Sunday, December 26, 2010

quick meals, knit nights and holiday madness

When I first when wheat free two years ago one of the first things we bought for the new lifestyle was a rice cooker. At 9,000 feet above sea level cooking can be a challenge and I had to give up Rice A Roni that was such a staple for us. The rice cooker allowed us to make near perfect rice each time. I also made sure we got a steamer basket for veggies- tonight I had an ah-ha moment and put my spinach in the steamer for the first time along with a clove of garlic.

The result was a very simple and easy dinner that was made while I took my evening shower. I added a bit of soy sauce and a bit of leftover Christmas ham with pineapple for a tasty meal with very little prep work.

In late October I couldn't spend enough time in the kitchen at night- now I'm in a new phase and spend my nights knitting. It's almost a fetish- I learned how to knit a hat in the round at the beginning of November and now am 10 hats into the process and getting better. My first hat came out ok but looked a but sketchy at the top- I've moved on to fancier brims, smaller yarns and mixing colors. It's almost like a nightly mediation time for me. Winter brings a more stressful work environment and the knitting has been an escape. When work gets tough I just want to go home, throw Grey's Anatomy on and knit.
 A sampling of my hat work, the all blue is my first ever hat.
Two recent kid creations. 
This is the time of year when balance becomes a challenge for me. Most of the world seems to get a bit of time off for the holidays while I ramp up at work and try to keep up with the typical holiday baking and demands of life. Dave also works longer hours so I fly solo on dog duty 3-4 days a week. Thankfully the knitting, ski breaks and walks with the puppy monsters have kept me sane during the madness.   
But I've also made some time to sneak out with friends after ski/work days. There's a new movement at the Telluride Ski Resort to become more gluten-free friendly. I had a Philly Cheese steak on gluten-free bread (I believe it was Udi's- even better!) and was delighted to be able to eat in a bar like a normal person, not some salad sans dressing but real bar food. Fries are still off limits but better safe then sorry.
It's a work in progress but I'm happy to see them move in this direction.

Friday, December 17, 2010

cookies and holiday madness

As the holidays approach I'm working on perfecting my cookie skills. I've been playing with some new recipes, mixes and flours.  I wish I could say I've been so busy baking that I haven't had time to post but that would be such a fractional truth. I've also been busy knitting hats, working, dealing with change, skiing, enjoying happy hour, watching world cup snowboardcross races, working too many days in a row, grey's anatomy and many reruns of,  waking up to happy puppies, testing out new gluten free offerings at Telluride Ski Resort, skiing, playing with the puppy monsters... you get the idea. If I could I'd narrow this list down to playing with the dogs, baking, knitting while watching grey's anatomy and skiing but I have other obligations in life as well. It's sad, even the camera doesn't reflect half of the things we've been up to since the mountain opened on Thanksgiving. 

I've long since given up on being able to send holiday cards. I realize that the compressed season of the ski industry and the vast amount of work to be done in the short time between pumpkin carving and Christmas trees barely allows time for posting and puppies, let alone a night of holiday cards. 

I also made the best apple pie ever for turkey day... I was inspired by a pie on the cover of Yankee Magazine and did a snowflake crust for our holiday celebration. 

The winner of all my baking has been the snickerdoodles from the Bronski's cookbook Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking. I'm a big fan of their flour blend and their book seems to be my go-to for everything from pizza dough to pie crust to cookies. I've also started flirting with dairy and ultimately cheating and went back to real  butter for baking. I've got to be careful with how much I consume but have found that it makes things much prettier and the taste is much better as well. Yes, I cheated for a prettier pie crust and cookies that wow people.

mixing almond flour with the wet stuff

almond flour cookies

cherrybrook sugar cookie mix
mixing snickerdoodles
the cookie dough scoop makes things so pretty


Sunday, November 28, 2010

soup's on

A few weeks ago the weather here in Telluride started to change... nights got colder then BAM- winter hit. That's what Colorado is like, one extreme to another, t-shirts to long underwear and fleece.
It's the kind of change that makes you want soup- warm, hearty and welcome winter soup.

I revisited this soup but added some ginger and used almond milk instead of soy. It came out well and huge! I doubled the recipe without meaning to and it made for one large soup- thankfully I was able to get some office mates to help me finish it off.
saute the onion and ginger
add the softened carrots...

blend with squash and non-dairy milk for winter goodness


Last night we hit up one of my all time favorite restaurant's for a friend's birthday. I ordered the same dish I always do in the exact same way- but after dinner my stomach twisted and I felt the evil coming on. I regretted forgetting my pepto at home and tried to fight through the discomfort. We went home and I zoned out while the gluten ravaged my body. This morning I can still feel it lingering. I put my ski boots on for the fourth morning in a row but they felt off. My feet felt contorted inside the hard plastic shell- nothing had changed with my boots from the previous 3 days to today. It was the gluten- my joints are achy, my head is in a fog and I can't get out of my funk.

From Droid for Campchaos

Even the elk crossing the ski trail couldn't do it...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

popeye the gluten free chef

I've been feeling like Popeye may be a long lost relative and have been eating spinach like it's going out of style. I only learned how to saute spinach a few years ago and each fall go through my Popeye phase of eating. Dave's begun snowmaking and working late each night so I can eat what I want and play around a bit more. There's been some great creations, some just average and some flops that have potential.
Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms and Rice
This was a winner. I sliced the chicken thin and marinated in gluten free soy sauce then topped with San-J Sweet and Tangy over rice with sauteed mushrooms and spinach. Simple, easy and tasty.

Brussel Sprouts
Brussel sprouts were a leap off the deep end for me. I've never cooked them before and only had them prepared once where I really liked them. I should have steamed them first before the saute as they didn't really cook the entire way through. I tried to reduce some maple syrup at the end to add flavor but in all this was a FLOP.  It had potential but I really need to learn how to cook these bad boys. Dave was glad he didn't have to suffer on this one.

Garbanzo Beans
I saw Garbanzo beans in this month's Living Without- they cooked them for snack time. I cooked  them for about 20 minutes at 350 in a bit of EVOO until they were steamy then paired with rice and this month's prerequisite mushrooms and spinach. It was good but something was missing- what flavor would you add?

Quinoa Pasta
The Quinoa pasta version was a good basic meal that made me wish for a big smattering of cheese- Parmesan would have been perfect.
 I got Dave to eat mushrooms with this one. I live at 9,545 feet and it's a labor of love to make good risotto and this came out good. I sauteed chopped onions and mushrooms (small pieces for dave) then slowly stirred in warm chicken broth a cup at a time for the next 40 minutes- thankfully risotto bulks up so it's good for a few meals.
Rice Noodles
The rice noodle dish was tasty with chicken and a good all around dinner. It's similar to my street noodle creation but just a bit different. Simple noodles, chicken and veggies with a quick toss in the pan with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce.

It's been fun playing around with dinner and having enough variations of the same veggies to be able to polish off a whole bag of spinach on my own but I think I may be over spinach for a while...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sugarloaf, Maine Gluten Free Options at the Rack

When we lived at Sugarloaf, you could find us at the Rack at least once a week but usually more often, we had mugs there and loved the selection of Maine mircobrews. It's the local brew pub and the owners are good people and pretty avid skiers and snowboarder's- one even has a few gold medals to his name.  I knew they had Woodchuck so I didn't have beer envy but had resigned myself to a night of salad as I was pretty familiar with the old menu. I was beside myself upon discovering that they had GLUTEN-FREE PIZZA! Say what?

Yes, they partnered with the Portland Pie Company to carry GF crusts.

I had pizza three times in one week (thankfully after the wedding) and it was honestly the best crust I've had in a resturant. It was a thin crust that reminds me of New York Style Pizza.  I don't say this lightly but I was impressed. I thanked the owners and asked Chase why they did it. It turns out there's a demand so they listened to their customers and came up with an option for them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

gluten-free travels

Before our road trip to Maine I did some prep work... I bought a case of chocolate Bumble Bars, a pack of Udi's Bagels, a few boxes of Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks and did some research. We drove from Colorado to Maine along I-70 the snaked up through the East coast on 84, 290 and 95. I'd plan out PF Chang's and Whole Food stops based on distance from the interstate, our hotel or dinner time.

I had all the potenial stops written down with the phone number and address so we could punch it into Gertie, our trusty GPS. We left Colorado at night and took turns sleeping and driving throught the middle part of the country and made it to St. Louis for a much needed sleep and a double whammy- Whole Food's and PF Chang's within 5 minutes of each other and I-70. Love. Love. Love.

  It's kind of a strange obsession but I've never had a reaction to either place. I picked up some trip snacks, cut fruit for breakfast and sandwich meat at Whole Foods and dinner at PF Chang's.

The next day was also a bonus as we drove through Indianapolis for lunch and had enough left over for dinner as well. This was one road trip where I had no chance to feel hungry or deprived.

Dave was a good sport about it too. We stopped twice on our drive east (two days in a row) and  three times on the way home (we took our time) and usually ended up with leftovers for the next meal/snack as well.

We did mix it up and the only constant was the lettuce wraps as we both love them so much.

Out of all the Whole Foods we stopped at- Denver St. Louis, Indianapolis, Portland, Maine was our favorite.

They had a great soup bar that I hit twice and options for Dave too. Plus they had a good supply of Udi's products for our time in Maine as well.
I did make a point to stop at our old food store and was shocked that the last year and a half they went from having a small shelf space for gluten-free products to 6 times the space and a lot more products.
 They even had a line of cake mixes I hadn't heard of before. Sara had picked up their strawberry pound cake and it was the bomb, great strawberry flavor with a nice moist texture.
 Cheers to Hannaford  for getting on board and making sure glutards can eat safely. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

this is gluten-free?

I'm happy to report that the only gluten at our wedding was in the form of two kegs of PBR. Thankfully I also had a few cases of New Planet Beer to counteract all that gluten as well as wine. We arrived in Maine to chilly and wet weather. On Friday Mother Nature pounded rain and our girls hike was cancelled so we stayed in to cook instead. My friend Lynne makes the best chicken limon and can now even make it gluten free. YUM, for this I will eat dairy, the chicken melts in your mouth along with the silky sauce.
She had pre-pounded her chicken to the perfect thickness (very thin) and I watched her make a silky cream sauce with mushrooms. It was one of the best meals and memories of the trip.

"let it simmer until it becomes silky" ~lynne
As Lynne was creating her magic, I whipped up a monster whoopie pie for the wedding. I didn't have time to do all whoopies so I ordered a gluten free cake from Frank's Bake Shop in Bangor, Maine and did a monster whoopie for Dave and I to cut for show.  I had made a big batch of Artisanal GF Flour and brought on the trip as well as xanthum gum for all my baking needs.
Lynne also makes a wicked chocolate martini and between that and the distraction of seeing everyone again I didn't pay close attention to the task of baking the whoopie pie.

chocolate martini
I had a feeling that something was wrong but I thought that the altitude (1,000 feet above sea level instead of 9,000) was making things come out funny. I had started with less flour and everything seemed to be in order. It took a while to bake but that was due to the large size, right?

Later that night and a few New Plant's later it hit me... eggs! I had omitted eggs while scratching down the recipe from a blog post of mine. It was only going to be for the cake cutting so I let it go and admitted my error to Dave. It still looked great and tasted fine but the texture was off.

Frank's Bake Shop did a good job on the cake. I wasn't looking for a traditonal wedding cake so just got the wedding logo that Colleen had done for us put on a gluten free sheet cake. The salesperson on the phone had no idea how the cake tasted- which is a fail to me as the sales team should know all products even gluten free ones. We did chocolate as it would hide the gluten free factor a bit for folks. I enjoyed the cake- it was a dense and moist chocolate with a sugary frosting. I only wish I had ordered more cake as it went quickly. Who knew that people really do eat wedding cake?

photo by patrick smith
It really didn't matter much and it's a good memory of the whole day. We had perfect weather, great foliage and a safe gluten free good time (except for all those people who drank the two kegs of PBR- they just had a good time.) 

Chuck Snell was our caterer and used to serve coffee with Dave at Java Joe's, picking someone we liked and trusted was huge for me. Dave was also excited as he had tasted Chuck's cooking before and it was always wonderful. He's the type of guy who takes pride in his creations and knows food well. Chuck rocked it and roasted 22 chickens on Friday and made carrots with honey and thai basil along with roasted red potatos and a hearty, colorful salad. He also served Carrabassett Coffee which is the biggest roaster in Kingfield, Maine. Chuck was great about making it all gluten and dairy free- to be honest people didn't miss the gluten. How could they when Chuck's creations were so yummy and well- normal. Do you ever have people that think you must eat really funny foods if you're gluten free?

In the planning process people told me that guests never really pay attention to food but I found that a lot of people raved about the food to us and also to Chuck.  (Cheers Chuck!) Our whole day was really about the people who helped us.
Our mission was to create a fun and simple day in which we could enjoy time with family and friends. We worked hard to keep it simple (hence paper plates and plastic silverware instead of dealing with plate rentals and  all that jazz). We had a naturally beautiful venue so we just added a few white lights, mason jars with rocks and candles and Kim gathered maple leaves to add a bit more flair. Sugarloaf, Maine, where we met six years ago, is one of the most scenic spots I've ever been to and the Outdoor Center is a great backdrop for any special day. The resort even had scenic chairlift rides and we had some guests that made a point to do that after the wedding.
Carol was our master of ceremonies and wrote the best vows ever. She pulled in aspects from our lives and it was such a comfort to have our friend preceding over the event. Big Dave was the music master and played "Waste" from Phish on his guitar as we walked out and kept the rings safe. Sara opened her home and kept everyone well fed with shepard pie and watched the puppies while we made it around to see all the guests. There's more but that's a whole other story.... so thank you to all who helped, came and were a part of our day. 
Here's a quick food montage as well as some fun shots of the day. 
Photos by Patrick and Kendra. Thanks guys for getting food shots!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

a month away...

The last month has looked a bit like this (cue photo montage)

In the last month we moved everything into storage, drove to Maine and back, moved things out of storage and into new place, spent time with friends, played with the puppies and got married.


It's been a busy month and I am ready for some quiet time. Last night the kitchen aid mixer was unpacked plus my immersion blender. There's still foliage on the trees and I'm thinking it's time for carrot squash soup. Plus I could use a veggie load after eating PF Chang's, Bumble Bars and more during our travels. I did also hit up a lot of Whole Food Salad bars as well but not enough to balance out the PF Chang's (although I am a new fan of the Chang's cucumbers in soy sauce).  I also managed to not get glutened at all although I did eat much more dairy then I should have.

More to come including a giveaway.... but for now it's time to unpack some more boxes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ajax Peak and Allred's in Telluride

Saturday marked 4 years to the day that Dave and I moved to Telluride from Sugarloaf, Maine. We're had a busy four years and haven't hiked too much due to various factors like a broken toe (me, a few summers ago) and a healing leg (Chaos, last summer after a nasty ski injury to his back tendon) and general life stuff.

September 18, 2006

We're leaving for Maine in a week for our wedding and will be driving cross country with the dogs for the event. We're also moving into a new condo and have been packing our stuff up one box at a time. It was a hard day last week when I packed away the pretty pink kitchen aid for the next month. Everything is going into storage and when we return to Telluride in mid-October we will move to our new digs.

our wedding logo- designed by colleen shea

As a gluten-free person travel presents some challenge but I'm feeling prepared and have already checked in with the Portland, Maine Whole Foods to see if they have Udi's for me (yes- they do) and managed to snag two cases of New Planet Tread Lightly for the event and vacation as well. I've mapped out Whole Foods along the route and have been researching options plus packing food. I've got a big batch of Artisan GF Flour made up and ready to travel plus a few other goodies like Bumble Bars to carry me through the 2,600 mile trip.

After all this we are pretty tired and used Saturday not for packing but for playing. We ignored the boxes of stuff, wedding details and travel plans and headed up Ajax. I was up early with last minute hike preparations and we were on the road shortly after 7am. We cruised through town and the 4Runner climbed to the top of Bridal Veil Falls where we began our 6 mile round trip hike. The sun in Telluride is really intense so the early morning helped us summit by 10:40am and enjoy some time watching town park fill with the Blues & Brews Festival folks from 12,785 feet. Mayhem, our  young golden loved the hike and was ready for more while Chaos, who is almost 6 and still plagued by his back tendon did well but was tired by the end of the hike.

September 18, 2010 Ajax Peak overlooking Telluride and the ski resort

Recently a fellow blogger and excellent writer, Peter Bronski came to Telluride and did some excellent reviews on local restaurants. I've dined at both establishments before but Peter's photos and descriptions had Dave and I walking into Allred's on Saturday night. I love it when other people help me rediscover my own town. We were going to sit at the bar and enjoy a quick bite but their happy hour specials had the bar filled and we ended up in the dining room. Both locations offer excellent views of the town of Telluride and the box canyon plus a view of Ajax Peak.

Allred's Dinner
We each had a small fillet Mignon and I had a sage brown butter sauce while Dave had the Chimichurri sauce. My sauce was yummy and melted the steak in my mouth while Dave's had sweet tones of cilantro, garlic, onion and peppers. We shared a side of sweet potato mash and mushrooms.
Sweet Potato Mash
I'm normally not a mushroom fan but these were tasty. Allred's works to source their menu from sustainable sources and I'm certain the mushrooms were on the menu as a result of our rainy summer that spurred growth of fungi in the area. Plus the listing caught our eyes, organic trumpet royale mushrooms with texas wild boar bacon, parmesan

organic trumpet royale mushrooms
It was an amazing meal and we haven't stopped talking about it, plus it was all gluten free.
Dinner at Allred's was a great ending to a perfect day in Telluride.

Monday, September 6, 2010

the road to red rocks and the gluten free trip

Last weekend we left our small box canyon and headed to Denver for the Yonder Mountain String Band show. They're not my fave but Dave enjoys them and I was game for getting out of town.
We left on Thursday night and found the best road snacks at the Sawpit Mercantile as we left town. I was able to try Annie's Gluten Free Bunny Cookies and Glutino Chocolate Covered Pretzels, neither of which is very good for me but fine in moderation. The Bunny Cookies have a bit of a rice flour taste and are great in small amounts while the Glutinos were all that I had hoped for in a GF chocolate covered pretzel since I knew I loved the plain version.

Friday we spent the day at the Park Meadows Mall in Denver which is the second time all summer that I've gone to a mall. I did hit Cherry Creek on my Denver trip in July. That may sound strange but I live 3 hours from the closest mall which is on the small side and ski bums don't have too much need for most mall stores anyhow. We both remembered this on Friday as we walked through the monstrous structure and did some shoe shopping for Dave. The best part about Park Meadows is the proximity to a PF Chang's and that's why we hit it versus Cherry Creek.

 We enjoyed a gluten free lunch with the lettuce wraps I dream about, Chang's Spicy Chicken and ventured out with the Mongolian Beef that quickly became a new favorite. I'm hoping to find a PF Chang as we drive cross country to Maine in a few short weeks.  I've already marked a few Whole Foods that are close to interstate 70 and will make great lunch stops.

In less then three weeks we drive from Colorado to Maine for our October wedding. We're driving so that the pups can join us and we really enjoy the road trip. We're doing a simple day at Sugarloaf and are looking forward to a relaxing trip... which we will need by then as we're also moving. Our new location is yet to be determined so everything will be going into storage until we return to Telluride and find a new home. We'll still beat the rush of the seasonal ski bums coming into town so I'm optimistic that we'll find something that will take us and our two golden monsters.

Two years ago this stress would have wrecked me, I'd be a grumpy mess. Two years ago I was still eating gluten and had felt bad for so long that I didn't even know I felt bad. We had stress then too and I was a wreck.... as was our Tacoma when Dave rolled it that September, it was our only car but we had good insurance. Two years later, again in September, everything is happening at once, some good, some bad, some just challenging. Whenever I hear people say that it's tough to be gluten free I just shake my head and say that it's tougher not to be. While gluten free isn't stress free it certainly helps when challenges come around. The balance I have now is well worth the trip of being a glutard.