Well, September is here, and I have another hurdle to face. At the end of the month we will be taking a week to travel north to visit friends and family in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. While I look forward to seeing faces that I haven't seen in a while, spending time with my kids and some of their friends, and meeting The Man's family and friends for the first time, the idea of road trip eating terrifies me. Since I'm getting poisoned once out of every three times eating at places that I know follow pretty good GF practices, dining in uncharted territory is nerve wracking. Blogs and articles on the subject are filled with pre-prepared foods and snacks that are not always as healthy as I would like, and are definitely out of my budget. So what's a GF girl to do in a world filled with wheat? Good question. This will be a new series of blogs, mapping out the trip planning and the food planning so hopefully you won't have the same worries when you try to take a relaxing vacation. Hopefully we will both learn something along this journey!
Wow, what a busy month August turned out to be. Work has been insane, we had house guests for a week, and The Man and I became officially engaged. Lots of cooking, lots of work, and not much time for reflection. I have some quiet time this morning before he gets awakens, so I'll bring y'all up to speed.
Work is... work. Not as busy as I would like it to be, but since UT is now back in session it is getting crazier little by little. The college kids love my department because they can get a bunch of little pieces of cheese and a box of crackers for much less than junk food, with far more nutrition and yumminess. (Company policy is that we are not supposed to cut anything smaller than a quarter pound, but I think that's dumb. I would rather sell a pound of cheese that is six or seven different kinds to someone that is just discovering that there is a whole world of food out there that they have not sampled yet.) We will be doing cheese samplers for tailgate parties, and a big display with cheese and beer and all sorts of great stuff starting this weekend. GO VOLS!
The Man has been feeling a little homesick, so his two closest buddies and bandmates came to stay for a week. Woody and Jeffrey are two of the nicest guys ever (and very single, ladies!), and they were a joy to have around. They love my cooking, and had to admit that they felt better after eating clean food and mostly gluten free. (I did get real rolls for them to eat, but made chicken parm out of GF crumbs so I could eat too.) We ran the gamut with food, from The Man making a pot of sauce for the GF chicken parm and pasta, to a pork shoulder braised in Omission beer and corn bread, to the best bacon and eggs in the world... it was a great week, culminating in a performance of Face 4 Radio (their band) at one of our favorite bars, Brackins Blues Club. As soon as I get the video formatted, I'll post some clips. They were amazing!
After talking about it for months, we decided to make it official. He even got down on his knees and proposed as he slipped it on my finger. Uber romantic, I think we both got a little teary eyed.The ring, just like The Man, is gorgeous, and I am proud that I will someday be Mrs The Man. Stop by the store and see it under the lights, but bring your sunglasses, it's a sparkler!
All in all, a busy but satisfying month. Looking forward, September is going to be just as crazy, but being happy helps make it much easier to deal with.
All I can say is wow. It reminds me of movies like Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, even To Sir With Love. Naive new teacher believes they can change the world one mind at a time. The thing is, they succeed, one student at a time. Some may consider it sappy, I see it as inspirational. Fine, they have to have a happy ending or it would make for a sucky film, so they don't write movies about the failures. Everyone loves the underdog. Figthing your way out of the slums makes for great entertainment for those of us that have never been in that place, right? Whatever reason draws you to watch this movie, watch it. Watch the inspiring story, then visit their website http://www.freedomwritersfoundation.org/ and see how real it is. There are those among us that are quiet heros, though their actions scream from the mountain tops. There are teachers that still believe that anyone can learn, and everyone has the right to that chance. I wish there were more Erin Gruwells in the world, so that all kids could learn that education is a joy, and the key to a bright future. Watch this movie, and be prepard to feel. If you don't, or think its just another sappy feel good movie, you never had a teacher like Ms. Gruwell, and I feel very sorry for you.
Today was a quiet day, not much going on at all. I'm running around the department getting ready for what should be a busy week, when I look up. Bending over the dairy cooler is a woman, perhaps mid-50's, far from slender, in yoga pants and a short t-shirt, rolls hanging out all over the place. The part that I found most disturbing was the leopard thong showing in back. Eye bleach anyone?
It's been quite a summer, gentle followers. Being in a new location has definitely opened up a lot of new experiences for me, but has kept me a little too busy to check in more often. So I will sum up some of the more memorable moments, just to keep you up to date.
On that note, I will close for now, dear readers. Miss Lexie will return as soon as something else catches her attention; it shouldn't take long.
You all know how I feel about GF "beer". It's not that it's bad, it's just not good when I'm used to drinking stuff that is so heavy and full bodied that you have to chew it. There have been a few bright spots along the way, but nothing that really screamed DRINK ME! Along comes Widmer Omission, and with my first sip I could hear angels singing. Hoppy and well balanced, with a lovely body that says "no, I won't disappoint you", I think I may be in love. It's also priced better than most, which is nice. (Earth Fare is selling it for $9.99 a 6 pack; most of the GF's are that for a 4 pack).
To clarify, this is not a gluten free beer. It is a beer that is "crafted to remove the gluten". Not quite sure what that means, I hit their website. This is what I found:
"According to federal guidelines, we aren’t legally allowed to claim that Omission beer is gluten-free outside of Oregon because the beer is brewed with malted barley. While the FDA proposed to define the term “gluten-free,” that definition has not been formally adopted by the organization.
Part of the definition proposed in 2007, and again in 2011, states that a product may not be labeled as gluten-free if it contains “an ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food.”
While Omission beer does contain barley, one of the “prohibited grains” in this definition, all batches are tested by an independent lab using the R5 Competitive ELISA to ensure that gluten levels meet our standards. Although scientific evidence supports the testing, the evidence is not conclusive. All Omission beer test results can be viewed at: www.omissiontests.com "
So, through a proprietary process, they remove the gluten from the barley malt and make a beer that has less than 20 parts per million, below the federally set standard. Works for me!
Check out their website for more info, it's a great read.
Well, I poisoned myself again. Not sure if it was cross contamination from the fries (The Man makes an excellent point about how busy it was, and how flour laden the oil must have been), or if it was the sulfites in the delish red wine, but I'm puffed up like the Michelin man and everything hurts so bad I could cry. Cross contam has never gotten me before, but maybe I'm just becoming more sensitive with the absence of it from my life? I'm not at all happy with myself right now, it was a rough night and I have a busy day ahead of me.
After spending a wonderful afternoon with my almost sister Brandi, The Man and I went to Aubrey's. The have the most divine gluten free burger buns encasing the best burgers in town, and I needed a burger that I didn't have to eat with a knife and fork. It was also 1/2 price wine night, so we got a bottle of Coppolo Rosso, a simple red table that is a blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. A really good balance of fruit and tanin, it was not hard to enjoy completely. I ordered my burger, still mooing of course, and a side of fries. I think it was the fries that got me - it was a very busy night, and they do a lot of breaded/floured fried stuff. The heat in frying oil does not kill off the gluten, so it just floats there. On a regular night, no biggie. But on a jammed night I guess there could be enough to get me. The sulfites can make me hurt too, so maybe it was the combo. The moral of the story is don't eat from the fryer anymore. Sigh. At least I can still have the best burger in town.
Please note: I do not in any way, shape or form blame Aubrey's for my current state. Nothing on their GF menu comes from the fryer, because they get the cross contamination thing. They are exceedingly careful not to make anyone sick. I took it upon myself to order the fries and have hence many myself sick. GF readers, please visit this restaurant and order anything off the GF menu with confidence. I am the dummy here.
I need to start teaching again, I miss it way too much. Having classes at the Turkey Creek Earth Fare won't work, it's too awkward with all the staffing changes. Three ideas have come to mind:
1) E-courses - I could do a class every other week, with photos, recipes and tips, just like we used to do. It won't be as much fun, but it should be as informative as the classes were, with the opportunity to comment on the post with questions. I could do them as blog posts on a certain day, and we could have votes on what to do in upcoming classes. I won't get to see your faces or feed your tummies, but I will get to teach again, sort of. This would be free for now, and I might even include video with some classes.
2) Physical Classes - once a month, it will be held in a different place (community rooms, people's homes, my home, etc.), doing something different and really cool. I'll see about local products, hopefully get donations to cover the costs, and we all get to be together again. I would have to charge for this option so the cost of ingredients and space gets covered, but we could eat together like a family and catch up. Plus I would post everything as a blog so those that can't attend can be kept up to date.
3) Pop Up Supper Club - for a small registration fee, you get a monthly invite to a cooking demo and fabulous dinner, done by yours truly and special guest chefs in some cool location. It could be a water front picnic, a visit to the aquarium, or maybe in a museum. There would be a fee to attend the dinner, to cover costs and entrance fees to the venue. We would limit the number of attendees, so we don't kill ourselves cooking for a mob. On the invite would be wine and/or paring suggestions, along with where to get it, and it would be BYO. It also leaves the door open for entertainment of all sorts. Obviously this is the most costly of the options, but it would be the most fun.
Please comment and let me know what you think. I know the e-classes will be the most popular, but think outside the box. Wouldn't it be fun to all get together again?
Definition of roast (v)
Don't feel like cooking, but those you live with still insist on being fed? (Horribly self centered of them, don't you think?) When I'm faced with not wanting to cook but the need to feed The Man, I do one of three things.
1) Tell The Man to take his butt to Taco Bell 'cause it just isn't happening. (It doesn't happen often, no worries)
2) Make something in the crock pot - the problem with this one is that it requires thinking ahead, which is not always possible.
3) Roasting dinner.
Roasting is simply cooking in the oven, using dry heat. The dry heat concentrates flavors, caramelizes natural sugars, and overall makes just about any food taste yummy with little to no work on your part. Easy, right? Usually, yes. There are things you have to take into account when you decide to roast your dinner, like the cut of meat you're using, timing of different dishes so it all comes out at the same time, making sure everything in a single dish is all the same size... so, it's not all simple, but once you get the hang of it, it's a cinch.
Take last night's dinner as the perfect example. It was a particularly frustrating day at work, and I needed comfort food that would cook itself. Since I can't take my butt to Taco Bell, and I wasn't going to get home in time to slow cook anything, I focused on roasting. Store made Irish bangers (a pork sausage, sort of like a breakfast sausage but much more savory, seasoned with sage, fennel and mace) spoke to me, they had just been made. I went through what I had at home in my head, and remembered a half bag of gorgeous yukon gold potatoes. I grabbed the sausage and headed to the produce section. The rainbow carrots caught my eye and begged to come home with me. So did super sweet white shoepeg corn cobs.
Here comes the easy part. Spray the pan, plunk in the sausage, dice the potatoes and onion, drizzle with just a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, stuff in a 350* oven. Check it every once in a while, pull the sausage to the top at about the 30 minute mark, and finish until everything is roasty and browned.
Carrots were easy too. Peel or scrub your carrots. Cut into uniform pieces. Toss with olive oil, honey, bourbon, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Throw in the oven until the sausage is cooked, stirring every ten minutes or so.
Rainbow carrots are so gorgeous, I hate to do very much to them. Roasting retains all that beautiful color.
Corn is the easiest. Shuck it, put it into a sprayed pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes. It will look like it's drying out, the kernels will begin to separate, and there will be browned spots.
It didn't need a single condiment, not even ketchup! The Man always puts ketchup on his roasted potatoes. Always. Potatoes cooked any other way than mashed or baked whole require ketchup. Unless of course they are this yummy. He didn't even put butter on his corn. The skin on the sausage was crisp, the interior juicy and perfectly cooked. The sweetness of the corn was so intense it tasted like I added sugar, and so well cooked that the kernels released easily from the cob. Carrots had a very light glaze from the bourbon and honey, which melded so well with the fresh herbs. Plus they kept their vibrant color. Onions were sweet and deeply caramelized, the potatoes slightly crisp on the edges and fluffy inside, seasoned nicely by the juices from the sausage. All in all, a pretty terrific dinner. With corn and sausage left over, I'm thinking about a pot of soup....
Dear Sir or Madame in the Hummer in front of me every morning this week,
You own a vehicle that was meant to drive over small villages without spilling your latte from Starcrooks, sucking up gas like a Hertz rental fleet. The tires on it are bigger than most compact cars, the shocks more costly than the national debt of Argentina. Yet you need to go 2 miles an hour over these little railroad tracks and hills, holding up traffic for miles. Really. I am not judging. Miss Lexie would never judge. Perhaps you are carrying a dozen sleeping infants and two dozen sleeping puppies. Or maybe organs on the way to be transplanted in those sleeping babies and puppies. I am sure it's not that you are afraid of hitting a bump with your tank and breaking something. That would just be silly.