Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Airplane Food and Single-Serving Friends

Mt. Rainier from the plane
I fly to Michigan a lot.  In fact, I went four times last year and totaled about 40 days there.  I’m by no means a frequent flyer—I don’t travel for business and I don’t take many vacations—but I’ve been flying all my life and I’m a pro. 

This last trip I sat next to a fascinating woman involved with a group that will be financed by Donald Trump.  She and several other passengers were on their way to Charlotte for a convention.  I never asked for the details, but by listening to conversations I determined that the members progress through levels with titillating names like QBT and ETM.  I also got the impression she was trying to recruit me for something or other.  Fortunately, I was taking enough Dramamine to make the conversation hazy.

When this woman first sat down, I was immediately struck by how shiny she was.  Her black purse was fringed with gold baubles and faux diamonds.  She had a ring on her finger that must have been two inches in diameter, also gold and diamond.  The scrunchie in her hair was made of gold cubes and her shiny lavender eye shadow was an exact match for her shiny lavender jacket.  In fact, the only non-glittering thing about her was a paperback copy of a Donald Trump biography.

On this last flight we were given the choice between peanuts, cookies and pretzels for our snack.  The journalist to my right went with cookies and the shiny woman went with pretzels.  Guess what I ate?

I always pack food when I travel, but what I pack depends greatly on what’s available.  Lately it’s been almond butter with bread and an apple.  Sometimes I pack rice crackers and purchase tuna salad to put on them at the airport.  I’ve done hummus and carrots, fried egg on a bagel, and snack bars.  This trip I enjoyed a lovely peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast, homemade chocolate chip cookies, an apple and, of course, the peanuts.

What do you eat on your airplane rides?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh Yes You Do.

Crimini Mushroom Burger (Not GF)
There’s a new restaurant in town and I’m obsessed.   That’s right, your neighborhood dietitian is obsessed with a hamburger joint.  I’ve never been a huge burger fan, much preferring a chicken sandwich.  In my previous life, when I ate gluten by the boatload, I used to go out for burgers only during road trips.  Ben loves burgers and grills them often in the summer, but I have to be a BBQ bummer and admit I put up with them because he likes them so much (and someone else is cooking).

Enter: Uneeda Burger of the erstwhile area of Fremont.  The patties are handmade and slightly misshapen just like Ben might make, and oh my are they scrumptious!  Cooked with just a hint of pink in the center, they have s slight sheen of fat that leaves the burger moist and tender.  Eating their basic burger with just a patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle and the special sauce catapults me back to my childhood and roadside stops on camping trips.  Seeing this burger makes me crave a dirty picnic table and a chocolate malt.

I should also mention they have gluten-free buns.  Yeah, baby.
Basic Hamburger, GF
Wheatless in Seattle provides the buns, and for a hefty $2.50 extra, you too can eat an actual hamburger with your hands instead of sandwiched between lettuce leaves or cut into dainty bites with a fork and knife.  I may provoke outrage and ire by saying that Wheatless in Seattle isn’t my favorite GF bakery, but please don’t get me wrong: I LOVE that they exist and I can now order pizza and eat GF hamburgers.  It’s just that in the years I’ve been eating there, I find that their quality control leaves something to be desired.  I never know if what I’m purchasing is fresh or stale, dry or moist, drenched in sugar or soaked in fat.  The hamburger buns at Uneeda taste greasy to me, but I don’t know if it’s a result of their ingredients or how they are heated in the restaurant.  However, like most GF people the world over, I willingly pay the price to have a somewhat-normal dining experience.

Should you go to Uneeda?  Definitely.  But remember to ask the right questions if you’re concerned about food allergies.  They’ve only been open a month and they’re still getting their process down.  The girl at the counter didn’t know if their French fries were gluten-free, and after a nice conversation with the owner we determined it might be better to warm the GF buns on the grill instead of with the other buns.  In other words, buyer beware.  But what else is new?  Give it a try.  Let me know what you think!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pressure Cooking Beans

Lately I've been eating a lot of legumes.  Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, red lentils, French lentils, green split peas and chana dal.  I've made chili and taco soup, black beans over polenta and black-eyed peas with greens, split pea soup with ham, red lentil soup with coconut milk, French lentil soup, Indian spiced chana dal and Ethiopian misser wot.

Green Split Peas
I crave legumes, especially heavily spiced lentils with rice or flat bread.  A couple of years ago there was an Ethiopian exhibit at the Pacific Science Center that highlighted the culture and history of that region, as well as the skeleton of Lucy.  Out of that visit I received an appreciation of how small ancient humans were and a fabulous cookbook called Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia - Recipes From Afar and Near, created specifically for the exhibit itself.  Within the book there's a bit of history and lore interspersed with the most approachable Ethiopian recipes I've ever prepared.  A few years ago when my lovely friend Katie of My Homemade Year adopted her daughter, I gave Ethiopian cooking a go from recipes I printed off the internet... and utterly failed. Many times.  Now, souvenir book in hand, I succeed at every recipe I attempt, including spiced beans and lentils.
Chana Dal

Beans are good for you. You know this. You've heard this so many times that maybe you don't even think about it anymore. They are the highest-fiber food you can choose, over any type of fruit, veggie or whole grain. I was recently talking to another dietitian and she mentioned that both her and her husband had been diagnosed with high cholesterol, but they had lowered it through dietary changes -- namely, significantly upping their legume intake.  That's it.  Her husband's cholesterol dropped 60 points by eating beans everyday.  I can't guarantee that you'll lower your cholesterol by consuming legumes, but it's a great start!  If you want to learn more about cooking beans and gas reduction techniques, click here.

Beans soaking with kombu waiting to be pressure cooked

When possible I like to cook my beans from scratch, but I'm very impatient.  I boil enough water to cover the beans by an inch or two, I let the beans soak for an hour and then I pressure cook them.
My Pressure Cooker
Do you own a pressure cooker?  You can use it for anything you would typically prepare in a slow cooker, only it cooks very, very fast.  Forget to put the beef stew on the stove?  No problem!  After sautéing your veggies and meat, you can cook your stew in about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker.  When I prepare beans, after my quick soak, it takes 7-11 minutes to cook them in the pressure cooker.

Are you sold yet?

When I first started using a pressure cooker I was terrified it would explode in my face, but that has yet to happen.  Just pay attention and follow the instructions and you'll be fine.

What do you like to cook in your pressure cooker?  What are your favorite bean recipes?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Speaking of poached eggs...

Cornmeal Pancakes

Since I'm on an egg kick, I thought I'd share this lovely recipe for cornmeal pancakes from the New York Times.  I used hemp milk in place of cow's milk and pecans in place of the pine nuts.  These cakes have a nice solid texture that you can sink your teeth into and really chew.  The do stick together after they're cooked, so serve them immediately.

Poached egg over cornmeal cake and greens

How did I serve them, you ask?  Why, with poached eggs and greens, of course!  I let the yolk act as the sauce, and the combination was scrumptious!

Poached eggs kept warm in hot water

If your household is anything like mine, it possesses an early bird who's up with the sun and a slightly later bird who's up some time after the alarm goes off.  I won't name names, but my lovely later bird was still sleeping when this meal was completed.  Not to worry; poached eggs keep better than any other style of egg!  Simply place them in a bowl of warm water and wait for everyone to come to the table!  If you've seen The French Chef, you'll remember that Julia keeps poached eggs in water stored in her fridge for days at a time!

For the cornmeal cake recipe, click here.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Eggs Benedict, Gluten-Free!

Gluten-Free Eggs Benedict

Eggs, eggs, eggs.  I eat a lot of them.  In fact, I have a poached egg for breakfast every single morning.  Why poached?  The most honest answer is that it’s how my mother cooked them so that’s how I eat them.  I like a runny yolk and don’t much care for the crispy edges of fried eggs.  If you want to know exactly how I poach my eggs, click here.

What I really want to talk about is eggs Benedict.  This is my absolute favorite breakfast of all time, and given a choice in a restaurant, it’s what I’ll always choose.  Being gluten-free (and for a long time dairy-free), our breakfasts out have declined significantly, but I still love a leisurely Sunday brunch drinking tea and chatting with friends. 

On Sunday I woke up early and felt compelled to make English muffins so I could have eggs Benedict.  Nothing fancy, just a little something to plop my egg onto that wasn’t a plain piece of bread or a pile of chard.  Don’t get me wrong; I love my Udi’s bread as much as the next GF girl, but for eggs Benedict, it wasn’t going to do the trick!

GF English Muffins from the Gluten Free Goddess

For an English muffin recipe, I toodled over to Gluten Free Goddess and used her tried and true method.  I happened to have hemp milk in the fridge so I went ahead and used that, along with regular eggs.  The final product was luscious and soft, though a bit too sweet for me.  In the future, I’ll reduce the sweetener by half.  Definitely take her advice about freezing the leftovers because the muffins won’t hold together after a couple of days.

For the sauce, I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything.  Rather than me regurgitating a recipe here, visit Simply Recipes for their Easy Blender Hollandaise.  I used a food processor, 8 tablespoons of butter instead of 10 and a pinch of dry mustard for flavor.  If you’re concerned about eating uncooked eggs and would like to see how to make hollandaise by hand, the Culinary Institute of America has a phenomenal video here.

Pulling together the recipes took be about a minute, and preparing the meal only a few minutes more.  I made the sauce while the muffins were baking and kept it warm in a bowl sitting in another bowl of hot water.  I happened to have some blanched chard left over from the night before, so I served my eggs over that instead of the traditional spinach.

Eggs Benedict with blanched chard and smoked paprika

Now, the dietitian in me feels compelled to warn you that a little of this sauce goes a long way... so drizzle it over your eggs and greens and enjoy!