Family and Friends

My little man had his first fever and cold/flu this weekend and its been lurking for a while, so I’ve been busy.  I have some recipes I’m hoping to post soon, but for now I just wanted to talk a little bit about eating out.

When I first went gluten-free I didn’t eat anywhere and I didn’t eat anything.  But slowly that has evolved.  I now have certain meals that I eat at certain restaurants (including the mall food fair) that I know satisfy my hunger and cravings without wrecking havoc on my body.

I first visited Cravings when I still ate gluten and was impressed; the restaurant (which used to be a sandwich deli in another lifetime) had a great atmosphere, helpful servers and delicious food.  Nestled in among old apartment buildings it seemed a rare find.

I went back for my 27th birthday, I was now gluten-free, but noticed that their website mentioned that they were able to accomodate Celiac’s.  When I made the reservation I indicated that I would like to take advantage of their gluten-free options.  When we arrived I was a little dissapointed that no one seemed to know what I was talking about when I mentioned that I had requested gluten-free items, but the situation was quickly remedied.  A woman, I assume was a manager or owner, came to the table and walked me through the menu; she let me know which items were naturally gluten-free and which items could be made gluten-free.  I enjoyed the West Coast Bouillabaisse (“A selection of West coast seafood (salmon, sole, halibut, ma hi ma hi, prawns, shrimps, scallops, and mussel) cooked in a tomato broth flavoured with saffron”) and it was absolutely delicious.

My husband and I went back again this September for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary; our first “date night” since the arrival of our son.  This time when I arrived and asked about gluten-free menu items the server quickly rushed off and brought me back a “Celiac Menu”.  There was an entire page of options and they all sounded delicious; having a specific menu gave me some confidence that the food would not be contaminated that the chefs knew what they were doing.

This time I enjoyed the Roasted Squash Salad (“Roasted squash served warm with spinach leaves, carmalized pecans, and crumbled Feta, drizzled with honey vinaigrette and balsamic reduction”) and rice pasta pesto (rice pasta “and chicken breast strips tossed in fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan”).  The only thing that could have made it better was fresh pasta, but despite being dried pasta it still tasted WAY better than pasta I make at home.  We practically rolled out of the restaurant and into the movie theatre.

All is all, Cravings is a great gem of a restaurant that was able to provide a menu of delicious gluten-free options, a warm atmosphere and helpful service.  We went for an early dinner around 5pm, but by around 6 it was starting to get busy, so you may want to make reservations if you aren’t normally in bed by 9:30pm like I am.

I admit it – Summer is kicking my ass.  I haven’t posted in quite some time, but of course that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating.  My sister got me a great cookbook (I can’t remember the name right now) for my birthday, that had the best pancakes I have eaten since going Gluten-Free.  The icing on the cake?  They were easy to make, they didn’t require any time for the batter to settle, and since it’s summer they were absolutely delicious with blueberries in the batter!!

I’ve made Gluten-Free Egg Bread a few times, and am continually impressed by the moist tenderness of this bread.  Although it is a little dense and definitely eggie, it makes great sandwiches, not to mention fabulous French Toast.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe the last time I made it, which I think were improvements, but I’ll wait until I have adapted it exactly to my tastes and then I can share all the changes at once.

As an individual of half-Asian descent, a lack of Oyster Sauce in my diet has made a lot of my favourite dishes impossible to re-create.  Of course I have wheat-free Tamari, but there are some recipes that just require some good old fashioned oyster sauce.  In truth, I swear I have read bottle after bottle of Oyster sauce in all the stores, every time hoping that maybe I had managed to miss the one Gluten-Free bottle in the mix all the previous times.  Of course, I continued to be dissapointed, time after time…until last week.  Upon the shelves of Wal-Mart (I’ve also found it at T&T Supermarket), I discovered Choy Sun Oyster Sauce by Lee Kum Kee, a little further investigation on the Lee Kum Kee Website and I also discovered that this particular Oyster Sauce is also MSG-Free!!

Of course I had my hesitations about a gluten-free oyster sauce, but I purchased it and promptly put it to the test.  Now there are many dishes I love, that require oyster sauce such as hot pot and steamed pork, but I wanted to test this oyster sauce, so I made some Gai Lan and spread some oyster sauce on top in the traditional fashion. OMG I thought I died and went to heaven.  Oyster Sauce is back and that means, Chinese Cooking is back.  I am currently thinking about wontons (which were fully not worth contemplation without oyster sauce) I think I’ll try sheets of rice noodles, cut into squares as won-ton wrappers.

To add to my smorgasbord of deliciousness, I went to a wedding for a close friend last weekend, and though I was ecstatic to see roast beef for dinner, I was instantly saddened to see the other meat dishes were a chicken with a wild mushroom sauce and a white fish and shrimp with a light herb and garlic sauce, both of which I assumed were thickened with flour.  Imagine my excitement when one of the cooks walked by and assured me that these dishes were thickened ONLY with cornstarch.  They were delicious and I felt so incredibly spoiled!  Unfortunately, this tidbit of information may have been untrue, or perhaps there was gluten in the salad dressing, flan, mousse or something else that I ate, but I was so disappointed the next day when I realized I had certainly eaten something contaminated.  But those are the chances we take sometimes, and in truth I take such chances so rarely, that this particular time, I would almost say it was worth it.

After living in our home for over a year, we finally had a few friends over for a BBQ last night. We spent some time cleaning up, I worked in the garden, and of course I had some work to do in the kitchen.

We had BBQ Chicken Breasts (bone-in) and the BBQ rub from my last post won rave reviews. One friend even took home a copy of the recipe.

We also had homemade Maui-style ribs and although I vary the recipe a little bit each time I make it, this time was one of the best; delicious, juicy and of course Gluten-Free. Please note, I generally cook by feel (especially for marinades), so the quantites in this recipe are approximate at best, definitely take the time to adapt the recipe to your families taste buds!

The first thing to note is that I have stopped using my expensive gluten-free tamari for marinade, I am now using the super cheap, non-fermented soya sauce available at Safeway (look for the cheapest bottle at your local store, I was amazed to find that there was no wheat ingredients). I would never use it on its own as it is not all that tasty, but it works great in a marinade.

Secondly, I wanted to point out the addition of 7-up to the marinade. This is something I have long used for Chicken Wings, and although I have often thought of it, this is the first time I actually used it in a beef marinade. I am confident this really helped with keeping the meat sweet and juicy!!

Gluten-Free Maui Rib Marinade

ingredients (amounts are approximate):

  • Beef Short Ribs, thin cut (maui-style)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1.5 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Braggs GF seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Gluten-Free Soya Sauce
  • 1/4 cup 7-up

Combine all ingredients (except ribs) and mix well. Place in an airtight container with the ribs for 4 hours to a few days. Cook them on the BBQ and enjoy!!

With increased awareness of my gluten intolerance, eating out has become increasingly difficult. Eating at my friends’ and families’ homes is almost worse – I don’t want to be a pain and would rather not eat than make difficulty for those I love, but of course, they want to feed me.

I was so impressed with my Dad yesterday; he prepared a gluten-free (for me) and a nut-free (for my sister) meal that was absolutley delicious and enjoyed by everyone at the table, regardless of their eating habits, allergies or intolerances. He scoured the cupboards for a delicious tortilla soup, made with 100% corn chips, he prepared Beef Chow Fun (Rice noodles with beef) despite the fact that I forgot to bring him gluten-free soya sauce AND he made a delicious steamed halibut dish, again without the aid of soya sauce.

I have promised to get him his own bottle of Tamari (the gluten-free soya sauce – it is richer, fuller flavour and uses corn alcohol rather than wheat during fermentation) this week, and I’ve already dropped off bags of rice flour (regular and glutinous) so that he can bread meats or thicken sauces to his hearts content, when he knows I’ll be coming over.

I’m so proud of him and appreciate his efforts fully – it was definitley a challenge for him, but he persevered and I left the table well-fed and sans-stomach ache! I guess after watching me suffer through a vacation of unknown foods, he was happy to provide me with some delicious grub. THANKS DAD – your the BEST!