Friday, August 30, 2013

A shirt tale (about salsa)

Doug's favorite salsa

My husband Doug’s shirt-fronts are frequently decorated with a drizzle of salsa. He loves the stuff. “The chips,” he says, “are merely a vehicle to transport the salsa to your mouth.”

I watch in amazement—and sometime, horror—as he breaks his chips into thirds, loading each third with as much salsa as is humanly possible before popping it into his mouth—splattering the menu, the tablecloth, and everything close-by in tomato residue. The better the salsa, it so happens, the more stained the shirt.

Fortunately for Doug, it’s currently salsa season. Tomatoes are plentiful, and our friends are generous with their bountiful crops. The farmers’ markets are also well-stocked with inexpensive seconds—perfect for salsa-making. This week I pulled out his favorite recipe, given to me by my amazing friend Linda Marshall, and made a double batch of it.

Salsa and tortilla chips are among those treats that folks with celiac disease can consume without fear. Most brands of tortilla chips are gluten-free and are clearly labeled accordingly. I’ve found that most restaurant chips are GF as well, unless they’re deep-fried in oil that is used for frying breaded appetizers. Ask before you indulge.

If you have extra tomatoes, try Linda’s recipe:


5-6 medium tomatoes, diced
6 oz. tomato paste
2 T. lime juice
¼ C. diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 T. fresh parsley or cilantro (add a little coriander, if using parsley)
1 T. fresh oregano
½ bell pepper, diced
½ tsp. salt
1 T. olive oil

If you want to can your salsa, Linda says, heat it until almost boiling. Pack in jars with ½ inch space. Use a hot water bath to process for 35 minutes. I never can mine—not even the double batches that I always make, because Doug gobbles it up immediately.

When I told Linda that I wanted to borrow her recipe for the blog, she sent me a recipe from her cousin that she calls Lazy Man’s Salsa. Here it is:

Lazy Man's Salsa

1 can tomatoes (Linda freezes 1lb. bags from her garden to use for this purpose)
1 can Rotel or similar
1/4 bunch cilantro
1 t garlic powder
1 t. salt
3/4 t cumin

Throw all in blender and pulse--that's it!

Linda testifies that Lazy Man’s Salsa is “surprisingly good.” I’ll make some for Doug, and we’ll give it the old shirt test. I’ll let you know how it comes out in the wash …

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Press on (Pt. 2)

Before Panini press.

At the risk of becoming tedious, I feel compelled to proclaim the virtues of my wonderful new Panini press once again. And this time I took photos!

After Panini press.

Using a Rudi’s Spelt Tortilla, shredded cheese, two slices of chopped pre-cooked bacon, a fresh tomato, fresh basil, and a bit of black olive tapenade—I shared the recipe yesterday—I made a perfect quesadilla in my shiny new press (and “perfect” isn’t a word I use very often to describe my cooking!) I put a little light sour cream on the side for dipping, chopped up a fresh peach for dessert, and—oh, sweet mother of pearl--heaven!

Am I the last person in the world to catch on to this wonderful little kitchen appliance? My quality of (gluten-free) life has suddenly made a dramatic improvement! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Press on

My shiny new Panini press can work magic!

Finding good gluten-free sandwich bread is a problem. It never tastes quite right, the texture is generally too dense, and it falls apart easily. Don’t get me wrong: many good cooks have found solutions to those problems, but not without a great deal of experimentation, and a huge amount of patience and persistence (neither of which I possess).

I have found an easy solution, though, which has rocked my lunchtime world! It’s my brand new Hamilton Beach Panini Press. I sampled a small sandwich made with turkey breast, Swiss cheese, homemade pesto, and Udi’s multigrain sandwich bread at a support group meeting several weeks ago. It was so delicious that I went right home and ordered an inexpensive (under $25) press on Amazon. It’s now sitting on my kitchen counter, waiting to create its next work of art.

Trust me on this: putting a couple of slices of even so-so bread, along with your favorite toppings, in a Panini press works some kind of magic on a sandwich. You (almost) forget that the bread is gluten-free as you enjoy that warm, crunchy, melty bit of heaven.

For lunch today, I had a sandwich made of gluten-free sourdough bread (purchased at the farmers’ market), homemade black olive tapenade (so easy), sliced jalapeno-jack cheese, thin salami, and fresh tomatoes. Three minutes in my little press, and I had a lunch that would please anyone. Seriously! I wish I had taken a picture of that sandwich to share with you, but I had it wolfed down before I even thought about it.

Maybe next time.

Black olive tapenade is great for sandwiches.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for Easy Black Olive Tapenade:

¼ C. chopped black olives (I used canned olives but chopped my own. I think you can buy canned chopped olives as well.)
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 T. sea salt*
½ C. extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients together. Serve warm or cold. Use as a spread for sandwiches or as dip for bread.
*You may want to reduce the amount of salt by half, and it will still be delicious.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stir fry crazy

You can't go wrong with stir fry!

I attend a monthly Celiac Support Group meeting at our local HyVee Supermarket, where I receive a wealth of information about new products and store offerings, as well as local restaurant reviews, cooking tips, recipes, samples and coupons. It’s always interesting and educational—and lots of fun.

This month HyVee Chef Chadwick Isom cooked up some delicious stir fry using San-J Gluten-Free Asian Sauces, which you can purchase at many stores. Stir fry is one of my go-to meals, because it’s so flexible, easy and quick. You can use any leftover, fresh, or even canned vegetables and/or meats that you have on hand to cook up a big batch that will also make great leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chef Chadwick shared the following recipe for the stir fry we sampled:

Gluten-Free Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry

8 oz. fresh chicken breast, sliced in thin strips
Salt and pepper
1T. refined nut oil, refined seed oil, or light olive oil (I love to use sesame oil)

Heat a medium sauté span up on high until very hot. An electric range can take 5-8 min. to heat a pan very well. Dry the chicken with paper towels and then season with salt and pepper. When the pan is ready, put the oil in the pan and heat briefly followed by the chicken. Sear very hot and fast or 2-3 min. on each side. When the chicken is done, put it on a plate to rest for a few minutes. While the pan is sill hot, stir fry the vegetables, which may include:

16 oz. snow peas, cleaned and stemmed
1 very thinly sliced carrot
1 colored pepper, cut into thin 1-inch strips
½ onion, cut in thin 1-inch strips
1 T. sesame oil
1 jar San-J Asian Sauce (Use whatever flavor you like. I love the Thai Peanut Sauce.)

In the same pan in which the chicken was seared, and while it is still very hot, add the sesame oil and all of the vegetables. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until the vegetables are about half cooked, and then add the sauce and cooked chicken*, tossing to heat everything. Then serve over brown, Basmati, or Jasmin rice.

*I like to scramble a couple of eggs and/or add tofu to my stir fry after the vegetables are half cooked.

More useful information from this month’s meeting:

San-J Gluten-Free Asian BBQ Sauce
San-J Gluten-Free Asian Cooking Sauces come in several varieties, including, Thai Peanut, Szechuan, Teriyaki, Sweet & Tangy, Asian BBQ, Orange, and Mongolian. Yummy! Find recipes at

If you are traveling in a foreign country, you can download Gluten Free Restaurant Cards in many different languages to help you explain your dietary needs to almost anyone. Visit for the free downloads.

If you live in the Springfield (MO) area, I encourage you to attend the monthly meetings on the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the HyVee classroom. Call 417-881-1950 or email Adrienne or Kristen at for a reservation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

When life gives you zucchini ...

Delicious zucchini bread doesn't need gluten!
I became an expert at baking zucchini bread not long after I was married. At the time, Doug and I had set up house in a little two-room metal building—the well-house, actually—on my dad’s farm near Seymour, MO. Living on a farm, I thought I needed to put in a garden, naturally. I bought a used tiller, prepared the soil, planted the seeds, watered, weeded and waited.

Too much rain that spring, followed by too much drought in the summer—and too many other activities, followed by too little enthusiasm for all the hard work that successful gardening demands—brought little yield to my “toil.”

Except for the zucchini, that is. Unfortunately, we had a bumper crop of zucchini ten times larger in size than the pale and paltry watermelons planted right next to them. Apparently zucchini thrives on adverse conditions and a lot of neglect.

Theo's well-loved recipe.
When I complained to my friend Theo Clark about all that zucchini, she gave me a recipe for zucchini bread. Though at first I was skeptical about grating up zucchini to put into a loaf of bread, I used that recipe to make her delicious zucchini bread for the next 35 years. (Friends—or neighbors or even complete strangers—nearly always supply the zucchini from their own bumper crops.)

Now that celiac disease no longer allows me to use Theo’s recipe, I’ve had to come up with a new plan for the use of zucchini (which I purchased this week for a song at the farmers market). I found this recipe on the Internet—and I made some really tasty bread this afternoon.

Gluten-Free Zucchini Bread

1 C. sugar
2 eggs
2/3 C. vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tsp. GF vanilla
1 ¼ C. GF all purpose flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp. GF baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 C. shredded zucchini (no need to peel)
½ C. chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease bottom only of 9-by-5 inch loaf pan.
  • Use electric mixer on medium speed to beat sugar and eggs until well blended. Add oil and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  • In a different bowl, mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into egg mixture on low speed until blended. Stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour mixture into pan.
  • Bake 1 hour to 1 hour, 10 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 min. Remove from pan to cooling rack and cool completely.

This recipe worked perfectly on the first try. The bread tasted great, and it held together well.

Although I never became much of a farmer, Doug and loved living in the well-house. Besides the fact that we lived there rent-free, we enjoyed the beauty of our pastoral surroundings, the sound of the rain on the metal roof, the smell of freshly cut hay, the feel of the cool water in the creek that ran through the farm—and the sweet taste of our home-grown zucchini bread.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New York, New York

My two elder children live in New York, Bryson in East Village in Lower Manhattan and Emily near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. They are both students at NYU’s Tisch School for the Performing Arts. Bryson is in his final year of an MFA program in Scenic Design, and Emily is in her first year of an MFA program in Musical Theater Writing. They hope one day to work together in show business, a plan that has me shaking my head in wonder. Are these the same two children who used to duke it out over what games to play, what movies to watch, whose turn it was to sit in the front seat of the car?

Anyway, now I spend much of my time shuttling back and forth from Springfield (MO) to New York to visit them. They are always happy to accompany me to theater performances, movies, standup comedy shows, parks, beaches, and museums--and they never balk at the chance to explore New York’s many, many gluten-free restaurants and bakeries.

In the nearly three years since I’ve been traveling there regularly, I’ve racked up quite a collection of great restaurants with gluten-free specialties. Here are a few of my favorites, if you happen to be visiting the city. (Even if you aren’t eating gluten-free, my family members would highly recommend these restaurants.)

Shrimp, mozzarella & tomato risotto at Risotteria.
Risotteria (270 Bleecker St.): This totally gluten-free restaurant is my all-time favorite.  It’s very tiny and always packed out, but it’s worth the wait—even if you don’t have to eat gluten-free. They start by bringing out the best crispy, flakey GF breadsticks I’ve ever eaten. We almost always order a cheese plate appetizer to go with them. Of course, the creamy risotto is the main event, with many, many different choices of ingredients. They also have a wonderful wine selection. Just thinking about this place makes my mouth water!

Risotteria Melotti (309 E. 5th St, between 1st Ave. & 2nd Ave.):  I confess that I haven’t yet experienced this completely gluten-free restaurant, yet, but my husband Doug is insisting that I include it on my NYC list. He recently discovered this place with my son, who is also gluten-free. Doug said it is just as good as Risotteria (no business relationship), and he raved—really—about their GF rice bread, which he swears has the taste and texture of “real” Italian bread. I will take a cab directly to this restaurant from the airport next time I visit NYC!

Rubirosa Ristorante (235 Mulberry Street, between Prince and Spring): This is another restaurant that I try to visit every time I’m in NY. Their GF pizza and pasta is outstanding, and the atmosphere is charming. It’s always crowded, so make a reservation.

Emporio's pleasant setting.
Emporio (231 Mott St.): We found this Italian restaurant in the Nolita area one night after we couldn’t get into Rubirosa (above).  We were seated in a window that opened right onto the sidewalk and ate some of the best GF pizza I’ve ever had—Speck & Mushroom, with stracchino cheese, fior di latte mozzarella, and truffle. They also had GF pasta. We will definitely return.

S’Mac (345 E. 12th St.): If you crave macaroni and cheese, this is the place. It’s a very un-fancy hole-in-the-wall--crowded, noisy, no atmosphere. But--oh, my—the mac and cheese, which they serve in little individual skillets with whatever ingredients you desire, is decadent and delicious. I’ve eaten here many times, and I’ve also ordered it delivered to my son’s apartment. The buffalo chicken wing macaroni and cheese is our favorite.

Pala Pizza (198 Allen St.): Love the food (GF pizza, pasta, salads). Love the atmosphere. In the summer and fall, they raise the garage-door-like front of the restaurant and you dine outside.

Nizza (630 9th Ave.): This lovely restaurant is just a short walk from the Broadway Theater District. It’s one of our go-to places when we’re on our way to a show.  On my last visit I had delicious Gnocchi Al Forno—yum-yum!—before waddling to the Music Box Theatre for a production of Pippin. Nizza also has great GF bread.

BareBurger (535 LaGuardia Pl., just off Washington Square): I’ve eaten at several BareBurger restaurants. Their menu features burgers in a multitude of choices in meats, such as beef, turkey, chicken, wild boar, elk, bison, and ostrich, as well as vegetarian options, such as farmers quinoa burgers, mushroom burgers, black bean burgers. To gluten-free eaters, they offer a decent tapioca rice bun and great fresh cut French fries with several GF sauces. It’s a good place if you need a burger.

Zengo (622 Third Avenue, Midtown): We discovered this beautifully appointed Latin-Asian Fusion restaurant during NYC’s Restaurant Week. They have lovely little GF & Vegetarian menu with such offerings as ceviche, sushi rolls, lettuce wraps, crispy tofu, and achiote roasted salmon. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience.

Mozzarelli’s (38 E. 23rd St. #3): If you’re messing around in the Flatiron area and need a quick little lunch, you can get good GF pizza and desserts at this little restaurant. They also sell GF breadcrumbs and cookies to take home.

Hu Kitchen (78 5th Ave, near Union Square): If you’re ready to move beyond meat and potatoes, you should check out this entirely gluten-free restaurant. When Bryson and I ate there, I had Organic Rotisserie Chicken with Assorted Market Vegetables (something green), and he ate the Grandmaster Veg (a grain/dairy-free lasagna dish). The sides included things like Rustic Root Vegetable Mash and Caramelized Pineapple and Cashew Cream. The food is fun and healthy in a modern, cafeteria-style setting.

BabyCakes (248 Broome Street, between Orchard and Ludlow): This teeny-tiny bakery sells some of the best sweet treats I’ve had since going gluten-free. Their sweet cornbread and pumpkin loaves are to die for—and their cake-style donuts frequently inhabit my food fantasies. They aren’t open until 10 a.m., so you can’t have an early morning donut with your coffee, but if you’re willing to wait for a little while, you won’t be disappointed.

Bistango (415 Third Avenue at East 29th St.) Another brilliant Italian restaurant with a certified gluten-free menu. They serve GF pastas, stuffed pastas, pizza, bread, desserts and beer. This is another GF restaurant that was especially high on Doug’s

Bogota Latin Bistro (141 5th Ave, Brooklyn): Make a special trip to Brooklyn to enjoy this authentic Colombian restaurant.  Located only a few blocks from the Barclay Center, this restaurant has a huge GF menu, a festive atmosphere, great drinks, and wonderful service. I love their Arroz con Pollo, cornmeal empanadas,  and fried plantains.

Cochinita (922 Fulton St., Brooklyn): Also in Brooklyn, this is the perfect place for lunch. They have a great GF menu. Last time I was there, I ate pork tacos and beans and rice. Delicious. We took our lunch out to a little patio in the back and had a delightful little picnic.

I haven’t even touched on the many, many Asian and Indian restaurants where I’ve spent many a pleasant evening dining with my family. In general, I’ve found that most restaurants are understanding of celiac disease and most can accommodate the gluten-free diner. If you find a place that won’t play nicely, walk away. There are probably ten more places to eat safely within easy walking distance! Pull out your Yelp or your Find Me Gluten Free app and let them direct you to a great experience.