Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Farm at South Mountain

Today my Mom and Hal were in town and stopped by for lunch and a movie. We decided to take them to a place that serves local foods, The Farm at South Mountain. There are actually three restaurants there, but we went to the original Farm Kitchen and ate on the patio. It's beautiful, and they had a man there playing his guitar and singing. A nice, moderately priced Sunday brunch. I had the local  pulled pork sandwich, Mom and Hal had carrot soup and a really nice spicy chicken salad. I'm not remembering what Carlie had. I think I'll go back some time with friends before it closes for the summer and see what it's like during the week. There were some really nice salads that I could see my vegetarian friends enjoying, and they were willing to make my pulled pork without the cole slaw, which made me happy. I don't know what it is about the texture of cole slaw, but I have always hated the stuff.

I will admit, there were some noisy children sitting near us who didn't help my migraine any, but after they left I found the noise levels tolerable and there was a shady spot for everyone so I was even able to take off my sunglasses for a while. It feels a bit secluded and out of the way because of all the beautiful plant life surrounding you. Exactly the kind of place I love to eat. Mom took some nice photos so maybe I'll add those to the blog once she sends them my way. In the mean time, here's a couple I snapped with my cell phone. More details:

The Farm Kitchen 
Picnic and Patio Lunch

6106 South 32nd Street

Phoenix, AZ 85042-4810

(602) 276-7288

The Farm Kitchen is the original restaurant at The Farm serving delicious sandwiches, fresh soups, seasonal salads and made-from-scratch baked goods. Relax alone under the shady pecan trees or bring a group to celebrate an occasion.
"Picnic-n-Paris" : LIVE music every Sunday featuring local legend Paris James

Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-3pm
Open Mother's Day, 10am-3pm
The Farm Kitchen Summer Hiatus:
Monday, May 31st -
Monday, September 6th

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yam and black bean tacos

This is going to sound either very simple or very strange depending on your experience with the ingredients. It was inspired both by one of my favorite snacks (sweet potato chips and black beans) AND by a recipe we read somewhere for vegetarian tacos.

bake one sweet potato or yam and cube
mix with 1 can black beans (Strained) and heat until black beans are heated through
add feta cheese and 2 tablespoons lime juice
serve in warm corn tortillas.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

PB&J Banana Bread

I probably should have taken a picture of this... maybe next time. I would definitely make PB&J Banana Bread again. We used Bob's Red Mill biscuit and baking mix plus 2 bananas, about a cup of peanut butter chips, and 3/4 cup dried cranberries. We also thought about dried apricots, but Jenn opted for the dried cranberries. I love baking with friends, and this recipe happened to be gluten free. So just follow the recipe for banana bread on the back of the bag, and instead of raisins add dried cranberries, and instead of  nuts the peanut butter chips. We made sure to get gluten free peanut butter chips (which should be gluten-free anyway, but we checked to be sure) I suspect this would also be great with dark chocolate chips, but I can't eat chocolate as it triggers my migraines.

If you choose to make this, let me know how it turns out! I think my vegan friends can easily alter this recipe but let me know if I'm wrong, and at first glance it seems to fit vegetarian restrictions, but as I'm not myself a vegetarian again, please clue me in if it's not. And more specifically, if you are a friend of mine and have food restrictions, please let me know if this is on your edible list as I might just make some for you some time!

We loved it best warm. I've been enjoying this as a breakfast treat. It has grain, protein, fruit and sugar, what more could you want in a breakfast!? Whenever I eat a slice I heat it up with some buttery type product on it. DEEEEEELISH!

Gluten-Free Not the Answer for Me?

Good news? I tested negative for celiac. Bad news? Still no answers...although my allergist agreed with Dr Heather, I have immunity issues. She says this is why I get hives, my body is overreacting to minor allergens. She recommended my PCP give me a Pneumovax 23 to boost my immune system because apparently my pneumococal titers are way off. She also agreed that my Epstein Barr Virus had recently re-initiated itself which is why I felt exhausted and constantly droopy/fatigued recently. But I must say, the high dose of vitamins B12, D and now consistent vitamin A and B Complex that Dr Heather kicked it's butt! She has me on has me back to feeling energetic, so that has been a blessing this week as I had 2 to 3 doctor visits daily!

Daily doc visits every day this week except today that is, today is my day of rest. Well, supposedly it is so. I have a list of things to do. Doctors to call, addresses to find, things to ask will be a busy day of rest but at least I'm not running around getting poked and prodded and made dizzy. Not today anyway.

So I feel a bit dejected. Is that strange? I should be celebrating not being a Celiac right? But I thought I'd found the answers. When I was eating 100% gluten-free I did feel better. I was however able to eat some really yummy mac n cheese on regular noodles last night. And I must admit, I am looking forward to trying out this new pasta bar in Phoenix. But I am still feeling disappointed. I think this is because I thought I had found the answer.

Now for my friends who are gluten-free and read this blog, never fear there will still be the occasional (probably more than occasional) gluten-free recipe. This is because I have found that many things we make are accidentally gluten-free and pretty much anything vegan I make or easily can be. And I will still be preparing vegan and/or vegetarian foods and writing about them here. So whenever I eat or prepare something I enjoy and I find it worthy of sharing with others, I'll post it here. Especially if I find it makes me feel healthier. I will add a gluten-free label to make it simpler to find my posts which have gluten-free recipes or when I post about restaurants that serve gluten-free food. Speaking of restaurants, we went out to celebrate a recent victory with some friends the other night, and they had a gluten-free menu at Pei Wei.

I am not going back to eating all gluten-filled foods all the time over night, heck probably never, but I did have pasta last night. It doesn't seem to have negatively affected me. I'm still feeling sick, but I still felt sick when I was off gluten. It just doesn't seem to be the fix for me. Unless the toothpaste I use has gluten. That's possible, I hadn't gotten around to checking that out. But again, I ate regular pasta last night and felt fine. A little gassy, my eyes and nose are itchy, but the gas was probably the cheese I put on it, and the itchy eyes and nose are most likely from sitting outside so much yesterday around all that ragweed. I think I will try going back to occasionally eating things that have gluten in them, and see how I feel. If I start feeling worse, I'll go back off the gluten and see if that fixes it. Because heck, if I feel better off the stuff, it's worth giving up. Or if I feel best on a low gluten diet, same thing.

Maybe today I will eat some oatmeal. Not a ton of gluten in oatmeal. In fact some people would say there's none...depends on if the oats were dusted with wheat flour. But I miss my morning hot cereal. Never did bother putting gluten-free hot cereal in the pantry. Maybe now I won't bother. Shopping gluten-free was a bit more expensive. Mostly because I hadn't mastered low cost shopping while gluten-free. If I end up not going 100% off gluten, maybe I'll never master that...but I do think I will try making some delicious low cost meals and writing about them. I made a really yummy one on the day before yesterday and it was even better when I pumped it up with some lime juice for lunch yesterday. That entry coming soon.

Enough rambling... catch you soon, and wish me luck in finding the culprit for my health problems, because I STILL have no concrete answers and that my friends, is the worst feeling ever. I'd have felt better being told I was a Celiac than being told there is still no clear answer. Although my allergist insists I will feel tons better once my immune system is sorted out and my allergies are treated, I have my doubts. All I can hope, is that she is right. And I can revel in some glutenous pasta and not feel any sicker than usual, while I wait for the new doctors I've been referred to. Plus I can continue seeing the miracle workers at Bodhi Body Integrative Medical Centers who have me feeling better than I have in 20 years. And THAT is something to celebrate!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cornbread Muffins with Local Toppings

Patch made a Pamela's Products mix of gluten free cornbread muffins the other day. They turned out to be a great texture, but not as much flavor as I was expecting.  They're great with toppings.

So far we've tried both Cactus Jelly by the Cactus Candy Company, and local honey from the Fruit and Bread Basket store down the street. I love prickly pear anything, so the jelly is a big hit and great on the cornbread muffins. You can find versions of cactus jelly at lots of stores in the area. Whole Foods, or the little store we like to stop at on the way home are my two favorite places to find it. I'll take pictures next time we stop by the Fruit and Bread Basket or whatever it's called and I'll do an entry highlighting the place. Next time I'm there I plan on trying Orange Prickly Pear  Marmalade. Sounds delicious. But toppings like these are a bit more expensive and I tend to use them slowly over time, so for now it's local honey and cactus jelly.

The local honey comes in a variety of flavors. Mesquite, orange blossom, lemon blossom, etc. I like trying the various flavors so we have a few different kinds in the cupboard. I've found the lighter flavors go well with the cornbread muffins. The bonus of eating local honey is that it is said to help you develop resistance to local allergens. Handy! Maybe nature knows something we don't.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Polenta with Goat Cheese and Capicola

1 cup polenta
2 cups beef broth (fat and gluten free)
1 1/4 cups water
3 oz goat cheese
1 oz grated Parmesiana Reggiano
1 oz Capicola

Preheat oven to 350.
In baking dish, mix 1/4 cup water into polenta creating a slurry and stir well to help eliminate lumps. Then slowly mix in remaining liquid striving to avoid clumping of polenta. This helps ensure a smooth final product without requiring you to constantly stir.  Bake in oven for 50 minutes.
Chop goat cheese and Capicola (delicious, very thinly sliced Italian meat)
Remove Polenta from oven and stir in chopped ingredients
Sprinkle on Paremesiana Reggiano in thin layer over the top
Bake for 10 more  minutes

Creates 12 small or 6 larger servings. You can eat immediately as a soft polenta or place in refrigerator and cool until firm. Firm product is also delicious when reheated, but I do recommend eating some straight out of the oven (careful there's hot cheese in there!) because there's a thin crispy layer of Parmesiana Reggiano over the top and it's a great combination of textures. But it's great reheated and the Capicola was like tiny crispy surprise bits of joy sprinkled throughout.   I ate it as a side with leftover Carlie-made Lasagna, and then in the morning I had 2 small servings for a quick and easy breakfast before heading off to the doctor. I couldn't wait for it to heat up and tasted a bite of it while still cold which was yummy, but when reheated it had this great texture ... something between cheesy cornbread and polenta.

You've got to try this if you like Italian food. If you're used to Southern Italian meals like the food from Cicily, you may not be used to polenta. It's a corn meal and can be served in all sorts of ways most of which are vegetarian or vegan. This particular way is really tasty, but does have both meat and milk products in it so is obviously neither.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Carlie-made Gluten Free Lasagna

Carlie made some amazing lasagna. She always does. We did have a little problem with the gluten-free pasta... it said there was no need to boil it. In fact the instructions said not to boil it, simply to put it into the lasagna layers. We were worried it would still be mushy however when the lasagna was ready, the pasta was still hard. DOH!

It was better today after reheated, and I suspect it will be perfect tomorrow. Which is something to remember. Next time we're planning to SLIGHTLY soften the pasta before putting it into the layers.

Otherwise, delicious! So much so that Patch says it is delicious both ways and she doesn't notice the pasta being "too hard" It's not uncooked, it's simply a bit overly hard to the more critical pallets in the house. I found it much better today, and Carlie (self critical perhaps?) felt it was still a bit too hard. Like I said tho, I suspect tomorrow it will be the perfect consistancy. If we'd boiled it, it wouldn't last. Something to remember for the future. Maybe make 1/2 as much or make it when we have twice as many people to eat it? Still a work in process. I'll share the recipe and details once we get the details down pat and IF Carlie allows her recipe to be put out there. Family secrets to protect you know!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cranberry Citrus Muffins

It seems to be that I notice I have most of the ingredients for some recipe or other, and by the time I get the rest, something has been eaten. Or in this case, drunk as the orange juice seems to have disappeared between our recent shopping trip and baking these. The muffins I made turned out to be good, but a little lacking in flavor and sweetness. Good texture tho. Light and fluffy!  I altered the recipe off the back of the Bob's Red Mill biscuit and baking mix a bit, but it's really good with topping. I was not expecting these to rise as much as they did since I have heard horror stories about baking gluten-free, nor to be as fluffy as they are. I was pleasantly surprised.

2 cups Bobs biscuit and baking mix
2 tblspn Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
1 heaping cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 lemon
1/2 cup cranberry apple juice
1/2 cup lemon-lime soda
1 heaping cup dried cranberries

Whisk oil, egg, sugar and vanilla. Continue whisking while slowly adding juice of 1 lemon, cran-apple juice, and lemon lime soda. Slowly stir in biscuit and baking mix until fully mixed, then add extra lemon-lime soda as needed until the consistency matches a slightly thick muffin mix.

Next time I'm going to replace 1/2 the sugar with something less fattening like apple sauce, and I'll use orange juice instead of the cran-apple, but I figured I was already replacing something in this recipe, why mess with it more. By the way, if you're watching your weight, you may want to use diet soda. I can't use most diet sodas for this trick as they usually have sugar replacements which trigger or worsen my migraines, but I'm keeping my eyes open. Suggestions?

Carlie helped me bake these, because running around the kitchen to get ingredients and then mixing them up is still a bit beyond my abilities, especially after a week of lab tests which have left me feeling drained. No pun intended. I'm glad Carlie likes baking with me on her days off, because I was feeling the need for bread in my life this morning and ended up deciding to turn a cranberry orange bread recipe into the slightly altered muffin recipe above. I figured I can portion out muffins better than I can a loaf of bread. Plus I was curious to see how the trick of adding soda to the recipe would lighten things up. Considering how yummy these are warm, with some margarine and orange marmalade, I think I may need to freeze some up to make sure we don't eat too many at once. We'll see how they hold up to the freezer.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Shopping success and failures

After my last lab tests for the week, which FINALLY included the celiac panel I have given 18 vials of blood, had 130 allergens scratched onto my back, 24 allergens injected under my skin on my right arm, been poked, prodded and generally observed, but I believe I am closer to knowing what is wrong with my health and how to improve it than ever before in my life.

To celebrate, we went to AJ's deli at 56th Street and Ray Road in Chandler, AZ. I wanted to go to their sushi bar, but wasn't sure which fish count as shellfish and which would or wouldn't cause an allergic reaction so even tho I had an EPI pen on hand, I thought I would go the safer route.  Chef Roger helped point out which of his meals I would not be allergic to. What a great guy taking the extra time! AJ's should be grateful to have such dedicated employees who give excellent customer service. As someone who is finding he is allergic to and intollerant of several different foods, it can be overwhelming to eat anywhere outside one's own kitchen but at AJ's I felt perfectly safe. We ended up deciding on Terriaki Salmon with a Verry Berry Salad. YUM!

After my visit to the deli, I stopped by the candy section to buy a small desert. A roller girl named Chachi was there. Yes, roller girls have day jobs. And she was kind enough to point out a desert which I could eat without becoming sick, and which turned out to be a unique and wonderful flavor which I had never tried before, Orange Chili Chocolate. Patch and I shared it and we both very much enjoyed the tasty little pyramid of creamy citrus with spicy hot overtones. I do not usually like hot things, but I risked it knowing that Chachi would not stear me wrong. Once again, customer service to die for. That's why AJ's is a great place to celebrate. And knowing I can get gluten-free treats there, is a bonus!

Obviously all of the above was shopping success. What followed next during our shopping trip at Bashas was not. Don't get me wrong, Bashas' staff was wonderful, and the meal that we had tonight based off our shopping trip was good. But I made a newbie mistake in the gluten intolerant world. The shelf said gluten free, and I saw 3 for 3 dollars, so  I grabbed three boxes of organic pasta. Unfortunately the gluten free pasta was NOT the organic was below it. YIKES! When Patch unpacked the groceries and lay out the ingredients for a gluten free spaghetti, she realized my mistake. I am grateful she read the labels, because I was looking forward to going 100% gluten-free for the first time today. I am looking forward to feeling better and better as I believe I will when I'm living gluten-free. Thankfully, we happened to have a box of brown-rice spaghetti left over from our previous gluten-free shopping trip at Fresh and Easy. YAY!  The italian sausage left over from a previous list of ingredients was perfect in the spaghetti sauce...and the only difference I would want next time would be to try cooking the spaghetti for a shorter amount of time. I'm big on al dente pasta and this was more the consistency of chow mein. NOT what my pallet was expecting with an Italian meal, although I could see this being good with a Chinese meal. Lesson learned... next time I am shopping for pasta I will pay closer attention. Still, I'm grateful we had been keeping our eye open on previous trips and knew we would be wanting gluten-free spaghetti at some point. PHEW! The whole family enjoyed dinner tonight, so don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, it simply can be better. I know we'll hit the nail on the head next time!

Happy eating all, please feel free to share your gluten-free favorites, tips and tricks for pasta, I'm a big pasta eater and am still hopeful.

Local Myer Lemon Oil

While looking for gluten free lasagna, I also kept my eyes open for lemon olive oil. It was a lucky happenstance that it just so happens some is made right down the road in Queen Creek, AZ. Queen Creek Olive Mill makes Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, which they sell at stores right here in "the valley."

I always try to keep my eye open for products we can buy which are locally grown because it supports farmers in my community as well as making less of a negative impact on the world around us.  I'm not a fanatic about searching locally grown foods out, but when I just happen across them in the type of product I'm already looking for it's a bonus!

We also picked up a lemon and I was looking forward to using the cookie mix I'd picked up but replacing the oil with my lemon oil find, adding some lemon zest, and replacing the water in the recipe with lemon juice. All inspired by a recipe in Gluten Free Girl, which I've been reading while waiting for various doctors visits and lab tests.

Luckily for me some friends came over, one of whom LOVES baking cookies. These turned out really yummy! Not the same as those in the book I'm sure...but delicious enough that people keep going back for more. The other great thing about them is they're really satisfying. After eating one you're like wow that was good, but you're also feeling a bit full and satisfied so there's no rushing back for immediate 2nd and 3rds...but there is a lot of gradual cookie grazing going on in this house these days.