Monday, October 31, 2011

Oh, What a Weekend!

We're halfway done with the challenge! The past week proved testing for both Jeff and me as we both traveled to Portland, where we were not only faced with lots of delicious options, we were also staying with friends and wanting desperately to avoid being inconveniences. We decided to give each other a free pass for a few days to save ourselves the worry of having others try to accommodate us, but as it turned out, we both fared pretty well. Jeff stuck to his guns for the most part, and I did my best in the food department, but had a few beers while out with the girls, who stocked up on lots of goodies that I could eat. My friends are a mixed bag when it comes to diet - a vegan, vegetarian, no red meat eater - so the addition of a gluten-free girl didn't shake things up too much. My favorite meal from the weekend was Saturday's lunch of Café Yumm. All my fellow Ducks know (and hopefully love) this organic eatery that was started in our college town, and to readers who have yet to experience it, you should get to Oregon stat. The Yumm Bowls are legendary, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. A delicious mix of brown rice, black beans, cheddar, diced tomato, avocado, black olives, cilantro, topped with the heavenly Yumm Sauce. This stuff is garlicky and lemony, a creamy spread made from garbanzos and soybeans and spices. Best of all, it's free of wheat, dairy, gluten, eggs, and sugar, so it obliges many a special diet. I can't wait to attempt some of my own.

My fabulous Yumm Bowl
The whole weekend was spectacular, and reminded me how good it feels to be around some of the people who know me best. We celebrated Halloween in style, dressed as the Spice Girls with the highlight of the night being when we sang "Wannabe" for crowds at a karaoke bar. Let's just say we brought the house down. Now onto a new week, new dinner menus, and the twice annual closet switch. Temperatures are dropping and this little former New Yorker plans to be very prepared.

Happy Halloween from Ginger!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sweet Tooth

For all my gluten-free boys and girls (and the pudding lovers out there), here is what I'm now making with my overripe bananas. Bye bye banana bread, hello pudding!

Banana Rice Pudding
Recipe, adapted from EatingWell:
(Makes 8 servings)

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
3 cups plus 1 tablespoon nonfat milk, divided (EDIT: I used 2 cups of milk plus 1 tablespoon and it was plenty!)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine rice, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the liquid is fully absorbed, 45 to 50 minutes
Stir in 3 cups milk, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and bring to a lively simmer
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes
Stir cornstarch and the remaining 1 tablespoon milk in a small bowl until smooth; add to the pudding
Continue cooking, stirring often, until the mixture is the consistency of porridge, about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat
Mash 3 bananas in a small bowl. Stir the mashed bananas and vanilla into the pudding
Transfer to a large bowl, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours
Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Working Girl

As I mentioned in my bulletin board post, making over one's personal work area is key. After all, Monday through Friday, we spend more time at our office desks than at home, so we must make sure that we enjoy the space we're in. I love colorful, whimsical pieces, items that feel special and unique (even if I get them at Anthropologie), things that I'll look forward to seeing each morning when I arrive at my office. In addition to pictures of friends and family, here are a few goodies that will be gracing my new space:

Calendar: I have the desk version of this calendar and I love to see where I'll be traveling each month (in my dreams)
Letters: I'm partial to the "Z" of course, in case anyone forgets my name
Lamp: I love the simple but modern look of this lamp. Plus, a pop of color is so much fun
Print: This typewriter inspires me to keep tapping on my keys and working away
Mousepad: Why have a regular black mousepad when you could have adorable owls checking you out? The whole Bunch of Bees collection on Etsy is wonderful.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekend Sustenance

I usually have very little interest in cooking on the weekends, and for the most part, this past one was no exception. After a long week at work, Jeff and I were craving a relaxing night of takeout and a movie, so I got to scouting the options. There are a number of restaurants in Boise that offer gluten-free options, if not a whole gluten-free menu, and we settled on teriyaki chicken, brown rice, and veggie bowls from a local spot. This is a go to meal in our house anyway, and we'll be revisiting it again and again. After dinner, I was craving chocolate, so I baked up the box of Betty Crocker gluten-free brownies that I'd purchased last weekend. I may never eat a regular brownie again - these were super rich and fudgy, and while I served myself two, I could only finish one. If you know me and dessert, that is saying something major!

On Saturday morning, I surveyed the kitchen for ingredients to make a hearty breakfast. I grabbed two big, ripe peaches, a couple cups of oatmeal, some brown sugar, eggs, and butter, and concocted a baked oatmeal. There wasn't even time to take a picture before it was gobbled up, but I have a feeling that Jeff will be requesting this one next weekend so I'll be able to show you the goods. On Saturday night, we ventured out for dinner, picking the one restaurant in town that I knew has gluten-free beer - TableRock Brewpub and Grill. For a pretty standard bar and grill, Tablerock has multiple gluten-free items on the menu, and we ordered just about all of them. Buffalo chicken bites, french fries, a steak salad for me and shepherd's pie for Jeff...we practically had to be rolled out of the place. All great, plus Jeff's gluten-free beer tasted just like normal beer. Success!

On Sunday, we had the rest of the baked oatmeal for breakfast and snacked on some gluten-free chips that I'd picked up. We were due at a family friend's house for dinner, and were planning to ditch our gluten-free challenge for one night so as not to inconvenience our hosts, but when we were asked to bring gluten-free bread, we knew our secret was out. I picked up a frozen loaf from the Boise Co-op which turned out, once defrosted, to taste very little like french bread, but quite yummy nonetheless. It had a cheesy consistency and hard crust, and even the non-gluten-free eaters among us munched on it with the rest of the meal. Our hosts made a beautiful pot roast, mashed potatoes, carrots, and squash, plus vanilla ice cream and baked apples for dessert, so we were once again very content at the end of the meal.

Going into Week #2, I'm feeling great. I really love all the fruits, veggies, and protein we have in the house, grocery shopping has been more thought provoking, and I'm considering the meals I make in a whole, new way. Jeff is headed out of town this week, and I am this weekend, so we'll see how we do while we're in transit. Wish us luck!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 5 of the Gluten-Free Challenge

Jeff and I are five days into our gluten-free month, and I think it's going quite well. I went to the market on Sunday and loaded up on ingredients for a few dinners, as well as lunch and snacks, praying that Jeff would be able to find yummy foods to munch on while I was at work. This week's basic daily breakdown has been oatmeal (because neither of us have a gluten intolerance, and I couldn't find gluten-free oats, this is a concession we're making), fruit, yogurt, corn tortilla quesadillas, hummus, raw veggies, tortilla chips, and an incredibly delectable creation of mine for dinner. I will admit that I'm a little hungrier than I was last week when I was having a slice of bread with my lunch, but I feel a satisfied and not stuffed fullness after meals and Jeff told me the other day that he's feeling more energetic and lighter on his feet. My favorite observation so far is that I'm thinking about what I eat. Tuesday was an especially early and busy day at work and I was faced with a spread of pastries at my morning meeting. Because I was hungry and running on adrenaline, the non-gluten free me would have probably snagged as scone. Instead, I loaded my plate up with fruit. At lunchtime, we were running to an event and had to stop at a "fast food" establishment. Where I would have gotten a sandwich or wrap, I ordered a salad. And at my event, there were cookies and donuts galore. It had been a long day and the cookies were calling my name, but to curb my cravings, I picked up some Starburst Gummibursts instead. I was forced to think about eating gluten three separate times, and realized that I often snack on things that I don't really need, because why not? Of course, there is always that incredible cupcake or to die for sandwich that is irreplaceable, but it's important to consider what to put in your mouth, what you feed yourself. And speaking of treats, I picked up two gluten-free chocolate chip cookies at a hospital bake sale, which Jeff hailed as "better than normal cookies." This might not be so bad after all :)

For dinner, I made two meals this week, and both were great and will go into my recipe Rolodex for future nights.

"Sukiyaki" - Teriyaki Rice Noodles with Steak, Spinach, Mushrooms, Green Onion, Egg

Recipe, adapted from The Gluten-Free Bible:

(Makes 5 servings)

1 package/12 ounces rice noodles (I used noodles about the width of linguini, worked really well!)
1.5 pounds sliced steak, whatever you would use for stir fry
1 package/8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound fresh or defrosted spinach
6 green onions, sliced into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (gluten-free)

1/2 cup water
5 eggs to scramble
Olive oil

Put noodles in a bowl, cover with hot water, and let soak for 30 minutes
Mix teriyaki sauce, broth, and water, set aside
Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat

Add steak and saute until cooked to your liking, remove to plate
Add sliced mushrooms, saute and move to side of pan
Add eggs, scramble, move to side of pan
Add spinach, heat and cook through
Add teriyaki/broth mixture and green onions, bring to a boil
Drain noodles and add them to skillet

Return meat to skillet and carefully fold all ingredients together
Turn heat to low, cover skillet and let food simmer until noodles are soft and all ingredients are heated through and mixed
Serve with hot sauce of your choice!

Crab and Potato Cakes with Yogurt Sauce

Recipe, adapted from The Gluten-Free Bible and EatingWell:
(Makes 8 large crab cakes)

2 cups crab meat (I used Chicken of the Sea crab cups, found near fish counter)
5 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced in half
4 green onions, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 egg
4 tablespoons parsley, chopped and divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 ounces plain yogurt
1 lemon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
In a pot, cover potatoes with water and cook until softened
Heat oil in pan over medium heat, add yellow onion and green onion, cook until soft
Add 2 tablespoons parsley, remove from heat
When potatoes are done cooking, drain and mash with a fork or masher into small pieces
In a large bowl, gently mix potatoes, crab meat, egg, onion/parsley, and mustard
Form mixture into patties
Grease a medium to large cookie sheet
Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add patties, two at a time, and cook until golden on both sides, place on cookie sheet
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until cakes are golden brown on top and heated through
While cakes are baking, mix yogurt with remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and the juice of half a lemon
Serve crab cakes with lemon wedges and yogurt sauce,
and a green salad


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Semi-Homemade, All Scrumptious

I would love to be able to say that making pizza dough is on my list of talents, but unfortunately, I haven't faced that ambition quite yet. So when pizza was the first request while considering our last non gluten free meal for 30 days, I headed to the store for some fresh ingredients and a Boboli pizza crust. For the time being, this is how I make my best "homemade" pizza.

Prosciutto, Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella Pizza
Caramelize large red onion with a few tablespoons of brown sugar
Cover the dough with sauce and fresh mozzarella
Next come the onions...
...and the prosciutto.
After baking for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees
Melty perfection!
These are some of my favorite flavors - sweet onion, salty prosciutto, creamy cheese. Jeff and I polished off the pie and shared a few sighs over the fact that we won't be able to have it again for a few weeks. When we have our next pizza cravings, I'll be sure to try this cauliflower crust, courtesy of Eat. Drink. Smile.

(Makes 2-4 servings)

1 Boboli pizza crust (I used thin crust)
1 package Boboli pizza sauce
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
4 ounces prosciutto
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Heat olive oil in a skillet on high heat
Add onion and brown sugar, saute until brown and tender
While onion is cooking, cover pizza crust with sauce
Distribute mozzarella evenly on crust
Cover crust with onion, then prosciutto
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is brown and crispy


Going Gluten Free

After writing this post, I got to thinking more seriously about adopting a gluten free diet. I read my new cookbook cover to cover and learned that a lot of my favorite foods are gluten free anyway, and that my diet wouldn't change too drastically. In fact, the things I love the most - fresh fruits, hearty veggies, meat, and dairy - would rule the roost in terms of my daily intake. Aside from baked goodies, which I clearly enjoy, and a slice of bread at lunchtime, not much would change. The one caveat is that I'll want to bake, and gluten free baking requires a lot of new ingredients, not to mention that gluten free cookies and other desserts are not necessarily better for you because in the absence of wheat, more sugar and fat can be added. Going gluten free is by no means intended to be a weight loss regimen. For those with celiac disease, it is a must do and lots of sacrifices have to be made. However, with time and dedication, many people end up cooking at home more, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and less processed food, and feel lighter on their feet and more energetic.

What's the point of this post? To let you know that Jeff and I will be embarking on a 30-day voyage, sans gluten. We're eating all of the perishable glutenous products in the house this weekend, and packing up the rest, and will go one month living the gluten free life. I'm excited - it will force me out of my same old cooking routines and have me trying new things. I always try to make delicious meals, but this trial will have me cooking foods from around the globe, buying ingredients I've never tried, and seeing how it makes us feel along the way. There is no guarantee that we'll keep it up after 30 days, but it will be an interesting experiment nonetheless. Maybe we'll love it and go gluten free forever! Maybe we'll miss our favorite gluten-full foods a little too much. Regardless, it should be a learning experience, and hopefully a fun one. I'll document successes and failures in the kitchen, as well as the reactions we have as our bodies start to adapt to the changes.Wish us luck and stay tuned!

First Day:
Monday, October 17

Last Day:
Tuesday, November 15


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All American Monday: Steak and Potatoes

After spending Sunday playing in Idaho's most quaint apple orchards (post to come!), I was craving some good old American grub. Without much thought, I decided on a favorite meal of mine - steak, mashed potatoes, and greens. To fully outdo myself, I added an apple crisp to the mix, and while it was madness in the kitchen, everything turned out delicious and absolutely hit the spot. Disclaimer: This is not a low calorie meal, but it's fabulous and indulgent!

(Makes 3 servings)

3 4-ounce beef fillets or tenderloins

1/4 stick butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet at medium low heat

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and pepper
When butter is melted, place steaks in the skillet
Cook for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your likeness
Serve immediately

Bill's Mashed Potatoes:

(Makes 4 servings)

5 Yukon Gold potatoes

8 ounces sour cream
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender

Drain and remove skins
Return to pot or put in large serving bowl
Mash potatoes with ricer or hand masher
Mix in sour cream and milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Swiss chard:

(Makes 3 servings)
1 large bunch fresh swish chard
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a skillet

Cut off swish chard stems and coarsely chop leaves
Place in skillet and cover
Cook until leaves are tender, approximately 10 minutes
Salt and pepper to taste


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Make It Rain


Maybe it's because I'm from a place where rain signifies the changing season and the permission to head indoors and nest by the fire. Maybe it's because I went to college where I would spend the majority of my four years under an umbrella. Maybe it's because I bought and subsequently couldn't wait to wear a pair of heavy duty, not inexpensive rain boots last winter. But for whatever reason, I just love the rain. Let me rephrase - I love the rain when I'm bundled on my couch or in bed and can hear it dancing on my windows, and I love the rain when I'm adequately prepared with all my gear and can stomp through the puddles. Today, it's raining in Boise, the sky is dark and ominous, and the whole city is drenched in the smell of fresh water and fall. Today, I left the house in my beloved rain boots and hooded trench, umbrella in hand, ready to take on the wet day with purpose. Tonight, I can't wait to slop through the puddles to the car, hurry home to sweatpants and a hot meal, and spend the evening listening to the rain.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Decorating, 9 to 5

If you've ever been to New York City, you know that while it's a very big city, many things in it are small. Small apartments, small aisles in grocery stores, small amounts of personal space on public transportation. So when I started my new job and was shown to my work area, I was over the moon to see that I had a whole office to myself. Four walls, bookshelves, an L-shaped desk, all ready for me to put my little stamp on. After all, being surrounded by pretty odds and ends encourages creativity and productivity, right? To kick things off this weekend, I made a covered bulletin board and marble pushpins.

What you'll need:
Framed bulletin board (I used an 17" x 23")
Fabric (approximately 1.5 yards)
Staple gun
Flat pushpins
Clear marbles with a flat side (see Marble Magnet post for more info)
Magazines for pictures
Jewel glue

Lay fabric over board and cut off excess
Straighten the fabric along the edge of the board (easy if you're using a pattern)
Fold the corner down like you're wrapping a present
In the absence of a staple gun, I hammered in push pins for a temporary fix.
I will go back and staple the fabric.
I made the marbles just like in the marble magnet post...
...only instead of magnets, I glued on flat push pins!
Ready for the office!