Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thoughts-a about gluten-free pasta

Today's post was inspired by this post on glutenous vs gluten-free soba. It is a thorough comparison of the two, so if you're interested in learning more about soba, or just want to see an academic type apply precision to food comparisons, check it out!

I love pasta, but not all gluten-free pasta is lovable. There's some really good stuff out there, and the pasta you prefer may depend on the dish you're making. The great thing about gluten free pasta is that there is so much to experiment with! I'm no Martha Stewart, but here's what I've learned about gluten-free pasta based on my [limited] cooking experience.

1. Don't be surprised if your pasta tries some textural tricks. Some pastas might harden if you save leftovers. I don't know why, but you can cook pretty some gluten-free pasta within an inch of its life and it will re-harden in the fridge. Its a hard-knock life for g-free pasta. Either that, or g-free goes totally softy. Don't be surprised if other pasta goes in the complete other direction and absorbs every liquid around it, including those in other containers in the fridge. It may inflate and get soggy, which will leave you with some pasta-like mush. FYI: Gluten-free pasta is especially prone to bloat in soups. Play around with different types of pasta, like corn, quinoa, multigrain, and rice to figure out what works for you.

2. Some gluten-free pastas make the water milky as they boil. It doesn't really affect your enjoyment aside from having to look at an oozing pasta porridge during the preparation process, but it happens sometimes. Try not to overcook gluten-free pasta because that will make the disintegration worse. 

3. Cooking times vary quite a bit depending on the blend and the shape, so be sure to read the box. Some multigrain blends cook in as little as 5 minutes, other rice types can take as long as 18. Some boxes' directions are just lies, though, so be sure to check on your gluten free pasta a few times during cooking. Gluten-free pasta can be a finicky little beast, but it is worth the effort!

4. Rice pasta tends to be mushy. I don't mean Asian-type rice noodles, but rather noodles that are designed to be like Italian pasta. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, like Tinkyada, but in general if you're going to be baking or simmering in a sauce or soup, or doing some other extensive cooking, I wouldn't recommend pure rice pasta. 

5. Corn pastas tend to be rubbery. This works out great if you're making something like baked ziti or mac & cheese or soup, but can be a little chewy if you plan to make a cold pasta salad or just want buttered noodles. 

Here are some of my favorite pastas, which have been kitchen-tested for satisfying texture and taste.
For general use:

For lasagna:

For your multigrain cravings:

For baked dishes:

Do you have pasta that you like or dislike? Do you have a favorite spaghetti or pasta that holds up well in soup? Any tips, tricks, or observations? If so, drop a comment at the bottom of this post! I'm always looking to improve my familiarity with the growing g-free options on the market!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Opinions about Food: Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped Gluten Free Donuts

I found Kinnikinnick's gluten-free chocolate-dipped donuts at Target this weekend. Sweet mother of donuts! Oh merciful provider of sugary and fatty foods! Oh heaven of the heavens! Sweet diabetic coma! These donuts are A-MA-ZING. 

Pros: Holy shit. It is a gluten-free donut. It looks like a donut, it tastes like a donut, it has frosting. They have so much frosting that you can't stare at someone through the hole. Good frozen or warm out of the microwave. They come frozen, so you don't feel obligated to eat them all in one sitting. 

Cons: They'll make you fat. They don't have sprinkles. They are smaller and a little denser than I remember regular donuts being, but I don't care. My life is complete now. 

If these become available on Amazon, I'm going to buy them all. Then eat them all, get a tummy ache, barf them out, and start all over again. 

Obesity epidemic, here I come. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Get to Know Your Glutard Blogger: The Big Reveal

I think I've left you in suspense long enough. As someone who values sleep very highly, I don't want any of you to lose any more sleep. 

Here's the lie:

2. I crushed my fear of crushes.

Here's the corresponding truth:
It is true that I am a weird blend of introverted, extraverted, and shy. However, I did not have some a glorious triumph over my awkwardness that included attending prom with my secret crush. In real life, I was not willing to risk the humiliation of rejection, so I didn't go with a date. At least not in the traditional sense. Prior to prom, my mischievous group of friends and I had purchased a blowup doll for another friend's birthday. (He was anatomically incorrect, in case you were wondering.) Charlie Stud, as he came to be known, was languishing in a closet somewhere, so my friend _____ [name omitted to protect her identity] and I went to a thrift store, got him a tacky suit (which would now be considered vintage, I guess), and brought him to prom as our date. He was the most popular guy at prom -- everyone wanted pictures with him. Typical of prom nights, Charlie had a hard time keeping his clothes on, but we were good dates and kept the fun age-appropriate. ;-) 

So there ya have it. Did you guess correctly??? What did you think of the Get to Know Your Glutard Blogger feature? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Get to Know Your Glutard Blogger!

I don't have any important to say about living gluten free this week (but honestly, do I ever?), so I thought I'd try out a new feature, Get to Know Your Glutard Blogger. Since my identity is multifaceted, but only the glutard part gets the spotlight on this blog, it might be fun for you to learn a little bit more about me. This may or may not be a recurring feature. Here's how it will go: I'll tell you three stories/tidbits about myself, only two of which will be true. Later in the week, I'll let you know which one is false. Lets try this out.

1. Wheels are hard for me.
It started young. I spent a lot of my childhood summers with some sort of bandage(s) over my elbows or knees. It started when I was learning to bike, then continued onto when I was learning to rollerskate, then rollerblade. I was better at crashing than coasting. When I upgraded to motorized wheels, my luck wasn't much better. One of the first times I drove my parents' ATV, I slammed into the side of a shed. One of the first times I drove a golf cart, I slammed into my mom's car. One of the first times I drove a car, I slammed into a snowbank. When I play Mario Kart, I spend most of my time either slamming into barriers or driving off of edges. Luckily, after years of practice, I am not longer such a threat to person or property. 

2. I crushed my fear of crushes.
I've always been some weird blend of introverted, extraverted, and shy. This means that when I develop crushes on boys, I don't tend to act on them. In high school, I spent a not-insignificant amount of time daydreaming about _____ [his name has been omitted for his protection]. However, _____ and I had no classes together. I rarely saw _____ except for when his friends and my friends merged to create a superfriend group (think Damn Yankees or Them Crooked Vultures, but with high school nerds). I spent weeks agonizing over whether to ask him to be my prom date. Never being content to let fate handle things for me, I finally asked him after a superfriend group meeting. He said yes and we had age-appropriate fun.

3. I hung around a rough crowd in college.
Gigantic state schools are a blessing and a curse. They offer reasonably affordable education to many people and can provide opportunities that other types of schools can't. However, they may also attract more riff-raff than more selective schools. My second year of college, I got involved with a gang of rowdy dorm residents. Our shenanigans always started off being cheeky and fun, like the watergun fight. People were targeting each other with little squirt guns and small super soakers, while using dorm furniture for cover.  What fun! Until someone grabbed the dishwashing hose from the kitchenette sink and retaliated. At that point, the shenanigans turned to cruel and tragic. A lake developed.  This wasn't the first time we got in trouble for destruction of property, nor was it the last. 

Which one do you think is false??? Check back in a couple of days to find out!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I am Human, Shit Happens

I like to think of myself as cool as a cucumber when it comes to being a glutard. You want to accommodate me? Fantastic. You don't want to? That's cool too. Years of experience have taught me to roll with the punches. There'll be wins and there'll be losses, but the losses don't get any better if you have a temper tantrum. That said, I had a bit of a glutard meltdown in Montreal. I can't eat gluten, but I also don't like to eat a lot of meat and I still hate mushrooms. If you're traveling to Montreal (and I'm guessing the same is true for France) and want the French food experience, prepare yourself for meat, cheese, and bread. The combination of my allergy and my pickiness made it hard for my boyfriend and I to find a restaurant that would please us both. Knowing that I was difficult on many levels made me feel even worse because I didn't want to be a pain, but I also didn't want to spend money on a meal that I knew I wouldn't enjoy. I didn't want to deprive him of his French cuisine experience, but I also didn't want to watch him eat a mind-blowing meal while I nibbled on a side of air. I was already hungry and I hate being hungry. Insert meltdown here. Lucky for me, my boyfriend is a champ and handled it like a pro. 

Food is an emotionally-charged subject for me. I have loved sharing food with people my entire life -- from birthday cakes to holiday meals to take-out with my friends. I have made it a point to not let my gluten allergy prevent me from connecting with people over food. Usually that means being upfront about my allergy so people are armed with the information they need to decide if they want to accommodate me or not. Sometimes that means making a couple of dishes to share at a potluck if I want a main course and a dessert. Sometimes that means sneaking food into weddings or dissertation defense parties so I don't have to awkwardly watch everyone eat while I remain hungry. But sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I just cannot partake in something no matter how hard I try. Traditional poutine is not something I could share. Steak is not something I want to share. Navigating a gluten allergy is a continuous process -- things can vary from day to day. I am not proud of my meltdown, but it happened. As hard as it is to believe, I am imperfect. And that is okay. I can strive to be better, but I won't let me beat myself up over an occasional hiccup. The best thing to do is figure out what led to the meltdown, then figure out how to prevent that from happening again. 

Live, learn, repeat. 

ADDENDUM: The boyfriend wanted me to mention that all ended well. I freaked out about my dietary needs and preferences, but that didn't prevent us from having a great meal that satisfied both of us. Thank goodness for places like Zero8 that make it easy for everyone to eat! :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Opinions about Food: Yoplait Greek Yogurt

I just downed a bottle of haterade, so here we go.

Yoplait's Greek yogurt is the worst Greek yogurt I've ever eaten. 

Pros: Labeled as gluten free. Did not make me sick. Contains vital calcium and protein calories. 

Cons: The flavors taste terrible and the texture is like regular yogurt. The blueberry one was not awful, but not even chocolate chips could save the honey or strawberry ones I had. The honey one tasted slightly rancid. The strawberry one tasted like I licked a homeless man's winter parka on a summer day, but with a note of bad strawberry jelly.

If you like your yogurt to taste vaguely of cardboard, this is the yogurt for you. Otherwise, there are other glutard-friendly Greek yogurt options out there that you might find more satisfying, like Chobani, Fage, Stonyfield Farms, or Dannon. Be sure to check ingredients, though, since companies change their formulas at their whim. 

I am sorry, Yoplait. Seriously, please don't sue me for defamation or something. Your other yogurts are among my favorites -- lots of satisfying original and light flavor options, most of which are gluten free and clearly labeled as such! I'm just not sure how this Greek yogurt train de-railed so catastrophically. Kudos for trying, but I'll just stick to what you know best. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

International Adventure Recap

In case you were wondering (and I know you were), I survived my first international food adventure. Montreal was friendly about gluten free accommodations -- I even had dinner at a hypoallergenic restaurant, Zero8. What is a hypoallergenic restaurant? The restaurant didn't serve food with any of the major allergens in it. No wheat, dairy, soy, fish/shellfish, peanuts, nuts, eggs, or sesame seeds. There may not have been allergens, but there were flavors and options! I had a ginger mojito, gluten free poutine (which had smoked duck instead of cheese <-- allergen), a big meal, and even dessert! Yep, more food during one meal that most restaurants even offer. 

Other Montreal highlights:
-Canadian coke, which is made with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup
-Got to watch my boyfriend eat a Coffee Crisp, which is like a ginormous Kit Kat with coffee creme... chock full of Canadian gluten
-A valet was asked to move a Rolls Royce to make room for my car
-Road signs in French
-LOTS of car time. Lots. 

Since my boyfriend is here, that's all you get from me. See you next week, sportsfans.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Excuse me. I am very busy and important. Hold on. Is that cheese on my shirt?

Life is real busy right now. I am heading off for some business travel this week, then I am off for my international adventure. I've also been busy with roommate moves and the cleaning that those entail. That means you don't get a real blog post this week. I'm sorry. I'm very busy and important, which means sometimes I have to drop a ball or two so I can hold the others. Hmm... that doesn't sound quite right. 

In lieu of a real post, I'm gonna link to the recipe for Alton Brown's baked macaroni and cheese. I love this recipe. To make it g-free, I use gluten free noodles and gluten free breadcrumbs. If you're going to make it with glutard noodles, I'd recommend a corn or quinoa blend pasta. They'll hold up better than rice noodles, since you'll be boiling the noodles, then baking them. The other thing you should know is that gluten free noodles tend to soak up all of the liquids in a dish. When it comes time to reheat your leftovers, I recommend adding a splash of milk to soften and rehydrate the block of dry, cheesy pasta.
Don't be afraid to add some extra cheese to this recipe. Support America's dairy farmers!

When I made this recipe for my friends over the weekend, I omitted the bread crumbs, baked some tater tots, then put the tots atop the mac and cheese after it was done baking. I got the idea from Q Restaurant in San Francisco in my previous life as a glutevore*. It was a carb-splosion, and it was amazing. I ate a few token slices of cucumbers and also had plenty of heart-healthy red wine to offset the dairy bonanza. 

*I just made up a new word! It is pronounced 'glute-a-vore,' and means someone who eats gluten. I'm explaining it in far too much detail down here because I am quite tired and I am not sure I'll understand my faux-cabulary** after I sleep. 
**Faux-cabulary, another word-vention of mine. Clearly I do not have a command of real English vocabulary.