Thank God It Wasn’t the Gluten!

Despite the difficulties I’d been experiencing trying to find things to fit my lifestyle that were also gluten-free, I managed to stick to it for a week before giving in to some bread that I had been craving. I’d been feeling great, actually, so I was afraid I had just undone all the work of a week for several slices of carby heaven. Much to my delight, I continued feeling great despite the obviously glutenous mass of molecules I had consumed. Therefore, I have come to the self-assessed conclusion that my digestive and nutritive issues are purely IBS- and lactose-intolerance-related.

I can pretty much confirm the development of lactose intolerance from the fact that, having been able to stick to the no-milk thing, I’ve been feeling great. Then while in Reno on business a couple of days ago, I absentmindedly used some half-and-half in a cup of coffee only to be faced with tummy gurgles and bubbles not even half an hour later. So I am immensely thankful I can return to my general eating pattern aside from milk products. Sticking to soy I can definitely live with! I’ve actually grown to prefer it in my espresso drinks–a sugar-free caramel latte I had just earlier today was better with soy, in my opinion, than any I’d previously tasted thanks to the pleasant nuttiness to accompany the toasty sweetness.

Now, to savor my dinner of a tuna salad wrap–yum, gluten!! ;D

Going Gluten-Free

So I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently on the connections between IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, something I was diagnosed with 15 years ago–quite a feat of a disease for a nine-year-old to even have to think about undertaking managing, let alone actually doing it) and lactose-intolerance, gluten-intolerance, and thyroid disease. A couple of my other friends with digestive disease have been recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and it got me wondering if maybe I suffer from it as well.

Considering the already-diagnosed IBS and confirmed thyroid problems, along with other symptoms, I’ve become rather convinced that I do have Celiac, and as of early Saturday morning, I decided to give living not only mostly-free of insoluble fiber for my IBS but also moderately lactose-free (I don’t seem to have trouble with it, but considering the fact that I actually like soy milk, substituting it where it’s easy didn’t seem like much of a sacrifice–hell, I’m actually thinking I like my mochas better with soy!) and completely gluten-free a shot, at least for a few weeks to see how I feel. As soon as I get my health insurance sorted out, I’m going to bring up getting tested for Celiac at my first visit to a doctor, and until then, I’ll just monitor digestive health on my own. Seeing as it’s something I’ve been doing for a decade-and-a-half now, it’s almost second nature to me, sadly.

I’m sure some of you are already thinking, “GLUTEN-FREE?!?! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS BAKED-GOODS-FIEND GOING TO EAT AND BLOG ABOUT NOW?!?! HOW WILL SHE EVEN LIVE WITHOUT SUCH THINGS AS BROWNIES AND COOKIES AND CUPCAKES?!?!” Well, those were some of my first thoughts upon making this decision as well.

It’s proving to be quite a task after even only two days of efforts to make my diet completely devoid of wheat, rye, barley, and spelt. Well, not that spelt was that much of an issue, but you get the idea. For instance, on my way home from seeing a movie today, I decided I was in the mood for soup for dinner, and you’d think that would be a reasonably easy task, even gluten-free. Oh, no. No no no. Let me tell you, of the selection of soups available in my local market, only two–TWO–were Celiac-safe. TWO! Obviously, the ones with barley and noodles were out-of-the-question, but that still left plenty to chose from, right? Wrong. If they didn’t have barley or noodles, almost all featured wheat in some form or another, most often wheat flour used to thicken the soup. So I officially get to chose from two soups now when I decide I’ve got a sudden craving for soup. Joy.

Unfortunately, I’ve become even less of a cook since moving here to San Francisco. Actually, even since working at the bakery, where it was so easy to just walk to a case or basket and take what I felt like eating at the time. I’ve really become embroiled in the habit of deciding what I feel like eating spontaneously and not planning at all. So grocery shopping has become impossible to do long-term–when I get hungry and know I won’t be eating out, I just walk down to the market and get what I feel like eating. If I even attempt to do some mass grocery-shopping, I wind up walking aimlessly through the store unable to pick anything to buy since I don’t feel like eating any of it at the time and can’t possibly know if I’d be in the mood for something using it in the near future. And seeing as things that I would need to make so many of the dishes I ate on a regular basis pre-gluten-free come in larger quantities that would bear the burden of needing to be used repeatedly, this is going to be a frustrating process for me. And even when I did a lot of cooking at home, I have never been much of a leftovers person. Whatever I didn’t finish, I left for my suitemates/housemates/family to eat when I cooked something.

So I figured maybe it would be a good idea to use this blog as an outlet for my new lifestyle–both of frustrations and pleasures. Right now, I’d love if anyone reading this has some advice to offer me: gluten-free recipes geared towards single-servings, sources for gluten-free products that come in small quantities, etc. If only it wasn’t just myself I had to feed, since I have managed to find dozens and dozens of resources for gluten-free recipes and products, they’re just all geared towards the larger quantities that the vast majority of people find useful and not the single-servings that I’d find useful.

I keep tea, coffee, and sweetener in my pantry. Bottled water and soda in my fridge. About the only other things I ever keep around the house are a few canned goods–tuna, mushrooms, maybe beans–and some frozen veggies. Anything else I buy on-the-spot to be used and consumed immediately. Help?

Guilty Pleasure Sundays #1–On, Er, Monday

Well. I wound up working a double shift yesterday, so I actually wasn’t home at all to post for my first Guilty Pleasure Sundays, but I definitely did get to indulge in something absolutely guilt-ridden and pleasurable, oh my…

Fudge-Topped Brownie
One of the girls I work with over-heated a customer’s brownie yesterday, and the fudge topping go a little melty, so we treated ourselves to a little gooey brownie delectableness in the back room after she prepared a properly-warmed piece for the customer. Oh my gosh, was that brownie amazing.

I’m generally not much of a brownie person, but I’m generally not much of a many-things-my-bakery-makes person, and each of those things I’ve had so far has turned me into a I-like-x-but-only-from-my-bakery person. (Okay, that phrase and the hyphens have just reached their tolerance limit. ;P)

Our brownies are fudgey, as all good brownies are. I like cake. I like fudge. Brownies should be somewhere in between, but since they don’t get frosted like cake does, they must lean towards the fudgey side to be edible. The brownies we make have thick, chewy toothsomeness like fudge, but they still crumble a little with the slightest bit of cakey texture. The melted fudge on top of this supposed brownie failure really took it over-the-top, though. All of the incredibly deep and rich chocolate flavor combined with something to chew and liquidy love was obscenely delicious.

I have SO added a warmed La Bonne Boulangerie brownie coupled with icy-cold vanilla Häagen-Dazs ice cream to my list of “Foods Melody Must Eat in Order to Make Her Life Complete.”

Fooding Project Concept

I don’t want to wind up spending my summer working at the bakery the same way I spent the summer a couple of years ago working at Blockbuster: putting in 30 or so hours at a place where I’m, in all honesty, not-so-well-versed in the product. While I most definitely enjoy seeing movies, the combination of not having much time outside work to make full use of my rental privilege of 5 free movies each week and the lack of someone to spend movie-watching time with made for a decidedly film-free few months of employment at an entertainment giant.

In order to encourage me to sample more of our options at the bakery, I’m declaring a new project that doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to myself. This idea will serve a multi-fold purpose: I’ll become knowledgeable about the tasty treats at my bakery, I’ll have something new to write about at least once each week, and I’ll encourage other people to be equally inquisitive with boulangerie-centered foodstuffs!

Guilty Pleasure Sundays will see it’s first entry on June 11, wherein I will describe at least one baked good sold by La Bonne Boulangerie that I have eaten that day. If I can possibly manage to try everything (that I’d actually like to try–and I’m not allergic to) by the end of the summer, I’ll consider it both a success and an invitation to switch it up to treats from other local eateries. 🙂

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of reviews of things I’ve already tasted…

Banana Nut Muffin
Our muffins are the standard, generously-sized hunk of quickbread baked by most American bakeries. Where they deviate from the formula is with their yogurt-enriched batter base. The result is an incredibly flavorful and moist muffin, with a slight tanginess to balance out any breadiness and the sweetness. I think it also has the effect of enhancing the flavors of the particular muffins–even though this muffin only has a swirl of fresh banana purée in it instead of all throughout, the taste of banana permeates the entire muffin with rich, real fruit flavor.

One peeve of mine when it comes to any baked good featuring some sort of “add-in” is a too-generous hand with the addition. Nothing can ruin a banana nut muffin faster than the presence of too many walnuts. The name of the food is banana nut–not nut banana. ;P Since nuts in general tend to be very flavorful and can easily overpower any dish, the line between “enough” and “too much” is very fine. Somehow our baker has perfected the art of balance with our muffins because the every-few-bites presence of a perfect walnut was enough to have a pleasant nutty flavor in the muffin and an intermittent hunk to delight my teeth with something to chew down on without being the least bit stronger than the banana flavor.

Overall, I’m not exaggerating nor am I patronizing when I say that this was hands-down the best banana nut muffin I’ve ever had. Between the surprisingly intense moistness and the wonderfully natural and fresh flavors, it’ll be extremely hard to top.

Low-Fat/Grilled Veggie Wrap
Yes, you read that name correctly; my bakery actually sells wraps. We also have (all homemade of course!) soups, salads, fruit bowls, focaccia and croissant sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, dips, fresh mozzarella, and other market-type goodies. La Bonne is actually both an authentic European-style bakery and a café. 🙂

Of all the sandwiches we offer–and there’s actually quite a few!–the veggie wrap was of course the first to catch my eye and hold it long enough for me to drop the $6.99 to take it home. After popping open the package to discover a hulk of a halved wrap inside, I actually think that while it sounds a little overpriced for a simple sandwich, the amount of food is truly rather impressive. At this point I’ve already had this sandwich twice, and being famished the first time after not eating a bite all day, I did actually eat the entire thing at once, but the second time I bought it, I found it was absolutely plenty for two meals for me.

What inspired me to have this wrap twice within a two-week timeframe despite having the option of trying many other different sandwiches is the mind-blowingly-delicious quality of the veggies. Seriously, whomever devised the recipe for the marinade our owners use deserves an award and already has my undying love. On top of being infused with fabulous flavors, the veggies were perfectly grilled–the zucchini and summer squash weren’t at all too mushy, the asparagus was pleasantly crisp, and the red peppers had incredibly sweet, charred flavor.

Even something as seemingly insignificant as the wrap itself clearly receives the same level of intense attention as the vegetables. Thanks to its immenseness, the sandwich is as I said, a substantial portion. It also holds up incredibly well: even cold, it doesn’t crack, tear, or break but rather maintains a level of chewiness that is really quite enjoyable and nicely conducive to wrap-consumption without wrap-disassemblage.

All in all, I’m willing to bet this sandwich will be gracing my table again sometime soon and many times after. It’s flavorful, satisfying, and definitely well worth the expense!

Ferry Honks Mark My Days Now

Since I got in so late on move-in day, I figure I should only really count today as Day Four of living on my own in Port Jeff. I cannot even begin to describe how absolutely incredible it is to be able to leave my house and cut across a parking lot to get to work in the morning instead of figuring on a 45-minute commute by car, or a half-hour car ride followed by a 40-minute bus ride, or even just a 10-minute cab/car ride (when I was still on campus). This 2-minute walking commute is so my thing.

Speaking of work, I love our grilled veggie wraps. I desperately need to know how they marinate the veggies because it is Sublime. Plus, it’s so stuffed with charred-veggie-goodness that half is absolutely more than enough, and I’ve got dinner or lunch waiting for me in the fridge for tomorrow already. Ohhh, you tasty zucchini, summer squash, red peppers, and crisp asparagus, how you satisfy my appetite!

Of course, a little petit four treat afterwards certainly helps. 😉

Starting Anew

I’ve decided to make this no longer limited to food blogging. I think that just became an excuse not to do anything with the site when I didn’t have anything food-related to talk about. So with my new life starting out on my own in a house in Port Jefferson, NY with a job at the bakery across the street, I figured I could relaunch the site as a general weblog–with the inclusion of food-related posts along the way, of course. 😉

All of the previous entries will remain up, and since the next two weeks are going to be filled with sorting through my things here at my parent’s house, preparing to move in to my new place June 1st, and working halfway across the Island all the while, have a look at my Flickr account while you impatiently await my next update here. There are plenty of photos there I never had the chance to reference in any posts–including a cake I baked this morning, so feel free to comment your heart out there. :]

Scratch that Last Promise…

I’ve been doing a lot of personal re-evaluation–and in some cases first-time evaluation–lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this site is not going to continue as a food blog any longer for various reasons.

I’m reprioritizing, and in the process, food and all of its related things have been placed quite near the bottom of the list. More akin to “breathing” than “something of importance, worthy of frequent thought and concern.” Definitely not deserving of anything as time-consuming as documentation, even on the infrequent basis this blog has seen.

As such, I’m going to have to rethink the newsletter and restructure the site as well. I’m actually considering finally letting going of liquidstar.org and buying a new domain name. We’ll see.

More to come…

Huge Update(s) Forthcoming

Okay, so. I haven’t posted in a while, and my newsletters have been rather…delayed. 😡 My rabbit was deathly ill for a few weeks recently and required a lot of care, so when I haven’t been in class (or skipping class for him), I’ve been travelling home to care for him and then back to school again. Then last week I was summoned to serve jury duty, and on Saturday I went to see the Rauschenberg exhibit at the Met.

*whew*

So I promise to update forthwith on the following topics: a lengthy day of covering what felt like ever square millimeter of Manhattan with Robyn back in January–for fooding, of course ;); making doughnuts; the local steakhouse here, J&R’s; the lovely little Vietnamese/Chinese restaurant Noodles 28 right across the street from Two Little Red Hens on the Upper East side of Manhattan; and the woes of a schedule that truly is not so conducive to cooking for myself much this semester.

Hopefully all that updating will satiate those who have felt the need to poke me to life here. 😉

Linguine with Egg, Garlic, and Onions

I had a bunch of random things just laying around waiting to be put together into something fantastically yummy for dinner tonight–so I took advantage of them, of course! First, I cut up some onions and crushed some garlic as I heated some extra-virgin olive oil in a pan. When it was good and hot, I quickly cooked the garlic and then added the onions. Linguine with Egg, Garlic, and Onions
All put-together and waiting to be consumed!
Once they were nicely sautéed and slightly caramelized, I added some egg white to the pan. That finished cooking a little after the pasta was ready, so I worked quickly to finish the rest.

In went a nice dash of slightly-spicy, very flavorful Korean red pepper flakes, and after a quick stir, a couple of splashes of Chardonnay to deglaze the pan and make a sauce. As soon as that reduced some, I removed it from the heat and tossed in the cooked linguine. A few minutes later and a very light sprinkling of fresh, sharp parmigiano reggiano, and it was ready to eat!

Pasta Close-Up
Sooo good… :yum:
While I wound up not liking the Chardonnay for drinking after tasting some, it worked beautifully for the sauce. All of the flavors came together so perfectly: the sweetness of the onions, pungency of the garlic, subtle fruity notes of the wine, spicy tastiness of the pepper, and the sharp and salty cheese. This was a perfectly satisfying dinner, yum! :yum:

Pizza and Muffins and Curry and Coffee…!

Looking over my Flickr account, I’ve eaten quite a bit of yummy things and not taken the time to write about it here! That’ll change right now, then.

A little over a week ago, my sister decided she wanted to make some garlic knots at lunchtime, so we ordered a pizza to go along with them from the only place near campus that was delivering that day, Cosmos Café. The timing wound up perfect, as the pizza arrived just as the garlic knots were coming out of the oven.

Homemade Garlic Knots
Garlicky dough-knots
While they were certainly fresh and delicious, my sister and I agreed they could’ve used a bit more garlic-and-oil topping. Next time, we’ll be keeping that in mind. At the same time, we found that her baking stone makes a wonderful difference with the texture of the bread. The outside gets a nice, dry crust while the inside stays perfectly soft. While lacking a little in the flavor department, these garlic knots had truly authentic dough.

Cosmos Pizza with Peppers and Onions
Cosmos pizza with peppers and onions
The pizza was pretty comparitive. It did possess the thin crust, not-to-much cheese, and yummy veggies that comprise my pizza preferences in those areas, but the sauce was just good, not fantastic. It well-satisfied my pizza desires, though, and I would definitely order from Cosmos again.

Another Pizza Shot
I ate it–yep yep!
Here you can see that the cheese and crust are in balance. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when pizza has more cheese than crust. That’s plain just too much greasiness, ick. At the same time, I much prefer thin-crust pizza to Sicilian-style, so dramatically more crust than cheese is also in the Terrible Pizza section of my book. This pizza could’ve had less cheese and that would’ve put it into the Perfect Pizza section, at least with respect to cheesiness, but it was certainly far from disagreeable. :]

Hmm…I think if I don’t paginate this entry, it’s about to get excessively long, so continue on to the full entry page if you’d like to read more about what I’ve eaten and cooked and eaten again!

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