• Sometimes the simplest of foods can be so nurturing. What could be better than sliced tomatoes with mozzarella cheese and basil leaves sandwiched between the slices? And a vinagarette of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt & pepper drizzled on top of the composed salad. A reminder that summer is soon to come. These tomatoes were actually quite good, considering that they were probably grown in a hothouse. Who cares that they cost $5.99 for about 12 small beauties? As spring begins to soften the earth here in the northeast US, we ate tomatoes that tasted like the real thing. And it reminded us that soon, in about 4 or 5 months, we will be able to either eat our own homegrown tomatoes, or buy them at local farmers markets, where stalls are spilling over with real tomatoes, tomatoes that look and taste like tomatoes, tomatoes that are picked right off the vine early in the morning and brought to market.

    On another note, I’ve had a few hard days. Definitely in a Celiac funk. I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself. I don’t care so much, believe it or not, that I can’t eat this or that. What I find deplorable is the fact that I need to consider every damn thing that goes into my mouth. For example, tonight, I made a vinagarette to drizzle over the lovely tomatoes pictured above. The balsamic vinegar that I used was Trader Joe’s white balsamic vinegar. Bottled in Italy. The ingredients were seemingly safe. No gluten. But, ah, can I convince myself that something is gluten free when I want to eat it and don’t really want to check for certainty? Yes, I can. It was only after I ate it that I remembered that feeling that nagged at me, in the back of my mind, as I made the dressing. The ingredients included something called grape must. I have no clue what that is. And maybe in fact there isn’t gluten in grape must. But who knows about the vinegar? I’ve been told that products made in other countries aren’t as easy to verify in terms of the gluten content. So, why did I take a chance? Why am I now having major heart burn as I write this? Because I got lazy. Because of my Celiac funk, I decided to take a chance. And now I’m sorry I did. I was just thinking, earlier today, that I’ve really been feeling better. No heart burn. No tummy rumblings. And then tonight I blew it. Well, there’s always tomorrow.

    And someone from another blog, a more experienced Celiac, gave me some good advice recently. I will feel better and then have a setback (I paraphrase). The healing will take place in stages. Three steps forward, one step backward. Slow and steady wins the race. If I keep trying to be as compliant as I can, with minor setbacks now and then, in the big picture, I hope to have totally good days more often than not. Oh yeah, and maybe my hair will stop falling out.

    My life has become steak. So much so that I’m actually sick of it. I don’t care if I ever eat steak again. Ever never. But it’s so easy and so Celiac friendly. Never having gone all vegetarian, I find it very difficult to make the shift to do so. It seems to require so much preparation. With a diet that is centered around meat or chicken or fish, it’s far less time-consuming. Throw it under the broiler or on the grill, cook 10 minutes, throw the salad together quickly, you’re done. But with vegetarian cooking, it seems to require more forethought and planning. Now, if there’s anyone out there who can help me with this, help me see it from a different perspective, please do so. I’d love to eat less (or no) meat and chicken, but need some help. I’m WAY open to suggestions. Bring it on.

    Well, I was going to blog about traveling as a novice Celiac, but I think I’ll save that for another day. Because my husband and I travel so much, we have had to come up with strategies for Celiac survival. I promise to get to that in a future post.

    • Diosa

      There are many alternatives for vegetarian foods you might like. Stir-fries of course are the first that spring to mind, with a soy sauce substitute (You can find gluten-free tamari, or make your own.) If you don’t have issues with cheese or rice, veggie lasagna is a good choice (I’ve seen rice lasagna noodles around)

      Another option for grilling is using portobella mushrooms (the big ones). I have a recipe somehere for a marinade for them using balsamic vinegar, soy sauce substitute and spices. These were great! I used to eat these pre-gf days back when I was vegetarian.

      If you like curries, chickpeas and lentils are always on the menu. A lot of regions in India, Africa and Asia are pretty much vegetarian, so those are all options if you like the cuisine.

      Oh, Mexican – I just thought of Chili Rellenos. :)

    • Ellen

      I actually have a pretty big repertoire of vegetarian recipes. It’s just that they are more time consuming than throwing a chicken into the oven. But, as I said, I want to eat less meat-based meals and more of a vegetarian diet, so I’m going to delve into my vegetarian recipe repertoire. Thank you for the reminder! By the way, I’d love to find out how you have the cool feature on your blog that allows you to print the recipe. Any chance we can chat sometime?

    • The Celiac Chef

      Many balsalmic vinegars contain gluten, by the way (in the coloring).

    • The Celiac Chef

      Oh, have you tried whole foods new gluten free bread (a celiac at whole foods in NC makes it). Its killer. That’ll pull you out of your funk.

    • Diosa

      Ellen – Most definitely we can chat! :)

      The Celiac Chef – Do you know which brands are gluten free? What do you use? I envy you the bread, btw. I wish I could eat the bread from there. :)

    • Ellen

      To the Celiac Chef…yes, I’ve tried and love the Whole Foods line of gluten free breads. For a bread lover like me, it makes each day brighter when I know I can eat bread that is decent tasting. I also just bought a new Zojirushi bread machine which has thus far made two very respectable loaves of bread! I’ll blog about it soon.

    • Ellen

      To the Celiac Chef….can you please tell me more about the balsamic vinegar? How can I tell if there is gluten in the kind I use? I tend to buy one or two brands pretty regularly, though occasionally buy an unknown brand here and there.

    • The Celiac Chef

      On the vinegar – Trader joes has a gluten free list, although they don’t update it that often. The west cost version is at:
      http://www.traderjoes.com/products/brochures/WC_gluten.pdf
      It says the the following is gluten free: Balsamic Vinegars (Gold Quality and Plain, Red and White Vine)

      TJ’s has been very good about updating to the Jan 1 2006 food alergin act, so TJ branded food will normally indicate if there is wheat – for balsamic wheat used to make coloring is the main problem. If you look around TJ you’ll see lots of products (all the hummus for example) has wheat warnings on them.

      Hummus is a great vegetarian alternative, by the way. I’m making some right now (its cheap to make your own).

      I’m excited to hear about the Zojirushi machine, I’ve never used one. I’ve been making smaller breads because they seem to be easier (making loaves is like making sky scrapers, I figure). I put a picture of my fancy bread sticks on my blog today.

    • Ellen

      If TJ’s GF list is updated, and if it says their balsamic is gluten free, then maybe the balsamic I mentioned on my blog is GF. It is a white balsamic TJ’s brand.

      I also love Whole Foods. I find that store wonderful. And when you email them about a product, they respond very quickly.

      I make my own hummus too. It’s one of the things I can make without a recipe.

      Hey, those breadsticks look fantastic! Can you post the recipe? I’m entertaining for a large group in a few weeks, and I’d love to make those.

      AND, if you have any brilliant brainstormy ideas for what I can make for that party, I’m all ears. Should be about 40 people for a surprise birthday party. We’re completely gluten free in our house, so that’s to be kept in mind.

    • The Celiac Chef

      I’m going to post my basic flatbread/pizza crust/breadstick/pretzel recipe online soon. I never really use written recipes, but I’ve measured everything for this one, and I just have to time the rising/baking times. The flatbread is really easy, you could make that for 40 people.

      I put a quicky veggie “Greek taco” recipe on my blog also. I have them for lunch whenever I make hummus.

      Diosa – If you’re dying for Chili Rellenos I bet my tempura technique could be adapted. You use about 1 cup GF flour mix (Like sylvan farms or Bob’s red mill), add 1 tsp xanthan gum, 1 or 2 tsp baking powder, maybe 1/2 tsp salt, and mix in sparkling water until it is runny. Dunk and deep fry at 375 right away before the water goes flat. You might want to try it on tempura veggies first (sliced sweet potatoes, etc).

    • Ellen

      Man oh man, those breadsticks look divine. I can’t wait to try the recipe. Please post it soon!!!

    • The Celiac Chef

      Ok! I plan to make another batch saturday, and my wife (Kim – and I’m Chris by the way) will help me record the details. I might even make a video. I want to post it to my new web site http://theceliacchef.com , but people haven’t been able to see it so far. Can you see the site from where you are? I’ll let you know the magic trick that really made it work: I whip the egg whites as if I were making waffles or a cake, mix them in, and rise the bread right away.

      I have a new email with my domain, [email protected]. The email works even if the web site is having problems.

    • Diosa

      The Celiac Chef – Nice to meet you. :) I’m Beth. The Rellenos would be easy to bread (your recipe sounds like a variation on what I was going to do (I was going the way of corn starch/gf flour or just straight up corn meal) but the problem is the cheese. I’m still working on getting to the point where I can tolerate some dairy. I can tolerate small amounts of goats milk feta, but I want to be able not only to have the bleu cheese that is usually in there, but also the chipotle cream sauce. I’ll get there.

      Btw, where did you train? How did having CD affect your training/working professionally as a chef?

    • The Celiac Chef

      Diosa – Ah, I should answer this in my blog, but I’m not professionally trained. One could not survive training with CD as far as I know because I would have to refuse so many ingredients. I am taking the French meaning of “Chef” as “in charge”. I invent, memorize, and modify recipes as a I go and push restuarants to do the same. Professionally I am a computational physicist with a speciatly in biology related physics.

      As a side note, I can’t eat dairy w/o latase pills either. With the supplements, I can handle a fair amount of dairy, much more than I could before, but my ultimate peach icecream is still out of order. I’ve put a lot of effort into understanding the scientific side of CD.

      These blog web based tools test me a bit though, please hit me at my newest email [email protected] —Chris

    • Anonymous

      I am a huge meat-eater who’s been wheat-free since I was 14 or so (8-9 years ago) and totally GF for about 1 year. I love to cook and have been trying to find yummy, quick recipes to make that are vegetarian to add to my repetoire. I hear you about not being able to spend a lot of time cooking – I’m a law student :)

      Anyways, my ultiimate favorite vegetarian (vegan, if you omit the cheese or use a vegan version) recipe is black beans with brown rice or polenta. I usually have a few cups of brown rice that I cooked in my Zojirushi rice cooker (which is a wonderful investment) but getting rolls/logs of GF polenta and misting them with olive oil (I use my Misto from Bed Bath and Beyond) and pan-frying them would work if you don’t have rice on hand (TJ and WF have this polenta).

      Here is my recipe for the black beans:

      *Ingredients*
      1 can black beans, preferably organic, rinsed
      1/2 can diced tomatoes (salsa would probably work too)
      2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp. minced garlic from a jar
      1 tsp cumin
      a few shakes of cayenne red pepper
      2 TB olive oil
      a little bit of tomato juice or water to mix with the blended beans
      3/4 tsp salt
      some fresh cilantro
      top with cheese (I use Monterrey Jack/Cheddar 365 WF brand)

      Rinse black beans using a strainer. Pour a little less than 1/2 the beans in a food processor (a mini food processor is great) with a little tomato juice or liquid from the tomatoes. Blend a little – this will give the beans body. In a non-stick pan, put in the oil and cook the cumin and oil over moderate heat until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes and stir. Add the whole black beans, processed beans, and salt. Add cayenne pepper to taste. Put on low heat to thoroughly heat. At this point, I warm/prepare the rice or polenta. Stir cilantro into the bean mixture, which should have thickened. Serve the beans over your rice/polenta and top with cheese, if desired. This entire meal should take no more than 15 minutes of prep and cook time total (assuming you have cooked rice!) Rice and beans has tons of fiber, little fat, and is a complete vegetarian protein. This dish is really amazing- so easy and quick but SO delicious and comforting and healthy. :)

    • Ellen

      That recipe sounds delicious. I can’t wait to try it. I’ll have to think about splurging on the Zojirushi rice maker. I bought their bread machine recently and love it! Great loaves of bread, homemade, with the smell wafting through the house, just like in the golden olden gluten days!

    • Anonymous

      Not that it will help identify if there’s gluten in your balsamic, but grape must is simply the juice from crushed grapes. It’s the term used in winemaking when the grapes have been lightly crushed but have not yet fermented.

      Cheers.

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