer me up a slice of THIS on diagnosis day, I'll never understand. 

For those of you who hem and haw that a quiche just isn't a quiche without a crust, worry not, Gluten-Free Pantry has you covered. Armed with perhaps my favorite of gluten-free mixes - GF Pantry's Quick Mix - and easy quiche with spongy - but not heavy - crust is just minutes away. Paired with oven roasted red potatoes, you've got a meal to chase away even the most persistent of gluten-filled memories. 

(Note: While there's been a recent slump in Gluten-Free In Cleveland activity, rest assured this site is gearing up for a full throttle comeback. In addition to misplacing my digital camera's charger, I've been suddenly afflicted with a substantial lack of appetite. So much so that eating anything, much less writing about food, has been a sincere struggle. Poor kitchen's been abandoned for weeks now, and I hardly think my muffin tins know what to do with themselves.

Thankfully, I've recently received some great tips about GF friendly people and places in Cleveland from wonderful readers and, while I'm on the road of reminding my body that food is good and dehydration is bad, I am really excited to share this information with you. As such, I want to extend a friendly invite any and all readers who think their favorite gluten-free spot, store, or recipe has been over looked to shoot me an email and be included in some pretty exciting upcoming posts!) 
Spinach-Broccoli Quiche
3 eggs
3 -4 Tablespoons of egg whites (or a 4th egg)
1 and 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (Cheddar, Monetary & Colby blend, etc.  Use 2% 
milkfat cheese if you like) 
1 cup skim milk
1 cup baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1 teapsoon sea salt
1/2 scant teaspoon nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup and 1 Tablespoon GF Pantry Quick Mix, divided (optional, leave out for crustless quiches) 
GF cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Spray a quiche pan or small / medium casserole dish with GF cooking spray. (If making crust variation, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of Quick Mix as evenly as possible over the bottom of the pan.) 

In a small bowl, mix together spinach, broccoli and, and cheeses and spread out over the bottom of the pan. In another bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, egg whites, spices (and quick mix) until well combined. Gently pour the liquids over the cheese and vegetables. You may want to sprinkle the top with an additional shake of nutmeg. 

Carefully place pan in oven and bake for 40 - 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean (though, careful not to let the top become too browned).  LET SIT for at least 10 minutes. I know it's beautiful, I know it's tempting, but it's so much better having had a chance to rest, trust me on this. (During this time, the neurotic quiche bakers among you will notice the quiche's puff with fall ever so slightly. Don't fret, it's fine).  

Serve with salad, fruit, or roasted red potatoes and enjoy naturally gluten-free greatness. 
Oven Roasted Red Potatoes
10- 12 small red potatoes, well washed
2 Tablespoons of olive oil 
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
2 Tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese
freshly diced scallions 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, placing a small casserole dish on the top rack. 

Boil the potatoes for roughly 15-20 minutes, or until they're tender. Carefully! remove hot dish from the oven and transfer potatoes into it. Gently twist a fork into the flesh of each of the potatoes - letting it open up hopefully without breaking it in half, though, if you do, that's okay, too. Drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle spices and top with cheese. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes and serve with sliced scallions. 
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