Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!


"It's Christmas Eve. It's the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be."
--Scrooged

Thursday, December 22, 2011

They're really "Above All Burgers:" UBURGER is gluten-free friendly!

In Boston there is a burger joint that is simply to die for. It is called UBURGER. Started in 2001 by Quincy natives, it was one of my favorite places to go to for food in Boston. Located conveniently in Kenmore Square (and also one on Comm Ave) it is any BU student's choice for a quality lunch that isn't loaded with preservatives, hormones or MSG. It is also prime hangover food. Ask any of the students you'll see in there around noon on Saturday or Sunday.

Since going gluten-free I have struggled to find quick gluten-free options. More often than not I'll find myself at Qdoba or Chipotle getting corn tacos or "naked burritos." While those are delicious and healthy (ish) options I've found myself not handling beans as well as I use to be able to and those mexican dishes are full of 'em.

Flash back to this Tuesday. I was walking in Kenmore Square on my way to work a shift in the mailroom of the Myles Standish dorm on BU's campus. The smell outside of UBURGER was so good and I was hungry as all I had for dinner was a grapefruit. (I was called in to work two hours before I was scheduled to come in.) I wanted some french fries in a big way. 

Funny enough they are the one thing I have really craved since going gluten-free. It use to be pizza until I discovered this gem of a pizza place in Weymouth called Gusto's pizza! More on this later!

I didn't get my hopes up because I have really struggled to find gluten-free french fries even in restaurants that have extensive gluten-free menus. It seems like restaurants in general are very reluctant to dedicate a fryer to just french fries. Anyway -- when I asked the woman at the cash register if the fries were gluten-free she said very casually that they were and I got super excited. The manager confirmed that they are fried in a dedicated fryer and kept aside from the other fried foods, like their to-die-for onion rings that sadly are not gluten-free. Naturally I ordered some fries and a black and white frappe for a healthy and well-rounded dinner. (Don't forget the grapefruit!)


They were so good! I use to frequent UBURGER very often before I was gluten-free and I'm psyched that I will be able to go back again! I was too excited (and late for work) to ask them about their other gluten-free options so I just sent them an email. Hopefully their burgers and chicken sandwiches (they use all white meat filets not questionable patties) can also be prepared gluten-free, sans bun of course. My favorite was a "phat chick" chicken sandwich with bacon, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. When I hear back I will let you all know so you can discover how great their food is too!

Edit: I emailed UBURGER right before I started writing this and I just received a response from one of the owners! Here is his reply:

Hi Kerin

Thank you very much for the compliment! To answer you questions, the burgers and grilled chicken are gluten free. All you have to do is ask for your sandwich "bunless" and we will prepare it in a lettuce wrap. And please inform the cashier that you have a gluten allergy when ordering. 

Thank you and Happy holidays!
Spiro

If you are looking to try it out, UBURGER has three convenient locations in Boston now. Check out their website at www.uburgerboston.com !

**Update** As of 4/1/2015 UBurger now has gluten-free buns for their sandwiches and burgers. They are the best buns I've had to date eating out!

Back to the pizza: On Pleasant Street in Weymouth there is a little pizza place called Gusto's. (It use to be Classic 2) There you can find fresh gluten-free pizza. Forget the boxed stuff at Whole Food's, this is the real deal. For $9 you can get a small gluten-free pizza with two toppings. I'm not sure how much a regular cheese is but I'm assuming less. For those of you without gluten-sensitivity please give Gusto's a chance too! You can get a large regular cheese pizza for around $8 and I'm told it's very good. 


All in all if you are in either area please try out one of these restaurants, making gluten-free options is an expensive and difficult task and we all appreciate the effort greatly. Help support fantastic local businesses who help us eat gluten-free!

N.B. Always remember to tell the restaurant about your gluten sensitivity and double check that all toppings and sauces are also gluten-free!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Macaroons!

While macaroons and macarons sound exactly the same to the average American's ear, they couldn't be any more different. Macaroons are made primarily of coconut while macarons are almost entirely egg whites and sugar. Both coincidently are gluten-free! The way I make them, anyway. This recipe is for the coconut lovers out there. Check back for the other macarons sometime this January!

Caveat emptor: not all macaroons are gluten-free so exercise some caution when buying.

Coconut Macaroons
14 oz shredded coconut
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (or more) bittersweet chocolate melted in microwave or double boiler


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.* In one bowl mix the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. In a second beat the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the coconut mixture and scoop tablespoon sized amounts on to the baking sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes. If your oven does not have convection bake as a setting you might have to move them from the top rack to the bottom half way through cooking.


Once cool dip the bottoms into melted chocolate and refrigerate on wax paper** until set. You could also drizzle over them, whatever suits your fancy!

I continue to have the problem of forgetting to take pictures of the finished product because I'm too busy eating! Maybe that'll be my new years resolution. 

*Embarrassingly enough I accidentally used wax paper causing me to scrap one whole sheet and have to pull the second (after being in the oven for a couple of minutes) and furiously scoop all the cookies on to another baking sheet before they, too, were ruined!
**I got this part right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving: Green Bean Casserole

I use to love Campbell's mushroom soup green bean casserole. You know the one with the goopy soup and those french fried onions that are still crunchy after 8 months in the pantry? Well, despite all of it's positive characteristics it is also full of gluten. Because I couldn't imagine a Thanksgiving without it, I decided to give a gluten-free version a go. It was a great success, too! My mom kept trying to eat my homemade mushroom soup and the onion rings were infinitely better than the perma-fresh ones.


Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole

For the Cream of Mushroom Soup:
olive oil
1 lb. button mushrooms sliced
6 Tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken/vegetable broth
2 cups milk
6 Tablespoons gluten-free flour 
1 teaspoon dry mustard
less than 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper for a little kick
salt to taste 
pepper

French Fried Onions
1 3/4 – 2lbs fresh Green beans, cleaned and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tablespoon Tamari J’s Wheat Free Soy Sauce


Directions:
To start this recipe, I would prepare the french fried onions. It would be smart to prepare these in advance and store them in an air-tight container, so you are not stuck in the kitchen for longer than you have to be.



First, saute your mushrooms in olive oil and set aside. Next, prepare your cream of mushroom soup. Start by melting your butter in a large saucepan and once the butter starts to bubble, add your flour. Then add your spices- I chose dry mustard, shake of garlic powder, salt, pepper, and the tiniest amount of cayenne pepper. Once the roux has cooked/bubbled for a few minutes, add your milk and chicken/vegetable broth. Whisk until the sauce thickens. Once the sauce has thickened, add back in your mushrooms.



At this point, cook your green beans for 4-5 minutes until bright green. Strain the water from the green beans. Once they are done, put the green beans in a large casserole dish.
Mix in the soup and soy sauce.
Top with the French Fried Onions.
Bake for about 35 minutes on 350 degrees or until bubbly.



No one guessed that this was gluten-free at my thanksgiving! The onion rings are so so much better, too. I didn't use our fry daddy because we were out of oil for it but using that would have made it even easier! I forgot to take a picture of it done because I was too busy eating but here is a picture of it on my plate. And yes those are homemade gluten-free mannacottis on my plate too! 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade Nonpareils

My family is a big fan of nonpareils: my mother loves the tiny ones "snowcaps" and my father the larger dark chocolate variety. I can remember when I was very little I didn't know what they were called. I knew what they were and that I enjoyed them and for some reason I came to a conclusion that they were called brussels sprouts. Clearly I had never had a real brussels sprout.

Anyway, now that I've cleared up that confusion -- I have made real nonpareils. They were so easy and so good I can't believe I didn't know that it was possible to make them until now.



For every 8 oz of chocolate you add one half a teaspoon of shortening and melt in a double boiler. Then drop in whatever size you want on wax or parchment paper. Smooth out the chocolate if it isn't in a typical nonpareil shape. Then put in the fridge for about ten minutes to cool it down and the sprinkle with candy sprinkles, I used red and green and white ones.

I let them set over night and by the next afternoon they were perfect! I don't think it typically takes that long but I was busy. These are perfect holiday gifts for someone who loves chocolates!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Quote of the Day!

"The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
--Erma Bombeck

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

I have been really into pies lately. Apple, chocolate, pumpkin, any kind of pie. I think this is mostly due to the fact that unless I make one, I won't be able to eat any. In addition to pie of all sorts I also love sweet potatoes. Given my separate, albeit equal, love for both pies and sweet potatoes I decided to channel my southern roots (just kidding I have zero southern roots) and make a sweet potato pie curtesy of recipes by Shauna, The Gluten Free Girl, and Emeril Lagasse.

It was my first ever sweet potato pie and I really liked it! I'm usually not a fan of pecans but I thought they were good. If you didn't have them, however, I think they could be replaced fairly easily with walnuts.

To get the recipes click here for the pie and here for the crust!




Friday, December 9, 2011

A Gluten-Free Thanksgiving: Acorn Squash Edition

These past few months in my house has been the season of the Winter Squash in a big way. I've discovered varieties I never even knew existed and ways to cook the old standbys that are making my mouth water just thinking about them.

This little guy is an acorn squash. Don't let their size fool you, cutting into these suckers will require your sharpest knife and quite a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease. To make it a little bit easier cut a few holes in the squash to vent the steam and pop them into the microwave for two minutes. This softens them up a little so you don't hurt yourself in the process.




The picture above is just roasted acorn squash. For some reason you cook squash with the meat down with some salt and pepper and olive oil for up to an hour depending on their size or until a knife inserts without any resistance.

But my favorite way to eat acorn squash is glazed with brown sugar and maple syrup. You prep the squash the same way with the microwave for a little then slice them into many pieces like you would a cantaloupe.

Place the slices on a pan covered with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) then sprinkle brown sugar on the slices and put them in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, just to melt the first coating of brown sugar. Once the sugar is melted take the pan out and put more brown sugar on and bake for 40 minutes to an hour. Don't worry about peeling the shell, you can scoop the squash right out!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

November Trip to NY

Mid-November Evan and I took a trip to visit his family in upstate NY. We had a ton of fun. Highlights include caramel apples, rotweiller puppies and the opening day of deer hunting season! Please note the picture of the deer on the trailer is not from anyone I know. Being from Massachusetts that is not a common occurrence so I had to take a picture.




A Walk With Will

Will was recently the subject of a photo project of mine. Here is a peek at it!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Soon to Come

Hi all! This past week I was crazy busy with massive amounts of gluten-free baking and crafting galore! Highlights include: gluten-free green bean casserole, chocolate truffle tart, sweet potato pecan pie, sugar cookies, and german chocolate cake bars.

Here is a peak at the mini quilt I am working on right now...



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photography Assignments

Here are my latest photography assignments! The first one is a silhouette and the second is a self portrait, one is a wide angle and the other is a close one.




Monday, November 14, 2011

Spagetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash is something that I have always wanted to try, however, I have never known how to make it. I went to a farmers market earlier this month and since I love supporting local businesses I had to buy one of everything. In hindsight that was a bad idea because it meant I had to carry approximately five squashes a mile back to my room.  Anyway here is the spaghetti squash after being cooked! It really, really does look like spaghetti inside a squash. It was super easy to cook too.


Preheat your oven to 350. Take your squash and with a sharp knife cuts slits all over the squash. Then put your squash in a casserole dish or deep pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Put the dish in the oven for one hour or until a knife is easily inserted into the squash.


Let your squash cool a little and slice in half. You will have to scoop out some seeds and pulp before you scrape the squash out. Once the seeds are gone use a fork to rake out the squash halves. You will get a lot of squash from a relatively small squash.


Once you have removed all the "spaghetti" you can do anything you like with it! I decided to sautee mine with some roasted garlic, olive oil and basil. It was so delicious! It has a slightly crunchy texture that was a refreshing difference from the usual squash dish and is naturally gluten-free. Try some today!



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Colin Approved Apple Crisp

At BU on Thursdays in the Fall they have a farmers market. I always make it a point to stop by because I would so much rather support a local business than my local shaws and the quality of the produce is so much better! I wanted to make an apple crisp but somehow we had already blown through the pounds of apples we picked at Honey Pot Hill. So I bought a few delicious looking maccouns, macintosh and cortland apples from Ward's Berry Farm located in Central Mass.

In my family we have two recipes for apple crisp and it's always a huge debate over which one we will make. My Mom prefers the white sugar and flour based one while I prefer the brown sugar and oatmeal based one. I decided to take the best of both recipes and combine them into a delicious (and gluten-free) apple crisp.


I started my chopping up my apples in thin slices and layering them in a buttered pie dish. I then took 1/2 cup of..
White Sugar
Brown Sugar
Certified Gluten-Free Oats
Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour
and mixed it all together with a half teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder and mixed it together with one egg to form a crumbly mixture.


I then pressed it all onto the top of the apples and then took thin slices of (frozen) butter and covered the  top. After that you pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 or until the top is crunchy and the apples are the texture you prefer.


The non-gluten-free members of my household always preface anything that is gluten-free with a caveat emptor (or more aptly eater beware) and it always drives me nuts! Except for the bad gravy incident recently nearly everything I have made gluten-free is usually better than the non-gluten-free versions. This crisp is no exception!


The straight substitution of the gluten-free flour caused no problems and the oats are always a great idea, GF or not. My father who on principle chooses not to eat gluten-free things really enjoyed this and my Mom ate some before and after dinner. Enjoy with both whipped cream and ice cream. Life is short!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Quote of the Day!


Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go write it down, and either you over dramatize it or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to. 
--Sylvia Plath

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gluten-Free Apple Pie Done Right

This past weekend we went apple picking! I love, love, love the fall and taking a trip to the orchard is hands down one of my favorite activities. We are big fans of making all things apple too so that just makes bringing home pounds and pounds of apples more enjoyable.

Now my Nana use to make a mean apple pie. Specifically her pie crusts rocked. Now, not to brag but I was pretty darn good at making them too. Obviously they were made with flour though which is a no-go for me now. The entire week before we went apple picking I was really craving an apple pie so I started looking around for a good gluten-free pie crust. I checked the Gluten-Free Girl's website and I found a recipe that wasn't too difficult and I already had a good number of the various flours I would need.


This particular recipe called for portioning ingredients out by weight and luckily I have a food scale. It also calls for "leaf lard" which is a type of lard made from the fat around pig's kidneys--super particular! I went to Whole Foods but they didn't carry it and the butcher looked at me like I was crazy. So I just used butter in its place because I figured there wouldn't be anywhere else I could get it on short notice.


It called for almond, teff, oat, potato starch, tapioca and rice flour. I made my own almond flour (you can see how on this blog!) and I wanted to make my own oat flour but I wanted to make the pie that afternoon so I just bought it for the sake of convenience. It also calls for xanthan and guar gum which are expensive but will last you forever. As with most gluten-free things they store better in the freezer. You mix the flours together really well because they are all very different densities and consistencies. 



A few hours before you are planning on making the pie put your butter in the freezer to solidify it. Once it's totally solid you grate it like cheese! That way it is in perfect tiny pieces and there is no mashing in of warm butter with a pie crust thing-y. Does anyone know what those are actually called?


Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the next few steps. After mixing in the butter you add the "sandy" flour to your food processor (I have fallen in love with mine this past year and I can't believe that I never had one) and then add the cold water a tablespoon at a time. Only add one at a time because it comes together very quickly. I added a tablespoon too much and had to add in some extra potato starch to dry it up. Below is the finished product! I was so proud that it held together and although it looked more "whole wheat" than anything it still looked "normal!"


So the best thing about gluten-free dough--you can roll it and re-roll it as many times as you like. Why? Because there is no gluten in it to turn the dough tough! The gluten in regular dough toughens up as you handle it more and more but this dough was great and super pliable. 


The Gluten-Free Girl's dough recipe makes enough dough for two crusts or one pie with a top. I decided to make a fancy-ish top by just cutting out a ton of maple leaves and placing them all over the top of my apple mixture. I used the Yankee Magazine's Apple Pie Recipe but I only used two pounds of apples because my pie dish was a little small and I didn't want to overwhelm it.



I brushed some milk on the top so it would brown nicely and I pressed some leaf lines onto the cutouts so they would look prettier.



I baked it for about 45 minutes and it was the perfect length! The apples were soft but not mushy and still totally discernible as apple slices.



It was SO good! The crust was more substantial than a normal crust but I enjoyed that. Also the top was slightly thicker than normal owing to the layering of the leaves but crust is always one of my favorite parts and I like to have some in every bite. The best part was that I was able to bring a big slice to my neighbor Caroline who has Celiac disease and who has never had apple pie! Anyway I would highly recommend this recipe because it turned out really well. Buying the flours will be a costly venture because you can't get small amounts but if you do it over time it isn't so bad. I am planning on making some of these crusts on weekends in the future and freezing them to use during the holidays. I think pumpkin or sweet potato would pair up with this crust fabulously!


This dough recipe can be found on TheGlutenFreeGirl.com or by clicking here.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Photo Assignments 3 & 4

For my next photo assignment we had to take a photo of a subject with a blurry and sharp background. To achieve these different backgrounds we had to shoot the pictures with different apertures (or f/stops).


This picture was shot at Webb Park in Weymouth, MA.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall in Boston

There is nothing like a walk along the Charles River at sunset in the Fall. I love watching the crew boats practicing for the upcoming Head of the Charles, with their totally in sync movements and their bodies nearly submerged in the opaque Charles. 


Patterns of migratory birds and the quickly setting sun grace the sky. On the ground is the zinging of bicycles as they fly by and the steady thump of the ever present runners. 


The cool breeze coming off the river reminds you that it is now October and our indian summer is coming to an end. Soon the trees lining the Esplanade will turn a brilliant shades of red or yellow or orange and coats and hats will make their seasonal appearance, too. I love Fall in Boston.