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!