Friday, May 30, 2008

Greetings From Mexico!

Well, we have arrived back to good ol' Colorado safe and sound! Mark and I had a great time on our vacation to San Jose Del Cabo! Some of my special GF food made it through customs, and some did not; but all in all, I was not disappointed! Along with eating; we snorkled, went fishing (we caught Mahi Mahi!), shopped and sat on the beach!

I was worried that I might have to survive on Lara Bars, but thanks to my Triumph Dining Cards and the fact that Mexican food is commonly GF, I did alright! I discovered that the more touristy restaurants were more risky. The more authentic we went, the better off I was. (Of course I knew that before hand, though.) The day we got there was my birthday, and my best friend Shealyn brought along the Pamela's White Cake Mix and the Pamela's Sprinkle Frosting Mix to make me my favorite cake GF! How thoughtful is she! Nobody actually believes that my favorite cake is a boxed Funfetti, but it is true! This Pamela's stuff comes so close to the real thing, I wanted to cry!

I did end up having a problem with some chips that were fried in a common frier, but other than that, things went pretty well. Listed below are a few of the restaurants we went to and dishes I ate.

Marco Polo Restaurant (Inside the Royal Solaris resort)

I ordered the 'Tepid Provoleta with Thin Vegetables, Fine Herbs and Balsamic Glaze' which was a simple dish of sauteed veggies with broiled Provolone cheese over the top, Fine Herbs sprinkled a bit and a sweet Balsamic glaze. It was simple, but sooo delicious! Who wouldn't like eating a plate full of crispy melty cheese!

Second course for me was the simple 'Grilled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Parmesan Risotto and julienned veggies'. The name says it all, and it was sooo good.

Dark room, sorry about the picture!!

Desert was a 'Mango Creme Brulee' which was a bit disappointing. Before even starting the meal, I had the server and the chef both have a look at my dining card (it was a bit difficult since it was an Italian restaurant with Spanish speaking employees!), and they reviewed each of my selections to make sure they were ok. Well, I get the dessert, and the waiter says "by the way, it has a cookie on the bottom". I looked at him and said "I cannot eat a cookie"..."Sorry", he said. Well, at least he told me before I dug in!

We also ate at a place called Cactus Taco, which was a very authentic, off the beaten path kind of place. I am kicking myself for not having my camera at the time to take a picture! They were surprised to see us there, they kept looking at us very confused as to why we were there! We only saw Mexicans there, the menus were all in Spanish and only one employee spoke very little was great!!! Fortunately, our friend Alison speaks Spanish well, and was able to help translate. All of their menu items contain strips of cactus in them, looking similar to strips of green peppers. A bit crunchy, too. I ordered the chicken cactus tacos the first day, and the chicken cactus combo plate the next day. They were so simple, but absolutely the best Mexican food I have ever tasted. Full of onions, cactus, jalapenos, chicken, etc with a little bit of authentic queso blanco over fresh made corn tortillas. In the center of the table, we got little bowls full of 3 different sauces. One was a pineapple salsa with habanero peppers (I couldn't handle it!), a milder pico de gallo and a very liquid guacamole. I noticed that all authentic taquerias have very liquid guacamole, only the tourist areas had chunky guac. I'll have to learn more about making this, it was really good! We also had some great homemade Horchata.

We were able to buy some concentrated horchata at the grocery store there, and somehow, we were able to get it past customs-- but only just barely! They almost confiscated it. I'm glad they let us have it, it is the best!

Most of our other meals we cooked in our kitchen ourselves. We did visit a buffet some days, but I had to be sooo careful there, so I didn't eat anything too exciting. I mostly ate tropical fruits with plain yogurt. I am not complaining, I cant get that fruit here for less that $3 each!

All in all, we had a wonderful time!

Do you have a recipe for homemade Horchata? I would love to try it!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mushroom, Onion and Provolone Steak Sandwich

Pretty much since early this year I have been craving a sandwich. Not just any sandwich, but a good sandwich. I wanted a sandwich with a substantial roll that tasted like real bread, not just a sub-par gluten free substitute.

Earlier in the month, my husband's grandma (my grandma in law??) who lives in Utah found a shop that sells a bread mix made by a small company near her home called Grandpa's Kitchen. I don't think that they even have a website. Just a small mom and pop operation doing all of the work from a small kitchen. Anyhow, she of course saw it and thought of me, so she sent it right out! I love that lady, she really is very sweet and thoughtful! Anyhow, I got it and gave it a try. It consists of Corn Starch, Potato Starch, Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour and Xanthan Gum. It is a very liquid dough once it is mixed up with yogurt, egg, vegetable oil, baking powder, baking soda, salt and yeast. I wasn't sure of how I was going to get a bun shape with such a moist dough. It is meant to be poured into a loaf pan. I thought for a while and had the idea to pour it into my french onion soup bowls- which are oven safe, and let the dough rise in there. It worked so well! I couldn't believe how high the dough rose just sitting there- and then with the baking soda and powder, it rose even higher. It was awesome! Once out of the oven, I split them and then toasted them up back in the oven. They were so dreamy! :)

Then all I did was saute up some mushrooms and onions, stir fry some thin cut steak strips in some oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt. I smeared some Spectrum GF Mayonnaise on one half of the bun, topped it with the steak strips, onions and mushrooms and then placed a slice of provolone on it. It was so simple and soooo tasty! It really hit the spot!

I'm not going to list a recipe because it is more of a method than an exact recipe. Use what you like for any kind of sandwich filler...I am just super stoked about these buns and how well they worked. They are soooo much better than the nasty buns from the store with those strange absorbent bead packs in them. Does anyone else think that is creepy and gross? I'm not down with that.

Anyhow, I am going to try to duplicate the bread mix. It has all very simple and accessible ingredients, I just need to experiment with the quantities of each flour/starch. I'll let you know how it goes when I figure it out :)

If you are interested in trying out the Grandpa's Kitchen bread mix, which can also be made lactose free, please email them at grandpaskitchen at gmail dot com.

More bread than anything else-- but really, who cares!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Colorado Chocolate Festival

Saturday morning my husband and I made the drive over to my family's house to celebrate Mother's Day. The plan was to make Lemon Lovers' Ricotta Pancakes and Blueberry Sauce for brunch. We hadn't really planned anything after that, and decided to figure it out as we went. I had read about a chocolate festival happening in north Denver that day and had secretly planned to somehow trick everyone into going. ;) It didn't end up being very difficult...everyone was super excited to go! Somehow, I don't think I was the persuasive one...the mention of free chocolate would convince even the most stubborn person!

So after finishing up the dishes for my lovely step mom Rose, we piled into the 'ol family minivan and headed out. In my mind, I was picturing opening the doors to the Denver Merchandise Mart where the festival was held and being overwhelmed with the luscious smell of high quality melted chocolate. For those who have had the experience of entering a high quality chocolate shop where they make their own in house, you know the smell I speak of. Unfortunately that was not the case in this instance. We entered in the double doors and were immediately given free Pop Rock filled candy bars along with our $8 tickets. Well, I wasn't so sure about the 'unspecified starch' contained in these long chocolate nuggets, so I handed it over to my husband who can eat as much unspecified starch as his heart desires. Not only was this conference room filled with chocolate vendors, but there were also other vendors that had nothing to do with chocolate whatsoever. I'm not sure why they were there. It bugged me in fact. I did have to chuckle when I found that Denise Nickerson, the original Violet Beauregard in the old Willy Wonka movie was there signing photos. (Apparently she lives in Denver?)

Now I don't want you, my lovely reader, to think that I was disappointed. Oh no, it was quite lovely! There were plenty of booths with all of the chocolate samples I could want. The only problem was, of course, which ones were GF? Well I fully intended to find out, because there was no way I was going to refrain from eating free chocolate! Below are my findings:

Divine Organics Sacred Cacao
Raw Cacao Brittles
"Divinely decadent healthy chocolate"

This chocolate, sold by Transition Nutrition rocks! I loved it. The lady at the booth presented me with a taste of the raw macadamia nut brittle. I wouldn't necessarily call it a brittle in the sense of the kind that you eat during the holidays: nuts surrounded in a thick, crunchy caramel bed; because they are actually nuts and fruit enrobed in a bar of chocolate. Oh my golly though...I could taste the natural fruitiness and flowery essence that comes naturally when you eat true, minimally processed chocolate. It was a high percentage of pure dark chocolate, and the macadamias added a fabulous flavor. This aint no Hershey's bar!

Next up: Oliver Kita.....

"Buddha would want you to bite the head off so he could laugh from inside your belly" -Cat Stevens

Oliver Kita Fine Confections
"Objects of Desire"

This man's chocolates are sooooooo good! Just one problem. I discovered that the chocolate peanut butter truffle is NOT GF. Nope. I discovered this after the chef, Oliver Kita, told me that they were. No doubt about it, he said. Absolutely. So I ate one. Oh baby. I had never tasted one so delicious. I even went as far as paying $8 for a bag of 6 truffles. They were that good. I am still feeling the effects of the gluten, and I am so disappointed. I took a bite in front of him and stopped mid chew-"what are the crunchies?" I asked. "Oh, that is organic crunchy peanut butter inside. The crunch is the peanuts". So I ate more. I ate another when I got home and thought to myself, "this is not a peanut kind of crunch. This has to have something more". So, I did what any detective would do. I shoved my pinkie in the filling and dug. I knew what I was looking for, and I found it. Pate Fuilletine. Little crunchy goodies that pastry chefs add to candy to add that special crunch without getting soggy. They are comparable to mini corn flakes. I was so mad! What a waste of money. So much for asking the chef.

Next up: Izzybelle Chocolate Sauces.....

Izzybelle Chocolate Sauces
"The taste makes the difference"

Based in Castle Rock CO, Izzybelle is the product of 30 years refinement. And it shows. The sauces come in Original Chocolate, Toffee, Raspberry, Orange, Peppermint and Peanut Butter flavors. I looked through all of their ingredients, and as far as I can tell, they are totally GF. They use natural, organic and local ingredients as much as they can. Truly a delight. Forget Nutella. This is the stuff right here. All natural ingredients, nothing strange on the labels, really, really good stuff.

Well, although of course I tried many, many more chocolates, those were the best. Oliver Kita does use GF chocolate, and if you buy his chocolate Buddha or any other figurines, I'm sure you will not be disappointed! He uses very high quality ingredients, so please don't be deterred from checking out his web site!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Lemon Poppy Seed Almond Muffins

I loooove lemon! Lemon truly makes me feel happy and springy. There is nothing like it to brighten your day, to add a skip to your step. Adding lemon to your muffins is doubly happy. My husband always jokes with me about muffins...he quotes me in a high pitched voice saying "all I want is a muffin"!

Truly, all I want is a muffin.

Lemon Poppy Seed Almond Muffins

1 3/4 Cup Sylvan Border Farms AP GF Flour

1 Tbsp ground Flax Seed

1 tsp Baking Soda

3 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Poppy seed

1/4 Cup melted Coconut Oil

1/3 Cup Agave Nectar

2 whisked Eggs

1 Cup Plain Yogurt

Zest and Juice of 1 large Lemon

Splash of Almond Extract

Chopped Toasted Almonds (Optional)

Leftover Tart Lemon Pulp (click link for recipe)

Method: Preheat oven to 350 f. In separate bowls, mix the wet ingredients and the dry. Gently add the wet into the dry and fold in the toasted almonds. Using a lunch lady scoop, drop balls of batter into pre greased muffin tins. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top. De-pan and let cool slightly on a cooling rack.

Using a knife or the back of a spoon, spread chilled Tart Lemon Pulp over the tops to add a shine and a real zip of flavor. Don't skip this, it really makes a lovely finish!

*To quote The Sandlot..."and then, you stuff!" Enjoy! :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blogging With A Purpose Award

I am so excited! Elle over at Elle's New England Kitchen has awarded me with such an honor, the Blogging With A Purpose Award! I started blogging for Celiac Disease because I wanted to be a part of a community where we all support and encourage each other. Most of the time, I feel like I take so much support and maybe don't give out a fair share in return. This truly means a lot, and I feel so flattered. Thank you so much Elle!

The rules of the award are this:
1)Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award with their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogger community, no matter what language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Post the rules.

I have chosen the following 5 blogs for the award:

1. Melissa at Gluten Free For Good. She is so inspirational, smart and 'snarky' at the same time!

2. Kate at Gluten Free Gobsmacked. We seem to be in very similar life situations, and she never ceases to make me smile.

3.The Good Eatah because she was the first to welcome me into the GF blogging community.

4. Gluten Free Steve for similar reasons; he is in my home town, and I feel he has welcomed me and helped me feel like a real part of the community.

5. Karina, the Gluten Free Goddess. Let's be she not the first GF blog we all came across? She is truly inspirational and witty. She really does 'blog with a purpose'.

Thanks to all of these talented and great people for making life for all of us more bearable and even fun!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Strawberry Spoom

What is Spoom, you ask? Let me tell you!

Spoom is an Italian frozen dessert, similar to sorbet. In fact, it starts out as sorbet. I learned about this light as air dessert in culinary school. I never actually made it nor had I even tried it until this week. It's even hard to find any info or a recipe for it when searched in Google. So I made it up. I knew what is standard in making it, so I figured it out. Not bad! In fact...really good!

Think of it this way...Sherbet is essentially sorbet with dairy frozen in. Spoom is sorbet with whipped egg whites, or meringue frozen in. So think of sherbet, but a million times better and no dairy. And not strange fake lemon-lime gooey weirdness. That's it. Easy Shmeezy ;)

Strawberry Spoom

Sorbet Mix-

1 Cup Sugar

1 cup Water

1 Pound hulled Strawberries


2 Egg Whites

1/3 Cup Sugar

Method: Bring the sugar and water to a rolling boil to make a simple syrup. Refrigerate until cold. In a blender, puree the strawberries and enough simple syrup for your liking until totally blended. Taste it and see if you want more simple syrup. Strain through a mesh sieve if you don't like seeds. Refrigerate again.

Whip the egg whites and sugar together and bring to medium peak. GENTLY fold the two mixtures together. You do not need to fold until there is no white left...just fold it together a little bit. The ice cream machine will mix it well enough.

Freeze the mix following the directions on your machine. If you do not have a machine, you will need to do this a little differently. Just take the Strawberry/Simple Syrup mix and put it in a very large bowl in your freezer. Every 15-30 minutes or so, pull it out and whisk it like crazy. After it starts to freeze, whip up your meringue and GENTLY fold in the egg whites. It wont be totally the same as using a machine, but it should work.

In either case, keep your spoom in the freezer for at least 2 hours before serving.

The texture comes out flaky and light. I like to use strawberries that are super you have to use them that day or they will be bad. Those have the best flavor for ice creams and sorbets.

Soft/Medium Peak

NOTE: This has raw egg not feed to young children or the elderly. Do not eat it if you are pregnant. Please be careful, I like you!

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