Saturday, September 13, 2014

A French Experience with French Wheat

Family Connection, French Connection

My family and I just returned from the most fabulous trip. This was a two and a half week excursion through Switzerland and France, with a quick dash through Italy, to reconnect with and meet extended family and attend a family reunion. 

It was fantastic!

We stayed only two or three nights in each place we visited, moving along like gypsies. But this gave us the opportunity to visit several different branches of the family in such a short amount of time.

Many of the family we visited were not able to attend the reunion we were headed for. This made our time with them all the more precious. 

We loved every minute of it. Every. minute.

We learned a word of German, a bit of Italian, and definitely some French. It was quite interesting to see how English, Italian, French, and some Spanish came together to create conversations!

Before leaving on the trip, I warned my cousins that I needed to be gluten free. This message was passed around and everyone was ready for me! They went out of their way to be sure I had bread and pasta I could eat. 

And let me tell you, I so very much appreciated it!

I ate safely. Period. 

But only a few days into our French experience, I was prompted, or encouraged, or gently nagged, to try some wheat. 

Try some wheat?!!  Yes, try some. 

Why? You might ask. Go ahead. Ask.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whoever invented the chocolate chip cookie should be very, very happy. What other cookie is so universally great?

Lots of cookies are great. I am a cookie monster. But the world knows and loves chocolate chip cookies like no other.

Just because I need to be gluten-free doesn't mean I am going to miss out on great food and certainly not great cookies!

I have made gluten-free chocolate chip cookies from scratch and from mixes. These cookies have been good and delicious and delectable.

I am still eager to find and try a ready-made gluten-free cookie dough. I've seen them in stores away from home when traveling and not able to bake them. I need to find some of these doughs close to home so that I can try them!

In any case, sometimes you need some ready-made cookies. Maybe for a picnic. Maybe to go camping. Maybe just to keep in the cupboard for just the right time. 

Well, these are ones you want to have in your cupboard. For any or all of those reasons.

Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at Hershey Park

Staying Amused at Amusement Parks

Presumably we all like going to amusement parks to be amused. But there is nothing amusing about not being able to find safe food to eat while there.

In this case, safe means gluten-free.

I've had difficulty finding gluten-free food in some amusement parks, but have heard rave reviews of others. These raved-about amusement parks provide great gluten-free options.

So when we knew we were headed to Hersheypark, I was curious to see into which category it would fall.

Gluten-Free Flop or Gluten-Free Fabulous?

Or somewhere in between?

First step: Check their web site.

Easy enough from home, before ever even looking at the door.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Want Not

Book Review

I love being challlenged. I love it even more when the only consequence is getting to a dictionary, either the electronic or paper variety. 

This author gave me several challenges in the form of words I don't know. I'm pretty good at figuring out meanings from context, but it is still fun to go look them up.  

How many times have I told my kids to "go look it up"? Lots. Lots and lots. Way more than just lots and lots.

And that doesn't include how many times I have told them to "google it."

Actually, googling works on words too. 

Try it out:


Do you know them? Did you google them? 

Who needs context when we have Google?!

Well... you. You do. I do. We all do. We all need to be able to read meaning from context because we don't want to be running off to a dictionary or Google for every other word.

I am usually able to make a good guess at the intent and keep reading. And if I remember later, I look it up later. And I am generally right. Or I'm on the right track.

All these fancy, schmancy words in a novel about trash. Go figure.

Want Not

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas

Non-Dairy Protein Snack

Chickpeas. This still sounds foreign to me, even after all these years. 

See, I grew up with garbanzo beans. They were used to top salads, only occasionally. I might have found them available at a restaurant salad bar. Maybe.

But their main purpose for existence seemed to be for making Three Bean Salad. Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, and canned green beans, with some vinegar and red onions.

That was just about the full extent of my knowledge of garbanzos.

That is, until I became friends with a colleague. A colleague from India. 

In India, they have chickpeas instead of garbanzo beans. And they are used widely and frequently. 

And somewhere about this time, I also discovered hummus. Hummus is made from chickpeas. Or garbanzos. Whichever.

I love hummus so much, I now make it frequently - more if it is summertime - regardless of whether anyone else is interested in eating it.  But it always, always gets eaten quickly. And not all by me!

Chickpeas, in spite of still sounding foreign to me, are a regular in my kitchen now. Ready to be made into hummus at any moment.

And then I found these. 

Safron Road Crunchy Chickpeas, Falafel and Bombay Spice

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at Pasco Kitchen and Lounge

Farm Fresh Food in the Desert

I was off traveling again. Another trip to Tucson, Arizona.

What do you think of when you read 'Arizona'?

Desert? Yep.

Southwest? Yep.

Dry? Yep.

Hot? Usually.

Farms? Not so much.

Yet, there is farm-fresh produce to be had. So one would like to conclude that farms are in the area.

This is a good thing.

It is an especially good thing when that farm-fresh food lands squarely in front of you at a restaurant. In the city where you traveling. Where you don't have a kitchen in your hotel room. When you didn't happen to bring your favorite set of pots and utensils to use in the kitchen you don't have in your hotel room in the city in the desert.

Farm fresh food served to your table in the desert. Wonderful!

This is exactly what I got here.

Pasco Kitchen & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Pasco Kitchen and Lounge

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Andrew's Brain

Book Review

I realized at a recent trip to the library that I needed to expand my horizons. I think I have had enough historical fiction and Sherlock-inspired mysteries for awhile.

I needed to change things up. 

I needed something new. So I headed to the new releases shelves. 

This is a dangerous thing, you must realize. I don't usually come away from the new release shelves with a readable number of books.  

I get interested into too many books. And I don't have time to read them all before I run out of renewals. 

I've had to learn to restrain myself. It is a most difficult thing. 

On this particular day, I exited the library with three new books.  

I finished one, I had to take one back for lack of being able to renew it, and I am still reading one. 

Any guesses which this is?

Andrew's Brain

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gluten-Free Cream of Asparagus Soup

Creamy, Without Cream

Yes, unfortunately we are still experiencing soupy weather. Warmer, but gloomy and soupy.

So, I can't help myself with one more soup before nicer weather arrives for good.

My inspiration for this was my Gluten-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup. Hmmm... it seems that I still have not blogged my Gluten-Free Cream of Mushroom Soup. I need to do this. It is outstanding! I love that soup.

But we aren't talking about that soup here. Similar, but different, soupy soup.

This asparagus is here now, and now is the time to blog it. Asparagus necessitates a few minor changes to my fabulous mushroom soup.

Change of herbs. Change of zing. Change of vegetable. Change of zang.

I love this change of vegetable. I love asparagus. I love it when it is tall and thin and dark green.

Would you believe I grew up picking "wild" asparagus? I call it "wild," with quotes, but it wasn't really wild. It was started by someone with a brilliant, tasty idea many, many years prior. But because no one maintained it in any way, shape, or form, I call it wild.

No one had done anything to it for decades, probably. Nothing except pick it. It wasn't really maintainable. It wasn't even growing in a garden. It just grew, all by itself, there along the tops of irrigation ditches that fed acres and acres of alfalfa fields.

And once it started growing, we picked it. Only once a year, in the spring. Year after year after year. A few hours of walking, stooping, snapping, bagging, walking, stooping, snapping, bagging. Around the rims of dozens and dozens and dozens of acres.

Sound like fun? Good, you're recruited!

No, but really, when we all helped out, it was so worth it. Every foot-long, pencil-thin sprig of that chlorophyll-loaded asparagus.

Year after year after year of yum!

Gluten-Free Cream of Asparagus Soup

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Gluten-Free Eating at Uno's Chicago Grill

Revisiting Gluten-Free Menus

How often do you check in on restaurants and their gluten-free menus? Do the gluten-free menus evolve?

I don't explicitly go looking for menu updates, but in the normal course of going out, I do try to pay attention.

With the growing awareness of gluten-free dining needs, there really is an evolution in the menus.

I am seeing more and more gluten-free sections included on the main menus. This is a vast improvement over a secondary, special menu listing only the gluten-free items.

Often, those separate, special menus don't include drinks or side dishes or even prices! In these cases, I have to ask for both menus. Usually I am only given the special menu. Um, thanks, but if I don't know what drinks are offered and you didn't list them in the special menu, am I supposed to assume that none of your drinks are gluten-free???

Really? No, of course not.

Then, please, restaurants, please list the drinks and the prices and sides and salad dressings on the special menu! Please!

Or better yet, as seems to be the increasing trend, is including everything on one menu. Normal offerings and special offerings. And drinks and side dishes and prices. All together. Happy, happy, happy.

Bonus points if you offer a gluten-free dessert! It's not hard, really. Fresh fruit is always gluten-free, when prepared in a clean, unglutenated area. And if the perishability of fresh fruit is a concern, there's ice cream. Most single-flavor ice creams are gluten-free. Not all, but most.

Good vanilla bean ice cream is a great option. It's not hard. Really.

Uno Chicago Grill on Urbanspoon

Uno's Chicago Grill

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Schär Chocolate-Dipped Cookies

Elegant, Dignified Cookies

You've seen them before. Fancy cookies. Elegant cookies. Sophisticated cookies.

Not sandwich cookies. Not animal crackers. None of those cookies that scream of dipping in milk, licking out the insides, or licking of fingers.

I'm talking about dignified cookies.

The regular, glutenated store shelves have them. And they are promoted on commercials full of suave, well-appointed adults carrying wine glasses and nibbling on these dignified cookies with their pinkies in the air.

Okay, I don't know about the pinkies in the air, but I think you get the idea.

You probably know where they are located in your standard grocery store.

Are there any gluten-free cookies as elegant? As dignified?

Are there any tasteful, delectable gluten-free cookies you should be serving with wine to your chic guests? Do they exist? Such cookies. Do such cookies exist?

Yes, yes they do.

Schär Gluten-Free Chocolate-Dipped Cookies

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips

Book Review

I couldn't resist picking this up in the library. The only logic I have to offer for this action is simply having heard of it.

That's right.

I've heard of it.

I haven't even heard if it is especially good or not. Just heard of it.

And heard that is has been around a long time. Maybe there is a reason for that.

Only one way to find out.

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at El Azteca

Mexican Food and Beverage

What an odd thing. A quiet, relaxed Mexican dinner for two adults. Is this common in the world out there?

We had a nice, early evening out, just the two of us.

Unheard of!

And we had time to kill. Maybe too much time.

And since it was just the two of us, we could have even sat at the bar. But we chose not to. We chose a table in the bar area of the restaurant.

And it was not too rambunctious in the bar, being that it was still early on a Saturday evening. Never mind that a stem glass tipped over on the server's tray and crashed on the floor as it was being brought to our table.

I had nothing to do with it! Honest! I didn't even have my drink yet! Well, actually, that glass was probably supposed to be mine. It was riding on the tray with our pitcher of margaritas.

Yes. A pitcher. For just the two of us.

I said we had time to kill....

El Azteca on Urbanspoon

El Azteca

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gluten-Free Broccoli Cheddar Soup

A Trustworthy Soup - when Homemade

I've stated it many times, but I'll do so again.

All soups are suspect.

Suspect to have gluten in them, unless you make them yourself or you can verify their gluten-freeness with a label.

I still want soup.

Believe it or not, it still seems to be soup weather out there. Still.

And it was just St. Patrick's Day. This on St. Patrick's Day.

Excuse me, but where is the green?

I don't see any green. I see shoveling. I see cold. I see white.

I don't see any green.

Ah, with all this soup weather, maybe I need to get some green in my soup!

Gluten-Free Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Silver Star

Book Review

I haven't been getting to library as often as I used to. But on a recent trip, I came home with five books to read.

Will I really be able to read five books before they are all due? Not likely, given how things have been lately.

But this is what I do. I see books I am interested in. And I pick them up. And I check them out.

And sometimes, I even read them.

This is one of the books I picked up and actually read. And I'm glad I did and did.

This is a new release from an author who has blown me away. Walls also wrote Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle. Both of these were outstanding!

I expected no less from this newest release of hers.

The Silver Star

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts - Packaged versus Frozen

Crust-to-Crust Competition

Look at that crust! I mean really look at that crust. No. Really. Really look at it.

That crust is one of our contenders in this Crust-to-Crust Competition.

Thick, doughy crust. Thin, crunchy crust.

Vacuum sealed and boxed. Frozen and bagged.

Schär versus Udi's.

European versus American.

Which will outperform? Which will win your heart?

Let the Games begin!

So what if I've been watching a bit (too much) of the Winter Olympics? Competition is a good thing!

Schär Pizza Crusts - Gluten-Free

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gluten-Free Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Sweets for Your Valentine

We always seem to make something sweet and delicious for Valentine's Day.

This year is no different. In that respect.

But it is time to try something different. Some sweet we don't normally make.

Not the same, fantastic gluten-free shortbread cookies. Not gluten-free red velvet cake.

Cake? Hmmm...

How about cheesecake?

Yes, how about it?

Well, most have a graham cracker crust, which makes them off limits for anyone who needs to be gluten-free.

But not so if I am baking said cheesecake myself. I can make gluten-free graham crackers.

But here, since it is Valentine's Day and raspberries are begging to be involved, I'm going to step it up to chocolate graham crackers.

My plain-Jane version of gluten-free graham crackers are the best tasting graham crackers on the planet. Or off the planet.

Adding chocolate can make them better, right?  Time to test this theory.

Gluten-Free Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Butler - A Witness to History

Book Review

The Butler - A Witness to History by Wil Haygood.

I had been hearing a lot of talk about The Butler. The movie. Which I haven't seen. 

So when I was in the library browsing the New Releases shelves, I saw this and I couldn't help but to pick this up. 

Such a small, approachable book. Why not?

I thought it would be great to read about The Bulter. It sounded like such a great story. It might just be a great book.

Time to find out.

The Butler - A Witness to History

Monday, February 3, 2014

Gluten-Free Girl Scout Cookies!

Girl Scout Cookies! For Everyone!

Does mention of the Girl Scouts make you think of anything other than cookies?

Probably not.

Ever since going gluten-free, I've had to miss out on this highly anticipated annual purchase.

Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils, Do-si-dos.

No doing. None of the above. Not while being gluten-free.

But this year… well, actually last year in September... my neighborhood Girl Scout informed me about their new gluten-free cookies.

Really? Gluten-Free Girl Scout Cookies? For real?

Only available in certain test markets. And lucky me! I happened to be in one of the test markets.

I didn't even care what flavor they were offering! Order me some now, please!

But I knew that I would have to wait. The order goes in, but the cookies wouldn't arrive until November. Wait, I would.

And then November came. And November went.

What happened to my gluten-free cookies?!

Then January came. Finally! My gluten-free Girl Scout Cookies had arrived!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at Asian Palace

Asian Without Gluten?

Asian food doesn't usually bring up nightmares of gluten for most people. Most people envision rice. Lots of rice.

There is no gluten in rice. So, what's the problem?

Rice is not my problem. Gluten is. Unfortunately, most soy sauces on the market and available in Asian restaurants have gluten in them.

So, since having to be gluten-free, I am always on the lookout for Asian food with gluten-free soy sauce. This is easy at home, since I know how to purchase gluten-free tamari sauce.

It is not so easy when eating out.

Recently, my husband I were looking to go out for sushi. We almost defaulted to our usual, standard sushi favorite. But then I looked online for a gluten-free friendly sushi place.

Asian Palace on UrbanspoonLo and behold, I found one!

Asian Palace

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Aviator's Wife

Book Review

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin.

I picked up this book at the same time as several other books. And I started reading it early on.

But I couldn't keep up the pace. Three weeks flew by, my time was up, and I couldn't renew it.

So, I had to take it back to the library. But not before I made a note of what page I was on.

And then I was able to get again. Rather quickly. And I resumed reading.

And then life happened again, and back it went to the library. But not before I made a note of what page I was on. Again.

And I really was still interested in reading this book. Despite appearances to the contrary.

I was keenly interested. I've always been around discussions of aviation. Old, new, concepts. Historical, contemporary, futuristic. And air shows. And even though I don't know much myself beyond the fact that the NASA astronauts train in T-38s and I can recognize the soft whine of VariEze ultralights in flight, I enjoy these discussions.

So naturally I would be interested in reading about the wife of the most famous aviator ever. Mrs. Charles Lindbergh.

Did you know she was an aviator too? With her own aviation records?

Got the book back again, I did. And finish it, I would!

The Aviator's Wife

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gluten-Free Salmon Chowder

Need More Soups

I came home with a sore throat. I wanted soup. So we made split pea soup with bacon.

And No Soup Boy ate it. He ate it because there was lots of bacon in it. 

The next day I still wasn't feeling well, so we made chili. 

And the No Soup Boy ate it. He ate it because it was full of meat.

The day after that, I still wasn't feeling well and I wanted soup. Again. 

But what soup could we possibly make now, after these others, that the No Soup Boy would eat?

The choices were getting slim. I couldn't convince anybody to have tomato bisque. Or broccoli cheddar.  Or French onion. Or black bean. Minestrone? 

How about salmon chowder? 

I was not expecting a positive response, but I got one! Overwhelmingly positive! And of course it would be gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Salmon Chowder

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at Barrio Cafe in the Phoenix Airport

Gluten-Free Airport Eating

It wasn't even the holiday season yet, but I was looking at a layover of undetermined length in the Phoenix airport.

Undetermined because my flight had not (yet) been cancelled for weather reasons. But I can evaluate weather forecasts too.

Regardless of whether I got on my scheduled flight or not, I had enough time for a real meal. And I thought I had better take advantage of that time to get just such a meal, since the rest of my day was still so undetermined.

See, layovers are not all bad. Time for a sit-down, leisurely lunch is good. Time to chew. Time to shallow. Time to absorb. Time to digest.

But it wasn't exactly a relaxed lunch. I still didn't know when I was getting out of that airport. Or how many other airports I would have to endure in the same day. Or if I would make it to my intended destination that same day. Or not.

I'm always on the lookout for a gluten-free meal, especially when traveling. Often the gluten-free compromises are less than satisfying.
Barrio Cafe on Urbanspoon

Barrio Cafe in the Phoenix Airport

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Men and Dogs

Book Review

Men and Dogs, by Katie Crouch.

I was reading classics and well-known older novels for awhile. And then I realized I was kind of missing out on the current releases.

So I started looking for newer novels.

This looked like it could be fun. So I read the back. And more than one snippet of praise claimed that this book is "hilarious."

Hilarious? I'm good with hilarious.

And why not? 

Many of the men I know have or have had dogs. The men in my family. Friends. Acquaintances. Hmm... come to think of it, this title could refer to just about a quarter of the population.

Okay, not really. But really.

Anyways, it sounded like this would be worth a try. So try it, I did.

Men and Dogs

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Giddy Up & Go Granola - Notoriously Nutty

Gluten-Free Granola Challenge

I was back visiting in the House of Granola and needed to buy an appropriate snack. While in the House of Granola, one must have granola at hand.

Gluten-free granola for me, that is.

A previous purchase of gluten-free granola left much to be desired.

So the challenge is on. The challenge is to find a suitable gluten-free granola that truly passes as granola. And is tasty.

So I went shopping. And I found this. 

I should have read the package more carefully. Or maybe it is better that I didn't. If I had, I might have been scared off by the name.  

I don't do "giddy up" anything.

I am not a fan of western talk. Or western wear. Or western ware. Or country/western music. 

Never mind that I am from the west. And proud of it.

And I ride horses. Or I used to, back in the day. For hours at a time across BLM land. Through hills like these.

In western saddles.

I'm just not western. 

I'm not even remotely into "western" anything. Despite desperately missing the west.

Please make a note of the difference; west versus western. I am from the west, but I am most definitely not western

I'm sure glad we cleared that up.

If I had read "giddy up" while still standing in that grocery aisle, I might have put this back.

Giddy Up & Go Granola - Notoriously Nutty

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Gluten-Free Lasagna

Feeding More than a Few

It was New Year's Eve morning. I got a call from our friends taking us up on our offer for dinner that night.

New Year's Eve dinner. Cooked by me.

Yes, they did acknowledge that they weren't giving us any notice. But that's okay. They are friends and we had offered days before.

But now I had to scramble. No, not eggs. Scramble to get more ingredients. The menu was already set, but I didn't have enough of everything to add five people.

Now I was cooking for more than eight. With only enough ingredients for up to eight.

Sometimes even I can do simple math.

I was planning on making lasagna, and one pan usually feeds eight. I might have been able to squeeze enough appropriately-sized servings out of one pan for all of us, but I wasn't about to risk it. Not for dinner at my house. I needed more ingredients.

So, out I went to fetch what I needed.

Gluten-Free Lasagna