Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Weekend Cooking: 3 Cookbook Reviews

Our wonderful library system (full disclosure: I work for them but was a big fan before becoming an employee) includes an extensive collection of cookbooks spanning every possible cuisine and diet. I can’t resist checking out several food-related books every week and perusing them for recipes and inspiration.

Here are three that recently caught my eye and that I thought I’d provide some thoughts for via Weekend Cooking, a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has a food-related post to share.


One of my favorite cookbooks these days is Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes by Gina Homolka who writes the blog — you guessed it — Skinnytaste. I’ve checked this cookbook out of the library at least three times now and have made two stellar dishes from it.

The first was a slow cooker version of Lasagna Soup. I had some leftover vegetarian ground beef and used that instead of the actual meat. Everyone in our family liked it except The Girl, who doesn’t like soup, period. It felt like a substantial meal. I used DeLallo’s gluten-free lasagna noodles for this (the best variety of GF pasta I’ve found) and nobody could tell the difference.

The second recipe was a Sheet Pan Greek Chicken dinner that I made for the kids. It was very similar to this Sheetpan Italian Chicken on the Skinnytaste site. I think I used baby carrots, broccoli and roasted potatoes as the vegetables.

The photography in this cookbook is gorgeous and if memory serves me correctly (as this one has since gone back to the library again), the organization of recipes was very user-friendly. There were plenty of meals in this that either everyone in our family could enjoy or that lent themselves to simple substitutions or adaptations. I look forward to cooking from this one often.

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes for Real Life
by Gina Homolka and Heather K. Jones
Clarkson Potter
2016
304 pages

Terry Hope Romero is one of the authors of Veganomican, which always seems to be go-to source for all things vegan, so I guess I had high expectations for Protein Ninja‘s  “100 hearty plant-based recipes that pack a protein punch.” Unfortunately, almost every recipe calls for some type of protein powder, be it pea, hemp, brown rice, etc. Although I’ve never tried it, the notion of cooking or baking with protein powders doesn’t hold much (if any) appeal for me; however, if this is of interest to you, the author gives a very good description of such powders, their uses, storage, where to buy, etc. in the opening chapters of the book.

I also didn’t find too many of the recipes to be labeled gluten-free, a category which is included among the recipe descriptors. I’m sure some could be modified to be such. Protein Ninja wasn’t for me, but this would be a good resource for those who enjoy or would like to try using protein powders in their vegan cooking and who don’t necessary need to be gluten-free.

Protein Ninja: Power Through Your Day with 100 Hearty Plant-Based Recipes That Pack a Protein Punch
Terry Hope Romero
Da Capo Lifelong Books
2016
208 pages

For whatever reason, a typical salad holds little appeal for me this summer. I seem to have some sort of aversion to lettuce lately, unless it’s in a chopped salad, yet I’m craving salads with an abundance of ingredients (with little to no lettuce). I’m buying salad-worthy ingredients at the store and farmers market, and then somehow have zero inspiration or ability to construct such a salad when I get home.

All this is why I was excited to pick up Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner, a new cookbook from the folks behind the Food52.com website (a great source with a plethora of food articles, recipes, products, tips, and more). Immediately, they were speaking to me, with this right inside the cover: “Does anybody need a recipe to make a salad? Of course not. But if you want your salad to hold strong in your lunch bag or carry the day as a one-bowl dinner, dressing on lettuce isn’t going to cut it.”

This cookbook is divided into sections titled Leafy Salads, Less-Leafy Vegetable Salads (yes, please!), Grain and Bean Salads, Pasta and Bread Salads, Fish and Seafood Salads, and Meat Salads. This is chock full of inspiration (“Even if you never make a single recipe in the book to completion but instead create a mash-up you like better or that serves as a happy home for your leftover vegetables, we’ve done our job.”) That they have.

Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner
Editors of Food52
Ten Speed Press
2017
160 pages

 

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Weekend Cooking: The Comfort of an Egg, Avocado and Tomato Sandwich

You know how sometimes there is a particular food or a combination of ingredients that you see everywhere and you tell yourself you really should try that, it looks so simple, it has everything you love, and still somehow you never get around to making it and then — then! — when you do, you wonder what took you so long because now that dish, that meal, that delightful concoction becomes your most favorite thing ever and you’re convinced you could exist quite happily eating nothing else for the rest of your days?

Just me, huh? Oh. Mmm-kay.

That’s been my experience with this egg, avocado and tomato sandwich. I cannot get enough of this.

It started earlier this month at a women’s group I’m part of at church. Each month we gather, people bring food, and we discuss a particular topic. This month was on sustainability, and two of the members talked about ways they’ve implemented more environmentally-friendly practices into their everyday lives. It was incredibly interesting and eye-opening and went beyond the usual suggestions — you know, don’t run the water when you brush your teeth, keep bags in your car for impromptu grocery trips, things we all should be doing anyway.

For example, did you know that after using the restroom, if you count to 12 while shaking the water off your hands after washing them, you will likely use less paper towels because your hands aren’t as wet?

(I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks and damn if it isn’t true.)

Anyway, the two women who led the discussion both have backyard chickens and they brought in fresh eggs for us to take home.

(Look at them. Aren’t they gorgeous?!)

They explained how the eggs, when laid, have a coating on them called “bloom” and because of this, eggs can stay fresh on your counter, unrefrigerated, for several weeks. Once washed, they either need to be used immediately or refrigerated and used relatively quickly. They also explained that eggs in the grocery store may have been there awhile; farmers have 30 days to get eggs to the store and then the store has an additional 30 days to sell them.

I accepted my friend’s gift of fresh eggs, knowing that The Husband would be appalled. He’s extremely particular about things like expiration dates and refrigeration. Both of us have sensitive stomachs and quirky GI systems and his reaction when I brought the eggs home was predictable.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind, eating unrefrigerated eggs?!? You’re driving yourself to the emergency room when you keel over from eating those things.”

I admit, I was skeptical too. To my knowledge, I’d never had fresh eggs right from the chicken. And keeping eggs out on the counter for several weeks defied all logic. Maybe I was chancing fate. What the hell was I thinking?

But a few nights ago, I came home from work exhausted and wanting some simple, no-thought-involved comfort food for dinner. The Husband wasn’t hungry, so it was just me and the kids for dinner. I forget what they had, but I looked at the eggs, avocadoes, and tomatoes sitting on the counter and realized I had the makings of a beautiful sandwich.

I’ve made this three times in the past week. I’ve had it on toasted gluten-free bread, as pictured above, and on a toasted gluten-free bagel. I’ve made it into an open-faced sandwich. It has become the most perfect comfort food during a particularly difficult time and I can’t get enough. It’s all I want to eat. The Husband, meanwhile, is astounded that I’m still alive after eating a total of six eggs that have been residing on our kitchen counter for more than two weeks.

To each his own. Sometimes the best comfort foods are discovered when we step out of our comfortable shell.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

 

 

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Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

Quinoa Salad

When I first tried quinoa, I thought it was horrid. And this disappointed me tremendously because quinoa is one of those grains that seems to be a staple in the gluten-free diet and one that everyone loves.

I’m not sure when my feelings for quinoa changed, but I know it had something to do with it being served cold, rather than warm.

Suddenly, I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

This summer, I’ve been making a variation of this simple salad. It’s so flexible and easy. You can eliminate an ingredient or add others, such as onion, cucumber or avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

one package of Trader Joe’s fully cooked organic quinoa (so easy; just microwave)
half of a corn on the cob
canned black beans, about a cup or so, drained and rinsed
1 yellow plum tomato
1/2 of a red beefsteak tomato
handful of feta cheese
You could also add onion and/or avocado.

Mix together.  Refrigerate.  Enjoy.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #85 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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Cookbook Review: Carb-Conscious Vegetarian (71/99)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian

“The downfall of some vegetarian diets is a tendency to rely on white rice or pasta as the focus of the meal. After all, pasta and rice dishes can be quick, tasty, and economical. While it’s true that a little pasta or rice in moderation is harmless for most people, sometimes you can find yourself eating more refined carbs than anything else and ultimately putting on extra pounds — a telltale signal that it’s time to reevaluate what you’re eating.”  — Robin Robertson, Carb Conscious Vegetarian

This, in the proverbial nutshell, describes my approach to being vegetarian for two decades. Rice and (gluten-free) pasta are the mainstays of my go-to meals, and the former has definitely increased since going gluten-free several years ago.

Now, as I’ve mentioned in some very recent posts, I need to focus on reducing my carbs and lowering my cholesterol.  My triglyceride levels are in a super-high range and combined with the cholesterol numbers, I’m pretty sure statins are in my future.  Needless to say, I’m not pleased about any of this. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be many cookbooks that are gluten-free AND vegetarian AND low-carb AND low cholesterol. I feel like I need to create my own repertoire of recipes. Expect to hear more about all this in future posts.

So, I’m trying to embrace this and using the need for new recipes as justification for borrowing piles of cookbooks at a time from our library, which has a very extensive cookbook collection spanning every possible cuisine, device, food group, diet and lifestyle, etc. We’re very fortunate in that regard.

Carb Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson seems to be a good place to start. It’s from 2005, and a bit on the basic side with no photographs, but these 150 recipes “contain no refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, sugar, or pasta.”  Recipes using soy (including vegetarian crumbles and burgers, tofu, and tempeh) are included. Robertson describes this as a “moderately low-carb/all good carb” cookbook and includes an extensive list of food items and the carb counts for specific amounts.  She also includes an explanation of the glycemic index, including the number for certain foods. Most of the recipes are either already gluten-free or easily modified to be GF.

Recipes I’m interested in trying (none of these have any cholesterol) include:

Guacamame  (9 g. carbs) – avocado with the addition of edamame

Summer Vegetable Bisque (14 g. carbs) – the creaminess of the bisque is accomplished by pureeing the vegetables and stock

Bountiful “Big Bowl” Chili (28 g. carbs)

Victory Garden Stew (23 g. carbs)

Tabbouleh-Style Quinoa Salad (28 g. carbs)

Sloppy Josephines (18 g. carbs) – a variation on Sloppy Joes, with a note that it tastes better the next day. This sounds like it would be good to make ahead and eat for an early dinner, particularly when we are going someplace where we are unsure of the vegetarian food options.

Rich Man’s Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Wintertime Spinach Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Creamy Cucumber-Dijon Dressing (2 g. carbs)

White Wine Vinegar and Fresh Herb Marinade – for grilled vegetables (2 g. carbs)

Spinach-Mushroom “Frittata” – egg free (10 g. carbs)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian: 150 Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle
Robin Robertson 
Rodale 
2005 
243 pages

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #71 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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Weekend Cooking: Waking Up to Overnight Oats

Blueberry Banana Overnight Oats

The Girl and I have a busy day today, as tends to be the norm on the first Saturday of the month. I knew I would need a powerful, healthy breakfast to hold me over until lunchtime, and I decided to make overnight oats.  If you’ve read any food blogs or perused Pinterest lately, you know that overnight oats have been trendy for awhile now.

I had been meaning to make these for awhile, but never have — until last night. I can’t find the exact Pinterest recipe I based this on, but it went something like this:

Blueberry Banana Overnight OatsBlueberry Banana Overnight Oats

3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
1 smashed banana, more on the brown side than ripe
handful or two (or three) of blueberries

Combine all ingredients In a mason jar or bowl. (Personally, as much as I love the aesthetics of this in a glass jar, I don’t feel its essential.)  Stir. Refrigerate until morning, stir a few times, then top with blueberries before enjoying.

This couldn’t be any easier and it turned out to be fantastic. Although I would have preferred a thicker consistency, that’s easily adjustable for next time. And I am planning to make overnight oats again, especially since my cholesterol and triglyceride levels are being stubborn as hell.

I’m now on the hunt for more overnight oats recipes, just to have a variety.  (Although I don’t want any with seeds — especially chia, which I find to be incredibly vile. And I’ve seen some versions with chocolate and additional sweeteners like honey but that’s probably not the best way to go either.)

Do you make overnight oats? Tell me about your favorite!  

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #69 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

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Restaurant Review: Sienna Mercato, Pittsburgh, PA

After spending the day Downtown on Wednesday, I met up with a former coworker for drinks and appetizers at Sienna Mercato (942 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh). Although I hadn’t been there before, I’d eaten previously at their sister restaurant a short distance away, Sienna On the Square. I remembered that my meal — with The Girl, before last year’s One Direction concert at Heinz Field — was very, very good.

IMG_20150802_164732_930IMG_20150802_164739_069 - Copy (2)

(These are pictures from Sienna on the Square.  I wish I could remember what we had, but I do know it was damn good.  Anyway, I’m using these because I need a related picture for this post but I didn’t take pictures at dinner on Wednesday and I didn’t want to take an image off of Sienna Mercato’s social media without asking permission first.)

Anyway, yes. Back to the present day and Sienna Mercato, which has a tagline of Good. Times. Three.  This restaurant is unique in that they have three dining establishments under one roof.

Emporio: A Meatball Joint features gourmet meatballs, soups, salads, etc. as well as a full bar with 32 draft beers, wines, and cocktails. It’s located on the ground floor. Upstairs, Mezzo highlights Italian fare including house made charcuterie, wood-fired pizzas, savory panini, creative pastas, and fine wines. Finally, Il Tetto is a rooftop beer garden and a perfect atmosphere for an outdoor gathering. They offer drafts, wine, cocktails and light fare.

My friend and I opted for Emporio because of the happy hour specials; we ordered wine, thinking it was cheaper than it was based on misunderstanding our waitress’ explanation, but no big deal.

Emporio is known for their gourmet meatballs.  Choices are classic beef (“grandma’s secret”); spicy pork (chili pepper, herbs); vegetarian (mushroom, white beans and cauliflower); and chicken (parmesan and herbs).  Only the chicken version  is gluten free, which my friend chose and which presented me (a gluten free vegetarian) with a dilemma. I hedged my bets on the meat being more problematic for my crazy messed up stomach and went for the vegetarian.

I will say that the vegetarian and gluten free distinctions are very clearly marked on Emporio’s menu (and yes, I could have selected something GF, but I really, really wanted a meatball.)

A sauce comes with the meatball and guests have their choice of marinara (vegetarian and GF); pork bolognese; creamy parmesan (vegetarian); chicken gravy; government cheese (vegetarian); mushroom gravy (vegetarian); arribiatta (vegetarian and gluten free); tzatziki (vegetarian and gluten free); spinach-almond pesto (vegetarian and gluten free) and chicken-chili. Adding serving options are as sliders, paninis, grinders, or over a side — including a gluten free pasta.

I was undecided between the tzatziki, the marinara, and the spinach-almond pesto and wound up selecting the tzatziki, again on my friend’s recommendation.  (She has never steered me wrong in the almost 3 years that I’ve known her.)

The meatballs are presented in a little silver bowl with a small flag that says “Emporio.”  SO FREAKING CUTE. You can see it here.

As my friend and I talked and ate and drank our wine, I realized I was hungrier than I thought. We perused the sides, deciding on a basket of tater tots. These arrived piping hot and crispy. Our waitress was very pleasant and very accommodating throughout the meal.

Sienna Mercato was a perfect place to catch up after work while enjoying a drink and snack-type dinner. The meatballs more than earn their reputation.  Next time I’d plan to try them over the penne and with their vegetarian, gluten-free marinara sauce or the pesto.

All in all, a wonderful dining experience which I recommend and look forward to repeating.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #68 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

 

 

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Weekend Cooking: Gluten-Free Bread Salad with Goat Cheese (41/99)

High on my list of favorite summer foods is Tomato and Bread Salad, also known as Panzanella. I love everything about it. Bread salad makes a perfect lunch as well as an easy dinner (for me, that is). It’s cheap and simple with seasonal ingredients.  What could be better?

Oh, yeah. That little thing called bread.

I’ve missed this salad since going gluten-free.  I thought about trying to make it with GF bread, but the brand I usually buy (Aldi’s LiveGFree) seemed too thin for this dish.

A week ago, my boss and I were at my favorite Pittsburgh lunch spot (EatUnique, which I really need to do a review of soon). I’d ordered a tomato and mozzarella sandwich on a gluten free roll. It had a light pesto spread and it was AMAZING.  It tasted just like my beloved tomato and bread salad.

A few days later, I noticed that Aldi now has gluten-free hamburger rolls (which is FANTASTIC because, let’s face it, some things just taste better on a roll). Inspiration struck; when I had two extra, slightly stale rolls after the Fourth of July, I knew what I needed to do.

GF Bread Salad

This version is as simple as it gets:

Chop tomato and cucumber; combine in a medium sized bowl. I happened to have a few fresh basil leaves, so I added those. Then, tear the hamburger bun into cubes and add those to the mixture.  Combine all ingredients by stirring gently. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I didn’t measure this, but I used more oil than vinegar.) I added a little goat cheese to this.

You can adjust the portions, depending on how many people you’re serving. I’m the only one who likes this in our house so this made enough for my dinner.

And then I repeated the same for lunch today.

So delicious to have you back, Tomato and Bread Salad!

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

 

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #41 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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