Monday, November 29, 2010

WHB Hosting and the Gluten Free Food Find of the Week: Poha

When groceries are so inexpensive at the Asian markets in Albany, I feel free to grab packets and bottles and cans of interesting-looking new edibles and fling them in my cart without remorse. We've discovered so many great naturally gluten-free new foods (one must still read labels diligently though) including new varieties of rice, a world of gluten-free noodles from all kinds of culinary traditions, and wildly exotic spices and sauces.

One of my new favorite discoveries is poha (also spelled pohe), a Western Indian comfort food. Poha is a quick cooking product made of pounded or flattened rice that is available in either thick or thin varieties. I bought a package of thick poha for $1.89 at the Indian Bazaar on Central Avenue in Albany that contained 4 cups of poha, enough for two separate dinners for our family of four.

According to my blogger colleague TongueTicklers, poha is one of the first solid foods that children smack their gums upon. She also notes that a dish of poha is a favorite breakfast or snack food and gets packed in many a lunchtime tiffin, whether it is cooked up savory or sweet. Since I have more of a salt tooth, I went savory for my poha test drives.

First I cooked up TongueTicklers' recipe for Kaanda Pohe, which pairs poha with sliced potatoes, which sounds like altogether too much starch, but which blends together beautifully. I added some (well, a lot) curry leaves that I sauteed with the spices and this was an aromatic and belly-filling dinner indeed. You soak your poha in water for a short while and then drain it in a colander. It absorbs the liquid and becomes sort of spongy, rather like a rolled oat, with a delightfully chewy texture.

I also tried poha again a week later without the peanuts, topped with the chopped up last blast of cilantro from the garden. Another winner.

Scheduled next on the Crispy Cook poha experiment trials will be this recipe for Mane Adige's recipe for Gojjavalakki, in which you whir your poha around in the blender or food processor and cook it up with tamarind, rasam powder and other spices. Sounds divine. But gotta trek back down to the Big City to buy more poha!

I am going to include this poha post in this week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, which is now in its fifth year, making it one of the Grand Old Dames of food blogging events. Weekend Herb Blogging started over at Kalyn's Kitchen and is now run by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything. The weekly event includes posts about edible plant ingredients, whether they be fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains, legumes, herbs, or flowers. I always find out about new ingredients and new ways to prepare old favorites with this event.

As the guest host of Weekend Herb Blogging #262, I would love to showcase your blog post, which may contain a recipe or information about growing or using a plant ingredient, to include in my recap after this week's deadline of Sunday, December 5, midnight Eastern Standard Time. WHB submissions must include a link back to The Crispy Cook and to Haalo's WHB rules link. WHB submissions must also be specifically written for this blog event and not cross-posted to other blog events.

In your email submission (to oldsaratogabooks AT gmaildot coM) please include the following information:

* Your Name
* Your Blog Name/URL
* Your Post URL
* Your Location
* Attach a photo (please check the details below for specific photo requirements)

Looking forward to seeing what you and other great cooks from around the world will be submitting!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gluten Free Treats at Nova Mae Cafe in Bennington, VT

There's a wonderful cafe full of gluten-free treats in downtown Bennington, Vermont. Nova Mae Cafe, located at 512 Main Street, is named after owner Kim Post's young daughter, and is a delightful way to refuel when you are visiting this vibrant college town. You can get soups, salads and sandwiches (I forgot to ask if they carry GF bread), coffee, tea and....

a whole shelf full of gluten-free baked goods in their bakery case. I saw scones, pumpkin pie, brownies and two cute little iced apple breads that I snapped up for Dan. What a score!

Kim is the effervescent owner/baker/chef at the Nova Mae Cafe, helped by her adorable mom when I was there. Next door to the cafe at 514 she also runs Junque, which is one of the coolest shops for funky home furnishings, vintage linens, artsy cards, handcrafted clothing and other kinds of gifts. I have found some great items for our home and to adorn the shelves of our used bookstore at Junque over the past several years, including some heavy chicken bookends, a vintage avocado colored tablecloth to match my Crispy Kitchen, hand embroidered napkins and table runners and fun cards.

For hours and more information about Nova Mae Cafe you can call them at (802) 447-9490. See you there!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Growing and Eating a Gaudy Purple Cauliflower

While not the most prolific vegetable in my upstate New York garden, the cauliflower is so delightfully odd-looking and so terribly toothsome, that I always like to buy a six-pack of seedlings each spring to intersperse among my plants.

This year my local farmer offered the Graffiti purple cauliflower variety so I snapped some up and coddled them throughout my growing season. Only two of my six Graffitis formed heads. Here's the first one in all its glory, nestled among my autumnal asparagus stalks.

The color of this cauliflower is a deep magenta and the florets are spectacular on a raw vegetable platter. I tried cooking up half of my first Graffiti to see how it would change color when cooked, and it was a weird shade of blue (it's the plate on the right in the photo below), so I'm just going to keep the second cauliflower (still out in my patch, a very cold hardy plant) for my crudite plate.

I'm sending this post about the purple cauliflower I grew to Weekend Herb Blogging, now in its fifth year. This weekly blog event celebrates the edible members of the Vegetable Kingdom and was started by Kalyn's Kitchen. Now headquartered by Haalo of Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once, this informative and always tasty roundup always surprises me with exotic plant ingredients I never heard of before or with new ways of preparing more common vegetables. I am delighted that I will once again serve as guest host for this Weekend Herb Blogging next week, so I will dig out some more vegetable favorites to blog about.

This week's WHB roundup will be hosted by Anh, of A Food Lover's Journey. Anh is a Vietnamese ex-patriate living in Melbourne, Australia, and she presents many Southeast Asian recipes and new culinary delights on her beautifully-photographed blog. I have bookmarked her latest post involving a recipe for Gluten-Free Mango Clafouti that looks delicious! Stop by Anh's blog after the Sunday deadline for WHB #261 to see all the great entries.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Countdown to our Gluten-Free Thanksgiving 2010

Preparing a gluten-free Thanksgiving feast takes a bit of planning and reconnaissance in the kitchen, but adding in other dietary considerations (some of my family members are vegetarians) adds another layer of thinking about recipes.

Since receiving the celiac diagnosis five years ago, I've been planning and cooking meals that are mostly gluten-free and mostly pescatarian or vegetarian, including our family's Thanksgiving meal, but this year I'm making things easier on myself by making it all gluten-free.

Not that I'm telling my holiday family and guests, mind you.

I will let the vegetarians know that aside from a roast turkey and accompanying gravy, they are free to roam the Thanksgiving table without fear of ingesting meat. And I will whisper in my husband's ear that he may do the same without being glutened. My Thanksgiving gift to him. And not incidentally, to me, as the Chief and Crispiest of Cooks.

I still plan a lavish spread (because I love to cook, I love to eat, I love to have leftovers during a busy retail season at our bookstore, because I have teenagers) but I will not be making gluten-free AND Gluteny kinds of stuffings, two kinds of desserts, etc. etc. as I have in the past. I think I have just gotten to a different mindset about cooking in my kitchen as we have tried to transition from our previous cooking/eating ways to a gluten-free lifestyle.

Whereas right after the G-bomb hit with my husband's diagnosis I was overwhelmed with the enormity of having to retool the kitchen, rethink my repertoire of recipes and cooking methods, and relearn how to bake (fuhgeddaboutit!), I am now more at ease with shopping and cooking gluten-free than not. Weird.

I'm certainly planning to be less mentally CRISPY a cook when I am putting the finishing touches on my Thanksgiving spread and calling everyone to the table. If anyone asks about whether things are gluten-free before the feasting is over, I plan to get a distracted look and hurry off to say "I forgot to put out the salt and pepper", or "I forgot to turn off the stove". I will only let slip that the entire deliciousness is gluten-free after the fact, when they are lulled into a post-prandial daze.

At least, that's my devious plan. Keep your fingers crossed for me on my secretive gluten-free guerrilla assault on my otherwise GF-wary diners.

Here's my game plan for a totally Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Feast:


Magical Muhammara (a fantastic Middle Eastern dip courtesy of author Diana Abu-Jaber, I sub in GF bread crumbs)
Grandma's Stuffed Celery
Cream Cheese Glazed with Garlic-Rosemary Jelly (recipe to follow in another post this week)
GF Crackers (Sesame-Rosemary Crackers if I'm extra-ambitious, but more likely a couple of packages of store-bought Nut Thins)

Main Event:

Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy (for the omnivores)
Roast Portabellas with Rice Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy (for the vegetarians)

Mashed Potatoes
Copper Pennies Salad
Sweet Potato Pudding
Cole Slaw
Green Bean Casserole with Crunchy Fried Onions (courtesy of Jill of Hey, That Tastes Good!)
Apple Chutney (with dried cranberries thrown in to macerate for a couple of days)
Cornbread Dressing
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Balm Vinaigrette
Relish Tray (olives, carrot sticks and Dilly Beans)
GF Parker House Rolls (courtesy of Art of Gluten-Free Baking)

Sweet Finale:

Apple Sour Cream Pie
Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie (courtesy of the Fat Free Vegan)
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

My daughter and I made a batch of these Chocolate Dipped Strawberries during the summer, to serve as an elegant ending for our wedding anniversary dinner and I was amazed at how ridiculously easy they were. They look so beautiful that I had always assumed they were difficult to assemble, but after perusing some cookbooks and Internet recipes I came up with this breezy way to make these simple little show stoppers.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulls left on, rinsed and patted dry

1 (8 oz.) pkg. gluten-free milk chocolate chips

1-2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening

Melt chocolate chips in double boiler over low heat. Stir often. When chips are fully melted, add in shortening as needed to achieve a runny, liquid texture.

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.

Holding strawberries by hulls, dip in melted chocolate to coat on all sides except hull. Place gently on waxed paper to cool.

That's it! Chill when cooled. You can also get fancier with these dessert treats by swirling on lines of melted white chocolate or dipping their little bottoms in crushed nuts while they are still warm.

I'm sending this Thanksgiving 2010 post over to Shirley at Gluten-Free Easily, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person recently. She is a lovely, supersmart lady who shares her gluten-free recipes, entertaining ideas, health information and so much more on her wonderful blog. Shirley's hosting week 2 of a Gluten-Free Holiday series sponsored by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Shirley's theme this week is Thanksgiving Favorites.

Hop on over to Gluten-Free Easily to see what other bloggers are planning for their Turkey Day. I just visited and see that my tentative feast menu may be subject to change based on some droolworthy options over there. You can also leave comments there to enter to win some wonderful cookbooks.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Adopt a GF Blogger: Kristina of No Gluten Required

Checking in with other gluten-free bloggers is a good way to get a fresh viewpoint on how to cook or plan meals. The Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger event founded by Sea at the Book of Yum is a great incentive for me to check out what others are cooking for supper and to learn new kitchen tips.

For this round of Adopt a GF Blogger, I have picked Kristina, from No Gluten Required, a new Maryland resident (by way of Boston) with a degree in Gastronomy (impressive!) and an adventurous culinary spirit. On No Gluten Required you will find her musings and kitchen test notes about such diverse edibles as Bacon Pomegranate Salad on Endive, Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves, Artic Char with Preserved Lemon, and Blueberry Rhubarb Brown Butter Almond Tart.

She also writes a really good rant now and then. See her post about GF flour blends here. And I was also impressed and educated when reading her latest post about how she felt upon relocating to a new hometown and having to relearn where to eat with ease and safety. It's a moving post about moving.

What is most striking to me is Kristina's header photo in which she brandishes her customized wooden kitchen utensils, each sporting a snappy Gluten Free logo she lasered herself at the MIT labs. Read all about that here. How cool is that?!

No Gluten Required had a recipe for GF Spaetzle, which is something I've been meaning to try some day, so I gave Kristina's recipe and technique a whirl. One works in small batches of 1/2 cups of spaetzle dough, so I had time to improve my spaetzle flinging technique. I found that my spaetzle was really clumping together in the first batch, so I flung smaller bits into my boiling water, a la Egg Drop Soup, and they were a little too threadlike and dissolved. I got the hang of things after the first several batches and then would put my last spaetzle batch in a colander to drain and then toss it with a bit of melted butter to keep them from clumping together.

We ate our spaetzle tossed with mushrooms sauteed in butter, a sprinkling of poppy seeds, snipped parsley and a little salt and pepper. Sehr gut!

The recipe made a bodaciously big batch of spaetzle. When I make it again I will cut the recipe in half as we only needed a small bowl of this substantial German comfort food favorite to fill our bellies. I would estimate that it made 8 hefty main dish portions. I would also boil up much more salted water for the spaetzle than several quarts, as I found that the water got gummy from the tapioca starch after the first several spaetzle boils and this made the resultant product stickier and stickier as the batches mounted.

You can see some of my other Adoptees in past posts here at the Crispy Cook:

Flour Arrangements (wonderful, creative GF baker)

Gluten Free Kay (a serious gardener and backyard farmer)

A Gluten Free Day
(stunning food photos and great recipes from

Gluten Free South Africa (made two of her recipes for the holidays, panforte and zucchini madeleines)

Fat Free Vegan Kitchen (made homemade crackers for the first time with
FFVK "holding my hand" with great success)

Book of Yum (my GF blogging kindred spirit on the West Coast)

Fresh Ginger
(if you enjoy spicy cuisine, farm fresh ingredients and homemade cider, this blog is for you!)

Jeena's Kitchen
(onion bhajis are in our household's permanent recipe rotation now)

Gluten A Go Go
(Coca Cola Cake, awesomely delectable)

And be sure to check out Sea's roundup at the Book of Yum after tomorrow's deadline, when there will lots a delicious GF smorgasbord for us to all sample.

I'm also sending a bowl of this gluten-free spaetzle over to Presto Pasta Nights, a weekly showcase of all things noodly, which is headquartered over at Once Upon a Feast. This week's guest host for Presto Pasta Nights is Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and she will be posting her delicious roundup this Friday night.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Crispy Cook Meets Betty Crocker

Man, this past week I was the Extra, Extra Crispy Cook. I helped organize our school's annual arts and music festival on Friday, went on the road with a good bit of our used bookshop at the Chronicle's Autumn Leaves Book Fair in Glens Falls on Saturday, and worked at the shop and home at computer central in between. But even more wild was my beginning of the week adventure in Minneapolis to meet with a brigade of marketing mavens and what seemed like half the staff of the General Mills corporate headquarters.

Yours truly and ten other gluten-free blogger buddies were invited by General Mills to come for an intensive day of sessions to let the company know about the gluten-free lifestyle and how we shop, cook and live to keep our families healthy. This company, one of the world's largest food manufacturers, makes and sells some of the most popular food brands in North America, including Betty Crocker, Progresso, Yoplait, Old El Paso, Green Giant, Pillsbury, and Haagen Dazs (hurray for Rum Raisin!) so even though I generally cook from scratch, I was intrigued about being asked for my input and pleased to see that such a large company was interested in making more food options available for the gluten-free community.

I was psyched to meet so many passionate, articulate gluten-free bloggers during the day. Here's Amy of The Savvy Celiac, a great source of information and news and Minnesota area recommendations, with Cinde of Gluten Free Taste of Home, whose blog is all about gluten-free product reviews and giveaways (Amy's the blonde, Cinde's the brunette). And that's Danna Korn in profile on the far left, a rock star in the GF community who is the author of the several great books about living gluten-free, including Gluten Free for Dummies which I have recommended to many others who are new to the GF diet. Danna is also the founder of R.O.C.K. (Raising our Celiac Kids), a support group for parents. My local readers may be interested to know that there is a Glens Falls R.O.C.K. chapter.

In the photo above you can see a picture of (from left to right), Amanda of A Few Shortcuts, who gives you all the latest shopping bargains, recipes, and homemaking hints from her Florida home, Amy the Savvy Celiac, and Shelly, who, though not a blogger (yet?) is an active member of the Minneapolis/St. Paul R.O.C.K. along with Amy.

And below you can see Cinde on the right (whom you already met above) and Linda, the Gluten-Free Homemaker, who has fantastic home cooking recipes and household tips on her Maryland-based blog. Linda is the brains behind Gluten-Free Wednesdays, a link up of GF menu ideas and recipes to help make meal planning a little easier for the GF cook.

Most of our day was spent in information sessions being peppered with questions about how we've had to retool our kitchens, pay more for food on our gluten-free diets, alter our shopping habits, and the extent of our advance planning for our dining out experiences. Being an assertive and passionate bunch, we bloggers also got to fling the pepper back by making our various needs and desires known.

Chief among our desires were:

- Better certification/testing of food labeled as gluten-free (especially without the chilling afterword "may be made in a facility that also processes wheat, tree nuts, milk, etc.")

- Ingredient lists that are shorter rather than longer and which contain less chemicals and less additives that are unrecognizable as food. As in "why is there ester of wood rosin in my frosting?

- Products that contain less white rice flour, more fiber and more nutritious GF flour choices

- Less expensive GF foods.

I think our voices were heard and am encouraged that General Mills is sincerely interested in improving their product line for its GF customers. The fact is that gluten-free consumers read labels with a vengeance; we have to because eating gluten makes us and our loved ones sick and because manufacturers frequently reformulate products and add gluteny things back into products with "new and improved taste".

While a lot of smaller companies have sprung up over the past decade to provide wonderful GF foods for us to enjoy and which are available in "regular" food markets, General Mills is by far the largest company and has the most resources to be able to really expand the availability of more GF foods in mainstream markets. I think we were able to give the company a lot of important information about cross-contamination, the range of gluten-sensitivity and -intolerance and our powerful individual stories about how we and our families have been affected by gluten. I know I learned a lot from my fellow bloggers and I thought I was pretty up to speed on GF issues.

We also got a little time in Betty's kitchen to bake some sweet treats, though the General Mills staff didn't realize that possible gluten-contamination of wooden utensils used to make all their many other previous baked goods was a health concern, so they were disappointed that our gang of bloggers was not partaking of their specially prepared sweets. I know that this was a good education for them.

I was a baking partner with Jill of Hey, That Tastes Good, who is a wonderful food photographer and GF food adventurer. I was already a fan of her blog, as we gave her Fried Calamari recipe a test drive recently and I became a kitchen hero. That used to be Dan's favorite appetizer when we would dine out in the pre-GF era.

Jill's the one not wielding the gluten-suspicious rolling pin.

From left to right, my other new blogger friends included the effervescent Maureen of Hold the Gluten, who writes her information-packed blog posts about cooking, travel and health news from New Jersey, Vanessa the Celiac Princess, a newlywed (check out her gorgeous wedding photos and the spectacular GF reception spread) and author of a much-dogeared and beloved cookbook at our house, "The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook", Lyn of Lyn's Kitchen Adventures, an Oklahoma mom and splendid from-scratch baker who keeps things gluten, tree nut, peanut and sesame-free in her kitchen, and Shirley of Gluten-Free Easily, who finds the time to lead a celiac support group back home in Virginia when she is not blogging up a ton of recipes whose emphasis is on naturally gluten-free foods and whole foods.

Feel free to add comments about what you'd like to see in the best of all possible GF worlds and I will be happy to pass them along to my contacts at my next opportunity. I can tell you that General Mills is listening and made lots of staff available to meet with our group, so this bodes well for our future.

I hope you all find time to visit the blogs of my new GF friends and say hello. They are all wonderful women with lots to share and interesting points of view and I was inspired by them all.