Sunday, August 30, 2009

Vanilla Yogurt Pancakes

It's been pretty quite around these parts, I know. It's not that I haven't eaten well. It's not that I haven't cooked a up a few good things. It's well.

I moved.

I know. I know! I moved and I was too afraid to tell you. Too scared you'd be sad, or hurt, or maybe you wouldn't even care at all. That would be kinda bad too. So, like a little sulking kid, I gave my 'ol blog the silent treatment.

But moving out and moving on is a good thing for me, I swear. So let me tell you again, not just "I moved", but I moved!

It was a sudden and quick turn around. An "okay we're offering you this job and you've got 12 days to move here" kinda quick. The kind of move that makes your head spin, the kind of move that makes you pack only your essentials and makes you hound UPS for the arrival of the rest of your stuff, and the kind of move that doesn't involve bringing measuring spoons, or muffin tins, or even mixing bowls. Seriously.

But I've been here nearly a month now, and this morning, I woke up with a serious craving. So despite not having legit measuring equipment, despite my teeny-tiny kitchen (I prefer to think of it as "darling"), and despite not having milk, I was bound and determined to make pancakes.

And pancakes I shall have.

With my last remaining baby cup of Trade Joe's vanilla and cream yogurt, I made the most curious, gummy, spongy pancakes. I love 'em. I don't know if I can go back to regular pancakes again...even if I have milk.

(PS: Get out your datebooks, blackberries, and open those gmail calendars, next meeting of the Greater Cleveland Celiac Society will be in Solon, Sunday September 13)

Vanilla Yogurt Pancakes
as inspired by those POM Wonderful pancakes, which were inspired by Joy the Baker

1 cup all purpose GF flour w/ xanthum gum mix (as measured by a ziplock storage container)
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt (or like 8 grinds from the salt grinder, for those who have no table salt or teaspoons)

2 Tablespoons earth balance butter, melted and cooled.
1/2 cup cold brewed orange spice tea (water would work okay, too)
1 egg
4 oz (1 container) Trader Joe's Vanilla & Cream Yogurt

Additional cooking spray or butter for frying
If you have berries, cinnamon, vanilla, almond extract, chocolate chips, nutmeg, etc,
by all means, add some or all in. This kitchen has ziplock containers; I'm lucky I had the tea.

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar) in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the egg into the cooled butter (or temper, slowly, if the butter is still warm), followed by the yogurt and the tea. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet, in three parts, letting all of the flour get incorporated into the batter.

This batter will be thick. I mean thick. If you need to, pour in additional tea until the batter becomes workable again. Remember though, this is yogurt based, yogurt is thick, these pancakes are thick.

Let the batter rest as you heat up your pan and grease it with your desired spray, butter, or butter substitute. Make sure not to pour out too much batter into each pancake (remember that whole thick thing?) and cook about 3 minutes before flipping (check for bubbles, you know the drill pancake people).

Makes about 12 small, chewy, delicious, filling, can't believe I never made 'em this way before pancakes. Cover with jam, fruit, or syrup and devour.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eastside Mexican Food Just Got Easier: Don Tequila

I've lived around the corner from Don Tequila for about a near now, and still hadn't eaten there. Sure I like Mexican food, but being a vegetarian celiac in the land of cheese, rice, tortillas, and well, more cheese is not only calorie crazy version of dinner but decidedly heart unhealthy one. Plus, like so many of you, I have a fragile tummy and there's only so much sour cream or guacamole I can eat before I can eat no more (it's about five bites, if you're keeping count).

Sure, authentic Mexican is great, veggie laden, full of protein rich beans, but authentic Mexican food is harder to find than it's Americanized, cheese covered cousin. But this isn't about bad Mexican food, it's about good Mexican food, it's about Don Tequila on Green Road in University Heights.

Taking over Jack's Deli's old space, this unassuming Mexican restaurant has thrived where once a Jewish deli reigned supreme. Their menu is extensive and options plentiful (so you can your dinner, and smoother it in cheese too, should you wish). Best of all, though there is certainly a language barrier, they very clearly understood me when I said "I have a serious allergy to flour. Corn is okay but no flour. Can I eat this?"

Sometimes, when I get the head nod or when waiter assures me something "will be fine", I just don't feel so secure. You've had similar experiences, no? You want to believe them that those corn chips really are just corn, but your gluten-free paranoia takes over and suddenly your sipping water and pushing food around your plate to make it look like you've eaten something. We've all been there. Sure, I was worried, too, but when I ordered spinach enchiladas (actually filled with spinach, not gobs of cheese with a bit of spinach mixed in), I double checked to make sure the sauce didn't have flour in it, too.

"Oh. Yeah, enchilada sauce is made with flour," the waiter with a sudden wash of understanding of just how pervasive the whole wheat allergy thing is. I bit my lip trying to figure out how to navigate the menu, not being sure what was safe."Don't worry. We'll just put another sauce on it. One with no flour." With that, he took my menu. Problem solved!

When my food arrived - smothered in a delicious green sauce - it was not only gluten-free goodness, but one great meal. Actually two great meals, considering I took my leftovers home and had 'em for lunch! Not bad a bad deal for $6.75, not a bad deal at all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Date with Date-Nut Bread

A little more new business: I got a few emails this week from confused readers who weren't sure why the "Essential Gluten Free In Cleveland" links (the ones I talked about last week that organized information on gluten-free restaurants in Cleveland by Eastside & Westside and highlighting grocery stores and bakeries on a right hand side bar) weren't showing up in the emails they received on last week's post.

Thing is, those super cool emails you get are just the post itself email to your inbox. However, to access the links - as well as see lists of my favorite gluten-free websites, cleveland websites, and see all past posts and recipes - you'll need to visit the actual site. Sorry for the confusion and I hope this clears it up!

And now, back to the food...Sometimes, my best ideas come to me right before I go to sleep. Laying in bed, my head resting on the cool pillow, my limbs tangled up in blankets that will surely be kicked to the floor by the time the night is through, I have often wished the notepad I keep on my night stand was just a little bit closer so I could just write that last thought down before...I...fall....asleep....zzzzz.

Sigh. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't. Somedays I spend all morning trying to remember that character arc or snappy joke, and somedays I hardly remember my 3am moments of genius happened at all. Sure if it's for my actual work, the idea has a 50/50 chance of being gone forever, but if I fall asleep recipe planning? Oh you'd better believe my brain sticky noted that craving to the forefront of my memory, demanding attention the very moment I wake up.

My meaning? Some people fall asleep counting sheep, I fall asleep counting cups of sugar... and this morning, I woke up wanting to add that sugar to the same recipe I dreamed up last night: date-nut bread.

Date-nut bread is perfect brunch fare. Shmeered with cream cheese and served up with a nice fruit salad, there is maybe no better accompaniment to your Sunday morning news programs, your magazines, or your trashy VH1 shows. And yet, since my gluten-free diagnosis, I haven't had a single slice of date-nut goodness. What's up with that?

Things gotta change. For you and me. Date-nut bread style.

Date-Nut Bread
changed ever so slightly from Allrecipes

1 packed cup chopped and pitted dates
2 - 3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Butter (or regular butter), softened
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water

2/3rd cup sugar
1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose GF flour
3/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 8x4 inch loaf pan.

Combine baking soda, dates, and butter in a medium sized bowl and cover with boiling water. Stir and let sit for fifteen minutes.

Mix sugar, walnuts, and eggs into the bowl, followed by the flour, baking powder, xanthum gum, and salt. Pour the mixture into your pre-greased and floured loaf pan and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes. (I give you a huge time gap here because I let mine cook 42 minutes and it burnt!! It was nearly done at 30 minutes - the toothpick came out clean everywhere but directly in the center - and I foolishly trusted myself to remember to pull it out of the oven 5 minutes later, without adjusting the time. The smell of just-starting-to-burn date bread reminded me it was time to it to pull it out!!)

Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing it from the loaf pan. Now I know the temptation to have a piece of fresh from the oven bread is quite overwhelming (I succumb too, I admit it!), and sure it is good then, but wrapping it up in cling wrap, letting it sit overnight, makes it great. Besides, cutting into this moist, just sweet enough, nutty loaf is a perfect way to begin any morning.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Roasted Vegetable & Chickpea Salad

A little new business. You might've noticed this site has been through a little revamping. The layout has literally had a 180 degree swap, making it more readable and there's even a search bar to make ingredient / recipe / eatery inquires that much easier for you.

Course, that's not the exciting part. Okay, it's one of the exciting parts, but it's not the most exciting part. You see, I get lots of emails from people asking me where they can eat when they visit Cleveland. Which is very cool by me (thanks people!), and I always do my best to toss out some new ideas (or give them directions to one of those cross country, gluten-free friendly chains) in addition to sending them a direct link to the restaurant label on the this site. Admittedly, I feel a little silly doing this, but as my best source, most consolidated form of information, it's the most helpful...right? That plus the fact that sometime life intercedes and I miss responding to some of the nice people who want to know where to get a bite to eat made me realize this site was in need of a bit of an overhaul to be even more of a user friendly resource.

Ta da! The "Essential Gluten Free In Cleveland" was born (ie, that nifty list of links on your left). Hope this helps streamline things, folks, though don't think this is closing the door on emails, I'm still just a mouse click away.

Anyway, back to the food....

I know there's been a lot of talk of baking 'round here, but I eat actual food, really I do. Vegetable filled, good for you, savory dishes. In fact, in some circles, I'm known for 'em. ....And by circles, I mean anyone whose showed up to the same holiday pot luck I have, wrinkled their nose at my surprisingly unattractive dish, only to ask for the recipe by the time I catch them scraping the remnants from the emptied bowl.

With the perfect blend of lemony acidic tang, sharp garlic, and smooth olive oil complementing beautiful summer veggies, this roasted vegetable and chickpea salad is a crowd pleaser - even if those crowds include people who don't particularly love vegetables or chickpeas.

I came across it two Christmases ago - apparently trying to make the most Sephardic Jewish dish I could possibly bring to a decidedly non-Jewish occasion - while flipping through my favorite cookbook, the now out of print Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook. While, sadly, this book evaporated somewhere between post college pack up and moving back to Cleveland, this recipe, at least survived the move. Good thing, too, because from Christmases, Passovers, and Fourth of July barbecues, this recipe has served me in serving up a yummy dish. (There are used version of the book available on Amazon, and buying one is always on the bottom on my to do list. ...Though I suppose singing the virtues of this book and directing you all where to get it ought to inspire me to get my copy while I can....)

Because it yields so very much food, it really is a perfect bring-it-to-a-party dish. This salad is so good, you certainly don't need a special occasion to make it. Plus, it keeps in the fridge for a good three days. Besides, with it finally just now getting warm this summer, who couldn't use another amazing summer salad in their repertoire?

Roasted Vegetable & Chickpea Salad
From The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook

1 lb butternut squash cubed
2 red pepper, halved
4 slender eggplant cut in half, lengthwise
4 zucchini cut in half, lengthwise
4 onions, quartered
1 Tablespoon olive oil (for brushing)

2 10 oz cans of chickpeas
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley, divided
1/3rd cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice, more or less as desired
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 425. Spray a baking tray with baking spray and arrange the vegetables evenly over the surface. Brush evenly with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes or until they are tender.
Brush baking tray w/ oil and arrange vegetables brushed with oil evenly. Bake 40min or until Remove from the oven and let them cool until you can handle them.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/3rd cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, and half of the parsley. Set dressing aside.

Remove the skin of the peppers and chop; chop remaining vegetables into bite-sized chunks. Mix into the chickpeas, toss with dressing, and let sit for 30 minutes. (This is actually super important, do not skimp on the time!) If bland, season to taste with an additional tablespoon of lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper; the acidic zing will quickly spark your salad, honest. Sprinkle remaining parsley over the top before serving.

Eat as is, or enjoy over toast. (I prefer Whole Foods Gluten Free Bake House's Prairie Bread, how 'bout you?)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bad Girl Blueberry Muffins

About a week after my biopsy confirmed my neurologist's suspicion that I needed to be on a gluten-free diet, I remember stopping into my gastroenterologist's office for a quick check up. I was still having stomach pains, and was frustrated that going gluten-free hadn't magically evaporated all my problems. (Of course, the stomach takes a little time to heal, but I'm a bit off an impatient girl.) Worse still, I worried that giving up gluten was going to snowball until all the foods I loved were thoroughly off limits.

"I don't know if this celiac thing is the only thing going on," I sighed, sitting woefully on the exam table, "I mean my stomach still hurts a lot. Do you think I'll have to give up coffee, soon, too?"

He smiled and shook his head, "Dana. You don't drink alcohol. You don't do drugs. You're a vegetarian. You don't eat wheat. You're allowed to have one vice."

Hear that tummy? Starbucks, ho!

I'll admit it, I follow the straight and narrow like it's my job. Everyone laughs when I tell that story, Your one vice would be coffee. In my defense though, my supreme weakness, pumpkin spice lattes, are pretty gosh darn, dog-gone sinful.

So if coffee is the one and only way I pollute my system, it would go to follow that I handle stress in a similarly compulsive yet decidedly nondestructive way: baking. Ever see that Boy Meets World episode where Cory's crazy grandmother (as played by Rue McClanahan) drives her winnebago into town, promises to take Cory to get a baseball card signed, and then fails to show up because she goes to a poker tournament? Instead of telling him Grandma isn't coming, Cory's mom spends the whole day baking with him and, sure, Cory isn't fooled by the time they pulled the 8,000th muffin tray from the oven, but it did pass some of that stress time, right? (Plus Cory and his dad share a bonding moment over crazy Grandma's flaky yet virtuous heart. Then Rue shows up and apologizes and Cory learns to accept his grandma for who she is. And they have 8,000 muffins. Win, win, win.)

Anyway, Saturday night I was decidedly stressed out. I was pacing around the house trying to out run my stress, stressed. I was rearranging my room to take my mind off my stress, stressed. I was I need to bake but I have no eggs so I guess I'm going to the 24 hour Giant Eagle to buy ingredients at 11pm, stressed.

But you know what, when I stress bake everyone wins: recipe for you, muffins for me.

Coffee and muffins, man I'm trouble. Mother's of the world, lock up your sons!

Bad Girl Blueberry Muffins

6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) Earth Balance Spread (or butter), melted and cooled
2/3rd cup skim milk
1 egg
1 cup of sugar

1 1/2 cups GF flour mix
3/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon Expandex (fully optionally)
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, divided
1 - 1 1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (more or less as desired)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners.

Whisk together melted (cooled) butter), milk, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour, xanthum gum, baking soda, baking powder, salt, Expandex, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon until well combined. Add the dry mixture into the wet, about a third at a time, stirring in between each addition. When mixed, stir in most of the walnuts (reserving a Tablespoon or two) and gently fold in blueberries. Swirl in extra 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon if you're so inclined (I was!).

Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups and stud those bad girl muffins with the remaining chopped walnuts. (Don't they look totally hardcore?)

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
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