Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Discouraging Days

I've had a less than inspired day.  I'm a bit down in the dumps.  I am very excited to be in the UK, but as I am still flatless- to say I am still without a kitchen.  Having a very sensitive and allergic body, I cook most of the food I consume.  I control the process from start to finish and can make absolute sure that the food I'm eating is safe for me.  When I eat out, I ask the questions you are supposed to ask.  I tell the waiter to tell the chef my allergic needs, and usually, I'm fine.  But I can't eat out too much.  My body doesn't like it.  My body doesn't understand it.  And even though you can be the most cautious, open person about your allergies, it becomes clear that sometimes people don't listen to you.  

Bottom line:  There are days when I think I'm taking two steps forward in this allergy-laden world, only to find I'm taking two steps back again.

In the past few days, to put it lightly, I've become a wreck.  I've been eating take-out meals for 3 weeks now.  Being on a low-oxalate diet, I keep the amazing GF goods I discussed to a major low.  I need to save my moderate oxalate starches up for dinner (a mealtime which doesn't seem to occur without some starch.) This has more or less left me at the mercy of the court.  I do my best; waiters and managers and hostesses seem to understand my requests and place my food orders with care. Or sometimes, they have a prepared rice salad or plain iceberg lettuce salad at the market across the street and I can breathe easy for one night.  But those options aren't always in stock, and you can't eat the same thing 3 times a day for 3 weeks.  Well, I can't. But at what price does variety come at?

Last night I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant. All I wanted was meat.  That's it.  It's the safest thing for me to eat and when its roasted in its own juices with some spice, there's nothing to worry about.  I said to the gentleman who I ordered from that I had many allergies.  I asked him what was in everything, right down to what kind of lettuce was used in the salad (iceberg is basically the only low-oxalate option.)  I stressed to him that I CANNOT eat bread.  No bread.  "No bread?" he asks.  No bread; I'm allergic.  "Okay, no bread."  Nothing with flour.  "Nothing with flour, okay."

I walked with my little dinner in a box back to my hotel room- a twenty minute walk.  I was tired, pissed off from a recent conversation I'd had with the cable company back home, angry that health insurance doesn't seem to really help with or cover anyone with chronic health problems, and I was so hungry.  I open my little box, fork in hand, and I see- OH NO YOU DIDN'T!!!!!!!!!!!!  A giant pita covered my ENTIRE order of plain meat and salad.  What part of the conversation that I had with the above guy do you think he misunderstood?

Then I had to do something I absolutely loathe:  I had to throw it out.  I hate wasting food. Someone, somewhere can always use food, and here I am pitching it.  Trust me, I would have gladly given it to anyone in need had there been someone out and nearby my hotel. And yes, perhaps I should have gone back out and walked the twenty minutes to the restaurant that it would take and had them make the stupid dish again, but as I said... tired and pissed off.  I went across the street and found one small yogurt that I wasn't allergic to but I wasn't supposed to eat for other reasons.  I knew I was going to be mildly sick, but I couldn't go to bed hungry.  I chose sick over starvation.  That has become my option at 3 weeks.

So over these weeks, I've been getting sicker, moodier, more fatigued, and generally discouraged.  No matter how safe a food may seem, something is still making my body react.  I am sure cross contamination has to be the culprit here, but stopping short of demanding to see the kitchen in a restaurant, all I can do is trust the manager, waitstaff or host I'm communicating with.

There's no real point to me sharing my frustration with you when I honestly do believe allergic people can function safely in this world most of the time.  I'm in a weird exception to the rule situation, and I know I'll be fine when I'm not eating out all the time.  It's totally not my intention to discourage any other allergics either.  I just know that there is a world where we could function better together.  Where we could eat out for 3 weeks and not be sick.  I'd just like to be living in that world now.  

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Unbread Breading Debacle

Oh crispy, crunchy fried chicken.  How you elude me and my GF ways of life. How I yearn to taste you again in all (or at least half) of your splendor.  You were good to me, and I you.  I was particularly fond of your marriage to waffles, but alas, we will meet no more.  

You get over losing favorite junk foods.  In the beginning, I'll admit to pathetically weeping when I heard I had to be GF.  Seriously?  Yeah, no, I cried. Food is sadly that important to me. And each time I thought of a new food I would never eat again, I crawled back into my pity hole, and felt really sorry for myself.  Until, I had to snap myself out of that s*?%!  Come on.  People are starving and you're going to cry over cake?  There is war and death and destruction and you're going to weep for baguettes? Newsflash Suz: You're not dying, you're just eliminating gluten.  And then I just got over it. 

Slowly, surely, and I yearn to fix GF substitutions for comfort favorites.  Like fried chicken. Some companies put out GF bread crumbs that are just rice or corn or actual GF bread crumbs. But "breading" without bread is a tricky animal, and in several instances the "breading" doesn't adhere to its master.

Before I was gluten free, people raved about cornflake oven-fried chicken or Ritz cracker chicken.  I was feeling especially craving-fun a while back and I decided, why not give this unbread a breading try?  And so I did.  It didn't adhere to the chicken as well as I would have liked, however it did a decent job. If I had used eggs, it would've probably worked better, but I wanted to make it egg free.  The crackers added some nice flavor and the chicken stayed moist and tender.  I fixed it up with some box mix risotto and called it a night.

Cracker Coated Oven Fried Chicken


4 large chicken breast cutlets, halved (to make 8 pieces)
15-20 GF crackers (I used Glutino's original crackers**)
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp natural sea salt
1/2 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp crushed garlic
pepper to taste
8 ounces GF organic honey mustard (I like Annie's)

**note: Although Glutino brand does it's best to inform allergy sufferers of each product's contents, I occasionally get sick from some of their indulgences.  I rarely use their brand because of the high amount of soy in most of their products; however I found I do alright with these crackers.  Just make sure you are as careful in consuming products as you are in reading their labels.  Know their factory environment!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a blender, pulse GF crackers until a decent meal is made.
Add all seasoning and pulse again to incorporate.
Pour mix into a large bowl, set aside.
Grease a large baking dish with olive oil (at least 9x13.)
Coat 1 chicken cutlet in honey mustard, roll around in cracker meal until covered and place in baking dish.  Repeat until all chicken has been coated.
Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes.
Uncover and cook for 15 minutes more, careful not to burn coating.
Enjoy your unbreaded breaded cracker chicken.  I know I did :)
And for us low-oxalate eaters, this rice flour based cracker coating would be your day's starch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Problem With Making Your Own Recipes...

Actually, there's many problems with making your own recipes out of thin air:

1)  Your trials often end in errors.
2)  You need to measure as you go to record these made up recipes.
     a) This means you need to also record what you've done somehow while you are cooking.
     b) This means that you usually end up with a piece of paper covered in food bits with scrawl you can't identify on it.
3)  Sometimes, you waste a whole bunch of something.

I'm sure there are many more problems with randomly deciding you are going to cook something, but I guess I'm just lucky to have experienced the above on a few occasions. Especially the whole scrawl of it all.  Oh, my scrawl is on a whole other level.  A monkey writing with his cousin's foot level.  

This is basically just an apology for the forthcoming recipe, on a lot of fronts. Now, at the time I made this concoction I really wanted soup because it was chilly outside and I really wanted something down-home and American. What's more American than corn?  (If someone is even thinking Apple Pie, just stop reading now...)

I wanted something like a chowder.  I wanted a flourless corn chowder.  I wanted a hearty, buttery vat of flourless corn chowder.  So what did I make?  It wasn't really a chowder.  It wasn't really a puree either.  It was pretty chunky; maybe a little more hearty than a soup.  Did I make a corn stew?  Is there such a thing as corn stew?  

I baffle myself sometimes, but even though the outcome wasn't necessarily an appetizing color (a pale yellow) and the texture wasn't quite what I had expected (again, thicker and chunky) I have to say I still enjoyed eating it. Yeah, if I were a chef, this might be marked as a failure, but I don't need my food to fit into perfect categories.  I can't be so picky anymore.  After all, I'm a tad limited so who am I to complain?

I Tried To Make Corn Soup And I Got This Corn Stew Type Thingy
*pictures to be loaded


2 6 ounce bags of organic frozen corn (feel free to use fresh if its in season)
2-4 cups of organic chicken broth (love Imagine brand)
1 cup half & half
2 tbs unsalted butter
1/4 red onion, minced
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sea salt
pinch sugar

** This is where my scrawl got a tad fuzzy, but I think this is what I did...

Steam the bags of frozen corn in a large, covered, steaming basket over pot with a few inches of broth for around 30 minutes.
Dump fully steamed corn into chicken broth.
Add butter, minced red onion, pepper, salt, and sugar and mix.
Bring to a boil and reduce.
Add the remaining broth (the more broth you decide to add, the thinner your soup will be.)
Bring to a boil, again.
Reduce to a simmer and cover for 1 or 2 hours (depending how much slow flavor you want to draw out.)
Remove from heat and add half & half slowly.
Immediately transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
Serve up with a little minced onion or parsley garnish and enjoy (I hope.)

I'm not hiding this from you, Reader.  We ALL make mistakes.  Sometimes, I make more mistakes to compensate for those who often don't.  But I think it's okay to make mistakes, to own your mistakes, and learn from them.  And in this case, my mistake tasted delicious.  Sure, it's not the prettiest girl at the dance, but it's definitely not the kid who ate glue.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where Has All My Asian Food Gone?


I miss Asian food.  Yes, not all Asian food is off limits to me being gluten-free, low-oxalate (Indian food is quite friendly); however those restrictions AND the soy allergy don't help.  So in my desperate attempt to satisfy a craving for Chinese food one evening, I created an Asian Style Chicken and Cabbage, originally posted on Recipezaar.  

Now, I take gigantic liberty when I say Asian Style.  I wanted to create the illusion of eastern flavors, particularly Chinese ones, being present without using the major no-no ingredients in my life.  I really enjoyed the result, but then again, I've been cut off from beautiful take-out for a while so I'm not sure how it would measure up if you're serving it to non-elimination guests. I thought all and all, a pretty good faker and hey, it satisfied my silly craving after all :)

Sadly, this is another back-logged recipe, so no pictures again, but I promise I have a couple of recipes I've been saving with pictures that I'll post up as soon as I find the papers I hastily scrawled them on!

Asian Style Chicken & Cabbage


4 boneless skinless chicken cutlets (cut in half to make 8)
8 ounces all-natural plum sauce
1/2-3/4 cup organic chicken broth (I love Imagine)
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbs crushed garlic
8 ounces shredded cabbage (like a coleslaw mix pack)
black pepper
sesame oil


Grease a large and deep skillet, wok or pan with sesame oil.
Add chicken cutlets and brown over Medium Heat.
While chicken is browning, prepare sauce by mixing plum sauce, broth, ginger, garlic and pepper together in a separate bowl.  If the mix has too much kick, dilute with additional broth.
When cutlets are browned, pour sauce over chicken and reduce to a simmer or low boil.
Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, turning the cutlets occasionally, making sure they are even.
Remove chicken form the pan.
Add shredded cabbage to the sauce and cook until the cabbage has an al dente consistency.
To plate, place cabbage down first, and then put the chicken piece on top of it.
Garnish, if you'd like and serve!

Monday, February 16, 2009

I DON'T like kidney stones!!

In case there could be any confusion over the obvious title, I DON'T even remotely, even once a year, even if I'm drunk and love absolutely everything, I DON'T, I WON'T, and I CAN'T ever like kidney stones.

I was reminded of this 3:30am on Sunday morning when I started feeling some pressure on the left-hand side of my lower back spanning to my stomach.  Now, from the about me portion on the side and the obvious diet restrictions I keep in mind while cooking, you can probably guess I'm a bit of a mess when it comes to digestive health.  So when I feel pain, which is often and sometimes chronic, I don't always know what the pain specifically is indicating- until it escalates that is.

So I had a sneaking suspicion this was my friendly, left-side, indicated in October, left-over kidney stone from my first go around.  And it was very friendly.  After announcing with mild pain that it might be ready to pass on Sunday morning, it quickly accelerated to a very loud shout of let me out.  Now, for those of you who have never experienced passing a kidney stone, I cannot describe the depth of extremely agonizing pain which you will be in for several hours. All of a sudden, manageable discomfort turns into I can't breathe because I'm in so much pain. And even when you are given strong pain-killers, you can still feel pain because its just that strong.

The best part (sarcastically she says) of this all is that I'm in the UK, and I have no idea what to expect from their hospital system.  The hotel I'm staying at put me in a cab, and I began my journey with the NHS.  The worst part about being in a great deal of pain is that all you can focus on is that pain, and so when I walked in the emergency room reception, I couldn't wait to have someone help me.  But no one was at the reception.  I called out.  I tried: hello, help, please help, and hello again.  Someone finally came about, and said I needed to wait until the receptionist was ready to take my information.  So about 10 minutes later someone showed up looking annoyed that I was interrupting her night, and I checked in with all the normal facts. Then I had to wait 10 more minutes until someone took me back to the actual emergency room. I have a very high pain tolerance, but I had to wait about 2 1/2 hours until someone gave me an effective painkiller.  This time was mostly spent writhing in pain and begging the nurse to help me (when I could find her) and asking for the doctor because he's the only one who can approve the proper drugs.

This sucked.  This sucked really, really hard.  But, I'm alive.  I spent about 12 hours in the lovely NHS hospital system and once the pain management started I was more or less okay.  I'm going to go in and blast the stones with ultrasound waves this week because they found another stone and I am NOT passing another one of these things, I'll tell you that.

I'm sharing this experience with you dear reader because kidney stones and chronic kidney stones are very commonly present in patients with IBS, Celiac, Crohn's, or who eat unvaried diets that include high amounts of certain elements that your kidney can't flush an abundance of.  Please be sure to hydrate your body even when it rejects it, and even when you have a limited choice of ingredients, make sure to vary them as much as you can.  

Yes, it's annoying that I have to police my own lifestyle as much as I do.  And yes, I severely dislike that I can't just eat normally like everyone else who doesn't seem to have nearly as many issues as I do.  But hey, I'm special.  My mother always told me I was, so now, I guess I am.  And there are days that suck, but there are days that are awesome like when I find a new recipe I like or when I'm up to full energy and gallivanting around at a job I love.

So kids, the moral of the story is: don't get kidney stones.  Trust me, you don't want them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oooo, Is That Cake?

Since you've seen my remark about not having a kitchen, let me put up this fab-u-lous bundt cake I made when I first started experimented with GF baking.  You see, I wanted to make a lower-fat, moist GF cake that cooked all the way through, but I kept getting baked sides and an unbaked center.  Oh, GF baking, why do you taunt me so?  

I asked for help.  And my generously genius friends at Recipezaar on the GF community board gave me suggestions.  One of them brilliant:  if your center won't cook, why not use a bundt pan and eliminate the center.  And did it work?!  Not only did it come out cooked, but I got some rave reviews on the 'zaar that totally pumped up my confidence.  You can see the recipe in all it's glory here, but I'm also re-posting it, just for you!  Sadly, there are no pictures :(

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Applesauce Bundt Cake*
*Note: this was made during days when I wasn't following a low-oxalate diet.  Beware; there's a decent amount of sugar and flour involved


2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1/2 cup canola oil
4 eggs
2 cups gluten-free rice flour mix (I use this one)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat eggs until fluffy.
Blend in sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, and oil by hand or with a mixer on low just until combined.  Do NOT overmix!
Add all dry ingredients, one at a time, blending together.
Pour batter into a greased, large bundt pan and bake for 1 hour.
Check with a toothpick/knife to make sure it's cooked through, cool, and enjoy!
Don't forget to freeze left-overs, wrapping in wax paper, then foil.

Shame On Me

I have been a bad, bad blogger.  Tisk, tisk on me folks!!  This is mostly due to my current lack of kitchen situation that will hopefully be remedied in the next 2 or 3 weeks.  You see, I've moved to the UK for work for a bit, and although I very much miss the states in some ways (and my state in a lot of ways) I have to remark that London is amazing!  Especially for the allergy-laden and gluten-free eater.  

Everything is labeled clearly and easily; their regulations must be stricter here. This labeling system works especially well for those with life-threatening allergies because I read one package that said basically the following:  Product contains no nuts.  No peanuts or nuts are on the premises.  We cannot guarantee that all of our ingredients were obtained from similar conditions. Do you know what it would say in the US?  Either product contains no nuts or product contains traces of nuts but the way our labeling system works, legally they could get away with the first label since their plant is nut free.  However, a highly allergic child might go into shock from eating the item.  See what I mean?

Anyhow, I went to a regular grocery chain last night and found a whole half a long isle filled with oodles and oodles of gluten-free and allergy-free goodies. Ready to go pancakes, english muffins, breads, cakes, tarts, french toast sticks, no oat fake granola bars, mixes, flours... You name it, they have it.  Now mind you, this isn't a special organic or diet store.  This is their regular supermarket and it's just one of the many chains that recognize special diet eaters.  I have to tell you, when I see something like this, it baffles me as to why there are so many limited allergy-free products in the US.  

Now you may say there are several gluten-free products, just look around. However, most of them contain nuts, milk, eggs, or soy which are all extremely common allergies, especially in gluten-free people.  The only 2 problems for me are the nuts and soy, but imagine all those who can't eat eggs.  Well I found a country for you folks!

And all the restaurants understand what gluten-free means.  Most of them have menus marking their GF items.  No more strange looks when you ask if the chef flours the beef or chicken before grilling.  They understand you.  They understand me.

So, basically, this is my salute to you UK.  You have excelled far past my allergy expectations and have gone straight to the top of my list for most GF understanding country (at least, that I've experienced so far.)  And while I don't have a kitchen, I will try to post a few old recipes that don't have pictures and maybe review new allergy-free or gluten-free products that I've found, or restaurant experiences I've had.  But don't worry, I am counting the days until I fire up that oven once again :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chock Full of Crazy & Another Pie

Dear Reader,

I am plum-crazy these days, and no that's not a pun for once!!  I'm actually getting ready to move myself to another country for work and I leave tomorrow... so why am I blogging tonight? Well, whether I'm hopping over to another country or to another world, I would never miss a chance to bake for You Want Pies With That blog.

This month's theme, chosen by the very talented and wise Food Librarian is to bake a literary pie, and let me tell you, I am stoked for this theme!  I love reading; books have been my constant companion for years and until this day, I consider the better worn covers on my shelves to be some of my best friends.  The written word has the capability to take you away to a world you never imagined, or a world you want to join, or a world you dare not join...  A literary work can inspire and infuriate, lift up your soul or make you re-evaluate your self-worth.

The main dilemma I faced in this challenge is how do you choose just one book when you love so many?  Let me tell you, I went through about 30 books with 30 good ideas, however, I have a tragic taste in literature and found my pies to be depressing in inspiration.  I finally settled on a modern favorite by a notable commentator:  Breakfast of Champions written by Kurt Vonnegut.  I went through an intense Vonnegut period where I read everything he ever wrote; I was obsessed.  The main character in Breakfast is much in the same- completely obsessed with a writer, so much so that the consumption causes some interesting results (I don't want to ruin the novel.)  To do justice to the novel as a pie, I wanted to take the irony and disconnect present in most Vonnegut novels and literally become inspired by a breakfast treat (the Wheaties slogan is more of a commentary on product placement and corporate infiltration and less an actual meal.)  And since our protagonist is obsessed, I decided to "stuff" said breakfast treat so it would be consumed with itself.  This is perhaps far too symbolic but it was also far too delicious for its own good ;)

Stuffed French Toast Pie
Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions

Step One:  French Toast Pie Crust


8 oz gluten-free stuffing cubes, frozen (I like Whole Foods brand)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbs milk (I use lactose skim milk)
2 tbs light brown sugar
1 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
dash of cinnamon
maple syrup (optional)


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all above ingredients.
Pat the cubes together into a pie plate until it forms a crust.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
Cool before filling.
*Optional- brush crust with lite maple syrup

Step Two: Stuffed Filling


1 box of cheesecake mousse prepared (I like using Nestle's European Sugar Free, you will need milk)
1/4 cup of mascarpone cheese
2 tbs sugar
1 pint of blueberries or fruit of choice
whipped cream


Prepare mousse as directed (combine 2 pouches with 1 1/2 cups cold milk)
Beat in mascarpone cheese.
Add sugar.
Fold half of the fruit into the filling.
Pour into completed pie shell and chill for 1 hour (if you don't use a deep dish pie plate, you will have leftover filling, yum!)
Top with berries rolled in sugar and whipped cream after chilling.  
Return to chill or serve immediately!

Note:  gluten-free breads do not keep for long unfrozen, so prepare when you can serve the pie out as soon as possible.  

This is probably the most successful/creative gluten-free pie crust solution I've come up with thus far and I really enjoyed making and eating it.  Thanks for such a great theme Mary!