Tag Archives: vegetarian

Sprue Stories: The Oscars 2014 Edition (86th Academy Awards nominees gone gluten-free, with viewing party menu ideas)

Roll out the red carpet, because it’s time for a new Academy Award! The Oscars are this weekend, and I’ve been anticipating them with all the fervor you’d expect from someone who has only seen three of the nine Best Picture nominees (plus the animated shorts) and would be hard pressed to name one out of every twenty gown- or tux-clad stars walking that carpet on Sunday . . . but loves any opportunity to make a ton of themed snacks.

Oscars red carpet and stairs

Lovely, though my celiac-induced eyesight problems seem to be acting up again. (Yeah, it’s really a thing, though probably not for me.)
Photo © Rachel | Flickr

By the way, I’m a bit disappointed with the blogosphere this year. I didn’t expect much—only enough gluten-free, vegetarian, not-too-hard recipes inspired by the Oscars 2014 nominees to fill out my menu without me having to come up with anything brilliant on my own—but alas, everyone must be busy, I don’t know, watching movies. (I did find a punny list on Chowhound, and a not-very-special-diet-friendly set of menus on Epicurious.)

I don’t have a full menu plan for you either, but I do have what I’m sure you’ve been anticipating as eagerly as those incredibly overengineered and overpriced envelopes: the first annual Academy Award for Best Gluten-Free Picture.

The award, of course, recognizes the film best suited to being stuffed full of celiac in-jokes in a parody on my blog. It’s an honor few filmmakers will receive in the course of their career, primarily because I don’t watch enough movies.

The nominees, coincidentally, are identical to the Best Picture nominees. Cue the elaborate montage sequence, and let’s take a look. [Note: Light spoilers throughout.]


American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, so far as I can tell from trailers, are the exact same movie. The lead characters in each would likely find their glitzy lifestyles somewhat curtailed by a celiac diagnosis. In other news, Jennifer Lawrence—nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in American Hustle—probably doesn’t have celiac disease, because her upper-intestine endoscopy came back clear, but she does get an award for being the celebrity most forthcoming about her bowel issues (with Tyra Banks as a close runner-up).


Gravity doesn’t have much to do with food—though as much as we gluten-free people may complain about our food options, they’re surely better than what astronauts get stuck with—but if you want to escape cross-contamination for good, your options are pretty limited to outer space.


Nebraska, I have a feeling, would be much more cheery if the main character had given up alcohol (and gluten) to take care of stomach problems earlier in life. He’d be happy enough to stay in his own state with gluten-free corn aplenty, and most of the movie would probably never have happened. 

[3/1 Edit: I started watching Nebraska last night and realized my skimming of the plot summary put me off track. The father’s not from Nebraka, but rather trying to escape his wheat-growing state of Montana to find refuge in the Cornhusk State. This would make the movie a neater fit for GF Best Picture, except that I disliked it so much I didn’t watch more than twenty minutes.]


Dallas Buyers Club focuses on AIDS, and although heavy, is certainly also “darkly humorous,” which is how I’m convincing myself it’s okay to include it in my roundup. In a GF rendition, Matthew McConaughey’s character would be told he had at least 14,600 days left to live, but 0 gluten left to eat. Facing the food options available to the gluten-free community in the eighties, he just might get involved in a risky scheme to smuggle gluten-free baked goods into the country from more enlightened locales. His desperate celiac fellows would literally eat it up.


Philomena is all about Ireland, and—as I’ve previously discussed—celiac disease is often (wrongly?) associated with the Emerald Isle. AIDS makes an appearance in this movie, too, but I am not about to compare celiac disease to AIDS, even if they are both autoimmune. However, if Phil’s son had turned out to have celiac disease instead, our plucky protagonist would have had a somewhat less exciting human interest story, and the movie a much happier ending.


12 Years a Slave—I haven’t seen this, but I know it’s another sad one. In the one food scene I’ve heard about, the main character Northup eats meat, johnnycake, and blackberries—and since johnnycake is often made entirely of cornmeal, that’s a naturally gluten-free meal. (Epicurious came through with a menu inspired by this scene, though with wheat flour in the johnnycakes. Way to ruin everything.)


Captain Phillips had a pretty tough time during the 2009 hijacking of his ship by Somali pirates. That said, like most things, getting kidnapped by pirates would definitely be even worse with celiac disease. Along with being terrified, wounded, and disoriented, you’d probably have a bad stomachache from the food scraps they gave you.


Her is my favorite for the win. I’ve seen it, for one thing, and for another, it’s obvious that the real reason Theodore and Catherine divorced was food. Theo went gluten-free, Catherine didn’t, and they grew apart. Happens all. The. Time. (All those sad, lonely meals we watch him eat in his living room? My celiac heart totally went out.)

Luckily, computers don’t need to eat, so Theodore was able to skip over the Gluten Free Singles stage of his life and start dating someone who suited him immediately. Yes, yes, I know there’s a scene where Samantha—his “girlfriend”—makes him get a slice of pizza, but come on. She’s an operating system. If anyone knows where to find wheat-free pizza by the slice, it’s her.


And the Oscar goes to . . . you tell me! Which of the Best Picture nominees have you seen, and which was your favorite?

large gold Oscars/Academy Awards statue on truck

This Oscars statue is recovering from a rather bad glutening. Hope he’ll be ready for the festivities.
Photo © Rachel | Flickr

Menuwise, Sprue Jr. and I are leaning towards a black and white theme (as in tuxedos, which make an appearance in several of the nominated films, not to mention in the live audience at the ceremony).

We’ll have chocolate-drizzled popcorn, black bean dip with white chips, white bean dip with black chips, and whatever else the spirit moves us to make—including, possibly, gluten-free black and white cookies a la Lisa Horel’s Nosh on This and my mom. I also really, really want to make these “evil nun” cake pops in honor of Philomena, but sis says they’d be too hard.

Are you hosting or attending a viewing party? What are you making?

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A Recipe for a Simple Weeknight Meal (or, More Likely, Disaster)

There’s nothing like a simple weeknight meal. Now, I don’t mean peanut butter (or sunbutter) straight out of the jar with a handful of potato chips, or peanut butter spread onto gluten-free bread with potato chips on the side, or even leftovers.

tired girl on kitchen floor with coffee maker

This girl should’ve made coffee before starting on her simple meal.
Photo © Evil Erin | Flickr

I’m talking about those gorgeous complete meals that come together in such a snap you feel like you must have cheated to get there. Everyone’s happy, no one’s hungry, and you have time left in the evening to, say, write a blog post.

I’m not the only one who loves these meals. Cookbooks are devoted to them; moms and dads sing their praises; and especially after Thanksgiving, I bet many of you in the US plan to fall back on them for a while.

But, although I believe these perfect meals exist, the formula eludes me. My “quick” meal ideas usually turn into inefficient, lengthy, messy, multiple-pot culinary odysseys. They taste good, but they take forever.

Since I got positive feedback the last time I shared a recipe, I thought I’d share this one with you, too. Your suggestions and criticisms are, as always, welcome. Maybe, with your help, I’ll manage to complete a meal in 30 minutes…someday.


A Simple Weeknight Meal

Yields: 1 dinner, with leftovers (if you weren’t so hungry by the time you finished that you ate it all), and 1 big mess

Prep time: 30 minutes to 4 hours, not counting time spent gathering inspiration on Pinterest (this section of recipes is always BS anyway)

Cook time: varies by recipe and other variables (including but not limited to evenness of pan heating, stove and oven hot spots, vegetable sizes, and altitude of your house), whose effects recipes rarely address and always underestimate

Ingredients

1 to 3 exhausted but ambitious cooks (see Notes)
1 recipe you’ve never tried before and plan to heavily adapt
1 to 2 additional recipes from which you’d like to draw inspiration (optional but highly recommended)
1 or more dietary restriction (again, optional but recommended—see Notes)
Optional garnishes: poor knife skills, inadequately stocked kitchen, multiple other things you intended to achieve that evening, and a low stress threshold

If this is you at the thought of cooking something, you're probably ready. Photo © Brittney Bush Bollay | Flickr

If this is you at the thought of cooking something, you’re probably ready.
Photo © Brittney Bush Bollay | Flickr

Directions

  1. Prep half of the ingredients and leave the rest to peel, chop, slice, etc., later, when you’ll be too distracted trying to stop the onions on the stove from burning to do either bit properly.
  2. Forget to preheat the oven, bring water to boil, or press the tofu until much, much later.
  3. Realize that you’re missing one or more ingredients. Don’t panic; instead, begin a lengthy debate over what in your cupboards might work as a substitute, with recourse to Google as necessary. If consensus cannot be reached, draw straws to decide who will “run out” to the store for the ingredient. Or give up and eat popcorn, since it’s not like you’ve done much yet anyway.
  4. Assuming you’re forging on with the meal, take a few minutes to select some appropriate musical accompaniment.
  5. Next you’ll want to at least scrape the crud off of the cast-iron skillet that has been sitting on the stove since your last simple weeknight meal, unless the flavor profile was similar, in which case forget it.
  6. Start those onions sizzling while you check your bookmarks and open tabs for a side dish idea. Should one appear, start prepping ingredients for that, ideally before finishing what remains for the original recipe.
  7. Text the person who has gone off to the store to request a few more missing ingredients for the new recipe.
  8. Start adding water to the onions because they are seriously going to catch on fire and you can’t believe you haven’t finished mincing the garlic yet.
  9. Accept an incoming phone call and let the onions “brown” a little longer while you chat and attempt to cut up vegetables with the phone wedged against your shoulder.
  10. Jump guiltily when you hear your fellow cook at the door and tell the person on the other end that you’re right in the middle of cooking and really can’t talk. Pretend you only just picked up.
  11. If you are trying to prepare a gluten-free (or allergy-free, or vegan, or what-have-you) meal, inspect the package labels of the new ingredients and ask the buyer if he/she is sure this brand is safe. Regardless of the response, check the manufacturer’s website yourself (with sneakiness to taste).
  12. Fend off any lingering impulse to just eat popcorn. Although you may not have accomplished much, per se, you’re in too far to turn back now.
  13. Set your jaw in a grim line and turn your attention to prepping and cooking in earnest. Bicker as desired.
  14. Begin checking the clock and moaning about how late it has gotten and how this ALWAYS HAPPENS. Repeat until every shred of patience and good will has been used up.
  15. Let the assembled dish bake/reduce/thicken just as long as you can—invariably less than the specified time because you’ll be too starving to care about taste or texture. Throw some plates on the table and serve immediately. (Optional: waste several seconds deciding between plates and bowls.)
  16. Enjoy while you can! Soon enough, you’ll be doing it again. But better. (Optimism will keep in an airtight container indefinitely and is even better the next day.)

Notes

Adages bedarned, this method works best with more than one cook in the kitchen; two cooks can inspire each other to greater and more absurd heights of complexity, and having a partner will lend to each the sense of security that the total prep time will be halved. Three is most likely the upper limit, beyond which point differing tastes and colliding elbows create the danger that no meal will result at all. In a pinch, a single cook will do, particularly if said cook is a fan of Top Chef and/or plans to post about the meal on a blog.

A food processor is not recommended. Let’s not baby ourselves.

Speaking of which…I myself do not have children, and therefore cannot vouch for them as an ingredient in this recipe. However, if you do add them to the mix, I suggest including such optional steps as teaching younguns to chop carrots (after starting the onions, mind) and taking breaks to nag older ones to do their homework and/or set the table.

If you eat meat, you may find it more difficult to stretch out the preparation process quite as interminably as I do. If you find yourself taking less than an hour to put together your meals, I strongly recommend vegetarianism.

Does this sound more or less like your own recipe for a simple weeknight meal, or have you mastered the formula? Share your tips and suggestions for actual simple meals in the comments.

I shared this on Vegetarian Mamma‘s Gluten-Free Fridays.

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Gluten-free food: Two chefs get it. Let’s get through to the rest.

“What’s your favorite gluten-free restaurant?” A group of NYC bloggers answered this question during introductions at dinner on Tuesday night. When my turn came (too soon! Wasn’t ready!), I said, abashed, “I don’t eat out much anymore, so I don’t have one yet.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, 93% of people (and, I bet, even more in New York) enjoy eating out, but I’m generally no longer among them. The service is always too brusque, the food too suspect, the assurance too absent. Instead of relaxing, I worry through the entire experience, from ordering (oh God, I’m taking so long) to paying (does the waiter really deserve 20% after dropping crumbs into my meal? But what kind of person doesn’t tip?). Admittedly, my so-so experiences may be partly a function of my restaurant selection and neurotic personality. But it’s also true that a lot of places just don’t get it.

Recently, though, I visited two that did. Check out my reviews, then let’s discuss how to make experiences like these happen more often for us all.

Mehtaphor

When I attended the launch of the GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table luncheon tour at MehtaphorChef Jehangir Mehta (who also owns Graffiti) served us elegant, inventive tasting courses inspired by Asian (especially Indian) and French cuisine. Standouts, for me, were the grilled tofu topped with a chickpea flour-breaded onion ring and cilantro chutney, and dessert—a rum raisin ice cream sundae topped with sweet pappadum-inspired crisps. The food made me think differently about some of my favorite (and least favorite—see: cilantro) foods, which is exactly what a restaurant should do.

More importantly, the chef and his waitstaff were pleasant, articulate, reliable, and accommodating. Mehta seemed passionate about the idea of serving everybody who entered, and he did it well. He said his dream was to one day own a restaurant serving just one person at a time, which I found pretty cool.

MORE chickpea flour!!!

MORE chickpea flour! It’s everywhere.

Tommy Lasagna

Chef Tommy Mosera is new to the gluten-free business, but it doesn’t show. At Tuesday’s blogger dinner at Tommy Lasagna, our server Zach and the chef himself were so personable, informed, and forthcoming that I almost want to say the service was the standout—except that that’d be unfair to the housemade focaccia and mozzarella, farmers market lasagna, flourless chocolate cake, and light-as-air cheesecake.

Chef Mosera explained he phased in gluten-free items a few at a time to get his staff used to taking precautions—and, my, the precautions! The pasta is made in-house, but in its own equipment, in the morning before any gluten molecules might be in the air to drift into our lasagna like so many acid snowflakes. Mosera also names the gluten-free menu items differently from gluten-containing items (not just “GF such and such”) to avoid confusion at the point of order—an inspired idea. His work seems to have paid off, since afterwards we all felt great (if a tad overstuffed). The restaurant is launching its full gluten-free menu this weekend.

Whatever the omnivores were having sounded good, too, but give me two slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

Whatever the omnivores were having for their first course sounded good, too, but give me a few slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

My compliments to the chefs!

Both chefs also contended admirably with other restrictions thrown their way, including my vegetarianism and a smattering of allergies. If you’re in the New York area and eat gluten-free (or don’t), Mehtaphor and Tommy Lasagna are both well worth a visit.

What inspired these chefs to give us an experience so out of the ordinary? Chef Mosera created his gluten-free menu after his business partner’s wife (the person who suggested he open a restaurant) became gluten sensitive. Chef Mehta feels that serving people food they can eat is why he opened a restaurant in the first place.

So now I wonder: How can we get other chefs to follow their example?

I tried to answer that question this week on My Life With Food Allergies. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to stop by and let me know if you agree.

And, in the spirit of trying new things, check out these blogs by the folks with whom I had the distinct pleasure of sharing these meals. Some of these bloggers, I already followed and was excited to meet in person; some I’d met before and was thrilled to see again; and some were new to me; but all of them are smart, fun folks whose blogs you ought to read (if you don’t already!).

Barbara of About.com IBS, Mike of Gluten-Free Mike, Anya of Another Gluten-Free Blog, Judith of Fooditka and We Heart Astoria, Carolyn of Gluten-Free Bird and the Brooklyn Gluten-Free Meetup Group, Candice of London to NYC, Katie of Gluten-Free Blondie and the hilarious When I Went Gluten-Free, Kristen of Pasta’s Kitchen, and Erin (who organized the Tommy Lasagna dinner) of Gluten-Free Fun, Gluten-Free Globe Trotterand the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group.

Have you discovered any new favorite blogs or restaurants recently?

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A Candy Corny Calligram for Lovers and Haters

.
Oh

you
small
sweet
treat in
three fall
hues! You
pain me yet
I can’t refuse.
You’re cloying,
but I eat up still;
I simply cannot get
my fill. Each year I say
That’s quite enough! But
sticking to it’s really tough.
When I went vegetarian, I gave
up eating gelatin, and thought that I
had got you beat, especially when I gave
up wheat. For Brach’s, the kind I always ate,
may contain wheat. I said, that’s great! I steeled
myself to say goodbye, and swore I’d manage not
to cry. It all might turn out for the best; perhaps I’d feel
that I’d been blessed. But, look! my sister said, let’s see,
Some brand MUST make it gluten-free. She turned out to be
fully right, as I learned surfing site-to-site. The Jelly Belly kind is
clean, of wheat & nuts & gelatine. So, yes, I bought us both a bunch
although it was a budget crunch. And now—surprise—I’m feeling sick,
from falling for your same old trick. I feel that I can eat and eat, but ALWAYS
you prove way 
too sweet. I thought I’d lost you—planned to mourn—but still you
haunt me, Candy Corn
. I’m sure that I will quit next year. Till then, I’ll savor every ear.

250px-candy-corn

For those who don’t gag at the thought of candy corn: Jelly Belly’s is gluten-free and (in my opinion, but not my sister’s) better-textured than the more traditional but iffier Brach’s. It’s also about a thousand times the price, so start saving up now for next year. (Or for the Christmas “reindeer corn”…oh dear.)

For everyone: happy almost-Halloween! What bad habit can’t you seem to quit?

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