Pasta Salad GF style

I’m a lazy blogger..I think of posts in my head all the time and then when it gets right down to executing my thoughts I would rather goof off on Facebook.  Summer is coming to an end and it is back to planning of lunches and figuring out what to feed the world’s fussiest child who happens to have celiac disease. I think I have a couple of ideas that might just pass the lunchbox test.. I do not know why I never thought to attempt to make gluten free pasta salad before, but after a trip to the local market I thought why not give it a try. The truest test if this is really good happens tomorrow when I take my creation to a family party where there are family members who are new to gluten free, but for now passing the test at my house is a good indicator one of the three recipes I created is a keeper.

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In Search of Gluten Free at the NE Food Show 2013

Thanks to good friends, today I attended the New England Food Show in Boston. Gotta love friends with connections who can get you into a great exhibition such as this one. The place was a foodie’s wet dream (sorry for being so crude) there were samples of absolutely every type of food and drink you can imagine all ready to be looked at, asked about and tasted. I think I ate my way up and down the aisles stopping for a moment or 2 to peep at some great commercial style appliances and serving options. The show is geared for those individuals who are in the restaurant business and looking to connect with vendors of all kinds but I was lucky to tag along with my friends who operate a catering business here in New England.

It is absolutely amazing to me how many big name brands are served under house labels in your favorite restaurants and delis. While my friends were seeking out ways to expand their growing business, I was a woman on a mission seeking out the best of the best in gluten free offerings. 

Finding gluten free options took a few minutes, there were pasta vendors, and a few bakers as well. One vendor had samples of gluten free lemon drop cookies available and lets just say I felt like I was tasting a piece of cardboard with lemon oil on it. All I thought was come on you think this stuff actually tastes good? There have been so many advances in making people aware of eating gluten free and like a few of these food vendors just did not get the message. The pasta vendor was excellent..in light of my recent discoveries of how to make tortillas at home I was quite excited to bend the ear of a natural tortilla maker who sold a gluten free option. The chef’s pitch was rather disheartened and his attitude was yeah we make them..but they are gluten free. Translation is they do not taste good but ours are the best available on the market that look white like your typical flour tortilla. If you ask me, being white and looking like a traditional tortilla is simply not enough. Just because individuals with celiac disease have no other choice than to eat a gluten free diet does automatically mean they have to sacrifice eating foods that are tasty and healthy as well. The secret to these particular gluten free tortillas was to hit them with steam vs dry heat to keep them pliable and not a hard brittle mess. Yeah so if steamed flour for effect and not taste is what you are going for these are the tortillas for you otherwise..there has to be another option.

Many of the chefs at the show were perfectly aware of what components of their foods did or did not contain gluten but most were not too keen on how the products taste or way too aware of cross contamination. I was surprised to see that Gillians breads are produced by a bread company that also produces many breads containing gluten. I will be interested to research to see if the gluten free breads are produced in a separate facility.

The other shocker for me was to walk up and down the aisles seeing all the very best in products available not only for lunch, dinner and breakfast but also for desert. The amount of cakes, cookies and ice creams available to supply to restaurants and catering companies is unreal. I sampled delicious lemon mousse cheese cake, chocolate cakes and frozen yogurt and then started seeing sprinkles and confections to decorate cakes with.  Once again I ran into the same issue I am finding with all of these types of confections, manufacturers are processing them on equipment that also processes nuts, gluten and any other type allergen out there. For as much awareness as there is about nut allergies and gluten intolerance why are there not more companies committed or smart enough to start processing their items like sprinkles, decorative sugars and sugar confections on dedicated machinery to prevent cross contamination? These items are fairly easy to make just incredibly time consuming. I do not know, it seems like there is a huge section of the population that they are neglecting and could be tapping for profits.

So I am hoping my friends hook me up again next year to tag along with them to the Food Show. I really enjoyed being the safety officer for Chef’s Cove for a day

Super Sunday..Just another day in our house

ImageI am going to confess that I am not a huge football fan. I like the game well enough to sit down and watch our local team play, but once we were eliminated form the playoffs, yeah I was done. I also can not stand the constant coverage on game day that talks about everything irrelevant to some interesting game day facts..play the damn game already  and stop talking about it!

Still, the boys in my house are going to watch the game and I guess I have to feed them. So I decided to have a clean out the fridge day and conjure up some gluten free meals/goodies to keep everyone satisfied and out of my hair…you know so I can go on Pinterest, get ideas from others who are far more creative than I can ever dream to be…

I started the day off and made guacamole thanks to Ina Garten, got even more ambitious and decided to skip opening up a jar of Tostitos and make my own salsa (which is incredibly easy and I have no clue why I do not do this more often ..and then it dawns on me that not only I am incredibly busy, but i am seriously lazy/unmotivated) and somehow after reading the awesome Joanne at Fifteeenspatulas.com I got the crazy notion to make copy her and make Huevos Rancheros. I am going to admit this was the first time I have ever made this recipe in any form and it was also the first time eating it..yeah I am that chicken when it comes to trying new foods/recipes. Usually things sound good when I look at them or read them but the actual trying tends to go by the wayside. Today I decided what the heck, it is time to take the plunge, and the results were pretty darn good.

Right now simmering on the stove is a pot of gluten-free broccoli cheese soup. I am hoping the darn thing comes out well. Here is the issue, usually if I make something like the filling for chicken pot pie using gluten-free flour (and I have tried every gluten-free flour I can think of) it comes out great, usually  it is a little thick and then it gets watery. I am not sure if the flour is the culprit or if I get nervous and add too much extra liquid..but so far so good with the soup.

i will post a picture of the soup soon

So Now What?

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Going home from the doctor’s appointment after my daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease I simply felt overwhelmed. All I could think was now what? On one hand I was feeling blessed that the “only” thing wrong with this little lady was celiac and it could be controlled with diet.On The other had I had no freaking clue what this all meant and I was frustrated and feeling guilty that I could do not more fast enough to make M all better.

Finding information online was a bit challenging at the time (this was 1998) and I was forced to rely upon people at the health food store and a few pamphlets from the doctor before our appointment with the nutritionist at Boston Children’s Hospital a few weeks out from that time. The doctor also informed me at the end of our appointment that my daughter would need to temporarily follow a dairy free diet to allow her gut to heal for at least 6 months. So for 6 months my 18 lb 15 month old child was gluten and dairy free and miserable that she could not have a cookie like her siblings or chicken nuggets. The other kids were frustrated because they were forced to eat their snacks or nuggets in stealth mode, and I was frustrated because this whole gluten free thing was so much harder than I imagined.

The simple question was …what do I feed this child? I tried all the baking mixes available in the store and most were terrible. The muffins tasted like sand, the bread was terribly complicated to make (I was a newbie) and my daughter did not want to eat any of it. There were some gems…Foods by George had pre made frozen pizza and brownies that tasted pretty good, Gorilla Munch cereal was a great replacement and the good news was the other children in the family were willing to eat it as well. We had a start, and then I realized that there was plenty of foods we eat that are naturally gluten free including popcorn and hence M’s love affair with popcorn began. We were starting to navigate the waters of eating GF and while it was still tough it was definitely getting easier.

Getting involved with the Celiac Support Group at Children’s Hospital in Boston definitely was a step int he right direction for us as a family. We learned about mail order specialty food companies that sold better foods than the ones available at retail and there were people who tried the products and gave advice.

Today theer are more options since gluten free eating seems to be a much more mainstream issue. The number of available foods has exploded and there is loads of information available on the internet. However nothing really replaces that moment when someone says I have been there and let me help you out.

Today I have to admit all of my hard work paid off. I have learned to adapt recipes using GF ingredients and really wish my darling daughter would be a bit more adventurous but I get it…there comes a point when you realize you are a master at reading food labels, you think constantly about how you can make that recipe gluten free. I have a great idea of foods that kids will eat and not eat, what brand of GF pretzels are the best, how to make breadcrumb toppings from potato chips, GF pretzels and stale GF bread. I can make a darn good pizza and even use those pizza crusts to make cinnamon sticks (like the ones advertised by big food chains) or garlic bread sticks…I can make crust out of crushed cookies and make a great pie.

By the way the picture at the top of the post is a box of French Macarons that we bought at Lauderee` patisserie inside Harrods in London earlier this year. It was AMAZING to be able to get a GF treat like this. M loved these so much that we went back to Harrods before we left for Heathrow and our flight to Dublin with little time to spare. I will post about our adventures in London another day…but in the meantime I am on the hunt to get a great macaron recipe so I can repeat that great experience…

Until next time…Happy eating