Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Le Pain Quotidien

You wouldn't expect to find gluten free options at a place called Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread).  But, you also wouldn't necessarily expect gluten free cookies to taste great and they can (more on that later).

Last weekend I was meeting a friend for a quick lunch before a movie and we decided to go to Le Pain Quotidien near the movie theater.  I hadn't been in years, and I wasn't expecting anything other than a salad, but lo and behold they have a few options for us gluten free folks after all.  I tried the chicken curry salad tartine served on gluten free crackers instead of bread.  It was pretty good.  They also have a six-vegetable quiche served on a gluten free buckwheat crust that I would be interested in trying.  Their salads are also safe without the bread and I bet if you asked really nice they'd give you some of those gluten free crackers with it.  Maybe.

With several locations in New York City, and in other places around the county and globe, Le Pain Quotidien provides another good light lunch option.

Ruby Foo's - Times Square

As I think you know, my brother and I try to go to dinner once a week.  There's an endless supply of restaurants in New York City and we have tried many of them.  These days we tend to eat only at restaurants with gluten free menus.  But, after a year of this, we've pretty much run through them all.  All the ones I'm aware of anyway.

Tonight we decided to try Ruby Foo's in Times Square.  I heard of Ruby Foo's awhile ago but hadn't tried it yet for two main reasons: 1) it's pretty expensive, and 2) I hate Times Square.  Anyone that lives in New York avoids Times Square at all costs.  Full of tourists walking really slowly, there is pretty much nothing a person living in New York needs to do there.

But, wanting to try somewhere new, my brother and I decided to give it a try.  The gluten free menu has three appetizers, three entrees, three sides, and two desserts.  We shared the Chicken Lettuce Wrap for an appetizer and I got the Mongolian Orange Chicken for my main dish.  They were both fine.  I wouldn't recommend Ruby Foo's for people living in NYC, but it is a good option for people visiting the city that may be in Times Square anyway.

I'm always looking for new restaurant suggestions in NYC and elsewhere.  Let me know if you have any gluten free recommendations!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A First Time For Everything - Bread

The thought of making bread scares me.  Regular or gluten free.  It just seems too difficult.  So difficult that I had never attempted it - except for one unfortunate incident with a bread machine in the 90's that I'd rather not relive.

As all you gluten free folks out there know, there is an extreme lack of good gluten free bread.  There is even a lack of decent gluten free bread.  For the past year I took this to mean I just shouldn't eat bread.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I get a craving for a sandwich and I curse gluten while simultaneously having a pity party.

In addition, my brother has been hounding me to figure out to make great bread.  Hounding might be a strong word.  Let's go with encouraging.  So what we have is bad bread, me wanting a sandwich for lunch, and my brother encouraging me to make bread.  Then my friend Mallory sends me an email with a link to the "best ever gluten free sandwich bread".  Ok, this was it.  Time to put on my big girl apron and get to work.

This recipe calls for several things I never use like yeast, almond milk, and apple cider vinegar.  It's a vegan recipe so I needed three "flax eggs" and had to buy ground flax seed.  It also calls for xanthan gum so I finally broke down and bought some.  Normally I would omit it, but if I was going to attempt to make the best ever gluten free sandwich bread, I didn't want to be taking any chances.  Same with the vegan parts.  Could I have used real eggs and milk instead?  Maybe, but I've never made bread before, so get off my back.

Without further ado, here's the recipe from Clean Eating Chelsea.  I copied it right from her site and followed it exactly (mostly).

Best Ever Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1 tbsp. yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetend almond milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 flax eggs
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. honey (optional)
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1. Proof the yeast: Heat up 1/2 cup almond milk and 1 cup water to approximately 105-110 degrees. To do this, I microwaved my liquid for 70 seconds and checked the temperature. Once the liquid is heated, add 1 tbsp. active yeast and 1 tbsp. sugar – give it a quick stir and set aside until foamy (~5 minutes).

2. Make your flax eggs: In a small bowl or mug, mix 3 tbsp. ground flax seed with 9 tbsp. (1/2 cup + 1 tbsp.) water. Give a quick stir and set aside until thickened (~3-4 minutes).

3. Mix your dry ingredients: In a stand mixer bowl, combine 1 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup quinoa flour, 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, 2 tsp. xanthan gum, and 1 tsp. salt. Toss for approximately 10 seconds with a spatula or fork to combine the ingredients.

4. Once your flax eggs have thickened, add 1 tbsp. olive oil, 3 tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar to the eggs. Whisk until ingredients are combined and set aside.

5. Make your dough: By this time, your yeast mixture should be foamy. If not, you might have killed the yeast due to the water being too hot. If this is the case, just start over with new yeast! If your yeast is good to go, pour the yeast and the flax egg mixture into the flour. Using a dough hook attachment, set your mixer to low-medium speed and mix for 3-4 minutes.

6. Let it Rise: Pour your dough into a greased 9×5 bread pan, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it hang out in an UNHEATED oven for about an hour. Once the dough has risen to the top of the pan, take the bread pan out of the oven.

7. Cook to perfection: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit once the dough has been taken out of the oven. Cook, uncovered for 45-50 minutes. The outside should be golden brown. Let bread cool completely before cutting into slices.

That's it: bread.  I only let my dough rise for half an hour because it was already well over the top of the pan.  Then, I checked my loaf after 40 minutes and the top was golden brown so I took it out.  This was a mistake.  While the flavor of the bread was good, it was a bit underdone.  How are you supposed to know when bread is done though?

While I think this would be good bread had I cooked it long enough, it is still a bit dense, as gluten free bread often is.  It's more the consistency of banana bread than fluffy sandwich bread.  How do you make fluffy gluten free sandwich bread you ask?  No one has figured it out.  I'm telling you, really good gluten free bread doesn't exist yet.  Sure, there are good ones out there, like my personal favorite, Canyon Bakehouse, but honestly, no gluten eating person is throwing down their bread to eat ours.

My brother has informed me I need to keep trying.  According to him, this is just the first in many bread attempts.  I need to figure out the science of it.  The science, as I understand it, is gluten makes things fluffy.  No gluten, no fluffy.  I'll work on it though.  Maybe.

Muddy Buddies

Their picture was prettier than mine.

I love the Super Bowl. Mostly for the food, drinks, commercials, half time show, and feeling oh so very American. And did I mention the food?

I had the usual nachos and veggies with dip at this year's super bowl extravaganza, but I also made muddy buddies for the first time. I've been wanting to make these for a long time but I knew, without a doubt, I was not to be trusted with these myself. I don't think I've even had muddy buddies since middle school, they certainly never made an appearance at my house growing up, but I just knew I would love them (and eat excessive amounts of them).

Well, I was right. And for good reason. Muddy buddies are delicious, and addicting. I copied the recipe right off the corn chex box. I omitted the vanilla because I didn't have any on hand. I also used the whole box of cereal, because really, why not?

These are a great snack, especially for kids, or adults like myself that are basically kids.  One party attendee said she wanted to pour some milk on them and eat it like cereal.  This is honestly not a bad idea.  However you eat them - enjoy!

Chex Muddy Buddies


9cups Rice Chex®, Corn Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2cup peanut butter
1/4cup butter or margarine
1teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2cups powdered sugar

Preparation Directions
1.Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
2.In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
3.Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.