Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine

Little Islands
On Saturday, I went out with the girls for a night on the town and we decided to try Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine down in Columbia City.  I'd reviewed the menu before going just to confirm there was gluten-free food available that I could eat but honestly, I wasn't that concerned.  Anymore, my expectations for gluten-free restaurant dining includes salad and a little meat.  That's it.

Oh, how I was in for a treat!

Once we were seated, tropical drinks in hand, our server walked right up to the table to discuss the menu, particularly all the gluten-free options available!  Was this a dream?  Had someone warned her?  Nope.  This is standard practice at Island Soul.

Island Vatapa

Have I mentioned that every single lady present at our table is a dietitian?  We are a particular group and don't take attestations of gluten-free cuisine lightly.  Our lovely waitresses experienced only momentary doubt when she determined our identities and then sallied boldly forth into the breach!

Oh. My. Goodness.  This may be the Caribbean cocktail talking but the food was luscious.  We started with sweet fried plantains, coconut prawns (not GF) and little islands of corn meal cups filled with black beans and went from there.

Curried Goat

I had the Curried Goat, which was perfectly spiced with hints of cinnamon and falling off the bone.  Halfway through our mean, the chef came out and was appalled to find we hadn't ordered collard greens and insisted on sending some out.  If you go to Island Soul for no other reason than the greens, it will be worth the trip.

Collard Greens

After interrogating our chef, I found that he boils his greens for 2 1/2 hours with nothing other than rice wine vinegar, a little garlic and olive oil and then adds other vegetables at the end.  That's it.  I cannot wait to try this at home!

Please, go!  My pictures don't do the restaurant justice.  Sadly, this is one area where my trusty phone is woefully deficient.

Disclaimer: It is up to you to confirm that dishes are truly gluten-free and that the kitchen is adhering to safe production practices.  As always, you are responsible for your own health!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Need a Special Recipe Book To Bake Gluten-Free?

Being a dietitian, I have a TON of cookbooks.  I love the promise of new ideas and the thrill of preparing novel food.  I have cookbooks dedicated to pasta and dim sum and African food and vegetarian fare.  I have not one but TWO cookbooks on cupcakes and an entire tome dedicated to pesto.  Yes, pesto.

I started eating strictly gluten-free for health reasons in March of 2008 and at that time, I went crazy shopping for gluten-free cookbooks. My wonderful, glorious collection of recipe books was left on the shelf to collect dust simply because none of the titles contained the words "gluten-free".

After 2½ years of gluten-free living, I'm here to tell you that you do not need to neglect your most cherished recipe books while living the GF life.  In fact, it's a mistake!  

How much baking did you do before you started eating GF?  What were your favorite recipes then?  Now that you've thought of them, can you easily convert your formerly-beloved recipes to gluten-free?  The answer to this question is decidedly yes.

In the past week, I've made apple pie, pumpkin pie and chicken pot pie, all from regular cookbooks. In fact, I think my recipes turned out better having cooked them from a standard recipe book because most GF cookbooks are geared specifically toward baking, which comes at the expense of main dishes.  In order to bake the recipes listed above, I only needed a nice GF pie crust, which you can get pretty much anywhere. Once you have a pie crust you like, you can use it every single time just like a regular gluten crust.  Did you grandmother change crust recipes with every single pie she baked? No? Well, neither should you!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against GF cookbooks.  I own at least five myself.  But finding a cookbook that explains the principles of GF baking and gives you some standard recipes will be more useful to you than purchasing each and every new book that comes out.

Here's where the recipes I baked this last week came from:

GF pie crust: Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly (see previous post about this cookbook here)
Pumpkin Pie: Off the pumpkin can.  Yes, really.
Chicken Pot Pie: The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated

What are your favorite cookbooks?  What favorite recipes can you cook out of them that require very simple conversions?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vote NO on I-1107!

Have you heard of I-1107? 

If you believe the lobbyists from the American Beverage Association, this initiative is about repealing food taxes.  Last year, Washington State voters approved a temporary tax on soda, bottled water and candy that goes into effect in 2012 and expires in 2013.  Unfortunately, the American Beverage Association will not tolerate even minute and temporary taxation of its massive profits, and it has contributed over ten million dollars to this initiative. This makes it the most well-funded initiative in Washington State history.

How do you define food?  Does bottled water meet your definition?  How about soda and candy?  Would you serve your family a candy casserole for dinner?

In this blogger's opinion, Initiative 1107 is a blatant attempt by the soda industry to redefine their sugary, unhealthy product as food, and it should not pass.

VOTE NO ON I-1107!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meatless Meals without the Label

A craze that's been floating around for a few years is the concept of "Meatless Mondays", in which people do not eat meat for one full day during the week. Why? Well, depending on what kind, how much and how often you eat it, high meat consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease, overweight, cancer and higher mortality rates. Eating factory-farmed steaks and chicken can also lead to environmental degradation and unhealthy animals, so it's about more than just our health.

"Meatless Mondays" are a good idea, but they can be very stressful! Words like vegetarian and tofu start floating around the house and suddenly the husband and the child aren't on board. "I need MEAT!" he'll say, and somehow those three little words make a convincing argument... and "meatless Mondays" suffer a quick and quiet demise without ever being given a chance.

I'm proposing something slightly different.  What if you ate delicious, delectable food that just happened to contain no meat?  No hullabaloo, no labels, just food?

Moong Dal with Red Split Lentils, Brown Rice, Yogurt, Potatoes, Peas and Homemade Pickles

There are plenty of cuisines that lend themselves naturally to meat-free eating, one of which is Indian. Spicy scrumptious lentils and veggies have absolute no need for meat, and they make a delightful and filling meal.

This week, I purchased cauliflower at the store for no other reason than it looked good.  I had no meal plan. What could have been a simple steamed side dish turned into a wonderful, flavorful main course of cauliflower, potatoes, peas and mustard seeds.  Once I decided to cook Indian food, I just had to add lentils.  I always have lentils in my cupboard, and red lentils are especially quick cooking and easy to work with.

In preparing this meal, I gave absolutely no thought to making a vegetarian dish, I simply cooked what sounded good.

Potatoes, Peas and Cauliflower... plus delicious Mustard Seeds!

So... what sounds good to you?

What ingredient do you have in your fridge that you can base an entire meal around?  Cooking is more than calories and fat and health and labels.  It's about what feels good and tastes good and feeds your core.  If you have over-analyzed your food, chances are you won't enjoy it.

Love what you eat!  Enjoy what you cook!