Tag Archives: potatoes

When in Doubt, Pack a Lunch: A Guide to Gluten Free Dining Outside of Your Home

20 Jan

Because of the required proximity to school and commitment to our respective jobs, Tre and I have become champions of the “staycation” …which I loosely define as Saturdays spent doing homework out of the house and in claustrophobic study rooms on campus. Lucky for us, the stars aligned perfectly allowing us the briefest of real vacations between the holiday and our somber back to school. Opting to make the best of our NY winter wonderland, Tre and I decided to get out of the city and head to scenic Lake Placid in the Adirondacks for a week of skiing, sight-seeing, and reliving the momentous 1980 Winter Olympics.

This is Tre and I (please don't mind the fact that I'm wearing zero makeup) on the second summit of Whiteface Mountain. In the background is frozen Lake Placid.

This is the first vacation Tre and I have gone on since his diagnosis and the first time we have had to consciously consider how we would eat while away from home. Previously, Tre and I would work restaurant visits into our travel budget and be content with getting all our meals out. Historically, this would always result in Tre being subsequently ill for the balance of our vacations eating foods that were laden with his allergens. For the briefest of moments, I experienced a twinge of panic upon realizing that with Tre’s allergy we would be unable to rely completely on restaurants — which are (generally speaking) notorious for having only limited WCRS-free options. With careful menu review we could get a couple meals out. But for 5 days-worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, it would be too risky to leave all our meals to the mercy of chefs. Yes, I am a bit of a micromanager when it comes to the food we eat, but this was one vacation that gluten was not going to ruin for us.

I began to consider our options and I decided that the best course of action would simply be to pack food for the trip. Although our hotel room did not have a kitchenette, it did have a mini fridge; basically the one thing that allowed our necessary meal planning to go largely unhindered on our vacation.

Tre and I settled on eating out at restaurants only for dinners leaving breakfast and lunch to be prepacked. The Sunday before heading off to Lake Placid, we hit up the grocery store for a week’s worth of food. From our spoils, we were able to prepare and pack fruit salad, cheeses, trail mix, cold cuts, carrots, guacamole, smashed potatoes, and chicken salad among other things to ensure that we would have plenty to eat during the day.

Prepacking actually turned out to be dually beneficial: we had plenty of WCRS-free foods right in our room and we ended up avoiding premium prices for (potentially risky) meals in the resort town and on the mountain. Thank goodness, because with $8 french fries at the mid-mountain ski lodge where we ate our lunches, our vacation would have clocked in at a couple hundred dollars over our budget.

I'd say "don't knock it 'till you try it" but I think my garbage plate is suitable for people of very.... specific taste. We scarfed them down because we would be crazy-hungry by noon on a given day, but I wouldn't recommend this concoction for casual eating.

One favorite on our vacation was a chicken salad I’d thrown together that could be packed up and taken with us on the mountain. I say chicken salad, but really the dish that we ended up packing daily was what I would call a “gluten free garbage plate” which may be largely unpalatable for the general population. I’ll spare you an official recipe for my garbage plate, suffice it to say that it included my chicken salad, roast beef, turkey, provolone, swiss, smashed potatoes, and carrots stuffed into a tupperware and eaten as “fuel” for skiing.

That said, my chicken salad by itself was actually very tasty and has made numerous reappearances since our vacation. It’s a very simple yet flavorful dish that can be tailored by your choice of mustard. Dijon has been our go-to, but I’ve prepared this with everything from honey mustard to chipotle mustard each time yielding a unique and interesting dish considering its simplicity. Though typically served cold, I’ve been known to heat up my chicken salad.

Chicken Salad

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 4 heaping tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased oven-safe pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  2. Allow chicken to cool until it can be handled, about 20 minutes. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, onion, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Toss until chicken is completely coated adding more mustard by the tbs as needed to taste.
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The Greatest Smashed Potatoes -or- Fear Not The Original Carb

4 Nov

Tre making his famous brand of smashed potatoes.

In the week following Tre’s allergy diagnosis, I decided it would be best to let him have a few treats to keep his mind off things. By treats, I mean NY strip steak, semi sweet chocolate chips out of the bag, any cheese of his choice at the grocery store, and of course his favorite, mashed potatoes. Sure, meals of brie wheels or pound after pound of red meat are not the epitome of healthy, but I can certainly sympathize with emotional eating. I’ve had my fair share of breakups, bad grades, Tuesdays. While the other treats bandaided the wound and quickly dissolved from our regular diet (for both health and logistical reasons), potatoes have made it into the regular rotation several times a week now.

Potatoes have been stigmatized namely because of the illustrious french fry, which reigns supreme in the quintessential American fast food diet. Following closely behind, the notorious potato chip also seems to be a primary means by which people get their spuds. Both are fried beyond biological recognition and remain a dietary no-no for anyone touting a carbless diet. Even without the grease of frying potatoes into the nutritional equivalents of oil-soaked, salted cardboard, many health-conscious eaters tend to avoid this tuber despite nativeness to the human diet.

Without getting too scientific, the health benefits of potatoes consumed in moderation (minus the fryer and the fixins’) are on track with such esteemed vegetables as broccoli, spinach, and brussels sprouts and have been linked to cardiovascular health, neurological health, and athletic endurance. Sweet potatoes also boast health benefits that should outweigh the stigma of being a starch. Studies suggest that sweet potatoes are a healthier choice for diabetics as a natural regulator of insulin as well as an alternative to simple carbs from rice and wheat. They are also linked to increased immune system function, respiratory health, and digestive health. Not to mention, both regular potatoes — whose varieties and flavors number into the hundreds — as well as sweet potatoes are filling, delicious, and easy to prepare.

Red potatoes have become a staple in my kitchen. With a nutrient-rich skin, I never peel them before incorporating in recipes.

Potatoes have become our go-to carb. Those who have ever tried a WCRS-free (or variation thereof) diet, either by choice or dietary restriction, know that the cravings can become almost unbearable. As a result, we often turn to potatoes to quell the nicotine-like need for household carbs we used to so frivolously enjoy. In this realm, Tre has really stepped up; shaming my single attempt at making a side dish of garlic smashed potatoes and showing me up with a version of his own. Tre’s potatoes take the cake and while they do not have any sort of official recipe, I encourage everyone to give these a try.

Tre’s Garlic Smashed Potatoes

  • * 4 red potatoes, medium size, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces with skin
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ** Milk/Half&Half/Heavy Cream, between 1/4 and 1/2 cup by preference for consistency
  • 4 tbsp butter, less/more by preference for taste or consistency
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder, or to taste
  • *** Dash of white pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

* For portioning, my rule of thumb is that each uncooked potato will yield slightly more than a single serving of smashed potato
** We use half and half in moderation
*** A rarity in most kitchens, white pepper is an incredible spice with a slightly flavored heat, unique to any spice I’ve ever tried.
Directions

  1. Heat a large sauce pan of salted water until it reaches a boil. Carefully add your pieces of potato and garlic clove to the boiling water. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook but begin to check for softness after about 10 minutes. Test for softness with a fork and strain potatoes with a colander once they are soft enough to be penetrated by a fork. Do not discard garlic clove.
  2. Return the potatoes and garlic clove to your sauce pan over your lowest heat setting. Add butter and begin to smash either with a large fork or potato masher. Once butter has completely melted, begin to add your milk/half&half/cream a little at a time while mashing. Continue to add until potatoes thicken to desired consistency, but not too much that they become watery.
  3. Mash in garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste. Add in moderation and sample until you reach a flavor you enjoy.

The real game changers here are:

  • Boiling the potatoes with a garlic clove or two — a technique that Tre swears by which results in a garlic-infused flavor as well as a softened, cooked clove for easy smashing. If you like the flavor, opt for more fresh garlic cloves and cut out the garlic powder from the recipe.
  • White pepper, mentioned above, has a distinct flavor that I’d never experienced before Tre’s introduction of it through this recipe. Now, it’s become a staple in almost all my cooking for a mild, unique heat perfect for meat seasoning, omelets, even pizza. Try alone by sprinkling a small amount on the back of your hand and tasting for a sense of its standalone flavor but use caution as it can be quite spicy in large quantity.

A New Kind of Burger -or- Making Things Better Than the Original to Nix Nostalgia

26 Oct

In all honesty, I never thought I’d find myself writing a food blog. I don’t consider myself the type with such a fine-tuned palate that I could be overtly critical of restaurants, New York Times style. With such an ineptitude in this department, I never imagined flaunting my opinion of other people’s cooking around the internet and settled instead on providing the rare, pithy review on Yelp. On the home front, I’m not particularly inventive in the kitchen to the point where I’d put up my own recipes, at least not before this point in my newly WCRS-free life. Most of my shots-in-the-dark have either failed miserably or been so simplistic that they would not register as any sort of culinary achievement. That’s not to say I’m not daring with my cooking. I’ve gotten soufflés to rise, I’ve perfected the art of rare-cooked steak, I’ve successfully “candied” without a thermometer. But in terms of my own invention I struggle with ingredient proportion, I rarely deviate from the “noble meats”, chicken and beef, and I end up pitching more that I am able to enjoy. However, I find myself increasingly altering recipes now to the point where I can no longer call them someone else’s. It’s sort of a point of pride for me, and in the case of tonight’s burger, born of necessity.

I’ll preface this by saying that I fully intended to put up my altered “Apricot Glazed Chicken” recipe, a newfound crock pot concoction which was sure to be foolproof. Needless to say, I’m the 1 in 10 that screwed up a crock pot recipe, a blunder that found me with a dish full of what pavers typically use to seal driveways. On a Monday night after class I was left with nothing for dinner and only a few ingredient with which to come up with something.

With burgers being one of the foods Tre attested to missing the most, I decided that tonight would be the night to throw together my attempt at a burger recipe. I always encourage Tre to think of the positives and not dwell on what he can’t have. But for his top few things that he cannot live without — burgers being one — I decided to take his mind off it all together and create a substitute that would be surely better than the original, enough so to kick nostalgia to the curb. It would of course have to be bun-less, but what is so interesting about a burger on a plate? Harkening back to a Jewish open-mic night at a local coffee shop and a song “Bubby bring the kanish cart around” I decided to give latke a try as a bun-substitute. In addition to the latke bun, I dug into the pantry for some other fun burger toppers and decided to use some leftover swiss cheese (cheese being a new diet staple for Tre), a vidalia onion that had sprouted, and some guacamole that I’d made the night before for snacking. The results were impressive, and by far the highest-rated dish, according to Tre, since consciously cooking WCRS-free.

Latke (adapted from Potato Latke recipe)

  • 2 cups peeled, shredded potatoes
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
  • Directions

    1. Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.
    2. In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.
    3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels.

    Guacamole Swiss Burger

  • 4 ground beef patties
  • 1 vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated swiss cheese (or 1 slice per patty, sliced swiss cheese)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup guacamole*
  • 4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and halved
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

    1. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil on low in a small pan. Add sliced vidalia onions and cook on low heat stirring occasionally until onions are soft and caramelized. Remove from heat.
    2. While onions are cooking, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to another pan and heat on medium heat and preheat your oven broiler. Season beef patties with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste on both sides. Place beef patties in the pan and pan sear both sides, about 1 minute on each side.
    3. Transfer patties to baking dish and place under broiler. Broil times will vary but about 2 minutes for medium, 3-4 minutes for well done. Remove from oven and add 1/8 cup grated swiss cheese (or sliced cheese) to each patty. Return to oven under broiler for no more than 1 minute. Remove from oven and begin burger assembly.

    *Guacamole was premade with 2 avocados, pitted and mashed with the juice of one large lemon, coarse sea salt to taste, pepper to taste, and cajun seasoning. Store-bought guacamole or mixes will do as well.

    Open Face Latke Burger

    To assemble, I put down a fresh latke and placed the beef patty on top after removing it from under the broiler. I then topped it with the halved bacon slices, sauteed onions, and a scoop of guacamole.

    Despite not having a bun, condiments, and typical fries on the side (roasted carrot pictured, recipe coming soon) Tre declared that this was one of the best meals he’d had ever. The trick to this meal was really in the timing: I prepared the latke mixture first and then put it aside. I started the onions while seasoning and pan searing the beef patties. I fried the latke after putting the beef patties under the broiler. All in all I’m quite proud of the results and will be returning to this one again very soon.